A's victorious on Opening Day; Ricky Henderson Field dedicated
OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - Monday night marked a new season, and a new era for the Oakland Athletics.
Fans and players are feeling especially optimistic now that ownership has committed to a new ballpark in Oakland.
The game was notable for the win, 4-2 over the Los Angeles Angels, and for the pre-game field dedication to Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson.
Banners dropped, and fireworks sparkled, as Henderson came onto the field he dominated as a player.
Before the ceremony, Henderson told reporters he couldn't believe he was getting the coliseum field named after him.
"Shock, I was happy, shocked, that wow this could happen," he marveled, "because this is a special park for me. Oakland was always in my heart so this is where I feel I belong."
And for the first time in memory, A's fans feel a sense "they" belong, with new ballpark amenities aimed at improving their game day experience.
Food trucks line the entrance gates, and a championship plaza offers games and a place to socialize.
The inside of the cavernous coliseum has also been spruced up, and more concession choices added.
More important to fans, all doubt has been erased about a new stadium for the next generation.
"I always hoped they would stay here, not just in Northern California, but Oakland," fan Fred Huston of Rocklin told KTVU.
"So I'm happy the four places they're looking at are in Oakland, it's awesome."
Infielder Rajai Davis also expressed excitement about a new ballpark.
"Hopefully I'm around to see it," he smiled, back with the team after a previous stint with them eight years ago.
With a mix of young players and veterans, could the A's be playoff caliber?
"Everyone has the talent in the major leagues to be that caliber," responded Davis, "but you have to have the right mix of guys, that's what it comes down to, and it starts with leadership."
The A's new president promises player turnover, so frustrating to fans, will slow because a new stadium means more revenue.
"That's the key to the new ballpark, it will allow us to keep our young players, and have them play with us a generation, like we had back in the seventies and eighties," enthused Dave Kaval.
"That's why we're working diligently every day to get that new ballpark set."
In the meantime, A's fans and players are buoyed by a sense of change, along with the optimism that comes with opening day.
"You dream about these days, I like seeing the fans out here and how excited they are," said infielder Adam Rosales, as he signed baseballs for fans pre-game.
"We have a great team, great leadership, and good energy in the clubhouse, we're looking forward to a successful season."
With the Warriors and Raiders both leaving Oakland in the future, the Athletics become the city's sole professional sports franchise.
As a Raiders season-ticket holder, Rickey Henderson said he's disappointed the team is moving to Las Vegas and that it's "hurting his heart."
But he drew laughs as he recalled coming to the coliseum as a youngster to sneak into baseball games.
"I can't count how many times we snuck in the game," he admitted, "Did I get caught? No I think I was too fast or something like that!"