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Fun, For Openers

Fans, Players Get a Jump on Summer

April 11, 2001|BILL SHAIKIN

The boys of summer are back. So are the joys of summer.

You could see it in the faces of those at the Angels' home opener Tuesday.

You could see the enthusiasm radiating from the grizzled face of an usher starting his 23rd season escorting Angel fans to their seats.

You could see the fun emanating from the fresh faces of kids, their hair peeking out from beneath their Angel caps.

You could see the dignified smiles worn by the patrons of the Diamond Club, where the dinner choices included a lavish carving table and couscous salad.

You could see the goofy grins worn by the families at the picnic tables behind center field, where mustard squirted off hot dogs and onto cheeks.

You could see the thrill in the wrinkled eyes of long-suffering Angel fans, cheering the return of Wally Joyner, the rookie hero on the last Angel playoff team, 15 years ago.

You could see the adulation in the wide eyes of new Angel fans--and you could hear the giggling of teenage girls--cheering the newest heroes, Darin Erstad and Troy Glaus. In 1986, when Joyner and the Angels were in the playoffs, Erstad was 12 and Glaus was 10.

You could see the spirit in the crowd that cupped its collective hands to boo Alex Rodriguez, whose record $252-million contract all but included a "kick me" sign taped to his back.

And you could see the affection for the game genuinely etched onto the $252-million face of Rodriguez, who longs to be known as something other than the most expensive boy of summer.

"I'm 25 years old. I have a lot to learn in this game," Rodriguez said. "I love this game. If I get the opportunity to play for another 15 years, I'll be the luckiest man in the world. I don't want that love to be tainted by the financial situation."

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