Hometown hospitality: A’s fan embraces dream job

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HOST WITH THE MOST — Kara Tsuboi plays a game with young fans in between innings at the Oakland Coliseum. photo by Alec Yoshio MacDonald/Nichi Bei Weekly

In the Oakland Coliseum, Kara Tsuboi is larger than life.

At every Athletics home game, her visage graces two jumbotrons mounted atop the stadium, appearing on the massive screens before first pitch and during inning breaks. When she materializes high above the field, her image projected from somewhere down in the stands, she might be quizzing a fan on A’s trivia, interviewing members of a community group, or awarding prizes to kids competing in baseball skills contests. At “Dog Day at the Park” last month, thousands watched with glee as she received a sloppy kiss from one particularly zealous canine attendee. The following day she was paying tribute to veterans as part of a promotion honoring the military. Twice, she’s presided over a successful marriage proposal.

Suffice to say, Tsuboi has a unique job. Her job title? In-game host. Her job function? In a nutshell, and in her words, “I am here to welcome people to the game. I make sure they’re having a nice time.”

Of course in a stadium with 35,000 seats, she can’t greet every single person who walks through the turnstiles, but that’s why having a pair of jumbotrons at your disposal comes in handy. At the regular intervals when players come off the field, Tsuboi ventures out into the crowd, microphone in hand and camera crew in tow. She picks out random people, engages them in some brief activity, and the moment is shared with everyone in the stadium.

“At every game we’ll dig into our bag of tricks and pull out five fun things to do. We want to keep it fresh, keep it fun, keep it entertaining — this is baseball, after all,” she quipped.

To be more precise, this is A’s baseball, which Tsuboi loves. A native of Oakland who made frequent visits to the Coliseum growing up, she contended, “You could never say that watching an A’s game is boring.”

Fueled by her enthusiasm for the team, she visited the A’s Website prior to the 2009 season to find out if they were hiring. As luck would have it, she found an announcement publicizing an opening for the in-game host position, which had never even existed before. She submitted an application and was eventually hired as the first-ever to fill the role.

Ardor for the green and gold alone did not land Tsuboi the job. She came to the A’s with an impressive track record of relevant experience from the world of the smaller screen; her resume boasts stints at “World News Tonight with Peter Jennings” in New York, CNN in Moscow, KOLO in Reno, and both KTVU and CNET in the Bay Area. She even hosted her own travel program, “Taste for Adventure,” that aired on the Fine Living cable network and took her to such far flung locales as Barbados (in the Caribbean Islands), Durango, Mexico and Hawai‘i.

And now her winding career path has led her back home, in an unlikely but perfectly tailored professional opportunity.

“Look what I found,” she marveled. “Who ever would have thought that you could do broadcast in the Coliseum for a team that you’re passionate about?”

“I’m so lucky,” she added.

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