It’s been a long while since baseball fans have had the privilege to go and watch a game at a stadium.
With opening day now behind us, we’ve been given our fair share of pickings for what contest to welcome us back to the sport we so deeply missed.
For me, there was no question over when I would make my first trip back to The Big A: to watch Shohei Ohtani hit and pitch in the same game. The only thing on my mind was how would our two-way star do in his 2021 debut.
Unlike previous seasons, there are no reigns on what Ohtani can do. He’s calling the shots, and the Japanese star is still seemingly healthy, even after his first start.
Attending a ball game in 2021 is a lot different than in years past. New precautions have been put in place, including socially distanced seating, masks needing to be worn the majority of the time, and mobile ordering at concession stands.
But let's be real, none of that really matters if you are there to watch a game. Wearing a mask may prove to be uncomfortable to some, but let me tell you, Sunday evening was the most comfortable I’ve felt at a baseball game probably ever.
Socially distanced seats are the 2021 fans’ new best friend offering up free leg space when you include the zip-tied seats from the rows near you that aren’t in use.
My first baseball game of the season may as well be my last, because topping it won’t come easy.
Realistically, anyone in the stands Sunday evening got their money's worth and could have left overjoyed after the first inning where Ohtani cruised through the first four batters, allowing just a walk. He elicited two ground outs, and threw a six-pitch strikeout that included a 100.6 mph fastball and an unhittable splitter to finish the at-bat.
And then in the bottom of the first, Ohtani let off the cracking sound that comes from a cannon when he swung at the first pitch of his at bat against White Sox pitcher Dylan Cease. That ball felt like it hardly carried for a second before landing 451 feet away in the right field pavilion, a mere 50 feet away from where I was sitting.
From that point on the game really was just the “Ohtani Show” as he attracted applause from the crowd every time he worked a count to two strikes or walked into the batter's box.
All the fanfare was deserved as Ohtani took MLB Twitter for a ride as analysts and fans pulled out crazed stat after crazed stat, including the fact that Ohtani at the time had thrown the fastest pitch of any MLB starting pitcher in 2021 and also had hit the hardest of any home runs through the first couple of days of the season.
By the top of the fifth inning though, Ohtani’s command on the mound began to go, and gave way to the game's most jaw-dropping moment that left Angel Stadium in utter disbelief.
As he was working his way through a difficult situation, Ohtani faced Yoan Moncada with the bases loaded and two outs. Moncada, like many of the previous White Sox batters, were being rewarded for their patience and he had worked the count full before being struck out on a 90-mph pitch.
The problem was that Angels backstop, Max Stassi, failed to make the catch causing the play to be ruled a dropped third strike and sending the rest of the fielders into a pandemonium.
Stassi recovered the ball before throwing it back to first in an attempt to get out of the inning where it skipped by Jared Walsh, and was then brought under control by David Fletcher who threw it home for a play at the plate that led to Ohtani's legs being taken out from under him by the White Sox José Abreu.
Instead of the inning being over, the White Sox wound up tying the game and sending Ohtani, who crumpled at home plate, to the showers.
Everything about the play was chaotic and it was an unexpected end to an otherwise historic showing from the Japanese sensation.
Jared Walsh became the star of the show from the fifth inning on, hitting a solo shot in the bottom of the fifth before walking it off with a three-run home run to left center in the bottom of the ninth.
If it wasn’t for a Raisel Iglesias fielding error in the ninth, the game would have ended earlier, but the walk off was a cherry on top of an otherwise unexplainable night of Angels baseball – that most importantly ended with the Halo being lit up at The Big A.