For someone who really loves baseball, Nick Wright may have just experienced the ultimate road trip.
Only Wright isn’t just an ordinary fan visiting a nearby ballpark. His favorite team plays halfway around the world. And a night game for them is a middle-of-the-night game for him.
As a Los Angeles Angels supporter living in the United Kingdom, he didn’t mind staying up 24 hours straight before arriving at Angel Stadium on Friday night for the opener of a six-game homestand. He had tickets to all six games.
And the fun was just beginning…
On Saturday, Angels manager Joe Maddon invited Wright onto the field before the game, where he got to watch batting practice and meet players David Fletcher and Taylor Ward.
No doubt they were all wondering the same thing: How does a British guy become such a big Angels fan?
‘I was hooked instantly’
When Wright’s family visited Southern California 20 years ago, young Nick just happened to come across a Los Angeles Angels game while flipping channels on their hotel television.
The strange game looked interesting, so he begged his parents to take him to a game while they were in Anaheim. It was love at first sight.
“There isn’t anything quite like a day out at a ballpark,” he tells USA TODAY Sports. “The sounds, the noises, just the atmosphere there, all the food, and just the game, Southern California sun.
“It was just one of those moments where I was hooked instantly.”
Wright was a soccer fan first, but after that experience, “baseball jumped up the list.”
The Angels, who won the World Series that year, became his favorite team. Even after returning home, he followed their exploits closely. Whenever a chance to visit the United States arose, he made sure it included a trip to see the Angels play.
As his fandom continued to grow, he started getting up in the middle of the night to watch Angels games live on TV.
“I have a 9-to-5 job, so it’s tough sometimes,” he says. “I try to get a couple hours’ sleep before the game, set an alarm and wake up at 2:30 am, and grab an extra hour or two after the game.”
A couple years ago, Wright (@LaAngelsUK on Twitter) began a weekly podcast, called “Halfway Around the Halo,” where he and his co-host riff about Angels baseball.
“I think it’s a slightly different perspective from us watching in the middle of the night and it’s a slightly different take on baseball from a perspective halfway around the world,” he explains.
Pilgrimage to Anaheim
The last time Wright crossed the pond, in September 2019, wasn’t the best of times for the Angels. Stars Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani were injured, and the team was out of playoff contention.
The pandemic scrapped his plans to visit in 2020, but this year’s trip was definitely worth the wait.
“There’s nothing quite like the feeling I’ve had in the last few days,” Wright gushes.
That’s because he was at the stands on Tuesday night to witness history as 22-year-old left-hander Reid Detmers tossed a no-hitter in just his 11th major league start.
“It was probably around the fifth or the sixth inning we really started paying attention to it,” he says. “The tension late in the ninth – I love that feeling – it’s horrible, but it’s just why we watch sports, I think.”
Detmers struck out two batters and walked one the entire game, so the drama kept building with every ball put in play – all the way down to the final out.
“Everyone around us, I think, was just so appreciative of seeing history,” Wright says. “It was an experience I will never forget. I was really blessed to witness it.”
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Even for those who’ve just met him, Wright has a magnetic personality and a love of the game that’s readily apparent.
His celebrity status among fellow Angels fans skyrocketed in the wake of the no-hitter, with many of them citing his presence in the ballpark as a good luck charm. As Wright says, they’re now “trying every avenue to get me to stay,” from Go Fund Me campaigns to offers of couches, green cards and even arranged marriages.
But all good things must eventually come to an end. For Wright, that meant a Wednesday night flight back to London. But his departure time was just late enough to include one more highlight – a chance to see Shohei Ohtani pitch the final game of the homestand against Tampa Bay.
“A Shohei start was high on my agenda, so glad to get one in, even if it means a rush back to the airport!”
Six days in the USA, perfect Southern California weather, a winning Halo homestand, a no-hitter and a chance to see Ohtani pitch. For Nick Wright, it’s been nothing short of a magical history(-making) tour.
“Short and sweet visit,” he says, “but I think it worked out perfectly.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Steve Gardner on Twitter @SteveAGardner.