The Angels have figured out how to spend money on big-name players. They signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, after all.
They just haven't figured out how to gracefully take money from their fans.
There was a chaotic scene outside Angel Stadium on Tuesday as fans who had purchased prepaid discounted ticket voucher plans lined up for as many as eight hours on the first day they could redeem vouchers for tickets and couldn't get to the front of the line.
"Due to the increased demand for Angels tickets," said a letter sent to voucher holders Feb. 27, "we anticipate extremely tight availability on many of our games this season and we encourage you to redeem your vouchers early once your opportunity begins on March 6."
The letter was signed by John Carpino, president of Angels baseball, and Robert Alvarado, vice president, marketing and ticket sales.
Angels fans are obedient. They showed up bright and early. And then they waited.
Pepper Coker, the mother of a 16-year-old special-needs son who adores the Angels, had arrived at Angel Stadium at 7:45 a.m. with her plan voucher. She had used the same plan a year ago and spent 20 minutes picking out and purchasing her tickets. With Pujols on the roster now, Coker expected to spend a longer time this year getting her tickets.
"Two hours, max," she said.
But by mid-afternoon, Coker had been standing around for 5 1/2 hours and had nothing to show except a wristband and some vague warnings that she might need to come back Wednesday.
Alvarado said the letter had been sent out partly in response to situations last year where voucher holders showed up on particular game days only to be turned away because voucher allotments were gone.
"Our intent was to be proactive," Alvarado said. "Last year we undercommunicated availability for voucher allocation. This year we tried to set some expectations early and some buyers interpreted what was said in the letter differently."
Alvarado said the letter was sent to about 7,000 voucher holders. "About 1,000 showed up today," he said.
Tony Vincent, 70, a retired teacher from Buena Park with time on his hands, had arrived at 7:30 a.m. and by 1:30 p.m. he said, "This is the most disorganized thing I've ever seen. It's ridiculous."
Fans were given different-colored wristbands with numbers on them to signify the order of the line.
Dustin Schafer, 22, a Cal State San Bernardino student from Rancho Cucamonga, arrived at 8:15 a.m. and said he couldn't come back Wednesday. . "I go to school and I have a job. I can't come back."
The process of picking out games and seats was sometimes lengthy. One couple spent 35 minutes at one ticket window in meticulous contemplation.
"It's unfortunate that some transactions took a while," Alvarado said. For example, he said, a customer might pick a particular game available on his plan, ask for an aisle seat in a certain section and when the seat wasn't available, would ask for that same seat for another game in his package. And if it wasn't available ask for another game. And so on.
Alvarado said that typically during the off-season the Angels staff one to two ticket windows on a weekday. "And that's very manageable. We had as many as seven windows open today so we anticipated some of this."
He said opening more windows was not just a matter of calling in extra staff when lines started to form.
"A lot of our ticket sellers aren't full-time employees," he said. "They have other jobs and are usually available to us on Saturdays or in the evenings. So it's not just a matter of calling them up and bringing them in."
Alvarado said that in the future the Angels will consider making game and seat-choosing an online option. "We just hadn't needed do that before," he said, noting that last year on the first day of voucher redemption about 75 people got tickets. "We might also disperse the demand in a better way, stagger days by seniority, on what date someone purchased their plan. There are different ways to do things."
Alvarado said Tuesday's wristbands would be honored Wednesday. "But you might spend most of the day in line again," he warned.