Oakland A’s: Do Players and Fans Actually Enjoy the O.Co Coliseum?


April 1, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics fans during the eighth inning against the Seattle Mariners at O.co Coliseum. The Seattle Mariners defeated the Oakland Athletics 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Ah yes, we’re back to talking about the Coliseum.

The Oakland Athletics have been one of the hottest teams in baseball over the past three weeks, so we’d hate to focus on anything other than their on-the-field play. As I write this, they’re trying to sweep the Chicago White Sox for the second time this year in the shiny new confines of U.S. Cellular Field.

But did you know the White Sox used to play in a quaint little place called Comiskey Park? And I bet you can still find some Chicago locals who could describe the charm of attending a game there, especially in the latter years of existence when it had outlived its usefulness.

It’s a similar state of existence to where we’re at with the Coliseum. Sometime in the near future (if Bud Selig ever wakes up from his nap), the A’s will be playing in a brand, spanking new place of their own, and the team will be better off for it in regards to stability. For a best-case scenario of reinvigorating a franchise with a change of scenery, just look across the bay.

Since we never got a chance to respond to Jon Heyman’s now-infamous tweet regarding the two different stadium situations in the Bay Area, we wanted to take the opportunity to do that while focusing on what really matters: How do the people that actually inhabit the Coliseum and frequent it on a regular basis feel about it?

While I already put forth my own personal feelings about the Coliseum back in March before the season was underway, I’m aware that I don’t speak for all A’s fans, and especially not the players themselves. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t make observations on the two parties shared sentiments of the place they call home.

It’s hard to put into words what those sentiments are, but that won’t stop me from trying.

If there’s a word to describe the city of Oakland (and other surrounding areas of the east Bay Area), it’s “gritty”. Local writer Sherwood Strauss touched on the topic on Twitter last night, and the culture that comes along with that grittiness is reflected in the stands during A’s homestands.

A’s fans take great pride in this, much like Raiders fans who go out of their way to make O.Co Coliseum one of the most intimidating places in the NFL for visiting fan bases to attend a game (not to the same extent, for several reasons that would take too long to describe in this piece). The Coliseum has become an embodiment of that identity. It’s a no-frills venue for a no-frills town.

Want to take a few laps around the concourses to admire the scenery? Go to AT&T Park, they’ve got an awesome walkway in right field where you can stare at the water while a baseball game is being played.

How about some gourmet concessions that reflect the local cuisine? The O.Co has some stadium barbecue, generic nachos and personal pizzas that will hit the spot, just like when they won the World Series 22 years ago!

Need to use the bathroom? Better leave before the inning is over, otherwise you’ll be waiting 10-15 minutes to use the trough that’s older than half the people in attendance.

But you know what? When you’re in your seat watching the boys in Green and Gold, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a livelier, more dedicated group of fans. Don’t believe me? Purchase a ticket for a seat in the bleachers and tell me if you aren’t persuaded.

They’ll often show their love for the team in with an eccentric flair that has been associated with the Bay Area for years, and the electricity that filled the air during last year’s playoff run just goes to show that you don’t need all the bells and whistles of a new stadium to produce a great atmosphere for baseball.

To add to the insult, Heyman dissed the Coliseum in relation to the fresh digs of the San Francisco Giants. Now, A’s fans are used to being defensive, about their stadium, about their team, and about their general existence in the hierarchy of Major League Baseball. But nothing gets under their skin as much as someone arguing the superiority of the Giants, especially because it’s a debate they’re more likely to get into as a result of living in a market dominated by San Francisco fans.

All of this is not lost on the players. Several were quick to respond to Heyman’s tweet to express their distaste for the slight and to credit the fan base for transforming the Coliseum into one of the best environments in the league, regardless of how many are in the stands.

Heyman certainly touched a nerve with his tweet, and he didn’t seem to be ready for the backlash that came his way soon thereafter. Oakland’s fans aren’t oblivious to the fact that the Coliseum is lacking in certain amenities that new ballparks have to offer, but again, none of those things are essential for having a good time at a ball game.

In the minds of A’s fans, the best experience you can have is one where your team gets a win, and Oakland has a great tradition of winning that dates all the way back to the Swingin’ A’s of the 1970’s.

When people are slow to acknowledge this success, especially considering that this team won the division last year and took the eventual American League champions to within a game of elimination, the fans and the players are going to respond accordingly.

There’s a blue collar persona that is associated with the Athletics. They’ve been operating with a limited budget and fighting an uphill battle since the early nineties, and an outdated stadium is just another example of this.

A’s fans come from all different walks of life. That’s reflective of the East Bay, one of the most diverse areas of the country, if not the world. Still, Oakland has always been known as a working class city. From the manufacturing days of the 1920’s to the war effort economy of World War II, all the way up to today with the Port of Oakland still being the fifth busiest in the U.S.

The Town is as resilient as they come, surviving economic downturns, political upheaval, crime, fires and earthquakes to endure as a symbol of a toughness that is as unique as the people that inhabit it.

Other fan bases look at the predicament and wonder why anyone would voluntarily subject themselves to watching a game under such conditions. But A’s fans go to the games to cheer on their team regardless of their surroundings, and they wonder why you’d want it any other way. They could play the games on a Little League field and they’d be just as happy to be there.

When it comes down to it, the Coliseum is as much a part of the identity of the A’s as whoever puts on the uniform, and when someone insults it, they’re insulting the team, the fans and the city.

That’s how it’s perceived at least, and whether you agree with it or not, you should probably be ready for the reaction that comes along with it when you try to make a witty comparison between this ballpark and the one in San Francisco in less than 140 characters.

So to answer the questions of whether or not A’s players and fans enjoy the Coliseum…yes, they enjoy it for what it is. They don’t bitch and moan about what they don’t have, because that’s no way to live life — in a constant state of envy of all those who have it better than you.

One day the A’s will have a new stadium, most likely somewhere that isn’t Oakland. Something will be inevitably be lost in the move, and while it will be hard to put into words, those of us who were there will look back at the big hunk of concrete at 7000 Coliseum Way and remember a time when the baseball was all that mattered, and how much fun it was to go to an Oakland A’s baseball game.