Wet Rainy Day Couldn’t Keep 20,000 Fans Away For A’s Fanfest 2014

Photo Courtesy Oakland Athletics
Photo Courtesy Oakland Athletics

by Kahlil Najar

OAKLAND – Leaking ceilings, huge puddles and long lines couldn’t keep away 20,000 plus fans today from the Oakland Athletics annual Fanfest held at the Oakland Coliseum. The Oakland faithful stood outside the for as long as two hours before the gates opened until they were finally allowed in to welcome back their A-Team and kickoff the 2014 A’s season.

The FanFest contained all the usual things you would expect – autographs, photo opps and clubhouse tours. However the A’s front office and staff outdid themselves this year by adding the opportunity to take photos with all four of the A’s World Series trophies, a baseball 101 and kids batting clinic for the public and an exclusive opportunity for the fans to interview the bench coaches. Also the A’s brought home the champions by inviting A’s legends Vida Blue, Ray Fosse, Gene Tenace, Dave Henderson and Tony Phillips.

Prior to opening up the gates to the public, the players and coaches gathered in Oracle Arena’s courtside club and gave the media a quick media session where coaches and players addressed questions from the press.

Manager Bob Melvin was the first to be swarmed by reporters where he addressed the A’s improved bullpen, Coco Crisp’s leadership as well as the complicated decision of who should be designated hitter for each game.

“You pinch yourself with his bullpen depth,” said Melvin when asked about the additions to his bullpen. “I’m very happy with what we’ve been able to do.” This off-season the A’s added LHP Fernando Abad, RHP Jim Johnson, RHP Josh Lindbolm, RHP Luke Gregerson, LHP Scott Kazmir, LHP Drew Pomeranz and LHP Eric O’Flaherty to their bullpen to give what some have called the best bullpen in the league.

The A’s also agreed to terms with fan darling Coco Crisp a few days ago to a two-year, $22.75 million deal through 2016 and it includes a vesting option for 2017. “Coco has been a leader each year since I got here” said Melvin.

“I don’t really look at myself that way. If the guys have questions I would love to answer them. I consider myself a peer to these guys. They (the organization) do a good job of grooming the personalities and a lot of these guys came from the organization so it’s a fairly easy gig to have that veteran label but there are a few things that I try to chime in here and there,” said Crisp on his leadership role.

As for the designated hitter role Melvin said that the A’s are likely to rotate the DH spot with days off between Cespedes, Crisp and catcher John Jaso. General Manager Billy Beane said that the A’s will not add any big bats before spring training even though there are still some big names out there. He also said that the 25-man roster will likely come from the group of guys invited to spring training and that if there are any other additions to the team that they would be there purely for depth.

The AL West is stacked this year. The Mariners signed the dangerous Robinson Cano , reliable first baseman Corey Hart and second baseman Willie Bloomquist. The Rangers signed outfielders Shin-Soo Choo and Alex Castellanos and the Angels signed Raul Ibanez and Angel Molina but also traded RF Mark Trumbo to the Diamondbacks for left handed pitchers Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs.

On the moves, Crisp said, “It’s going to make our division harder. Seattle has done a great job of enhancing their chances of winning this year. They already had a good team in place so it’s going to make it a little more fun for us to go out there. Competition is always good and I think our team enjoys that. We feed off that.”

Ryan Cook continued, “It’s nothing new for us. The Rangers made big moves. Anaheim made big moves in the past. We’ll see. We’re going to go out there and play the way that Bob wants us to play and the way that we know how.”

Eric Sogard echoed Cook’s sentiments, “We’re not going to change what we’re doing. We’re going to go out there everyday and focus on what we’re doing. Obviously the AL West is going to be the top division in baseball and I think that will be exciting for the fans. Playing them (Seattle) a majority of the year is going to allow us to play our best baseball and get ready for the post-season.”

During a question-and-answer session at the arena Sean Doolittle addressed the idea that the A’s are still considered underdogs and address the AL West situation as well.

“If we were really under the radar, would these other teams in our division be spending that kind of money or be making those blockbuster trades to try to shake things up? This time last year, we were answering these same questions about what other teams did. So we’ve been through this before.”

The A’s have a daunting task in front of them. They are trying to be the first back-to-back-to-back AL West Champions since the 1988-89-90 team did it over 20 years ago. Out of that team the A’s were able to grab two World Series appearances and a World title. With the team on hand today, the A’s appear to be destined to be back in the playoffs.

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