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Fans cheer for Nick Swisher as he is announced with the rest of the starting lineup before the Athletics first home game in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, April 9, 2007. (Nader Khouri/Contra Costa Times)
OAKLAND — A few seconds after Nessa Laverty's labored version of the National Anthem, as smoke from the pregame fireworks curled about the ballpark, A's fans fired up the familiar chant:

"Let's go Oak-land!"

Over and over, for the better part of a minute, Monday night at McAfee Coliseum.

"Let's go Oak-land!"

This, however, was the first home opener in the team's 40-year existence here during which the fans arrived at the ballpark knowing the A's not only plan to sever their ties to Oakland but have identified a new destination.

So how many more opening nights remain before the rally cry becomes inaccurate? Or, worse, obsolete?

Inasmuch as the team's lease with the Coliseum is solid through 2010, with options through 2014, it's at least three more opening nights and possibly another seven.

Or, maybe, another 40.

For even as the eyes, ears and hearts of A's ownership are committed to moving south, with Fremont as the announced target, the team's feet remainplanted in Oakland.

It's where third baseman Eric Chavez trotted out to snag his annual Gold Glove trophy. This one is his sixth.

It's where longtime public address announcer Roy Steele stood 40 feet in front of the plate and threw the ceremonial first pitch, low and away to the imaginary right-handed slugger, into the glove of Nick Swisher.

It's where a sellout crowd of 35,077, including 1,000 standing-room attendees, watched the A's lose their seventh straight home opener (after a season-opening road trip) 4-1 to the Chicago White Sox on a cool evening, as the Warriors packed Oracle Arena next door.


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As long as A's employees are exiting I-880 at 66th Avenue or Hegenberger Road, managing partner Lewis Wolff and his ballclub are caught in a sort of escrow.

It's not nearly as excruciating as was the case in Montreal a few years ago, when the Expos not only were leaving Canada but changing nicknames and team colors, while abandoning their fan base. They were willing to play at decrepit RFK Stadium until the folks in the Washington, D.C., area built something better.

Then, too, the Oakland situation does not compare with that of the St. Louis Cardinals, who walked across the street to their new home in city center, or the San Diego Padres, who drove 15 minutes south, to downtown.

The A's proposed move goes against conventional baseball wisdom, a city to suburb slide, and as they wait it out they do while slowly chewing off their connections to Oakland but still without any idea of when the first shovel will hit the ground in Fremont.

Or Santa Clara.

Or, yes, San Jose.

Cisco Field is no closer to reality now than it was five months ago, when the A's and Cisco Systems announced their partnership at an elaborate news conference at the northern border of San Jose. Just because the Fremont property, still owned by Cisco, remains vacant doesn't mean the A's are certain to move in — despite the assured stance of team officials.

You've no doubt seen the TV ads urging fans to buy season tickets, thus putting them at the front of the pack when the stampede rushes toward Cisco Field. It's called establishing one's "priority seating rights."

There is, of course, a catch, for priority is lost if the buyer does not maintain an account with the A's up until the opening of the new ballpark.

Again, we're looking at no fewer than three more opening nights in Oakland, more likely at least seven. And 40 more, going through 2047, can't be dismissed.

For the new Fremont ballpark faces a number of challenges, some related to government agencies, some related to community and some related to environment. Cisco Field exists, for now, as a creation of Wolff's fantasies.

And that fantasy would be considerably more satisfying if the 49ers don't close the deal for a new stadium in Santa Clara. If they somehow push that through, and the A's set up shop five miles to the north, with the Sharks seven miles to the south, we'll find out just how much South Bay disposable-income pie there is to divide.

Meanwhile, the A's are selling Oakland, because they still play there, and Fremont, because they yearn to play there.

They're not the East Bay A's. They're not the Alameda County A's. They're not, thankfully, the Golden State A's. They're not even the Almost San Jose A's of Fremont. Not yet.

They're the Oakland A's, as they have been since 1968. Until they go elsewhere, even if it's two miles south to San Leandro, it's geographically correct for fans at McAfee to chant, "Let's go Oak-land!"

For at least three more years, likely seven more. And maybe another 40.

Monte Poole can be reached at (510) 208-6461 or by e-mail at mpoole@angnewspapers.com.

With the A's move to Fremont looming, will you be attending FEWER GAMES IN OAKLAND this season? Starting next season? Or will you attend just as many as ever? Why or why not? Important: Include your first/last name and your city, and send comments (50-100 words) to Turn2@angnewspapers.com.