First, the usual stuff was there.
Both teams lined the baselines and were introduced, from assistant trainers up the team food chain to multimillionaires in baseball cleats.
The mandatory giant American flag was unwrapped all the way across the outfield, a nice prelude to the landing of three Navy parachutists, sailing in from 3,000 feet. They missed their giant yellow mark behind second base, but did well in swirling winds to get down softly in the outfield. The third man in carried another big American flag.
Then it got unusual.
Vladimir Guerrero, former Angels star outfielder now retired, was given the honor of throwing a first ceremonial pitch. His catcher was Don Baylor, a beloved former Angels player who is now, at age 64, the team's hitting coach.
Guerrero pitched low and outside. Baylor went down and to his right to get it, and couldn't get up. They carried him into the dugout and the report came later that he had broken his right thigh bone and will have surgery Tuesday.
Baylor had crouched behind the same home plate that the home run-celebrating
The first real pitch hadn't been thrown and the Angels, who have had trouble with this beginning stuff the last few years, were off to a bad start. At least it wasn't one of the multimillionaires in cleats.
Within minutes, the bad karma turned good.
The new Mickey Mantle of baseball, young
Trout responded just like Mickey would have. He cranked a shot over the left-field fence for a 2-0 lead and the sold-out opening-night crowd of 44,152 was ecstatic.
After no playoffs since 2009 and with the memory of the 2002
Hours before the game,
Nevertheless, he is in a funny spot.
He has plenty of security. His contract takes him through the 2018 season, an almost unheard-of endorsement by baseball management for a dugout chief.
He also has plenty of talent to put on the field. Besides Trout, there is certain Hall of Famer
If you went just by payroll, Scioscia's team would be given a bye into the playoffs. Starting with Trout's new contract next season, the Angels will spend enough on player salaries to purchase a small country — and have plenty left over for redecorating.
Scioscia knows better than anyone that this game was only the first of 162. Before playoffs.
He said one of the ways the Angels have attempted to address the failures of recent years, especially the slow starts, is to get more aggressive sooner. Spring training was not allowed to be a casual ease-in to the regular season.
"I didn't just like that we won a lot of games this spring," he said, "but I liked the way we won them."
He said pitching coach Mike Butcher was especially instrumental in pushing this agenda. "If we get off to the start we anticipate," Scioscia said, "Mike will deserve a lot of the credit."
Scioscia characterized much of last season's pitching problems — bullpen collapses, starters not going deep enough into the game —as shortcomings hard to conceal. "If you peeled the paint back," he said, "you could see the warts."
He said the perception he and General Manager Jerry Dipoto don't get along is wrong. "We've evolved into a good team," Scioscia said.
And he admitted some of the off-season moves, such as the acquisition of veteran third baseman
"I winced," Scioscia said. "But I understood."
Sadly for the Angels, on this first of 162, the warts were still there. Pitching warts. Bullpen warts.
Weaver left after 61/3 with the scored tied, 3-3. Salas came in and gave up the hit that allowed the
It was 10-3 and the Angels' bullpen wasn't putting out fire, but throwing kerosene on it again.
Poor Don Baylor was in pain. So were Angels fans.
It's a new season. Or is it?