I grew up with the Oakland A’s, and through all the heartbreak they’ve inspired me to a career in sports media.
My memory is shaky about a lot of things, but I remember my first Oakland Athletics game.
It was summer 2002, and the A’s were giving away Barry Zito shirseys in honor of his Cy Young Award the year before. My kindergarten year had just ended and at the time, the upper deck seats were still open and cheap, albeit a one-way ticket to sunburn and a meltdown for a five-year-old.
My dad dragged me to the Coliseum and bought me a bucket hat and a pin, both of which I still have tucked away somewhere deep in my storage. Fueled on hot dogs, Pepsi and cotton candy, I was tuckered out and ready to break down in the sixth inning, a tradition that continued for years after.
Barry Zito was my favorite player until he signed with the Giants in 2007. I think it was a combination of the shirsey and his name (I liked anyone and anything that started with Z because there wasn’t many people or things that I could relate with like that).
I don’t exactly remember my first impression of the game or the Coliseum, but I remember some of the things I felt in many of the games after. The smell of the grass. The intense focus I had watching the groundskeepers rake and water the infield.
Losing my tooth at my second game. The discomfort of my shorts sticking to my legs. How happy I would get when the cotton candy man came around. The excitement watching Marco Scutaro hit a walk-off single against the Angels in 2006 to put a stamp on a division title.
Now, years later, the roles have reversed, and my dad is the one complaining and saying he is ready to go home in the sixth inning because he’s hot and sweaty and tired and the A’s are down 8-0, and I’m telling him that anything can happen by reminding him about the game in 2009 (when they had Matt Holliday for half a wild season) when they came back from a 12-2 deficit against the Twins to win 14-13.
Growing up at the Coliseum and rooting for the Oakland A’s gives you a greater appreciation for the finer things. But it also teaches you that even something ugly and decrepit and smelly can be a breeding ground for something beautiful. And what it grew was my future, my passion, my love for all things sports and eventually, hopefully, a great career in sports media.
I don’t know who or where I would be without the Oakland A’s. I think I said when I was younger I wanted to be an engineer; maybe I’d have pursued that instead, actually be making a decent living, be able to afford to pay off my student loans and buy a house when I’m older. But Eric Chavez, Marco Scutaro and my Barry Zito shirsey had other plans.
And here I am, 22 years old, hopefully providing the masses with great Oakland A’s content for White Cleat Beat and someday being able to tell this story to a nationwide audience.
But I’m okay with starting here, now, telling you about a boy and his Barry Zito shirt.