After a nutritious complimentary breakfast at our hotel and a speedy checkout, we left our bags with the concierge and drove downtown to Chase Field for our second of two games. We parked and headed for Friday’s yet again. I knew two things about this game:
1. The crowd would be smaller than yesterday.
2. There might not be batting practice.
It was eerily quiet in the stadium. I tried to get the lone player I could recognize, Jordan Norberto, to throw a ball way up to the patio but he ignored me as he finished his throwing session. With about five minutes to go before the gates would open Michelle and I took the elevator down, went outside Friday’s and got in line…
Were there thousands of people there waiting like there had been just sixteen hours earlier? No. I was fifth in line… with five minutes to go before the gates opened… even though kids would be receiving a “Back to School Kit.” It was hot outside…
I was actually much more excited than this photo depicts… but it was sooo hot outside!
With no batting practice to focus on I went over to the D-backs bullpen where Daniel Hudson was getting his work in. He’d thrown me a ball the day before… so I asked Jeff Motuzas, the bullpen catcher, for the ball when they were done. He tossed it to a D-backs fan to my left though. Sigh. I did get Mel Stottlemyer, Jr. to autograph a ticket stub for me while I was waiting for any further action to commence. Mel signed it upside-down…
When I saw a few Padres come out to throw I ran over near the first base line while putting on my Padres stuff.
And, lo and behold, I saw the guy who had gotten the ball from Motuzas decked out in Padres gear! So, Arizona ballhawk, if you’re reading this: Good form–sorry we didn’t get to meet. How many baseballs did you end up with? And did I see you snagging along the left field foul line on Saturday, too?
Anyway, I watched a few pitchers warm up… then got Luke Gregerson’s autograph… though I wanted the baseball he’d been using. And then Kevin Correia threw in the bullpen. And Nick Hundley pretended to bat against him. When Correia finished I was standing right over bullpen catcher Justin Hatcher and shouted, “Kev, right here!”
Correia chucked Ball #1 right to me. No shut out today.
There was little to no action happening on the field so Michelle and I wandered a little and took some pictures.
Then, finally, a few more players came out close to game time. Before that, D. Baxter had driven around the warning track on a motorcycle… weird.
Just before the game started I saw a few Padres emerge from the dugout to play catch. Our tickets for the game were good… but they weren’t dugout seats and the ushers weren’t allowing folks down to the dugouts so close to game time… so when Jerry Hairston, Jr. headed into the dugout after his warmup tosses I waved at him from the cross aisle (ten rows back) and he threw a great fly ball right toward me. After I made the catch I decided that catching a ball with a roof as the backdrop is pretty tough–tougher than a solid blue or black sky. So, good job, fielders who play at Chase Field. Fly balls must be tough.
With two baseballs to my name, I met Michelle at our seats with about ten minutes to go until the game started.
Nice, huh? The were thirty bucks a pop on StubHub… and they were on the aisle. Sweet!
I was excited to get to see Joe Saunders (former Angel) pitch for his new team. I’d always like Joe and I’d gotten a few baseballs and autographs from him during his time in Anaheim.
Now in the NL, he had to bat, too. Neither his hitting nor his pitching was all that great on this day, however, and Saunders went six innings and gave up five earned runs. He also grounded out in that at-bat… and looked bad doing it. But I had a lot of fun rooting for him.
Saunders was out-dueled by Mat Latos–who gave up zero runs in six innings and struck out six. Unfriendly he may be, but this rookie’s got a great arm. He would go to 12-5 on the season af
ter the day’s victory. Man, I just checked the stats of the San Diego pitchers… wow. They make the Giants’ staff look like the Pirates’ staff.
Innings continued, baseball was played… the other, psuedo mascots of the Diamondbacks, the Legends, run a race at each game. At Saturday’s game they let Gonzo win…
I tried to take a picture of the two of us. You know, one of those, stretch your arm all the way out ones… but it didn’t go so well.
The game continued, and after five innings it was 6-0 San Diego. The D-backs weren’t putting up much of a fight. I’d been running for foul balls throughout the game… and I got close to one but it was still at least fifteen feet out of my reach.
I did see D. Baxter walking through the cross aisle, however, and made sure to get a photo as I high-fived him.
In about the eighth inning I realized I hadn’t gotten a good panorama of the stadium from the top deck… I asked Michelle if we could head up there after the game but she reminded me we’d have to leave pretty much right away since we were making the trek back to California that evening. So, I ran allllll the way up to the last row of the seats at Chase Field and took this:
Oooh! And, believe me, there were a lot of steps… I was beat when I got back to our seats.
Once it got to the ninth inning and it was 10-1 Padres I made my move down toward the dugout. Michelle was snapping photos the whole time:
I made it to right where I knew Gary Darling would leave the field… and I called out to him, hoping he’d toss me a ball: “Mr. Darling, could you spare a ball please?”
Gary was looking down into his pouch at the time… and he flipped the ball to the teenager on my left, who was clueless and had no idea what had happened. D’oh!
The Padres didn’t throw anything up over their dugout… so I went back to Michelle and we looked for a few ticket stubs, and I took one last photo of the scoreboard:
Then a nice usher took our photo together:
And we headed out toward the parking structure. It had been a really fun birthday celebration: a new ballpark, lots of memories, autographs, baseballs, good food, and lots of time with my wonderful wife who is a great sport about putting up with all this baseball in her life.
We made the seven hour trip back to California without any trouble and got home around 10:30pm… my next game would be at Angel Stadium in a few short days.