Watch CBS News

Oakland fans take reins of A's spring celebration at Fans Fest 2024

Oaklanders take the reins of A's celebration at Fans Fest
Oaklanders take the reins of A's celebration at Fans Fest 03:24

OAKLAND -- Spring training games began Saturday for Major League Baseball. Although the Oakland A's have not planned to host a celebration for their fans this season, those fans created one of their own.

The sign outside the Coliseum reads "Rooted in Oakland since '68."  Dan Pagan was there at the beginning.

"My mom and dad took one of my sisters, my brother and I to the very first game, April 17, 1968," he said.  "Sat out in right fieild for a buck and a half."

That's why it hurts him that, in what may be the final year the team is based in Oakland, the A's have planned no celebration for their fans.

"Here we are as Oakland A's fans, waiting. Are we going to have fan fest or not?" Pagan asked. "Oakland management said, 'No we're not.' So this is the power of the fan. We'll do it ourselves."

It was called "Fans Fest" with an "s" to show that it was a collective effort.  A group called the Oakland 68s partnered with Last Dive Bar to raise $40,000 to mount the event.  

"I guess it shows that there is a market for professional sports in Oakland despite what you might hear," said Oakland 68s treasurer Todd Saran.

The A's have been telling Major League Baseball that the fans here are lacking, which, at Saturday's event, made president Dave Kaval and owner John Fisher the target of a lot of anger and ridicule. Fisher's face was plastered on the door of each Porta Potty and one booth had a life-size cutout of the owner dressed as a clown.

"This is our rendition of John Fisher, the greatest clown that's ever come through Oakland," said booth sponsor Dave Kruse. "We're gonna have a little contest to pin the nose on the clown!"

"We can chant 'sell the team' all we want but I don't think it's gonna happen," said his son, Will Kruse.  "But this is all we have to hold onto, at this point, that John Fisher will end up messing this up so bad that he'll be forced to sell."

Others are moving on. Paul Freedman wants to keep baseball in town so he and a group of friends founded the Oakland Ballers, an independent minor league team that will begin playing games in the spring. Freedman said he's confident that Oakland fans will turn out.

"It's the only fan base where, when you root for the team, you root for the town. The chant is 'let's go Oakland!' and I think that says something about this fan base. What this event proves is just don't count Oakland out. Like, this could be whatever we make it and we have the best fans to partner with in the world," Freedman said.

Pagan said he doesn't think he will ever be able to root for the A's again and you could hear pain in his voice, as he said it.

"Some people go, 'Well, maybe I'll go see them on the road and not in Vegas,'" Pagan said. "I won't even do that. I -- it's gonna be hard. It hurts. It really hurts."  

Three days before this event, a major beer sponsor, Drake's Brewery, pulled their support without giving a reason. Many think they were pressured by the team. The A's have reportedly denied that they were responsible but, afterward, five other local breweries stepped up to offer their help.

So the Oakland "Fans Fest" wasn't so much about the A's -- it was about the fans who have demonstrated loyalty over the years to a team that has decided to not return the favor.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.