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A man grills meats.
Jeff Loasiga tailgates outside the Oakland Coliseum on June 13.
Lena Park

A Decades-Long Tailgating Tradition in Oakland Is Coming to an End

Industrial flattops loaded with carne asada. Steak and lobster. Burgers and hot dogs. For decades, tailgating at the Oakland Coliseum has been a proud tradition for A’s fans.

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Two hours before the first pitch at the Oakland Coliseum on June 13, a steady wave of people wearing Kelly green “SELL” t-shirts poured into parking lots already packed with A’s fans. Some split off to start the long quest to find a friend’s tailgate. Others followed the sound of a lively four-piece brass band, the thwack of bean bags slapping against cornhole stands featuring open-mouthed A’s owner John Fisher, and impromptu drumbeats cueing “Stay in Oakland” (and other more colorful) chants — the unofficial soundtrack to the Oakland 68s “Reverse Boycott” tailgate.

More than 27,000 people showed up that Tuesday night, not only to support the hometown team on a six-game win streak but also to participate in a well-orchestrated “reverse boycott” to protest the team’s owners’ decision to move to Las Vegas — and to definitively show that a lack of fan interest isn’t to blame. And while the energy inside the stadium rivaled that of a postseason playoff matchup, the tailgating scene outside was, to many, a powerful echo of what used to be the norm before any A’s home game.

A man wearing an A’s hat grills carne asada.
Dominic Prado, of Tacos El Ultimo Baile, grills carne asada outside the Oakland Coliseum.
Lena Park

Dominic Prado, owner of hit East Bay taco destination Tacos El Ultimo Baile, served juicy, freshly grilled “Carne A’sada” tacos for three hours to scores of fans during the tailgate. It was far from his first time showing up to cook at the Coliseum; Prado estimates he does about 40 catering events at the stadium every season for both the Athletics and the visiting teams. “I think Oakland fans are as unique as the city is,” he said. “They embrace the role of the underdog, and in spite of all that has gone on with the team, they’ve still remained faithful.”

The Coliseum is one of just seven Major League Baseball stadiums across both the National and American leagues that allows tailgating anywhere on the property and permits people to use grills and barbeques. For decades, A’s fans have been tailgating at their home field, and for many, it’s just not a game at the Coliseum without a tailgate. While some come with more simple setups featuring Costco pizzas, bags of Double-Doubles from In-N-Out Burger, or burritos from a local Mexican joint, many who’ve been coming for decades aren’t afraid to pull up and go all out.

“Tonight is like going to a funeral with 25,000 of your friends,” said A’s fan Anthony, who declined to share a last name, as he put down his burrito. If the A’s do leave Oakland, he’ll have seen three professional sports teams leave Oakland during his lifetime. “Everyone feels in different ways whether their closeness was with the Raiders, the Warriors, or the A’s,” he said. “Mine was the A’s.” He’ll miss the atmosphere outside the stadium before games: the music, which might be Mac Dre or La Banda or old-school funk, and the ability to share food and drinks with other Oakland fans.

Grill master Joseph Michael Capaldo kept his menu pared down for his “reverse boycott” tailgate serving sausages, grilled peppers, bacon, and onions, as he only got the word the night before that he’d be coming. In the past, however, he’s cooked steak and lobsters in the parking lot ahead of games. “My dad, Frank, he taught me everything, he taught me all this,” he said, gesturing to the tailgate and the grill. “My pops is my hero. This is the last time we’re all going to be here, so we had to come out.”

A man cooks on a flat grill.
Rocio Castañon cooks hot dogs and other meats to make tacos on a flattop grill.
Lena Park

For longtime A’s fans like Rocio Castañon, tailgating wasn’t just an add-on to the game. It defined the experience and their connection to the team and the Coliseum. For the “reverse boycott” tailgate, on an impressive industrial-sized flat-top, Rocio’s family members went all in, grilling everything from burgers to hot dogs to a wealth of well-seasoned meats to make enough tacos to feed 30 people — a small slice of the 100 attendees they’ve had at their tailgates in years’ past. “In the peak years, we came out all the time...even on school nights,” Castañon said. “I was born in 1989, and I feel like the A’s are part of my blood. Honestly, it’s just really heartbreaking about everything that’s going on. My son here is only 9 years old, but he’s just as passionate and as heartbroken that they’re leaving.”

A few rows away, Jeff Loasiga and 12 friends and family members literally planted their flag in the ground as they proudly waved Raiders and A’s flags on a free-standing 20-foot pole. “We’ve been tailgating since ’95 with the Raiders,” Loasiga explained as he sliced carne asada hot off the grill. “We wanted to show our support tonight and give a middle finger to the ownership leaving our town here. We calm our sorrows with food and drink.”

A tailgate setup including flags for the Oakland Raiders and A’s. Lena Park
Carne asada and hot links on a grill. Lena Park

With coolers, a gas grill, and a fold-out table in tow, Loasiga and his crew set up in between their cars across four parking spots and did what they had been doing for decades. “The easiest thing is always carne asada, pollo asado, some hot links for starters,” he explained. “We don’t bring no buns, just tortillas — Latino style — maybe just a little mustard that’s about it. Some people do crab legs and oysters, but we keep it simple. When the moms are here, it’s usually a little nicer. We get a little salad going, maybe a platter with some rice and beans.”

Now, with his high school-aged kids in the truck, he laments what he knows will be coming. It’s not just a loss of another pro team for Oakland, but the absence of an opportunity to make more memories like these with his family. “We’ll never cheer for the Giants,” he said. “This experience, it can’t be replaced. Bringing the kids out to kick the ball around, throw the ball around, play some cornhole, or whatever you bring out. It’s a different vibe, you know?”

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