June 15, 2024

At Angel Stadium, fans mourn as signs of Shohei Ohtani are quickly wiped away

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Red paint stained Sebastian Romero’s palms as he held onto an indication that learn “SELL THE TEAM, ARTE!” within the franchise’s vivid, unmistakable signature shade.

The Anaheim native in his early 20s had awoken Saturday noon to essentially the most devastating information a lifelong Angels fan might get: Shohei Ohtani had signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers on a 10-year, $700-million deal.

“I haven’t eaten breakfast yet, I haven’t drank anything. I woke up, and saw Ohtani to the Dodgers and had a good cry in my shower,” Romero mentioned, the velocity of his voice growing as he seemed to be holding again extra tears. “This is one of the few things I’m very, very, very passionate about.”

A second later, his voice was drowned out by a crane pulling as much as the huge Ohtani mural simply ft from the place he stood. The last vestige of the two-way celebrity’s legendary six-year time period with the Angels was quickly being torn unceremoniously off the facet of Angel Stadium by a person in a cherry picker.

His crane rolled in at 2:42 p.m. — about two-and-a-half hours after Ohtani’s Instagram submit saying his determination. The last sq. was rolled up and whisked away at 3:48 p.m. Gone as if he was by no means there.

“I have so many memories coming out here watching him,” mentioned Barry Foster, a lifelong Angels fan and Orange resident. “I don’t like to over-dramatize sports. But it feels like someone is just leaving you. … It’s very tough.”

Angels fan Sebastian Romero holds up an indication geared toward workforce proprietor Arte Moreno, with the Ohtani mural within the background. (Photo by Sam Blum / The Athletic)

Dozens of fans of all totally different backgrounds made their approach to Angel Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Some had been Japanese vacationers who hadn’t realized he’d signed elsewhere. Others had been die-hard Angels fans who wished someplace to be.

A household of Dodgers fans got here by to take footage. “We wanted to come check it out and see if it was actually coming down,” mentioned Joe Aguilar, who was carrying a Dodgers hat and jersey. “I was curious how fast they’d take it down.”

For the remaining of those who got here out, it was like a vigil. Nothing was awaiting them at this stadium, besides extra reminders of his painful departure. Still, it served as a setting to mourn the ending of his sophisticated tenure.

One fan, Julian Cedillo, walked as much as the stadium alone carrying an Angels shirt. He positioned two bouquets of crimson roses on prime of two bricks that bore Ohtani’s identify. A couple of minutes later, he walked again to his automotive and left.

“It was six years of excellence,” Cedillo mentioned. “I’ve been an Angels fan my entire life. It feels like a piece of me died.

“I wanted to pay my respects.”

There was no denying the brutality of the circumstances for this tortured fan base. Ohtani has put collectively three of the best seasons in baseball historical past previously three years. The Angels went 77-85, 73-89 and 73-89 throughout these instances.

Not solely was there a conclusiveness that Ohtani’s on-field outcomes had been wasted. To make it much more painful, he went to the Dodgers. It’s onerous to name the 2 groups rivals. It’s been years for the reason that Angels received a recreation towards the Dodgers. But this transfer solely additional cemented their little brother standing.

Regardless, even essentially the most emotional of Angels fans couldn’t blame this on Ohtani.

“It is sad,” mentioned an Angels fan from Japan, who now lives in Anaheim. “But he has his own dream.”

Fans peruse Ohtani gear on the Angel Stadium workforce retailer hours after Ohtani signed with the Dodgers. (Photo by Sam Blum / The Athletic)

The Angel Stadium workforce retailer was open on Saturday. It’s basically a shrine to Ohtani. His gear might be present in each nook and cranny.

The tv inside the shop was tuned to MLB Network. There was stay protection of Ohtani’s cope with the Dodgers. An interview with baseball reporter Joel Sherman might be heard by all the patrons — virtually all of whom had been perusing the copious No. 17 merchandise.

All of it, now, had immediately turn into memorabilia. It was not workforce gear. These had been relics of an period that had sharply ended hours prior.

“My son’s going crazy. He’s crying right now. He’s 22 years old,” mentioned season-ticket holder and Anaheim resident Freddy Gonzalez. “It’s sad.”

Tearing down the mural was no simple activity. 25 frames needed to be individually ripped away. First, the stadium employee eliminated the tape atop every body. Then he would meticulously take away that half of the image earlier than rolling it up and putting the crumpled sticker to his left or proper.

A crane removes the picture of Ohtani from the facet of Angel Stadium. (Photo by Sam Blum / The Athletic)

A Japanese tv crew filming the method was requested to go away by safety for not having an Angels credential.

That doesn’t imply the method wasn’t documented. At least a dozen different fans stood with their telephones craned upward, recording the easy however memorable act.

When it was over, every of the 25 stickers was handed to a different stadium employee in an orange vest. He carried them to a Chevrolet truck. No spectators could be getting them as a memento.

The man within the cherry picker went again to the bottom. Many of the fans dispersed. All that was left was an empty window, and the bottomless void that it represented.

“It’s sad to see it come down,” Cedillo mentioned. “He meant so much to this franchise. We’re a small franchise. To see a superstar like him leave us, it hurts.”

(Top photograph by Sam Blum / The Athletic)