Tagged: los angeles angels of anaheim

Retro Reviews: The Greatest Game I’ve Witnessed (Originally posted 5-28-2013)

For the second consecutive game I was dateless. Lauren’s mom and brother were coming in to town and she was planning to join them on their visit to the Reagan Library. I already had tickets for the Angel game, so I opted out and called my brother, Matt, to see if he wanted to join me for the game and the free Mike Trout pint glass. He agreed to leave work early and drive the hour and a half from San Diego to Anaheim.

Due to traffic, we didn’t get to the Big A until after 6 pm, with the game scheduled to start at 7. I had completely written off the idea of getting in for batting practice, which was fine, but I was paranoid that we wouldn’t get one of the pint glasses. We finally reached our seats in center field a few minutes before the pre-game festivities began.

We were actually sitting in a pretty neat spot as we were right next to the batters eye/national park in center field and kind of cornered in our own little box. It was cozy. We got our food before sitting down and basically didn’t need to move for the entire game. This fact would prove to be a very, very good thing.

I had been watching the Cubs game on TV, waiting for Matt to get into town, and they mentioned off-handedly that Aaron Harang was one of the biggest Cub killers of all time. Harang was the Mariners starter and I figured that it was just my luck that he would destroy the Angels as well. That isn’t exactly what happened.

After hitting a home run and a triple his first 2 at-bats, it seemed like Josh Hamilton was going to be the hero of the night on his birthday, and a candidate to hit for the cycle, having gotten the hardest part out of the way to start the night. While the Angels were smacking the ball all over the yard against the weak Mariner pitching, Mike Trout was quietly putting together a pretty remarkable night of his own. After he hit a 3 RBI double in the 6th, I turned to Matt and said, “If he got credit for a base hit in his second AB, he is a home run away from the cycle…” We whipped out our phones and checked, and it was indeed an infield hit in the third.

I’m not sure how many in the crowd realized what was happening because as the Angels’ lead grew bigger and bigger, the crowd in the ballpark got smaller and smaller, but I have been to enough games in my life to realize that a baseball game is not over until that 27th out is recorded, let alone to not leave  when there is an assault on history.

Innings came and innings went, and the Angels continued scoring while the Mariners did not, but that was, for all intents and purposes, meaningless. We were waiting for one more time at the plate for Mr. Trout. He came to bat in the eighth, with no one on base.

The count against Lucas Luetge was 2-0 when Trout connected on the pitch. It was a long drive right off the bat and it was undeniable that he had hit a home run to complete the cycle. The stadium erupted and after Trout had made his way around the bases, was forced out of the dugout for a curtain call. It was an incredible moment.

As I mentioned, I have been to a lot of baseball games over my lifetime, but I have never been to a game with the historical significance as this. Previously, the closest I had come to was at the second game of a double-header in old Jack Murphy Stadium one afternoon when Kevin Brown took a no-hitter into the late innings, but, as the Padres still lack a no-hitter, we know how that turned out in the end. It was absolutely exhilarating to witness a moment of this caliber in person.

As Trout returned to the field for the top of the 9th, he was very reluctant to make his way out to center field, opting to stand near second base and chat with Josh Hamilton. It was like he knew that we were going to lavish him with love and he didn’t want it, being a bit of a quiet guy, but he eventually had to make his way out, and got loved on whether he wanted it or not.

The only issue I had with the game was the removal of Jerome Williams in the 9th after he had spent the previous 8 innings completely dealing. Albeit he had thrown 107 pitches, but given the weakness of the Angels bullpen and the strength of Williams through the 8th inning, I feel like he could have finished the game and earned his first complete game shutout of the year, but overall, this is the most minor of quibbles.

The funny thing about this whole deal was the fact that earlier in the day, Matt had been trying to see if he could pass his ticket off to one of my other brothers, since he had been relatively missing a lot of work and didn’t look forward to telling his boss that he was leaving early again to attend the game. I think, when all was said and done, he was reasonably happy with his decision to come up to see Mike Trout become the youngest American League player to hit for the cycle since Mel Ott and the first Angel since Chone Figgins.

In the years to come, as Trout continues his rise to elite superstardom, I’m sure that the number of people who will claim to have been at this game will double or even triple the actual number, but to have actually been there was truly an amazing experience, and one that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

Until next time, Keep Trippin’ Baseballs!

Retro Review: Well, This Sox. A Solo Adventure (Originally published 5-23-2013)

I hate the White Sox. I have hated them as long as I can remember, being a rational Cub fan. The two factors that most fueled my vitriol during the most recent years, Ozzie Guillen and AJ Pierzynski, are no longer with the team, and with that I am not blinded by the hatred that I once was for the boys from the South Side. I still canNOT stand Hawk Harrelson, but if an obnoxious broadcaster is the pinnacle of my dislike, things have calmed down considerably.

All that being said, I really wanted to go to the May 16th game against the Sox. Not so much for the game, per se, but for the Mark Trumbo bobble head that was the giveaway that night. I had found cheap tickets after some negotiation with ScoreBig.com and both Lauren and I would be off work in barely enough time to head over to the Big A for the game. Then, reality hit. Lauren was sick and had been invited to see an opening day showing of the new Star Trek movie, which interested her much more than the Angels game. I was now at an impasse.

I really wanted that bobble head, but I had never been to a baseball game solo before. I am actually very loathe to be solo in public, as I irrationally assume that everyone is staring at me and wondering, “Who is the weird guy with no friends?” My desire for the knick-knack that I have no need nor space for outweighed my social anxiety and I decided I was going to go it alone.

Lauren picked me up from work and brought my change of clothes so I wouldn’t have to drag a bag full of smelly work clothes into the ballpark and dropped me off, en route to her theater for the movie. Since I had paid for 2 tickets, I was certainly going to get both the bobble heads that I had paid for. I initially thought that to get both bobble heads I would need to engage in all sorts of trickery and enter initially through Gate A, exit Gate B, hide the swag and enter Gate C, all while changing shirts and using a fake mustache to avoid being recognized.

In reality, I walked up to the ticket scanner, told the woman that I had 2 tickets, that Lauren would not be joining me but that I did want her bobble head. She looked at me, asked if I was sure Lauren wasn’t coming and upon my assent, yelled for the distribution elves to give me 2. Painless, but not nearly as exciting as my imagined spy mission.

I made my way out to right field and found my seat in an empty row and sat down to begin my solo adventure. I had the row to myself for awhile, until the sorority girls came by. They added quite an interesting element to the game with all of their insightful comments, which included the statement that they weren’t going to boo at all, because “…that would be, like, really bad sportsmanship” and the need to share details about exactly how they wanted their future weddings and boyfriends to be. And, of course they were ignorant Disneyland passholders. With no other human being to talk to, I got to listen to this banter for the entire duration of the game. Yay, lucky me.

Meanwhile, on the field there was a baseball game. The Angels actually held the lead for a vast majority of the game supporting a fairly solid outing from Jerome Williams until the fantastic bullpen duo of Dane De La Rosa and Michael Kohn made an appearance in the 8th. De La Rosa gave up the tying run and Kohn decided that Jeff Keppinger, he of the .188 batting average, should get his first walk of the season. With the bases loaded. With a tie score.

This, sorority girls, is why you boo.

The Angels failed to mount a comeback against Jesse Crain and Addison Reed and, despite having Reed on my fantasy league team, I felt no joy.

My first solo game was a success and I had lots of friends ask me if I would do it again. Absolutely, I would. The only change is that I think I’d bring a small FM radio to listen to the game. I had my iPhone with the MLB AtBat app, where I could listen to the game, but there tends to be a bit of a delay there and I didn’t want to be listening to a game on a 30 second to 2 minute delay that was happening live in front of me. That’s how accidental time travel occurs and nobody wants that.

Until Next Time, Keep Tripping Baseballs.

Retro Series: In Which the Angels Snap My Personal Losing Streak (Originally published 5-23-2013)

I recently found a great site online that operates like Expedia or Priceline, but for event tickets, where you tell it roughly where you want to sit, submit a bid and see if you can score a major discount on tickets. I discovered it the other day on Twitter when I randomly saw an ad for it, offering tickets that were valued at 35 dollars selling for bids of 5. I rolled the dice and once again, Lauren and I found ourselves at Angel Stadium on a Tuesday evening. And, of course, I once again found myself being shut out from any baseballs or autographs.

Not that I didn’t have my chance though. We got to the game early and the Royals were on the field. I trotted down from our seats to the field barrier and waited with a fairly large group of fans trying to get a batting practice ball. Greg Holland was warming up near us and any time a ball came to him, all the fans were just screaming “HOLLAND!” having read it on the back of his jersey. I tried a different approach, since I actually knew his name and yelled “Greg!” He finally got a ball, turned and threw it. It was coming right for me. And then, a ginger guy stepped right over to me, stuck his glove in my face and snagged my ball. He walked away for a moment, which was a wise plan on his part because I was steaming, but then had the audacity to come back a few minutes later. Needless to say, there were no more baseball tossed in my vicinity.

Following that, I went over and hung out by the Royals dugout for a little bit, but none of the players were around signing.

I read a lot of MLBlogs and just independent autograph/ballhawking blogs in general and am always astounded as the bloggers recount 5, 10 or even 20 baseball days and I have yet to get one this season? It seems very strange to me. I know I’m not the fresh faced little kid or a hot blonde chick, but then again neither are these other bloggers. What am I doing wrong?

But I digress. The Angels threw Jason Vargas on the mound versus Jeremy Guthrie. Guthrie was sporting a shiny 5-0 record and the Angels were floundering, so I was somewhat wary of the matchup, but I need not be worried. The big boys–Trout, Pujols, Hamilton and even lil’ Howie Kendrick homered and the Angels cruised to a 6-2 victory.

There was however a dark spot on this victory. That was the Royals fans who were sitting near us. The woman was probably no more than 30, was sitting in the front row and sporting a Royals t-shirt. That is all well and good. I can certainly understand wearing your team’s gear into an opposing stadium. Heck, I have only ever seen the Cubs as a visiting team. However, you do not then try to heckle the home team’s fans and get angry when your drunken actions get thrown back in your face.

She spent the first half of the game screeching at right fielders, Jeff Francoeur and Mark Trumbo, proclaiming her screechy love for Frenchy and vitrol at Trumbo. That was annoying, but it’s her right to do so. After a few beers, the second half of the game was mostly spent turned around shouting at the section of Angels fans behind her, her defense being that the Royals had a better record and had won the night before. I have never seen an entire section of fans turn on a single person like section F132 did on that woman. The entire section started booing her and as she and her partner left (before the game was over, mind you) she tried to start at least 2 fights. It was spectacular.

Like I said, it put a slightly bad taste in my mouth because even the Angels fans we had sitting around us were on the obnoxious side, but if that’s the price I have to pay to see them light up that Halo every game I attend, I will gladly bare that burden for the cause.

Until Next Time, Keep Tripping Baseballs!

Retro Series: “O” No, Another Halo Loss (Originally posted 5-7-2013)

It was “Little League Day” at the stadium. That pretty much sums up everything you need to know about our fan experience. Lots of kids and my seat ended up being kicked for a vast majority of the game. Despite that–and the final score– it was a good time at the old ball yard.

For the second year Lauren gave me Angels ticket vouchers, which were then redeemed for 2 tickets to 5 Angel games throughout the season and today’s game was to have been the first game of the season, but then other opportunities arose and it was, in actuality, my third of the young season.

Again, we arrived at the stadium early, even though we knew there was to be no batting practice, and again, we were shut out for autographs and baseballs. Rumor has it that Mike Trout was signing a few before the game, but we never saw him.

Today was a decent pitching matchup, Jerome Williams with a 1-0 record and no runs allowed versus Orioles #1 starter, Jason Hammel. I was hoping Williams would pitch well, and kick Joe Blanton out of the rotation, but that was not to be.

The Angels flexed their muscles in the bottom of the 1st inning, after Williams allowed a run in the top half of the inning. Trout stole a base and there were several “station-to-station” base hits and 3 runs scored as the team batted around.

This was a good thing. This was a throwback to the Angels division winning teams of the late 2000s, small ball being executed and opportunities that have lately fallen by the wayside were taken advantage of. This was not to last.

In the top of the 3rd inning, there was a delay of approximately 10 minutes, with no one on the field and no announcement made to the stadium, so of course, I took to my iPhone to see if anyone on the world wide interwebs had any idea what was going on.

As it turns out, home plate umpire Larry Vanover had gotten hit pretty hard by a Mark Trumbo foul ball earlier in the game, and was unable to continue, so the delay was for Manny Gonzalez to get on the home plate gear, as he moved from second base. It just would have been nice to let the fans know, since I spent most of the delay assuming the worst.

J.J. Hardy tied the game with a two-run home run in the top of the 4th and Mike Trout answered with a homer of his own in the bottom half of the inning, but, alas, that was the end of the Angels offense for the game.

Anemic offense notwithstanding, Dane De La Rosa’s performance in the game was nothing short of dreadful. Williams allowed 5 runs, but he actually left the game only trailing by a run–a still very winnable game, and then the bullpen…or more correctly, Dane De La Rosa gave up 3 runs in only 2/3 of an inning and put the game beyond the realm of a reasonable comeback, particularly with the Oriole relievers putting in a sparkling performance.

 

As I said before, despite the final score and all of the kids surrounding us, the game was quite enjoyable. Baseball games are made for lazy Sunday afternoons and the weather–overcast with temperatures in the lows 70s–made it quite comfortable out in the outfield pavilion.

It never ceases to make me laugh, though, to see how many people left early after the top of the ninth, presumably to “beat traffic.” First of all, with the masses that shared this idea, there isn’t much of an advantage to leaving at the same time as thousands of fellow “time conscious” fans. Secondly, it’s a late Sunday afternoon. Where do you have to go that you have to get out of the stadium immediately? Finally,  I have been a baseball fan long enough to know that however improbable, you do not leave a game before the final out is recorded. You never know what can happen. That’s the great thing about baseball. There’s no clock to tell you when the game is over, it doesn’t end until the last man has had his chance.

America!

That being said, the Angels went down in order after Josh Hamilton hit a leadoff double and we left the stadium with a much smaller crowd than if we had left the game early. This game leaves my record at 1-2 with both Angels games accounting for the 2 losses. If they don’t win the next time out, I might have to start looking at myself as a potential jinx.

Our next scheduled game is on the 21st for Mike Trout pint glass night versus the Mariners, though I may try to squeeze in a game on the 16th for the Mark Trumbo bobble head and to boo the hated White Sox. Only time–and my work schedule–will tell.

Retro Series: AJ, Texas Ranger (Originally posted 5-1-2013)

Today was another game that wasn’t planned at the start of the season, but a good deal on Groupon and an itch to see baseball (again, before I knew I’d be attending Padres Opening Day) resulted in Lauren and I attending our first Angels game of the year, versus the dreaded Texas Rangers.

We arrived at the stadium as the gates were opening and after a painless pickup of the tickets from the friendly Groupon people in front of the park, we were set to go and experience our first batting practice of the year. The Angels were finishing hitting as we made our way down to the field, and made their way into the clubhouse. We were able to watch the entire Rangers bp and warmups, but despite spending two hours watching practice, no one came over to sign or even threw a ball our way. I did later find out that my friend, Steve, who was at the game, got his first bp ball ever from Jerome Williams, so at least I knew one adult who didn’t get shut out. It was pretty neat seeing Yu Darvish stretch and throw near us, though thankfully he wasn’t pitching that night.

Instead we got to see Derek Holland, with one of the top ERAs in the American league, versus Joe Blanton, who has virtually been the Angels staff punching bag this season. Surprisingly, the Angels managed to score six runs on Holland and Blanton pitched well enough to win, giving up four runs, but Scott Downs blew the save, and Ernesto Frieri lost the game.

Not only did Frieri lose the game, but he managed to lose it in quite possibly the worst way he could have, at least as far as my biased little head sees it. A little back story: AJ Pierzynski, the current Ranger starting catcher, is my least favorite player in baseball. He is half of the reason that I despised the White Sox, and why Michael Barrett who once punched him in the face, will always be one of my favorite Cubs. I once attended an Angels-White Sox game solely to boo him as loudly and vehemently as I could. AJ gets no love in Anaheim either, after an extremely questionable call in which he was involved, proceeded to lose a playoff game (and eventual series) to the White Sox.

Pierzynski proceeded to break the hearts of Angel fans as he lined a pitch from closer Frieri into right field to give the Rangers the win. Not exactly how I had scripted my first Angels game of the year. Joe Nathan came in for the save for the Rangers and my baseball record for the years stands at 1-1, a .500 winning percentage.

Our next game is a Sunday day game versus Baltimore and though I’m not holding out a lot of hope for baseballs or autographs before a day game, I’ve been surprised before, but I do, at least, hope to get back to a winning record on the season!