In a country where no one -- and I mean no one -- knows or cares about baseball, rooting for the A's is not that easy. True, we are only 5 million people, but no one, not a soul, knows what I'm talking about when I rave about Grant Balfour's 44 consecutive saves or Josh Donaldson raising his batting average to .319.
A few months ago, in a sunny April morning street in the outskirts of Copenhagen, our capital, I met a man a block from where we live. What immediately caught my attention was his hat, or rather, his cap: a worn out green and yellow Oakland A's cap. "Hey," I said, "you an A's fan too?" He looked at me. Not a word. His face a question mark. Silence.
I fell in love with the A's while visiting UC Berkeley as a Ph.D. student last autumn. I had seen the Yankees once at Yankee Stadium a few years ago. As I saw Derek Jeter and A-Rod (Alex Rodriguez) striking out in a 5-0 loss against the Orioles, I realized that baseball was a beautiful game. I also knew that the Yankees were not for me.
My first game at O.co Coliseum was a loss too, against Jered Weaver and the Angels. The A's bats were as quiet as the man I met in the street, but there was something about the atmosphere in the ballpark. The people smiling at us, even the concrete seemed nice. My wife and our kids, boys ages 1 and 4, were with me, and it was a wonderful night despite the result. So we came back. And back. And when I think about it now, it felt like the right place to be.
The highlight was game 162 of the season. You all know the story but at that time none of us did. Our youngest son was sleeping in my wife's arms, the 4-year-old was shouting "sweep, sweep." Well, not quite. He didn't know English but people seemed to get what he meant by "sweek, sweek." I'll never forget that fourth inning, Josh Hamilton's error, the fly to center for the final out, and the celebrations.
We often talk about that Wednesday afternoon when we go to the nearby park to play catch. People stop and look at us. Question mark faces again. Recently, we brought a bat. As Otto, my son, picked up the bat, he said, "Now batting number 52: Otto Cespedeeeees."
At night, when dark descends and Denmark goes to sleep, one light is still on. It's on as I make coffee and turn on the computer. I watch the A's as they take a six-game lead in the AL West, and I watch as the lead crumbles a week later.
Denmark is far away from Oakland, and here, no one cares about baseball. It's late, too late, when I turn out the light and go to sleep, so yes, I'm tired when I go about my everyday business. Even so, I hope the light will burn all the way to the World Series. There's nothing an extra cup of coffee won't fix. And someday I'll be back in Oakland. A year ago, it kinda felt like home.
Martin Baake-Hansen is a resident of Copenhagen, Denmark.