TO GET DIRECTIONS TO TORIITOWN, YA GOTTA TALK TO A DUDE FROM DOWNEYBy Christian Brown
Underneath a litany of bright lights, fans cheered as the instantly recognizable 90s hit “Get Ready for This” began pulsing throughout Angels Stadium.
“Alright guys, there he is … signs up and try to keep them even,” said Claude Bilodeau, turning back to check the stadium’s 42-by-67 foot JumboTron.
“Come on, Torii,” exclaimed Bilodeau after quickly jiggling his Angels baseball cap and clapping his hands.
After two balls and two strikes, Hunter struck out swinging.
But Bilodeau’s confidence remained unscathed, nonetheless. “Torii is a great guy. He’s got one more year left after this season and we’re here to support him,” Bilodeau said. “He’s the heart and soul of the team.”
Hoping to both celebrate Hunter and rally Angels fans, Bilodeau, 48, during at least one game in every homestand this season, enlists a group of dedicated fans to help him hold up nine 2 1/2-by-4 foot double-walled, white boards, which transform right field into “Toriitown.”
“It started with ‘Matsuiland’ last season,” said Bilodeau, a resident of Downey since 1987. “The Dodgers had ‘Mannywood’ going for Manny Ramirez so one day my family said, ‘we should do Matsuiland like Disneyland.’”
Bilodeau began buying about a dozen adjacent tickets in the right-field pavilion, inviting Angels fans to hold up the sign tribute to former designated hitter and outfielder Hideki Matsui.
However, when Matsui left the team to join the Oakland A’s, Bilodeau made the decision to highlight a new Angels player.
“We said, ‘let’s carry it on with Toriitown like Toontown,’” recalled Bilodeau who then presented Matsui fans in Oakland with a brand new “Matsuiland” sign redone in green and yellow. “We picked Torii because we wanted to honor his great career, his playing ability. He’s a friendly guy, a terrific ball player with a feel-good story.”