To recap. We lost our starting third baseman. We lost our cleanup hitter. We lost our most consistent reliever. We lost our #1 pitcher. Oh, and we lost them to a divisional foe, another divisional foe, the same divisional foe, and the hated Red Sox, respectively. We had our sights on acquiring arguably the best pitcher in the league, only he went to Philadelphia. And then the Phillies went ahead and flipped their former ace to… you guessed it, a divisional foe. We were then rumored to be in pursuit of the Atlanta ace, but they traded him to the Yankees instead – to be their #3. Next, we made an offer for a hugely talented Cuban defector, only he went to (ironically enough) the Reds. So who did we end up with? Well, we resigned our 35-year old right fielder, added a 35-year old designated hitter, offered $16 million to a slightly above-average starter, and gave $11 million to an average reliever, with that final acquisition alternatively called “the most puzzling move of the week” (CNNSI), an “odd decision” (Newsday), and “a huge downgrade” (ESPN). Oh, and our television play-by-play announcer passed away. It is the worst offseason I’ve ever experienced as an Angels fan, an offseason that promised to be huge and amazing and expensive, and instead turned into this.
I don’t recall the exact moment that I became an Angels fan growing up in Los Angeles, nor the rationale I had in picking them over the Dodgers. But in retrospect, with some deductive reasoning, I can pinpoint a confluence of factors that probably got me to that point. First, I would always select the California Angels while playing RBI Baseball 3 on the Sega Genesis console. Perhaps this was because the American League was listed on the left side of the screen, nearer to the default position of the cursor. And perhaps the “CA” resonated more with me, standing at the very top of the screen, whereas “LA” was hidden alphabetically in the trenches. Whatever the reason, I played that 1990 roster, Luis Polonia, Claudell Washington, Kurt McCaskill, and all; and I’ve always been built as such that I never switched teams. Second, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this space, I had issues sleeping for a good part of my childhood and adolescence. I would regularly have a radio with me at night, and was often accompanied by the sounds of sports talk radio or sporting events. Perhaps I listened to the Angels over the Dodgers simply because the former came first on the dial – the games broadcast on KMPC 710 am, while Vin Scully held court on 790. And third, as a subscriber to Sports Illustrated (and not the edition for kids, a fact I remain quite proud of), I vividly remember enjoying reading this article about Tim Salmon and J.T. Snow. And so, all together, between 1991 and 1993, the chips were slowly being put in the middle.
I started attending Angels games on a semi-regular basis during that magical 2002 season. For the next few years, I’d go to five or six games every campaign, making the drive down from Los Angeles, usually in the summer with the familiar cast of characters. Three years ago, now in Irvine for graduate school, I opted for a nine game mini-plan. The last two years, I’ve bumped it up to 27. There’s something about baseball as a sport that resonates with me. It’s relaxing and laidback and comfortable. You go and hang out for three hours, and get immersed in it, with 30, 40,000 people with you night in, night out. You enjoy good ballpark food, drink a beer or two, and even get a nice giveaway once in a while. It’s just my kind of pace of life, I guess. Anyway, I realize how lucky I am. At some point (rapidly approaching, in fact), I won’t be living in the area anymore, and I won’t have the option of dropping by a game where my favorite team is involved. Thus, while there was some initial disappointment, it ultimately didn’t matter what happened this last offseason, or even, to a certain extent, what will happen this season. It’d be nice to make the playoffs, obviously, to contend as we are so accustomed now. But the bottom line is, I’m a season ticket holder of the team I’ve rooted for since childhood. It may be the only time in my life that I’ll have that opportunity. And so, I’m pretty much the happiest kid in the world.