I had been looking forward to this game for a couple of weeks. It was the first chance I had to implement some of my recently learned Hample tricks. The Home Plate gate at Angel Stadium opens at 5:05, a half hour before the rest of the gates. I wasn’t the first fan through the gates (on floppy hat giveaway night, mind you) but I was one of the first few to make it out to the left field seats. I checked around to see if there were any home run balls already out there, just waiting to be snagged, but I couldn’t spot any. I picked a spot just past the foul pole and got my glove (with string and Sharpie and rubber band) ready. While the Angels took BP some of their pitchers were stretching and throwing in left field. I tried to get any of them to throw me a ball, but I just wasn’t gettin’ any love–because I wasn’t five years old. Ervin Santana threw a ball to a little boy near me and Jose Arredondo threw one to a little girl right near the pole, but I was being shut out. Howie Kendrick (I think) belted a foul ball down the line and I hung out over the fence to grab it but the guy right in front of me (a superb athlete) somehow managed to stretch a few inches further and the ball was his. At this point I’d been at BP for 20 minutes and I was starting to worry that my planning would be all for naught. My goal was to get at least one ball at this game. Some Angel righty hit a couple of smashes deep into the seats and two of them almost smashed into a group of senior citizens ten rows up. A security guard joked that if I really wanted a ball I should go guard them… none of the old timers had a glove… nor were they paying attention in the least to the happenings on the field. After the Angels batted I once again asked politely for a ball (in Spanish) but couldn’t get anyone to throw me one. I was disheartened, but also hopeful as I rushed up toward the right field bleachers.
I had learned the sneakiness of bringing a hat to wear with the visiting team’s logo. I had my Orioles hat out and on as I jogged to the wall in right. I saw Lance Cormier and Garrett Olson shagging flies and tried to get them to notice that I was a (faux) O’s fan. Lance wasn’t feelin’ it, but Garrett noticed me and a couple of real Orioles fans and I knew that was a good sign. Now, I will admit that I’m not the person most players would want to immediately throw a ball to… they give balls to kids mostly, and sometime to girls. In my case today, a female Orioles fan got two balls before I’d gotten any… just by being a girl! Ridiculous. Thankfully, after a few minutes of, “Please, Garrett, how ’bout a ball for an O’s fan?” the young pitcher lobbed one up to me! There it was! My studying and planning (I knew all the Orioles by name thanks to a cheat sheet and I won the hat for $8 on eBay) had paid off.
Throughout my BP adventure, Michelle was sitting or wandering through the stadium, not wanting to run around in the warm weather. Understandable. Now I had a souvenir to show her when BP ended at 6:20. I thanked Garrett Olson and told him I wouldn’t bug him anymore. So I started to move down a section or two, closer to the right field pole to bug the two bullpen catchers (Ronnie and Ruben). Just as I started to move I heard it. That sound that any fan knows, whether it’s in BP or during a game. That CRACK that means a ball is flying out of the yard. I saw Aubry Huff at the plate and saw the ball soaring toward the seats in right. It took me a second but I realized the ball would clear my reach by a good twenty feet. I turned around as it flew over my head and to my shock it bounced of some seats a dozen rows up and ricocheted back right to my glove! That was two… and I had tied my record for baseballs at a single game. Man, that Huff can hit. He hit three more out in the next few minutes, all bombs. I pestered Ronnie and Ruben for a bit, but I was polite and I was an O’s fan. With about 10 minutes left in BP Ronnie looked up and threw me a peace sign… I thought for sure he’d toss me the next ball he got. He fielded four more in the time left and threw one to a Halo fan–grr! And he didn’t give me a second look… I was disappointed but I was nowhere near empty handed. Garrett Olson (#18), who’d thrown me my first ball of the day headed over to the seats on the field level to sign autographs. I jogged over with my ticket stub and a Sharpie, tapped a female O’s fan on the shoulder and asked her to hand it to him to sign. My first autograph of 2008:
I find it interesting that he signed for me and the ticket I had pictured another Garrett. Even stranger, neither Garrett appeared in the game.
Anywho, I headed up to the 400 level where Michelle had been patiently waiting for me. We grabbed some dinner and I regaled her with my triumphs, minor as they may have been, and we sat down to enjoy the game. It was a great game… if I had really been an Orioles fan. The Angels got shutout 3-0 and couldn’t touch MLB debut pitcher Chris Waters. In the 8th inning Michelle and I went down to try to get a ball from the Orioles as they ran back to the dugout but to no avail. I headed down at the end of the game after George Sherrill closed it out and saw that FSN was interviewing Waters. Melvin Mora ran up behind him and got him good with a cream pie. The rookie was in great spirits after the hazing and chucked his game used hat into the stands. It was a few feet to my right and a skinny, tall teenager caught it… residual whipped cream and all. Dang! What a cool souvenir that would’ve been. I couldn’t complain though. Two balls, an autograph, a free floppy hat, and a night at the ballpark with my sweetheart. What a great evening–just wished the Angels would have mustered more than two hits.