Past year takes A's ballpark search right back where it started


Past year takes A's ballpark search right back where it started

Last January, the A’s hosted FanFest at Jack London Square for the first time in many years.

What an experiment it was.

As fans mingled with players and stood in line for autographs that day, drones flew overhead capturing images of traffic flow on the streets and foot traffic all around Jack London Square.

It served as a testing ground should the A’s have decided to build a ballpark at nearby Howard Terminal, which, 12 months ago, seemed like a strong possibility.

Just a little has happened since then.

The A’s chose the Peralta site, near Laney College and downtown, where they wanted to build in Oakland. Not Howard Terminal or the Coliseum site itself. They made the Peralta announcement in September, complete with a timeline for construction and a date for the grand opening.

You know how that went. The Peralta Community College District governing board pulled the plug on the A’s ballpark plans, citing concerns for Laney students as well as the surrounding community. The A’s were left fuming.

So it’s back to the drawing board for them. And here we are, a year later, and FanFest 2018 approaches. Once again, it will be held at Jack London Square, a free event set for Jan. 27 that will include a majority of A’s players and coaches in attendance.

The A’s hunt for a ballpark location, a Bay Area storyline for more than a decade now, couldn’t be any murkier. Do they re-visit the Coliseum as a potential spot? Could talks eventually be revived with the Peralta folks? Does FanFest once again give the A’s a reason to re-consider Howard Terminal? Could it be they look outside Oakland, or might owner John Fisher sell to a group that does?

The A’s have been silent on stadium talk since the Peralta plans fell through in early December. On Tuesday, they’ll host a media tour of their new office headquarters — which happen to be located at Jack London Square. (Don’t read too much into this in regard to the A’s ballpark intentions moving forward. They planned this location for their offices even when they thought their ballpark would be at Peralta).

Perhaps A’s president Dave Kaval will take Tuesday as an opportunity to provide an update on the team’s thinking in regard to a new venue.

But it’s amazing to think how this saga has played out over the past calendar year. And how, when it comes down to it, absolutely nothing has changed.

Fowler, Mateo highlight young players to watch on A's spring roster


Fowler, Mateo highlight young players to watch on A's spring roster

The A’s report to spring training in five weeks, and they’ve announced the group they’ll bring to Arizona with them.

Along with their official 40-man roster, Oakland will have 17 non-roster invitees in camp. That’s a smaller spring roster than recent seasons, which means a little better chance for new guys to make an impression.

With that in mind, here’s a rundown of some noteworthy players taking part in their first big league camp with Oakland. We’ll focus on young guys you need to know about, starting with those on the 40-man …

OF Dustin Fowler: His physical condition holds the key as he’s coming back from surgery following a devastating right knee injury last year. Acquired from the Yankees in the Sonny Gray trade, Fowler, 23, is viewed as the possible starting center fielder if he’s full strength. Reports have been that he’s progressing well in his rehab, though he’ll likely be broken in slowly as far as game action this spring. He’s ranked as the A’s No. 3 prospect by, but Fowler remains a question mark until he shows he’s 100 percent.

SS Jorge Mateo: A speed burner who also came over in the Gray deal, the 22-year-old Mateo will be one of the most closely watched players in camp. He’s rated the A’s No. 4 prospect, and he’s a player that team officials have pegged as part of the big league future. Will it be at shortstop, perhaps center field? That remains to be seen. But Mateo will be one of the best all-around athletes to set foot in team facilities in Mesa. He’s played just 60 games as high as Double-A, so Mateo won’t factor into the big league plans right away.

RHP Heath Fillmyer: If you’re looking for the next under-the-radar guy who could impact the big league rotation soon, Fillmyer fits the bill. A fifth-round pick out of junior college in 2014, the 23-year-old Fillmyer is making a good impression as he climbs the ranks. He went 11-5 with a 3.49 ERA with Double-A Midland last season and features a mid 90’s fastball with sinking action that generates ground balls.

OF Ramon Laureano: It didn’t generate much buzz when the A’s acquired him in November from the Astros for minor league pitcher Brandon Bailey, but Laureano began the 2017 season as the No. 13 prospect (Baseball America) in a stacked Houston farm system. The tools are there, including good speed, a strong arm and the ability to handle all three outfield spots. But Laureano, 23, had a poor year at the plate last season in Double-A (.227/.298/.369). He did steal 24 bases, and the A’s thought enough to add him to the 40-man roster.


RHP Grant Holmes: Jharel Cotton and Frankie Montas have logged time on the big league staff since arriving from the Dodgers in the Rich Hill/Josh Reddick trade of 2016. Holmes, just 21, is the third right-hander that was acquired in that deal, and some pegged him as the brightest prospect of the trio. He’s got a nice fastball/curve combo but needs to throw more strikes. Remember when Sean Manaea drew attention two spring ago with the curly mop of hair that spilled out from his hat? Holmes is the red-headed answer to that.

RHP Logan Shore: You might remember Shore, 23, from last spring, when he came over from minor league camp and struck out Mike Trout in an emergency spot start. He’s a full-time invite to big league camp this year, joining Holmes as another righty starter ranked among Oakland’s top 10 prospects. A college teammate of top A’s pitching prospect A.J. Puk at Florida, Shore missed two months with Single-A Stockton last season with a lat strain. His changeup impresses, with A’s special assistant Grady Fuson saying Shore “almost makes the baseball stop” with that pitch.

3B/SS Sheldon Neuse: It’s pronounced “noisy,” let’s get that out of the way. Neuse made a splash after coming over from the Nationals in last summer’s Sean Doolittle/Ryan Madson trade, hitting .380 with 28 RBI in 40 games split between Single-A and Double-A. Then he impressed in the Arizona Fall League. Neuse, 23, is better suited for third than short. So where does he fit in considering Matt Chapman’s presence? If this guy keeps hitting, the A’s will find a position for him.

A's vs White Sox on April 17 will be one-of-a-kind promotion


A's vs White Sox on April 17 will be one-of-a-kind promotion

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. The A’s are promoting the game as one of the first of its kind. 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

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.”

Whether this free game is indeed the first of its kind is unknown, but at the very least it’s extremely rare. 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.