Conflicted Oakland A’s fans make trek to Spring Training to watch their team

MESA, Ariz. — An announced crowd of 5,253 descended on Hohokam Stadium for the Oakland A’s first game of spring training in what could be the final year the squad represents the city during Cactus League play.

Joyce Wilson, a resident of Napa, was seated by the stadium’s entrance at least two hours before the gates opened to ensure she would be first into the venue. Not even eventually watching her beloved A’s drop their Cactus League opener 5-1 to Colorado could damper her spirits.

Clad in a customized 50th anniversary A’s jersey featuring her last name and the number 81 to represent the number of home games in a season, Wilson has been a season ticket holder for 35 years. In those years, she’s collected over 18,000 autographs.

“I have Rickey (Henderson), Big Papi (David Ortiz), Yoenis Cespedes, Joe Rudi,” Wilson said, continuing to rattle off names.

A’s fan Joyce Wilson from Napa was at the team’s spring training opener Saturday, Feb. 24 in Mesa, Ariz. She’s been a season ticket holder for 35 years and has amassed a thorough autograph collection. 

Wilson has been making the trek to Arizona to catch Cactus League ball for over 20 years now. Whether the team stays in Oakland a few more years, moves to Las Vegas, or anywhere in between, she has no plans to stop coming to Arizona.

“Oh yes, definitely, I want to support the guys,” Wilson said. “It’s not their fault (owner John) Fisher is doing what he’s doing. I’ll be an A’s fan wherever they are.”

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Bay Area native Sabrina Brown wasn’t quite as supportive, saying she won’t be going to spring training or regular season games for the team she’s supported since 1968, once the season ends.

“This will be our last year and then they can go,” Brown said. “We’ll be done and over it. This is our last year being season ticket holders. Even if they stay next year, we won’t continue. Maybe still go to one or two (games). The team is good, but it’s the owners and (president) Dave Kaval (that are the issue).”

Brown’s husband, Adam, was born and raised a Los Angeles Dodgers fan but converted to A’s fandom after marrying Sabrina. Now, the two are taking their baseball attention back down south.

As for A’s fan Tyler Obalek, a Los Angeles native, this season represents one last opportunity to visit his favorite team’s stadium.

“My buddy and I are like ‘We got to go to a game this year’ and it’s on our bucket list for sure,” Obalek said, adding he’ll still support the team regardless where they play. “Besides the Warriors and Niners, there’s nothing left there. The move to Vegas doesn’t feel right in the slightest.”

There remains a possibility the A’s could play somewhere such as Sacramento for a few years before a stadium in Las Vegas is scheduled to be completed for the 2028 season. Travis Carpenter, a fan from Sacramento, would welcome the team’s temporary stay in his city.

“It’s a really hungry city for sports because we only have the Kings,” Carpenter said. “So if you’re really interested in baseball, football, something like that, we have to travel to the Bay Area. And now that those teams are disappearing, not only are they losing it, but Sacramento is, too.”

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Travis and Rayce Carpenter, a father and son from Sacramento, attended their first A’s spring training on Saturday, Feb. 24 in Mesa, Ariz. 

Carpenter took his 10-year-old son Rayce to his first A’s game last season, and this is their first year coming to spring training.

On Friday, Rayce was able to get his jersey signed by his favorite player, Zack Gelof. Whether in Oakland or Vegas, the Carpenters plan to go to one or two games a year moving forward. But it doesn’t make the franchise’s relocation any easier for them.

“It’s unfortunate, because I know the fan base is there,” the elder Carpenter said. “The A’s have been there for so long. It’s kind of like pulling the rug out from under generations of people.”

Brown and her family renounced their season tickets after holding them for four decades. Along the way, the family collected 1,500 autographed bats and an innumerable amount of other A’s memorabilia. But after 56 years in the Bay, she is frustrated a deal couldn’t be reached for the team to stay.

“There’s plenty of land, you have BART, you have Amtrak, the freeway, all the sideroads, there’s multiple ways in and out,” Brown complained. “Where they’re at now there’s still room to play and build up the area. It’s a whole sad situation.”

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Oakland A’s manager Mark Kotsay was more optimistic about the franchise’s relocation situation.

“It’s potential, but it’s not certain, right?” Kotsay said following Oakland’s loss to Colorado in which Esteury Ruiz’s home run accounted for the A’s lone run. “My message is to come out and support the team and support the guys. I look forward to when the season starts, getting back in the Coliseum and playing in front of (the fans).”

With rumors that the A’s could agree to a lease extension at the Coliseum until 2028, the future lies in question. For at least one more year though, A’s fans will be rooted in Oakland.

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