Playing Ball

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Whenever I’ve been here in the summer Major League Baseball (MLB) games have very often been showing on TV and having watched it for a while with a beer or two, it’s been entertaining to watch as it’s a fairly quick game with a good amount of action, but as I don’t know the rules I’ve never really understood why certain things happen and what a lot of the dialogue means. I happened to mention this to one of the people I was in the pub with the other night and before I knew it, I’d been signed up to go see a ballgame with a lady called Donna who happened to be something of a baseball nut.

There are two teams local to San Clemente – the Padres, who play in San Diego and the Angels who play in Anaheim. The Padres are so-called as it’s in reference to the Spanish Franciscan friars who founded San Diego in 1769 and the Angels because their stadium used to be in downtown LA (the City of Angels) – thank you Wikipedia.

Angel Stadium

Donna recommended us going to see the Angels because they’re pretty good, they had a run of home games coming up and the stadium is close to the railway station, so we’d avoid the Orange County (OC)/LA crush hour on the freeway – all sound reasons and given I had no knowledge of any of the above, there was no argument from me.

So we got tickets booked, turfed up at the OC MetroLink station in San Clem and headed off. The train was a bit of a treat as it happened as it follows the coast for a while and as the carriages are double decker the view out of the windows is excellent. It was quick, clean, on time and with friendly staff, rather unnerving in fact for any regular user of UK rail – especially Scotrail…

True to her word, the station was five minutes walk from the stadium (any football/cricket/rugby team owners reading this, please take note – building a colossal penis extension in praise of yourself stadium for your team in the middle of nowhere does not help your fans get access it via public transport). The capacity is c45,000 which makes it larger than average of the MLB grounds, but someway smaller than the largest – who happen to be their nearest neighbours, the LA Dodgers which can host 56,000 Angelenos.

Just before the game started the national anthem was sung and then it was straight into the action. I shan’t try and explain everything here, but I now understand how a batter can face up to seven balls before he’s either:

  1. Out due to three misses – 3 strikes and you’re out, or
  2. He’s walked – where the pitcher throws 4 duff pitches and the batter therefore gets to 1st base for free, or
  3. He hits the ball and he gets to one of the bases because he’s hit it sufficiently far to make it – or in the case of hitting it over the boundary (don’t know if that’s the correct word…) where he can run round 1st, 2nd and 3rd to Home base which is why that’s called a Home Run

There are 9 innings for each team and to get a team out, the fielding side need to get three batters out and then they swap over and at the end of the 9 innings the team with the most runs wins. Whilst 9 innings sounds a lot and I suppose in some ways it is, but there’s enough action for it all to move along pretty quickly and so the two and half hours that the game took went by quite speedily. There were 3 home runs in the game, some pretty impressive running catches and lightning fast fielding all of which got the crowd on its feet a lot. It ended 5-2 to the Angels, which meant the home crowd went home happy and the team maintained its now 6 game winning streak – the season only started about a fortnight ago, so it’s a bit early to be thinking about a tilt at the World Series.

The biggest news of the evening – it certainly got the biggest cheer – was the announcement that Mike Trout, their local boy star batter and fielder, has just signed to stay at Angel Stadium until he retires. Apparently it’s the largest baseball contract ever awarded and is worth $426m, which at the very least will keep him in caps, gloves and chewing gum for some while…

There was a great atmosphere throughout the game, with as much respect shown to the away team for good play as the home team and as with all American sports the food and drink was front and centre – a ‘large nachos with trimmings’ is playfully served in a baseball helmet and at a guess would provide a family of 5 with at least a 3  days’ worth of the recommended sugar, salt and fat intake. Just gotta remember to finish it before you wear it…

Would monsieur like a chinstrap with his dinner?