Every baseball fan has to come to their own personal epiphany at some point in their life, a crucible that’s shared by all other baseball fans, rendering it as Americana as Americana can get. I’m of course talking about choosing YOUR baseball team.
Deciding which club you’re going to follow to the end of the Earth, or to the end of October, which really feels as foreign and alien as any uncharted land our planet has to offer, is a one of life’s biggest moments. It is not the most important decision we’ll ever have to make, or anywhere close to that, but it is a watershed moment nonetheless.
Sometimes, the path of fandom that you’ve embarked upon has little to do with free will; it’s embedded and imprinted into your brain, at a very young age, via parents or other family members who’ve made it their task to claim you into their ranks. Sometimes, it’s just a proximity thing, a cultural thing, or perhaps there’s a player or two that you want to watch every night, which makes your decision easy.
No matter how you arrive at that juncture, when you’re ready to take the fanatical plunge, remember this important caveat: your team comes with baggage. OK, maybe it’s not the same for every franchise; maybe this is just pertaining to my team, the Angels, and it’s just a bit of wishful thinking, on my part. It’s not just an Angels thing, right?
You want baggage, where do Angels fans start? There’s the whole name thing, L.A. to California to Anaheim to L.A....there are all of those dreadful post-season series against the Red Sox, including the Donnie Moore game...they’re ignored by not only the east coast sports entertainment complex, but the local media also relegates the Halos to MLB second fiddle, the little brother of so cal baseball...there is the self-inflicted buttercupping...front office fiascos...signings gone wrong. Do I have to go on?
I’m able to push many of those grievances and albatrosses out of my mind, for the most part, but the most irksome, annoying and salt-in-the-wound piece of baggage that comes with loving the Halos has to be the fans at the Big A. Not the Angels fans, of course. I’m talking about the fans of other teams, who moved to Orange County from all parts of the country, and now come to Anaheim to root not for the actual home team, but for the transplants’ home team.
Red Sox fans, Yankees fans, Dodgers fans, Rangers fans, Blue Jays fans...you name the team, and most likely, their fans have, at one point or another overrun Angels Stadium, making it their own, like a bunch of clueless squatters adorned in tacky Tommy Bahama gear and hellbent on shouting how awesome the Cubs are, all night long, right in your ear, ruining your night.
This can be defeating, it can lead to a sense of submission. It seeps into the attitude and tenor of the Big A. It turns the Angels into a team that is continually searching for that fire, that sense of awe and respect from a strong, unified home crowd, that comes in ear-destroying decibel levels at most other stadiums across Major League Baseball. The confines become far, far too friendly; there is being a nice, hospitable host, and then there is just letting your guests relieve themselves on your couch while ordering pay-per-view movies you didn’t want to watch.
So many nights spent at the Big A, and so many times I’ve wondered to myself “Where is the intensity?” There were some Halos players that would fight the good fight, doing their best to remind any interlopers in attendance just who ran that place; in my lifetime, I would look to the likes of Darin Erstad, John Lackey or Troy Percival, to get that jolt of adrenaline. Torii Hunter, in his time with the Halos, could get people riled up.
Going back in the team’s history, you’ll find a smattering of tenacious players who could crank the rah rah atmosphere up to 11, but for my money, no other Angels player ever came close to having the fiery competitiveness and contagious intensity of Jered Weaver.
When Weaver The Younger was on the mound at the Big A, no matter the opponent, the stadium belonged solely to the Angels, and the stands were run by emboldened Angels fans. To see that tall, imposing frame walk out of the dugout, with not a hint of nonchalance or chill to be seen, just pure determination and dominance on his mind...it was a thing of beauty. Here was a pitcher who exuded leadership, and had the skills to back it up.
He would be the first to yell at a batter for looking at him wrong, or disrespecting his teammates; he had to be held back by other players on more than one occasion, often while screaming expletives and/or performing certain hand gestures, and sometimes, this explosive passion was directed at fellow Halos. When you’ve got the raging, competitive spirit of Weaver in the dugout, you better get on the same intense plane as him, or get out of the way.
It was so infectious, too. I would see him going aggro, not letting the passivity of Mike Scioscia hold him back and neuter him, but instead putting all of his emotions and badassery out there on full display, and I would eat it up.
It made me want to resist the visiting fan takeover, to yell back into the face of the obnoxious Red Sox fan that is seemingly always right behind me, spilling their beer at least once an inning and never ceasing their incessant, slurred Boston chants; Weaver would strike one of their guys out, and then give that player a hall of fame death stare, and taking that cue, I’d turn around and remind our Big A guest that Jered Weaver is dismantling their boys, and therefore putting them and the miserable city they came from to shame.
Jered Weaver will always be that guy, the one dude that I wouldn’t want to have mad at me, or to meet in a dark alleyway. He was a pitcher that could strike fear into batters, and strike out batters, and then transmit that attitude into the people decked out in red in the bleachers, in the nosebleeds, at home on their couch, everywhere.
But he was also the guy that didn’t want to leave us, who took less money to stay with the Angels and be our spark plug. He is the same Jered Weaver that cried when Nick Adenheart was taken away all too soon, and then proceeded to inscribe his initials into the mound with his cleats before every start. He is a man who named his son in memory of a fallen teammate.
For all of the reputation as a intimidating gamer and furious, no-nonsense ballplayer, he had a heart as big as a the Big A, and he loved the Angels, their players and their fans. It all rubbed off on us, in some way or another, but for me, it was the intensity that I enjoyed soaking up the most. I never realized how much I wanted to watch a pitcher like Jered Weaver until I witnessed him with my own eyes.
Jered Weaver took some of the Angels fans’ baggage, and threw it into oblivion, replacing it with team pride and a fiery, fighting spirit. Weaver is gone now, headed to another team, and hopefully he can imbue them with that same vigor and moxie. In the meantime, us Halos fans will have to march on, waiting on our next hardnose hero to materialize. Until then, it’s up to us to keep that flame going, that fight; that’s what Weaver would want us to do.
On August 16th, 2017, Jered Weaver retired from baseball. WTY gave us all the heads up via Twitter, and with that, MLB lost one of its most badass players:
He had been trying to continue playing pro baseball, after being picked up by the Padres heading into the ‘17 season, but his body didn’t really let him do all that much. I’m going to forget that he was ever a Padres player, personally. Not only was he on another team, but he was a shell of his former glory; that’s not any way that I want to be remembering one of my favorite Angels of all time.
As a way to say goodbye to Weaver and his MLB career, I figured i’d re-heat this article I wrote back in February, which lays out the reasons why I don’t just love this guy, but why I’d totally follow him to the ends of the Earth. The mold was broken on this guy, and MLB has lost a legend.