John Fisher meets protesters before vote to move A’s to Las Vegas

John Fisher meets protesters before vote to move A’s to Las Vegas

ARLINGTON, Texas — They arrived in the hotel lobby at 7 a.m. Tuesday, stationed at the doors near the check-in counter, ready to broadcast their message to all Major League Baseball owners.

There they were: Jared Isham, 41, Gabriel Cullen, 42, Jorge Leon, 38, all sitting in the lobby, wearing their green T-shirts with STAY on the front and their Oakland Athletics caps.

They couldn’t always tell MLB owners from insurance salesmen, but they wanted everyone to know that they thought the A’s should stay in Oakland.

They handed out a few personalized boxes to the owners containing a DVD, USB drive, T-shirts, Oakland caps and bumper stickers identifying reasons why the A’s should stay in Oakland instead of moving to Las Vegas , only for hotel security to notify. tell them that soliciting is prohibited at the hotel.

Yet before they closed, Leon was able to slip a T-shirt to San Francisco Giants CEO Larry Baer, ​​who coyly put it in his briefcase and said, “I’m just glad you’re fans baseball. “

St. Louis Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt looked surprised when he walked to the elevator and received a T-shirt from Leon, saying, “Oh, thanks!” ”, and took it to his room.

As the owners came and went to their suites all morning and afternoon, the trio eagerly awaited their great white whale: A’s owner, John Fisher, their public enemy #1.

And there he was, walking into the lobby at 7 p.m. local time, and after speaking to San Francisco Giants president Greg Johnson, he walked up 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, with Leon responding: “Do what you have to.”

Fisher shook his head and told the group that he had been trying to find a solution to stay in the Bay Area for 18 years, but his patience was running out. Come on, even if everything suddenly went well with government officials, the city council, and funding, the A’s wouldn’t have a ballpark until 2031.

“It’s been a lot worse for me than it has been for you,” Fisher told them. “Anyway, I just want to let you know that I appreciate you being here, I appreciate the passion that you have shown.”

They thanked Fisher for coming and Isham said, “Can I ask you a question?”

Fisher: “There’s never just one question. I have to go.”

As he walked away, they then said to him, almost in unison, “Do what is right!” Do what is right!”

Cullen said afterward, “I wanted to ask what it would take to bring Oakland back to the table.”

Fisher walked away from the group toward dinner and told USA TODAY Sports and the San Francisco Chronicle, “I think it’s easy to make these things personal. But you know they are passionate about the team. And I’ve been around baseball a long time and I’ve seen a lot of ups and downs. For the most part, people focus their desires on success.

When Fisher left, the trio said they really appreciated Fisher taking the time to talk to them for five minutes, but reiterated that they still had issues with the man.

“When everyone says he’s very genuine, which is true,” Isham said, “but I don’t believe anything he said. I commend him for confronting the people who were protesting. But There are only three of us. He had his security. At the same time, he could have ignored us, so I owe him a little credit for that.

“But at the same time, there’s an element of knowing that it’s authentic, but when the words seem authentic, but don’t match the facts that everyone has presented, something is wrong.”

Cullen said: “I’m glad he came and spoke to us. At the same time, it’s sad that it took him 18 years to talk to A’s fans. That’s one of our biggest problems, is that we have no connection with him.”

The trio, part of the Oakland 68 fan group, spent the entire day cleaning out their wallets to get their message across. If the owners had looked from their private plane toward Dallas, they would have caught a plane hovering over the owners’ hotel and Globe Life Field, saying:


Hey, for $3,500, why not?

In reality, the group realizes that there is a better chance for the A’s to win the World Series in 2024 than to stay in Oakland and not move to Las Vegas.

All 30 owners will vote Thursday on whether the A’s will move to Las Vegas, and the only surprise would 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 it supports the move. . Manfred will make his recommendation to the owners Thursday morning.

Yet this group, led by Leon, president and founder of the Oakland 68s, refuses to go away. They sent selected videos with A’s caps and a letter from the mayor of Oakland to half the owners. They talked to other fan groups. They have plenty of plans in store for the future.

“The fight is not over,” Leon said. “We are not going to leave quietly.”

Even if everyone is completely approved and shovels are building a new stadium in Las Vegas, the A’s still need to find a place to play until 2028. The A’s could potentially play 30-40 games at Oracle Park , their home. of the San Francisco Giants, but even if the A’s share the Giants’ beautiful stadium, guess who will still protest.

“We’re not leaving,” said Cullen, who is filming a documentary about the fight against resettlement. “I hope they come to their senses.”

They want to tell the world that it’s Fisher’s fault – stripping the franchise of a $57 million payroll, the lowest in MLB – and 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 They want to tell everyone that Las Vegas is perfect for an expansion franchise and that the A’s should stay quiet.

Some potential owners have expressed interest. Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob said he had a standing offer to buy the A’s for the past decade. Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson has been 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 is going to change their minds?” Leon said. “Do I think what we’re doing is going to get them to vote? No. I actually don’t think it’s going to help at all.

“I think we’re just disrupting it and making it difficult.”

But if the vote passes and the A’s disappear, regardless of whether they ever get an expansion team or not, they swear East Bay baseball fans will be done with the game.

“I’ve talked to a lot of fans over the last three or four months,” said Isham, a Sacramento-based filmmaker, “and I asked them, ‘How likely are you to follow Major League Baseball if the A were moving to Vegas.?’ And everyone said, “It’s done. I’m going to find a different sport. I’m not the A’s. I’m not going to follow Major League Baseball.” That would destroy the fandom of at least two or three generations.

And no, they insist, an expansion team in Oakland could never soothe any wounds.

“I think an expansion team would require a lot of mending for the broken spirits and the community,” Isham said. “But if you keep the A’s there, they already have their loyalties. They know the fandom that’s been there for 55 years doesn’t matter. I don’t need to change.”

The trio plans to return home to California before Thursday’s vote, but regardless, they will be there and they will be heard.

“The owners probably feel like if they vote yes on relocation, it will get us out of their hair,” Cullen said. “The A’s fans will disappear and we’ll feel like we’ve lost the battle.

“This couldn’t be further from the truth. These guys are already planning for next season with all the bad luck. Everything they saw last year, it’s going to be doubled.”

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