Vegas-born Harper: A’s relocation ‘just not right’

  • ESPN News Services

Jun 15, 2023, 10:07 AM ET

The Oakland Athletics’ planned relocation to Las Vegas, which cleared a major hurdle Wednesday, has been widely panned by players and fans around Major League Baseball.

Even a pair of Vegas-born teammates, Bryce Harper and Bryson Stott, say their hometown would be better served by an MLB expansion franchise, with the A’s remaining in Oakland.

“I feel sorry for the fans in Oakland,” Harper told USA Today Sports in a report published Thursday. “It’s just not right. They have so much history in Oakland. You’re taking a team out of a city. I’m pretty sad because of all of the history and all of the greatness they’ve seen there.

“I see the A’s as Oakland. I don’t see them as Vegas.”

Harper first gained national stardom at Las Vegas High School and still resides in nearby Henderson. The Phillies slugger compared the A’s to two of Las Vegas’ other major professional sports teams: the recently relocated Raiders and the reigning Stanley Cup champion Golden Knights, who were an expansion franchise in 2017.

“Look at the Knights — they won the Cup, but they were an expansion franchise,” Harper told USA Today. “They were Vegas-born, as people would say. It’s the first team that came to Vegas. I don’t think you can really match that.

“It’s just going to be tough for those guys. It was tough for the Raiders last year. People thought the Raiders would be successful. Maybe they will be, but you have to build a fan base. Those 5- and 6-year-olds are going to grow up as Raiders fans or A’s fans, so by the time they are 16, 17 years old, they’re going to have fans.”

Stott, 25, was a high school star in Enterprise, Nevada, and played collegiately at UNLV. The second-year Phillies infielder agreed with Harper that Las Vegas “would rather see an expansion team than a relocated team” and noted that the last-place A’s could struggle to build a fan base.

“You have people in town liking the Dodgers, and the Angels, and the Padres, and the Diamondbacks,” Stott told USA Today. “It will take a few generations before they have a real fandom in baseball. I’m sure they’ll sell tickets for visiting fans, which is probably all they care about.”

The Athletics’ exit from Oakland advanced further Wednesday night when the Nevada Legislature gave final approval to public funding for a portion of a proposed $1.5 billion Las Vegas stadium with a retractable roof. The deal still needs a signature from Gov. Joe Lombardo, and MLB still must approve the relocation, but both of those things are expected.

The vote came one day after fans in Oakland held their long-planned “Reverse Boycott” intended to fill the Oakland Coliseum and prove their worth to owner John Fisher and MLB. The game Tuesday night against the Rays drew 27,759 in attendance, Oakland’s largest home crowd of the season and more than triple the team’s home average of 8,555.

Harper, Stott and the Phillies open a three-game series Friday in Oakland.

“Those fans are so passionate, they bleed green,” Harper said. “I’m not sure what they’re going to be, or how they’re going to be in Vegas, but it won’t be the same. … I’m going to be pretty sad they’re moving because of all of that history and all of the greatness they’ve seen there.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.