In my 23 years in Los Angeles, I had never ventured south of the 10 Freeway to watch a professional baseball game. And why would I? The ballpark that houses the Los Angeles Dodgers is, in fact, solely responsible for my baseball passion. It wasn’t playing catch with my dad, hitting a home run in Little League, or watching my favorite team win the World Series. No, it was sitting in the Loge deck along the first base line while the setting sun left a piercing orange hue above left field and ketchup and mustard delicately fell from the Dodger Dog into my lap on warm summer nights that really did it.
So when my friend invited me to an Angels’ game last week, I accepted if for no other reason than scientific observation. How would Angels’ Stadium stack up to the monument in Chavez Ravine, the thought of which once inspired Walter O’Malley to abandon a devout fan base in Brooklyn whose collective demeanor was determined almost entirely by the success of “Dem Bums.” Forget the fact that they now masquerade themselves as a team from Los Angeles, that the team founder is best known as the first signing cowboy of the silver screen (Gene Autry) or that a Disney movie is more than a little responsible for their nationwide popularity, the Angels presented an interesting baseball viewing alternative, and I was sure to find out how viable that was.
The reason Kim wanted to go to the game was that the Red Sox were in town, and seeing as that she is from Boston, I was sworn to root for the away team. The late morning Thursday traffic was hardly unbearable, so it only took about 40 minutes to get to the stadium exit from her Westside apartment. Oh, but it took another 40 minutes to travel the remaining four blocks to the stadium parking lot. Strike number one.
The stadium façade was pleasant, if not regal. Standing as the lone edifice in the Orange County skyline, the hunks of concrete stand before customers as immovable, emotionless barriers granting acceptance, not quite inviting, fans to enter. We passed through the gates and were welcomed by the universally pleasing aura of day baseball: blue skies, warm weather, a lively crowd and ice cold beers. Our seats were on the second level down the first baseline, underneath an overhang that restricted us seeing any popups. The crowd seemed to be split nearly halfway between Red Sox and Angels’ fans, so we weren’t too ashamed to support the boys from Beantown.
I had read last year that Angels Stadium was cited more than any other park in baseball for health code violations, so when time came for a little ballpark grub, I made sure to stick with prepackaged peanuts and a Bud. Actually, I was glad to have read that before I came because some of the cuisine that passed by me looked more like rat coffins and deer pellets than chili fries and burritos that they were modeled after. Strike number two.
Still, I held out hope that this stadium could provide the general contentment that comes from an afternoon at Chavez Ravine, where Nancy Bea tickles the organ’s ivories between innings, game highlights and players statistics are displayed prominently throughout the game on scoreboards in lefts and right field and an obstructed view of the field is nowhere to be found. Sadly, such an atmosphere was nowhere to be found in the OC. In fact, there is a decidedly contrived and pat about the ballpark – from the massive rock waterfall to the arena pump-up jams blaring throughout, the whole place felt like a Disneyland attraction in which I was told to have fun. Strike three.
As hard as I may have tried, which wasn’t hard at all, my bias toward Dodger Stadium left me dissatisfied when Kim and I finally escaped Anaheim. And the extra-inning Red Sox loss did nothing to alleviate the symptoms. I just hope that fathers down South have the decency to bring their sons to the Ravine to give them at least some chance at finding a lifelong passion for the game.