It’s OHTANI DAY!
At least, it was for us on Day Four of our SoCal Ballpark Tour as we prepared to drive down to Anaheim to watch Ohtani, Baseball Jesus Mike Trout, and approximately half of the 2017 Detroit Tigers play at Angel Stadium.
Brett, as he so often reminds all of us, is a huge fan of Warren G. Harding, and works at the Harding Home Presidential Library and Museum. As such, he’s always interested in visiting different presidential libraries wherever he travels. Richard Nixon’s home and Library in Yorba Linda is only a few miles from Anaheim; what better way to spend the afternoon than trying to culture ourselves a bit?
The Nixon Library was very well put together. The exhibits gave you the sense that President Nixon was a very complex man. They discussed the positives and the ugliness of his presidency. You want Watergate? You got it. You want tapes of Nixon being anti-semitic? No problem. The level of honesty with Nixon’s flaws as well as highlighting his strengths absorbed these two history nerds for over 3 hours. The grounds are very nice as well.
After we finished with the crook (who says that he’s not a crook), we stopped by Noble Ale Craft Works for a few pints before first pitch. It’s another of what I’ll call “business park breweries,” based solely on location. This place specialized in darker, stronger beers–which weren’t particularly what we were in the mood for, given that we were about to go sit in the hot sun for a few more hours. We opted for the cream ale–simple, drinkable, yet delicious all the same.
There was a definite buzz in the park, for it was Ohtani Day. Japanese rookie Shohei Ohtani has done the unthinkable, spending time as both a designated hitter and pitcher this season and excelling at both. He was a bit wild early, but kept the Kansas City Royals off the board until Mike Moustakas came home on Alex Gordon’s RBI single. Ohtani left the game after that inning, with the team later announcing that he was struggling with a blister on his throwing hand.
In the meantime, Ohtani’s offense picked him up. Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart hit back-to-back doubles to lead off the bottom of the fifth inning off Royals’ starter Ian Kennedy to tie the ballgame. In the next inning, after Kennedy left the game, Kinsler did more damage by launching a two-run homer off Royals’ reliever Scott Barlow. Justin Upton’s insurance home run in the seventh would prove to be crucial, as the Royals added two runs in the eighth through another Alex Gordon base hit. The comeback would fall short, though, as Blake Parker got the last four outs (three via strikeout) to give the W to the Halos in this one.
Unfortunately, a few days after the game, the Angels announced that Ohtani was dealing with more than just a blister. He suffered a Grade 2 sprain on his UCL. Oftentimes when “UCL” and “pitcher” are used in the same sentence, it refers to Tommy John surgery. TJ is still an option–and may well be a likelihood–for Ohtani, but the Angels are going to give him a few weeks off in the hopes that the damage can be repaired without surgery.
When I first walked into the park, I loved it. Yes, the ballpark is surrounded by parking lots, but given the layout of the city of Anaheim the park’s location and parking arrangements make sense. The entrance to the park, with the two oversized Angels batting helmets, is a unique and creative way to welcome patrons to the stadium. The park was conveniently organized and easy to get around. And how about that view?
Angel Stadium has excellent facilities, a great deal of beer and food options, and a well-thought out organization. And yet, it didn’t feel right. For many years, the Angels were owned by Disney. The legacy shows. The concourse floors were the sort of rubber you might find while waiting in line at nearby Disneyland. The fountain installation in centerfield, while visually pleasing, is a little bit tacky.
Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed my visit to Angel Stadium. It’s a very nice ballpark. It, however, did not feel genuine. It was trying to create a ballpark experience of its own (Disney-fied) making, rather than letting the city and the atmosphere produce an organic ballpark experience. It had all the nuts and bolts to produce a great ballpark, but swung and missed at the X-factor: character.
After swimming through a sea of parking lot, you make your way to a very impressive sight with two oversize baseball caps welcoming you to the park. It felt a bit Disney (not like Disney at one point owned the park or anything), but it truly felt like it matched the character of Anaheim, which made it a unique characteristic for the ballpark. The ballpark itself has a great blend of architectural styles with the classic stadium feel combined with the unique center field waterfall, right field mini monster, and left field scenery.
The food was great and the beer selection was top notch. If you are looking for a ballpark that will fill your stomach with artery clogging goodness and beer that with test the strength of your liver, this is the place for you.
Overall, it was a very cool experience. My only qualm with this park is how genuine this park was. While there were charming and unique moments within the park, there were some parts of it that felt tacky (like the rubber floors). I was, however, impressed with just the overall views of the park. Not a bad seat in the house. This is a ballpark I would come back to in a heartbeat.