Those who feel a need to vent over the Angels’ name change will have a chance this weekend to confront the source of their frustration: Owner Arte Moreno, who has not publicly commented since his controversial Jan. 3 decision to re-name his team the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, is scheduled to attend the team’s fan-fest at Angel Stadium on Saturday.
Tim Mead, the Angels’ vice president of communications, said Moreno will spend several hours Saturday mingling with fans and players. Because of a function he’s attending in Phoenix that night, Moreno will not spend the entire day at the event, which runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Moreno was the darling of the 2004 fan-fest, as fans and players showered him with praise for the $146-million free-agent spending spree that brought Vladimir Guerrero, Bartolo Colon, Kelvim Escobar and Jose Guillen to Anaheim. Everywhere he went, the new owner was deluged by fans seeking autographs and thanking him for improving the team, which went on to win the American League West.
But the honeymoon ended abruptly when Moreno went forward with his long-anticipated name change, a move he said he believes will help broaden the Angels’ appeal and fan base but has infuriated many in Orange County and sparked a legal battle between the team and the city of Anaheim.
The reception for Moreno could turn chilly Saturday, but the Angels aren’t expecting hostility, especially if the recent Angel Fantasy Camp in Tempe, Ariz., is any indication.
“Several of the participants were season-ticket holders, and Arte held court with them in the clubhouse, answering a lot of direct questions,” Mead said. " ... If he spends that kind of time with a lot of different people, they’ll see a clearer picture.”
While the ball Doug Mientkiewicz caught for the final out of Boston’s historic 2004 World Series championship went on a tour of New England and will be displayed in Fenway Park in 2005, the ball Darin Erstad caught for the final out of the 2002 World Series remains stuffed in a sock, inside a box, “under lock and key” in the Angel first baseman’s house.
But unlike the 2004 ball, which sparked an ownership tussle between Mientkiewicz and the Red Sox, the final 2002 World Series ball is not shrouded in controversy. The Angels have never asked Erstad for the ball and have no plans to. But if they did ...
“I’d give it to them,” Erstad said. “I’m not a big memorabilia guy, so whatever they want to do with it is fine with me. That feeling you have of winning and celebrating with teammates, there’s no piece of memorabilia that can make up for that.”
Angel outfielder Garret Anderson, limited to a career-low 112 games last season because of an arthritic condition in his upper back, said he underwent a blood test last week “that showed I don’t have any inflammation in my body.”
Anderson, who will return to left field to make room for new center fielder Steve Finley, told a radio audience on “Angel Clubhouse” Tuesday night that he has “been healthy since I started playing last [June] and have been healthy ever since.”
Negotiations between the Angels and the representative for first-round draft pick Jered Weaver are ongoing, and although a deal does not appear imminent, the sides seem to be making progress. Weaver, the former Long Beach State ace who was the 12th overall pick, is seeking a signing package in the $10-million range.
“We’re still in the initial negotiating process, talking about the market, having dialogue, exchanging proposals,” agent Scott Boras said. “Everyone wants to get this resolved. Certainly, we’re trying to move this forward, but you have to understand, Jered is not your typical draft pick. He’s major league ready.”