Reaching the Halfway point: 7/9

The All Star game to be played in Miami on Tuesday may be just an exhibition game but one of the best baseball memories I’ll always have was in attending the Future’s Game, the Home Run Derby, and the All Star game itself back in 2010, held at the Big A. Prior to that year, I’d never even heard of a “Futures Game,” but as it was the first time Mike Trout played in Angels Stadium, and I got to witness it, that event will always be an enormous highlight for me.

Throughout the four day period ending with the ASG, various events took place in and around Anaheim where I was beyond excited to meet the likes of Hall of Famers Bob Feller, Juan Marichal, Gary Carter, Harmon Killebrew, Ferguson Jenkins, Ricky Henderson, along with Angel greats Wally Joyner, Tim Salmon, Chuck Finley, Chili Davis, Jim Fregosi, Tommy John, and Bobby Grich. Outside the Fanfest held at the Convention Center off Harbor Avenue was the photo attached to this post of two of the most beloved Angels of all time – – Rod Carew, and Torii Hunter, the semi-official ambassadors of the Angels to the gala event. As I tuned into the three game set earlier this week between the Halos and the Twins at Target Field and heard Mark and Victor mention those two amazing Angels (and ex-Twins), I reflected on the fact that there happened to be a host of players who at one time or another, had some great moments in, and connection to, both Minneapolis and southern California.

A few, like Carew, Bert Blyleven, and Dave Winfield, are enshrined in Cooperstown…unfortunately, without the Halo logo on their cap. Others like Don Baylor, Luis Tiant, and Chili Davis had solid careers that brought them to the top of baseball world for several years. Then there was Lyman Bostock, someone who showed brilliance and character but whose life was tragically cut short before he was able to fulfill the greatness he seemed destined for. And the list goes on…including both retired players and many who are still active. Cy Young winner Dean Chance played for both teams and with the ageless Bartolo joining the Twins just this week, that doubles the Cy Young winners who played for both clubs. Within the last decade or so, the likes of Orlando Cabrera, Brian Fuentes, Kendrys Morales, Hector Santiago, Kevin Jepsen, Ricky Nolasco, Ben Revere, Shane Robinson, Drew Butera, LaTroy Hawkins, Ervin Santana, and Alex Meyer all played for both ball clubs. Isn’t it funny how when a player from another team comes to your team, you adopt him, but when a player goes elsewhere from your team, your connections still remain intact? I guess player movement is part of the game but once a guy is one of “yours,” the attachment never seems to fade, does it?

I never had the opportunity to attend the Metrodome, but I did have the good fortune to see a few games between the Twinks and the Halos in Target Field’s inaugural season. It’s truly a stunning park. But, beautiful or not, there aren’t many stadiums I like when I am watching the Angels get drubbed. During the July 4th series, the Angels struggled mightily with the Twins managing at least to salvage the final game of a three game set. Ex-Twin, Alex Meyer got banged up so badly that he wound up getting a one way ticket to Salt Lake after his start. If the Angels had any good fortune, it was that Simba went 6-12 raising his BA to .286 (though he will inexplicably not be headed to Miami as an All Star), Kole hit a dinger in two consecutive games, and Valbuena, Maldonado, and Pujols each went deep once. Pujols’ shot, home run number 603 lifetime was a massive blast that travelled 459 feet! More good news? Cameron Maybin stole home on the front end of a double steal that allowed the Angels to defeat Ervin Santana (10-6) who pitched his fourth complete game of the season and was selected to play in the 88th All Star game. I was away at summer camp a few years back when Santana threw a no-no for the Halos. Filled with excitement at the feat, I had no one to share my happiness with. Of course, had CC thrown a no-hitter for the Yankees, it would have been a different story. Sometimes, being an east coast Angels fan can be a bit lonely.

There was a silver lining in the series loss to the Twinkies.  Before the game on Monday night, Rod Carew, was given the honor of throwing out the First Ball.  Carew had recently done the same in Anaheim when the Angels played Minnesota.  It’s great to see Rod once again able to be back at the ballpark after recovering from a heart transplant operation.  Next to Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew may be the second greatest player to play ball in the Twin Cities, but his number 29 is retired in Anaheim as well.  In playing for the Angels from 1979 to 1985, Carew has the highest on-base percentage and second-highest batting average in team history.  The Panamanian native was selected to the All-Star team in six of the seven seasons he was with the Angels and later coached with the Halos from 1992-1999.  Carew has been an Orange County resident for decades. Fans still regularly appear at the Big A wearing Carew’s throwback uniform bearing the map of California on the left shoulder surrounded by the Halo that back in the day were worn by Carew and his ’82 teammates Fred Lynn, Reggie Jackson, Don Baylor, Brian Downing, and Bob Boone.

Things did not improve for the Angels in Arlington after a travel day for the club on Thursday. The weekend series at Globe Life Park began with a disastrous 10-0 loss on Friday night. Cole Hamels got the win; Ricky Nolasco, the loss and in giving up two three-run dingers in less than two innings of work. Nolasco regained the ignominious distinction of being the most generous AL pitchers in terms of giving up the long ball. Saturday’s 5-2 defeat handed the Angels their 8th loss in their past 11 games. This was the worst streak for the Halos all season. The Angels did however get a win on Sunday as Albert hit career number 604, and JC Ramirez pitched six solid scoreless innings to get win number 8.

Even better news came from San Bernardino late Sunday evening when it was announced that Mike Trout said that his right thumb felt 100% and that he had no discomfort whatsoever.  Given that, Trout is likely to play this coming Friday after the traditional four-day mid-summer break. In his absence over nearly a seven week span, the Angels record without Mike Trout was 19-20.

Trout will definitely not play in the All Star game or even accompany the AL squad to Miami. With Trout out of the ASG and Simmons not selected as a reserve, no Angel will represent the AL team in Miami, a painful feeling for Angels fans Across America.

Having missed the Angels and Yankees play in New York when I was ill a few weeks back, I’m looking forward to meeting up with my Dad in Orange County on Friday to catch the 47-43 Rays play the 45-47 Angels.  At the All Star Break, the Angels are 16.5 games behind the Western Division First Place Astros;  just 3 GB of the second wild card birth.

I leave Austin this Friday and fly to LA via Las Vegas. I can’t wait to be back “home!”