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An Ode To Section 149

Fans in Section 149 hold up their wrestling belts as Josh Reddick steps up to the plate.
Fans in Section 149 hold up their wrestling belts as Josh Reddick steps up to the plate.

There isn't much to write about today. The Athletics just dropped two of three to the slegnA at home, and managed to put up only one run and four hits in the last two games combined. The totals for the entire series were 3 runs and 10 hits. So, the offense is still terrible. All the same players are still on the DL. The starting rotation is still young, wild, and developing. The bullpen is still more "hit or miss" than "swing and miss." None of those sound like very appealing things to write about, nor to read about.

This is about the time that things fell apart last season after a promising start; the 2011 A's were also 22-23, and kept things stable long enough to stretch that record to 27-27. Things came to a screeching halt after that, though, as Oakland went on a 10-game losing streak from which they never recovered. That streak began on May 30th, the day that the New York Yankees came to town, with Bartolo Colon throwing a shutout in the opener. Flash forward to 2012, and the Yankees are coming to town again tomorrow, May 25th. Colon will pitch in the series, albeit for the A's. The parallels are not difficult to find, and I don't think that anyone wants to read about them. Happy thoughts!

Therefore, I am going to focus on one of the bright spots of the 2012 Oakland A's: The right field bleachers.

Despite my life-long love of baseball, I have only actually been to 5 different stadiums (3 of which aren't even MLB parks anymore): the Coliseum, Candlestick, AT&T, RFK (Washington, D.C.), and Memorial Stadium (Baltimore). Therefore, I don't really know what the fans are like in other parks. I doubt that many stadiums boast a cheering section that is as devoted and enthusiastic as our own Section 149, though. Seriously, how many fans create their own in-game promo which gets featured on MLB's website?

*BOOM, BOOM, BOOM BOOM BOOM* Let's Go Oak-land!

In the year 2000, the A's made their triumphant return to the MLB playoffs. With an exciting, young team on the field, Oakland fans had something to cheer about for the first time in nearly a decade. In June of that year, a tradition was born: The left-field drummers. (Make sure you read the last two sentences of that link). Armed with their instruments and their passion, they made enough of a name for themselves that the team included them in some TV ads. The group evolved over time, however, and while there is still a solid presence in left field (including die-hard fans like "Iceman" and "Fremont," the latter of whom has something along the lines of "Left Field Bleachers" tattooed on his arm in lieu of showing his season ticket to the ushers), it is the group in right field which has stolen the show over the last few years.

Last season, my work afforded me a unique opportunity to spend an absurd amount of time at the Coliseum. I ended up attending over 50 home games, and had the chance to sit in just about every corner of the stadium. Nothing could compare with right-field bleachers, though. I got to hold the Matsuiland sign a couple of times, sample some bacon-flavored gum (absolutely disgusting), and meet many of the people behind all of it. Last year, they worked hard to coordinate with fans from Japan who wanted to cross the Pacific and visit the Coliseum just for the opportunity to watch Matsui play. They have drums. They have cowbells. They have custom T-shirts and home-made schwag which they give away in the stands. They have a collection of cheers, dances, and props, each tailored to specific players and game situations. And, unlike many other areas of the Coliseum, there is never a dull or quiet moment in Section 149.

Yesterday, I took the afternoon off and went to the game. There wasn't much to see, as Seth Smith's homer and Coco Crisp's surprising outfield assist were the only exciting things that happened in 11 quick innings. You wouldn't have known it in the bleachers, though, where the energy stays at a high level even when the team's performance does not. You've probably seen their response to Grant Balfour entering a game, flailing their arms in a circular motion to the tune of his entrance music, "One" by Metallica. Josh Reddick has a tradition now, as well; due to his well-publicized love of professional wrestling, Section 149 now holds up a collection of wrestling title belts as encouragement. Also, they are planning a new replacement for the Matsuiland signs, now that we have a new DH on the way: "Mannyball," which will presumably debut whenever Manny does (possibly not May 30 after all?).

Furthermore, there is a new bleacher-sponsored promotion in the works. Last year, the team held an 80's day, in which fans were encouraged to dress up as part of a larger turn-back-the-clock weekend. Section 149 enjoyed it so much that they are taking it upon themselves to host another one this year. On Saturday, June 16, with the Padres in town, the right-field bleachers will be marked by neon colors, slap bracelets, power ballads and more. Anyone and everyone is invited to take part, and there is a pretty good chance that Comcast and Diamond Vision will come by to document things again after the success of Bacon Tuesday. If you were thinking about attending a game in the next few weeks, I would recommend making it that one.

Everyone enjoys baseball in different ways. Some fans wear a hat or a jersey. Some cheer their players, and others heckle the opponents. Some can recite the current stats of the entire roster, and others can't even remember the name of today's starting pitcher. But even in a stadium which routinely fails to pass 10,000 bodies through the turnstiles, the fanatics in the Coliseum bleachers (both left and right field) serve as reminders that while this team's fanbase can't match others in numbers, they can run with anyone when it comes to heart, devotion, grit, and all of the other things which don't show up in the box score.

If you haven't sat in Section 149 in the last two years, you really should. I dare say that you haven't truly experienced the Coliseum until you have done so.