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.
This was a great game for me as the budding ballhawk that I am. This was a great game because I had fun, was successful, met some new friends, set a milestone, and walked away with memories and souvenirs. And– to top it all off–my wife got to be at this game with me. Here’s what happened…
I entered the day sitting on 369 lifetime baseballs. When I approached the Home Plate Gate I surveyed the line situation to see where I should situate myself. Upon closer inspection I saw a friend from 3,000 miles away. I walked up to Greg Barasch and told him, “I didn’t know you were going to be here!” Greg and I had met in April of 2010 at my only visit to Citi Field. As it turns out, he and his father would be in Anaheim for the last three Angels home games of the year–just like me. Greg and I played catch for a few minutes while his dad held our place in line. Michelle had decided to sit in the shade and read for a while and I knew I’d meet up with her after batting practice had finished.
When the gates opened I immediately took of for the right field corner and within minutes, got a ball thrown to me by Hank Conger.
That ball–see it on the ground. Conger walked over, picked it up, I asked for it and he lobbed it to me! #370. Just a couple minutes later a liner down the right field line took a bounce near the wall and I was able to reach out and snag that one… I have no idea who hit it. Someone on the Angels.
I ran up to the RF seats atop that 18 ft. wall after that and quickly got a ball thrown to me by Mike Maddux–it was stamped “PRACTICE.” Not all the Rangers were out on the field but Maddux and a few pitchers were and he tossed me this random ball that a Halo had hit.
Greg’s goal was to snag a few Angels commemorative balls during his trip and I knew he’d get a couple–he’s no slouch as a ballhawk–but the first one he’d snagged on the day was a standard Selig ball. So were the first three I’d ended up with.
Alexi Ogando tossed me baseball number four on the day–a grass-stained standard ball–
Next up I caught this beauty thrown to me by Leonys Martin.
Then, the Rangers big left-handed power came to the plate–Mitch Moreland, Josh Hamilton, and David Murphy. Well, I snagged a Hamilton homer on the fly in the first round about halfway up the pavilion. That was career #375! A few minutes later I grabbed a David Murphy bomb as it bounced around a row to my left. After a few more minutes Endy Chavez blasted a ball up to me in the pavilion that I snagged on the fly. That was my eighth ball of the day.
The Rangers headed into the dugout soon after that and I failed to get anything tossed to me as they left the field. But I just needed two more baseball to get to my first double-digit game EVER! Plus, I hadn’t snagged a commemorative ball yet on this day. All eight had been standard Selig balls.
And we’d continue to run into each other throughout the evening. I took a brief rest before heading over to shallow left field to wait for the Angels to throw. Sure enough, after Torii Hunter accepted an award for citizenship, Erick Aybar and Maicer Izturis played catch for a few minutes along the foul line (as did a few other Angels).
When they were done, Aybar threw me the ball they’d been using–and it was commemorative! That would be the only commemorative logo I’d take home that night… but I was up to nine baseballs! By the way–did you notice in that photo that the Tigers beat Cleveland 14-0? Wow.
And here’s the lone commemorative I grabbed at this game:
I ran back to where Michelle had been sitting. I’d heard that instead of the random ex-Angel that would be signing autographs at this game out in center field, a certain Hall of Fame member would be filling in. I had gotten a wristband during a change in BP groups and Michelle and I quickly took our places in line once I’d finished my pre-game snagging. I handed my camera off to her so she could snap a picture of me as I got the autograph–
–of Rod Carew! This was actually the second time he’d signed a ball for me. The first time had been totally random and not nearly as organized. This time, instead of signing my ball and inscribing HOF ’91, he inscribed #29 next to his name. Rod’s a great member of the Angels community in Orange County, even though he’s more famous (and in the HOF) as a Twin.
Eight balls snagged and one HOF autograph and the game had just begun!
I told Greg I’d see him later or at the next day’s game and Michelle and I found some seats down the first base line.
The Angels were down 4-0 in the fourth inning as we watched from here:
Dan Haren pitched well, however, giving up just three earned runs over eight innings. C.J. Wilson pitched two innings… he’d be pitching Game 1 of the ALDS later in the week. But, while the Angels could muster a bit of offense, they’d end up losing 4-3 and their slim playoff chances would be dashed.
Michelle would end up leaving the game early to get ready for work the next morning–I made sure to stay to the end. I’d been trying for third out tosses all night but I’d been unsuccessful.
I waved at all the players as they headed off the field and they all passed by me–I watched the bullpen guys march across the field… the tallest guy had a baseball… it was Alexi Ogando. Would he remember me from the afternoon? He’d already given me a ball and I hadn’t changed my appearance in any way. As the relievers lumbered in I made my best effort… hands up, waving, and I called out, “Alexi! Right here!!” He looked up, pulled his hands out of his hoodie, and lofted ball number 10 right to my waiting glove. And just like that… with my 379th ball, at my 84th game at Angel Stadium since 2008 (when I started ballhawking) I FINALLY reached double-digits! I was thrilled–and the ball from Ogando was a rubbed up beauty–pristine. It had been rubbed with mud and never dropped, scuffed, or hit in any way. It was perfect. And with that I took my leave of the Big A.
UPDATE: I found my notes from this game AND my following two games. Since 9/26/11 was a special day for me–I thought I’d share my notes.
This is the list I take to every game I go to. And now you’ve got a window into how I keep these things categorized and how I remember things for my blog. It looks like chicken scratch, I know, but you can see I write a letter L next to each player if they’re a lefty. For pitchers, if they throw left-handed… for batters, if they hit left-handed. Or they get a letter S if they’re a switch hitter. The starting pitcher is circled on each roster and each ball I snag is labeled with a number and a circle. For example, Ball #377’s note is “377 – COF (which means Caught On Fly) E. (Endy) Chavez S. 238 (Section 238 of the right field pavilion) – 3rd row – right to me prac logo w/ brwn + grn (it was a ball with a practice logo and brown and green marks on it). Want to know more about my notes, or care to explain how you make your own? Let me know in the comments.
It was a Saturday–Michelle had to work that evening–I wanted to go to a ball game. Luckily, my uncle called me to say that he had four tickets to that evening’s Angels/Mariners game. Then he asked, did I want two of them? Score! I got the family discount–Stubhub! can’t provide that! So, after picking up the tickets I drove to the stadium and met Chris at the gates–he was using the second ticket. We headed in and I took off for right field.
It was a frustrating batting practice. Here was my view for part of it:
I would eventually move closer to right field. I just wasn’t having any luck… but I had plenty of close calls. I’ll just cut to the chase: I ended up with one ball through the whole ninety minutes of BP. It was tossed by Jason Vargas and here it is:
I know the photo’s a bit dark bit it was a nice 50th ball with just one scuff on it… below the logo. In case you’re wondering what that number on my palm means, I wrote ‘340’ so that I would remember the next ball I snagged was my 340th ball.
After the Angels did some pregame throwing and I missed out on a ball on that side I went to the M’s side of the field and, well, here’s Jack Wilson and Kyle Seager heading into the dugout after their warmup throws:
See how there are about three people looking over at the camera in that photo? It’s because a moment before I took that picture Wilson tossed me this:
So a poor outing (from a snagging standpoint) got a little bit better.
I went to sit behind the Angel dugout for the first inning and sent my wife a picture message that said: I wonder how long I’ll get to stay here.
It turns out those fans showed up in the fourth inning–but my prime real estate didn’t get me another baseball. Still, it was an excellent view of Ichiro as he prepared to swing:
Well, he’d just stolen second… Aybar is making sure to keep a tag on Ichi while, I believe, the ball is getting switched out since it was scuffed and would no longer be usable in the game.
I spent a little time behind the M’s dugout, too:
Torii took that pitch for a strike, BTW. After about five innings I checked in with my uncle (and his wife) near their seats:
My uncle Ivar is the man responsible for me being as big a baseball fan as I am–he started taking me to games when I was a little kid (and they were still called the California Angels). And during the top of the sixth I told them I would be going on a brief walk. I walked down to the Angel dugout and took a seat about fifteen rows back. And when Franklin Gutierrez hit a grounder to second baseman Howie Kendrick, Kendrick fired the ball to Mark Trumbo at first for the final out of the frame. And when Trumbo got near the foul line I waved my arms and called out to him from about six or seven rows back and he threw me the gamer. Nice!
The night ended up being just fine from a snagging perspective.
Ludacris was scheduled to perform a postgame concert at Angel Stadium and I promised my uncle I would take a bunch of pictures–he also made sure I took one of this pre-recorded interview that played on the jumbotron between innings:
As for the game… well, let’s see… the Angels only scored one run… Treyvon Robinson hit his first career home run (and some fan jumped a railing to chase after it… then encountered some not-too-pleased security personell)… Blake Beavan tossed eight quality innings and Brandon League threw a scoreless ninth. I was behind the M’s dugout at the time:
And League was pretty efficient. He got Vernon Wells to pop out. Then walked Howie Kendrick.
And then Mark Trumbo grounded into a double play to end the game. :sigh:
I hung around for the postgame interview as Beavan (who’s 6′ 7″) got interviewed and the relievers walked in from the bullpen.
I didn’t get anything tossed to me though except for a few pieces of bubble gum. A little later, once the stage was set up, assembled, and folks were let onto the infield dirt, Ludacris emerged from the visitor’s dugout and played an hour-long set.
There were over 42,000 in attendance for the game and I’d say at least 25,000 stuck around for the concert. Some of the M’s were in the dugout watching… including Adam Kennedy–who then walked onto the field in street clothes with his kid and disappeared into the crowd (he came back a little later).
I left before Ludacris finished to beat the traffic out of the parking lot.
I’d barely had time to rest since the All-Star Game and I was back, driving along the 55 to the 5 to the 57… and I arrived plenty early for the AL West showdown between the Angels and the Mariners.
I was pretty pleased to see such a light crowd at the gates.
I ran in and started searching the right field seats for Easter eggs. No luck.
I spent ten minutes of batting practice chasing homers and when Hideki
Matsui blasted one ten rows over my head I took off after it. Another
fan snagged that one but as I walked back to my normal BP spot I
spotted Ball #1 in one of the last rows of the pavilion. The gates had been open for more than ten minutes and I couldn’t believe it. There were, at that point, at least twenty people in the seats… I looked at the guy next to me.
“Did you drop this?” He said he didn’t. So, I picked it up. Wow–crazy… the only other time I had found a ball after the first minute or so of the stadium being open was earlier in the season at PETCO Park.
After a few more minutes I ranged to my right a nabbed a home run from an Angels
player on a bounce, just beating out a couple of other guys for it. I think it was Torii Hunter that hit it but it could have easily been Mike Napoli or Juan Rivera… I never got a good look at the batter. I gave that ball away to my favorite usher. She usually finds a young kid to give the balls away to but I always tell her she’s welcome to keep ’em for herself if she wants.
The next ball I snagged came with an error attached to it, sadly. I was right at the wall in the corner when some Mariner lofted a ball toward me. I couldn’t tell if the ball would fall short of the seats and then bounce off the warning track or if it would clear the fence for a home run. I backed up a couple steps, anticipating the bounce. Then, I changed my mind: at the last second I reached forward over the wall as far as I could and, luckily, I had guessed right. I
certainly could have caught it… but in my haste to get into position I
extended a bit too far and couldn’t make the basket catch. The ball smacked off the heel off my glove and fell onto the warning track. It hurt–I mean, like, it hurt my hand and my pride. The ball had rolled away from the short wall just enough that I couldn’t reach over and scoop it up. I expected that the nearby security guard would simply flip it back toward the bucket but he didn’t. The
guard must have been preoccupied and that gave Jamey Wright the chance
to walk up, shake his head at me, and say, “Two hands, man. Come on…”
Then he underhanded Ball #4 to me. So, it counts as a thrown ball and not a hit ball. I was glad to get the snag but bummed that I’d made such a poor play on it. I gave that ball away to a nearby kid and ran back up to the pavilion but I didn’t snag any other baseballs during BP. I ran to the dugout as the Mariners headed in but didn’t get anything there… I did see Mike Sweeney playing catch with a kid that, I assume, was his son.
Sweeney’s from the area and always has family and friends around when the Mariners play the Angels. I’ve talked to him a couple of times. He’s super nice and always signs autographs if fans are polite about it. He’s a real cool guy in my opinion.
Michelle met up with me after the teams had warmed up (and I hadn’t snagged a Mariners warmup ball–booooo!) and we got food together. We decided to watch the first few innings from the Terrace Level and we talked about
how small the crowd seemed after the ASG events we’d seen.
And I, of course, planned to try for a third out ball each time the M’s came off the field.
In the bottom of the first inning I was behind the M’s dugout when Hideki
Matsui ended the frame by grounding out to second base (like he’s done
way too much this year). Chone Figgins threw the ball to Justin Smoak and I was actually sitting right over the dugout in the first row as the Seattle players jogged in. The recently traded Smoak had the ball in his glove and I didn’t even have to stand up… nobody else cared about the ball.
“Justin! Right here!” I held up my glove and waved it a bit–Smoak lobbed the ball, it bounced off the dugout roof and right into my glove.
It was, quite literally, the easiest third-out toss I’d ever gotten. For your reference, here was the view I had of the players coming in:
Neither of those guys is Smoak, in case you were wondering. Those two guys are Michael Saunders and Franklin Gutierrez but you get the idea: I was right there. A moment later I jogged back to Michelle on the Terrace Level.
We’d end up moving down to the Field Level in the middle innings once the crowd had been established and we could see some open seats.
I was hoping for a foul ball but none came near us. It was a fun game and pretty relaxing. I’d never been so glad to see an attendance of “just” 41,000.
Michelle left a little after nine and I played for home runs through the last couple of innings. First, I was in right field:
Then I tried left field:
But no homers were hit. I was behind the Angels dugout as they locked down the win:
I tried for a toss-up behind the dugout as the Angels came off the field but came up with nothing. After this game I took a well-deserved two-week break from attending games… I realized I was pretty darn tired. Still, a fun win to see… 8-3, Angels. My next game would be at the end of the month, right before my birthday.
This was it! The big game. This was the game fans in Southern California had been waiting for since it was announced. The 81st Annual All-Star Game was going to be taking place and I would be there (with my lovely wife in tow).
The Home Plate Gate would open up at 2:00pm for the scheduled 5:00pm start time and we got to Anaheim at 12:45.
By the time we parked and walked to the gates there were lines forming underneath each of the big hats outside the ballpark.
spotted Chris and Warren (with their guests/families) at the front of
one of the lines and they let us slide into line along with them. Thanks, guys. We chatted for a while to pass the time and noticed we’d be receiving another giveaway upon entering the stadium. For the Futures Game and the Home Run Derby we got ticket-holding lanyards. Today it looked like–yep–we’d be getting a drawstring backpack. Nice!
I made sure Michelle made it in safely and then ran off to start the afternoon of snagging, knowing she’d catch up to me soon. I
originally intended to start the day near the American League dugout
but when I ran out of through a Field Level tunnel I realized batting
practice was already underway! Yikes–I quickly
sprinted up the steps and all the way around the park to the right field
seats to try to grab a commemorative 2010 All-Star baseball. I’d
seen pictures of the baseballs and I said a little prayer during my run
out to the seats that they’d be in use during batting practice. Once I arrived I knew the crowds would get pretty large very quickly. I hoped to get on the board as soon as possible.
I spent minutes (that seemed like
hours) tracking the occasional home run and hovering over the stray
baseball that made it to the outfield. Among the players shagging in the outfield was Jered Weaver, new ace of the Angels staff, and a late add to the All-Star team. I
wasn’t the only one asking him for a ball as he fielded one eighteen
feet below the first row of seats… but I did have a glove on and I did
I was psyched! It was a beautiful, red-and-blue-stitched, All-Star ball. It had a scuff on one side and a grass stain below the logo but I didn’t care. It was mine–and it had been thrown by an Angels player and I couldn’t have been happier to snag it.
I celebrated the snag internally and kept my sights on each player as they hit in the cage. Conveniently,
Angel Stadium put up the name of each star that was hitting as he took
his hacks in the cage so I knew exactly who launched all the baseballs
that I couldn’t quite get to… I mean, with all the power in the AL
lineup (and quite a few lefties hitting) I had my share of chances to
snag a batted ball. I’d seen BP regular Devin
catch two homers on the fly: one when the seats were still relatively
empty and another once the crowd had grown. Soon, there was little room to run.
BP wasn’t as packed as the Home Run Derby the day before but it sure was tough to maneuver up in that pavilion.
I played the staircase separating Section 238 from Section 239 as the American League hitters continued their portion of BP.
This was my view:
Beautiful! Though, more specifically, this was really my view:
People all around. A lot of people let their guard down when a righty stepped into the cage. I knew better–especially when a certain righty named Alex Rodriguez was smacking the ball all over the field.
A-Rod went deep. And he went deep to right field… and the ball was heading my way. I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy catch. There
were fans all around me and the ball had a pretty high arc to it,
giving people time to get underneath it… I moved down a few steps, saw
the ball slicing toward my general vicinity, moved to my right into a
row of seats, and then I saw the hands, arms, and gloves closing in. In
my peripheral vision I saw limbs closing in on the ball and, keeping my
eye on it I realized that I had probably moved down one step too far. Literally a dozen fans were reaching in, wanting that A-Rod blast for themselves. I
kept my eye on the ball as it fell and at the last moment I leaped up as
high as I could, outreaching the fans to my left and right…
I couldn’t see it but I knew I had the ball. I felt it hit the pocket of my glove as five gloves smashed into my extended arm. I came down from my jump and crouched down just enough to regain my balancing, pulling my glove in toward my chest. I looked down, opened up my Mizuno and saw the pearl nestled safely inside. Whew…
The ball was just a standard Selig baseball, which wasn’t great, but it was in near perfect condition. There was just one tiny mark on it, where A-Rod’s bat smacked it. I
got a few congratulatory compliments from nearby fans (including Devin)
and then, proud of my catch, I held up the ball triumphantly. The best moment though, came twenty seconds later when I heard a voice behind me: “I guess I got here at the right time.”
I turned around and saw Michelle standing in the row right behind me. She’d arrived at the tunnel above the right field seats just in time to see me make the catch. It felt great knowing that she saw it and was proud that I’d managed such a difficult (and highly contested) snag. It was a a pretty cool feeling! She chatted with me for a minute and then decided to get out of the July sun–I’d meet up with her after BP.
When the AL finished hitting there was a gap of very little action on the field. Did you notice the stage set out in center field in the panorama above? Well, it was there so the teams could be photographed.
I just noticed this now… but Andy Pettitte and David Ortiz are wearing those shoes I tried on at FanFest. Hmm.
The National Leaguers came out to the field to take their photo right after the AL was done.
lot of fans retreated to the shade of the concourse but I took the
opportunity to make my way into the front row of the pavilion, knowing
that with the growing crowds, my best bet to snag another commemorative
would be a toss up from a player.
A group of teenagers were on my left
and a pair of teenagers were on my right when BP resumed with the
National League players taking their cuts. The kids on my left were friendly and the kids on my right were not. When I had been standing at the front row for a couple of minutes one of the boys on my right asked if I could move. I asked him why and he said I was in their seats. I said, “Which ones are yours?”
“Fourteen and fifteen.”
I told him that I would, in that case, stand in the space directly in front of thirteen. He told me that his whole family had seats nine through sixteen. I told him that I would move when they arrived. He grumbled something to his friend.
A short while later I saw Matt Capps
long-tossing right below me with some other player who was stationed
over by the right field line. People to my left and right were asking for the ball. I said, to the kids on my left, “He’s warming up… you have to wait until he’s finished.” I knew what I was talking about–and when Capps finished (and his throws were getting shorter) I yelled out, “Hey, Matt! My name’s Matt, too, and I’d love to get a ball from you, sir!” Capps looked up, checked the baseball in his hand, then looked right up at me and tossed the ball straight up.
I reached out to snag it, extending both hands (it’s fundamentals, kids), and then I felt pressure on my right forearm. One of the kids on my right was trying for the ball. The kid to my left reached out with his glove but I was easily going to out reach him. Then, disaster. The
person to my left gripped my arm and pushed it down with a lot of
force… ordinarily not a big deal since I wear my glove on my left hand. However, there was so much force behind the push that it shifted my frame a few inches down and to the right.
I watched the ball sail inches over my glove and past my left shoulder into the row behind me. I desperately tried to grab it from the second row but it bounced away from me and a fan in the second row ended up with it.
I was furious. I knew what had happened… I spun to the teens on my right and stared at the two of them. Frustrated, I said, “OK, which one of you guys pushed me?” They both looked down at the railing in front of them.
I asked again and, again, they stared straight down. I turned my attention back to the field and said, “That’s not cool, guys. You can’t just grab a guy’s arm like that.” I was pretty pissed… but I was even more determined to snag another ball at that point.
Like, if they had accidentally bumped me, OK, I’d be all right with it. But this was intentional snag sabotage. Not cool at all.
The kid nearest to me got out his
phone, texted someone, and two minutes later a taller person showed up
right behind these kids (an older cousin, I found out), and asked me to
move from his family’s seats. I asked what ticket he had. He showed it to me. He had seat nine… remember, I was in the space directly in front of thirteen. I told him he should tell the kids on my left to move out of his seat then.
Long story short, the older cousin ended up leaving because he understood the situation. He had no more right to that seat during BP than I did. And he knew his younger cousin was a whiner (and told him so). And
I would snag my third ball on the day from Hong-Chih Kuo shortly after
that by asking him in Korean for it (thanks, Zack Hample). When I caught it, I saw it was commemorative and then showed it to the kids on my right.
“Wow, a special All-Star baseball, cool!” Then
I left the row, telling the kids on my left that they should crowd over
toward that pair of kids to the right if they wanted to… they did,
Next, I made my way down to the Field
Level seats, snuck as near to the NL dugout as I could, and watched the
players run in from the field. I saw one baseball get tossed but not anywhere near me. However,
fan-friendly Heath Bell walked to the bucket of baseballs and ended up
tossing roughly a dozen into the crowd including two to the Club Level
and two to the upper deck. Sadly, none came to me, but it was still pretty cool to witness, well, that type of coolness from Heath in person.
I met up with Michelle after that and only then got a sense of how truly crowded the stadium would be. The concourses were FULL of fans–and the seats were filling up throughout the stadium. We grabbed food and found our seats. The same seats we’d had for each of the All-Star events… this was out first time going anywhere near them:
It turned out that they were in the sun. Bleh.
I didn’t crop this photo so you could see all the fans that had already arrived. Also, down in the bottom-right corner you can see a line of people holding a giant American flag for the opening ceremony.
found comparable seats on the shaded (third base) side of the stadium
and took in the opening ceremonies after saying hello to a friend of
ours who also was at the game with his dad. I took this photo as we walked behind home plate:
Here’s where we sat for the first few innings:
The ceremony was great. Very
classy, and included a moment of silence for Bob Sheppard and George
Steinbrenner as well as an introduction of each of the thirty “All-Stars
Among Us.” And one of the cast members from GLEE sang the anthem–but they were having sound issues within the stadium. Did it sound all right on TV? There had been sound issues on Sunday and Monday, too.
I was totally thrilled to be watching an All-Star Game! We were far from the action but the environment was great!
Confetti! It was electric in Angel Stadium, with fans from all over the world cheering on their favorite teams and players. Although, the confetti seemed to halt Ubaldo’s warm up throws for a few minutes…
The two starters, Jimenez and David Price, began the game fantastically, each pitching two shutout innings. We had a great view of who would be coming into the game for each team:
The game was tense throughout. I could tell early on that the game would be a pretty low-scoring affair. Each team’s pitchers would dominate the game… and it helped that Ryan Braun made an outstanding catch in the middle innings. And, did you know that Cliff Lee only threw six pitches to retire the side in order in the fourth?
Before the fifth inning started I told Michelle, “I think this is the inning where we [the AL] score. Sure enough, the AL scored a run without a hit in the fifth. Evan
Longoria, video game extraordinaire, lead off with a walk, then Kuo
made a throwing error on Joe Mauer’s dribbler and Robinson Cano hit a
sacrifice fly to cash in Longoria. Unfortunately, that would be the American League’s only run of the game. The
only National League offense to speak of came in the seventh when Matt
Thornton allowed a bases-clearing double to Brian McCann. To his credit, Marlon Byrd kept the inning alive with a walk while McCann was on deck.
Michelle and I had moved to our actual seats by this point… they were now shaded. It was just before Byrd’s at bat that I began questioning Joe Girardi’s management choices. I would have let Phil Hughes face Byrd, then, if needed, brought in Thornton. Oh, well. The
NL scored three runs–that was all they needed and, though the AL tried
to rally in the ninth, Byrd made a great play to get David Ortiz at
second base. Why wasn’t A-Rod in the game to run for Ortiz? Or, why didn’t A-Rod hit for somebody? Oh, well… again.
For the ninth, we were down on the Field Level, hoping for an AL comeback. I left Michelle for the last half of the inning and I managed to get in a great position for a toss at the end of the game.
John Buck stepped up to the plate…
And Ian Kinsler smacked a ball into the right-center field gap that hung up just a bit too long.
And when the NL wrapped it up I was right above the dugout, first row, and I did everything I could to get a player to toss a ball up… but no one did. Jonathan Broxton was interviewed while the final out ball rested in his glove.
He kept it (I figured he would) and that was it for toss-up possibilities. It was okay though. I had really enjoyed the game.
It was exciting, quick (just under three hours), and fun. Michelle met up with me on the concourse as the crowds cleared out. She’s really starting to like baseball at this point, which is pretty darn cool. We talked about all the great stuff we’d seen in the past few days as we headed out the gates. Before we went to the car though, we got a picture together out in front of the ballpark:
I’m holding up the Weaver baseball there. But here’s a better shot of all three of my snags from the ASG:
Oh, and I asked Michelle to take one more photo before we left the stadium…
I guess you could say I was a bit excited. I knew I’d probably never get to have
such an intense and all-encompassing All-Star experience ever again, so we lingered at the
Sponsor Zone for a bit and watch the crowds leave the park. My
feet were aching, I was tired, but it was hard to leave the party,
knowing the city of Anaheim wouldn’t see anything like it for quite
Luckily, the Angels would be home from a
road trip on Thursday and I had received free tickets to that game… I’d
get to come back (to a less crowded stadium) pretty soon.
Back at the beginning of November I read a little press release on the Angels’ website. Basically, the groundskeepers hold a canned food drive on the weekend before Thanksgiving each year and 2009 would be their 9th annual food drive partnering with Second Harvest Food Bank. At the time I wasn’t sure if I could make it due to my school schedule. But, fast-forward two weeks and my schedule was remarkably free on the Friday before Turkey Day so Michelle and I rooted through our cabinets, stopped at the store to purchase additional canned goods, then drove to Angel Stadium. We arrived a little after 10:00am and were pleasantly surprised to see there weren’t a million cars in the parking lot.
We dropped off our cans at a check-in table, seen above from right behind it, and I donated an additional five dollars, too. The deal was that you could take batting practice based on your donation. It worked out that every two cans equaled one pitch in the cage. Plus, you could shag fly balls and throw in the bullpen! How did I not know about this sooner in my life?!? I opted for three pitches in the bullpen and ten pitches in the cage against a pitching machine. I took my tickets and we headed toward the concourse. As we went through the tunnel and onto the Field Level of seats, this was our view:
Totally awesome! Like, literally, awesome… I was in awe. There they were, ordinary fans totally allowed to run around on a big league field! We hurried down the aisle to the front row and into the special box seats that are right on the field.
At this point I parted ways with Michelle (she was going to hang out and take pictures) and went toward the half-open gate that led onto the warning track.
Everyone who was going to hit had been assigned a number. Mine was 129. I got to the gate leading to the field and hesitated. Could I just head out there? Did I need to wait to be called? I had no idea what the protocol was. I asked a guy nearby if he knew what number they were on and he told me, “About eighty or so.” Well, considering everyone hitting could get up to 20 pitches I figured I had some time… so I just walked out onto the field.
I stepped on the dirt, made it a few steps further to the grass. I’d never touched the grass at Angel Stadium before. I kept walking, my backpack still on my shoulders, praying nobody would tell me I had to go back to the stands and wait. I kept going, made it out to left field, turned around and looked back at home plate, and stopped. Wow.
It was incredible! The last time I’d been down to the field was in the early nineties when I got to march around the warning track on Little League Day… even then there was a rope set up to keep us off the grass. I looked back at my wife, already snapping pictures from the front row of seats, and waved. Then I looked around. People young and old were all over the field just enjoying being there. Every now and then a ball would get hit to someone and they’d make a play on it (or, at least try) then throw the ball to one of the buckets. I had been there for ten minutes and I realized I still had my backpack on. I ran over to the wall near the tarp and set it down, then waved to Michelle again and headed back out, anxious to field a ball.
“Well, now I just have to catch one.” I knew well-enough to stay in left field since almost everyone hitting was a righty. Eventually somebody hit a lazy fly ball that was falling fast in front of me. I ran forward, got under it, fought the morning sun and caught it. It was a great feeling. I’d just caught a fly ball on the field at my favorite ballpark. My primary thought had been, “Don’t drop it,” and after it had settled into my glove I was simply thankful. Then another one came… this one a liner.
I caught that one, too… I’m happy to say I played error-free baseball that morning. For about an hour I stood out on the field, basically staying in left, running toward anything close to me. I was incredibly glad that we’d come on the Friday… at a time when most people were at work or school. I was sure that Saturday and Sunday would be three times as busy. If I had to guess I’d say there were about 200 people at the field at any given time. Every fifteen minutes or so I
would run back to Michelle and check to see where they were number-wise. It was so much fun! She took a lot of photos.
The sun got to be pretty tough but I ended up catching quite a few balls and even fielded a few grounders that managed to get through the infield. At one point a lefty hit a home run into the corner in right field. It was the first one that had been hit and the only one I saw the whole time I was there. He got a round of applause as he finished his hacks.
It was taking quite a while to get to my number but I didn’t care… I was having a great time! Even when I had nothing to do because the person in the cage wasn’t making contact I was simply glad to be there.
The first ball that got hit to me was a little league type of ball and was kind of spongey. But each one I caught after that was actually an official MLB ball. I showed Michelle:
I kept running around, trying to get anything nearby while making sure not to cut anyone off:
As the buckets got transferred and people in the infield shagged up the
baseballs I pulled one I’d hung onto out of my pocket and played catch
with the person closest to me at that moment:
At one point a few little kids started to hit and I moved into the infield, right around second base, to field grounders. When the kids weren’t making contact a guy who’d taken over first base threw us warmup grounders around the infield, too.
I saw people of all ages–grandfathers down to two year-olds–and they were all having a wonderful time! What a fantastic community event!
I made sure not to overexert myself since I’d be hitting eventually. I took a couple of breaks for just a moment or two. There’s nothing quite like the perfectly manicured grass of a big league field:
Finally, at one of my routine check-ins over on the third base line I got the OK that they were ready for numbers 120 through 130. YES!!!
Michelle walked with me up to the shade behind the batting cage.
I had about fifteen minutes to get ready so I picked out a bat and helmet. Then I practiced my swing, tried to get the timing of the pitching machine (it looked to be going at about 60-70mph), and took a bunch of pictures. I was pretty much just hoping to not embarrass myself. “Gosh, what if I get up there and swing and miss ten times?” I got pretty nervous.
Right before it was my turn Michelle headed
over to the first base side so she could get some pictures of me hitting. As I was on deck I watched the guy ahead of me rocket a couple deep to the outfield After he hit we had to “shag ’em up” so I helped with that. Then it was my chance to hit.
Before I go on let me just say that I have no idea how a baseball player catches up to a 95mph fastball. Also, it’s hard to hit off a pitching machine, but I won’t make any excuses. I certainly would love to tell you that I hit a home run.
But that would be a lie. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even hit a double. I think two of the balls I hit would have been singles. I certainly made good contact but I couldn’t elevate anything. I hit a couple line drives, a couple grounders, and a couple bloops that were gobbled up by infielders. I pulled everything, of course. And, as it turns out I did miss about half of the pitches entirely. Bah. But it was still one of the most fun things I’ve ever done at the ballpark. And after I hit (and Michelle had been allowed to take photos from right behind the pitching screen) I checked out my stance and my facial expression in the pictures. Ridiculous!
Michelle and I took a walk after that, starting at first base and heading all the way around the warning track through the outfield. The first thing I spotted was a fly ball machine that had been used earlier in the day for people that wanted to pay twenty-five bucks to have someone shoot fly balls at them for fifteen minutes. Can you spot the AFL ball?
Next we headed into right field. I’d never seen that eighteen-foot wall from this side before. That’s a big ol’ wall.
We made our way to the Division Title banner and the Nick Adenhart mural and a family out there taking pictures was kind enough to snap one of us, too.
As we headed to left field we walked into the tunnel where the bullpens are located. I went up the steps and saw the guy in front of me finish throwing.
I had a coupon to give the groundskeeper that allowed me three pitches. He said I could just throw a few to get warmed up, then he got a call on his cell phone and left the bucket of baseballs near my feet. Michelle snapped photos as I threw a few (the second one sailed over the net entirely (oops!). But then I settled down and threw a series of 60mph fastballs for strikes.
Then I tried to ramp it up a bit and as I increased my velocity my accuracy went out the window. Oh, well. I guess I’d be primarily known for my defensive prowess were I a professional ballplayer. At least, that’s what I tell myself. I threw the whole bucket of baseballs (there wasn’t anyone else waiting) and then thanked the grounds crew guys before leaving the bullpen.
Our adventure on the playing field was pretty much done at this point. I took a couple more pictures from where I’d been standing in left field earlier in the day and then Michelle and I walked past the dugout and up into the seats.
Honestly, I would’ve stayed there until they closed for the day at 4:00pm but we had a few errands to run and I had a show to stage manage that evening. Man, it was a ton of fun and as we left I told Michelle, “We’re definitely coming back next year.” I checked my watch and it was 12:30pm. We’d spent more than two hours there and it had only cost us ten bucks (and that was donated to a great charity). As we were leaving Michelle mentioned she’d taken a video that she knew I’d enjoy watching. I put it on YouTube. What a cool event–and an awesomely good time!
I donated blood about two weeks prior to this game. In addition to the
snacks and drinks they provided to all the donors the Red Cross gave us
coupons, an Angels hat, and a voucher for two free tickets to this game
between the Angels and Mariners. At about 4:35 I parked, headed to the
Red Cross table under one of the big red hats at the Big A, and then
met Chris at the front of the line… we were pretty much the only
people in line at that point.
My strategy when the gates opened was a change from my normal
activity. Since the Angels would be facing lefty Ryan Rowland-Smith I
knew that they’d all be batting from the right side of the plate.
Therefore, it made little sense for me to run to the pavilion in right
field… nothing would’ve been hit out there because the Angels would
only have one left-handed batter who’d have hit at the point we ran
inside. It might seem complicated or like I thought about it a bit too
much… but it’s kind of like a manager leaving a righty reliever in to
face a lefty batter because the batter can’t hit this one pitch he
throws or he’s struck out twelve times out of forty… just statistics
but sometimes they work out. Sometimes you can play the percentages
all you want and it really doesn’t do you any good.
5:00pm–gates opened and off I went, sprinting left instead of right.
It felt weird… but I got out to the left field seats first, scanned
the ground for Easter eggs… nothing. Dang.
Up to the left field pavilion just behind the bullpens. I’d never been out here for BP:
But it didn’t take long to get my first baseball of the day. Robb
Quinlan fielded a ball in the outfield and then tossed it to a player
in the bullpen… or, rather, at a player in the bullpen. I didn’t
ever see this person but I heard Robb say after he threw the ball,
“Well, you need to pay attention then.” Presumably he wanted to scare
that person and he succeeded. The mystery bullpen person threw the
ball back to Robb and then I called out to him and held up my glove.
He fired a strike right to me (over both pens) and I thanked him.
Cool! I knew I wasn’t going to go home empty-handed. The ball had a
PRACTICE stamp on the sweet spot. More on this ball later.
At this point in time (about 5:10) I was one of two people in the left
field pavilion, the other being a young man named Scotty who I had met
earlier in the afternoon. He got a ball that was a homer by some Angel
and the ball took a friendly bounce, rolled up the grassy slope in
center field, and he picked it by reaching over the fence. Then he ran
off toward right field.
After Scotty left I was the only fan out there again. There had been a
ball lying in the Mariners bullpen since I’d arrived but since M’s
pitching coach Rick Adair had been going over some drills with the
previous night’s starting pitcher, Ian Snell. When he finished and
Snell started to head out of the bullpen I asked Adair, “You guys gonna
win this one tonight?” He shrugged and smiled and instead of me asking
for the ball lying in the pen he tossed me the one he’d been using with
Snell. I hadn’t asked for it but I certainly appreciated it. I
thanked him, wished him well in the game, and headed off to the right
field foul pole as the Halos finished their second round.
Now, I have learned where to hang out during Ichiro’s BP cuts… but it
hadn’t paid off for me in the series. Nevertheless, I took up my usual
spot about a half-dozen rows back just fair of the pole as the Angels
finished and the M’s started up. In his second round of cuts Ichiro
knocked a ball way out… but it went into the tunnel between the right
field pavilion and the lower right field seats. Ordinarily I wouldn’t
have given that ball a second thought but two days prior I had seen a
guy wearing sunglasses and an Aramark uniform in there and he’d tossed
a couple of baseballs to fans. I looked over into the tunnel and, sure
enough, the guy was there and he’d retrieved the ball. He looked at me
and I asked him, “Are you allowed to toss those over?”
He didn’t do anything other than shrug and reach his arm back–he was
going to throw it. I took a few steps back from the fence and held up
my glove. His aim was right on. Ball #3 on the day… I wish I could
say I caught that Ichiro homer on the fly… but an Ichiro BP homer is
an Ichiro BP homer. Cool. I should really find out that Aramark guy’s
I headed up to the pavilion in right after that. I knew the M’s had a
few lefties still to hit and I figured I might catch a homer. I almost
did… and this time I didn’t make an error. I got assaulted. A ball
got hit and I tracked it, heading to my right. I got under it, reached
up as high as I could. I was going to have to jump. I bent my knees,
fully extended my glove, and–OUCH!
I didn’t know what happened at first. I felt pressure on my head, my
cap got knocked off and I heard the ball hit someone’s glove. I turned
around an some old guy had hit me with his forearm from behind in order
to catch the ball. I was irritated… but I figured he’d apologize for
knocking into me and I would say it was all right and congratulate him
on his catch. He didn’t… he just laughed and held up the ball, very
pleased with himself. I minute later I talked with Chris and he’d said
he’d seen it and “was I OK?” I was… but I’m not too fond of that old
guy… nor are many of the other regulars, as it turns out.
Well, on to happier news. A Mariner pitcher threw me my fourth ball of
the day. I couldn’t tell who it was but he’s the guy in the center in this photo. The one not looking up toward the camera, the one who isn’t Felix
BP wound down after that and Chris and I ran down to the dugout as the
players came off the field. I saw Chris get a ball from a coach and
then he said, “Did you see that?”
I said, “Yeah, you got a ball.”
“Yeah, but if I was smaller and cuter I could have had a bat.” I
looked… yep, a little kid had received a bat from a player. Further
down, right where the good seats met the Diamond Club seats, another
kid was receiving a bat from a Mariners player. I didn’t know who he
was, but on a whim I yelled to him as he approached the dugout, “Hey,
could you spare the batting gloves, too?” He was already removing
them, didn’t even look, and tossed them up as he went down the steps.
One of them hit the dugout and fell back down. The other one came
straight to me. I snagged it with my non-glove hand. Wow! My first
piece of equipment from a major league player (aside from the 122
baseballs, of course)! I had to find out who it was. I’d gotten a
good look at him. A Mariners player, Caucasian, pretty fair skinned…
a batter (so it wasn’t a pitcher, obviously)… and then I though about
the bat. I ran over to where it had been handed over and asked who’s
it was but the person who had received it had already been taken away to
check it with security. Dang…
Well, after some sleuthing at home I was able to determine that the
generous batting glove thrower was M’s catcher Rob Johnson. Many
thanks to him. Here’s a pic of it:
Chris had to leave so we grabbed some free sodas on his way out and I
wandered a bit, found a seat as the national anthem was about to start
and realized I recognized the performer:
That’s Kenny G… he played the anthem and when he got to “the land of
the free” he held the “free” note for, I’m not kidding, about a
minute. It was really impressive!
OK, so before the game started Jose Lopez played catch with Adrian
Beltre in front of the dugout. When they finished I was standing in
the third row and had my glove up. No one else was noticing that
Beltre wanted to toss his baseball into the crowd… since there wasn’t
anyone younger or cuter he tossed it to me. Sweet!
I ended up in three different seats throughout the game. All near each
other and all awesome. In the first inning I was here:
And in the second the Angels went up 2-0 on a Torii Hunter home run.
Here’s Torii being congratulated as he heads back into the dugout. I
think this photo’s amusing because Mike Scioscia is clearly about to
smack Torii on the butt. Baseball rituals…
I took a few photos of Ken Griffey Jr. because I figured that this
might be the last time I ever got to see him play. Who knows if he’ll
retire after this season?
John Lackey was dominating the Mariners… he only allowed five hits
(three of them to Bill Hall) and was still in the game after the Angels
got him a third run in the seventh.
I was watching from here:
Just hoping for a foul ball… nothing came close though.
As Lackey took the hill in the ninth I was right behind the Angel
dugout… how close? Well, I zoomed in with my camera as Franklin
Gutierrez made the second out.
Griffey (seen in the above photo)
popped out in foul ground to give Lackey his eighth career shutout…
his first since ’07. It was a great game–a quick game, too. By 9:25
I was looking through the concourse for a kid with a glove. Remember
that Robb Quinlan ball? Well, I decided that (as long as I snagged at
least one after that) I’d give it away after the game. I meandered
through the field level as folks exited for at least five minutes and
the only kid with a glove that I found was talking to his folks about
the ball he’d already gotten that night. I decided to keep it
temporarily and give it away when I was at the game on Saturday.
That’s right–Angels/White Sox day game on Saturday! I hope there’s
BP–it’s the FOX game of the week so I’m guessing they’ll take batting
practice… but you never can tell for sure.
Here are the five baseballs I snagged:
I realize as I write this that I went to every game in the Seattle
series and the Angels won all three of them. That’s the first time
I’ve been at every game of a sweep. Cool! The Halos AL West lead is
now five games.