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First-year Guardians manager Vogt cherishes Coliseum return vs. A’s originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

OAKLAND — Thursday’s 2024 MLB season opener at the Coliseum was emotional for a number of reasons.

The Athletics, fresh off a 112-loss 2023 season, enter the new campaign with renewed hope that the team on the field, led by a handful of exciting, young stars, is headed in the right direction. There also is the unavoidable dark cloud of relocation that hangs over the team in what could be the final Opening Day in the building’s history.

Emotions will be high for the A’s and their fans, but also for former Oakland fan favorite and first-year Guardians manager Stephen Vogt, who makes his managerial debut in a place he called home for six seasons.

Sitting in the visitors’ dugout pregame, surrounded by a large scrum of around 20 to 25 reporters, Vogt was asked to describe his emotions returning to a place so near and dear to him.

“Honestly I don’t really know what to feel,” Vogt said. “It’s one of those things [where] I don’t know what I don’t know yet, but I just couldn’t be more thrilled to be part of the Cleveland organization. It’s such a great place with good people. We have a great team. To be starting in Oakland, for me, is very very special. This place will always be number one in my heart, but it’s just really fun to be back.”

The Northern California native will have approximately 25 to 30 friends and family in attendance from his hometown of Visalia, including his wife Alyssa, who had her husband’s first game circled on the calendar for a reason.

“She saw it and said, ‘You’re never going to believe where your first game is. Oakland,'” Vogt recalled. “It’s just confirmation that one, I’m in the right place. I couldn’t be more thrilled to be in Cleveland and really excited to be here.”

Right before the game gets underway, Vogt will walk up to home plate and exchange Cleveland’s lineup card with the umpire crew and A’s manager Mark Kotsay, who is a close personal friend and managed Vogt during his final season in 2022, which also was Kotsay’s rookie managerial season.

“It’s fun to see Mark,” Vogt said. “I love Kots; he was so great to me my last year. Has been a mentor of mine and will continue to be.”

“It’s going to be awesome, we exchanged some texts last night,” Kotsay said pregame. “I’m really happy for Stephen. We all knew he would be a manager some day. Craig Counsell called it best when he was with him on the Brewers. He thought he would be replacing him. But now Stephen is replacing a Hall of Fame manager in Terry Francona and deservingly so. He’s got all the qualities to be a major-league manager and he’ll have a long tenure doing it for sure.”

Vogt famously capped off his 10-year career with a home run in the final at-bat of his final season, a memory he cherishes and a highlight he, admittedly, has watched on repeat countless times over the years.

Returning to Oakland where he last stepped foot on the field as a player certainly is a fitting start to his managerial career.

“It is. There’s magic always because of the way he went out here,” Kotsay explained. “But definitely fitting for him, I know he’s going to have a lot of people here. I wish him the best of luck. And to think he’s as excited as anyone to be back here having his first opportunity as a manager as well.”

When asked to name his favorite memory with the A’s, Vogt pointed to the electric playoff atmosphere at the Coliseum and how the venue’s intensity in October is unmatched around the league.

“There’s so many to think about,” Vogt said. But the playoff atmosphere here is better than any in baseball. I’ve experienced a number of different playoff atmospheres, but the Oakland Coliseum packed at playoff time is tough to beat.”

Vogt was asked about the team’s relocation to Las Vegas and the uncertainty surrounding where the A’s will play after the 2024 season. While he declined to comment on the off-the-field storylines, he said he hopes for a resolution soon, for the sake of the fans.

Vogt returns to the Coliseum as the A’s opponent in the first series of the season, but the 39-year-old still considers Oakland home and the entire organization, from top to bottom, family.

“Seeing people come, seeing people go. You become a family here in Oakland and that includes the fans and the stadium workers,” Vogt said. “All of the people here in this organization mean the world to me. So I have countless, countless memories here.”

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