Carl Steward, in for John Hickey throughout the Bay Bridge Series …
Managers and coaches from every sports team always pay lip service to “our great fans, the best fans on the planet.” But when A’s manager Bob Melvin talked this morning, it didn’t sound like a man making a sales pitch with hollow platitudes. He gushed sincerely about how Oakland fans came to the fore down the stretch in 2012, gave the team incredible emotional momentum and generally turned the dank old Coliseum into a happy, happening animal house.
“Especially those last six days of the season before the postseason even started, everything came together as one – the fans, us – I mean, that was a special relationship,” Melvin said. “We really felt them in those last six games. There were some games where we came back and won because they were pushing and supporting. There were a couple games against the Mariners, I know against the Rangers and then again in the postseason, it was unlike any other feeling I’ve had from a group of fans coming down the stretch. They were a big part of our winning and our success.”
Melvin’s right. I was around for the terrific teams of the late ’80s and early 2000s and I’d almost forgotten how whipped up A’s crowds can get when you give them a team with personality and promise that they can get behind. Last year was probably even more special because few people thought the 2012 club had a division title chase in them.
When it started to gather steam, it truly was unreal — the loudest and most fervent A’s crowds I’ve probably ever seen if not the largest. Oakland fans embraced this club as its own, primarily because so many of these young players had never experienced this type of stage, let alone this type of success, before.
It should be interesting today, but more importantly Monday’s Opening Night (and actually, AFTER Opening Night), to see how much cacaphonous carryover there will be. Melvin believes there will be.
“Our fans only know one way,” he said. “There are times where we’re not full here, but it’s a very passionate fan base. When they come out in full force, it’s unlike any other. It is very raw energy. We have diehards here … and some affordable tickets, too. It makes for a raucous crowd. It’s just a different feeling than I’ve felt anywhere. Some of the Detroit players were saying it was more difficult to play here than in Yankee Stadium for the (ALCS).
“Really, it’s always been like that. Even when I’ve been on other teams coming in here, when Oakland fans come out in full force, it’s a difficult place to play. They’re on you as far as the visitors go and they’re supportive of the home team. This place gets loud.”
There is some semblance of stability for a change in Oakland with owner Lew Wolff’s request to keep the A’s in Oakland for at least five more years. Of course, he has to get a lease extension done with the Joint Powers Authority and negotiations didn’t get off to such a great start. There’s no telling how the folks at Major League Baseball reacted to the crazy scene here at the end of 2012, but hopefully they were paying attention.
It was special. Good job by Melvin to acknowledge it — and speak from the heart — as another A’s journey is set to begin.
Other stuff: The A’s will make their final roster moves to get down to the 25-player limit after today’s game against the Giants. Quite likely, Melvin said, shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima will start the season on the disabled list.
In one tidbit of news, the manager did say Bartolo Colon will likely make his first regular-season start in the A’s sixth game following his five-game season-opening suspension and then begin taking his normal turn into the rotation from there.