A guide to opening day 2017 with the Los Angeles Angels, whom I despise


A blue-bleeding L.A. Dodgers fan since the days of players wearing stirrup socks and 1970s' porn moustaches, I never cared for the cross-town Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. But mostly the crummy team from Orange County was an afterthought. Enter the 2002 World Series, in which I rooted for the Angels to beat the vile San Francisco Giants in a lesser-of-two-evils conundrum.

The Angels emerged victorious and many fans instantly became as obnoxious and smug as Red Sox Nation, mocking the Dodger faithful, insulting our beloved stadium and waving ridiculous "Rally Monkey" stuffed-animal mascots in our faces. Faster than Maury Wills could steal second base, my indifference turned to psychotic hatred.

So why am I guiding you to the Angels' 2017 home opener versus the Seattle Mariners on Friday night, April 7? Because I've attended enough Dodgers vs. Angels "Freeway Series" games at Angel Stadium of Anaheim (a.k.a. "The Big A") to make me an expert on this Mickey Mouse experience.

Tickets
Unlike the Dodgers, the Angels get high marks for not having money-grubbing restrictions in place for opening day ticket availability (i.e. the need to also purchase a multi-game ticket package). As of this writing you can still nab decent seats on the Angels' website. And though face values are high, they're in line with the MLB average. For a wider range of seating options, check StubHub, eBay, etc.

The opening night turnstile giveaway is an Angels 2017 wall calendar, perfect for fans to mark the exact day in August their miserable "Halos" are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. On the field, Angels' star outfielder Mike Trout has one of the game's sweetest swings. And if he homers, prepare to feast your eyes on a fireworks display launched from centerfield's faux boulder-and-waterfall fountain, which looks as if it's been trucked over from Disneyland.

Getting there
Opening night's 7:07 p.m. first pitch will likely spell trouble for those trying to reach the stadium area in Friday rush-hour freeway traffic. Alternately, consider riding the Metrolink train. Stress free, you'll arrive at the ARTIC station, within stumbling distance of the ballpark, and be able to drink yourself silly without sweating a DUI.

Pre-game party
The stadium parking lot opens 2.5 hours prior to game time and you'll find many old-school Angel fans tailgating in the area near the towering "Big A" spire. Charcoal barbecue grills and alcohol consumption are prohibited, so keep that red Solo cup on the DL.

My go-to spot for a pre-game buzz is The Catch, a sleek bar/restaurant located on the edge of the stadium parking lot. The line-up of craft beers is solid, the food is tasty (try the "jalapeno bacon bombs" appetizer) and the 2002 World Series memorabilia lining the walls reminds fans that save for a single season, they are the perennial laughingstock of the American League West.

If craft beer is your passion, you're in luck. In recent years a number of craft brewery tasting rooms have sprung up across the city of Anaheim and three lie within walking distance of the ballpark: Golden Road Brewing, Backstreet Brewery and the outstanding Noble Ale Works. Need grub to soak up the suds? Karl Strauss Brewing Company has a full-service restaurant across from the stadium parking lot on the Orangewood Avenue side.

Inside the stadium
Not even delusional Angel fans, of which there are many, have ever raved about the stadium's food options. But you can usually count on decent fare from the Smoke Ring BBQ and Chronic Tacos stands. For the best selection of beer on tap, head to the Draft Pick stand near Gate 2 on the field level (behind home plate), where they pour some two-dozen microbrews for about $13 each.

On paper, both the Angels and Mariners appear improved from last season so it figures to be an entertaining ballgame. I'll be home watching the Dodgers game, sticking pins in my Angels' Rally Monkey voodoo doll.

Eli Ellison is a Southern California-based travel writer whose work has appeared in numerous publications, including the Los Angeles Times and Travel Channel.com.