Angels Put On a Show Come Hell or High Water
His name: Joshua Hutchings.
His title: Geyser control.
His job description: “I throw a whole bunch of water in the air.”
He’s the Geyser Guy, the man who runs the “Outfield Extravaganza” at Edison Field.
Actually there are three people who have this job. That’s one of life’s little disappointments, like finding out Sea World uses more than one killer whale to play Shamu.
Hutchings is the man on duty for this game, the opener of a four-game series against the Chicago White Sox. He sits in a booth he shares with the pyrotechnician on the west side of the press box.
“Why does everyone want to talk to the Geyser Guy?” wonders Scott Lake, the Pyro Boy.
Because plenty of ballparks have fireworks. This is the only one with a geyser. Yes, the Kansas City Royals do have what they call a “water spectacular” at Kauffman Stadium. But the Angels did them one better. Their extravaganza has a geyser.
“It’s pretty original,” the Geyser Guy says. “Leave it to Disney to be on the cutting edge.”
As you can see, Hutchings, 19, is Disney through and through. He has worked on shows such as the “Fantasmic” production at Disneyland and does pregame special lighting for Mighty Duck games, although this is his first real experience with water. “Personally, I’m more of a lighting guy,” Hutchings says. “It’s where my background is. I’ve been doing it longer. I have more control.”
There isn’t much creativity involved in running the geysers. It’s a pretty set routine.
The Geyser Guy shows up 2 1/2 hours before game time, sits down in his booth and starts the water flowing down the rock formation beyond the outfield fence. He inserts a key into the control panel and turns it to “Show Enable.”
On the panel before him are seven buttons that activate different preprogrammed water and light routines for the five small geysers that shoot 20-25 feet in the air and the main geyser that can shoot up to 90 feet in the air. The biggest decision-making process involves choosing which button to push.
There isn’t much room for individual expression. Although Hutchings is considered an independent contractor when running the geysers, he’s working for a company that fired Jungle Cruise guides at Disneyland because they added their own jokes to the script.
“They wanted it very consistent through the season,” Hutchings says.
“You can kind of see little differences” between the three operators, he says. “It’s very subtle. I play with the main geyser more, I think, than the other guys do. But we’re all pretty consistent.”
The main geyser offers the operators the best chance to express themselves. They can push a button marked 25%, which activates only one of the four pumps, or push the 100% button and use all four pumps to send it to its full height. Or they can bump it up and down for effect.
Hutchings got to do a little freelance work when George Strait had a concert at Edison Field last month. For three songs, the stage lights were dimmed and Strait sang while the geysers danced behind him.
“Too bad they didn’t want pyro with it,” Lake says. “That would have been real nice.”
You’ll have to forgive Pyro Boy for being a little antsy. The Geyser Guy can play with his toy between every inning. Pyro Boy has a state-of-the-art computerized firing system, but the only time he is assured of using it is for the national anthem and player introductions. He spends the rest of the night hoping for an Angel home run, which gives him a reason to set off the celebration sequence.
“It bangs, it flames, it sparks, then it flames,” he says.
He’s holding what looks like a fighter pilot’s joystick in his right hand. His thumb hovers over a red button, and his index finger is ready to pull the big red trigger. Pushing the button and pulling the trigger simultaneously will set off the fireworks.
He doesn’t fire away when a ball goes over the fence. He doesn’t look for the umpire to twirl his finger over his head to signal home run. His cue comes when he gets the word though his headset from the people who run the game operations.
“Nothing in this park happens unless someone tells it to happen,” Pyro Boy says.
Tonight he’s in luck. Darin Erstad steps up with the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth inning and hits a blast to right field.
“Here we go!” Pyro Boy says.
The ball lands in the seat, the word comes through the headsets, flames shoot out of the rock formations and the Geyser Guy hits a green button marked “home run.” As the small geysers dance, Geyser Guy holds the main geyser at its full height.
“Especially for a grand slam,” he says.
He’ll let the geyser stay up for about 15 minutes while the fans leave the ballpark after a victory.
“If they lose, I just kind of turn it off and walk away,” he says.
Guess you could say losses dampen the Geyser Guy’s spirits.