I promise that one day I’ll get caught up with these…
Anyway, on this Tuesday night Michelle had to stay at work late so I decided to hit up batting practice and stay for an inning or two. The Rays were in town and I’d always kind of had a soft spot for them–so I was glad to get to see them play twice in a row (I’d also be heading to the day game the very next afternoon).
When I ran in the Angels were hitting and were not providing any batted balls to Rob and I, the only two in the pavilion for the first five minutes. Seriously, there were TWO of us for five minutes–all the Halos had to do was hit a ball up there and I’d have had a 50% chance of getting it. But in their first round they hit zero baseballs up to us. Frustrating.
I got my first ball of the day from reliever Kevin Jepsen. He was way out in left-center field with another pitcher and I move over to the staircase between 239 and 240. You can see the staircase and Jepsen (circled) in the following photo:
When I saw him field a ball near the warning track I yelled out, “Keeeevvviiiinnn Jeeeepppssseeeennn, ooooooooovveeeeerrrrrrrr heeeeerrreee, plleeeaaaaasssee!” I elongated all of my words and was very, very loud (and the stadium was still pretty quiet). Well, he looked over and my request was granted. He chucked the ball well over forty yards to me. I made the catch in about the third row near the batter’s eye. Nice!
That was the only baseball I’d snag during the Angels’ BP. The Rays came out and I scored my second baseball from the Rays coach pictured below:
After checking online I’m pretty sure that it’s Stan Boroski. UPDATE: Stan’s sister has confirmed it’s him! Thanks, Stan… a year and a half later! He was fairly tall, older, and was wearing a catcher’s mitt while shagging in the outfield… he had sunglasses on. It wasn’t Scott Cursi, the bullpen catcher, but maybe there’s a big Rays fan that can let me know…
Anyway, I would officially be in the midst of a hit ball slump as of this game. I couldn’t get a glove on any ball hit up to the seats throughout the Rays’ batting practice. I was stuck on just two baseballs and the end of BP as I ran to the dugout.
Then, luck set in…
I saw Bobby Ramos, the bullpen coach, heading into the dugout and I knew he was very fan-friendly and he had thrown me a ball back in May when the Rays visited Anaheim). I called out, “Hey, Bobby, can you spare a ball, please? The most worn out one in there?!?” He was passing by the bucket and he turned, pulled out three baseballs, and threw one to my left, one to me, and one to my right. See? Super fan-friendly. I thanked him and he headed inside.
I moved to a different part of the section to label the ball I’d just received when Cursi (the bullpen catcher) who’d ignored my earlier request for a ball during batting practice jogged toward the dugout. Well, he must have recognized me because he said, “Hey!” and I looked up from the second row. He gestured with a baseball he’d been using, letting me know he wanted me to have it–I held up my glove and he flipped me the ball. I hadn’t even been paying attention. Cool.
I started to head up and to my right, back toward the outfield when I noticed the giant frame of Jeff Niemann heading in from the field. He was in a Rays sweatshirt that covered his name and number but I knew it was him. No one else on the team is six-foot nine. I waved my glove at him, he saw me and then looked around to see if anyone else was paying attention (someone younger or cuter, perhaps). I was the only one with a glove at the ready and I said, “Right here, Jeff!” He wound up and threw Ball #5 to me about six rows back from the dugout. A few guys in suits asked if he’d just thrown me that ball and I said, “Yeah. I guess because I was the only one around that knew his name.” They acted very impressed. Whatever. I gave away the Ramos ball to a young fan near the dugout and just then, Matt Garza popped his head out of the dugout and started signing autographs two feet to my right. Well, he’d just thrown a no hitter so I figured I couldn’t let such a fortuitous event go by the wayside… I grabbed the Niemann ball out of my cargo shorts (I hadn’t even labeled it yet) and tossed it to him… he signed it:
I think that kinda says “Matt Garza 22” but, you know, it’s hard to sign a baseball…
I thanked him and headed over to the Angels’ side of the field for warmups. I wouldn’t snag anything else over there but I did notice that Howie Kendrick and Peter Bourjous like to end their pregame throwing by trying out a few knuckleballs. Check out this photo:
Bourjous just threw a darn near perfect knuckler. See the seam? It didn’t rotate at all and Kendrick almost missed it.
In the second they tacked on four runs against Ervin Santana on a walk, a single, a double, a walk, a single, and a sac fly. Ugh.
By that point I was out in the pavilion trying to catch a gamer…
But the only home run I saw in my time at this game was by Evan Longoria to left-center. And it went a looonng way. It hit the second row of seats on the center field side of teh bullpens… well over 400 feet away from the plate. It was 5-1 Rays when I headed out of the park. The Angels, I’d find out, would lose 10-3. Double ugh.