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How Do You Help Convert the Casual Fan?

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If you're an avid AthleticsNation visitor, you're an elite fan. You likely watch or listen to every A's game. You know all the position players, the starting pitchers and can go six deep in the bullpen. Most of you have a pretty good idea of the A's prospects in the minors. Many of you can rattle off stats for the A's and their opponents, not just for this year, but for years past. And all of us have a good reason that we chose the A's as our team.

But step outside of the AthleticsNation bubble, and it's not too hard to realize we're still a minority. We're a minority of total A's fans. A's fans are a minority of baseball fans. Baseball fans are a minority of total sports fans. While AN continues to grow rapidly, there's clearly a lot more work that needs to be done, not just to bring A's fans to the site, but, simply put, more fans to A's baseball in the first place. So how do you do it? And how do you try to explain baseball to someone who doesn't have the background you do?

I'm reminded of one Saturday when I brought a friend to a ballgame. We had great tickets, on the field level by the visitor's bullpen. As the game got underway, and I readied for questions, she loudly asked, "Are we by third base?!", which got every beer-sodden fellow fan to turn and glare at me for having invited this newbie to partake. After having picked myself off the floor, I explained, starting with first base, each of the bases. I explained the position players, the bullpens, how many outs to an inning, how many innings to a game, and the nuances of stolen bases or the sacrifice fly. Needless to say, it tried my patience, but I found she slowly got it. By the time the game was over, she was following along.

 

Similarly, my mother had always tolerated baseball, but it wasn't until the fourth game of the 1993 World Series, which the Blue Jays won 15 to 14 over the Phillies that she was glued to the screen. That game, an anomaly, was ridiculous, but very exciting, and had her eager to see game 5.

In another example, I once had roommates who would rather debug programming code than catch a sports game, but as the A's won game after game during their 20-game win streak, with heroic hits by Miguel Tejada and Scott Hatteberg taking games 19 and 20, we listened together to the MLB.com streaming audio and celebrated gloriously. What had once been foreign ground to them was understandable. The excitement was true, and they felt sorrow with me when game 21 ended up being a loss - unthinkable. And earlier that summer, we had gathered around the laptop as Mike Cameron belted four home runs and came feet away from an unprecedented fifth blast.

But it doesn't need to take a historic game to make your friends, your family, your colleagues and others turn to the game of baseball and make it part of their lives. They don't necessarily need to make it an obsession. And while we all know they'd be better off being an A's fan, just getting the rules and interest in the game are the first steps. So what do you do, and what can you do, to help convert the unconverted?

One more teaching opportunity comes this evening at 7:05, when the A's take on the Seattle Mariners in the second game of their two-game series. Be you casual, aware or insane, we welcome you here.