Psssst…..Hey Athletics…yeah, you Donaldson, Vogt, Reddick, Lowrie, Crisp, Moss, Gomes, Fuld, Doolittle, Sogard, Gray, Norris and all your cohorts…Things have been kind of rough the last six weeks or so. Some of the fire seems to have gone out of you, except for brief glimpses. It doesn’t seem as fun for you as the first half of the season when your run differential was through the roof, and there was lots of pie. Your fans are still here. We haven’t abandoned you. We’re still hoping and waiting for one of your fabulous turnarounds. I thought I might share a story of an A’s fan, and see if that helps, even just a little.
I’ve been an A’s fan my entire life – no kidding. I’m fairly sure my Daddy struggled deciding what to put me in first – the silver and black of his beloved Raiders, or the green and gold of his also-beloved Athletics. Bando, Campaneris, Hunter, Fingers, and Jackson were household names as I was growing up. I was a very little girl during the 72, 73, and 74 seasons, but I was aware something good was going on in our world with regard to baseball. I was in college, surrounded by Dodger fans, as I watched in disbelief while Kirk Gibson hit that homerun off Eckersley (I know, it still hurts to think about it, much less see it). I waited patiently through the break in play following the earthquake in 89, and then proudly wore my green and gold gear after the sweep of the Giants. I followed Gallego, Steinbach, Weiss and Lansford faithfully. They weren’t rock stars like others on the team, rather, they just did the job. I loved that about them. They were scrappers. They were feisty. They overcame odds.
I remember driving over to Oakland from the Central Valley to meet my dad and brother for games. We’d buy the cheap tickets in the bleachers – the old bleachers before Mt. Davis was built – and hang out. My brother and I bought season tickets together in 1994. We had those until 2001, when my husband and I moved to San Diego. I was there when Eck got his 300th save against the Orioles in 1995. Our whole family would tailgate for Daddy’s birthday every year. His 75th was the last time we would all go together, as my oldest sister passed away from cancer in 2009. So many memories are tied up to the A’s and going to games.
In 2000, we were pregnant with our first child. My husband is a Cubs fan, so we tossed a coin to see who would win this kid’s loyalty. I won the coin flip, and went out and bought a little A’s outfit. On September 6th, 2000, the A’s were 1.5 games out of first, trailing the Seattle Mariners. I had plans to watch the game against the Red Sox that night. I was three weeks past the halfway point of my pregnancy. I started bleeding. Immediately admitted to the hospital and given medication to stop the contractions, we entered a world of fear and uncertainty. During that first night, I was transferred from San Ramon to a hospital in Oakland that could “handle a 23-weeker.” Our baby had a less-than-10% chance of survival, and zero chance he would survive without serious, lifelong medical and developmental issues. Three days later, still pregnant, my doctor told me I was in that bed for the duration. There was no cable television in that hospital room, which meant no watching A’s games. My husband brought a radio in so I could at least listen to the games.
The A’s went on a tear. For the next sixteen days, I listened as they battled to stay close to Seattle in the standings. On September 23rd, an infection forced the delivery of our son. Just before his birth, the doctor asked what we wanted to do – did we want life-saving measures taken, or did we want to just hold him until he passed? We told them we wanted them to do everything they could. If he was fighting, we would fight for him. We would fight until he let us know he was done. He was born breathing. He cried a tiny cry before they put him on the ventilator. Within thirty minutes, the neonatologist returned to our room and gave us two Polaroids of our son. He told us we had a feisty fighter on our hands. On September 23rd, the A’s beat Seattle 8-2 in the third of a four-game series.
Our tiny boy had all the odds against him. While he was given an 80% survival rate, they warned us that Caucasian males born this early (26 weeks, the first day of my third trimester) don’t typically do well. Their lungs don’t develop as early nor as well as their female counterparts. I watched as he daily stopped breathing and his heart rate would drop. I sat by his bedside, unable to help him, unable to control the situation. So many believed he wouldn’t make it. They didn’t believe in him. Those who knew him best – the nurses who took care of him the most, his neonatologist, us – knew he was truly that feisty fighter. That little two-pound boy taught me so much about battling it out. That boy was a fighter. Two out of 100 boys born at his gestation will turn out like he has, without any medical or developmental issues outside of mild asthma.
When my son was 2 weeks and 1 day old, I went to see him early in the day. Then I left his bedside, and got on the BART train to meet my brother at Game 5 of the ALDS against the Yankees. I felt somewhat guilty, but I knew when I explained it to him later in his life, he would somehow understand (he has). Our son came home from the neonatal intensive care unit after 93 days. He’s never been back. When he was almost six months old, we took him to his first baseball game – a Spring Training game in Phoenix. He attended Opening Night of the 2001 season. He’d been to fifteen A’s games by the time he was 2 years old. He learned to say “Tejada!” along with the rest of the crowd during the games. We taught him how to read a box score when he was five. I cried as he crossed home plate for the first time when he was six years old and playing in his first season of T-Ball. In those early days of his life, we never knew if he would be able to play baseball. He frequently stays up past his bedtime to watch games with me.
He will be fourteen in eleven days. He’s still feisty, determined, and quirky. You, this team, remind me a lot of him. The A’s have always had a close similarity in my mind to my son. Those who know you know you can do this, can overcome the odds. We know what you’re capable of. The “experts” may be writing this season off. They may be saying Billy tried to do too much to try and get past the Division Series. Injuries, unlucky plays, games that were one out too short have happened. But keep fighting. I know every time I think about giving up on something, I think about my fighter. It makes me keep going, because if two pounds of feisty can slug it out, so can I, and so can you. Your real fans are here, every step of the way, to the end. Be you. Be the team that has fun, that’s a little off, that doesn’t have the uptight personality of some teams. Let there be pie.