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First Pitch 2004 Notes
2003-12-18 22:59
by Ken Arneson
If you took 6,000 A's season ticket holders, and lined them all up, how far would they stretch? Apparently, the A's wanted to know, as they tried an experiment designed to answer that question before the First Pitch 2004 event in the Coliseum Arena.

To conduct the experiment, they only opened one entrance to the building, and they opened it late. So when we arrived at 6:50pm, the one line into the arena stretched down the ramp to the North side parking lot, across the plaza to the stadium entrance behind home plate, all the way along the third-base side of the stadium, and up the ramp to BART behind the left field bleachers.

It creates a very interesting illusion. A line that long looks like a heck of a lot more people than when they're all sitting in a half-empty arena. With all those people in one line, I started to wonder how anybody ever complains that there aren't enough A's fans.

Eventually the line moved, and we got in. They started late so we didn't miss anything. I took some notes. Here they are:

The first segment was hosted by KTVU sports anchor Joe Fonzi and comedian Mark Pitta. It was a talk-show-like set, with a couple of sofas. They showed a highlight reel from 2003. I hadn't really thought much about it until then, but watching those highlights it really hit me: Damn, I miss baseball. Then, the "guests" were brought out. In order of appearance:

  • Billy Beane. Pitta has apparently been hanging out with Joe Morgan, since he called Beane the author of Moneyball in his introduction. Fonzi corrected him. Beane confirmed that the A's have an agreement with Arthur Rhodes and the contract should be finalized sometime this weekend. He also said that the A's should have a catcher (Damian Miller? He didn't say) pretty soon. This drew plenty of hisses from the large contingent of Ramon Hernandez fans in the audience, including one guy who shouted "We already had a catcher!" Pitta asked him about what he does during games, because he gets too nervous to watch. Beane says he goes to the beach or Safeway or Barnes and Noble. Said he did the Ted Lilly trade while at the beach with his daughter.

  • Ken Macha. Asked about the two interference calls in Game 3, he said they got the Varitek call right, but the Tejada call wrong. He's still angry about the Tejada call. He got calls from people he's worked with before telling him they'd never seen him that angry. Back at home in Pittsburgh, he got a lot of grief over his Game 3 outburst, especially from his mom, a devout Catholic. On Halloween, he was handing out candy, and a kid dressed as a policeman comes to his door and tells Macha he is under arrest. "What for?" asks Macha. The kid replies, "For saying bad words on TV."

  • Rich Harden. Harden was forced to tell the tale of the rookie hazing where the rookies had to wear ridiculous outfits in public. Harden was forced to dress up as SpongeBob SquarePants. They went to a shopping mall, and ate in an upscale restaurant in their outfits.

  • Scott Hatteberg. Hatteberg was asked to tell the story of the home run that got the A's their 20th consecutive win in 2002. Plays guitar with Zito sometimes, but only knows three chords, so he's limited to songs by guys like Bob Seger. Wife is expecting third child in March. Hates facing Mariano Rivera, who doesn't really strike him out, but breaks his bat nearly every time. Ken Macha hates his ratty jeans.

  • Barry Zito. They showed a clip of Zito's acting gig on JAG. Zito tells that there was a lot of downtime during filming, so one time "the brown-haired dude on the show" (David James Elliot) asked him if he wanted to go back to his trailer and play some guitar. Zito said sure. Zito thought they would take turns playing stuff. But Elliot played for a half-hour straight, and "I was just his audience". Then someone came and said it was time to go back on the set.

    Then Zito was asked about hecklers. He said the hecklers in New York are not as bad as the ones in Boston, but Chicago clearly has the worst hecklers. Beane then interrupted to confirm that Chicago's hecklers were harshest. One time as a player at Wrigley, someone kept shouting at him "Hey 35! Hey 35! Who are you?" Beane got tired of it, so he shouted back, "Go buy a program, meat!" The heckler responded, "I did, but you weren't in it!"

  • Hank Greenwald was brought out for a brief appearance. He turned to Beane and said, "I just learned that you and I have something in common. I've had lots of nights doing Giants games when I couldn't stand to watch, either." Cheers.

Then came the second half of the show, which was to be part of the Best Damn Sports Show Period on Fox at some point. Leeann Tweeden hosted. She will be participating with Barry Zito in the Oakland Ballet Nutcracker tomorrow night.

  • Hatteberg. Hatteberg was asked about how he had his wife hit balls at him on a tennis court to prepare him to switch to first base. So they brought out tennis pro and A's fan Brad Gilbert to hit some tennis balls at Hatteberg. He hit them pretty hard. Hatteberg snagged all but one of them.

  • Zito. Zito was asked to demonstrate his yoga techniques. Tweeden, Macha, and a fan followed his instructions. There were some, um, suggestive positions. A lot of bending over. The males sitting directly behind Tweeden seemed to enjoy this segment the most.

  • Harden. Harden was asked about throwing snowballs when he grew up in Canada. Then they brought out some Hostess Snoballs, took a guy out of the stands, gave him a mitt, and had Tweeden and Harden throw the Hostess Snoballs at him. Harden was wild, and frequently missed his target. I think Tweeden had more control. But on his last throw, Harden faked throwing at the fan, and then turned and drilled Macha in his stomach. End of show.

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