Ask any Oakland A's fan or any person who has been to a game at McAfee Coliseum who are the most fun, entertaining and colorful fans and I am sure they will answer the crew of the left field bleachers. They are hard not to notice. They have their flags, which the use to do choreographed routines to certain songs, they have the signs, some wear colorful outfits and they are at EVERY game. I had the pleasure of spending an evening with some of these dedicated fans learning more about the history and camaraderie of the left field fans and there is no doubt that sitting in the left field bleachers is the most fun you will have at a baseball game, period.
It all started back in 2000 with a group of young men who were simply known as "the drummers". These were the guys who made the "Let's Go Oakland", "Boom-Boom-Boom Tej – Ha – Da" and "T-Long" drum-beat chants trademark cheers. Jenny La Marche recalls coming to her first game back in 2000.
"I was drawn to the LF bleachers because of the drummers; it seemed like the funniest place in the stadium," said La Marche.
La Marche has been a season ticket holder ever since and one of the familiar faces of the left field bleachers, with her famous "Hatteberg is A perfect 10" sign.
"It was the first sign to be put up here," La Marche proclaims.
Katie Arth said the reason why she was attracted to the left field bleachers was because "the fans seemed more loose. You could have a great time and meet some of the best people."
Bobby "510" Tselentis recalls the origins of the flag-waving left field crew.
"I remember back in 1998 people started bringing flags and every year it has gotten bigger, louder and funnier!" said Tselentis, who famously wears a shirt to every game with Oakland's "510" area code on it. Fellow "510er" Maurice Greer and Tselentis were featured in a commercial for the A's last year and often make road trips to Seattle or Anaheim to support the team.
"I have to say I love the attention" Greer boasts. "Now I even get recognized by umpires. It's great!"
Another benefit of sitting in the left field bleachers is the relationship some of the left field bleacher fans have built with past and current players. La Marche and Tselentis both confirm that the relationships with the players started with the A's 2001 center fielder Johnny Damon.
"He used to come out here and break dance. And from there we started ‘the pound'," La Marche said.
The "pound" is a ritual where the A's outfielder pounds back the number of outs to the fans in left field.
"We are trying to train Jay Payton right now, but he is coming along a little slower," La Marche said.
Bobby Kielty, who has become the A's everyday left fielder this season, has named the area "Ronnie Mac Land." Arth, who has been a season ticket holder for three years, revealed that it was Kielty who asked her for the sign.
"I was a fan of his from when he played with the Twins and was so happy to hear he was going to play with the A's in 2004," Arth said.
"Last year was a bad year for Bobby, but we always believed in him, so whatever way we can support the players we do."
Tselentis was the maker of the sign "Fear Mecir" that become somewhat controversial in 2004, when Mecir's struggles led some A's fans to fear him as much as the opposition. When asked what inspired him to make the sign, Tselentis pointed to the courage Mecir displayed in overcoming two clubbed feet to become a major league pitcher.
"I have nothing but respect for Jim Mecir -- the way he came up and battled his injuries to play major league baseball, it deserves recognition," Tselentis said. "It was actually [former A's closer] Billy Koch who told me I should make a sign for [Mecir]. It just turned out that they only thing that rhymed with Mecir was fear."
The group even recognizes the opposing team's left fielder. Their favorite opposing player to heckle is Manny Ramirez from the Boston Red Sox.
When asked about the more memorable moments they have experienced in the left field bleachers, the group agreed that the two walk-off home runs during the 20 game win streak of 2002 (game number 18 by Miguel Tejada and game number 20 by Scott Hatteberg) were the best memories. Their worst memory was the 2003 ALDS Game Five against Boston when Terrence Long struck out looking to end the game with the tying and winning runs in scoring position. The group has seen so many ups and downs with the A's that I was curious how they handled the horrific month of May this season?
"We made up songs about how bad the team was doing," Greer said. "But everyone was grumpy during that time, even the security." La Marche and Arth both concurred that it was tough to smile during the dog days of May.
"We tried to have as much fun as possible, but it was hard. We were still here every day, singing songs and just enjoying hanging out with our friends."
Now with the team on a tear, I asked what the expectations of the A's were from these die-hard fans and all agreed it was to make the playoffs.
"I would like to see this team go beyond the first round, and I don't want to jinx the team by saying they are going to make the playoffs or make the World Series, but I do feel they are capable and have the talent to do so," said Tselentis.
And what could be sadder then not making the playoffs? Arth says, "Of course it's sad if we don't make it, but when it's over that means no more baseball, no more hanging out with our friends, it's means we have to wait another six months for the new season to start."
When the new season does start, everyone will know where to find Arth, Tselentis, Greer, La Marche and the other members of the loyal left field bleacher crowd.
View From Left Field (the bleachers, that is...)
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