Sunday, September 21, 2014

By David Saltzer, Senior Writer

For so many years, Angels fans could only dream of saying that. Every spring, we’d go to Angels Stadium filled with hope. Every September, on a Sunday, the reality sank in: Baseball was done for the year. The last home game of the year had been played, the last out had been recorded.

Then 2002 happened. And, for nearly a decade, it seemed that every year, Angels fans could say it. It almost became rote.

Like the rain in California, the inevitable drought came. If absence makes the heart grow fonder, then prolonged absence nearly breaks it. It has been too long since we’ve been able to say those six magical words.

For many, the post season is validation for all their time spent in the summer. It’s their “reward” for passionately following a team through the ups and downs of 162 games.

For others, it’s a chance at glory—to see something special happen for their town, their team, their community. It’s a chance to say “I was there, and I was a part of it.”

For me, though, it’s something else: it’s a chance to extend that hope from spring for a few more weeks into the fall. Although fall is my favorite season of the year, it is a bit bittersweet because it always means the end of the baseball season. And, it means that it will be another 4 months until I can hear that sweet sound of a ball hitting a bat, the pure joy of baseball chatter, and the thrill of listening to an inning of baseball.

Like many, I go into a bit of a depression brought on by baseball withdrawal. Sure, I enjoy good football games, and have fun at hockey games, but neither is the same as baseball. I’m always happier at Angels stadium than at any other sports venue.

Today was the Angels’ last regular season home game. I took my sons to the game because seeing the last out of the season is a tradition. But, unlike so many years in the past, the game wasn’t a melancholy occasion; instead there was joy amongst the fans.

Thanks to events earlier in the week, there was a buzz in the crowd—a feeling of hope. Even though the Angels lost the game to the Rangers, the fans were upbeat and buoyant.

Angels fans are a family. We know each other. We take care of each other. We get to know the people who sit around us and work at the stadium. We take pleasure in seeing the kids in the row ahead of us grow up. We feel old when they are so old that they are bringing their kids to the stadium. During the season, we may go to eat lunch or dinner before a game with our Angels family or celebrate with drinks after an especially good game. We share the ups and downs of the season over countless conversations during the games.

On so many occasions, the last game of the season meant saying goodbye to all those friends. It was like the end of a good long visit with family—you wanted it to last a bit longer, but knew you had to go. There would be the hugs goodbye and the ever present “see you next year.”

But today, that wasn’t the case. Today, hope remains strong. The regular season may be over, but the post season is yet to come.

As my sons and I walked out of the stadium, we heard it over and over again. From one fan to another, and from fans to stadium employees, it almost sang out: “See you in the post season” meaning there’s still more Angels baseball to come this year. We still have more time to enjoy our baseball family. The last out of the season has yet to be recorded.

So as the final week winds down, and the Angels play for home field advantage, I will be happy because I know one thing—I will see you all in the post season.
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