Well, folks. The 2012 season has come and gone and, as you may have noticed, I pretty much stopped blogging midway through the season. As it turns out, I suddenly was way over my photo allotment on this site (Thanks, WordPress!). Without being able to upload photos, I felt that blogging about my further adventures was pretty pointless.
While I found myself with extra time (which came in handy since my wife and I adopted a dog in August), I sure do miss being a part of the blog community… I still read two blogs with regularity. Those would be Zack Hample’s blog and Todd Cook’s blog. So, I still get to learn about what other folks are up to and I enjoy going through the comments to see the branches of the ballhawking community extending through the blogosphere.
And I’m still keeping up with MyGameBalls.com, too. All of my 2012 gamesd are updated there and you’ll notice that I started adding notes to each baseball that I snagged throughout the year. Sort of like a mini-blog for each ball. I ended up with 105 baseballs this season to bring my lifetime total to 490. And I currently have a streak going… 121 games with at least one baseball pocketed as a souvenir! Not too shabby for a guy who just started doing this in August of 2008.
Along the way I went to three different stadiums (none new) and snagged three new types of commemorative baseball: Dodgers, Orioles, and Red Sox. I’m looking forward to the Astros being around in Anaheim often next season in hopes that I can snag an older 50th ball or an inaugural season ball (for their AL switch–if thosee exist). Also, I ended up with quite a few autographs, both from mail-in submissions and in-person stuff.
I’ll be keeping the blog active but you’re not likely to see too many new posts from me going forward. Keep checking MyGameBalls for details on my games, snags, and other cool stuff I might be up to, loyal readers. Enjoy the off-season!
In an interesting development, I’m over my quota for photos!
This message popped up on my account when I logged in recently: “Tip: You have uploaded 8 GB of files, exceeding your quota by 5 GB. Consider deleting some files to free up more space, or purchasing a space upgrade so you can upload more.”
As it turns out, a 10 GB upgrade costs 20 bucks PER YEAR! Yikes! And I’m already at about 8GB of files… and the cap is at 3GB… so I would get upgraded to 13GB. Or I could spend more money and get more space.
So, I’m a couple of entries behind, loyal readers, while I figure out what to do about this situation. I’d love to keep entertaining you with photos from my baseball journeys but I don’t really want to add X amount of bucks a year to my bills I have to pay… so… what to do?
I came up with a couple of ideas. Feel free to tell me what you think:
1. Go back through all my photos that I can and re-size them… I might be able to get back under the cap… but for how long? And that seems like it would be pretty time consuming.
2. Get a kickstarter campaign (or something similar) going… people donate a few bucks here and there so I can purchase an upgrade for my blog. Would anyone donate? I kind of hate to ask my readers for money–it seems kind of lame.
3. Move to a new blog… maybe a different MLBlog… or a different hosting site? I’d have to redirect my traffic… and may lose a lot of readers.
4. Continue blogging… but with no pictures. Would anyone be OK with that? This is fun for me–but it’s all about what keeps my blog visitors happy and returning for more.
Let me know if you’ve got other ideas, everyone. And thanks, as always, for reading.
My first game of the 2012 season had finally arrived. It would be the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (boy, I hate that name) against the Oakland Athletics. Jered Weaver would be pitching against Brandon McCarthy and I would be there, first in line, ready to go, when the gates opened up. I was psyched. I packed my bag for the first time–team rosters, bottled water, my camera, and the assorted accouterments associated with attending an Angel game… or any MLB game, I suppose. I small-talked with a few of the Angel Stadium BP regulars while I waited. Rob, Eli, Terry, Lou… a bunch of guys I’d have never know had it not been for this fun hobby I developed way back in 2008.
The security guards arrived and got the gates prepped… and I talked to them about the new rule at Angel Stadium that any security personnel that are on the field need to wear helmets. Does anyone know if this is all across MLB? And they weren’t even cool MLB helmets… they were, like, bicycle helmets. I wish I’d taken a picture. UPDATE: Haha… I did! Here’s TJ (the Angels Strength and Conditioning Coach) and Torii Hunter and Howie Kendrick joking about the stylish new trend:
Well, I got my bagged checked… and headed inside to the folks with the ticket scanners. All this anticipation, I’m the first one through the gates, and, wouldn’t you know it? The lady I went to was having scanner problems… ugh. I watched as people in other lines flooded in past me before snatching my ticket from her and thrusting it into the next ushers face and telling him, “Hers isn’t working. Please scan my ticket.” He did–I was direct but polite, after all. And I took off running. As I rounded a corner on the Terrace Level I could see a couple of guys were already scouring for Eater eggs in the right field seats so I decided to change my strategy. I took a hard left down some stairs and that’s when I looked at the field for the first time. It was beautiful–perfectly manicured, actually–but there was something very wrong.
The hometown Halos weren’t hitting. There wasn’t a single Angel on the field. As it turns out, they’d gotten in from New York at about 3am so they had decided not to do a full BP session. I quickly changed tactics and ran straight down to the front row along the third base line as the A’s started to play catch. Virtually the whole team was out there–and a few of the coaches were near the dugout playing catch, too. As I knew the coaches would finish first, I got the approval of an usher to head over there to ask for a ball. A few moments later I got my first baseball of the season tossed to me by an A’s coach–not sure who–but it wasn’t Chili Davis, Mike Gallego, Bob Melvin, Tye Waller, or Chip Hale. So that leaves Rick Rodriguez, Chris Pittaro, and Curt Young. I’m going to go with Rick Rodriguez. So, thanks, Rick! He tossed it to me a it skipped off the roof of the dugout. I bobbled it to my feet and then quickly snatched it up. I’d say that is about as close to an error as I want to get all season long.
As the players finished up their throwing and began to make their way to the cage I got baseball #2 on the day from Josh Reddick after he finished playing catch. He lobbed the standard Selig my way in the second row of Section 128. Eric Sogard (who has been on the A’s roster for three years but only made the Opening Day starting lineup this season) started signing autographs and I got him on my ticket. My next baseball came my way just a few minutes later as the pitchers finished throwing. Fautino de los Santos hooked me up with a ball in Section 127–I didn’t know who he was at the time but checked through some photos online to confirm it was him.
After that I ran up to the pavilion in right field with the hope that the A’s (and their several lefties) would show some pop. It’s clear that’s not what they were planning on this day, however, as only about four or five home runs came nearby–and I was out of range on all of them. I did manage to get a brand new pearl of a baseball from Tyson Ross while I was standing in the third row of Section 239… and then the A’s finished hitting at 6:12pm… much earlier than I’d expected. I wasn’t able to get to their dugout in time so I sat down, made some notes, got some water, and waited for the Angels to take the field.
Once they did come out to get loose, I saw Howie Kendrick’s son getting handed over to his dad from the seats–he wandered around on the field a bit and greeted the players. My coolest photo of the night? Howie’s kid giving Torii Hunter a high five:
But I couldn’t get a warmup ball from the Angels–nor could I get one from the A’s about ten minutes later after the national anthem. I checked out the concourse of the stadium and notices the Halo front office had upgraded a few things… like these digital menu boards in the concession stands:
Six bucks for peanuts? Yeesh–I buy ’em for two bucks a bag at the grocery store. It was about this time that Michelle, who had been at work, arrived at the stadium. I met her at the Left Field Gate and we found seats in the left field corner. My goal this year is to catch a home run. It’s something I’ve never done and I figure that 2012 is the best year to do it. Last season, around the Big A, I was simply focused on snagging as many of those commemorative 50th anniversary balls as I could. They’re still using some of those in BP, I’d learn, but this year–it’s all about the game home run ball. And Albert Pujols was still sitting on zero home runs for the year–maybe I could catch his first! Here was our view:
See that aisle with the vendor in the yellow? I was ready to jump up and run down it with each pitch. We stayed in the same spot throughout the game, chatted, ate food that we’d brought into the park (I’m so glad the Angels still let you do that), and watched the action. Kendrys Morales hit his first home run since May of 2010–a three run shot that just barely cleared the fence in left-center. Albert hit a drive to the warning track… but didn’t go yard. The A’s just couldn’t muster any kind of rally. We got to see a pretty cool moment: Jered Weaver’s 1,000th career strikeout.
It was Josh Reddick in the sixth inning, in case you were curious.
After having not scored since that Morales homer in the first inning, the Angels were able to put up three more runs in the eighth. The healthy 6-0 lead was plenty for Weaver, who was excellent yet again and went six and two-thirds innings, and three relievers.
Michelle had to leave around 9:15 to head home so I walked her to the gate and we parted ways (it was still only 3-0 when she left). I returned to the seating area, stayed in the outfield seats for a bit longer but then decided to move. After a half-inning behind the Halo dugout, I ended up behind the Oakland dugout for conclusion of that evening’s contest: And when Erick Aybar grounded out to first baseman Daric Barton to end the 8th, I was about five rows back and he lofted me ball #5 on the evening. I looked closely at it and realized he must have kept the gamer and tossed my the infield warm up ball because it was pretty beaten up.
I asked manager Bob Melvin for his lineup cards but he ignored me… and the A’s relievers came in from the bullpen and Brian Fuentes had a baseball in his pocket. I shouted to him, “Hey, Brian, could you toss me a baseball, please?” He got a few steps closer, lobbed one my way… and a female A’s fan to my right leaned out and nabbed it just an inch in front of my glove.
Wow–I guess I should have been more aggressive. I was a little bummed about that one but I was pretty pleased with my haul. I ended up giving away the de los Santos ball to an usher who said she’d be certain to find a deserving youngster to give it to… and I headed home.
I’d be heading back to see the O’s and Angels on Friday.
Holy cow! I just wanted to drop a quick post in here to say WOWZERS! I just looked and it turns out that I cracked the Top 10 for most read blogs in the MLBlogs community for February!
Sure, it’s a shorter month and the season hasn’t started yet–and I have two games to post about from last season (yikes!) but I’m thrilled. Thanks for reading, everyone.
You can check out the full list here: http://mlblogs.mlblogs.com/2012/03/02/latest-leaders-february-2012/
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.
Hi, readers. You may know by now that I was fortunate enough to attend a game at Dodger Stadium with an all-access media pass on August 19th. Well, Alan Schuster of www.mygameballs.com got the whole thing set up for me and I attend the game with the goal of interviewing fans that snagged souvenir baseballs. The article went live on the site last week and I’ve decided to repost it here for the MLBlogs community. It was published in three parts on myGameBalls and I’ve broken it up into those three parts for this entry, too. Enjoy!
/* Style Definitions */
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
font-family:”Times New Roman”;}
So, What Are You
Going To Do With The Ball?
(An all-access look
into BP, foul balls, home runs, and the fans that end up with the souvenirs.)
It’s a sweltering day when I arrive to the Top Deck of
Dodger Stadium. Summer has finally decided to hit L.A.–the
mercury is at ninety-four degrees when I step out into the Field Level seats as
the hometown Boys in Blue take their batting practice swings in the cage.
The environment is relaxed. Peaceful. Rock and meringue
tracks play over the speakers and every crack of the bat and pop of the glove
is audible. I listen as skipper Joe Torre and DL-laden Russell Martin
chat about his recovery. In the outfield, Vincente Padilla sits in the stands
before the gates open talking to a translator as Hiroki
Billingsley, and other pitchers warm-up. Billingsley makes a leap at the
left field wall and a BP ball barely clears the tip of his glove. It
bounces around and lands in the front row of Mannywood. The gates will
open in twenty minutes and I think to myself, The first fan in the gates is going to wind up with a nice souvenir.
I watch as a few more BP balls wind up in the left and right field bleachers.
One more bounces into Mannywood, this one ends up in the second row.
Easter eggs adorn the seats for the masses accumulating at the
gates. The serene feeling of warm-ups will soon be altered. Padilla
will hop over the wall and back onto the field. Martin will head into the
dugout. And soon, everyone will be excited to possibly, just maybe, take
home a piece of the action: a Rawlings Official Major League Baseball.
It’s not just the fans… baseball is infectious. Dodger
Stadium employees watch the last few minutes of batting practice from the
concourse, including a few that sit in the seats, waiting for the consumers to
come in and for their shifts to start. A baseline box attendant chats
with me for a moment in the seats before heading to his post. On his way
in he grabs the two Mannywood baseballs. He throws one back onto the field
and pockets the other–I hope he’s
planning to give that to a kid, I say to myself. The floodgates open
at 5:05. The fans first into the left field bleachers run through and
pick up four or five balls. Dodger Stadium is open for business.
When the visiting Rockies take the field the echoes of
“Over here!” are growing in volume. Fans continue to arrive, some with a
glove or mitt, some without, but everyone in the seating bowl has one goal: to
snag a ball. There’s a burning desire in most (if not all) of baseball’s
fans to get a ball from a game, maybe even from their favorite team or player.
Walking near the right field line I encounter Carlos, a thirteen year-old
Dodger fan who receives a friendly toss from a Rockies
pitcher. It’s his first baseball… ever. And he’s thrilled when I
sit down with him for a minute to talk about the experience. He’s a
season ticket holder and goes to a lot of games… and though he admits to having
been a little scared he might miss the ball, he’s excited to take it home and put
it in a trophy case. In his own words, showing wisdom beyond his years,
Carlos tells me, “When I’m older I’m gonna tell my children that I got a ball
from a real baseball player.” When I left him, Carlos and his dad were
still talking about the ball, both grinning from ear to ear.
It’s turned into a brilliant night at Dodgertown. Ted
Lilly, recently acquired from the Cubs, is hurling a gem. More than
45,000 people have come out to see if the Dodgers can beat their NL West rivals
and stay in contention for a playoff spot. Jorge de la Rosa is pitching
well, but he’s losing, 2-0 because Lilly is dominating Colorado.
Utilizing his looping curveball and his Reagan-era fastball (in the
mid-eighties), Lilly is keeping the Rockies off balance.
They’re swinging, but they’re not getting any good wood on the ball… and
that makes for quite a few souvenirs being sent up into the stands. The
first lucky recipient I come across is Cory, age thirty-three, decked out in
Matt Kemp gear. Cory tells me he had no idea he’d be in foul ball range
when he headed to the game tonight. When I ask him about his lack of a
baseball glove he responds confidently, holding up his hands, “This is my
glove.” Cory’s in a great mood. And why not? He just made a
bare-handed catch of a Melvin Mora foul ball in the Loge Level of Dodger
Stadium. He’s all smiles as I speak to him, and to his son, Fernando, who
tells me he is “very proud” of his dad. I ask him to explain to me the
feeling he had as the ball flew back toward the seats and he responds, “I was
just judging it. Wait, wait… that ball’s comin’ towards me!” He
read it off the bat–he knew that ball was destined for him. With youthful
wonder in his voice he says to me, “Like, it’s really here? You know?
And I just reached out and grabbed it. I caught it!” His first foul
ball ever. What are you going to do
with it? “My son’s more of a Dodger fan than me so I’ll give it to
him.” A fine answer, Cory. Well done.
The father and son duo are happily talking about their
recent good fortune as I sit down next to Shane, from Northridge, and he tells
me about his experience. Shane is
noticeably more subdued than Cory, but still glad to have obtained the
souvenir. Aside from the possibility
that he’s trying to keep his cool in front of his female companion, I learn
that the Matt Kemp foul ball now in his possession is the first game-used
baseball for the twenty-one year old (at his sixth game this year). He’s
no stranger to catching baseballs though, as he used to play growing up. Shane
tells me he picked up his ball on a bounce after an unlucky fan a section over
couldn’t come up with it. “It was about ten seats to the left of me and
he missed it and it bounced to me.” After the bounce caused the baseball
to head toward him, Shane knew it was all his. “I’ll put it with all my
other baseballs,” he tells me. He estimates he’s got about 100 baseballs…
but from professional games he’s got, “A few of ’em. It’s pretty cool
that I caught it at the game.” As the
game plays on in front of us I recognize that fans like Shane and Cory and even
young Carlos are, every time they head out to the ballpark, in a friendly
competition with all the other patrons around them. Once a ball heads into the seats it becomes a
whole new game. Have you ever seen
anyone specifically avoid a foul ball that rolled to their feet? No.
Sure, Shane and Cory ended up with their prizes in slightly different
ways but they each wanted the ball enough that they put effort into snagging
it. And, as you’ll see in the next
segment of On The Scene, a little effort paired with some impressive “skills”
and strategy go a long way in procuring a baseball for a couple more fans.
Sometimes a foul ball bounces around the seating bowl of a
stadium and gets nabbed off the ground by an excited fan. Other times, however, someone makes a Gold
Glove-caliber play in the stands and receives a nice ovation for their
efforts. After parting ways with the
first couple of fans to seize their rubbed-up gamers I meet Ben, Fan Gold Glove
Award winner on this warm summer evening. On my way to see about another
foul ball chance I stop dead in my tracks as I see a ball come flying back into
the seats and I watch a man with a beer in one hand stand up as the ball
bounces off the Press Booth, hits an overhang and ricochets straight
down. He reaches straight up with his free hand (gloveless) and makes a
Web Gem-worthy grab. Within moments he’s talking to me about the
experience, smiling and laughing the whole time. The Melvin Mora ball,
smacked into the Loge in the seventh inning, is still in his grasp. Ben
lives in L.A. and is originally from Napa.
He’s sat in the seats we’re in before thanks to some friends that occasionally
hook him up with tickets. When I ask him if he’s ever thought that he’d
have a chance to catch a ball in these seats he instantly responds,
“Definitely!” It’s something Ben has wanted to do for years: take home a
foul ball from a Dodger game, but when I mention he didn’t bring his baseball
mitt, he laughs. I ask how he managed to make such a great catch and he
replies. “Skills.” Ben is a concise, confident guy, and genuinely
happy about his experience. In his eyes
I can see that this event just made his night. Can you describe the catch for me, Ben? He tells me that as
soon as he saw it coming up toward him his first thought was: “I’m gonna catch
this friggin’ ball.” We both laugh and I ask him what sort of feelings
he’s got flowing through him. Joy?
Jubilation? “All of the above. I can cross this off my bucket
list.” After fifteen to twenty years of going to baseball games, he’s
finally got the long-awaited prize. And what is he planning to do with
it? Well, Ben hasn’t decided yet but the ball’s still in his hand ten
minutes later. He’s letting it sink in.
The Dodgers are winning on the warm summer night and Ben’s got his very own
foul ball. How are you feeling
right now, in this moment, I
In each inning of a baseball game, so much happens that can
really get lost on the casual fan. Coaches give signs, players change
positioning based on the hitter, guys keep their arms loose by playing catch,
and a young fan named Cole, out in the right field bleachers, knows what that
means. A baseball could soon be headed his way. Yep, that’s
right. You don’t have to wait for a foul
ball or a home run in order for a ball to come your way. Cole’s got a keen eye for the game and shows
a bit of strategy to snag a ball from Kemp, his favorite player. I track Cole and his dad, Chuck, down in the
right field bleachers in the fifth inning.
The duo hails from Placentia
and they’re seated in the front row of the section, which I notice is a full
two sections away from where young Cole obtained the ball. When I inquire as to how Cole knew to be near
the center fielder he responds, “Because it was Kemp’s turn to throw it.” The observant fan goes on to tell me that he
knows that the right fielder and center fielder switch off throwing the ball to
the seats each inning. Throughout the
interview, both father and son are ready with baseball gloves, just in case a
homer comes their way. So, you seem to know what you’re doin’ out
here. How many baseballs have you ended
up with this season? Cole starts,
“Um… like maybe eight…” and his dad jumps in to finish his sentence, “But only
maybe one or two that he catches.” They
both assure me that there aren’t any favorites in their collection: they’re all
equally special. Chuck explains that at
batting practice sometimes they’ll find an Easter egg waiting for them or a
ball might bounce around so either of them can pick it up. I ask how Cole knows that Kemp’s baseball is
going to get to him… what does he do to insure he catches it? “Just scream at him,” and he’ll wave his
glove and yell out “Matt, over here!” Cole
elaborates that once he had been heard he saw it in Kemp’s eyes. “He just, like, walked right at me,” and then
the throw came up and now Cole’s smiling with a baseball from his favorite
Dodger. Has he ever dropped one in a
situation like that? Nope–he’s got a
perfect record. His dad, however? What
about your dad, has he ever dropped one, Cole? “Probably.”
Chuck just laughs and shakes his head… and I thank them both for their
time. I don’t want to distract them from
any possible homers any longer. Home
runs snags, after all, are the fantasy of many fans situated in the outfield
seats at any MLB game… but sometimes the fantasy of taking home a home run ball
hit by your favorite team becomes a reality and, as you’ll read next time, a
Dodger fan who hails from about 6,000 miles outside of L.A. became one of the
luckiest people in the stadium.
The evening at Dodger Stadium had gone from hot to cool
and the fans were all hoping the Dodgers’ bats wouldn’t share the same
fate. Needing a boost to help out their
starter, Ted Lilly, the Blue Crew got some power from an unexpected
contributor. Lilly would go the
distance, allowing just two hits and his counterpart, Jorge de la Rosa, did
pretty well, too. De la Rosa’s only big mistake? Well, let’s just say there were a couple of
firsts on this electric night of fine pitching.
De la Rosa threw a pitch to Reed Johnson in the second inning. It became the first (and only) home run of
the night, Johnson’s first as a Dodger, and the first baseball for an
international Dodger fan, Mr. Kuei-Fan Liu, visiting L.A.
from Taiwan. I approach Mr. Liu and his group as they are
engaged in excited chatter an inning after the home run. When I ask to interview him he agrees, at the
urging of his friends. Later on I’ll
watch a video of the home run and Mr. Liu and see the excitement that overtook
he and the whole section as the ball landed in the pavilion. In our interview, however, Mr. Liu stays
calm, considering himself, quite possibly, the luckiest fan in the stadium. Surrounded by his friends, he tells me they’re
very excited for him: “They all love me now!”
Which results in laughter from the whole group. And when I ask him what his feeling was as
the ball rocketed towards the seats he states, “I just worried that the ball
would hit me.” He tells me that he
didn’t come prepared with a glove because he didn’t know he’d even have a
chance at a home run. This is his first
professional baseball game in America. Your
first game… ever? “Yes.” Wow. “I think some other people will try to catch
the ball. But then it rolled down here,”
he gestures down to the concrete beneath his bleacher seat. He truly is lucky. The video highlight online shows that at
least four other people in the rows above him reached for the ball… but Mr. Liu
was able to grab it after it bounced off a few hands. His friends are snapping photos as I continue
the interview, they’re all excited. This
small, rubbed-up pearl has just made their experience one that will last
forever in their memories, even half a world away. So, Mr.
Liu, what are you going to do with the ball?
Put it on the mantle, in a trophy case?
Maybe just throw it in a drawer somewh–he cuts me off. “Of course not!” He smiles, knowing that he’s got big plans
for his one of a kind souvenir. “I will
keep this ball and I’ll go back to Taiwan
and tell all my friends I got the home run ball,” at his very first MLB
game. I take a few photos with the group
after concluding the interview and leave them, still excitedly conversing about
all that’s transpired.
It’s a 2-0 victory for the Dodgers as they shut out the
visiting Rockies and Ted Lilly’s performance is truly a
great one on this August night. For
certain fans though, August 19th, 2010, will be remembered for something other
than a sparkling pitching performance or a smooth double play turned by their
hometown Boys in Blue. For a select
lucky (and skilled) few, this night is about taking a piece of the game home
with them. Whether it’s to display it,
tuck it away, or save it for their children one day, a baseball finding its way
into the hands of a fan is something that will cause as much joy as any Dodger win. And, let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to own
a small piece of baseball history for their very own, win or lose, day or
night. For any baseball fan, ending up
with a ball from a player, whether it’s thrown, hit, or found, is an exciting
experience. You’re a star for a brief
second, proudly thrusting the souvenir up in the air, thrilled that of 45,000+
fans–this one found it’s way to you. Just
think… what’ll you do the next time one comes your way?
After a couple of days of gazing at baseball memorabilia and being indoors it was great to be heading to the stadium again in perfect summer weather.
After Michelle and I parked the car we noticed a stage being set up outdoors near The Grove (which shares a parking lot with Angel Stadium). I would find out later that there would be a couple of VIP parties there on Monday and Tuesday night for the All-Star folks and their guests.
We passed by an Oakley sunglasses stand on the way to the gates… I actually really liked these sunglasses but I’m not the $150 sunglasses type. Cool though.
Michelle and I were a little stunned by their promotional vehicle:
We got up by Home Plate Gate and looked across the parking lot to see the Sponsor Zone. Michelle went to check it out while I stood in line and talked with Warren (who’s left comments on here as yankeehater626) and his dad, pictured below.
The Futures Game would be starting at 3:00 and the gates would be opening at 1:00. We’d arrived at about 12:20 and there were very few people around. It would stay like that for a while.
I ran in at 1:00, eager to snag a ball. I knew that the Futures Game (and each All-Star themed game) would have commemorative baseballs in use. I was hoping they’d be used in BP, too.
I sprinted in and looked down one of the tunnels… I didn’t need to sprint any further:
BP wasn’t happening. It was team photo time. I would find out later (a little too late) that the World team hit before the gates had opened. Luckily, the US would begin batting practice shortly after the photo session. I was very near the dugout at one point prior to BP and saw the clubhouse attendants opening brand new boxes of baseballs to be used during batting practice.
This was an amazingly good sign… but were they commemorative? I couldn’t tell even though I zoomed all the way in with my viewfinder… the logos were all facing down.
I headed over toward third base as the US team did their stretching. And the pitchers were throwing a bit, too.
You might have noticed the World Cup game on the big screen… the final game was being played on this day–a lot of the players and fans were pretty interested in it. I heard later that Spain won… great.
I had brought the rosters for each team–which meant I was basically the only person in the stadium that knew who all these guys were. I was feeling good about my chances to snag at least one baseball.
Unfortunately, none of the pitchers threw their baseballs to the crowd. Most of them tucked them into pockets and gloves. This, I thought, was a great sign. Even minor league pitchers don’t care about keeping a regular ROMLB… I was pretty sure they were using commemorative Futures Game baseballs.
I headed toward the foul pole in left field as BP got underway. When Minnesota prospect Anthony Slama fielded a ball I asked him for it… using his first name… and saying please. He gave me a nod–and threw the ball back to the bucket. Dang.
Later, Slama was joined by Ben Revere (also from the Minnesota Twins’ organization) and Yankee catching prospect, Austin Romine. The trio was grouped about fifty feet from the wall but each time one of them fielded a ball I tried to get them to toss it to me. I still hadn’t seen any players throw balls into the crowd. After a few minutes, Slama tossed a ball to a kid about twenty feet from me. I figured that the baseballs were getting a bit dirty/stained and would now be getting cycled out of the mix. I was right. I’d seen a couple home runs hit to the stands, and one of two baseballs had been tossed into the crowd… but I’d been inside the stadium for forty-five minutes and was sitting on zero baseballs.
Romine fielded another baseball in left and I called out for it: “Hey, Austin! Right over here!” My arms were getting tired. I’d been waving them since BP had started, trying to get one of the players to toss one. Romine looked over at me. I stood up on my toes and repeated the request,
snapping my glove open and closed. He asked Revere something… then pivoted and threw a laser toward me. It was a perfect strike. THWAP! Right into my glove… I immediately turned the ball over in my hand. Here’s what I saw:
YES! What a snazzy logo! All-Star Sunday was officially a success in my book. I hope Austin Romine goes on to have a long, successful career. I didn’t number this ball (or any ball I snagged during the All-Star stuff) because I had the following plan for the festivities:
Futures: Not counting them–these guys are minor leaguers
HRD: Not counting them–it’s not a game between teams–it’s eight players against each other
All-Star Game: counting them–Major League players and it counts: home field advantage
Those were my guidelines for tallying the balls for my collection.
I took the photo above a moment after the snag… you can see the players in the field. And I had been standing where the guy in the blue shirt is standing.
I moved over to the dugout again after that and BP ended fairly quickly after I’d moved. A lot of the players stayed on the field to do infield practice.
While that was going on I noticed a ball that had gotten away from a fielder and had settled on the grass near the home plate end of the dugout along the third base line. I saw US team coach, Tony Franklin, walking over to get it and I yelled out, “Hey, Tony, could you throw that ball over here, please?” As he walked toward the ball he smiled at me and then, when he got the ball, he lobbed it into my waiting glove. It was another Futures Game ball. I yelled a hearty thank you to Mr. Franklin and then headed over to the first base/visitor dugout.
As I mentioned, the World team had hit prior to fans being let into the ballpark, but they still had infield practice.
As the World guys did that, the US team signed autographs on the third base line. In one of the free Topps giveaway packs I’d received at FanFest I had gotten a Pedro Ciriaco card–who? Right. He was the only guy on either roster who’s baseball card I owned. So, after infield practice, when the World team guys started signing autographs, I sought out Arizona Diamondbacks outfield prospect. Luckily, I got him on the card I’d just received a day before. There was one other autograph I really wanted on the day–Ryne Sandberg. Mr. Sandberg was one of the coaches for the World and I had brought a 1992 All-Star card of his, a card I’d had since I was nine years old.
I found him on the far side of the dugout, mentioned it, and he gladly signed it for me. I was a little surprised at how easy it was to get his autograph. I mean, the man is a Hall of Famer… my guess is that nobody really knew who he was.
And, hey, check out the bases they were using for the game:
There were a couple of pitchers hanging out in the World dugout as other players were signing down the line… one of them was near a bucket that had (or formerly had) baseballs in it. I looked at my roster, identified young Blue Jays prospect Henderson Alvarez, and asked him in Spanish if he could throw me a ball. As it turns out, there was one baseball left in the bucket–and it was a commemorative (albeit very worn) ball. He flipped it up to me for my third baseball on the day!
This whole time, Michelle had been hanging out in the shade, reading, and enjoying the summer breeze. After the autographs, I found her and we got some food as the opening ceremonies were taking place.
We grabbed seats in the outfield for the first couple of innings. I tried for a third out ball a couple of times, but to no avail.
We had to/got to move closer to the action when we noticed:
Pepsi Max!!! No, not really. Bees! They were swarming near the last section of the Club Level, just over the LF tunnel. Speaking of the tunnel… I saw Lou Seal nearby… he made his way into the bullpen:
And I saw a bunch of mascots hanging out in the tunnel for something…
As it turns out, they would all be participating in the Steal Third promotion later on. Basically, a kid gets a chance to run down the line and steal a base… usually their path is not impeded. But on this day, well, there were mascots to contend with.
A lot of people cleared out of the bee area… we ended up with this view for the middle innings:
I’ll be totally honest. At this point in time I have no idea who these players are… hmm. I just really liked these photos.
Later on, we moved… over to the other side of the stadium:
As you can tell, there were a ton of empty seats. We really just sat wherever we wanted all afternoon. At one point later in the game we headed upstairs to the View Level for one reason: to get a panoramic photo of the stadium with the All-Star cut in the grass:
The vibe was super-mellow. Most fans didn’t care too much about the game. It was great… Michelle and I walked all over without anyone wanting to check our tickets. And nobody knew much about any of the players… so the only real cheers came when Hang Conger or Mike Trout did something. They’re both Angels prospects. And Conger ended up as the game’s MVP since he hit a three-run homer to right field. It barely cleared the wall but it gave the US team all the offense it would need. I mean, they scored plenty of runs, but the World team only scored one. It wasn’t exactly a riveting contest. Final score: World 1, US 9. Wow.
For the final inning or so, I was right behind the World team’s dugout:
It was pretty cool… and after the game ended Michelle and witnessed a mascot dance party going on in right field while the Legends and Celebrity Softball game got set up.
If you’re wondering about all the mascot photos, well, I guess I just like ’em. See, in Anaheim there isn’t a real mascot. Sure, the Rally Monkey appears digitally–but there’s never a big, crazy character running around and interacting with fans. So, I relished the overabundance of mascot-ness. Woo!
OK, flashforward to the softball game introductions. The National League team had the likes of Guy Fieri, Mario Lopez, Jennie Finch, Mike Piazza, Dave Winfield, and Ozzie Smith:
And the American League team had players like James Denton, MC Hammer, Rollie Fingers, Fred Lynn, Tim Salmon (the crowd favorite), and Bo Jackson:
I found out late in the action that commemorative softballs were being used… cool! I didn’t snag one though, even though I tried after the game. Oh, well.
I’m not even going to try to recap the details of the game. It was all sorts of crazy. Home runs were hit:
Bo (“knows fancy footwear”) Jackson pushed people, Tim Salmon played second base, Chuck Finley gave up a homer to Jennie Finch:
And it was the first-ever home run hit by a female at the celebrity game!
It was actually a lot more fun to watch the celebrity game in person than it is to watch it on TV. You get to hear and see all kinds of stuff the TV crowd misses out on.
The AL won by four or five runs… and each team chose a player to do a mini home run derby as a bonus for the fans. It ended up being Mike Piazza against Tim Salmon. Each guy got five pitches/swings. Piazza hit one homer… Salmon, he was a perfect five for five! He’d also hit a home run during the game and afterward he jokingly asked, via a host’s microphone, “Angel fans, does that count as 300?” We all cheered for him… Salmon retired with 299 career home runs.
Anyway, as the HRD of softball land ended, Salmon almost hit one out of the park–for real. Like, not over the temporary softball fence… over the real fence… impressive.
The teams posed for a picture:
And then the night ended with a fireworks display! Nice surprise, Angel Stadium.
We left the stadium at about 8:45, checked out the Sponsor Zone for a minute:
And then we walked to the car… we’d both had a ton of fun.
It was a mellow Futures Game, a crazy and silly Celebrity Game, and I’d snagged a batting glove, gotten two autographs, and ended up with three baseballs, all commemorative:
AND–I had decided to spend a few hours at FanFest the next morning before heading to the Home Run Derby! Whoa…