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!
I’ll just come right out and say it: This wasn’t my most successful day of snagging baseballs. No, siree.
Did I get shut out? No… not in my home park with a full session of BP going on… here’s how it went down:
For those of you that read my previous entry, you know that I began the day sitting on 299 baseballs snagged in my lifetime. I wanted to be sure to pay close attention to the players on the field–who was hitting–who was shagging balls in the outfield–I wanted to know who Ball #300 would come from. Michelle and I arrived at the Home Plate Gate at about 4:40pm, saw some regulars we knew, jumped in line with them… and waited. At 5:03pm the gate opened and I ran inside and headed to left field.
I was hoping that Torii Hunter or Mark Trumbo would clear the bullpens and hit me my first ball of the day. As it turned out, Trumbo did hit one that cleared the home bullpen and most of the visitors’ bullpen… it hit the metal “roof” that shades the visiting players while they sit on the bullpen bench. I had the snag lined up but the ball fell just short of the front row, hit the roof, bounced awkwardly over me and to a guy right behind me. If he’d been five feet in any other direction I’d have been able to walk over and simply pick up the ball… Alas, #300 would have to wait a little longer.
I ran over to right field shortly after the second group of Angels finished hitting, knowing that there weren’t any batters that could hit many home runs in the last group I’d get to see. I ended up down by the foul pole as Peter Bourjous took his hacks. Bourjos, a righty, was going the other way and flicked a ball down the right field line that took a bounce on the grass, hit the wall in foul territory, and rolled toward the corner–where I leaned out over the wall and plucked it off the warning track in front of Section 1:34. It was 5:23pm on May 20th, 2011. And just like that–I’d snagged my 300th baseball! I remember thinking… at least I know who it came from… and it’s a home team player (who I know signs autographs).
When the Braves came out to throw and hit I ran up to the pavilion since they had a few lefties with some pop.
When I got out to the seats it was still fairly empty but it took about ten minutes for anything to come my way… and when Brian McCann started pulling the ball to right field I was all over a homer–until the last second when I realized it was going over my head. I turned my back to the field and watched the ball bounce off a seat two rows up and shoot to my left. I raced over a few seats, climbed over a row, saw Rob closing in, and reached out as the ball headed for the staircase… I missed it! But I didn’t give up and the ball bounced down a step and I grabbed it with my right hand a split second before Rob got to it. Ball #301. Here’s the view from near where I snagged the McCann ball.
It was marked PRACTICE. And after that the Braves (who were missing Jason Heyward) experienced a severe power outage. Not too many more baseballs made their way up to the seats and it got pretty crowded up there, too:
BP ended and I was ready (along with Chris) to race toward the Braves’ dugout. I blazed through two sections (and past my wife, reading a book on the Terrace Level) before my left leg caught a bit of an armrest. I was okay… until I took another step and realized I was losing my balance… I comically fell forward. The only thing hurt was my pride… and my hand–I suffered a scrape. And my watch got scratched up. Chris stopped to make sure I was okay (I was) but it meant we were a bit late getting to the dugout. I missed out on getting anything there.
Scraped (and with a bruised ego–it was a silly, embarrassing fall) I sat down next to Michelle. She was concerned that I was hurt–I was concerned that I’d only snagged two baseballs in an hour and a half. But at least I’d hit my milestone–the day couldn’t be considered a failure. When the Angels came out to warm up I tried to get a ball from them. I was in the third row as Maicer Izturis warmed up with Alberto Callaspo and when they finished I got Izturis to toss me the ball–but at the last second a fan in the second row stuck his arm up and deflected the ball to an old lady to the left, who promptly kept the ball (it did hit her on the head–I can’t blame her).
Cool uniforms, huh? Flashback Friday!
Next, Alexi Amarista and Erick Aybar finished throwing and I got Aybar to toss the ball my way–but get this: a fan in the first row jumped up and made a stellar bare-handed catch in front of me. How frustrating!!! Two warmup baseballs thrown to me… and not a one of them made it to my glove.
And no Braves played catch near their dugout before the first pitch–bummer. Michelle had eaten her dinner during BP and I’d scarfed mine down before pregame throwing–but we were still hungry so we vowed to try to find something healthy to eat–and we would end up succeeding AND finding a few new chow spots at the Big A.
But first, I tried for a third out ball from the Braves after the first–and failed.
We wandered the lower level concourse searching for some healthier than average ballpark food options–I learned you can get just about anything at a major league stadium nowadays. We found a nifty ice cream spot, a chicken sandwich booth, two different kinds of BBQ joints, and ended up choosing some edemame from a sushi place! It hit the spot… and we munched on it from our newly acquired seats in the right field corner:
If anyone had decided to pull a ball down the line in the middle innings I’d have been all over it! My wife and I were, like, the only people who seemed to care about the game. Everyone in the identical red hats in that photo above was there with some sort of conference/religious group/singles club. We couldn’t figure out what the organization was about–but it wasn’t a group of baseball enthusiasts, that’s for sure.
From this spot I got a shot of the video clip Michelle and I appear in on the jumbotron:
We’re dancing in our seats to Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance” and Michelle is blocking her face with her arm–which is holding up her Rally Monkey… in case you were wondering. I know you were.
The game was great from the point of view of an Angels fan! The Halos knocked Braves starter Tim Hudson out of the game in the fourth after he’d given up eight runs and Ervin Santana pitched a complete game four-hitter. The Angels won it, 9-0. A lot of folks stuck around for the fireworks but I still managed to sneak down to the dugout before the last out was recorded:
And did it help me snag a ball? Nope–I was stuck on two for the night. Oh, well… stil had a great time: Michelle and I watched the fireworks together:
And on our way out to the car she took a photo of me with my 300th baseball:
My next game would be at the Big A two weeks later…
There was a lot of running around over the twenty-four hours between the start
of yesterday’s game and the end of this one. The Rays were still in town
and the Angels were looking to salvage the series by winning this day game
after losing the first two games. The Rays were trying to stay even with
the Yankees and maintain their share of the “best record in
baseball.” It was a gorgeous summer day in Orange County.
As soon as the stadium opened I headed inside and down to the field seats just
past first base. There, I scored some points in the myGameBalls.com Photo
Scavenger Hunt by getting a photo with All-Star pitcher David Price.
I also got his autograph on my ticket. There was no BP going on so I
didn’t have a lot to do for ninety minutes. Luckily, the weather was
great, there weren’t many fans, and I was able to get a few more autographs.
Kevin Jepsen and Jordan Walden came out of the Angel dugout to stretch and
throw. I was pretty sure Walden ended up with the ball when they were
finished… anyway, he started signing autographs along the outfield wall and I
got him on a ticket stub.
He kept signing and worked his way toward the infield… and when he was
through I asked if he could spare the baseball in his glove–and he told me he didn’t
have one. Sure enough, he held up his glove and it was empty. I
guess he’d handed over to someone at some point in the autograph process.
While I was near the dugout I saw DL-laden Maicer Izturis down there and he was
signing for the few fans that recognized him. I tossed him the team
baseball I was working on and he signed it for me… in black ink… from a pen
he was holding that another fan had thrown to him. All the other
signatures were in blue–but an autograph’s an autograph. I thanked him
and headed back toward the outfield. Hoping to get a warmup toss from
Scot Shields after he finished throwing, I had to settle for his autograph on
my team ball–in blue. I was still sitting on zero baseballs but had four
autographs at that point… that’s the best part about day game pregame
activity: it’s relaxed and the players and team staff members are approachable
and friendlier than usual. For example, I’ve never seen Shields sign
before. It was nice to get his autograph… he’s not stellar like he used
to be, but he’s been a good, solid pitcher for the Angels since 2002.
After getting shunned by Ervin Santana and Fernando Rodney (big surprise) I
headed back to the Rays’ side of the field where a trainer had come out in
preparation for the players to emerge from the dugout, I assumed.
up having a pretty nice chat with this guy, Chris is his name. I couldn’t
find him on the Rays’ website but his initials are CW… and he helps the
players get loose, plays catch with anyone that needs a partner, throws
football-style passes to Evan Longoria, and occasionally throws BP, so he told
me. Anyway, he was pretty cool and I liked his shades.
Shortly after talking with Chris I ran toward the visiting team’s dugout and
got their skipper’s autograph on a ticket stub. I already had Joe Maddon
(and Maicer Izturis AND David Price, for that matter) but it was good to get
I grabbed a drink (free) and headed back to the third base line where the
Angels had come out to throw. I got myself into the middle of a bunch of
fans and called out to Alberto Callaspo as he finished playing catch. He
tossed the ball to me in the first row (just behind the “Diamond Field Box Seats” (or whatever they’re called) and I had to fully extend my arm and
lean just slightly to the left in order to catch it. I took a photo (right) of the spot where I made the catch.
It helps to be able
to use Spanish to ask for baseballs… I mean, it’s great to be able to ask for
baseballs in different languages and I’ve gotten at least two by using Korean,
two using Japanese, and about ten using Spanish. Thanks to relatively new
Angel, Alberto Callaspo, I wouldn’t get shut out on this sunny, BP-less
afternoon. I had now gone to sixty-seven games and snagged at least one
ball at each one. That streak goes back to September of 2008.
I went back over to the Rays’ side as their players were warming up. There, I took a picture from a different angle of where I snagged the Callaspo ball (left)… you can see how that special section of box seats separates fans from the field and players. So, I was in the first row of the non-box seats… which is technically the second row.
I didn’t snag another ball or autograph from a player but I did get a baseball tossed to me from coach George Hendrick. I decided to keep the Callaspo ball and give away the Hendrick one. I found a little kid nearby and made his day (and his dad’s). They were thrilled to receive it.
The game started and I spent the top of the first behind the Angel dugout…
1. Check out Longoria’s socks.
2. Check out all the empty seats!
And I spent the bottom of the first behind the Rays’ dugout.
No third-out toss for me… and no foul balls anywhere near me which was a bummer because I had a ton of room to run:
After the first inning I relocated to the right field pavilion because the crowd out there was light and during day games more home runs tend to make it out there. As you may recall, I was within five feet of Bobby Abreu’s walk-off homer about two weeks earlier…
I saw BP regular Rob out there in the stands and he and I chatted throughout the game. No homers got hit out toward right field but Mike Napoli did hit a grand slam to left field. The Angels would crush the Rays on this afternoon, 12-3. Their offense decided to wake up, how ’bout that? Also, I watched as a fan who was sitting about four rows from the field down the right field line got nailed by a foul ball. It wasn’t a scorcher that took a hop into the seats or a line drive that he didn’t have time to see. It was a fly ball that Rob and I watched, I knew it was going foul. A half a dozen fans moved out of the way of it. This one guy did not.
He’s down on the ground in that photo… being tended to. The woman in white bending down is pretty much blocking the guy that got hit. Rob and I saw it and heard it hit him. That sound… I guess I should’ve felt bad for him… or sympathetic. But I just kept thinking, if you’re that close to the field: PAY ATTENTION! He got taken away by paramedics after a few minutes… he walked up the steps under his own power so I imagine it was just a bad bump on his head/face/leg/arm. Wherever he got hit.
So, I got some sun, a couple of baseballs, five autographs, and saw the Angels win. All in all, it was a good day. Toward the end of the game I tried to snag a ball from the bullpen guys… but failed… also I didn’t catch a home run in left field either. I saw a fan wearing a Reggie Jackson Angels jersey–more scavenger hunt points. Note: I actually have that jersey but mine’s the home white and not the road gray.
By the end of the game there weren’t a lot of fans left in the stands… the Angels were up by nine runs and it was pretty hot by that point. Rob and i kept thinking, “This is what it’s like to be at a Pirates game.”
As a colleague said to me recently about the Angels, “They’re just so mediocre this year.”
After more than two weeks since my last game I was pretty anxious about getting out to Angel Stadium again, this time to watch them take on the (ugh) first place (double-ugh) Rangers. Adding to my anxiety was the fact that I didn’t actually have my ticket in my hand as I approached the gates prior to their opening at 4:05pm. You see, about a month prior to this game I donated blood through the Red Cross at one of their blood drives (I’m O+, in case you’re wondering). There was an Angels/Dodgers tie-in and, long story short, I received a voucher for two free tickets to the game on this night. The tricky thing was that I had to exchange the voucher for the tickets and the Red Cross volunteers would be arriving at 4:00.
Well, I arrived at 3:30, was first in line, set my bag down, walked across the main plaza to the Red Cross booth, and waited. I also enlisted the help of BP regular, Eli, to help save my spot. At 3:55 I convinced the volunteer to let me redeem my voucher (before her supervisor got there, which was the initial issue she had) and then ran to will call because Michelle would be arriving later in the evening and that was the only way that ticket could be used for someone who wasn’t me… because I was the one who’d donated blood and my name was on the voucher… blah blah blah. Anyway, I did all that and got back into line with minutes to spare–and ran inside at 4:05 to set up shop in the bleachers.
The first ten minutes or so of batting practice were great! There were hardly any people around and I snagged the first ball of the night off the bat of Hideki Matsui after he hit a homer that took a bounce in the seats of Section 236. I beat out two other guys who were running for it. Just minutes later I nabbed a Torii Hunter BP homer that flew over my head and took a bounce right back toward me after I’d positioned myself closer to center field. With two baseballs in ten minutes I thought I’d be headed for a record-setting night–but things slowed down after that and the seats began to fill up.
That was at about a half hour after the gates had opened. And, I should point out Rob, with his foot on the seat in the middle of the right view photo, who’s got over 800 baseballs (most of them batted balls) to his name. And Skyler, the teenager in the black T-shirt and blue jeans near the usher in the left view photo. He’s an up and coming ballhawk who can be a little wild at times but who’s made some very nice plays in the bleachers. Also, that rather large usher who looks so stern is, in fact, making sure the young fan in the first row doesn’t stand on the seat or sit on the wall. Usually the ushers hang out in the back of the pavilion and let us do our thing during BP–they’re very friendly and professional.
Anyway, back to the now dead BP session… yuck. Well, the Angels left the field and the Rangers came out shortly thereafter. I spent a few minutes near the foul pole trying to get a ball thrown to me by a pitcher but came up empty. Once Vlad and Hamilton started hitting I ran back upstairs. Here was the view:
Unfortuantely, the Rangers exhibited an uncharacteristic lack of power during BP… except for Vlad who hit a couple shots to the rocks in center… but I didn’t snag another ball during BP.
I tried for a toss at the dugout. Nada. Tried for a warmup ball. Nope. As the game was starting Michelle still hadn’t arrived so I parked myself behind the Angels dugout to watch Dan Haren warm up before his second career outing with the Halos.
He did pretty well. I was glad because his first start, against the Red Sox, was going well but then he took a line drive to the arm and left after 4+ innings. He’d go longer today.
Once Michelle arrived we grabbed some seats… but then she had to take an urgent phone call from work so I followed her out to the concourse and used the opportunity to take a photo of myself with a commemorative ball from the All-Star Game (earning myself three points in the myGameBalls photo scavenger hunt).
We ended up in home run territory. My new goal has been to go for foul balls and home runs during games more than third out tosses. Those have become fairly easy. I’m still only at one foul ball and zero home runs in my life. Hopefully those numbers will improve soon.
This was our view for the game:
I didn’t take many pictures because, well, not a lot happened worth photographing. I’ll say this though: the pitching was spectacular. It was Haren against Rich Harden, returning fro
m the DL. Texas got on the board first, in the fourth inning, when Vlad smacked a two-run home run to left-center field. That was all the scoring the Rangers could do. Not bad, right? Haren went nine innings! And got the loss… the Angels only scored once–in the seventh on a Howie Kendrick solo homer. I thought we had a chance for a comeback but th ebullpen for the Rangers locked down a victory. Harden threw seven great innings. And the only chance I had at a homer? Well, it was hit right to my section but was about twenty feet shy of the fence–and ending up being a flyout.
I went down to the Ranger dugout for the ninth inning (while Michelle watched from the concourse) and watched as Neftali Feliz shut down the Angels. Alberto Callaspo flew out to center and Kendrick and Juan Rivera grounded out. It was a one-two-three ninth and it allowed the Rangers to increase their AL West lead over the Angels.
As the bullpen guys for the Rangers walked across the field I noticed Scott Feldman with a baseball–I called out, “Hey, Scott! Right here!” He flipped the ball to me for my third on the night. Not a bad night–but definitely not great. Still, I had a lot of fun at the game and kicked off my birthday celebration with a good time at the ballpark with my wife–I’d turn 27 the next day–I just wish the Angels would’ve won. The real celebration, however, would be the next weekend when Michelle and I would visit a new stadium…