The only times Long Beach State Athletics Director Andy Fee will allow a “Cal State Fullerton” van to be parked outside Bohl Diamond at Blair Field is when the Titans are in town for the annual rivalry series against the Dirtbags — or when it’s owned by Joe Maddon.
Fee was at the historic local ballpark late last month to meet with members of the Los Angeles Angels front office and manager Joe Maddon when he saw the orange 1976 Dodge van parked near the gates.
“On the side is painted ‘Cal State Fullerton’ and I’m like, ‘What the heck is this?!’,” Fee said. “I got inside and made a joke about it and they all pointed to Joe Maddon… well, I guess we’ll work around that one.”
Maddon got the van in 2015 while he was the Chicago Cubs manager. He named it ‘Cal State Fullerton’ because a friend with the exact same model van used to drive him to CSUF for Angels minor-league workouts when Maddon was a catcher with the California Angels.
Members of the Angels front office were in Long Beach last month to check out the facilities at Bohl Diamond at Blair Field, and apparently they were more than pleased. This month the Angels will host part of their abbreviated summer training camp at Bohl Diamond at Blair Field as they prepare for the rescheduled season.
“They felt the facility is what they need to get up and running,” Fee said. “We want to be good partners in our community. We felt that having the Angels here was good for our community and city to be the focal point for some sports activity. Although it’s not games, but it’s going to be up to 84 days they’d use the facility.”
The camp began last week as part of an accelerated run-up to a 60-game season, slated to begin on July 23 or 24. The members of the Angels’ “taxi squad,” or second-tier players added to the roster due to the truncated season, will primarily be here in Long Beach. The top players like Mike Trout will be at Angel Stadium. Clubs are now permitted to have 60 players on their extended rosters.
Fee and Dirtbags coach Eric Valenzuela have an interesting connection with Angels general manager Billy Eppler, and that made the initial contact a lot easier. Fee and Valenzuela both spent time at the University of San Diego, where Eppler’s mother used to work in external outreach and fundraising.
“The enhancement to the facilities were also a huge reason why they were interested,” Fee said specifically of the batting cage and bullpen built in 2017. “A professional organization wants their players to have the very best. We’re lucky to have the investments of people like Marilyn Bohl, Troy Tulowitzki, Jered Weaver and others who have really transformed the facility.”
Fee also said LBSU, “will be generating significant revenue off of the Angels being here and we’re going to reinvest that into the facility.”
“In the NCAA you’re allowed to scrimmage professional teams,” Fee added. “When I was at ASU years ago, they would play the Diamondbacks in a few games. Not that we’re necessarily playing against Mike Trout, but it could be some sort of group of minor leaguers… We could do a fundraiser at Blair around a three-game stand with unique competition. I’m really excited. Not just from a financial standpoint, but also a relationship standpoint.”
The Angels were in the local headlines last year when they explored the possibility of moving the team to a new stadium in downtown Long Beach. Maddon is also familiar with the surroundings, and only has to drive his souped-up van a few miles from his home in Belmont Shore to the field.
Obviously, the workouts at Angel Stadium and Bohl Diamond at Blair Field are closed to the public and the media.