This Bay Area A's fan never misses a chance to watch his team play ... 360 miles away
For Kyle Heath, the quest to see every game his beloved Athletics play in Southern California started in 1990. Here he is in 2015 -- now married -- and he still hasn't missed a game in Anaheim, Los Angeles or San Diego in 26 years.
"Back when I was a kid, I really developed the idea about wanting to see the games here [in Anaheim]." Heath said. "But when interleague started around 1997, that created a whole 'nother animal."
When Heath started his tradition of seeing each SoCal A's game, the team played more of a balanced schedule, only playing six games in Anaheim each season. However, with Interleague Play, times have changed:
"It was a little easier when I first started this -- six games and only two trips a year -- but this year we have four trips to make, not including the games in the city," he explained.
When Heath began making the trips from his home in San Jose to Anaheim -- a little over 350 miles each way -- he would go alone. He preferred the solitude, he says, because none of his friends were as passionate about the team as he was or could hang at the ballpark all day for a whole weekend.
That all changed when he met his wife, Dawnie.
Dawnie wasn't always the passionate fan she is now -- Kyle hooked her on their first date, which happened to be an A's game.
The Heaths still take the same route to Angel Stadium that Kyle has always taken: They get up and leave their house around 4:45 a.m. They spend 45 minutes to an hour eating breakfast in Los Banos, which is about an hour and 20 minutes from their house. Then, they drive a couple more hours and stop at the Buttonwillow exit for a creamsicle. Their last stop on the way is in Grapevine.
Over the years, Dawnie and Kyle have met several of the legends who have donned an A's jersey, like Dave Stewart, John "Blue Moon" Odom and Rollie Fingers. But their most treasured friendship was with the late Bob Welch.
Their friendship began just as Kyle's relationship with Dawnie had -- at an A's game. Oakland had beaten the Angels that day, and an usher friend pointed out Bob Welch leaving the stadium. The Heaths went running after him, telling him they just wanted to say hi and meet him.
"As soon as I did, he smiled and put his arm around me and said, 'Let's walk for a while,'" Kyle said. "He asked where we parked and said he would give us a ride. He didn't focus really well, and one thing leads to another, and we drove all the way by Disneyland. And he is storytelling about everything we passed. After that night, we sat with Bob for a couple more games."
Months later, Welch invited the Heaths to come with him to see his son play in San Jose and have dinner afterward. But the last time they saw him was when he threw out a first pitch in Oakland against the Tigers.
"We were really waiting for the big 1989 team reunion last year. I thought Dawnie and I were going to have some time to catch up with him, but he passed away shortly before -- and it was really hard to take for us."
Throughout all his years of traveling, Kyle has seen many memorable Oakland baseball moments: From the debut of Tim Hudson in San Diego to Miguel Tejada's first hit in Los Angeles. But the biggest thrill for Kyle was getting engaged to Dawnie in Anaheim in September 2011.
"I proposed to her on my late mom's birthday, Sept. 22, so that made that day more joyous for me. And Dawnie's birthday which is a couple days later, could still have its own celebration. I had the Heath jerseys made with the No. 2 and said to her, 'I want you to be a Heath too.'"
According to Kyle, if they happen to miss a game in Southern California this season, "Something must be seriously wrong."