Day Three turns out to be all about the game. It starts with a good deal of anticipation as I catch the Major League Baseball (MLB) news feed announcing Josh Hamilton will be making his spring debut against Tim Lincecum, the San Francisco Giants ace pitcher and two-time Cy Young Award winner.
I am aware that it’s a split-squad game, meaning the Angels are playing actually two games today, one at their own field against the San Francisco Giants (the one I’m attending) and the other against the Chicago Cubs at their new spring training field in Mesa. Every few games they do this to give their entire spring roster a chance to play. I am hoping Mike Scioscia keeps most of the starters at home. It’s fun watching the “kids” (minor leaguers) play, but you really want to see the regulars — the ones who will be starting in Anaheim when the season opens. Besides, in all of the spring training games I’ve seen, you get to see the kids play anyway. Scioscia only plays the starters for the first six innings. There are always two or three of the young players vying for a spot on the opening day roster and the manager and coaches need to give them a chance to compete for those spots.
So after packing up my stuff and checking out of the hotel, I head over to the field not quite as early as yesterday, but early enough to watch the players warm up and take some more pictures. There is a large whiteboard in the back of the stadium where someone fills out the starting line-ups for the day with a green marker, and I am happy to see that all the Angels regulars are here except for Albert Puljos who is on a charity mission.
Speaking of green, it’s St. Patrick’s Day and the Angels are wearing special jerseys with a shamrock on the left sleeve of their red jerseys, and a green halo over the “A.” The Giants are wearing green hats. Someone remarks that if the Angels wore green hats, it would look like Christmas.
This is the first time I’m actually sitting next to Angels fans — a couple from Orange County who got the same 3-game package as I got, and will be driving home after the game. On my left is a Giants fan down from Santa Rosa, and behind me is a family from the Bay Area — a husband and wife and two grown daughters (one of whom served in the military) — and Mom and daughters will be carrying on throughout the game, screaming in my ear for their beloved Giants. Had this not been spring training, I might have been annoyed, but here, it’s just part of the color. I turn around and roll my eyes at them and they only get louder.
They are especially obnoxious in the first few innings because the Giants jumped out to an early lead scoring two runs in the first inning. But then the Angels quieted them down a little with three runs in the bottom of the fourth, only to have the Giants tie it up at 3-3 in the top of the fifth. The female fans behind me are back again, making life miserable for me. But not for long, because the Angels take a 5-3 lead in the bottom of the sixth. These back and forth, see-saw battles are the most fun.
Twice today, bats fly as players lose their grip on a swing. Buster Posey sent his bat flying into the fifth row of Giants fans behind the visiting dugout. As long as they survived the assault (and they did), some fan is going home with a real prize. Taylor Lindsey, a minor leaguer for the Angels was not as generous with his bat. He sent it flying into the Angels dugout, only to have it thrown back out moments later to the delight of the crowd. Only in spring training.
My Orange County friends decide to leave after six innings along with the Angels regulars, citing their long drive home as a reason. I have the same drive and wouldn’t miss a pitch of this experience. Besides, what they are dreading is just another road trip for me — something to look forward to. I’m already figuring in my head that I will hit Blythe about dinnertime, and since I already tried out the cakes for breakfast, I should check out the steaks part of Steaks ’n Cakes on the way back.
So now it’s up to the kids to finish this out, and they prove to be as entertaining as the starters. The Angels score once more in the seventh and the women behind me are pretty quiet until the ninth when they go ballistic because the kids from San Francisco score four runs to go ahead for the first time since the fourth inning, 7-6. They are literally dancing behind me.
Ah, but hope springs eternal as the Angels saved best for last, and Cole Calhoun hits a two-run walk off home run in the bottom of the ninth and the Angels win 8-7. I turn around and smile and we all exchange high-fives because it was such a fun game and everyone got something to cheer, and isn’t that what it’s all about? They ask me to take their picture for them, which I gladly do, and only regret I didn’t think of taking one myself to share with all of you. They were a lot of fun and made the day for me, even though my ears were ringing for a while after.
And though I was thinking about a steak from Steaks ’n Cakes, I can’t pass up the corned beef and cabbage, one of my favorites that is hard to find in most restaurants except on this day. By the way, my corned beef and cabbage dinner with green beans and mashed potatoes, a very generous slice of chocolate cake and coffee (a fresh pot she made just for me) came to $13.28. I couldn’t buy this food in the market for that price.
For my parting thought, I’m going to quote Janet, one of our readers who wrote me after the first day, “The owners of the Steaks n’ Cakes are not giving in to fast food or chain pressure to close the doors, just as you did not lose sight of your desire to eat at the atmosphere and cultural rich local restaurant. Keeping those soul filling desires in focus, and having them fulfilled again keeps us going when the world around us throws out cheap, fast and shallow.”
Well said, and something applicable to a lot more than a restaurant.