Guess what? I’d been listening to sports talk radio and I ended up winning two tickets to the Angels/Blue Jays matchup on the 3rd of May. I had high hopes for this game, as it came the day after Jered Weaver threw a no hitter at Angel Stadium… the 10th in club history. The evening before that, Jerome Williams had shut out the Twins on only three hits. Dan Haren would be taking the mound on this particular evening and I figured, if things progressed, it would be a shutout on Tuesday, a no hitter on Wednesday, and a perfect game on Thursday. Makes sense, right?
I’d be ready–I got to the stadium nice and early. I was the third person in line. I would be the first person to reach the seating area…
Well, did you read anything about a perfect game? Nope. But that was a ridiculous thought… even though Haren made a similar comment to the media (jokingly).
There would be no perfect game… though Brandon Morrow got close. This one would end up being all Blue Jays. But let’s get on to batting practice. I was third in line and Michelle decided to sit in the shade and read and make a couple of phone calls. I raced in and up to the right field seats at 5:05pm. There weren’t any baseballs to be found lying around but I did see Weaver in right field with Bobby Wilson and David Carpenter and took advantage of the empty stadium and the relative silence by congratulating him. He responded kindly and went back to work.
And about five minutes later, Wilson tossed me my first ball of the evening. It had a few grass and dirt scuffs and the word PRACTICE was stamped on the sweet spot. I’d gotten several of these stamped baseballs and I turned around looking for a kid to give it to, but there weren’t any in the section. I trotted up the stairs and handed it to an usher to give away for me–and I saw him make a little boy’s day by handing the ball over to him about five minutes later.
The next ball I caught came from [former] closer Jordan Walden. He’d already tossed a couple of baseballs into the stands… one in particular to a little kid to my left. Well, this little kid (who already had two baseballs of his own–one from Walden) decided to ask for the next baseball that Walden fielded. The pitcher looked up at him and shook his head no, then I piped up, “Hey, Jordan, how about one for the big kids?” It’s the first time I’ve ever used that line… and wouldn’t ya know it? It worked. He flipped up baseball #2 on the day and I gave that one away to a different usher a little while later.
Unfortunately for the BP regulars in Anaheim, the Angels have quite a few righties that can hit the ball pretty far. I call that unfortunate because a lot of baseballs fly out to left and center fields–and there are bullpens and a pile of Disney-era rocks that prevent us from snagging said baseballs. Boy, we sure hope Kendrys Morales (the lone bat from the left side with any power) gets taken out of the first group of BP hitters… at least Mark Trumbo and Albert Pujols hit a few the opposite way into right field for us. I couldn’t get a glove on any other baseballs while the Angels were hitting though.
I went down to first base side of the stadium as the Blue Jays came out to throw… but no matter where I went–I couldn’t get their attention… so when a round of lefties started hitting I ran back up to right field. I came close to snagging two baseballs on the fly… but close was all I got. One was a shot to the first row of the pavilion by Adam Lind. The other was a bomb about five or six rows back that San Diego ballhawk TC snagged since my leap was about six inches too short. Speaking of TC, you can see him in this photo:
But the real reason I took that is LOOK AT HOW MUCH SPACE THERE WAS! I should have been close to double digits–note the time–the stadium had been open for forty-five minutes. It was just a struggle to snag anything through Blue Jays BP.
The day would pick up for me a bit at the end of batting practice though, as I got three baseballs thrown my way as the Blue Jays ran off the field. The first came from pitcher Drew Hutchison as he headed down the dugout steps. I quickly put that one in my pocket and, as the coaches finished rounding up all the baseballs from BP, hitting coach Dwayne Murphy threw me a ball in the fourth row. But a huge guy with a beard in the third row reached out and caught that one in front of my face… then he looked at me and said, “You already got one.” Well, actually, I’ve already got three. Then Murphy, who must have seen what happened, lofted another ball my way–this one with a much higher arc. And I caught it by reaching out as far as I could, shocking the bearded fellow in front of me. I went on my way to track down my lovely wife, who’d found a spot in the sun to read her book on the field level in foul territory.
We grabbed sandwiches (which were delicious… and cost us $9.75 each) and some Cracker Jack and headed out to left field. Pujols was still sitting on zero home runs for the year so I figured he was kindly waiting until I was in attendance so that he could hit it to me–ready and waiting–in the left field corner.
For pregame throwing I hung out by the Angel dugout. Only one pair played catch (Trumbo and Howie Kendrick) and the second baseman kept the ball. I ran to the visiting team’s side and watched as Brett Lawrie threw with Kelly Johnson–then Johnson went into the dugout and Yunel Escobar took over. Well, I was on Lawrie’s end of the dugout, a few rows back, and Escobar ended up with the ball. I was the only one asking if he could toss it up though–so he did… from about forty feet away. Escobar underhanded it about twenty feet high and everyone seated around me just stared as it fell perfectly into my glove.
The blue circle represents where Escobar was standing and the red circle shows where I actually caught the ball.
Want to know what happened during the game? A blue Jay homer for three runs and a Mark Trumbo error for two more. And that was it. Morrow limited the Angels to only three hits and shut them out. The 28,000 people had little reason to cheer throughout the evening. So, when Michelle got a phone call from her sister we walked over to the concourse behind the Blue Jays’ dugout in the eighth inning. By the ninth I was here:
And I watched as Trumbo doubled–but that was as much of a rally as the Angels got going. That was their third and final hit of the night. Trumbo was stuck on second base and Morrow got his complete game shutout. By that point I was here:
Right behind the Blue Jay dugout as they came off the field. But I didn’t see any souvenirs come my way.
It was a pretty lousy night for Angels fans–I made a young kid’s evening a little happier by giving him a baseball I’d brought with me from a previous game as we left the stadium. I’m always up for a ball game but this particular one wasn’t even close to being up there amongst my favorites. Michelle and I enjoyed our time together–and I simply hoped the next Angel game we’d attend would have a better outcome.
OK… here we go… my first post now that MLBlogs has converted everything to WordPress… I apologize for all the weird formatting things throughout my older blog posts… and for not getting this one posted sooner. It was a great day at the Big A.
Once I was inside the stadium I committed an error. I was in the right field seats and was the first one there–I saw a ball get hit to where near an Angel was shagging balls in the outfield. I thought it was Jordan Walden and yelled, “Hey, Jordan! Could you toss that one up, please?” The guy looked at me for a moment, then tossed the ball back toward the bucket. In that moment of brief face to face time I recognized him as backup catcher Bobby Wilson… not fireballing closer Jordan Walden. Oops… stupid coverups.
That’s Bobby Wilson in the center of the above photo… and the real Jordan Walden is on the right. A few minutes later Wilson fielded a ball closer to center field and, this time, I got his name right when I asked politely for the ball from the first row and he yelled up, “You ready?” I backed up a few feet (in case his throw was going to be short–so it didn’t fall back on the field) and then yelled back, “Sure. Gimme your best shot!” Wilson wound up and delivered a loopy knuckle ball. I almost misplayed it but once it was securely in the pocket of my glove I yelled out, “Nice knuckler!” He gave me a thumbs up, I thanked him… then he headed to a different part of the outfield. Here’s where I caught the ball, on the staircase between Sections 239 and 240:
The ball had a black PRACTICE stamp on the sweet spot.
I’ve decided, after fruitless attempts to catch home runs during the home team’s BP in right field, that I’m going to start snagging in the left field seats from now on… there is just no lefty power in the Angels’ lineup. I spent most of their BP watching balls just miss being home runs. Ugh. So, in the Halos’ last round of batting practice I headed down the first base line and asked a couple of pitchers for toss-ups. Reliever Francisco Rodriguez ended up getting a ball to me in a way I’d never gotten one before. A blooper died on the grass in front of him and he walked toward it. Rodriguez was about ten to fifteen feet from the wall and I was in the third row. As he neared the ball, he flipped it up a few inches with his foot and bounced it to his other foot, then kicked a tailing pop up to me, soccer-style. I moved to my right a little bit and snagged my second ball on the day. It was a standard Selig ball and I ended up giving it away to a kid (the kid in the below photo, actually) a little while later.
That was it for the home team’s BP session and the Indians pitchers had come out to run, stretch, and throw. When Chris Perez arrived near the foul line in front of me without a throwing partner he looked back toward the dugout in a way that I would call ‘longingly.’ I took the opportunity to ask him, “Hey, Chris! You need someone to play catch with?” Then I held up my glove. I’d never actually played catch with a Major League Baseball player before but I’d asked a few–usually they chuckled or just ignored me but Perez responded, “Yeah.” I gestured to my awaiting glove and flapped it open then closed. He asked me, “You’ll throw it back?” I told him I would.
And he reached back and threw the ball to me. Whoa! And then I threw it back to him–and as I released the ball I thought, Man, I hope I don’t embarrass myself. The throw got to Perez all right–I’d have liked it to have been a bit higher but–whatever. This continued for a few more seconds before some guy (perhaps the bullpen catcher) jogged out and on my last throw Chris gave me a wave and then started playing catch with whoever the guy on the field was. Still… pretty cool, right? Then, I thought–I’d better stick around, I bet he’ll end up letting me keep that ball. So, I snapped this picture as Perez and the other dude continued throwing:
Then they finished their throws, chatted for a moment… and wouldn’t you know it?
Perez threw me the ball. I thanked him and then I labeled it with a ‘294’ (as it was the two hundred ninety-fourth ball I’d ever snagged) and tucked it into my backpack. My first baseball that I’d actually thrown back and forth with a Major Leaguer! Sweet!
I’d missed out on a few chances up in the pavilion while I was waiting for Perez to finish throwing so I bolted up the stairs and through the concourse to the right field seats again to catch the last half of a group of lefties. Shin-Soo Choo drilled a ball high into the air and pretty deep. I moved down a few steps to the fourth row and ranged to my left. I was in Section 237 and got to a spot where I anticipated the ball would land, drifted a bit further to my left while tracking the ball, saw the gloves of other fans come darting in from all sides, reached high up and ::SMACK::–I felt the ball hit the pocket of my glove. Whew… it’s always a great feeling to catch a ball on the fly during BP–it’s something I don’t get a lot of chances to do in Anaheim.
That would be the last ball I managed to snag during BP and the Indians jogged off the field unexpectedly at about 6:20pm. Usually the visitors are out there until at least 6:25… so I was a bit late getting to their dugout and didn’t get a toss-up there. I did, however, get Vinnie Pestano’s autograph on my ticket stub.
Now that all the players had cleared the field I drank some water, had a snack, and sat down for a minute in the Field Level down the third base line. I mentioned the coverups the Angels were wearing before–well, the first player to come out of the Halo dugout was catcher Hank Conger and here’s what they were covering up:
I’d forgotten that this game was a Flashback Friday game! The Angels had their 1980s uniforms on for this game. I took a few more photos as the rest of the players came out:
And then I watched as two sets of Angels played catch before the game.
Maicer Izturis ended up with the ball after he and Alexi Amarista finished throwing and he tossed it right to me–almost a brand new ball–just two grey smudges on one side. And a moment later I got my second autograph of the day: Rich Thompson (over at the dugout).
I should take time now to mention that all of my five baseballs snagged at this game so far were standard baseballs–none of them had the Angels 50th Anniversary commemorative logo. I knew I had a good shot of snagging a ball during the game though–so I was counting on getting at least one commemorative before the night was over.
I went over to the Indians’ dugout as the national anthem was sung and snagged a ball during their pregame throwing. Asdrubal Cabrera tossed it to me after he finished throwing with Orlando Cabrera. Here he is in the dugout a bit later:
I was behind the Angel dugout for the top of the first and had a great view… but I failed to get the third out toss. So, I ran over to the Indian dugout as Erick Aybar batted to lead off the bottom of the first:
And when Torii Hunter stepped up to bat with two outs I was ready.
Torii grounded out to the pitcher, Justin Masterson, who threw to first for the third out of the inning. Matt LaPorta was playing first base and I got his attention as he entered the dugout and he tossed me my sixth ball of the night. I couldn’t help but notice that it was a standard ball with dirt and grass stains all over it–the switch! Some first basemen switch the infield warmup ball with the one that’s game used when they come in from the field. LaPorta did this the last time I saw the Angels play the Indians and he was still doing it. I described the situation to a nearby Indians fan and jotted down the following note about ball #298: Hunter grnd out to pitcher Masterson to end 1st – toss – stns grn and brwn – switch game ball – not comm – LaPorta.
After a deep sigh I ran back over to the Angel dugout and the seat I’d previously occupied there was still available–so I sat in it thinking I’d get bumped fairly soon. I didn’t. This was my view (taken later in the evening):
Nice! At one point I did spend a half inning in the left field seats hoping for a home run:
But nothing came remotely close and I really wanted to snag a commemorative before the night was over so I headed back to ‘my’ seat in the second row behind the dugout. While I was there I experienced a Kendrys Morales sighting:
And I found out about a week later that he’d decided to have a second surgery on his ankle–so he’s out for the season–again. Bummer. Anyway, I took a ton of photos and had a great vantage point for the game but I was striking out when it came to third out tosses. More and more kids caught on to the game within a game and they’d crouch by the dugout every time there were two outs. I had to simply try to get myself noticed… something much easier to do if you’re little or a girl. Kids and girls kept getting the toss-ups as the Angels would leave the field.
I wasn’t about to box ’em out or jump in front of anyone… I just waited, inning after inning, and finally, after Alberto Callaspo caught a popout that ended the top of the ninth inning (with the game still tied 1-1, FYI)… I stood up near the dugout, waved my arms, shouted out, “Alberto! Over here! Hey, Alberto–right here, please!”
Beautiful. It was at that moment–my goal for the night accomplished–that I realized I had a shot to break my single game record. I had snagged eight baseballs–something I’d only done once before. And with the game still tied I had a shot for another ball. Also… I was now sitting on 299 baseballs snagged in my lifetime. I could accomplish 300 and set a new personal best for one game.
I figured my best shot would be at the Indians’ dugout… less competition. I went over there for the bottom of the ninth–the Angels didn’t score. No one scored in the tenth… I couldn’t snag the third out ball nor did any fouls come my way. I was hoping that, win or lose, the Indians would toss a ball or two up.
The eleventh inning rolled around and I watched as the Indians were shut out by Fernando Rodney–then the Angels came up to bat. Each inning the view I had was as follows:
Note the security guard and usher at the bottom of the staircase. They were there to keep people from rushing the dugout and not allowing those in the front rows to be able to leave. Also note that the Angels have two men on… yep… Aybar singled leading off the inning, then Bobby Abreu singled, and Izturis would single to load the bases for Torii with no outs. Well… Torii smashed a pitch into the left field corner to bring home Aybar and the Angels won it! Great for them… but would the Indians feel generous after the loss?
One ball was tossed up from the dugout. And it wasn’t to me. And one reliever had a ball in his jacket pocket–but it didn’t go to me. So, milestones would have to wait for another day–maybe if so many fans hadn’t decided to stick around for the fireworks it would have been a different story.
While most of the remaining fans watched the fireworks show I took a photo of my prizes from the night.
A great game, a great haul, a great time at the ballpark yet again. Thanks for reading.
The day began with an autograph session with Howie Kendrick at an AT&T store in Seal Beach. Michelle and I each got him twice, and I knew I’d be giving one baseball I had signed away to a friend of mine who works for a charity to fight Huntington’s Disease.
Howie was very nice in person and I really liked his shoes… we chatted about them for a minute as he signed my second autograph. Thanks, Howie!
When we arrived (and got to park in super-close Diamond Parking) there were booths being set up for an animal adoption event and for Chevy. As it turns out, if you test drove a Chevy you got swag… including vouchers for Angels tickets. I was all over it–so was Joe. And he drove the new Camaro–it was pretty sweet. I ended up with a cap, a keychain, and two Angels tickets. Score! It was almost time for the gates to open:
They all decided to check out the animal adoption booths (which you can see to the right in the above photo) while I headed in for BP. My first ball on the day was a scoop off the warning track. Kendrick sliced one that bounced on the grass near the foul pole and I was able to jump out over the wall and snag it as it rolled by. It had the word “PRACTICE” stamped on the sweet spot. Bleh.
I headed up to the pavilion after that and got my next baseball from Mike Napoli. Nap blasted one to right-center and I ran across half a section, down to the front row and reached out over the wall to catch it on the fly. Here’s the spot where I caught it:
The kids in that photo were pretty excited on my behalf… they hadn’t even seen the ball coming and I snagged it three feet to the left of the smaller boy. It was a pretty nice snowcone catch–again, the ball had a practice stamp.
That was it for Angels BP. For the Blue Jays, I played the area behind the bullpens in left field.
I knew there was a lot of right-handed pop in the Toronto lineup and I hoped that they’d knock a few out that far. Most of the home runs they hit went into the bullpens–but thanks to Casey Janssen, a SoCal native who was talking to the woman in the red shirt in the above photo, I got Ball #3 on the day. A Blue Jay righty (I don’t know who) smacked one toward the bullpen. I yelled to Janssen, who was in the ‘pen, “Heads up!” He turned, found the ball as it descended, and caught it. He’d already given one to the lady he was talking to so, as a way of saying thanks to me for warning him, he flipped me the ball. The toss-up was, if my records are correct, my 100th ball of 2010! Many thanks to Mr. Janssen. BP kind of died after Jose Bautista, Vernon Wells, and Aaron Hill hit. I spent the last round in right field–but didn’t snag anything there.
I ran down toward the dugout, passing Michelle and her family in the process (they’d been hanging out in some shaded seats for the end of BP) and when I got to the Blue Jay dugout I got Ball #4 from John MacDonald as he headed into th dugout. It had a cool black smudge on it.
The rest of my party moved to our ticketed seats after that and I continued to hang out near the field for Blue Jays warm-up throwing–but I didn’t snag another ball there so I sat down with the rest of the family. Remember how I said they were awesome seats? This was our view:
BAM! So cool! And we were on the aisle. I told Joe, “These are the seats I have to sneak down to when Michelle and I usually come to games here.” He’d gotten them from someone at his work–so thanks to Joe and the folks he works with!
That’s Mike Napoli scoring on a two-run home run by Hideki Matsui. That was in the second inning so the Halos were off to a good start! I was thrilled to be in great seats that were actually OURS!
And Bobby Wilson, our backup catcher, ended up with two home runs and five RBIs on the night! Wow! It was a good atmosphere, pleasant company, and a great game to watch.
In the ninth inning I positioned myself right over the Blue Jay dugout and as the Jays retreated into the dugout someone (I think it was Shaun Marcum) flipped a ball up over the dugout unexpectedly. I didn’t catch it in my glove… I caught it with my glove, pinning it against my chest… luckily it didn’t hurt and that gave me five baseballs on the night. A pretty good haul–after we left the stadium we treated Joe and his son, Joey, to frozen yogurt at our favorite place and then they were on their way back home.
The Blue Jays were in town for a three game series and I would be heading to two of ’em. Monday night’s game I’d be joined by my wife as soon as she finished up at work… as for me, I headed out to the park at about four o’clock and got in line. I met another BP regular, his name’s Eli, at the gates. At five I headed in and immediately ran to the pavilion. The first group of Angel hitters was up. The group consisted of Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter, Hideki Matsui, and Mike Napoli (who’s been on a hot streak). All four of those bats yielding exactly zero home runs to the pavilion seats. I wanted to take a picture of the empty seats throughout the park… this was a seriously low amount of people at BP. And had that group hit a few homers my way I’m sure I could have nabbed one… or four! But, no, it wasn’t happening. And I realized that my camera was totally dead… bummer. I called Michelle and asked her to bring batteries when she came to meet me.
Since most of the other Angels after the first group would be hitting right-handed I jogged down to near the foul pole. It was there that I finally got on the board for the evening. Bobby Wilson was shagging baseballs in right and I was one of the few people that was 1) trying to catch a baseball, and 2) knew his name. As one round of BP ended and he moved closer to center field I asked him for the ball he’d just picked up. He started trotting to center… and when he was about 100 feet away from me he spun around and fired the ball–right to me! It was a perfect throw… like, I didn’t have to move an inch and it ended up in my glove, chest high. I yelled out, “Nice throw!” and Wilson gave me a thumbs up.
I figure that now would be a good time to mention that I’ve been giving a lot more baseballs away this season. Last season I gave away one or maybe two baseballs per game… but this year, due to a combination of not having a lot of space at my apartment and really just enjoying the thrill of getting the baseball, I’ve been giving away at least fifty percent of what I snag. Unless it’s commemorative or I snag a homer on the fly (or get a ball in a unique way) it’ll usually end up with a little kid at some point in the evening. On this particular day I’d brought two baseballs I’d previously snagged simply to give away.
Baseball #2 on the day would come from a Blue Jays pitcher. The Angels were still hitting but the Jays had come out to throw along the first base line. As they were finishing up a right-handed Blue Jay pitcher with shaggy brown hair who was not exceptionally tall and had facial hair threw me a ball. I’m going to go ahead and say it was Shawn Marcum… I’m not 100% sure… but I think it was him. I took a photo:
The guy who threw me the ball is the one in the center of the photo (near the guy with the high socks) with his back to the camera… this is from my camera phone because, as I mentioned… my fancy camera was still very much dead at this point. I now realize that my camera phone is pretty darn good!
Just a few minutes later, as the Angels were still hitting, a batter lifted a fly ball toward the corner in right field. I tracked it as I ran to my right. It had a shot to clear the short wall out there. Sure enough, the ball carried into the stands. A fan in the first row reached up, bare-handed, to try to catch it. As expected, the ball bounced off his hand and into the third row just as I arrived in the second row and picked it up of the ground before it stopped rolling. I got a nice gash on my right thumb as someone fell into me. Ouch… but I got the ball. I looked to see who hit it. I assumed a lefty… and the only lefty in the group would have been Michael Ryan… but I’m not sure… even less sure than I was about the Marcum ball.
Anyway, in the photo above (taken from where I started when the ball was hit) you’ll see the fan who DIDN’T catch the ball (circled), the spot where the ball hit the seats (a red X), and the place where I picked up the ball (the red box). Thanks, LG enV touch, for these good quality photos.
So, I was at three baseballs on the day and the Blue Jays hitters provided… zero baseballs for their portion of BP. Like, I wasn’t close to a single one. Chris was nearby and he and I were both sooooo bored as no players threw baseballs anywhere near us and no players hit baseballs anywhere near us except one grounder that Chris was able to scoop off the warning track. Like, I got sleepy… that’s how little action there was.
In the last round of Blue Jays BP a couple of lefties hit a few up to the pavilion but I wasn’t up there at that point. I ran down to the dugout hoping for a tossup from someone as they left the field… but it didn’t happen.
Michelle had called me and said she had arrived at the stadium so I met up with her and we grabbed some delicious BBQ goodness for dinner. The Jays didn’t throw before the game… and Michelle and I parked ourselves in the Terrace Level with this view of the action:
I tried for third out tosses from the Jays each inning but didn’t snag anything. About halfway through the game we moved down to the Field Level and watched with this view:
I was thinking that with all the righties there might be a foul ball coming our way. Nope.
One nice thing that happened at this game was that one of those irritating photographers that wants to take your picture randomly asked us just that… and it actually turned out to be a cute picture of the two of us:
Yeah, yeah… I snagged it from the web… hence the banner on there. They want fifteen bucks for a 5″x7″ print. Ugh. But look how cute we are!
I walked Michelle out to the gate when she had to leave at about 9:20. She headed home and I headed back in to the game. When I walked out with her it was 5-0 Blue Jays… when I sat down here:
… it was 6-0 Blue Jays. Ugh.
Just before I took this picture (from the second row) two girls in their twenties sat down in front of me. After they saw Vernon Wells toss his batting gloves to a little girl one section over (lucky!) they started harassing the players in the dugout to toss them a baseball. After a while one of the pitchers threw the girl who’s head you can see at the bottom of the above photo a baseball. It had a message on it written in blue ballpoint pen. I couldn’t read the whole thing but essentially the players had invited to the girls back to their hotel. The message read something like this: If you wanna have [a good time later] come to the [whatever hotel they were staying at] tonight or tomorrow [then three room numbers were listed]. I only know this because the guy in the blue sweater in the above photo asked them what the ball said. They showed it to him and I caught a glimpse of it. That’s the first time I’ve ever seen anyone propositioned via baseball. Weird… and sort of creepy.
Anyway, the game was not going the Angels’ way. 6-0 would be the final and the Halos managed just three hits off of the Blue Jays.
I tried for a tossup at the game’s conclusion at the far end of the Jays’ dugout. Nope… stuck at three for the day. But as I headed up the steps I saw a little boy and his family (a mom, dad, and sister) in Angels gear also exiting the seating bowl. I asked the dad, “Did your kids get a ball today?” He said no… I had seen them trying for tossups at the opposite end of the dugout from me earlier in the night.
As it turns out, the little boy had gotten a ball tossed near/toward/to him. I don’t know the details but his parents told me somebody had robbed the boy of a ball. I looked down at this kid, he was maybe seven years old. He had tears in his eyes… he’d been so close to a ball. I knelt down and pulled two of the baseballs I’d brought out of my bag, asking “And is this your sister, little dude?” He said it was, gesturing to his older sister (about nine or ten). I said, “Here, you pic either one you want,” showing him the two baseballs.
He picked one (that Kevin Jepsen had thrown me during the previous homestand) and I turned to his sister and offered her the other one.
“No, thank you. I was just trying to help him get one.” Wow. That’s, like, the best big sister EVER! I wished the family a good night and they all thanked me. I headed up the steps where I found another young boy… this one in Jays gear. I asked him if he’d gotten a ball that night and he hadn’t. I handed him the other baseball I’d tried to give to the previous family. He was thrilled.
I headed to my car. I was feeling pretty good despite the Angels loss.
I had another game… an afternoon game… coming up very soon.
Michelle and I knew months ago that we’d be heading up to the Bay Area in July and I’d checked the Angels schedule to see if they would be playing the A’s. Sure enough, the Angels and Athletics met up right out of the All-Star break. Due to our busy schedule (and wanting to see all of our Bay Area-based friends) we could go a game either on a Saturday or a Sunday. I picked Sunday because both games were during the day and Saturday’s was a day game after a night game. It was the Angels–away from Anaheim. The last time I’d seen them play on the road was in July of 2005 in New York against the Yankees.
I hoped there would be batting practice at this day game after a day game…
Look to the left–ooh! My first view of the stadium…
When we got to the stadium at 10:55am there was already quite a bit of a line:
It was Kurt Suzuki T-Shirt Day at the Coliseum… complete with pooka shells printed on the neck. By the time I got to right field and took my first look at this new (to me) stadium it was already 11:05.
There were a dozen people already there and the only people fielding baseballs in right were two batboys… a friendly Oakland fan told me they never toss anything up.
After a few minutes I headed over to left field and Michelle took some photos that I turned into this panorama:
It was a bit more crowded but there were plenty of righties hitting and some pitchers shagging in the outfield. The A’s hit about two or three baseballs to the stands… none near me. And I saw a few balls thrown to fans… nothing to me. I wasn’t nervous about getting shut out because I was one of a handful of Angels fans in the stadium. The A’s wrapped up BP at about 11:35am (the Angels were scheduled to start hitting at 11:40). I took off the green and put on the red: my circa 2004 Darin Erstad T-shirt. I chatted with Michelle while we waited for the Angels to take the field.
I’d seen a few pitchers come out to throw along the first base line… but no hitters were anywhere to be found. 11:40 came and went… still no hitters. Oh, no! Groundskeepers started taking the cage down… I was still without a baseball. I told Michelle the Angels weren’t going to hit and we took off for the field level. I got over to the line just as the pitchers were finishing but nobody threw their ball anywhere.
To get over my disappointment and not snagging a ball during (severely shortened) batting practice I figured I’d go for autographs. Our actual seats for the game were in Section 111, just behind the Angels dugout.
Yes, I actually paid for these seats. Got ’em for less than 72 bucks for two on StubHub… sometimes you find some good deals on that site. Be sure to check it out.
First up was Matt Palmer, who has grown his facial hair back since the last time I talked to him. After that I got backup catcher Bobby Wilson’s signature and then some of the Angels came out to play catch and stretch. After getting snubbed by Howie Kendrick and Chone Figgins as they finished throwing I got Gary Matthews, Jr. to throw me my first ball of the day. YES! No shutout for you today, Oakland Coliseum! I also saved a little kid’s life on this snag, by the way. Gary threw the ball from about fifty feet away but it tailed to my right a little bit. I stretched as far as I could and made the catch in the front row of the stands… right in front of a boy about six years old who had his hands down by his sides. He and his family hadn’t even seen it coming.
I saw Brian Fuentes heading out toward the bullpen… he stopped to talk to a family he knew and I waited patiently until–aannndd a little kid ran right up and asked him for his autograph. He looked down and said, “Hang on.” I lined up right behind the little dude and a minute later I had the All-Star’s autograph. I made sure to thank him for taking the time.
I saw Erick Aybar tossing with a trainer back along the first base line. When they finished I yelled, “Erick! Over here!” and as he was walking toward the dugout he threw me Ball #2 on the day. Someone behind me said, “Good catch.” Really, I’d just stood there and he threw it right to me. I didn’t have to move an inch.
Jered Weaver and Joe Saunders were signing autographs nearby and since I’d already gotten Joe’s (three times–on stubs from his complete game in May) I decided to hang out and get Jered’s. He reached up across the dugout and signed this ticket:
Then Stomper came by in a little car and I took his photo because, well
, I love mascots.
And a little later Robb Quinlan signed a few and I got him, too! Five autographs in one day–that’s a record for me!
About this time the game was getting started and, man, it was a great one. In the second inning though, Michelle and I toured the stadium. As this was our only trip to the Coliseum, possible ever, we wanted to take a good look around. Plus, it got us out of the sun for a while…Look at that concourse–pretty ordinary… that’s right off of first base. And…
Walking behind the batter’s eye… pretty dead out there. Yuck–so much concrete. Cold, unfriendly, Oakland Coliseum. Blah.
Then we ended up in deep left field:
Before going down to the third base line:
A’s starter, Brett Anderson, who didn’t allow an Angel to reach base until he had two outs in
the seventh inning, gave up two hits and no walks in eight shutout
frames–and lost! Michelle and I watched a great duel between Anderson and John Lackey, who went nine innings and got the win! Brian Fuentes picked up the save in the 10th inning after Bobby Abreu hit a line shot out to right that produced the game’s only run! Here he is touching home plate after the homer.
About three other balls got hit really well, too… but they were just too high up and the wind caught ’em. Jason Giambi hit a blast to center that I thought was gone but Matthews grabbed it on the warning track.
So, my impression of the Coliseum is this: ordinary. It wasn’t lousy by any means. It was nice (the ushers were a bit grumpy–nothing new). My expectations were low so I wasn’t disappointed. There’s absolutely NO personality to this park and I see why they’re not selling many tickets (aside from the fact that the A’s are lousy this year)… who wants to really come back to the Coliseum day after day? Not me. The attendance was 18,539… less than half of what I’m used to in Anaheim. But it was great to see it with my own eyes, watch a game with my wife, enjoy the beautiful weather (surprise, surprise!), and snag three baseballs…
What? Yep, the third ball of the day came from recently promoted (and playing first base) Brandon Wood. He recorded the third out of the sixth inning and jogged toward the dugout. Normally, Chone Figgins gets the third out balls and tosses them, at home and, apparently, on the road. This time, however, Wood tossed it right to me while I was in position behind the dugout! Cool! I love to look at the difference between a rubbed up game ball and a BP ball.
So long, Oakland–I may never see another game at your Coliseum. I’ll leave you with some more photos, enjoy!
Sorry this entry has come so late, but school has begun. ::sigh:: And that means my attention is divided. You may remember from a previous entry (9/13/08 at Angel Stadium) that I got “two free tickets (lousy tickets, but free) to the Angels/Rangers game on the 27th.” Well, as it turned out, Michelle and I wrapped up our school stuff at about 6pm that day and we decided to head to the stadium. We grabbed some food and headed off to the Big A… one last game this season. We didn’t get there early, or even on time. We didn’t care, it was time together and time to not think about school stuff.
Our seats were in Section 537, Row M… way up there.
I said they were lousy.
But we didn’t ever get to them.
We found some seats in the lower view level (we arrived in the third inning) and sat down to enjoy our dinner. Mmm… teriyaki chicken bowls! It was already 4-1 Texas by the time we arrived, but for me this game wasn’t about winning. This game was an escape. A relaxed, fun time with my fiancee, and a pleasant Fall evening in SoCal. Mellow, in a word.
The game was never very close. The Rangers ended up winning it, 8-4. Of course, by the end of the game I had convinced Michelle to sneak down to the Field level with me. I figured I had a shot to get a ball.
I was right behind the Rangers dugout for the bottom of the ninth. Bobby Wilson got his first RBI of the season on a groundout. That would be it for the scoring. All that had to happen: another Angels groundout. I was sure I could get Hank Blalock to toss me the ball (I was the only guy with a Rangers hat on). Unfortunately, the final out was a strikeout and I was on the wrong end of the dugout. No worries… as I often do at any ball game… I had fun!
The playoffs are underway. This is the best time of the baseball season–go ANGELS!