This Sunday the A’s will hold their annual FanFest at the Coliseum complex, although I use the term “annual” liberally here. It was only a few years ago that this event, or rather a muted version of it, was held in the north parking lot during regular business hours. But the last couple of years the club has utilized both the stadium and the arena to accommodate the crushing throng of eager fans.
It can be quite the squeeze in some areas, and the waiting times can be monumental. The surprising thing for me is when I hear attendees who are perturbed by these inconveniences when they seem inherent, so let me tell those of you planning to attend that it’s no Sunday stroll. So why do we do it? Because we’re starved for Oakland A’s baseball after a long, dark, cold, wet winter, that’s why.
Be prepared for long lines for autographs, player photos, and clubhouse tours. The question and answer sessions have room in the arena and the radio interviews in the Westside Club usually aren’t too full. I did live interviews along with Guy Haberman on 95.7 The Game last year with Bob Melvin, Josh Donaldson, Jesse Chavez, Sonny Gray and Jim Johnson (and we’ll do more again this year from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm). Poor Johnson was all smiles that day and no one could have predicted he would be the object of a fanbase’s ire as early as Opening Night. Donaldson was rather sullen, Chavez was upbeat, Gray was being a jokester, and Melvin was his usual affable self.
There will be plenty of new players to meet this time, as per usual with the A’s. I remember last year there were a few eyebrows raised and questions asked, such as, “Is that O’Flaherty? No, it’s Pomeranz. The other guy is Gimenez, right?” This is another benefit of FanFest: it gets us acclimated to a massive roster turnover as we can finally put a face to a name.
If you’re going to seek out an autograph, remember that you must get a voucher for that player first. So it’s two lines for one guy sometimes. But just like if you’re at Disneyland and want to ride the Matterhorn or Space Mountain, you know it won’t be a quick fix. I would suggest figuring out who your top priority is and then prepare for the long haul. It’s only a couple dozen players for a several thousand fans, so it’s to be expected. A picture with the four World Series trophies is always a highlight worth the trouble, and the clubhouse tour is also enlightening as you’ll find no $1.00 soda machines or spewing sewage.
While it does cost 10 bucks to get in to FanFest, parking is free. There is always some justifiable backlash to the admission price when the team eight miles to the west has a free FanFest. I won’t make any excuses for the A’s – it does suck that it’s not free. But it’s also worth it because it’s the only day from October to April that we get to go to the Coliseum for something A’s-related. That’s a long gap! We also get to see a lot friends we lose touch with in the offseason. For many, that alone is reason enough to go. The bottom line is FanFest is supposed to be fun, not a time to moan and groan, even though there will be ample opportunities to do so. If you get a chance, drop by to listen to our interviews and say hi during a break. And look on the bright side: it will be crowded because lots of people are interested in the A’s, and that’s never a bad thing.