Before this day, the last time I’d gone to a Major League Baseball game that wasn’t at Angel Stadium was when Michelle and I had gone to Chase Field for two games back in August of 2010. Fifteen consecutive games at the Big A… and finally I got a chance to take a mini road trip down to San Diego.
I parked my car in a structure at about 2:45 (for a 5:35 game) and walked south a few blocks until I saw:
I wandered all around the exterior of the stadium until the Park at the Park and the beach opened at 3:00… then I ran in and spent about thirty minutes with this view in front of me.
Not a single baseball got hit to the beach during the time I was there but I did get Luke Gregerson’s autograph on an old ticket I had with me before heading up to the left field seats when the rest of the stadium opened at 3:30. I spent a lot of BP in left field and eventually snagged a Ryan Ludwick homer after it bounced in the spot shown in the photo on the left. As you can tell, the seats were pretty full.
And after that they filled up even more so I ran over to right field where there was a little more space to move.
The Padres ran off the field and the Braves came out to hit–and after ten minutes a BP ball got hit up to the seats, was bobbled by some fans and fell back onto the field. Tim Hudson walked over and tossed it up (to no one in particular) and a fan three feet from me dropped it. The ball fell onto a chain link covering between the seats and the field. I walked over, leaned out, and plucked it off the fencing. Then I found a little kid nearby (wearing a glove) and handed it to him.
In the photo to the right you can see my view from near where I snagged Ball #2 and Tim Hudson standing in the outfield. BP got pretty boring after that. Surprisingly, the Braves didn’t hit too many baseballs to the seats. I became very aware of the expansive space that is PETCO Park. I’d seen these same Braves a month earlier hitting bombs in Anaheim… but in SD they barely cleared the fences.
So, it was a frustrating BP made slightly better by the fact that, as the Braves ran off the field, I got a ball tossed to me at the dugout by Julio Lugo.
Then, some Braves came out to stretch and throw before the national anthem:
Freddie Freeman kept the ball he used during warmups with Jason Heyward:
First basemen tend to do that since they usually need them for the first inning to warm up their fellow infielders.
When the game started I sat near my ticketed seat… not in it… but near it. I stayed on the aisle and two rows closer to the field than I should have been… but even on a beach towel giveaway night the attendance was just over 38,000 so there was plenty of space. Here was my view:
I did snag a ball during the game–but it was tossed into the seats by the Pad [pahd] Squad and was squishy:
Chipper Jones was playing third base and I was glad to get to see him play–who knows how long he’ll still be able to? He’s one of the few players I’ve followed since I first got into watching baseball when I was a kid.
And Jason Heyward is quickly becoming my new favorite Brave to see play… he went two for five with two doubles and two RBIs in this game. That guy can hit!
As far as stats about the game… it was close through seven innings: 3-1 Braves… but Atlanta pulled away in the eighth with three runs and then scored four more in the ninth. Dan Uggla crushed a three-run homer in that ninth inning and as he touched home plate… well, look:
Butt slap! Why is that always how players congratulate each other?
I moved right behind the dugout for the bottom of the ninth:
As the game came to a close the Long Haul Bombers prepared for their home run derby…
The Braves won the MLB game, 10-1. And if you’ve never heard of the Long Haul Bombers… they are a group of burly dudes that absolutely crush specially made softballs as far (or farther) than Major League hitters hit baseballs. I’d only ever read about these guys online and, as it turned out, they would be doing a round of their HRD at PETCO on this evening. I did not get a ball from home plate ump Kerwin Danley, nor did I get anything from the Braves postgame. After the Braves retreated to their clubhouse I ran out to the outfield stands–and to the second deck of left field.
It was pretty packed up there and the first hitter turned out to be a lefty–who, obviously, pulled everything to right field. The second hitter was a righty and… man, oh, man… they were crushing the balls. Multiple softballs actually hit the jumbotron in left field. I decided to go all out and run back and forth from left to right and back again depending on which hitter was up. It was exhausting and I was on the verge of frustration when a drive got crushed up to section133 in right field. I ran up a staircase, cut through a row and made a final lunge to catch the ball in the spot in the photo on the right.
And for your reference, here’s what these softballs look like (from the spot where I caught it–about 440 feet from home plate)! Yowza!
And then I jogged to the car and made it home in just over an hour. Exhausted.