The Oakland A’s, a team of misfits, no bodies, has-beens, never was, the list goes on and on. ESPN, MLB Network and the like all said the A’s had no chance of doing anything spectacular this year. With rookies galore it was reasonable to be a non believer. I, along with many A’s fans have always had faith in our team. But it was getting difficult to remain so optimistic when you are force fed nothing but negativity i.e. facts.
With that being said I became a first time season ticket holder. Now I’ve always gone to 20-30 games per season I just never had the money to pay all at once for season tickets. This season I had the money and I also wanted to make sure I had to be there for my team during this 100+ loss season. A true fan isn’t just there through the good times. A fan is there for the good, the bad and everything in between. Even I, the biggest optimist of them all was mentally prepared for those 100 losses. Logically I knew it was going to be very difficult to do any better than third if not last in the toughest division in the American League. Who are these guys? Cespedes? He’s some Cuban defector who has a workout video. That surely doesn’t mean he can play baseball. Reddick? We gave up Bailey for some guy who hardly gets the chance to play, are we out of our minds? The simple answer to that is yes and we always have been. It’s done this franchise good so far.
So what did we do this season?
We didn’t quite make it to 100 losses but we did almost reach 100 wins. This team of misfits, rookies and whatever other names you like to call them did what many thought was impossible. The Oakland A’s ended the regular season 94-68 and won the last 6 home games sweeping the Seattle Mariners and then the Texas Rangers to become the 2012 AL West Division Champions. All the Rangers had to do was win one game. But as the A’s have said all season just take it one game at a time and that’s what they did. They shocked the baseball world. Granted they didn’t get passed the Detroit Tigers to get to the ALCS but it doesn’t really matter.
I went to many games this season and while game four of the ALDS was incredible with yet another walk off win and quite possibly one of the if not the greatest games I’ve been to, game five while heartbreaking was also beautiful. I had told my friend before the ninth inning began that no matter what happens I’m going to stay behind and cheer, “Lets Go Oakland!” He chuckled, but it turns out the 37000+ fans had the exact same thought. While the Tigers were celebrating it was as though they weren’t even there. The A’s fans while sad by the turn of events were quickly reminded at the amazing season the A’s gave us and it was important that they know how much they mean to us and how much we appreciate them. The crowd began to cheer, “Lets Go Oakland” and it was evident it meant something to the team, they also had planned to stay around and celebrate the fans. It was a mutual love and respect that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before.
This group of guys wasn’t just a team; they were friends, family, and brothers. And it wasn’t just the players it was Bob Melvin and even Billy Beane.
We all cringed when we saw Brandon McCarthy get hit in the head by the ball leading to brain surgery the same night. We later found out that Bob Melvin and Billy Beane stayed with McCarthy’s wife Amanda while he was in surgery. She later tweeted about what happened and she had told them they didn’t need to be away from their families for this and they quickly responded that they wouldn’t want to be anywhere else and that they were with family. Another incident later in the season was the tragic death of Pat & Stephanee Neshek’s baby boy less than 24 hours after his birth. Even though they were grieving and had just experienced the single worst thing anyone could ever experience they knew the place they needed to be was with the team. The A’s had a patch put on their jersey with the initials of Baby Neshek that read GJN for Gehrig John Neshek. Neshek also pitched just days after losing his son, not only pitched but with Gehrig watching from the best seat in the house he saw his daddy pitch great! Then we all got tears in our eyes seeing Neshek look up to the heavens and touch the patch on his arm. Then Jonny Gomes hugged him in the dugout.
The Neshek story does hit home. My brother Bryan David Hoffert passed away from a short illness when he was 5 years old. While I never had the pleasure of knowing my brother I know he’s always with me. I know my parents still have their bad days even though his passing was more than 32 years ago. This is what makes me feel so deeply for the Neshek family. It’s going to get easier to live each day but this is something that will be with them every day and especially on Gehrig’s birthday and holidays. I know I’ll always keep my brothers memory alive and with the large platform Neshek has I hope he knows his son will always be remembered as well.
Even though this season the A’s experienced tragedy most of the time this team just had fun. I went to over 30 games this season seeing them lose just 4 times. The beginning of the season they were average at best and they had to deal with the unlucky fate of Coco Crisp. Flu, ear infections, some weird pink eye issue that as soon as one eye was getting better the other got worse and the only thing he could contribute were his legs on a couple of occasions. Cespedes had his own bouts with injury but with his desire to win a Championship he was determined to play. The A’s battled through diversity, fought through tragedy and won by having fun and being the definition of a team.
At times they were ridiculed for over celebrating, they were accused of acting like they were in high school and their respect for the game was even questioned. This team has nothing but respect for the game of baseball. Every time you speak with any of them you know they have nothing but love for this game.
There is so much more to say about this team. From Gomes always defending this team from the wild accusations to guys like Brandon Inge stating he would take a bullet for Bob Melvin. These things just never happen in sports. Whether it’s baseball, football, basketball or any other sport you can think of there is always one guy who feels he’s better than everyone else. Not with this team.
This team of misfits wanted to win for each other more than they wanted to win for themselves. I think I can also speak for my fellow A’s fans when I say I wanted this team to go all the way because this team is just that special. I wanted it more for them than I wanted it for myself. I didn’t need to gloat to Giants fans that the A’s are so much better because they won a World Series; I just wanted to see the joy on the A’s faces that I saw after every walk off, every big win of the season and in the post season. This team has meant a lot to A’s fans and I hope we see them all next year.
Thank You A’s for a more than magical season that I and all A’s fans will remember for a life time.
Thank You Billy Beane, Bob Melvin, Chili Davis, Curt Young, Tye Waller, Mike Gallego, Chip Hale, Rick Rodriguez, Brett Anderson, Grant Balfour, Travis Blackley, Jerry Blevins, Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle, A.J. Griffin, Brandon McCarthy, Tommy Milone, Jim Miller, Pat Neshek, Jordan Norberto, Dan Straily, Tyson Ross, Jarrod Parker, Evan Scribner, George Kottaras, Derek Norris, Chris Carter, Brandon Inge, Josh Donaldson, Stephen Drew, Brandon Moss, Brandon Hicks, Eric Sogard, Cliff Pennington, Adam Rosales, Jemile Weeks, Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Reddick, Seth Smith, Jonny Gomes and Coco Crisp. See you all next year!!!