The A’s announced details for one of the more unique promotions in the major leagues this upcoming season.
Their April 17 game against the Chicago White Sox at the Coliseum — played on the 50th anniversary of their first game in Oakland — will be completely free admission for fans. They originally unveiled the idea back in September. On Wednesday, they announced fans can sign up for tickets Jan. 10 starting at 8 a.m. at athletics.com/50.
Current season ticket holders don’t need to sign up. Tickets for that game will automatically be loaded on to their accounts.
“We are extremely excited to offer this gift to the city as we celebrate 50 years in Oakland,” A’s president Dave Kaval said in a club statement. “The entire 2018 season will be a celebration of the A’s rich history, and offering the first free MLB game is another unique way for us to celebrate our team and wonderful fans.”
According to an A's spokesperson, Major League Baseball has no other record of a free-admission game being held, aside from some instances of rainouts and makeup games. And the A’s caught some good fortune with the schedule. The White Sox wouldn’t be a big draw as a visiting team, particularly on a Tuesday night, which is when this anniversary game falls. So the A’s at least have a chance to generate some buzz on what would otherwise be a humdrum date on their home schedule.
Some other highlights worth noting from the A’s 2018 schedule:
Their March 29 season opener against Shohei Ohtani and the Angels will be their first home opener played in the afternoon since 1994. First pitch will be at 1:05.
This year’s Bay Bridge Series against the Giants, rather than be played as a four-game series, will be a six-game set that sandwiches the All-Star break. Three games will take place at AT&T Park on July 13-15, then the A’s will host three July 20-22.
Jed Lowrie has delivered some productive seasons throughout his 11-year Major League Baseball career, but nothing quite like this.
Through 19 games, the A's second baseman leads all of baseball with 28 hits and 21 runs batted in. His six home runs are tied for the American League lead, while his 49 total bases rank second and his .346 batting average is fifth.
In an extremely small sample size, the former Stanford star is on pace to hit 51 home runs and drive in 179 runs, at the age of 34. To put that in perspective, Lowrie's career highs in those categories are 16 and 75, respectively.
"It's all about the work for me, the routine," he explained. "I think the results speak for themselves. But I'm not focused on that. I'm focused on my work in the cage and what I do to prepare for the games."
"He's playing the best baseball of his entire career," A's manager Bob Melvin marveled. "He's as professional a hitter as anybody in the league. He has been absolutely terrific."
Lowrie has been on an absolute tear the last two weeks. Over his last 11 games, he is batting .367, with six home runs and 16 RBI.
"He's got a great awareness what his strengths and weaknesses are," Melvin said. "Through experience, he knows what pitchers are going to try to do to him. Throughout the course of the game, he understands the adjustments that are going to be made. He has a focus now probably better than any point in his career, and the numbers would suggest that as well."
Lowrie believes the turning point of his career came two offseasons ago, and ironically, it had nothing to do with baseball. For years, he couldn't figure out why he would wake up still feeling tired, despite sleeping more than eight hours a night.
It turned out Lowrie had a deviated septum, suffered several years earlier when he was hit in the nose by a baseball. After consulting with an ear, nose, and throat specialist, he had surgery to repair the septum.
"I think it helped a lot," Lowrie said. "I just assumed I wasn't waking up refreshed because of the season. Come to find out my airway was very restricted and my sleep quality was not very good. So while I was sleeping eight or nine hours a night, I was still waking up not feeling refreshed, like I hadn't even gone to sleep. After nine years of having a deviated septum, that's going to be something that takes time, but I can already see the results from it."
"From that point on, he seemed like a different guy,” added Melvin. “He's allowed to work a little bit harder because he's getting some rest."
Last season following the surgery, Lowrie set an Oakland A's record with 49 doubles, while leading the team with a .277 batting average. The A's picked up his $6 million option for this year, which has turned out to be quite a bargain.
If Lowrie continues at his current pace, or even anywhere near it, he'll soon be able to add another achievement to his baseball resume: MLB All-Star.
PROGRAMMING NOTE: NBC Sports California is looking back at the A's 50 Memorable Moments since the franchise relocated to Oakland in 1968. Below are the next two moments you can vote on. Tune into A's Pregame Live tonight at 6:30pm to watch highlights of the two moments. After the A's and Red Sox conclude, tune into A's Postgame Live to see which moment will move on to the next round!
1. Ramon Hernandez's walk-off bunt in 12th inning of Game 1 of 2003 ALDS (Defeated Brandon Moss' two-run walk-off homer in 19th inning against Angels in 2013)
Nobody in the entire stadium saw it coming. How could they? With two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 12th inning of a 4-4 game, A's catcher Ramon Hernandez laid down a perfect bunt to beat the Red Sox in Game 1 of the 2003 American League Division Series.
“The element of surprise reigns supreme!” longtime A's announcer Bill King exclaimed. The walk-off bunt capped a thrilling comeback victory for Oakland, which tied the game in the bottom of the ninth on a two-out RBI single by Erubiel Durazo.
At 4 hours and 37 minutes, the game became the longest in Oakland's postseason history. The A's would also win Game 2, 5-1, but the Red Sox stormed back with three straight victories to take the series in five games.
2. Josh Reddick's 'Spiderman' catch against the Blue Jays in 2012
On July 25, 2012, Josh Reddick introduced himself to the world as Spider-Man. With the A's taking on the Blue Jays in Toronto, Reddick literally climbed the right field fence and robbed Travis Snider of extra bases.
Many fans thought the ball had cleared the wall, and the Blue Jays' home run horn even sounded briefly. But Reddick had the ball in his glove for the final out of the second inning.
Reddick also doubled home a run in the game, as the A's routed the Blue Jays, 16-0, for their seventh straight win. Reddick would win a Gold Glove that season, still the only one of his career.