Angels fans remaining faithful despite another season of on-field disappointment

Fans hold up pictures of Los Angeles Angels' Shohei Ohtani and his interpreter Ippei Mizuhara.
Fans hold up pictures of Angels star Shohei Ohtani and his interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, during Ohtani's at-bat in the sixth inning of an 8-7 win over the Seattle Mariners on Friday night. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Chris Cruz has been an Angels season ticket holder for years. Cruz, 44, from Irvine, said she’s been sitting in the same section by the bullpen since 2016 and has been a fan of the team since 1989. Coming to the stadium to watch the Angels play has always been about more than the box scores.

“We’ve gotten to watch some of these guys that are here come up through the [minor league] system,” Cruz said before the Angels’ 8-7 win over the Seattle Mariners. “We got to meet some of the players, we get to meet their families.

“For me, it’s about the people. I have a baseball family here too. And we get to meet up and talk. … Win, lose, we get to connect with people.”

The Angels had already clinched their seventh-consecutive losing season long before Cruz and the announced crowd of 37,480 fans showed up. One more Angels loss — or one more win by the Tampa Bay Rays (as of Friday, in play for the final AL wild-card spot) — will mathematically eliminate them from the playoffs.

But fans like Cruz have continued to come back faithfully this season, overlooking the losses, coming for the experience and to watch some of baseball’s brightest stars, Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani.

“I love coming to Angel games because it’s just beautiful,” said 11-year-old Dylan Frias, who was trying to get a ball from some of the players prepping for the game in right field. “It’s just such a vibe. I love seeing Trout and Ohtani play their hearts out.”

Trout gave the fans exactly what they wanted in the fifth inning, when he hit a towering solo home run over the center-field wall, prompting deafening cheers from the crowd. His solo shot, his 36th of the season, got the Angels a 5-3 lead.

The Angels' Mike Trout gestures as he rounds first base after hitting a solo homer during the fifth inning.
Angels star Mike Trout gestures as he rounds first base after hitting a solo homer during the fifth inning on Friday. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

It also extended his home run streak at Angel Stadium to five consecutive games.

Trout’s bobblehead night also added to the attractiveness of Friday’s game.

“Even if they’re losing or not,” said Wesley King, 37, another lifelong Angels fan from Banning, who was at the game with family, including his 7-year-old nephew. “It’s still fun for him to come and watch the games. And it was bobblehead day, so that was good too. That helped out a lot.”

Angels fans were also treated to some other fun moments, such as Luis Rengifo’s first career multi-home run game. He hit a solo home run in the third and then a three-run home run in the sixth, which got the Angels an 8-4 lead. The shots also made him the first Angels player to homer from both sides of the plate since Kendrys Morales in 2012.

The Angels' Luis Rengifo looks skyward after he hit a solo home run during the third inning Sept. 16, 2022.
The Angels' Luis Rengifo looks skyward after he hit a solo home run during the third inning. He added a three-run blast in the sixth. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

“We love baseball,” Jackie Shirley, 68, a longtime Angels fan from Fullerton, said of why she continues to come back. “And there’s always surprises. The last game we went to, we wanted specifically to see Shohei pitch. We lucked out and he was pitching and he hit a home run. And you know, it’s just those little magic moments for us.”

Jared Walsh update

Walsh has been recovering from surgery in early September to correct his thoracic outlet syndrome. He explained that the procedure involved removing his first rib on his left side, the scalene muscle in his neck and “clipped the pec.”

Asked when he’ll feel 100%, Walsh said: “100%? I think he said that’s usually like five to six months. But … I should be able to swing the bat by like Thanksgiving, which is probably around the time that I usually start hitting anyways.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.