Angels Home Opener: A Disappointing Night in the Baseball Zone

Submitted for your approval: one normally mild mannered couple travelling companionably together down the 57 freeway as they do several times a month without incident. But this time something is different. Their voices grow louder and more excited and their gestures more enthusiastic. Their hearts beat faster, their anticipation increases to a child-like pitch and gooseflesh rises on their arms. Little do they know that they’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of lights out pitching and the sounds wooden bats striking balls, but of mental toughness; a dimension of wins and of losses, sadly this time the latter; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are a couple of chalk lines, a wall and a series of time honored rules startlingly complex in their seeming simplicity. That’s the signpost up ahead – it says exit Katella for Angels Stadium. Their next stop? The Baseball Zone. *Cue theme music. No! Not Buttercup. Never Buttercup!*

Friday night, as planned, we took ourselves out to the ballgame, to watch the Angels Home Opener against the Blue Jays. The weather was seriously touch and go for a while there, including a complete downpour as I was leaving my house. But it stayed dry in Anaheim through the game and the Friday Night Fireworks that followed, only starting to pelt us with a few fat rain drops as we headed out to our car. Would that my Angels had held the lead anywhere near as well as the clouds held back the rain.

The game itself? It started off well enough. Ervin Santana pitched like the good Ervin, the one with control who can throw strikes. Peter Bourjos is amazing to watch in center, flying across the grass, making difficult catches look effortless. We had a few good hits, scoring one in the 1st inning and another in the 3rd for an early two run lead. The Jays were slipping and sliding all over the outfield. Everything was off to a great start, and then we started to strand runners. Vernon Wells failed to cash in on runners in scoring position. Additional batters started to strand more runners. A two run lead is not a very safe thing deep into the game and it didn’t last. Santana gave up three runs aided by a few sloppy plays in the outfield.

By the time they brought in Fernando Rodney in the 9th – I know, not a save situation, but I was surprised! – I felt absolutely deflated. Rodney performed acceptably, allowing one runner on, but no walks and no additional runs. However, bringing him out just cemented the frustrating sense of one step forward, three giant steps back I was having after the stranded runners. Oh well, you never know what wonders or horrors you might witness when you visit: the Baseball Zone! I prefer wonders myself but I suppose that, in the end, a bad Friday night at the ballpark is probably better than a good Friday night almost anywhere else…and it’s only April 9th…But Conger needs to stop swinging for the fences, Wells needs to find his bat and work on running forward to make catches, and everyone else needs to work on hitting with runners in scoring position. I’m not panicking. All of this will come in the next few weeks. But…seriously!

The Opening Day experience outside of the game? It was fantastic, from the first goosebump raising view of the field coming up through the stadium to our seats, to that first bite of wonderfully nasty ballpark hotdog that I have been jonesing for, for months. Eli Grba, the first Angel selected in the team’s first draft and the Angels’ first opening day pitcher threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Grba is the first of a planned string of Angels alumni to perform this duty throughout the season. He was so cute in the interview before the game, talking about how nervous he was to throw out the pitch after so many years and how his friends would make fun of him if he bounced it on the ground. He did just fine, but it’s amusing to note that friends are the same everywhere no matter what the generation, and your best friends are the ones who’ll affectionately give you the most grief when necessary…or when not so necessary.

The front office has switched up some of the music and the pre-game slide show for the 50th anniversary and, while I need to see it a few more times to remember all of the details, I’m enjoying it so far. The flashback 1980s uniforms were a trip and a half. I remember these uniforms well from any number of Freeway Series I watched as a kid, though I was rooting for the other guys back then. I am amused that the concept of flashback uniforms extends to colors, logos and jersey designs, but the cut of the pants remains identical to the modern uniforms – no skinny pants fashion faux paus for the sake of historical accuracy here. Actually I laugh mostly because I can picture the players emphatically vetoing the silly looking and, no doubt, less comfortable 1980’s pants.

Fortunately, win or lose, here’s the thing about the Baseball Zone. It’s absolutely addicting. The first question I asked my husband this morning? So, do want to go to the ballgame tonight? He reigned me in a little – someone needs to sometimes! – but only just a little. We’re going back on Tuesday night and trying it out in the view level this time because my no more than $15 per ticket and try to keep it under $10 except for very special games rules are in full effect. Sometimes I reign myself in too. 🙂

Hopefully this evening’s game, which is about to begin, will be better. Kaz is conveniently injured and on the DL. Maybe he really did hurt his back, maybe he didn’t but he always seems to go on the DL right before his first start back after being obliterated by the opposing team. Either way, I’m excited to see how Matt Palmer does. Hey Angels, how about a little run support please? And by a little, I actually mean a lot.

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  1. wrigleyregular

    Sounds like you had a good time. I watched some of the opener and last night also. I was surprised to see the Angels wearing the white throwbacks Friday. It was a nice touch on Opening Day, but I also really like the red jerseys they had on last night.

  2. Jane Heller

    I listened to Angels-Toronto on the car radio on the way home from dinner last night and I could not believe that game. Both teams had bases loaded in extras and both kept making crazy base running mistakes. I’m sure you’re glad the Angels finally prevailed, but what a weird game!

  3. blithescribe

    Mike – Thanks! You’re right, live baseball is where it’s at, win or lose…but of course winning is better.
    Russel – It was a lot of fun, even with the loss, grrrrr. The red jerseys are my favorite – simple and striking – but every Friday home game this season will be a “Flashback Friday” for the 50th anniversary and will feature a different retro uniform. I think it’s a nice idea and can’t wait to watch the Angels playing the Dodgers sporting the Angels’ original interlocking LA logo, too funny.
    Jenn – He did such a great job today! He broke his own single game strikeout record by three pitches. This is how I want to see my guys playing every day. 🙂
    Jane – Oh, our single admission double header all in one game? Yes, that was a very weird game. It wasn’t just the baserunning either. Fielders on both sides had extreme cases of butterfingers and both bullpens kept walking guys and still nobody scored a run for nine innings. A win’s a win, but this one was bizarre…and maddening.

  4. Jeremy Visser

    Well, looks like the rest of the series turned out pretty well for you. I only caught Friday’s game and a couple innings last night, but heard the Jays got hosed on an interference call in extras. Your opinion on it? (Still haven’t checked it out myself.)
    Was on the road and missed today’s game as well, but Weaver’s line looked like one of the best we’ll see all season…

  5. blithescribe

    Jeremy – Bad call? What do you mean? That was a great call…yeah, I couldn’t keep a straight face while typing that. The runner’s interference call was the equivalent of the handful of times a year one of the umps suddenly insists that the second baseman’s feet be precisely on the bag instead of straddling the bag without really touching it during a force out double play – technically correct according to the strictest possible interpretation of the rules but not the way the play is supposed to be called. Eh, it’s baseball. This bad call went our way, plenty more down the line will go the other team’s way. These umps weren’t completely on the ball in any of the games. Vernon Wells struck out “swinging” twice this series when the pitch was a ball and he very clearly did not go around.
    — Kristen

  6. blithescribe

    Emma – *grins* He struck out 15 on Sunday! That was a great game. This write-up was for Friday’s game, which was an “eh” game. I haven’t heard if Jeff officially retired this season or not. I know no one picked him up but I don’t know how much of that was his decision.
    — Kristen

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