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Bats, Balls to Replace Hard Hats

Baseball: Angels, Dodgers open Freeway Series tonight at Edison Field.

March 27, 1998|BILL SHAIKIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — The merchandise sat in boxes, dozens upon dozens of boxes. No sense stocking the shelves, after all, when construction on the level above the store would send dirt and dust fluttering onto the shirts and caps below.

Finally, the construction ceased, and the retail crew scurried inside. The staff worked until 1 a.m. Thursday morning and all day and into the evening again Thursday night, filling the racks of the Angels' 3,500-foot stadium store with more than 10,000 items.

"Everything from lapel pins to leather jackets to golf clubs," said Disney senior manager Robert Sliter. "Then we come in and vacuum and dust and it'll be time to go."

It's Showtime for Disney's latest production. Some 18 months and $117 million after slamming its first wrecking ball against a wall of the aging and cavernous Anaheim Stadium, Disney raises the curtain tonight on its remodeled and renamed Edison Field.

The Angels face the Dodgers in the annual Freeway Series exhibition at 7 tonight, with opening ceremonies scheduled before Wednesday's season opener against the New York Yankees.

The ballpark was very much a construction site Thursday, with about 800 workers on the grounds painting, cleaning, dusting, stocking and training before the Angels welcome more than 40,000 guests into their new home tonight.

At midday, Angel President Tony Tavares emerged from his latest ballpark tour, removed his hard hat and described himself as nervous.

"I'm nervous by nature," he said. "It's my job to be that way."

When might the anxiety subside?

"A couple weeks into the season," Tavares said, "when we know everybody's trained properly and everything's functioning properly."

Workers attacked tasks large and small Thursday, from installing seats in the left-field bleachers and the letters that spelled out "RIGHT FIELD" above one ticket gate to installing automated teller machines and the last few bricks in the entrance plaza, from planting trees to unstacking picnic tables, from testing scoreboards and geysers to painting "ANGELS" atop the home dugout and "WELCOME TO ANAHEIM" atop the visiting dugout.

In the Diamond Club, the luxury restaurant behind home plate, waiters placed silverware at each setting and folded linen napkins for each plate, ever so properly. Across the room, bartenders learned which tap held which suds.

The giant caps--and shelters--in the entrance plaza stand ready, but the Angel logos to adorn the caps have yet to arrive. Even assuming delivery today, Disney officials do not know whether the logos can be attached to the otherwise generic blue caps by tonight.

The first pun has been thrown. Disney calls its Asian food stand--featuring rice bowls, egg rolls and sushi--the "Intentional Wok."

Some concession stands remain vacant, with Carl's Jr. scheduled to move in soon. The interactive game area in right field remains vacant, with completion scheduled for May or June.

The ticket window was open for business Thursday, with a line a dozen deep in the afternoon. Bill Miller of Orange bought four tickets for tonight's game, then looked around at the giant caps surrounding him and the giant bats above his head and the actual-size diamond at his feet.

"It's unbelievable," Miller said. "I've been coming to games here since the early '70s.

"This doesn't look like the Anaheim Stadium I came to. I like it."

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