A day game after a night game on a Wednesday. Angel Stadium. August 26th, 2009. It was an important day for me. I’m glad that I had my wife and a friend of ours there with me.
The day started at 10:15am when Michelle and I met up with our friend,
Toby, before driving to the stadium. She’d wanted to head to a
baseball game with us ever since she’d heard about how I run around
catching baseballs (or trying to). Off we went, arriving at the Big A
around 10:35. We walked around the back of the stadium so I could peek
in through the outfield tunnels. As I expected, BP was NOT happening
on this hot summer day. I was a bit worried that I’d get shut out,
especially when I happened to pass by John Witt (aka MLBallhawk)
outside the Right Field Gate. John’s some pretty good competition when
baseballs are flyin’ around!
Just after 11:00 the gates opened and I was denied taking in my sealed
bottle of Green Tea… grr. I ran inside… I had picked right field
because I figured a few Tigers would be out warming up. After all, the
visiting team had been out first at the last day game I’d attended.
This day, however, I’d guessed wrong… there were a few Angels out on
the field, so what did I do?
I ran all the way over to the left field line… it was already so
hot! When I got there Trevor Bell was tossing a ball to himself… he
needed to warm up. I called out to him, “Hey, Trevor!” He looked over
at me and I said, “I’ll play catch with you, man.”
He smiled and said, “Well, come on down here then.” I was already in
the 2nd row of the seats… I went to the first row, right up against
the wall and looked at him. I shrugged… what was I supposed to do
now? Certainly he wasn’t serious… I couldn’t go down to the field.
So, I held my glove up and made a throwing motion with my right hand.
Just then, bullpen catcher Steve Soliz showed up and got Trevor’s
attention… dang. Trevor held up his arms and kind of shook his head
as if to say, “Sorry.”
Well, he played catch and I got Matt Palmer’s autograph. I was a little bummed. I had been hoping for a “played catch with a major leaguer” story. I’ve gotten close a couple of times. If you’re reading this… just try it sometime. Go ahead, ask ’em…
Then later, Trevor headed over to the left field foul pole and started talking to someone that he seemed to know… he signed a ticket stub for me… on the back of the ticket. I had handed it to him face up. Weird, but a nice signature, and I told him so. He thanked me. Here it is:
I write the name of the player who’s autograph I get on the back of the ticket along with the date so I can remember… see it up there?
Then I got Rafael Rodriguez to sign another ticket.
All this time and there were still no Tigers on the field… they didn’t come out until fifteen minutes later…
Here was the view of the “action” on the field:
It was all right though. I was having fun… I saw Rob in the crowd and said hello to him and then I took off for the bullpen (where I took the above photo) while Trevor Bell threw a session out there with Soliz and Mickey Hatcher. As he was finishing up I saw a trio of Tigers emerge from their dugout and start tossing a ball way across the field:
I couldn’t get a baseball from Trevor after three interactions with him, including this last one when I asked him for the ball he’d just finished using. Strike three–I was out of there and across the stadium. I got down to the foul line on the Field Level and saw a small crowd there that included the aforementioned John Witt.
Justin Verlander, who’d pitched well on Monday night, was signing autographs and since I had already used up three ticket stubs I had I grabbed my silver Sharpie and got him to sign my Tigers cap! Sweet!
At that point in time Michelle and Toby had come out to the seats near me after Michelle took an important phone call and Toby bought an Angels cap. They sat nearby while I watched a sextet of Tigers pitchers play catch:
Armando Galarraga (on the far right in the above picture) finished up and was talking to a trainer for a minute. Nobody cared about his baseball, it seemed, so I asked him for it. He looked over at me. I repeated my request, in Spanish this time, and he tossed me my first baseball on the day! Shortly thereafter Galarraga came over and started signing autographs. I really only get autographs on the baseballs I snag by the player I got it from… so it made perfect sense… here’s the ball with the ‘graph:
After that Fernando Rodney was still throwing with Ryan Perry. Rodney overthrew the ball and I jumped for it. It ended up going just over my head… and an older guy behind me caught it. He asked me if I’d seen the catch and when I said yes he pulled out a tape recorder. As it turns out, he worked for a Detroit radio station… who knows, maybe I’m on the radio somewhere in D-Town.
I took the autographed ball back to Michelle and left it with her while I tried to nab another ball from Bobby Seay. I got denied… but the game would be starting soon so we headed up to the 400 level.
We took up some seats in a good foul ball spot over first base:
It was a great summer afternoon. It was warm but, man, I love day baseball games. It’s just a different environment. I don’t like the lack of BP but I love the many, many empty seats.
Torii Hunter started off the Halo offense with a two-run homer in the first inning that just got out of the reach of Curtis Granderson at the wall. The Angels tacked on a run in the third and another in the fourth. Joe Saunders was pitching against Edwin Jackson and did well in his first start back from the DL. He went five innings and gave up two runs… the bullpen shut it down after that.
But let’s pause for a moent and talk about the sixth inning. As the top of the sixth arrived the row in front of where we were sitting had cleared out due to the lack of shade as the sun traveled through the afternoon sky. I looked over at Michelle and said, “I’m gonna move down there a bit. I’ve got a good feeling.” So, I sat in the sun on a hot seat while Jason Bulger (who I knew could throw hard) got Placido Polanco to fly out.
Then Magglio Ordonez popped out. And up stepped Miguel Cabrera. I had this view to my left:
And it turned out that I needed all the space in that empty row. Bulger threw a fastball and Cabrera was just a bit late on it. It came flying back toward me, arching toward the seats. I knew it was going to get up to us… I took off to my right along the empty row and I got to the green handrail at the staircase just as a fan stood up to catch the ball (bare-handed) up in the fourth row. It bounced off his hands, and since I know that gravity pulls things down (duh) I got right below him in the first row (right at the bottom of the staircase). The ball hit off a second fan’s hand and spun down into the first row near where I was standing.
I was facing away from the field (that photo shows the view to my left, where the ball ended up). I lunged to my left, reaching out with my glove hand (since the ball was still rolling). All of a sudden I felt weight on my right shoulder… a lot of weight. Later, I found out that a guy had tripped going for the ball and had fallen on me. I braced myself against the concrete wall with my left arm (sticking my glove into that wet spot in the process… ew), scraping it against the concrete wall, and stretched out my right hand to grab the ball. My first foul ball. Ever!
It took me until I was twenty-six years old. It wasn’t graceful… but it was just a bit of luck combined with quick reflexes and a little skill. I didn’t make a big deal about it right away because the fans who didn’t get the ball were a little unruly (read: drunk). Instead, I sat down next to Michelle, smiling, and I opened my glove. This was inside it:
Yes! I was thilled. Every one of my ninety-eight baseballs in my collection had been BP/warmup/3rd out/postgame baseballs. This one was my first live game ball. Man, I couldn’t believe it! I’m excited about it even now as I’m writing this. Woo!
After that… it was, you know, a baseball game. We moved out of the sun and closer to home plate:
On the left of the above photo can you see what’s going on? Mike Scioscia is arguing that Chone Figgins should have been safe at home after stealing it… but time had been called… according to a replay I saw at home later, the umps were right. Figgins went back to third and didn’t score. It didn’t matter. The Angels bullpen held down the Tigers and before I knew it it was the ninth inning. I left Michelle and Toby when there was one out in the ninth. I ran down to just behind the dugout as Fuentes was recording the second out:
Here was the view on the gorgeous summer day:
Fuentes got the third out and I lined up with about twenty other people hoping to get a toss up. A few baseballs came up but I didn’t snag anything… that was all right with me though. I grabbed a few ticket stubs and an abandoned Angels Magazine on my way out to meet Michelle and Toby. I ended the day with five autographs, two baseballs, and a great memory of a milestone in my ballhawking career.