The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim made the No. 1 move this off-season that may change the perception of those that view them as the No. 2 baseball team in Southern California.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim signing of future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols away from the St. Louis Cardinals with a 10-year, $240 million deal stunned baseball. The team thought of as the Los Angeles Dodgers’ neighbor, as well as a perennial playoff contender, is now a World Series favorite. So says this week’s Sports Illustrated, which picks the Halos to win it all in 2012, 10 years after their first championship.
The Pujols effect, along with the signing of lefthander C.J. Wilson (five years, $77 million) away from the American League champion Texas Rangers, has made Angels tickets a hot commodity. Pujols’ introduction after he signed in December 2011 drew 4,000 fans to Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the team has sold more than 22,000 full-season equivalent tickets (season tickets plus mini-season plans) since the end of last season and more than 30,000 tickets were sold on March 3, 2012 the first day of individual game sales.
Also, long lines and waits of five hours or more greeted fans who had purchased prepaid discounted ticket voucher plans and showed up at the stadium earlier this March to redeem them and select seats. According to the Orange County Register, about 50,000 vouchers have been sold and the demand overwhelmed the staff manning the ticket windows.
“It says something about our fans and the excitement for the team this year…” Angels vice president of communications Tim Mead told the Register. “There was anticipation that there would be additional traffic at the stadium. But to that level? No.”
Angels vice president of marketing and ticket sales Robert Alvarado told the Los Angeles Times that in the future the team will consider making game and seat selection for voucher purchasers an online option.
“We just hadn’t needed to do that before,” Alvarado told the Times.
Angels marketing manager Ryan Vance told TicketNews that demand has subsided somewhat from that initial frenzy at the Stadium but even spring training games in Tempe, Ariz., are selling out.
“I just got back from Arizona and we had our seventh straight sellout there, which is unheard of for spring training,” Vance said.
The reason behind it all is Pujols, who in 11 years with the Cardinals put up numbers nearly unprecedented in baseball history. Last season was supposedly a “down” year for the three-time NL MVP. He sustained a wrist fracture in June 2011. Still, he finished one RBI and one batting average point shy of his 11th consecutive .300, 30-homer, 100-RBI season. Pujols has the highest career batting average among active players at .328 and has helped the Cardinals win two World Series, including a seven-game thriller last season over the Rangers.
Pujols became an icon in St. Louis but now the first baseman is the big bat the Angels have been seeking in their lineup for years. With revenues from a new local television rights deal, Angels’ owner Arte Moreno was able to add Pujols to a team that includes All-Star outfielders Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells. Mark Trumbo, a rookie who hit 29 homers last season will move to third base to accommodate Pujols.
The rotation, already strong with right-handers Jared Weaver and Dan Haren, is made more formidable by the addition of lefty Wilson, the former ace of the Rangers staff.
The Angels have missed the playoffs the past two seasons after reaching the postseason six times between 2002 and 2009. The one constant has been manager Mike Scioscia. The former Dodgers catcher and two-time AL manager of the year has had only three losing seasons since taking over the Angels in 2000. Plus, the addition of a second wild card team in the AL gives the Angels another chance at getting back to the playoffs.
The Angels were fifth in MLB in attendance last season, averaging at 39,090 a game at 45,000-seat Angel Stadium. Their average face ticket price of $17.19 was 27th among the 30 MLB teams. Vance said that the Angels have a three-tiered pricing system with higher face values for promotional or weekend dates and the highest-priced tier for games against the Dodgers, New York Yankees, and Boston Red Sox.
On the secondary market, Angels tickets for this season were averaging a relatively modest $56.91, according to ticket search site TiqIQ. Still, the average resale price for a ticket to Pujols’ debut on opening night, April 6 against the Kansas City Royals, is $180.39, the fifth-most expensive opener in the AL. The next four highest-priced Angel home games on TiqIQ are Yankees or Red Sox games.
Those resale market prices are slightly higher than the Angels’ more famous neighbor 30 miles to the north. Under the turmoil-filled ownership of Frank McCourt, who has agreed to sell the bankrupt franchise by the end of April 2012, the Dodgers have slumped on and off the field. Last season, the Dodgers had their lowest attendance for a non-strike season since 1992. According to TiqIQ, Dodgers tickets have an average secondary market price of $50.39, with Opening Day, April 10, against the Pittsburgh Pirates at $131.05.
The Southern California rivals meet for their annual exhibition finale, the Freeway Series, April 2 in Anaheim and April 3 and 4 at Dodger Stadium.