A's President Kaval opens doors to fans for office hours

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Ryan Mitchell reached out to buddy Michael Doran a few days back to find out his finals schedule at Saint Mary's College. If they were both all clear from exams Tuesday, there would be no missing the first office hours hosted by new Oakland Athletics President Dave Kaval.

The two 19-year-olds left campus in the East Bay hills and picked up food from McDonald's before arriving 75 minutes early. They found themselves first in line for Kaval's time.

''We were expecting a big crowd. I was overly excited and then I got Michael excited about coming, too,'' Mitchell said. ''That was cool.''

''I'm not going to say no to meeting the A's president,'' Doran added.

They heard about plans for an intimate new ballpark and how it would benefit payroll, revenue, keeping star players, and Kaval told them to reach out with any ideas, even at 2 a.m.

One of the most intriguing sessions was near the beginning with structural and earthquake engineer Ibbi Almufti, who offered a detailed presentation on his laptop featuring plans and the benefits of a floating ballpark five feet deep in the water- yes, that's right, in the water with the ability to move it around the bay while dealing with almost no earthquake risks.

''We don't want to capsize this thing,'' Kaval quipped, and then thanked Almufti with, ''It's a fascinating way to think outside the box.''

He offered up any help needed from his company - engineering, architecture and design giant ARUP. It is responsible for some of the world's most famous buildings, and Almufti pointed to a photo of the 2008 Beijing Olympics' ''Bird's Nest'' stadium.

Almufti works in San Francisco and has a 3-year-old son, but ''I don't want him to grow up as a Giants fan,'' he said. ''That's too easy.''

The college students and Almufti were among approximately 100 A's fans to show up at the Oakland Coliseum as Kaval reached out with an open invitation as he tries to gather ideas for a proposed new ballpark and also improve the fan experience at the club's current, rundown venue, through thoughtful communication and open dialogue on any and all issues - good and bad. Bathrooms in the Bar & Grille need changing tables, pointed out Shaun Aguilar, who drove in from the Central Valley city of Modesto and attends about 15 games a year now that he has two sons ages 3 and 2.

''I'd love to have you at a game,'' Kaval said, handing the sales manager two hats for his boys while inviting him to offer more insight along the way.

With a stack of typed notes, Aguilar appreciated his brief time with Kaval, offering, ''I love the A's, they're second in my life after my family.''

Kaval opened shop at 3 p.m. and met with fans for 5 1/2 hours through dinnertime. People were invited on a first-come, first-served basis for short meetings with him in a suite overlooking the field - currently rocking a Raiders logo for the AFC leaders. Peanuts, pretzels, popcorn and hot dogs with all the trimmings were provided, along with water, coffee and cocoa on a blustery December day.

Hired last month in a restructuring of the A's top ownership and management team, Kaval holds the same position with the MLS San Jose Earthquakes. There, he pulled off the building of the Quakes' second-year, state-of-the art Avaya Stadium, which boasts the largest outdoor bar in North America.

The A's, with input from a variety of community leaders, are in the process of evaluating several Oakland sites with consideration to transit, parking, environment and surrounding opportunities for businesses and housing.

At the end of each meeting, lasting up to about 10 minutes, Kaval handed out a postcard-sized note thanking fans for attending while providing his email address and Twitter handle for further communication. He will hold further office hours every Tuesday by appointment only.

''It's like a whole new image for the A's starting when he came,'' said Mitchell, a sports management major who plays pitcher and third base on the university's club team. ''New hope.''

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