Tagged: field level

6/25/11 at PETCO Park

Before this day, the last time I’d gone to a Major League Baseball game that wasn’t at Angel Stadium was when Michelle and I had gone to Chase Field for two games back in August of 2010.  Fifteen consecutive games at the Big A… and finally I got a chance to take a mini road trip down to San Diego.

I parked my car in a structure at about 2:45 (for a 5:35 game) and walked south a few blocks until I saw:

I wandered all around the exterior of the stadium until the Park at the Park and the beach opened at 3:00… then I ran in and spent about thirty minutes with this view in front of me.

Not a single baseball got hit to the beach during the time I was there but I did get Luke Gregerson’s autograph on an old ticket I had with me before heading up to the left field seats when the rest of the stadium opened at 3:30.  I spent a lot of BP in left field and eventually snagged a Ryan Ludwick homer after it bounced in the spot shown in the photo on the left.  As you can tell, the seats were pretty full.

And after that they filled up even more so I ran over to right field where there was a little more space to move.

The Padres ran off the field and the Braves came out to hit–and after ten minutes a BP ball got hit up to the seats, was bobbled by some fans and fell back onto the field.  Tim Hudson walked over and tossed it up (to no one in particular) and a fan three feet from me dropped it.  The ball fell onto a chain link covering between the seats and the field.  I walked over, leaned out, and plucked it off the fencing.  Then I found a little kid nearby (wearing a glove) and handed it to him.

In the photo to the right you can see my view from near where I snagged Ball #2 and Tim Hudson standing in the outfield.  BP got pretty boring after that.  Surprisingly, the Braves didn’t hit too many baseballs to the seats.  I became very aware of the expansive space that is PETCO Park.  I’d seen these same Braves a month earlier hitting bombs in Anaheim… but in SD they barely cleared the fences.

So, it was a frustrating BP made slightly better by the fact that, as the Braves ran off the field, I got a ball tossed to me at the dugout by Julio Lugo.

Then, some Braves came out to stretch and throw before the national anthem:

Freddie Freeman kept the ball he used during warmups with Jason Heyward:

First basemen tend to do that since they usually need them for the first inning to warm up their fellow infielders.

When the game started I sat near my ticketed seat… not in it… but near it.  I stayed on the aisle and two rows closer to the field than I should have been… but even on a beach towel giveaway night the attendance was just over 38,000 so there was plenty of space.  Here was my view:

I did snag a ball during the game–but it was tossed into the seats by the Pad [pahd] Squad and was squishy:

Chipper Jones was playing third base and I was glad to get to see him play–who knows how long he’ll still be able to?  He’s one of the few players I’ve followed since I first got into watching baseball when I was a kid.

And Jason Heyward is quickly becoming my new favorite Brave to see play… he went two for five with two doubles and two RBIs in this game.  That guy can hit!

As far as stats about the game… it was close through seven innings: 3-1 Braves… but Atlanta pulled away in the eighth with three runs and then scored four more in the ninth.  Dan Uggla crushed a three-run homer in that ninth inning and as he touched home plate… well, look:

Butt slap!  Why is that always how players congratulate each other?

I moved right behind the dugout for the bottom of the ninth:

As the game came to a close the Long Haul Bombers prepared for their home run derby…

The Braves won the MLB game, 10-1.  And if you’ve never heard of the Long Haul Bombers… they are a group of burly dudes that absolutely crush specially made softballs as far (or farther) than Major League hitters hit baseballs.  I’d only ever read about these guys online and, as it turned out, they would be doing a round of their HRD at PETCO on this evening.  I did not get a ball from home plate ump Kerwin Danley, nor did I get anything from the Braves postgame.  After the Braves retreated to their clubhouse I ran out to the outfield stands–and to the second deck of left field.

It was pretty packed up there and the first hitter turned out to be a lefty–who, obviously, pulled everything to right field.  The second hitter was a righty and… man, oh, man… they were crushing the balls.  Multiple softballs actually hit the jumbotron in left field.  I decided to go all out and run back and forth from left to right and back again depending on which hitter was up.  It was exhausting and I was on the verge of frustration when a drive got crushed up to section133 in right field.  I ran up a staircase, cut through a row and made a final lunge to catch the ball in the spot in the photo on the right.

And for your reference, here’s what these softballs look like (from the spot where I caught it–about 440 feet from home plate)!  Yowza!

And then I jogged to the car and made it home in just over an hour.  Exhausted.

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7/15/10 at Angel Stadium

I’d barely had time to rest since the All-Star Game and I was back, driving along the 55 to the 5 to the 57… and I arrived plenty early for the AL West showdown between the Angels and the Mariners.

I was pretty pleased to see such a light crowd at the gates. 
I ran in and started searching the right field seats for Easter eggs.  No luck. 
I spent ten minutes of batting practice chasing homers and when Hideki
Matsui blasted one ten rows over my head I took off after it.  Another
fan snagged that one but as I walked back to my normal BP spot I
spotted Ball #1 in one of the last rows of the pavilion.  The gates had been open for more than ten minutes and I couldn’t believe it.  There were, at that point, at least twenty people in the seats… I looked at the guy next to me.

“Did you drop this?”  He said he didn’t.  So, I picked it up.  Wow–crazy… the only other time I had found a ball after the first minute or so of the stadium being open was earlier in the season at PETCO Park.

After a few more minutes I ranged to my right a nabbed a home run from an Angels
player on a bounce, just beating out a couple of other guys for it.  I think it was Torii Hunter that hit it but it could have easily been Mike Napoli or Juan Rivera… I never got a good look at the batter.  I gave that ball away to my favorite usher.  She usually finds a young kid to give the balls away to but I always tell her she’s welcome to keep ’em for herself if she wants.

Once the Mariners came out to throw along the first baseline I hung out near the foul pole:
ms come out to stretch.JPGAnd from there I got
closer David Aardsma to toss me Ball #3 after he finished playing catch.

The next ball I snagged came with an error attached to it, sadly.  I was right at the wall in the corner when some Mariner lofted a ball toward me.  I couldn’t tell if the ball would fall short of the seats and then bounce off the warning track or if it would clear the fence for a home run.  I backed up a couple steps, anticipating the bounce.  Then, I changed my mind: at the last second I reached forward over the wall as far as I could and, luckily, I had guessed right.  I
certainly could have caught it… but in my haste to get into position I
extended a bit too far and couldn’t make the basket catch.  The ball smacked off the heel off my glove and fell onto the warning track.  It hurt–I mean, like, it hurt my hand and my pride.  The ball had rolled away from the short wall just enough that I couldn’t reach over and scoop it up.  I expected that the nearby security guard would simply flip it back toward the bucket but he didn’t.  The
guard must have been preoccupied and that gave Jamey Wright the chance
to walk up, shake his head at me, and say, “Two hands, man.  Come on…”

Then he underhanded Ball #4 to me.  So, it counts as a thrown ball and not a hit ball.  I was glad to get the snag but bummed that I’d made such a poor play on it.  I gave that ball away to a nearby kid and ran back up to the pavilion but I didn’t snag any other baseballs during BP.  I ran to the dugout as the Mariners headed in but didn’t get anything there… I did see Mike Sweeney playing catch with a kid that, I assume, was his son.
sweeney catch with kid.jpgSweeney’s from the area and always has family and friends around when the Mariners play the Angels.  I’ve talked to him a couple of times.  He’s super nice and always signs autographs if fans are polite about it.  He’s a real cool guy in my opinion.

Michelle met up with me after the teams had warmed up (and I hadn’t snagged a Mariners warmup ball–booooo!) and we got food together.  We decided to watch the first few innings from the Terrace Level and we talked about
how small the crowd seemed after the ASG events we’d seen. 
And I, of course, planned to try for a third out ball each time the M’s came off the field.

In the bottom of the first inning I was behind the M’s dugout when Hideki
Matsui ended the frame by grounding out to second base (like he’s done
way too much this year).  Chone Figgins threw the ball to Justin Smoak and I was actually sitting right over the dugout in the first row as the Seattle players jogged in.  The recently traded Smoak had the ball in his glove and I didn’t even have to stand up… nobody else cared about the ball.

“Justin!  Right here!”  I held up my glove and waved it a bit–Smoak lobbed the ball, it bounced off the dugout roof and right into my glove.
smoak baseball.JPGIt was, quite literally, the easiest third-out toss I’d ever gotten.  For your reference, here was the view I had of the players coming in:
ms after bot of first.JPGNeither of those guys is Smoak, in case you were wondering.  Those two guys are Michael Saunders and Franklin Gutierrez but you get the idea: I was right there.  A moment later I jogged back to Michelle on the Terrace Level.

We’d end up moving down to the Field Level in the middle innings once the crowd had been established and we could see some open seats.
7.15 sunset panorama.jpgI was hoping for a foul ball but none came near us.  It was a fun game and pretty relaxing.  I’d never been so glad to see an attendance of “just” 41,000.
Michelle left a little after nine and I played for home runs through the last couple of innings.  First, I was in right field:
7.15 rf homer territory.jpgThen I tried left field:
lf homer territory 7.15.JPGBut no homers were hit.  I was behind the Angels dugout as they locked down the win:
7.15 ninth inning dugout.jpgI tried for a toss-up behind the dugout as the Angels came off the field but came up with nothing.  After this game I took a well-deserved two-week break from attending games… I realized I was pretty darn tired.  Still, a fun win to see… 8-3, Angels.  My next game would be at the end of the month, right before my birthday.

ALCS Game 5 at Angel Stadium

Weeks before I knew the Angels would be facing off against the Yankees in the ALCS I purchased tickets for both Game 4 and Game 5.  I ended up with school commitments on both of those days.  So, being the good student that I am, I put both pairs of tickets on StubHub.  The Game 4 tickets sold… and I’m glad I wasn’t there for that blowout.  The Game 5 tickets didn’t.  I called around and got my friend, Julian (who loves the Yankees), to pay me for the ticket.  I got someone to cover for me at school and told J that I’d meet him at the ballpark.  I readied my stuff and made it to the stadium thirty minutes before it opened.

There was already a HUGE line of people waiting to get in:
alcs pregame crowd.JPGAnd I hoped that I would know someone that might be close to the front of the line.  Sure enough, I saw John Witt (aka MLBallhawk) in the last of the five lines.  He invited me to slip in next to him and as soon as the gates opened we were off to the races.  John headed down near the foul pole and I ran straight up to the pavilion.  When I got there I didn’t find any Easter eggs but I saw Scot Shields shagging baseballs in right.  I was kind of surprised to see him because he’d been on the DL all season.  I yelled out a hello to him and a moment later he pointed up to the sky.  A fungo had been hit a bit too far and ended up hitting the seats five rows behind me and to my left.  The ball ricocheted right back to the field.  Scot went over, picked up that ball and one other, tossed one to a guy down on the field level, then looked up toward me.  He gestured with his glove, like I should hold mine up… I did and he fired the ball right to me.

“Thanks, Scot–it’s good so see you back out here!”

He gave me a thumbs up and I headed a few sections over toward center field.  Rob was there… John ended up coming up to the pavilion, too.  The sun’s tough in Anaheim if you’re trying to snag baseballs.  It’s tough when there’s a 7:00 start… it’s tougher when it’s a 5:00 start.  With my shades on and my cap low I still had trouble tracking some homers.  Once though, with Kendry Morales hitting, I stayed with a ball as it got smashed toward right-center and sprinted through a row and across a whole section.  I drifted further to my right and lost it in the sun for a moment… I stuck with it, kept drifting, and then I saw the silhouette falling toward me again.  I reached out with my left hand across my body and made the backhanded catch.  Whew.  The couple behind me were a bit stunned.  I heard the guy say, “Wow.  I didn’t even see it.”

Shortly after that the Yankees came out and started throwing along the right field line.  Here’s a panoramic I snapped:
bp alcs.jpg
The Yankees began hitting and peppered the right field seats with baseballs and, while I was close to quite a few (and banged my ankle pretty badly on a seat), I didn’t catch anything else during BP.  It was exciting though; the Yankees sure can hit the ball.  I’ve never been to a more active batting practice than that one.  Lots o’ fun–but lots o’ people, too.

As the Yankees came off the field, I was right behind their dugout… but nobody tossed a baseball anywhere near me.  I hung around for a minute and took this picture:
basket with metrodome ball.JPGSee that baseball with the Metrodome logo?  I had seen an acquaintance of mine catch one of those during BP… I hoped somebody might toss one up my way… but the basket got emptied and everyone headed into the dugout.

Oh, well.  I was at an ALCS game!  I’d never been to a Championship Series game in my life and I was soaking it all up.  I wandered, took a bunch of pictures, and waited for Julian to show up.

Sights around the ballpark:
alcs logo on field.JPGyankees vs angels sign.JPGIt was energetic and lively… and there were A LOT of Yankees fans.  I’d say it was 50/50–Yankees fans to Angels fans.  As the anthem was sung there was a flyover by some fighter jets:
fighters flyover.JPGAnd The Kingfish, Tim Salmon, threw out the first pitch.  I was good to see him back:
salmon shields.JPGI went to the last game Tim Salmon ever played… they cut a big ’15’ into the grass for that game to honor him.  They’ll retire his number some day…

And then I settled into a seat behind the Yankee dugout temporarily… it didn’t start out looking too good for the Angels.  Derek Jeter singled on the first pitch of the game:
jeter singles on first pitch.JPGAnd then Johnny Damon reached first… does anyone else see how he’s basically cheating in the picture below?
damon the cheater.JPGBut John Lackey got the next three Yankees in a row to get out of the jam.
lackey gets matsui.JPGAfter half an inning I had to move… still no Julian.  I took a great panoramic shot while I was waiting though:
first base panorama alcs.jpgHe sent me a text message in the bottom of the first: “Parking!”  I found a new set of seats.  It took him thirty more minutes to get to the gate… then he called and said he’d printed the wrong ticket… the one I’d used to get in.  Ugh–but I’m a stage manager and I prepare for these kinds of things.  I’d printed his actual ticket.  Just in case… I left “my” seat that I’d found on the field level and went to find my friend.  I got him inside and told him where our ticketed seats actually were, adding, “But my goal is for us never to have to sit in them.”

We went back to the seats I had just vacated.  They were still open… we plopped down in them and I got pictures like this:
posada takes.JPGAnd we stayed there through four innings!  Finally, two ladies (Yankees fans) showed up and claimed the two aisle seats.  But seats 3 and 4 were still empty… we sat back down.

The Angels had jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning… and despite both teams putting runners on in almost every inning, the score stayed that way until the seventh.  We were still here:
our view in the seventh.JPGOh, man!  No one had claimed our seats.  Sure, we kept looking over our shoulders like the next person coming down the aisle was our doomsday bringer.  But it didn’t happen!  It was all Angels until the Yankees roared to life with six runs in the top of the seventh.  J went crazy, along with all the NY fans.  I was seriously worried.  It was 6-4… and the Yankees had a solid bullpen.  But the Angels found a way… they struck back with three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to retake the lead!  That photo right above this paragraph is of Kendry Morales hitting an RBI single.  I don’t think anyone sat in their seats from the 7th on… we were all standing, cheering, booing, crying, laughing, yelling, chanting, praying–etc.

At one point a random dude decided to take a walk on the fountains in center field.  They even showed it on TV… I hope he had fun:
guy on fountain.JPGJered Weaver came out of the pen and had a dominant eighth inning.  The Yanks brought in Mariano… he did his thing, keeping it a one run game:
rivera in to pitch.JPGAs the Angels were retired in their half I remember thinking, “Are they gonna leave Weaver in or bring in Fuentes?”  They brought in Fuentes… and that made me nervous.  But he nailed down the first two outs pretty easily.  Then came Alex Rodriguez, who’d hit a home run off Fuentes back in New York days earlier.  They intentionally walked him.  Good idea, Angels.  Then, Matsui walked and Fuentes hit Cano with a pitch.  Ugh… bases loaded… two outs.  Ninth inning and Nick Swisher up to bat.  The count went full–I couldn’t believe I was watching this–and FINALLY Fuentes got Swisher to pop up to shortstop.

The Angels forced a Game 6… which they’d lose… I had told Julian as we left the park, “If it makes you feel any better, you’ll get to see ’em win on TV.”  Sure enough… but, man, that was the most exciting game I’d ever seen.  Wow.  Just wow.

We took a couple photos as we left and I snagged some ticket stubs, too.  Here’s me with Julian:
matt and julian.JPGAnd a blurry shot of me with my two baseballs… and the renovated Big A behind me (it’s all LED-crazy now!):
matt with big a.JPGOh, and we saw Kelsey Grammer; apparently he’s a Yankees fan.  He was sitting in the next section over from us… so was some guy who used to be on The Sopranos.  What a game… wow.

9/10/09 at Angel Stadium

I donated blood about two weeks prior to this game.  In addition to the
snacks and drinks they provided to all the donors the Red Cross gave us
coupons, an Angels hat, and a voucher for two free tickets to this game
between the Angels and Mariners.  At about 4:35 I parked, headed to the
Red Cross table under one of the big red hats at the Big A, and then
met Chris at the front of the line… we were pretty much the only
people in line at that point.

My strategy when the gates opened was a change from my normal
activity.  Since the Angels would be facing lefty Ryan Rowland-Smith I
knew that they’d all be batting from the right side of the plate. 
Therefore, it made little sense for me to run to the pavilion in right
field… nothing would’ve been hit out there because the Angels would
only have one left-handed batter who’d have hit at the point we ran
inside.  It might seem complicated or like I thought about it a bit too
much… but it’s kind of like a manager leaving a righty reliever in to
face a lefty batter because the batter can’t hit this one pitch he
throws or he’s struck out twelve times out of forty… just statistics
but sometimes they work out.  Sometimes you can play the percentages
all you want and it really doesn’t do you any good.

5:00pm–gates opened and off I went, sprinting left instead of right. 
It felt weird… but I got out to the left field seats first, scanned
the ground for Easter eggs… nothing.  Dang.

Up to the left field pavilion just behind the bullpens.  I’d never been out here for BP:
behind the pens.JPGBut it didn’t take long to get my first baseball of the day.  Robb
Quinlan fielded a ball in the outfield and then tossed it to a player
in the bullpen… or, rather, at a player in the bullpen.  I didn’t
ever see this person but I heard Robb say after he threw the ball,
“Well, you need to pay attention then.”  Presumably he wanted to scare
that person and he succeeded.  The mystery bullpen person threw the
ball back to Robb and then I called out to him and held up my glove. 
He fired a strike right to me (over both pens) and I thanked him. 
Cool!  I knew I wasn’t going to go home empty-handed.  The ball had a
PRACTICE stamp on the sweet spot.  More on this ball later.

At this point in time (about 5:10) I was one of two people in the left
field pavilion, the other being a young man named Scotty who I had met
earlier in the afternoon.  He got a ball that was a homer by some Angel
and the ball took a friendly bounce, rolled up the grassy slope in
center field, and he picked it by reaching over the fence.  Then he ran
off toward right field.

After Scotty left I was the only fan out there again.  There had been a
ball lying in the Mariners bullpen since I’d arrived but since M’s
pitching coach Rick Adair had been going over some drills with the
previous night’s starting pitcher, Ian Snell.  When he finished and
Snell started to head out of the bullpen I asked Adair, “You guys gonna
win this one tonight?”  He shrugged and smiled and instead of me asking
for the ball lying in the pen he tossed me the one he’d been using with
Snell.  I hadn’t asked for it but I certainly appreciated it.  I
thanked him, wished him well in the game, and headed off to the right
field foul pole as the Halos finished their second round.

Now, I have learned where to hang out during Ichiro’s BP cuts… but it
hadn’t paid off for me in the series.  Nevertheless, I took up my usual
spot about a half-dozen rows back just fair of the pole as the Angels
finished and the M’s started up.  In his second round of cuts Ichiro
knocked a ball way out… but it went into the tunnel between the right
field pavilion and the lower right field seats.  Ordinarily I wouldn’t
have given that ball a second thought but two days prior I had seen a
guy wearing sunglasses and an Aramark uniform in there and he’d tossed
a couple of baseballs to fans.  I looked over into the tunnel and, sure
enough, the guy was there and he’d retrieved the ball.  He looked at me
and I asked him, “Are you allowed to toss those over?”

He didn’t do anything other than shrug and reach his arm back–he was
going to throw it.  I took a few steps back from the fence and held up
my glove.  His aim was right on.  Ball #3 on the day… I wish I could
say I caught that Ichiro homer on the fly… but an Ichiro BP homer is
an Ichiro BP homer.  Cool.  I should really find out that Aramark guy’s
name.

I headed up to the pavilion in right after that.  I knew the M’s had a
few lefties still to hit and I figured I might catch a homer.  I almost
did… and this time I didn’t make an error.  I got assaulted.  A ball
got hit and I tracked it, heading to my right.  I got under it, reached
up as high as I could.  I was going to have to jump.  I bent my knees,
fully extended my glove, and–OUCH!

I didn’t know what happened at first.  I felt pressure on my head, my
cap got knocked off and I heard the ball hit someone’s glove.  I turned
around an some old guy had hit me with his forearm from behind in order
to catch the ball.  I was irritated… but I figured he’d apologize for
knocking into me and I would say it was all right and congratulate him
on his catch.  He didn’t… he just laughed and held up the ball, very
pleased with himself.  I minute later I talked with Chris and he’d said
he’d seen it and “was I OK?”  I was… but I’m not too fond of that old
guy… nor are many of the other regulars, as it turns out.

Well, on to happier news.  A Mariner pitcher threw me my fourth ball of
the day.  I couldn’t tell who it was but he’s the guy in the center in this photo.  The one not looking up toward the camera, the one who isn’t Felix
Hernandez:
not felix but who.JPGAny ideas?

BP wound down after that and Chris and I ran down to the dugout as the
players came off the field.  I saw Chris get a ball from a coach and
then he said, “Did you see that?”

I said, “Yeah, you got a ball.”

“Yeah, but if I was smaller and cuter I could have had a bat.”  I
looked… yep, a little kid had received a bat from a player.  Further
down, right where the good seats met the Diamond Club seats, another
kid was receiving a bat from a Mariners player.  I didn’t know who he
was, but on a whim I yelled to him as he approached the dugout, “Hey,
could you spare the batting gloves, too?”  He was already removing
them, didn’t even look, and tossed them up as he went down the steps. 
One of them hit the dugout and fell back down.  The other one came
straight to me.  I snagged it with my non-glove hand.  Wow!  My first
piece of equipment from a major league player (aside from the 122
baseballs, of course)!  I had to find out who it was.  I’d gotten a
good look at him.  A Mariners player, Caucasian, pretty fair skinned…
a batter (so it wasn’t a pitcher, obviously)… and then I though about
the bat.  I ran over to where it had been handed over and asked who’s
it was but the person who had received it had already been taken away to
check it with security.  Dang…

Well, after some sleuthing at home I was able to determine that the
generous batting glove thrower was M’s catcher Rob Johnson.  Many
thanks to him.  Here’s a pic of it:
johnson batting glove.JPGChris had to leave so we grabbed some free sodas on his way out and I
wandered a bit, found a seat as the national anthem was about to start
and realized I recognized the performer:
kenny g.JPGThat’s Kenny G… he played the anthem and when he got to “the land of
the free” he held the “free” note for, I’m not kidding, about a
minute.  It was really impressive!

OK, so before the game started Jose Lopez played catch with Adrian
Beltre in front of the dugout.  When they finished I was standing in
the third row and had my glove up.  No one else was noticing that
Beltre wanted to toss his baseball into the crowd… since there wasn’t
anyone younger or cuter he tossed it to me.  Sweet!

I ended up in three different seats throughout the game.  All near each
other and all awesome.  In the first inning I was here:
field level first base angel stadium cropped small.jpgAnd in the second the Angels went up 2-0 on a Torii Hunter home run. 
Here’s Torii being congratulated as he heads back into the dugout.  I
think this photo’s amusing because Mike Scioscia is clearly about to
smack Torii on the butt.  Baseball rituals…
hunter congratulates.JPGI took a few photos of Ken Griffey Jr. because I figured that this
might be the last time I ever got to see him play.  Who knows if he’ll
retire after this season?
griffey 1.JPGgriffey 2.JPGJohn Lackey was dominating the Mariners… he only allowed five hits
(three of them to Bill Hall) and was still in the game after the Angels
got him a third run in the seventh.
lackey1.JPGI was watching from here:
my view seventh inning.JPGJust hoping for a foul ball… nothing came close though.

As Lackey took the hill in the ninth I was right behind the Angel
dugout… how close?  Well, I zoomed in with my camera as Franklin
Gutierrez made the second out.
gutierrez.JPGGriffey (seen in the above photo)
popped out in foul ground to give Lackey his eighth career shutout…
his first since ’07.  It was a great game–a quick game, too.  By 9:25
I was looking through the concourse for a kid with a glove.  Remember
that Robb Quinlan ball?  Well, I decided that (as long as I snagged at
least one after that) I’d give it away after the game.  I meandered
through the field level as folks exited for at least five minutes and
the only kid with a glove that I found was talking to his folks about
the ball he’d already gotten that night.  I decided to keep it
temporarily and give it away when I was at the game on Saturday.

That’s right–Angels/White Sox day game on Saturday! I hope there’s
BP–it’s the FOX game of the week so I’m guessing they’ll take batting
practice… but you never can tell for sure.

Here are the five baseballs I snagged:
five baseballs.JPGI realize as I write this that I went to every game in the Seattle
series and the Angels won all three of them.  That’s the first time
I’ve been at every game of a sweep.  Cool!  The Halos AL West lead is
now five games.

9/9/09 at Angel Stadium

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.
mariners angels marquee.JPGI 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:
ms pitchers warmup.JPGI 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.

Whew.

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:
DSCF3123.JPGAnd after that Dennis and I headed back to Irvine.  A good game with a good friend… one baseball as a souvenir… not too shabby.

9/2/09 at Dodger Stadium

la logo on field.JPGIf you read this blog regularly you’ll know that I am not a big fan of Dodger Stadium.  It has silly rules, aggressive and often irritable fans, and it’s just… old.  It’s fine, just not my favorite place.  I did, however, score some tickets to this game for free and so I made the drive up the 5 freeway through the smokier than usual weather and met a buddy from UC Irvine (who had driven down from Bakersfield ) named Jesse, let him use my spare glove (just in case), and at 4:30pm and we headed up to the stadium together.
walking up to the stadium.JPGOur first stop was the Top Deck where the gates are open and you can watch early BP.  I’d actually never been up there before–it’s a great view but I’d never want to watch a whole game from this vantage point:
top deck panorama.jpgWe watched the Dodgers smack quite a few baseballs into the stands.  We tried to track where they ended up.  Manny actually hit one to the middle part of the bleachers that took a big bounce out of the stadium!  Here he is knocking one out to left field:
manny in the cage.JPGAt five ’til five we headed down to the entrance to the left field bleacher entrance where we were informed by a fan waiting there that Dodger Stadium had a new policy–formerly you could enter the bleachers for BP regardless of where your ticket actually was–currently you can’t.  I confirmed it with a security guard nearby.  Bummer… so we figured we’d at least get Field Level access during BP and try our luck there.  Dodger Stadium has ridiculous rules.

We got into the Field Level (with our Reserve Level tickets) right at 5:10.  Jesse and I checked the seats for Easter eggs but couldn’t find any.  Meanwhile, the bleachers had about four sittin’ up there.  Bah!  Anywho… the Dodgers ended BP at about 5:15 and we attempted to head around from the left field side where we’d entered to the right field side.  Guess what?  That side of the stadium doesn’t open until 5:40… dumb.

So, we played left field for a while.  I had a shot at a slicer down the line but couldn’t quite get my glove low enough to snag it.  The fence wall is a bit taller in Dodgertown than I’m used to at Angel Stadium.  I tried (unsuccessfully) to get a ball from Dan Haren.  He wouldn’t toss anything over despite the fact that I was the only guy wearing a D-backs hat in the whole stadium at that point.

At 5:40 I ran (and Jesse walked) to right field where some Arizona players and coaches were hanging out and within a few minutes got Ball #1 from coach Jeff Motuzas.  As far as I was concerned it was a successful day at Dodger Stadium at that point.  In my only two other ballhawking adventures there I’d snagged two baseballs (one each time).  Exactly one year prior (the day I got to meet Zack Hample) I’d snagged one and back in May I’d snagged one.  Woo.  Again, I’m not a big fan of Dodger Stadium.

jesse at foul pole.JPGI should mention at this point that Jesse is a huge Dodger fan.  Here’s a photo of him watching BP from right behind the foul pole.  A few pitchers came over and started doing some running drills.  One of them, Daniel Schlereth, fielded a ground ball barehanded and I asked him (by using his first name and saying please) to throw it over.  He did.  I’d set a record for myself in Dodgertown!  It was at that point I heard someone near me say to Schlereth, “He already got one.”  The pitcher shrugged and continued his running.  This wouldn’t be the last time a fan was upset by my good fortune.

It was Army Night at the stadium and when a foul ball got knocked into the seats a few sections from me and I sprinted toward it I saw a guy in fatigues running to where it landed as well.  I was a second or two ahead of him, looked at the ball as I was running, saw his camo, and stopped so he could grab it.  Then he smiled at me and we shook hands.  I told him, “Good job, soldier.” And we parted ways.  Hey, I’m not gonna contest an Army man for a baseball on Army Night.  God bless ’em!  He was pretty excited to snag it on his own (probably more excited than if I’d grabbed it then handed it to him).

Anyway, as some of you might know the Dodgers are putting blue stamps on their BP baseballs this season.  They either say DODGERTOWN or DodgersWIN (for the Women’s Initiative Network).  I’d been kind of excited to potentially end up with one of those but since I hadn’t gotten anything from the Dodgers I was disheartened, thinking my chances at a stamped ball were squashed.

When BP ended I had grabbed my backpack and was just starting to head toward the D-backs dugout… I ran as I saw the players coming in.  I was a little late getting to a spot (as close as I could get because of the concrete partition that separates the box seats from the stands) and most of the players had already left the field.  I saw a couple of coaches and one wore number 5.  I looked at my roster as he picked up a couple of baseballs and then found his name, Chip Hale.

“Hey, Chip!” I called out.  He looked my way.  “Could you spare one of those, please?”  He smiled and tossed me my third ball of the day.  I took a picture of it later.  Why?
dodgerswin.JPGAll right!  DodgersWIN!

Jesse and I found seats on the third base side o
f the field.  He’d ended up baseball-less for BP but was having a blast because, as I mentioned, he’s a big Dodgers fan.  It didn’t hurt that the seats we found for the first couple innings gave us this view:
nice view.JPGAfter multiple ceremonial first pitches and an adequately sung anthem and me NOT getting a ball from Arizona players during their warmup tosses as well as just missing out getting Justin Upton’s autograph, the game started.  Chad Billingsley and Max Scherzer were both doing well to start out.  We got booted from our seats in the 2nd inning and ended up on the other side of the field, here:
nice view 2.JPGAnd we got to stay for the rest of the game.  No one ever showed up for ’em.  The two starters put up zeroes through four innings.  Billingsley had a no hitter through four.  In the bottom of the fourth Max Scherzer got Matt Kemp to ground into a double play to end the inning.

Arizona first baseman, Brandon Allen had tried to toss me a ball in the third as he came off the field but his throw was a bit to my right… and I let the teenager next to me have it.  I’m not overly aggressive about catching baseballs… I don’t knock people down, steal balls from kids, or elbow and push my way through stands.

I mention that because as Allen trotted off the field after Kemp hit into that double play he saw me (one section to the left this time) and tossed the ball my way.  I caught it.  I didn’t have to move; it was a chest high strike.  The guy behind me spilled his beer on my foot trying to get it and then he and a few other fans told me to give it to a kid.  They weren’t happy that I chose not to and had some unkind words for me as I headed back to my seat.  A few innings later some older fellow left his seat a few rows in front of me and stopped by where Jesse and I were sitting.  He leaned down and said, “Can I ask how old you are?”

“Uh… why?”

“Because you just jumped in front of a lot of little kids to catch a ball.”

“No, I didn’t.”  Then he stormed off, badmouthing me as he left.  This was a good half hour after I’d caught that ball.  He never came back.

The next inning, Billingsley’s no hitter was broken up by a ball hit in the left-center gap and Brandon Allen stepped in a hit a two-run homer right as I took this picture:
brandon allen home run.JPGThe D-backs would score four runs in the fifth and that was all they needed.  Scherzer pitched very well, allowing just one run in seven and two-thirds.  That one run was on a Ramirez RBI single in the eighth.  The D-backs bullpen shut down the Dodgers the rest of the way.  I tried to snag something after the game at the dugout but, again, came up empty-handed.
postgame field level cropped small.jpgOn the way out I got pictures of Jesse and of me:postgame jesse.JPG
postgame matt.JPG

And we headed out through the crowds, back to our cars, and on our separate ways.  He was headed 100 miles north and I was drivin’ 50 miles south.

A fun time and a pretty successful snagging outing.  And I spent a total of… the gas it cost me to get there and back.  You can’t beat a deal like that!

Oh, and one of my favorite pictures from the evening:
joe and tommy.JPGJoe Torre, current Dodger manager speaking with Tommy Lasorda, former Dodger manager.

Thanks for reading!