This was a great game for me as the budding ballhawk that I am. This was a great game because I had fun, was successful, met some new friends, set a milestone, and walked away with memories and souvenirs. And– to top it all off–my wife got to be at this game with me. Here’s what happened…
I entered the day sitting on 369 lifetime baseballs. When I approached the Home Plate Gate I surveyed the line situation to see where I should situate myself. Upon closer inspection I saw a friend from 3,000 miles away. I walked up to Greg Barasch and told him, “I didn’t know you were going to be here!” Greg and I had met in April of 2010 at my only visit to Citi Field. As it turns out, he and his father would be in Anaheim for the last three Angels home games of the year–just like me. Greg and I played catch for a few minutes while his dad held our place in line. Michelle had decided to sit in the shade and read for a while and I knew I’d meet up with her after batting practice had finished.
When the gates opened I immediately took of for the right field corner and within minutes, got a ball thrown to me by Hank Conger.
That ball–see it on the ground. Conger walked over, picked it up, I asked for it and he lobbed it to me! #370. Just a couple minutes later a liner down the right field line took a bounce near the wall and I was able to reach out and snag that one… I have no idea who hit it. Someone on the Angels.
I ran up to the RF seats atop that 18 ft. wall after that and quickly got a ball thrown to me by Mike Maddux–it was stamped “PRACTICE.” Not all the Rangers were out on the field but Maddux and a few pitchers were and he tossed me this random ball that a Halo had hit.
Greg’s goal was to snag a few Angels commemorative balls during his trip and I knew he’d get a couple–he’s no slouch as a ballhawk–but the first one he’d snagged on the day was a standard Selig ball. So were the first three I’d ended up with.
Alexi Ogando tossed me baseball number four on the day–a grass-stained standard ball–
Next up I caught this beauty thrown to me by Leonys Martin.
Then, the Rangers big left-handed power came to the plate–Mitch Moreland, Josh Hamilton, and David Murphy. Well, I snagged a Hamilton homer on the fly in the first round about halfway up the pavilion. That was career #375! A few minutes later I grabbed a David Murphy bomb as it bounced around a row to my left. After a few more minutes Endy Chavez blasted a ball up to me in the pavilion that I snagged on the fly. That was my eighth ball of the day.
The Rangers headed into the dugout soon after that and I failed to get anything tossed to me as they left the field. But I just needed two more baseball to get to my first double-digit game EVER! Plus, I hadn’t snagged a commemorative ball yet on this day. All eight had been standard Selig balls.
And we’d continue to run into each other throughout the evening. I took a brief rest before heading over to shallow left field to wait for the Angels to throw. Sure enough, after Torii Hunter accepted an award for citizenship, Erick Aybar and Maicer Izturis played catch for a few minutes along the foul line (as did a few other Angels).
When they were done, Aybar threw me the ball they’d been using–and it was commemorative! That would be the only commemorative logo I’d take home that night… but I was up to nine baseballs! By the way–did you notice in that photo that the Tigers beat Cleveland 14-0? Wow.
And here’s the lone commemorative I grabbed at this game:
I ran back to where Michelle had been sitting. I’d heard that instead of the random ex-Angel that would be signing autographs at this game out in center field, a certain Hall of Fame member would be filling in. I had gotten a wristband during a change in BP groups and Michelle and I quickly took our places in line once I’d finished my pre-game snagging. I handed my camera off to her so she could snap a picture of me as I got the autograph–
–of Rod Carew! This was actually the second time he’d signed a ball for me. The first time had been totally random and not nearly as organized. This time, instead of signing my ball and inscribing HOF ’91, he inscribed #29 next to his name. Rod’s a great member of the Angels community in Orange County, even though he’s more famous (and in the HOF) as a Twin.
Eight balls snagged and one HOF autograph and the game had just begun!
I told Greg I’d see him later or at the next day’s game and Michelle and I found some seats down the first base line.
The Angels were down 4-0 in the fourth inning as we watched from here:
Dan Haren pitched well, however, giving up just three earned runs over eight innings. C.J. Wilson pitched two innings… he’d be pitching Game 1 of the ALDS later in the week. But, while the Angels could muster a bit of offense, they’d end up losing 4-3 and their slim playoff chances would be dashed.
Michelle would end up leaving the game early to get ready for work the next morning–I made sure to stay to the end. I’d been trying for third out tosses all night but I’d been unsuccessful.
I waved at all the players as they headed off the field and they all passed by me–I watched the bullpen guys march across the field… the tallest guy had a baseball… it was Alexi Ogando. Would he remember me from the afternoon? He’d already given me a ball and I hadn’t changed my appearance in any way. As the relievers lumbered in I made my best effort… hands up, waving, and I called out, “Alexi! Right here!!” He looked up, pulled his hands out of his hoodie, and lofted ball number 10 right to my waiting glove. And just like that… with my 379th ball, at my 84th game at Angel Stadium since 2008 (when I started ballhawking) I FINALLY reached double-digits! I was thrilled–and the ball from Ogando was a rubbed up beauty–pristine. It had been rubbed with mud and never dropped, scuffed, or hit in any way. It was perfect. And with that I took my leave of the Big A.
UPDATE: I found my notes from this game AND my following two games. Since 9/26/11 was a special day for me–I thought I’d share my notes.
This is the list I take to every game I go to. And now you’ve got a window into how I keep these things categorized and how I remember things for my blog. It looks like chicken scratch, I know, but you can see I write a letter L next to each player if they’re a lefty. For pitchers, if they throw left-handed… for batters, if they hit left-handed. Or they get a letter S if they’re a switch hitter. The starting pitcher is circled on each roster and each ball I snag is labeled with a number and a circle. For example, Ball #377’s note is “377 – COF (which means Caught On Fly) E. (Endy) Chavez S. 238 (Section 238 of the right field pavilion) – 3rd row – right to me prac logo w/ brwn + grn (it was a ball with a practice logo and brown and green marks on it). Want to know more about my notes, or care to explain how you make your own? Let me know in the comments.