Shohei Ohtani was on the mound, Mike Trout was batting in front of him in the lineup, the Angels had the third-best record in the American League … and half of the seats were empty.
This wasn’t Fenway Park.
Or Wrigley Field.
Or Dodger Stadium.
Yet, in its own way, Angel Stadium was the perfect place to watch a ballgame Thursday evening.
As it is on most nights.
Grab a hot dog and take a seat. Heck, in certain sections, go ahead and take an entire row.
The Angels’ future plans came into sharper focus in recent days, courtesy of the corruption scandal that resulted in the Anaheim City Council voting to terminate the sale of Angel Stadium and its surrounding property.
City leaders are expecting the Angels to legally challenge their decision in an effort to revive the sale of the 150-acre site, which team owner Arte Moreno was expected to develop into a retail and residential village centered on a new or refurbished stadium.
Shortly after the Anaheim deal was killed, the city of Long Beach invited the Angels to reengage discussions about a waterfront ballpark.
A long-term stadium solution isn’t about to materialize anytime soon.
The next generation of Angels fans will attend games in a ballpark village somewhere, whether it’s in Anaheim, Long Beach or somewhere else. There will be places right outside of the stadium to eat and drink before and after games, which will fundamentally alter the game-day experience.
Look at the mixed-used development at which the Atlanta Braves now play their home games, which has freed their fans from lining up outside of Waffle Houses after games.
Consider how the San Diego Padres’ home of Petco Park has transformed the Gaslamp Quarter, offering visitors everything from high-end restaurants to fraternity house-like bars with wooden floors made sticky by spilled beer.
These places are vibrant.
They don’t have the charming simplicity of Angel Stadium, however.
Not many places like Angel Stadium remain. The stadium is the fourth-oldest in the major leagues.
When the facility is eventually modernized or replaced, Southern California will lose something, just as the region lost something when the Clippers moved from the Sports Arena to Staples Center.
Angel Stadium can’t provide the intense atmosphere of Dodger Stadium. Angel Stadium can’t offer the quality of food of Petco Park.
But what the place lacks in glamour, it makes up for in comfort similar to that of a well-worn pair of jeans.
At a time when the average cost for a family of four to attend a major league game is more than $250, individual tickets for many Angels home games can be found on the secondary market for $10 or less. Not even tickets for Major League Soccer games are that affordable.
Last year, my brother and I took our father to a Dodgers game for his 70th birthday and the total bill was … well, let’s just say I’m grateful my brother is a medical doctor.
I certainly can’t justify spending that much to take my children to a baseball game when they, like pretty much everyone under 55, aren’t particularly interested in the sport.
The only baseball games to which I’ve taken my children were at Angel Stadium. My 12-year-old daughter didn’t mind, she thinks Ohtani is very handsome.
Modest demand for tickets has benefits, parking at Angel Stadium is about as easy as getting through a drive-through at Jack in the Box. Leaving is equally painless. This isn’t Dodger Stadium.
The announced attendance for the opening game of the four-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday night was 28,228. Angel Stadium’s capacity is 45,050.
There was plenty of space. Children danced and waved their rally monkeys between innings, and their parents didn’t have to worry about them accidentally hitting their neighbors.
People could talk to each other without shouting.
This will remain the Angels’ fan experience for the foreseeable future. Their lease in Anaheim runs through 2029 and can be extended three times, to as late 2038.
Attendance figures make clear that more people prefer the passion at Dodger Stadium. They like to feel the civic and cultural pride that swells every night in Chavez Ravine. They want to be a part of a game that feels like more than a game.
Which is understandable.
There will be a day when the Angels have a modern home that can provide their fans with modern amenities. Until then, the norm will be nights like Thursday, when their games offer a low-key alternative to what has become the typical sports fan experience.