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Oakland A’s fan aims to attend all 81 road games, but it’s no boycott

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Of the seemingly endless depository of stories that Michael Marler possesses, one of his favorites begins with the time he lost his luggage.

On this August afternoon, Marler, a retired Air Force veteran more affectionately known as Road Trip Mike, stands next to Eric Martins, the A’s third base coach, in foul territory at Seattle’s T-Mobile Field. He holds a shovel designated for scooping dirt, donning a gray T-shirt, black shorts and slippers. Marler arrived in the Pacific Northwest as planned, but his luggage did not. Still, Marler braves on; he’s got his team to watch.

It’s one of many instances when Marler finds himself in a situation almost too fantastical to be true, but he proudly shows off a photo as he retells the story. In the life of Road Trip Mike, no tale is too tall, no story too grand, no anecdote too improbable. To Marler, he is nothing short of blessed.

“I live on cloud nine because of these little things,” Marler said.

Michael Marler aka Road Trip Mike visits the Green Monster at Fenway Park alongside A's color commentator Dallas Braden July 9, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Michael Marler)
Michael Marler aka Road Trip Mike visits the Green Monster at Fenway Park alongside A’s color commentator Dallas Braden July 9, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Michael Marler) 

A super fan’s super fan, Marler, after years of following the team on the road and befriending players and coaches, is attempting to attend every A’s away game this season. The 57-year-old Sacramento native unexpectedly went viral when his mission was mistakenly framed as a boycott, but Marler is solely fueled by his desire to support the team. With the A’s leaving Oakland and their long-term future murky, Marler, seemingly untouched by cynicism with an endless depository of memories, has become a constant.

“That man is the physical embodiment of fan love,” said A’s color commentator and former pitcher Dallas Braden. “I mean that in every aspect of what you think a fan is and why a fan would love any team, any sport. You spend two minutes with him and you can feel the genuineness that is dripping off of him. He’s like a character. He’s someone who somebody drew up and put into circulation in the world.”

Following his retirement in 2018, Marler began attending A’s games on the road, starting with about 20 contests. In the ensuing years, the number grew to 40, then 60. In 2021, the “Road Trip Mike” nickname gained steam. This year, Marler is running the gauntlet. He’ll often be joined by two close friends, Jack Lima and Bill Thomas, dubbed by Braden as “Road Trip Renegades.”

Marler’s journey coincides with the A’s final season in Oakland, but Marler is not boycotting the Coliseum, planning on attending around 20 games in Oakland. Last month, though, Hal (the Hot Dog Guy) Gordon posted a photo with Marler on social media, the accompanying caption insinuating that Marler was protesting. Marler made clear that is not the case. Gordon, for his part, said there was no malicious intent behind the post, adding he was given inaccurate information by a friend who connected the two. By the time Gordon realized the mistake, his post had already picked up steam.

“I got a lot of support from people in the organization,” Marler said. “They said, ‘Mike, we know you and that isn’t you.’”

“Mike is a great fan, and it’s not right that a fake fact about him went viral,” Gordon said in a text message. “I’m disappointed that I caused him to deal with this, and I’m sad that something I said that wasn’t true was seen by so many people.”

This nomadic lifestyle began when Marler, a proud veteran, noticed that several teams’ official stores did not offer veteran discounts, including the A’s. After meeting with A’s representatives, Marler helped push to institute a discount for veterans on tickets and merchandise. From there, Marler says he traveled across the country to meet with the remaining teams about implementing discounts.

Michael Marler aka Road Trip Mike prepares to ride Bernie's Slide at American Family Field. (Photo courtesy of Michael Marler)
Michael Marler aka Road Trip Mike prepares to ride Bernie’s Slide at American Family Field. (Photo courtesy of Michael Marler) 

Given the amount of time he spends away from home, Marler can be considered a veteran of the road, too. Marler occasionally flies, but most of his travels come by way of, appropriately enough, road trips in his Dodge Thor Rize van.

Planning trips is one thing, but executing them is another. Over the years, Marler has navigated his share of unexpected twists and turns.

This month, Marler’s flight from Seattle to Houston was rerouted to San Antonio due to weather. Three strangers, overhearing Marler discuss his travels, allowed him to cut in line. Another passenger willingly gave up their seat; Marler, in turn, gave the passenger a game-used baseball.

Last year, the A’s played the Marlins and Pirates on the road in back-to-back series without an off-day in between. Undaunted, Marler drove roughly 16 hours straight from Miami to Pittsburgh in time for Oakland’s first game in the Steel City.

This season, he slept in the parking lots of the Royals’ Kauffman Stadium and Rangers’ Globe Life Field when a day game followed a night game, a tactic he has employed in the past.

As for how much all of this costs? Marler says he doesn’t have a clue.

“I’m not in dire straits,” Marler laughs, “but yet, I’m not wealthy.”

What Marler doesn’t have in material wealth, he owns in stories.

In Washington D.C., Marler met two A’s fans from Germany who were “dressed in A’s gear like you wouldn’t believe.” When one fan recited just about every pitch from Braden’s 2010 perfect game, Marler brought the parties together. The fans gave Braden a ball that now sits in his safe at home.

Michael Marler aka Road Trip Mike talks with Eric Martins, AÕs third base coach, on the field at T-Mobile Park in Seattle, Wash., on  Aug. 30, 2023.  (Photo courtesy of Michael Marler)
Michael Marler aka Road Trip Mike talks with Eric Martins, AÕs third base coach, on the field at T-Mobile Park in Seattle, Wash., on Aug. 30, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Michael Marler) 

In Tampa Bay, Marler connected a young fan with Tony Kemp. When Kemp missed out on signing a kid’s baseball card due to media obligations, Marler retrieved the card and brought it to Kemp, who not only signed the card but put together a care package for the young fan.

At the Coliseum, he has thrown out a first pitch and helped announce the starting lineup.

There have also been occasions where Marler has visited former A’s with their new teams. He saw Marcus Semien in Dunedin during Semien’s lone season with the Blue Jays. Earlier this year, he saw Robbie Grossman in Chicago when he was with the White Sox. Most recently, Marler traveled to Buffalo to see Kemp, currently playing for the Twins’ Triple-A affiliate.

One of Marler’s most important stories, however, long predates his days as Road Trip Mike.

In May 2013, Marler underwent sextuple bypass surgery, vividly recalling a doctor telling him that he was at great risk of suffering a massive heart attack. Marler struggled with recovery, falling into a depression. As spring gave way to summer, Marler began to make strides in his recovery, an improvement that unfolded alongside with the A’s catching fire. Oakland won 24 of its final 33 games to win the AL West, and Marler firmly believes he is here today because of the green and gold.



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