Jul
23

The good and the bad of a weekend in Oakland

By

When I told people where my siblings and I were traveling to watch the Yankees this season, most people thought we were nuts. Every year my two bothers, who live in San Diego; my sister, who lives in Manhattan; and I meet up for a road series. Anaheim usually makes the most sense. They prefer we travel there since they travel home for holidays. But with no weekend series in Anaheim, the best we could do was Oakland.

And you know what? The stadium and overall experience weren’t nearly as poor as I’d been told. It wasn’t like going to a brand new ballpark, but it’s also not a place I’d intentionally avoid in the future.

The Stadium

Oakland as a city gets a bad rap, and the stadium that hosts its baseball team is no different. Most of the negative reviews I’ve heard center on the largeness of the park in general and Mount Davis specifically. Yet neither really bothered me or my siblings during the trip.

There are some annoying aspects to the park for sure. For instance, if you enter at the entrance directly over the bridge from the BART you have to cut through a section of seats to get down to the bleachers. That took a few minutes to figure out. The concourses are easy enough to navigate otherwise, though.

(Oh, and the bleachers aren’t actually bleachers. They’re just seats in the outfield where they allow general admission and where you can’t see the warning track.)

Concessions were a bit barren, with several stands closed up. Still, there was rarely a line for anything. No, the A’s don’t sell out or anything, but they had attendances of 25,000 to 30,000 all weekend. So it’s not like the place was emptied out. In fact, they sold out the bleacher seats on Friday and Saturday before we could get a chance to pick them up.

In terms of sight lines, it wasn’t all that bad. We sat on the right field line the first two games and then the left field line the last game. Maybe the experience is a bit more disappointing on the lower levels, but in my eyes that’s a positive. A decent view from cheap seats makes for a better ballpark experience.

The fans

I have to say, the fans in Oakland were some of the friendliest I’ve encountered at road parks. Few of them taunted us, despite us being decked out in Yankees gear. In fact, after Saturday’s loss a group of A’s fans invited us to their postgame tailgate. They fed us beer and brats and didn’t ask a damn thing from us. That’s some hospitality right there.

In some ways I expected the place to be packed with Yankees fans, as tends to happen at road parks with generally low attendances. I guess there aren’t many Yankees expats in the Bay Area. It was pretty solidly green and gold all around, with a smattering of navy and gray.

Transportation

The BART was pretty efficient in getting us to and from the game. It runs every 15 minutes or so, and it’s pretty well on schedule. Even after the games the cars don’t get that packed, but that appears that Oaklanders don’t take part in the New York tradition of shoving your way onto a subway car and packing it full.

What struck me as odd is the lack of postgame service. At Yankee Stadium they have multiple trains waiting on the 4 and D lines, since they know they’ll be serving thousands of game patrons. That was not at all the case in Oakland. They run on the same schedule, despite the predictable traffic following a baseball game.

As one Oaklander put it to me, “If they did that, wouldn’t there be a lot of congestion on the train tracks?” Apparently he’s never heard uttered the words, “We are delayed because of train traffic ahead of us.”

The games

No one wants to go on the road and see the Yankees lose. It hurts that much more when you travel across the country and see them lose three straight one-run games. The games moved at a quality pace, since they were low scoring. But give me a four-hour win over a 2.5-hour loss any day.

The final game was perhaps the most painful. On an airplane with Wi-Fi that resembled dial-up speeds, I had to watch on Gameday on my phone. That died about halfway through the flight, and I had to convince my sister to let me use her Galaxy S3 (which is really hot, in case you were wondering). Seeing “In play, run(s)” during Seth Smith’s at-bat might have been the low point of the weekend — and I was almost home by that point.

Overall I have to say that Oakland and the Coliseum get some unnecessarily negative publicity. Is it the best place I’ve ever seen a game? Absolutely not. But it’s definitely a place I’d go back to if I had the chance.

Categories : Musings

47 Comments»

  1. MattG says:

    I was there, once…

    holds up index finger dramatically

    Once.

  2. putt says:

    As a native east coast Yankee fan living in the East Bay for the past 4 years, I’d say your summation of the stadium and experience pretty much matches up with mine.

    I’ve seen Yanks/A’s 8 times over the years and the one thing I think was different was the fact that number of Yankee fans was down as compared to the other games I’ve been to – I totally agree with Joe. FWIW it was the Friday night game. It’s strange because it’s usually around 50/50 at best; often feels like more NY fans.

  3. Robinson Tilapia says:

    I actually thought this would be another stroll through the sweep itself. I was wrong. I enjoyed reading this, Joe. Thanks.

    I haven’t spent a ton of time in Oakland, as most of by Bay Area time is either spent in SF itself, Berkeley, or travelling into Marin Cty, but I like what I’ve seen. Had a big ice cream sundae in that one famous place the Pixar guys love.

    I’m glad the stadium is more tolerable in person. Must be the anti-Wrigley.

  4. DJ4K&Monterowasdinero says:

    Lived in the Bay Area for 10 years. Agree with the comments. The place can be a morgue though when the team is not playing as they are now. Yankee games and fans always liven up a moribund situation.

  5. My Pet Goat says:

    I’ve lived in the Bay Area (a couple of years in Oakland, a city I love) for over a decade, and usually Yankee fans are out in force when they visit the A’s. I wasn’t able to make any of the games, but I usually do. So far be it for me to wonder why NY fans were under represented. But I would guess that the lack off pinstripes and the four game sweep kept the A’s fans behaved. I’ve only seen the occasional brawl, but the locals can be pretty testy, aggressive and crude after a loss especially on the gang-plank to the BART. Still, glad you enjoyed yourself. I hope it prompts a return visit.

  6. completely off topic, but you mentioned it. Your sis has the Galaxy? Does she like it? Have you played with it apart from the flight? Do you like it? Not asking for a full review,just wondering because I’m probably getting it tomorrow.

  7. FWIW, I totally agree. I think a lot of the criticism of that stadium must come from people who either haven’t actually been there or haven’t been to many other stadiums for sake of comparison. I mean, it can’t compete with the new stadiums everywhere, but I’d certainly rather see a game there than in a few other stadiums I’ve been to, especially the domes (which are mostly gone, but still). It’s not ideal, but it’s a perfectly serviceable place to watch a game.

    • putt says:

      Plus cheap and available tickets! $38 to sit 3 rows from the Yankee dugout…

    • Kosmo says:

      especially when the wind is up and howling thru the stadium and it´s 40 degrees at games end and its mid-July. Old Domes are from a bygone era and don´t count and as far as current stadiums go it is as characterless as they get.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      Fair enough for sure. I’ve given the stadium my share of shit but, yeah, I’ve certainly never been there. I certainly will defer to those who’ve been tehre.

  8. Kosmo says:

    I lived for 34 years in the Bay Area and know the area very well to say the least, having lived in SF, Berkeley and Oakland and it would be great for the A´s to move to San Jose and a real stadium. The freeways make getting to and from games easy. Usually very little in the way of traffic jams when it´s not NY or Boston in town. Bart caters to a smaller population than NY city subways.
    Oakland is a nice town if you happen to live in the Montclair or Rockridge districts or more towards the hillside. It still has one of the highest homicide rates in the USA and continued gang violence.
    It has a great jazz club in Yoshis and the restaurants are world class especially BayWolf to name one favorite of mine. I´m now a happy European.

  9. Henry Frisch says:

    I was there once for a non-Yankees game in ’07. The place was empty. But when a Yankees loss back east went up there was a mighty cheer. Not surprisingly, we could hear yesterday on TV a strong “Yankees suck” wave during that game. My strongest memory is of the pecular circular urinal that could accomodate huge numbers at once.

    • RetroRob says:

      The Yankees are the most successful and richest team in MLB, with the A’s living on the opposite end of the economic scale. Chants of “Yankees suck” are to be expected. It comes with the territory of being Yankee fans. We love them, obviously fans of other teams do not. Being the black-hatted villian is a good thing in entertainment in sports. It means success. It’s why the Red Sox calling the Yankees the Evil Empire backfired. They thought it was an insult. It wasn’t.

      A circular urinal with every guy standing around pissing in a hole? I don’t remember that. I probably didn’t use the men’s room.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      There’s a joke in there somewhere that would send RI$P FTW into faux-hysterics.

  10. viridiana says:

    Sorry to interrupt the flow here, but there’s news:

    GCL Yanks Set New Record.

    First time ever to field four (4) Austins in a single game. Rehabbing Tyler Austin goes deep. Young Austin Aune doubles. Austin Jones, Austin Romine show up too.

  11. I’m over it. All is well.. Nash to NYR.

  12. Jacob says:

    in 2010 I did not have mlb.tv and had to use gameday and oh god I can remember my stomach dropping every time I saw in play run(s) the worst site when watching gameday and the opposing team is up

  13. Nathan says:

    I live about 40 minutes from the Oakland Coliseum, whatever it’s called these days.

    I’ve gone to at least one game every time the Yankees are in town and each time it’s at least 50/50 in terms of Yankees fans and A’s fans, if not slightly edged towards Yankees.

    I was at the first game of the series and for the first time, it was predominately A’s fans. I don’t know if it was because it was a Thursday or because the A’s have been hot, but it was sort of weird. I’ve been used to being in the majority, even in the A’s house.

    • Kosmo says:

      I think they´re called “fair weather fans“ when the home team is playing above expectation fans come out of the woodwork to attend games.

  14. RetroRob says:

    Regarding the Coliseum, it’s really one of expectations. I’ve been to two games there. My first experience I walked away thinking it was the worst park ever from an aesthetics point of view. Worse than Shea. I’ve been to a high percentage of MLB parks, so I wasn’t judging the place blindly. It also doesn’t help that they play in the same region with perhaps the single best MLB park, the SF Giants’ home, which I’ve been to also. Creates for a stark comparison.

    When I went back several years later I thought the place was okay. My expectations were so low after my initial visit that I no longer noticed what was wrong, but enjoyed what was right. Access was easy, seats plentiful, and the fans did seem nice.

    I do hope MLB can help keep the A’s in the region and get a new park built. I think one reason the place still only had about 25K per game over the weekend is fans there probably find it hard to embrace yet another A’s team with good young players. They’ll all be gone in a few years.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      God do I love me some AT&T Park.

      As much as I love something that really, truly feels like a ballpark, like it does, aesthetically, I feel that YS3 fits the Yankees perfectly. I only wish they wouldn’t have gone ridiculously corporate with concession food, as they did.

      • RetroRob says:

        I like YS3. I might be in the minority, but I wouldn’t want to go back to the the old stadium after being in the new place for several years. I mean, it would have tolerated them playing in Citi for a couple years as they did in Shea in the 70s if they could have somehow stayed on the grounds and rebuilt the old park, but that wasn’t feasible.

        And, yes, the one part I’m most disappointed in is the food. They could have used the new place as opportunity to make a real statement.

        • jjyank says:

          I’m with you. I like YS3 as well. It would have been nice if they stayed on the same grounds, but moving just accross the street is fine with me.

        • Robinson Tilapia says:

          Ease of travel within the stadium is so awesome. It took me about two trips to feel like I could get from any one point in the stadium to another in minutes, with the bleachers being far and away the biggest improvement.

          The Yankees belong in a stadium that looks like a high-tech, expensive cathedral of baseball.

        • Paul VuvuZuvella says:

          Yeah, I miss the old place from a nostalgia standpoint, but never when I am at a game. It was time for a new place.

    • Dino Velvet says:

      worse ball park evah – candlestick.

      The Coliseum is the Taj Mahal compared to candlestick.

      not only was filthy and freezing cold, but the sight lines were horrible.

      The think about Oakland is even though it has big foul grounds the sight lines are great.

  15. Paul VuvuZuvella says:

    I went to a game there in 2010. I didn’t like the ballpark. I sat in front of a very loud heckler…wasn’t heckling me he was just shouting to the field, and that was just annoying as hell. Yanks won the game. I sat in two different spots during the game so got two vantage points. I would have no reason to go back there for a game, but would never turn down the option to go back if I was there and the opportunity presented.

  16. Twains Yankee says:

    I’ve been to several games there and I like OAK alot. There is a great Irish Bar behind home plate with real good burgers.

  17. Darren says:

    I’been to Oakland Colisuem and it’s about 1000 times better than the New Yankee Stadium in every way. Fans, sightlines, prices, etc. Then again, the new YS is an abomination borne of greed, stupidity and classlessness that looks more like a prison or a car dealrship than a ballpark, so it’s not saying much.

    • RetroRob says:

      “YS is an abomination borne of greed, stupidity and classlessness…”

      That’s pretty much what people said when the original Yankee Stadium debuted in the early 1920s. They said similiar with the refurbished one in the 1970s. Good to know they Yankees are consistent.

  18. Ken says:

    I was at two of those games (Sat/Sun) and seated right behind home plate. All of the concession stands were open and the lines were quite long! Yes, the A’s fans are very friendly, and there were more of them this time as well. It used to be a contest as to who had the more fans, but the A’s outnumbered Yankee fans this time. Not the best ballpark in the world, but my seat cost $58. That would translate into the hundreds in the Bronx.

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