I originally wasn’t going to go to this game but I got a text message from my friend, Dennis, on Tuesday saying that his and a pal from school, Chris, would be going. Chris is from Wisconsin and wanted to catch the Brewers while they were in town. Long story short – Michelle had to work that evening so I accepted their invitation.
I picked the guys up at 1:45 and we got to the park at about 2:05. I love it when I don’t hit traffic in SoCal. Chris had never been to Angel Stadium before so we took a long walk around to the front of the ballpark and he got his picture under the big hats while I bought the tickets for us.
There was a huge line at the Home Plate Gate but since this game would be starting at 4:05 I knew that all the gates would open at the same time… so we walked down to right field. There were about three people in line there, including BP regular Rob. I chatted with Rob for a while and Dennis and Chris played catch with an extra baseball I’d brought. I’ve gotten into the habit of bringing an extra baseball with me to games nowadays because I want to give at least one away every time I’m there.
At about 2:30 the gates opened and Chris and I sprinted up to the right field pavilion. I explained to him the importance of getting into the stands as quickly as possible to find Easter eggs or just be the only one there for a few precious seconds. Somehow, we weren’t quite the first ones to arrive but I will say that I was the only one who thoroughly checked the seats for baseballs… because I found one in the second row of the furthest section of the pavilion. Ball #1 on the day and #205 in my lifetime!
Once we’d scoured the seats I recognized that there weren’t going to be too many home runs hit out by the Angels… the wind was blowing toward left field and we had missed most of the first round of BP with the late opening time. So, after Hideki Matsui and Bobby Abreu finished their cuts I went down near the foul pole in right field. While there I watched as the Brewers came out to the field to stretch and then the Angels finished up.
My next baseball came off the bat of Casey McGehee. I didn’t know it was him at the time–but a righty on the Brewers sent a ball slicing down the right field line and I was able to leap up on the wall, lean over, and scoop it off the track. I analyzed the stance of the batter to figure out it was McGehee once I got home.
Before I get to much further into this entry I should point out that Dennis actually snagged a ball as we were both up in the pavilion. Once the Angels finished hitting and Prince Fielder stepped into the cage I made sure to be back up in the stands 400+ feet from home plate. After seeing Fielder hit the day before I knew he could launch some bombs up there. I played about halfway up the pavilion and Dennis played even further back. I got close to one shot from Fielder but it wound up two rows below me. A few minutes later though I had one lined up that ended up flying ten feet over my head. Dennis was a few rows behind me–the ball hit his glove, bounced out, but he was able to recover and snag the baseball. The Brewers had written SICK! on that one. I was really happy for him.
I took this photo during the game that shows where I found my first ball of the day (the red circle) and where Dennis snagged the Fielder homer (the white square):
I went down to the foul pole again after that and eventually I saw my friends up in the pavilion again. Though at that point they’d put snagging baseballs at a secondary priority:
Anyway, I wouldn’t snag my third baseball until the end of batting practice (even though I thought for sure Chris Capuano would hook me up–he really liked my shirt). But I’d snag Ball #3 on a toss up from a kid who had been fielding with the players. I had asked bullpen catcher Marcus Hanel for a ball as he came in from the field. The kid was near him and he’d said something to the kid like, “You can give him that one.”
Hanel started transferring baseballs into a bag and the kid tossed me the ball. There was a blue line through the sweet spot on that one (no cool saying on it).
Then the kid went into the dugout. Hanel finished what he was doing a moment later… and I had moved a bit to my left. Then he spotted me and tossed me Ball #4 on the day! He must not have known tif the kid had actually thrown me the ball–but he’d pulled one out of the bucket that had a practice logo–not just a stamp on the sweet spot. I’d seen one of these before:
So, I ended BP with four baseballs. Dennis had one and Chris hadn’t gotten one. When the Strike Force came by shooting T-shirts and Nerf baseballs I snagged a little Nerf ball and handed that one to Chris. I figured he could at least have a souvenir of his first trip to the stadium that way.
We walked around the concourse and eventually ended up in some seats on the Terrace Level just past third base. I saw some Angels warming up and tried to get a ball from them.
No luck there. I sat behind the Angels dugout until the middle of the first, hoping for a toss up.
No luck there either. So, I went back and found Dennis and Chris. We all decided to grab seats behind the Brewers dugout. At day games in Anaheim the visiting team’s dugout is on the sunny side of the stadium and fans all sit in shady seats when possible–we were able to find warm, sunny seats (plenty of them) right near the dugout. I didn’t take any pictures there… but take my word. They were good seats.
Jim Edmonds was playing first base for the Brewers, as Fielder was their DH on the day. Each inning I tried for a third out toss but Edmonds either threw the ball a section over from us or the inning ended in a strikeout…
Until the bottom of the fourth. Brandon Wood popped out to Edmonds to end the frame. There weren’t a bunch of little kids rushing down to the dugout for some reason… usually by the fourth inning of a game a dozen little kids have caught on to the pattern of rushing down there to get a ball. Anyway, I was pretty much the only person at the bottom of the steps as the Brewers came off the field and I called out for the ball: “Jim! Right here, please! Hey, Jim!”
I went back to the seats and showed the ball to my friends. Then I explained to Chris the strategy behind third out tosses. We agreed that he would try the next one–but the fifth inning ended in a strikeout and then we got booted from those seats when the actual seatholders arrived… in the fifth inning. The end of the fifth inning! Whatever.
We headed up to the top levels of the stadium and walked around a bit. We ended up finding seats with this view:
And we stayed there until almost the end of the game. As the top of the ninth ended and the Angels were up 5-1, I went to the Angels dugout as Fielder batted.
And I got shut out there. Oh, well.
Five on the day and an Angels win on an awesome summer afternoon makes for a pretty darn good baseball experience.
My next game would be at PETCO down in San Diego.
I got a late start… and picked up my buddy, Dennis. We hit traffic. We ended up getting to the stadium right at 5:00 and I ran (he walked) out to the pavilion.
I saw regulars Rob, TC, John, and Chris already running around. Today was a day of close calls.
After a few unsuccessful snagging minutes ticked by in the pavilion I headed down near the foul pole as the Mariners came out to throw:
I kept being just out of place. I recall four instances of being just a foot away from a baseball or a second too late… it was pretty frustrating. Dennis had brought his glove along but ending up sitting in the shade and talking on his phone for the majority of BP. Not his thing. I saw all my ballhawking colleagues snag at least one ball and after being in the stadium for over an hour I was still stuck at zero.
Thank goodness for Bruce Hines. With about ten minutes left of batting practice Mr. Hines fielded a ball in right field and looked to the crowd. He was going to toss it but he couldn’t decide who to give it to so he lofted it about thirty feet high. It was a bit to my right so I scurried down the row (about the eighth or ninth from the field) and camped under it. I happened to be about six inches taller than the guy next to me and he didn’t have a glove. I felt it hit the pocket of my glove and I yelled a big thank you out to Bruce. People nearby clapped… whatever… I’ll take the polite applause.
Shutout averted. As the Mariners headed to the dugout Chris and I raced over… I called out to Alan Cockrell (he’d thrown me a ball the day before), he saw Chris in his M’s gear right next to me and tossed him the ball he’d been holding. Chris thanked me (because he’d forgotten his roster and didn’t know the old coach’s name) and then we parted ways. I grabbed a drink and went to search for Dennis who’d gone to get food. We met up in some seats and watched the first three innings from just past first base.
Then we got booted by an usher when the actual seatholders showed up (an hour late). We wandered a bit, I ate some Rally Monkey Bread from the Katella Grill stand, and we ended up on the opposite side of the field in equally great seats. Our view:
And we got to stay there for the rest of the game. The Angels had a four-run first and didn’t score again until Juan Rivera’s two-run homer in the eighth. The Mariners scored two runs off Jered Weaver… and one off the Angels bullpen but the Halos hung on to win it 6-3. Weaver got his fifteenth win and Fuentes kept the ball at the end of the game… it was his fortieth save of the year.
Torii Hunter got interviewed by Jose Mota after the game… right in front of me:
And after that Dennis and I headed back to Irvine. A good game with a good friend… one baseball as a souvenir… not too shabby.
This particular trip to Angel Stadium began a few weeks ago with a simple message on Facebook from my buddy, Rob:
thursday day game. angels-red sox. may 14th.
can this happen
Well, it so happens that all the little details worked out and at 10:20am I was on my way to the park with Michelle, Rob, and Dennis (another friend from UCI). We got there nice and early and, as it was Rob’s first trip to the stadium, we walked all around the outside of the stadium, past the Nick Adenhart memorial, and ended up at the Right Field Gate about 10 minutes before it opened. All the gates were to open at the same time so I figured, why not be close to the outfield? As this was a day game after a night game, I was worried that there wouldn’t be any BP… also, this was the site at the main gate:
Lots of fans, late opening time, day game after a night game… I was worried I’d be unable to walk away with a baseball.
11:00 came and I ran inside (the rest of my group chose to walk) and I quickly headed to right field and I saw this:
Dang… I called Michelle and said, “No batting practice today. I’ll be near the foul pole.” And that’s where I was a few minutes later when they arrived. Nothing was happening on the field.
I knew the players would come out to stretch and throw eventually so I stayed put. Sure enough, some Red Sox pitchers soon trotted out and after some basic warmups they started throwing. There were a bunch of Red Sox fans all along the wall. I watched Tim Wakefield throw a few knuckleballs and then tried asking Takashi Saito for a ball in Japanese (like I did last September at PETCO Park) but I only managed to get a smile out of him, not a ball. Jonathan Papelbon started signing closer to the infield so I headed over there and, with the help of a Sox fan in front of me, got his autograph on my ticket stub for that day. He progressed out toward the outfield, signing for virtually everybody, and I stuck where I was because Hideki Okajima was finishing up his pregame throwing. He wrapped up and I asked, in Japanese (thanks, Zack Hample) for the ball. He turned, confused as to where the request came from and I put my glove up, repeated my call from the third row of the stands and he saw me! He tossed it right to me–perfect throw! I was so psyched! That’s the first time I’d ever successfully gotten a ball from a player by asking in a non-English language. This would be a day of firsts for me at the ballpark, actually.
Now, I wasn’t shut out… whew – but I didn’t snag any other actual baseballs during pregame stuff… I did, however, snag an Angels Softee Ball from the Strike Force as they shot off their air cannons just before the game. My first time snagging one of these, too!
Here I am with Michelle before the start of the game:
We found seats on the first base side and were able to stay there for the first third of the game (see some shots below). I tried to get a ball from the infielders playing catch before the game and from any players that had recorded third outs as they headed into the dugout. Nope–just wasn’t happening on this day. The souvenirs kept going to the section to the left or right of me.
The four of us headed up to the Lower View Level after a walk (for Rob’s sake) through the different concourses in the fourth inning. We
ended up here:
That’s my new favorite Japanese left-handed pitcher, Okajima, on the mound. I had a chance for a foul ball, I thought. Nope–no luck. We had a great view though and had some snacks and watched a great game unfold. I wanted to be back to the Field Level for the final out of the game so we headed down in the top of the ninth with the game tied at 4 to the third base side. Our view:
You know what’s awesome? Free baseball! The Angels and Red Sox were still tied at the end of the ninth so the game headed into extras. I’ve got to say that this ended up being one of the best ballgames I’ve watched in person in a long, long, long time. Each team had chances to score. The Red Sox would end up leaving a total of thirty-four men on base, twelve of those by Ortiz (who went 0 for 7). It was thrilling… I mean, this game had triples, double plays, stolen bases, hit batters, lots of strikeouts, arguments between managers and umps, and twelve innings! Oddly enough, no home runs… whatever. Still, so exciting!
In the bottom of the twelfth, Juan Rivera hit a clean single. Reggie Willits (who I am a big fan of) pinch ran for him. Erick Aybar sac bunted him to second base and then Jeff Mathis came up, knocked a line drive into left-center and that was the game! 5-4 Angels! Man, it was great!
Did I mention that this walk-off win for the Halos occurred after they escaped a Big-Papi-at-the-plate-with-the-bases-full situation (shown above)? And Torii Hunter stole Dustin Pedroia’s (potential) 5th hit of the day from him with a great catch in center? Both Pedroia and Hunter are studs and I really respect how hard they play the game. Awesome! Really, the teams fought each other hard the whole way and most of the 35,124 fans there stayed to see the end… a miracle in SoCal, I’ve noticed.
And though I didn’t snap a photo of it… I was on the Jumbotron for the first time ever! I just happened to be standing up during a pitching change and Dennis said, “Matt!” and the guy on the other side of me said, “Hey, is that you?” and he pointed to the screen. Sure enough, it was me… I gave a nice thumbs up and looked straight into the camera before they cut to someone else. That was pretty cool.
As an end of year recap, here are some of the most fun/coolest things I got to do/witness this baseball season (I’ll try to go chronologically):
- Exhibition game – Dodgers vs. Red Sox
What? Manny Ramirez in Los Angeles??? WHOA! I went with my buddy, Josh, to see this game in late March. This one was played at Dodger Stadium (not the Coliseum, though that would have been fun to see). And at that point in time who’d have thought that Man Ram would be taking an extended vacation to L.A. in the middle of summer? It was a lot of fun.
- My name on a brick at Angel Stadium!
It was a Christmas present from my mom last year (Christmas ’07) and came as a total surprise! I didn’t get to see it until April… but there it was, just to the first base-side of the pitcher’s mound out in front of the Home Plate Gate. In case you’re curious, Dr. Ivar Vasco is my uncle–also a big fan–and he’s started MY Angels fandom when he took me to games as a kid. Also, note the exclamation point after my name… totally my mom’s doing. I was shocked, but I guess I do get excited about games!
- Getting to tour Angel Stadium!
As part of the preparation for Take Me Out, a show we just did at UC Irvine, I organized a tour for the director and design team to see a real baseball stadium and clubhouse, etc. In the above photo, I’m sitting with our lighting designer, Adam, in the Angels’ dugout! I was thrilled to get to go behind the scenes and see a lot of cool stuff. The tour included a walkthrough of the visitor’s clubhouse, indoor batting cage, suites, dugout, press conference room, and TV and radio broadcast areas! A lot of stadiums do this… it just costs money. Still, for any fan I think it’s totally worth it!
- Baseball with Michelle and friends!
This happened a couple of times, with dirrerent friends each time… In June, Michelle and I went to a game with our firends, Darcy and Dennis (the above photo). It was great getting to share the excitement of a game with people… it makes it that much more enjoyable. And we got “rally sticks” or something… it was a giveaway. The Angels lost to the Mets, 4-5. We basically just ended up hitting each other with the foam rally things all through the game.
On an August trip that spanned four states in the Midwest, Michelle and I took a trip to see the White Sox play the Royals at U.S. Cellular Field. It’s always fun to take in a new ballpark we had a great time… with seats in foul ball range! Sadly, I didn’t catch a foul ball and I didn’t get a ball during batting practice either… thankfully, in the 8th inning Ross Gload tossed me a ball behind the visitor’s dugout as he came off the field. And Michelle saw it! We had a great time at the game and it was a good way to relax on our mini-vacation over the summer.
I wrote a whole entry about this magical place in Iowa where you can play on the field from the Kevin Costner movie. Michelle and I went (and took Helen along) and had a good time… I even played a pick-up game with some families that were already there. I’ll let you read the entry for yourselves.
- Lots o’ September baseball!
I tried to cram in as much baseball as I could in September because I knew that school would be starting and baseball would be over within a few short weeks. AND my blog got featured on the MLBlogs home page! I went to seven games that month, caught seven balls at one game (on the 11th of September – Angels/Mariners) got some nifty autographs, saw Frankie Rodriguez tie AND break the single season saves record, met Zack Hample, and did all this at three different stadiums. Plus, I got to meet Mike Scioscia and Howie Kendrick. Woo! Good times.
- Stage managing Take Me Out at UC Irvine
In October and November we rehearsed a play at my school U
CI. It’s called Take Me Out and it’s about baseball… as part of the rehearsal process the whole company played catch and talked about baseball trivia… so it was kind of like the season was extended a bit. The photo shows our set and some of the lighting… looks like a clubhouse, eh?
It was a great year of baseball and I’m sure next year will be great as well. I love to share my passion for baseball with Michelle and any friends that care to tag along. I hope you’ve enjoyed the trip down memory lane. Happy Holidays!
Oh, and PS…
I found this picture in a box at my mom’s place last month. Best I can tell it was taken by my uncle, Ivar, at Angel Stadium during a game against the White Sox… a day game. It looks like the batter is being walked intentionally. The umpire behind the plate is wearing #33. And look at those uniforms and logos… and I’m about ten or eleven in this photo. I’m going to guess this is in 1994. Anyone have any ideas? I’d like to figure out when this was shot… thanks in advance!
UPDATE: I believe that the catcher in the photo is Mike LaValliere… based on the letters I can see. He played for the White Sox from 1993 to 1995 and he only played in 142 games in that three year period. Gettin’ closer.