There was a continuous downpour of rain as giant mounds of dirt and mud took the place of the once pristine cross-cut outfield grass at O.co on Saturday afternoon, but that didn’t stop nearly 20,000 anxious A’s fans from coming out to FanFest to show support for their team.
Most of the current A’s roster along with the coaching staff and a handful of members of the ’74 and ’89 championship teams engaged in Q&A sessions, signed autographs, and took pictures with fans as they came together for the first time in 2014 to begin the quest for Oakland’s third consecutive AL west division title.
“It’s always a happy feeling to go into a new season. These guys coming out to the ballpark make it fun, so it’s good to be back around them,” said Eric Sogard.
Before a pyrotechnic spectacle enhanced the unveiling of the 2014 A’s players in their newly redesigned green jerseys, the skipper of the team addressed business during the morning media session while acknowledging the fans as an integral component of the team’s success.
Bob Melvin wasted no time commenting on the recent announcement of the two-year contract extension for Coco Crisp, and Yoenis Cespedes voicing his desire to stay in Oakland for his entire career.
“When you have your leaders and your best players that really want to be here, it makes my job a lot easier, so for a number of reasons I have a big smile on my face today,” said Melvin. “When you play here a little while you can get inspired by this fan base.”
The devoted Athletics admirers proudly displayed their image, as team-colored Darth Vader masks, Derek Norris themed dinosaur suits, 7-foot tall hand-crafted A’s logo costumes, and lucha libre wrestling masks filled the corridors of the Coliseum among every other attendee clad in green and gold of variously vibrant fashions.
Perhaps the most substantially concerning fan news announced at FanFest was Coco Crisp retiring the “Bernie lean” dance in lieu of the “Ed Lover” dance for the upcoming season.
While the “Coco-Lean” may have been an inspirational aspect of the team’s success over the past two seasons ( ML-best 190-134), the A’s postseason prowess has been thwarted in the first round of the playoffs each of the last two years.
If the “Lean” is now as dead as Bernie was, than maybe the “Ed Lover dance” can breathe new life into the A’s postseason. The song in which Ed Lover of Yo! MTV Raps created his dance to is “The 900 Number” by the 45 King, originally released in 1987, the year before the A’s made three consecutive World Series appearances.
Perhaps, but if the A’s make a title run this season, you can be sure that the rejuvenated moves will be folklore to Oakland fans for years to come.
While most of the day was a celebration of the new season and good-hearted fun with returning fan favorites, the loudest reaction from the Q&A sessions at FanFest came after former Texas outfielder Craig Gentry, who when asked if he would have caught the memorable missed fly ball by Josh Hamilton in game 162 of the 2012 season which spurred the A’s come from behind division-clinching victory responded with “Of course!”
The prior division foe didn’t get it much easier from the crowd as he was cheered when admitting that his hand was broken by A’s ace Jarrod Parker the first time they faced each other.
It appears that the newly acquired speedster will have to prove himself on the field before the loyal A’s fan base will fully embrace him.
Next up for the A’s will be the opening of Spring Training in Phoenix, Ariz. Friday, Feb. 14, when pitchers and catchers report for duty. Position players are scheduled to report Wednesday, Feb. 19.
This spring will be Phoenix Municipal Stadium’s Swan Song with the A’s. After 33 consecutive years in Phoenix, the franchise will move to Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, Ariz. to play their Cactus League games beginning in 2015.