Angels' 50th year to start same way as first
Original starter Grba to throw out first
For the Angels, Opening Day 2011 at Angel Stadium on April 8 against the Toronto Blue Jays will highlight a season-long return to the franchise's rich past.Amid the customary pomp and circumstance and fireworks that accompany the festive occasion, the club will begin its 50th anniversary by having its original starting pitcher, Eli Grba, throw out the ceremonial first pitch. It will be the start of a season-long parade of opening deliveries by names from the franchise's colorful past, with the likes of Nolan Ryan, Jim Fregosi, Frank Tanana, Rod Carew, Reggie Jackson, Mark Langston, Jim Abbott, Tim Salmon, Bobby Grich and Chuck Finley joining the fun. "We're real excited about everything we have lined up for our home opener and beyond," said Tim Mead, the Angels' public relations maven for 32 seasons. "After we open the season at Kansas City and also go to Tampa Bay, we'll come home to open against the Blue Jays and have Eli Grba throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. He'll be the first of 81 former players to have that honor. "It's fitting for Eli to get the call for the opener. He threw the first pitch in franchise history in 1961 in Baltimore. We'll also have Albie Pearson and Bob Lee representing that first team, throwing out first pitches in that opening series." Langston, Fregosi and Roger Repoz, respectively, will toss out the first pitches for the series with the Indians from April 11-13.
"All the players we talked to about doing this were excited," Mead said. "What was great to hear was how they're still so connected to the team."They talked about Spring Training and what we look like for the coming season, how the bullpen shapes up, that kind of thing." The club is planning "to do something different" for its Sunday, Sept. 11, home date against the Yankees to observe the 10th anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Center towers. "We're having discussions about different things we might do," Mead said. "We want this to be something special." Under owner Arte Moreno, chairman Dennis Kuhl and president John Carpino, the Angels are making a concerted effort to honor the organization's history. "It was always important to Mr. [Gene] Autry," Mead said of the franchise's original owner, the celebrated "Singing Cowboy" of stage, screen and television. "Under Arte Moreno's leadership, we've really had a renewed interest in our alumni and kind of reconnecting with everybody. "I think Halo fans who follow us on a regular basis are familiar with the presence of Finley, Salmon, Grich, guys like that. We're trying to extend that to include a lot more players from our team's past." There also will be uniforms from past eras worn by the current club in a promotion known as Flashback Friday. Four styles will be worn during Friday home games. Jerseys and caps from Flashback Fridays will be available for purchase in the Angel Stadium Team Store. Game-worn uniform items from each Flashback Friday will be auctioned off following the completion of each era. Ballpark renovations made in anticipation of last July's Major League All-Star Game will add to the glow of the anniversary season. "As exciting as it's going to be for our fans, starting with Opening Day," Mead said, "it's also going to be a great opportunity for our players to see the past in the present. Everyone is really looking forward to this anniversary season."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.