A goal of many baseball fanatics is to visit all 30 Major League Baseball ballparks. Some claim this accomplishment separates the genuine baseball enthusiast from the fair-weather fan.

People who have traveled the United States in pursuit of this ambition speak of three types of stadiums.

1.      The classic ballparks:

These include Fenway Park, and “The Friendly Confines” of Wrigley Field. Home of the Green Monster, Fenway was built two years earlier that Wrigley, in 1912, and is the oldest venue used by a professional sport steam in America. The locals claim that it is “America’s Favorite Ballpark,” however, that assertion must be taken with grano salis, as they also believe America runs on Dunkin’ Donuts.

2.      The new era stadiums:

The new Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, which replaced the old Yankee Stadium (1923) and Shea Stadium (1964) in 2009, are most often mentioned. AT&T Park (2000) in San Francisco , Minute Maid Park (2000) in Houston , and Target Field (2010) in Minneapolis would also fall into this category. All of these parks are primarily used for baseball and have been designed in ways that make them unique.

3.      The multi-purpose stadiums:

Better known as the cookie cutter parks, these venues often serve both a football and a baseball team. Despised by baseball aficionados and casual fans alike, the cookie cutter stadiums usually are built for the local football franchise and adapted for baseball.

After the Twins moved out of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome this year, the Florida Marlins and the Oakland Athletics became the only two teams that play in a football stadium.

In 2012 the Marlins will move to Miami and play in a stadium with a retractable roof. When the Marlins leave Sun Life Stadium—formerly Joe Robbie Stadium, Pro Player Park, Pro Player Stadium, Dolphins Stadium, Dolphin Stadium, and Land Shark Stadium—it is only fitting that they will change their name to the Miami Marlins (surprisingly the name Marlins was not auctioned off to the highest bidder).

This leaves the Oakland Athletics as the only major league franchise to play in a multi-purpose stadium.

The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, which was constructed in 1968 and was renovated in 1996, is home to both the Raiders and A’s.

Located in industrial Oakland, across a barb-wired bridge from the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station, the Coliseum features shallow pools of water in the corridors, an inaccessible upper deck that has been tarped (located on what the locals call Mount Davis), and box seats in the outfield that are blocked off by the same silver material people put in their automobile’s windshield to keep the California sun from making their vehicle’s interior miniature inferno.

However, this dilapidated venue is an important destination for baseball enthusiasts. It may not be as historically significant as Wrigley Field or as visually stunning as AT&T Park, but within it the genuine baseball fan can witness first-hand the untold story: the plight of the small-market baseball fan in today’s MLB .

The A’s are a storied franchise with nine World Series titles and avid niche fanbase in sunbathed California. In Oakland the team has won three World Series in a row, from 1972-74, and won again in 1989. Mark McGuire, Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada, Barry Zito, and Tim Hudson have all donned the green and gold during their careers. In production is Moneyball, a film interpretation of a book of the same name that articulates strategies implemented by A’s General Manager Billy Beane that kept his small-market team competitive.

However, the glory days of the A’s have become something of the past. Beneath Mount Davis fans have hung a sign that says “Don’t Take Our A’s.” The Coliseum, which used to fill to its capacity of 35,000 at the turn of the century, now barely draws a crowd of 10,000 on a Friday night.

If this historic baseball franchise is going to be revived, baseball enthusiasts must become aware of the A’s situation and, regardless of where they come from and which team they support, understand that professional baseball needs reform.

Small-market teams like the A’s build their teams through the draft and then, when the team becomes competitive, they sign free agents to give their team an edge. Currently the MLB draft is flawed in that big-market teams are able to spend more money on top-notch prospects—who receive bigger paydays than proven MLB stars before they don the cap of a professional team—and small-market teams end up drafting less talented players with a higher selection because they cannot afford to invest a giant sum of money in a player who has yet to play in the MLB.

With a reform in the MLB draft small-market teams like the A’swill be able to compete with big-market teams like the Yankees and Red Sox that have enough money to rely on MLB-proven talent acquired through free agency to fill out their rosters.

In turn, Athletics fans in the East Bay must lobby for their team to build a new stadium. When the Twins, a storied small-market franchise like the A’s, moved into Target Field this year they were able to increase their payroll, re-sign homegrown players like Joe Mauer and Denard Span, and compete for top free agents like Cliff Lee.

There are some people who consider teams like the A’s, Kansas City Royals , and Pittsburgh Pirates minor league teams that feed big-market franchises like the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Los Angeles Angels . If Major League Baseball is truly major league baseball, all 30 teams must be able to compete for a title, regardless of where they are located.

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