< Home Plate Gate – Needless to say, the best I saw >
Before I got the opportunity to attend a game at Angel Stadium, the only thing that I remembered hearing about the games was that the Angels give a great "Fan Experience." Well, believe it. The Angels by far make the most effort of the 5 home teams we saw to engage the fans in the game, in a family-friendly, fun, and close-up way. The first thing I noticed was that they wasted no space–by that, I mean that they used every square inch of surface to engage fans in the game and team. Outside the Home Plate Gate, the bricks on the ground are formed in the shape of a baseball field, with engraved bricks at each "position," marking the name of the player who started at the respective position on each Opening Day. The banners outside the stadium are just the beginning–inside, there are tributes to every Angel great you can think of, leaving each passerby with a compounded sense of the history of the team. I, of course, appreciate that sort of thing. The next Fan Experience-related feature was purely architectural: all around the field, the seats run right up to the playing surface, and in many places along the outfield, are at the playing surface level. This allows fans to see their favorite players at real-life size (although this probably actually just contributes to them appearing larger-than-life). Kids and families at Angel Stadium do not have to feel as though they are in an entirely different physical place than their favorite players, do not have to feel as though they are under surveillance (though I'm sure we were), and are thus free to enjoy the game with as few barriers as possible.
The Angels also do not waste time. At many stadiums, when play is dead, so is the stadium itself. The Angels make every effort to make sure that between innings, there are girls on the field shooting t-shirts in to the upper decks, kids are on the big screen giving game updates, and an endless supply of cleverly-edited popular film clips designed to galvanize excitement in the crowd (and they work!).
We entered as soon as the gates opened, and stuck it out for all of Cleveland's BP session. Standing up against the outfield fence, you are basically on the field. It was great fun.
< Watching BP. Look how close & low the LF fence is–that Security guy is on the Warning Track. >
Our seats were just a couple rows back from the 1st base line, about halfway between the dugout and the foul pole. We were surrounded by Koreans, all there to cheer for Indians Right Fielder Shin-Soo Choo.
< Shin-Soo Choo, the best Korean player in MLB (regards to Chan Ho Park) >
The game itself was exciting, too! (MLB recap here) I was looking forward to watching Ervin Santana go for the Halos, as he's been a guy who I think ought to be among the elite in the AL (what's up, Erv? Were '07 and '08 just flukes?). Dude is just inconsistent. His '09 and '10 seasons have been like a Jay-Z album: 20% undeniable classics, 70% mediocre but interesting efforts, and 10% exercises we'd like to forget. On this day he was up against the Tribe, which we had seen suffer a disgustingly humiliating effort a few days prior against the As (remember this?). Today though, the Tribe would send Jake Westbrook to the bump, a middle-of-the-road guy, who did show some signs of promise before losing most of the '08 season and all of the '09 season to recovering from Tommy John surgery. It is totally unnatural that a human should have this type of re-constructive operation and again be able to throw a baseball 85-95 MPH about 100 times every few days, so I tend to root for these guys–but today, I was an Halos fan, and chose a good day to be.
My boys Ervin and Jake were making a quick game of it going in to the 6th, when Ervin showed some of those erratic tendencies, and it got him in to some trouble. He gave up the 2nd and 3rd runs of the game, the 3rd by hitting 2005/2006 Golden Boy Travis Hafner with the bases loaded. Ervin was lucky to get out of the 6th only down 0-3. The Halos are known for their responsive rallies, and in the bottom of the 6th got exactly that. Torii Hunter had been showing signs of his age so far in the season, but with Erick Aybar and Bobby Abreu on board, he showed a sign a life, crushing his 2nd HR of the season.
The game stayed tied at 3-3 going in to the bottom of the 9th, and the more dangerous section of the Angels lineup coming on. Hunter and Juan Rivera got to 1st & 3rd, and Howie Kendrick came up and dropped a surprise bunt, scoring Hunter from 3rd! Carlin & I and the entire stadium went nuts, as the Tribe was caught completely off-guard (some even complained that it was a cheap way to win)! Howie got a post-game pie to the face, and we all left feeling elated.
The Angel Stadium fare offers a ridiculous variety of both product and price. It's like Baseball-themed Disneyland, not like the dirty Mall Food Court-esque stadiums of yesteryear.
Free – We parked at a Starbucks about 3/4 mile from the stadium and walked.
Stadium fare consumed:
Nachos – $6
Hot Dog – $5
Budweiser – $9
< This afternoon in the sun turned my skin about 6-7 shades darker. >
< The view from our seats! >
< The Ageless Wonder, warming up between innings >