Sunday, May 16, 2010

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By David Saltzer - AngelsWin.com Senior Writer

Getting ready for my first time in the press box, I was given a lot of advice. One thing that I was told repeatedly was: no matter what happens, there is absolutely no cheering from the press.

I took that advice seriously. Last night, in the 12-3 win, I got all my cheering out. After every run scored, I reminded myself that “tomorrow, I can’t do that.”

After getting setup in the press box, I went down to the field. Although I had some butterflies in my stomach, I was ready and had my game face on. I was not going to cheer, no matter what happened.

But, all that changed at about 10:20. You see, today is Sunday, and on top of it, Little Leaguers day. Over 11,000 kids were about to descend on the field.

As David Courtney’s voice came over the PA, he announced the first group to come onto the field. It was a group of kids from the challenge division: all were kids with special needs.

As they started to parade around the stadium, all their family and friends began to cheer for them from the stands. As they started to round home plate, I noticed something in the dugout. The reporters and coaches who were there got closer to the rail. I wondered what was about to happen.

As the kids came closer to the dugout, the cheers got louder. The ushers all joined in the cheering, even the security guards. Then the coaches, players and reporters began to applaud. Soon I was cheering for them. I had to. They were just so happy to be there. I thought to myself “Who says there’s no cheering from the press at the ballpark?”

As the kids with special needs went by, they gave us all high-5s. It didn’t matter who we were. It didn’t matter if we were part of the press or part of the team. They were just having fun being on the field. As much fun as I was having being there, they were having more.

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As the rest of the Little Leaguers came through, I wondered who would get the most attention. There weren’t too many recognizable faces in the dugout at the moment. Even I had trouble recognizing Trevor Bell.

But, I was wrong by a long-shot thinking that it was going to be a “who” that would get the most attention. I should have been thinking about a “what”.

The thing that got the most attention: The large buckets of Bazooka gum in the dugout. Most of the kids just stared with envy at all that bubblegum. Every now and then a player, a coach, or a reporter would grab some and give it to the kids. You should have heard the squeals of delight! Not even a baseball could have beaten the joy of bubblegum.

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As the rest of the players came out into the dugout, it was clear that they were in a better mood. Winning big last night has that affect on the team.

But, as they came out, they were more jovial than I expected. They were playing with the kids on the field. They took plenty of time to sign autographs for the fans. They bumped fists with kids walking by and answered questions. They took the cheers in stride. They posed for photos. They made their way through the crowd of over 11,000 Little Leaguers to go warmup, and didn’t mind all the attention that they were getting.

Part of why I love the Angels as an organization is because they do so many classy things for so many different members of the community. They are here for the fans and they do the right thing for so many people. Starting with the Autry’s, and now with the Moreno’s, the Angels have always been charitable and philanthropic to those with special needs.

As I watched the players interact with the fans, I could see a sparkle in their eyes. It was the reflection of the kids’ love for the game reflecting off of the Major Leaguers.

With the way the team has been playing for the past few weeks, the attitude from the players has been a mixture of depression and frustration. Today I saw something different in the players’ eyes. It was the recognition that baseball is still a kids’ game, Bazooka gum and all, and that they are lucky enough to be playing it.
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