Perhaps It Was Fate

I was thrilled that my first game at Angel Stadium coincided with Justin Upton hitting his first homer as an Angel (and the 250th of his career).

Angels in the UK member Tomas West, writes a View Over the Pond.

I am one of a younger generation of sports fans who benefit from 24/7 coverage of virtually any sport we choose to follow, with access via television, the internet, our phones etc at the drop of a hat. I also am lucky that (until this pandemic) travel has never been easier or cheaper, and it is through this that I became an Angels fan. In 2017 myself and my family went on holiday to California and on one of our stops we made a base for ourselves in Anaheim, about 10 minutes from the Big A. I have always been a big fan of all sports anyway, so I was looking at local sports teams to get my fix of it whilst I was over in the United States and discovered the Angels were the local Anaheim ball team, the rest is history.

I looked up the Angels game schedule and they happened to be playing at Angel Stadium whilst we were in Anaheim, my family knew that I’d always wanted to see a ball game so it was pretty easy to convince them to add a trip to the stadium to our itinerary. That first ball game I ever saw, luckily for us, was a visit by the Houston Astros, in game the Angels powered to an emphatic 9-1 win. I witnessed the best player in world baseball, Mike Trout, smash a double and Tyler Skaggs stewarding home the game with amazing efficiency. I consider myself very lucky to see Skaggs in person, at his best, before we tragically lost him in 2019. When we came back home to the United Kingdom I started watching the Angels on television whenever I could and by the time we went again to California the following year I was a committed Angels fan and had engrossed myself in nearly every game that season.

I consider myself very lucky to see Skaggs in person, at his best, before we tragically lost him in 2019.

Whilst Trout is an obvious favourite player of mine I was thrilled that my first game at Angel Stadium coincided with Justin Upton hitting his first homer as an Angel (and the 250th of his career), seizing on Tyler Clippard’s fastball over the middle of the plate. I think that, in some respects, Trout is so good that when fans get to see such a once in a generation player on their team, week in week out, they can become a bit blinded by the talent of the players around them at times and forget how lucky we are to have the likes of Shohei Ohtani, David Fletcher and Albert Pujols, even if the team has failed to live up to our very high expectations that these superstars of baseball bring to us, as fans.

By a quirk of fate, the Angel’s World Series win in 2002 happens to be the year I was born, perhaps it was fate that led me to Anaheim and that first ever game in 2017. I will never forget the buzz of that first time at Angel Stadium, seeing how proud the locals were of their team. I honestly believe that in the upcoming 2021 season we could be a competitive team, we have a good offense, but that’s never been the problem, we desperately need a quality Starting Pitcher. Whilst we have made what feel to me to be a couple of good bullpen signings we need an out and out star in that rotation. Andrew Heaney is solid, Griffin Canning has been solid, but adding a Trevor Bauer in to that rotation and hopefully getting Ohtani back to full fitness our pitching will be much improved.

If you would like to share your own memories of how you became an Angels fan, about Britain’s own baseball heritage or your view on anything Angels related for Views Over the Pond please get in touch.

Angel Stadium, No Place Like It

The first game I attended… What a feeling, it was incredible! Everyone came together… It felt like one big family in Angel Stadium. There’s no place like it.

Angels in the UK member John Hawkins, writes a View Over the Pond.

I grew up in a sport oriented family. My grandfather was a footballer (soccer for our American friends) and my father is an all round sportsman who happens to be a massive New York Yankees fan. Growing up in a sports mad house was always bound to affect me in some way, I was either going to grow up loving or hating sport and it occupied most of our television viewing time. Luckily for me I grew up loving sports. Funnily enough most people would think I would support the Boston Red Sox, just to have some friendly inter-house rivalry with my dad. But no, not me, I chose the Angels!

For British readers who are relatively new to baseball; the Red Sox and Yankees rivalry is one of the oldest and fiercest in all of American sports, dating back to a first encounter 1901. It became a National sensation, in 1919, when Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold the contract of pitcher Carl Mays to the Yankees, to much surprise. What really made matters the talk of newspapers around the world though, and a genuine worldwide story, was that Frazee then followed up by selling the contract of Babe Ruth to the Yankees, also in 1919. The exact details of why Frazee sold arguably the greatest asset in baseball to the Yankees is still a mystery, though speculation has always existed that he did so to fund his stage productions.

Anyway, our little detour into that famous rivalry aside, we travel to the United States of America every other year or so, mostly to the west coast, meaning we can take in Angels games quite regularly (for UK based fans we don’t do bad anyway). The very first baseball game I attended, in person, was the Red Sox at the Angels and what an evening that was! Yes, we lost, but I did witness Torii Hunter hit a dime up centre field and over for a home run. Again, for the benefit of our newer fans, Torii Hunter was on the Angels roster from 2008 to 2012, the 2009 season we witnessed him for the first time he finished up batting .299 with 22 homers and 90 RBIs, winning a Gold Glove award and a Silver Slugger Award. That first game, wow. What a feeling, it was incredible! Everyone came together, cheering, laughing, it felt like one big family in Angel Stadium. There’s no place like it.

My father happens to be a massive New York Yankees fan… Most people would think I would support the Boston Red Sox, just to have some friendly inter-house rivalry with my dad. But no, not me, I chose the Angels!

For the upcoming 2021 season I believe the only thing the Angels are missing is that starting pitcher, but not any old SP, we need Trevor Bauer. He’s motivational, which in my opinion is what the likes of Dylan Bundy and Co. need. Bundy is solid, but I think having Bauer on the team will push the players around him towards the play offs and perhaps even the World Series. We have the talent, though the roster is clearly littered with gaps currently, we have the capability of being incredible with the right additions. I genuinely believe we have a World Series winning team if we add Bauer and build around him, finances permitting. Recent converts to baseball reading this who are more aquatinted with Bauer’s baggage, may think “motivational” is the wrong word, and they can be forgiven for questioning my logic, but undoubtedly Bauer is a free agent who brings quality production, regardless who how many times his rivals call his Cy Young Award a Mickey Mouse Award, he puts up numbers the Angels need.

On a personal note; I hope everyone has a better year than 2020, and more fellow baseball fans from the UK are allowed to make trips over to watch games live, there really is nothing better. But please allow me to be a little bit selfish here and say that I hope my fellow Angels fans have the best 2021. Let’s keep pushing our love of our Angels over our side of the pond, keep spreading the word and growing our identity over here. I may be being optimistic that we can make the World Series this year and you will think I am just dreaming now but I think the Angels will bring home the World Series this year. Ok, that last bit may be a bit too optimistic…

If you would like to share your own memories of how you became an Angels fan, about Britain’s own baseball heritage or your view on anything Angels related for Views Over the Pond please get in touch.

How I Became A Halos Addict

My dad took us to hire a film… I don’t recall who picked The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! But there’s Reggie Jackson, in Angels uniform; “I must kill the Queen!”

Angels in the UK Editor Matt Thomas, writes a View Over the Pond.

In all honesty I don’t really recall my first Angels memory, but I feel it is important to set the scene for the time and happenstance of how they came into my life. My family is a forces family, an uncle of mine had been on a destroyer in the Falklands a few years prior and that was difficult for the family, but we were also a coal mining family. My dad was one of many miners who had gone over a year out on strike, only to suffer the closure of the colliery and the loss of industry small villages like my own relied on to survive. My childhood is full of happy memories, punctuated with a level of hopelessness I cannot begin to describe. My village was home to two particularly militant collieries (mines) and the sight of police on horseback charging through gardens is a particularly vivid image, as is the witnessing of thousands of men, women and children marching solemnly to our local church to bury a coal miner from our colliery who had tragically lost his life on the picket.

This era also coincided with a particularly strong push to bring American sports into our homes, with Channel 4 (we only had four terrestrial channels) filling our living rooms with the exotic world of the MLB, NFL, etc. Now, I’m not sure quite how this happened, but I have a theory that the US based manufacturers of cards realised they had warehouses full of old stock that they couldn’t shift, and a captive audience of millions of Brits who were tuning in to American sports, free of charge, weekly. I could be wrong but, regardless, our local shops suddenly had boxes and boxes of sports cards, cheap! Not only that but Leaf, for example, brought us mini helmets and jerseys to collect, Kellogg’s gave us free cards in our cereal boxes and I, for one, was hooked. After all, I was an easy convert, being a serious addict to the football (soccer) sticker album craze and having a rather impressive collection of Top Trumps cards, it was natural progression.

But then Topps went that extra step and brought us our very own baseball set to collect, the 1988 Topps American Baseball set (via Topps Ireland, manufactured in West Germany). Wow! And for just 12p per pack! The skeptic in me as an adult makes me think the decision to make them the same size as our native football cards and stickers was a deliberate ploy by Topps to hook us, and it worked. Now, I had no real idea how good Bob Boone, Wally Joyner or Mike Witt really were, how could I have chosen the Angels based on the players in the set? But the name California Angels struck a chord, through the North American arm of my family I had a love of Westerns from an early age, so I was familiar with Gene Autry. And I adored bands like the Eagles, Poco and the like too, it was escapism for me I guess. As I got to know more of the players from the television coverage, and picking up the unwanted Junk Wax era stock (I firmly believe) was being dumped in bulk in the UK I gradually grew in my appreciation for the players of the decade and found myself quite secretly building up a healthy collection of cards produced from the 1980 season and onwards.

I maintain to this day that I never chose to be an Angels fan, the Angels somehow chose me.

At school we played softball I often pretended to myself to be Reggie Jackson, George Brett or Rickey Henderson as I blasted the ball across the school field, and this brings back an amusing memory… One fateful day a ball was thrown home from the outfield at a height that must not have been far from reaching orbit. Being an unusually sunny British day I lost the ball in the glare, it had picked up such a ferocious velocity that it crashed down into my eye socket, smashing the bone and giving me a huge black eye. Anyway, I digress… By the time Topps released the 1988 American Baseball set onto the UK market, baseball had a pretty strong following in the UK and I had built up enough local friends that we could play ball fairly regularly on a little compound (empty lot) behind my family home, so I asked my parents for a baseball bat, a red Louisville Slugger, with an Angels logo on it and a natural wood grip. One of my biggest regrets was losing that bat, I have never seen another like it again.

Then one evening my dad took us to Blockbuster (or was it still Ritz?) to hire a film on VHS, I don’t recall who picked The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! but one of myself or my brothers did… and I guess you know where this is going? But there’s Reggie Jackson, in Angels uniform; “I must kill the Queen!” Haha! It is fair to say by this point I was a Halos Addict, though I maintain to this day that I never chose to be an Angels fan, the Angels somehow chose me. Through the 1990’s the UK’s fascination with American sports continued, coverage of MLB passed to the much better product presented by Channel 5 (a new terrestrial channel) and kids went wild for collecting the tokens on Pop Tart boxes to send off for a real MLB baseball cap, I naturally wanted the Angels cap. As I went to college, started work and celebrated a World Series win, my card collection grew and grew and suddenly these days I find myself as a bit of an old hand, amongst these thousands of MLB fans in the UK. I hope that they appreciate how much easier it is for them to engross themselves in their love of the sport than it was for my generation, with the UK having excellent access to all live games via BT Sport (ESPN) and MLB TV.

If you would like to share your own memories of how you became an Angels fan, about Britain’s own baseball heritage or your view on anything Angels related for Views Over the Pond please get in touch.