MLB Opening Day: The Oakland Coliseum
MLB OPENING DAY: THE OAKLAND COLISEUM – We’re back! WE. ARE. BACK!
The sun begins to climb over the beautifully snow-covered mountains. The fire from the hearth ushers out the morning chill with the subtle grace of the door guy at your favorite bar.
As you sip your coffee, you can’t help but ponder the mysteries that live in the neatly wrapped packages beneath the tree. There’s a wide assortment of shapes, sizes, and colors.
A small rectangular box with a thin gold ribbon, a large one wrapped in gaudy silver, a medium-sized cube covered with paper bags and scotch tape. Curiosity gets the best of you and you pick one up and give it a gentle shake. You feel for shifts in balance, listen for the rattles, hope to glean some information about its contents.
The date is March 30th and everyone is wondering why you still haven’t put your decorations away. But you have a good reason… because it’s Christmas Morning for baseball fans. Scratch that, It’s better than Christmas Morning. IT’S OPENING DAY AND IT’S THE BEST HOLIDAY OF THE YEAR!!! (No other submissions for this award will be considered).
Christmas is Over, Chumps
It’s time to kick that dusty, Charlie-Brown-lookin’ tree out to the curb, load the grill with bratwurst, crack the coldest beer you’ve got, and give a toast to the game so fine that it’s played on diamonds. Let’s rip into those Opening Day gifts and see what we got!
The threat of a typical long and uninteresting offseason was curtailed by an incredible flurry of free agent signings and unexpected trades that reshaped the baseball landscape. The introduction of a handful of new rules and a balanced schedule add a significant amount of intrigue as well. The real boozed soaked cherry from the bottom of the offseason cocktail was the World Baseball Classic.
The 2023 World Baseball Classic
That 2023 WBC was one for the ages. On top of all the star-studded rosters, fun storylines, and breakout performances, we were treated to the dream matchup of Mike Trout staring down Shohei Ohtani.
We as a people needed that moment and can only hope that it happens again somehow. With young players and new faces getting opportunities to compete in high stakes situations, it’ll be interesting to see who carries the momentum (good or bad) into the Major League season.
Keep an eye on Patrick Sandoval, the young lefty for the Angels, who took the mound for Team Mexico in an elimination game against Team USA and threw an absolute gem. Get hyped about shiny new Red Sox outfielder, Masataka Yoshida. To watch his approach at the plate is to watch a master at work.
New Phillies’ shortstop, Trea Turner, got off to a slow start for the Stars and Stripes, but, by the end of the tournament, he was dragging a hammer to the dish that would be the envy of Norse gods. These are just a few of the many players who took the opportunity to show out on a global stage. Here’s to hoping that it springboards them into big seasons!
Speaking of rapid propulsion, we got our baseball season started quick, fast, and in a hurry with tickets to watch Opening Day Baseball live and in the flesh. Where? Well let me tell ya, we were some of the lucky handful who celebrated what could have been the last Opening Day game played on Rickey Henderson Field at the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum.
It was an extremely well-played, entertaining game between the visiting Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the hometown Swingin’ A’s.
As it was potentially our final opportunity to do so, we had to have the fullest of full Coliseum experiences. For those who don’t know what that looks like, let me take you on a little tour.
The best way to start any good Coliseum experience is to partake in the Tunnel Party. One of the easiest ways to get to the Coliseum is by taking BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) to Coliseum Station.
To get to the stadium from the station, you walk across a semi-enclosed walkway that goes over the road and train tracks (this is The Tunnel). On your tunnel trek you will encounter people selling all kinds of food, beer, and bootleg gear. This is usually accompanied by portable speakers scattered along the way bumping jams and feeding the buzz of the herd.
It is strongly recommended that you have one, if not two, tunnel beers. They’ll be cheap and they’ll be cold.
Be sure to peruse the various bootleg setups. You will find some of the one-of-a-kind gems there. As far as the food goes, quality can vary, so trust your judgment. When you get across the walkway, you can decide if you need to find more parties, which you can do via tailgating, or if it’s time for your Ballpark Lap.
The best part of going to a game, aside from the game itself, is soaking up all that park has to offer and there’s no better way to do that than to walk a lap around the stadium.
Finding the best food vendors, your preferred beverage options, and most convenient bathrooms is essential to maximize the grip of cash you’ll spend while there.
On your search for such necessities, you will have the opportunity to take in all manner of interesting things, such as historical monuments, regional scenery, and various brands of entertainment.
I love nerding out on the history of the parks and teams as much as anyone, but, let me tell ya, there’s something better to seek out, particularly in Oakland.
The Soul of the Coliseum
What you need to be looking for is the soul of the ballpark.
Now, you may be asking how one goes about finding such a thing. It’s very easy. All you have to do is look for the most die-hard of fans.
I like to refer to them as Ballpark Characters and there are a myriad of them. Most of these Ballpark Characters have a shtick and it’s often a pretty good one. They get bonus points if they sport a custom jersey with the name of their appointed title on the back.
For instance, Top Hat Guy in Oakland has a kelly green A’s jersey with “TOPHATT” 60 on the back. That guy is doin’ it.
Oakland has an uncommon ratio of Ballpark Characters to casual fans due to the fact that just about everyone in attendance has been ride or die since Joe DiMaggio wore the Green and Gold.
Among The Town faithful, there dwells a rare breed of Ballpark Character, known as The Drummer. There are a handful of Drummers who have upheld the tradition of laying out a beat for the crowd to root root root for the home team and, if you ask me, they all should be on team payroll. They fire up the crowd better than any PA button ever could.
My personal favorite Ballpark Character is one called The Archetype. This is the person who rocks the team hat from the pre-Designated Hitter era with as many commemorative pins as their neck will support weight for.
The rest of their get-up usually consists of an equally old/still dope jacket, some faded jeans meant strictly for spilling mustard on, and a pair of shoes that make every dad feel the strange urge to flip a burger.
They often carry a scorebook and one of them newfangled portable transistor radios with the foamy headphones so they can listen to their favorite radio broadcasters while they meticulously score the game.
There’s a carefully cultivated wisdom to The Archetypes, so, when you encounter them, take note of the moves they make.
We found our Archetype in a crucial moment. It was the bottom of the 6th and we needed to beat the rush for a final beer and bathroom break (only rookies go during the 7th inning stretch).
The Oakland fan base is chock full of seasoned vets and many of them beat us to the punch. We picked the shortest beer line in sight and resigned ourselves to the fact that we would likely miss a few at-bats.
As we waited, I scanned the crowd, spotted The Archetype, and followed his lead. Like a benevolent spirit, he led us straight to the freshly restocked beer vendor returning to the concourse. We purchased our ice cold tall cans and were back in our seats before anyone threw a pitch. This was made possible by a 70-something year old man wearing a hat that was more brass than fabric.
As previously mentioned, the ballgame was awesome.
Esteury Ruiz made an insane diving catch on a Mike Trout line drive to right center.
Hunter Renfroe executed a wild, no-look catch on a screaming line drive to the warning track in right field.
Kyle Muller held down a terrifying Angeles offense to the tune of 1 earned run over 5 innings.
Tony Kemp sparked the winning rally for the A’s in the 8th with a huge game tying RBI double and scored the winning run on an Aledmys Diaz base hit. Oh yeah, and that Shohei guy threw 6 shut with 10 tickets while getting on base twice with a hit and a walk.
We sat in the left field bleachers and met The Mayor of Left Field. My trioupe enjoyed a few beers. We watched a guy rescue the hat that fell from a kid’s head at the top of the left field wall. We celebrated with the city of Oakland as we tunnel-partied our way out of The Coliseum. It was everything we could’ve asked for out of Opening Day. I hope that yours was equally as fruitful.
Whether you celebrated your day in the Big Leagues or the Bus Leagues, I hope you got to take in as much baseball culture as we did.
Happy Opening Day, friends.