Fountain Valley grad adds Angel Stadium memory
MAY 03, 2013 9:05p ET
It was the 2002 World Series. The Angels won Game 2 by a score of 11-10 thanks to a pair of two-run home runs from Tim Salmon.
However, all Salmon or anybody could talk about was the ball that was absolutely crushed by Barry Bonds that went an estimated 485 feet.
That includes Tillman -- he was in attendance on that October night in 2002 and witnessed it as an Angels fan.
“It was a tank,” recalled the Orioles pitcher. “I still see it every now and then.”
That moonshot in baseball history was great to witness, but no doubt will take a back seat in Tillman's memory bank. He now has another Angel Stadium memory that will climb to the top of the list. It’s his own.
The Fountain Valley grad returned to Angel Stadium to pitch for the first time in the big leagues and left his hometown team befuddled. He struck out three through eight scoreless innings in an Orioles 5-1 win on Thursday.
It brought flashbacks of another Southern California product coming to Angel Stadium and silencing the Halos. San Fernando grad, and Tillman’s teammate with the Orioles, Miguel Gonzalez had a memorable homecoming of his own last season, picking up a win against the Angels.
It was much more emotional for Gonzalez. He’s a former Angels farmhand and on that night he used a glove that was given to him by the late Nick Adenhart.
Tillman sought Gonzalez for advice on returning home.
“Me and Miguel are really good friends,” Tillman said. “He told me that he was nervous leading up to the game but once he got out there it was business as usual. He was a good guy to talk to.”
Pitching at the Big A wasn't completely foreign to Tillman. He pitched there as member of the Angels' Elite travel ball club where he was a teammate of Angels catcher Hank Conger. Back then, he pitched in front of crowds that maybe reached 100 people. Far less than 35,118 that filled the venue on Thursday night, but Tillman was unfazed.
His success was part familiarity, part home cooking in his return to Orange County. The weather was favorable which helped Tillman command his curveball on an 88-degree night. His changeup was effective as well and Orioles manager Buck Showalter was impressed by Tillman's ability to hit 96 with his fastball.
“That’s the first time I got to see him pitch in a long time,” said Conger, who's known Tillman since he was nine-years-old. “He’s definitely added a couple of pitches to his repertoire. (He) threw well.”
Like Gonzalez the year before, Tillman admitted he was nervous before taking the mound in front of an estimated 70 friends and family for the first time. But like Gonzalez last season, once he took the mound, it was all business.
“He’s capable of that,” Showalter said. “He’s got good makeup. The tougher the situation, the better he is.”
The tough situation, just happened to be home, sweet home.
“It was awesome," Tillman said. "I’ll tell you what, it was cool. Especially because I had so many family and friends here and so many good memories of this place. It was a special moment for me."
+ SHOW COMMENTS +