Watching Jeff DaVanon

Watching Jeff DaVanon

A weblog devoted to #55 of the Anaheim Angels, Jeff DaVanon. How is he doing? Is he getting his due respect yet? Let's watch and see...

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The search for silver

A few months ago, I opened my door and signed my name for a certified letter. Certified letters are rarely a good thing. But this was a letter from Gov. Bush of Florida, urging those of us in the meeting and event industry to reconsider his state as destination for our clients, and to come see all that it has to offer as guests.

So I filled out the information and didn't expect anything to come of it. But then I got a follow-up e-mail stating that some destinations were still available. I re-submitted, putting down places that I hadn't been to, and that would be suitible cities for the kind of groups I organize meetings for. As an afterthought, I put down Tampa, a city I had already been to and already booked meetings at, but instead of a wide date range I wrote down simply "August 26-28."

So that is how we found ourselves in Tampa for the weekend. We flew down Thursday night in spite of the threat of Katrina, then a measely little category 1 storm expected to swoop up the gulf coast of the state and dump some rain. They even called me and told me I could reschedule, but I wasn't chasing the sun, I was chasing baseball, and it didn't look like anyone thought the games would be canceled. Being under a dome has it's advantages.

Seeing a game at Tropicana Field was awesome. It really defines the concept of a place being nice to visit, but you wouldn't want your team to live there.

A dome might be a fundamentally depressing sort of thing. All reflected fluerescent light, enclosed spaces, echoing sounds and weird ground rules. But watching a game in air-conditioned comfort rocks. And how nice is it to not worry about the rain?

We arrived at the stadium around 5:00 on Friday. We gathered the small group of people waiting at the entrance for the gates to open. We cast expectant glances skyward, and then at our watches. Droplets slowly pattered on the concrete and we all shifted ever-so-slightly in the direction of the overhang and dryness. Most of the people waiting wore red. But the Rays fans behind me mocked the rally monkey tucked in my bag. "They don't allow those here!" As we went through the gate, the girl searching bags also commented on the monkey. Proving once again that the history and purpose of the monkey is impossible to properly describe in a fleeting encounter. How I wish I could say something simple about it like "the owner's wife had a pet monkey." Anything simple and sound-bite-ish. But no.

We made our way all the way around the field to our seating area and the Angels dugout. The exterior concourse areas have a shopping-mall feel to them. They are well-lit, expansive, and inviting. Plus, there is a huge variety of stores and eateries. There is a "beers of the world" shop, and several retail-type places that *gasp* sell baseball merchandise from around the leagues.

Inside the dome is a turf field with dirt basepaths. There is a little blimp that flies around inside the dome and sometimes rains down coupons on the crowd. Each game they pick someone to pilot the remote-control blimp. I found this sweet, and was extremely envious of the boy (who was outfitted in an old-timey aviator's cap for the ocassion).

We watched batting practice, and as I so often am in these baseball situations, I was reminded of a zoo. Watch the players in their natural habitat! Who jokes with who? Who acknowledges the fans? Who lollygags around the park? What pitcher looks like he might be a good infielder?

But let's focus on the real reason seeing a game in Tropicana Field was so awesome. We had great seats, a few rows back behind the Angels dugout. We had a clear view of home plate, and the drunk guy in front of us even managed to get into an argument with Erstad. And we bought these seats from the box office, like a week before we went out. Can you imagine? These are not seats you can get at Angel Stadium. It's weird though... I have seen more people attend a high school football game. With so few people to take care of, the ushers and security devote a lot of time to making sure there isn't a whole lot of seat-hopping going on. As best I can tell, a lot of the people who attend Rays games are just baseball fans who are more interested in the visiting teams than their own. There was also a sizable contingency of autograph hounds with huge stacks of baseball cards or carefully organized binders bursting with photos. The area around the Angels dugout was packed with people trying for autographs. And while some of them had red on, most of them didn't. The area around the Rays dugout was not so much packed.

There is so little I can say about the games. I had hoped to report back the triumph of Vlad's 300th homer, or impress you with other key moments. But there was none of that. It sucked to watch the team drop to the Devil Rays. No one was looking particularly impressive. So I'm left with these discussions of atmosphere and turf. With the question of whether one needs to burn their rally monkey if it has fallen to the ground. With pictures of Jeff taking BP. All I can hope is that the team is as shocked, pissed-off, and angry as I am, and this knocks them out of their compacent rut with just enough time to finish the season in top form. I can hope. This is my quest for a silver lining in what was otherwise an embarrasing trio of games. Do we blame the dome? The turf? The undeniable heat and spark of the Devil Rays? Do we suck? Or have we simply had an unavoidable stumble in the marathon of a season? Was this simply an exercize in swinging outside of our "mean" a mean that we will soon regress (or in this case, agress?) to?

Jeff had one pinch-hit at bat during Saturday's game. Before the game, I'd positioned myself in the autograph-seeking throng, proudly wearing my #55 (who is that?) shirt, and none-too-proudly calling "Jeff! Jeff!" with what I hoped was a voice that could be heard but conveyed the appropriate amount of "if it's not too much trouble." I just really dislike the desperation and lack of manners that tends to overtake people in these autograph situations. Because a player happens to walk within a 5-foot area of where the crowd is, he instantly becomes this prized commodity with everyone clammoring for a piece of him. It's so arbitrary and uncivilized. I am forgiving of the behavior in real fans. I've seen Buffy fans be overcome with emotion in the presence of one-episode guest stars that were literally coming to an event from waiting tables. But if you can't tell me who someone is, why the heck do you want their autograph, and why are you willing to shout, and elbow your way to get it? I did manage to coax Jeff out of the dugout and in my direction, where he signed for all the people standing around me, (who had no idea who he was) and then finally signed one of my photo-day collages for me. I said "I feel silly since I already have like 4 autographs, but it's the only way I can say hi." I find it weird that when people are getting autographs at games, they hardly ever engage in a conversation with the player. Which makes it feel all the more like this cold, retail transaction.

He looked at my picture and said "Fuji photo day?" [the random smalltalk generator strikes again]
and I said "yes, this year and last year."
Then my husband asked if he was in the line-up, and Jeff sort of shook his head and said "no."
d'oh! party foul.
At this point, the crowd was pressing in, so we made to leave. But first I said
"Have a good trip home"
and he turned to us and said "you guys too."

We sat near some really nice Angels fans from the local area, and then there was annoying drunk man. Annoying drunk man introduced himself to us before the game on Friday even started. "I'm from Laguna!" He proclaimed. My husband and I looked at each other and said "Hollywood.... California." And then proceeded to debate about exactly what he sold, since everything about him said "salesman." He was at the game alone, so I can't fault him for wanting to make friends. But as the game went on, he returned to his front-row seat time and time again with both hands clutching beers. Not that there wasn't cause for drinking, because there was. But he got loud with it. Shouting at the umps. Yelling at Erstad. And then finally trying to tell Erstad he'd made some sort of "little league" mistake in an at-bat. Erstad was clearly like "what the hell?" His sound credentials for making this assesment being that he either coached little league, or at one time had played little league. After this, with the game in tatters and the White Flag on the mound, we all amused ourselves watching the interplay of the security team as the usher near us radioed a co-worker in another section, resulting in a 3rd person coming over to talk with the local usher, resulting in someone finally talking to Annoying Drunk Guy. After this stern talking to, the man made his way to the area at the end of the dugout. Our first thought was that he was being asked to apologize and then he could stay, but as a security guard kicked him out of the area, we realized he was taking it upon himself to apologize. A nice thought, but an inappropriate time. Finally, the fuzzy mascot, on his 3rd sweep through our area, engaged the guy in play. But then in a classic move, pantomimed a sort of "you've had a lot to drink haven't you?" statement, followed up with a "you're not driving are you?" to which the guy said "no, taking a taxi." Satisfied, the mascot moved on. How drunk do you have to be for the mascot to call you out on it? Suffice it to say Annoying Drunk man left around the end of the 7th inning (when they stop selling beer), and was never seen again.

I felt really bad for the Tropicana field vendors, who are forced to carry their wares in rubbermaid tubs. How low-rent is that? Seriously, no neck-strap, t-shirts that look like they are 5 years old, and these tubs with the rubbermaid sticker still on them. It did not look fun. Nice arms though, even if a few of them looked like they were on work-release from the deranged serial killers' home.

It sure is good to be home. Let's hope there is indeed a silver lining. No more Finley, or less White Flag, or more determination, or something.

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