Brodie Brazil

Five takeaways from tour of A's Howard Terminal ballpark location

Five takeaways from tour of A's Howard Terminal ballpark location

Earlier this week, A’s president Dave Kaval offered the opportunity to step foot on a place that has been equally discussed and dreamed about during the last 10 months: Charles P. Howard Terminal.

He gave us an exclusive, personally guided tour of the terminal, which led to five instant reactions after visiting the site for the first time.

The site is 55 acres in total

This sounds large numerically, but instinctually feels small when walking the premises. Your brain instantly tries to render the optical illusion of how a Major League Baseball stadium would fit in this defined space. That is, until you realize Oracle Park in San Francisco sits on less than 13 acres and doesn’t feel cramped.

The cranes

You’ve definitely seen those cranes on renderings, and from a distance. They’re even more imposing and magnificent up close. And they’re destined to be a defining landmark of the new ballpark. Four of them exist: Two will be moved south, the other two northward on existing rails.

I wouldn’t be surprised if they eventually become improved with themed lighting and maybe even … bungee-jumping?

Neighborhood improvements

As much as this ballpark is about Oakland’s baseball team forging a new home, so much of the local neighborhood infrastructure needs repairs and improvements. There are train tracks with improper crossings and main roads crumbling -- this project is sure to address it. The shipping terminal has not been active since 2014, and presently serves as a desolate parking lot.

The other geographical realization after visiting Howard Terminal is how close and seamless it would be to Jack London Square and all its amenities.

Weather conditions

We know the Bay Area is famous for microclimates, but outside of small variances in wind velocity, weather conditions between the Coliseum and Howard Terminal should be comparable if not identical on a given day or night. Due to sun angles, the baseball diamond will face east, which means the stadium structure will shelter fans and the playing surface from typical onshore breezes out of the west.

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Views for days

In New York’s baseball heyday, Yankee Stadium and Polo Grounds were separated by less than 5,000 feet across the Harlem river. Nothing might ever replicate that. However, the Howard Terminal ballpark will only be 5.91 miles in a direct line from Oracle Park. In fact, that venue, plus the San Francisco skyline, the Oakland skyline and the East Bay hills are all visible from the project site.

This suggests elevated views and vistas could be extraordinary from the higher vantages at Howard Terminal.

Sharks expecting Timo Meier to take step forward in wake of departures

Sharks expecting Timo Meier to take step forward in wake of departures

Individual progress of an NHL player should not always be measured in goals. 

Yet it’s hard to ignore Timo Meier’s production: 21 goals in his first full season, followed up by 30 last year. 

“He’s worked for everything he’s got,” Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer said of Meier. “I think power forwards take a little bit longer. It’s a harder league for bigger guys playing that kind of game to establish themselves."

“His jump last year was incredible,” fellow forward Barclay Goodrow remarked. “He kind of turned into a whole new player, just more confident. He took some games over, shooting the puck and driving the net. Just things he does well at a better pace.” 

The Swiss-born winger has developed a full-fledged reputation for utilizing all six feet and 210 pounds he’s got. 

“I try to be a physical guy. Try to get in the areas where you might hurt, and try to score some dirty goals,” Meier said at training camp. “I want to get better, that’s always something I try to stay hungry on.” 

Timing plays a critical role in the development of a homegrown product like Meier. The Sharks were able to let him develop in the pipeline, and now he's thriving on the biggest stage. 

“He got there the right way,” DeBoer explained. “You’ve got a guy with a lot of confidence, we’ve added a couple minutes every year to his time on ice. He’s going to take another step this year with the guys that departed. We’re excited to see where he can go with it.” 

And that is the exciting question: Where can Meier take things this season? 

[RELATED: Why Sharks confident they can make up for lost firepower]

“I’m not a guy that wants to put out a number and say I have to score that many goals,” Meier admitted. “I just try to go out and be the best player I can for the team.”

Sharks goalie Martin Jones aims to prove himself yet again this season


Sharks goalie Martin Jones aims to prove himself yet again this season

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks went 39-1 last season when allowing two goals or fewer. Scoring rarely was an issue for them, which meant many games were decided on their play without the puck.
“We scored a lot of goals, but unlike other years, where we relied on being tight defensively, those goals came at the expense of being a little looser defensively,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer recently said at training camp. “And they were getting different looks.”
Criticism of goals allowed thickened during the final stretch of the regular season, and fingers were pointed in two distinct places: Team defense and goaltending.
“I’m sure [Martin] Jones is the first guy to say he wishes he played better at times," Sharks captain Logan Couture said of his goalie. "But there were a lot of times we didn’t help him out. We gave up too much."
The plot thickened in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs, when Vegas took Games 2, 3 and 4 by scoring goals early and often. The Golden Knights looked unstoppable on the scoreboard.

In retrospect, Jones believes he tried to do too much.
“You want to go out and make a difference," he said. "But as a goalie, you need to have more patience and let the game come to you. You can’t race out and make 30 saves in the first period. You have to take what comes to you.“ 
Facing elimination in Game 5, the Sharks turned their Achilles heel into a strong point.
“Breakaways, odd-man rushes, tap-in goals -- he didn’t have a chance,” Couture said. "I don’t know how we did it, but we flipped a switch, and buckled down after that."
Added DeBoer: “I know the group around him takes some responsibility for the ups and downs of last year. To his credit, he found a way. He dug himself out of that place where he wasn’t feeling great about his game.”   

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The final 16 playoff games should clearly indicate what Jones -- who posted a career-worst .896 save percentage and 2.94 goals-against average in the regular season -- can do, especially in the most critical junctures. That must breed confidence in what the Sharks can accomplish this season, if they can support their goalie.
“I can tell you this,” DeBoer said confidently, “the group never wavered once, even at the lowest moments, about whether he could get the job done.”