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.
It 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.
That’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.
Thanks 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:
There weren’t many people around and those that were retreated to the shade so I had plenty of room on my left:
And on my right:
I 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:
I 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:
Weird! 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:
But 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:
It 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…
I knew I was going to head out to one of the Angel games against the Tigers this week. I randomly chose Tuesday’s game. As it turns out, the weather was not a friend to me on this day. This will be a pretty quick entry because not a lot happened.
I left in plenty of time to get to the stadium before it opened. As I was driving along the freeway it started to rain. Ridiculous. Then the rain let up… then, as I got of the freeway it picked up again. Ugh.
I parked and walked up to the outfield tunnel to peer in at the field. I was disappointed to see the tarp out on the field. I headed up to the Home Plate Gate anyway. At about 5:00 the rain had lessened again but I just knew there wouldn’t be batting practice. I called Michelle, who had planned on meeting me at the game, and she decided to just go home… she told me if the weather got better she might drive out to meet me later. I considered just calling it a night right then (I thought about my streak–I’d snagged at least one baseball at 43 consecutive games).
I ended up heading inside–grabbing my giveaway item (an Angels wall calendar) as I went. I ran toward the first base side and out onto the field level. Cue the sad trombone. No BP. I did see a few Angels throwing over near left field–so away I went.
Rodney almost threw one over the center field fence.
When they finished, Rodney threw his ball to a little kid (who already had a ball given to him by Scot Shields as he passed by). The mystery player still had a baseball in his pocket. I took a wild shot as he moved the ball from his pocket to his glove as he walked away toward the dugout…
“Rodriguez! Aqui, por favor!”
Now, let me just say that the player looked to be Hispanic. Also, according to my roster the Angels have three players with the surname Rodriguez on their forty-man roster… all pitchers. The player turned, saw my glove up in the air, and tossed the ball over a few rows of fans and to me. I bobbled it–but held on and, just like that, my streak was at forty-four. After checking photos at home I confirmed that it was Francisco Rodriguez who threw it to me. Not the one who used to be an Angel and is now a Met… a different Francisco Rodriguez. He has since been reassigned.
I walked over to the bullpen. Mike Butcher was heading toward the dugout and the rain had continued… I asked if they were going to play if this kept up and he assured me they would. After that… nothing happened. For a while. Seriously.
Here it is from the first base side:
Around 5:45 the grounds crew felt the weather was good enough to take the tarp off the infield. They were right to do so, it wouldn’t rain for the rest of the night.
They did a good job:
And finally, a couple of Tigers came out to throw. By this point I had decided that I would just head home before the game started (due to traffic, the weather, and wanting to watch LOST). I watched Ryan Perry and Joel Zumaya throw. I stood behind Perry for a few minutes as Zumaya pitched fireballs to him. Yikes!
And they put on their own long toss show.
I ended up getting both of their autographs on ticket stubs, and Phil Coke signed a baseball for me, too.
Three autos, one baseball, a free drink, and a calendar. A quick night.
You might recall that about a year ago I posted an entry about my excitement regarding the acquisition of Bobby Abreu and how I thought he’d help the team. Well, as I’m sure you know by now, the Angels signed Hideki Matsui to a one year deal last month. While I am sad to see Vladdy go (this deal pretty much sealed his non-Angel fate), I am glad that we’ll be getting a more patient hitter. Matsui is no better in the power or mobility categories but at least he’ll see a few more pitches per at bat and hopefully not ground into so many double plays. Vlad had his worst season since his rookie year in ’09 (partly due to injuries) so I’m glad Matsui is replacing him, in essence. I was over the Vladdy-love after 2008, when his numbers decreased drastically (and it was revealed he was actually a year older than he’d reported). Matsui had a career year last season so he’s worth the low-risk of signing him. Yes, his knees are bad and he’s just going to DH… but that’s fine. That was Vladdy, too.
Back to Abreu for a moment. He turned out to be a great investment, making all of the 2009 Angels better. And he was rewarded with a new, two-year deal. Back in my previous blog about his signing I’d said, “I’m projecting seventeen homers and 100 RBIs for Bobby,” and he gave us 15 home runs and 103 RBIs. Not too shabby, eh? So, what’s Hideki Matsui’s line going to be in 2010? Well, if he stays healthy (and that’s a BIG if) then I’m guessing he still won’t hit 28 homers like he did last season. He doesn’t have Yankee Stadium’s friendly short porch. So, I’m guessing he’ll hit 18 home runs and drive in 85 runs. Not overly impressive, but it all depends on where he hits in the lineup. I’ll go ahead and throw out that he’ll hit .285 on the season. Check back in a year!
Was it a good signing? Yes, I think so. A great one? No. I wish we still had Lackey… and Figgins. We got Fernando Rodney… we’ll see. He’s a wild card whenever he’s throwing. Usually he’ll strike a guy out or walk him but he doens’t give up a lot of home runs. He should compliment Fuentes well. And Scot Shields will be back… plus we’ve got Jepsen and Bulger. So, over the course of the season our bullpen is looking pretty solid. Who knows if Matt Palmer will be another arm out of the pen or if he’ll fall into that fifth starter role behind Jered Weaver, Scott Kazmir, Joe Saunders, and Ervin Santana? I think we’re okay on pitching and okay on hitting. The lineup? Here’s my projection:
1. Erick Aybar
2. Bobby Abreu
3. Torii Hunter
4. Kendry Morales
5. Hideki Matsu
6. Juan Rivera
7. Howie Kendrick
8. Mike Napoli/Jeff Mathis
9. Brandon Wood/Maicer Izturis
Thoughts? Feedback? It’s going to be tough to fend off Seattle and the Rangers. They’ve both made better improvements to their respective teams than have the Angels. Oakland? I’m not worried about them. We’ll see if the front office is done making moves for any/all of teh AL West teams. One thing’s for sure–I’m excited for a new season of baseball and an All-Star Game here in Anaheim.
All right! Back at the Big A with my wife and a fine summer evening of baseball. We arrived plenty early and I took a spot in line while Michelle sat in the shade.
Actually, you can see Michelle in the background of that photo as she checks out the Nick Adenhart memorial. It’s always changing as people add to it… August 24th, 2009 would have been Nick’s 23rd birthday. R.I.P.
I was the first one there and arrived just in time to watch Frank Robinson enter the gates after totally snubbing a Detroit Tigers fan. Ouch!
Soon enough the lines were growing and I saw John, Terry, Rob, and Chris (all Anaheim BP regulars) around me. The security guard for my line was late gettin’ with the program so Rob beat me up to the pavilion but there weren’t any Easter eggs to be found.
After a few minutes I walked to the center field side of the pavilion as Torii Hunter was shagging out there. He fielded one near the wall and I exclaimed, “Torii! Could you toss that one up here, please?”
He looked up, smiled, and side-armed Ball #1 right to me. Awesome! I’d never gotten a ball from Torii before. I told him, “Thank you! It’s good to have you back, Torii!” And he gave me a thumbs up–this game would be his first home game back since he’s been on the DL.
I just kept being out of place for the few homers that went up there during BP. I saw a few Angels pitchers in right and thought Shane Loux was one of them. I headed down to the front row and got right above where Loux was fielding and said, “Is that Shane down there?” No response.
“Well, if it is… I just want to say Happy Birthday next week, man.”
He turned around and looked up saying, “Thank you.” He pointed to me with his glove. Cool.
About five minutes later I was in the fourth rows of the stands trying to catch a homer by Gary Matthews, Jr. A ball went to Loux and he turned around, wanting to toss it to someone. I put my arms up and waved halfheartedly… and he tossed it over a half dozen people in the first row straight into my glove. For the record, I never asked him for a baseball… but I sure appreciate having it! Note to self: that birthday stat on the rosters I print out comes in handy after all.
After the Angels finished hitting I got entirely shut out! Not too many homers made it up to us in RF and those that did were just too far from me. I almost got two or three… but almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, as my dad says.
After BP I found Michelle in the seats further up in the pavilion and we found some shade on the Terrace Level and ate our dinner we’d brought in with us. The Angels Strike Force made their rounds and I snagged my third ball of the day… but it was made of soft plastic and foam. I’ve snagged three of these Softee balls this year without really trying too hard. Too bad they don’t count in the standings of the Ballhawk League!
I saw Justin Verlander come out and warm up near the line in right. When he started throwing I sat behind the bullpen catcher in case of an overthrow. Geez! Verlander’s got some great movement on his pitches. Neither he nor the catcher tossed a ball to anyone… but Michelle mentioned that a player was signing closer to the dugout.
I took a closer look and saw Curtis Granderson–he posed for some photos and signed for a good ten minutes! I got him on my ticket from that game. Lemme tell you, some of these ballplayers don’t try very hard when signing their name. Ugh. Thanks anyway, Curtis, for taking the time. Your fans appreciate it.
A couple of Tigers tossed before the anthem but only one ball got thrown to the crowd… it was just a bit too far to my left. Oh, well. Michelle and I headed up to the View Level and found some seats here:
Nice foul ball spot, eh?
Verlander throws hard… I figured a lot of foul balls from the Angels batting left-handed (Figgins, Abreu, Izturis, Morales, Aybar) would make it up this way. Nope. Only one close call.
The Angels made a comeback though and knocked Verlander out of the game in the sixth. They beat up on the Tigers bullpen a little, too… it was 10-7 after Bobby Abreu knocked a three-run homer of the fence in right field. Fernando Rodney came in and got the final four outs of the game though… and I was right behind the dugout as the players came off the field. The only thing that got tossed to me: a piece of Sugar Free Double Bubble by current coach and former player Andy Van Slyke.
Oh, and Michelle and I saw actor J.K. Simmons in the crowd behind the dugout at the game’s end. He signed a few autographs and posed for some photos. Apparently he is a BIG Tigers fan. He was born in Detroit in ’55 and, here’s some entertainment/sports trivia, he played the manager of the Tigers in the Kevin Costner film “For Love of the Game.” Cool, huh?
Check out his left hand. I respect him even more as an actor and sports fan now: he had bro
ught his glove to the game. Props to you, J.K.
As the visiting team clubhouse attendant was cleaning up he looked up over the dugout with a ball in his hand. I asked him, politely, if I could have it. He scanned around to see if anyone else was still nearby. Everyone but me had cleared out. I said, “There’s nobody younger or cuter near me! C’mon, man… please?”
I arrived at about 4:30pm and parked for free using a secret told to me by Mr. Sammy Wu. As I approached the Home Plate Gate I saw this:
I was the second person in my line. Pretty mellow. Here’s what it looked like at 5:00pm, right before they let us in:
Man, even on days that I expect small crowds there are SO many people at this stadium. The paid attendance was over 43,000! Most of them, however, were not there for batting practice AND most of them did not run in and set up shop in the pavilion… like me.
OK, so baseball #1 came to me from the friendly arm of Angels reliever Justin Speier. As a group of Angels pitchers jogged along the warning track there was a ball 18 ft. below my spot in right field. I yelled, “Hey, Justin, could you toss that ball up, please?” And he responded, “Aw, man… I would love to.” Funny. And there it was, my first of the day, complete with a black PRACTICE stamp on the sweet spot. Bleh.
After getting dissed by Rich Thompson and Daniel Davidson (Who? Yes… our pitching staff is currently rather thin.) I waited for the Tigers pitchers to warm up. I got Fernando Rodney’s attention after asking him for a ball and pointing to my Detroit hat. He finished long tossing and threw one up to me. Now, despite Zack Hample‘s dislike for them, I was very excited to see that I’d just snagged my first ever International League baseball. Here’s a photo:
The font and logo are different, they feel different, they’re made in China… but it was something NEW! Cool. When I have thousands of baseballs in my collection I’ll probably look back on this and think, “Boy, I was really excited about a lame international whatever ball.” But for now–it’s way awesome.
Feeling that I had exhausted my resources in right field I headed toward center, to the corner spot of the pavilion. A few Tigers players were taking Fungos in center including Matt Treanor and Curtis Granderson. An odd combination? Yes. Anyway, Curtis ran down a fly ball that I didn’t think he could reach. I mean, he sprinted forty feet, leapt at the wall below me and caught it in the tip of his glove. I said, “Nice wheels!” And he looked up, grinned, and did like, a corny 1990s I’m-using-my-hand-like-it-is-a-gun-to-show-you-I-approve thing. My friendliness paid off. The next time he was nearby I asked if he could toss up a ball… and he did! Another International League ball and my third souvenir of the day.
At that point Michelle, who’d be meeting me at the game, called to say she was stuck in traffic, so I took a timeout from snagging to make sure she could get to the stadium. When I headed back my corner spot was occupied so I hung back a few rows as Mr. Granderson stepped into the cage. That guy not only can run… he can HIT! The night before he smacked a pair of homers and he was killin’ the ball in the cage, too. Before long he belted one to right center and it went right over the glove of the guy in Tigers gear who’d taken the corner and bounced around in the row I was in a few feet from me… ball #4 on the day! In the photo below you can kind of see the green marking that the seats left on the ball when it smacked into them in the pavilion.
That would be it for BP but I had seats on the Field Level for the game so I didn’t care if I got any other baseballs. Michelle arrived in the second inning and we headed up to the Beach Pit BBQ stand in center field for some pulled pork and beef brisket sandwiches. We ate out in the center field seats. Here’s our view during dinnertime:
We stayed here through most of the game and watched the action (including Ryan Raburn misplaying two fly balls). No foul balls came near us and none of the outfielders tossed warmup balls into the crowd at all! The Angels were ahead for most of the game but, yet again, the bullpen gave up a bunch of runs and…
See that guy on the left in the photo above? He stumbled (drunkenly) down the aisle and started talking to the dudes in front of Michelle and I about how he was a Marine and how his buddy had bet him a car (a Porsche nonetheless) that he wouldn’t run out on the field and high five the right fielder. He spent twenty minutes trying to psych himself up, asking for advice, trying to figure out “what that sign” actually meant.
Then, randomly, a dude in a gray hoodie two sections to our left leaps onto the field and starts sprinting. Three security guards and a cop chase him. So this genius in front of me stumbles over the wall as if he thought, “Well, if he can do it, I may as well do it, too.” He wobbles, jogs to Gary Matthews Jr. in right and I can see him explaining and gesturing that he’s gonna get a car if he high fives this man. Gary shakes his head and crosses his arms so this drunk dude kind of taps his hand and starts to then run away, Then he notices a cop ten feet from him and puts his head down and calmly walks off… to get arrested. I remembering hoping he actually would get a car out of it.
In the meantime, the first dude in the gray hoodie is STILL running full speed away from the guards. He gets grabbed by the sleeve, wriggles out of his hoodie, and makes a beeline back for the stands where he came from. He makes it over the wall but is met by two guards in the aisle. So, he’s going to jail for the night, too. They never put that stuff on TV… it was really amusing. Downright hilarious, as a matter of fact. Two guys runnin’ on the field at the same time, totally not associated with one another. Ha!
So, the bullpen gave up some runs and a bunch of fans left and Michelle and I moved to right behind the Tigers dugout.
It was 12-8… in the ninth the Angels made it close, 12-10. That’s where the score stayed, though, and the Angels lost again while I was in attendance. Bummer. It was an exciting game though, 22 runs scored, home runs, double plays, I love all that stuff. I grabbed a few ticket stubs on my way out… and, oh!
I almost forgot to mention I got Gerald Laird to autograph a ticket stub before the game. I couldn’t find my black Sharpie so I handed him the silver one from my bag. It’s not the best autograph ever but…
Actually, it’s kind of lame… no offense, Gerald, I shoulda had my black Sharpie ready… bah!
I’ll be at the game Saturday to watch Ichiro, Griffey, and the M’s with Michelle and some friends from out of town. It should be a good matchup!