If the Coliseum were run like Angels Stadium, the 14th inning would still be packed.
I have been a fan of the Oakland Athletics my entire life and have never been to a road game until tonight when I drove down to Los Angeles of Anaheim to watch my beloved Athletics take on the dreaded Angels. I won’t speak of the game which, at fourteen innings, saw us on the wrong side of a stellar pitching duel and featured an abysmal display of batting prowess from the middle of our lineup. I also won’t speak of one of the best throws I’ve ever seen in a game coming from Cespedes in left field to home plate. The game was almost secondary to me tonight (now I know how Angels fans feel) and I had an experience I’ve never had at a ballpark before.
The event began as I drove into the parking lot around 5:00 and was greeted by a charming retirement aged man who asked me for $10 to park my car. I’ll repeat that. Parking is $10. For everyone. I paid $10 to visit a park in Los Angeles of Anaheim, home of the price hike, which is the same that I pay for a half-price season ticket holder discount. I paid, gladly accepting the unexpected change for my twenty, and was directed by a handful of retirement aged men as to where to put my car. The Disney influence runs strong in these parts.
The park is lovely and proves that age doesn’t matter. If Oakland can’t come up with $800 million for a new park, throwing $200 million in renovations can make it look brand new (as long as you take down Mount Davis). All of the employees were helpful and pleasant and well spoken and smiling and none of them looked high or drunk or disgruntled or on parole. The food prices were reasonable by ballpark standards and there were plenty of options. The concourses for Angels stadium are as narrow or more narrow than Oakland and, again learning from Disney, they have installed line mazes to direct the queue in a zig zag instead of straight out. If the coliseum did this tomorrow, you’d see a much more efficient concourse immediately.
“Wooo! Wait, are we batting?” – Attentive Angels fan
I grabbed a fancy grilled cheese sandwich and went to my seat. I was seated in the fourth row near the right field foul post and had no view of any outfielders but I was close. I went down to the field and watched batting practice and had my life saved by Doolittle when he warned me of an oncoming foul ball. Thanks, Doo. When the game was starting, I took my seats and that’s when things took a turn.
I’ve never been in a park with such disinterested fans. The woman behind me actually said, “WOOOO!!! Wait, are we batting?”. Are you kidding me? So many people are on their phones or just hanging out chatting that it’s amazing when any play on the field elicits a response. Further, the scoreboards are showing the “Make Some Noise” graphics for every single play which I guess they have to since nobody is making any noise. It was only when the crowd started cheering “Let’s go Oakland” that the Angels fans began to get into their game. Once again, Oakland fans prove that they are the best fans in baseball.
By the seventh inning stretch fans had begun to leave and by the ninth, still tied at 1, half the crowd was gone. At the end of each subsequent inning an exodus of fans flocked to the parking lots. My section, which was starting to feel like the right field bleachers at home, eventually had more A’s fans than Angels fans in it and there was much more cheering for good A’s plays than anything else.
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I was not heckled or disrespected for wearing my green and gold nor was I approached for casual conversation as I am at every game at home. There are a lot of things that Angels stadium does right in terms of presenting a family entertainment product that the folks at O.Co could learn from. The stadium isn’t real fancy and doesn’t have the amenities of ATT or other new parks. It’s an old building with a fresh coat of paint, some smiling employees and a price point appropriate for its working class neighborhood. But for all the good things about this stadium there is one glaring component of the game that is missing that the coliseum has never had a problem dealing with; excitement. There was no electricity in the air, no drums in the bleachers, no raging or doooing or Bernie leaning. There was no pie at the end of the walk-off, no Animal House in the ninth, no signs in the crowd, no Kara, no Stomper, no Dick Callahan and no “if it’s in, you win.” There was a game played between two exceptional teams but nobody in red seemed to care.
Tonight’s game made me miss my home park. For all of its problems, it’s still the best place to see the A’s play and every now and then I’d get up and go to a restroom, rest my nose on the toilet seat, inhale and dream of home. If the coliseum had as many people on a Tuesday night as Angels Stadium did, it’d tear the place down with excitement and feel like a play off game. We’ll get there someday.
Oh, and what’s the deal with that damned rally monkey? I thought it was dumb before but seeing how it plays into the game in person drove me nuts! In 14 innings, I’ve got to see that rabid little thing jumping around 487 times. Enough already!