It’s around ten years ago, in 2002 and the excitement around the state is at an ecstatic state. The San Francisco Giants and the Anaheim Angels are playing in what many would end up calling one of the most exciting World Series in their lifetime. I’m very young, just around 12 years old and I’m at a Halloween party with my brother and all of our mutual friends. It’s dark and there’s candy everywhere but little did I know, the real treat was going on at The Big A, without ever even knowing. Until Scott Spiezio led what would end up being a history changing rally in Anaheim, the crowd of adults at the party seemed to be downtrodden, accepting that the Angels would not win their first championship, seeing as they were putting up a losing effort. The Angels would go on to win game six in miraculous fashion that night and the excitement was back.
There it was, game seven of the World Series, something every baseball fan lives for, no matter if their team is playing for the championship that year. My father, Michael, had a little ritual going where he believed that if he didn’t watch the game, he knew the Angels would end up winning that game. There it was, the last out of the World Series and he comes upstairs to watch the game with the rest of the family. Kenny Lofton hits a ball up into the air and in a state of grace, it travels down with the weight of decades of California disappointments and the Angels have finally, after so many years, won the World Series. The players rush each other, the stadium loses its collective marbles and I look at my dad, not really recognizing the significance of it due to my age.
I can remember him telling me that he had been waiting for that moment his entire life, even when he went with his father to the “Donnie Moore” game of the 1986 ALCS that will forever live in infamy, I always hear about that story. I believe it interests me because of a fanbase that wanted something so bad that it all fell on one man’s shoulders and it simply didn’t work out. I remember him trying not to cry and the first thing he told me after the Angels won the World Series that Grandpa Breedlove was celebrating in heaven, having passed away years ago. Finally, the Angels were the champions and although it’s just a game, it’s more than that. It’s every single fabric of a human life meshed together, millions of people coming together for one cause.
Flash forward to 2013, over a decade since that moment. I’m standing outside on the patio, in the cold snowy air of Colorado, having just got off the phone. My girlfriend has just broken up with me and I stand there, not really knowing how to feel. I thought I would have a future with this woman and I had always talked about eventually going back to California and we could go to Angels games with my dad and my brothers. A myriad of thoughts ran through my mind, nothing having to do with baseball at all, except the idea of us going to a baseball game was but one of life’s teases.
“you’re on your own.”
“what are you going to do now?”
It was the farthest thing away from the joy of the Angels winning the World Series.
The next day, I called my dad and he gave me great advice, like he always does but a funny thing happened in this conversation. It somehow turned into a baseball conversation, just like our talks always do. He mentioned to me that spring training was around the corner and baseball is coming back, very soon. I can remember one part of the conversation very well.
“Well dad, at least baseball will be back soon.”
“Exactly. Chin up, it’s the Breedlove way. Just keep writing.”
Baseball has always caught a lot of slack for how many games there are each year but that simply makes the absence of it even tougher for most fans. You’re so used to having the game around for a long while and suddenly, it’s gone. Last season, the San Francisco Giants won the World Series over the Detroit Tigers and just like that, baseball was gone. It happens every year but unless your team won the World Series, it’s usually a pretty rough wait. You are so used to something being around that when it is gone, you really don’t know what to do, then. For me, I knew I would keep writing and wait for baseball to come back, anything to get my mind on straight again, like it had been at one point. For others, I’m sure it’s the same thing. Thank god a team can’t break up with you, well, unless you used to be a Montreal Expos fan and if so, my condolences and I love you Canadians.
Spring training is now back and I can see the spirits of everyone rise, from those who were previously sad to the people who are probably always happy and kind of freak all of us normal people out. You know the kind, they usually go running with their white poodles. Yesterday, the Angels played their first spring training games, two split squad matchups. To a lot of fans, spring training really doesn’t mean much because it’s simply not the regular season, these games “don’t count”. What it is, to myself and many others, it’s a glimpse into something that’s fantastic and the greatest tradition this country has.
There’s hints of the future all around in baseball, there always is. Sometimes, those hints of greatness don’t work out, like in the case of Brandon Wood. Sometimes they do, Mike Trout being the defining example. Whichever way the spectrum leans, there’s always something ahead of each team and every team starts with a clean slate on opening day, which will be on April 1st for the Angels, against the Cincinnati Reds in Ohio. As the date comes closer, we’ll all become more and more excited for the upcoming season, one that has many columnists and organizations saying we might win it all in 2013.
Spring training means something to me, it means that baseball is going to return soon, like it always does. The games may not factor into the regular season record but there’s hundreds of men trying to get their shot for glory in the big leagues, young and old, those who haven’t experienced it and many who want to get what they believe to be their rightful place, back. Most of the players won’t get their shot at first but eventually, many do. The newest superstar to the Angels, Josh Hamilton, got back into the league through his performance with the Reds in spring training, years ago, after he beat his addictions to alcohol and drugs. He’s now one of the most important players in the league and he’s on the Angels, a team that is shooting for redemption.
It’s what I consider to be the first real day of Spring here in Colorado, it’s sunny and I have my running shoes on. I’m tying up the laces and as I’m sitting down on the stairs to lace them, I get a notification on my phone saying that Spring Training has officially started, baseball is back. I put on my headphones, turn on Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth’s “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)" and stand up.
I think of everything that’s happened since the last baseball season, all the good times, all the bad times and I start to run, run as much as I can, until I simply can’t run any longer.
Meanwhile, my mind runs to a baseball diamond and I smile, more than I thought I could.
Baseball is back, let’s go Angels.