By Adam Dodge - Angelswin.com Senior Writer
As the players align for their respective team pictures after nine innings of softball, it is apparent the individuals within the group know their place in this world. Their faces red from the midday sun, their shirts and hats covered in sweat and dust, most with grimaces expressing agonizing discomfort … these guys are not cut out for the daily grind faced by ballplayers.
What is this collection of gentlemen ranging in age from 19 to 65? Baseball fans. Specifically, Angels fans who spend much of each day of the baseball season -- and offseason -- discussing their favorite team on the increasingly popular Angelswin.com, a fan site created and developed long-time Angel Fan and Systems Support Engineer, Chuck Richter.
The Softball game and after party at Danny K’s Sports Grill in Orange is the first all inclusive get-together for this community of fans since the site went live in February 2003.
Since then, the site has grown into one of the best places on the Web for Angels fans to meet. Richter did not have a mission statement for the site, just a motto – “A site by the fans for the fans.” Angelswin.com is just that as the site’s content is provided solely by Angel fans.
The writing staff -- Eric Denton, an administrator for a major software company, Victor Varadi, a project manager for a Web design company, and myself, an office manager and stand-up comedian -- produces feature articles, columns and series previews, as well as game recaps on a daily basis. The articles can be found on the Angelswin.com homepage and on the site’s accompanying blog.
Angels fans can also get information directly from the Angels, as Vice President of Media Relations Tim Mead and Angels’ scout Eddie Bane frequently share with Angelswin.com readers their insight regarding the state of the franchise and the direction it may be moving, as well as analysis on minor league prospects. In addition, Richter has taken advantage of Spring Training in Tempe, Ariz., annually interviewing current Angels, coaches and prospects for the site's season preview, a must read for all Angels fans.
Richter has also been fortunate enough to find contributors in or near the team’s minor league affiliates. For example, Angels fans can read weekly updates from Kevin Mark of Salt Lake City, who covers the Bees, the Angels’ AAA affiliate. Mark attends many of the Bees’ home games and provides insightful analysis on the progress made by Angels prospects and rehabilitating veterans. Because of this unique insight, Angelswin.com readers already knew what to expect from young players like Howie Kendrick, Mike Napoli and Joe Saunders before they made their Major League debuts.
Every Wednesday afternoon, look for the weekly prospect hotlist as Jason Sinner and Chuck Richter team up to compile a top 10 list of who's hot in the minors, as well as Richter's annual top 20 Prospects list following the season.
On the site’s message board, the real lure for readers, fans can be found posting their thoughts on issues related to the team, its players, front office and other issues related to Major League Baseball, other sports, pop culture, even religion and politics. Discussions and arguments are a 24-hours-per-day occurrence. These arguments sometimes become heated, but are always entertaining and the board’s moderators never allow things to get out of hand, a major reason why so many have flocked to Angelswin.com.
Geoff Bilau, one of the site’s first regulars and creator of many of the logos found on the site and its new clothing line, agrees. “Many of the (message board) posters came over from the message board hosted by ESPN which was seriously flawed by a lack of moderation powers and steady flow of outsiders who sought to exploit that weakness.”
As with many message boards, Angelswin.com has had its share of “trolls,” whose sole purpose seems to be to cause mischief and mayhem by antagonizing members of the online community with repugnant rants comprised mainly of vulgarity and bad grammar. The board’s moderators are quick to delete the tasteless posts and ban the users who express them.
For the most part, fans will find good natured discussion on the message board, as posters tackle important issues such as Scot Shields’ diet, Kelvim Escobar’s heater and Garret Anderson’s demeanor on the field.
Beware first-timers, as sarcasm seems to be the communication method of choice by most of the site’s members, who themselves are often the topic of conversation. Whether it’s someone’s taste in the opposite sex, adventures in travel or their alma mater, the community can be relentless in poking fun at one of their own.
Most everyone who frequents the Angelswin.com message board does so under a pseudonym, which typically provides insight as to some aspect of the poster. For example, “Halo N ‘Zona” resides in Arizona. “Red321” has red hair, "Angel25Fan" for his 25 years + as an Angels fan, and ex-ESPN forum moderator and “ChiliDavisEyez” is apparently a big fan of the former Angel designated hitter’s ability to see the baseball. Although, I am still trying to figure that one out.
“Chonito,”, “GlausGirl,” “Baseballmom” and “Napacious44” make up the female population. Outnumbered by men by more than 100 to 1, the women often pool their efforts and collectively bash whichever male poster decides it’s his day to play a chauvinist. Often that man is “Angel In Red” (or simply, AIR), the elder statesman if you will. AIR receives grief from all as he is admittedly the oldest regular (based on age) on the site. These spats are all in fun and never serious, but provide entertainment to all that read along.
The greatest topic of debate deals with Angels' General Manager, Bill Stoneman. There are two groups of fans on the board and choosing a side is a requisite of becoming a frequent poster. The Anti-Stonemans and Pro-Stonemans wage daily battle as the two groups debate whether or not Stoneman is good at his job. Some say that his ineffectiveness at the trade deadline through the years is reason enough for owner Arte Moreno to find a new, more aggressive team architect, while others will argue that the Angels are in the midst of their best run in franchise history in large part due to Stoneman's ability to build a deep farm system. This schism in the Angelswin.com family has not yet led to civil war, but how the Angels finish the season and the manner in which they do so could change that.
During Angels' telecasts, those who are not in attendance often spend some or the entirety of the game in the site's game day chat room, typing away cheers for their favorite Angels and curses for opponents. The chat room is a great way for Angelswin.com members to share in the excitement of the game while also getting an opportunity to get to know each other on a more personal level. Much like the site's message board, be prepared for sarcasm and banter. And bear in mind, the chat room is uncensored and during those times when things aren't going the Angels' way, many like to, um, express their frustration, present company included.
Angelswin.com provides fans with an alternative to the major baseball Web sites, focusing solely on coverage of L.A.'s best team from a fan's perspective. The site's graphics and logos are second to none and, most importantly, it provides a fraternal atmosphere where people can share their love of Angels baseball without fear of being attacked by the obnoxious sect that flood the other homes of baseball fans on the Web.
Here are some pictures taken by Professional photographer Randy Lawrence (Lifetime) of one of our 3 Angelswin.com Softball Tournaments in the last year. Good times online, at the ballpark, in Tempe at our annual spring-fests and on the field for the Angelswin community throughout the year!