I knew my wife would have to be at work during this game so I made plans with my friend, Josh to head out to see the Angels play the A’s on a Friday night.
You might remember Josh if you’ve been reading this blog for a while. He’s been to a couple games at Dodger Stadium with me (on 9/2/08, 5/2/09, and 9/18/09)… but we’d never been to Angel Stadium together before. It turned out to be a pretty cool night.
After lunch with Michelle we played video games at my apartment before leaving for Anaheim at about four o’clock. We parked, walked to the Home Plate Gate, saw BP regular, Terry there (and he let us stand at the front of the line with him), and we waited for the stadium to open. About this time, I heard a voice say, “Are you Matt?”
“Yes.” I looked and saw a boy of about thirteen to my left. He said, “I read your blog.” I said, “Cool! What’s your name?”
His name’s Kevin and he was there with his dad. He’s left some comments on this blog as m_kemp_27. He’s a nice kid and would end up snagging a few baseballs of his own on the night.
I told Josh, “Now, I’m gonna run in to left field.” He said he’d run with me but when the gates opened he lagged behind and I kept going. As it turns out, I would snag two baseballs before he even got there… he stopped to use the restroom.
BP was fully underway and here was my view:
When Josh walked down the steps toward me near the foul pole I tossed him the ball I had just plucked off the dirt. It had been hit by some Angel batting from the right side… most were… as today they’d be facing a lefty.
It had the following imprint, likely from the bat used to hit it. Any ideas?
But I’m getting ahead of myself. I mentioned that I’d snagged two by the time Josh got there… well, as soon as I made it to the seating bowl I looked for any baseballs hiding in the stands. None were to be found… but as I set my backpack down to get my camera Bobby Abreu hit a ball that sliced foul and into the seats.
The ball was two sections over to my right–but I got a great jump on the ball and it was only me and one other guy going for it. He was running left from near the infield and I was running right from near the pole. We got to the ball at the same time and closed in on it from either side. Luckily, it was still rolling and I know that at Angel Stadium baseballs will trickle down row after row. So, while he positioned himself in the row the ball was in at the time we arrived, I positioned myself two rows closer to the field… the ball rolled right to me. And that was number one on the day… and you know about Ball #2.
A few minutes later, Ervin Santana fielded a ball near the warning track. I moved to my left and called out to him and he tossed it right to me. Ball #3 and Ball #185 of my lifetime.
At about this point I told Josh, “Wow… three from the Angels. You’re like a good luck charm, dude.” He hadn’t snagged a ball but that’s not really his thing anyway… he was enjoying the shade and the relaxing atmosphere.
I told him I was going to head over to right field when the A’s came out to hit. He said something about not wanting to be in the sun–but he came with me anyway–and we headed down toward the the opposite side of the stadium:
Kevin’s in the above photo near the foul pole wearing the green hat and shirt with a 2 on the back. I was able to scoop a ball off the warning track a few minutes later that had been hit by a right-handed batter on the A’s. I ran to my right, jumped up on the wall at the right moment, and made the snag.
About this time I saw Kevin again… he asked if he could hang out with me for a bit and learn some tips… I told him, “Sure, man,” and then I talked to him for a while and told him about heading to the dugout at the end of BP.
Well, Kevin got a ball a little while later. I ran to the dugout and got Ball #5 from a trainer as the A’s headed off the field. Kevin was nearby and he and his dad decided they would sit behind the dugout until they got kicked out. I left to regroup with Josh. We watched Mr. Perfect, Dallas Braden, warm up. He’d be pitching against Joe Saunders… both of them wear 51… weird.
And when the A’s came out to play catch I headed back to the dugout. There, I got former Cub Jake Fox to toss me my sixth ball of the day.
Now, I should mention that my personal record of baseballs snagged at one game is seven. I’ve done it four times… at three different stadiums (Angel Stadium, PETCO Park, and Citi Field)… but I’d never cracked seven.
Also, each inning I’d try for a third out toss from the A’s at there dugout. One time when I headed over there I saw Kevin… he’d snagged at least two baseballs at that point in the evening and I helped him figure out who had thrown him one before the game.
In the bottom of the fifth inning with two outs, Brandon Wood popped out to Daric Barton at first base. I was about six rows behind the dugout and as a bunch of little kids rushed down to the bottom of the steps I simply stood up and waved my arms. “Daric, right here!” I shouted. And as he jogged in, Barton tossed me my seventh b
aseball. I looked down at it and was disappointed. Why? Because he had switched the actual game ball with the infield warmup ball he’d used. First basemen do that sometimes… I have no idea why. But my disappointment lasted only a moment, as I had again tied my record. It was only the sixth inning and I knew I had to try to snag one more ball before the night was over. I kept hoping for a foul ball and a few came close over the closing innings.
In the ninth, Josh and I moved nearer to the visiting team’s dugout.
The game had been great up to that point. It was a good BP, we were talking about baseball the whole night, the Angels were winning 4-0, we’d seen some excellent defensive plays, and Joe Saunders was staying in to pitch the final frame.
I will happily say that I have now been present for both of Joe Saunders’ complete game shutouts in his career (he threw one last season against the Royals and Zack Greinke). The Angels won it, four to nothing, and I was in a great mood. I was still stuck at “lucky number seven” though.
Now, we were behind the A’s dugout at the end of the game because the Angels dugout is super-crowded after a home win. Plus, there were fireworks coming up and the game had been fast… about two hours and fifteen minutes. So, I took a chance and trotted down to the dugout as the A’s came off the field. As expected, none of the players wanted to thrown anything up. They silently trudged down the steps and into the dugout… one bullpen pitcher tossed a ball ten rows behind me. And that was it… they were gone.
But right as I was about to leave a kid in A’s gear appeared in the dugout. I wondered if he was the same kid I’d seen last season on the field shagging BP balls. Anyway, he had a ball in his hand he was planning to throw to the crowd. I was the only one in an A’s hat and I thought it was a sure thing. This’ll be number eight! But he started to walk away… saw a young Angels fan a little further down the dugout and said to the teen, “Take off your hat.” I knew what he was doing. He didn’t want to toss the baseball to someone in Angels gear. The fan didn’t get it… and wouldn’t take off his hat. So, the A’s kid turned around to face the field and tossed the ball backwards, like a bride tossing a bouquet. It was up for grabs… and I was the only one with a glove out of the six or so people still around. I leaned out over the dugout and made the catch. Ball #8! And #190 of my career… I was so excited that I gave three baseballs away on my way out of the stadium that night, two to a pair of brothers who weren’t more than ten years old, both had gloves, and would’ve gone home empty-handed. I was so psyched… I had Josh take the following picture:
Me with my (personal) record-setting baseball. A new game high, a great night at the park with a friend, and an Angels victory.
And, yes, there were fireworks:
And the game was over so quickly that Michelle and I had time to make it to a sports bar later that night to celebrate our other friend’s birthday. It was a really great evening!
Remember when I went to a sports bar called Throwbacks earlier in the week? Well, Michelle and I ended up with raffle tickets which ended up being exchanged for free tickets to this game! What’s better than going to a baseball game? Going to a baseball game for free.
And this: And this:
And it kept going. There must have been a thousand people there… it was ridiculous. Sadly, I was sure that many of those people toward the end of the line wouldn’t get Figgy’s autograph because the signing would end at 1:00. I grabbed a free pouch of juice and went to my backup plan. I’m a stage manager by trade, I always have a backup plan. Today it was heading to an AT&T store in Seal Beach to a Howie Kendrick signing. That event worked out better for me.
I got to the parking lot and headed up toward the store at about 11:30 (when the event was to start). As I headed toward the back of the line I passed by Anaheim regular, Chris (aka cjpyankee), and said hello. I continued to the back of the line. When I got there I heard, “Matt!” and looked up. Chris waved me over to him and led me up to his spot in line which his girlfriend had been holding. I thanked them and wished them both a happy belated birthday. Then we went inside and I snapped a photo of Howie before having him sign a ticket stub for me.
After we got out of the store Chris and Ariana (sp?) left and I decided to jump back into line. It took about thirty-five minutes to get through the twisting (mostly in the shade) line and back up to the front of the store. When I was about to get inside for the second time I saw AM830’s Jorge “Pollo” Sevilla, the station’s Promotions Manager. I knew from my previous experiences at Angels events that he was THE MAN to talk to about tickets. When I saw him I introduced myself and casually asked, “Hey, Pollo, you guys givin’ away any tickets today?”
He grinned and said, “Man, I don’t have very many.” He then proceeded to pull a stack of them out of his pocket and hand me two tickets to a game in September against the Mariners. Yes!! I thanked him and headed inside to get Howie’s autograph again.
Then I headed home, straightened up the apartment with Michelle, and got ready for the game. After some confusion with some friends over who might be joining us at that evening we set out to pick up our friend Amanda before grabbing food. We ate, talked, and I dropped Michelle and Amanda off across the street at a Starbucks while I parked and got in line. Who should I see again in line? Chris and Ariana. Chris has become a pretty good ballhawk this year and you can check out his blog here. We chatted a bit about his trip to New Yankee Stadium and my trip to Kauffman Stadium and at 5:00 the gates opened and we flooded in. I was sprinting out to right field and as soon as I got up the escalator and could see the field I stopped dead in my tracks.
Yep… the cage was up but no one was hitting. Gwah?!? Oh, yes, the Angels weren’t going to hit after they amassed an amazing THREE hits with ZERO runs the night before. Ugh.
I saw BP home run catcher extraordinaire, Rob, jogging about five seconds later so I figured I’d just finish my trek up to the pavilion, beat him there, check for Easter eggs, then regroup. Boy, I would have felt dumb if I’d let Rob passed me and there were three or four baseballs sitting up there. But there weren’t any… so I simply chalk that up to a round of cardio exercise that I could get in. Nice.
The only players on the field were a few Angels pitchers. I jogged alllllll the way around to the third base line thinking there was a small chance they’d throw me a ball. No luck. The Angels didn’t hit at all.
Eventually the A’s started stretching in front of their dugout so, in preparation for their hitting I headed past the bullpens, through the center field family section, past the pavilion (again) and over to the seats near the foul pole where I saw Chris. We chatted again for a few minutes, both of us were now in our A’s gear, and FINALLY some batters started hitting. Right about that time Michelle and Amanda showed up after having made a stop at the Team Store.
I was really excited because I was sitting on ninety-nine career snagged baseballs and the next one I got was going to put me in triple digits. A’s pitchers were throwing in front of me, batters were knocking baseballs all over the field… then I saw it.
A ball trickled foul and came to rest near the wall between the A’s dugout and the foul pole. It was about ten feet to my left and ten feet to Chris’ right. We both moved toward it and I squeezed into the front row excitedly saying to the female fan near the ball, “Excuse me, can I try to get it?” I knew I could get it. I just would’ve felt bad forcing someone to move out of the way. She obliged, I leaned out and over, and I
snagged my seventy-second ball of the season and the 100th baseball I’d snagged ever.
Now I felt conflicted… I was jazzed to have snagged the ball but I was confused because I had no idea where it came from. I asked the people nearby me, including Chris, where the ball came from. Apparently, it had been hit by an A’s batter. That’s all I knew… all I still know about it. Oh, well. Nothing’s perfect. I had the ball. I let out a contented sigh.
Chris congratulated me and we both went back to work. He headed up to the pavilion (and ended up snagging one up there that I saw… I think) and I hung out around the foul pole in right field. Five minutes later a ball rolled to the warning track near the wall where the outfield seats end and there’s a big gap where the wall opens up and leads to a tunnel used for trucks and storage. There were a couple of fans that couldn’t reach the ball as I jogged up and said, “Hey, guys, let me try to grab it.”
I did. Ball #2 on the day… again, I had no idea who hit it. I had two baseballs and both were hit by the A’s and I didn’t know who hit either of them.
A few more baseballs came over my way but I couldn’t quite get a glove on anything… I had a BP homer lined up but it hit the foul pole and I missed out on it. Dang… and Trevor Cahill ignored me for about twenty minutes straight.
BP ended at 6:15 and I followed the players in toward the dugout but didn’t snag anything there. I went over to chat with the girls for a while, chugged some water (it was HOT), then saw a player signing autographs. I just missed Mark Ellis and his lousy signature but I got Adam Kennedy to sign a ticket for me and I got to talk to him for a minute about how we both gre up in Riverside, CA. He’s a big inspiration to a lot of kids who play (or played) baseball growing up out there. After that I got Cliff Pennington to sign and Brad Ziegler as well.
I watched Adam Kennedy and Mark Ellis play catch and when they finished I asked Adam for the ball. Turns out that Mark Ellis had their actual warmup ball and Adam had just pulled one out of his pocket(just to throw to the crowd… what a guy). Ellis threw me the ball he had and I yelled, “Thanks!” Then I went to change out of my sweaty A’s shirt.
And each time the Angels had two outs I ran to the dugout to try for a third out ball… but both innings ended in a strikeout and the ball got rolled back to the mound. The three of us decided to head to the View Level since the stadium was getting crowded. We found seats above third base but got kicked out of them within ten minutes.
It was 11-7 after the A’s got a run in the ninth and Brian Fuentes came on to close out the game. With one out in the ninth I ran down to just behind the Angels dugout (and I mean ran) and I tried to get a ball or something from the Halos as they came off the field before then running back up to the View Level to watch the fireworks with the ladies from our primo, home plate seats.
I didn’t catch anything after the game but can you find me in this above photo?
Angel Stadium’s Big Bang Friday fireworks are pretty fun to see. I played with the fireworks setting on my camera:
And we took a few photos together before heading out for the evening… here are the girls:
And I made sure to get a picture with the three baseballs I snagged that day.
I was exhausted when we finally got home… it had been a loooong day.
Monday: PETCO Park – Padres vs. Nationals
Wednesday: Dodger Stadium – Dodgers vs. Diamondbacks
Thanks for reading!
Michelle and I knew months ago that we’d be heading up to the Bay Area in July and I’d checked the Angels schedule to see if they would be playing the A’s. Sure enough, the Angels and Athletics met up right out of the All-Star break. Due to our busy schedule (and wanting to see all of our Bay Area-based friends) we could go a game either on a Saturday or a Sunday. I picked Sunday because both games were during the day and Saturday’s was a day game after a night game. It was the Angels–away from Anaheim. The last time I’d seen them play on the road was in July of 2005 in New York against the Yankees.
I hoped there would be batting practice at this day game after a day game…
Look to the left–ooh! My first view of the stadium…
When we got to the stadium at 10:55am there was already quite a bit of a line:
It was Kurt Suzuki T-Shirt Day at the Coliseum… complete with pooka shells printed on the neck. By the time I got to right field and took my first look at this new (to me) stadium it was already 11:05.
There were a dozen people already there and the only people fielding baseballs in right were two batboys… a friendly Oakland fan told me they never toss anything up.
After a few minutes I headed over to left field and Michelle took some photos that I turned into this panorama:
It was a bit more crowded but there were plenty of righties hitting and some pitchers shagging in the outfield. The A’s hit about two or three baseballs to the stands… none near me. And I saw a few balls thrown to fans… nothing to me. I wasn’t nervous about getting shut out because I was one of a handful of Angels fans in the stadium. The A’s wrapped up BP at about 11:35am (the Angels were scheduled to start hitting at 11:40). I took off the green and put on the red: my circa 2004 Darin Erstad T-shirt. I chatted with Michelle while we waited for the Angels to take the field.
I’d seen a few pitchers come out to throw along the first base line… but no hitters were anywhere to be found. 11:40 came and went… still no hitters. Oh, no! Groundskeepers started taking the cage down… I was still without a baseball. I told Michelle the Angels weren’t going to hit and we took off for the field level. I got over to the line just as the pitchers were finishing but nobody threw their ball anywhere.
To get over my disappointment and not snagging a ball during (severely shortened) batting practice I figured I’d go for autographs. Our actual seats for the game were in Section 111, just behind the Angels dugout.
Yes, I actually paid for these seats. Got ’em for less than 72 bucks for two on StubHub… sometimes you find some good deals on that site. Be sure to check it out.
First up was Matt Palmer, who has grown his facial hair back since the last time I talked to him. After that I got backup catcher Bobby Wilson’s signature and then some of the Angels came out to play catch and stretch. After getting snubbed by Howie Kendrick and Chone Figgins as they finished throwing I got Gary Matthews, Jr. to throw me my first ball of the day. YES! No shutout for you today, Oakland Coliseum! I also saved a little kid’s life on this snag, by the way. Gary threw the ball from about fifty feet away but it tailed to my right a little bit. I stretched as far as I could and made the catch in the front row of the stands… right in front of a boy about six years old who had his hands down by his sides. He and his family hadn’t even seen it coming.
I saw Brian Fuentes heading out toward the bullpen… he stopped to talk to a family he knew and I waited patiently until–aannndd a little kid ran right up and asked him for his autograph. He looked down and said, “Hang on.” I lined up right behind the little dude and a minute later I had the All-Star’s autograph. I made sure to thank him for taking the time.
I saw Erick Aybar tossing with a trainer back along the first base line. When they finished I yelled, “Erick! Over here!” and as he was walking toward the dugout he threw me Ball #2 on the day. Someone behind me said, “Good catch.” Really, I’d just stood there and he threw it right to me. I didn’t have to move an inch.
Jered Weaver and Joe Saunders were signing autographs nearby and since I’d already gotten Joe’s (three times–on stubs from his complete game in May) I decided to hang out and get Jered’s. He reached up across the dugout and signed this ticket:
Then Stomper came by in a little car and I took his photo because, well
, I love mascots.
And a little later Robb Quinlan signed a few and I got him, too! Five autographs in one day–that’s a record for me!
About this time the game was getting started and, man, it was a great one. In the second inning though, Michelle and I toured the stadium. As this was our only trip to the Coliseum, possible ever, we wanted to take a good look around. Plus, it got us out of the sun for a while…Look at that concourse–pretty ordinary… that’s right off of first base. And…
Walking behind the batter’s eye… pretty dead out there. Yuck–so much concrete. Cold, unfriendly, Oakland Coliseum. Blah.
Then we ended up in deep left field:
Before going down to the third base line:
A’s starter, Brett Anderson, who didn’t allow an Angel to reach base until he had two outs in
the seventh inning, gave up two hits and no walks in eight shutout
frames–and lost! Michelle and I watched a great duel between Anderson and John Lackey, who went nine innings and got the win! Brian Fuentes picked up the save in the 10th inning after Bobby Abreu hit a line shot out to right that produced the game’s only run! Here he is touching home plate after the homer.
About three other balls got hit really well, too… but they were just too high up and the wind caught ’em. Jason Giambi hit a blast to center that I thought was gone but Matthews grabbed it on the warning track.
So, my impression of the Coliseum is this: ordinary. It wasn’t lousy by any means. It was nice (the ushers were a bit grumpy–nothing new). My expectations were low so I wasn’t disappointed. There’s absolutely NO personality to this park and I see why they’re not selling many tickets (aside from the fact that the A’s are lousy this year)… who wants to really come back to the Coliseum day after day? Not me. The attendance was 18,539… less than half of what I’m used to in Anaheim. But it was great to see it with my own eyes, watch a game with my wife, enjoy the beautiful weather (surprise, surprise!), and snag three baseballs…
What? Yep, the third ball of the day came from recently promoted (and playing first base) Brandon Wood. He recorded the third out of the sixth inning and jogged toward the dugout. Normally, Chone Figgins gets the third out balls and tosses them, at home and, apparently, on the road. This time, however, Wood tossed it right to me while I was in position behind the dugout! Cool! I love to look at the difference between a rubbed up game ball and a BP ball.
So long, Oakland–I may never see another game at your Coliseum. I’ll leave you with some more photos, enjoy!
There’s a lot that I can say about this game that could bring people who read this entry a lot of sadness based on events that occurred after the game was played. I’ll save that for another time. For now, here’s how my second game of the season went:
At Wednesday evening’s game between the A’s and Angels I was joined by Randy, a friend I know through UC Irvine. He is from Ohio originally and is a big Indians fan. After I dropped him off at the end of the night I realized I hadn’t snapped any photos of him… or me… at the game. Weird. I did take a lot of pictures though. You’ll see…
We left at about 4:15pm and got to the stadium before it opened. Randy had never been to Angel Stadium of Anaheim so I told him I’d give him a grand tour after the game started. But first, batting practice. The Angels were hitting and the wind was blowing in and toward left field so I told Randy that we should leave the right field pavilion for later when the A’s were up (because the Angels were starting a righty, a twenty-two year-old top prospect, Nick Adenhart) and their strong lefties were hitting. We hung around the foul pole in right field. It was a small crowd but not many balls came toward us. Jeff Mathis tossed a couple to kids but we (in our mid-twenties) were gettin’ no love!
After we headed up to the pavilion in right a few baseballs trickled to the spot we’d just left… it was that kind of BP. At about 6:15pm we were both still empty-handed and I was losing hope. Then things got interesting. At the game on the 7th I had seen a young boy fielding balls for the A’s during BP. Here’s a pic from that game (the little boy is on the far right in a green sweatshirt):
At this game I noticed the same kid running around, fielding balls, having a blast, and he had a friend with him. I figured they were sons or little brothers of a player. I still don’t know for sure. Anyone have any idea? Maybe an Oakland fan that knows of two kids that occasionally take the field for BP? Anyway, as batting practice ended and I jogged (with Randy in tow) to the visiting team’s dugout I still hadn’t snagged a baseball. The players headed in and I didn’t get one. Then, these two kids came, strolling and chatting, toward the dugout. I had my A’s hat on so I stood up about three rows behind the dugout and got their attention… they each had a ball tucked in their glove. “Hey, could you spare a ball, please?” I yelled. The two kids looked at each other, then looked into their gloves. One boy, in a red sweatshirt, gestured to the boy in green I’d seen the day prior as if to say, “You can throw him yours… but I’m keepin’ mine.” Well, I guess it was my lucky day because the kid in green shrugged, pointed to me, and lobbed it right into my glove. I thanked him and the two kids headed down into the dugout. Lucky kids! Lucky me!
I wanted Randy to snag a baseball, too… he had told me that he’d gotten one years ago when he was much younger. A few Oakland players started throwing in shallow right field. When Mark Ellis and Eric Chavez were done, Ellis tossed his a few sections away from us (and I would later get him to autograph a ticket stub for me), but when Rajai Davis and Travis Buck finished throwing, Davis kept the ball and headed toward us. I stood up and called out to him. He saw me, pointed, and threw the ball from about thirty feet away. He’s an outfielder, so maybe he’s not used to short throws… this one sailed five feet over my head (even though I jumped as high as I could). Randy was sitting behind me and I turned just in time to see the ball pop off his bare hand! It bounced into the seat in front of him. Here it gets a bit odd. The ball landed between the armrest of the seat in front of Randy and the shoulder or a kid! The kid’s dad, sitting on the other side of him, had seen the ball thrown and I figured that he or his kid would simply grab it. It was literally touching the kid’s arm. No one, not me, the kid, the dad, or Randy had claimed the ball. At that point I figured the kid would want it. The dad said to me, “Guess you’re just not tall enough,” in a cheerful manner. Ten seconds passed… so I picked up the ball and sat down next to Randy. We both were kind of shocked. I told him, “Here, do you want it? It hit off your hand.” He said I should keep it because it had been thrown to me. I decided I would count it in my collection because nobody else had actually held the ball. Never had a non-player thrown me a ball and never had a weird situation like that one happened to me at a game.
Two baseballs–cool! Numbers 32 and 33 in my collection!
So, there we were, behind the visitor’s dugout. I told Randy we’d go on a tour as soon as we got kicked out of the section. Turns out… that never happened. We watched the whole first half of the game from the third row! Check it out:
By the sixth inning we were hungry and wanted to look around so we voluntarily left, knowing we’d probably not make it back down. After a quick stop at the the restroom we were off on our tour which included a stop at the Beach Pit BBQ stand out behind the rocks in center field. We both got pulled pork sandwiches and they were fantastic!
After a lap around the Terrace Level we headed up to View. Our actual seats were somewhere in Lower View in right field… we never sat in ’em. Instead we watched an inning from right behind home plate:
And lastly, we headed back toward the infield for the end of the game… what an end. By the way, our vacated seats from the beginning of the game were still open! Man, it was a great view of the late action!
Adenhart left with a 4-0 lead after six innings. The bullpen choked for the second straight night, however, as Arredondo gave up a run, Shields gave up two, and our new closer, Brian Fuentes gave up three runs in the ninth!
I was livid… and the Angels couldn’t score in the bottom of the ninth. I had hoped to show Randy what happened when the Angels won… but the Big A would not “light up the Halo” on that night.
We had a lot of fun and I had a good time walking around the stadium… I’m there so much that I take for granted how much cool stuff there is to do there.
Two games this season… five baseballs! My next game probably will be when the Tigers are in town in a couple weeks. Thanks for reading!