You may have heard about a little shindig. Each year (starting last year) there’s a gathering of ballhawks at a Major League stadium known as BallhawkFest. It’s more than just a bunch of folks who like to collect baseballs going to the same game though… it’s a whole day/night of activities! This year, there will be two incarnations of this event. Last year, in its inaugural form, BallhawkFest took place at Camden Yards on July 23rd. This year, a different East Coast venue has been chosen… PNC Park (on June 9th).
But… after last year’s success and the interest of a bunch of people out here on the West Coast, Alan Schuster approached me with the following question: “Would you be interested in helping to put together a West Coast version?” I was all over it–through a poll of some local ballhawks and discussions between Alan and I we established a date. The first incarnation of BallhawkFest to hit California will take place at Angel Stadium on July 28th, 2012!
You can comment on here for more information or send me a direct e-mail. Like last year’s festivities in Baltimore, there will be a baseball/softball game in the late morning, a luncheon at a local restaurant, and of course a huge afternoon/night of ballhawking. The Angels/Rays game that night starts at 6:05pm… so the gates will open at 4:00pm and we’ll be there.
And we’re planning on T-shirts… similar to those used at last year’s festivities! If you want to help plan, donate a raffle item, provide gear for the softball game, or help out in any way–just get in touch with me. Last year’s event in Baltimore had about a dozen participants… I’m hoping for that many (or more) out here in California!
And if you’re planning on coming–get your tickets to the game ASAP… there’s a post-game concert that night after the game ends (Goo Goo Dolls, anyone?) so there’s going to be a sizable crowd.
Show some love in the comments section. Are you coming? Get ready for a day of friends from far and near and a whole lot of baseball snagging!
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.
Today would be a busy, long day. It started out fine… the middle was less than ideal… and the end was, overall, quite good.
woke up at 7:00am, saw Michelle off to work, got ready, then headed to
Anaheim. Michelle would be meeting me at the stadium for the Derby
later that evening. I arrived at the Anaheim Convention Center for my
third (and final) time, sold some extra tickets that I had to a guy that
contacted me through Craigslist, and headed inside.
thing I did? Headed to an autograph line… I stopped to buy a baseball
card for Fred Lynn to sign (sure, I’d gotten him before) because he’d be
signing in the same booth at the same time as Hall of Famer, Rickey
Obviously, I wasn’t the only one excited to get Rickey’s autograph:
was at 9:20am. He would begin signing at 10:00am. Normally, I
wouldn’t wait this long for an autograph but I had done everything else
there was to do at FanFest so I sat down and waited for the queue to
About the time I was twenty or so minutes from the
front of the line I overheard a FanFest staff member telling some people
toward the front that, “Rickey isn’t signing baseballs.”
was the collective thought of everyone in line. A few minutes later
(and after I’d seen Rickey on a cell phone while signing) the same staff
member said to a guy nearby, “Now he’s not signing hats or baseballs or
People were getting all sorts of
anxious… as it turns out, the official explanation was that Rickey’s
management informed him that he was not to sign anything that wasn’t
specifically FanFest-related. It was lame. I had planned to get him on
a card… I got him on my commemorative FanFest ticket instead. A lot of people were pretty upset about the situation. Not
ideal… but I’m over it.
After that semi-fiasco I decided to see
if I could get a pin… they had special pin giveaways throughout the
days at FanFest. I’d gotten a couple already–I scored my third on this
They only gave out 100 per location… at this point in the line I was about number eighty-eight. They’d started giving out numbered cards to people since the last time I’d tried to receive one of those pins. I was glad to see that they had made an effort to keep people from cutting in–people go crazy for pins. Jeez.
Next up, I went to play some video games:
And Evan Longoria was at the 2KSports booth playing the game sporting his likeness on the cover. That was kind of cool–apparently I’d just missed Joe Mauer over at the PS3 truck.
I played some Home Run Derby, didn’t break the day’s record, then headed to the exit, taking a few photos on my way out:
There’s the MLB.com stage. And here’s just one of the concourse areas:
And a last look at the exit/entrance…
I was off to the REAL HRD…
got to the stadium early. Like, the gates were set to open at 2:00 and
I got there an hour before that. I walked past the train station that
shares a parking lot with the stadium and did a double-take when I saw
these stairs (at right) heading to the platform.
There were a ton of media
trucks taking up a portion of the parking lot so I took the loooonnng
way around the ballpark and got in line. No wonder so many people had trouble parking… half the lot was taken up my media trailers and satellite trucks and a big fenced off area for guests of the All-Star players… plus the sponsor zone. That was all in the parking lot! Anyway, I got in line. Not a lot to say about it–I
just stood in line for an hour. I had a plan–BP wouldn’t be going on
until a half hour after the gates opened so I would get as close to the
AL dugout as I could… and wait.
After seventeen minutes the American League All-Star team made it out onto the field:
Tiny, broken-footed Dustin Pedroia was there, too:
Look how little that guy is! Holy cow–and he’s a great baseball player.
As BP started up I headed toward the outfield. Note the crowd in any/all of the outfield sections:
American League finished up and I was behind their dugout as they came
off the field. But they came off the field to a huge media presence.
So, nobody had a baseball to spare by the time they made it into the
The National League started up and it was back to the outfield for me.
was no room to move anywhere… and by the end of BP I had positioned
myself near some of the adorable children of the players (since they
were tossing baseballs into the seats with regularity).
they were so small that they never got a ball over the first row–and I
wasn’t able to be in the first row. Frustrating.
I had a couple close calls but ended BP still sitting on a goose egg for the day.
Before Train performed a song and a half on these trailers:
was behind the dugout while some guy with a jersey that said Holland
was warming up his arm. He would be throwing to one of the HRD participants… I totally thought he was going to throw me the ball–he
looked right at me–but he kept it.
That was a theme on the day. Most
people over the age of four were keeping any HRD ball they came in
contact with. Dang.
On to the Derby itself. There were six batters hitting right-handed… I had this view for them:
case you’re wondering… I was about 460 feet from home plate. During a
game–no way would a homer reach me but I had a shot at the HRD. I was
in front of/underneath the Hit It Here sign in left… but nobody hit it
there… or to me. If Matt Holliday’s 497-foot blast had been about
twenty feet closer to center field I’d have nabbed it. Instead, it hit
the edge of the Club Level seats. I was the only one standing out on
the concourse (who wasn’t drunk) with a glove. If anything HAD come
near me I’m sure I’d have gotten it. Alas, I couldn’t get down into the
seats since the ushers were guarding each staircase.
For the two
lefties (Ortiz and Swisher) I had a bit more opportunity. An usher out
in right field let me play the staircase near them.
That was about 420 feet from home plate. I was at least
fortunate in that David Ortiz was a participant in each round (and that
he won the Derby). The closest I got was… I’ll say ten feet from one
of his blasts. In watching the highlights afterward I was able to see
myself in the mix for a ball… but I was still shutout for the day.
had arrived (after dealing with the awful parking situation) halfway
through the first round and we ate dinner together in the outfield.
the end of the action she was very supportive of me trying to snag at
least one ball… letting me run wild while telling me she’d just wait
for my phone call at the end of the event and we’d meet up.
behind the AL dugout yet again… so were Warren and Chris (who I’d
seen at the gates on our way into the park). We all had the same goal:
get a ball as the players came off the field. Well, I got taunted by
Adrian Beltre’s daughter (who was, like, four years old) as she held a
gold HRD ball out to me from the field, then pulled it back and shook
her head. The media had attacked all the players and when the dust
settled I was still empty -handed. However, I struck up a conversation
with a lady who worked with/for one of the sponsors. It had been a
long, hot day… and I didn’t go home without snagging something:
Yep… that was the most delicious Gatorade I’d ever had.
Michelle and I still had a great time. The HRD was exciting and crowded
and the energy was high. The in-between rounds interviews were cool
and it was fun trying for a homer. We stopped briefly at the sponsor
zone–but decided to head out. We walked to my car and then I drove
Michelle to hers. We were home by 9:00pm…
All-Star Tuesday was coming up. The big event: the 2010 All-Star Game.
Thanks for reading!
I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get this entry up… boy, being sick is no fun.
After watching an awesome victory by the Halos on Thursday night I found myself heading back out to the park on Friday at about 3:00pm. Tonight’s matchup would be Jered Weaver vs. Josh Beckett and it was sure to be another sellout crowd. When I got to the Home Plate Gate I was first in line and I had about 45 minutes to kill… and before the gates opened there was another hearty crowd on hand:
I ran in, ignored the thunder sticks a worker tried to hand me, and made a beeline for the pavilion. With righties starting, there were sure to be some left-handed hitters knocking some balls out. I was out there first along with an older dude–we got to the seats at the same time but there were no Easter eggs to be found.
After a few minutes though, Kendry Morales smacked a pitch high and deep. It made it to the seats but I wasn’t quite in a position to catch it. I had moved to my left… but it was coming in a bit low. I leaned as far down and to the left as I could but it hit off the seats just below my glove. Luckily, the ball didn’t take a crazy bounce and I was able to nab it from the ground. Rob had come charging over and I heard him say, “Dang! Where’s my lucky ricochet?” with a grin on his face. I was thrilled that the bounce was lucky for me and not Rob–this was my 150th baseball. I wrote a nice 150 on it to commemorate the occasion. Rob congratulated me. It was a successful night, as far as personal goals were concerned.
Here’s what the stands looked like after that first snag of the day:
It filled up soon after. And it was just like the day before: not much space to maneuver. I adjusted my positioning based on the batters that were up but as the Angels finished I was stuck at just one baseball snagged. Though I got close to a few Red Sox homers—I was still at just one baseball as they began to wrap up BP.
I made it down to the field level and got to the dugout as the players headed off the field. As he headed into the dugout, I got my second (and final) ball of the day from Clay Buchholz. He threw it right to me in the third row. Nice–I’d doubled my playoff record. From one to two. Woo!
After that I decided to head over to the Angels’ side of the stadium as the players came out to warm up:
The players didn’t throw any balls into the stands but it was cooler than wandering aimlessly–after the Angels warmed up I went over to the visitor’s side:
Once the game started I got to hang out for a little while on the Field Level:
Then the seatholders started showing up. I decided to head up to the View Level… where my seats for both nights actually were. I started deep in left field:
And made my way behind home plate to the other side:
And finally, out to where my actual seat was located:
I sat there for exactly one half-inning. Bleh. Then it was time to continue my tour:
I’d been around this ballpark a hundred times, but never during the playoffs. There’s just a different energy. Normally the fans in Anaheim are very mellow and laid-back… I’m sure most Angel fans at the games come off as indifferent. That’s my perspective, anyway. But in the postseason there’s an energy that’s just simply wonderful to be a part of.
The pitching matchup, again, was intense. Weaver and Beckett were locked in a great duel. Each club put a single run on the board in the fourth. It was 1-1 going into the bottom of the seventh inning. Then the Angels put the game away. Maicer Izturis knocked in Howie Kendrick (running for Vladdy) and then Mike Napoli got hit by a pitch. With two men on Erick Aybar smashed a triple into the gap in right-center.
The place went nuts. Fans rejoiced:
It was 4-1 Angels at that point and that knocked Beckett out of the game:
And I managed to snag a seat behind the dugout (shown on the right) for the conclusion of the game.
Weaver pitched seven and a third innings and struck out seven. He yielded to Darren Oliver, and then Kevin Jepsen got the last out of the eighth and the first of the ninth. It was great! Scioscia made the call, with one out in the ninth, for his closer to come in and finish it.
Brian Fuentes came in–and though he made it pretty tense in that stadium (David Ortiz up to bat as the tying run), he nailed down the save. The crowd had been on their feet for, what seemed like, the last hour of the game:
It was a 4-1 victory and a two games to none series lead for the Angels! Two games, two consecutive nights, two wins for my team. It had been a great playoff experience!
After the game I hung out as long as the ushers let me, then grabbed some ticket stubs and found my way out to the main gate. I took a seat next to the Nick Adenhart memorial and just sat there and watched the people walk by for a few minutes:
It was somber. Fans left their ticket stubs with little notes to Nick on the mound. After a little while I made the trek to my car and home for the evening, two baseballs nestled safely in my backpack:
The Angels would head out to Boston to wrap up the series. Sweeping the Red Sox felt good–even though I was sick on Sunday morning when they won it. It was time to bring on the Yankees. Dun-DUN-DUHNN!!
What a gloomy title…
Rain and snow will soon fall in parts of SoCal and the Angels will not add a second championship flag to their stadium. There’s always next year.
Had you asked me what teams would make the playoffs at the start of the year my predictions would have gone like this:
NL West – Dodgers
NL Central – Cubs
NL East – Phillies
NL Wild Card – Mets
AL West – Angels
AL Central – White Sox
AL East – Red Sox
AL Wild Card – Yankees
Not bad predictions, right? I mean, who thought the Rays would be that good? Who knew the Yankees would get that hurt? And who knew the Mets would collapse like that… again?
Once the eight teams were decided, I really hoped for a Freeway Series… that would’ve been great! Alas, it wasn’t in the cards. Not even ManRam and/or Big Tex could help the SoCal teams into the World Series. The NLCS… I didn’t care. The Cubs would’ve been fun to watch… and I don’t like the Dodgers. Brewers? Meh… Phillies? “Okay,” I thought. Sure.
The AL playoff race… man. I had to leave my apartment after Aybar couldn’t get that bunt down and the Red Sox won that series in four. Ugh. Then I had to choose between rooting for the team that had eliminated my Halos or the team that had manhandled them throughout the regular season. Well, the Red Sox had opened a fresh wound so I was all about the Rays–funny how if you drop “Devil” from your name and change your logo to a flash of light, you win baseball games–and their youthful team. As my friend, Josh, would say, “You get that many draft picks and you’re bound to be good eventually.” They were the underdogs; this year’s baseball Cinderella story.
It wouldn’t be a happy ending for the boys from St. Pete. In the end the Phillies had better pitching, more homers, and the experience necessary to hold down Joe Maddon and his kids.
I was satisfied. Nothing more, nothing less.
Now that the playoffs and World Series are over I can let out all the “whoas” that have been lounging around inside me with regard to the end of the baseball season.
I went to quite a few games this year! Roughly twenty… though I really am too tired to look that statistic up right now. I bet I could figure it out. Living in Orange County makes it easy to hit up Angels games. Currently, I live closer to their stadium than I ever have and it feels good to be just a fifteen minute drive from your favorite ballpark. I also visited some new parks this year. Michelle and I watched a game at U.S. Cellular Field and went on a walking tour of Wrigley Field while we were in Chicago… the Cubs were out of town at the time. This is in addition to the one Padres game, two Dodgers games, and many Angels games I saw this year. I watched a lot of baseball and I had some fun times at the stadiums.
I took up a collection of baseballs. The end of the ’08 season finds me with twenty-eight baseballs. At the start of the season my collection was still in single digits! My goal for next year: thirty baseballs! I plan to attend more Angels games (and see the other SoCal teams, should my schedule allow) and I’ll be taking my first ever trip to a certain park in Missouri where a certain team, affectionately called the Redbirds, plays. August… I’m hoping for a leftover All-Star ball. We’ll see…
It’s weird to not be able to see the diving catches and home runs on ESPN when I come home. Now there’s all this talk of this other game where you bounce a ball… and one where people get tackled. Whatever.
Some baseball highlights in the life of Matt from 2008:
- Getting a behind the scenes tour of Angel Stadium
- Seeing baseball in Chicago with Michelle
- Snagging seven baseballs in one game in Anaheim
- Meeting (and getting the autograph of) Zack Hample at Dodger Stadium
- Watching Karl snag his first-ever baseball at PETCO Park
I’m stage managing a play right now and there’s a line in it: “What’ll we do ’til spring?”
Hmm… good question. I’ve got school to keep me busy… so, so busy. Plus, I’ve got Michelle! We’ve got a wedding to plan. Things are good… things are very good.