Tagged: angels

Trout Fishing

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They call him the GOAT, but he doesn’t even have a hit!

Somehow, in my quest to visit as many minor league ballparks in this great land of ours, I have been neglectful. Within 2 hours of my home lie 4 teams in the High-A California League and I have only officially covered 1. This is wrong and I seek to remedy this injustice as soon as possible, starting with the Inland Empire 66ers, based out of San Bernardino, formerly known as the San Bernardino Spirit. This was also to be my first baseball game of the year. In July. For a man who loves the game and considers a ballpark to be his comfort place.

Please allow a slight detour as I explain why.

Longtime readers of the blog have probably figured out that my health has not been the greatest over the past few years. In late 2016 I was diagnosed with kidney disease right as my Cubs were charging into the World Series. I had to go to a center and receive a dialysis treatment 3 days a week. That adds up.

Then, this spring, my doctors decided that I was able to continue my dialysis at home. The good part was not having to travel to the center several times a week. The bad part was that this type of dialysis took about 8 hours and sapped my energy. I could barely find it in me to eat, let alone go out to a game, surrounded by people in an environment that I have always considered to be high energy for myself.

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Dialysis Boy

Recently I was approved for a dialysis machine, that allows me to do the entire treatment overnight as I sleep. It is much less intense and I mostly feel good afterwards when I wake up. This allows me a return to a relatively normal schedule, which means that one of the first things I wanted to do was get out to the ballpark!

My lovely wife, Lauren, and I picked a day off of work for her and began planning a game. Initially we were going to return to Lancaster to see the Jethawks, but shortly before gamely I started hearing some interesting rumors. It seemed that the injured, Mike Trout was getting ready to start his rehab and would begin working out with the 66ers.

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Mike Trout’s first 66’ers at-bat

There were no guarantees that he would play right away but I’m a gambling man and bought 2 tickets for the first date that the Angels said would be his earliest return. I figured he would at least be working out with the team so we could watch him hit in batting practice and who knows? Maybe he’d be up for signing autographs.

Mike is a great signer at home in Anaheim, literally minutes away from my home, but luck has never been with me when he is signing and I’ve always missed out. A smaller ballpark, like San Manuel Stadium, home of the 66ers seemed to provide a much better opportunity.

So Lauren and I packed up baseballs, camera gear and a pretty sweet mix CD by me and headed up to San Bernardino. Along the way we stopped in to the Inland Empire’s favorite fast food, Baker’s Drive-Thru, and grabbed a couple of burgers for lunch.

I was afraid that the detour to Baker’s might throw off our timing to reach the ballpark, but we got there approximately 45 minutes before they were set to open the gates, which was an hour prior to first pitch.

It seems others had heard about the return of Mr. Trout (who the Angels had confirmed WOULD be playing that night.) There was a sea of #27 Angels jersey in the line, which appeared to be at least 100 people deep. By the time the gates opened, that number had at least tripled.

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Our Entry

After getting my bag checked I hobbled down to the third base side of the park and joined a mass of humanity with the same dreams of getting an autograph from Mr. Trout as I did. Having been in guest control in a former life I truly felt bad for the usher who was trying to keep the aisles clear for people who actually had tickets in the general vicinity. He was very kind and never lost his cool, so props to Darrell of the 66ers!

We stood. And we waited. Not only had Mike not come out by approximately 20 minutes to game time, but suddenly there was the announcement that strikes fear into the heart of all stadium autograph seekers.

“At this time we ask that you please return to your assigned seats.”

Honestly, I would have, but I was literally stuck in a mob of people with no way out. Darrell was not pleased that no one was leaving. I’m sorry Darrell!

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The mass of humanity stressing out poor Darrell

By this time Mike had come out and after signing autographs for the Little League team that was being honored on the field, headed down the left field line to warm up.

With the announcement having been made and the fact that it was mere minutes from the first pitch I figured I would have to chalk this up to a ‘close but no cigar’ encounter, but I was still trapped next to the dugout in a hot, sweaty mass of humanity.

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Geez, the guy hitting 3rd doesn’t even have an average

And then it happened. Mike came down to our little section and began signing. He mostly hit up the kids, but I’m not ashamed to say that I was able to hand over my baseball and get it back signed. I didn’t push, I didn’t cheat and I didn’t screw over any kids. I was pretty pleased with my quarry. Anything else that happened this night would be mere icing on the cake.

I found Lauren who had cooled down with a shave ice while I was Trout fishing and we got a lemonade to cool me down and found a nice shaded picnic area in which to relax. We rested and I rushed down to try to get some photographs of Mike’s first at-bat.

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Mike gets some signs

In addition to being Mike Trout Day (unofficial) it was a celebration of SPAM’s 80th birthday (official). I love SPAM. Lauren likes SPAM. It seemed natural that we would enjoy some of the SPAM-centric snacks available. I was getting hungry again, so Lauren went exploring and reported back with the specialty SPAM menu.

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OK, so it wasn’t that EXACTLY, but close!

I felt that the “Grilled Cheesy Bacon Melt,” described as “Thick slabs of griddled Texas Toast loaded with bacon, cheese, more bacon and even more cheese!” with an addition of diced SPAM would hit the spot and the SPAM musubi would also be a nice treat.

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I suppose this menu is slightly more accurate

This is the point where the wheels fall off of our lovely adventure.

It seemed to me that Lauren had been gone a while, like 3 innings at least, and I was beginning to worry when my fast dying cell phone buzzed at me and I got a text saying “Still waiting.” She made it back to me shortly thereafter, and was obviously not happy.

We don’t know why, but it took over 40 minutes to make my sandwich. There was no warning that this was going to be an issue, and most appallingly, there was no apology for the wait afterwards. Not even an obviously false one. In addition, the musubi and bottle of water we ordered was given to her upon paying. The water had 40 minutes to warm up and the musbui had the same amount of time to cool down and slightly congeal. Lauren was not the only one with this problem. There were several others at the stand livid about the treatment and many cancelled their orders and demanded refunds.

I understand that this is a Class-A ballpark. I understand that the SPAM items are a specialty and that the high school kids in the concession stands are probably not overly familiar with them. I do NOT understand where an “I’m sorry for your wait” or even some indication that what was happening was unacceptable was never offered. I’m not saying offer a discount or comp the food or anything like that. However, a bit of human decency is not difficult to muster up and, to me, seems like an automatic response.

This experience cast a very negative light over our whole time at the ballpark and will likely color any future visits; but it doesn’t matter to the concessionaires. They’re just high school kids working for minimum wage and couldn’t care less if their attitudes cost the team, or at least their concession stand, customers. It was just a shame.

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SPAM and cheese and bacon. AMERICA!

That being said, the sandwich was delicious. Tons of orange American cheese melted on standard white bread with little jewels of bacon and SPAM sprinkled throughout and decorating the top. I destroyed the thing. Might have considered another if I thought I could get it before the game ended.

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SPAM musubi. After the photo the seaweed was quickly removed

The musubi was a bit of a disappointment. As stated earlier, it had gotten cold and the rice began to solidify as the SPAM was disintegrating into a cold grease bomb. We were only able to eat a few bites. The warm water was wet and that was all we asked of it, though a cool drink would have been nice.

We decided to leave the picnic area at this point and look around the stadium itself. It was a nice little ballpark that to me was very reminiscent of an MLB Spring Training facility.

As we walked past one particular point of the concourse there was a line of people, probably 40-50 deep. Lauren asked me what was going on, and I was stumped for a minute and then my brain clicked.

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Mikey likes it!

“They are out here waiting for Mike Trout to leave after the game!” I said. Considering that he was only at that point coming up for his final at-bat and then would have to shower, get ready to go and likely handle some media requests, those folks were in for a long wait. I hope they did well.

The team store was nice. It had a pretty decent selection of things, including a Mike Trout 66ers shirsey, but my wife says I have too many t-shirts already (I do) and nothing else in the store particularly struck my fancy. There were some nice hats, but at the price point, I’m not sure I would have gotten the value out of wearing them, so we left the shop empty-handed. I was also surprised to not see any game-used items for sale. Usually team shops will have a bucket of cracked game-used bats and maybe a few other items, but there were none to be found.

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Good night, San Manuel Stadium!

It was at about this time that we decided to head out, so we took a few last photos and headed to the car.

Overall, I achieved what I came to do and the ballpark itself was nice and had a very strong community vibe. A lot of the fans seemed to know each other and spent a lot of time visiting with each other and catching up on life. There was a very positive energy that I enjoyed.

Sadly the food incident really did color the entire evening, but we are willing to revisit San Manuel Stadium, perhaps on a normal weeknight when one of the greatest players in the MLB isn’t in town and see what kind of experience we have then.

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Mike connects!

I’m hoping to be able to add some more entries on here soon, so until next time, keep trippin’ baseballs!

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The prize!

As always, my full complement of photos can be found here
Addendum as of Friday morning. After I contacted the 66ers with my concern they reached out to me and not only apologized for the behavior of the employees, but gave a reasonable explanation as to why the food took so long (They knew it would be time-consuming so it was scheduled on a Wednesday night,which is traditionally slow…and then Mike Trout happened.) They invited us back to a game to get a full experience and I will look forward to taking them up on that. Thank you, 66ers for your prompt and satisfying customer service. 

How I (Barely) Survived Arizona: Our 2017 Spring Training Adventure!

 

“The region is altogether valueless. After entering it, there is nothing to do but leave.”
Lt. Edward Beale, Congress report on Arizona, 1858

While I don’t completely agree with the good lieutenant, I must say that I am glad to be home. You see, we weren’t intending on going to Spring training this year. My health is still a bit dodgy and being away from our home base is a bit scary right now. We aren’t habitual Spring Training junkies, but have been a few times and I’ve always had a good time. I had a lot of fun this time as well, but it was a little different from I had expected.

 

The impetus for even going down at all was the wedding of two of our closest friends, who happened to be from Phoenix. Which happened to be on my birthday. Which happened to be over the weekend of my birthday. When the universe clearly wants you to go Spring Training, you go!

For my birthday gift, my wife gave me her credit card and let me get tickets to all of the games I wanted to attend, which–after I restrained myself–wound up being 4 games. I found a Motel 6 close to both Sloan Park and the dialysis center that I would be utilizing twice during our short stay and booked our room.More details on that to follow.

That is far too long of a prologue, so lets just jump right into day 1.

 

Day 1:

We ended up leaving our house a bit later than intended, but other than one issue with CD selection (Yes children, old people still use physical media to listen to music) the drive was uneventful. Traffic was easy until we hit the outskirts of Phoenix, but we still made it to Scottsdale Stadium just a little bit after the Giants v. Puerto Rico game had begun. We immediately saw an issue. After driving around the ballpark and nearby environs there was literally no parking. All the lots were either full or blocked off with “Non Event Parking” sign. We even tried to find a place to park away from the ballpark and having a car service take us to the game with no avail. By this point it was getting late and we hadn’t eaten anything for many hours, so we cut our losses and changed our quest to find lunch.

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Delicious banoffee pie from The Cornish Pasty Company in Scottsdale. Photo Credit: Lauren Petersen

Fortunately nearby was a restaurant serving Cornish pasties–as well as air conditioning, so we went in for a fine lunch topped off with an amazing banoffee pie and began to feel human again. at this point it was late enough to check in to our motel, so we headed in that general direction.

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Anything your little Cub heart desires can be found at the Mesa Walmart. Photo Credit:Lauren Petersen

After a quick trip to the Walmart, which was decked out in Cubs merchandise, we arrived at our temporary home.

 

Do you ever get a strange feeling that things aren’t good and might soon get much worse? That was the feeling in my gut as we checked in. Don’t get me wrong, all the staff that we dealt with during our stay were perfectly nice. Very helpful and professional, even “upgrading” us to a handicapped room with no extra charge.

The room though? Not so good. The sort of place that you’d expect Norman Bates to work at, were “Psycho” set in 2017. Upon walking into our non-smoking room we were hit by a cloud of nicotine–something that persisted throughout our stay minus the one day when nicotine was swapped for pot smoke. There was a dirty boot print in our shower and the whole place looked like it had been cleaned by a disinterested teenager. Yes, I should have complained, but I was afraid any other room would be worse, so we soldiered on and kept the room.

Eventually we fell asleep and were not murdered in the night. I set those odds at 50-50.

 

Day 2:

 

Today was exciting because we were going to see the 2016 World Champion Chicago Cubs (I never get tired of saying that and love getting to refer to them as such) at Sloan Park, a ballpark I had yet to see since it opened only a few years ago. With Arizona ignoring Daylight Savings Time, I mentally thought that the game started at 12:05, the same as at home, so we arrived an hour sooner than expected. Oops. They soon opened the gates and we found our way inside and immediately grabbed some hot dogs, pretzels and water. We headed down to our seats and ate our lunch, fortunately, in some of the rare shade. The game against the Mariners was fun, not counting the final score, and it was good to see Bryant, Rizzo and the rest of the crew at it again, as well as see prospects like Eloy Jiminez in person.

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Future Cubs superstar, Eloy Jimenez 

 

Sloan Park is gorgeous and I do wish we had explored it a bit more, but the shady seats were too tempting to leave and so we remained sedentary for the length of the game. The timing worked out perfectly for us to enjoy the ballgame and get to my dialysis appointment in Mesa on time.

I love the Wrigley Field…err Sloan Park marquee. Photo Credit: Lauren Petersen

I did manage to get my photo with the Sloan Park marquee before we left though. I DO have my priorities after all.

After my 4 hours getting my blood cleaned we grabbed a quick bite to eat and headed back to the motel of doom for the night. As you can no doubt tell, we are some late night party animals. Like the kids in the pool. Right outside of our room. Until after midnight.

 

Day 3:

 

Proof that we were actually at the game, albeit briefly

Today we were headed to Tempe to see the Padres play the Angels. Looking back on it now, I don’t know why we didn’t just go and see the Cubs play the Mariners in Peoria, but seeing 2 of my favorite teams play each other was not a bad option either.

On the way we stopped for breakfast at a Whataburger, which I had never tried before. It had been described to me as “the Texas In ‘n Out” so I had to try it. Though it was breakfast time I felt the need to get the eponymous burger, but lo! On the breakfast menu was biscuits and gravy…one of my all time favorite meals. Decisions, decisions. In the end, although my appetite has been waning as of late, I ordered both. And finished them too.

While eating, a woman at a table across from us asked me about my cane and other, increasingly personal questions, which I answered, since I generally don’t know when to shut up. We finished our meals, ended the conversation and continued on to Tempe Diablo Stadium, home of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim…who train in Tempe, Arizona. Why not add a few more locations for the poor Angels?

Unfortunately unlike Sloan Park there were virtually no shaded seats at Tempe Diablo Stadium  and I started to bake from the moment I sat in our seats watching the teams warm up. Kindly, Lauren went and got us a huge frozen margarita concoction to try to cool us down. Yes, I realize that alcohol probably has an adverse effect on remaining hydrated, but it was delicious. More importantly it was cold.

The second 2016 MVP that I saw on this trip.

We downed that sucker fast enough that I didn’t even have time/ presence of mind to get a photo. The bottom of the drink vessel was actually molded into a baseball which Lauren wanted to keep, but was rebuffed by an usher as we left and forced to throw it away. We will never forget you, margarita baseball.

By the second inning the sun was beating down on my poor little body and we decided to leave the seats in favor of shade. It turns out that many people were doing the exact thing that we were and the mass of humanity clogged the concourse and made it extra hard just to walk around, let alone pop into the team store.

We decided that for the sake of my health (we still had a wedding reception and yet one more game to attend on our Arizona adventure) we should leave and go back to the air-conditioned motel room, to rest before dialysis.

I must have looked the way that I felt, because a kindly usher had me sit down for a moment and called to have a cart come to drive us over to our car. Unfortunately, once at the car we were  blocked in by a fire truck parked directly behind us. We sat in the car for at least 20 minutes until a firefighter came back and moved the truck and in doing so, free our car.

We drove back to the motel where I had a short and cool nap. Our room hadn’t been cleaned yet, nor would it be that entire day.

I had my dialysis and then immediately began my backslide with dinner at The Cracker Barrel. We only recently got one in California and it’s a bit of a drive from our home–not that Phoenix isn’t–so on the rare occasion that we find one we are there!

We returned to our uncleaned room, got new towels from the front desk and looked forward to a long sleep in, since the following day was baseball-free.

 

Day 4:

I’ll try to keep this short since there is virtually no baseball connection. Today was my birthday, as well as the reception for our friends’ wedding. They had done a real wedding ceremony, very small, the day prior and then had their reception at a local barcade. For those unaware, a barcade is a combination bar and arcade, generally featuring older video games for those of us that grew up playing them.

I believe I am Simpsons bowling here at the Cobra Barcade. Photo Credit: Lauren Petersen

There was lots of good food, good drinks, virtually unlimited free games and so a good time was had by all.

That evening, Lauren and I planned on going to a charity function to raise money for clean drinking water in the Dominican Republic and reportedly featuring many baseball players in attendance. Since I had been virtually shut out of autographs the whole trip, I thought this would be a fun way to celebrate my birthday. The universe had other plans and struck Lauren down with some sort of bug, so we got halfway to the venue and turned around to go back to the motel. We grabbed some Sonic for me and called it a night.

 

Day 5:

Addison Russell combining stretching and yoga

Today was our last day in Arizona and we were pumped to see the 2016 World Champion Chicago Cubs (I told you I loved saying it) take on the Oakland A’s at the Cubs old ballpark, Hohokam Stadium. I was primed and ready to go. Earlier I had visited the Walmart again and gotten all sorts of defense against the sun. Cooling towels, sunscreen and a big floppy hat were amongst the items purchased.

Note the floppy hat and water evaporation stay cool towel. Neither really worked

We took a little bit of time before going to the ballpark, which was very impressive to me. No, it isn’t as pretty or nicely designed like Sloan Park or Camelback, but it has a lot of charm and I would choose it ahead of the Brewers park in Maryvale or even Tempe Diablo Stadium.

The A’s have really made it their own, with history on display throughout the concourse. There was even some living history as Rollie Fingers, Bert Campaneris, George Foster and Blue Moon Odom were on hand to greet fans and sign autographs for a small donation. The Cubs and the Fergie Jenkins Foundation do a similar thing at Sloan Park and I think opportunities like that are really a cool thing for fans.

I really do like the Stamper logo. Don’t care much for the A’s, but Stamper is cool

I grabbed a basic hot dog, which was at least a foot long, and we got to our seats. Stamper the Elephant was cavorting around and playing with kids as we waited for the game to begin. Once again we really had no shade and I literally went through 2 bottles of water before the first pitch was thrown. I tried to tough it out, but the unjust kicked my butt, even with all of my sun gear in place.

We saw Jake Arrieta pitch a few innings, watched my boys hit and slowly made our way out of the park and began our long drive to my parents’ house in San Diego.

Jake Arrieta being Jake Arrieta

The one big benefit of driving to San Diego rather than Orange County is the fact that you travel by way of Yuma, Arizona, home of Chretin’s Mexican Restaurant. I’ve known about Chretin’s since I was a child. One of my pajama shirts in childhood was a Chretin’s t-shirt.

My dad used to fly for the Navy and there was a landing site in Yuma. Whenever they’d land there, they would head over to Chretin’s for magaritas and the famous Chretin’s “killer nachos.” It got to be a competition as to who could eat the most nachos, with the reigning champ getting his name painted on the wall. Sadly, the old building is no more, but the “killer nachos” live on in a new location.

We got the burro table at Chretin’s. Photo Credit: Lauren Petersen

Had we not stopped in, I think my family may have disowned us. The nachos were amazing and the margaritas were good, cold and cheap. We left perfectly content, even ordering a dozen nachos to-go for my family.

The infamous “Killer Nachos, each chip lovingly topped with a jalapeño slice
. Photo Credit: Lauren Petersen

We got to my parents’ house safely and were thrilled to sleep in a bed that we knew had clean sheets.

Overall, it was a good time and I’d like to head down again next spring. I’ll need to find some defenses and new strategies to fight the sun and begin collecting my pennies so we can stay in a place a slight bit better than the Mesa Motel 6. Next year I’d like to get out to the back fields to check out the minor league guys and maybe check out some “B” games as well.

My ugly mug, enjoying some of the sweet Sloan Park shade.

I’m already looking forward to it!

Until next time, keep tripping baseballs!

Full set of edited photos is found here!

 

Cubs Are Exhibitionists in Anaheim

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While I don’t fully understand the reasons that the Cubs would play an exhibition game on the day before they open the season against the team with whom they are going to play to start the aforementioned season I cannot complain too much. The fairly ill-conceived game provided me with two opportunities to see my Cubs in my town, since tickets to the actual opening day were selling for slightly more than I was willing, or able, to pay. Adding to that, the fact that the exhibition was taking place on a beautiful Sunday afternoon and I was sold on the idea.

The crowd for the game was significantly less than I had anticipated, possibly due to the fact that the two teams were playing “for real” the following day, and there was a healthy number of Cub fans in attendance, many located on the first base side close to the Cubs dugout.

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The thing that irritated me a bit was the fact that while Joe Maddon started the same lineup that will be starting on Opening Day, the Angels didn’t even bother with trotting out the regulars, even for a few innings. Mike Trout and Albert Pujols were both conspicuously MIA.

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The ballpark appears much the same as it has over the past few years with no real notable additions or subtractions, either aesthetically or in relation to food offerings, which is a bit of a shame.

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All of that being said, however, it was great to get back out to a baseball game, and while the end result of a Cubs loss is never a good thing, Kyle Hendricks pitched well and struck out more than a batter an inning and the Bryzzo boys crushed a pair of home runs adding to one from Addison Russell. Albert Almora showed his amazing defensive skills, as well.

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I will also be attending game two, featuring Jon Lester and hopefully seeing the Cubs head to Arizona with a 2-0 record!

As always, the full gallery of photos can be found here.

Until next time,

Keep Tripping’ Baseballs!

Angels Woes Continue Against the Mariners

Wednesday, April 2nd was my first foray into the 2014 baseball season and let’s just hope that the rest of the year goes significantly better than it began. Not burying the lead, the Angels got beaten. Badly. Like a bad, bad donkey. And, to paraphrase one of my favorite movies, “Clerks,” I wasn’t even supposed to be there that day.

Evidently reading a calendar isn’t one of my strengths, as I purchased tickets to the game on Wednesday when I thought I was buying them for Tuesday night, the night of the Mike Trout bobblehead. I should have realized when it was so easy. Wednesday was still a giveaway and we got our “stadium exclusive” caps, which is better than being poked in the eye with a sharp stick.

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Arriving for batting practice, I began to doubt if the game would even occur when the dark storm clouds rolled in right as the Angels finished hitting. I literally saw one ball hit and no one stuck around signing autographs as the rain began to fall. The tarp covered the infield and the skies opened up. For all of 10 minutes. Just long enough to get our seats thoroughly wet and then the sun came back out as if nothing had happened.

The crowd was fairly big for a Wednesday night with a threatened downpour but, I suppose the novelty of baseball being back was still contributing, though most of the people would be gone by the 8th inning of the loss.

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Sadly, it was the Angels debut of Hector Santiago and he didn’t exactly pitch poorly, the offense was just anemic at best. Mike Trout was his usual superhuman self, with 2 extra base hits, a RBI and some fine play in the field, but he was about it as far as the offense was concerned and the bullpen imploded. Again. As Yogi says, “It’s like deja vu all over again” from last season. Back-to-back home runs by Justin Smoak and Mike Zunino off Ernesto Frieri were just the icing on the cake in the 9th. James Paxton who started for the Mariners was not a name that I was very familiar with, but he pitched brilliantly and looks to be a dark horse star in a rotation that will, ideally, include Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker later in the season.

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On a positive note there is a new fry stand in the concourse and we thoroughly  enjoyed our garlic fries. Another plus, food wise, was that since the game was still so early in the season the hot dog buns had yet to get stale.

Sometimes it’s the small things that make all the difference, and those were our silver lining on the rain clouds of the ball game.

Until next time, keep tripping baseballs!

Retro Reviews: The Cubs Visit Me and Break My Heart…Again (Originally published 7-2-2013

The day that I had been waiting for was finally here and the Cubs were descending upon Anaheim. Yes, I had seen them in Los Angeles and San Diego, but having them here in my current town was very exciting and surreal for me. So was the desire to root for someone other than the Angels– the only time I’ll do that is when they play my Cubs.

I decided to be a decent person and not drag Lauren to the game at the crack of dawn to wait for the Cubs to come to the stadium and try to get autographs. We did, however, get there before the gates opened to wait for the guys to take batting practice and, hopefully, interact.

I waited down the right field line with two fellow Cub fans, a dad and young son. This would prove to be a good strategic move, as baseball players are more likely to respond to a small kid than to an unshaven 30-year old guy. This would prove true as the afternoon went on.

I wasn’t feeling well to begin with, and standing directly in the unrelenting Southern California sun was not doing me any favors, so I alternated standing at the wall and sitting in the seats. The first Cub that we saw was Jeff Samardzija who was coming out to run and do a bit of long toss. The kid next to me asked him if he’d sign and he said that he would after he worked out.

Jeff proved true to his word and signed down the line and got to us. I told him that I was really hoping that we would sign him to a contract extension and that I wanted to see him as a Cub for a long time. I’m sure he gets that a lot, but he seemed genuinely appreciative as he signed a baseball on the sweet spot for me.
Next out was Matt Garza who was to be the starting pitcher the following day. The kid again yelled out to him and he said he’d be over after he finished his work too. He did some throwing right in front of us, and as he finished I asked him for the ball and he nodded, but his throw was a bit off and the ball went to the kid next to me. While I could have grabbed it, I wasn’t going to be a jerk and take the ball from a kid. Gaza proceeded to the outfield for some running drills and the kid next to me just kept yelling to him. I tried to impress upon the kid that he was doing his job now and that he said he’d be back, so just relax and he’d be over when he was done.
Garza finished running and signed all the way from beyond the foul pole all the way down to us right near the dugout. He signed for me, again on the sweet spot, and I told him that I tweeted to him a lot and that I hoped he got the win the next day. He said that he needed to start throwing the ball well to get wins, and I assured him that I thought he was. He seemed like a genuinely nice guy and I hope he doesn’t get traded and we give him a contract extension.
By this time, it was about time to return to my seat. When I got there, Lauren had a hot dog and a bottle of water waiting for me, which was great because by this point I was physically not doing well at all.
Reinvigorated by my snack, I was ready for some baseball, though I had an aura of foreboding in my stomach. After all, the game was Jered Weaver versus (now ex-Cub) Scott Feldman. Feldman had been pitching well, but going against a (presumably) high-octane offense like the Angels with Weaver on the mound didn’t bode well.
Surprisingly, the Cubs scored early against Weaver, with a 3-1 lead after three innings. Feldman did a great job of holding the Angels down, going a strong 7 innings and only allowing 2 runs. The Cub offense, as so often happens, started strong but died after three innings, not scoring again. being handcuffed by former Cubs, Scott Downs and Robert Coello and closer Ernesto Frieri.
Unfortunately, again, the Cub bullpen was not up to the task, as Carlos Villanueva entered in the 8th inning and gave up a base hit to Erik Aybar and the big blow, Albert Pujols’ 54th career home run against the Cubs. There was no coming back from that as the Cubs were only able to scrape together a base hit from Darwin Barney in the top of the 9th and went home losers, as the excitement of the Cubs fans that had been evident since the early scoring bonanza evaporated into the ether of Angel Stadium.
This was the one time this season that I regretted the Angels lighting the Halo. I was excited to see the Cubs come back the following day and add to my autograph/baseball collection, but as the previous entry will attest, that was not in the cards for me.

Retro Reviews: The Time the Cubs Tried to Kill Me (Originally posted 6-18-2013)

So…I was only able to attend the first of the Cubs-Angels games, and while I had a fairly successful evening, and I will be writing it up shortly, but here is a letter that I wrote to the Cubs regarding missing that second game.

Hello-
My name is Andrew and I am 31 years old. My mother’s family hails from Chicago and I grew up watching Harry and Steve and Ryno and Mark and Andre on WGN. I have never wavered in my love of Cubdom, despite baring the slings and arrows of my friends, who were friends of more traditionally successful franchises.
Heck, even the Padres went to the World Series in 1998! Don’t even get me started on the upstart Devil Rays, Diamondbacks, Rockies and Marlins….or Astros or Mets or…well, you probably know the list as well as I.
Through all of that, I have prevailed. That is, until the Cubs tried to do me in! When I was 11, I diagnosed type-1 diabetes, or, as I call it, Ron Santo’s disease. While I certainly do not blame the Cubs for this malady, it is the first in a series of escalating medical bouts, many of which have Cub-related associations. These include such things as selective Tourettes syndrome, occurring during the playoffs of both 2004 and 2008 and the ever increasing Marmol-ian headaches which have persisted through much of the past two seasons.
Once again, all of this has been taken in stride, until the most recent occasion. I live in Southern California and rarely get the chance (or risk) to see my Cubs in person, but this year, my fiancee was able to procure excellent tickets to see the Cubs play the Angels in Anaheim on both Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon. We very much enjoyed the game until the 8th inning, when Albert Pujols won the game on a late-inning home run, his 54th against the Cubs. I returned home dejected, but looking forward the seeing the game the following day.
That is, until about 2 in the morning, when I awoke throwing up blood with what was later diagnosed as a severely bleeding ulcer. This is the first time that such an illness has been associated with my love of the Cubs. I understand that you are doing the best that you can, trying to put a championship caliber team on the field but I beg you to please try to do so sooner rather than later. I am using my vacation this year to follow my beloved Cubs to both Phoenix and Denver this summer, and I am not relishing spending my time laid up in a hospital wing…or worse!
Thank you and yours in Cub-dom,
Andrew

Retro Reviews: See-Ya, Seattle (Originally posted 5-31-2013)

See-ya Se-attle: The Angels Resume the Sinking of the Mariners

After the insanity of the previous night’s game, where Mike Trout hit for the cycle, Lauren told me that even as she was up in Simi Valley, her brother sprung it on her that he wanted to go to the Angels game. Sadly, they had left the DeLorean back at the hotel, so he was unable to time travel in order to make it to the Big A on time for the game.

When I heard about this, I felt bad and suggested that we try to get tickets to the next afternoon’s game against the Mariners. We were able to get good seats in the Field Level for less than ten dollars a ticket, so back to the old ballgame I went.

Lauren’s brother is a Giants fan, pretty much one of the worst kinds of people. As we were planning the details for the baseball game I made sure to tell him that he could not wear his new Giants cap. I hate it when fans wear the attire of teams that are not participating in the game. All baseball teams are not created equal and just because something is baseball related, does not mean it is appropriate for every game.

He showed up not only wearing his Giants cap, but also a Houston Astros shirt. Neither of whom were playing. This essentially sums up my relationship with Lauren’s brother.

I was excited to finally see CJ Wilson take the mound at Angel Stadium. This would be my first time to see him in person since his big signing as a free agent the year before. I have always liked CJ, even when he was a hated Texas Ranger. He has been entertaining on Twitter and was one of the first big ballplayers to embrace the new media. Plus, he has always been a heck of a pitcher.

The Angels picked up right where they had left off the night before, including Mike Trout hitting a single and a triple in his first two at-bats. Alas, the dual cycle was not to happen, but the Angels put a hurt on Brandon Maurer, a local boy from the nearby city of Orange, and he was credited with giving up all seven runs. He lasted all of three innings, and the Mariner bullpen slammed the door on the Angels, shutting them out from the fourth inning onward.

The seven runs, though, were more than enough for CJ Wilson, who went eight strong innings and only allowed one run. Mike Scioscia inexplicably brought in Dane De La Rosa for the ninth inning, and even with that six run cushion, I was uneasy. Surprisingly, De La Rosa did his job, despite some two out dramatics, and the Angels lit up the Halo.

Continuing my luck from the Royals game, we were once again treated to visiting fans who don’t understand how to behave in another team’s ballpark. As the game was winding down, they weren’t rooting on their team, they were trying to incite the home team fans, in a game that they were losing quite handily. I don’t understand how standing in the front of the entire section and basically baiting  thousands of the opposing team’s fans makes sense, especially when you are being soundly destroyed by that opposing team.

I will be attending both of the Cubs-Angels games fully festooned in my Cubbie regalia, but I won’t be inciting the Angels fans. There is a way to conduct yourself with a sense of dignity while cheering on your visiting team. I will be cheering every home run and great play, but I will also not be mocking the local fans.

It’s just common decency as well as respect.

Until Next Time, Keep Trippin’ Baseballs!