Weeks before I knew the Angels would be facing off against the Yankees in the ALCS I purchased tickets for both Game 4 and Game 5. I ended up with school commitments on both of those days. So, being the good student that I am, I put both pairs of tickets on StubHub. The Game 4 tickets sold… and I’m glad I wasn’t there for that blowout. The Game 5 tickets didn’t. I called around and got my friend, Julian (who loves the Yankees), to pay me for the ticket. I got someone to cover for me at school and told J that I’d meet him at the ballpark. I readied my stuff and made it to the stadium thirty minutes before it opened.
There was already a HUGE line of people waiting to get in:
And I hoped that I would know someone that might be close to the front of the line. Sure enough, I saw John Witt (aka MLBallhawk) in the last of the five lines. He invited me to slip in next to him and as soon as the gates opened we were off to the races. John headed down near the foul pole and I ran straight up to the pavilion. When I got there I didn’t find any Easter eggs but I saw Scot Shields shagging baseballs in right. I was kind of surprised to see him because he’d been on the DL all season. I yelled out a hello to him and a moment later he pointed up to the sky. A fungo had been hit a bit too far and ended up hitting the seats five rows behind me and to my left. The ball ricocheted right back to the field. Scot went over, picked up that ball and one other, tossed one to a guy down on the field level, then looked up toward me. He gestured with his glove, like I should hold mine up… I did and he fired the ball right to me.
“Thanks, Scot–it’s good so see you back out here!”
He gave me a thumbs up and I headed a few sections over toward center field. Rob was there… John ended up coming up to the pavilion, too. The sun’s tough in Anaheim if you’re trying to snag baseballs. It’s tough when there’s a 7:00 start… it’s tougher when it’s a 5:00 start. With my shades on and my cap low I still had trouble tracking some homers. Once though, with Kendry Morales hitting, I stayed with a ball as it got smashed toward right-center and sprinted through a row and across a whole section. I drifted further to my right and lost it in the sun for a moment… I stuck with it, kept drifting, and then I saw the silhouette falling toward me again. I reached out with my left hand across my body and made the backhanded catch. Whew. The couple behind me were a bit stunned. I heard the guy say, “Wow. I didn’t even see it.”
Shortly after that the Yankees came out and started throwing along the right field line. Here’s a panoramic I snapped:
The Yankees began hitting and peppered the right field seats with baseballs and, while I was close to quite a few (and banged my ankle pretty badly on a seat), I didn’t catch anything else during BP. It was exciting though; the Yankees sure can hit the ball. I’ve never been to a more active batting practice than that one. Lots o’ fun–but lots o’ people, too.
As the Yankees came off the field, I was right behind their dugout… but nobody tossed a baseball anywhere near me. I hung around for a minute and took this picture:
See that baseball with the Metrodome logo? I had seen an acquaintance of mine catch one of those during BP… I hoped somebody might toss one up my way… but the basket got emptied and everyone headed into the dugout.
Sights around the ballpark:
It was energetic and lively… and there were A LOT of Yankees fans. I’d say it was 50/50–Yankees fans to Angels fans. As the anthem was sung there was a flyover by some fighter jets:
And The Kingfish, Tim Salmon, threw out the first pitch. I was good to see him back:
I went to the last game Tim Salmon ever played… they cut a big ’15’ into the grass for that game to honor him. They’ll retire his number some day…
And then I settled into a seat behind the Yankee dugout temporarily… it didn’t start out looking too good for the Angels. Derek Jeter singled on the first pitch of the game:
And then Johnny Damon reached first… does anyone else see how he’s basically cheating in the picture below?
But John Lackey got the next three Yankees in a row to get out of the jam.
After half an inning I had to move… still no Julian. I took a great panoramic shot while I was waiting though:
He sent me a text message in the bottom of the first: “Parking!” I found a new set of seats. It took him thirty more minutes to get to the gate… then he called and said he’d printed the wrong ticket… the one I’d used to get in. Ugh–but I’m a stage manager and I prepare for these kinds of things. I’d printed his actual ticket. Just in case… I left “my” seat that I’d found on the field level and went to find my friend. I got him inside and told him where our ticketed seats actually were, adding, “But my goal is for us never to have to sit in them.”
We went back to the seats I had just vacated. They were still open… we plopped down in them and I got pictures like this:
And we stayed there through four innings! Finally, two ladies (Yankees fans) showed up and claimed the two aisle seats. But seats 3 and 4 were still empty… we sat back down.
The Angels had jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning… and despite both teams putting runners on in almost every inning, the score stayed that way until the seventh. We were still here:
Oh, man! No one had claimed our seats. Sure, we kept looking over our shoulders like the next person coming down the aisle was our doomsday bringer. But it didn’t happen! It was all Angels until the Yankees roared to life with six runs in the top of the seventh. J went crazy, along with all the NY fans. I was seriously worried. It was 6-4… and the Yankees had a solid bullpen. But the Angels found a way… they struck back with three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to retake the lead! That photo right above this paragraph is of Kendry Morales hitting an RBI single. I don’t think anyone sat in their seats from the 7th on… we were all standing, cheering, booing, crying, laughing, yelling, chanting, praying–etc.
At one point a random dude decided to take a walk on the fountains in center field. They even showed it on TV… I hope he had fun:
Jered Weaver came out of the pen and had a dominant eighth inning. The Yanks brought in Mariano… he did his thing, keeping it a one run game:
As the Angels were retired in their half I remember thinking, “Are they gonna leave Weaver in or bring in Fuentes?” They brought in Fuentes… and that made me nervous. But he nailed down the first two outs pretty easily. Then came Alex Rodriguez, who’d hit a home run off Fuentes back in New York days earlier. They intentionally walked him. Good idea, Angels. Then, Matsui walked and Fuentes hit Cano with a pitch. Ugh… bases loaded… two outs. Ninth inning and Nick Swisher up to bat. The count went full–I couldn’t believe I was watching this–and FINALLY Fuentes got Swisher to pop up to shortstop.
The Angels forced a Game 6… which they’d lose… I had told Julian as we left the park, “If it makes you feel any better, you’ll get to see ’em win on TV.” Sure enough… but, man, that was the most exciting game I’d ever seen. Wow. Just wow.
We took a couple photos as we left and I snagged some ticket stubs, too. Here’s me with Julian:
And a blurry shot of me with my two baseballs… and the renovated Big A behind me (it’s all LED-crazy now!):
Oh, and we saw Kelsey Grammer; apparently he’s a Yankees fan. He was sitting in the next section over from us… so was some guy who used to be on The Sopranos. What a game… wow.