8/31/09 at PETCO Park

A day in San Diego… and a game featuring two last place teams…

Thanks to Leigh I was able to go to this game along with Michelle.  We made a day of it, first checking out Seaport Village for the day before getting to the stadium at about 4:15pm.

matt on beach.JPGAt 4:30 we were able to head in and I spent an hour on the beach.  It wasn’t action packed but it wasn’t totally boring, either, and I always appreciate that one unique feature of PETCO Park.

race for a ball cropped small.jpgIt was during this time that I snagged my only Official Major League Baseball of the day.  I was close to one that got hit out to the warning track but I misjudged the bounce and the guy with the intense facial hair ended up with it.

A little later Edgar Gonzalez was doing some sprints in the outfield and as he came to a stop near the chain link fence I said, “Hey, Edgar, is there any chance you could toss me that ball right there?”  I gestured to a baseball sitting near the warning track.

He looked at it, then at me and said, “You know, I’m not really supposed to.”  I don’t quite know what that meant… wasn’t supposed to?  Well, he must not have taken that rule too seriously because he did a quick look around, walked five feet to his right to pick up the ball, looked around again, and flipped me the 103rd baseball in my collection.

That was at about 4:45pm… did I snag anything else on the beach?  Nope… but there was a new sand sculpture out there and Michelle used my camera to snap a photo of it.
sand sculpture.JPGFan friendly Heath Bell was out in center field and I got to talk with him for a minute about Wii Fit and Zack Hample before he signed an autograph for me.

I did see TC and John Witt on the beach and we bumped into each other a couple other times throughout the afternoon.  As far as snagging goes, I managed just the one Official Major League Baseball.  But the Nationals sure did hook me up with a fair share of Official Training Balls…

The first of the evening came as soon as I ran to the left field seats.  I was scanning for Easter eggs (a couple ended up in cupholders but I missed ’em) and saw a coach walk toward the wall in left.  He bent down and I assumed he was picking up a baseball (he was out of my line of sight at that point).  I called out, “Could you please toss that up here?”  I didn’t even have my Nats gear on at that point but a white haired gentleman in a Nats uniform tossed me my 2nd ball of the day.  Turns out that it was Steve McCatty.
first training ball.JPGThere’s the first training ball I’d ever snagged… woo.  After not getting a ball tossed by Jason Bergmann (I did help a little girl get one by telling her to say please and that his name was Jason, not James) I headed off to right field because Adam Dunn was in the next group of hitters.  He hit a bunch of smashes all over right… one of them was fielded by Jorge Padilla who threw me a perfect side-armed strike from forty feet away.  Ball #3!  Here was my view:
padilla during bp.JPGquartet of nats.JPGI saw a trio of pitchers closer to center and spent a few minutes trying to get them to toss me a ball but they all ignored me.  Note: this whole time I was actively trying to catch home runs but the combination of Training Balls not flying quite the same as regular balls and it being hitter-nemesis PETCO Park equaled not a lot of homers to catch.  I did see a few get hit to left field… so I headed back over there.

Baseball #4 on the day came from Jason Bergmann.  He decided to hook me up after all.  I barely missed a couple of homers but just couldn’t maneuver enough in the crowded aisles and bleachers.  BTW, a couple of the PETCO regulars are, well, kind of jerks… this includes body checking people and nabbing baseballs intended for little kids.  Yuck.

I ran over to the third base side of the field just as BP was ending at caught two baseballs within ten seconds of each other.  As the players and coaches came off the field I called out to Randy Knorr for a ball.  He acknowledged me, turned around to set down something, dropped the three baseballs he was holding into the ball bag, then dug around for (what I can only assume was) a not-as-new baseball.  As that was happening, another coach that I couldn’t identify threw me a ball as he went into the dugout.  I thanked him and then took the ball out of my glove to put it in my pocket as Knorr tossed me one from about ten feet further out and a bit to the right.  I literally didn’t even have the first one in my pocket yet… I was still holding it in my right hand when Knorr’s ball hit my glove.  Those were baseballs #5 and #6.

I checked in with Michelle at that point back at our seats in left field.  We hung out for a bit before the Nationals players came out to stretch along the foul line.  After Willie Harris warmed up he came over and signed a few autographs including one on my ticket.

Then the Nats played catch in front of their dugout.  I didn’t get a ball from Adam Dunn and I got kicked out by a strict and unpleasant usher before Josh Willingham finished throwing… I mean, the attendance was less than 20,000 that night and I was up front with him.  Just trying to catch a ball.  His response?  “You can’t be down here, son, you know that.”  Whatever… enjoy guarding your half-empty section.

I headed up to the concourse I saw John again and we talked about the day… and he told me how to score a free soda.  Also, he mentioned a few baseballs had ended up in the bullpen.  Hmm…

I sat right near the bullpen… here was the view to my left:
padres bullpen.JPGSee how there’s NOT a baseball in there?  That’s because when Nick Hundley and pitching coach Darrel Akerfelds arrived at the bullpen I asked them for a ball and, after getting all their stuff situated and setting up the pen, Akerfelds tossed me my seventh ball of the day!  Another training ball, but I had hit a new record for myself on the year and tied my highest game total ever.  Seven baseballs!  At that point I figured I had a shot to break my record.  The game hadn’t started yet.

Here was the view from our seats in left field:
view from seats lf.JPGI was hoping for a shot at a home run but the only homer of the game was hit to the upper deck of right field by Chase Headley (as a pinch hitter).  It was quite a shot–414 ft.
salazar injured.JPGHad the ball Oscar Salazar injured himself catching the inning prior been five to ten feet higher I probably would’ve caught it.  I watched the replay online and I’m right behind a guy in a red shirt (I’m wearing white and red) in the third row… it was a great catch though.  I hope he’s okay.

The Padres were winning, 3-1 in the ninth and Heath Bell came in…bell runs in.JPG

Michelle and I headed toward the infield so I could make it to their dugout for the end of the game.  Bell mowed down the Nats right as I headed down the steps to the dugout and as soon as I arrived there a ball got flipped up–and a kid on my right snagged it.  I just reacted a second too late… that was my only real shot at a ball after the game (another one got tossed at the other end).  I grabbed a few ticket stubs and we walked up to the concourse.  Then we took a photo together on the concourse:
matt and michelle.JPGThen Michelle snapped this (of me organizing my stuff):
organizing.JPGmatt with 7 balls.JPGAnd I posed with the souvenirs of the evening.

seven from petco.JPGThe game ended at, like, 9:25… it was a fast game!

Livan Hernandez pitched the whole thing for the Nationals and there were only a total of four runs scored (typical PETCO) so it was an early night which was great because we had an eighty-five mile drive back to Irvine.

Up to 109 baseballs snagged… and counting!



  1. padreleigh

    Hey Matt….

    Nice game bro! PETCO likes you. Glad you got lucky 7. Sucks about the training balls. Man, I’m missing going to BP!!


  2. bloggingboutbaseball

    LEIGH – PETCO and I get along just fine. 🙂 Thanks again for the generosity–hopefully I’ll see you again this season.
    JULIA – Red Sox games are notoriously long, yes. It’s all about pitching changes and how many runs score… Padres games are routinely low scoring affairs… unless ten different pitchers are used.

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