7/7/11 at Angel Stadium

It was a warm summer evening in Orange County and I was psyched about hats.  Not just any hat, however… no, I was psyched about the Angels Flashback Hat promotion at Angel Stadium.  I’m usually not too excited about a stadium giveaway (SGA) but I actually really liked the hat I’d seen on the Angels’ promotions page.

I’d been planning to go to this game for about a month and a half along with Michelle.  Cool hat giveaway, plus I love watching the Seattle Mariners play–they’re fun to watch (and have quite a few powerful–in BP–lefties this year).

Unfortunately, Michelle got pretty sick and hadn’t recovered fully by the day of the game.  So, I got her blessing to go to BP with both tickets, get two hats, chase a few baseballs, then return home.  I probably could have stayed for the whole game but I wanted to make sure she was doing well at home.  Off I went and I got to the stadium at about 4:45.  There was already a substantial crowd:

I grabbed a spot in line near Devon, and headed inside.  I nabbed my first free hat and ran out toward the right field seats.

Once there, I watched as only one home run got hit up to the pavilion during Angels BP.  I didn’t get it.  I did, however, ask Jordan Walden to throw me a baseball.  And he did.  But there was an extra step that led to me getting the ball.  I saw Walden field a ball in the outfield.  Instead of asking for it right away I said, “Hey, Jordan!  Congrats, man!”  He had just been named an All-Star that day.  He looked up and said, “Thanks,” and gave me a thumbs up.  A few minutes later he fielded another ball and I asked him if he could toss it up.  He ignored the other five people who were blindly shouting, “Can I have a ball?” to everyone on the field and fired up Ball #1 on the day.  I thanked him and wished him luck at the All-Star Game.  The ball he threw me had a practice stamp and a few grass and bat stains on it  And check out the cool scuff mark:

I’m guessing that it must have hit some concrete and then gotten back into the bucket somehow.  Like it bounced off a seat or two.

That would be the only ball I’d get from the Angels.  Hisanori Takahashi threw a ball up after I asked him in Japanese… but he threw the ball to an Asian fan on my right… I think he was confused as to who asked in Japanese for the ball.  But I wasn’t worried… I knew that Ichiro hit first in the first group of Mariners.  And I knew that he hit absolute bombs during BP.

I moved over into straightaway right field and only had to wait a minute until Ichiro started pulling the ball into the stands.  He hit homer after homer and, luckily, I nabbed a brand new commemorative baseball off his bat

I wish I could say it went from his bat to my glove directly… but it didn’t.  I still want to say I caught it on the fly though because the ball, follow me on this one, flew six to ten feet over my left shoulder.  I turned around and my view of its landing spot was obscured by a fan in the row behind me–but only for a second as the ball suddenly bounced back toward me.  Facing away from the field now, I leaned to my right and caught the ball.  I quickly inspected it, saw the commemorative logo, did a little jig (not really) and then noticed that it didn’t have a single mark on it anywhere.  It clearly didn’t hit one of the dark green seats of Angel Stadium… so what caused it to bounce back toward me?  The only explanation I’ve come up with is that it hit another fan (or a fan’s glove) and then went bouncing my way again.  So, since a player can have a ball bounce off his teammate and catch it before it hits the ground to get the out, I’ll say that I caught it on the fly.  Thoughts?  Here’s the ball:

It looks absolutely brand new.  As a matter of fact, I didn’t even write a 324 over the “ings” in “Rawlings” since this was my 324th baseball snagged.  I left it clean and pure, like the baseballs being sold for $24.99 in the Team Store.

Not three minutes later, on Ichiro’s next turn in the cage, I ranged a section to my right and snagged another BP homer from the future Hall-of -Famer… this one was a standard Selig ball.  I made the snag from this spot:

Things slowed down a bit after that and I kept just barely missing out on some of the shots the lefties were puttin’ in the seats.

Rob made a catch on a ball in the row in front of me at one point.  My glove was right behind his.  I had it positioned, the ball was descending, and at the last possible second his glove rose up from under mine… he didn’t push me out of the way or deflect the ball or knock into my glove… he just got three inches in front of it.  A clean play for sure.  I congratulated him on the snag.  Rob is, FYI, well over the 1,000 ball mark in his lifetime–and he only plays for hit baseballs which makes his quantity of baseballs snagged rather impressive, actually.

Ball #4 of the day came courtesy of lefty Jason Vargas.  He’d been hanging out with Felix Hernandez (who has rather poor aim when tossing balls to fans during BP).  After Hernandez missed me by four feet earlier in the BP session when trying to throw me a ball, Vargas scooped a ball off the warning track and tossed it right to me.  The spot of the catch is shown in the photo above and to the left.  I was in the first row.  And Vargas is the Mariner on the left in the photo.

Thanks, Jason.  This ball was almost brand new, with just one small black mark on it.  The most interesting thing about that particular ball, however, is that one of the holes through the leather was too big or maybe misaligned… or the stitch got pulled too tight.  Take a look:

Interesting, huh?  Since all Major League Baseballs are made by hand, this is bound to happen.  I’m just kind of surprised that this ball hadn’t been marked as BLEM (for “blemish”) or PRACTICE.  You couldn’t use it in a game, right?

The Mariners ended BP at 6:25, as I expected, and I raced to their dugout.  I didn’t get anything tossed to me there, unfortunately, and after that, I walked out (along with Chris) to the gates.  We each had an extra ticket to get scanned–we did so, got our extra hats, and parted ways.  I walked around the stadium through the concourse:

I stopped at the Guest Relations office for a second to grab some water–and while there I noticed a wall of old giveaways:

Can you tell what they all are?  I’ll let you know that I have (or have had and then sold/given away) ten of the giveaway items pictured above.  Like I said… I’m not usually too into giveaways at the stadium.  I headed home as the crowds filed in and I made it there as the first inning got underway.  Here are the four baseballs from the day:

The Angels would get the W for Jered Weaver, making his final start before the All-Star Break–he’d be named the AL starter with a record of 11-4 and an ERA of 1.86 after the first half of the season!  Cy Young Award, anyone?

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