Tagged: anaheim

Angels + Commemorative Baseballs = Excitement!

I just read a news release:


The Angels will be using commemorative baseballs at all their home games during the 2011 season.

Surely, this will mean more ballhawks coming to Angels games this season but it also means that I’m likely to end up with a handful of ’em.  There’s at least one photo of the baseball the Halos will use in 2011 online:


Anyone else know anything more about this?  For me it’s simply one more reason to look forward to baseball–pitchers and catchers report in less than a month!  Even though I likely won’t go to as many games this season as I have the past two years, I fully intend to go to at least one new stadium and snag as many of those commemoratives as I can.


8/28/10 at Angel Stadium

After losing two of three to the Rays I was hoping that the Angels could keep some playoff hopes alive by beating up on the Orioles.  It was a cool Saturday afternoon in Anaheim, and my sister-in-law and her boyfriend would be meeting Michelle and I at the game.

This was also a way for us to relax before the big move.  Michelle and I would be moving out of Irvine to a new apartment the very next day…

When the gates opened I ran in and set up shop in right field.  I was hoping to catch a homer on the fly for my first baseball of the evening but I settled for a ball from new reliever, Jordan Walden.  BP regular Devin had a ball glance off his glove and fall back to the field… I happened to be nearby and asked Walden if he could spare it.  He could–and I was on the board.

The ball was in really great shape.  There were just two marks on it.  One brown spot from where it hit the warning track after the miscue in the stands and this:

jordan walden ball 8.28.JPG

Bleh… a big ol’ PRACTICE stamp.

I went down to the corner in right for the remaining portion of Angels BP.  And didn’t catch a darn thing.  But here’s a photo of Walden, who throws 99 MPH, by the way.

walden warmup.JPG

The Orioles came out to throw and I watched them from field level as the Angels finished up their portion of batting practice.

orioles bp 8.28.jpg

After a few minutes of nothing slicing toward me down the line I headed back upstairs, knowing that a couple of their lefties hit the ball pretty well.  But the next ball I caught was thrown, too, by Alan Dunn.  His throw was a little off, and I had to barehand it since it was heading to my right a bit but I made the catch leaning over the wall in the spot shown below:

alan dunn spot 8.28.JPG

And the ball had a pretty neat-looking mark on the logo:

alan dunn ball 8.28.JPG

Before BP ended I had noticed a ball that got hit to deep right field, hit the wall… and stayed there.  Can you see it?

stuck ball 1.JPG

How ’bout now?

stuck ball 2.JPG

It got stuck on the bottom of the scoreboard… I’d never seen that before.

Anyway, that was it for batting practice.  I was a bit frustrated… I didn’t even get anything at the O’s dugout.  So, I chatted with my group (who’d all arrived by that point) and we walked over and found a place to sit down over third base as the Angels came out to throw.

8.28 warmup 1.JPG
8.28 warmup 2.JPG

Peter Bourjos and Erick Aybar ended up with baseballs after they were done throwing… and when Bourjos threw his to someone a section away I turned my attention to Aybar.  Then, out of the corner of my eye I saw a baseball floating through the air.  I wasn’t hallucinating… no, remember that in a previous post I mentioned that Bourjos and Howie Kendrick like to end their warmups by throwing knuckleballs to each other?  Well, a knuckler came flying in toward me–I pivoted, threw my glove up, and caught it… and looked to the field (to my left) to see Howie Kendrick there–he must have had another baseball in his pocket.

howie kendrick ball 8.28.JPG

Another interesting mark.  Thanks, Howie!

I went back to the group again and we decided to watch the first inning or two from the seats we’d found, then get dinner, then head up to the view level (in potential foul ball seating).

I made an attempt to get a third out ball after the first inning but failed… and then we all grabbed our things, got some grub, and ended up here:

view level spot 8.28.JPG

I like these seats because: 1) I snagged my first foul ball just to the left of this section and 2) the row in front of me was empty and in front of that row is a camera well where no one sits.  It’s the most empty space around in the upper levels in Angel Stadium.

Well, to make a long story short, the Angels couldn’t score any runs… and the crowd was less than abuzz since the teams involved weren’t heading to the playoffs, and no foul ball came near us… though one ended up about two sections to my left.  The score was 5-0 Baltimore by the time they’d batted in the eighth.  At least we all got free candy jars as a giveaway item.

We moved down to the lower level:

terrace concourse panorama 8.28.jpg

And I went for a third out toss at the end of the eighth.  I made my way down near the Oriole dugout and when Alberto Callaspo grounded out to end the frame I stood up in my seat in the third row.  I’d been watching Ty Wigginton all night as Baltimore ran off the field: he wasn’t one of those first-basemen who tossed the ball to the front row… no, he threw the ball a bit deeper, and he seemed to be seeking fans that were on their feet.

Sure enough, I yelled out, “Ty!  Right here, man!  Ty!”  And Wigginton fired the ball to me in the third row as all the little kids filed down to the front.  It was a beautiful, rubbed-up gamer.  Thanks, Ty!

Well, that made my night right there.  I walked back to the group and sat down excitedly, then took a picture of my prize:

wigginton ball 8.28.JPG


The scoreboard told me there were over 43,000 fans at the game but by the ninth inning, down by five–most of them had left.  I tried to get something post-game from the O’s but didn’t succeed.

postgame 8.28.JPG

Oh, well… four baseballs, a candy jar, and a night with the family got me charged for the big move.

At home (our new home!), this is how the room looks as I organize my things after a game…

after a game organizing.JPG

Thanks for reading.

8/25/10 at Angel Stadium


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.

matt and david price 8.25.jpg

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.

walden signing.JPG

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.

rays chris.JPG

I ended
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
him again.

8.25 callaspo toss spot.JPG

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.

another look at field box seats.JPG

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…

longoria socks.JPG

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.

8.25 first inning view.jpg

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:

8.25 foul ball room to my left.JPG

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

8.25 view from pavilion.jpg

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.

fan hit by ball.JPG

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.

matt and reggie jackson jersey 2.jpg

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.”

late in the game 8.25.jpg

As a colleague said to me recently about the Angels, “They’re just so mediocre this year.”

All-Star Game: Day 5

This was it!  The big game.  This was the game fans in Southern California had been waiting for since it was announced.  The 81st Annual All-Star Game was going to be taking place and I would be there (with my lovely wife in tow).

The Home Plate Gate would open up at 2:00pm for the scheduled 5:00pm start time and we got to Anaheim at 12:45. 

By the time we parked and walked to the gates there were lines forming underneath each of the big hats outside the ballpark.
asg before the gates open 1.JPGWe
spotted Chris and Warren (with their guests/families) at the front of
one of the lines and they let us slide into line along with them.  Thanks, guys.  We chatted for a while to pass the time and noticed we’d be receiving another giveaway upon entering the stadium.  For the Futures Game and the Home Run Derby we got ticket-holding lanyards.  Today it looked like–yep–we’d be getting a drawstring backpack.  Nice!

I made sure Michelle made it in safely and then ran off to start the afternoon of snagging, knowing she’d catch up to me soon.  I
originally intended to start the day near the American League dugout
but when I ran out of through a Field Level tunnel I realized batting
practice was already underway!  Yikes–I quickly
sprinted up the steps and all the way around the park to the right field
seats to try to grab a commemorative 2010 All-Star baseball.  I’d
seen pictures of the baseballs and I said a little prayer during my run
out to the seats that they’d be in use during batting practice.  Once I arrived I knew the crowds would get pretty large very quickly.  I hoped to get on the board as soon as possible.

I spent minutes (that seemed like
hours) tracking the occasional home run and hovering over the stray
baseball that made it to the outfield.  Among the players shagging in the outfield was Jered Weaver, new ace of the Angels staff, and a late add to the All-Star team.  I
wasn’t the only one asking him for a ball as he fielded one eighteen
feet below the first row of seats… but I did have a glove on and I did
say, “Please.”

Whatever works.
asg baseball.JPGI was psyched!  It was a beautiful, red-and-blue-stitched, All-Star ball.  It had a scuff on one side and a grass stain below the logo but I didn’t care.  It was mine–and it had been thrown by an Angels player and I couldn’t have been happier to snag it. 

I celebrated the snag internally and kept my sights on each player as they hit in the cage.  Conveniently,
Angel Stadium put up the name of each star that was hitting as he took
his hacks in the cage so I knew exactly who launched all the baseballs
that I couldn’t quite get to… I mean, with all the power in the AL
lineup (and quite a few lefties hitting) I had my share of chances to
snag a batted ball.  I’d seen BP regular Devin
catch two homers on the fly: one when the seats were still relatively
empty and another once the crowd had grown.  Soon, there was little room to run.
asg bp crowd 1.JPGBP wasn’t as packed as the Home Run Derby the day before but it sure was tough to maneuver up in that pavilion.

I played the staircase separating Section 238 from Section 239 as the American League hitters continued their portion of BP.

This was my view:
asg bp view.jpgBeautiful!  Though, more specifically, this was really my view:
really my bp view.JPGPeople all around.  A lot of people let their guard down when a righty stepped into the cage.  I knew better–especially when a certain righty named Alex Rodriguez was smacking the ball all over the field.

A-Rod went deep.  And he went deep to right field… and the ball was heading my way.  I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy catch.  There
were fans all around me and the ball had a pretty high arc to it,
giving people time to get underneath it… I moved down a few steps, saw
the ball slicing toward my general vicinity, moved to my right into a
row of seats, and then I saw the hands, arms, and gloves closing in.  In
my peripheral vision I saw limbs closing in on the ball and, keeping my
eye on it I realized that I had probably moved down one step too far.  Literally a dozen fans were reaching in, wanting that A-Rod blast for themselves.  I
kept my eye on the ball as it fell and at the last moment I leaped up as
high as I could, outreaching the fans to my left and right…


I couldn’t see it but I knew I had the ball.  I felt it hit the pocket of my glove as five gloves smashed into my extended arm.  I came down from my jump and crouched down just enough to regain my balancing, pulling my glove in toward my chest.  I looked down, opened up my Mizuno and saw the pearl nestled safely inside.  Whew…

The ball was just a standard Selig baseball, which wasn’t great, but it was in near perfect condition.  There was just one tiny mark on it, where A-Rod’s bat smacked it.  I
got a few congratulatory compliments from nearby fans (including Devin)
and then, proud of my catch, I held up the ball triumphantly.  The best moment though, came twenty seconds later when I heard a voice behind me: “I guess I got here at the right time.”

I turned around and saw Michelle standing in the row right behind me.  She’d arrived at the tunnel above the right field seats just in time to see me make the catch.  It felt great knowing that she saw it and was proud that I’d managed such a difficult (and highly contested) snag.  It was a a pretty cool feeling!  She chatted with me for a minute and then decided to get out of the July sun–I’d meet up with her after BP.

When the AL finished hitting there was a gap of very little action on the field.  Did you notice the stage set out in center field in the panorama above?  Well, it was there so the teams could be photographed.
al team photo.JPGI just noticed this now… but Andy Pettitte and David Ortiz are wearing those shoes I tried on at FanFest.  Hmm.

The National Leaguers came out to the field to take their photo right after the AL was done.
nl pre photo.JPGA
lot of fans retreated to the shade of the concourse but I took the
opportunity to make my way into the front row of the pavilion, knowing
that with the growing crowds, my best bet to snag another commemorative
would be a toss up from a player.

A group of teenagers were on my left
and a pair of teenagers were on my right when BP resumed with the
National League players taking their cuts.  The kids on my left were friendly and the kids on my right were not.  When I had been standing at the front row for a couple of minutes one of the boys on my right asked if I could move.  I asked him why and he said I was in their seats.  I said, “Which ones are yours?”

“Fourteen and fifteen.”

I told him that I would, in that case, stand in the space directly in front of thirteen.  He told me that his whole family had seats nine through sixteen.  I told him that I would move when they arrived.  He grumbled something to his friend.

A short while later I saw Matt Capps
long-tossing right below me with some other player who was stationed
over by the right field line.  People to my left and right were asking for the ball.  I said, to the kids on my left, “He’s warming up… you have to wait until he’s finished.”  I knew what I was talking about–and when Capps finished (and his throws were getting shorter) I yelled out, “Hey, Matt!  My name’s Matt, too, and I’d love to get a ball from you, sir!”  Capps looked up, checked the baseball in his hand, then looked right up at me and tossed the ball straight up.

I reached out to snag it, extending both hands (it’s fundamentals, kids), and then I felt pressure on my right forearm.  One of the kids on my right was trying for the ball.  The kid to my left reached out with his glove but I was easily going to out reach him.  Then, disaster.  The
person to my left gripped my arm and pushed it down with a lot of
force… ordinarily not a big deal since I wear my glove on my left hand.  However, there was so much force behind the push that it shifted my frame a few inches down and to the right.

I watched the ball sail inches over my glove and past my left shoulder into the row behind me.  I desperately tried to grab it from the second row but it bounced away from me and a fan in the second row ended up with it. 
I was furious.  I knew what had happened… I spun to the teens on my right and stared at the two of them.  Frustrated, I said, “OK, which one of you guys pushed me?”  They both looked down at the railing in front of them. 

I asked again and, again, they stared straight down.  I turned my attention back to the field and said, “That’s not cool, guys.  You can’t just grab a guy’s arm like that.”  I was pretty pissed… but I was even more determined to snag another ball at that point.

Like, if they had accidentally bumped me, OK, I’d be all right with it.  But this was intentional snag sabotage.  Not cool at all.

The kid nearest to me got out his
phone, texted someone, and two minutes later a taller person showed up
right behind these kids (an older cousin, I found out), and asked me to
move from his family’s seats.  I asked what ticket he had.  He showed it to me.  He had seat nine… remember, I was in the space directly in front of thirteen.  I told him he should tell the kids on my left to move out of his seat then.

Long story short, the older cousin ended up leaving because he understood the situation.  He had no more right to that seat during BP than I did.  And he knew his younger cousin was a whiner (and told him so).  And
I would snag my third ball on the day from Hong-Chih Kuo shortly after
that by asking him in Korean for it (thanks, Zack Hample).  When I caught it, I saw it was commemorative and then showed it to the kids on my right.

“Wow, a special All-Star baseball, cool!”  Then
I left the row, telling the kids on my left that they should crowd over
toward that pair of kids to the right if they wanted to… they did,

Next, I made my way down to the Field
Level seats, snuck as near to the NL dugout as I could, and watched the
players run in from the field.  I saw one baseball get tossed but not anywhere near me.  However,
fan-friendly Heath Bell walked to the bucket of baseballs and ended up
tossing roughly a dozen into the crowd including two to the Club Level
and two to the upper deck.  Sadly, none came to me, but it was still pretty cool to witness, well, that type of coolness from Heath in person.

I met up with Michelle after that and only then got a sense of how truly crowded the stadium would be.  The concourses were FULL of fans–and the seats were filling up throughout the stadium.  We grabbed food and found our seats.  The same seats we’d had for each of the All-Star events… this was out first time going anywhere near them:

It turned out that they were in the sun.  Bleh.
asg our seats panorama.jpgI didn’t crop this photo so you could see all the fans that had already arrived.  Also, down in the bottom-right corner you can see a line of people holding a giant American flag for the opening ceremony.

found comparable seats on the shaded (third base) side of the stadium
and took in the opening ceremonies after saying hello to a friend of
ours who also was at the game with his dad.  I took this photo as we walked behind home plate:
asg pregame ceremony panorama.jpgHere’s where we sat for the first few innings:
asg pregame outfield panorama.jpgThe ceremony was great.  Very
classy, and included a moment of silence for Bob Sheppard and George
Steinbrenner as well as an introduction of each of the thirty “All-Stars
Among Us.”  And one of the cast members from GLEE sang the anthem–but they were having sound issues within the stadium.  Did it sound all right on TV?  There had been sound issues on Sunday and Monday, too.

I was totally thrilled to be watching an All-Star Game!  We were far from the action but the environment was great!
asg confetti panorama 2.jpgConfetti!  It was electric in Angel Stadium, with fans from all over the world cheering on their favorite teams and players.  Although, the confetti seemed to halt Ubaldo’s warm up throws for a few minutes…
ubaldo warmup confetti.JPGThe two starters, Jimenez and David Price, began the game fantastically, each pitching two shutout innings.  We had a great view of who would be coming into the game for each team:
pettitte warmup.JPGjohnson warmup.JPGThe game was tense throughout.  I could tell early on that the game would be a pretty low-scoring affair.  Each team’s pitchers would dominate the game… and it helped that Ryan Braun made an outstanding catch in the middle innings.  And, did you know that Cliff Lee only threw six pitches to retire the side in order in the fourth?

Before the fifth inning started I told Michelle, “I think this is the inning where we [the AL] score.  Sure enough, the AL scored a run without a hit in the fifth.  Evan
Longoria, video game extraordinaire, lead off with a walk, then Kuo
made a throwing error on Joe Mauer’s dribbler and Robinson Cano hit a
sacrifice fly to cash in Longoria.  Unfortunately, that would be the American League’s only run of the game.  The
only National League offense to speak of came in the seventh when Matt
Thornton allowed a bases-clearing double to Brian McCann.  To his credit, Marlon Byrd kept the inning alive with a walk while McCann was on deck.
asg sunset our seats panorama.jpgMichelle and I had moved to our actual seats by this point… they were now shaded.  It was just before Byrd’s at bat that I began questioning Joe Girardi’s management choices.  I would have let Phil Hughes face Byrd, then, if needed, brought in Thornton.  Oh, well.  The
NL scored three runs–that was all they needed and, though the AL tried
to rally in the ninth, Byrd made a great play to get David Ortiz at
second base.  Why wasn’t A-Rod in the game to run for Ortiz?  Or, why didn’t A-Rod hit for somebody?  Oh, well… again.
asg night field level.jpgFor the ninth, we were down on the Field Level, hoping for an AL comeback.  I left Michelle for the last half of the inning and I managed to get in a great position for a toss at the end of the game.
broxton save.JPGgonzalez ortiz 9th.JPGJohn Buck stepped up to the plate…
buck at bat.JPGAnd Ian Kinsler smacked a ball into the right-center field gap that hung up just a bit too long. 
kinsler final out.JPGAnd when the NL wrapped it up I was right above the dugout, first row, and I did everything I could to get a player to toss a ball up… but no one did.  Jonathan Broxton was interviewed while the final out ball rested in his glove.
broxton final out.JPGHe kept it (I figured he would) and that was it for toss-up possibilities.  It was okay though.  I had really enjoyed the game.

It was exciting, quick (just under three hours), and fun.  Michelle met up with me on the concourse as the crowds cleared out.  She’s really starting to like baseball at this point, which is pretty darn cool.  We talked about all the great stuff we’d seen in the past few days as we headed out the gates.  Before we went to the car though, we got a picture together out in front of the ballpark:
m and m post game.JPGI’m holding up the Weaver baseball there.  But here’s a better shot of all three of my snags from the ASG:
three asg balls.JPGOh, and I asked Michelle to take one more photo before we left the stadium…
matt post asg.JPGI guess you could say I was a bit excited.  I knew I’d probably never get to have
such an intense and all-encompassing All-Star experience ever again, so we lingered at the
Sponsor Zone for a bit and watch the crowds leave the park.  My
feet were aching, I was tired, but it was hard to leave the party,
knowing the city of Anaheim wouldn’t see anything like it for quite

Luckily, the Angels would be home from a
road trip on Thursday and I had received free tickets to that game… I’d
get to come back (to a less crowded stadium) pretty soon.

Playing on the Field in Anaheim

Back at the beginning of November I read a little press release on the Angels’ website.  Basically, the groundskeepers hold a canned food drive on the weekend before Thanksgiving each year and 2009 would be their 9th annual food drive partnering with Second Harvest Food Bank.  At the time I wasn’t sure if I could make it due to my school schedule.  But, fast-forward two weeks and my schedule was remarkably free on the Friday before Turkey Day so Michelle and I rooted through our cabinets, stopped at the store to purchase additional canned goods, then drove to Angel Stadium.  We arrived a little after 10:00am and were pleasantly surprised to see there weren’t a million cars in the parking lot.
checkin table.JPGWe dropped off our cans at a check-in table, seen above from right behind it, and I donated an additional five dollars, too.  The deal was that you could take batting practice based on your donation.  It worked out that every two cans equaled one pitch in the cage.  Plus, you could shag fly balls and throw in the bullpen!  How did I not know about this sooner in my life?!?  I opted for three pitches in the bullpen and ten pitches in the cage against a pitching machine.  I took my tickets and we headed toward the concourse.  As we went through the tunnel and onto the Field Level of seats, this was our view:
entering the field level cropped small.jpgTotally awesome!  Like, literally, awesome… I was in awe.  There they were, ordinary fans totally allowed to run around on a big league field!  We hurried down the aisle to the front row and into the special box seats that are right on the field.
wave from suite seats.JPGAt this point I parted ways with Michelle (she was going to hang out and take pictures) and went toward the half-open gate that led onto the warning track.

Everyone who was going to hit had been assigned a number.  Mine was 129.  I got to the gate leading to the field and hesitated.  Could I just head out there?  Did I need to wait to be called?  I had no idea what the protocol was.  I asked a guy nearby if he knew what number they were on and he told me, “About eighty or so.”  Well, considering everyone hitting could get up to 20 pitches I figured I had some time… so I just walked out onto the field.
first steps on the field.JPGtouching the grass.JPGI stepped on the dirt, made it a few steps further to the grass.  I’d never touched the grass at Angel Stadium before.  I kept walking, my backpack still on my shoulders, praying nobody would tell me I had to go back to the stands and wait.  I kept going, made it out to left field, turned around and looked back at home plate, and stopped.  Wow.

baseline checkin.JPGIt was incredible!  The last time I’d been down to the field was in the early nineties when I got to march around the warning track on Little League Day… even then there was a rope set up to keep us off the grass.  I looked back at my wife, already snapping pictures from the front row of seats, and waved.  Then I looked around.  People young and old were all over the field just enjoying being there.  Every now and then a ball would get hit to someone and they’d make a play on it (or, at least try) then throw the ball to one of the buckets.  I had been there for ten minutes and I realized I still had my backpack on.  I ran over to the wall near the tarp and set it down, then waved to Michelle again and headed back out, anxious to field a ball.
matt running.JPG“Well, now I just have to catch one.”  I knew well-enough to stay in left field since almost everyone hitting was a righty.  Eventually somebody hit a lazy fly ball that was falling fast in front of me.  I ran forward, got under it, fought the morning sun and caught it.  It was a great feeling.  I’d just caught a fly ball on the field at my favorite ballpark.  My primary thought had been, “Don’t drop it,” and after it had settled into my glove I was simply thankful.  Then another one came… this one a liner.
catching line drive.JPGI caught that one, too… I’m happy to say I played error-free baseball that morning.  For about an hour I stood out on the field, basically staying in left, running toward anything close to me.  I was incredibly glad that we’d come on the Friday… at a time when most people were at work or school.  I was sure that Saturday and Sunday would be three times as busy.  If I had to guess I’d say there were about 200 people at the field at any given time.  Every fifteen minutes or so I
would run back to Michelle and check to see where they were number-wise.  It was so much fun!  She took a lot of photos.
tracking a pop up.JPGThe sun got to be pretty tough but I ended up catching quite a few balls and even fielded a few grounders that managed to get through the infield.  At one point a lefty hit a home run into the corner in right field.  It was the first one that had been hit and the only one I saw the whole time I was there.  He got a round of applause as he finished his hacks.

It was taking quite a while to get to my number but I didn’t care… I was having a great time!  Even when I had nothing to do because the person in the cage wasn’t making contact I was simply glad to be there.
waiting.JPGThe first ball that got hit to me was a little league type of ball and was kind of spongey.  But each one I caught after that was actually an official MLB ball.  I showed Michelle:
they used romlb.JPGI kept running around, trying to get anything nearby while making sure not to cut anyone ofcaught one.JPGf:
running toward a foul ball.JPGAs the buckets got transferred and people in the infield shagged up the
baseballs I pulled one I’d hung onto out of my pocket and played catch
with the person closest to me at that moment:
catch with a kid.JPGAt one point a few little kids started to hit and I moved into the infield, right around second base, to field grounders.  When the kids weren’t making contact a guy who’d taken over first base threw us warmup grounders around the infield, too.
infield.JPGinfield wave.JPGI saw people of all ages–grandfathers down to two year-olds–and they were all having a wonderful time!  What a fantastic community event!
cheering on the field.JPGI made sure not to overexert myself since I’d be hitting eventually.  I took a couple of breaks for just a moment or two.  There’s nothing quite like the perfectly manicured grass of a big league field:
take a knee.JPGrelaxing.JPGFinally, at one of my routine check-ins over on the third base line I got the OK that they were ready for numbers 120 through 130.  YES!!!
behind the cage.JPGMichelle walked with me up to the shade behind the batting cage.
michelle behind cage.JPGpicked out a helmet.JPGI had about fifteen minutes to get ready so I picked out a bat and helmet.  Then I practiced my swing, tried to get the timing of the pitching machine (it looked to be going at about 60-70mph), and took a bunch of pictures.  I was pretty much just hoping to not embarrass myself.  “Gosh, what if I get up there and swing and miss ten times?”  I got pretty nervous.
batting stance.JPG

Right before it was my turn Michelle headed
over to the first base side so she could get some pictures of me hitting.  As I was on deck I watched the guy ahead of me rocket a couple deep to the outfield  After he hit we had to “shag ’em up” so I helped with that.  Then it was my chance to hit.
inside the cage 1.JPGinside the cage 2.JPGBefore I go on let me just say that I have no idea how a baseball player catches up to a 95mph fastball.  Also, it’s hard to hit off a pitching machine, but I won’t make any excuses.  I certainly would love to tell you that I hit a home run.
taking bp 2.JPG
But that would be a lie.  As a matter of fact, I didn’t even hit a double.  I think two of the balls I hit would have been singles.  I certainly made good contact but I couldn’t elevate anything.  I hit a couple line drives, a couple grounders, and a couple bloops that were gobbled up by infielders.  I pulled everything, of course.  And, as it turns out I did miss about half of the pitches entirely.  Bah.  But it was still one of the most fun things I’ve ever done at the ballpark.  And after I hit (and Michelle had been allowed to take photos from right behind the pitching screen) I checked out my stance and my facial expression in the pictures.  Ridiculous!

fly ball machine.JPGMichelle and I took a walk after that, starting at first base and heading all the way around the warning track through the outfield.  The first thing I spotted was a fly ball machine that had been used earlier in the day for people that wanted to pay twenty-five bucks to have someone shoot fly balls at them for fifteen minutes.  Can you spot the AFL ball?

18 foot wall.JPGNext we headed into right field.  I’d never seen that eighteen-foot wall from this side before.  That’s a big ol’ wall.
m and m at mural 1.JPGWe made our way to the Division Title banner and the Nick Adenhart mural and a family out there taking pictures was kind enough to snap one of us, too.

As we continued I snuck a peak behind the open center field gate.  This was after I experimented with whether or not I’d be able to rob someone of a home run.
leap at the wall 1.JPGleap at the wall 2.JPGMy analysis: Yes.  I could.

As we headed to left field we walked into the tunnel where the bullpens are located.  I went up the steps and saw the guy in front of me finish throwing.
angels bullpen.JPGwindup.JPGwaving in bullpen.JPGI had a coupon to give the groundskeeper that allowed me three pitches.  He said I could just throw a few to get warmed up, then he got a call on his cell phone and left the bucket of baseballs near my feet.  Michelle snapped photos as I threw a few (the second one sailed over the net entirely (oops!).  But then I settled down and threw a series of 60mph fastballs for strikes.

windup 2.JPGThen I tried to ramp it up a bit and as I increased my velocity my accuracy went out the window.  Oh, well.  I guess I’d be primarily known for my defensive prowess were I a professional ballplayer.  At least, that’s what I tell myself.  I threw the whole bucket of baseballs (there wasn’t anyone else waiting) and then thanked the grounds crew guys before leaving the bullpen.

Our adventure on the playing field was pretty much done at this point.  I took a couple more pictures from where I’d been standing in left field earlier in the day and then Michelle and I walked past the dugout and up into the seats.
standing on the field panorama cropped small.jpgHonestly, I would’ve stayed there until they closed for the day at 4:00pm but we had a few errands to run and I had a show to stage manage that evening.  Man, it was a ton of fun and as we left I told Michelle, “We’re definitely coming back next year.”  I checked my watch and it was 12:30pm.  We’d spent more than two hours there and it had only cost us ten bucks (and that was donated to a great charity).  As we were leaving Michelle mentioned she’d taken a video that she knew I’d enjoy watching.  I put it on YouTube.  What a cool event–and an awesomely good time!