|Edison Field still a magical kingdom|
By Eric Neel
Page 2 columnist
Editor's Note: This is the 12th report card in Page 2's summerlong series rating all 30 ballparks in Major League Baseball.
ANAHEIM -- Maybe it's the buzz left over from the World Series win, maybe it's the sunshine and the sweet smell of tailgating grills, or maybe it's high school memories of my guys in the deep right-field seats shouting down Ken Kaiser for a missed call at first and mocking Joe Orsulak for his big ol' butt.
Whatever it is, after my visit to Edison, I'm ready to put the Anaheim fans up against any in the bigs. They rock. They come early, dress in team colors, fire up some dogs in the lot, play catch around the grounds, shout their lungs out from first pitch to last, have keen eyes and long memories, and love that little David Eckstein something fierce.
For a long time, Orange County was the ugly kid sister of the Southland (yes, there was Disneyland, the happiest place on Earth, but there was also Bob Dornan, the plum nuttiest man in the House of Representatives). Those days are over. OC is the home of the world champions now, baby, the heart of the baseball world (for at least another few months), and these people are feeling it.
So get yourself a ticket. Be among them. Feel the giddy, regionalistic pride pouring out of them. It's a good time.
1. Seat comfort: The park was redesigned (check that -- it was dismantled, reconceived and brought back to life, better, stronger, faster ...) in 1998, so it's got those nice retro-shaped, modern-constructed deep green plastic jobbies now, with drink cups at every level, and decent leg room even for a knob-kneed boy like me. Points: 5
2. Quality of hot dogs: They've got regular dogs (Wienerschnitzel), which are pretty much the same quality (fine) and price (about $4) as anywhere else. But if you want a quality dog experience, do the Bratwurst or hot link thing. Grilled onions and peppers piled high, and a big, hearty bun. Yes, ma'am. 4
3. Quality/selection of other concession-stand fare: Pizza, fish-and-chips, Panda Express, Carl's Jr., etc. Wide variety; standard fast-food quality. Kudos, though, for a "L'il Slugger" meal that gives the kids a dog, a drink and a treat, and gives the folks a $4 price-break. 3.5
4. Signature concession item: I don't know if it's the signature item, but it's the make-the-boy-on-a-ballpark-tour-smile item for sure: mixed and well drinks available on the upper levels. Shaken, not stirred. 4
5. Beer: First thing Arte Moreno, the new Angels owner, did when he bought the team was turn to one of his assistants at the press conference and say, "Can we lower the price of beer?" The assistant said, "You're the boss." Bingo. Beer prices are under $7 and may go lower, and I have a new favorite major-league owner. Selection is nice, too -- I ordered a Sapporo just because I could. 5
6. Bathrooms: They look sort of like the visiting locker room at a college football stadium, all pale colors and soft tones. Kind of a comedown after being out with the crazies in the seats. Nice soap dispensers, though. 3.5
7. Scoreboard: It's good to put the lineup, the pitch count and the batter's profile all together. It's not so good to have a fuzzy big-screen that's smaller than the Toyota ad. And it's real bad to spend more than a $100 million on a renovation and not put the Big A back in the outfield (it's in the parking lot now) where people can see it, and let all of their wild Angel energy gather in it and concentrate into a bright, powerful Yankee death-ray screaming across the country, seeking the heart of George Steinbrenner and the bat of Derek Jeter. Missed opportunities for world domination will cost you. Ask any evil genius you know. 2
8. Quality of public address system: I do not want Sammy and Crue on my headphones, in my car, or coming out of my living room stereo. On the speakers at the Ed? In the heart of KLOS country? I'm good with it. 5
9. Fun stuff to do besides the game: It's like a carnival out behind the outfield. Run-the-bases games, speed-pitch, batting cages, -teeball for the little ones, Halo toss -- you name it. And the whole thing is very family friendly. Parents can let their kids play and still watch the game. (Added wrinkle: The open, roam-if-you-want-to feel of the concourse out back has attracted lots of 13-year-old girls and boys looking to flirt. Everybody's dressed cool, and looking older and more indifferent than they actually are. If you're like me, and your daughter is still a toddler, it's a cute scene. If you actually have a 13-year-old daughter, it's no doubt little more to you than a dark, perilous back alley where shiftless boys with bad intentions wait to pounce.) 5
10. Price/selection of baseball souvenirs: They have these cute little stuffed monkeys in Angels shirts. People wear them around their necks, hang them from the railings, cuddle them in line for the bathroom. Really, you should see 'em. They're a kick. 3.5
11. Ticket price/availability: Not an easy ticket on a Friday night. I paid $12 for a view (top) level ducat that came open while I was standing in line (90 minutes before first pitch), being told the game was sold out. Prices are decent now -- $9 for pavilion to $27 for field boxes -- and falling. On weeknights, Moreno's cut the price for pavilion seats in half, and has added a kid's discount on the view level on Tuesdays. 4
12. Exterior architecture: Once, Anaheim Stadium was a squat coffee can in the middle of a concrete wasteland. Now, at the Ed, there are palm-tree courtyards, a main entry plaza -- complete with larger-than-life posters of Angel players, giant bats and super-giant batting helmets -- that makes the place feel like a destination, and an attractive stucco-and-steel earth-and-deep-green motif. 4
13. Interior architecture: Yes, there's a cheesy Big-Thunder rock waterfall and fountain in left-center, but I swear, after a while, I started to actually like it (at least it's original). As for what really matters: I walked just about every inch of the seating and concession areas and almost never lost sight of the game. Both way up high and way down the lines, the seats are still great -- close and clear -- and the lucky folks in left field get a spy's-eye view of the bullpens, which are lush, open and parallel to the field (best I've ever seen). Plus the outfield is open to the Amtrak cruising by the field, and open to the freeway pulsing with the auto heart of southern California -- the place is of its place, is what I'm saying. 5
14. Access: When it's a super-sugary orange drink, Orange Crush is a good thing. When it's a Bronco defense looking to rip Roger Staubach's head off, Orange Crush is a very good thing. But when it's the nickname for a freeway snarl full of crooked numbers (the 57, the 55, the 5, the 22), Orange Crush is just a headache. Come early, come strong or don't come at all. 2
15. Ushers: There is a particular brand of breezy southern California cheer -- it's a function of knowing, without ever booking a flight, or taking a step, that if you traveled the world over twice. you wouldn't find any place you'd rather be. These folks have it in spades. 5
16. Trading-up factor: I went to the game with my friend Matt. He usually sits in some excellent seats on the Club level between home and first. We started up top (see picture at right), in the seats we bought walking up before game time, but by the end of the seventh, we were down in his regular section. Moving around is limited mostly by the fact that the stands are crowded and folks tend to stay around until the game is over. 4
17. Knowledge of local fans: Matt bought me my first "Bill James Baseball Abstract" about 20 years back. Check. The guy sitting on our left was on the crew that built the original Anaheim Stadium, and he was full of detailed memories of the place and the team. Check. And the couple on our right brought their two-year-old daughter, and were explaining balls, strikes and sacrifices to her. Check. 5
18. Seventh-inning stretch: The ushers, bless their hearts, do a zany, sing-along thing from the field, waving their arms wide and wild. It's charming, in a homely sort of way. 3
19. Pre-and-postgame bar-and-restaurant scene: There's tailgating. And there's a Burrito Supreme spilling down your shirt in the car as you sit in traffic. There ain't much else, I'm afraid. 2.5
20. Wild Card: Red. When the team changed its uniforms to red-and-white a couple of years back, I was skeptical. Not a big fan of uniform change (though the movie-inspired puffy-winged things they were wearing for a while did need to go), not a big fan of red (not in blood, not in Warren Beatty epics, not at stoplights). But when you get to Edison, and see everybody and their brother dressed out in red, it all makes sense. It's a red tide of revolution, turning years of losing and suffering on their ear. It's a bonding effect, bringing together loyalists from all over the area. And it's a signal to opposing teams: We're mad, we're crazy, we're red. 4
Wild Wild Card: The new owner. In addition to the beer and seat price-drops, Moreno is known to walk the park most every night, talking to fans about their experiences, their likes and dislikes, etc. He carries a cell phone and calls new ideas and policies in to his team back in the office. That kind of customer service is worth another 5
TOTAL SCORE FOR EDISON FIELD: 84