Living in Southern California, it can be hard to see my beloved Detroit Tigers in the flesh as often as I’d like. So when I do get the opportunity, I jump at it. The Tigers rarely come to Los Angeles, so I make a once-a-year trip to Angel Stadium of Anaheim to watch my Motor City Kitties play the Angels.
Normally, it doesn’t go so well. I’ve had the (dis)pleasure of seeing my team get spanked in Angel Stadium on more than one occasion. On one particularly painful visit to the OC, I even got to see Mike Trout hit a 1st inning grand slam en route to a 10-0 Angels win. This was the final meeting in a three game series, and the Tigers had already dropped the first two games. The odds of a win were in our favor. This had to be it.
Traditionally, my pregame experience at Angel Stadium is pretty weak. The consumption of alcohol inside the stadium parking lot is illegal, so I’m forced to get a spot in an offsite lot. Considering my long drive from LA and my lack of a desire to pay $100+ for a spot in a tailgating lot, I end up sitting in my car and drinking beers before the game (with the engine off and keys out of the ignition, of course). This is while trying to avoid the gaze of the many law enforcement officials in the area. Pretty lame. But this time, I vowed things would be different!
I recently discovered that for some reason there is a Portillo’s in Buena Park, right near the Stadium. For those who don’t know, it’s a delightful Chicago-area chain known for it’s dogs and beef. I headed on down with a couple fellow expat Michiganders to enjoy some food and beers before we hit the ballpark. I was delighted to find that both were comically low-priced as far as things go here in Southern California. I downed my combo Italian beef and sausage sandwich. Things were already going my way.
We decided to stop into a bar before the game and have one last reasonably priced alcoholic beverage. We were lucky enough find Keno’s Sports Bar. This place was great. To get there you have to go through Keno’s Restaurant, which looks like a more respectable version of Denny’s. It was really weird. It’s like the restaurant was too big, so they decided to build a sports bar in a corner and separate it by tinted glass double doors. Another bonus was that they actually had Keno (Hot Spot here in Cali), a great lottery-style gambling game that is responsible for taking my money in bars all over Michigan. But not this day! I wound up trying my luck and left that bar $10 richer. The good day continued, now if only the Tigers could seal the deal.
We arrived a little late and settled in to our nosebleed seats just as the 3rd inning was getting underway. This was right around the time that I realized that my two friends that I convinced to come with me on this trip south were not very interested in baseball. They were both from Michigan, but they were also ladies who spent more time talking about their work as ER nurses and the latest Snapchat filters than watching the pitcher’s duel happening before our eyes. The stadium was pretty empty and it made it so that the sound carried really far. Not only could people hear my friends talking about everything except baseball, but I could hear all types of stereotypical ballpark sounds as well. Random heckling, cheers of encouragement and vendors selling their peanuts and crackerjacks filled my ears as I soaked it all in.
The Tigers starter on the mound was rookie, Michael Fulmer and as of the late he has been the best part of the team’s rotation. This June 1st game was no different. It was scoreless going into the 5th inning when the Tigers put the first run of the game on the board. It was right around this time that I realized that the young gun was pitching a no-hitter thus far. I began to get very anxious. My two friends were oblivious.
The 6th inning came and went and neither team got a hit. The score was 1-0 and the rookie’s no-no was still intact.
In the top of the 7th, the Tigers added another run and while I was excited at that fact, my focus was totally on this possible no-hitter. It took every bit of restraint I had to not tell my friends to shut up and watch what could be the best pitching performance any of us had ever seen. I kept my mouth shut. Even as Michael Fulmer got through the first two batters of the 7th without allowing a hit and my excitement level went through the roof. All I wanted to do was talk about it, but I would be damned if it was me who jinxed this thing.
That’s when CJ Cron hit a single and ruined it all. Obviously there was some other Tigers’ fan idiot out there who lacked the same level of self control as me and said something about the no-hitter out loud. What an asshole. I was finally able to tell my friends what had been happening but I was crushed. Sure, my team won the game 3-0 and only allowed 2 hits, and maybe I was being greedy, but I really wanted that no-hitter.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy that I finally got to see my team win in Angel Stadium but it could have been so much sweeter. It would have been the perfect revenge for all the awful games I’ve seen there. But sometimes you’ve just got to be happy with what you get. I just have to relish the win and the fact that there’s a chance that the Tigers might have something special in Michael Fulmer. He just had another strong outing last night and might be the new Ace in the rotation. Who woulda thought?