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Fans get Angels off to running start

Fans get Angels off to running start

ANAHEIM -- Several former Angels greats and current members of the club -- such as Torii Hunter, Reggie Willits, Mike Napoli, Jeff Mathis and Howie Kendrick -- helped celebrate the franchise's fourth American League West title in five seasons at a Postseason Rally in front of an estimated 20,000 fans at Angel Stadium on Monday.

The night began with a bold proclamation from former Angels player and current broadcaster Rex Hudler, who told the fans that this is just the first of many celebrations to come.

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"This is only the beginning of a long road in October to capture the prize -- another ring," said Hudler referring the World Series championship won by the 2002 Angels.

Hudler and fellow broadcaster Steve Physioc hosted the event, with Angels fans waving rally towels and holding signs while voicing their support for the Angels.

The band Smash Mouth played a 30-minute set, including former No. 1 hits "Walking on the Sun" and "All-Star" while decked out in Angels gear.

The fans were also entertained by the Navy Leapfrogs, as five members of the parachute team landed on the field as Smash Mouth played its 1998 hit "Can't get enough of you baby."

It was just the start to the rally, as the Angels then welcomed former greats Bobby Grich, Mark Langston and Tim Salmon to the stage built at second base.

Grich, who was part of the 1979 AL West champion Angels, told the fans about the "Yes We Can" chant made famous during that season when the Angels were losing late in games. He made sure to tell the fans they can make a difference in the postseason.

"The fans can do it," Grich said. "They did in '02 here, and they can be a huge impact in winning the World Series in 2008."

The impact the fans can have was the theme of the speeches by all three former greats, as the Angels have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

"I never felt more connected to the fans than in the 2002 season," said Salmon, who played 14 seasons with the Angels and helped them to their lone World Series title in 2002. "I can't emphasize enough that the energy you give us in the stands helps us in the field."

Current Angels general manager Tony Reagins was also welcomed to the stage as he spoke about how proud he was for the team to reach 100 wins on the final day of the regular season.

"It was awesome to get to 100 wins," Reagins said. "It's just a historic season in a couple of aspects. The fans have been great, and ownership is great. The players worked hard and saw 100 wins in sight, and got it."

The Angels then showed a five-minute video that highlighted the 2008 season, with such moments as Hunter's game-winning grand slam in April, the day the Angels clinched the AL West and the day that closer Francisco Rodriguez broke the single-season save record.

The five current Angels -- Willits, Hunter, Kendrick, Mathis and Napoli -- unveiled an updated banner in right-center field with the year "2008" in bold to celebrate the club's seventh AL West title.

"You guys are the best fans I've ever seen," Hunter told the crowd with the Rally Monkey on his back. "This is the best rally I've ever been a part of in my life."

Rhett Bollinger is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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