Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Toronto Blue Jays 6 at Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 0 - May 25, 2010



After a busy sports Sunday in Phoenix, I woke early Monday morning and spent 6 hours along I--10 driving to Anaheim. It was a good drive with no traffic jams and I arrived around noon, in plenty of time to see the Jays taking on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the first of a 3-game set.

Getting Tickets

I arrived quite early at the ballpark and approached a ticket window. I noticed that the lady had a sign indicating that she spoke Japanese. With Hideki Matsui joining the Angels in the off-season, the Angels could expect an influx of Japanese tourists, so I asked her if she was hired for her Japanese ability. She laughed and acknowledged that may have been an important reason, then asked me if I could speak. I said that I live in Japan and so we started conversing in Japanese, which was a bit odd. A Japanese film crew started filming the transaction, so if you see a show with a short guy with bad hair and worse Japanese buying tickets in Anaheim, it just might be me.

I have to say that there are too many ticket options. The first row in many field-level sections is slightly more expensive than the rest of the seats in the section, and overall I counted 31 choices. Tickets are not cheap here either, with the lower level seats between the bases priced at $85. I ended up in section 221 and was happy with that seat because it wasn't blocked by people coming and going during the action (other than the morons in front of me who spent half the game getting up and down to buy beer).

I'd say you are better off waiting outside and seeing if someone has extra tickets as season tickets are cheaper and you can probably save money that way. I wanted to get in and walk around though, so I bought my ticket and went in.

Angel Stadium of Anaheim

What is it with all the "of Anaheim" things going on here. First the team changed their named from the Anaheim Angels to LA Angels of Anaheim, and the stadium followed suit when Edison International exited their naming rights agreement in 2003. But locals refer to the ballpark as "The Big A" and nobody actually uses the "of Anaheim" part of either the team or stadium name.

Opened in 1966, the stadium is the 4th oldest in the majors. It hosted the LA Rams of the NFL from 1981-95 but after they moved to St. Louis and Disney took over the team, the stadium underwent a significant renovation period that finished in 1998. The most noticeable changes were a terraced bullpen (below) in left field, and the "California Spectacular" in center, in which a stream courses down artificial rocks surrounded by real trees.


The stadium is located across the street from the Honda Center, with $8 parking off Katella Avenue to the North or Orangewood Avenue to the south. You will notice the Big A scoreboard pictured below as you drive by on the 57 freeway.


When you enter, there is a display commemorating the Angels' World Championship season of 2002, including the trophy below.


There are three decks, but the middle deck is a club level which requires ticketed access. The first deck is divided into two levels: field level (100) and terrace level (200) but there is just a walkway between them. The 200 level seats are cheaper and might offer better value as they are covered and there are TV's where you can watch the replay.

From section 540

There are two scoreboards, one in left field above the bullpens, the other in right. They were showing the Boston-Tampa Bay game while batting practice was on, which is something I always appreciate.

Angel Stadium was my favourite for food options back in 2001 and still offers a good variety. Panda Express is quite popular as you can get decent Chinese fast food for a reasonable price, while the Katella Grill offers a California Chicken Cheese Steak that I found quite tasty. This restaurant has a branch nearby at Main at Katella and if you have a game ticket you can enjoy a 2-for-1 offer before or after the game. There's also a Ruby's diner that offers milkshakes. For those of you with a real thirst, I noticed an all-you-can-drink soda option for only $11.25. Yikes.

The other thing I like about the ballpark is that the staff is quite friendly. They have instituted a rule though that prevents you from going into the first level above the dugout without a ticket, but the ushers are very kind in enforcing it.

Behind the California Spectacular

It's been a long time since I've seen a stadium with old style ramps that you switch back on to get to the upper deck. Of course, there are escalators and stairs, but it was a bit of nostalgia as I hiked up to the top.

Overall, Angel Stadium is an excellent place to see a game but it can be expensive. Still, for me it's a bit of a look back to the stadiums I grew up with. I hope it stays as is for a long time to come.

The Game


Joe Saunders started for LA against fellow lefty Brett Cecil (above). Fred Lewis led off the game with a triple to right and scored on a sacrifice fly by Adam Lind. The Jays had the lead and Cecil was sharp, giving up only a single to Jeff Frandsen through 3 innings. Torii Hunter was called out on this check swing below.


In the fourth, Alex Gonzalez singled for Toronto and after Jose Bautista drew his first of 3 walks on the evening, John Buck singled home Gonzalez to double the lead. Cecil kept dealing though, keeping the Angels' hitters off-balance, giving up a walk in the 5th but nothing else.


Edwin Encarnacion grounds to third

The Jays broke the game open in the 7th, scoring 4 runs, highlighted by an Adam Lind double. The last run was unearned as shortstop Erick Aybar muffed a line drive with the bases loaded. That's Encarnacion scoring on Lind's double as Aaron Hill gets back to third.


Cecil finally tired in the 8th, giving up a single to Matsui (shown below) and walking Mike Napoli. Jason Frasor came in to get the next two outs and preserve Cecil's scoreless game, and Scott Downs pitched the 9th as the Jays won easily 6-0. Great way to end the trip!


The game took 2:53 due to all the walks (8 by the Angels, 2 by Toronto) but the story was Cecil's pitching. 7 1/3 innings and only 4 baserunners with only one of them reaching third base. When the game started, LA were the only team to have not been shutout this season, but that is no longer the case.


It was a great game for me, and nice to see Toronto work the count for a change. They are an aggressive team at the plate, but Saunders struggled with his control and the Jays were able to capitalize. They had only 6 hits themselves, but those 8 walks helped out. Here's hoping that those two losses in Arizona were the anomaly and Toronto can be in the race this season.

Notes

As I walked to the front of the stadium to take the picture at the top of the page, I noticed a few bees buzzing around. Strange I thought, why would bees be here. Well, I turned around and was surprised to see that a whole swarm had congregated on some poor fellow's car. I guess there was something tasty for them there, but I didn't stick around to investigate.


While I was enjoying my pre-game meal, they were playing the radio broadcast which included a brief interview with Jays' manager Cito Gaston. He talked about the unfair aspect of having pitchers hit in NL parks during interleague play and suggested that the DH be used in all interleague games. Not a bad idea actually, although the Jays' pitchers did manage a couple of hits in the series. But there have been some high-profile injuries in recent years, so perhaps it's worth a look to see if using the DH makes sense. At the least, NL fans would see some AL-type games.

Gaston also spoke about Toronto's future. This is his last season as manager but he felt like the Jays have a lot of good young talent and he was looking forward to seeing how things develop. It certainly made me optimistic listening to him speak, so who knows, maybe Toronto can contend sooner than we expect.

In the 8th, Frandsen was at the plate when Frasor's pitch was a bit wild and went behind Frandsen's head. But the ball hit his bat and bounced back in front of him, rolling just foul. It was kind of amusing to see and even Frandsen was smiling, but he wouldn't have been so happy if it was a fair ball as he would have been thrown out.

Trip is over

Well, the 1-month jaunt to California, Arizona, and England has come to a close. Back to Japan now where I'll take it easy before the final trip of the year to Minnesota to see the new Target Field. I also plan to see the Jays in Kansas City and a few days in Iowa to check out their minor league teams. I'll post the final schedule shortly, so check back in a while for that and some other thoughts on LA, the playoffs, and other updates.

Best,

Sean

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