Opening Day, Take 2: 7/16

After packing my suitcase on the last day of the All Star break, I grabbed my trusty laptop and headed for the Staring back at me was a short paragraph in a story about the Angels that mentioned something that made me both happy and sad…at the same time. Eric Young Jr. had been outrighted to Triple-A, Salt Lake, after clearing waivers. That confirmed to me that the next night, after reuniting with my Dad at John Wayne Airport, the Angels and I would be re-united with Mike Trout. Young has hit .260 in 34 games with the Halos this season and his 3 homeruns together with 11 RBI’s, 8 steals, and stellar outfield play, are worthy of respect and admiration.

There’s no better feeling for me than arriving at Angels Stadium and seeing the oversized helmets, and bats, amidst a sea of unending red. It’s my home park and though it’s 2,785 miles from my Greenwich Village Apartment, I always feel that Gene Autry Way is the next street over from my heart.

After Friday night’s disappointing extra inning loss to the Rays, Mike Trout was asked how he felt about returning to the lineup following his first ever stint on the DL. He said that it felt like Opening Day. Funny, I felt the same way that whole evening as it was my first Anaheim appearance in 2017 as well. I know that I won’t be back after this series until 2018…unless–just maybe– the Angels capture a wild card playoff birth. Each day, MLB.Com publishes the percentage chance of all teams to make the playoffs. Once in a while I take a glance and dream. I know it’s a long shot but wouldn’t it be…____?

There were a “few good” moments in the disappointing loss to the Rays on Friday night.  Mike Trout singled and stole a base…diving head first into second!  Even better was the opportunity to witness Albert Pujols hit career home run # 605, a solid blast over the centerfield wall. For a few years now, the Angels have placed a board in the outfield to show Pujols’ climb up the all-time homer ladder.  I love to get a photo shot of that Board on each visit to the Big A.  In all likelihood, Pujols will pass Sammy Sosa and Jim Thome this year to place seventh on the all time list.  As to whether Pujols can pass Junior Griffey and maybe even Willie Mays next year are open questions.  No doubt 700 is within reach but it all depends on Pujols’ ability to stave off serious injury.  It’ll be quite a quest and no doubt one that Angels fans Across America will follow closely.

If we are to have any chance of grabbing a playoff spot, we’re going to have to beat out a number of teams who are ahead of us, like the Rays. The Rays and Yankees currently hold the WC positions with but only a handful of wins more than us. That is why JC’s disappointing outing on Saturday night hurt a little more than usual. Of course, it was nice to see the Angels make a valiant comeback attempt in the ninth inning. And, when Luis Valbuena hit a two run jack off Jumbo Diaz (the name fits), the rush that enveloped the ballpark could be felt. But alas, the big guy settled down and retired Maldonato and Pennington. I left the Big A cursing Steven Souza and Logan Morrison under my breath. Corey Dickerson, Shane Peterson, and Alex Cobb had managed to get under my skin as well. Oh well, a quick trip to Krispy Kreme located within the Shops at Orange toned down my despair…at least somewhat. Returning to our hotel where I spotted the darkened Halo through our window, not more than a mile or so away though, made me sad.

Parker Bridwell vs. Chris Archer? A pitcher with 1 game of Major League experience prior to this year facing a six year vet with two all-star game selections to his credit and who is considered by many as the ace of the Rays staff? Yikes, I thought!  Still, the ballpark was filled with excitement after the Angels grabbed a 2-0 lead on a single by Albert in the fifth and a safety squeeze bunt by Maldonato in the sixth. Archer wasn’t that sharp as he walked five in six innings so the hope level mounted as time went by. But, when Logan Morrison connected of Bridwell in the top of the seventh with one aboard to tie the score, you could feel the dejection from the dugout to the upper deck.  Meanwhile the Angels were stranding base runners as usual. Hope was quickly restored, when CJ faced the oversized Jumbo and did something special. Shuttling back and forth a few times between Utah and California, Cron’s had a tough year.  So, when CJ nailed an oppo taco to right, as Victor likes to call “big flies” hit to side opposite the hitters handedness, which scored Andrelton Simmons as well, I felt good all over…as did my 36,000 other “pals” who joined me at the game.

Of course, the top of the ninth turned out to be a nail biter. Damn that Steven Souza, Jr., again! Thank God though, Bud Norris got out of a bases loaded jam by getting the speedy Tim Bekham to hit into a double play and end the game. I was likely hyperventilating, especially since I was terribly overheated by the strong California sun on a hot August afternoon. It sure was nice though to get the W!

We drove to LA after the exciting win so that my Dad could drop me off at UCLA where I was registered for two more summer classes in sports management. The drive was a happy one, and we of course drove safely as Victor always admonishes his listeners to do on their way home. Unfortunately, we weren’t driving home but away from home!  Turn off the lights?  We left the Halo burning bright!