One of the lesser-known A's was making his way down the dugout steps at Raley Field, clad in anonymous warmups, head covered by a green beanie, when a woman in a River Cats jersey called out to him from a nearby seat.
"Hey, Josh!" she said.
"Hey," Josh Donaldson answered. "What's going on?"
A major league team returned to Sacramento for the first time in five years on Saturday evening, as the A's and River Cats, Oakland's Triple-A affiliate, played an exhibition game. But the occasion was marked by familiarity, as a handful of players who spent stretches in Sacramento last season returned as well, albeit wearing green and gold.
They included Donaldson, who played 201 games for the River Cats over the past two seasons, and speedy second baseman Jemile Weeks. Infielders Wes Timmons and Eric Sogard took batting practice in the same group at one point while catcher Anthony Recker signed autographs down the first-base line.
Those players drew some of the loudest cheers from an announced crowd of 10,112, which spilled over seats and onto the grass beyond the right-field fence despite the absence of A's slugger Manny Ramirez, who didn't make the trip, and the threat of rain.
Weeks, who played 45 games with the River Cats before his midseason call-up last year, said before the game that returning to Raley Field was "lovely, man."
"It's just a good feeling to come back to a place where you felt wanted and you felt like you were a part of," he said.
Around 4:15 p.m., a few dozen fans lined up outside the stadium's front gate. Some wore A's or River Cats gear. More were clad in heavy jackets and carrying umbrellas as dark clouds drifted overhead.
By 4:30, when ushers opened the gates, the sun had broken through. Fans streamed in to watch the A's take batting practice. Several dozen autograph seekers leaned on the railing along the first-base line with pens ready.
Murmurs floated through the throng following the final batting-practice swing of Yoenis Cespedes, as the A's free-agent signee from Cuba hit a ball that cleared the clubhouses in left-center field and bounced on the asphalt among several parked cars.
"It was funny," said Mark Clementi, 56, a police psychologist who brought his two sons to the game from Santa Rosa. "I called the front office yesterday to see if they had any plans, because the forecast was horrible.
"They said: 'Ah, it's not going to rain. We've only had four rainouts in 11 years.' I guess they were right," he said, indicating blue sky.
So baseball was played, until the rain returned and shortened the game to seven innings. Oakland starter Tommy Milone pitched six perfect innings as the A's beat the River Cats 9-0 in a game in which Sacramento did not muster a hit.
"Seeing the big-league club on Raley Field, against the local team, it's kind of fun," said Lanny Freeman, 62, of Orangevale, wrapped in an A's jacket. "It's a sign of spring, too. Spring's around the corner."
Donaldson, who started at third base for the A's, homered to deep center field in the fifth inning.
Before the game, A's manager Bob Melvin said that "as of right now, Donaldson would get the brunt of the playing time" at third.
Sogard, a left-handed hitter, is another candidate.
"I've been coming back here (to Sacramento) for two years now," Donaldson said. "And I enjoyed my time here. But it's just one of those things where I'm trying to move on and hopefully build a foundation in Oakland."