There are many reasons for a person to start blogging. Some seek fame and fortune. Others are looking for attention for themselves or a cause. Some people blog to engage conversation about their favorite subject, while others look for a diversion from their everyday lives.
If the Angel organization were to look for the "model" fan, James would probably be the guy they're looking for. Since attending his first Angels game in the late 1960's, James has never looked back, "My wife and I attend more than 70 games a year. This year we saw 84 games (including Spring Training). We're definitely fanatics. We manage to hit a road game or two each year and are slowly making our way around to all the stadiums around the country. So far we've been to Angels Stadium, Dodger Stadium, Petco, AT&T, Oakland Alameda, Chase Field, Safeco, Coors Field, Wrigley, US Cellular, Metrodome, old New York Stadium, Fenway Park, and Shea. I'm really blessed to have a wife who loves baseball", James also mentioned that he and his wife visit spring training each year, "I also went to Palm Springs back in the day. Sometimes we go twice during the spring. It's something we look forward to every year."
James and his wife Cheryl are also members of the "514 Fanatics", a group of fans from section 514 who have become friends through their connection with Angels' baseball. "Our group started when one of the season ticket holders in our section invited a few people over for a barbeque - and it has since grown to about 46 people (including kids). Some of us have met up at Spring Training and we've gotten together as a group for dinner a few times. We even had some t-shirts made up this past year."
"True Grich", which was started in September of this year, has become an outlet for James to voice his opinion. "I like writing and blogging suits my style. I used to work in advertising (a long time ago) and really enjoyed copywriting because it was a way I could be creative, but in a format that was short and sweet. Blogging is kind of like that for me. I like having the freedom to voice my opinion whenever I feel like it. I don't have deadlines and assignments. I just blog as I go, so to speak. I enjoy the creative aspects of blogging and the challenges of keeping it fresh". The title of his blog comes from his all-time favorite player, Bobby Grich. From his blog:
"True Grich is about baseball and the Los Angeles Angels and not so much about John Wayne or his movie "True Grit." There are parallels between the two though. Like Grich, John Wayne was a man's man. A movie like True Grit could have easily been about a gritty ball player instead of a cowboy. I also think that if someone would have played Bobby Grich in a movie, John Wayne would have been the perfect choice.
I never felt like I was going to get cheated watching Grich play the game. He was old school. He was very intense and showed no fear. He was even cool (still is). He had that big thick moustache and looked more like a football player. He was big and strong and didn't fit the mold of a typical second baseman at the time. Grich was often exuberant in victory and wore his emotions on his sleeve. He always looked like he wanted to win in the worst way. In my opinion, he was the embodiment of what a baseball player should be."
James also stated, "Prior to Grich's arrival, the Angels were a team you went to see without a lot of expectations. You wanted them to win, but the playoffs seemed like something other teams did and not the Angels. That all changed in 1979 when the Angels won their first division title and went to the play-offs. After that, the Angels weren't just another team. They were contenders and had to be taken seriously. Grich was a big part of that. I loved the way he played the game. He was a tough guy in that he didn't back down from any challenges and played the game with such unbridled enthusiasm. You couldn't help but like watching him play."
The amount of time spent on "True Grich" varies for James, "I write whenever a thought about the Angels or baseball in general hits me. I take the train to and from work and this allows me to work on my drafts. I post a lot - usually 4-5 times a week, but it doesn't take up too much time." As far as the challenges of keeping up his blog, James claims it's harder to post during home games because he's typically at the games, and like a true fan, never leaves the game early.
Another challenge all bloggers face is keeping their content "fresh". "Fresh" can mean two things to bloggers, either their content must remain timely with events surrounding the blog subject, or the blog must provide content not found in other sources. "I'm trying to keep it fresh. I have a good understanding of baseball, but wouldn't consider myself any kind of expert or anything. I try not to be too technical or provide too much statistical analysis. My posts are really about having a fan's point of view. I try to mix in personal stories that include interactions my wife and I have had with players, the 514 Fanatics, etc. I want to be unique (if that's possible these days) and stay true to that idea. There are plenty of other places that do analysis, sabermetrics, etc. and I don't want to compete with them. There are also several good fan sites and I don't want to compete with any of those. I'd like to think I offer something for everyone - be it a casual fan or someone who really takes the game seriously. Humor is also a big part of what I do - although not in every post."
What "model" fan wouldn't be in attendance during the biggest moment in their team's history? James was at Angels Stadium during Game 7 of the 2002 World Series, but also mentions his favorite game from last season was Joe Saunders' start against Zack Greinke when Saunders out-dueled the eventual 2009 A.L. Cy Young winner. "I love unsung players and Joe is probably one of the most under-rated pitchers in the game." James tells about being at Saunders' first major league start, "When Joe made his major league debut, my wife Cheryl and I arrived early at the stadium and followed him around (from the stands, of course), taking pictures of him warming up on the field and in the bull pen. We took pictures of him during the game, capturing his strike out totals, stats on the scoreboard, etc. The following spring training, we presented him with a little album from his first game. Joe was genuinely touched - he seemed sincerely surprised anyone would do this and he was very appreciative. Through that we've created a little bond. A good ol' fashioned player/fan bond. He knows us enough to recognize us whenever he sees us and we think that's fun. We've even met his wife Shanel when the Angels held their Pet Adoption Day. When we introduced ourselves, she knew we were the couple that made an album for Joe. We thought that was fun as well." Another of James' favorite players is Torii Hunter because of his dynamic personality and for the way he interacts with fans, "He was my favorite non-Angel before he came to Anaheim and when he signed, I couldn't have been happier. Hunter obviously loves playing the game and he's just a lot of fun to watch."
For the 2010 Angels, James thinks the primary goal is to re-sign free agents John Lackey and Chone Figgins, plus upgrade their bullpen. When asked about possible free agent signings he stated, "I would like to see Jason Bay come to Anaheim - but not above signing Lackey and Figgins." He also thinks it'd make more sense to try and acquire Josh Johnson over Roy Halladay, "Of course, reports are now saying Johnson is not available, but I like Johnson because 1) He's an ace, and 2) He's only 25. It always depends on what the Angels have to give up though. I hate it when I hear Joe Saunders name in trade rumors. Again, you have to remember that I look at these things with a fan's point of view. Is a guy like Johnson or Halladay better than Saunders? Sure, but Saunders is a favorite and I'd rather see the Angels not trade guys like Joe. I really love seeing a team full of home grown talent."
When asked about Brandon Wood, James thinks Wood will be a solid professional baseball player, "I'd love to see him get a shot. I remember seeing him at Rancho Cucamonga early on and it seems like we've been waiting forever for him to arrive. I can see him having a sold 2010 campaign hitting near the bottom of the order. He's been very patient and has done everything asked of him. It's time to let him play."
James, who works in fundraising for a non-profit organization, also enjoys bass fishing and fantasy baseball, "I am a roto geek and have been playing in a NL only league since the early 90's (no conflicts with the Angels!)." He also said he spends the winter resting up for the next baseball season.
Thank you James for taking the time to answer my questions! Be sure to check out James' blog: "True Grich"