Thursday, June 4, 2020
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The Perks of Being an Anteater

On July 13, Anaheim hosted the 2010 Major League Baseball All-Star game. Home to the Angels of Anaheim, Angel Stadium was the site for the exhibition game which annually pits the American League against the National League. The sport’s premier athletes who were voted in by fans, peers and coaches displayed their abilities out on the field in the game’s biggest talent show. They awed fans who came from all over the country and paid hundreds of dollars to see the spectacle. As a face in the crowd, I was one of the lucky people to witness Southern California’s installation of the Midsummer Classic.

A baseball enthusiast who grew up just minutes from Angel Stadium in a town called Cypress, I’ve been an Angels fan since diapers.  I’d always imitate my favorite Angel, Garret Anderson, when stepping into the batter’s box as a left-handed hitter in Little League.

To put my diehard Angel fanhood to the test, just know that growing up with a competitive drive, there was only one baseball game in which I intentionally cost my team the game. It occurred on October 27, 2002, the night of Game 7 of the World Series between the Angels and the San Francisco Giants. Around 5 p.m. I was playing in the semi-finals of a travel-ball tournament.  My team was one run away from advancing to the finals to take on a team that demolished us earlier in the day. To make matters worse, if we somehow pulled off that comeback, the final game of the tournament would be held at 7 PM … which would ruin any chance of watching Game 7.

I stood in the on-deck circle as the batter in front of me drew a walk. I strutted to the plate considering my options as I noticed that the bases were loaded.

“You’ve never thrown a game before!” the devil’s advocate told me. “Then again, this tournament isn’t that big of a deal and most of your teammates want to go home to watch Game 7 anyways. Just get out and let’s go home and watch the Angel game,” my conscience told me.

With two outs, I hit a lackadaisical ground ball up the middle, jogged down the baseline and was thrown out at first. I slammed down my helmet in pretend disgust in a dramatic attempt to prove that losing the game actually meant something to me. In reality, it didn’t. I knew there were several games ahead of me and I’ve never regretted my decision. That night I watched the Angels celebrate their first and only World Series Championship in the comforts of my own home. It may now become apparent just how special the game of baseball has been to me throughout the years.

As I arrived at Angel Stadium at 11 a.m. on July 13 for a game that was expected to start at 5 p.m., I noticed an immediate buzz in the air. But the main difference between the thousands of fans who showed up early for their special day and me was that I did not have a ticket to the game.

Instead, I wore a green wristband, signifying my volunteer status for the special event. Just days prior to the game, I managed to find a one-day job at the all-star game through a fundraiser put on by UCI’s Sports Business Association. Through SBA, I was able to circulate the stadium while selling programs and ticket holders with an All-Star game staff shirt.
With no intent to sell merchandise, I showed up just to take it all in. I sat in a seat hours before the crowds would storm the stadium. I snapped photographs of Colbie Caillat doing her pregame rendition of “God Bless America,” listened in as ESPN analysts Karl Ravech, John Kruk, Dave Winfield and Bobby Valentine chatted away and observed the grounds crew design stars in the infield, which represented the talented athletes who in a few short hours would be honored on that diamond. I strolled around the stadium the whole day.

Encouraged to be vocal, I bellowed, “Programs! Ticket holders!” Despite showing up to watch some baseball, I still had some fun with the job at hand.  I sold a good amount of merchandise and enjoyed chatting with fans as I did.

To be honest, I hadn’t a care in the world if I didn’t manage to sell a single program, because I was in the building. I was there. I witnessed an All-Star game at my favorite baseball team’s stadium.  As the game started, I found a spot in the right field pavilion where a friendly usher allowed me to stand and watch the game without snitching to my supervisor.
In the first inning, Derek Jeter confidently walked up to the plate, tapped his toes in the box and ritualistically held up his hand in preparation for his at-bat. The voice of longtime Yankees announcer, the late Bob Sheppard (who passed away just days before the game) came over the public address system. Dead at the age of 99, Sheppard’s legendary, raspy voice resonated throughout Angels Stadium in honor of his 56-year career as the Yankees’ announcer.  “Now batting. The Shortstop. Number 2. Derek Jeter. Number 2.” It was a spine-tingling moment, for me of all people, because of the decades of service he had given to the game of baseball. The same kid who grew up detesting the Yankees and rejoicing every Angels’ victory over the Bronx Bombers got chills, because a Yankee was announced.  To me it was a reminder of why, despite hanging up my cleats, I still love the game so much.
Throughout the day I talked to an Angels fan from New Jersey, a Cardinals fan from Chicago and a Padres fan from San Diego, just to name a few.  People came from all over to see this event. Some paid over $150 to sit in the worst seats in the ballpark. And I had witnessed the same moments for free.

As a student at UC Irvine, I’ve noticed in my short tenure on this campus that there are vast opportunities for involvement throughout the sporting programs. In my first year as an Anteater, I sat down with Hall of Fame Baseball Coach Mike Gillespie for an interview. I’ve interviewed several humble athletes who now stop to say hello because I’m a familiar face to them. I’ve sat in the front row as some of the best collegiate volleyball players in this country compete just a few paces away from my seat. And above all, I had the opportunity to cross “See a Major League Baseball All-Star game” off of my imaginary bucket list.