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Free Game, Free Vibes

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The Oakland A’s free game experiment turned out to be a rousing success

Chicago White Sox v Oakland Athletics
Let the good times roll
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

In the weeks leading up to last night’s free game, skepticism abounded. With the backdrop of poor attendance and stadium woes, the national and (sadly) especially local media seemed to set up the free game as either a potential logistical nightmare or some sort of referendum on the A’s organization’s failures. On top of that, as A’s fans, we have had the rug pulled out from us so many times that it becomes reflex with every piece of good news to see disaster looming around the corner. We look the gift horses in the mouth.

However, from the get-go the A’s billed the free game as a party, a way of giving back to the fans in the city that’s hosted them for 50 years. And in the end, that’s what it was. One big, happy celebration from start to finish. A simple goal, executed to perfection.

When I got off BART, everyone seemed super excited to be there. I even overheard the cops on the BART bridge talking about how awesome it was, and dreaming of the A’s winning the World Series and crowds like this becoming routine.

On my way in, some dudes asked me where to go in to enter the game. That’s when I realized that this free game thing might have an impact. People who literally had no idea how to enter the Coliseum were there.

I had jetted out from work, heeding Fosse’s many warnings about arriving early. As it turned out, those warnings were much ado about nothing. Every gate was open, and there were no lines at all. E-40 was even hosting a tailgate in the parking lot! Every concession stand in the stadium was open, lines weren’t crazy, and if you just wanted beer there were no lines at all for many stands.

The general admission seating was a fantastic move. At a typical game, you have various sections that often fall into cliques, whether it’s super die hards, visiting fans, wealthy fans, families, etc. But the open seating enabled fans of all stripes to mix and mingle, and families that probably wouldn’t or couldn’t shell out for 5 MVP infield seats got to be right up behind home plate.

The pregame ceremony was a little hokey, but fun. Lew Krausse, the man that started the very first Oakland A’s game, threw out the first pitch. When asked how he’s feeling, he replied “I’m nervous as hell!” He brought some levity to the scene and was truly honored to be there for that moment. It clearly brought back some memories and it illustrated a contrast to the A’s management of yesteryear that virtually ignored their history.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Oakland Athletics John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Like all of us, I really really wanted the A’s to win in front of the big crowd. The return of Trevor Cahill brought some fun to the hardcore fans, and Jed Lowrie hitting that first inning homer quickly started the party. And then four more runs poured in and the rager was on (hat tip to the ChiSox for starting Miguel Gonzalez).

One thing I noticed was that it wasn’t the typical baseball crowd, and certainly not the typical A’s crowd. Aside from the size of the crowd (46,000+ on a Tuesday night!), it wasn’t like the typical A’s crowds that know all the chants and follow the game closely, with a characteristic rhythm and volume. These were just people experiencing a great time.

In the middle innings, my friends and I wandered and tried to scale Mount Davis, unfortunately we were turned away (they made the sensible decision to keep it closed since it wasn’t needed). But that was an excuse to check out the Treehouse, which was super lively with the capacity crowd. Walking around I ran into old fan friends I hadn’t seen in a long time. Talking to Bleacher Dave specifically we were remarking how the Warriors games are so priced out that all of us longtime Warriors season ticket holders have to sell so many games, and we lost that camaraderie with our crew. But at the A’s game, we were all feeling it last night.

Chicago White Sox v Oakland Athletics Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The overall theme was great vibes. When they announced the “Paid Attendance” of 00000 everybody let out a raucous cheer. Everyone was just happy to be there and it was the place to be. Which really, I can’t remember happening on a Tuesday night at the Coliseum. Yes, the tickets were free. No, it wasn’t making some overarching statement of how the A’s can be successful (or unsuccessful).

It was just a party. And a damn good one.