Athletics

Athletics

OAKLAND -- It was crowded Saturday in Jack London Square.

"That's what you get when you win 97 games," I heard someone say in passing as I approached the 2019 A's FanFest.

It began with a parade as Buku One DJ'ed -- a small and simple one. Matt Olson and Sean Manaea high-fived onlookers who were on both sides of the low, iron fences under the green-and-gold balloon arches. It also was at that instant where A.J. Puk's 6-foot-7 frame seemed to not give him justice.

Past A's faces Dallas Braden and Rollie Fingers joined the celebration that was led by COVAH's drumline.

A few "boos" were heard throughout the crowd as it was announced where we were standing would be the future home of the Oakland A's. It appears some A's still are in denial about the team's inevitable move, but that wasn't what it was about that day -- it wasn't even brought up by the many fans I spoke to.

Laura Gonzalves of Oakley said she's excited to see some of the younger players and what they have to bring this season.

"I'm excited to see Ramón Laureano," Gonzalvez told NBC Sports California. "He was amazing last season, and I just want to see how much he has developed during the offseason, and I'm also excited to see Paul Blackburn because he's from Brentwood, which is the area we are from."

 

She also said she's looking forward to having Sean Manaea back on the mound. And her sister, Jennifer Emmons, made sure to yell out that she wanted to support the two who earned Gold Gloves last year.

"The hot corners!"

Emmons wanted everyone on Water Street to know she was excited to see the two Matt's -- Olson and Chapman -- taking care of both sides of the field and at the plate.

"Grandma," who Jennifer and Laura called their mother, has been a fan of the A's since 1972. Despite saying Olson is "old enough to be my grandson," she said the A's are "just the best team in the world."

Speaking of Olson ... I walked over to the Q&A session, being led by NBC Sports California's own Glen Kuiper, where he, Marcus Semien, coach Darren Bush and Chad Pinder were being grilled by fans. Well, they were hardly interrogated, but it didn't take long for Olson to show off his personality by taking a few digs at Pinder:

Semien smiled big at that one. And why wouldn't the Bay Area native?

Once you got used to seeing the sea of green and gold at a different location outside of the Coliseum or Oracle Arena, where most of these events are held, you began to actually picture a ballpark there. People were smiling and drinking adult beverages -- and I am pretty sure I saw one of the biggest pile of nachos known to man at Plank, where fans were playing bocce ball. 

Side note: Make sure you give yourself a 30-minute rest period after eating nachos before engaging in any physical activities, such as bocce ball. 

Jennifer Trumpp of Livermore has been to her fair share of FanFests and, of course, A's games. She mentioned the feel of last year's team was a lot like 2012, when Oakland won the AL West title and nobody saw it coming.

"I think we're trending in the right direction," Trumpp said. "They were such a great surprise -- and I got to see the no-hitter against the Red Sox."

Humblebrag.

I noticed a little boy dancing next to Bukue One, and a crowd started to form around them. The bubbles from the clown making balloon animals for kids added to the spectacle, and it all seemed like a party -- a carnival where you could take photos with mascots and spin the wheel in hopes of getting a new hat you promise you'll wear despite never wearing a hat in your life.

 

Around the A's booster tent and the Stockton Ports set-up, I found Will MacNeil. He's a season ticket holder who always seems to find himself on the big screen cheering loudly in the always-entertaining right field bleachers.

"I'm looking forward to seeing Jurickson Profar, for sure," MacNeil said. "He's got power, and he's going to want to prove something, and he's going to want to get a big contract when he's a free agent in a few years."

[RELATED: Everything you need to know about Profar]

When asked to comment on the FanFest itself, he complimented the environment, but more importantly, had some nice things to say about the fans.

"Best fans in the world right here, and there's nothing better than seeing the green and gold every day."

And what is his favorite part of rooting for Oakland?

"That's a terrible question," MacNeil said. "I mean, there's nothing better than being an A's fan."