Athletics

Q&A: A's COO Chris Giles on Coliseum upgrades, new ballpark, fan enthusiasm

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Q&A: A's COO Chris Giles on Coliseum upgrades, new ballpark, fan enthusiasm

While the A's hope to soon have a new stadium in the East Bay, they haven't forgotten about their current home.

For the third straight year, the Oakland Coliseum is getting significant upgrades. Among the new improvements for next season are theater boxes, lounge seats, and terrace tables, with more to come.

A's Chief Operating Officer Chris Giles graciously took a few minutes to chat with us about the stadium enhancements, the new ballpark, and more.

NBC Sports California: First of all, congratulations on the upgrades. What went into them and how excited are you to improve the Coliseum once again this offseason?

Chris Giles: We got a lot of good feedback on the upgrades we've done over the last two years, starting with Shibe Park Tavern and Championship Plaza, and then The Treehouse that we did last year. We really started to look holistically at the Coliseum and what our fans were asking for. We had completely sold out of all the premium experiences at the Coliseum and were really looking to build out some variety in that area. We'll be building lounge seats, theater boxes, and a brand new table terrace section as well as two new group spaces.

With all the talk about the new ballpark, how important is it to still upgrade the Coliseum and keep improving the fan experience there?

We look at the fan experience that we have at the Coliseum as really one of our top priorities. We're not abandoning the Coliseum by any means. Not only are we not abandoning it, we're continuing to invest. It's not only good for our fans, but it's good for us as a learning opportunity.

Looking at all the young talent on the A's roster and the success you had last year on the field, not to mention a new ballpark hopefully in the works, how much fun is it to be part of the organization right now?

Yeah, it's been really cool to just watch the accolades come in. The team last year was incredible and we expect it to be another exciting year. We're obviously continuing to work hard on the new ballpark efforts and we really think about this as an opportunity to really revitalize our fan base. We sold four times as many A's Access memberships this offseason as we did season tickets the year before. We're really pleased with how the fan base is responding.

That actually leads us right into our next question: You clearly are not afraid to try things that haven't been done before in baseball, or sports in general. All Access is a great example of that. How much do you look to stay ahead of the curve in that sense?

We're never afraid to try new things. We're also not reluctant to stick with things that work. We're just taking a careful look at our business. It starts by listening to our fans and understanding what they want and then being responsive to those requests.

You sent a tweet mentioning the possibility of some more upgrades coming. Any hints you can give us?

Yeah, we've got another one coming. It's probably going to be a few months until we're prepared to say anything more about it.

Fair enough. How about an update on the new ballpark?

We continue to make great progress with both sides and we're putting together a plan. We put out there that we're going to open a ballpark by 2023 and we still believe we can achieve that timing.

Mike Fiers told J.D. Martinez about Astros cheating before 2018 ALCS

Mike Fiers told J.D. Martinez about Astros cheating before 2018 ALCS

November wasn't the first time A's pitcher Mike Fiers blew the whistle about the Houston Astros' sign-stealing nature.

After the Astros won the 2017 World Series thanks to a lot of help from trash cans, they returned to the American League Championship Series to face the Boston Red Sox. But if the Astros still were cheating, it didn't matter because the Red Sox knew it was coming. And not just because then-manager Alex Cora was part of the Astros' scheme the year prior.

"Alex Cora never influenced us and never told us about that thing," Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez told WEEI's "Ordway, Merloni and Fauria." "The only way I ever found out was in the playoffs was when Fiers, who is a really good friend of mine, reached out to me and said, ‘Hey, make sure you’re doing this because this, because this is what these guys are doing in the playoffs.' I was like, 'What? How is this a thing?' And then I mentioned it to (Cora) and he told kind of me about the whole system and everything like that. That was kind of why it was so crazy. (Cora) was so relaxed going into those playoff games because he knew and we were ready for it."

Fiers also alerted the A's to the scheme in 2018 and they brought it to the league. It was only when nothing was done that Fiers went public to make sure the playing field was leveled.

That's why David Ortiz's comments Thursday in which he said he disagreed with Fiers outing Houston two years after he won the World Series with them were so misguided.

Fiers tried to go about the matter quietly and even helped make sure Ortiz's old team was prepared for what awaited them in the ALCS. He could have spoken up in 2017, but he tried to right those wrongs in 2018 before making sure the Astros had their trash cans confiscated.

[RELATED: Projecting A's 26-man roster]

The Astros were able to bang their trash cans to one title, but Fiers made sure they wouldn't be able to repeat using the same old tricks.

Ryan Christenson tasked with 'grindy' chore of getting A's ready to go

Ryan Christenson tasked with 'grindy' chore of getting A's ready to go

For the last week, 64 players have been executing three-hour pre-planned morning workout sessions with the precision of a symphony.
 
The composer and conductor of all this is not A's manager Bob Melvin, but his bench coach Ryan Christenson.
 
“I was amazed on the second day I had it planned to end at 11:20 am,” Christenson said. “And we finished literally at 11:19, so it was a good day.”
 
With spring training games starting Saturday, the clock has been ticking to get pitchers, fielders and hitters to a certain readiness. Meticulous planning and monitoring are scattered between four fields, an extended bullpen and additional batting cages.
 
“I look around. I watch him running around sweating, he’s got that worried look on his face, I know that feeling,” Melvin, who used to run these camps when he was Phil Garner's bench coach, said.

Being tasked with getting everyone ready to hit the diamond is an important responsibility for a club that wants to get out of the gates faster this season than in years past. 
 
“This is my big chore you could say for the year, a little grindy,” Christenson admitted. “I find myself working on the schedule for a few hours even after the day is over.”

Christenson's meticulousness makes him the perfect man for the job. 
 
“He’s very attentive to detail,” veteran outfielder Stephen Piscotty said. “I just don’t think things slip by him, he’s on top of things, very organized.”
 
In near-identical fashion to Oakland’s current core of young, home-grown players, Christenson has been a manager at every level of the A’s minor league system, starting in 2013.  At one point or another, he has crossed paths with almost all the A’s who recently have arrived at the big league level.
 
“The timing of him getting here with the players he had in the minor leagues is a nice resource for me,” Melvin, who is beginning his 10th season with the A's, said.
 
“You get up in here and you already know what makes them tick, how they operate, what they’re like in the clubhouses, and that goes a long way,” said Christenson. “If you don’t have the relationship of trust with the players, and try to do some coaching or instruction or criticisms or compliments, it doesn’t have the same resonance.”

[RELATED: Projecting A's 26-man roster as spring training starts]
 
The A’s not only are lucky to have Christenson, but they’re also lucky to have kept him. This past winter, the former Oakland outfielder interviewed to be manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
 
“If they had happened to choose me, it would have been a difficult decision,” admitted Christenson, who said enjoyed experiencing the process.
 
“I’m not in a big hurry to jump in that [manager] chair. I love where I’m at. The opportunity I have here to be around guys that I know, guys that I pull for and know are great individuals. We have such a good nucleus here, great momentum going. Right now this is really where I want to be. I love sitting next to Bob Melvin.”