54,005 baseball fans crowded into the RingCentral Coliseum, home of the Oakland Athletics, on the evening of Oct. 2 to watch the American League wild card game between the A’s and the Tampa Bay Rays. Fans filled every last seat of the dingy, old stadium, which still doubles as the Raiders’ home field during the NFL season, setting a new record for attendance at a wild card game. Going to the game would have been unrealistic for a variety of reasons, but I wished so badly that I could have been one of those 54,005.
Being in Montreal has changed the kind of fan that I am. As much as I would love to, I can’t watch or listen to every one of their games as I had become accustomed to doing over the years. The three-hour time difference is one of the biggest factors: Games take place six or seven nights a week, with most home games starting at 10 p.m. EST and ending well after midnight. I recognize that I have it lucky, though, since the majority of the baseball season takes place during the summer. Fans of basketball and hockey face this predicament for almost the entire school year.
My surroundings are another factor. I could easily eat, sleep, and breathe A’s baseball when everyone around me was also eating, sleeping, and breathing A’s baseball. Here, if I gush about the outstanding night that shortstop, and San Francisco Bay Area native, Marcus Semien had or mention that the team finally called up top prospect Jesús Luzardo, I get an “oh cool” out of pity at best. Even the most devoted baseball fans here do not know much—or care much—about my hometown’s heroes.
I was not surprised that this was the case. While Montreal used to have the Expos, and plenty of Canadians can at least pretend to care about the Blue Jays, baseball culture in my circles at school is not like baseball culture at home. Similarly, Oakland does not hold a special place in anybody’s heart here like it does mine. Not that it should, of course. I am certainly not expecting people with little interest in baseball or a connection to the Bay Area to care about my team, but it does not change the fact that being an A’s fan in Montreal can get lonely.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that, while lonely, following the A’s in whatever way I can has helped alleviate feelings of homesickness. When I read The Athletic’s game recaps, it reminds me of chatting with my brother the morning after games, reliving our favourite moments or lamenting our bullpen’s struggles. When I see social media posts from the team, I chuckle to myself over inside jokes only Bay Area natives or A’s fans would find funny. When I celebrate quietly by myself while watching a live stream of a game from my bed, I feel the rumble of the stadium inside of me, as if I was there among the crowd again.
The A’s lost Wednesday’s winner-take-all wild card game, and I was devastated. Four of my friends, all baseball fans, were at my apartment watching the game with me, but none of them love the A’s. In that moment, with tears on the verge of streaming down my face, I wanted to be surrounded by people who love the A’s as much as I do; by coming here, I lost that chance, just as I had lost the chance to be among the 54,005 fans in attendance. But sitting on my couch in Montreal with my kelly green Matt Chapman jersey on, I was so grateful for the incredible season that my favourite team had played, and I knew that despite being 3,000 miles away, I had not lost any pride or passion for my Oakland A’s.