How a Utah native came to have a special night in Oakland
I could tell from the way my dad said my name that he had unpleasant news to share. “If this goes much longer,” he said, “we’ll miss the BART.”
I checked the time and realized that it was almost half past eleven. The Oakland A’s and the Detroit Tigers were entering the 12th inning on a cool spring night in the East Bay and the last BART train would be leaving the Oakland Coliseum at midnight.
I was surprised at how late it had gotten. We had been at the park for almost five hours, but time had seemingly ceased to exist for me there. I had spent the evening trying to soak in every sight, sound, and scent the ballgame had to offer and hadn’t spent a moment considering how or when we’d get back to our hotel.
My dad said we could stay for one more inning, maybe two. If the score was still tied after that, we’d have to head for the train. I’ve always hated leaving games early, but on that night, especially, I was dying to see the end.
I developed a passion for baseball very early in life. By the age of eight, I was a walking MLB almanac and had begun to play Little League. Since I grew up in Utah, there was no major league team readily available to cling to.
My dad was a Houston native and an Astros fan. My mom was a fan of my grandpa’s favorite team, the Yankees. One of my brothers had latched onto the Braves, who had a very fun team in the late 90s and early 2000s; another brother had become an Alex Rodriguez fan and would root for whatever team A-Rod landed on.
I began the search for my own favorite team with a bias toward pitching. Starting Little League, I had shown promise as a pitcher and was convinced that the game revolved around the man on the mound. The year was 2002 and with Hudson, Mulder, and Zito hurling for the A’s, the choice was obvious. I fell in love with the team later made famous in Moneyball and never looked back.
So it was that I ended up at the A’s-Tigers game in April of 2013. After more than a decade of devoting myself to the green and gold, my dad decided it was time I see the white cleats in person. It was just my dad, my mom, and me on that trip – a rare occurrence in my family of six. I was just a few weeks from leaving home for the first time and this trip was something of a last hurrah for my parents and me.
After years of suffering, Oakland fans finally had a team to get excited about. The A’s had won the AL West in 2012 and looked poised to contend for a championship in 2013. The team was full of characters: Gold glover Josh Reddick, or Piederman as he was known then; Coco Crisp, who popularized the Bernie Lean at the Coliseum; the lights-out bullpen trio of Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle, and Grant Balfour; and my favorite player, Josh Donaldson.
Donaldson’s career was just beginning then, but I really liked what he’d shown at the end of 2012. I sent Donaldson a tweet about five weeks before travelling to Oakland announcing that I was making my first trip to the Coliseum. I said I hoped to see a good show from him. To my surprise, he actually replied, saying simply, and without capitalization, “you got it.”
@UrqMyHeart you got it.
— Josh Donaldson (@BringerOfRain20) March 7, 2013
With one out and nobody on in the bottom of the 12th, Donaldson stepped to the plate against Detroit reliever Brayan Villarreal. On a 1-0 count, Villarreal threw a fastball elevated, maybe out of the zone. Donaldson took a mighty swing but was a fraction of a second late. He reacted initially as if he had fouled it away, but began sprinting down the line when he realized the ball was on a frozen rope down the right field line.
Our seats were down the third base line, about even with the right fielder and 10 or 12 rows up. We had a perfect view of the ball slicing through the night and barely clearing the right field wall for a walk-off home run. The crowd that was left erupted. We rose to our feet, and as Donaldson rounded first, he seemed to be looking right at us as he raised his fist to the sky and shouted in celebration.
We watched him toss his helmet in the air and enter the melee at home plate, then quickly made our way out of the stadium — we had to catch the BART, after all. But the moment etched itself permanently in my memory.
My first trip to the Coliseum is just one of many great memories I have associated with the Oakland A’s. Being a fan has brought so much joy and passion into my life. Recently, I was able to take in an A’s game with a brother of mine and three Coliseum first-timers — my wife, my sister-in-law, and my one-year-old nephew. I have also been lucky enough to do some writing here at Athletics Nation this year.
Despite the inevitable frustrations of rooting for a perennial underdog, it has been a truly rewarding experience. Choosing the A’s as a child was either dumb luck or destiny — either way, it was a decision I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Do you have a funny, interesting, or inspiring story of A’s fandom? We’d love to share it with the community! Email Kevin at firstname.lastname@example.org!