The stage was set for a pitching duel… Zack Greinke (6-0) vs. Joe Saunders (4-1). I attended this game with a friend I know through a schoolmate, Gavin. He’s a big Cardinals fan and wore his #51 Willie McGee jersey… here he is (in awe of… something) with the crowd before the gates opened:
I was out to snag some baseballs so I wore my Angels button-up with a blue T-shirt underneath.
We got to the stadium at about 3:40pm for the 6:05pm start. There wasn’t much of a crowd and I thought, “Today might be a great BP day.” Gavin and I played some catch and then at 4:02 the gates opened. I had mentioned to Gavin that my plan was to run in and try to find an Easter egg… he volunteered to keep up with me and said, “It’s part of the experience.” We took off for right field and as I headed into the field level I saw dozens, maybe hundreds, of little kids along each foul line. Gwah?!? As it turns out, it was one of the Little League Days that Angel Stadium hosts. I was disheartened… no Easter eggs… just lots of kids more adorable, and more likely to have a ball tossed to them, than me. Gavin and I decided we had no choice but to head up to the pavilion. Look how many little kids were already there (note the foul pole area, too):
This was the view to my left (can you see Gavin?) and all the kids were frantically yelling, “OVER HERE!” whenever a ball came within thirty feet of them. I tried to get Matt Palmer to toss up a baseball but to no avail. I like him… he’s now 3-0 for the Halos this season, a thirty year-old rookie. After a while, Maicer Izturis, batting from the left side (with Greinke, a righty, pitching that night) walloped a ball. I was three rows back from the wall, moved a section to my left and lined it up pretty well. My only concern was that it would go over my head… a few gloves popped up in front of me but I had my eyes locked on that ball as it fell. At the last second I jumped up and stretched out my arm–
–and felt the ball hit my glove as I fell back just enough to loose my footing. I ended up half sitting, half laying on the row of seats behind me. No pain… just a snowcone catch and my first BP homer caught on the fly since Giambi’s blast back in Opening Week. I have to admit, that one felt good. I figured that with all the kids around one ball was likely to be my total for the day. For the rest of the Angel BP time nothing came near me.
The Royals were coming up so I darted into the concourse and switched into my royal blue cap and shirt. A friendly usher named Barbara who works in the pavilion section noticed me and said, “What is this? You’re a traitor!” I told her not to worry… it was only for BP and she laughed.
I saw Ron Mahay and a few other pitchers standing below me in right-center but every time he fielded a ball my requests were drowned out by a chorus of higher pitched voices. There were literally hundreds of kids at this batting practice! AACK! The Royals were puttin’ too many in the seats so Gavin and I headed down to the foul pole in right (I’d seen an opening). Barbara stopped me and asked if my trick had worked. “Not yet,” I said as we jogged by. We got down to the field and squeezed in just fair of the pole.
Before too long a Royals righty pulled one down the line. It caromed off the wall twenty feet to our right and I was out and over the edge of the wall… I snagged it as it rolled along and that was my second of the day!
At that point BP was close to ending so I told Gavin the plan for the rest of the evening… we’d follow the Royals to their dugout, try to get a ball, then grab some seats in the section near the dugout. As it turns out, after some of the Royals stretched and a girl sand the anthem (poorly), Mike Aviles and Alberto Callaspo played catch (Can you see it in Aviles’ glove in this photo?) but Aviles tossed the ball to the section on my left. After the game started I figured we’d get kicked out of our pirated seats.
In the bottom of the second inning Juan Rivera grounded out to Callaspo at second. He threw the ball to Billy Butler, playing first, and I was already up and waving my arms. Butler saw me and tossed it up… it went a bit to my right so I had to lay out across the dugout but I caught it and I had a beautiful, rubbed up game ball for my third of the day!
There wasn’t any snaggin action for the rest of the night. But the craziest thing was that we never got kicked out of our seats. We watched the whole game from the third row behind the Royals dugout! Another third out toss came close and Gavin had a chance to catch it but it went just over his head (and actually hit the elderly lady behind us–don’t worry, she was fine). The game itself was a thing of beauty.
Greinke and Saunders had quite a duel going. In the third inning GMJ (Gary Matthews, Jr.) doubled, Erick Aybar sacrifice bunted him to third, then Chone Figgins hit a sacrifice fly to right, scoring the Angels’ first (and only)
Some action shots:
Each pitcher was dealing. Greinke allowed only four hits, Saunders allowed five. In the eighth inning Saunders faced a two on, one out situation. Willie Bloomquist had reached on an error by Aybar… his throw to first pulled Kendry Morales off the bag. Miguel Olivo singled, then Aviles bunted the runners to second and third. With a 1-0 lead, Joe Saunders faced what could have been has last batter in Coco Crisp. Crisp hit the ball sharply to third but Chone Figgins looked Bloomquist back, then tagged Olivo heading from second to third! Two outs. David DeJesus hit the ball sharply to third base as well and Figgins made a great play and got the out at first. Saunders was pumped, the 39,776 in attendance were pumped, and Saunders would finish to get his first-ever shutout with a one-two-three ninth. He only needed 101 pitches. Greinke took the loss… a complete game loss. His ERA had skyrocketed to 0.51.
Nothing got tossed up from the Royals dugout after the game but I did manage to find a few ticket stubs as we left. What a game! Here we are at the end of the night:
And me with my three snagged baseballs. Numbers 49, 50, and 51 in my collection: