Results tagged ‘ Giants ’

Weekend Gourmet, Wine Festival and Angels Blogger Spring Training?

A belated Happy Saint Patrick’s Day from the Emerald Isle!…

View of Paso Robes farmland taken from West Highway 46 looking out towards a completely mist shourded Morro Bay. The rock? I can't see it, but who cares with all this pretty. March 17, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

…Yeah, I wish. ;) Though as not-Ireland places for a St. Patrick’s weekend getaway go, Paso Robles, CA is plenty nice enough. And although the particular shades of green in this landscape are all wrong for Ireland, it is still quite lovely and the mist and rain were at least accurate. So what’s a diehard Angels fan like me doing in a place like Paso Robles when there are games going on Arizona, you ask?

Well, with Pujols-mania bringing folks out to Tempe in droves, hotel stays and such suddenly got more expensive and harder to book, so we decided to wait and go to Spring Training another year. Oh well, I was a little sad but that does mean more money for the regular season ticket budget, which certainly makes up for missing out…and, besides, it’s the Zinfandel Festival which means I just spent a lovely weekend going through my own little baseball blogger’s Spring Training, which came none too soon if you ask me. Between Albert Pujols heating up the lineup, the rest of the bats following right long, the starting rotation looking great and even more formidable with the addition of C.J. Wilson, and what is looking more and more like the very real possibility of Kendrys Morales returning to the 25-man roster, this could be a very special season in the making. A blogger’s got to prepare. Training and drills are a must.

Okay, training and drills. Fine, you say. But at a wine festival? Of course at a wine festival! Where else could I get all of this practice and prep in? Take photos, for example. If you read this blog last season – first off thank you! – you know I like to take photos when I go to Angels games so that I can pepper my posts with photos that are as much mine as the commentary. Well, taking baseball game photos can be tricky. There’s a lot of action. Your subjects are constantly on the move, sometimes in unpredictable ways. It’s all too easy for the rusty blogger to end up with a large collection of photos like this one, which I like to call Not-So-Still life with Aybar:

A blurry, bad Erick Aybar rounding first base photo that is only seeing the light of day per the Roger Rabbit rules: Only when it's funny! Angels vs. White Sox, May 10, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Or even this one. Mike Trout and Peter Bourjos were both well in frame and in focus when I started to take the photo…:

A blurry, bad Mike Trout and Peter Bourjos warming up photo that is only seeing the light of day per the Roger Rabbit rules: Only when it's funny! Angels vs. Mariners, September 5, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

You’ve got to warm up for tricky action shots. Practicing on things that don’t move but require a lot of detail and focus can be helpful, like this vineyard (I love the gnalred, wintery vines and the  lines created by the three distinct fields with vines running at three different angles):

Views like this are why I say if I could find a way to make money up here, I would absolutely move to Paso Robles. Anyone need a mortgage banking, copy writing couple? We would probably be fair hats at catering and he brews excellent beer! March 16, 2012, Red Soles Winery property. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Or this gorgeous tasting room:

Shale Oak Winery's absolutely gorgeous eco-friendly tasting room. Grab a glass of something bold and fruity and head for the fire pits on the patio. March 16, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Then you can move on to some simple action subjects, like these Paso Robles wild turkeys:

Why did these Paso Robles wild turkeys cross the field? Duh, to get to road of course. March 16, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

I say a simple action shot because, although this is an impressive little dominance display here, with a lot of action going on, turkeys (the real ones with feathers at any rate) don’t generally muck up photos by adjusting themselves. Still, although no Spring Training can ever replicate the real thing I think I have gotten enough “innings” in with the camera to be ready for the regular season.

As for the rest of my blogger’s Spring Training? Well, I got to study plenty of tasty treats in preparation for my Friday Gourmet, Wine and Angels nights, like this glorious roast pork panini and sundried tomato salad from Farmstand 46. They call it The Goat:

If you're ever passing through Paso Robles, Farmstand 46 is a must! Behold The Goat, a slow roated pork shoulder panini topped with pickled onions, salty gruyere and a homemade garlic aioi, accompanied by a sundried tomato salad and real macaroons. March 16, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

…or the Zinfandel sliders, the tacos al pastor, the paella or any of the other deliciousness I was too busy nom-ing to take a photo of. Would I really make a roast pork panini or paella just for our Friday Gourmet, Wine and Angels enjoyment? *laughs* Will Mike Scioscia change the Angels lineup a minimum of 60 times this season? Hell. Yes.

Speaking of Friday Gourmet, Wine and Angels, what better place to stock up the old wine cellar than at Zin Fest? Yes, I think it’s going to be a beautiful season:

Part of this year's Zin Fest haul. As they say in Paso Robles, 'Sip. Swirl. Enjoy!' Don't mind if I do. March 17, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

I even got my usual pre-season gabfest in with some of the Giants fans at the Barrel 27 pick-up party. Not surprisingly they are every bit as thrilled to be getting Buster Posey back as we are with the positive Kendrys outlook. Not to mention it was fun talking rookies and just barely not rookies with them. The Giants have some great younger players in the mix or soon to be in the mix too – one gent I was chatting with is particularly enamored with Baby Giraffe, Brandon Belt – so our two fan bases have some fun things in common.

So, I have my trusty camera at the ready, my Opening Day tickets in hand…er…inbox, plenty of wine options (seriously if I actually showed you the full collection of options, you would laugh at me!) and my typing fingers limber and warmed up. 19 days until Opening Day and I. Can’t. Wait!

How Do You Enjoy the Post Season When Your Team Doesn’t Have a Post Season? + Really Josh Hamilton?

 

I answered one facet of this question in one of my very first blog posts, wherein I talked about choosing a team to adopt for the postseason. But that is only one aspect of the answer. For some folks the entire answer is a simple, you don’t. But that just doesn’t work for me. The stakes are too high, the players too good and the action too exciting to ignore…besides, this is the last small slice of baseball we get to enjoy before the cold lonely baseball-less months of late fall and winter begin.

So, how do you enjoy the post season when your team doesn’t have a post season? For me the answer is eagerly, excitedly and with a sense of fun, but also distractedly and with a sense of detachment. Witness, I am watching the games, as many as we can when so many of them start while we are at work, but our kitchen is clean. Our bills are filed. When the game is one the east coast and starts early for us, dinners are more elaborate than slapped together sandwiches. (Okay, we ate sandwiches for dinner this evening, but they involved left over pork loan, brie, sautéed apples and onions and a chipotle peach jelly. They were absolutely not slapped together. ;) ) The laundry is not only folded but — gasp! — put away. Both my husband and I are more willing to pick up a few mid-week groceries on our way home from the office instead of trying to cram the trip into a lunch break while crossing our fingers that no one swipes them from the office fridge. For better or worse, these things are simply a lot less true during the regular season…even more so during an Angels post season.

So the answer is, you enjoy the post season much the same as you would otherwise, but with a passion that is purely generic in nature. Oh, many of the teams in the current post season excite me and there have been several truly great games so far to be sure. But I can tear my eyes away from the screen for a little while for even mundane chores…and I do. That would never happen with the Angels, but I can’t think of a single other team that would inspire adopted passion on the same magnitude. The only teams that come close for me are family teams.

If the Angels were out but the Dodgers, my childhood team and the team half my family roots for, were in? I know could summon a fair bit of passion. Not the same as for the Angels by any means but passion even so. When the Giants, the team whose orange and black colors the other half of my family bleeds, made the series, it wasn’t even the same as the Dodgers would have been, but it was in fact more special than the current post season’s offerings. That’s it…and those two teams still aren’t even close. So, I will continue to hoot and holler and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy, but I think the kitchen won’t have any problems staying clean.

Oh, and for the record, my answer to the “who am I rooting for part of the question” is not as cut and dried as it was last season. My favorite non-Angels teams heading into the post season were the D-Backs, the Brewers and the Rays… *sigh* I wanted badly for the Rays to be able to go further, but what they accomplished was nothing short of miraculous and a joy to behold. So, I have been rooting for the D-Backs (though I won’t mind if the Brewers win instead…I do like them too), the Rays, the Cards and the Tigers. I will narrow it down further, of course, after the ALDS and then again for the World Series.

I’d love the D-Backs to take it all, because I adore Joe Saunders — and I miss him even though I wholeheartedly approved of the Dan Haren trade — and because Kirk Gibson was a childhood hero whom I still admire. Ryan Roberts grand slam against the Dodgers, where he paid homage to Gibby’s famous homerun as a Dodger with arm pumps down the first base line? Chills. Absolute chills. But I could find myself happily rooting for one of the other teams I mentioned should the D-Backs not make it past Friday. Because when you’re strictly a for the month of October, adopted fan, switching allegiances based on who won and any number of other frivolous reasons is not only acceptable, it’s darned necessary. :)

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As several media sources reported, just before Tuesday’s game Josh Hamilton was asked about the success in a Rangers uniform of Vlad Guerrero last season and Mike Napoli this season. A leading question to be sure, but still…

Hamilton’s response? “I think we’re going to look at who we can get from the Angels next year.” Ouch. But whatever obnoxious truth there may be in that statement, nice Josh. Way to stay classy. Especially considering that the Rangers dropped Vlad like a hot potato the second they could no longer say ‘Who cares how much money we spend?! We’re filing for bankruptcy!’

Hey Josh, chances are Fernando Rodney is going to be available next season. Likely for a bargain price. Since the Rangers are so excellent at finding diamonds in the Angels rough, I suggest they dive on that grenade. With gusto!

The Bay Area Baseball Extravaganza Concludes with a Trip to AT&T Park

First things first – Welcome back from the All Star Break in style Angels!!! Okay, okay. So the Angels’ All Star Break lasted a little longer than that of most other teams…pretty much until Wednesday, round about the 3rd inning actually. But after a crazy comeback win against the Rangers Wednesday and shutting the Rangers out on Thursday, I think I can cut the Angels some slack. After all, who among us hasn’t experienced “vacation lag”? I know I’m experiencing it this week!

So, about that vacation. We wrapped up the Bay Area Baseball Extravaganza with a visit to the beautiful and luxurious AT&T Park on Monday night to take in the Giants vs. Dodgers game. And if I was late enough to the game that I missed first pitch, so were all of these fine folks. Hmmm…I think L.A. has been unjustly maligned on this point ;) :

Entering AT&T Park through the main Willie Mays gate. Gorgeous! Giants vs. Dodgers, July 18, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Late for the game? How does this happen on vacation? We went for a bike ride late Monday morning on the Marsh Creek trail in Pittsburgh, CA, along marshes and canals off of San Francisco Bay. It was so beautiful and fun that we didn’t hit the car again until 24 miles and a few hours later. So much for catching batting practice, but darned if we didn’t have a blast:

The Marsh Creek Trail in Pittsburgh, CA. July 18, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

AT&T Park is gorgeous, from the front gates to the seating areas to the view out over the right field all to the tops of ships in McCovey Cove.:

The view over the right field section towards McCovey Cove. AT&T Park. Giants vs. Dodgers, July 18, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

My college friend and his partner, Giants fans, both, accompanied us to the game and clued us in to some of AT&T Park’s finer details. For example, I had no idea that the grates in right field are open to the public walk that runs between the stadium and McCovey Cove. Fans strolling by are invited to stand and watch some of the game free of charge. Very cool:

Free view into the stadium, anyone? Quite the cool concept! Giants vs. Dodgers, July 18, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

There is not a bad seat in the house, certainly not our second row seats in the club section just above left field – vacations are for splurges after all! And there are lots of fan friendly touches in the seating sections. Club section ushers politely only allow fans past the doors to their seats in between plays and at bats, so seated fans don’t miss a pitch. In the outfield “bleachers” there are wide, lower concourses in front of the seats, so fans can pass by without blocking anyone’s view.:

The outfield seats at AT&T Park, with plenty of room to walk around. Giants vs. Dodgers, July 18, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

If the Coliseum is no frills, AT&T Park is all frills possible. The food is phenomenal and there is quite a diverse selection. And in the club section, there are full bars with actual bartenders! I ordered an Irish coffee to keep the chill away in the later innings, and the bartender wisely never touched the Bailey’s while preparing my drink. Eureka!

One of the many full bars on the club level at AT&T Park. Giants vs. Dodgers, July 18, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Though I was amused to note that for all its frills, AT&T Park is still a mixed use facility. Note that from this vantage, in a different uniform, Cody Ross could be playing goalie:

Cody Ross prepares to run in left field. ross was one of my favorite stories to come out of the '10 Series, out of many great ones from both the Giants and the Rangers. Note the soccer field chalk marks. Giants vs. Dodgers, July 18, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Being on vacation, I was really out of the loop on trade news. Imagine my surprise, when this friendly face appeared on the Jumbotron in Dodger Blue. Welcome back to sunny Southern California, Juan, and best of luck to you!

Former Angel Juan Rivera, the newest Dodger of all. Giants vs. Dodgers, July 18, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

When you’re not really cheering for either side, a competitive game is the most fun to watch, and this game was better than the 5 to 0 shutout score would lead one to believe. The Dodgers made a couple of really good plays and had several strong hits, but just couldn’t string any of it together long enough to get on the board. The Giants played very well throughout.:

Aubrey Huff lines out to Matt Kemp in center in the 1st inning. Is it just me, or does Mr. Huff's name sound like some sort of Roger Moore era Bond girl? I jest, but I have aways liked Huff and was thrilled to see him get a ring last season, was thrilled to see him contribute so heavily to the earning of that ring. Giants vs. Dodgers, July 18, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Pablo Savdoval and Nate Schierholtz cross the plate...except Dodgers catcher Rod Barrajas is moving off the field because Aubrey Huff lined out to Matt Kemp in center. The Giants runners will figure it out eventually. Giants vs. Dodgers, July 18, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game... (Seth)

James Loney catches the foul pop fly as Chad Billingsley moves to back him up and Cody Ross is out. Giants vs. Dodgers, July 18, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Rod Barrajas takes a big swing. Chris Stewart is catching. Giants vs. Dodgers, July 18, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

 

Nate Schierholtz smacks a double in the 1st inning. Rod Barrajas is catching. Giants vs. Dodgers, July 18, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

 

Nate Schierholtz leads off first while James Loney waits for a possible pick-off attempt. Giants vs. Dodgers, July 18, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

So with all of this wonderfulness, were there any drawbacks AT&T Park? Just one actually, and it really surprised me. I love Giants fans. I went to the Bay Area to stay with and attend the game with two of them. I have rabid Giants fans in my family. I attended playoff parties with scores of them in Paso Robles and count several in their number as friends but, oh my goodness, when they all get together in one large group at AT&T Park, an awful lot of them choose to be dicks. In the club section for crying out loud! Not in the “we all came to get drunk and obnoxious but can’t name more than a handful of players on the team” section. Now I don’t know where the “we all came to get drunk and obnoxious but can’t name more than a handful of players on the team” section is at AT&T Park, but they must have one. All ballparks have one. We certainly do. ;)

I am not some delicate flower that cannot cope with heckling. Hello, how much time do I spend at the ballpark? Cheering. Heckling. Being passionate for your team. All are very important, traditional parts of the game for home fans and visiting fans alike. But isn’t it supposed to stay in the stands? In my experience at the Big A with rival fans and walking through Dodger Stadium and the Coliseum in Angels gear, the concourse, the bathrooms, the food stands, the ticket lines, etc, are all neutral ground, free from any of the fan on fan heckling that may or may not be going on in the seats.

Not so at AT&T Park. Walking through the concourse on the club level, past the carving station, the full bar and other wonders, Seth turned to me with a huge smile and said, Wow, this makes the club level in Anaheim look pretty plain. And he’s right. I love the Big A, but it is nowhere near this luxurious. A random Giants fan heard us and said loudly, that’s because the Angels suck as his friends all nodded and laughed and it wasn’t friendly laughter. Really? We weren’t even talking to him. “Not when they play the Giants…not in 2002.” Well that wasn’t nearly as funny, apparently, and the group of them quickly dispersed.

Random jerks and an isolated incident, right? Well, not for the Dodgers fans in attendance. I saw three separate instances of lone Dodger fans being heckled, and not in a “we’re friends who came together and are giving each other grief” way either, by small groups of Giants fans while we walked to our seats. I saw more instances later. On the concourse! On the club level!! For all I know, this goes on in reverse at Dodgers stadium, outside of the aforementioned “we all came to get drunk and obnoxious…” section. But the impression I got is that some Giants fans are wearing their new World Series title a lot more gracefully than others.

I’m not saying that the Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown mean kids “We’re number one! We’re number one!” vibe ruined my trip to the ball park. I had an amazing time. What I am saying is that amenities are lovely, frills make any experience that much more special, and given the chance to return to AT&T Park again as a baseball fan with no real ties to either team, as I did on this occasion, I would do so in a heartbeat. But as for attending a game as an out of town fan of the visiting team? I’d take the Coliseum over AT&T Park any day.

Sometimes You Win. Sometimes You Lose to the Yankees. Sometimes it Rains…All in One Weekend

Well, if the Angels had to lose two close games to the Yankees, at least it happened while I was out of town. It’s so much easier to stay detached you only check in with one of the games on your phone from time to time. You’re a lot less invested and barely notice all of the runners stranded in scoring position when you’re merely regaling your husband with your own rendition of the game day play by play ob the way back down the coast.

Seriously, when you can’t watch the game on TV, or hear your announcers’ commentary on the radio, you really only notice the good stuff – Bobby’s hitting streak, Trumbo’s homerun, Fleet Pete doing his thing, the fact that Howie’s back. All of the bad stuff – the missed scoring opportunities, the botched plays, the Yankees homeruns – barely even registers.  …You know, except for the part where I’m totally lying. April or September, squeaker or blow out, glued to the action before you on the field from the first pitch or just catching the score the next morning, losses always sting…especially when they seem to be coming in streaks.

It’s a marathon not a sprint. It’s only June. It’s just two losses. And all of the other clichés which, of course, are clichés for a reason. Yes, we’re only four games out of first and it’s just the beginning of June. Anything is still possible and I believe that this team can turn things around but it’s disheartening to be back under .500 on June 5th…and to have the AL West standings finally spread out by more than two games and be in third place and four games out. Absolutely fixable, but completely frustrating even so.

Anyway. Me? Out of town again? So soon? Well, that at least that’s more fun to write about than griping about the Angels. This weekend is the reason I was not going to go up to the wine festival last weekend until the Am Gen Tour was coming through and I decided that practicality and responsibility are really terribly overrated concepts. So this weekend, we were back up in Paso Robles for the Seafood and Sangria Summer Kickoff Party at Rio Seco, the baseball winery.

It was pouring rain for much of the weekend so the summer kickoff took place indoors, but the evening was a lot of fun. The Hinkle family were gracious hosts as always. This was a mostly locals crowd but they made sure we felt right at home – the older daughter who we usually chat with in the tasting room even asked how the Angels were doing. They remember their baseball and baseball fans here. The food was excellent. I now have several great ideas for sangria later in the summer, including one with the MVP reserve, apples and berries. More please! And the party favors were half cases of wine – the Grand Slam Cab/Syrah blend no less, ensuring that the party will continue at several Friday Gourmet, Wine and Angels evenings at our house later this summer. We had a nice time hearing some of the local gossip and all about the Giants – central coast California is absolutely not Angels country. They’re disappointed about Buster Posey but not exactly calling for Scott Cousins’ head or any rule changes in Paso Robles. Bruce Bochy take note…and a lesson or four.

Jered Weaver Collects His 7th Win + I’m in a Paso Robles State of Mind

I am very careful in my work and take pride in not making many mistakes. But when I do make them, they tend to all occur at once. A mini slump, if you will. Today was one of those days. Mistake 1 begat Mistake 2 and it’s more public sister, Mistake 3. I owned up to them and put out the resulting fires. But it’s good that we’re driving to Paso Robles for the weekend as I typed this because, honestly, somtimes to get out of the head space that causes a cycle of mistakes to perpetuate like that, you just have to get out of town…

…Or come home again! The Angels broke up their own cycle of mistakes this evening with a much needed win over the Yankees, a win made all the more important by the fact that it was finally win #7 for Jered Weaver. So, was it a brilliant, awe-inspiring performance? Did the Angels, resplendent in their earliest years throwback jerseys complete with the original interlocking LA ball cap, strike fear into the hearts of the Yankees with their dominance at the plate? Um, no. Not really.

It was a lot of the same actually. The team hit well, especially Mark Trumbo and Peter Bourjos, but continued to struggle with runners in scoring position. The fielding was tight but neither Weaver nor the Yankee’s Ivan Nova had a great start, though Weaver settled into his groove by the third inning, giving the team five additional strong innings and eight strikeouts. So, not an amazing performance, but the Angels battled through, held the Yankees to two runs for five innings and stubborned out a victory!

Besides, a W is a W and I could not have been more thrilled by the victory – for the team, for Weaver and for Angels fans. In fact, we were just outside of Santa Barbara when the Angels won the game and when my husband read me the last pitch – using the pitch by pitch on Gameday, because our ability to pick up the broadcast cacked it in Ventura – I let out such a loud whoop that we both started cracking jokes about the perils of loud cheering in the friendly confines of a Pontiac G6. So what do you say we do it again tomorrow? Sadly, Dan Haren will miss the first scheduled start of his career but we have Ervin Santana on the mound and that’s nothing to sneeze at. Hmmm…time to start a cycle of winning? Yes, please.

On another note, this amused the heck out of me, so I figured I’d share. I believe I have mentioned before that the majority of my friends are not baseball people? The following statement from our weekly Wednesday gathering at the pub, illustrates this fact better than I ever could. The “lights out” Giants/Cardinals game was on the TV over the bar, Brian Wilson strides out to the mound in all of his Brian Wilson-y glory and my friend asks with a tone of shocked disdain, “Who the hell is that and why is he wearing a fake beard?” A quick glance around the table shows that she was not alone in her question.

Really? Just in case we needed another definition: Baseball people may or may not fear the beard, but they are at least aware of it.

Baseball Musings From a Weekend Away

 

After working way too many hours the last few weeks and finding out that the Amgen Tour of California was due to race right down our street, my husband and I fled both crowds and responsibility for the weekend up the coast to the Paso Robles Wine Festival. Originally I was going to be a good girl and skip this one, but who am I to argue with what was clearly fate…or at least the whim of Amgen tour schedulers? Regardless, I spent the weekend roaming wine country and Saturday evening under the stars on the patio of one of my favorite wineries, drinking great wine, enjoying street style tacos and chatting it up with the locals…and joining the band and several other guests in a silly mood in a rousing rendition of Stairway to Heaven in “honor” of the Rapture that wasn’t, but that’s another story.

We always enjoy great conversations at these events. Wine people, not unlike baseball people, really run the gamut in terms of professions, life experiences, ages, backgrounds and outside interests. When you get a lot of us in a relaxed environment, enjoying that libation for which we all share an affinity, the conversation begins to flow as freely as the wine from the bottles and combines the diverse characteristics of all present, much like the rich Rhone blends for which this region is becoming famous.

So, while I missed watching Saturday’s blown lead and all of Sundays heroics, I did observe and enjoy the following:

No matter how subtle you think you being when you check the score on your phone a few times over the course of the evening – even if you keep your expression neutral through a Herculean effort when your starter starts blowing his lead – someone is going to notice. Furthermore, that someone will then more than likely ask the score of his or her own game, thus providing the beginnings of a nice conversation. So, really, checking the score is not anti-social behavior…really, really.

When baseball fans get to talking about our favorite thing, our faces light up in a beautiful smile. We just can’t help it. Like the Professor from Cal Poly SLO who grew up in L.A. as he reminisced about Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale and times when L.A. baseball was a brand new idea. Or his wife, telling us about her nephew is a hot stuff potential draft pick out if UCSB. Or the Coast Union baseball players apparently freshly returned from kicking some serious butt down in Los Angeles…and many more. All fantastic stories to hear.

An Angels fan in Giants country gets less hisses these days, go figure. ;) 2002 is apparently no longer Too soon! Too soon!

It is a small, small world after all. I was chatting with the Winemaker at Bodega De Edgar, the gentleman who makes the Spanish varietals I’ve waxed poetic on this blog about before, and a couple of other guests and the subject of baseball came up – and I didn’t bring it up, ha! They asked if Seth and I were Dodger fans. No, we’re Angel fans and then the vintner narrowly avoided a cartoon character worthy spit take. Do you by any chance have a blog? Why yes I do. Okay, because I have been trying to figure out who this lady could be that blogs about the Angels and my wine for a few weeks now. How funny and random is that? I could not stop laughing. And, ha, I mentioned the name of the winery again so, Edgar, now I’ll come up on your next Google search too. ;)

If you are a younger sibling, you will never escape being called by your older brother or sister’s name, especially if your parents follow the tradition of giving everyone a name with the same first initial, like my parents did. Not even if you grow up to make millions of dollars. Not even if you are a Major League Baseball player. As we head into this evening’s match-up with the A’s, the number of national media folks I have heard call Jered Weaver Jeff makes me crack up. Seriously, on MLB tonight, on ESPN, it’s crazy. It does make me wonder though, does Mom Weaver ever do the “Jeff?! Jered?! Oh you know who I’m talking to!” thing?

Rain, Rain, Go Away. Come Back Again After Opening Day!

As you might have guessed from my title, sunny Southern California isn’t exactly living up to the hype at the moment. April showers and all that. Normally I would be fine with this. Drought year water restrictions are really annoying and I would like to avoid that. But tomorrow is the Angels home opening day and we have tickets and…and…okay, a rain out would hardly be an epic tragedy but I am starting to get seriously twitchy for a live game and the weather report is just teasing me – bouncing back and forth between dire predictions of a 60% chance of rain all day and then roughly a 30% change of rain in the morning and early afternoon.

I sure hope the rain clears out in time for the game. Seth and I could not be more excited and have a whole evening planned it. We’re even both leaving work early enough to carpool and still get there in time to watch batting practice, unheard of on a weekday. It will be nice to start the home opener on a high note after a 5 to 1 win over the Rays. Dan Haren picked up the win. He pitched very well and was no doubt pleased with the Angels generous, early run support after their stinginess last season. Though many were initially confused by the nasty stuff of Rays pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, the bats were alive and well. Jordan Walden had his second outing since assuming the closer role and it was another one, two, three inning. I am so happy with this change! But I think that contests to give Walden a nickname and snazzy walk up music are a little premature. Let’s actually watch the kid play first before we saddle him with a nickname.

Oh, and the tickets arrived today! My husband and I will officially be travelling for baseball this summer. Fairly late in the 2010 season, I was commiserating with an old college friend about the state of our teams. Neither of us liked our chances for a post season and we both knew we would be experiencing withdrawal like symptoms all winter. Of course, his team’s ranking at that point was just so much more torture and it all turned out pretty darned well for him in the end. But we had so much fun goofing around, chatting about the game that he proposed an annual fan exchange program – in 2011 he and his guy will take my husband and I to a Giants game and we will take them to an Angels game. So we are heading up to San Francisco in July for the Giants/Dodgers game and we have great seats! For any family who may be lurking on the blog, first, thank you for reading :) and, second, I will not be wearing either team’s colors but will wear my Angels hat instead.

The Giants game happens to be the same weekend the Angels are in the Bay Area to play the A’s, so I also nabbed good seats for the planned Angels vs. A’s single admission, double header on that Saturday. Single admission, double header! Doesn’t that sound like a great throwback to childhood?! I am so excited, I can’t wait…for this weekend or for that one!

Opening Day Excites, my Baseball Snow Days Rock & an Epic Fiddle Player Surprises

Friday, literally before dawn, we rolled out of Los Angeles for Yosemite National Park to clean out my in-laws cabin for renovations – with great vacation options come great responsibility. Four hours later, we hit Fresno and my in-laws called to say no go, the cabin is snowed in. And I don’t mean, wimpy California snowed in, I mean my husband and I and his cousins digging all afternoon just to get to the shed to turn the power on and then starting on the cabin door, snowed in. So we grabbed shakes at In-N-Out and headed home. Breaking down the weekend so far: failed plans, I need to work a few hours later today to salvage the vacation day for a return trip to Yosemite, an eight hour drive for milkshakes, and unexpectedly getting to watch the game on Friday and Saturday. Hmmm…what does it say about me that I still think this adds up to a win? Sitting here luxuriating over coffee, brunch and an actual, live, for really real it counts, Angels game? I believe it says I have my priorities straight.

My thoughts on the season so far? Opening Day absolutely rocked. Jered Weaver pitched a Gem. Torii Hunter’s bat loves those K stadium fountains. I love, love, love our outfield…as I may have mentioned a time or two in the past. Jordan Walden continues to have my vote for closer of the future. Twelve hits! The bullpen got roughed up but didn’t actually blow the lead. It was a great game, a little too exciting there at the end, but a scary win is absolutely better than a sedate loss.

Mind you, the season is so young it isn’t even in diapers yet, it’s still in those pampers infant swaddling things, but I feel like I am finally watching Angels baseball after a poor imitation last season. The bats. The manufactured runs. The sacrifice bunts turned base hits. Both guys you would (Torii!) and would not (Happy Birthday, Jeff Mathis) expect going yard. Nailing the 6-4-3 and 4-6-3 double plays. Flying outfielders – Fleet Pete! Diving catches. Robbed homeruns. Great plays at the wall – heeelloooo Vernon Wells, and I bid you a hearty welcome to the team, good sir. A bullpen with a flair for the dramatic, especially the “closers.” Yes, unfortunately, that’s a hallmark of Angels baseball too, and one the team really needs to work on if we want to defy all of the predictions this season. I wish we’d pulled off the win on Friday but that one was close and, all in all, this is not a bad start to the season. More please, and by that I mean more like Thursday’s game please!

Edit: I said more like Thursday’s game. Thursday’s game! Grrrrrr…the bullpen…and the stranded runners…and the gorram BULLPEN! *Breathes deeply* Excuse me while I swear loudly and pound the coffee table a few more times.

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Imagine my pleasant surprise this weekend when a friend of mine confirmed that I was not mistaken in thinking I saw a familiar face in the new Brian Wilson’s epic beard MLB commercial (below)…other than the obvious one, of course. The fiddle player on the right? An old, old friend of ours I am really glad to see getting some commercial work. It amuses me to no end that he is in this particular commercial given that he knows nothing about baseball. He thinks this is one of the strangest ad campaigns he has ever seen. I told him there’s nothing odd about it. It’s just your standard, every day, run of the mill commercial featuring a closer who says his beard is magic and that he’s a certified ninja assassin with a gimp superhero housemate he refers to as the Machine. What could possibly be odd about that?

Angels Bats Are Back, but I Have Questions about the Rotation

The Angels continue to hit in spectacular fashion, both those you would expect and those you would not expect. 39 hits and 31 RBIs in the last three games, even with the loss to Milwaukee? Whooooo hooooo! Granted, batting averages don’t really count for much in Spring Training because the pitching takes so long to get into season shape and the number of minor league pitchers each batter sees. However, the bats seem to be warming up more as the pitching warms up and this I will take as a hopeful sign for the season.

Starting rotation issues, however, are giving me concerns where I did not expect to have any just two weeks ago. Now it sounds like Joel Pineiro will spend a few days on the DL at the beginning for the season. I understand. I want him to pitch strong for as much of the season as he can and back precautionary decisions especially now before the season starts. So much for the 4th rotation spot, for now…though after Scott Kazmir’s last start, who knows?

Which brings us to our 5th starting rotation spot…well…How do you solve a problem like Scott Kazmir? And, yes, that did emerge from my head set to a Rodgers and Hammerstein approved tune. Thanks – or blame, depending on your point of view – to Red State Blue State. I wanted Kaz to regain his old form. I was really pulling for him. There were hopefully signs in several of his Spring Training starts – more control in one game, more strikes thrown in another, more consistency, etc. But it never all came together in one game, which in and of itself already has overtones of 2010. Then, on Thursday against the Brewers, he incurred eight hits and ten runs in five innings pitched. Owwwww-ch. And yet it still sounds like Kaz is our 5th starter. Which leaves us where exactly? Praying for rain every 5th start? That would be one baseball tradition I would prefer not to embrace.

Matt Palmer did pretty well today, pitching to contact with the infield and outfield living up to their capabilities. Hmmm…is he an alternative plan or is he bullpen bound, no ifs, ands or buts? Oh well, I guess we’ll find out on Tuesday after the game, when Mike Scioscia has promised he will announce the starting rotation, the 25 man roster and the opening day starters…because waiting for Wednesday evening would have been too last minute, she says with extreme affection.

In other news, preparing to buy tickets for a few games in Northern California has given me a renewed appreciation for buying Angels tickets down here in Southern California. On Stubhub you pay more than full price for even generic Giants and A’s tickets. Even now before the season has started. It is actually better to go through Ticketmaster for Giants and A’s tickets. The horror!! The Big A is so large and enough of our season ticket holders so unable to attend every game, that I can usually grab tickets at season ticket prices or even cheaper now or the week of the game off Stubhub or Craig’s list. Games against the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers are notable exceptions to this rule. But even so, wow. I had no idea I was so spoiled, but I’ll take it!

Enough! Time for the Regular Season!

Last week the Major League Giants beat up on the baby Angels, but this week the Major League Angels beat up on the Major League Giants – make that, the Major League, World Champion Giants – and shut them out 8 to 0. It was pretty exciting, almost exciting enough to get me excited about Spring Training again…almost. I was thrilled to see that Santana had both his nasty stuff and control. That Mark Trumbo hit a nice solid double off a tough major league pitcher – Matt Cain no less. That Bobby homered, Torii successfully stole a base (just not third Torii, no more trying for third please) and that last season’s weaker bats are continuing to swing strong through March. But, I want to see all of this for real!

Yeah, I know. I was so excited when Spring Training started – It’s live baseball! and all that. What happened? Well…and, yes, I already made this analogy on Jane Heller’s blog, but I like it…Spring Training was fantastic when it was our first taste of baseball after the winter, rather like how delicious a plain chicken soup might taste after you’ve been sick for a long time. But eventually you’re feeling even better, tire of the chicken soup and start craving something more substantial. Bring on the meat and potatoes of the regular season!!

Enough match-ups that don’t count and often aren’t real major league match-ups. Enough of the regular players departing after the 4th inning. Enough of having a new pitcher every inning or three. The whole 100 pitch count, no more than 7 innings thing annoys me as it is. Spring Training pitch counts drive me absolutely batty. And enough with the day games already! I agree that day game baseball is baseball as it’s meant to b watched, but it’s also baseball at it most unwatchable if you have a job with traditional-ish hours. I want to be able to watch a game live on more than just the weekends again. Spring Training was a great tide me over until the season started, but enough…yeah, okay, enough whining already. Opening Day is only a week away. Now that’s something to get excited about.

Other exciting things? It sounds like Joel Piniero won’t miss any regular season starts over the back pain that took him out of a game on Sunday. This is great news and I hope it continues to be true. That DL was getting more than a little crowded. Oh, and there is rain pounding my roof right now! Why is this a good thing – other than for strategic water table purposes, of course? The rain was supposed to hit us in three separate storms every other day from today through Sunday, Fanfest day. Now it looks like the three separate storms are bunching in to one longer rainy period ending Friday evening. This is good because, while I was going to Fanfest no matter what, few things smell worse than wet Rally Monkey. This also means that I will see live baseball before my very own eyes on Sunday as well. Yes, it’s another Spring Training-ish game, the exhibition game against the Padres, but I think I can muster up some excitement for this one. Being at the ballpark never fails to do that to me.

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