Now that the holiday weekend was over (and the crowds had dissipated–hopefully) it was time to hit up another game.
The Texas Rangers were in town and my Halos were locked in a tie for first place with ’em. Thankfully for Michelle and I, a division rivalry series didn’t attract as many fans as fireworks and Rally Doodle Dandy monkeys did.
We arrived at the stadium at about 4:40pm and met San Diego ballhawk, Leigh (and his girlfriend) under one of the big hats. I had two extra tickets to this game that I had planned to sell and Leigh just happened to be in the area. The masses rushed in at 5:00pm and I was the second one out to the pavilion while Michelle headed to a shady spot to read a magazine. Here was my view at the start of BP… straight ahead:
To my right:
To my left:
BP regular, Rob, was there, too… no Easter eggs were to be found but Bobby Abreu (who’d been taking fungos in right field) had just picked up a ball and was eyeing it. I ran down to the first row and asked him if he could please toss it up in a mix of English and Spanish. He gave it a pretty good inspection and then nodded to me and tossed it up! Ball #1 of the day and the 63rd of my ballhawking career. When I looked at it I could see why Abreu wanted to get rid of it:
Pretty scuffed up, lots of stains… but a perfect souvenir for any fan!
It was 5:04pm and I was on the board. It’s always a good feeling to get that first ball out of the way… it lessens the stress.
Matt Palmer, one of my favorite Angels, was shagging baseballs in center field with two other pitchers. He fielded one and looked like he wanted to play catch but the other two guys were talking to each other. He took a few mock windups then I yelled, from 18ft. up, “Hey, Matt! I’ll play catch with you.” He looked up (this was the third time I’d had a short conversation with him) and he said, “Really?” Then he started laughing… I hit my glove and held it open. He wound up and threw his best attempt at a knuckleball right to me for Ball #2 on the day! A fan near me said, “Whoa, knuckleball!” But I managed to catch it, then I took it out of my glove and got ready to throw it back to him (not knowing if he really wanted me to just keep it). Palmer looked up and then gestured that I didn’t need to throw it back. Cool! It was 5:07pm.
A few minutes later a ball was smacked up toward the pavilion by Kendry Morales. I was about six rows back from the wall and it was a line shot that I couldn’t quite catch on the fly but I was about two feet from it when it hit the seats and, luckily, it didn’t take a crazy bounce. Ball #3 was mine and it was only 5:11pm… I had high hopes for the rest of the day…
At this point in time Rob and Leigh had also gotten a ball or two and BP was starting to fill up. I knew the Rangers had some pop in their bats so they were sure to be peppering the stands with baseballs… sure enough, a few came up toward us in the seats but I was always just a bit to far from them. One took a crazy bounce over my head… one deflected off a glove in front of me, one disappeared under a pile of little kids. I was having a good time anyway. Thanks, Michelle, for snapping some photos.
Vincente Padilla picked a ball up off the track and two teenagers started begging him for it. He nonchalantly tossed it up without really looking and, though it was just to the right of me, I didn’t knock the teens out of the way. They, however, were not wearing gloves and they let the ball fall back to the field. Padilla picked it up again and as he did I asked him for it. He looked straight up at me, saw my Rangers hat, pointed, and tossed it right to me… I turned to see if the two kids were still there but they were pestering some other player already… so I kept it. Ball #4 (at 5:39pm)…
The funniest part of BP was that whenever Josh Hamilton would step up to the plate, dozens of people (including me) would move back ten to fifteen rows from where they’d been. It was Josh’s first day back from the DL… and, though he tried, he didn’t put on much of a show. I think he hit two into the seats and one to dead center (to the rocks). I wasn’t close to either of the balls hit to the pavilion. I think Rob ended up with one though.
As a matter of fact, I didn’t snag anything else for the rest of the day. It had started so well… but I did see Jason Grilli teasing some fans about throwing them a ball. One of them asked him to throw it hard (or fast?) and he proceeded to launch one over everybody to the very top of the pavilion. It was pretty funny.
BP ended about twelve minutes early so I was caught off guard (and Michelle had gone to walk around) but I managed to get down to the field in time to get Doug Mathis (no relation to the Angels’ Jeff Mathis) to sign my ticket:
I like that he signed right over Joe Saunders’ face. Ha!
Then I headed toward the dugout and sat for a minute while I tried to get in contact with my wandering wife… she was on the terrace level and was on the phone with her mom. I found her and then headed back to the dugout to try to get another autograph.
Omar Vizquel was signing from the dugout so I couldn’t toss him a ticket. I decided, “He’s probably goin’ to the Hall of Fame one day… I should really get him to sign something.” So, I took my Rangers cap out of my bag, clipped a Sharpie to it and tossed it down to him…
TA-DA! I was pretty excited about that. Omar’s been one of the best shortstops in the game for, like, twenty years. A long time… perhaps that’s why his signature is so blah… it really doesn’t look like his name at all, does it?
Michelle came down and we watched the pregame stuff happen. Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus played catch but tossed the ball to a kid twenty feet from me. We watched the first inning from the super-primo seats:
But got kicked out by the actual seatholders before it ended. We headed up to the view level (our seats were in Section 530, Row G) but we took up residence in an almost vacant section in the 400s just above first base… a decent foul ball spot.
The game was great! We were down by two after the first but Jeff Mathis knocked a three-run homer to give us the lead. Here he is after rounding the bases:
The Angels never gave up that lead. Jered Weaver pitched well and the Angels ended up with nine runs on nine hits.
We moved back down to the field for the eighth inning. I failed to get a ball from Hank Blalock as the Rangers came off the field… then we headed to the Angels dugout for the ninth.
Michelle snapped this action shot of Jarrod “Salty” Saltalamacchia fouling a pitch straight back:
The Angels beat the Rangers by five runs and were a game in front of them in the AL West by night’s end.
My next game will likely be someplace NOT in Anaheim… ooohh! I know I’m going to two games in St. Louis (on Aug. 1st, for my birthday, and 2nd) and I am 99% sure I’ll be at an Angels/A’s game in Oakland coming up on the 19th of this month. I may get to another game or two before then (or between those dates).