Kaval envisions a new A's ballpark as Oakland's 'crowning achievement'

Kaval envisions a new A's ballpark as Oakland's 'crowning achievement'

Editor's Note: The above video is from Nov. 17, 2016.

OAKLAND — Who knows what kind of team the A’s will field come April, but they’ve notched a victory in firing up the masses regarding an anticipated new ballpark.

Not one shovel of dirt has been turned, nor have A’s officials even picked a site to build on. But Saturday’s FanFest at Jack London Square showcased the sense of excitement shared by fans and players over the idea of the A’s building a new venue that’s seemed a pipe dream for more than a decade.

Even the weather cooperated.

Saturday’s event — which shifted off-site from the Coliseum for the first time in many years — unfolded under a blue sky and mild temperatures, with the A’s estimating a crowd of more than 15,000 that showed up.

“It’s completely energizing,” new A’s president Dave Kaval said. “I think it shows the depth of the support of the A’s in this community, and especially with our re-commitment to Oakland and how people are really responding to that.”

With fans everywhere decked in green and gold and the water from the inner harbor sparkling in the sunshine, it was easy to imagine this site possibly becoming the epicenter for A’s baseball.

Howard Terminal, located next to Jack London Square, is one of four sites the A’s are contemplating building. Kaval confirmed that the other three are the current Coliseum complex, Laney College and another site near Howard Terminal.

He also confirmed he expects the A’s to announce a site during this calendar year. Could the news hit during the upcoming baseball season?

“We’re hoping to do it as soon as possible,” Kaval said. “The thing is, we don’t want to rush it. We know if we announce it this year we can hit the milestones for building it in a reasonable amount of time. So we just want to make sure at the front end. Once you pick a site, you can’t really go back, so you have to make sure you’re very deliberate, very thoughtful.”

Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf long has talked up the potential for a waterfront ballpark at Howard Terminal that could energize the city’s entire downtown. As fans wandered around Jack London Square, standing in line for autographs and enjoying free food-truck service, the A’s had drones flying overhead. It was their effort to capture the whole scene, including traffic flow and parking, to get a feel for how well the area can handle large crowds.

“Having 15,000 people here, it allows you to actually test this location,” Kaval said. “We’re seeing where people come in and out, where they park, how many people take BART. We’re working hand-in-hand with (BART) on a transportation plan. This is actually a pretty good test run, a dry run for this location, to understand what some of the limitations are, and maybe some of the benefits.”

The overall tone of the ballpark discussion — and how it seems more a matter of “when” than “if” — sounded great to longtime A’s fan Robert Bishop, who lives in Oakland.

“I’m pretty excited about it,” he said. “My whole life I haven’t really heard any of this talk, and I think Dave’s brought a great positivity to the club. I think there’s kind of a palpability among all fans, I’m reading on Twitter, seeing comments fans are making. People are re-upping on season tickets and buying tickets. Hopefully (it will) fill up the crowd and it’ll be a better year for us.”

Players also are encouraged over the sense that the wheels are in motion regarding a new stadium.

“I think it sends a strong message to the fans that we are committed to Oakland, and we’re gonna be in Oakland and that everyone is excited about it,” right-hander Sonny Gray said. “We’re not going anywhere. No one wants to leave.”

Kaval, who doubles as president of the San Jose Earthquakes and orchestrated the building of a soccer stadium in the South Bay, is taking ballpark input he’s received from fans during open “office hours” he held earlier this offseason.

“Dave has done a great job since he’s taken over of involving the fans,” catcher Stephen Vogt said, “because at the end of the day, the Oakland A’s, we are defined by our fan base.”

Kaval pictures Oakland as one of the country’s emerging big cities, and he wants a new A’s ballpark “to be the crowning achievement, the first big project that goes, that kind of solidifies that new era. And I think you’ve seen that in other cities, Cleveland and Baltimore, where they’ve built ballparks, or even at AT&T in San Francisco. And we want to replicate that same success.”


POLL: A's Memorable Moments -- Sweeping '89 WS vs Winning '74 WS


POLL: A's Memorable Moments -- Sweeping '89 WS vs Winning '74 WS

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 today at 6:30 p.m. to watch highlights of the two moments. After the A's and Twins conclude on Friday, tune into A's Postgame Live to see which moment emerges as champion!

1. A's sweep Giants in 1989 Earthquake World Series (Three-time winner -- Defeated Winning 1973 World Series)

(From 1989 World Series MVP Dave Stewart)

Fortunate for us, we played the Giants a lot in spring training, and we beat the crap out of them in spring training, so we were real comfortable playing against them.

I knew I was going to be the Game 1 starter, and I wanted to give it my best shot and put my best foot forward. i ended up shutting them out, then Mike Moore comes back the next night and we end up beating them in Game 2. Then we have the 10-day layoff because of the earthquake. We go to Arizona, we find out we're going to start playing again, and Tony (La Russa) gives me the news that we're going to go Game 3 and Game 4 with the same guys we started with, which I was glad to hear.

Game 3, I pitched extremely well again, deep in the game and then we swept them the next game. So to win the MVP, I really had mixed emotions about it because Rickey Henderson played really, really well, putting on an offensive show for the whole World Series. And Rickey and I are best friends and I had said in the postgame interview that i would split the trophy with Rickey because we both played well.

After everything that had happened with the earthquake, I was pretty involved with the rescue missions too. It was one ball of emotions, wininng (the World Series), being from the Bay Area, the earthquake, helping out with the rescue missions, it was just a really, really good feeling.

There was a while lot of crap talking going on before the series. I remember the mayor of San Francisco saying that we weren't even worthy of being in the World Series. That kind of lit the fire.

I think the Giants would say it if they were being honest, they knew we were the better team coming in there, so coming in and beat the Giants, we expected to do it and there was pleasure in doing it because we really showed who was the best team in the Bay Area.


2. A's go back-to-back-to-back in 1974 and win third straight World Series 

(From then-A's catcher Ray Fosse)


Stephen Piscotty's case for AL Comeback Player of the Year honors


Stephen Piscotty's case for AL Comeback Player of the Year honors

Contrary to popular belief, MLB's Comeback Player of the Year Award is not reserved solely for players returning from injury. The award simply goes to the American League and National League players who have best “re-emerged on the baseball field during a given season.”

By that definition (and with a nod to Brodie Brazil for the inspiration), A's outfielder Stephen Piscotty deserves serious consideration.

In 2016, Piscotty slashed .273/.343/.457 with 22 home runs, 35 doubles, 85 RBI, and 3.0 WAR as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals.

The following May, his mother Gretchen was diagnosed with ALS, and baseball was suddenly an afterthought. Understandably, Piscotty's numbers dipped in 2017, as he slashed .235/.342/.367 with just nine home runs, 16 doubles, 39 RBI, and 0.6 WAR. How he even put up those stats, given what he was going through, is incredible.

Following the 2017 season, the Cardinals and A's combined to create one of the most heartwarming sports stories in recent memory, agreeing to a trade that would bring Piscotty home to Northern California so he could care for his mother and be with his family. Sadly, Gretchen passed away in May of 2018 at the age of 55.

After grieving for his mother and celebrating her life, Piscotty has been able to refocus on baseball and find a rhythm with the A's. And it has shown. The 27-year-old is slashing .265/.321/.481, setting career-highs with 24 home runs and 39 doubles, along with 76 RBI and 2.1 WAR.

That's an increase of 15 home runs and 23 doubles from 2017 to 2018, and the season is not over yet. Even more impressive, Piscotty has hit 21 home runs since June 13, third most in the American League. He has also played excellent defense in right field, making numerous highlight reel catches throughout the season.

There are certainly other qualified candidates in the AL, including Gerrit Cole, David Price, and Matt Duffy. Cole has improved his ERA from 4.26 last season to 2.88 this year. Price has recovered from elbow troubles to go 15-6 with a 3.42 ERA. Duffy is hitting .297 after missing all of last season.

But none of them have been through what Piscotty has. Throughout this entire devastating period, he has shown tremendous poise and mental toughness. A's manager Bob Melvin has said Piscotty has an angel on his shoulders now. Based on his performance, that's hard to argue.