Tagged: extra innings

6/27/11 at Angel Stadium

This was a Monday game and my first of three consecutive Angels/Nationals tilts at my home ballpark.  I expected smaller crowds than usual… except for the Tuesday bobblehead game.  What I got was no real change in the usual attendance figures… I realize now–it’s summertime.  School’s out and the Angels had just returned home from quite a long road trip.  Here’s how day 1 shaped up:

I went by myself to the Monday game.  When the Home Plate Gate opened I sprinted toward right field and was the first one to the seats.  I scanned the rows for Easter eggs (which is usually a useless process in Anaheim) and found a ball under a seat in the first row of Section 240 (seen in the photo to the right), which is the section closest to center field.  I also  noticed that, while the Angels were hitting, the Nats’ pitchers were already out on the field, chatting and stretching.

The found ball was a training ball so my initial thought was that it came from the Nationals… which meant that some players must have been doing some early rounds of BP.  I watched as the Angels were underwhelming in their rounds of batting practice.  The one other ball I snagged while they were on the field was a standard Selig ball that I got from Hisanori Takahashi in the corner spot of Section 240 by asking him in Japanese.  This was the first time I had gotten a ball from him since he’d become an Angel (though I did get one from him in New York via the same tecnique at my sole game at Citi Field back in April of 2010.  Takahashi gave me a thumbs up after I caught the ball and yelled out, “Arigato!”  Here’s my view from the corner spot:

After that I moved into straightaway right field for the Nationals.  Part of the pitchers’ ending warmup was that they threw football-style passes to each other.  And when they finished that I simply took note of the fact that they threw their leftover baseballs into the seats.  The next ball I snagged was from fan-friendly Livan Hernandez over in the RF corner spot.  I asked him for a ball in Spanish and the next one he fielded got tossed up to me.  Pretty simple.  That one was a training ball, too.  The Nats’ hitters were blasting quite a few home runs during BP but most of them were going to center field.  I left the pavilion and went down to the short wall in the right field corner.  A few Nats tossed balls to kids but I was coming up empty until I moved closer to the infield and Jason Marquis threw me my fourth ball on the day.  His throw was a bit short and the ball tipped off the end of my glove as I reached down over the wall… but luckily it settled right underneath me on the warning track and I was able to lean out and over the wall to pluck it off the warning track.  I gave that ball (also a training ball) to a little boy to my right just a moment later.

I didn’t get anything at the visiting team’s dugout after BP and I spent the next twenty minutes watching as the presidents accompanied the Strike Force around the stadium as they threw T-shirts into the stands:

The presidents would be running their typical race during each game of the series.  The Halos came out to warm up and I was close by.  But Mark Trumbo kept the baseball he’d been using and Maicer Izturis tossed his a section to my right.

I tried to get a ball from the Nationals when they warm-up in front of their dugout but nobody threw… they just stretched and ran.  I headed over to the Angel dugout before the game got underway, hoping for a third out toss.

Here was my view for the first pitch of the game:

Ervin Santana had a good start… and Laynce Nix grounded out to Trumbo at first base to end the top of the first.  By the time Trumbo stepped on the bag I was already at the base of the stairs.  As soon as Trumbo crossed the foul line I called out to him and he tossed me the game-used ball, a 50th Anniversary commemorative.  And his throw was just high enough that I had to hop a little to get it… unaware that there was a hot dog vendor behind me, kneeling down while he was preparing a ballpark frank for a fan.  I caught the ball and went to take a step back to regain my balance and almost tripped over the poor vendor.  Luckily, I didn’t fall over him and he didn’t drop the freshly prepared dog.  With that I ran over to the Nats’ dugout for the bottom of the first.  And here was my view:

First baseman Michael Morse bounced the ball off the warning track and into the hands of a coach in the dugout.  Weird… so I didn’t get a ball there.  And since I already got a ball from Trumbo, I decided I’d spend my last inning at the game trying for a foul ball with this view:

Yes, I planned to leave after the second inning–and did so.  But on my way out I gave away another baseball to a young fan.  Then, before I climbed into my car I got this photo of me with the gamer I’d snagged:

Here’s a picture of the three baseballs I kept:

That would be the one from Takahashi, the one from Hernandez, and the one from Trumbo.  Three different types of ball.

I watched the game from the comfort of my couch as the Angels beat the Nats 4-3 in ten innings via a walk-off single by Maicer Izturis.

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5/6/11 at Angel Stadium

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!”

BAM!

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.

9/12/09 at Angel Stadium

It was a long day.  It was a good day.  It was a fun day at the ballpark.

I left my apartment in Irvine at about 10:45am.  I got to the stadium
at five after 11:00 and met up with Chris (aka cjpyankee) at the Right
Field Gate.  We checked to see if screens were set up for BP by peering
down the tunnel in right.  Nada.  There would be no batting practice…
we found out later the players all hit in the indoor cages.  ::sigh::

I was resolute… I was going to snag a ball anyw–

Aw, man.

Where was my ticket?  I’d left it in the grasp of the sun visor of my
car… ugh.  I ran all the way across the parking lot, grabbed the
ticket out of my car… it was 11:27 and the gates would be opening in
three minutes.  The closest gate to me was on the left field end of the
park.  I headed there and, to my surprise, there was literally no one
in line!  Lucky day, huh?  A lot of Angels fans instinctively head to
the Home Plate Gate because that one opens earlier than the rest… for
night games.  For day games they all open together.  I was the first
ticket to be scanned and I ran in to the park… and saw little
action.  A couple of Angels were long tossing.  A few were stretching:
angels warming up.JPGEventually, Chris made his way over… we chatted and went wherever the
action was.  I’d seen Brian Fuentes throwing in the bullpen:
fuentes warming up.JPGHe took his baseball with him.  Jose Arredondo and Rafael Rodriguez
finished tossing their ball around and Arredondo threw it to–not me. 
Hmm… Jered Weaver finished tossing with Darren Oliver and Chris ended
up getting that one.

It’s funny, when there’s no BP there really is a lot of roaming to
do… I headed to the dugout and had a conversation with a guy in
street clothes… turns out he was a friend of Juan Rivera’s, he was
here from Venezuela, and he got to be in the dugout for some reason.

Trevor Bell had missed a throw and a ball was sitting out on the
warning track in right field.  Chris and I hovered over it until a
security guard ignored our requests and picked it up and took it away. 
Bummer… We went to the first base dugout.  No White Sox to be found
anywhere.  After that, very little happened for a while so I got myself
my designated driver wristband.

mark salas.JPGEventually, Chris and I saw Mark Salas (Chicago’s bullpen catcher)
start to make his way across the field.  We ran all the way around the
stadium to meet him out at the bullpen.  When we got there and he got
there we started up a conversation with him.  He said he’d hook us up
with something… you may notice in the photo to the left that he is holding two baseballs.  He told us if he gave them to us we’d have to give them to the little kids off to our right.  Juan Nieves and starter John Danks joined him after a
while… and then someone from the Angels gave Nieves a bunch of
baseballs to give to those aforementioned little kids.  There were
four kids and Nieves had five baseballs… the fifth one got tossed up
to me.  Cool!  No shutout–take THAT day game with no batting practice.

After that, the White Sox players FINALLY came out to the field and
started running and throwing.  I told Chris I was going to head over
there.  I went up the steps… waved to Chris… didn’t see him for the
rest of the day.

I got down to where the players were just as Gordon Beckham finished
playing catch with Chris Getz.  I called out for the ball but I was in
the second row and, unfortunately for me, the kid in front of me had
tremendous coordination.  He reached up and nabbed it.

I grabbed my free soda and found a seat:
found my seat.JPGI alternated between this seat and one other.  Hot, hot heat in
SoCal equals fans sitting in the shade… not in their super-pricey
seats.  I got pretty close to a couple of foul balls but couldn’t get a glove on either of them.

The fourth inning ended with Howie Kendrick flying out to Alex Rios in center field.  As the White Sox came off the field a few little kids rushed down to the bottom of the aisle and started asking Mark Kotsay (the first baseman) for the ball… which he didn’t have.  I kept my eye on Rios as he jogged in.  I was in the third row, standing up, and called out, “Alex!”  He tossed it right to me and a White Sox fan almost fell on me trying to get it for himself.  I made the clean catch and casually walked up to my seat about ten rows back.  This was the view (so you have an idea of how much ground I covered to get down there:
ground to cover.JPGThe older couple sitting next to me asked me if I’d gotten it.  I replied in the affirmative and the older fella asked to see it… I showed him the rubbed up gamer and then compared it to the Nieves ball.  I told them about how the balls get rubbed up for game use and how I collect them and how I give some away to kids.  They really were a great couple and they told me I had to protect them if a foul ball came near… well, nothing came near, and as the shade of our seats went away so did they.  By about the seventh inning, with the White Sox up 3-0, I decided to roam a little… I headed out to the right field corner in case either of the Angels batting left-handed decided to pull a homer down the line.
right field corner.JPGWhen A.J. Pierzynski was up I was here:
pierzynski atbat cropped smal.jpgBut he didn’t hit a homer either… but I did see my favorite usher, Barbara, out in the right field pavilion and I presented her with the Robb Quinlan ball from Thursday the 10th, telling her she could keep it or she could give it away to a little one, but she’s always been really friendly and I figured I’d trust her judgment as to what to do with the ball.

For Jermaine Dye’s at-bat I was here:
dye atbat.JPGWell, darn.  No homer.  So I went over to the bullpens.  I talked to D.J. Carrasco for a minute about this game he was playing along with Randy Williams:
carrasco game.JPGThey were tossing baseballs and trying to get them to land on the beam above their heads and stay there.  I wished ’em good luck and headed over to far right field again for the Angels portion of the eighth.  They scored twice.  But not by home run.  Darn again.  It was now 3-2… Bobby Jenks came in and recorded the last two outs of the eighth… I headed for the White Sox dugout for the end of the game and found a seat in the second row:
morales swing.JPGYou know what happened?  The Angels tied it up in the ninth!  Free baseball!

But then the White Sox scored a run on a Kevin Jepsen wild pitch (after Brian Fuentes let two men get on base while recording just one out).  It was 4-3 and the Angels couldn’t come back in the bottom of the tenth.  The game went final.  I tried to get a ball at the dugout only one came up–way to my left.  Ozzie Guillen tried to throw the lineup cards up but they hit the edge of the dugout roof and fell back inside.  Third base coach Jeff Cox picked them up a minute later but slid them to a kid who didn’t even know what they were.  :sigh::  Being an adult has it’s downsides, I guess… especially if you’re trying to collect baseball memorabilia.

Anywho, I jogged out to my car after that, doing my best to beat traffic out of the stadium.  Most of the 37,390 fans had stuck around until the end… surprising for an Anaheim crowd!

The Angels are on the road next week but I may be making it to a Dodger game or two.  Stay tuned!

9/8/09 at Angel Stadium

The Angels were back home after a road trip and I was psyched to be back at the stadium.  I met up with Chris and a buddy of his before the gates opened at we headed in at 5:00pm.

I was not a Gold Glove-caliber fan for this game, lemme tell you that much.  Before we get into details, check this out:
baseball on the rocks.JPGSee that baseball out there?  It was a homer hit by an Angels player that bounced on the batter’s eye and settled right there on the rocks.  I kept thinking of a way to nab it… but came up with zero good ideas (read, ideas that wouldn’t get me kicked out).  I’d imagine a cameraman probably ended up with it.

On to my BP blunders.  Most notably, Kendry Morales knocked a homer out to me… like, to me.  I was lined up perfectly and no one was near me.  I had it in my sights, reached my glove up to catch it about a foot above my head… and it tipped off the end of my glove.  Ugh.  Luckily, it didn’t take a weird bounce and I ended up with the ball anyway.  But, man, I was down on myself–I shoulda caught it on the fly.

That was it for Angels BP… the Mariners were out and I know where Ichiro hits ’em so I headed down near the foul pole in right field.  I came close on a few of them but actually didn’t snag anything else until the last round of M’s batting practice.  My second ball of the day was a grounder that cut along the wall and ricocheted off the corner.  I leaned out and picked it off the warning track before it stopped rolling.  A few minutes later Jason Vargas tossed a ball to where I was standing about ten rows back.  It wasn’t specifically to me, or anyone… I jogged to my right after a fan tried to catch it barehanded and failed.  I picked it up off the ground (and later gave that one away to an girl in an Angels jersey).  Three baseballs… not bad but I had expected more from myself as BP ended.  I ran down toward the dugout as the Mariners came off the field.

As everyone headed in a coach (who I later identified as Alan Cockrell) spotted me and tossed a ball over the crowd in the first row–to me in the fourth row.  Error #2 for me on the day.  I took my eye off the ball for a split second and I misplayed it.  It hit off my glove and bounced down toward the dugout… but I was quick to recover, lunging for it and snagging it before anyone else even knew I missed it.  But I knew.  Argh…

I felt how an infielder must feel after botching a play (like a grounder went right through his legs) but that run doesn’t end up scoring.  It’s like, “Well, things turned out all right.  But I should have done better.”

It was Japan Day at the ballpark and so there was a pretty cool pregame display or taiko drumming and martial arts:
japan day.JPGAnywho, I sat down to watch the game after I couldn’t get a warmup ball from any of the M’s… here:
my view 2.JPGAnd I moved every now and then between that view and a couple others but stayed pretty much in the same area, trying for foul balls and 3rd out balls… no dice.
kazmir.JPGking felix.JPGI was stuck at four baseballs on the day and that was fine.  It was a great pitcher’s duel.  Scott Kazmir (in his Angels home debut) faced Felix Hernandez for the second time in a week-long period.  Kaz gave up a solo home run to Franklin Gutierrez and that was it for the scoring…. until Brian Fuentes blew the save.

King Felix had allowed two runs (one earned) and the Halos were up 2-1 in the ninth.  I was behind their dugout, ready for the win.  But Mike Sweeney blasted Fuentes’ second pitch of the night out to center and–tie game.  The Angels loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth but couldn’t get the run home.

To the tenth… Matt Palmer kept the Mariners scoreless in the inning and Erick Aybar delivered a walkoff hit to score Bobby Abreu!  Angels win!  And I only saw two baseball get tossed into the crowd… oh well.

My three remaining baseballs of the evening (because one was given away to a young Angels fan):
baseballs of 090809.JPGI hurried home to my wife.  I knew I’d be back to the stadium soon…

5/14/09 at Angel Stadium

5.14.09 at Angel Stadium 008b.jpgThis 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

5.14.09 at Angel Stadium 001.JPGWell, 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:
5.14.09 at Angel Stadium 002.JPGLots 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:
field level day game no bp.jpgDang… 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 5.14.09 at Angel Stadium 016.JPGbasic 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 okajima.jpgwas 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!
5.14.09 at Angel Stadium 027.JPGHere I am with Michelle before the start of the game:
5.14.09 at Angel Stadium 046.JPGWe found seats on the first base side and were able to stay there for the first third of the game (see some shots below).  5.14.09 at Angel Stadium 056.JPG5.14.09 at Angel Stadium 051.JPGI 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:
5.14.09 at Angel Stadium 078.JPGThat’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:
5.14.09 at Angel Stadium 082.JPGYou 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!
red sox angels panorama extra inningsb.jpgDid 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.

And here’s the Papelbon autograph, one of my favorite signatures in my collection:
papelbon auto.jpgAll in all, a fun, successful, super-fastasmawesome day at the park!