Tagged: bobby abreu

9/3/11 at Angel Stadium

I headed off to Angel Stadium for the 6:05pm game at 3:00pm, got there at about 3:25pm, and waited in line for the gates to open.  This Saturday night game would have a postgame concert after it ended (by Ne-Yo–who’s very popular, I’m told).  A big crowd was expected.  I had contemplated driving down to see the Padres play instead but decided on a game in Anaheim.  I’m glad I did.

After playing catch with a few regulars for about ten minutes I got back in line just before 4:00pm, when the gates were set to open, and readied myself for my sprint out to right field.  Typically, my routine consists of tightening and retying my shoelaces, a little bit of stretching, unzipping the pockets of my backpack (so security folks can check it quickly), and placing my ticket (bar code up) in my hand.  Well, I did all that and still wasn’t the first fan in the gates–but luckily a lot of the early arrivals to the stadium were planning to get autographs, not baseballs.  And I was all by myself for a good twenty seconds in the pavilion.  Sadly, it didn’t really help me: no Easter eggs, no toss ups, no BP blasts hit to the seats during my first moments out there.

My first baseball of the day was tossed up by rookie pitcher (and former Redlands East Valley Wildcat) Tyler Chatwood.  He threw it to me in the first row (shown above), it had the word PRACTICE stamped on its sweet spot (shown below), and I’d eventually end up giving that ball away to my favorite usher, Barbara, who’s always out in the right field pavilion.  She finds a little kid at some point during the game to give the baseballs to after I hand them off to her–and the fact that I’ve got a good reputation with the ushers around the park is certainly helpful.

Baseball #2 on the day came via Mark Trumbo and some of his opposite field pop.  The rookie righty hammered a ball that ended up bouncing in the second row of Section 238 as I and a couple other regulars closed in on it.  Lucky for me, the ball didn’t ricochet out of the row it had landed in and I grabbed it a second before the next nearest fan.

This one, too, had a practice stamp on it  (that was quite off-center), along with a blue smear over the logo.  Does anyone know how baseballs get those blue streaks and smears across the leather?

The next group of Angels started hitting soon after and in his second set of swings Russell Branyan hit four consecutive blasts into the right field seats.  The third of four came down in the tenth row of Section 239 and I nabbed that ball (again, it marked as a practice ball) as it rolled through a row.  Then, before the Angels left the field I was able to get my glove on a Bobby Abreu homer in Section 236.  I wasn’t able to catch that ball on the fly, either, but I sprinted through a full section to get to it and was nearby right as it landed and then rolled to my feet near/above the right field tunnel.  Here’s the spot where I picked it up as it bounced around:

By this point the Twins had come out to throw along the right field line and I was thinking to myself, “Wow.  Four baseballs from the Angels–that’s more than usual.”  After Matt Capps finished his warmups I was standing in the fifth row of Section 133 and held up my arms while yelling, “Matt!  Over here!”  Capps lofted the ball over the handful of fans in the first couple rows and into my waiting Mizuno for Ball #5 on the day.  And this one was commemorative!  Lately I’ve noticed that the visiting teams to Angel Stadium tend to have more of the commemorative baseballs than the Angels.

At that point I decided to play the short wall in the right field corner as there was still some space to move around along it.  After a few minutes an unknown Twin hit a ball that I was able to scoop off the track.  I gave that one to a kid nearby (he and his buddy are in the photo to the right)–and I told his friend with him that if another one came that way I would try to snag it on his behalf.

Not five minutes later, a Twins lefty smacked a fly ball our way.  At first I wasn’t sure if it would hit the grass and roll to the wall, hit the dirt and bounce over the wall, or clear the wall and end up in the seats.  I was at the wall when the ball was hit, then hen the ball was at its apex I took a step back, thinking it definitely would not hit the grass.  As it descended I came to the conclusion it wasn’t going to be a home run either–it wasn’t.  The ball hit the packed dirt of the warning track and bounced high over everyone’s head in the first row–and over mine in the second row.  I hurdled the seats behind me and snagged it in the fourth row.  Then, with a smile on my face, brought it to the second kid I’d been talking to and said, “I’m a man of my word.”  I handed the ball over and the two kids were thrilled.

A few minutes after that another lefty on the Twins hit a ball that rolled toward the wall in right field.  It was a bit to my right and there were those two kids I’d given baseballs to, reaching out for the ball but not coming close.  The ball settled about six inches out from the short wall and after they each tried their hardest to get it, I asked if I could give it a shot.  Since I was, “The guy who gave us the baseballs,” they moved aside and I was able to stretch out and pluck the ball off the warning track.  That one, as it turned out, was commemorative–and almost brand new.  Karma, everyone, if you do something nice it tends to work its way back to you.  The two kids had baseballs and I ended up with a commemorative one for myself.  Here’s Ball #8:

And at about that point BP was winding down–as it ended I ran to the Twins’ dugout and as Nate Dammann jogged into the dugout he flipped me a beat up and stained commemorative baseball!

That made 362 baseballs in my lifetime and that one from Dammann was my ninth on the evening.  A new record for me!  I’d previously snagged eight on two separate occasions and now I had pushed my record one step closer to double digits!

I thought I had a really good shot to get there, too, since I still had pregame warmups and the entire game to get one more ball.  But wouldn’t you know it, I didn’t snag another for the rest of the night!

I tried to get one from the Angels after they did their throwing.  I tried to get a ball from either first baseman (Mark Trumbo and Luke Hughes), I tried to get a foul ball… and all I got was a lot of exercise.

The game was pretty exciting though.  The Angels got out to a quick lead when Trumbo hit his first career grand slam (and his 25th homer of the season) off Twins starter Brian Duensing in the first inning.

The way Jered Weaver had been pitching all year everyone in the stadium was sure that would be all the offense the Halos needed.  But the Twins got three runs in the second and three more in the fourth–and that tied the game at six.  Weaver definitely wasn’t at his best.

Vernon Wells smacked a solo homer in the fifth to put the Angels up for good–and they’d add three more runs in the sixth with a home run, an error, a single, another single, and a double.  10-6 was the final and Weaver got the win–but he didn’t look great.  5IP, 8H, 6ER, and 3BB to go with his eight strikeouts.  The bullpen shut the Twins down though.  Mike Trout had three hits and six of the nine starters had at least one RBI.  The win put the Angels 3 1/2 games behind Texas AND there was a post-game concert on tap: Ne-Yo.

Apparently he’s a pretty big deal.  This was the final concert of the Summer Concert Series and girls go crazy for this dude.

I’d heard maybe one of the songs he sang on the radio but I’d at least heard of him before so I’m not totally uncool.  I watched as Angels and Twins players and their families took in the show from their corresponding dugout.  Howie Kendrick and Ervin Santana played with their kids on the grass–it was cute.  And I left before Ne-Yo’s last song so I could beat the traffic.  It was a record-setting night for me–but that double-digit game has still eluded me–we’ll see if I can make it happen before the end of the season.

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Angels – Projected 2011 Lineup

OK, so after today’s shocking trade that sent Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera to the Blue Jays for All-Star outfielder Vernon Wells I spent some time thinking about the lineup for the season.

1. Izturis
2. Kendrick
3. Morales
4. Hunter
5. Abreu
6. Wells
7. Bourjous
8. Mathis
9. Aybar

Bench:
Callaspo
Willits
Wood
Wilson
Conger

What do you think?

Potentially, we’ve got an outfield of Wells/Bourjous/Hunter… or that could shift depending on who the DH is on any given day.  Bobby Abreu figures to split DH/outfield time.

The infield likely will be Callaspo/Aybar/Kendrick/Morales… the odd men out in that situation are Maicer Izturis (who’s actually higher on the Angels’ depth chart than Callaspo but more prone to injury) and Brandon Wood.  Those two can play any infield position between the two of them–so we have backups should anyone go down.

Mathis figures to get the bulk of the catching duty with his former roommate heading to Canada and he’ll be backed up by Bobby Wilson and, soon enough, Hank Conger.

Willits will continue as a backup option in the outfield/pinch runner.

With a starting rotation that projects as:

1. Weaver
2. Haren
3. Santana
4. Piñiero
5. Kazmir

And a bullpen of newly-acquired lefties Takahashi and (also former Blue Jay) Downs along with Jordan Walden, Fernando Rodney, Francisco Rodriguez, Kevin Jepsen, and a couple others… I’m feeling pretty good.

Is this enough to take down Texas and the always-dangerous A’s?  We’ll see…

6/16/10 at Angel Stadium

I originally wasn’t going to go to this game but I got a text message from my friend, Dennis, on Tuesday saying that his and a pal from school, Chris, would be going.  Chris is from Wisconsin and wanted to catch the Brewers while they were in town.  Long story short – Michelle had to work that evening so I accepted their invitation.

I picked the guys up at 1:45 and we got to the park at about 2:05.  I love it when I don’t hit traffic in SoCal.  Chris had never been to Angel Stadium before so we took a long walk around to the front of the ballpark and he got his picture under the big hats while I bought the tickets for us.

There was a huge line at the Home Plate Gate but since this game would be starting at 4:05 I knew that all the gates would open at the same time… so we walked down to right field.  There were about three people in line there, including BP regular Rob.  I chatted with Rob for a while and Dennis and Chris played catch with an extra baseball I’d brought.  I’ve gotten into the habit of bringing an extra baseball with me to games nowadays because I want to give at least one away every time I’m there.

At about 2:30 the gates opened and Chris and I sprinted up to the right field pavilion.  I explained to him the importance of getting into the stands as quickly as possible to find Easter eggs or just be the only one there for a few precious seconds.  Somehow, we weren’t quite the first ones to arrive but I will say that I was the only one who thoroughly checked the seats for baseballs… because I found one in the second row of the furthest section of the pavilion.  Ball #1 on the day and #205 in my lifetime!

Once we’d scoured the seats I recognized that there weren’t going to be too many home runs hit out by the Angels… the wind was blowing toward left field and we had missed most of the first round of BP with the late opening time.  So, after Hideki Matsui and Bobby Abreu finished their cuts I went down near the foul pole in right field.  While there I watched as the Brewers came out to the field to stretch and then the Angels finished up.

I got shut out by this group of Brewers pitchers:
group of brewers pitchers.JPGThough they had a lot of time tossing baseballs to each other to read the various messages written on the balls.

My next baseball came off the bat of Casey McGehee.  I didn’t know it was him at the time–but a righty on the Brewers sent a ball slicing down the right field line and I was able to leap up on the wall, lean over, and scoop it off the track.  I analyzed the stance of the batter to figure out it was McGehee once I got home.

Before I get to much further into this entry I should point out that Dennis actually snagged a ball as we were both up in the pavilion.  Once the Angels finished hitting and Prince Fielder stepped into the cage I made sure to be back up in the stands 400+ feet from home plate.  After seeing Fielder hit the day before I knew he could launch some bombs up there.  I played about halfway up the pavilion and Dennis played even further back.  I got close to one shot from Fielder but it wound up two rows below me.  A few minutes later though I had one lined up that ended up flying ten feet over my head.  Dennis was a few rows behind me–the ball hit his glove, bounced out, but he was able to recover and snag the baseball.  The Brewers had written SICK! on that one.  I was really happy for him.

I took this photo during the game that shows where I found my first ball of the day (the red circle) and where Dennis snagged the Fielder homer (the white square):
where we snagged baseballs 6.16.JPGI went down to the foul pole again after that and eventually I saw my friends up in the pavilion again.  Though at that point they’d put snagging baseballs at a secondary priority:
dennis and chris with beer.JPGAnyway, I wouldn’t snag my third baseball until the end of batting practice (even though I thought for sure Chris Capuano would hook me up–he really liked my shirt).  But I’d snag Ball #3 on a toss up from a kid who had been fielding with the players.  I had asked bullpen catcher Marcus Hanel for a ball as he came in from the field.  The kid was near him and he’d said something to the kid like, “You can give him that one.”

Hanel started transferring baseballs into a bag and the kid tossed me the ball.  There was a blue line through the sweet spot on that one (no cool saying on it).
blue line through brewers baseball.JPGThen the kid went into the dugout.  Hanel finished what he was doing a moment later… and I had moved a bit to my left.  Then he spotted me and tossed me Ball #4 on the day!  He must not have known tif the kid had actually thrown me the ball–but he’d pulled one out of the bucket that had a practice logo–not just a stamp on the sweet spot.  I’d seen one of these before:
practice logo brewers baseball.JPGSo, I ended BP with four baseballs.  Dennis had one and Chris hadn’t gotten one.  When the Strike Force came by shooting T-shirts and Nerf baseballs I snagged a little Nerf ball and handed that one to Chris.  I figured he could at least have a souvenir of his first trip to the stadium that way.

We walked around the concourse and eventually ended up in some seats on the Terrace Level just past third base.  I saw some Angels warming up and tried to get a ball from them.
6.16 angels warming up.JPGNo luck there.  I sat behind the Angels dugout until the middle of the first, hoping for a toss up.
6.16. 1st inning 2.JPG6.16 first inning 3.JPGNo luck there either.  So, I went back and found Dennis and Chris.  We all decided to grab seats behind the Brewers dugout.  At day games in Anaheim the visiting team’s dugout is on the sunny side of the stadium and fans all sit in shady seats when possible–we were able to find warm, sunny seats (plenty of them) right near the dugout.  I didn’t take any pictures there… but take my word.  They were good seats.

Jim Edmonds was playing first base for the Brewers, as Fielder was their DH on the day.  Each inning I tried for a third out toss but Edmonds either threw the ball a section over from us or the inning ended in a strikeout…

Until the bottom of the fourth.  Brandon Wood popped out to Edmonds to end the frame.  There weren’t a bunch of little kids rushing down to the dugout for some reason… usually by the fourth inning of a game a dozen little kids have caught on to the pattern of rushing down there to get a ball.  Anyway, I was pretty much the only person at the bottom of the steps as the Brewers came off the field and I called out for the ball: “Jim!  Right here, please!  Hey, Jim!”

Edmonds flipped the ball right to me–a gamer–rubbed up from a great player and a former Angel.  I was thrilled!
edmonds baseball 209.JPGSo pretty.

I went back to the seats and showed the ball to my friends.  Then I explained to Chris the strategy behind third out tosses.  We agreed that he would try the next one–but the fifth inning ended in a strikeout and then we got booted from those seats when the actual seatholders arrived… in the fifth inning.  The end of the fifth inning!  Whatever.

We headed up to the top levels of the stadium and walked around a bit.  We ended up finding seats with this view:
6.16. upper deck seats b.jpgAnd we stayed there until almost the end of the game.  As the top of the ninth ended and the Angels were up 5-1, I went to the Angels dugout as Fielder batted.
fielder bats in 9th.JPGAnd I got shut out there.  Oh, well.
6.16 five baseballs.JPGFive on the day and an Angels win on an awesome summer afternoon makes for a pretty darn good baseball experience.

I decided to get super-closeups of the gamer from Edmonds.  Here’s what a baseball looks like from an inch away:
closeup 209.JPGcloseup 209b.JPGMy next game would be at PETCO down in San Diego.

5/14/10 at Angel Stadium

I knew my wife would have to be at work during this game so I made plans with my friend, Josh to head out to see the Angels play the A’s on a Friday night.

You might remember Josh if you’ve been reading this blog for a while.  He’s been to a couple games at Dodger Stadium with me (on 9/2/08, 5/2/09, and 9/18/09)… but we’d never been to Angel Stadium together before.  It turned out to be a pretty cool night.

After lunch with Michelle we played video games at my apartment before leaving for Anaheim at about four o’clock.  We parked, walked to the Home Plate Gate, saw BP regular, Terry there (and he let us stand at the front of the line with him), and we waited for the stadium to open.  About this time, I heard a voice say, “Are you Matt?”

“Yes.”  I looked and saw a boy of about thirteen to my left.  He said, “I read your blog.”  I said, “Cool!  What’s your name?”

His name’s Kevin and he was there with his dad.  He’s left some comments on this blog as m_kemp_27.  He’s a nice kid and would end up snagging a few baseballs of his own on the night.

I told Josh, “Now, I’m gonna run in to left field.”  He said he’d run with me but when the gates opened he lagged behind and I kept going.  As it turns out, I would snag two baseballs before he even got there… he stopped to use the restroom.

BP was fully underway and here was my view:
5.14 bp foul ball panorama b.jpgWhen Josh walked down the steps toward me near the foul pole I tossed him the ball I had just plucked off the dirt.  It had been hit by some Angel batting from the right side… most were… as today they’d be facing a lefty.

It had the following imprint, likely from the bat used to hit it.  Any ideas?
closeupball2.JPGBut I’m getting ahead of myself.  I mentioned that I’d snagged two by the time Josh got there… well, as soon as I made it to the seating bowl I looked for any baseballs hiding in the stands.  None were to be found… but as I set my backpack down to get my camera Bobby Abreu hit a ball that sliced foul and into the seats.

The ball was two sections over to my right–but I got a great jump on the ball and it was only me and one other guy going for it.  He was running left from near the infield and I was running right from near the pole.  We got to the ball at the same time and closed in on it from either side. Luckily, it was still rolling and I know that at Angel Stadium baseballs will trickle down row after row.  So, while he positioned himself in the row the ball was in at the time we arrived, I positioned myself two rows closer to the field… the ball rolled right to me.  And that was number one on the day… and you know about Ball #2.

A few minutes later, Ervin Santana fielded a ball near the warning track.  I moved to my left and called out to him and he tossed it right to me.  Ball #3 and Ball #185 of my lifetime.

At about this point I told Josh, “Wow… three from the Angels.  You’re like a good luck charm, dude.”  He hadn’t snagged a ball but that’s not really his thing anyway… he was enjoying the shade and the relaxing atmosphere.

I told him I was going to head over to right field when the A’s came out to hit.  He said something about not wanting to be in the sun–but he came with me anyway–and we headed down toward the the opposite side of the stadium:
a's pitchers warmup.JPGKevin’s in the above photo near the foul pole wearing the green hat and shirt with a 2 on the back.  I was able to scoop a ball off the warning track a few minutes later that had been hit by a right-handed batter on the A’s.  I ran to my right, jumped up on the wall at the right moment, and made the snag.

About this time I saw Kevin again… he asked if he could hang out with me for a bit and learn some tips… I told him, “Sure, man,” and then I talked to him for a while and told him about heading to the dugout at the end of BP.

braden warmup.JPGWell, Kevin got a ball a little while later.  I ran to the dugout and got Ball #5 from a trainer as the A’s headed off the field.  Kevin was nearby and he and his dad decided they would sit behind the dugout until they got kicked out.  I left to regroup with Josh.  We watched Mr. Perfect, Dallas Braden, warm up.  He’d be pitching against Joe Saunders… both of them wear 51… weird.

And when the A’s came out to play catch I headed back to the dugout.  There, I got former Cub Jake Fox to toss me my sixth ball of the day.

Now, I should mention that my personal record of baseballs snagged at one game is seven.  I’ve done it four times… at three different stadiums (Angel Stadium, PETCO Park, and Citi Field)… but I’d never cracked seven.

About this time I was thinking I had a shot to do it.  Josh and I sat on the Field Level with this view:
hopes for a foul ball.JPGI was hoping for a foul ball… I mean, look at the space around us.  Look at the row we were in!

Also, each inning I’d try for a third out toss from the A’s at there dugout.  One time when I headed over there I saw Kevin… he’d snagged at least two baseballs at that point in the evening and I helped him figure out who had thrown him one before the game.

In the bottom of the fifth inning with two outs, Brandon Wood popped out to Daric Barton at first base.  I was about six rows behind the dugout and as a bunch of little kids rushed down to the bottom of the steps I simply stood up and waved my arms.  “Daric, right here!” I shouted.  And as he jogged in, Barton tossed me my seventh b
aseball.  I looked down at it and was disappointed.  Why?  Because he had switched the actual game ball with the infield warmup ball he’d used.  First basemen do that sometimes… I have no idea why.  But my disappointment lasted only a moment, as I had again tied my record.  It was only the sixth inning and I knew I had to try to snag one more ball before the night was over.  I kept hoping for a foul ball and a few came close over the closing innings.

In the ninth, Josh and I moved nearer to the visiting team’s dugout.
view in 9th inning.JPGThe game had been great up to that point.  It was a good BP, we were talking about baseball the whole night, the Angels were winning 4-0, we’d seen some excellent defensive plays, and Joe Saunders was staying in to pitch the final frame.
saunders pitching well.JPGI will happily say that I have now been present for both of Joe Saunders’ complete game shutouts in his career (he threw one last season against the Royals and Zack Greinke).  The Angels won it, four to nothing, and I was in a great mood.  I was still stuck at “lucky number seven” though.

Now, we were behind the A’s dugout at the end of the game because the Angels dugout is super-crowded after a home win.  Plus, there were fireworks coming up and the game had been fast… about two hours and fifteen minutes.  So, I took a chance and trotted down to the dugout as the A’s came off the field.  As expected, none of the players wanted to thrown anything up.  They silently trudged down the steps and into the dugout… one bullpen pitcher tossed a ball ten rows behind me.  And that was it… they were gone.

But right as I was about to leave a kid in A’s gear appeared in the dugout.  I wondered if he was the same kid I’d seen last season on the field shagging BP balls.  Anyway, he had a ball in his hand he was planning to throw to the crowd.  I was the only one in an A’s hat and I thought it was a sure thing.  This’ll be number eight!  But he started to walk away… saw a young Angels fan a little further down the dugout and said to the teen, “Take off your hat.”  I knew what he was doing.  He didn’t want to toss the baseball to someone in Angels gear.  The fan didn’t get it… and wouldn’t take off his hat.  So, the A’s kid turned around to face the field and tossed the ball backwards, like a bride tossing a bouquet.  It was up for grabs… and I was the only one with a glove out of the six or so people still around.  I leaned out over the dugout and made the catch.  Ball #8!  And #190 of my career… I was so excited that I gave three baseballs away on my way out of the stadium that night, two to a pair of brothers who weren’t more than ten years old, both had gloves, and would’ve gone home empty-handed.  I was so psyched… I had Josh take the following picture:
eighth ball of the day.JPGMe with my (personal) record-setting baseball.  A new game high, a great night at the park with a friend, and an Angels victory.

And, yes, there were fireworks:
5.14 fireworks.JPGAnd the game was over so quickly that Michelle and I had time to make it to a sports bar later that night to celebrate our other friend’s birthday.  It was a really great evening!

4/10/10 at Angel Stadium

I got back from New York on Friday–and on Saturday I convinced Michelle that we should head to an Angels game.  I was psyched and ready for a real game at the stadium this time (I’d already been to an exhibition nine days earlier).  We didn’t have tickets in advance but we got to the ticket window near the gates at 4:40, bought two tickets, and got in line.  Shortly after Michelle and I arrive I saw Chris and chatted with him about his offseason and a little while later we saw Rob and Terry.  I’ve written about all these guys before, remember?

The gates opened at 5:00pm and I was off–running to the pavilion in right field.  Rob was right in front of me heading up the escalator and I zoomed by him and made it out to the seats first.  I ran down the staircase, checking each row of seats.  As I got to the second row I saw a ball rolling… down into the first row.  What?  There are NEVER any Easter eggs in Anaheim!!!  It probably had just been hit out to the seats just before I got there.  As I scooped up Ball #1 on the day (and the 161st of my life) I thought back and this was only the 2nd game at Angel Stadium in which I’d found a ball.  The last time it happened was 7/27/09 and I’d found two of them!

I’d forgotten my camera on this abrupt trip to the ballpark but Michelle had hers and she agreed to snap a few pictures during BP.  She typically sits and reads in the shade out of the way of flying baseballs so the pictures are a little far away (or blurry) but she got some good ones.

Here I am tracking a home run (well, I thought it would be a home run):
tracking home run.JPGA minute later Bobby Abreu was batting and I had been talking to Rob about Abreu hitting anything out in BP.  He said, “I’m still waiting for him to hit one out up here.”  And then he did–the ball went screaming into the pavilion behind us and to our right.  It landed in the 10th row, took a high bounce as we were approaching it and in the picture below you can see me grabbing it just before Rob got there:
race for homer.JPGHey, that’s my backpack in the seat just below Rob’s right arm…

I had to wait until almost the end of the Angels’ portion of BP.to get my next ball–but it was a great moment.  I’d been hanging out on a staircase in right center.  Mike Napoli was swinging and I knew he had good opposite field power.  He smacked one that had a chance to make it up to the pavilion.  I ran a full section to my left, down the staircase to the first row and reach out over the wall just to my left.  The ball hit the pocket of my glove just in front of the wall… I kind of hit the wall, too.  But it was worth the bruise on my leg to make that catch.  It was my first ball caught on the fly in the 2010 season.  I can still catch, go figure.

Michelle snapped a series of pictures at some point during BP that I turned into a panorama:
4.10 bp panorama arrow.jpgIn the above photo you can see a red arrow (click on the pic if you need to) and it’s pointing to me.

It was a pretty light BP crowd.

Since I knew that not many A’s had home run power to right field I decided to play down the line near the foul pole.  I got a good spot… and at some point Michelle took a photo of me in my A’s garb:

Shortly after he finished his warmup throws, Andrew Bailey threw me Ball #4 on the day.  There were a few slicers and foul balls that whizzed by but I couldn’t get a glove on any of them.

I moved down to the closest section to the dugout that I could.  At Angel Stadium you’re not allowed to go close to either dugout until BP is over unless you have a ticket to that section… which is weird.  That’s the opposite policy that most other stadiums have.  Usually you get kicked out of dugout seats at the end of BP.  Anyway, for the last few minutes of batting practice I was here:
end of bp.JPGAnd then as the A’s trotted in I sprinted to their dugout and Brad Ziegler tossed my my fifth baseball.  Sweet!

I found Michelle sitting in the outfield and she took a photo of me with the baseballs I’d snagged:
five baseballs 4.10.JPGThe only other thing I got (other than stomach pain from the gross buffalo boneless wings I ate) was one of those soft baseballs the Strike Force shoots out of an air cannon.  I tried for warmup tosses before the game and then tried for a third out toss in the bottom of the first… and then Michelle and I decided to find some seats in the upper level to watch the game. 

Before we went upstairs we went to check something out… I had heard that the Rally Monkey would be making an appearance at this game.  And that you could have your picture taken with said monkey.  Now, I’d never seen the Rally Monkey before and I didn’t know if it would be an actual monkey or someone in a monkey suit. 

Actual monkey:
rally monkey.jpgSuper cute li
ttle guy, but the line was super long… so we were fine with just getting a picture of the little critter.

Here’s a photo from where we decided to park ourselves:
our seats 4.10.JPGIt was a great game!  It could have been better but, still, we had a lot of fun.
matt michelle 4.10 angels game.JPGBen Sheets pitched against Jered Weaver and Weaver gave up one run in six innings against Sheets’ three runs given up in six innings.  But Weaver didn’t get the win.  Erick Aybar and Jeff Mathis made base-running mistakes and Kevin Jepsen and Scot Shields each gave up a run so we went into the ninth inning tied at 3-3.

Michelle and I watched the last inning and a half from here:
field seats 4.10.JPGFernando Rodney would throw a shutdown ninth.

shocked faces.JPGIt was exciting!

Bobby Abreu doubled with one out in the ninth… and then Torii Hunter was intentionally walked by Craig Breslow to get the lefty-lefty matchup against Hideki Matsui.  Well, Matsui laced a double just fair down the right field line to score Abreu and the place went nuts!

4-3 Angels.  It was a good time–and we headed out to the parking lot with smiles on our faces.  On the way out I gave away two of the baseballs I’d snagged (and I had already given one away to my favorite usher during the game).  I’m basically giving away most of the balls I snag this season unless their special/commemorative… I’ll run out of storage space eventually anyway.  So, I’m making tons of kids (and parents) happy.  Heck, I’ve snagged twelve baseballs and given away more than half of them to ushers and kids already.

Ah… it’s nice to have baseball back again!

Another Season, Another Left-Handed Former Yankee

You might recall that about a year ago I posted an entry about my excitement regarding the acquisition of Bobby Abreu and how I thought he’d help the team.  Well, as I’m sure you know by now, the Angels signed Hideki Matsui to a one year deal last month.  While I am sad to see Vladdy go (this deal pretty much sealed his non-Angel fate), I am glad that we’ll be getting a more patient hitter.  Matsui is no better in the power or mobility categories but at least he’ll see a few more pitches per at bat and hopefully not ground into so many double plays.  Vlad had his worst season since his rookie year in ’09 (partly due to injuries) so I’m glad Matsui is replacing him, in essence.  I was over the Vladdy-love after 2008, when his numbers decreased drastically (and it was revealed he was actually a year older than he’d reported).  Matsui had a career year last season so he’s worth the low-risk of signing him.  Yes, his knees are bad and he’s just going to DH… but that’s fine.  That was Vladdy, too.

Back to Abreu for a moment.  He turned out to be a great investment, making all of the 2009 Angels better.  And he was rewarded with a new, two-year deal.  Back in my previous blog about his signing I’d said, “I’m projecting seventeen homers and 100 RBIs for Bobby,” and he gave us 15 home runs and 103 RBIs.  Not too shabby, eh?  So, what’s Hideki Matsui’s line going to be in 2010?  Well, if he stays healthy (and that’s a BIG if) then I’m guessing he still won’t hit 28 homers like he did last season.  He doesn’t have Yankee Stadium’s friendly short porch.  So, I’m guessing he’ll hit 18 home runs and drive in 85 runs.  Not overly impressive, but it all depends on where he hits in the lineup.  I’ll go ahead and throw out that he’ll hit .285 on the season.  Check back in a year!

Was it a good signing?  Yes, I think so.  A great one?  No.  I wish we still had Lackey… and Figgins.  We got Fernando Rodney… we’ll see.  He’s a wild card whenever he’s throwing.  Usually he’ll strike a guy out or walk him but he doens’t give up a lot of home runs.  He should compliment Fuentes well.  And Scot Shields will be back… plus we’ve got Jepsen and Bulger.  So, over the course of the season our bullpen is looking pretty solid.  Who knows if Matt Palmer will be another arm out of the pen or if he’ll fall into that fifth starter role behind Jered Weaver, Scott Kazmir, Joe Saunders, and Ervin Santana?  I think we’re okay on pitching and okay on hitting.  The lineup?  Here’s my projection:

1. Erick Aybar
2. Bobby Abreu
3. Torii Hunter
4. Kendry Morales
5. Hideki Matsu
6. Juan Rivera
7. Howie Kendrick
8. Mike Napoli/Jeff Mathis
9. Brandon Wood/Maicer Izturis

Thoughts?  Feedback?  It’s going to be tough to fend off Seattle and the Rangers.  They’ve both made better improvements to their respective teams than have the Angels.  Oakland?  I’m not worried about them.  We’ll see if the front office is done making moves for any/all of teh AL West teams.  One thing’s for sure–I’m excited for a new season of baseball and an All-Star Game here in Anaheim.

7/19/09 at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum

111.JPGMichelle and I knew months ago that we’d be heading up to the Bay Area in July and I’d checked the Angels schedule to see if they would be playing the A’s.  Sure enough, the Angels and Athletics met up right out of the All-Star break.  Due to our busy schedule (and wanting to see all of our Bay Area-based friends) we could go a game either on a Saturday or a Sunday.  I picked Sunday because both games were during the day and Saturday’s was a day game after a night game.  It was the Angels–away from Anaheim.  The last time I’d seen them play on the road was in July of 2005 in New York against the Yankees.

I hoped there would be batting practice at this day game after a day game…

Look to the left–ooh!  My first view of the stadium…

When we got to the stadium at 10:55am there was already quite a bit of a line:
112.JPGIt was Kurt Suzuki T-Shirt Day at the Coliseum… complete with pooka shells printed on the neck.  By the time I got to right field and took my first look at this new (to me) stadium it was already 11:05.
113.JPGThere were a dozen people already there and the only people fielding baseballs in right were two batboys… a friendly Oakland fan told me they never toss anything up.

After a few minutes I headed over to left field and Michelle took some photos that I turned into this panorama:
coliseum left field cropped.jpgIt was a bit more crowded but there were plenty of righties hitting and some pitchers shagging in the outfield.  The A’s hit about two or three baseballs to the stands… none near me.  And I saw a few balls thrown to fans… nothing to me.  I wasn’t nervous about getting shut out because I was one of a handful of Angels fans in the stadium.  The A’s wrapped up BP at about 11:35am (the Angels were scheduled to start hitting at 11:40).  I took off the green and put on the red: my circa 2004 Darin Erstad T-shirt.  I chatted with Michelle while we waited for the Angels to take the field.
136.JPGI’d seen a few pitchers come out to throw along the first base line… but no hitters were anywhere to be found.  11:40 came and went… still no hitters.  Oh, no!  Groundskeepers started taking the cage down… I was still without a baseball.  I told Michelle the Angels weren’t going to hit and we took off for the field level.  I got over to the line just as the pitchers were finishing but nobody threw their ball anywhere.

To get over my disappointment and not snagging a ball during (severely shortened) batting practice I figured I’d go for autographs.  Our actual seats for the game were in Section 111, just behind the Angels dugout.
coliseum field cropped.jpgYes, I actually paid for these seats. Got ’em for less than 72 bucks for two on StubHub… sometimes you find some good deals on that site.  Be sure to check it out.

146.JPGFirst up was Matt Palmer, who has grown his facial hair back since the last time I talked to him.  After that I got backup catcher Bobby Wilson’s signature and then some of the Angels came out to play catch and stretch.  After getting snubbed by Howie Kendrick and Chone Figgins as they finished throwing I got Gary Matthews, Jr. to throw me my first ball of the day.  YES!  No shutout for you today, Oakland Coliseum!  I also saved a little kid’s life on this snag, by the way.  Gary threw the ball from about fifty feet away but it tailed to my right a little bit.  I stretched as far as I could and made the catch in the front row of the stands… right in front of a boy about six years old who had his hands down by his sides.  He and his family hadn’t even seen it coming.

Now I was psyched.  I had a ball and two autographs and it was still an hour before gametime.  Jeff Mathis was catching John Lackey’s warmup session:
184.JPGSee the ball?  Look over the “c” in Athletics.

I saw Brian Fuentes heading out toward the bullpen… he stopped to talk to a family he knew and I waited patiently until–aannndd a little kid ran right up and asked him for his autograph.  He looked down and said, “Hang on.”  I lined up right behind the little dude and a minute later I had the All-Star’s autograph.  I made sure to thank him for taking the time.

I saw Erick Aybar tossing with a trainer back along the first base line.  When they finished I yelled, “Erick!  Over here!” and as he was walking toward the dugout he threw me Ball #2 on the day.  Someone behind me said, “Good catch.”  Really, I’d just stood there and he threw it right to me.  I didn’t have to move an inch.

Jered Weaver and Joe Saunders were signing autographs nearby and since I’d already gotten Joe’s (three times–on stubs from his complete game in May) I decided to hang out and get Jered’s.  He reached up across the dugout and signed this ticket:

Then Stomper came by in a little car and I took his photo because, well
, I love mascots.
195.JPGAnd a little later Robb Quinlan signed a few and I got him, too!  Five autographs in one day–that’s a record for me!

About this time the game was getting started and, man, it was a great one.  In the second inning though, Michelle and I toured the stadium.  As this was our only trip to the Coliseum, possible ever, we wanted to take a good look around.  Plus, it got us out of the sun for a while…214.JPGLook at that concourse–pretty ordinary… that’s right off of first base.  And…
221.JPGWalking behind the batter’s eye… pretty dead out there.  Yuck–so much concrete.  Cold, unfriendly, Oakland Coliseum.  Blah.

Then we ended up in deep left field:
left field upper cropped.jpgBefore going down to the third base line:
third base line cropped.jpg255.JPGA’s starter, Brett Anderson, who didn’t allow an Angel to reach base until he had two outs in
the seventh inning, gave up two hits and no walks in eight shutout
frames–and lost!  Michelle and I watched a great duel between Anderson and John Lackey, who went nine innings and got the win!  Brian Fuentes picked up the save in the 10th inning after Bobby Abreu hit a line shot out to right that produced the game’s only run!  Here he is touching home plate after the homer.

About three other balls got hit really well, too… but they were just too high up and the wind caught ’em.  Jason Giambi hit a blast to center that I thought was gone but Matthews grabbed it on the warning track.

So, my impression of the Coliseum is this: ordinary.  It wasn’t lousy by any means.  It was nice (the ushers were a bit grumpy–nothing new).  My expectations were low so I wasn’t disappointed.  There’s absolutely NO personality to this park and I see why they’re not selling many tickets (aside from the fact that the A’s are lousy this year)… who wants to really come back to the Coliseum day after day?  Not me.  The attendance was 18,539… less than half of what I’m used to in Anaheim.  But it was great to see it with my own eyes, watch a game with my wife, enjoy the beautiful weather (surprise, surprise!), and snag three baseballs…
285.JPGWhat?  Yep, the third ball of the day came from recently promoted (and playing first base) Brandon Wood.  He recorded the third out of the sixth inning and jogged toward the dugout.  Normally, Chone Figgins gets the third out balls and tosses them, at home and, apparently, on the road.  This time, however, Wood tossed it right to me while I was in position behind the dugout!  Cool!  I love to look at the difference between a rubbed up game ball and a BP ball.

So long, Oakland–I may never see another game at your Coliseum.  I’ll leave you with some more photos, enjoy!

Angels:
201.JPG188.JPG

A’s:
206.JPG199.JPG

234.JPG262.JPGAnd for some reason MLBlogs won’t let me delete this picture… so here’s Bobby Abreu taking a practice swing before stepping into the box in the first inning:
202.JPG