8/11/10 at Angel Stadium

Back home in Orange County and I was off to a day game… after a night game… what?

I
hadn’t planned to go to this game but I ended up with free tickets, so I
was off to the Big A at about 10:40am.  When I got to the stadium I
walked past the Home Plate Gate… no matter how many times I go to day
games at Angel Stadiums I never get used to all the people crammed in
line at the Home Plate Gate.  I got in line at the Left Field Gate…
and the crowd there was much smaller:
not crowded gate.JPGWhen
I ran in there were no Angels on the field but some Royals pitchers
were throwing over on the first base side of the stadium.
pitchers warming 8.11.JPGAnd when I looked toward home plate…
cages up 8.18.JPGThe
cage was up!  Were the Royals going to take BP?  I walked over to the
Royals dugout (where Mike Aviles was playing catch) and stood over it,
waiting.  When Aviles finished throwing, he and the unknown player he
was throwing to walked toward the cage a talked for a minute.  When they
headed back toward the dugout I held up my glove and said, “Mike! 
Right here!”  He flipped me my first ball of the afternoon.  Easy as
that… there was hardly anyone else around at the time.  It was
11:04am.

I recognized Wilson Betemit and saw him with a bat in his hands.

“Wilson!” 
He looked over.  “Are you guys gonna hit?”  He nodded, then went to put
on his helmet.  I headed out toward the outfield and passed by Kanekoa
Texeira and Joaquin Soria again as they were finishing their warmup
tosses.  I asked Soria for the ball when he ended up with it but he
threw the ball back toward the infield… but Texeira had an extra ball
with him and he tossed that one to me.  The Royals had begun taking
their hacks so I jogged out to the foul pole, hoping a Royal in the
first round would slice one toward me.

rf pole 1.JPGThat’s Bruce Chen running–I’d end up getting his autograph on my ticket stub after BP.

I
spent about five or six minutes near the foul pole but then I saw
someone hit a ball up to the pavilion–it was home run time and I was
off to the upper level seats in right.  I saw Rob and Devin up there,
already running around.  It didn’t take long for me to snag Ball #3…

I
was close to center field and Betemit was in the cage.  He drilled a
ball toward me… I moved to my right a little and ended up on the
staircase between Sections 240 and 239.  I reached up over my head and
made the catch on the fly.

The Royals ended BP abruptly… that
was all right.  I was thrilled to even get the fifty minutes of batting
practice that occurred.  I headed back to their dugout… but missed out
on any toss-ups.  I was pretty warm after running around so I grabbed a
drink and had a seat on the shaded (third base) side of the stadium.

The Angels came out, stretched a bit, a couple played catch.  I was watching that day’s starter, Zack Greinke, warm up:
greinke warmup 8.11.JPGHe
moved into the bullpen shortly after I took this photo and the Angels
kept their baseballs that they had being throwing around.  I ran over to
the Royal dugout for pregame throwing over there and got my fourth ball
of the afternoon from Yuniesky Betancourt.  He actually saw me, tossed
the ball he had been using to a kid to my left, then threw another one
to the kid’s brother… then he looked back at me again and held up one
finger (as if to say, “Hold on.”) and he went into the dugout.  He
popped back out and tossed be a ball with a gnarly black smudge on it. 
Cool!

The game would be starting in five minutes and I was on four balls for
the day… and 249 for my lifetime.  I thought it would be cool to get a
game-used ball for number 250 so I decided to try for a third out toss,
first from the Angels, then from the Royals.  I would go back and forth
if I needed to each inning…

There were plenty of empty seats as the first inning got started:
seat for first inning 8.11.JPGSeriously, what’s with those ugly looking denim boot things?  Blech…

And even though I missed out on the Angels’ third out toss, I was in a
good mood when I parked myself behind the Royals dugout for the bottom
of the first.  There were still a ton of free seats, it was a beautiful
day for baseball, and I was probably the only one in the stands that
knew the guy’s name who was playing first base for K.C.

Kila Ka’aihue.  His first name is pronounced KEE-luh.  And when Bobby
Abreu struck out, then Erick Aybar flew out, then Alberto Callaspo
grounded out weakly to first, I was ready.  Before Kila even stepped on
the bag I was right at the opposite side of the dugout, seated in the
first row on the aisle.  I stood up and called out to him.  “Kila!  Over
here, please!  Kila!”

He flipped me the beautiful, rubbed-up ball for my fifth on the day and number 250 overall!
ball 250.JPGWith my mini-milestone out of the way I decided to try for another one. 
I was still without a game home run in my life… I thought a day game,
with a smaller than average crowd, would be a good time to try to nab
one.  Here was my view for the remaining eight innings:
8.11. homer territory.jpgAnd with the exception of some day-campers being irritating in the
sections around me, it was an excellent game.  Greinke dueled against
Jered Weaver and they each only gave up one run.  Weaver went eight and struck out eleven!  It was 1-1 in the
ninth, then 1-1 in the tenth.  Lots of great pitching and defense, not a
lot of home runs… Betancourt hit one to center.  That had been it.

matt and rob 2.jpgI had time to take a picture with fellow ballhawk, Rob, who’s on the myGameBalls Lifetime Top 10 list.

And, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but when there are pitching changes at Angel Stadium (for the visiting team) and it’s not time to unleash the Rally Monkey, Angel Stadium plays video compilations of fans dancing around, being excited, and just having a good time.  I’m happy to say that Michelle and I are a part of one of those compilations.  So, when Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance” plays when a visiting team makes a call to the bullpen… check out the video.  We’re totally in it… at least for this season.  I snapped a picture of our two seconds of screen time… it’s us dancing in our seats:
matt and michelle on jumbotron video.JPGI told you I had time…

Then things got really interesting as the game headed into extra innings…

I was one of just a few hundred people left in the pavilion in the tenth.  The Royals went down in order in the top of the inning, thanks to Brian Fuentes.  Then, in the bottom of the tenth, Reggie Willits grounded out for the first out and that brought up Bobby Abreu.  Abreu took a called strike one, then held up on a fastball to make the count one-and-one.  Then, he smashed a changeup that Jesse Chavez had left up in the zone.  As soon as he hit it I knew it was gone.  I jumped up out of my seat and into the aisle.  Abreu had crushed the ball so I retreated a step or two up the staircase… it had a good angel, but then…

Oh, no!  The wind had been occasionally blowing in… and I watched as the ball lost momentum…  I moved down to my original spot… the ball was falling fast.

And it hit the ground (or a seat) five feet to my left… I was blocked by a fan.  Then it took a huge hop up in the air–and slightly further away from me.  I made a desperate lunge, but to no avail.  The stadium was on its feet, cheering for the walkoff win… which was all well and good.  But I angrily started zipping up my backpack.  I’d been so close… the ball had even bounced once.  I’ve watched the video a dozen times (you can, too)… I’m in the white shirt and black shorts, sunglasses, and on the staircase (I was the first one up out of my seat), moving up, to the right, and then down… and if I had just stayed put I probably could have caught it.  ::sigh::

I won’t dwell on it too much–gamers are tough to come by.  I did snag five balls at a day game following a night game, so that’s good.  I did get my 250th ball, so that’s good, too.  I took a photo while getting on the 57 freeway heading south… on my way home.
view from car 8.11.JPGAnd I’d get to come back to Angel Stadium in just a few more days with Michelle and some family, and we’d have some pretty awesome seats!

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