7/24/09 at Angel Stadium

So, while I didn’t plan to go to the game on Thursday until the day before, it led to me going to this game… just as unexpectedly.  Here’s how it went down…

At the game on 7/23 I’d heard an announcement that said Angels outfielder Reggie Willits would be signing autographs at a store in the Tustin Marketplace… which is about ten minutes or so from where I live.  After the game that night I told Michelle, “I have some free time tomorrow.  I think I’ll go to the signing, Reggie’s a fun player to watch.”  I thought it would be cool to have his autograph (and as I found out the last time I’d attended a signing, there are often cool giveaways).

Well, at 11:00am on Friday the 24th I headed to the Marketplace and waited in line and got Reggie Willits to sign two ticket stubs from 2007 (when he was third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting) and posed for this picture with him:
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I also got a few coupons, some baseball cards, and four tickets to that night’s game against the Twins!

I called Michelle, who was running some crucial errands, and told her that I wanted to at least go to batting practice… and maybe stay for a few innings.  We had dinner plans for that night a bit later on in the evening.  I tried to get rid of some of the other tickets, too… and I did… eventually.  The plan was that I’d hit up BP and leave the game so I could be home by 8:30pm for dinner… she was cooking.  I love my wife!

At 4:30pm I was outside the Home Plate Gate with, yet again, hopes of snagging a Metrodome commemorative baseball.  While in line talking to BP regular, Terry, I’d mentioned the extra tickets I had and he suggested I try to give them (or sell them) back to the box office… I headed over there and saw a young couple in the ticket line.

“Hey, are you two about to buy tickets?” I asked them.

“Yeah.  Why?” the guy said.

“Well, here.  How about you guys just take these?  I’ve got these extra tickets that were a giveaway earlier.  I’m not gonna use ’em.  Why don’t you guys take them?”

“Wha-”  They are both stunned.  “Really?”

“Yeah, really.  Here you go.”  And I handed them over.  “Enjoy the game.”  I saw them later during BP… I was glad to help out a young couple.  It felt good!
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On to batting practice… I ran in and the Angels were actually hitting!  Whew.

Knowing that the Twins were starting lefty, Francisco Liriano (and therefore, nearly all the Angels would be batting from the right side) I decided to head to the right field foul pole to play for slicers and bouncers down the line.  My strategy paid off.
bp right field lower cropped.jpgNo, I didn’t get a player to toss me that ball sitting on the grass.  I did, however, judge a slicing ground rule double pretty well.  Some Angel righty lofted one high in the air and, while people jockeyed for position along the wall to scoop it up, I ran back a few rows, thinking it would hit the warning track.  It did–and took a hop even over MY head and into an empty row.  After a couple of settling bounces I snagged it before anyone else was anywhere near me.  That was the 77th ball in my collection.

About five minutes later Robb Quinlan was hitting and knocked a ball down the right field line.  It had enough momentum to get to the short wall near the pole so I positioned myself, jumped up, hung over the wall, reached out–

–and snagged it while it was still moving, just before it hit the wall.  I had timed it perfectly… think of it like the inverse of an outfielder leaping up to take away a home run–kind of.  Baseball #2 on the day!

The Twins started hitting and they had a few lefties that I knew could hit some bombs so I headed up to the pavilion.  It was, by that point, pretty crowded up there:
DSCF3093.JPGBefore too long I snagged another ball from the friendly arm of Matt Guerrier.  He fielded one in right and I called out, asked him by name, said “please” and he tossed it up.  Boy, even Major League players have trouble throwing a ball UP to someone… first Chris Coghlan down in SD… now Guerrier.  His throw sailed wide… luckily, I was able to move five feet to my right and reach out as far as I could to catch the ball right in front of a lady’s face.  She was about 45 years old and had been looking the other way and never saw the ball.  Another facial contusion prevented by a humble baseball collector. 

A left-handed Twins hitter (Caucasian; not Morneau or Mauer) was launching a few to the seats.  He hit one deep to right field and I knew it was gonna make it out… I started running to my right.  Like, full on sprinting through the ninth row from the wall.  I raced through a full section and half of another one and made the catch!  Lo and behold, I can still actually catch home runs in BP… it had been a while.  My last homer caught on the fly was on June 22nd when the Angels played the Rockies.  I was up to four baseballs on the day!

BP ended soon after that catch (the Twins stopped hitting at 6:10pm–usually BP lasts until at least 6:20.  I jogged down to the visiting team’s dugout and waited for the game to start.  I was just one person and there were a ton of open seats.  I watched the Angels warm up across the field.  Chone Figgins threw with Howie Kendrick:
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Here’s Brandon Wood talking to Justin Morneau…I like to assume he’s asking him for some pointers on how to play first base:
DSCF3117.JPGBetween the time I got there and the time I left (during the fourth inning) I probably moved four or five times.  I was even told by an usher while I was stupidly sitting in the first row  (don’t do it–the ushers know the season seatholders… you’re more likely to get kicked out if you’re up in the front) that I should return to my ticketed seat.  I didn’t… and it paid off.

Bobby Abreu was caught attempting to steal second base in the bottom of the third inning.  It caught everyone a bit off guard but I knew that was the third out–and that the second baseman, Alexi Casilla, still had the ball.  As the Twins jogged off the field I was right on the other side of the dugout and I called out for the ball.  There was a teenager on my right, a girl, and she was just yelling and begging for the ball–she didn’t even know who had it.  After Morneau was out of sight, she went, “Aww…” and then Casilla, probably not used to having the inning ending ball, was reminded by a teammate that he should toss it to the crowd.  Well, it was just me and this girl… Casilla turned his back to the stands and tossed the ball up in the air.  I was taller (and had a glove on) so I got it.  I would have probably given it to this girl but as the ball got thrown, she yelled, “NO!” and pulled my right arm down to keep me from getting it.  How rude!  Then she had the audacity to ask me, after I’d caught it, “Can I have that ball?”  No “please.”  I looked at her and said, “No,” and left the section.

1.  Don’t grab other people to prevent them from getting a baseball.
2.  Don’t, then, ask them for the ball you just tried to prevent them from getting.

How rude.

Anyway, I watched a few more minutes of the game from the Terrace Level:
3rd inning terrace level cropped.jpgThe Angels had already scored two runs on a homer by Robb Quinlan and Joe Mauer hit a homer (his first of two on the night) a moment before I snapped this photo:
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…with one out in the top of the fourth inning–there weren’t going to be any no hitters to be seen this evening in Anaheim and it was about time for me to leave anyway.  I gathered up my things as Mauer rounded the bases and made the walk through the concourse, down the ramp, past the usher (who was handing out coupons for a free taco from Del Taco) and out into the parking lot through the Left Field Gate:DSCF3150.JPG
The sun had just set and the sky was beautiful.  I really wasn’t used to leaving the stadium at this time.  I made sure to take a panorama of the sky and the park as I left for the night after a great time enjoying a summer afternoon/evening viewing the national pasttime:
left field gate sunset.jpgI called Michelle and said I’d be home for dinner at 8:30, as planned, walked to my car, and listened to the game on the way home.  The Angels would end up winning 6-5.  Five baseballs in a BP session and 3+ innings and goin’ home to a freshly cooked meal… not a bad night.

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