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. 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 athletics.com/50.
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.”
According to an A's spokesperson, Major League Baseball has no other record of a free-admission game being held, aside from some instances of rainouts and makeup games. 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.
The A’s could be headed to Mexico City in spring 2019 to play multiple exhibitions as part of Major League Baseball’s efforts to expand its international audience.
Oakland was in discussions to play in Mexico City this upcoming spring, according to A’s traveling secretary Mickey Morabito, but that idea was scratched because a new ballpark being built there is not quite ready yet. The A’s remain in play for two exhibitions in Mexico City in 2019 against a yet-to-be-determined opponent if the plans come to fruition.
The A’s most likely would send a split squad south of the border and leave another group in Arizona to continue Cactus League play, which is what they did in 2015 when they played exhibitions in Las Vegas.
Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred mentioned Mexico City, Charlotte and Montreal as strong contenders for an expansion franchise while addressing the issue during last season’s All-Star Game festivities. Mexico City, the largest city in North America based on population, currently is home to the Diablos Rojos of the Mexican League.
The A’s always ask to be considered for international play, and their 2019 schedule may include quite the globe-trotting itinerary. In addition to potential exhibitions in Mexico, NBC Sports California confirmed that Oakland also is being considered for a return trip to Japan to open the ’19 regular season, as reported recently by the San Francisco Chronicle.
Oakland began the 2008 season with two games against the Boston Red Sox at the Tokyo Dome and returned there in 2012 for an opening series against the Seattle Mariners. A’s officials gave positive reviews on both experiences, and the team’s payout for games in Japan surely would be more than the gate for two games at the Coliseum.
The Los Angeles Angels, who signed Japanese star Shohei Ohtani this winter, would be a natural choice as one of the teams to play in Japan. The Red Sox and New York Yankees are considered leading candidates for a planned series in London later in the 2019 season.
The Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins will play a two-game series in April of this upcoming season in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
A potential court trial for A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell has been scheduled for April, which would take Maxwell away from the team during the regular season if his felony case in Arizona makes it that far.
There remains a strong possibility, however, that Maxwell agrees to a plea deal and avoids a trial for his October arrest on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct in Scottsdale.
Maxwell’s initial pretrial conference took place Thursday morning in Maricopa County Superior Court. According to a court spokesperson, there was discussion of a possible settlement conference in the near future in the hopes of avoiding a trial.
Maxwell’s next court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 29. His pretrial conference would be April 3 with the actual trial date April 10. There’s no indication of when the potential settlement conference would take place, but a plea deal can happen anytime leading up to the trial.
Maxwell allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery driver who arrived at his home with an order on Oct. 28.
The A’s report to spring training in mid-February and open the regular season March 29 at home against the Los Angeles Angels.
They don’t appear poised to add any catching help as insurance. General manager David Forst has expressed confidence that Maxwell will be with the team when spring camp begins.
“We’re expecting Bruce to be ready to go the first day of spring training and to be with us,” Forst said during the winter meetings. “I’m not getting involved in the legal side of this, but no one has said anything to me that makes me believe he won’t be ready to go.”
The A’s have two other catchers besides Maxwell, Dustin Garneau and Josh Phegley, on their 40-man roster. They also have a highly regarded prospect behind the plate in Sean Murphy, though he has yet to play above Double-A ball.