(CNN)The Oakland Athletics are playing to near-empty stadiums this season because of Covid-19, but fans might catch a glimpse of superfan Sal Valencia smiling in the stands.
Family of an Oakland A's superfan honors his memory with cutout in the stands
Valencia fell in love with the team when he was a boy and loved watching games with his family and friends up until his death in January 2019. So when the team invited fans to buy photo cutouts to fill the seats at Oakland Coliseum, his wife and daughters jumped at the chance.
"We wanted to have something of him out there just so that we could see it," daughter Vanessa Waszczuk told CNN. "If somebody hit a ball out there, we could see my dad sitting in the stands again because he loved going to baseball games
He's got a great seat in Section 126 on the left field line, and the family got a quick look at him as a player rounded third base during the A's opening series with the Los Angeles Angels.
"It just makes it that much more special to us and it puts a whole lot of meaning and creativity into watching the game," said his daughter Alexis Sousa. She and her family live in Arizona, but they still stream A's games online.
The cutouts sell for $49 and up. Proceeds go to charity.
The sisters were born into the "Green and Gold" and said they started going to games before they were born. Valencia took their kids to see their first games and introduced many friends and relatives to the game.
"This would be his ultimate dream to just sit in the stands," Sousa said.
Their childhood was filled with tailgates and barbecues and car rides to the coliseum with Beatles music playing, and Sousa said going to the games brings back memories.
"I enjoy the atmosphere there. I enjoy remembering all these things about my childhood, the smell of The food and the concessions, the old feel of the seats and the the stadium itself," she said. "I mean, it's so old but it is home."
Waszczuk and Sousa said that the sport shaped their father's life and he often used baseball metaphors to teach them life lessons.
Going to opening day was a big tradition in the family and Waszczuk said she'd usually celebrate her birthday at a game since she was born during baseball season.
The last game they attended as a family, Valencia, 65, got a suite so that the younger kids could move around instead of being crammed into a seat. Waszczuk said they hope to continue that tradition when fans are able to go back to the games.
When Valencia died last year from pancreatic cancer, his wife and daughters designed an A's-themed headstone for him with the Psalm 96 verse, "Let the field be joyful and all that is in it."
The A in his name looks like the team's iconic logo.
The family will get to keep the photo cutout after the season and they've got a place picked out for it beside the hats, photographs, bobblehead dolls and other memorabilia he collected over the years.