As a proud Minnesotan I will always be a Twins fan, but I have to tip my hat to baseball enthusiasts in Oakland.

The residents of the East Bay who attend Athletics games may be few in number, but they remain faithful to a team that was once dominant, but has recently fallen from grace, now that big-market teams like the Yankees and Red Sox have commandeered the MLB, setting it on a collision course that can only be avoided with a drastic change in league management.

On my original visit to Santa Clara University, which I have attended for the past two years, I went to a San Francisco Giants game.

AT&T Park has a lot to offer. It is a well-maintained facility, is always filled with faithful, passionate fans and is located on the beautiful San Francisco Bay, creating an outstanding atmosphere for baseball.

The stadium is easily accessible.

From the Santa Clara CalTrain station students can get to San Francisco in an hour and the park is located minutes away from the final stop.

The Oakland-Alameda Coliseum, which serves both the Raiders and the A’s, is a dilapidated facility that is located in industrial Oakland.

It is difficult to get to.

Residents of San Jose must take the CalTrain to a stop in San Francisco and take the Bay Area Rapid Transit subway to Oakland. It adds extra time onto the trip and is an additional cost.

Like any good baseball fan I aspire to visit as many ballparks as I can during my lifetime, but it is virtually impossible to get anyone from Santa Clara, which has a relatively affluent student body that is indifferent its own baseball team, to travel to Oakland for an A’s game—especially because AT&T Park is seen as a better alternative.

Recently, however, my friend’s brother was in town to visit. The Kansas City-native and loyal Royals fan expressed interest in seeing an A’s game and asked me to go because his younger brother articulated little interest in visiting a park that is borderline unsuitable for baseball.

I accepted.

On Monday, May 17 we traveled to the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum to watch a division rivalry game between the Oakland Athletics and the Seattle Mariners. The A’s faithful who attended the game may be small in number, but they were genuine, ardent fans and created an incredible atmosphere in an otherwise shoddy milieu.

Sports enthusiasts in the East Bay have a reputation of being inhospitable to outsiders, but it seemed like everyone in The Coliseum complimented my team as I walked through the concourses wearing my Twins sweatshirt.

There is plenty of reasons for A’s fans to despise the Twins: The Twins eliminated The White Elephants in the 2003 ALDS, have an expensive new ballpark, don’t have to compete with a big-market neighbor who has a better facility, et cetera.

However, instead of focusing on the differences between the two teams, they reinforced the struggle of our economical, homegrown teams against the expensive, free agent saturated rosters of the big-market teams.

Oakland joins Baltimore and Toronto in a list of cities that at one time supported a loyal baseball following, but now have a sea of empty seats in their ballpark. Teams in smaller cities are no longer able to compete with big-market franchises on the East Coast and in Los Angeles that are located in large cities and are able to carry six-digit payrolls.

The Orioles and Blue Jays are trapped beneath the behemoth Red Sox and Yankees in the AL East. The Angels, who compete in a four team division with the A’s, have won the AL West five of the last six years.

True baseball fans have become a rare breed. Fleeting are the fans that speak of the games they attended with their family or recall ballpark memories with friends. Although Santa Clara is located in California and a majority of the student body comes from the West Coast, many students talk about how they were raised a Yankee fan in a city that already has a team or the time their dad went to Boston and brought home a Red Sox hat for them.

Interestingly, many of these hats were purchased after 2004.

The game of baseball is hurting because of the recent influx of big-market bandwagon followers. Dallas Braden pitched a perfect game for the A’s in a Mother’s Day contest between Oakland and the Tampa Bay Rays.

Both teams are having outstanding seasons, the Rays had the best record in MLB and Oakland is in contention for the division lead, but less than 10,000 people witnessed the nineteenth perfect game in MLB history.

Baseball is falling out of favor in America because of steroids, slow games, and a lack of parody.

Baseball enthusiasts like the ones who surrounded me at the A’s game should be praised, rewarded by MLB, not deserted and left to deteriorate like the stadium they watch the game in.

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