Hey everyone! I haven't been on the site in some time, been busy with work and classes, graduating in June! Hope everyone is doing well. Recently for my feature writing class I had to write an article that describes the "sense of place." The instructions were to write vividly and descriptively about a place that has meaning to you, and if necessary to write about that place at a certain time that you feel is important. I, of course, wrote about the Coliseum. Hope you enjoy it!
Almost everyone drives by the Oakland Coliseum exit on I-880 and scoffs, pointing out the cement facades, aging structure, and "cookie cutter" shape of the stadium. There are no amusement parks in center field, no hundred yard wide jumbo-trons, no glitz and glam bars and nightlife around the facility. Calling the Coliseum a "dump" seems to be the status quo around the league. And yet, to me, this is more than just my favorite place to watch a game, it’s my second home.
It’s October 5th, 2013. Everywhere you look there is nothing but the color yellow, or, as the fans will tell you, "Fort Knox gold." During playoff games, most stadiums across the league give out towels to their fans to wave during the game, with the vast majority of those giveaways being towels with the team’s primary color. The Red Sox gave out red ones, and the Dodgers gave out "Dodger blue." The giveaway for the night’s American League postseason game was a "gold rally towel" for every fan. For the first time since I was 9 years old, the Coliseum was expecting a fully sold out crowd, meaning the third deck would be full and the stadium would be packed to maximum capacity. "Could the sewage system handle that?" was the question around the league, poking fun at the Coliseum's recent issues. The laughingstock of the major leagues was about to become the best home-field advantage in baseball.
I sit in left field for nearly every A’s game I attend, which always gives me a perfect view of the whole field and of the entire stadium, which is usually covered in tarps. For today’s game, the tarps are off and there is not an empty seat in the house. The last time I saw a game with a crowd higher than 36,077 was the 19th game of the A’s famed win streak in 2002 that inspired the Brad Pitt movie "Moneyball." Tonight’s crowd was listed as 48,292. The noise at first pitch was deafening. The power of fifty-thousand fans screaming in unison, all with the same "us-against-the-world" mentality is impossible to replicate.
Fast-forward to the bottom of the ninth inning. The game is tied at zero after two of the greatest pitching performances I have ever seen. Rookie phenom Sonny Gray matched reigning Cy Young winner Justin Verlander pitch for pitch. I find myself surrounded by people who, much like me, have completely lost their voice but are still yelling. There is no noise, only that "hiss" you hear when you’re walking out of a concert having stood next to a speaker the whole time. There are no fans, though. There are only 48,292 gold towels being waved in the air. The once proud fan base that had been told their time was up had come back in full force to show a national audience that there is no better place to play a Major League Baseball game than Oakland.
The atmosphere is as tense as I have ever felt. A loss in this game likely meant the end of the dream season. First Cespedes singled to left, then Smith singled to right, then Reddick got on base. The bases were loaded with no outs and the living embodiment of Athletics baseball stepped to the plate. Stephen Vogt had no major league experience, was written off as a failed catcher and his career stat line before joining Oakland was 0 for 25 with two walks. But the A’s saw something in him other teams didn’t, much like the fans see something in the A’s that the rest of the league doesn’t. The count is 1-1, and there has never been a more beautiful moment in my life. A’s fans, young and old, rich and poor, yelled in unison as they waved their golden towels in front of the nation. Vogt slapped a single into left field, the A’s poured out of the dugout to celebrate the victory as the fans jumped up and down to create a stunning visual effect unlike anything I have ever seen. The only way to describe it is if I asked you to imagine a drop of water falling in a glass and creating a ripple effect, but with 50,000 people in place of the glass. Everyone hugged the person next to them, whether they knew them or not. The players dumped Gatorade on Vogt and pied him in the face. The fans cheered "Let’s Go Oakland!" on their way to the parking lot and honked and screamed their way out of the stadium with a type of energy many fans don’t even boast during the game itself. I had never seen a moment of such pure joy and emotion at my second home in Oakland. On the drive home I asked myself, why, other than the importance of the playoff game, did I feel like the best moment in my personal Coliseum history just happen? It must have been those darn gold rally towels.