'A great honor': A's dedicate field for Rickey

'A great honor': A's dedicate field for Rickey

OAKLAND -- Rickey Henderson can't quite recall how many times he pulled off the feat as a kid, slithering his way into the Coliseum without a ticket in hand. He is sure of this, though: "Did I get caught? No, I was too fast."

Of course.

"They used to have the bleachers out there," Henderson explained, "and they had just a fence out there, so we would find a way to get underneath the fence, or cut the fence, and then game time we would sneak in and see the ballgame.

"Most of the kids behind me got caught. I was always in the ballpark."

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He still is and forever will be, quite literally now, after the A's christened their playing surface as Rickey Henderson Field during Opening Night pregame ceremonies Monday.

"It's a great honor," Henderson said. "When I was growing up in Oakland as a kid and playing in the parks around the ballpark, I had no idea that this chance would ever come. The first thing was me getting an opportunity to play for the Oakland A's, and now this is happening, so this is just a special great moment."

A's honor Rickey Henderson

Baseball's all-time leader in runs and stolen bases emerged from center field to a standing ovation, walking across the field that bears his name to a podium in front of the mound, where he told the crowd, "My heart and soul is forever in Oakland. I love you, Oakland."

Henderson, who won a World Series with the A's in 1989, was joined on the field by his first scout, James Guinn, and teammate Dave Stewart, who moved behind the plate to catch the ceremonial first pitch -- a strike from Henderson.

The dedication reflected an ongoing effort by the A's to honor their past and the figures that played so prominent of roles in it. A's president Dave Kaval called Henderson "an amazing person, not only in baseball, an American treasure, but also in this community in Oakland."

Henderson on Kaval

"It's just really something special," A's outfielder Rajai Davis said. "Obviously it takes a special person to do this for. He contributed a lot to his game. His numbers are off the charts. It's an honor as a player to have him around, let alone play on the field named after him."

Davis has a mentor in Henderson, who drew plenty of laughs when relaying a story about coaching the younger speedster.

"Rajai came to me and said, 'They're not giving me the green light anymore. What should I do?'" Henderson said. "And I told him, 'If you can pick the pitcher, just take off and if you're safe, they won't say nothing to you. But if you're thrown out, just tell them that you missed the sign.'"

Said Davis: "I've always been aggressive, but he helped me have that confidence to go. You hang out with Rickey, you become a more confident player."

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.