The Los Angeles Angels have not played a game in front of a full capacity crowd since the end of the 2019 season. The COVID-19 pandemic forced Major League Baseball to play the entirety of the 2020 season without crowds, while Angel Stadium had just 33% capacity for the first two months. Now, Shohei Ohtani is the starting pitcher for their first full capacity game.
The Angels face the Detroit Tigers on Thursday in the first of a four-game set in front of what is expected to be sellout crowds in Anaheim. Ohtani — who last pitched against the Arizona Diamondbacks — will be on the mound as the Angels try to end a three-game losing streak against a Tigers team that sits at 29-39.
Joe Maddon spoke about the welcoming of fans back to Angel Stadium and how exciting of a night it projects to be, according to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com:
“It’s awesome, it’s wonderful,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “I hope it’s raucous and crowded and shoulder to shoulder. It would be wonderful to get back to those patterns. I’ve seen a couple of basketball games. Happened to watch the 76ers-Hawks game, and I’m a big Hawks fan and I saw that place roaring. It’s good on many different levels. I’m excited from a baseball perspective. When it’s loud, it’s definitely a home-field advantage.”
Meanwhile, Ohtani was also excited about the chance to pitch for a full crowd for the first time since 2018, even if he doesn’t get to hit as well.
“We have some guys hurt, so I’m not sure what the situation will be tomorrow,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “I’ll definitely be ready if Joe wants me to hit tomorrow. But I’m definitely excited for the full crowd.”
Regardless of whether or not Ohtani gets to hit — which is still to be determined — it’s going to be a remarkable experience for the Angels to have their stadium back to full capacity.
If Ohtani simply continues to do what he’s been doing all year long, then the 45,050 that could potentially attend Thursday’s game are in for a treat.
Maddon unfazed by bullpen woes in loss to Athletics
The Angels took a brutal loss at the hands of the Oakland Athletics when Tony Watson — the first pitcher out of the bullpen — gave up six earned runs without recording an out. Despite that, Maddon was still happy with the decision he made, saying that he’s not going to let the result stop him from making the analytically sound move.