By Josh Hunsucker (@JPHunsucker)
Long before this summer began, my wife locked in "La Potencia T-Shirt Giveaway" tickets. The idea was that we could get away for three hours, and be grown-ups for an afternoon, in the wake of a whirlwind summer spent holed up in the DeRosa Center on the UOP campus studying for the California Bar Exam. The day after the bar exam felt like I was living in a power vacuum. I felt like I should be doing something and by about 2:00 PM I was getting stir crazy. I needed something to do and the A’s game was a day away. I checked the Ports schedule, out of town until Monday. Then I thought to myself, “eff it” let’s go to a Rivercats game, Sacramento is only a 45 minute drive. I made the pitch that the boys would like the fireworks (if they could last that long) and I was going to murder someone if I didn’t get out of the house and double down for a "Triple-Header Oakland A’s and Affiliates" weekend. Rivercats for Friday fireworks, Oakland on Saturday for Lester’s first start, and back to Stockton for Dollar Monday.
I am always amazed at the amount of logistical considerations for a baseball game with two kids (4 and 2). It’s basically like packing out your kit for a 12-hour attack on a fortified compound defended by ISIS. You NEED everything. Water, snacks, snacks, snacks, dipers, wipes, extra underwear, PJs and pull ups for the ride home, snacks, sunscreen (even for a night game apparently), paper towels, napkins, a flashlight, scuba tank, and baseball gloves. We got to the game about an hour early to soak in the pre-game. I humped our gear and my 2-year old on the shoulders so that we could make the 5-minute walk to stadium in under an hour.
We got to the seats in plenty of time, as the grounds crew was watering the infield. It just so happens that one of my old buddies is the head grounds keeper for the Rivercats. Having no baseball action on the field to look at, the boys were immediately restless so I decided the best thing to do was heckle the grounds crew and introduce my boys to the time honored tradition of being loud idiots at the ball park (zero beers deep at this point, just for the record). Our “Hey, there’s a drought, THANKS FOR USING ALL THE WATER!” heckle got some mild laughs from the sparse crowd. Not bad. We continue to provide some bad heckling and cheap entertainment for the 20 and 60-somethings in the crowd until I notice that only one kid is with me.
Just as I turn around my 4-year old has bolted up the stairs and into the crowd. He emerges with two bobble head boxes. It was Addison Russell gnome giveaway day (now a member of the Cubs). Apparently, it was going to be an awkward giveaway weekend for the A’s. Immediately, I think he has stolen them from someone and am about to start yelling at him when he says “that nice lady gave us these.” My man. Haggling random grandparents for free ball-park swag and saving me around $20-$30 in crap that will keep their interest for 5 minutes at home, THANK YOU.
I don’t really remember what happened during the game because I was basically a free safety making sure that no kids got loose into the stadium but I remember wondering why Andy Parrino hasn’t gotten more playing time in Oakland and being amazed when Daric Barton hit not one but two balls for a hit.
In a semi-miraculous turn of events the boys kept it together and we made it to the fireworks. After the fireworks my buddy let us onto the field and the boys ran around the bases, played catch, and ran the warning track. Not bad for a Friday night game on a whim.
My wife and I had illusions of grandeur that we would get up early and get out on the road to the O dot CO by 8:00 AM. Getting back from the game at midnight deferred that dream to about 10:00 AM. The logistics were much easier for round two: dump off the kids, have a backpack full of beer, sunscreen, and peanuts, and bomb down I-5 for Dublin BART. A short stop off at the Tracy Nations and we were ready to go. Is there anything more satisfying than crushing beers and Nations on BART en-route to an A’s game by the way?
We got to the O dot CO about an hour before Jon Lester took the hill and 15-people short of a La Potencia shirt. Maybe I was super sensitive to the Cespy trade and more perceptive of the jerseys being worn by the fans but if I didn’t know any better I would have though it was “Dearly Departed Day” at the ball park. And I’m not just talking the abundance of #52 jerseys. Let’s get a roll call: Chavez (at least 4 people), Street, Ellis (I almost wore mine), Sweeney (I didn’t realize those were even made), Holliday (I booed him), Honeycutt, Grieve (mesh jersey), Foulk, Durazo, and Hudson. Sadly Olmedo Saenz received a DNP.
My main concern with the Lester start, aside from the awesome and awkward shirt giveaway, is the dichotomy with fanbase’s head and heart regarding the trade. From a heart perspective of course it kills to see one of the most beloved A’s get traded to a team that will likely sign him to a long term deal for much more money than the A’s are willing to trade. From Cespy’s showcase video, to the moon shots, playoff home runs against the Tigers, his back to back Home Run Derby exploits, laser assists from leftfield, and general awesomeness the A’s haven’t had a player this dynamic since Miguel Tejada. The fans loved everything about the guy, and the fact that he was from Cuba and didn’t speak English allowed him to be somewhat sheltered from fans criticizing his character and created a perception of mystery that enhanced the Cespy Experience. So looking at the trade that way I get it, it sucks to lose Yo. The fact that we traded him for essentially a mercenary, a Hessian in our revolution for the world title, didn’t cushion our fragile Moneyball hearts.
My head on the other hand loves this trade. We tried to trade Cespy last year, he only had one more year left on his 4-year $36 million contract, and unless you are insane or were going to buy the team from Lew Wolff, we were not going to resign him. All of the Youtube clips above basically show that his value couldn’t be hirer than right now and if you are going to make a run at the title pitching wins championships. See Giants 2010 and 2012 titles. Also, look at the last two seasons: Verlander and Sherzer won those ALDSs (although Cabrera didn’t hurt). Lester is a two-time champ and shut down ace, bottom line. If that takes us to the SHIP, I can sacrifice Yo even if my heart hurts a little bit.
With that said, Lester took the mound. I couldn't have been more proud of the fan base either. They knew what Lester was walking into from an emotional standpoint and showed him extra love. The crowd answered the call and made Lester feel like the rebound girlfriend who we are trying to prove we are over our last girlfriend. The crowd got to their feet at all of the crucial moments, kept Lester going when he got into jams, and gave him a deafening Standing-O when he left in the 7th, complete with noticeable increase in noise when Lester reciprocated with a tip of the cap. If this works out, he may be the greatest rebound girlfriend/mercenary pitcher ever.
If you have never been to Banner Island Ballpark you are missing out. First, it is basically a mini-Raley Field that features an intimate setting, outfield grass, centerfield lounge seats, and a great bar on the first base side. Second, tickets are $10 for behind home plate. Third, the A’s have had and continue to have some great prospects that generally made it to the show. This year they feature the top three prospects in the A’s farm system and 6 of the Top 10 (although catcher Bruce Maxwell just got called up to Midland). Basically their entire infield is in the Top 10. Daniel Robertson is the future at shortstop since Addison Russell’s departure to Chicago. Matt Olson is a better version of Daric Barton that can actually hit for power (34 HRs) and Renato Nunez, who played in the futures game, looks like a sturdier Eric Chavez (.287 AVE, 27 HRs, .907 OPS).
We got to our seats with two 24 oz beers per man and big league dreams in our eyes. In the bottom on the first, the aforementioned Nunez hit a bomb out of the stadium that hit the Stockton Arena to take an early 2-0 lead. Four home runs later, the Ports took home a blowout 8-1 win and we left over 100 ounces of beer richer and headed to B-Dubs to watch the end of the A’s-Rays Derek Norris walk-off win. 72 hours of A’s baseball. 72 hours of wins. 72 hours of new faces and hope. Green Collar.
 That’s basically the only ticket in town.
 No, there is not.
 Open invite to all Section 925ers for a Ports tilt. Accommodations included.