This particular trip to Angel Stadium began a few weeks ago with a simple message on Facebook from my buddy, Rob:
thursday day game. angels-red sox. may 14th.
can this happen
Well, it so happens that all the little details worked out and at 10:20am I was on my way to the park with Michelle, Rob, and Dennis (another friend from UCI). We got there nice and early and, as it was Rob’s first trip to the stadium, we walked all around the outside of the stadium, past the Nick Adenhart memorial, and ended up at the Right Field Gate about 10 minutes before it opened. All the gates were to open at the same time so I figured, why not be close to the outfield? As this was a day game after a night game, I was worried that there wouldn’t be any BP… also, this was the site at the main gate:
Lots of fans, late opening time, day game after a night game… I was worried I’d be unable to walk away with a baseball.
11:00 came and I ran inside (the rest of my group chose to walk) and I quickly headed to right field and I saw this:
Dang… I called Michelle and said, “No batting practice today. I’ll be near the foul pole.” And that’s where I was a few minutes later when they arrived. Nothing was happening on the field.
I knew the players would come out to stretch and throw eventually so I stayed put. Sure enough, some Red Sox pitchers soon trotted out and after some basic warmups they started throwing. There were a bunch of Red Sox fans all along the wall. I watched Tim Wakefield throw a few knuckleballs and then tried asking Takashi Saito for a ball in Japanese (like I did last September at PETCO Park) but I only managed to get a smile out of him, not a ball. Jonathan Papelbon started signing closer to the infield so I headed over there and, with the help of a Sox fan in front of me, got his autograph on my ticket stub for that day. He progressed out toward the outfield, signing for virtually everybody, and I stuck where I was because Hideki Okajima was finishing up his pregame throwing. He wrapped up and I asked, in Japanese (thanks, Zack Hample) for the ball. He turned, confused as to where the request came from and I put my glove up, repeated my call from the third row of the stands and he saw me! He tossed it right to me–perfect throw! I was so psyched! That’s the first time I’d ever successfully gotten a ball from a player by asking in a non-English language. This would be a day of firsts for me at the ballpark, actually.
Now, I wasn’t shut out… whew – but I didn’t snag any other actual baseballs during pregame stuff… I did, however, snag an Angels Softee Ball from the Strike Force as they shot off their air cannons just before the game. My first time snagging one of these, too!
Here I am with Michelle before the start of the game:
We found seats on the first base side and were able to stay there for the first third of the game (see some shots below). I tried to get a ball from the infielders playing catch before the game and from any players that had recorded third outs as they headed into the dugout. Nope–just wasn’t happening on this day. The souvenirs kept going to the section to the left or right of me.
The four of us headed up to the Lower View Level after a walk (for Rob’s sake) through the different concourses in the fourth inning. We
ended up here:
That’s my new favorite Japanese left-handed pitcher, Okajima, on the mound. I had a chance for a foul ball, I thought. Nope–no luck. We had a great view though and had some snacks and watched a great game unfold. I wanted to be back to the Field Level for the final out of the game so we headed down in the top of the ninth with the game tied at 4 to the third base side. Our view:
You know what’s awesome? Free baseball! The Angels and Red Sox were still tied at the end of the ninth so the game headed into extras. I’ve got to say that this ended up being one of the best ballgames I’ve watched in person in a long, long, long time. Each team had chances to score. The Red Sox would end up leaving a total of thirty-four men on base, twelve of those by Ortiz (who went 0 for 7). It was thrilling… I mean, this game had triples, double plays, stolen bases, hit batters, lots of strikeouts, arguments between managers and umps, and twelve innings! Oddly enough, no home runs… whatever. Still, so exciting!
In the bottom of the twelfth, Juan Rivera hit a clean single. Reggie Willits (who I am a big fan of) pinch ran for him. Erick Aybar sac bunted him to second base and then Jeff Mathis came up, knocked a line drive into left-center and that was the game! 5-4 Angels! Man, it was great!
Did I mention that this walk-off win for the Halos occurred after they escaped a Big-Papi-at-the-plate-with-the-bases-full situation (shown above)? And Torii Hunter stole Dustin Pedroia’s (potential) 5th hit of the day from him with a great catch in center? Both Pedroia and Hunter are studs and I really respect how hard they play the game. Awesome! Really, the teams fought each other hard the whole way and most of the 35,124 fans there stayed to see the end… a miracle in SoCal, I’ve noticed.
And though I didn’t snap a photo of it… I was on the Jumbotron for the first time ever! I just happened to be standing up during a pitching change and Dennis said, “Matt!” and the guy on the other side of me said, “Hey, is that you?” and he pointed to the screen. Sure enough, it was me… I gave a nice thumbs up and looked straight into the camera before they cut to someone else. That was pretty cool.