One of the first things you notice when arriving at Angel Stadium are the two enormous red helmets. As you walk toward the entrances, you’ll see a touching memorial to fallen Halo pitcher Nick Adenhart.
The Texas Rangers were in town recently, and given that the Angels are my nephew Alex’s favorite team, we decided that he, his sister Isabelle and their mother Kristin would take in the opening game.
Texas and the Angels were tied for first place in the American League West, and the three-game series promised fun and excitement.
A half-hour stop at the lower-level gift store was on the agenda, and though Alex owned several jerseys, the 12-year-old who resides in the Lone Star State, wanted to add to his collection.
Center fielder Torii Hunter, acquired before the 2008 season, is now the most popular Angels player, and Alex wanted his home white jersey but they were sold out. He settled for an equally cool road-gray top. In short order, he slipped it on, and the four of us headed to our seats behind the Angels’ dugout.
With cameras and programs in hand, we decided to get closer, and there, before us, stood his heroes.
Out stepped Vladimir Guerrero, who started doing light wind sprints, while third baseman Chone Figgins and second baseman Howie Kendrick were soft-tossing.
Then, catcher Mike Napoli, who had the evening off, made eye contact with the fans, and soon balls and caps started coming his way. Alex waited his turn and tossed his cap. He now had a Hunter jersey, a signed hat and was grinning from ear-to-ear.
The pitching matchup offered a pair of eight-game winners in Jered Weaver for the Angels, and Kevin Millwood for the Rangers.
Texas struck for two runs in the top of the first inning when Southern California native Michael Young and Josh Hamilton, each ripped one-out singles, followed by a two-out, run-scoring hit by Hank Blalock. One of the runs scored on an error by Figgins.
The Angels forged a 3-2 cushion in the second inning when Juan Rivera beat out an infield hit, and Kendry Morales walked. Two batters later, Jeff Mathis drove a Millwood fastball over the left-field wall.
Hunter’s base hit to the left in the third scored Figgins, who walked to make it 4-2, and Rivera’s single to right-center drove in Hunter to make it 5-2.
A four-run fifth inning by the Angels, who sent eight hitters to the plate, put the contest out of reach.
Hunter drove in his second run with a single up the middle, and Guerrero doubled down the left-field line, scoring another run. Rivera drove in a run with a base hit, and Morales lofted a run-scoring fly ball to make it 9-2.
Ian Kinsler’s two-run homer to the left off Weaver in the seventh inning, which was his last, trimmed the deficit to five runs.
Weaver struck out the side in the seventh, and finished with nine, along with allowing seven hits, one walk, and four runs (three earned).
The Angels won, 9-4, but the Rangers bounced back, and took the next two, only to take a night off, and then sweep the New York Yankees.
It was a glorious night for Alex, and a grand week for the Angels.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, and is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a contributor to trufanboxing.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.