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IT'S A STEAL! : Seasonal Hits Include Baseball, Wheel Deals and Feeding the Birds for a Pittance

March 25, 1993|RICK VANDERKNYFF | Rick VanderKnyff is a free-lance writer who contributes regularly to The Times Orange County Edition.

Every once in a while, OC Live! turns its focus to things to do on a budget in Orange County. Taking a spring theme, this edition of Cheap Thrills looks at college baseball, beachside skating and biking, duck feeding and one indoor pursuit: budget moviegoing (see separate story, this page).

TITAN BASEBALL

Summer may be when professional baseball really heats up, but spring is when the ritual begins for devotees of the sport. These days, thousands of fans make an annual pilgrimage to Arizona to watch their favorite pro teams work out the kinks in spring training.

The Angels' opening day at Anaheim Stadium is still a month away, but this season the anticipation is more than bearable. Having traded away or lost to free agency most of the fans' favorite players in recent seasons, and predicted to finish last in the division by many of the experts, the Angels are in the midst of what they optimistically call a youth movement. That's the baseball equivalent of downsizing, for you economics majors.

Angels baseball can still be inexpensive--we've featured the general admission seats in a previous Cheap Thrills roundup. But if after the long, wet winter you're pining for the smell of new-mown grass and the pop of ball hitting glove, lower your expectations if you're heading for the cheap seats. What you'll be smelling is more likely stale beer and nachos, and what you'll hear is probably the frustrated rant of the fan in the next seat.

There is a place where you can see baseball in its more natural state, in a brand-new stadium of only 1,750 seats, all of which are within tobacco-spitting distance of the field. And what's more, the home team tends to win .

The Titans of Cal State Fullerton have been one of the top Division I college teams in the country through much of coach Augie Garrido's 25-year reign. They were NCAA champions in 1979 and 1984, and so far this year they are ranked eighth nationally. As of Monday, they were 15-7 overall, and undefeated in six games of conference play.

College baseball begins and ends its season earlier than professional baseball does. The Titans are about halfway through their season, but because they played so many of their early games on the road, there are plenty of home games left. Fifteen, to be exact, including games against UCLA and such Big West division rivals as University of Nevada-Las Vegas, New Mexico State and San Jose State.

According to team spokesman Tim Murphy, the team is averaging 599 fans per home game so far this season, having twice exceeded the 1,000-fan mark. Two conference series are expected to draw big numbers (Pacific this weekend and Long Beach State on April 16 to 18) but Murphy said it is highly unlikely that a game will sell out. Most people who attend the games are from the surrounding community, rather than students, he added.

The collegiate game differs a bit from the pro. The sound of a hit is a clank rather than a crack , as college teams use aluminum bats. On the evidence of a recent 12-4 victory over Cal State Northridge, the college game is also livelier, with more hits and, on this occasion at least, more errors.

Seeing the game at close range makes a great difference too. Cal State Fullerton's new stadium was inaugurated on April 18, 1992, when alumnus Kevin Costner threw out the first pitch for a double header against Loyola Marymount. Some improvements are still being made--watch the beer intake if you have anything against outhouses. Right now, the score is kept manually with hanging number placards, but a new electronic scoreboard will be going in April 13.

Full concessions are offered, as are Titan paraphernalia. Hot dogs and pizza (with very thick crust) are $2.50, sodas are $2 and beer is $3. Reserved seat game admission is $5 for adults, $3 for students and youths under age 18. Parking is $1.50 (sometimes there will be someone to collect the fee, sometimes you'll need to buy a permit from a machine).

Some players to watch: designated hitter Adam Millan is batting .410 with 12 doubles and 23 RBIs; third baseman Jeff Ferguson is batting .356 with one home run (a grand slam) and 17 RBIs; center fielder Dante Powell is hitting .354 with six home runs and 23 RBIs. Among the pitchers, Dan Ricabal is 3-1 with a 3.57 ERA; Mike Parisi is 4-0 with a 5.29 ERA.

* What: Cal State Fullerton baseball.

* When: Upcoming dates include a three-game stand against Pacific, Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m. Remaining home dates: against UNLV, April 8-10; against Loyola Marymount, April 13; against Long Beach State, April 16-18; against USC, April 20; against Grand Canyon and/or Chapman University, April 23-25; against San Jose State, May 7-9; against UCLA, May 11. Weekday games generally begin at 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday games at 1 p.m.

* Where: Cal State Fullerton Titan Field.

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