The Oakland Athletics announced changes in their leadership structure on Thursday, adding substance to speculation that a plan for a new ballpark in Oakland is imminent. Managing partner Lew Wolff is stepping down from that role and selling most of his stake in the team to the other owners.
Wolff, who's 80 years old, will become chairman emeritus of the ownership group. John Fisher, who has held the majority of shares in the team since the current ownership bought it in 2005, will take over as managing partner -- meaning among other things that he'll be the official team vote in Major League Baseball's governance structure.
Wolff was the major advocate for moving the A's, first to Fremont and then to San Jose, and persisted in that attempt through years of delays and legal battles, which finally ended last year. Fisher has taken a more active role in the last year, particularly in examining alternative sites for a new ballpark in Oakland, if the A's don't elect to build at the current Coliseum site.
The Athletics also announced that longtime team president Michael Crowley will become a senior adviser to ownership, and Dave Kaval will take over as president. Kaval is also the president of the A's owners' other team, the San Jose Earthquakes of Major League Soccer, and oversaw the construction of Avaya Stadium. Before coming to the Quakes, Kaval co-founded the Golden Baseball League, a group of independent teams that has since been incorporated into the North American League of teams unaffiliated with the major leagues. In that capacity, he was responsible for the 2010 debut of Eri Yoshida as the first woman playing pro baseball since Ila Borders a decade earlier.
Kaval plans to have regular office hours at the Coliseum starting next month, on Tuesdays between 3 and 5 p.m., and sees it as a virtual suggestion box for the new stadium effort.
"Reaching out to the community in Oakland and our fan base, and understanding what our fans want," he told radio station 95.7, "What are the different things that we need to incorporate in the stadium and its location to be successful? I want to be a conduit for people to express these views to make sure they feel they're a part of this process, because I saw with the building of Avaya Stadium, that's a critical component for everyone's mutual success."