Amaury Pi-Gonzalez

Oakland Athletics' Future Is Bright

By Amaury Pi-Gonzalez
I believe the Oakland Athletics' future is bright, especially since they brought in Mr. Dave Kaval as their president. He has the energy, vision and leadership to guide this historic franchise into their next great chapter.

If you owned a restaurant and nobody was walking in, you might want to go into the street and grab five homeless souls and bring them in to eat for free, right? It would be a charitable mission but not profitable. In this case God will bless your heart, but not your pocket.

Baseball is totally different. Unlike a restaurant, baseball is a seasonal business, where you have six months and some days to sell as many tickets as you can. Baseball and professional sports in general sells in advance, like for example to season ticket holders, which gives the team a guaranteed revenue stream. When your season tickets holders are not plentiful, then you move to Plan B. The A's 50th Anniversary in Oakland is part of Plan B, with countless special days scheduled and promotions already programmed prior to the season. Nothing wrong with this. The A's are a great franchise, with nine World Series titles. Only the New York Yankees, with 27, and the St. Louis Cardinals, with 11, have won more titles than the A's, who have been playing at the Oakland Coliseum since 1968.

As they leave for Orange County and their first road trip to face the Los Angeles Angels and Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout, the first homestand of 2018 was not great at the box office. Against the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday, Opening Day, the A's drew 27,764 fans. Friday night followed with 27,655 fans, Saturday afternoon with 17,012 fans and Sunday afternoon with 14,644 fans. The Texas Rangers came in on Monday for four games: Monday drew 7,416 fans, Tuesday 9,597 fans, Wednesday 7,909 fans and the last game on Thursday afternoon, 10,132 fans. The A's finished the first eight games of the season with a 3-5 record.

The Rangers' night games brought back memories of the days when Charlie O. Finley owned the team and after he won three consecutive World Series in 1972, 1973, 1974, he didn't wanted to retain players because he just didn't believe an owner should pay them millions of dollars. Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Campy Campaneris, among others, all said Adios to Oakland. They wanted to get paid and Finley would not paid them. It was as simple as that. Yes, those years after those three championships were really the dog days. I remember well because that is when I began in this business. The A's average per-game attendance in 1976 was 9,697 fans; in 1977 6,157 fans; in 1978 6,506 fans.

Finley sold the team after the 1980 season to the Walter Haas family and things changed for the better. There where pennants and a World Series (1989) at the Oakland Coliseum. The Haas family revived this great franchise in Oakland, with Roy Eisenhardt and Andy Dolich and a front office that went to work on marketing and reaching out to the community. But most importantly, they had the best promotion that all fans appreciate the most -- winning! In 1988 the A's were the first baseball team in the Bay Area to draw over two million fans, which at that time was considered very impressive for this market. They then followed the trend by winning pennants and going to three World Series.

Celebrating their 50th Anniversary in Oakland has been fun already, with the reunion of 50 players in 50 years during the first home-stand. There is also the Tree House in left field, a new attraction for people to mingle, relax, drink, watch the game, inside or outside on the porch. There is a New Farm area in right field, which is very interesting. The A's are also giving free tickets to the North Bay residents affected by the fires of 2017. The game on Sunday, June 10 verses the Kansas City Royals, will include tributes to the first responders and firefighters.

When the A's return to Oakland on Monday, April 16 verses the Chicago White Sox, and the next day, on April 17, everybody will be admitted free of charge to the Coliseum.

The A's are a franchise in transition, trying to build a new ball park in Oakland, with young promising players who could some day be All-Stars. They are moving ahead after a rough start at the box office. Yes, it has been cold but there were other things happening, like the Warriors next door ending their regular season and limping to the playoffs, trying to repeat as champions.

Note: Outfielder Trayce Thompson is now with the A's so he can just walk next door and watch his brother, Warriors Klay Thompson, during the playoffs.

March Madness, along with many other events in this very complicated entertainment world, might have been a factor in the A's attendance. The Bay Area offers many attractions and the entertainment ticket for sports is always challenged. We are just beginning April and there is a long season ahead.

Among many optimist is one of my favorites (below) and remember, the world belongs to the optimist.

"Even the darkest night will end, and the sun will rise."
-Victor Hugo, Les Misérables.

Amaury Pi-González is the Spanish Voice of the Oakland Athletics and a pioneer in establishing Spanish baseball radio in the Bay Area. Pi-Gonzalez was inducted into the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame in 2010. Games are on KIQI 1010AM/990AM radio in the Bay Area and Northern California. They can also be heard in Spanish on the SAP on NBC Sports California. Total of 74 games (71 home games plus three on the road) from
AT&T Park in San Francisco.
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