The Battle of the Bay, also known as the Bay Bridge Series, is the name for the interleague matchup pitting the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants. There are two series per year – 1 in each stadium – totaling either 4 or 6 games per year.
This will be the second year that the series’ winner will take home “The Bridge”, a trophy partially made from a beam salvaged from the old Bay Bridge. The Bridge is awarded to the winner of the series, with the winner of the final game of the year being used as a tiebreaker. Since the two teams split their two game series at Oracle Park earlier this month, the winner of Sunday’s game will take home the trophy this year.
The rivalry between the A’s and the Giants is about pure fun. Friends and family go to games rooting for opposite teams, but all in a joyous atmosphere. It is different than the infamously bitter Giants-Dodgers and Yankees-Red Sox rivalries.
At the Battle of the Bay, when Giants fans start a chant, A’s fans respond by banging their drums. The fans feed off of each other, getting louder and louder as they go. At these games, there is no hatred between opposing strangers, but a love of baseball that is shared.
The most important thing that comes from A’s-Giants is growth.
As is widely reported, baseball is lessening in popularity among younger crowds. However, people of all ages come out in droves for these games. Last year, 9.3% of the A’s attendance for the entirety of last season was from the series against the Giants. For reference, the 3 games accounted for 3.7% of Oakland’s 81 home games. An average of 48,763 fans attended those games compared to 18,299 per game for the other 78. In fact, an Oakland Coliseum baseball record of 56,210 attended the Saturday night game last year.
This shows that there is no more sought after ticket as an A’s fan than the Battle of the Bay. Not opening day, not the Angels, not the Yankees. The Giants.
This huge amount of attendance at games that feature an excess amount of fun and joy is key. Inevitably, some of these many attending fans will be diehards, and some will just be there to have fun. The regular fans, the sort-of baseball fans, and those being newly exposed to the sport will all take something great from this rivalry.
Young, burgeoning fans can learn that a baseball game is an exciting experience that is one of the most enjoyable ways to spend an afternoon or evening. They can go back to school in the days following and brag to friends of the other team. Jerseys from both teams can be worn and shown off, and fun bets can be waged. Traditions to attend – or just watch – games can be formed, and winning can be longed for.
All of this allows everyone to grow in their love for baseball. When there is a meaningful reason to watch a game, then more people will watch it. When more people watch, more people become bigger fans. The idea that having a playoff team leads to more fans can be extrapolated to this rivalry. However, this is a yearly occurrence that is completely independent from making the playoffs.
The Battle of the Bay is a great way to showcase the game of baseball for Northern California. Everyone can tune in, everyone can take in this amazing game, and everyone can have a great time.
When I sit it in my seat at the Oakland Coliseum in my Pablo Sandoval jersey to watch the Giants take on the A’s on Saturday night, I will be thinking one thing. I will be prideful of my home, the Bay Area, and how we have embraced two teams in a way that shows true pride, love, and joy for a sport that deserves exactly that.
Featured Photo: Jason O. Watson/Getty Images via NBC Sports Bay Area