I got great seats for Thursday night’s game. 13 rows back of the field down the right field line. Got a good deal on them, too. My kids’ half-brother is going to be really excited because it’s Mike Trout Blanket Night.
I know the record just scratched. You’re probably sitting there going “wait, Mike Trout? Eric, you’re an Angels fan?” Well, no, not exactly.
Of course, to preface this, you need to understand that I live about 20 miles from Dodger Stadium and 20 miles from Angels Stadium. I grew up in a split area. I had friends who were Dodger fans and friends who were Angels fans. I spent time at both ballparks. I grew up with Gibson and Hershiser and Fernando on the one hand and Finley and Joyner on the other. I followed both Piazza and Salmon their rookie seasons and thought that having a Rookie of the Year from both leagues on both local teams was a great thing. Really, it wasn’t until 2002 when the Angels won the World Series and a few people who I don’t think paid attention to baseball until that point literally (I’m not kidding) told me that I couldn’t root for the Angels because I’m a Dodger fan that I felt any real animosity toward the Angels. In fact, I was excited that they won the 2002 World Series. After all, they were managed by former Dodger catcher and 1988 playoff hero Mike Scioscia and had former Dodgers Ron Roenicke and Mickey Hatcher on their catching staff, they built their team “the Dodger Way” with home-grown stars like Tim Salmon and Troy Glaus and Troy Percival and John Lackey and a few pieces they picked up from other places (Scott Spezio, Brad Fullmer,) and they beat Barry Bonds and the hated San Francisco Giants. What was there not to like about the 2002 Angels if you were a Dodger fan?
And of course, for those of you who don’t remember 1988, Scioscia’s heroic moment and much more can be found in the below video. Great nostalgia for any Dodger fan.
So to the present day…
You see, I have a split household and, in a way, I have two sons. Sure, those of you that know me know that I have two kids. Ava will be 3 in about 3 weeks and Jude will be 2 next month. And those of you who know me also know that I’ve been whispering “Think Blue” and “Red is bad, Blue is good” in their ears since before they understood what colors were and that I try to get my son’s easily-distracted self to sit with me and listen to Vin Scully call Dodger games whenever I have the chance.
What you might not know about me is I have a second son. Not in the sense like Jude is my son. Aaron didn’t come from me. But he’s my kids’ big brother and he’s every bit as important to me as my kids are.
Aaron came into my life when I was 26 and he was 6. I started dating his mother, Michelle, in the summer of 2008. I won’t get into all the specifics of the relationship here, but through my relationship with Michelle, Aaron and I got close. I always struggled early on with the idea that if Michelle and I got married that I would, in essence, be a father, let alone be a father to a child that wasn’t mine biologically. Having a relationship where it wasn’t just me and a woman, but me a woman and a child was completely foreign to me.
I admittedly had a hard time getting used to Aaron at times. Don’t get me wrong, he was a good kid. But until I came along, it was mostly just him and Michelle for years. Even at 6 he was very much the “man of the house.” So the idea of another presence in his mother’s life was, at times I think, difficult for him to adapt to. And the presence of a third party in our relationship was difficult for me to adapt to.
As it turned out, Aaron and I would find an area of common ground, and in many ways this is where we built our “guys relationship.” That area was baseball. Aaron wanted to play baseball. Aaron wanted to know about baseball. Early on we tried playing catch in the yard. Nobody had really done that with Aaron so his throwing motion wasn’t always the most effective, his release point a little awkward. But he loved the game. And of course with practice and physical growth he’s gotten much, much better.
We had one little problem, though. Aaron decided very early on that he loved the Angels.
So how does one compromise this? Well, at first I tried what any blow-hard fan would do. “You like the ANGELS? No no no, that’s not allowed. We’re Dodger fans in this household.” But Aaron wasn’t going to have it. This is a kid who’s been through some things. He was very sick for a while when he was young. He’s had numerous surgeries on his eyes in his 11 years of life and his corrected vision in his left eye (his CORRECTED VISION) is something like 20/400. He’s an adapter, he’s a fighter, and he’s stubborn, so when he sets his mind to something, he runs with it.
So, rather than fight Aaron on this (since it obviously wasn’t working,) I took a compromise approach. One that I believe has helped to teach Aaron respect for the game and its heritage while also teaching him that two grown men can bicker over baseball and have rivalries and still be family. Every season, I make an effort to take him to at least one game at each ballpark. And of course, as time has gone on, we have added to our family and Aaron has a younger brother and a younger sister. Our family isn’t a perfect arrangement, and I know that it was a difficult transition for Aaron to go from being an only child at age 8 to having two younger siblings by age 10, but the kid’s handled with grace and dignity, and he’s a great big brother.
And so it has been. We don’t always get to both ballparks every season, but Aaron and I get to games when we can. And it’s always a good time, regardless of who’s house we go to on any given night.
One of the best parts about being able to have this sort of relationship with Aaron is it gives us an opportunity to talk about Los Angeles Baseball as a whole. We’ve talked about the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League, the Hollywood Stars, the original Wrigley Field, Gilmore Stadium, and how even before Major League Baseball came west that they would film a home run derby television show featuring major league stars of the early and mid-50’s at Wrigley Field sometimes. We talked about the Battle of Chavez Ravine from both sides. The Dodgers moving west was a big deal, leading to a westward movement in Major League Baseball as a whole, and Dodger Stadium is of course one of the great architectural wonders of this city, but people often forget that the Ravine was intended to be a government housing project and that many residents fought hard to try to maintain their land and property. A lesson in urban renewal and redevelopment, to be sure. We’ve talked about how the Dodgers played 4 years at the Coliseum, how the Angels played one season at Wrigley, how the Angels spent 4 years as tenants of the Dodgers in Chavez Ravine and how Walter O’Malley created a less-than-desirable revenue situation for Gene Autry which was a big part of why the Angels moved to Anaheim in 1966. We also have gotten into discussing broader topics, like the California League and the minor league teams around here like the Quakes and the 66ers and the Storm, how those clubs came into existence and their importance to Southern California baseball, how the California League was one of the hottest tickets in the region in the early and mid-90’s, how the Epicenter used to sell out Quakes games every night in the sweltering summer evenings and how much fun those can be. We’ve even discussed independent teams, like the Long Beach Armada and how Jose Canseco tried to ressurect his career there.
While not discounting the rivalry that exists between the two clubs, it’s refreshing to be able to discuss the history of the sport in our city and in this area, the stars, the situations, just everything. The Greater Los Angeles area has a rich, lively baseball history and a great baseball scene for anyone who’s interested in studying it. And it’s this realization that really helps fuel unity between the rivals when it’s necessary.
Thursday night I’ll be 13 rows back of the field in Anaheim. I’ll get to watch two of the best young players in the game, the Angels’ Mike Trout and the Oakland Athletics’ Yoenis Cespedes. I can set my rooting interests aside for a night and enjoy the ballgame. After all, it keeps peace in the family. And regardless of blood and birth certificates, an 11 year old boy who is in many ways a son to me is going to be thrilled to be there. He’s got his custom Angels jersey I got him for his birthday this year, still a bit oversized (I bought it big on purpose because 11 year old boys tend to grow a lot and I wanted the jersey to last,) with his last name and his personal number 13 on the back.
When you think about it, you can’t put a price on that.
This blog isn’t just about the teams and the games. It’s about the fans, too. I’ll be featuring several Dodger fans throughout the season, but I will also occasionally bring another team’s fans into the mix. It’s important to remember that loyalty is important, but underneath it, we all love the same beautiful ballgame.