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Newport-Mesa benefits from baseball bonanza

Hotels and bars are getting busy for Tuesday's All-Star Game in Anaheim. Several local hotels are reportedly already booked.

July 12, 2010|By Tom Ragan, tom.ragan@latimes.com

NEWPORT BEACH — In the noontime darkness Monday, deep within the Class of 47 bar next to the Balboa Island Ferry, the beers were going fast in anticipation of Tuesday night's All-Star Game. Customers were talking about baseball as much as they were about the break in the foggy weather.

If the words of the prophets are written on marquee walls, then it was right up there in plain view for everybody to see: "Watch the Angels here."

At Dick's Sporting Goods at Fashion Island, customers were searching far and wide for a miniature version of Mickey Mouse clad in a baseball uniform, this year's promotion of Major League Baseball's All-Star Game, which will be played at Angel Stadium.

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The statues have been popping up around Orange County, including at Fashion Island, where there's a 7-foot, 900-pound version of Mickey Mouse near the Häagen-Dazs ice cream parlor.

And farther south in Laguna Beach, at On Board Men's, a suave clothing store that specializes in old-school baseball jerseys, tourists in town couldn't get enough of the California Angels — er, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

"They keep coming in and asking for the All-Star Game version," said John Broomer, a salesman at the popular store on Pacific Coast Highway. "But I keep having to tell them that we don't have any of those. We just have the late 1970s-era version."

A lot of the customers, Broomer said, were in town and on their way to today's Home Run Derby or had tickets to Tuesday's game, where thousands of fans are expected to attend and bring the rally monkey out.

Or maybe Mickey Mouse.

If there were ever any doubt about baseball fever, you can catch it these days by just walking outside and feeling the vibe. You don't even have to drive out to Anaheim.

It's all happening right here in everybody's back yards.

"After 30-something days of no sun, we're finally getting some sunshine. And now we get to watch the Angels and the All-Star Game on top of it all," said Holly Bray, a bartender at Class of 47. "Ain't life grand?"

The baseball game, without a doubt, has been good for business. It might pale in comparison to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, but the financial trickledown is mighty in its own right, given the tough economic times these days, hotel owners said.

Gary Sherwin, president and chief executive of Visit Newport Beach Inc., a private marketing firm that contracts with the city of Newport Beach, said several hotels were packed to capacity to the tune of thousands of rooms being sold out for the next week.

"Baseball has given us a little steroid, no pun intended," Sherwin said. "But we're at the height of the season. Hotels are generally doing well this time of year."

The only problem, he said, was the June gloom, which overspent its welcome.

"It bled right into July," Sherwin said. "But it looks like we've seen the worst of it. We're going strong this week."

He said the Marriott Hotel and Spa, the Marriott Bayview and the Hyatt Regency are all sold out, either due to the All-Star Game "compression and overflow" and due to other group events.

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