Welcome to the first edition of what I’m planning to be a weekly column. The idea is to write a column on Sunday morning that sums up the key news from the past week for the A’s, our opponents and also what we’ve been up to at A’s UK.
It’s not easy following an MLB season from the UK/Europe due to the sheer number of games and the time difference with the States. If other commitments have made it difficult to keep up in a given week, hopefully this column will help you get back up to speed.
So here goes …
Fans in the stands
Although we’re still a long way from returning to “normal” (whatever that means to you), seeing fans at Spring Training games in Florida and Arizona has certainly been an optimistic sight. That increased further on Friday when it was announced that California will start to allow fans back into sports and entertainment venues from April 1st.
The hope is that the A’s will be able to have a 20 per cent capacity of just over 11,000 from Opening Day.
The game-day staff at the Coliseum did a great job last year in creating a setting to watch on TV that didn’t feel as jarring as the experience produced from the vast majority of MLB ballparks. The cut-outs and the authentic crowd noise meant that we could watch A’s home games and get lost in the action, rather than constantly being reminded that the place was empty.
It was always just a small substitute for the real thing, though.
We all know that the wisecracks will be shooting our way about the reduced capacity being a normal Coliseum crowd; however the mantra over the past year has been to “follow the science” and to focus on “evidence” and in this case that all leads to one simple conclusion.
It’s already been proved that, on any given day or night, 11,000 A’s fans make more noise than 40,000 at any other ballpark in the States. And the baseball gods couldn’t have blessed us more than by giving us a four-game home-stand against the Houston Astros to get back into the swing of things.
Opening Day cannot get here quickly enough.
First week of the Cactus League
The players have to get ready first, so we’ll have to give them another three weeks before we can get the real action underway.
The first week of the A’s Cactus League schedule seems to have gone very much to plan, accepting that results really don’t matter during this period.
We’ve seen various Minor Leaguers putting in impressive showings so far, not least the “Human Highlight Reel” Buddy Reed, but the most impactful moment of the week came on Friday with a sight we’ve become very familiar with in recent years.
To write that Matt Chapman is important to the A’s season is stating the bleeding obvious, but the slight concern was whether he would be completely ready to go for Opening Day. That doesn’t mean he was necessarily a doubt for April 1st, just that he would likely want to be there regardless as to whether he was 100% up to speed after his hip surgery last September.
Seeing him take the field on Friday for a few innings was extremely encouraging and when he pulled off one of his ridiculously casual hit-robbing plays it was hard not to shout with joy, pre-season exhibition regardless. There’s every reason to think he will be in tip-top shape for Opening Day and Matt Chapman at his best is an MVP candidate waiting to happen.
A’s UK stuff
We recorded our latest podcast, Season 2 Episode 5, on Wednesday and, as always, it was a lot of fun to put together. Our friend, Karl, went to the second A’s Cactus League game of Spring on Monday so we had a good opportunity to learn first-hand what the experience of going to a ball-game under the present Covid restrictions is like. Jay from New York A’s joined us too and we discussed the early signs from Spring Training as well as the latest developments in the A’s quest to build a new ballpark in Oakland.
We’ve also published a video excerpt on our YouTube channel, so check that out here if you haven’t done so already.
The A’s are playing at home at Hohokam Stadium today, taking on the Cleveland Indians. It’s radio coverage only again via MLBTV, with first pitch set for 20:05 UK time (12.05pm Oakland). Grant Holmes should be starting the pitching parade.
- Mon: KCR (20:05 UK / 12.05pm PST)
- Tues: CHC (20:05 UK / 12.05pm PST)
- Wed: MIL (20:05 UK / 12.05pm PST)
- Thurs: TEX (20:05 UK / 12.05pm PST)
- Fri: SDP (20:05 UK / 12.05pm PST)
- Sat: CIN (01:05 Sunday / 5.05pm PST)
- Sun: CWS (20:05 UK / 1.05pm PDT)
The games with TV coverage available to watch on MLBTV are on Tuesday against the Cubs and next Sunday against the White Sox.