In 1966 the expansion California Angels made Anaheim Stadium their home. In this post I will be referring to the home of the Angels as both Anaheim Stadium & Angel Stadium but really they are the same thing. In fact, the current name of the ballpark is Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Add to the mix the numerous name changes of the team and things can get pretty confusing. This organization has a serious identity crisis.
Anaheim Stadium was basically a carbon-copy of Dodger Stadium (where the Angels had played from 1962-1965) with a symmetrical layout and three decks. There were no bleachers in the outfield, just a vast expanse of parking spaces. The gaudy large “A” served as the scoreboard.
The ballpark underwent a drastic renovation in 1979 to accomodate the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams, adding 22,000 additional seats. Still, the ballpark was not a stellar place for football games to be played and the Rams left in 1995. As the New York Mets (at Shea Stadium), the Florida Marlins and the Oakland A’s will tell you, it is no great shakes playing in a stadium that is used to accomodate football. Luckily for the Angels the Walt Disney corporation purchased the team in 1996 and they quickly went to work in remodeling the stadium yet again. Most of the seating sections added in 1980 were demolished.
Once again HOK sport/Populous was granted the contract to renovate Angel Stadium into a baseball-only facility. The major feature of their design is their “outfield extravaganza” – fake boulders, fountains/waterfalls and a picnic area/food court. Outfield dimensions were altered to generate considerable asymmetry. There is an 18 foot tall wall in RF which presents quite a challenge for left-handed hitting sluggers – a remnant of the “hybrid” period of the stadium.
As you can see in the first picture of this post, where Anaheim Stadium was once a concrete can floating in an ocean of asphalt, Angel Stadium is now somewhat of a baseball oasis with palm trees, oversized baseball helmets, a baseball courtyard and an attractive earth and forest green motif.
Inside the stadium the trademark is definitely the boulder waterfall. Ever wonder what is behind the boulder waterfall? This is it:
Here is a panoramic view from the inside:
The capacity of Angel Stadium of Anaheim is approximately 45,000 and there were 42,000+ on hand to see the Angels play the Toronto Blue Jays. As for the actual fans themselves, they are tough to peg. They show up early, wear their team’s colours (the ballpark was literally a sea of red), scream their lungs out, know the game and have long memories. For example, I wore my Kelly Gruber jersey to the game in honour of Gruber having played 18 games for Anaheim in 1993. A handful of fans recognized this fact and chatted with me about Gruber’s career and his less-than-stellar stint as an Angel.
That being said… Angel fans are not particularly knowledgeable about what’s going on in baseball. I spoke with a number of Angel fans as they expressed curiosity at the fact a Toronto fan could be found in Anaheim. They didn’t think that Toronto had any fans at all and that the team would most likely fold, like the Expos had years before, at season’s end. I had a few conversations that went something like this:
Angels Fan: So, you’re from Toronto?!
Me: Yes! It’s great to be here.
AF: Your team isn’t doing very well up there. Not getting any fans?
Me: The ballpark isn’t full, but we do okay.
AF: You’re probably going to lose the team pretty soon, huh?
AF: The team is going bankrupt, just like in Montreal.
AF: It’s too bad that they’ve never been able to generate any support for a team up in Canada.
Me: LOL WUT.
And so on….
Angels fans have no grasp on what is baseball ettiquette, similar to Wrigley Field. Fans stand up and/or move around during play and are oblivious. The ushers at Angel Stadium facilitate these egregious faux-pas by having embraced the west-coast-lifestyle long ago. They are very laid back and don’t really do much of anything, especially enforce proper baseball ettiquette when it comes to fans arriving from the councourse and attempting to find their seat in the middle of a play. For once I appreciate the ushers at the SkyDome.
Another bizarre fact about Angels fans is that they LOVE hitters counts. They are loudest when the count is 2-0 or 3-1. Runners in scoring position with a full count and 2 out? Nary a peep. As well, they share a commonality with Toronto fans when it comes to having a passion for “the wave.” Especially at key points in the game, like the 7th inning with the home team down by 3 runs and runners on base. Perfect! Let’s do the wave!
One redeeming quality the Angel fans brought was their ability to pronounce Toronto. It was refreshing to hear the enunciation of Ontario’s capital instead of the typical Canadian mumble of Torana or Trono. Tor-on-to. It sounds nice when you say it right.
The sea of red was particularly helpful in finding fellow Blue Jays fans. They were from all over, but mostly from BC and Alberta. There were even some LA born and raised Blue Jays fans (two in fact). They said they became fans of the Jays in the early 1980′s after watching Tony Fernandez play shortstop.
One more note on the fans. Angels fans are easily the best looking fans in all of baseball, at least in my experience. There was a blend of model/actress types, natural beauties and surgically enhanced ones. This may or may not be a microcosm of what it is like in Los Angeles in general, but the difference from other ballpark fans is clear. Oddly enough, they all looked a certain way. That is to say they fit a certain mould. The blondes looked like Jenny McCarthy. The brunettes looked like Rhona Mitra, Kristian Alfonso, Ana de la Reguera or Dania Ramirez.
It was tough to get a decent ticket for the game. Considering I only needed a single, it was surprising I was unable to get any tickets on the lower level. For $50 I sat on the 2nd level on the third-base side. The sightlines were great with plenty of legroom.
The scoreboard is nice, but it would have been even nicer if the powers-that-be took some of that $100 million renovation money and put it into moving the big “A” back to CF with a new scoreboard attached. Currently the “A” stands by its lonesome in a 12,000+ space parking lot.
On the scoreboard in the late innings you will inevitably find The Rally Monkey if the Angels are down. Many people find this gimmick kind of annoying but I think it was fun. The fans lose it over the Monkey and the kids love it.
He didn’t work in this game, though.
The surrounding-neighbourhood party zone? There isn’t one. Unless you count the bar at the hotel you are staying at post-game. Speaking of hotels, I have to give a shout out to @jeffinvan and @eyebleaf for hooking me up with the best discount hotel website going: Priceline.com. Priceline allows you to bid on hotels – they call it “naming your own price.” And I did. I stayed at the Double Tree in Anaheim, a 3+ star hotel within walking distance of Angel Stadium in an executive suite. I was fluffed up in a $175 a night hotel room for only $50, taxes and fees in. Speaking of eyebleaf, he tipped me off to this magical website in his own series of ballpark reviews in his ongoing series “Stealing Home“. He was able to make it to all 30 MLB ballparks this summer and shares his experiences over at the Globe & Mail. Check it out for a different perspective on the same ballparks that we’ve reviewed here. Be sure to check out his Toronto-based sports blog, “Sports and the City” as well. /plug
There is a wide variety of concessions at Angel Stadium. Traditional fare as well as plenty of BBQ, sushi and healthy california cuisine. As (bad) luck would have it, after a day at Petco with too many beers and too much sun, my weakened immune system succumbed to a cold. I thought it would be a good idea to search out some OJ to give the cold a kick in the ass. Maybe even a little green tea for the precious polyphenols and antioxidants. But there was no juice or green tea or anything other than beers, soda and water in the entire ballpark. Strange, no?
If I had been feeling better I would have partaken in Angel Stadium’s diverse beer selection. Even the Japanese beer, Sapporo, was readily available. While you are on the concourse hunting for your favourite non-juice related beverage, you will be treated to walls and displays filled with Angels memorbilia. The Angels have officially laid claim to Nolan Ryan like the Danes have the Canadian Arctic. Though Ryan spent 8 seasons of his 27 year career in California, you will find many pictures and artifacts of the legend in an Angels uniform and oftentimes a cowboy hat.
One thing about the concourse is that once you are out there, it is very difficult to see what is going on in the game since it is closed, unlike the open concourses of the SkyDome.
The merchandise store is a little bit of an eyesore with so much red, but offers typical Angels gear. Nothing special really. What was interesting though is that they sell Derek Jeter jerseys, especially interesting after what he has done to them in the playoffs. That would be like the Blue Jays selling Dennis Eckersley jerseys in the Jays Shop in 1990. Oh well, everyone needs to get PAID and the Angels are no different. If you are in the team store when they anthems begin to play, you are trapped. Employees guard both entrances until the conclusion of both anthems.
Much like Petco played “Afternoon Delight,” Angel Stadium loved to play “California Love” at every opportunity. What can I say? California knows how to party. And the same way I lucked into a Throwback Thursday at Petco, I lucked into “Fireworks Friday” at Angel Stadium. The gimmick is pretty straightforward: fireworks after the game. But these were good fireworks! With a Journey soundtrack! I walked away impressed.
Fireworks Friday: Any Way You Want It
Fireworks Friday: Don’t Stop Believing
Firweorks Friday: Separate Ways
In the end my overall experience at Angel Stadium was a good one. The Jays won, the weather was nice, the ballpark had some character and I saw some good baseball. Nothing about the ballpark was really remarkable, though. It is worth seeing but not worth going out of your way to see. The location of the stadium as it relates to having no pre or post-game party zone really detracts from the overall experience. As does the absence of any semblance of baseball ettiquette. That being said, a sold out crowd does wonders to make up for those weaknesses and enhances the overall baseball experience. That concludes the ballpark portion of this post. Stay tuned for my next review of AT&T Park in San Francisco. I’ll now explore whether or not California really knows how to party.
Getting around LA is no easy task. I’d like to thank Google Maps for giving me the freshest directions and never steering me wrong. Not only do you have to pitch like a manwhen you are in LA, but you have to drive like one too. Turn signals are optional on a spiderweb of highways that run through the greater Los Angeles area.
On Keith’s advice I went with the Lechon Asadao (not to be confused with Lechona, a savoury and delicious Columbian dish). Lechon Asado is roasted Cuban pork marinated in a garlic mojo criollo sauce. For an extra $1 you can have it served with maduros – sweet grilled plantains. The meat was fall-apart tender and infused with a delicious garlicky flavour.
Following my meal at Versailles, I took a turn down the Sunset Strip to see all of the great Rock n’ Roll clubs. Gregg Zaun’s favourite spot on the Sunset Strip is the Whisky a Go Go, an old club that was the proving ground for bands such as The Doors, Guns n’ Roses, Motley Crue and The Cult. It was pretty neat to see a piece of rock history that is still going strong.