Home News Oakland Ballers pack Raimondi Park at historic home opener

Oakland Ballers pack Raimondi Park at historic home opener


OAKLAND — Of the more than 4,000 fans in attendance for the Ballers’ first-ever home game at Raimondi Park Tuesday night, few have seen more baseball in Oakland than Tony Jackson.

Born and raised in Oakland, Jackson, 68, played baseball at Raimondi Park while at Saint Mary’s College High School. He attended the first game at the Coliseum, hopping the fence as a 13-year-old. He considers Rickey Henderson, Dave Stewart and Bip Roberts as his contemporaries. As he sat in the stands of his old stomping grounds, Jackson shared a sentiment that has become common in the East Bay.

“To see what’s going on with (the A’s), it ripped my heart out as it did with a whole lot of people here in the community,” Jackson said. “When I saw what they were doing with the Ballers, I had to support them.”

Jackson was among those who squeezed into the stadium for the B’s sold out home opener — a Pioneer League contest that unfolded as the A’s played at the Coliseum. While the major-league stadium has lost much of its soul as the team prepares to move to Sacramento, Tuesday’s warm, nostalgic night at Raimondi Park served as a reminder of what makes baseball in Oakland special.

“It’s a rebirth in a way,” said Emilio Mariscal, 48, from San Leandro. “I grew up going to the Coliseum. I have a lot of great memories there. When the A’s announced they were leaving. It was sad. It kind of broke our hearts a little bit. But this is taking it back to the roots.

“This is not billionaire business. This is community baseball.”

The vibe was, unsurprisingly, hella Oakland.

The pregame playlist included “Put Me On Something” by P-Lo, “Tell Me When to Go” by E-40 and “’93 til Infinity” by Souls of Mischief. A drum line provided a bevy of beats. Mistah F.A.B., an Oakland-based rapper and local legend, swung thrice in an honorary first at-bat, connecting with the ball on his last attempt.

There were, of course, loud, cathartic chants of “Let’s go Oakland!”

The B’s succeeded in bringing the masses to West Oakland on this night, but the ballpark remains a work in progress. The team did not receive permission to begin construction on the infrastructure until early May, giving the team only several weeks to put everything together. Leading up to first pitch, dozens of employees were still scrambling to prepare the ballpark.

Hiccups aside, Raimondi Park permeated an unquestionable aura of joy — a joy many fans of Oakland baseball have desperately been seeking.

“I’ve been to dozens of games every year, but I haven’t been to one Oakland A’s game this year,” Mariscal said. “Even though it’s our last (season), I can’t get my heart into it.

“But I’m here on Opening Day and we plan on continuing to come back. It’s much more affordable. It’s accessible. The Ballers are welcoming us.”

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