7/21/11 at Angel Stadium

Just hours after leaving Angel Stadium I was back in line for more… waiting for the gates to open.  Well, I wasn’t waiting long.  It was a day game after a night game and the pregame crowd was pretty light.  There was absolutely no one at any gate but the Home Plate Gate so I took a walk around the stadium.  During my walk I passed the right field tunnel and looked down it to see there were no BP related activities going on.  I had figured as much.  I saw a group pf Rangers pitchers walking toward the outfield… that was it.  Devin rode by me on a bike and asked if anything was goin’ on.  I said there wasn’t much happening–he debated whether or not to even head inside.  I’d see him (and his wife and granddaughter) inside later.  I passed the players’ parking lot and then the left field tunnel… again, all I saw were a few Rangers pitchers in the outfield… and I ended up at the Left Field Gate.  Chris was waiting there, too, so we talked for a few minutes before 11:00am rolled around and we sprinted in to the seats.  As soon as I saw the field I noticed a bunch of Angels pitchers playing catch.  I took this photo a minute later:

The folks throwing are (from left to right) Dan Haren (in the navy undershirt), Tyler Chatwood (throwing with someone just out of frame), Jordan Walden, a trainer throwing to Haren, Rich Thompson, Hisanori Takahasi’s translator (throwing to Thompson), Takahashi (with his arms out), and Scott Downs.  Downs and Takahashi are laughing–at a poor throw by one of them, I think.

You may notice that closer Jordan Walden isn’t throwing with anyone.  He was the odd man out in this warmup–so, from about three rows back in the stands I called out to him, “Hey, Jordan!  You need someone to throw with?”  He turned and smiled, waved, then he said, “What, you wanna throw?”

I said, “Yeah, I’ll throw with you.”  He kind of waved his glove and said, “Nah, I can’t.”  He’s still new to the big leagues–I don’t think he’s aware yet that, yes, he can throw a ball to a fan… then ask for it back… and so on.  He’s still kind of humble.  Walden chuckled and started to turn around and I said, “C’mon, I’ll throw with you.  Really!”  I held up my glove.  Walden kind of looked around (I think to see if anyone was going to tell him ‘no’ to what he was about to do.  Then he grabbed a ball, wound up, and tossed it to me.  I caught it, then threw it back.  Then he threw it back to me–and this continued for a solid minute or so until another pitcher, recent call-up Horacio Ramirez, jogged to the field.  I threw the ball back to Walden and he smiled, nodded his head, then turned around to warm up with, you know, a professional player.  I called out, “Thanks, Jordan!”  And then I moved a section to my right… keeping my eye on the pair.  I talked with Chris for a minute, then Rob… and then I moved back toward my left when I could see that Ramirez and Walden were finishing up:

As they closed the gap between them I made sure there was plenty of space around me–I was just hoping Walden would end up with the ball.  I asked him, “Jordan, could you throw me that ball, please?”  He had started to tuck it into his glove–then he saw me and his body language signaled to me that he knew he should toss it to me–that it would mean way more to me than anyone else.  And he threw it right to me.  I yelled a huge, “Thank you!” to him and had a new favorite baseball in my collection.  Now, I’ve never caught a home run–I’ve gotten a couple foul balls… but those, to me, aren’t nearly as special as this one.  I got to play catch with the closer of my home team and then he threw me the ball–AND it was commemorative!  Then, Walden started signing autographs:

Fans flocked to him and I noticed which way he was moving up the line–and I got into a spot along the wall–and while I was waiting for him I got Rich Thompson and Tyler Chatwood to autograph a 2011 team ball I’ve been working on.  And then Walden got to me and I asked him to “sign it on the sweet spot, please.”  Then I told him, “That ball is going on display in my home.  Thanks so much, I appreciate it.”  And check it out:

He even put ASG ’11 on it.  New.  Favorite.  Baseball.

The day was a success at that point.  I didn’t need to snag another ball or even have a good seat.  Heck, the game could’ve gotten cancelled and I’d have gone home happy.  But, thankfully, it was a gorgeous day–the game would be played–and I wasn’t done getting baseballs OR autographs.

I got Colby Lewis’ autograph near the Rangers’ dugout after all the players had cleared the field but him.  Here was the view of the field a minute after I got the Lewis autograph:

Then it was dead for about twenty minutes.  Zero player activity.  During the dead time I photographed the Walden ball and took a seat in the shade–there, I took a picture of where Tommy Hunter had thrown me a baseball the day before:

Hunter was standing to the left of the Summer Concert Series sign (LUDACRIS!) and I was standing to the right of the staircase behind the batter’s eye.  Nice arm, huh?

A little later, some Angels came out to throw and after Howie Kendrick warmed up he tossed his ball… to someone else.  But then he went to the ball bag and pulled out two brand new 50th baseballs and one went a section to my left, the other one went to me… someone tipped it and I had to pick it up off the ground… but it was still in great shape!  The spot of the catch can be seen in the photo to the right.

Then, Kendrick started signing autographs and I got him on my 2011 team ball.  I debated having him sign the ball he’d just thrown to me–but I opted not to go that route since I already have his signature on a ball from last year right on the sweet spot.  Moments later, when when Maicer Izturis finished his warmup tosses with Erick Aybar  he lofted me the ball.    The row I was in was empty– which was good because as he was running his underhanded toss was a bit off the mark.  I moved a couple of steps to my right and I caught it here:

All three baseballs were commemorative.  Yay!

Before the game started I had gotten five autographs and three baseballs–with no BP!  And I was all set to enjoy a fantastic pitching matchup.  Jered Weaver vs. CJ Wilson.

Here was my view of the game’s first pitch:

Since it was a day game and attendance was lighter than usual, I was able to jog back and forth between the home dugout and the visitor dugout for each inning.

Unfortunately, the two starters were striking guys out left and right and I was almost always on the wrong end of the dugouts.  It was frustrating–but at least I was getting my cardio workout for the day.

In the second inning the Angels managed to score a run without getting a hit thanks to an error by Endy Chavez in center field.  I took a photo (left) of the scoreboard to mark the occasion–it was a pretty important run.

Wilson and Weaver were mowing down their respective opposition.  And the most tense moment in the game game in the sixth inning, when Weaver worked around a bases loaded jam:

Um… that half of a third base coach is due to my panorama-making software.  Hmm.

And he went back out for the seventh before giving way to Scott Downs in the eighth and then Jordan Walden (my new best friend) in the ninth.

Remember that one unearned run?  That was the only run of the game!  And the Angels got the win, 1-0.  I didn’t snag anything else once the game started but I still had a blast.

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