05/07/2013 9:18 pm
It was a sunny, warm day. Perfect weather, I thought, for an afternoon at the ballpark. I got in my car, but I didn’t drive to Angel Stadium or the local Little League field.
I headed out to what is probably my favorite ball field in all of Orange County.
This ball field doesn’t have freshly cut outfield grass. Or that familiar gritty infield dirt. Or chalk lines creating the edges of a diamond.
But all of the necessary pieces are there. Each of the bases, from first to home. A big outfield, so batters can swing for the fences. There’s plenty of room in the expansive dugouts. There are bleachers covered with shade for cheering family and friends.
There are kids eager to play.
And there is joy.
Maybe you’ve seen the kind of joy that exists when kids pick up a bat, a ball and a glove and take to the field to play some baseball.
But beyond that, I think this joy–on this field–is unique.
I’ve watched these kids play on this field many times. And the joy I see on their faces when they play baseball is special.
It’s the kind of joy that is uninhibited. It’s the kind of joy you feel when you accomplish something others may have told you could not be done.
It’s the kind of joy that is found in freedom.
Have you ever known that kind of joy? Have you seen it?
When I go to the All-Star Complex at Pioneer Park in Anaheim, I see that joy with my own eyes.
Every. Single. Time.
Because when the kids of the Orange County Miracle League take to their field to play baseball, they play with that infectious, miraculous kind of joy.
On that sunny, warm day, participants and volunteers with the OC Miracle League, and others from the community, gathered at their field. It’s a field, I suspect, that is a place of refuge for many of these families. They gathered to celebrate and raise money for the organization that brings these kids such joy.
When the OC Miracle League says, “Every child deserves a chance to play baseball,” part of that mission includes being able to provide this opportunity to families free of charge. Because these families don’t need the extra burden of having to figure out how to pay for this activity for their child.
So Debbie and Steel Morris, who tirelessly run this program, along with others who support their efforts, do all they can to keep this a fee free league.
There were hot dogs, tacos, and tables decorated with bags of peanuts and Angels flags. There were carnival games for the kids. There was a silent auction, and raffle tickets were sold for some great prizes, including a Jered Weaver signed jersey and an Albert Pujols signed bat.
And there were the kids.
The whole reason everyone was gathered there that day was for these kids.
Every Sunday in the spring, this is the place these kids come together to play baseball, just like other kids their age who love the game. It’s a place they can play without barriers.
And even though they weren’t there that day to play a game, I still saw that joy. Because they were in their community, surrounded by those who support them, and at a place where they are free to be themselves.
That warm, sunny day was at the end of a hard week. It was a week where I, along with the rest of the country, had seen a lot of darkness from some cowardly people who tried to instill fear. But I also saw how bright the light shines when a group of people, a city, and a nation pull together to support their own.
But my heart was still heavy, my emotions still raw. And I found the best medicine that day on a ball field in Anaheim, being surrounded by these kids.
Without even realizing it, these kids gave me a gift that day.
They reminded me what it looks like, in real life, when love and the good in people win. They smiled those big smiles of theirs.
And there was joy.
For more information about the Orange County Miracle League or to donate, visit their website at ocmiracleleague.com
04/22/2013 1:38 pm
The temperature is heating up, and so are our Halos, after sweeping a three-game set with the Detroit Tigers over the weekend. If you plan on being at the Big A this week as the Angels host the Texas Rangers, be sure to stop by Section 113 and visit the brand new Oakley Stadium Store.
The first-ever Oakley store inside of a professional sporting venue, the Foothill Ranch-based sports brand chose Angel Stadium to house their new 1000 square foot retail space, which will feature their famous OC-active eyewear.
In addition to offering their standard performance sunglasses, the store features a custom eyewear bar, where shoppers can design a custom eyewear solution from several lens and frame options right there at the store.
For the first time outside of their headquarters, Oakley is offering on-site etching of their eyewear, including the Angels logo. And fans don’t have to worry about missing the game while they wait for their custom order, as the store staff will hand deliver the completed sunglasses right to their seat.
Oakley CEO, Colin Baden, and CMO, Raphael Peck, along with Angels Chairman, Dennis Kuhl, welcomed our group for the store’s opening. As the official eyewear of Angels Baseball, the two organizations are definitely excited about this partnership.
Worn by current Angels Howie Kendrick and Mark Trumbo, Oakley’s performance eyewear is specifically designed to not only protect the eyes from dirt, debris and the long-term effects of UV rays, but from injury as well. Their shatter resistant lenses and frames make all the difference in the event of impact from a foul ball or line drive.
The space is beautiful, and a welcome add to the stadium. Besides the awesome products that Oakley is known for, the store is stocked with MLB licensed Angels apparel, accessories and more that you won’t find anywhere else. Very cool stuff. I bought a sweatshirt for my husband on the spot.
And in a fantastic move to support our veterans, the store will also carry other products from the Infinite Hero Foundation, an organization that, “combats the most difficult front line issues—mental and physical—facing military heroes and their families.”
So next time you’re at the Big A this spring or summer cheering on our Halos, check out OC’s very own Oakley Stadium Store. You won’t be disappointed.
04/11/2013 9:26 pm
It’s time for baseball, which also means the inspiring kids from the Orange County Miracle League are back out on their field at Pioneer Park for the spring season.
To help get things kicked off, they are hosting their annual fundraiser, “Swing Big!!”, on Saturday, April 20, from 4:30pm – 7:30pm.
This family fun day at their field at Pioneer Park’s All-Star Complex will feature music, great food, entertainment, games, incredible raffle prizes and more.
But most of all, this is a chance to raise money for an amazing organization that gives special needs kids in our community the chance to play the game they love. As their motto says, “Every Child Deserves the Chance to Play Baseball.” Debbie and Steel Morris and all the volunteers who work tirelessly to offer this program to our local kids could sure use the support. They provide this program free of charge to the families who participate and this can only happen with support from the community.
Here are some of the awesome raffle prizes available:
Autographed Jered Weaver jersey
Autographed Jered Weaver baseball
Autographed Albert Pujols bat
Autographed Tim Salmon photo
Autographed Mickey Mantle photo
Autographed CC Sabathia baseball
Autographed Ervin Santana baseball
Autographed Kendrys Morales jersey
Autographed Hideki Matsui baseball
And here are the details:
What: OC Miracle League “Swing Big!!” Annual Fundraiser
When: Saturday, April 20, 2013 4:30pm – 7:30pm
Where: Pioneer Park All-Star Complex, 2565 E. Underhill, Anaheim, CA 92806
Why: To benefit the OC Miracle League
Cost: $20 per adult, $10 per child
How: Purchase tickets online at ocmiracleleague.com. Click “Donate” to use Visa/MasterCard/Discover. Or mail checks to OC Miracle League, 6231 Apache Road, Westminster, CA 92683
I adore these kids and families, so I will be there on April 20 in support of one of my favorite local organizations. And I hope you will consider joining me. If you can’t make it out to the park, but would still like to support their efforts, you can make a donation online at ocmiracleleague.com. All donations are tax deductible. And you’ll be helping to ensure that these amazing kids continue to have the chance to play America’s pastime.
Are you an Angels fan? Then you are familiar with Victor Rojas and his familiar “Light that baby up!” call whenever our Halos secure the victory. He has recently launched The LTBU Shop, featuring clothing and more with the winning phrase. The best part is that all proceeds from sales of the products go to benefit the OC Miracle League. Click here to shop.
For more information about the OC Miracle League, visit ocmiracleleague.com
04/10/2013 11:17 am
Although the MLB season got its start over a week ago, Tuesday night meant it was finally time for the fans to descend upon the Big A and welcome the Angels back home for the start of the 2013 season.
Starting a sports season on the road is always sort of a curious thing to me. It’s like there are two Opening Days. It’s no longer preseason, as those first games on the road actually count. But I never get the feeling that the season has really begun until I see the boys out on the Angel Stadium grass.
This year’s Opening Night was in stark contrast to what I experienced a year ago. Last year, the excitement was through the roof. Jerry “Santa Claus” Dipoto had brought one of the best players in the game in Albert Pujols to the roster. I was fortunate enough to be a part of The Orange County Register’s “news mob”, where over 70 writers covered the Angels from all different angles on that day. ESPN was broadcasting from the in front of the “hats”. And we opened the season at home. It was wall-to-wall Angels and it was awesome.
This time, the vibe was completely different, at least for me. Opening the season on the road meant that the Angels showed up here already in a bit of a hole at 2-4. It was announced that morning that the Halos ace, Jered Weaver, would be out 4-6 weeks with a broken left elbow. Newly signed superstar Josh Hamilton is struggling at the plate (so predictable), as are many of the Angels’ bats. The voice filling the stadium was not that of David Courtney, the Angels long-time public address announcer who died last November of a pulmonary embolism (although Michael Araujo did a fine job). And it was the 4th anniversary of the death of Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart.
So the mood was, how shall I say, a bit more reflective for me. With all of that hanging over the halo that night, I was determined not to let it get to me. With my husband and older daughter out of town on a school field trip, I had the unique opportunity to attend the game with my seven-year old girl. Just her and me. And as far as she knew, it was Opening Night for the Angels. That’s it. She wasn’t bogged down by any of the surrounding details. She was just excited to be there.
So we took our Upper View Level seats along the third base line, just as they unfurled that beautiful, enormous American flag. And it felt good to be home. We cheered as they announced all of the players. I told her about the “new guy” (Hamilton). And even as starter C.J. Wilson seemingly forgot how to pitch and the Angels were down 4-0 before they ever came up to bat, she never lost her enthusiasm.
She held my hand. She snacked on Easter candy we had brought from home, sharing some with me. She giggled uncontrollably as those crazy bird-size moths at the stadium dive-bombed us the entire night. She waved my Rally Monkey fearlessly as the Angels staged an exciting comeback in the bottom of the 6th. She high-fived everyone around us as the runs kept crossing the plate.
She literally never stopped smiling.
We left the stadium at the top of the 7th, with the Angels leading 5-4, not because we wanted to, but because we had to get to the airport to pick up the rest of our family. The time it took us to walk from our seats to the car, the A’s had scored five runs and were up 9-5.
Sigh. I felt like I had been punched in the gut.
And as we pulled away from the bright lights into the darkness, I heard my little girl’s voice from the back seat.
“Don’t worry, Mommy. Maybe they’ll win next time. I still had a lot of fun.”
And there it was.
That internal struggle that had been plaguing me all game—this push and pull between the possible reality of facing another April like all the rest and wanting to stay positive—all just disappeared.
Much of what I write about it this space is how I experience being a sports fan through the eyes of my daughters. As it often happens with kids, it took my seven-year old to remind me of something that night. That sometimes the experience is bigger than the game itself. She got one-on-one time with her mommy that she rarely gets these days. She got to be at the Big A to see her favorite baseball team, the Angels, play on Opening Night. And even though the scoreboard didn’t read in our favor, she saw the night as a total win.
So regardless of what happens with the Angels this season, and for those moments where I feel I’m creeping ever so close to a Halo freak out, I’m going to keep the words of my daughter in my head and close to my heart.
Don’t worry. Maybe they’ll win next time. Have fun and enjoy the experience.
Because sometimes, the experience is bigger than the game itself.
03/21/2013 12:42 pm
My family and I got up before dawn on Saturday morning, and prepared to make the over 350-mile trip to Tempe, AZ.
We packed all of the essentials: my Rally Monkey, Angels t-shirts and jerseys, hats, sharpie pens, brand new Angels baseballs just waiting for autographs, smiles and anticipation.
There’s something about taking to the open road at sunrise, with few others around. A clean slate in front of you, full of promise. Much like the beginning of a new baseball season.
This was our second trip to Angels Spring Training. Our rookie visit last March was amazing and would be hard to top. But this trip did not disappoint, and in many ways, even though it was shorter, provided a lot more unique experiences and memories, both for my family and for me.
That night, we met up with the group from the fan website AngelsWin.com for their annual FanFest dinner. What started out several years ago as some fellow Halo fans getting together in a sports bar in Tempe to talk Angels baseball, has now turned into a full banquet dinner. With a check-in table. And entrance wristbands. And table linens. So fancy!
But beyond the fanciness and the over 200 people in attendance was the fantastic program, which included “Mr. Angel” himself, Tim Salmon, Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto, and members of the media such as Joe McDonnell from FoxSportsWest.com, Jeff Fletcher from The Orange County Register, Alden Gonzalez from MLB.com and Angels television play-by-play announcer Victor Rojas.
Tim Salmon was up first, answering questions from AngelsWin.com Founder and Executive Director, Chuck Richter, and then from the fans themselves. He was thoughtful and intentional with all of his responses, speaking of perseverance, and reminding me that even post-career, he is good for the game and good for the Angels.
The media roundtable discussion gave us all a glimpse into what it’s like to cover a professional sports team. The guys were candid and honest, speaking not only about the obvious unique opportunity they each have, but the challenges that come with covering this team full time. And they all agreed, that “on paper”, the Angels are the team to beat in the West.
While my kids munched on chicken strips and French fries and I inhaled the chocolate cake dessert, Angels GM Jerry Dipoto stood at the microphone, answering questions from AngelsWin.com Director of Social Media, Geoff Stoddart, and again from the fans in attendance. Jerry, just like Angels owner Arte Moreno, wants to win. He’s smart, articulate and loves the game of baseball. He absolutely believes in this team that he and his staff have put out on the field and knows that for every Josh Hamilton or Albert Pujols, there will be someone you least expect who steps up at just the right moment to create an opportunity.
All of this awesomeness, and we had yet to even get to the ballpark.
Sunday morning, my family, along with many others from the previous night’s dinner, headed out early to Tempe Diablo Stadium and sat in the warm sunshine across from Angels Vice President of Communications, Tim Mead, as he conducted his yearly “dugout chat”.
He too, just like the rest of the speakers, was honest and insightful with his answers to the fans’ questions. He spoke of everything from “dynamic ticket pricing” (it’s the future direction for all sports ticketing) to the relationship between Jerry Dipoto and Angels Manager, Mike Scioscia (“solid”). He even shared about his own journey into this career, and how after 34 seasons with the Angels organization, working for this team never gets old.
But most of all, his words served as a great warm-up for the new baseball season that is upon us. With Opening Day just a couple of weeks away, there was no better way to get in the “Angels baseball frame of mind” than to sit together with fans of this team and get excited about the 2013 season.
Just as Tim wrapped up, the players slowly came out for batting practice. We took our girls to the corner of the fence where the players take the field and they waited patiently, baseballs and sharpies in hand, hoping one of the many familiar faces on this team would come and say hello.
And they did. Our girls got autographs from Peter Bourjos, Mike Scioscia, Albert Pujols and even former Angels closer, Troy Percival, in addition to about 15 other names. My husband and I stood behind them, frantically taking photos and video. I’m not sure who was more excited.
And then we watched the game from behind the Angels dugout, as the Angels defeated the San Diego Padres, 7-4. Even though the game doesn’t count, it still felt good to get a Halo victory.
We headed to our car and back to Orange County, sun soaked, tired, but happy. Our short stay was as fantastic as it could have been. And our girls are still insisting that we make this an annual trip, even if it’s for less than 48 hours.
As we drove home, I got to thinking about how the anticipation of this season among the fans is different than last year. Spring of 2012 was off the charts with excitement and hype. The arrival of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson were like the best Christmas presents Angels fans could have ever hoped for. That team was going to win it all, right?
And then the season that never was supposed to happen, happened.
This year, I sense a more quiet confidence in the fans. Even with the addition of Josh Hamilton and the emergence of Mike Trout, the expectations are more subdued, but not any less resolved. The fans know this team can win. And I think maybe the players themselves have a better handle on how to be the “frontrunner”. A strong start out of the gate would sure be the way to go this time around.
Thank you again, AngelsWin.com, and all of the speakers who participated, for such a wonderful FanFest event. My family and I created some great Angels Spring Training memories that we won’t soon forget.
Can’t wait for that first pitch!
Be sure to check out the best Angels fan website around at AngelsWin.com
03/07/2013 9:26 am
It is a phrase that is a call to action, to illuminate the halo that sits atop the Big A.
And it is a phrase that has become synonymous with each Angels victory.
“Light that baby up!”
The words Angels television play-by-play announcer, Victor Rojas, uses to close out the game when the good guys prevail have become a standard part of the victory celebration for Halo fans everywhere.
Rojas has been using these words after every Angels win since he joined their broadcast team in 2010. Closing out a game was something he had never done prior to his arrival in Orange County, so he felt he should come up with his own defining phrase.
“Not wanting to use someone else’s line, I thought it was important to come up with one of my own,” said Rojas. “It needed to be something fans would like, something emphatic. And it needed to be something that fit me as a person.”
The phrase caught on quickly with the Halo faithful, specifically on Twitter with the hashtag abbreviation, #LTBU. Rojas, who is an active participant in social media, is very intentional about using tools like Twitter to receive feedback, engage with fans and give us all a glimpse into life on the road with the team. The positive response over the past few years sparked an idea in Rojas during the offseason.
“I thought, why not trademark both ’Light That Baby Up!’ and ’#LTBU’ and use them as a catalyst for an online shop?”
And so The LTBU Shop was born.
The shop features eight different original designs that Rojas developed alongside Kathryn Ilten-Holmes, graphics specialist for PIP Printing & Marketing in Santa Fe Springs. Fans can purchase items with these designs from t-shirts and sweatshirts to tote bags and iPhone cases. Utilizing both the “Light That Baby Up!” phrase and the #LTBU hashtag, Rojas believes, “There’s something for everyone.”
The designs are fantastic. I’m partial to the “#LTBU/World”, “Athletic Dept.” and “Script” collections. Within each of the nine collections are plenty of options—men’s, women’s and kid’s sizes and a variety of color choices for each item.
“I wanted to do something fun that the fans could enjoy and wear to support their team,” said Rojas.
And that wasn’t the only reason behind the development of the online store. Rojas also wants to use the products to help raise funds and awareness for local charity groups. For that reason, the profits from the sale of each item in the shop, in addition to a donation from the Rojas family, will go to support The Miracle League of Orange County.
“I don’t want this to be about me. I’ve done some work in the past with AngelsWin.com to support the OC Miracle League, and I want to continue to support them,” said Rojas. “Steel Morris and his volunteers do such great work for those kids.”
If you are not familiar with The Miracle League of Orange County, they are a local organized youth sports league that gives special needs kids in our community the opportunity to play baseball. Using a buddy system and a field designed specifically for barrier-free play, these kids get out on the baseball diamond each spring to pitch, hit and circle the bases. Thanks to Steel and Debbie Morris and all those who volunteer, these girls and boys, who otherwise would not get the chance, are able to play the game they love. And they provide all of this to the families absolutely free of charge. They are, in a word, inspiring.
As a big believer and supporter of this program and having seen first hand how it has changed these kids’ lives, Rojas’ support of the OC Miracle League is my favorite aspect of his new shop.
And he has even bigger plans for the online store.
“In the future, I’d love to grow this to where we could offer more custom designs and be able to financially support other local charities as well.”
So maybe this phrase that is a call to action can be used not only to cheer on our Halos, but also to support our local kids. I can’t think of a better way to get ready for the upcoming 2013 Angels season.
Head on over to The LTBU Shop and check it out. The Russo family will be repping the #LTBU gear in Tempe later this month and all season long. I hope you will too.
Go Angels! #LTBU!
Visit The LTBU Shop at ltbushop.com
The Miracle League of Orange County kicks off their spring season on Sunday, March 24 at 12:30pm at Pioneer Park in Anaheim. For more information on this great organization and all they do for special needs kids in our community, visit ocmiracleleague.com
01/10/2013 8:42 am
Who’s ready for baseball season to start?
The winter months can be cold and long, waiting for the first signs of Spring Training to appear. Don’t worry, Halo fans. Pitchers and catchers report in about 30 days….
But before that, there’s a fun event this Saturday, January 12, where you can get your baseball fix and have the opportunity to support a great cause.
The wonderful people at Trinity Bat Company, our very own Orange County MLB bat manufacturer, are hosting the 2nd Annual Home Run Challenge in support of the Cory Hahn Fund.
I wrote about Trinity and their support of Cory last year when they held their first fundraising event for this inspiring kid. Here’s an excerpt from that post to bring you up to speed on Cory and his connection with Trinity:
If you aren’t familiar with Cory Hahn’s story, he is a local kid and high school baseball standout from Mater Dei High School who racked up several awards including 2010 Orange County Player of the Year and CIF Player of the Year. The San Diego Padres drafted him and instead of signing with them, he chose to play for Arizona State University. At the beginning of the season with the Sun Devils, a simple slide into second base turned into a career-ending injury that has left Cory paralyzed from the chest down.
To deal with life’s biggest curve ball, including major rehabilitation, Cory’s father, Dale, left his job to care for his son full time. You can imagine the medical costs that this type of injury incurs. Trinity Bat Company, moved by the Hahns’ story, decided to help the family by developing a Trinity model bat in Cory’s name. For every Pro Model HAHN that is sold, 15% is donated to the Cory Hahn Fund.
This year’s event will be held at Cory’s old stomping grounds at Mater Dei High School. The Home Run Challenge begins with the high school, open adult and college levels swinging for the fences. Then it’s the “big boys” turn to step up to the plate. For a complete and current list of those who will be attending and/or competing, click here. As of this posting, the list includes Mark Trumbo, Steve Garvey, Travis Witherspoon (Angels), Ian Stewart (Cubs), Trayvon Robinson (Orioles) and Matt Scioscia…does that name look familiar?
Not all are scheduled to hit, but they will be available to the fans. And this year, Trinity will have bats for sale at the event that will be perfect for obtaining autographs.
There will also be a silent auction with fantastic autographed memorabilia up for grabs to the highest bidder including a signed Mike Trout photo, a signed C.J. Wilson jersey, signed baseballs from Jered Weaver and Tim Salmon, and what I think are some of the most special items available, baseballs and Pro Model HAHN bats autographed by Cory himself.
He and his story are downright inspiring. And I’m a big fan of Trinity Bats, their products, the way they do business and their message. Cory was there for Trinity when they were just getting started, as he was one of the first locally to use their bats. And now Trinity is there for Cory. It’s a perfect example of how supporting one another in our community can be a blessing to many.
Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the door or online by clicking here. Here are the event details from the Trinity site.
What: 2nd Annual Trinity Bat Co. Home Run Challenge
Where: Mater Dei High School – 1202 West Edinger Avenue, Santa Ana, CA 92707
When: January 12, 2013. 10 am – 4 pm
Who: Top High School & Collegiate Stars & Big League Stars (past, present and future) and many more and you!
Why: Raise funds and awareness for the Cory Hahn Fund and have fun at an exclusive event!
Food: Gourmet Food Trucks – Burger Monster, Macho Nacho, Mustache Mikes, Chick Fil A – From 10 – 2
Parking: Main Lot “Monarch Way” off of Edinger, Second lot off of Bristol just North of Edinger
Tickets: Purchase before the event below or at the two Gate locations off of Monarch Way or Bristol St.
If you aren’t able to attend, but would like to support Cory, click here to donate directly to the Cory Hahn Fund.
Let’s Play Ball!!
Follow Cory Hahn on Twitter at @Coryhahn34 and Trinity Bats at @TrinityBatco
11/14/2012 9:48 pm
So Angels fans, are you missing baseball? I’m guessing the answer is a resounding yes.
Well, if you live in the SoCal area, here’s your chance to get out onto the field at the Big A, swing for the fences and support our community this Thanksgiving.
The Angels’ Groundskeepers are hosting their 12th annual Thanksgiving Holiday Canned Food Drive at Angel Stadium, Friday, November 16th through Sunday, November 18th (weather permitting), to benefit the Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County.
For a donation of three (3) cans of non-perishable food or $2, you will be able to step up to the plate and give your one best Major League swing against a pitching machine. There’s a maximum of 20 pitches per person.
Would you like to try and see if you can get one over the plate? If you donate two (2) cans of food or $1, you can throw a pitch in the bullpen.
For those fans who want to shag fly balls, $25 will get you 15 minutes in the outfield.
The Angels will provide the bats, balls and helmets. And as a bonus, the Angels Clubhouse Attendants will be on hand giving tours of the Clubhouse for a $10 donation.
Sounds like the perfect thing to help deal with the offseason blues, right?
Whether you are a kid or a kid at heart, take this opportunity to be a Major Leaguer for a day and help support one of Orange County’s great organizations in the Second Harvest Food Bank.
Head out to the Big A this Friday, November 16th through Sunday November 18th, between 8am and 4pm, through Gate #1 and then down to the Field Level.
Have fun and good luck!!
If you are not able to attend but would like to support the Second Harvest Food Bank this Thanksgiving, send your checks to: Second Harvest Food Bank, 8014 Marine Way, Irvine, CA 92618 or visit their website at feedoc.org
10/21/2012 10:58 pm
In addition to blogging about the Angels and the Ducks, I write a monthly column for OC Family Magazine called “Game Time”, which covers sports for kids and families. No Angels baseball? No Ducks hockey? How about a visit to one of Orange County’s best kept secrets? In the October Issue, I highlight the Newport Sports Museum, a gem of a place with an outstanding collection of sports memorabilia and a fantastic outreach program that supports our local youth.
While Fashion Island in Newport Beach may be a premier shopping and entertainment destination for many, it’s also home to one of the most extensive collections of sport memorabilia in the world. Located in an unassuming building on Newport Center Drive, the Newport Sports Museum houses over 10,000 items in their permanent exhibits, featuring all the major sports, including football, basketball, baseball, and hockey.
The creation of real estate developer John Hamilton, this non-profit opened its doors to the public in 1993. An avid sports fan and collector, Hamilton had amassed such a large amount of memorabilia that he wanted to provide a place to share these treasures with fellow sports fans. Approximately 75% of the items on display at the museum comes from Hamilton’s personal collection. And admission to this Orange County gem is free, as Hamilton feels it’s important not to exclude anyone from being able to enjoy these fantastic exhibits.
The space is comprised of rooms dedicated to each sport and our local professional and college teams, including the Angels, Dodgers, Ducks, Kings, Lakers, USC and UCLA. There is also space dedicated to other sports such as golf, surfing and US Olympic athletes.
Are you a big football fan? Then you won’t want to miss the museum’s collection of jerseys worn by football greats like Dan Marino, Walter Payton, Jerry Rice and Joe Montana. And if you follow college football, you’ll enjoy the display that features footballs signed by every Heisman Trophy winner dating back to 1935.
If you are a fan of “the fastest game on earth”, the museum’s hockey exhibit includes some interesting historic pieces such as original hockey sweaters from the 1930’s, early model hockey helmets from the 1940’s, game used equipment from Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky, and arena seats from the old Montreal Forum.
Fans of the “Grand Ol’ Game” will not be disappointed as the museum’s baseball collection is a list of priceless pieces thought only to be seen in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. There is a collection of autographed baseballs signed by every World Series Championship team since 1940. The museum’s basement houses a unique collection of old stadium seats, many of which are from ballparks that are no longer in existence, including seats from Ebbets Field and Comiskey Park. On display are baseballs signed by the sport’s greats including Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. And what is probably one of the most prized pieces in the entire museum, the ball from Babe Ruth’s final home run, autographed by “the Bambino” himself.
But more impressive than this comprehensive sports memorabilia collection is the commitment the Newport Sports Museum has made to mentor local youth. They use their facility to team with several well-known athletes “as a vehicle to motivate children, those succeeding and struggling alike, to be productive, confident and successful adults.” Through several free programs such as Career Choices, where sports professionals speak to high school students about career options in the sports industry or Sport Yourself which is a program that features female athletes speaking and encouraging young women in the importance of an active lifestyle and self-confidence, the museum and staff are committed to facilitating programs “designed specifically to teach children self confidence, discipline, courage, teamwork and dedication.”
Whether you are a lifelong sports fan or a parent of a little leaguer, make sure you take some time to visit this Orange County hidden treasure. Their great exhibits combined with their commitment to support local kids through their motivational programs make for a winning combination that will not disappoint.
10/05/2012 9:27 am
His name is Ricardo Marquez. He’s a smart, clever, 26 year old from Covina, CA who might just be the most enthusiastic Angels fan there is. And he’s living the baseball fan’s dream of a lifetime, having spent the last six months in the MLB FanCave in New York City.
Marquez was selected as part of the 2012 starting nine finalists, chosen from over 22,000 applicants for this year’s MLB FanCave experience. (You can view his audition videos here and here. Hilarious.) Throughout the season, he and his fellow cave dwellers have spent their days in Greenwich Village, meeting MLB players, celebrities and music groups and sharing their experiences with fans through the generation of social media content, including tweets, blog posts, photos and videos.
A whole new way to experience the sport, the MLB FanCave is a “first-of-its-kind space mixing baseball with music, popular culture, media, interactive technology and art.” Sounds amazing, right?
Over these past six months, Marquez has survived several “elimination rounds” that have included challenges and online fan voting, and he is one of the final three cave dwellers (along with Ashley Chavez and Kyle Thompson). These three baseball super fans have watched all 2,430 MLB regular season games and will remain in the Cave during the playoffs. Plus, they will be attending each World Series game in person. Awesome.
I remember back in the spring as the season was about to start and emotions were running high here in Orange County for our Halos. Part of the excitement for fans stemmed not only from the anticipation of seeing Albert Pujols and Company take the field, but that there was “one of us” in the MLB FanCave. I’ve been following Ricardo’s experiences online (you can find him on Twitter @iBlogBetter) and I recently chatted with him from NYC about this Angels season, what it’s been like living in the Cave and his postseason predictions.
After recently posting some of my own thoughts on the Angels season that didn’t go quite as planned, I started off by asking Ricardo what, in his opinion, went wrong with the Angels the season and how he would fix it.
“The bullpen should be the #1 priority,” said Marquez. “We gave up too many leads, lost too many games that way. Frieri is great, but maybe we need a ‘true closer’. The month of April was a mess. You can’t have a start like that and expect to make up the games.
Also, we need to re-sign Zack Greinke. We gave up a lot for him and I’d hate to see him end up with another team in the division. And without a doubt, we need to re-sign Torii Hunter. That guy is the heart of the team.”
I absolutely agree. And because it’s the “hot debate” right now, I had to ask Ricardo about the AL MVP race. Trout or Cabrera?
“It’s got to go to Mike Trout. No doubt the Triple Crown is an outstanding accomplishment, but to me, the Most Valuable Player is the best all-around player. Trout has 30 home runs, 49 stolen bases and will probably win a Gold Glove. Miguel Cabrera is the best hitter, but Mike Trout is the best player.”
I’m with Ricardo on that one, too. And not because I’m biased.
With the Angels out of the postseason (sigh), I talked with Ricardo about playoff predictions, who he’s rooting for and which team he sees going the distance this October.
“I’m following Oakland, Baltimore and Washington, especially the A’s,” said Ricardo. “What a story they are with that young pitching staff.”
He thinks Texas will not be able to overcome the emotion of losing the division on the last day, so he’s taking the Orioles over the Rangers and the Braves over the Cardinals in Friday’s Wild Card play-in games. From there, he’s taking Baltimore over New York, Detroit over Oakland, Washington over Atlanta and San Francisco over Cincinnati.
And for the big prize?
“It’s going to be a black and orange World Series, just in time for Halloween. The Giants over the Tigers.”
His fellow cave dweller Ashley Chavez has got to be thrilled with that prediction.
In speaking with Ricardo about this unique experience, I asked him about the highs and the lows of being in the Cave for all of these months.
“It’s hard to pick one thing that I loved about being here,” said Marquez. “It’s like Disneyland for baseball fans. I’ve been thrilled every single day to get up and go to the Cave.”
The hardest part has probably been the lack of sleep. We put in 15-17 hour days, staying up to watch all the west coast games. But I still love it. And going through the eliminations has been tough. It’s been hard to see (the other cave dwellers) go. But we still stay in touch. We’re like a family here.”
In addition to meeting all the MLB players and celebrities, Ricardo has loved interacting with the fans and definitely appreciates all the support he’s received. He doesn’t let the sometimes negative side of social media get to him, and he truly believes there is so much more potential, for both fans and sports teams, when it comes to integrating the internet into the sports experience.
Once the World Series trophy is handed out, what are Ricardo’s next steps?
“I guess I have to get back to reality, right? I want to work in baseball, either with the MLB, the MLB Network, or the Angels. I would really love to work for the Angels. I think from this experience, I have so much I could contribute to that organization.
I didn’t finish college, and I’m sort of a ‘failed comedian’, so baseball and this experience has really saved my life. I’m so thankful to be here and for the support of the Angels Family online, the Angels organization and MLB.”
And how does Ricardo feel about the Angels chances next season?
“Next year will be the year the Angels raise the World Series trophy again. Lucky 13.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Be sure to follow Ricardo and his adventures in the MLB FanCave all during the postseason. And share the love by continuing to vote for him. Before the World Series, a final “ultimate fan” will be selected and we want Ricardo to win!
Big thanks to MLB and to Ricardo Marquez for speaking with me. You have represented the Angels Family well!
**all photos via MLB and Ricardo Marquez