This game was one I’d been planning on seeing for a while. The All-Star Break was over, the Angels had been gone for their first couple of series after the break, there had been a giveaway the night before… and this, finally, was a game I wanted to go to against the division rival Rangers. And my schedule allowed for me to actually be there! Whew…
As I waited at the Home Plate Gate I thought through my strategy. The Angels would be facing a lefty, Derek Holland, so almost all of them would be hitting from the right side. Since the bullpens take up so much real estate in left field I decided early on that I would play the wall in the right field corner for all those “going the other way” swings the Halos would inevitably be putting on the ball. Also, I should mention that Michelle wasn’t able to come to this game with me due to work (and she was feeling a little under the weather, too). So, I waited until 5:00 and then sprinted out to the seats.
There were a few Angels nearby–but nobody chose to throw me anything.
The next fan into that area, a BP regular named Warren, mentioned that an usher told him there was a ball still out in the seats to be found. We checked–while still keeping one eye on the field–but neither of us found it.
My first ball of the day was hit by a righty on the Angels… I’m not sure who hit it (the sun was killer) but I watched it arc through the air, bounce off the grass, and roll toward the wall. I was able to lean out and over to scoop it off the warning track. My second ball came in similar fashion but for that one (that I snagged not more than two minutes later) I had to make a bit more of an athletic play. Another Halo right-handed hitter lined a ball toward the right field corner. I could tell immediately that the ball was headed for the wall to my left so I ran a full section closer to the infield and leapt up onto an empty spot on the wall, reached out, and snagged the ball before it had a chance to ricochet back toward the grass. I heard a few people say things like, “Wow!” and, “Whoa–he got it!” as I stood up with the ball safely nestled in my black Mizuno. I timed my jump just right to be able to snag it so I felt pretty proud of myself for that one. I celebrated by finding a young fan with a glove to give the first baseball to… but he’d just gotten one from an Angel pitcher. Luckily, he had a little brother (who was also wearing a glove) so I asked him if he’d like a ball. The littler boy responded with an enthusiastic head nod and a stunned smile–then his parents thanked me and made sure their son thanked me and I went back to snagging.
I still couldn’t identify most of the batters because of the sun:
Ball #3 came my way in the same way as the first two. I saw a ball heading for the corner, shifted to some empty wall space on my right and leaned out and over. This one was coming a bit faster so I didn’t make a clean scoop of it but I stopped the ball and then grabbed it and propped myself back up.
At that point I was quite pleased with my decision to play the corner–even though all the baseballs I’d snagged were standard (and some had a PRACTICE stamp)–I was having a decent amount of success. And I wasn’t done.
A few minutes later Alberto Callaspo, who I recognized mostly by his high socks) slashed a ball toward the corner and I grabbed that one, too. Then, at 5:25pm I made my way up to the pavilion. Once there I found my favorite usher and handed her a ball to give away to a young fan of her choosing. The Angels cleared the field a moment later and I chatted during the dead time with a couple of BP regulars.
When the Rangers started hitting there was a group of ’em in center field:
At one point I got the attention of Tommy Hunter and asked him to throw me a ball. Now, prior to our interaction I’d seen him throw a ball up to the Angels 50th Anniversary logo that rests on top of the batter’s eye. When he turned toward me and was facing the right field seats I was standing about six rows back from the wall. He gestured for me to move further back… so I did. Another four rows back, actually. He threw the ball up and it fell ridiculously short of me and was snatched up by a fan in the second or third row. I had a feeling he didn’t do it on purpose either.
I gestured to him that he should give it another try. He gestured back as if to say, “You shoulda had that!” I threw my arms up and tossed my glove in mock exasperation–Hunter held up one finger as if to say, “Hang on a minute.” When he got another baseball I walked down to the third row, did a big, dramatic, showy look around to make sure no one was going to intercept the ball, checked with Hunter, saying, “Is this all right? Can you hit me here?” Then he launched the ball ten feet over my head–that one, I’m sure he did on purpose. I crossed my arms and shook my head at him as a random teenager ran and grabbed the ball.
He got another ball and gestured that I should back up. I did… I went back a few rows. He gestured with his glove again, “No… go way back,” he seemed to be saying. I pointed behind me and gave him a thumbs up as I ran allllll the way up to, well, here:
Right behind the right field edge of the batter’s eye. When I got there I flapped my glove at him and waved my arms. Hunter wound up and launched a rocket up to me…
BAM! Ball #5 on the day! I thanked him and then proceeded to try to take a photo of me with the ball. After struggled for a minute a passing fan offered some help and he was able to snap the following photo commemorating the occasion… showing me with the baseball in the spot of the catch–and Hunter can be seen down in center field:
Back down into straightaway right field I went, hoping to grab a homer off the bat of one of the Rangers’ powerful lefties. Josh Hamilton, Mitch Moreland, and David Murphy each hit a few up to the seats but the only ball I snagged for the rest of BP was an opposite field homer off the bat of Michael Young that I caught on the fly in the second row of Section 238. It was a regular ball and was pretty much brand new–just one black bat mark on it.
That was it for me during BP and I rushed to the dugout as the Rangers jogged off the field. There was an older coach transferring baseballs from a bucket into a bag and I yelled, “Hey, Johnny, could you toss a ball up here, please?” Johnny Narron looked up from his task and toward me, smiling, as I waved my glove at him from the third row. He tossed me an Angels commemorative–my only one of those on the day. And it was the 333rd baseball snagged in my lifetime. Here’s the spot where he tossed it too me:
Since I had gotten into the game for free and I had an ill wife at home I decided to leave after that because I had determined that I would attend the day game the very next day. Here are the five baseballs I kept:
Angel Stadium for a day game after a night game… coming up next!