I headed off to Angel Stadium for the 6:05pm game at 3:00pm, got there at about 3:25pm, and waited in line for the gates to open. This Saturday night game would have a postgame concert after it ended (by Ne-Yo–who’s very popular, I’m told). A big crowd was expected. I had contemplated driving down to see the Padres play instead but decided on a game in Anaheim. I’m glad I did.
After playing catch with a few regulars for about ten minutes I got back in line just before 4:00pm, when the gates were set to open, and readied myself for my sprint out to right field. Typically, my routine consists of tightening and retying my shoelaces, a little bit of stretching, unzipping the pockets of my backpack (so security folks can check it quickly), and placing my ticket (bar code up) in my hand. Well, I did all that and still wasn’t the first fan in the gates–but luckily a lot of the early arrivals to the stadium were planning to get autographs, not baseballs. And I was all by myself for a good twenty seconds in the pavilion. Sadly, it didn’t really help me: no Easter eggs, no toss ups, no BP blasts hit to the seats during my first moments out there.
My first baseball of the day was tossed up by rookie pitcher (and former Redlands East Valley Wildcat) Tyler Chatwood. He threw it to me in the first row (shown above), it had the word PRACTICE stamped on its sweet spot (shown below), and I’d eventually end up giving that ball away to my favorite usher, Barbara, who’s always out in the right field pavilion. She finds a little kid at some point during the game to give the baseballs to after I hand them off to her–and the fact that I’ve got a good reputation with the ushers around the park is certainly helpful.
Baseball #2 on the day came via Mark Trumbo and some of his opposite field pop. The rookie righty hammered a ball that ended up bouncing in the second row of Section 238 as I and a couple other regulars closed in on it. Lucky for me, the ball didn’t ricochet out of the row it had landed in and I grabbed it a second before the next nearest fan.
This one, too, had a practice stamp on it (that was quite off-center), along with a blue smear over the logo. Does anyone know how baseballs get those blue streaks and smears across the leather?
The next group of Angels started hitting soon after and in his second set of swings Russell Branyan hit four consecutive blasts into the right field seats. The third of four came down in the tenth row of Section 239 and I nabbed that ball (again, it marked as a practice ball) as it rolled through a row. Then, before the Angels left the field I was able to get my glove on a Bobby Abreu homer in Section 236. I wasn’t able to catch that ball on the fly, either, but I sprinted through a full section to get to it and was nearby right as it landed and then rolled to my feet near/above the right field tunnel. Here’s the spot where I picked it up as it bounced around:
By this point the Twins had come out to throw along the right field line and I was thinking to myself, “Wow. Four baseballs from the Angels–that’s more than usual.” After Matt Capps finished his warmups I was standing in the fifth row of Section 133 and held up my arms while yelling, “Matt! Over here!” Capps lofted the ball over the handful of fans in the first couple rows and into my waiting Mizuno for Ball #5 on the day. And this one was commemorative! Lately I’ve noticed that the visiting teams to Angel Stadium tend to have more of the commemorative baseballs than the Angels.
At that point I decided to play the short wall in the right field corner as there was still some space to move around along it. After a few minutes an unknown Twin hit a ball that I was able to scoop off the track. I gave that one to a kid nearby (he and his buddy are in the photo to the right)–and I told his friend with him that if another one came that way I would try to snag it on his behalf.
Not five minutes later, a Twins lefty smacked a fly ball our way. At first I wasn’t sure if it would hit the grass and roll to the wall, hit the dirt and bounce over the wall, or clear the wall and end up in the seats. I was at the wall when the ball was hit, then hen the ball was at its apex I took a step back, thinking it definitely would not hit the grass. As it descended I came to the conclusion it wasn’t going to be a home run either–it wasn’t. The ball hit the packed dirt of the warning track and bounced high over everyone’s head in the first row–and over mine in the second row. I hurdled the seats behind me and snagged it in the fourth row. Then, with a smile on my face, brought it to the second kid I’d been talking to and said, “I’m a man of my word.” I handed the ball over and the two kids were thrilled.
A few minutes after that another lefty on the Twins hit a ball that rolled toward the wall in right field. It was a bit to my right and there were those two kids I’d given baseballs to, reaching out for the ball but not coming close. The ball settled about six inches out from the short wall and after they each tried their hardest to get it, I asked if I could give it a shot. Since I was, “The guy who gave us the baseballs,” they moved aside and I was able to stretch out and pluck the ball off the warning track. That one, as it turned out, was commemorative–and almost brand new. Karma, everyone, if you do something nice it tends to work its way back to you. The two kids had baseballs and I ended up with a commemorative one for myself. Here’s Ball #8:
And at about that point BP was winding down–as it ended I ran to the Twins’ dugout and as Nate Dammann jogged into the dugout he flipped me a beat up and stained commemorative baseball!
That made 362 baseballs in my lifetime and that one from Dammann was my ninth on the evening. A new record for me! I’d previously snagged eight on two separate occasions and now I had pushed my record one step closer to double digits!
I thought I had a really good shot to get there, too, since I still had pregame warmups and the entire game to get one more ball. But wouldn’t you know it, I didn’t snag another for the rest of the night!
I tried to get one from the Angels after they did their throwing. I tried to get a ball from either first baseman (Mark Trumbo and Luke Hughes), I tried to get a foul ball… and all I got was a lot of exercise.
The game was pretty exciting though. The Angels got out to a quick lead when Trumbo hit his first career grand slam (and his 25th homer of the season) off Twins starter Brian Duensing in the first inning.
The way Jered Weaver had been pitching all year everyone in the stadium was sure that would be all the offense the Halos needed. But the Twins got three runs in the second and three more in the fourth–and that tied the game at six. Weaver definitely wasn’t at his best.
Vernon Wells smacked a solo homer in the fifth to put the Angels up for good–and they’d add three more runs in the sixth with a home run, an error, a single, another single, and a double. 10-6 was the final and Weaver got the win–but he didn’t look great. 5IP, 8H, 6ER, and 3BB to go with his eight strikeouts. The bullpen shut the Twins down though. Mike Trout had three hits and six of the nine starters had at least one RBI. The win put the Angels 3 1/2 games behind Texas AND there was a post-game concert on tap: Ne-Yo.
Apparently he’s a pretty big deal. This was the final concert of the Summer Concert Series and girls go crazy for this dude.
I’d heard maybe one of the songs he sang on the radio but I’d at least heard of him before so I’m not totally uncool. I watched as Angels and Twins players and their families took in the show from their corresponding dugout. Howie Kendrick and Ervin Santana played with their kids on the grass–it was cute. And I left before Ne-Yo’s last song so I could beat the traffic. It was a record-setting night for me–but that double-digit game has still eluded me–we’ll see if I can make it happen before the end of the season.