(Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)
(Greg Fiume / Getty Images)
(Lenny Ignelzi / Associated Press)
Long Beach State baseball coach Troy Buckley considers himself an avid Angels fan, one whose ties to Angels ace and former 49ers star Jered Weaver has led to close relationships with Angels Manager Mike Scioscia, pitching coach Mike Butcher and vice president of communications Tim Mead.
But when Buckley settles in front of his television to watch Thursday night’s American League division series opener between the Angels and Kansas City Royals, he will turn the mute button on himself.
Opposing Weaver in Game 1 will be Royals left-hander Jason Vargas, another former Long Beach State pitcher who was a teammate of Weaver on the 2004 49ers club that came within one win of the College World Series.
“I’m going to try to be neutral as best I can,” said Buckley, who is in his fifth year as the head coach at Long Beach and was the pitching coach on that 2004 team. “I can’t have a rooting interest. I guess I’d like the Angels to win with both pitchers getting a no-decision.”
When Buckley heard his former pitchers would be squaring off against each other in the playoffs, he sent text messages to Weaver and Vargas, who have remained good friends since college, to congratulate them.
“I’m just really proud of them because they do it for the right reasons,” Buckley said. “They play to win, they believe in the team, they compete extremely hard, and there’s not a selfish bone in their body. That is what I love about those guys.
“That started a long time ago, before they made all their money. They’re in a great position to play for a championship, and that’s tough to do. They’re all about winning, and when you get there, there’s no better feeling.”