Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Game #25: Disney baseball

Game 25 found me in Orange County, watching the Anaheim California Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim California. Or something like that. Really, in an effort to expand their viewership and merchandise sales, the Angels have, much to the chagrin of locals, tried to change the team name to the LA Angels, only to find themselves stuck due to contractual constraints with the Anaheim name as well. Furthermore, to Spanish speakers, the very concept of the “The Angels Angels” name is absurd in and of itself. But hey, whatever makes them happy.

More immediate, when attending the game is the realization that this was until recently a Disney-owned team, just down the road from Disneyland. And they’ve done what they can to extend the Disney experience to the ballpark itself. Remodeled after the NFL’s Rams left town and converted back to a baseball-only facility, Anaheim Stadium is still that… a Stadium, but one with Disney touches everywhere you look.

The most obvious Disney feature is the rocks-and-water display in left field. While I’d fully expected this to be Styrofoam, these rocks did turn out to be firm and solid, though so clearly of a crafted and painted variety that they could have been lifted straight from the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad rollercoaster. While they add some visual distinctiveness to the stadium that was not there the last time I visited (pre-remodel), this rock formation was definitely disappointing after Coors Field’s splendidly authentic Rocky Mountain display.

While most parks have also incorporated non-stop crowd entertainment into their ballpark experience, Angel Stadium seemed to carry this even a step further, with ongoing activities even before the game started. This again, for anyone who’s been kept mildly entertained by non-stop goings on during a 2-hour Disneyland ride line, was very familiar.

The front entrance has received the full Disney treatment, flanked by two massive, size 649 ½ hats. Yes, the size was listed on the inside brim – classic Disney attention to detail.

Lastly, no Disney adventure would be complete without animals, and while there was no need for an appearance today, the Angels thrill their fans with their Rally Monkey, an oddly effective scoreboard-led means of encouraging the team to overcome late-game deficits. And, of course, a great way to sell additional $15 souvenirs.

It was certainly appropriate that my Disney ballpark experience would be accompanied by plenty of members of my extended family, who live in the area, including two young ones fully on board with the Disney-style entertainment.

Elsewhere in the stadium, Disney did hold onto a big of history by maintaining the “Big A” that had for years been the primary characteristic of the stadium. Now situated in the parking lot and adorned with advertisement, it very much carries the feel of yesteryear.

That’s one big happy meal. Really, actually, it’s part of the McDonald’s Sunday Kid’s Day celebrations.

The fans do show their allegiance to the team, showing up dressed in red to an extent matched only by the ubiquitous red of St Louis. Much of this enthusiasm appears to be a recent phenomenon, spurred forward in large part by the recent 2002 World Series championship. Mind you, as a Giants fan, I still refuse to accept that the 2002 World Series ever took place, despite the image of Dusty Baker rewarding Russ Ortiz with the game ball while the game was still going on being still seared painfully into my memory.

This game, as well, almost never took place, as I made what should have been a cardinal error. Blatantly tempting fate, I had announced the night before that I was fortunate to have made it all the way through the trip without any games being rained out, given that it never rains in California during the summer. So of course, what should the next morning bring but… yep… rain. Fortunately, even my terrible hubris in the face of fate wasn’t enough to overcome the fact that this was, in fact, Southern California.

For the second of three times on the trip, this game was part of a home-and-home series in which I saw the same two teams matched up at each of their home ballparks. And, as with Baltimore over Tampa Bay, the Angels managed to sweep both games against Toronto, with a never-really-in-doubt 3-1 victory built upon a solid Kelvim Escobar (ex-Jay) pitching performance. But hey, at least it gave me a chance to see O Canada again, eh?

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