OAKLAND The spirit of big-league baseball is alive in this cavernous space, even if it sometimes doesn't look or feel that way.
On Wednesday, I spent much of the A's 5-4 win over the Kansas City Royals sitting among fans who care deeply about their team even if team owners have let a proud baseball legacy wither slowly.
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig is complicit in this crime of neglect. The A's owners want to move to a lucrative San Jose market but are blocked by the Giants and a dithering Selig, who has "studied" the territorial dispute for years without resolving it.
Meanwhile, the fans at Wednesday's game were given no reason to continue frequenting the place the A's wish to vacate and yet they do.
There are similarities between this distressed property and the distressed property called the Sacramento Kings.
The common denominator is the ownership, though the situation in Oakland is more acute.
City officials here were never able to get a deal for a new facility as Sacramento officials did, while NBA Commissioner David Stern has committed to Sacramento in a way Selig never has for Oakland.
On Tuesday night in the rain, there were a few hundred fans in the seats though the A's announced that 10,000 or so tickets had been sold. An old college friend who was here Tuesday night tweeted his own estimate of 375.
It seems hard to believe, considering what a vibrant place the former Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum used to be. From the early 1980s to the mid-1990s, this was the dominant spot for baseball in Northern California.
Last season, the A's had the lowest attendance in baseball. The rain-shortened loss to the Royals on Tuesday night seemed like a new low.
Though the announced attendance of 12,390 on Wednesday witnessed an unusual victory Jonny Gomes was hit by a pitch from Jonathan Broxton with the bases loaded in the 12th inning, forcing Jemile Weeks home with the winning run the crowd seemed much smaller than that.
Going to a big-league game is not supposed to be a lonely experience, but it can feel lonely down the lines or in the upper deck of the bleachers. In the concourse underneath the football seats in center field, stadium music rang out over a vast emptiness devoid of patrons. Concession stands were shuttered for lack of business.
From way out there, the game on the field seemed distant and remote.
Baseball is the ultimate American communal experience, and people in the left-field stands were banging drums and trying to fill the vast spaces with their enthusiasm, here to enjoy the game and their team.
It's still a joyous experience, despite A's management and Selig.
Ron Sharpe, 24, an A's fan from Sacramento, brought his drum and playfully taunted Royals outfielders while keeping his language clean.
"I come down here all the time," he said. "I go to Stockton for games and the River Cats, too."
Sally Small, who lives in Orinda but is originally from Walnut Grove, comes to several games a year with her husband, Sandy.
She is 72 now and still visits her 96-year-old mother in Walnut Grove every week. Here, she sits down the third-base line, always keeping score.
"Baseball is the best game," she said. "And it is kind of fun to watch the A's develop players."
The trouble is, the A's trade those players as soon as they are poised to receive big hikes in pay befitting baseball stars.
"As soon as they get out of puberty, we lose them," she said.
To draw big crowds, professional sports depend on luring casual fans with big names.
The A's have precious few personalities and have lacked them for years. To frequent this place is to accept loving the game over the talent the uniform colors over the man wearing the uniform.
Small remembers when the A's were great in the late 1980s and early 1990s. She even published a short article about the A's in the New Yorker magazine in 1995. Back then, A's ownership invested in players and fans. "You see the last vestiges of that in the ushers and security guards here," she said.
It's true. Many longtime A's employees have remained. Even in the loneliest parts of the park, they are there to serve people with pride and caring for the A's logo.
Despite everything, that spirit hasn't been broken. The love for the game still lives in Oakland, no matter the size of the crowds.