After a couple of days of gazing at baseball memorabilia and being indoors it was great to be heading to the stadium again in perfect summer weather.
After Michelle and I parked the car we noticed a stage being set up outdoors near The Grove (which shares a parking lot with Angel Stadium). I would find out later that there would be a couple of VIP parties there on Monday and Tuesday night for the All-Star folks and their guests.
We passed by an Oakley sunglasses stand on the way to the gates… I actually really liked these sunglasses but I’m not the $150 sunglasses type. Cool though.
Michelle and I were a little stunned by their promotional vehicle:
We got up by Home Plate Gate and looked across the parking lot to see the Sponsor Zone. Michelle went to check it out while I stood in line and talked with Warren (who’s left comments on here as yankeehater626) and his dad, pictured below.
The Futures Game would be starting at 3:00 and the gates would be opening at 1:00. We’d arrived at about 12:20 and there were very few people around. It would stay like that for a while.
I ran in at 1:00, eager to snag a ball. I knew that the Futures Game (and each All-Star themed game) would have commemorative baseballs in use. I was hoping they’d be used in BP, too.
I sprinted in and looked down one of the tunnels… I didn’t need to sprint any further:
BP wasn’t happening. It was team photo time. I would find out later (a little too late) that the World team hit before the gates had opened. Luckily, the US would begin batting practice shortly after the photo session. I was very near the dugout at one point prior to BP and saw the clubhouse attendants opening brand new boxes of baseballs to be used during batting practice.
This was an amazingly good sign… but were they commemorative? I couldn’t tell even though I zoomed all the way in with my viewfinder… the logos were all facing down.
I headed over toward third base as the US team did their stretching. And the pitchers were throwing a bit, too.
You might have noticed the World Cup game on the big screen… the final game was being played on this day–a lot of the players and fans were pretty interested in it. I heard later that Spain won… great.
I had brought the rosters for each team–which meant I was basically the only person in the stadium that knew who all these guys were. I was feeling good about my chances to snag at least one baseball.
Unfortunately, none of the pitchers threw their baseballs to the crowd. Most of them tucked them into pockets and gloves. This, I thought, was a great sign. Even minor league pitchers don’t care about keeping a regular ROMLB… I was pretty sure they were using commemorative Futures Game baseballs.
I headed toward the foul pole in left field as BP got underway. When Minnesota prospect Anthony Slama fielded a ball I asked him for it… using his first name… and saying please. He gave me a nod–and threw the ball back to the bucket. Dang.
Later, Slama was joined by Ben Revere (also from the Minnesota Twins’ organization) and Yankee catching prospect, Austin Romine. The trio was grouped about fifty feet from the wall but each time one of them fielded a ball I tried to get them to toss it to me. I still hadn’t seen any players throw balls into the crowd. After a few minutes, Slama tossed a ball to a kid about twenty feet from me. I figured that the baseballs were getting a bit dirty/stained and would now be getting cycled out of the mix. I was right. I’d seen a couple home runs hit to the stands, and one of two baseballs had been tossed into the crowd… but I’d been inside the stadium for forty-five minutes and was sitting on zero baseballs.
Romine fielded another baseball in left and I called out for it: “Hey, Austin! Right over here!” My arms were getting tired. I’d been waving them since BP had started, trying to get one of the players to toss one. Romine looked over at me. I stood up on my toes and repeated the request,
snapping my glove open and closed. He asked Revere something… then pivoted and threw a laser toward me. It was a perfect strike. THWAP! Right into my glove… I immediately turned the ball over in my hand. Here’s what I saw:
YES! What a snazzy logo! All-Star Sunday was officially a success in my book. I hope Austin Romine goes on to have a long, successful career. I didn’t number this ball (or any ball I snagged during the All-Star stuff) because I had the following plan for the festivities:
Futures: Not counting them–these guys are minor leaguers
HRD: Not counting them–it’s not a game between teams–it’s eight players against each other
All-Star Game: counting them–Major League players and it counts: home field advantage
Those were my guidelines for tallying the balls for my collection.
I took the photo above a moment after the snag… you can see the players in the field. And I had been standing where the guy in the blue shirt is standing.
I moved over to the dugout again after that and BP ended fairly quickly after I’d moved. A lot of the players stayed on the field to do infield practice.
While that was going on I noticed a ball that had gotten away from a fielder and had settled on the grass near the home plate end of the dugout along the third base line. I saw US team coach, Tony Franklin, walking over to get it and I yelled out, “Hey, Tony, could you throw that ball over here, please?” As he walked toward the ball he smiled at me and then, when he got the ball, he lobbed it into my waiting glove. It was another Futures Game ball. I yelled a hearty thank you to Mr. Franklin and then headed over to the first base/visitor dugout.
As I mentioned, the World team had hit prior to fans being let into the ballpark, but they still had infield practice.
As the World guys did that, the US team signed autographs on the third base line. In one of the free Topps giveaway packs I’d received at FanFest I had gotten a Pedro Ciriaco card–who? Right. He was the only guy on either roster who’s baseball card I owned. So, after infield practice, when the World team guys started signing autographs, I sought out Arizona Diamondbacks outfield prospect. Luckily, I got him on the card I’d just received a day before. There was one other autograph I really wanted on the day–Ryne Sandberg. Mr. Sandberg was one of the coaches for the World and I had brought a 1992 All-Star card of his, a card I’d had since I was nine years old.
I found him on the far side of the dugout, mentioned it, and he gladly signed it for me. I was a little surprised at how easy it was to get his autograph. I mean, the man is a Hall of Famer… my guess is that nobody really knew who he was.
And, hey, check out the bases they were using for the game:
There were a couple of pitchers hanging out in the World dugout as other players were signing down the line… one of them was near a bucket that had (or formerly had) baseballs in it. I looked at my roster, identified young Blue Jays prospect Henderson Alvarez, and asked him in Spanish if he could throw me a ball. As it turns out, there was one baseball left in the bucket–and it was a commemorative (albeit very worn) ball. He flipped it up to me for my third baseball on the day!
This whole time, Michelle had been hanging out in the shade, reading, and enjoying the summer breeze. After the autographs, I found her and we got some food as the opening ceremonies were taking place.
We grabbed seats in the outfield for the first couple of innings. I tried for a third out ball a couple of times, but to no avail.
We had to/got to move closer to the action when we noticed:
Pepsi Max!!! No, not really. Bees! They were swarming near the last section of the Club Level, just over the LF tunnel. Speaking of the tunnel… I saw Lou Seal nearby… he made his way into the bullpen:
And I saw a bunch of mascots hanging out in the tunnel for something…
As it turns out, they would all be participating in the Steal Third promotion later on. Basically, a kid gets a chance to run down the line and steal a base… usually their path is not impeded. But on this day, well, there were mascots to contend with.
A lot of people cleared out of the bee area… we ended up with this view for the middle innings:
I’ll be totally honest. At this point in time I have no idea who these players are… hmm. I just really liked these photos.
Later on, we moved… over to the other side of the stadium:
As you can tell, there were a ton of empty seats. We really just sat wherever we wanted all afternoon. At one point later in the game we headed upstairs to the View Level for one reason: to get a panoramic photo of the stadium with the All-Star cut in the grass:
The vibe was super-mellow. Most fans didn’t care too much about the game. It was great… Michelle and I walked all over without anyone wanting to check our tickets. And nobody knew much about any of the players… so the only real cheers came when Hang Conger or Mike Trout did something. They’re both Angels prospects. And Conger ended up as the game’s MVP since he hit a three-run homer to right field. It barely cleared the wall but it gave the US team all the offense it would need. I mean, they scored plenty of runs, but the World team only scored one. It wasn’t exactly a riveting contest. Final score: World 1, US 9. Wow.
For the final inning or so, I was right behind the World team’s dugout:
It was pretty cool… and after the game ended Michelle and witnessed a mascot dance party going on in right field while the Legends and Celebrity Softball game got set up.
If you’re wondering about all the mascot photos, well, I guess I just like ’em. See, in Anaheim there isn’t a real mascot. Sure, the Rally Monkey appears digitally–but there’s never a big, crazy character running around and interacting with fans. So, I relished the overabundance of mascot-ness. Woo!
OK, flashforward to the softball game introductions. The National League team had the likes of Guy Fieri, Mario Lopez, Jennie Finch, Mike Piazza, Dave Winfield, and Ozzie Smith:
And the American League team had players like James Denton, MC Hammer, Rollie Fingers, Fred Lynn, Tim Salmon (the crowd favorite), and Bo Jackson:
I found out late in the action that commemorative softballs were being used… cool! I didn’t snag one though, even though I tried after the game. Oh, well.
I’m not even going to try to recap the details of the game. It was all sorts of crazy. Home runs were hit:
Bo (“knows fancy footwear”) Jackson pushed people, Tim Salmon played second base, Chuck Finley gave up a homer to Jennie Finch:
And it was the first-ever home run hit by a female at the celebrity game!
It was actually a lot more fun to watch the celebrity game in person than it is to watch it on TV. You get to hear and see all kinds of stuff the TV crowd misses out on.
The AL won by four or five runs… and each team chose a player to do a mini home run derby as a bonus for the fans. It ended up being Mike Piazza against Tim Salmon. Each guy got five pitches/swings. Piazza hit one homer… Salmon, he was a perfect five for five! He’d also hit a home run during the game and afterward he jokingly asked, via a host’s microphone, “Angel fans, does that count as 300?” We all cheered for him… Salmon retired with 299 career home runs.
Anyway, as the HRD of softball land ended, Salmon almost hit one out of the park–for real. Like, not over the temporary softball fence… over the real fence… impressive.
The teams posed for a picture:
And then the night ended with a fireworks display! Nice surprise, Angel Stadium.
We left the stadium at about 8:45, checked out the Sponsor Zone for a minute:
And then we walked to the car… we’d both had a ton of fun.
It was a mellow Futures Game, a crazy and silly Celebrity Game, and I’d snagged a batting glove, gotten two autographs, and ended up with three baseballs, all commemorative:
AND–I had decided to spend a few hours at FanFest the next morning before heading to the Home Run Derby! Whoa…