Tagged: day game

8/21/11 at Angel Stadium

This was a special day.  It started three weeks earlier when I received a four-pack of tickets to this game from my sister-in-law, Crystal, as a birthday gift.  Fast-forward to August 21st and Michelle and I (along with Crystal and her boyfriend, Alex) were set to head to the game.  But that’s not all–they were Club Level tickets, ooh!  And, as a final surprise… Crystal said they would pick us up.  Here we are on the way to the game:

Oh, yeah–we got picked up by a limo!  WHAT?!?  That’s right, Crystal had arranged a limo to take us to and from the game through the company she works for.  So, thank you Crystal and thank you AMS Paving in Fontana!  Seriously, if anyone in Southern California needs anything paved… call these guys.

Well, we got to the stadium just a bit after the gates opened and, no surprise, there was no BP going on.  Michelle, Crystal, and Alex wandered around while I tried to snag a ball to keep my streak alive.  In case you’re wondering, the last time I went to a Major League Baseball game and didn’t snag at least one baseball was September 27th, 2008.  This would be my 90th game since then… and, sure enough, after hanging around the O’s dugout for a while, some unknown Oriole player (or coach–or assistant–or trainer) tossed up a ball.  I only saw him for a second and he had sunglasses on… so I have no idea who it was.  But my streak was safe–90 consecutive games with at least one baseball!

After that, there wasn’t much happening on the field.  Way out in right, Ronnie Deck (he’s the bullpen catcher for the O’s) was running and stretching.  He signed my ticket before heading off to the clubhouse.  Then–more nothing.

I looked up toward where I knew our seats were and saw a trio of people I recognized (circled in red–click on the photo on the right to enlarge it if you want).  Those are our seats… they saved the aisle for me.

Eventually some Angels came out to throw and after they finished they signed some autographs.

I was interested in getting Mike Trout’s but I have autographs from Mark Trumbo, Howie Kendrick, Peter Bourjos, Maicer Izturis, and Erick Aybar already, and Trout went further away from me… toward the outfield.  I didn’t get either of the baseballs tossed up by the Angels–and so I went over to see if the O’s would throw before the game.  They did–but J.J. Hardy kept the ball he had been using and so I headed upstairs to the Club Level.  I flashed my ticket to the usher guarding the section and took my seat.

And I was in great position to snag a foul ball.  As a matter of fact, during the game one was caught barehanded by a fan to my left and three rows behind me and another was bobbled by a group to my right and bounced down to the lower level seats.  Those were the two close calls–I figured I’d just get them out of the way in this entry right up front.  That was frustrating but the day was a blast!

I had intended to explore the Club Level but I had such a good view of the game that I seriously didn’t want to move–not even to go use the restroom–I just wanted to sit in my nicely-cushioned, perfectly-situated-in-the-shade, foul-ball-targeted seat.  I’m gonna have to get a seat up there in the 300 level again sometime.

This was my actual view from my ticketed seat:

Nice, right?

Any time a righty was up to bat I was ready…

That one shot straight back.  But I didn’t take many photos because, and this is amazing to me, I was so much more interested in the game from my vantage point than usual.  I’m sure I’ll be spoiled now having sat there for a game…

Ah, yes, the game… what happened?  Well, Jerome Williams (who?–he’s blocked in the photo on the right but he’s the guy in the middle) picked up his first win since 2005 by giving up only one run in seven innings.  Peter Bourjos homered for the third consecutive day, and Howie Kendrick hit his tenth dinger of the year.  The bottom third of the Oriole lineup went 0-for-10 with three strikeouts.  And it was a beautiful day in Orange County and I had a ton of fun–but halfway through the Halos’ 7-1 victory Crystal told me that she had one more surprise for me.  She was taking us to dinner, too!

We left the stadium after the game ended and I snapped the above shot before we got into the limo and headed to–

–Benihana!  Where dinner IS the show!

From left to right that’s Alex, Crystal, Michelle, and me.

And we got a private booth and the bill was totally taken care of for us!  WHAT?!?

What an awesome birthday celebration–man–I need more days like that.  Thanks again to my awesome sister-in-law!

7/21/11 at Angel Stadium

Just hours after leaving Angel Stadium I was back in line for more… waiting for the gates to open.  Well, I wasn’t waiting long.  It was a day game after a night game and the pregame crowd was pretty light.  There was absolutely no one at any gate but the Home Plate Gate so I took a walk around the stadium.  During my walk I passed the right field tunnel and looked down it to see there were no BP related activities going on.  I had figured as much.  I saw a group pf Rangers pitchers walking toward the outfield… that was it.  Devin rode by me on a bike and asked if anything was goin’ on.  I said there wasn’t much happening–he debated whether or not to even head inside.  I’d see him (and his wife and granddaughter) inside later.  I passed the players’ parking lot and then the left field tunnel… again, all I saw were a few Rangers pitchers in the outfield… and I ended up at the Left Field Gate.  Chris was waiting there, too, so we talked for a few minutes before 11:00am rolled around and we sprinted in to the seats.  As soon as I saw the field I noticed a bunch of Angels pitchers playing catch.  I took this photo a minute later:

The folks throwing are (from left to right) Dan Haren (in the navy undershirt), Tyler Chatwood (throwing with someone just out of frame), Jordan Walden, a trainer throwing to Haren, Rich Thompson, Hisanori Takahasi’s translator (throwing to Thompson), Takahashi (with his arms out), and Scott Downs.  Downs and Takahashi are laughing–at a poor throw by one of them, I think.

You may notice that closer Jordan Walden isn’t throwing with anyone.  He was the odd man out in this warmup–so, from about three rows back in the stands I called out to him, “Hey, Jordan!  You need someone to throw with?”  He turned and smiled, waved, then he said, “What, you wanna throw?”

I said, “Yeah, I’ll throw with you.”  He kind of waved his glove and said, “Nah, I can’t.”  He’s still new to the big leagues–I don’t think he’s aware yet that, yes, he can throw a ball to a fan… then ask for it back… and so on.  He’s still kind of humble.  Walden chuckled and started to turn around and I said, “C’mon, I’ll throw with you.  Really!”  I held up my glove.  Walden kind of looked around (I think to see if anyone was going to tell him ‘no’ to what he was about to do.  Then he grabbed a ball, wound up, and tossed it to me.  I caught it, then threw it back.  Then he threw it back to me–and this continued for a solid minute or so until another pitcher, recent call-up Horacio Ramirez, jogged to the field.  I threw the ball back to Walden and he smiled, nodded his head, then turned around to warm up with, you know, a professional player.  I called out, “Thanks, Jordan!”  And then I moved a section to my right… keeping my eye on the pair.  I talked with Chris for a minute, then Rob… and then I moved back toward my left when I could see that Ramirez and Walden were finishing up:

As they closed the gap between them I made sure there was plenty of space around me–I was just hoping Walden would end up with the ball.  I asked him, “Jordan, could you throw me that ball, please?”  He had started to tuck it into his glove–then he saw me and his body language signaled to me that he knew he should toss it to me–that it would mean way more to me than anyone else.  And he threw it right to me.  I yelled a huge, “Thank you!” to him and had a new favorite baseball in my collection.  Now, I’ve never caught a home run–I’ve gotten a couple foul balls… but those, to me, aren’t nearly as special as this one.  I got to play catch with the closer of my home team and then he threw me the ball–AND it was commemorative!  Then, Walden started signing autographs:

Fans flocked to him and I noticed which way he was moving up the line–and I got into a spot along the wall–and while I was waiting for him I got Rich Thompson and Tyler Chatwood to autograph a 2011 team ball I’ve been working on.  And then Walden got to me and I asked him to “sign it on the sweet spot, please.”  Then I told him, “That ball is going on display in my home.  Thanks so much, I appreciate it.”  And check it out:

He even put ASG ’11 on it.  New.  Favorite.  Baseball.

The day was a success at that point.  I didn’t need to snag another ball or even have a good seat.  Heck, the game could’ve gotten cancelled and I’d have gone home happy.  But, thankfully, it was a gorgeous day–the game would be played–and I wasn’t done getting baseballs OR autographs.

I got Colby Lewis’ autograph near the Rangers’ dugout after all the players had cleared the field but him.  Here was the view of the field a minute after I got the Lewis autograph:

Then it was dead for about twenty minutes.  Zero player activity.  During the dead time I photographed the Walden ball and took a seat in the shade–there, I took a picture of where Tommy Hunter had thrown me a baseball the day before:

Hunter was standing to the left of the Summer Concert Series sign (LUDACRIS!) and I was standing to the right of the staircase behind the batter’s eye.  Nice arm, huh?

A little later, some Angels came out to throw and after Howie Kendrick warmed up he tossed his ball… to someone else.  But then he went to the ball bag and pulled out two brand new 50th baseballs and one went a section to my left, the other one went to me… someone tipped it and I had to pick it up off the ground… but it was still in great shape!  The spot of the catch can be seen in the photo to the right.

Then, Kendrick started signing autographs and I got him on my 2011 team ball.  I debated having him sign the ball he’d just thrown to me–but I opted not to go that route since I already have his signature on a ball from last year right on the sweet spot.  Moments later, when when Maicer Izturis finished his warmup tosses with Erick Aybar  he lofted me the ball.    The row I was in was empty– which was good because as he was running his underhanded toss was a bit off the mark.  I moved a couple of steps to my right and I caught it here:

All three baseballs were commemorative.  Yay!

Before the game started I had gotten five autographs and three baseballs–with no BP!  And I was all set to enjoy a fantastic pitching matchup.  Jered Weaver vs. CJ Wilson.

Here was my view of the game’s first pitch:

Since it was a day game and attendance was lighter than usual, I was able to jog back and forth between the home dugout and the visitor dugout for each inning.

Unfortunately, the two starters were striking guys out left and right and I was almost always on the wrong end of the dugouts.  It was frustrating–but at least I was getting my cardio workout for the day.

In the second inning the Angels managed to score a run without getting a hit thanks to an error by Endy Chavez in center field.  I took a photo (left) of the scoreboard to mark the occasion–it was a pretty important run.

Wilson and Weaver were mowing down their respective opposition.  And the most tense moment in the game game in the sixth inning, when Weaver worked around a bases loaded jam:

Um… that half of a third base coach is due to my panorama-making software.  Hmm.

And he went back out for the seventh before giving way to Scott Downs in the eighth and then Jordan Walden (my new best friend) in the ninth.

Remember that one unearned run?  That was the only run of the game!  And the Angels got the win, 1-0.  I didn’t snag anything else once the game started but I still had a blast.

6/29/11 at Angel Stadium

After snagging five baseballs on Monday and four baseballs on Tuesday I was at Angel Stadium for a day game after a night game on Wednesday.  When I approached the Home Plate Gate I saw plenty of people waiting to get inside the stadium.  The gates would open at 2:30pm for the 4:00pm game.  And I knew something all these people didn’t know.

When the stadium only opens 90 minutes before the first pitch, all the gates open at the same time.  For a night game the Home Plate Gate opens thirty minutes earlier than all the other gates.  On this day, however, I felt comfortable strolling by all these folks at 1:50pm and ending up here:

At the Right Field Gate… by myself… and I was the first guy in the door and the first one to get to the pavilion.  I got there just as the Angels cleared the field.  A couple of minutes later the Nats got set up for BP… yes, both teams help BP… and took a photo of the still relatively empty seats:

With only about an hour of batting practice to work with, I didn’t have high hopes of huge numbers at this game.  That worked out well for me because I didn’t snag too many baseballs.  My first ball on the day was tossed to me in Section 236 by reliever Ryan Mattheus.  It was a training ball.  After that… I ran around for the homers that were hit and tried to get another toss-up or two but I was always just out of position.  I didn’t snag a thing for the rest of BP.  And to make matters worse, the Nats end their BP session earlier than usual.  Typically, the visiting team ends BP at Angel Stadium thirty-five to forty minutes before game time.  Game time today? 4:05… so I was still in right field when the Nats started clearing the field at 3:20pm.  I sprinted out to the concourse, down to the seating bowl, through the aisle, and down the steps toward the dugout and got here:

Hey, kid–you’re in my photo.

Anyway, that’s the spot where coach Rick Eckstein tossed me a well-worn Angels commemorative 50th Anniversary ball for my second on the day.  How about that?

I took a much-needed break from the sun after getting Drew Storen’s autograph on my ticket for the game.  And I should note, at this point, that one reason I enjoy games in natural light is that my camera does well in natural light.  I’m always please with the quality of shots I get at day games.  Have you ever noticed that most of your baseball cards are daytime photos?

When the Strike Force came out to shoot T-shirts to fans (along with Hawaiian-shirted presidents) I ran up to the upper levels of the stadium to try to catch one.

I failed… but it was fun to try.

I went back downstairs as the Angels came out to stretch:

On my left, Mark Trumbo played catch with Howie Kendrick and Peter Bourjos.

On my right, Erick Aybar and Alberto Callaspo threw for a few minutes.

Trumbo kept his baseball (and then signed a baseball for me!)–and Aybar tossed his to my right.  I just wasn’t having much luck.  But I found a seat in the shade with this view for the first pitch of the ballgame:

Dan Haren was on the mound for the Halos.

And here’s Ryan Zimmerman at the dish:

I missed out on a third-out toss in the first inning from the Angels and after that I headed over to the first base side to try for one from the Nats.  I found a seat in the third row–in the sun–and decided to just stay there.

Jerry Hairston, Jr. got hit on the hand (he’d later blame the shadows and the 4:00pm start time) midway through the game:

He was replaced by Ian Desmond:

Haren was still going strong as he pitched to Pudge Rodriguez.

He’d end up going seven and a third innings… and the Angels got their only run of the game without getting a hit–a walk, an error, a groundout–and held a 1-0 lead when Haren was replaced by Scott Downs.

Downs got two outs and then fireballing closer, Jordan Walden, came in:

Walden had blown his last three save chances.  He got one out, then Zimmerman doubled, the ball just squeaking fair down the line.  I was here:

Zimmerman went to third on a ground out…

And went no further than that–Michael Morse struck out to end the game.

And I was still behind the Nationals’ dugout–they didn’t toss anything up.  Why would they?  They’d just been swept.  I zipped on home shortly after that.  The Halos were rolling–and I’d snagged eleven baseballs in the three game series.  Not too shabby.

3/27/11 at Angel Stadium

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:
post 5k run.JPGOh, 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:
autograph line 3.27.JPGWhile we were there we noticed you could get your photo taken with the Rally Monkey:
rally monkey rubcube 3.27.JPGSo we stood in that line, too, and got this picture:
mandmwithrallymonkey1.JPG–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:
first view of field 3.27.jpgAnd 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):
padre 95 1.JPGwhere i caught the first ball 3.27.JPGWhile 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, I ran over and snagged that ball for my second ball on the afternoon.  It was hit by this guy:
righty padre 1.JPGrighty padre 2.JPGAny ideas?  Let me know…

spot of 2nd ball 3.27.JPGWell, 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
complain.

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.
third base panorama pregame 3.27.jpgI 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.

And then we enjoyed the game from right behind the Padre dugout:
haren izturis leg kick.JPGHa–they’re both kicking their leg…

Eventually, the folks who actually had those seats arrived and we relocated to the outfield with this view:
home run seats 3.27.JPGI 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:
first base panorama 3.27.jpgAnd 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.
mandmpostgame.JPGIt had been a long day–lots of running–and we were both exhausted.
4 baseballs 3.27.JPG
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.

9/29/10 at Angel Stadium

I know, I know, the 2011 season has already started and I’m just NOW getting up my last entry from 2010.  What a lazy bum I’ve been, right?

Sorry, loyal readers–I’m sure you’ve been on the edge of your collective seat just waiting to see how this last game went.

The Angels had been eliminated from the playoffs and it was a Wednesday afternoon game against the A’s, who also weren’t a playoff team.  I was hoping for some autographs, some baseballs, a good seat, and a low turnout.  I got ’em all…

The day started with me running into the stadium to see no batting practice happening. Bummer…

An A’s player had just finished throwing and I ran down near the field to see it was Dallas Braden, who’d thrown a perfect game earlier in the season.  I politely asked for the ball as he ran into the dugout.  He tossed it up over the dugout roof.  Number 275 in my ballhawking career!

A moment later Braden popped back up to chat with someone he knew and I got his autograph–I’d have gotten it on the ball he threw me but it was pretty beat up.  Instead, I had him sign my ticket stub for that day’s game.

The only action on the field at that point was some unknown pitcher throwing just past the Angels’ dugout.
kohn pregame throwing 9.29.JPGIt turned out to be Michael Kohn–but I didn’t get the baseball he was using so… whatever.  I did, however, get his autograph on my team baseball.  And later, when a few more Angel pitchers came out to the field I got autographs from Matt Palmer, Francisco Rodriguez and Fernando Rodney on the same team ball.
rodney autographs 9.29.JPGThat’s Rodriguez and Rodney on their way over to appease the fans…

After that I ran over to the visiting team’s dugout where a bunch of Oakland players had come out to throw.  I ended getting the autograph of Gio Gonzalez before Chris Carter and Rajai Davis finished throwing and Carter tossed me my second baseball of the day when they finished.  He spotted me in the fourth row behind the camera well and lobbed it over all the folks pressed up against the wall near the field.
carter warmup 9.29.JPGThanks to Mr. Carter!

I saw that day’s starting pitcher, Bobby Cramer, walking in from the bullpen and thought he (or his catcher) might have a baseball with them.  Cramer, who was appearing in just his fourth major league game, was surprised anyone knew who he was.  He looked up and when I asked him if he could throw me a ball he smiled and pulled out the one in his glove and underhanded it to me!  Sweet!

As the game got underway I had positioned myself in the gorgeous sunshine right behind the Angel dugout:
behind angels dugout 9.29.jpgThere weren’t many people around and those that were retreated to the shade so I had plenty of room on my left:
view to my left 9.29.JPGAnd on my right:
view to my right 9.29.JPGI was hoping for a foul ball at some point… and I could always try for a third out toss.  The odds were in my favor.

Joel Piniero dueled with Cramer until the Angels broke through on a Howie Kendrick groundout in the third.  Since my section had filled up a bit I decided to play both dugouts for a third out toss… I ran to Oakland’s dugout, then back to the Angels’ dugout each inning.  In the top of the fourth I sat down on the aisle as Rajai Davis was walking up to the plate for the A’s.

Well, after a few pitches he fouled one off in my direction but it fell short and landed in the dugout.  I was eight rows back from the dugout and someone on the Angels tossed a ball up over the roof… I stood up, moved toward the aisle, jumped, and caught the ball barehanded!  My glove was on the seat in front of me… I had been drinking some water…

The folks behind me complained–but I was psyched!  My last ball of the season (as it would turn out) was a beautiful rubbed up foul ball from an Angel… really, from an A… but it got tossed up by someone in the Halo dugout.  Here’s a photo of where I caught it:
spot of foul ball 9.29.JPGI took that later while I was back over at the Oakland dugout.  The orange circle shows where I was standing as I nabbed it.  I also saw a creepy Santa Claus sitting in the sunshine and chatting with kids:
creepy santa 9.29.JPGWeird!  And back and forth I went, trying for third out baseballs–but to no avail.  The score was tied in the ninth inning.  Both starters had gone seven innings given up just one run each.  The bullpens were trading zeroes and the Angels got a bit of a rally going in the ninth… I was behind their dugout for that:
bases loaded bot 9 9.29.jpgBut they failed to score… I figured I needed to be close to the dugout in case of a walk off win… which didn’t happen in the bottom of the tenth when the A’s used five infielders:
five infielders 9.29.JPG4 baseball 9.29.JPGIt took until the eleventh on a single by Torii Hunter to score Jeff Mathis.  Walk-off!  And I ended the day with four baseballs…278 lifetime.  The Angels celebrated on the field and I wedged into the front row behind their dugout, hopeful that they’d throw some baseballs, batting gloves, or something… they didn’t.  I knew they had to finish the season in Texas but I thought maybe they wouldn’t need the occasional bat or helmet.  I ended up without any goodies post game…and the Angels still weren’t going to the playoffs.  And neither were the Dodgers… and neither were the Padres.  No SoCal playoff baseball was tough–but I made it through and I’m psyched for 2011.

More to come soon…

8/11/10 at Angel Stadium

Back home in Orange County and I was off to a day game… after a night game… what?

I
hadn’t planned to go to this game but I ended up with free tickets, so I
was off to the Big A at about 10:40am.  When I got to the stadium I
walked past the Home Plate Gate… no matter how many times I go to day
games at Angel Stadiums I never get used to all the people crammed in
line at the Home Plate Gate.  I got in line at the Left Field Gate…
and the crowd there was much smaller:
not crowded gate.JPGWhen
I ran in there were no Angels on the field but some Royals pitchers
were throwing over on the first base side of the stadium.
pitchers warming 8.11.JPGAnd when I looked toward home plate…
cages up 8.18.JPGThe
cage was up!  Were the Royals going to take BP?  I walked over to the
Royals dugout (where Mike Aviles was playing catch) and stood over it,
waiting.  When Aviles finished throwing, he and the unknown player he
was throwing to walked toward the cage a talked for a minute.  When they
headed back toward the dugout I held up my glove and said, “Mike! 
Right here!”  He flipped me my first ball of the afternoon.  Easy as
that… there was hardly anyone else around at the time.  It was
11:04am.

I recognized Wilson Betemit and saw him with a bat in his hands.

“Wilson!” 
He looked over.  “Are you guys gonna hit?”  He nodded, then went to put
on his helmet.  I headed out toward the outfield and passed by Kanekoa
Texeira and Joaquin Soria again as they were finishing their warmup
tosses.  I asked Soria for the ball when he ended up with it but he
threw the ball back toward the infield… but Texeira had an extra ball
with him and he tossed that one to me.  The Royals had begun taking
their hacks so I jogged out to the foul pole, hoping a Royal in the
first round would slice one toward me.

rf pole 1.JPGThat’s Bruce Chen running–I’d end up getting his autograph on my ticket stub after BP.

I
spent about five or six minutes near the foul pole but then I saw
someone hit a ball up to the pavilion–it was home run time and I was
off to the upper level seats in right.  I saw Rob and Devin up there,
already running around.  It didn’t take long for me to snag Ball #3…

I
was close to center field and Betemit was in the cage.  He drilled a
ball toward me… I moved to my right a little and ended up on the
staircase between Sections 240 and 239.  I reached up over my head and
made the catch on the fly.

The Royals ended BP abruptly… that
was all right.  I was thrilled to even get the fifty minutes of batting
practice that occurred.  I headed back to their dugout… but missed out
on any toss-ups.  I was pretty warm after running around so I grabbed a
drink and had a seat on the shaded (third base) side of the stadium.

The Angels came out, stretched a bit, a couple played catch.  I was watching that day’s starter, Zack Greinke, warm up:
greinke warmup 8.11.JPGHe
moved into the bullpen shortly after I took this photo and the Angels
kept their baseballs that they had being throwing around.  I ran over to
the Royal dugout for pregame throwing over there and got my fourth ball
of the afternoon from Yuniesky Betancourt.  He actually saw me, tossed
the ball he had been using to a kid to my left, then threw another one
to the kid’s brother… then he looked back at me again and held up one
finger (as if to say, “Hold on.”) and he went into the dugout.  He
popped back out and tossed be a ball with a gnarly black smudge on it. 
Cool!

The game would be starting in five minutes and I was on four balls for
the day… and 249 for my lifetime.  I thought it would be cool to get a
game-used ball for number 250 so I decided to try for a third out toss,
first from the Angels, then from the Royals.  I would go back and forth
if I needed to each inning…

There were plenty of empty seats as the first inning got started:
seat for first inning 8.11.JPGSeriously, what’s with those ugly looking denim boot things?  Blech…

And even though I missed out on the Angels’ third out toss, I was in a
good mood when I parked myself behind the Royals dugout for the bottom
of the first.  There were still a ton of free seats, it was a beautiful
day for baseball, and I was probably the only one in the stands that
knew the guy’s name who was playing first base for K.C.

Kila Ka’aihue.  His first name is pronounced KEE-luh.  And when Bobby
Abreu struck out, then Erick Aybar flew out, then Alberto Callaspo
grounded out weakly to first, I was ready.  Before Kila even stepped on
the bag I was right at the opposite side of the dugout, seated in the
first row on the aisle.  I stood up and called out to him.  “Kila!  Over
here, please!  Kila!”

He flipped me the beautiful, rubbed-up ball for my fifth on the day and number 250 overall!
ball 250.JPGWith my mini-milestone out of the way I decided to try for another one. 
I was still without a game home run in my life… I thought a day game,
with a smaller than average crowd, would be a good time to try to nab
one.  Here was my view for the remaining eight innings:
8.11. homer territory.jpgAnd with the exception of some day-campers being irritating in the
sections around me, it was an excellent game.  Greinke dueled against
Jered Weaver and they each only gave up one run.  Weaver went eight and struck out eleven!  It was 1-1 in the
ninth, then 1-1 in the tenth.  Lots of great pitching and defense, not a
lot of home runs… Betancourt hit one to center.  That had been it.

matt and rob 2.jpgI had time to take a picture with fellow ballhawk, Rob, who’s on the myGameBalls Lifetime Top 10 list.

And, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but when there are pitching changes at Angel Stadium (for the visiting team) and it’s not time to unleash the Rally Monkey, Angel Stadium plays video compilations of fans dancing around, being excited, and just having a good time.  I’m happy to say that Michelle and I are a part of one of those compilations.  So, when Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance” plays when a visiting team makes a call to the bullpen… check out the video.  We’re totally in it… at least for this season.  I snapped a picture of our two seconds of screen time… it’s us dancing in our seats:
matt and michelle on jumbotron video.JPGI told you I had time…

Then things got really interesting as the game headed into extra innings…

I was one of just a few hundred people left in the pavilion in the tenth.  The Royals went down in order in the top of the inning, thanks to Brian Fuentes.  Then, in the bottom of the tenth, Reggie Willits grounded out for the first out and that brought up Bobby Abreu.  Abreu took a called strike one, then held up on a fastball to make the count one-and-one.  Then, he smashed a changeup that Jesse Chavez had left up in the zone.  As soon as he hit it I knew it was gone.  I jumped up out of my seat and into the aisle.  Abreu had crushed the ball so I retreated a step or two up the staircase… it had a good angel, but then…

Oh, no!  The wind had been occasionally blowing in… and I watched as the ball lost momentum…  I moved down to my original spot… the ball was falling fast.

And it hit the ground (or a seat) five feet to my left… I was blocked by a fan.  Then it took a huge hop up in the air–and slightly further away from me.  I made a desperate lunge, but to no avail.  The stadium was on its feet, cheering for the walkoff win… which was all well and good.  But I angrily started zipping up my backpack.  I’d been so close… the ball had even bounced once.  I’ve watched the video a dozen times (you can, too)… I’m in the white shirt and black shorts, sunglasses, and on the staircase (I was the first one up out of my seat), moving up, to the right, and then down… and if I had just stayed put I probably could have caught it.  ::sigh::

I won’t dwell on it too much–gamers are tough to come by.  I did snag five balls at a day game following a night game, so that’s good.  I did get my 250th ball, so that’s good, too.  I took a photo while getting on the 57 freeway heading south… on my way home.
view from car 8.11.JPGAnd I’d get to come back to Angel Stadium in just a few more days with Michelle and some family, and we’d have some pretty awesome seats!

5/26/10 at Angel Stadium

Another one of these wacky Wednesday 4:05 games… it was a bright,, sunny afternoon in Anaheim and the Blue Jays were still around.  I had a ticket (that I’d gotten for free) to see Brandon Morrow face off against Joel Piniero.

I ran in through the Right Field Gate and up to the pavilion.  As soon as I got there I said, “Hi,” to Dino Ebel who was fielding in center.  He picked up a few baseballs off the track and asked him to toss one up.  He asked me, “How many do you already have today?”  I said none.

Just then a family with a little kid came down the steps nearby and the little boy with them stood near me.  Dino asked who the kid was, like he was my little brother or something.  I just shrugged and said, “I don’t know.”

Dino tossed me the ball and I decided to hand it to the kid.  Then I told him to show it to Dino and say thank you.  The kid did so–and Dino gave me a thumbs up.  He knew I didn’t have to give the ball away.

And… man, I wish more home runs would have been hit… look at how much space there was to run.  This is seven minutes after the gates had opened:
open for 7 minutes.JPGJoe Saunders was near center field, too… and since the founder of myGameBalls.com had told me something that might get Joe’s attention I was able to snag my second baseball on the day.  Basically, Alan Schuster, who runs that site (that I write for on occasion) knows Joe from high school.  He’d passed along an inside joke from 1998 and when I yelled it down to it to him he looked up and laughed, giving me a thumbs up.  The next time a ball came to him he just tossed it right to me.  I didn’t even ask–nice.  Thanks, Mr. Saunders.
bright bp.JPGAt about this time the Mariners came out and their pitchers started throwing.  I’d already snagged two balls up in the pavilion and the Angels’ last round wouldn’t hit any homers up there so I headed down near the foul pole in right field.  I was just in front of the pole and I saw Reggie Willits hit a ball that had a good shot to roll into the corner.  So I ran from where this picture was taken:
5.26 where i ran.JPGTo the gap in between the two fans with gloves in the above photo.  I was just to the left of the 330 sign.  I reacted so quickly that I got there and was out and over the wall trying for the scoop before either of them moved a step toward the ball… sure enough, it rolled right to my new position and just like that I had baseball number three.  Three baseballs from the Angels during a full BP is good—three from them during ten minutes is fantastic.  Sadly, my hot streak would fizzle out after that.

The Angels finished and the Blue Jays started hitting.
blue jays started hitting.JPGMy next baseball wouldn’t come until about a half hour later.  What?  It was still so empty in the stadium!  There just weren’t any baseballs hit near me… finally Casey Janssen, as he and some other pitchers were running, fielded a ball barehanded and I called out for it.  He tossed it right to me.  BP wrapped up after that.

I decided that since there still weren’t many fans in the stadium once the Angels started warming up that I’d head over that way.  Usually the third base side of Angel Stadium (where the home dugout is) gets super crowded.  Even for day games–because that’s the shady side.  But since people were still at school/work there was quite a bit of room to maneuver.  Kendry Morales came out to play catch with the Angels’ strength coach, T.J. and I snapped this picture:morales playing catch with tj.JPGIt’s an important picture because that ball Morales is throwing (he was “pitching” to T.J. at that point) ended up in my possession.  As he jogged off the field I shouted, “Kendry!” and held up my glove…everyone in the first few rows wanted autographs.  He threw it over their heads and right to me.  Cool!

A little while later I made a pretty spectacular catch of one of those Nerf-like baseballs that get shot into the crowd.  I gave that one away to a kid nearby… and his dad complimented my catch: over the shoulder, leaning over a row of seats.  Woo.

Before the anthem I saw Bobby Abreu head toward the wall to sign some autographs:
abreu signing.JPGAnd I managed to be the last person he signed for before, “Oh, say can you see…”  I got him on a baseball I’d been carrying around simply for a good autograph.  Then I snapped these shots during the anthem:
5.26 angels anthem.JPG5.26 torii anthem.JPGThe game would be starting at about four and I had to leave at about five so I decided to be proactive in trying to snag third out baseballs… I ran from dugout to dugout for three innings.  I got
some great photos… like:
izturis warmup.JPGreed batting.JPGAnd:
torii bunt.JPGmorrow ready.JPGBut no more baseballs… it was fine… I was happy with five… and I left at about five to head home for dinner. 

On my way out I sat in the bleachers for an at bat… just in case Erick Aybar wanted to blast a home run in my direction…
home run view.JPGNo luck.

The Angels would win on a walk-off single by Bobby Abreu.  See?  Good things happen when you sign an autograph for me!