OAKLAND -- A's president Dave Kaval has been outspoken about his plans to celebrate the franchise's rich history, and it was only natural, he said, to begin doing so by honoring the green and gold's greatest member.
The club this week announced it will name the Coliseum playing surface "Rickey Henderson Field." In addition, the Hall of Famer will serve as a special assistant to Kaval.
"Obviously Rickey is the greatest player we've ever had in the history of the Athletics, and it seems like such a fitting tribute to someone who's from Oakland, who has done so much for the club, for the community," Kaval said. "It was just right in so many ways.
"We're very excited about it and think it's a great honor for Rickey. He totally deserves it. I think with that, plus the special assistant role, I can really get advice and counsel from someone who really knows how players think, knows what the community is looking for in a ballpark and knows the importance of honoring our history and heritage. That's just a really important aspect of the partnership."
Henderson, speaking on a conference call Tuesday, "was shocked" to learn of the news.
"I was honored that they wanted to name the field after me, the field that I played on, after a kid who grew up in Oakland, who never thought he'd get a field named after him, especially a Major League field," said Henderson, who also works as a roving instructor with A's Minor Leaguers.
The A's will dedicate Rickey Henderson Field during a special Opening Night pregame ceremony on April 3, the specifics of which will be kept under wraps for the time being.
"You have to come out on Opening Day to see it," Kaval said. "That's going to be part of this great reveal. We're going to have multiple things, both on the field and around the stadium. It's going to be prominently displayed, and it's going to be something that our fans, our community and our club can be very proud of. It's something that means a lot to everyone."
Kaval was hired in November to lead the A's ongoing stadium search -- which has been narrowed to four sites in Oakland -- and he has since put in motion efforts to improve the fan experience at the club's current home in the meantime. Honoring their past, Kaval maintains, is just as important as dreaming of their future.
"We have one of the most storied histories of any Major League baseball club in the world," he said, "and I think it's important we honor those players and those historic teams, and we're going to do everything we can now at the Coliseum to make that happen, and then obviously transport that to the new ballpark."
The A's could soon be the lone sports squad calling Oakland home. The Golden State Warriors broke ground on their new arena in San Francisco in January, and the Oakland Raiders are attempting a move to Las Vegas -- magnifying the significance of the A's desire to stay put.
Henderson, baseball's all-time leader in runs and stolen bases, is pleased to see Kaval and Co. working so diligently to ensure that happens.
"I think it's great the A's want to stay," Henderson said. "I'm disappointed and sad all our professional teams are leaving the Oakland area. But the Oakland A's are planning on staying in Oakland. I think it will boost up the fans."