I knew my wife would have to be at work during this game so I made plans with my friend, Josh to head out to see the Angels play the A’s on a Friday night.
You might remember Josh if you’ve been reading this blog for a while. He’s been to a couple games at Dodger Stadium with me (on 9/2/08, 5/2/09, and 9/18/09)… but we’d never been to Angel Stadium together before. It turned out to be a pretty cool night.
After lunch with Michelle we played video games at my apartment before leaving for Anaheim at about four o’clock. We parked, walked to the Home Plate Gate, saw BP regular, Terry there (and he let us stand at the front of the line with him), and we waited for the stadium to open. About this time, I heard a voice say, “Are you Matt?”
“Yes.” I looked and saw a boy of about thirteen to my left. He said, “I read your blog.” I said, “Cool! What’s your name?”
His name’s Kevin and he was there with his dad. He’s left some comments on this blog as m_kemp_27. He’s a nice kid and would end up snagging a few baseballs of his own on the night.
I told Josh, “Now, I’m gonna run in to left field.” He said he’d run with me but when the gates opened he lagged behind and I kept going. As it turns out, I would snag two baseballs before he even got there… he stopped to use the restroom.
BP was fully underway and here was my view:
When Josh walked down the steps toward me near the foul pole I tossed him the ball I had just plucked off the dirt. It had been hit by some Angel batting from the right side… most were… as today they’d be facing a lefty.
It had the following imprint, likely from the bat used to hit it. Any ideas?
But I’m getting ahead of myself. I mentioned that I’d snagged two by the time Josh got there… well, as soon as I made it to the seating bowl I looked for any baseballs hiding in the stands. None were to be found… but as I set my backpack down to get my camera Bobby Abreu hit a ball that sliced foul and into the seats.
The ball was two sections over to my right–but I got a great jump on the ball and it was only me and one other guy going for it. He was running left from near the infield and I was running right from near the pole. We got to the ball at the same time and closed in on it from either side. Luckily, it was still rolling and I know that at Angel Stadium baseballs will trickle down row after row. So, while he positioned himself in the row the ball was in at the time we arrived, I positioned myself two rows closer to the field… the ball rolled right to me. And that was number one on the day… and you know about Ball #2.
A few minutes later, Ervin Santana fielded a ball near the warning track. I moved to my left and called out to him and he tossed it right to me. Ball #3 and Ball #185 of my lifetime.
At about this point I told Josh, “Wow… three from the Angels. You’re like a good luck charm, dude.” He hadn’t snagged a ball but that’s not really his thing anyway… he was enjoying the shade and the relaxing atmosphere.
I told him I was going to head over to right field when the A’s came out to hit. He said something about not wanting to be in the sun–but he came with me anyway–and we headed down toward the the opposite side of the stadium:
Kevin’s in the above photo near the foul pole wearing the green hat and shirt with a 2 on the back. I was able to scoop a ball off the warning track a few minutes later that had been hit by a right-handed batter on the A’s. I ran to my right, jumped up on the wall at the right moment, and made the snag.
About this time I saw Kevin again… he asked if he could hang out with me for a bit and learn some tips… I told him, “Sure, man,” and then I talked to him for a while and told him about heading to the dugout at the end of BP.
Well, Kevin got a ball a little while later. I ran to the dugout and got Ball #5 from a trainer as the A’s headed off the field. Kevin was nearby and he and his dad decided they would sit behind the dugout until they got kicked out. I left to regroup with Josh. We watched Mr. Perfect, Dallas Braden, warm up. He’d be pitching against Joe Saunders… both of them wear 51… weird.
And when the A’s came out to play catch I headed back to the dugout. There, I got former Cub Jake Fox to toss me my sixth ball of the day.
Now, I should mention that my personal record of baseballs snagged at one game is seven. I’ve done it four times… at three different stadiums (Angel Stadium, PETCO Park, and Citi Field)… but I’d never cracked seven.
Also, each inning I’d try for a third out toss from the A’s at there dugout. One time when I headed over there I saw Kevin… he’d snagged at least two baseballs at that point in the evening and I helped him figure out who had thrown him one before the game.
In the bottom of the fifth inning with two outs, Brandon Wood popped out to Daric Barton at first base. I was about six rows behind the dugout and as a bunch of little kids rushed down to the bottom of the steps I simply stood up and waved my arms. “Daric, right here!” I shouted. And as he jogged in, Barton tossed me my seventh b
aseball. I looked down at it and was disappointed. Why? Because he had switched the actual game ball with the infield warmup ball he’d used. First basemen do that sometimes… I have no idea why. But my disappointment lasted only a moment, as I had again tied my record. It was only the sixth inning and I knew I had to try to snag one more ball before the night was over. I kept hoping for a foul ball and a few came close over the closing innings.
In the ninth, Josh and I moved nearer to the visiting team’s dugout.
The game had been great up to that point. It was a good BP, we were talking about baseball the whole night, the Angels were winning 4-0, we’d seen some excellent defensive plays, and Joe Saunders was staying in to pitch the final frame.
I will happily say that I have now been present for both of Joe Saunders’ complete game shutouts in his career (he threw one last season against the Royals and Zack Greinke). The Angels won it, four to nothing, and I was in a great mood. I was still stuck at “lucky number seven” though.
Now, we were behind the A’s dugout at the end of the game because the Angels dugout is super-crowded after a home win. Plus, there were fireworks coming up and the game had been fast… about two hours and fifteen minutes. So, I took a chance and trotted down to the dugout as the A’s came off the field. As expected, none of the players wanted to thrown anything up. They silently trudged down the steps and into the dugout… one bullpen pitcher tossed a ball ten rows behind me. And that was it… they were gone.
But right as I was about to leave a kid in A’s gear appeared in the dugout. I wondered if he was the same kid I’d seen last season on the field shagging BP balls. Anyway, he had a ball in his hand he was planning to throw to the crowd. I was the only one in an A’s hat and I thought it was a sure thing. This’ll be number eight! But he started to walk away… saw a young Angels fan a little further down the dugout and said to the teen, “Take off your hat.” I knew what he was doing. He didn’t want to toss the baseball to someone in Angels gear. The fan didn’t get it… and wouldn’t take off his hat. So, the A’s kid turned around to face the field and tossed the ball backwards, like a bride tossing a bouquet. It was up for grabs… and I was the only one with a glove out of the six or so people still around. I leaned out over the dugout and made the catch. Ball #8! And #190 of my career… I was so excited that I gave three baseballs away on my way out of the stadium that night, two to a pair of brothers who weren’t more than ten years old, both had gloves, and would’ve gone home empty-handed. I was so psyched… I had Josh take the following picture:
Me with my (personal) record-setting baseball. A new game high, a great night at the park with a friend, and an Angels victory.
And, yes, there were fireworks:
And the game was over so quickly that Michelle and I had time to make it to a sports bar later that night to celebrate our other friend’s birthday. It was a really great evening!