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.
This would be quite the full day.
It started with me (and Michelle) waking up at the crack of dawn and heading up to the stadium. March 27th was the day of the Angels 5k and Fun Run at the stadium. I’s signed up at the beginning of the month for the 5k and I’d been training for it for a couple of weeks. I’ve always enjoyed running and wanted to make sure I didn’t embarrass myself. We arrived at ten minutes to seven and Michelle decided she would stay in the car while I ran. I couldn’t blame her–it was early and the weather was less than ideal. There was rain in the forecast and I was just hoping to get through the run before it got too wet.
I started about 500 people back and, though I can’t show you through pictures (because I was running), there were easily four times that many people there. I had a clip-on transmitter on my shoe that would track my time–as I crossed the starting line the clock already had counted up to about a minute… and when I crossed the second checkpoint (at the halfway mark) the clock was around 16 minutes… and when I approached the finish line the clock was ticking up toward 30 minutes. I crossed the line at 30:03… my goal had been to come in under 30 minutes and since I knew I could easily take a minute off my time (based on how long it took to get up to the starting line) I was thrilled!
I drank some water, got a free hat and a Clif bar, and headed back over to the car to find my wife. When I got there she took a photo of me post race:
Oh, yes… I grew a beard over the off-season. It has since been shaved off… sorry to scare you there, readers.
At that point it was about 7:45am and Angels FanFest was set to open up at 8:00… but I’d promised Michelle coffee and, quite frankly, I needed a rest. We headed to Starbucks–I changed clothes once we got there–we got breakfast and waited for the rain to pass… it had started drizzling right when I got back to the car after the race.
At around 9:30 we headed back to the stadium for FanFest. It was a bunch of vendors, autograph stations, merchandise booths, and photo ops. We each got autographs from Chris Pettit and Andrew Romine and then we stood in a long line to get Hank Conger’s autograph:
While we were there we noticed you could get your photo taken with the Rally Monkey:
So we stood in that line, too, and got this picture:
–which I was kind of disappointed in once I saw it. I mean, we’re like six feet from the monkey! C’mon! At least we look cute. That monkey is licking the mini bat at this point, I think.
Anyway, we left FanFest after an hour or so–and went to get snacks for the game that afternoon. We’d need to be back by noon to get free parking for the game and, sadly, we found out once we were back with our snacks that the gates wouldn’t open until 1:00. Bah!
So I ran inside at 1:00 to see the Padres on the field taking BP:
And after a few minutes I convinced someone wearing number 95 on the Padres to toss me a baseball–I was on the board for the day. Here’s the guy who threw it (left) and the spot where I caught it (right):
While I took those photos I heard someone yell, “Comin’ in!” and I looked up, then to my right as a ball smacked off a seat ten feet away from me… surprising since a righty was up to bat.
Well, here’s the spot where I grabbed my second ball of the day–and the only one that got hit up to the pavilion while I was there. And that was pretty much it for BP. Not bad–two baseballs in about 30 seconds. I only had about 15 minutes of batting practice to work with so I can’t
I met up with Michelle and hung out with her for a bit–and then headed toward the Angel dugout when they came out for pregame throwing. It was nice to see the field up close.
I got shut out there but I went to the Padre dugout after that and got my third baseball of the day thrown to me by Logan Forsythe near the camera well.
Eventually, the folks who actually had those seats arrived and we relocated to the outfield with this view:
I was hoping to get a home run but the only homers hit this day would go to center field. Bummer.
Toward the end of the game, with the score 9-2 Angels we moved here:
And as the Angels wrapped up the victory I got behind the Padre dugout to try to snag a postgame baseball… but all the Padres went into the dugout without tossin’ up a thing… except for the last player to leave the field. A short, Latino pitcher from the bullpen who I later identified as Samuel Deduno tossed me a rubbed up baseball as he headed down the steps for my fourth baseball on the afternoon.
And, though it took him several tries, a nice, elderly usher took a photo of Michelle and I as we left the park.
It had been a long day–lots of running–and we were both exhausted.
Not a bad start to the season,,. a good run, four baseballs, three autographs, some swag from FanFest, an Angels win, and a lot of fun.
And later that night I checked online to see my official results from the 5k… I came in at 28:46, not fantastic, but I ran faster than I expected! It would be over a week before my next game, with the Angels heading out on the road. I was anxious for them to get back because I knew that when they did return they’d be using commemorative baseballs and hopefully some of those would have found their way into the BP buckets…
My next game would be on April 9th. More to come soon, loyal readers, and happy 2011 baseball season to all of you.
After more than two weeks since my last game I was pretty anxious about getting out to Angel Stadium again, this time to watch them take on the (ugh) first place (double-ugh) Rangers. Adding to my anxiety was the fact that I didn’t actually have my ticket in my hand as I approached the gates prior to their opening at 4:05pm. You see, about a month prior to this game I donated blood through the Red Cross at one of their blood drives (I’m O+, in case you’re wondering). There was an Angels/Dodgers tie-in and, long story short, I received a voucher for two free tickets to the game on this night. The tricky thing was that I had to exchange the voucher for the tickets and the Red Cross volunteers would be arriving at 4:00.
Well, I arrived at 3:30, was first in line, set my bag down, walked across the main plaza to the Red Cross booth, and waited. I also enlisted the help of BP regular, Eli, to help save my spot. At 3:55 I convinced the volunteer to let me redeem my voucher (before her supervisor got there, which was the initial issue she had) and then ran to will call because Michelle would be arriving later in the evening and that was the only way that ticket could be used for someone who wasn’t me… because I was the one who’d donated blood and my name was on the voucher… blah blah blah. Anyway, I did all that and got back into line with minutes to spare–and ran inside at 4:05 to set up shop in the bleachers.
The first ten minutes or so of batting practice were great! There were hardly any people around and I snagged the first ball of the night off the bat of Hideki Matsui after he hit a homer that took a bounce in the seats of Section 236. I beat out two other guys who were running for it. Just minutes later I nabbed a Torii Hunter BP homer that flew over my head and took a bounce right back toward me after I’d positioned myself closer to center field. With two baseballs in ten minutes I thought I’d be headed for a record-setting night–but things slowed down after that and the seats began to fill up.
That was at about a half hour after the gates had opened. And, I should point out Rob, with his foot on the seat in the middle of the right view photo, who’s got over 800 baseballs (most of them batted balls) to his name. And Skyler, the teenager in the black T-shirt and blue jeans near the usher in the left view photo. He’s an up and coming ballhawk who can be a little wild at times but who’s made some very nice plays in the bleachers. Also, that rather large usher who looks so stern is, in fact, making sure the young fan in the first row doesn’t stand on the seat or sit on the wall. Usually the ushers hang out in the back of the pavilion and let us do our thing during BP–they’re very friendly and professional.
Anyway, back to the now dead BP session… yuck. Well, the Angels left the field and the Rangers came out shortly thereafter. I spent a few minutes near the foul pole trying to get a ball thrown to me by a pitcher but came up empty. Once Vlad and Hamilton started hitting I ran back upstairs. Here was the view:
Unfortuantely, the Rangers exhibited an uncharacteristic lack of power during BP… except for Vlad who hit a couple shots to the rocks in center… but I didn’t snag another ball during BP.
I tried for a toss at the dugout. Nada. Tried for a warmup ball. Nope. As the game was starting Michelle still hadn’t arrived so I parked myself behind the Angels dugout to watch Dan Haren warm up before his second career outing with the Halos.
He did pretty well. I was glad because his first start, against the Red Sox, was going well but then he took a line drive to the arm and left after 4+ innings. He’d go longer today.
Once Michelle arrived we grabbed some seats… but then she had to take an urgent phone call from work so I followed her out to the concourse and used the opportunity to take a photo of myself with a commemorative ball from the All-Star Game (earning myself three points in the myGameBalls photo scavenger hunt).
We ended up in home run territory. My new goal has been to go for foul balls and home runs during games more than third out tosses. Those have become fairly easy. I’m still only at one foul ball and zero home runs in my life. Hopefully those numbers will improve soon.
This was our view for the game:
I didn’t take many pictures because, well, not a lot happened worth photographing. I’ll say this though: the pitching was spectacular. It was Haren against Rich Harden, returning fro
m the DL. Texas got on the board first, in the fourth inning, when Vlad smacked a two-run home run to left-center field. That was all the scoring the Rangers could do. Not bad, right? Haren went nine innings! And got the loss… the Angels only scored once–in the seventh on a Howie Kendrick solo homer. I thought we had a chance for a comeback but th ebullpen for the Rangers locked down a victory. Harden threw seven great innings. And the only chance I had at a homer? Well, it was hit right to my section but was about twenty feet shy of the fence–and ending up being a flyout.
I went down to the Ranger dugout for the ninth inning (while Michelle watched from the concourse) and watched as Neftali Feliz shut down the Angels. Alberto Callaspo flew out to center and Kendrick and Juan Rivera grounded out. It was a one-two-three ninth and it allowed the Rangers to increase their AL West lead over the Angels.
As the bullpen guys for the Rangers walked across the field I noticed Scott Feldman with a baseball–I called out, “Hey, Scott! Right here!” He flipped the ball to me for my third on the night. Not a bad night–but definitely not great. Still, I had a lot of fun at the game and kicked off my birthday celebration with a good time at the ballpark with my wife–I’d turn 27 the next day–I just wish the Angels would’ve won. The real celebration, however, would be the next weekend when Michelle and I would visit a new stadium…