From Amington, to the Mary Anne, to Anaheim, and so much more in between. This is my story of a cross-continental trip that I embarked upon in this year. This story has actually been a long time in the making…
Angels in the UK member Toby Barnes, writes a View Over the Pond.
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From Amington, to the Mary Anne, to Anaheim, and so much more in between. This is my story of a cross-continental trip that I embarked upon in this year. This story has actually been a long time in the making, considering much of the events transpired in late May, when the season was full of promise for the Angels, and my trip was coming towards an end. With both me and the team having time to reflect on what has transpired, I wanted to look back at my trip and what led me to the Big A.
Let’s rewind a little to the origins of my desire to take a trip across the world. I always had a desire to travel, but after the pandemic curtailed my plans to travel after graduation, I took a job in a supermarket and decided to save up money and wait for the world to reopen. My career could wait, I wanted to travel before settling down into proper adult life. A family holiday to Mexico in 2017 had granted me the opportunity to make some great friends across the United States, whereby upon a subsequent trip to visit them a year later, which took me to New York, Colorado and California. At the time, I knew what baseball was and could consider myself the most casual of causal fans, so while there was a definite interest in going to a game, it was more to tick off an item on a bucket list than it was for the enjoyment of the sport. I was lucky enough to see a game at Yankee Stadium, although the game itself left a lot to be desired. It was only when I was in California visiting my friend Kira that my real interest in baseball was ignited. I remember it fondly.
She took me to Hollywood, Disney and the beaches, as every tourist to the area wants to see, but when she offered me the chance to go to a baseball game, I jumped at the chance. I knew who Mike Trout was, the best player in baseball, so to get the chance to see him in the flesh was an opportunity I simply could not pass up. Boy did it ever exceed my expectations. The Angels played the Rockies on a warm Anaheim August Monday evening (I thought it was almost ironic that I had just been to Colorado as the previous stop on my trip) and I got to witness some incredible events. For the visiting Rockies, DJ LeMahieu hit a grand slam in the top of the eighth inning to give the Rockies a 7-5 lead, while for the hometown Angels, Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout both hit home runs, and an improbable rally in the bottom of the eighth inning gave them a 10-7 lead, when Noe Ramirez closed out the game by striking out David Dahl swinging. I was hooked. I was instantly an Angels fan. From that moment, I followed them from across the pond, regularly staying up to watch the team into the early hours, when my uni timetable allowed. I wasn’t the best student and I’m sure most people reading this who went to university can attest, my sleeping pattern wasn’t the greatest, so I managed to catch most of their games. I vowed that one day I would be back, I just never imagined the circumstances that would lead me back to the Big A.
I followed them from across the pond, regularly staying up to watch the team into the early hours, when my uni timetable allowed. I wasn’t the best student…
Context of my Angels fandom complete, let’s get back to my most recent escapade and how that led me to Anaheim! A flight to Quito and a few days exploring the local area, including a climb of Cotopaxi, the world’s highest active volcano, started my trip, followed by a cruise around the Galapagos Islands on a wonderful ship named the Mary Anne. Two pretty impressive highlights within two weeks of traveling, how could anything else top that, right? When making friends in Quito, one suggested I meet back up with them in Bogota, Colombia, upon my return from the Galapagos. As I had no subsequent plans, I agreed to meet them there. A week there, followed by a horrifying 13 bus trip to San Gil, the adventure capital of Colombia, followed. The bus itself was fine, comfortable enough for the long journey. My neighbouring passenger, however, seemed to think it was more of a hook-up spot than it was a bus trip, let’s put it that way. Needless to say I was scarred by our small conversation, that I quickly terminated, and definitely slept with one eye open, if I managed to sleep at all. An adventure packed day awaited me once I departed the most uncomfortable journey I had ever embarked upon, and I once sat on a wooden plank for 6 hours traveling in the back of a jeep across dirt roads in Ghana! I met up with some more friends in Medellin following my trip to San Gil where we spent another week exploring and enjoying all the wonders Colombia had to offer.
It wasn’t until my final night in Medellin that I ran into the sort of trouble people would argue is inevitable on a trip in South America. My own admitted naivety had not helped the situation, but after making friends with a couple of locals in a bar, I then found myself two miles away from where I last remember, with no phone, wallet, or watch, with no recollection of the events that transpired to get me there. Somehow I had only managed to have one shoe on as well, which as much as it shouldn’t, considering I had just been unknowingly drugged and robbed, makes me chuckle. I managed to get my way back to my hostel, via the help of an amazingly generous homeless man named Luis, but upon my return, the enormity of the situation still hadn’t fully sunk in. My first calls were to the banks to cancel my cards that had been stolen, then I had to face the task of calling my parents and trying not to scare them into putting me on a flight home or them coming out themselves to make sure I was okay. I assured them all was okay, and I would take a few days to collect myself before deciding whether I should return home or persevere with my trip cardless and phoneless. Luckily, I had made a brilliant friend in Josh (shoutout to you!) who lent me enough money to purchase a phone to help me out for the next few days. Perhaps fortuitously, my nan was visiting friends in Dallas at the time, so I asked her kindly if I could stay with her for a week and modified my plans completely.
I then found myself two miles away from where I last remember, with no phone, wallet, or watch, with no recollection of the events that transpired to get me there. Somehow I had only managed to have one shoe on as well…
I thought it would be easier for my parents to send my replacement cards out to me in the US, as there is not much of a postal system in Colombia, so I altered my plans and decided to explore more states in America, with the help of some previously acquired friends and the very important help of Western Union, which allowed me to have some cash with me to afford to pay for things while I was still out there. A week spent in Dallas with my nan and her other similarly aged friends, where I seemingly charmed every over 70, and every young waitress, in the Arlington, TX area with my British accent and rugged looks, although that was more because I hadn’t shaved or had a haircut in a while than it was by design! A subsequent two weeks in Michigan followed, where I stayed with one of my longest known friends, Stu, to which I was especially grateful for his hospitality. I thought two weeks there would be enough time for me to get my new credit cards and continue on my journey, without having to rely on going to Walgreens every few days to pick up more cash using the Western Union service they provided. My cards arrived at US customs a few days into my trip to Michigan, and I thought it wouldn’t take long for them to get into my newly acquired Walmart wallet. Alas, my cards still hadn’t arrived by the time I had decided to leave, so I continued on.
Stu and I spent a weekend in Chicago, upon which we went our separate ways, he went back to Michigan and I decided to take the train – yes, the train – across the country to Los Angeles. A very stuffy, sleep deprived 40-hour train journey later, and I had made it to California where I could then head down to Anaheim where I had planned to spend a few days and take in as many Angels games as I could! I wanted to end my trip with a couple of weeks in California, exploring more of the state and watching some Angels games, but that was going to be at the tail end of my journey which I predicted would be in late July, not in late May as it was at the time. The Angels were on a high – with a 27-17 record and only one game back of the Astros for the lead in the AL West. Watching some Angels wins to conclude my trip would be just what I needed to end on a high and make all of my struggles in terms of getting money, sorting accommodation and transport all worth it. Having seen the wonders that our good friend and fellow British Angels fan, Nick, had just witnessed on his own trip to Anaheim, I hoped the same experience would be granted to me. Another UK visitor would surely continue the good fortune the team had, right? What I could never have imagined is that I would witness the start of what would become the largest losing streak in the history of the franchise, and one of the most unprecedented collapses in the history of all sports, not just baseball.
I decided to take the train – yes, the train – across the country to Los Angeles. A very stuffy, sleep deprived 40-hour train journey later, and I had made it to California where I could then head down to Anaheim where I had planned to spend a few days and take in as many Angels games as I could!
I witnessed five consecutive losses, one to the Rangers (another Angels game I watched against a team where I had just visited!) and 4 to the Blue Jays, the final three of which the Angels had the lead, only to throw it away and subsequently lose by one run. However, while the viewing experience made for grim viewing to say the least, with Mike Trout not getting a hit until the fourth game I watched and the bullpen consistently blowing leads, there certainly was some highlights. Trout eventually woke up and hit a homerun and I got to see Shohei hit two in one game! I also got the chance to chat to some wonderful Angels fans whose hospitality was second to none and they were so welcoming, even if some were suspecting I had become somewhat of a curse with the Angels losing every game I had seen on that trip! To their delight and my disappointment, my time in Anaheim had come to an end and it was time for me to head north to go and explore the beautiful Bay Area (still without my credit cards!) where I would unfortunately not take in a baseball game but would visit two more amazing cities in San Francisco and Oakland before heading back home to Amington.
I am happy to report that I am now back in possession of my credit cards, back on home soil and have been for almost three months now. I have an amazing new job, one that I couldn’t have even dreamed of doing, that allows me to watch sports for a living, and still manage to find a lot of time to watch my beloved Angels, some with my dog, Lottie! In fact, i managed to watch the Angels close out a sweep at Rogers Center with my colleague, Will, who by chance is a Blue Jays fan, while at work on site for the Premier League (don’t tell them!). I definitely have ambitions to return to Anaheim soon, for hopefully a more successful trip, both in terms of the fortunes of the baseball team, and my own personal travels, if not to redeem myself then at least to share some more wonderful times with so many incredible fans of this team. Thanks for reading and I hope to catch an Angels game with you soon!
What I could never have imagined is that I would witness the start of what would become the largest losing streak in the history of the franchise, and one of the most unprecedented collapses in the history of all sports, not just baseball.
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.