ARLINGTON, Texas — They arrived at the hotel lobby at 7 a.m. Tuesday morning and stood in front of the doors next to the check-in desk, ready to spread their message to every Major League Baseball owner.
There they were: Jared Isham, 41, Gabriel Cullen, 42, and Jorge Leon, 38, all sitting in the lobby, wearing their green jerseys with STAY on the front and Oakland Athletics caps.
They couldn’t always differentiate between MLB owners and insurance sellers, but they wanted to let everyone know they thought the A’s should stay in Oakland.
They were handing out a few personalized boxes to the owners with DVDs, a USB drive, Oakland T-shirts, hats, and bumper stickers outlining the reasons why People A needed to stay in Oakland instead of moving to Las Vegas, only for hotel security to inform them that Soliciting is prohibited in the hotel.
However, before they closed, Leon managed to pass a jersey to San Francisco Giants CEO Larry Baer, who sheepishly placed it in his briefcase, telling him: “I’m glad you’re a baseball fan.”
St. Louis Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt looked surprised when he walked into the elevator and Leon presented him with a T-shirt that said, “Oh, thank you!” and took him to his room.
While the owners came and went to check on their wings throughout the morning and afternoon, the trio anxiously awaited the great white whale: A’s owner, John Fisher, their public enemy No. 1.
And there he was, entering the lobby at 7 p.m. local time, and after speaking to San Francisco Giants president Greg Johnson, walked to the bar, greeted the trio, and shook their hands.
It was as if he came to apologize.
They asked in a roundabout way if anything should be done to save the team, and Leon said: “Do the right thing.”
Fisher shook his head and told the group that he had been trying to find a solution to staying in the Bay Area for 18 years, but was running out of patience. C’mon, even if things suddenly go smoothly with government officials, city council and finance, the A’s won’t have a ballpark until 2031.
“It was much worse for me than for you,” Fisher told them. “Anyway, I just want to let you know that I appreciate you being here, and I appreciate the passion you’ve shown.”
They thanked Fisher for coming, and Colin said, “Can I ask you one question?”
Fisher: ‘There’s not a single question at all. I have to go.’
As he walked away, they said to him almost in unison: “Do what is right! Do what is right!”
“I wanted to ask what it would take to get Oakland back to the table,” Cullen said afterward.
Fisher stepped away from the group for dinner, telling USA TODAY Sports and the San Francisco Chronicle: “I think it’s easy to make these things personal. But you know they’re excited about the team. And I’ve been in baseball a long time, and I’ve seen a lot of ups and downs. Most often, people focused their desires on success.
When Fisher left, the trio said they certainly appreciated that Fisher would make time to talk to them for five minutes, but reiterated that they still had issues with the man.
“When everyone says he’s so honest, which is true, but I don’t believe anything he said,” Isham said. I commend him for actually confronting the people who are protesting. But there are only three of us. And he had security. At the same time, he could have ignored us. So I’ll give him a little credit for that.
“But at the same time, there’s an element of knowing it’s real, but when the words seem real, but don’t match the facts everyone’s given, there’s something weird.”
“I’m glad he came and spoke to us,” Colin said. “At the same time, it’s sad that it took him 18 years to speak to A’s fans. That’s one of our biggest problems is that we don’t have any contact with him.”
The trio, part of the Oakland 68ers fan group, spent the entire day, cleaning out their wallets, getting their message across. If the owners had looked out from their private planes bound for Dallas, they would have seen a plane hovering over the owners’ hotel and Globe Life Field, which read:
It belongs in Auckland – #VOTENO.
Hey, for $3,500, why not?
Realistically, the group knows there’s a better chance of winning a World Series in 2024 than with the A’s remaining in Oakland and not moving to Las Vegas.
The 30 owners will vote Thursday on whether to move the A’s to Las Vegas, and the only surprise will be if the vote isn’t unanimous in favor of the move.
The executive board, led by Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio, whose franchise was approved Tuesday to receive about $365 million from the Wisconsin Legislature, has already informed Commissioner Rob Manfred that they support the move. Manfred will make his recommendation to the owners Thursday morning.
However, this group, led by Leon, president and founder of the Oakland 68s, refuses to go away. They sent formatted videos in all caps and a letter from the mayor of Oakland to half the owners. They talked to other fan groups. They have a lot of plans up their sleeve for the future.
“The fight is not over yet,” Leon said. “We will not go out quietly.”
Even if everyone gets the all-clear, and the shovels are on the ground in Las Vegas to build a new ballpark, the A’s still have to find a place to play until 2028. The A’s will likely play 30 to 40 games at the Oracle Park, home. From the San Francisco Giants, but even with the A’s sharing the beautiful Giants stadium, guess who’s still going to protest.
“We are not leaving,” said Colin, who is filming a documentary about the resettlement battle. “We hope they come to their senses.”
They want to tell the world that this is Fisher’s fault — the franchise is being stripped by an MLB-low $57 million payroll — not the fans. They want to remind everyone that the Bay Area is the sixth largest market in the country, while Las Vegas is the 44thy. They want to tell everyone that Las Vegas is perfect for an expansion franchise, and the A’s should be left alone.
There are potential owners who have expressed interest. Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob said he had a standing bid for the division for the past decade. Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson was involved in investment groups trying to buy the A’s. Athletics pitching legend Dave Stewart, an Oakland native, is trying to buy a team and is now focusing his attention on an expansion team in Nashville.
Please, they say, just listen.
“Do we think all this will make them change their minds?” Leon said. “Do I think what we’re doing will make them vote? No. Realistically, I don’t think this will help solve the problem.” everyone.
“I think we’re just disrupting it and making it difficult.”
But if the vote is up, and the A’s are gone, regardless of whether or not they ever have an expansion team, they vow that East Bay baseball fans will tune in.
“I’ve talked to a lot of fans over the last three or four months, asking them, ‘How likely are you to follow Major League Baseball if the A’s move to Vegas?'” said Isham, a Sacramento-based filmmaker. And everyone said, “That’s it. I’m going to find a different sport. I don’t follow the top games. I’m not going to follow Major League Baseball.” It would destroy the fanbase for at least two or three generations.
They insist that Auckland’s expansion team will never be able to soothe any wounds.
“I think it’s going to take a lot of mending morale and a broken community for an expansion team,” Isham said. “But if you maintain the excellence there, they already have their loyalty. They know that the fan base that’s been there for 55 years doesn’t have to change.”
The trio plans to return home to California before the vote takes place on Thursday, but regardless, they will be there and will be heard.
“There may be an impression among the owners that if they vote yes on relocation, it will get us off the hook,” Cullen said. “The fans will disappear and we will feel like we have lost the battle.
“This couldn’t be further from the truth. These guys are already planning for next season with all the high jinxes. Everything they saw last year, it’s going to double.”
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