TEMPE, Ariz. — Last fall, the Los Angeles Angels called several Bees to California for the end of the big league season. This spring, the Bees return the favor. Salt Lake will host the Angels for a game on Tuesday.
And everybody involved has hopes.
“I hope for good weather,” says Mike Scioscia, the Angels' manager. Scioscia’s last visit to Utah was three years ago when he addressed a gathering in Orem. He’s happy to be coming back. “For us, the game with the Bees is just another work day,” he explains. “We’ll be looking at our pitching, trying some new things.”
First pitch for the exhibition game is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. at Smith's Ballpark, barring any inclement weather. As of Monday afternoon, Tuesday's forecast is calling for rain. Bees communications manager Kraig Williams said every effort will be made to play the game, since there is not a possibility to reschedule the exhibition, and "it's highly unlikely that any decision will be made on playing the game before gametime."
As for the Angels' players, reactions are all over the map. Rafael Ortega, a Venezuelan outfielder who came to the Angels from the Cardinal organization, wonders, “Salt Lake City, just where is that?”
In Utah, he’s told, where the Mormons are.
“There are Mormons there?” he asks.
Ortega will likely be on the Salt Lake roster this year, where he’ll soon get up to speed.
Kole Calhoun, on the other hand, made a lot of baseball memories while in Salt Lake City before moving on to the majors and winning a Gold Glove in 2015. Today, many consider him one of the top lead-off hitters in the American League.
“I had a great time in Salt Lake,” he says. “I can’t wait to go back.”
Among the players on the Angels' 40-man spring roster, 20 have played in Utah with either the Salt Lake Bees, Orem Owlz or both. Dozens of others with local ties have been traded or retired from the game. And though the Angels have been criticized for not beefing up their farm teams, it’s hard to quibble with the success of homegrown talent like Mike Trout, Jered Weaver and Garrett Richards.
And at spring training, where optimism abounds, young players are looking to add their names to the list. The rookies, especially, think much like Jett Bandy, the Bees catcher who batted .291 in 87 games for the Bees last year, then was called up on Sept. 3 and promptly hit a home run.
“I have no idea which side I’ll be playing for up there,” Bandy says of the Salt Lake City game. “But Salt Lake is awesome. The view from the stadium is great, the fans are great. It’s a nice park.”
Yet, all in all, he’d rather be someplace else: California.
“We all want to be in L.A.,” Bandy says. He actually grew up near Angel Stadium. “But, you know, Salt Lake City is great. And everybody’s got to start somewhere. I just have to keep things going. In baseball, anything can happen.”