OK… here we go… my first post now that MLBlogs has converted everything to WordPress… I apologize for all the weird formatting things throughout my older blog posts… and for not getting this one posted sooner. It was a great day at the Big A.
Once I was inside the stadium I committed an error. I was in the right field seats and was the first one there–I saw a ball get hit to where near an Angel was shagging balls in the outfield. I thought it was Jordan Walden and yelled, “Hey, Jordan! Could you toss that one up, please?” The guy looked at me for a moment, then tossed the ball back toward the bucket. In that moment of brief face to face time I recognized him as backup catcher Bobby Wilson… not fireballing closer Jordan Walden. Oops… stupid coverups.
That’s Bobby Wilson in the center of the above photo… and the real Jordan Walden is on the right. A few minutes later Wilson fielded a ball closer to center field and, this time, I got his name right when I asked politely for the ball from the first row and he yelled up, “You ready?” I backed up a few feet (in case his throw was going to be short–so it didn’t fall back on the field) and then yelled back, “Sure. Gimme your best shot!” Wilson wound up and delivered a loopy knuckle ball. I almost misplayed it but once it was securely in the pocket of my glove I yelled out, “Nice knuckler!” He gave me a thumbs up, I thanked him… then he headed to a different part of the outfield. Here’s where I caught the ball, on the staircase between Sections 239 and 240:
The ball had a black PRACTICE stamp on the sweet spot.
I’ve decided, after fruitless attempts to catch home runs during the home team’s BP in right field, that I’m going to start snagging in the left field seats from now on… there is just no lefty power in the Angels’ lineup. I spent most of their BP watching balls just miss being home runs. Ugh. So, in the Halos’ last round of batting practice I headed down the first base line and asked a couple of pitchers for toss-ups. Reliever Francisco Rodriguez ended up getting a ball to me in a way I’d never gotten one before. A blooper died on the grass in front of him and he walked toward it. Rodriguez was about ten to fifteen feet from the wall and I was in the third row. As he neared the ball, he flipped it up a few inches with his foot and bounced it to his other foot, then kicked a tailing pop up to me, soccer-style. I moved to my right a little bit and snagged my second ball on the day. It was a standard Selig ball and I ended up giving it away to a kid (the kid in the below photo, actually) a little while later.
That was it for the home team’s BP session and the Indians pitchers had come out to run, stretch, and throw. When Chris Perez arrived near the foul line in front of me without a throwing partner he looked back toward the dugout in a way that I would call ‘longingly.’ I took the opportunity to ask him, “Hey, Chris! You need someone to play catch with?” Then I held up my glove. I’d never actually played catch with a Major League Baseball player before but I’d asked a few–usually they chuckled or just ignored me but Perez responded, “Yeah.” I gestured to my awaiting glove and flapped it open then closed. He asked me, “You’ll throw it back?” I told him I would.
And he reached back and threw the ball to me. Whoa! And then I threw it back to him–and as I released the ball I thought, Man, I hope I don’t embarrass myself. The throw got to Perez all right–I’d have liked it to have been a bit higher but–whatever. This continued for a few more seconds before some guy (perhaps the bullpen catcher) jogged out and on my last throw Chris gave me a wave and then started playing catch with whoever the guy on the field was. Still… pretty cool, right? Then, I thought–I’d better stick around, I bet he’ll end up letting me keep that ball. So, I snapped this picture as Perez and the other dude continued throwing:
Then they finished their throws, chatted for a moment… and wouldn’t you know it?
Perez threw me the ball. I thanked him and then I labeled it with a ‘294’ (as it was the two hundred ninety-fourth ball I’d ever snagged) and tucked it into my backpack. My first baseball that I’d actually thrown back and forth with a Major Leaguer! Sweet!
I’d missed out on a few chances up in the pavilion while I was waiting for Perez to finish throwing so I bolted up the stairs and through the concourse to the right field seats again to catch the last half of a group of lefties. Shin-Soo Choo drilled a ball high into the air and pretty deep. I moved down a few steps to the fourth row and ranged to my left. I was in Section 237 and got to a spot where I anticipated the ball would land, drifted a bit further to my left while tracking the ball, saw the gloves of other fans come darting in from all sides, reached high up and ::SMACK::–I felt the ball hit the pocket of my glove. Whew… it’s always a great feeling to catch a ball on the fly during BP–it’s something I don’t get a lot of chances to do in Anaheim.
That would be the last ball I managed to snag during BP and the Indians jogged off the field unexpectedly at about 6:20pm. Usually the visitors are out there until at least 6:25… so I was a bit late getting to their dugout and didn’t get a toss-up there. I did, however, get Vinnie Pestano’s autograph on my ticket stub.
Now that all the players had cleared the field I drank some water, had a snack, and sat down for a minute in the Field Level down the third base line. I mentioned the coverups the Angels were wearing before–well, the first player to come out of the Halo dugout was catcher Hank Conger and here’s what they were covering up:
I’d forgotten that this game was a Flashback Friday game! The Angels had their 1980s uniforms on for this game. I took a few more photos as the rest of the players came out:
And then I watched as two sets of Angels played catch before the game.
Maicer Izturis ended up with the ball after he and Alexi Amarista finished throwing and he tossed it right to me–almost a brand new ball–just two grey smudges on one side. And a moment later I got my second autograph of the day: Rich Thompson (over at the dugout).
I should take time now to mention that all of my five baseballs snagged at this game so far were standard baseballs–none of them had the Angels 50th Anniversary commemorative logo. I knew I had a good shot of snagging a ball during the game though–so I was counting on getting at least one commemorative before the night was over.
I went over to the Indians’ dugout as the national anthem was sung and snagged a ball during their pregame throwing. Asdrubal Cabrera tossed it to me after he finished throwing with Orlando Cabrera. Here he is in the dugout a bit later:
I was behind the Angel dugout for the top of the first and had a great view… but I failed to get the third out toss. So, I ran over to the Indian dugout as Erick Aybar batted to lead off the bottom of the first:
And when Torii Hunter stepped up to bat with two outs I was ready.
Torii grounded out to the pitcher, Justin Masterson, who threw to first for the third out of the inning. Matt LaPorta was playing first base and I got his attention as he entered the dugout and he tossed me my sixth ball of the night. I couldn’t help but notice that it was a standard ball with dirt and grass stains all over it–the switch! Some first basemen switch the infield warmup ball with the one that’s game used when they come in from the field. LaPorta did this the last time I saw the Angels play the Indians and he was still doing it. I described the situation to a nearby Indians fan and jotted down the following note about ball #298: Hunter grnd out to pitcher Masterson to end 1st – toss – stns grn and brwn – switch game ball – not comm – LaPorta.
After a deep sigh I ran back over to the Angel dugout and the seat I’d previously occupied there was still available–so I sat in it thinking I’d get bumped fairly soon. I didn’t. This was my view (taken later in the evening):
Nice! At one point I did spend a half inning in the left field seats hoping for a home run:
But nothing came remotely close and I really wanted to snag a commemorative before the night was over so I headed back to ‘my’ seat in the second row behind the dugout. While I was there I experienced a Kendrys Morales sighting:
And I found out about a week later that he’d decided to have a second surgery on his ankle–so he’s out for the season–again. Bummer. Anyway, I took a ton of photos and had a great vantage point for the game but I was striking out when it came to third out tosses. More and more kids caught on to the game within a game and they’d crouch by the dugout every time there were two outs. I had to simply try to get myself noticed… something much easier to do if you’re little or a girl. Kids and girls kept getting the toss-ups as the Angels would leave the field.
I wasn’t about to box ’em out or jump in front of anyone… I just waited, inning after inning, and finally, after Alberto Callaspo caught a popout that ended the top of the ninth inning (with the game still tied 1-1, FYI)… I stood up near the dugout, waved my arms, shouted out, “Alberto! Over here! Hey, Alberto–right here, please!”
Beautiful. It was at that moment–my goal for the night accomplished–that I realized I had a shot to break my single game record. I had snagged eight baseballs–something I’d only done once before. And with the game still tied I had a shot for another ball. Also… I was now sitting on 299 baseballs snagged in my lifetime. I could accomplish 300 and set a new personal best for one game.
I figured my best shot would be at the Indians’ dugout… less competition. I went over there for the bottom of the ninth–the Angels didn’t score. No one scored in the tenth… I couldn’t snag the third out ball nor did any fouls come my way. I was hoping that, win or lose, the Indians would toss a ball or two up.
The eleventh inning rolled around and I watched as the Indians were shut out by Fernando Rodney–then the Angels came up to bat. Each inning the view I had was as follows:
Note the security guard and usher at the bottom of the staircase. They were there to keep people from rushing the dugout and not allowing those in the front rows to be able to leave. Also note that the Angels have two men on… yep… Aybar singled leading off the inning, then Bobby Abreu singled, and Izturis would single to load the bases for Torii with no outs. Well… Torii smashed a pitch into the left field corner to bring home Aybar and the Angels won it! Great for them… but would the Indians feel generous after the loss?
One ball was tossed up from the dugout. And it wasn’t to me. And one reliever had a ball in his jacket pocket–but it didn’t go to me. So, milestones would have to wait for another day–maybe if so many fans hadn’t decided to stick around for the fireworks it would have been a different story.
While most of the remaining fans watched the fireworks show I took a photo of my prizes from the night.
A great game, a great haul, a great time at the ballpark yet again. Thanks for reading.