Fan Follow Friday puts the spotlight weekly on one of my readers, as they share their favorite ballparks and baseball memories. Hope you enjoy hearing their stories!! This week we check in with Van Demske, an Athletics fan that will make you WANT to visit Oakland (asap!):
Name: Van Demske
Hometown: San Leandro, CA
Favorite Team: Oakland Athletics
How did you get into baseball?
Growing up in divided baseball territory in Hartford, Connecticut, I became hooked on stats and history after the 1996 World Series. My parents aren’t particularly big fans, but on every family vacation, they’d take me and my sister to one ballgame. Our travels allowed me to see the parks in Montreal, Baltimore, Chicago, Boston, New York, and San Francisco – as well as the Baseball Hall of Fame. In between big league adventures, I would frequent the Twins Double-A affiliate New Britain Rock Cats with my friends, where I saw David Ortiz, Torii Hunter, Mauer and Morneau, Johan Santana and Michael Cuddyer before they made it to the Show.
My freshman year of high school, I started staying up later and watching West Coast games. Seeing the “Moneyball” A’s go on a 20-game winning streak with Chavez, Hatteberg and the Big Three lit a fire in me, and despite the season coming to an abrupt end, I had a newfound favorite team – and decided that one day, I would move to California to cheer them on. I’ve lived outside of Oakland for the past three years, and being part of this incredible fan base helped me start my sportswriting hobby, become a Top-30 MLB Fan Cave finalist, and meet the best friends I’ve had in my life.
I believe that when it comes to watching baseball, who you’re with trumps where you’re at, and Oakland fans know this better than anyone. Sitting in the right field bleachers with the same 150 or so faces every home game is something most fans – even season ticket holders – don’t get to experience. Many fan traditions began in right field such as the Balfour Rage, Bacon Tuesday, Doolittling, Careless Whisper, and the latest ode to the World Cup, “I Believe in Stephen Vogt.” My section and I tailgate together, deck ourselves out in as much green and gold as possible, and line the first two rows of the bleachers to cheer from first pitch to final out.
While I believe it provides greatest home field advantage in the game, O.co simply does not provide an inviting baseball experience for casual and visiting fans. The ballpark isn’t retro – it’s just old, lacking in both modern and basic amenities. This season, we’ve seen a malfunctioning light cause a 38-minute delay during the Yankees series and a miscommunication over putting the tarp on the field cause one of our most-anticipated promotions, “#NERDPOWER Night” to be “rained out” due to soggy field conditions under sunny skies. Food is better at our Minor League affiliates, the JumboTron is miniature, Mount Davis completely obscures our view of the Oakland hills, and there’s a risk of a sewage overflow during sellouts. And did I mention, we share our home with the Raiders?
It’s hardly ancient history that San Francisco nearly lost its team to Tampa Bay, and both the team on the field – and the fan base – have been boosted by the move to beautiful AT&T Park in downtown SF. Oakland is a baseball city, and fans of the green and gold deserve a stadium within city limits that reflects our rich history and culture. Our neighbors to the west are proof of how a good home makes a family stronger.
Top Ballpark Memory?
Detroit has been a barricade between Oakland and the pennant the past two seasons, and Justin Verlander becomes public enemy one as soon as October rolls around. When the matchup for Game 2 of the 2013 ALDS was announced as the Tigers ace against our rookie starter Sonny Gray, even the most optimistic A’s fans were worried. We held our breath through eight innings of four-hit, 9-K ball and when Stephen Vogt’s RBI single in the bottom of the ninth was enough to walk off 1-0 winners, the concourse exploded in celebration of Sonny: https://vine.co/v/hXKX5bQbpvq
Advice for fans visiting your home ballpark?
I tell you this without any personal bias: Sit in the bleachers. Fans in left and right field are into every pitch, and you’ll find yourself glued to your seat. We’re one of the last places to allow tailgating in the parking lots, so bring your grill, your chairs, your cooler and your corn hole game, and you’ll make a lot of new friends. I also suggest taking BART to the game, especially if you’re staying in San Francisco. It’s cheaper and easier to get to the ballpark on public transportation.
****Would you like to be my next Fan Follow Friday?? Just email your responses to the bold questions and a couple of pictures to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a baseball blogger, just a baseball fan!!!
Past Fan #FF