Well, folks. The 2012 season has come and gone and, as you may have noticed, I pretty much stopped blogging midway through the season. As it turns out, I suddenly was way over my photo allotment on this site (Thanks, WordPress!). Without being able to upload photos, I felt that blogging about my further adventures was pretty pointless.
While I found myself with extra time (which came in handy since my wife and I adopted a dog in August), I sure do miss being a part of the blog community… I still read two blogs with regularity. Those would be Zack Hample’s blog and Todd Cook’s blog. So, I still get to learn about what other folks are up to and I enjoy going through the comments to see the branches of the ballhawking community extending through the blogosphere.
And I’m still keeping up with MyGameBalls.com, too. All of my 2012 gamesd are updated there and you’ll notice that I started adding notes to each baseball that I snagged throughout the year. Sort of like a mini-blog for each ball. I ended up with 105 baseballs this season to bring my lifetime total to 490. And I currently have a streak going… 121 games with at least one baseball pocketed as a souvenir! Not too shabby for a guy who just started doing this in August of 2008.
Along the way I went to three different stadiums (none new) and snagged three new types of commemorative baseball: Dodgers, Orioles, and Red Sox. I’m looking forward to the Astros being around in Anaheim often next season in hopes that I can snag an older 50th ball or an inaugural season ball (for their AL switch–if thosee exist). Also, I ended up with quite a few autographs, both from mail-in submissions and in-person stuff.
I’ll be keeping the blog active but you’re not likely to see too many new posts from me going forward. Keep checking MyGameBalls for details on my games, snags, and other cool stuff I might be up to, loyal readers. Enjoy the off-season!
After conferring with fellow Orange County ballhawk, Devin (aka DevoT,) I was set to make my first appearance as just a fan at Dodger Stadium since September of 2009. Each of the other times I’d taken a trip up to Elysian Park it had been with a media credential… and I wrote columns for myGameBalls.com each time, both in August of 2010 and Sept. of 2011. And you can read those entries on that awesome site or at my blog: here (Aug. 2010) and here (Sept. 2011). Obviously, since I was at work as a member of the media, those games weren’t about me snagging baseballs, they were about others who got to snag… and I didn’t record those games in my stats.
But on this particular day I was just me, the guy who tries to catch as many baseballs as he can at each game, and the Dodgers (who’d be facing the Washington Nationals–both teams were in first place at the time) were using commemorative baseballs for their fiftieth year at Dodger Stadium. And I wanted one.
We went inside the Field Level gate as the Dodgers were hitting (and some pitchers were warming up and it was great–we were severely limited in where we could go–but there was such a small crowd that I had plenty of room to run around (even though they kept us along the left field foul pole).
Might that be a commemorative logo?!?
I had a shot at my first ball of the day when Kenley Jansen (owner of the photographed glove, above, who was long-tossing with an unknown pitcher, maybe Scott Elbert) overthrew his target. I watched the ball as it was sailing through the air and yelled, “HEADS UP!” I ran toward where I thought it would land, a section to my right, lost the ball for a second, watched as it hit some seats… then bounced away from me. But I tracked it down in the fourth row and took a look at the logo… it WAS commemorative!
I was thrilled… but my joy was short-lived. I looked toward the field and Elbert (or whoever) flapped his glove at me. I knew what this meant. They weren’t done long-tossing and needed the ball back. Cool, I flipped it to him, willingly, and figured he’d get it back to me when they were finished. That’s what had happened plenty of other times. Then I looked over my shoulder. Apparently, the errant throw had grazed a lady who was, get this, sitting in the second row and not paying attention. She was lucky it hadn’t broken her face… but she wasn’t complaining… just rubbing her shoulder a bit. I felt badly… I knew she should get a ball. But would it be my ball? The commemorative one I’d just given to the pair of Major Leaguers to use on the field? I could have kept the ball and been done with it–and at that point I’d probably have noticed the lady and debated whether or not I should have given it to her–and scolded her for not paying attention to the on-field activity. But I never got the chance. Jansen finished his throwing, walked toward the lady, and apologized to her. And then signed the baseball I’d given to him and Elbert to use… and then neither of them acknowledged me. Think about it, loyal readers, am I overreacting? Should I not have counted the ball? Because I counted it… and I’m a bit irritated that such careless behavior gets rewarded.
Anyway, Devin beat me out for a liner that went foul as we almost tumbled over a row of seats together. But then, when a couple Dodgers played catch further toward the infield I had another shot at a ball I’d actually get to keep. Mark Ellis warmed up with Adam Kennedy and when they finished I yelled out, Hey, Mark! Over here!” Ellis threw me the ball over all the box seats along the third baseline and I caught it chest high–it was a great throw–then grabbed it out of my glove and checked it out:
BAM! And this one was all mine! I wasn’t giving it up. I quickly ran back to my backpack, stored it safely, and went back to snagging with a feeling of relief. Mission accomplished. If I didn’t snag another ball all evening, I’d be fine. But the Jansen ball was #395 and the Ellis ball was #396. So I started actively thinking about the big 4-0-0.
Some unknown Dodger drove a ball into the left field corner that came to rest on the warning track about 10 to 12 inches away from the wall in fair territory right near the bullpen gate. The drop to the field is probably about a foot or so more than in Anaheim so it takes a bit more athleticism to scoop balls off the warning track in Dodgertown than it does at the Big A. But I figured that I should give it a shot–no one else figured they could get it. After a couple of fans let me squeeze by them, I set my bag down, jumped up and balanced myself on the wall, leaned out and over stretching my left (gloved) hand as far as I could while steadying myself on the wall with my right hand and arm. The ball was just out of reach, so I adjusted my position on the wall, shook my glove so it was on the end of my hand instead of comfortably wedged on there… and just got the tip of it on the ball. I rolled it toward me a few inches and then snagged it and pulled myself back to my feet. I got a nice little round of applause from the nearby fans on that one–and the ball was a standard Selig ball.
About that time Devin decided to head up to the LF bleachers (where his ticketed seat was located) and we parted ways. We kept in touch throughout the evening though. As the crowd grew and BP became a bit less lively, I set my bag down and was looking through it when I heard a THWACK nearby. I looked up as I was kneeling near a staircase just in time to see a baseball bounce right toward my face! I grabbed it, barehanded, and then looked around. Had a kid dropped it? Was it meant for another fan? I asked a few people near me where it had come from–and no one knew. It didn’t sound like it had hit the seat with enough force for me to determine it was a home run. Maybe a ground rule double into the LF corner? Maybe it had been thrown from the bullpen?
Oh… and it was another commemorative ball! Sweet! It had been rubbed with mud… and it had a dirt scuff on it. So, it’s possible that a pitcher had been using it and then tossed it into the seats. But I have no idea–this is the first ball I have ever entered into myGameBalls.com with the listed method of snagging as “Unknown.” Totally weird–but I’ll take it!
That was #398… and I was totally focused on #400… so I didn’t mind that I was unsure of who hit my next ball. It was some lefty Dodger that flared a ball into the box seats just past third base. The ushers nearby (who were all super friendly–much more so than in past seasons) let me dart after it and check this baby out:
The Dodgers were about to leave the field. And I saw the Nationals starting to warm up on the far side of the stadium.Unfortunately, because Dodger Stadium has weird rules, that side of the stadium wouldn’t open until 5:40pm… ten minutes is a long time to wait around. I tried to get a ball from Ted Lilly as he finished some throwing… but that was all there was to do. And then I spent another eight grueling minutes waiting for the ushers to let the maddening crowd head toward first base. I ran that way and was the first one out to the seats in the right field corner–but I found no Easter eggs and the Nationals were being pretty stingy with tossups. And the sun was brutal:And I didn’t snag another batted ball all evening. At least there was a Stephen Strasburg sighting…
It was really important to me that I identify who my next baseball came from. It was a mini-milestone for me. I had snagged baseball number 100 on August 28th, 2009 at Angel Stadium. And I have no idea who hit it to me. Ball #200 was thrown to me by Kanekoa Texeira of the Seattle Mariners on May 28th, 2010… again in Anaheim. And my 300th baseball was hit to me by Peter Bourjos on May 20th, 2011 at the Big A. I thought to myself, “I need to know who gets this next ball to me” And it would also be the first time I’d snagged a milestone baseball (for me) outside of my “home ballpark” down in Orange County.
Wouldn’t you know it? Throughout all of Nationals’ BP I didn’t snag another baseball…
Until the last few players ran off the field… and I was standing near the dugout… and Jordan Zimmermann tossed me this one as I leaned over the concrete partition that separates the haves from the have-nots.
My sixth ball of the night–and #400 in my lifetime. Woo!
With that, it was off to the restroom–and then I took a seat to rest for a while before the game began. And what a great pitching matchup: Clayton Kershaw vs. Ross Detwiler. And If you’ve never sat up close and watched Kershaw pitch–man, it’s epic! A 95 mph fastball and a 73 mph curveball. It’s just not fair. This was my view for the first pitch:
The only blemish on Kershaw’s record was a two-run homer he gave up to Adam LaRoche… which tied the game after Andre Ethier hit a two-run shot in the bottom of the first. The difference in the score would turn out to be an RBI single by Juan Uribe. That was it for scoring… 3-2 Dodgers.
And tried to get LaRoche to toss me a third out ball. No dice–damn that partition!
See the concrete partition that keeps folks away from the dugout? Lame.
And there were plenty of open seats around me. At one point I had a whole row open to my right. I shifted seats twice once the game started but there certainly weren’t over 44,000 people there… even though that was the announced attendance.
Fast-forward to the top of the ninth inning… Jansen came in to close the game out (since Javy Guerra apparently isn’t the closer any longer because, well, he took a line drive off his face). And he made it interesting. He got the first out by inducing a fly ball to center off the bat of Mark DeRosa. Then, Danny Espinosa turned on a fastball at hit it to the seats… about ten feet foul into the right field corner. He nearly tied the game with that almost-homer… but eventually flied out to center, as well.Jansen then drilled pinch hitter Chad Tracy on the wrist with a mid-nineties fastball. Tracy was pulled from the game. Because the Nationals called up Bryce Harper but he hadn’t arrived in L.A., the team played with only twenty-four men on the squad, meaning there was one less bench bat available, and Edwin Jackson was forced to pinch-run for the Tracy so that final bench option, Rick Ankiel, could pinch hit in the pitcher’s spot if the inning got that far. But Jansen ended up striking out the catcher, Jesus Flores, in the next at-bat, and the game ended.
I shouted for a toss-up at the dugout as the Nats left the dugout but nobody even looked my way–and the bullpen guys coming in ignored me, too. A kid on my left said, “I think they’re upset because they just lost.”
So I ended the game with six baseballs snagged–and I’d gotten some commemorative balls and snagged #400. I wasn’t disappointed by any means. I didn’t plan to stay for the Friday Night Fireworks–I needed to get home–but I did want to take advantage of one cool thing that Dodger Stadium does…
I got into a line and ended up on the field. The Dodgers let a certain quantity of fans watch the fireworks from the outfield grass. I took a few photos, like this one from the field looking up at the stadium:
And I touched the grass–a major league field feels so nice! And then, the the confusion of the ushers… I asked to leave.
And they had to open a special gate so I could leave. I snapped a picture of the explosions in the sky as I headed through the parking lot to my car… and was on the road before most people even got out of the stadium. I had a long drive back to Orange County… it’s roughly an hour with no traffic. But I’ll be back to Dodger Stadium this season–probably when the Marlins, Astros, and Mets come to town.
A successful night.
It was a beautiful Friday in Orange County and I was off to the Angels game again. This time they’d be taking on the Orioles… and I was hoping for a Camden Yards commemorative baseball. Maybe a few of them would be in the mix. I arrived to the gates a bit later than I would have liked but luckily, a fellow BP regular let me slip into line with him.
I was off to left field as soon as the gates were open. I knew the Angels would be facing a lefty and that everyone (except Bobby Abreu) would be batting from the right side. I figured there was a pretty good chance someone would pull a ball or two down the line so I stayed near the foul pole.
The Machine (aka Albert Pujols) was taking his hacks and just as I thought to myself, “Man, it would be great to snag a ball from Prince Albert,” I got my chance. He hit a screamer down the third base line that bounced off the wall twenty feet from me and headed my way. I reached out and balanced myself on the wall–I was really hoping I didn’t misplay this one. I stretched as far as I could and nabbed it as it skittered across the warning track. Then, I lifted myself back to my feet and took a look at my prize from Pujols:
Awesome! Not a Camden Yards ball–but a commemorative baseball is a commemorative baseball. I won’t complain.
Unfortunately, that was the only ball I could get during the twenty or so minutes I saw of Angels BP. They ran off the field and I ran to the other side of the stadium, where the O’s had come out to warm up.
As Troy Patton finished throwing with a trainer I asked him for the baseball they had been using. He nodded to me and cocked back his arm to toss it my way but in that instant the trainer he’d been throwing with must have called his name. Patton turned his head to the side and then, sadly, tossed the ball to the trainer–who handed it to a kid in the first row.
Sweet! But now I was confined to the foul line so I could be in the vicinity when Patton fielded another ball… even though the Orioles had started taking their hacks. I was conflicted. I pretty much had a guaranteed snag coming my way–but I wanted to run up to the pavilion to try for batted balls. I decided to wait–hopefully my guarantee wouldn’t take too long. I tried to make a play on a foul that a righty flared off my way but an older fan grabbed it when it ricocheted right to him. The same thing had happened to me earlier on the other side of the stadium when Abreu had fouled one off. I ended up only being stuck for another five minutes because Patton finally fielded a baseball near the warning track and then, from seventy feet away, waved at me and I flapped my glove and he threw me a ball–that almost didn’t make it to me. I had to scoot over to the middle of the row I was in (about the sixth) and lean forward over the seats in front of me to make a basket catch. Apparently, that impressed Patton because he gave me a fist pump and yelled, “Nice catch!”
All right, Mr. Patton. I’m a fan of yours now–thanks for giving me credit… and a baseball (which you can see over on the left). And I looked at it hoping to see a commemorative logo but it was just a standard Selig ball. I started to run up right field at that point but then realized everyone in the current O’s BP group was right-handed. So, after longing to escape the foul line I opted to hang out there a bit longer, hoping for another shot at a foul ball. Well, wouldn’t you know it? A righty O fouled a ball toward me in Section 130… and I ran up the steps for it and snagged it as it bounced around. I ended up giving that ball away to a young fan… in a Cardinals shirt… weird. And he thanked me–then went to show his family–then came back a minute later and shook my hand and told me he really appreciated the kind gesture. Wow! You’re welcome, kid.
Off to right field I went where, inexplicably, I didn’t snag another baseball for thirty minutes. Ugh. The Orioles just didn’t hit many that way and I couldn’t get a single toss up from any pitchers I saw in the outfield. And I got shut out at the dugout after BP, too.
So… three baseballs. Not too shabby, but not great. About that time my lovely wife showed up and we ate dinner together in the seats. Then I tried to get a ball from each team at their dugout during pregame throwing… but failed. Out to left field I went, in search of my first game home run. Here was the view:
The pitching matchup was Jerome Williams against Brian Matusz. And Williams fared better than he did in the Bronx his last time out. He checked the Orioles on three runs in 6.2 innings… his farewell was a two-run homer he gave up to Nolan Reimold… but at that point the Halos had already put up six runs of their own, highlighted by a three-run double by Howie Kendrick (who I am confident will hit .320 this year). Reimold’s homer was the only one of the game at it went to right-center. Nothing close for me.
Since it was a Big Bang Friday–there would be fireworks after the game–Michelle and I relocated to the seats directly behind the Oriole dugout for the ninth inning.Jordan Walden shut down the O’s to earn his first save of the year. And, although I couldn’t convince Buck Showalter to toss me the lineup cards, I did manage to snag something else at the close of the game. I’d jumped into the first row and got the attention of the relievers as they walked in. Not wanting to repeat the circumstances of my last game, that ended with a fan reaching in front of me as the relievers entered the dugout and a baseball was tossed my way, when Tommy Hunter tossed me a ball before heading down the steps I leaned way out to catch it before anyone else could stick their hand in front of my glove. And just like that I upped my total to four. It was a rubbed up ball, too! Then I jogged back to Michelle and watched the fireworks–set to the music of The Beatles–light up the sky. Also, I have no idea what’s on that child’s head…
We booked it out of there right after the finale and were in our car and on the way home before most people had even left the stadium. I was thrilled to watch the Angels get a win. They have been off to a pretty poor start… and Texas has been winning left and right. Yikes! Sadly, as a buddy of mine mentioned on Facebook recently, he is tied with Albert Pujols in home runs this season. Prince Albert’s still sittin’ on a goose egg in that department. I figure he’s just waiting until I’m at another game… how considerate of him!
Hey, I’ve been to two Angels games and they’ve won ’em both. As of this posting I’ve been at 33% of their wins. And 50% of their home wins. I guess I should go to more games…
Next up–a trip to Dodgertown!
Ah, Labor Day. A perfect day for a trip to the ballpark! And I was taking my wife with me to watch the Angels take on the Mariners in this AL West showdown. Also in attendance was Zack Hample–ballhawk extraordinaire–and as I stood in line in the fifth of five lines I noticed him a few lines over.
Zack had been speaking with a columnist from the OC Register but took a moment out of his media day to pose for a photo with me and sign my copy of The Baseball that he’d published earlier in the year (photo courtesy of Zack’s blog–and Brandon Sloter). We chatted about strategy and we’d end up running into each other throughout the day. And you can read Zack’s entry about this game on his blog. I ran in and quickly made it out to the right field seats. The gates had opened at 4:02pm and at 4:04pm I got my first ball of the day from Bobby Cassevah. A simple toss-up to get me on the board. Not five minutes later I scored my second baseball of the day by asking Hisanori Takahashi for one that he had fielded–I guess my Japanese is still passable. That ball had a practice logo on it.
That was it for the Angels… they just didn’t have anyone hitting much out. I could tell Zack was a little frustrated–but he passed the time by talking to his reporter colleague and attempting to use his famous glove trick from atop the 18 ft. right field wall. A couple of us warned him that security didn’t like devices… but I guess he could always plead ignorance if they tried to stop him. I think he managed to get two baseballs before security asked him to step into the concourse–he was back a few minutes later–sans glove trick.
I, meanwhile, snagged the 365th ball of my life off the bat of Kyle Seager, who hit a homer into the second row of the seats. I was in the third row to the left of where the ball would land and Zack, apparently, had been standing in the second row to the right of where the ball was headed. We converged as the ball descended and I reached out and caught the ball in the the second row as Zack came zooming in from the right and his glove knocked into my hat and glasses. Luckily, I held onto the ball and Zack checked on me to 1) make sure I’d caught it, and 2) to see if I was OK. I was fine. Now I can say I got hit in the head by Zack Hample…
My next ball was hit by an M’s players that I couldn’t identify–it was a standard ball, as were all the baseballs I’d snagged at this point, and I ended up giving it away to a small boy. And that was it for BP. I had been hoping to catch one off the bat of Ichiro but it just wasn’t in the cards. And I’d spent a few minutes down by the RF foul pole… as you can see here:
That photo is courtesy of the OC Register… Zack and I are in M’s caps. But I came up empty there and at the Mariner dugout.
Next up, Angels warm-up tosses over on the LF line. Michelle took this photo as I headed down to the field once the Angels came out to stretch.
I was in the second row and got Maicer Izturis to toss me my fifth ball of the day–another standard Selig ball.
I sat with Michelle down the first baseline a bit as the game got underway and headed toward the dugout whenever the Angels had two outs on ’em, hoping I could get a third out toss from Adam Kennedy, the M’s first baseman for the day.
I saw Zack get one in the first inning–he had no competition, and he moves pretty quick! In all seriousness, there is a reason that dude has snagged as many balls as he has–he’s good. He’s fast, he plans well to find the right place to be, and he’s skilled. I’ve met Zack twice now (the last time was on 9/2/08 at Dodger Stadium) and he’s made some pretty impressive snags that I’ve gotten to see in person.
On another third out try I leaped for a ball that Zack grabbed and I sort of fell into him a bit… no one fell down and I was glad that he could grab a gamer in Anaheim. I got my shot later on in the bottom of the sixth inning. Maicer Izturis grounded out to Adam Kennedy at first and Kennedy stepped on first, then headed to the dugout. I was five rows back in the aisle and he tossed the ball my way. It went just over my head and to the right but got bobbled by a fan behind me and the ball dribbled back to the aisle where I nabbed the game-used commemorative for my sixth on the day!
I wasn’t going to catch Zack (who’d end the night with eleven baseballs) but I was going to come away with a respectable number. The game was winding to a 7-3 Halos victory powered by Mark Trumbo and the heart of the order and by the end of the evening the Angels had advanced to within 2 1/2 games of Texas in the American League West.
After the final out I got my seventh and final ball of the day from Jason Vargas before he retreated into the clubhouse. Michelle and I chatted with Zack for a moment in the seating bowl, Brandon took a picture of us… and then he and I went our separate ways. It had been a pretty darn good holiday weekend.
I was back at the Big A for a mid-week game against the Twins. I always love to watch the Angels play the Twins because they’re very similar teams year in and year out. I arrived at about 4:30 and waited for the gates to open at 5:00. Michelle would be meeting me when she got out of work so I spent the time talking with a few of the BP regulars (like Chris and Rob). It was a fairly good crowd once we all ran inside and I headed up to the pavilion, as both teams would be taking a lot of hacks from the left side of the plate since two righties, Joel Piniero and Scott Baker, would be facing off.
The seats filled up pretty quickly and almost every row had one or two people blocking paths to get from one section to another. I managed to snag a Mark Trumbo opposite field shot that bounced in the fourth row after about twenty minutes. I ran to my left and the ball ended up going over my head–so I climbed a row of seats and snagged it off the cement. And here it is:
That photo was taken in the concourse shortly after batting practice ended. Ball #337. And the first one of the day. Later, one of the last Angel home runs during batting practice was a shot by Russell Branyan and I sprinted a full section to my left and mid-stride was able to jump up, fully reach out and above me and snag the ball on the fly at the spot shown here:
That’s Rob in the white, sleeveless shirt on the right of the above photo. I felt good about that jumping catch (and later a couple of people commented on what a good catch it was). But one guy didn’t like it–he claimed that ball was hit right to him and that it was his—he was going to catch it and, not only that, he was going to give it to his son for his ninth birthday. Whoa. One–he didn’t have a glove. Two–he had been sitting down. Three–he had a beer in his hand at the time. Really… he was so prepared to catch a 400 ft. shot going 80 mph.
If he had presented his concern/plan in a calm and polite way I would have probably given him (or his son) a baseball. Instead, he was belligerent and said things like, “Yeah, you better walk away,” as I went to put the ball in my backpack. A minute later, now that I was another full section away from him, he approached me (in a pretty aggressive manner) and started cursing and berating me. Not a good example to set for your birthday boy, sir.
The other regulars (and the ushers in that area of the stadium) all know me and know I play by the rules. If I’d thought I had done anything wrong (or they had suggested that I had truly not made a wise decision in making such a great catch that happened to be in front of that guy) I would have given the ball right over. But, barring that–there was no way I was going to reward his crass behavior… what a lesson for his son, huh? If you cuss and yell at people, that’s how you get things you want!
Here’s the ball, BTW:
After the Angels hit, the Twins started their BP session and the seats filled up a bit more at that point. Here was the view to my left:
That’s Chris in the white hat and shirt. And here was the view to my right:
I went on with my day and snagged my third baseball off the bat of a Twins lefty (I don’t know who). I caught it on the fly in the third row of Section 237. Here’s the spot of the catch:
And that kid in the blue shirt looking at the camera is Chris’ girlfriend’s little brother, Brandon. He’s on his way to catching a ton of baseballs himself–I’m pretty sure he caught at least two at this game. I ended up with three baseballs–all hit–two of ’em caught on the fly. And one was a 50th Anniversary commemorative baseball. Not a bad batting practice session.
I ran to the Twins’ dugout after BP but didn’t get anything there… nor did I get a ball from either team during their warmups before the first pitch, try as I might.
I was tired–and sweaty. It had been really hot–but it cooled down to about seventy-seven degrees at game time. Tired and sweaty was a beautiful combination for when my wife arrived at the stadium. She was glad to see me anyway and we decided to get some food and sit down with this view:
Michelle and I watched the game from out there and, though I tried for a third out toss at the Angels dugout a couple of times, I was content to just hang out with her and enjoy the summer evening.
Then, as I was coming back from getting a soda in the third inning I watched Peter Bourjos smack a deep drive into the left field corner. I saw a guy move into the aisle–he was wearing a white shirt–and reach up and make a great catch about eight rows deep in the stands. Then he did a fist pump and turned a bit and I recognized this guy:
Rob! Nice snag on the fly, dude!
After that, I continued to watch the game with Michelle as the Twins pounded out five homers against the struggling Joel Piniero. It wasn’t pretty. The Angels were down 9-4 when Michelle decided to head home in the seventh inning. I walked her to the gate and we got this photo together before she left:
Then, I went and found a seat here:
And then here:
No third out baseballs came my way…
And then the Angels, down 11-4 in the ninth, tried to mount a comeback while I sat here:
It didn’t happen and the game went final. The Twins tossed a couple baseballs up after the game but nothing came my way. Still–a fun night at the stadium.
It was Dan Haren bobblehead night at the Big A and I was expecting a big crowd. I was happy to have Michelle with me at this game though–it had been over a month since the last time she’d come to a game with me.
My first ball came off the bat of Howie (I’ll never call him Howard) Kendrick. He sliced a ball down the right field line. I was able to position myself perfectly along the wall and scoop it off the warning track. In my notes I wrote: #317-scoop Kendrick hit RF corner pretty colors. The “pretty colors” thing came from the variety of markings on the ball. I took the following photo when I got home that night.
The photo doesn’t do it justice but it had green grass stains, reddish-brown warning track dirt, dark green markings from hitting the Anaheim seats, and a lighter brown marking (probably from pine tar/rosin), black bat marks, and blue markings from something else. What causes blue markings on a BP baseball?
After that snag I ran up to the pavilion to try to chase down a home run – and because the Nationals pitchers were starting to conclude their warmups – and I had a plan. Howie Kendrick smacked a homer the opposite way and I sprinted a section to my left… I couldn’t quite make the catch on the fly but the ball rattled around in the row in front of me and I grabbed it with my bare hand. That ball had a worn out practice stamp from where the bat had smacked it:
That would be the last ball I would get from the Angels… but the Nats pitchers ended their stretching and throwing drills and, knowing their pattern after watching them the day before, I called out to Sean Burnett from the pavilion corner:
In the above photo he’s the one doing sit-ups near the warning track. But a moment before he started those sit-ups, this happened:
Bam! A rubbed-up commemorative baseball. All I had to do was yell out, “Sean!” and flap my glove. He fired a strike right up to me. That was Ball #3 on the day.
Ball #4 on the day came off the bat of Danny Espinosa and he smashed a drive to Section 239 of the pavilion and I ran a section and a half to my right, watched the ball fly six feet over my head, and then snagged it from where it settled in a folded seat. It, too, was a commemorative ball. Score. Why were the Angels hitting/throwing me practice balls and the Nats were hitting/throwing me commemoratives?
Anywho, BP wound down and I didn’t snag anything at the dugout. I scarfed down a delicious chicken wrap while I sat with Michelle before pregame throwing, then I darted over to the third baseline and just missed out on getting Erick Aybar’s warmup baseball. But I got this photo that I really like of him catching a throw:
See the ball through the webbing of his glove?
We sat here for dinner and the game:
We moved progressively closer to the field as fans left and the night went on… but we watched as the Angels pounded out eleven runs against the Nationals. I can’t remember the last time I’d seen them score eleven runs! Midway through the contest the presidents ran their race…
And Teddy cheated, knocking down his counterparts…
But he got his comeuppance.
And Abe won.
In case you weren’t sure, George, Abe, and Tom started the race. Teddy was hiding in the right field tunnel. He jumped out, threw a shoulder, knocked down the other three, then did a silly dance before taking off for the finish line. Abe was close on his heels and when Teddy got about twenty-five feet from the finish line he fell down. And Abe passed him up for the win. Teddy thrashed around on the warning track for a good thirty seconds before retreating in shame.
I tried each inning to get a third out ball but Michael Morse kept bouncing the ball to someone in the dugout. He did it every time. The only chances I really had were when flyouts ended the innings and folks like Espinosa or Roger Bernardina ended up with the ball. I just wasn’t having any luck though.
Michelle snapped a photo of me (left) on my return trip from one such attempt. Notice that I am smiling despite being shut out since the end of batting practice on this particular night.
Gotta keep a good attitude! Also… I could really use a haircut.
And I took a few photos in order to create a panorama of our view through the majority of the game.
The Angels won it, 11-5, and we got home late… and had to go tot work early in the morning. But that didn’t stop me from staying up just a bit later to photograph the four baseballs I’d gotten at this game:
I would be heading back the next day!
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.