Section 149

It's mid-September, and no one's coming to see Oakland A's games. In their final home game before a two-week road trip, the team had an announced crowd of 13,387, on Sept. 9 against Houston.

The Athletics are in last place in the A.L. West. Coming off a season where it lost the wild-card matchup with eventual A.L. champion Kansas City Royals, Oakland sits 16 games back from the division-leading Rangers. The team is already guaranteed a losing season.

For casual fans, the season is effectively over -- they'll tune back in next April.

Oakland Coliseum

But the loyal fans still come to Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, home to both the Athletics and the NFL's Oakland Raiders. The most impassioned of these fans -- the die-hards among die-hards -- sit far out in right field, staring down the sun as it sets in the evening.

They play drums and heckle the opponents, wave signs, enjoy the moment. They want the team to win, sure, but they come for the experience, for the unique community they've built in the corner of Major League Baseball's strangest stadium.

This is Section 149: The singing, dancing, flag-flying crazies you won't find anywhere else in baseball.

"It's very much like a soccer crowd," says Susan Slusser, the A's beat reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. "The only other thing I've seen like it is in Japan for baseball, where sections are coordinated with flags and chants."

There's no such structure guiding Section 149.

"They can be very freeform and spontaneous," Slusser says.

In her book, "100 Things A's Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die," Slusser devotes a chapter to spending a game seated in Section 149. She notes the camaraderie of the section and the unique ways in which that section interacts with players and engages with the game.

The group is so active that it actually becomes a part of the game itself. In a series earlier this month, the section's drumming and noise was so loud that it actually disrupted Houston's broadcasts and prompted Astros fans watching on TV to fire complaint. The Astros responded with a tweet during the game:

"When you're disrupting the other team's broadcasts, I think you're doing a pretty good job," Slusser says.

Section 149 is an organic fan creation -- the product of a group of young, passionate A's fans who found community in the outfield. Except this right-field oasis originates from a section out in left field, where the seeds of tradition were planted by an earlier generation.

Slusser remembers them from the late 1990s as a group of high school and college students who set the bar for fan support.

Section 149

It just so happened that, in the early 2000s, another young group of fans was gathering in Section 149, enjoying the winning Athletics teams that won 102 games in 2001 and 103 in 2002. That run of success helped the fan group entrench itself as a staple at A's games.

Another thing that helped: Its two-way relationship with the MLB players set up in right field Section 149 has always served as an unofficial fan club for whatever A's player is established as the right-field starter, but interactions with opposing players have inspired truly memorable experiences.

Years ago, 149ers were enjoying an A's game while deep into a highly polarizing debate: Who had the best fried chicken, Popeyes or Church's?

Eventually, fans turned the conversation over the outfield wall, posing the question to Angels outfielder Torii Hunter. Hunter gave a quick answer: Popeyes, no question.

Josh Hamilton

From that point on, whenever the A's played Anaheim, Section 149 always hassled Hunter: "Where's our chicken?" they'd yell, or some variation. In 2012, after two years of being hit up for chicken, Hunter delivered: He sent hundreds of dollars of fried chicken to Section 149.

Even better is the case of Josh Hamilton and the Butterfingers candy bar: In 2012, Hamilton cost the Texas Rangers the A.L. West when he committed an error in right field that handed a win -- and the division title -- to Oakland.

The following spring, Section 149 held a mock "Josh Hamilton Appreciation Night," which involved giving the MLB star a Butterfingers in honor of his critical flub.

Dinging a player's performance would seem to be asking for trouble, but Hamilton was gracious: He took the Butterfingers and bit into it.

Even though he played for a rival, Hamilton made a crowd of new fans in Section 149 that night.

"[Player reactions] are either very positive or very un-positive," Slusser says. "If the player plays along with them ... and has a good sense of humor, there's a very fun give-and-take interaction."

Josh Reddick

Not every right-fielder is fond of interaction with Section 149 -- in fact, even some Athletics right-fielders over the years have been cold to the relationship, and they're often treated accordingly.

But Josh Reddick, the current A's starting right-fielder and a Gold Glove winner, has a great relationship with 149 regulars. He attends their extracurricular events with them and engages with them frequently during games.

"I actually think he is, legitimately, very good friends with some of them in real life," Slusser says.

That strong rapport with players has helped Section 149 earn the support -- or at least the tolerance -- of the front office. Because the section's banter is usually positive in nature, it gets a longer leash with its drumming and other actions than they would if they were causing trouble in the stands.

Only on rare occasions -- typically when signs pop up criticizing the team's management or calling for owners to sell the team -- does the franchise take any action. Even then, it's often benign, such as removing the critical signs.

And in the Moneyball era, 149ers are savvy enough to understand that a small-market team is going to experience ebbs and flows in their performance. That's why -- even as summer turns to fall and the A's rank near the bottom of the American League -- Section 149 is rocking.

"There's a subset that isn't coming as often and is maybe a little more disgruntled," Slusser says, but the section's most devoted fans don't choose their level of investment according to what happens on the field.

Section 149 prides itself on being more than the sum of its hundreds of seats. By committing to the team and the community's identity, it has become the most impressive fan group in baseball.

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