ANAHEIM, Calif. - Play ball! The Los Angeles Angels opened the 2021 season Thursday night with fans at Angel Stadium for the first time since Sept. 29, 2019.
With Orange County in the orange tier of the state's Blueprint for a Safer Economy, Angel Stadium's capacity was limited to 33% of its full 45,517-capacity or about 15,000.
"I'm glad they're allowing a certain number of fans back in and glad baseball is returning to Anaheim and I'm hoping for an awesome season finally," said retired Anaheim Police Department Sgt. Daron Wyatt, who grew up rooting for the Angels.
Since perennial all-star Mike Trout made his debut with the Angels in 2011, the team has reached the playoffs once -- in 2014, when they were swept by the Kansas City Royals in an American League Division Series.
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Hopes for a playoff berth increased last season when the playoff field for each league was expanded by three to eight teams. However, the Angels again missed the playoffs, finishing the coronavirus-shortened season with a 26- 34 record, matching Kansas City for the 10th-best record in the 15-team league.
Baseball Prospectus' proprietary PECOTA system projects the Angels will return to the playoffs in 2021 as the first wild card team, winning 86.8 games.
Wyatt said he and his wife are waiting to be fully inoculated from the coronavirus before going to a game at Angel Stadium.
"Not too deep in the season I should be able to go," Wyatt said.
Santa Ana attorney Kevin Gallagher, who grew up as a White Sox fan, had season tickets to Angels games for many years and plans to go to Saturday'sgame with his son. A fireworks show will follow the game.
"We're fanatics," Gallagher said.
Gallagher is such an avid fan he paid top dollar last season to watch a San Diego Padres game from the rooftop of a Marriott hotel across from Petco Park.
"It wasn't a very good season, but at least you're looking in," Gallagher said, adding it paled in comparison to the rooftop seats across the street from Wrigley Field in Chicago.
The Angels are celebrating their 60th anniversary as a franchise in 2021. The diamond anniversary will be recognized with a 60th-anniversary patch affixed to the left side of Angels hats, baseballs will feature the 60th-anniversary logo.