As I’ve said before, a good deal of the entries contained within this blog will be related to sports and sports edifices. Mainly because a good deal of my time not doing normal everyday human-y things (eating, sleeping, watching Mad Men on Netflix) is spent at sporting events or visiting sports venues.
I got the double treat of watching my hometown A’s and seeing Angel Stadium of Anaheim for the first time.
The ‘Big A’ is of particular intrigue because it’s A) the fourth-oldest ballpark in use by MLB; B) started out as a baseball-only facility, only to be enclosed to accommodate football (something Bay Area baseball fans know all too well); C) has since been renovated back to a primarily baseball-only yard (though it hosts high-profile prep football games); D) is the site of a few historic moments, including two Nolan Ryan no-hitters; and E) is a park I had never been to. It’s the ninth MLB park in current use that I’ve seen and the 11th overall (RFK Stadium and Yankee Stadium I are the others).
Good friend and fellow A’s fan Armando and I snagged $5 tickets on StubHub and headed down for Wednesday night’s game. I picked him up at 4 p.m. at his place near Wilshire Blvd. and La Brea Ave., thinking that would leave ample time to make the 35-mile trip south in time for A’s batting practice. This is not the first time my LA traffic naïveté has bitten me in the ass and it surely won’t be the last. Now I know why “avoid the 5” is such a common expression in the Southland. Until we got to the Orange County line (and its five lanes!) we never got about 30 mph and were predominantly stop-and-go traffic. Mando and I came to the conclusion that 5:30 is pretty much an impossible time to arrive there. You could leave between 2 and 3 p.m. and get there between 4 and 5, or leave after 3 and get there around when we did.
Once we finally reached the carpool lane it didn’t really matter since traffic was moving swiftly by the time it appeared. Knowing we had already missed The Yoenis Cespedes Show I decided to save some money by ducking into a nearby corporate parking lot off Gene Autry Way about a half mile from the parking lot gate to save some money (we paid $5 instead of $10), thanks to a tip from good friend and frequent boyhood Big A denizen Edward.
Though it opened nearly 50 years ago, thanks to several renovations, from the outside Angel Stadium looks like it could be as young as 10. It’s situated in the 1960s-80s model of building a park in the suburbs near major freeways in the middle of a giant parking lot, but other than that has many of the modern amenities of the new “Retro Classic” and futuristic style yards.
Inside it’s just as nice: Wide concourses filled with plenty of food options (some of them even healthy!) with plenty of switchback ramps and escalators to get to the upper reaches. Even the tunnels leading to the seating bowl are about five times as wide as many other parks. Arriving hungry, Mando and I were intrigued by the so-called “Chronic Tacos” on the centerfield pavilion so we headed up there.
This the area that was closed in for the Rams’ co-tenancy from 1980-94 which ruined a great view of Orange County and the mountains in the distance. Now it’s a bustling bar/food court area with the distinct rock waterfall feature.
After a beer (which owner Arte Moreno instantly became a fan favorite for slashing prices on after he bought the team in 2003) we got our food fix. It being a Wednesday night and the A’s projected to lose about 95 games, the game was not particularly well-attended, allowing us to scrap our 500-level nosebleed seats in favor of lower bowl seats in left field about 20 rows off the foul pole.
We were treated to a hell of a game, from our perspective. Yoenis Cespedes, whom we’d hoped to see during BP, blasted a 420-foot homer (on a pitch that was about six inches off the ground) into the bullpen right in front of us and from the 5th-8th inning A’s starter Bartolo Colon reeled off an incredible 38-straght strikes. Angels fans didn’t seem to notice. Many of the 27,217 spent the evening batting around beach balls and dancing in the aisles every time LMFAO filled the sound system (which was a lot).
The off-field highlight came toward the end of the game when a Cardinals fan began trolling the Angels fans in his section, shouting disparaging comments about the hometown nine. At one point he took his hat off, stomped down to the edge of the field, placed his hat on the wall, shouted something at a confused Bobby Abreu and was promptly ejected. Armando, a Cardinals fan himself, considered joining him, to which I responded: “Go ahead, you know where the car is.”
Once the A’s had wrapped up a 6-0 shutout we headed for the car and, thanks to Angels fans heading out beginning at the seventh inning stretch, did not encounter traffic until crossing back into Los Angeles County on I-5.