If you read this blog regularly you’ll know that I am not a big fan of Dodger Stadium. It has silly rules, aggressive and often irritable fans, and it’s just… old. It’s fine, just not my favorite place. I did, however, score some tickets to this game for free and so I made the drive up the 5 freeway through the smokier than usual weather and met a buddy from UC Irvine (who had driven down from Bakersfield ) named Jesse, let him use my spare glove (just in case), and at 4:30pm and we headed up to the stadium together.
Our first stop was the Top Deck where the gates are open and you can watch early BP. I’d actually never been up there before–it’s a great view but I’d never want to watch a whole game from this vantage point:
We watched the Dodgers smack quite a few baseballs into the stands. We tried to track where they ended up. Manny actually hit one to the middle part of the bleachers that took a big bounce out of the stadium! Here he is knocking one out to left field:
At five ’til five we headed down to the entrance to the left field bleacher entrance where we were informed by a fan waiting there that Dodger Stadium had a new policy–formerly you could enter the bleachers for BP regardless of where your ticket actually was–currently you can’t. I confirmed it with a security guard nearby. Bummer… so we figured we’d at least get Field Level access during BP and try our luck there. Dodger Stadium has ridiculous rules.
We got into the Field Level (with our Reserve Level tickets) right at 5:10. Jesse and I checked the seats for Easter eggs but couldn’t find any. Meanwhile, the bleachers had about four sittin’ up there. Bah! Anywho… the Dodgers ended BP at about 5:15 and we attempted to head around from the left field side where we’d entered to the right field side. Guess what? That side of the stadium doesn’t open until 5:40… dumb.
So, we played left field for a while. I had a shot at a slicer down the line but couldn’t quite get my glove low enough to snag it. The fence wall is a bit taller in Dodgertown than I’m used to at Angel Stadium. I tried (unsuccessfully) to get a ball from Dan Haren. He wouldn’t toss anything over despite the fact that I was the only guy wearing a D-backs hat in the whole stadium at that point.
At 5:40 I ran (and Jesse walked) to right field where some Arizona players and coaches were hanging out and within a few minutes got Ball #1 from coach Jeff Motuzas. As far as I was concerned it was a successful day at Dodger Stadium at that point. In my only two other ballhawking adventures there I’d snagged two baseballs (one each time). Exactly one year prior (the day I got to meet Zack Hample) I’d snagged one and back in May I’d snagged one. Woo. Again, I’m not a big fan of Dodger Stadium.
I should mention at this point that Jesse is a huge Dodger fan. Here’s a photo of him watching BP from right behind the foul pole. A few pitchers came over and started doing some running drills. One of them, Daniel Schlereth, fielded a ground ball barehanded and I asked him (by using his first name and saying please) to throw it over. He did. I’d set a record for myself in Dodgertown! It was at that point I heard someone near me say to Schlereth, “He already got one.” The pitcher shrugged and continued his running. This wouldn’t be the last time a fan was upset by my good fortune.
It was Army Night at the stadium and when a foul ball got knocked into the seats a few sections from me and I sprinted toward it I saw a guy in fatigues running to where it landed as well. I was a second or two ahead of him, looked at the ball as I was running, saw his camo, and stopped so he could grab it. Then he smiled at me and we shook hands. I told him, “Good job, soldier.” And we parted ways. Hey, I’m not gonna contest an Army man for a baseball on Army Night. God bless ’em! He was pretty excited to snag it on his own (probably more excited than if I’d grabbed it then handed it to him).
Anyway, as some of you might know the Dodgers are putting blue stamps on their BP baseballs this season. They either say DODGERTOWN or DodgersWIN (for the Women’s Initiative Network). I’d been kind of excited to potentially end up with one of those but since I hadn’t gotten anything from the Dodgers I was disheartened, thinking my chances at a stamped ball were squashed.
When BP ended I had grabbed my backpack and was just starting to head toward the D-backs dugout… I ran as I saw the players coming in. I was a little late getting to a spot (as close as I could get because of the concrete partition that separates the box seats from the stands) and most of the players had already left the field. I saw a couple of coaches and one wore number 5. I looked at my roster as he picked up a couple of baseballs and then found his name, Chip Hale.
Jesse and I found seats on the third base side o
f the field. He’d ended up baseball-less for BP but was having a blast because, as I mentioned, he’s a big Dodgers fan. It didn’t hurt that the seats we found for the first couple innings gave us this view:
After multiple ceremonial first pitches and an adequately sung anthem and me NOT getting a ball from Arizona players during their warmup tosses as well as just missing out getting Justin Upton’s autograph, the game started. Chad Billingsley and Max Scherzer were both doing well to start out. We got booted from our seats in the 2nd inning and ended up on the other side of the field, here:
And we got to stay for the rest of the game. No one ever showed up for ’em. The two starters put up zeroes through four innings. Billingsley had a no hitter through four. In the bottom of the fourth Max Scherzer got Matt Kemp to ground into a double play to end the inning.
Arizona first baseman, Brandon Allen had tried to toss me a ball in the third as he came off the field but his throw was a bit to my right… and I let the teenager next to me have it. I’m not overly aggressive about catching baseballs… I don’t knock people down, steal balls from kids, or elbow and push my way through stands.
I mention that because as Allen trotted off the field after Kemp hit into that double play he saw me (one section to the left this time) and tossed the ball my way. I caught it. I didn’t have to move; it was a chest high strike. The guy behind me spilled his beer on my foot trying to get it and then he and a few other fans told me to give it to a kid. They weren’t happy that I chose not to and had some unkind words for me as I headed back to my seat. A few innings later some older fellow left his seat a few rows in front of me and stopped by where Jesse and I were sitting. He leaned down and said, “Can I ask how old you are?”
“Because you just jumped in front of a lot of little kids to catch a ball.”
“No, I didn’t.” Then he stormed off, badmouthing me as he left. This was a good half hour after I’d caught that ball. He never came back.
The next inning, Billingsley’s no hitter was broken up by a ball hit in the left-center gap and Brandon Allen stepped in a hit a two-run homer right as I took this picture:
The D-backs would score four runs in the fifth and that was all they needed. Scherzer pitched very well, allowing just one run in seven and two-thirds. That one run was on a Ramirez RBI single in the eighth. The D-backs bullpen shut down the Dodgers the rest of the way. I tried to snag something after the game at the dugout but, again, came up empty-handed.
On the way out I got pictures of Jesse and of me:
And we headed out through the crowds, back to our cars, and on our separate ways. He was headed 100 miles north and I was drivin’ 50 miles south.
A fun time and a pretty successful snagging outing. And I spent a total of… the gas it cost me to get there and back. You can’t beat a deal like that!
Joe Torre, current Dodger manager speaking with Tommy Lasorda, former Dodger manager.
Thanks for reading!