Fans take change in stride at Angels Fest

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- What's in a name?

Not much, apparently, to the nearly 8,000 fans of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim who flocked to Angel Stadium on a rainy Saturday to collect player autographs and celebrate the unofficial opening of baseball season.

The second annual Angels Fest began at 9 a.m., although some fans began arriving at the stadium as early as seven hours before that. The festival, which continues Sunday, is meant to celebrate the beginning of another baseball season and to raise money for the Angels Baseball Foundation charity.

It got under way this year under a cloud, and not just because of the rain. The team's decision to change its name from Anaheim Angels prompted city officials to take the team to court.

A judge refused last month to issue a preliminary injunction blocking the change. But the Anaheim City Council, which has already spent more than $186,000 challenging the new name change, will meet in closed session Tuesday to consider its next move.

"That's unfortunate," said Leonard Velasquez, who had right fielder Tim Salmon sign his "rookies of the year" bat. Salmon was the American League rookie of the year in 1993.

"I hope everybody just accepts it and let's play ball," said Velasquez, a 49-year-old truck driver from Pomona.

Angels spokesman Tim Mead said adding Los Angeles to the team's name will give the Angels broader marketing appeal. That's fine with Ed Bennett, who said he keeps a shrine of Angels memorabilia at his Fullerton home.

"Arte's isn't doing that because he likes Los Angeles. He's doing it for business. He didn't get to where he did by doing dumb things," Bennett said of Angels owner Arte Moreno.

Not that everyone among Saturday's crowd supported the change.

About a dozen teens stood across the street from the stadium waving "Save the Anaheim Angels!" signs.

The city printed 500 of the posters, but Anaheim spokesman John Nicoletti said that doesn't mean officials no longer support the Angels.

"We support the team," Nicoletti said. "We want to show that what's happening between the city and the Angels management is very different than what we feel about the players."