October 10, 2009

Rock on Jered Weaver

Last night Jered Weaver pitched the kind of game I envisioned he would throw when he signed with the Angels in 2005 out of Long Beach State (my alma mater). Jered’s rise through the organization’s system was one of the most anticipated events in Angel’s history.

When he finally did arrive on May 27, 2006 he did not disappoint. Jered pitched seven innings, giving up just three hits, walking one batter, and striking out five, while not giving up any runs. The Angels won that day 10-1 over the Baltimore Orioles.

I remember the day well. Cheryl and I drove down to San Diego’s Petco Park to see the Cardinals and David Eckstein play the Padres for an afternoon game. We love Petco Park and we have always loved David Eckstein. Going to see David whenever he was in town was something that had become a tradition for us.

After the game, we then drove back to Anaheim to catch Jered’s debut. It was a great day all the way around.

Cheryl and my early impressions of Jered included an encounter with him at an Angels fan fest. Jered came into the autograph session with a big smile, blonde hair flowing, sunglasses on and would point to people he knew (perhaps with a wink under those sunglasses) just like a big Hollywood star would do when walking onto a set. Cheryl and I affectionately dubbed him “Rock Star” that day. He was larger than life.

Make no mistake about it, Jered Weaver rocks. As fans we only get glimpses into a player’s personality away from the playing field. What we know of Jered comes from watching him stopping to sign autographs and pose for pictures at Spring Training. He always takes time for the fans.

This past spring we asked Jered to sign a picture we had taken from last year’s division clinching celebration. He looked at it and said “Now, that’s what I’m talking about.” It was vintage Jered.

Last night was vintage Jered too. In many ways this season will always represent the maturation of Jered Weaver to me. It’s obvious the death of Nick Adenhart has had a profound impact on Jered’s life. Weaver has handled the passing of his friend with class, doing everything possible to honor his buddy.

Again, I’m just a fan with very limited access to players, but I’ve had a great seat in the theatre known as Angels Stadium and on the side lines at Spring Training. Jered now has a quiet confidence about him. He seems more focused and is clearly on a mission. I believe he carries a heavy heart to the mound every time he steps on it and yet he seems inspired to pitch his very best.

I will never forget the first Angles game after Nick’s passing. It was April 10 and Jered was on the mound. He gave up one unearned run and threw six and two thirds innings, while striking out eight Red Sox; leading the Angels to a 6-3 victory. It was an emotional game and Jered Weaver had become a leader right before our eyes. It wasn’t a role he asked for. It was something he was destined to become.

It’s awesome when a player of Jered’s talent lives up to the potential that is within him. It’s something fans like Cheryl and me find extremely gratifying. These aren’t just names and numbers taking the field each night, they’re individuals with life experiences that sometimes may not be different from our own. We all suffer loss. We all strive to do our best in life, but in the case of players like Jered, they have to do it with 40,000+ watching them.

In 2006 133 pitchers made their major league debut. Jered leads all of them with 48 career wins to date. Rock on Jered Weaver.

Beating the Red Sox to take a two to nothing lead in the ALDS is awesome. Seeing someone like Jered Weaver play a role in that is what memories are made of. Sharing it with our friends in Section 514 makes it all the more special. Cheryl and I feel blessed to be Angel fans. In fact, being an Angels fan simply rocks.

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