Wednesday, March 12, 2014

By David Saltzer, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer

I have a really good friend named Mike. We go back a long time. I think it was 7th or 8th grade when we first met. I’m not 100% sure, but at this point it doesn’t matter. We’re just really good friends.

When we were younger, we had many adventures together. We took road trips all over the country. Time was cheap, gas was cheap, and we were willing to do crazy things.

Then he got married and had a child. There were more demands on his time. He had to get a serious job and began working to support his family. Soon I started working and then had a family to support. Our last road trip was probably 18 years ago. G-d, that’s a long time. Those were some halcyon days.

Mike and I never drifted apart. It’s just that, as many of you can relate, we had lives to lead and things to do. Mike rose to the top position in his company, and then another company, and travelled a lot for work.

One thing that kept us together was baseball. We both loved the Angels. We’d get together for an occasional dinner or game and catch up. Say what you want about the pace of baseball, but it’s great for old friends to get together and talk. We could always find some time to get together for a game or a dinner to talk baseball in the offseason. Mike would always make a point to read all the things I wrote for AngelsWin.com and would lurk on the site. Good or bad, we always had baseball to discuss.

Because Mike had to travel so much for work, and frankly, because he worked so hard, he never made it out to the AngelsWin.com Spring Training Fanfest with me. I would always invite him, he’d always try to come, and then life would interfere. 

Instead of Mike, another great friend, Kevin would always come with me. Kevin and I also go back to 7th grade, and he and I continued the tradition of road trips and adventures when Mike could no longer go. It became part of our yearly travels and something we both looked forward to.

When Fanfest was announced, I immediately bought tickets for the game and planned to come out with Kevin. I bought tickets for us for the Angels games and looked into flights and hotel rooms.

But then Kevin told me that he couldn’t go. All of my plans for another great adventure with my friend were shattered. Kevin was back in school for an advanced degree and needed to prepare for some boards to take.

When I told Mike this over a dinner one night, I heard him say something that I haven’t heard in a long time. He said “I’ll go.” I couldn’t believe it! It had been ages since we had taken a trip together and our lives had changed substantially since we last had a major adventure. I was thrilled! He had always heard about how much fun we had and decided that he could take the time to get away this year.

Mike and I met up at the airport in Tempe. Thanks to all of his travelling, he had premiere status with numerous car companies, so we hopped in a car and went straight to the ballpark. 

There are many things that I love about AngelsWin.com. One of them is just how welcoming and great a community it is. When we showed up at the stadium, many of you noticed that Kevin wasn’t with me and asked who Mike was. And then you welcomed him as a friend. You are all such great people. Mike felt right at home.

That night we went out to dinner at Don & Charlie’s. John, an AngelsWin.com member recommended it as a great steakhouse with a lot of baseball atmosphere. We went and had a great time. We met up with another rookie to Fanfest, my good friend James who works at Angels Stadium, who also decided to make his first trek out for Fanfest. The three of us had some adventures later in the evening, and it took us right back to being kids again—back when life was easy and carefree. 

Saturday, after I went and did some interviews at the stadium, Mike and I hung out together until it was time to go setup for the Fanfest. Mike, being the great guy that he is, just took things in stride. He helped setup things for the event and was available for extra help. He was excited to see all the players and front office people from the Angels, and was hoping that it would be as great as I had billed it.

During the dinner, Mike was very impressed with all that happened.* That’s not an easy thing to do since Mike has organized and run many professional meetings for his companies over the years. To be honest, I was interested and nervous to hear his feedback because of all of his experience throwing major dinners and all-day seminars.

Mike really loved getting to meet the players. He thought the size of the event was great—it allowed everyone who wanted to get a photo or autograph with the players to get one. There were plenty of opportunities. He thought Kole Calhoun was a great guy and wants to see him succeed. And, pointed out how Hector Santiago was one of the few people to follow him on Twitter. He enjoyed meeting the prospects that came out to the dinner: Taylor Lindsey, Mike Morin, and Mark Sappington. 

One of the highlights for Mike was getting to meet Jerry Dipoto. As an Angels fan, how could you not enjoy meeting the GM? Mike got to talk with him for a little bit and was very impressed with how well Jerry handled all the questions. He thought Jerry was very smooth in answering all the tough questions (specifically not hiding behind cliches and stock answers) and how well he told stories to entertain the crowd.

Like so many of you, Mike bought tickets for the charity raffle. He really liked the range and value of the prizes. He was bummed that he didn’t win anything, but felt good knowing that his money was going to support some great charities (Angels RBI Foundation and Orange County Miracle League). 

Sunday, Mike and I got up early to go to the Dugout Talk with Tim Mead. As with Jerry Dipoto, Mike was again impressed with the wide-ranging and free-flowing nature of the questions and answers. 

On our way back to the airport, Mike and I had to make some hasty goodbyes (my fault, we should have left the game a little earlier). But, what he said to me meant a lot. He said “We’re doing this next year!” I know that he’s serious about it too. Mike knows that Kevin will be coming with us next year, and he already made plans for how we could all stay together at a hotel using his premiere status.

Thank you AngelsWin.com for making my good friend Mike feel welcome. Knowing that Mike is already planning on attending the event next year tells me that the AngelsWin.com Spring Training Fanfest 2014 was a big success!

*Okay, for full disclosure he had one criticism that really was his own fault—he wished that he got the pork loin over the chicken chardonnay for dinner. I gave him a choice of either one, so, I say it wasn't my fault unlike the rush to the airport which was my fault.
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