This was a great game for me as the budding ballhawk that I am. This was a great game because I had fun, was successful, met some new friends, set a milestone, and walked away with memories and souvenirs. And– to top it all off–my wife got to be at this game with me. Here’s what happened…
I entered the day sitting on 369 lifetime baseballs. When I approached the Home Plate Gate I surveyed the line situation to see where I should situate myself. Upon closer inspection I saw a friend from 3,000 miles away. I walked up to Greg Barasch and told him, “I didn’t know you were going to be here!” Greg and I had met in April of 2010 at my only visit to Citi Field. As it turns out, he and his father would be in Anaheim for the last three Angels home games of the year–just like me. Greg and I played catch for a few minutes while his dad held our place in line. Michelle had decided to sit in the shade and read for a while and I knew I’d meet up with her after batting practice had finished.
When the gates opened I immediately took of for the right field corner and within minutes, got a ball thrown to me by Hank Conger.
That ball–see it on the ground. Conger walked over, picked it up, I asked for it and he lobbed it to me! #370. Just a couple minutes later a liner down the right field line took a bounce near the wall and I was able to reach out and snag that one… I have no idea who hit it. Someone on the Angels.
I ran up to the RF seats atop that 18 ft. wall after that and quickly got a ball thrown to me by Mike Maddux–it was stamped “PRACTICE.” Not all the Rangers were out on the field but Maddux and a few pitchers were and he tossed me this random ball that a Halo had hit.
Greg’s goal was to snag a few Angels commemorative balls during his trip and I knew he’d get a couple–he’s no slouch as a ballhawk–but the first one he’d snagged on the day was a standard Selig ball. So were the first three I’d ended up with.
Alexi Ogando tossed me baseball number four on the day–a grass-stained standard ball–
Next up I caught this beauty thrown to me by Leonys Martin.
Then, the Rangers big left-handed power came to the plate–Mitch Moreland, Josh Hamilton, and David Murphy. Well, I snagged a Hamilton homer on the fly in the first round about halfway up the pavilion. That was career #375! A few minutes later I grabbed a David Murphy bomb as it bounced around a row to my left. After a few more minutes Endy Chavez blasted a ball up to me in the pavilion that I snagged on the fly. That was my eighth ball of the day.
The Rangers headed into the dugout soon after that and I failed to get anything tossed to me as they left the field. But I just needed two more baseball to get to my first double-digit game EVER! Plus, I hadn’t snagged a commemorative ball yet on this day. All eight had been standard Selig balls.
And we’d continue to run into each other throughout the evening. I took a brief rest before heading over to shallow left field to wait for the Angels to throw. Sure enough, after Torii Hunter accepted an award for citizenship, Erick Aybar and Maicer Izturis played catch for a few minutes along the foul line (as did a few other Angels).
When they were done, Aybar threw me the ball they’d been using–and it was commemorative! That would be the only commemorative logo I’d take home that night… but I was up to nine baseballs! By the way–did you notice in that photo that the Tigers beat Cleveland 14-0? Wow.
And here’s the lone commemorative I grabbed at this game:
I ran back to where Michelle had been sitting. I’d heard that instead of the random ex-Angel that would be signing autographs at this game out in center field, a certain Hall of Fame member would be filling in. I had gotten a wristband during a change in BP groups and Michelle and I quickly took our places in line once I’d finished my pre-game snagging. I handed my camera off to her so she could snap a picture of me as I got the autograph–
–of Rod Carew! This was actually the second time he’d signed a ball for me. The first time had been totally random and not nearly as organized. This time, instead of signing my ball and inscribing HOF ’91, he inscribed #29 next to his name. Rod’s a great member of the Angels community in Orange County, even though he’s more famous (and in the HOF) as a Twin.
Eight balls snagged and one HOF autograph and the game had just begun!
I told Greg I’d see him later or at the next day’s game and Michelle and I found some seats down the first base line.
The Angels were down 4-0 in the fourth inning as we watched from here:
Dan Haren pitched well, however, giving up just three earned runs over eight innings. C.J. Wilson pitched two innings… he’d be pitching Game 1 of the ALDS later in the week. But, while the Angels could muster a bit of offense, they’d end up losing 4-3 and their slim playoff chances would be dashed.
Michelle would end up leaving the game early to get ready for work the next morning–I made sure to stay to the end. I’d been trying for third out tosses all night but I’d been unsuccessful.
I waved at all the players as they headed off the field and they all passed by me–I watched the bullpen guys march across the field… the tallest guy had a baseball… it was Alexi Ogando. Would he remember me from the afternoon? He’d already given me a ball and I hadn’t changed my appearance in any way. As the relievers lumbered in I made my best effort… hands up, waving, and I called out, “Alexi! Right here!!” He looked up, pulled his hands out of his hoodie, and lofted ball number 10 right to my waiting glove. And just like that… with my 379th ball, at my 84th game at Angel Stadium since 2008 (when I started ballhawking) I FINALLY reached double-digits! I was thrilled–and the ball from Ogando was a rubbed up beauty–pristine. It had been rubbed with mud and never dropped, scuffed, or hit in any way. It was perfect. And with that I took my leave of the Big A.
UPDATE: I found my notes from this game AND my following two games. Since 9/26/11 was a special day for me–I thought I’d share my notes.
This is the list I take to every game I go to. And now you’ve got a window into how I keep these things categorized and how I remember things for my blog. It looks like chicken scratch, I know, but you can see I write a letter L next to each player if they’re a lefty. For pitchers, if they throw left-handed… for batters, if they hit left-handed. Or they get a letter S if they’re a switch hitter. The starting pitcher is circled on each roster and each ball I snag is labeled with a number and a circle. For example, Ball #377’s note is “377 – COF (which means Caught On Fly) E. (Endy) Chavez S. 238 (Section 238 of the right field pavilion) – 3rd row – right to me prac logo w/ brwn + grn (it was a ball with a practice logo and brown and green marks on it). Want to know more about my notes, or care to explain how you make your own? Let me know in the comments.
I knew as I headed toward the stadium that I would only be staying for batting practice. I needed to head home to pack for an upcoming trip with Michelle. That said, I needed to have a great BP–I wouldn’t have any chances during the game because, well, I’d be at home. Also, the few pictures you’ll see were taken using my cell phone camera… so they aren’t great… but they’re better than nothing.
When I arrived I headed up to the front of one of the Home Plate Gate lines and met a few of the BP regulars there. When I ran in, I went straight to the right field seats and looked for Easter eggs. There weren’t any to be found but I saw Hank Conger chase down a fly ball in straight-away right field. Here was the view:
I called out for him to toss it up–and since I was the only fan in the seats at that point (and he was feeling generous, I suppose) he threw it my way… unfortunately, it fell short and bounced off the wall… it took a second try but I made a clean catch, thanked him, and was on the board for the day right as the second fan arrived in the stands. About five minutes later Bobby Abreu hit a homer that I ranged to my right to grab but it sailed over my outstretched glove, hit a row of seats behind me and rolled toward the staircase between section 239 and 240. I didn’t give up on it and snagged it barehanded as it rolled down a step. At that point there were still just a few fans around:
Both of the first two baseballs of the day were regular BP balls so I gave away the Conger ball to a young fan and kept the Abreu ball for me… hopefully I could get him to sign it at some point later in the season.
Once the Angels moved on to the next round of hitters I went over to the lower level seats near the right field corner. There, I was able to snag a foul ball sliced the other way by Erick Aybar (batting right-handed in preparation for facing lefty David Price that night). I gave that one away to a young fan near me shortly after grabbing it as it bounced through the third row of seats.
That would be all for the Angels’ portion of BP. When the Rays started warming up along the first baseline I called out to a few of them but didn’t snag anything until Andy Sonnanstine–one of the last to finish–threw me his warmup ball… and it was an Angels 50th commemorative! Bingo!
In the photo above, Sonnanstine is the Ray on the right.
I went up to the right field pavilion again but didn’t get anything there.
Ball #5 on the day would come via an unknown Rays right-handed batter and was a squibber down the line. I moved from one spot along the wall and leapt out over it, reaching way down to the warning track to grab it as it rolled by. It was a standard Selig ball and had a bunch of dirt and grass stains on it.
For some reason, I wrote down that my next snag occurred at 6:16pm. For reference, the gates opened at 5:00… the Angels hit until 5:25 or 5:30… the visitors hit until 6:25 or 6:30. There were about 15 minutes left in BP when I grabbed a blooper down in the right field corner by stretching out over the wall again. This one had a grass stain right on the MLB logo. That gave me six on the day. At that point I was wishing I could stay for the game to try to break my single-game Angel Stadium record of eight baseballs (which I’d done twice previously: on 5/14/10 and on 5/6/11). Alas, I knew I would be leaving right after BP… and I made the last few minutes count.
When batting practice ended I sprinted toward the Rays’ dugout and got a ball thrown to me by Bobby Ramos, the Rays bullpen coach. Some Rays fans to my left asked how I did that and asked if there was a chance they could get a ball. Well, he had a basket of ’em and Bobby is pretty generous. I called out to him again and asked for a ball for the middle-aged lady next to me (I didn’t verbalize the ‘middle-aged’ part). At that point she waved to Ramos and he tossed her a ball… well, technically he tossed it to me. I caught it, since I was wearing a glove, and immediately handed it over. I decided that I’d count the first Ramos ball (which was almost brand new) but not the second, as I wouldn’t have gotten it in my possession, even for that brief moment, if not for the lady nearby. It was hers from the start and that’s my rule. That left me with seven baseballs on the day and 307 in my lifetime as I headed out toward the gates.
It’s always strange to be leaving when so many other people are just arriving. Anyway, a great day at the stadium and I got to watch the game on TV as I packed my bags for our trip.
The commemorative baseballs were out in full force at the ‘Big A’ so I was back just three days after my first regular season game. Michelle and I each took off a bit early from work so we could make it to the stadium for BP. Here I am at the front of the Home Plate Gate line before they opened at 5:00:
I was the second one to the right field seats so I didn’t bother looking for Easter eggs very thoroughly and instead went up to the wall overlooking the players shagging baseballs in the outfield.
One of the players out there was Hank Conger and as he fielded a ground ball I asked him, “Hey, Hank, could you throw that ball up here, please?”
He did–a nice, easy toss to me in the front row–and just like that I was on the board for the day. The ball was a standard baseball and I decided I’d make sure to find a young fan to give it away to before I left that night.
About five minutes later I had a home run lined up and it ended up falling just a few feet short and bouncing toward a player in center field. As it turns out, that player was Francisco Rodriguez and when he retrieved it I asked him in Spanish if he could throw it back up.
He looked up, gestured, and I took a couple steps back just in case his throw was short… it wasn’t… and I had baseball number two on the day.
Here’s the spot where I snagged it:
I moved a few sections to my left, closer to straight away right field, and ended up getting Ball #3 from rookie pitcher Tyler Chatwood. He tossed it up to me in Section 238 after he fielded a ball and turned around and saw me waving. I yelled out, “Right here, Tyler!” and that was all it took.
I turned the ball over in my palm to reveal a 50th Anniversary logo! Nice! Shortly after that the Indians came out to stretch, throw, and hit and I thought, “Wow! Three balls from the Angels and the Indians can really hit… plus I’m one of, like, eight guys in an Indians hat in the whole stadium! This is gonna be great.”
And wouldn’t you know it? I didn’t snag another ball for the rest of BP. No toss ups from Indians pitchers, no mores caught in the seats from the many, many Indians lefties, no toss up at the end of BP at the dugout… and even though I was near Orlando Cabrera as he finished up his pregame throwing I didn’t get that ball, either.
I sat back down with Michelle as the game started up thinking of what could have been… but I looked at the commemorative ball I’d snagged from Chatwood and decided to change my mind. I had some excellent souvenirs and I was at a ball game with my wife–no need for frustration, right?
I gave the Conger ball to a kid before the game started and the Rodriguez ball to a little guy on our way out of the stadium. That made me feel even better… but on to the game!
Our friends, Beth and Randy, who we’d gone to Indians/Angels games with on 7/27/09 and 4/26/10 (and Randy came to a A’s/Angels game with me alone on 4/8/09), would be at this tilt, too… and when they arrived we met them at their seats with this view in front of us:
Not too shabby, just barely in home run range. I joked with the people around us when Michelle and I left to go to our seats that they’d have to fend for themselves without my glove around to protect them…
And after we grabbed some ice cream and made it to our seats here:
Not so great… but I was still having fun! Anyway, after we got to those seats Mark Trumbo hit his first home run about a section away from where Beth and Randy’s seats were… and after talking with Beth at the end of the game I determined I wouldn’t have been able to snag it over/through the row full of fans. Still, it was Trumbo’s first career jack–and some security folks came to get the ball… they traded something to the guy who caught it–Randy and Beth made it sound like they just traded a ball for a ball…
Talk about a missed opportunity. After that, my uncle (who was also at this game), texted me to say that we should come sit with him in Section 126. So, we did… here’s a photo from Section 126:
And did I mention that Dan Haren was throwing a shutout?
And it would end up being a one-hit shutout! And the game was over in two hours and fifteen minutes. The Angels won it, 2-0.
We met up with Randy and Beth after the game to chat for a bit and then headed out to the car–it turned out to be a great night. And… I had tickets to the next day’s game!
This would be quite the full day.
It started with me (and Michelle) waking up at the crack of dawn and heading up to the stadium. March 27th was the day of the Angels 5k and Fun Run at the stadium. I’s signed up at the beginning of the month for the 5k and I’d been training for it for a couple of weeks. I’ve always enjoyed running and wanted to make sure I didn’t embarrass myself. We arrived at ten minutes to seven and Michelle decided she would stay in the car while I ran. I couldn’t blame her–it was early and the weather was less than ideal. There was rain in the forecast and I was just hoping to get through the run before it got too wet.
I started about 500 people back and, though I can’t show you through pictures (because I was running), there were easily four times that many people there. I had a clip-on transmitter on my shoe that would track my time–as I crossed the starting line the clock already had counted up to about a minute… and when I crossed the second checkpoint (at the halfway mark) the clock was around 16 minutes… and when I approached the finish line the clock was ticking up toward 30 minutes. I crossed the line at 30:03… my goal had been to come in under 30 minutes and since I knew I could easily take a minute off my time (based on how long it took to get up to the starting line) I was thrilled!
I drank some water, got a free hat and a Clif bar, and headed back over to the car to find my wife. When I got there she took a photo of me post race:
Oh, yes… I grew a beard over the off-season. It has since been shaved off… sorry to scare you there, readers.
At that point it was about 7:45am and Angels FanFest was set to open up at 8:00… but I’d promised Michelle coffee and, quite frankly, I needed a rest. We headed to Starbucks–I changed clothes once we got there–we got breakfast and waited for the rain to pass… it had started drizzling right when I got back to the car after the race.
At around 9:30 we headed back to the stadium for FanFest. It was a bunch of vendors, autograph stations, merchandise booths, and photo ops. We each got autographs from Chris Pettit and Andrew Romine and then we stood in a long line to get Hank Conger’s autograph:
While we were there we noticed you could get your photo taken with the Rally Monkey:
So we stood in that line, too, and got this picture:
–which I was kind of disappointed in once I saw it. I mean, we’re like six feet from the monkey! C’mon! At least we look cute. That monkey is licking the mini bat at this point, I think.
Anyway, we left FanFest after an hour or so–and went to get snacks for the game that afternoon. We’d need to be back by noon to get free parking for the game and, sadly, we found out once we were back with our snacks that the gates wouldn’t open until 1:00. Bah!
So I ran inside at 1:00 to see the Padres on the field taking BP:
And after a few minutes I convinced someone wearing number 95 on the Padres to toss me a baseball–I was on the board for the day. Here’s the guy who threw it (left) and the spot where I caught it (right):
While I took those photos I heard someone yell, “Comin’ in!” and I looked up, then to my right as a ball smacked off a seat ten feet away from me… surprising since a righty was up to bat.
Well, here’s the spot where I grabbed my second ball of the day–and the only one that got hit up to the pavilion while I was there. And that was pretty much it for BP. Not bad–two baseballs in about 30 seconds. I only had about 15 minutes of batting practice to work with so I can’t
I met up with Michelle and hung out with her for a bit–and then headed toward the Angel dugout when they came out for pregame throwing. It was nice to see the field up close.
I got shut out there but I went to the Padre dugout after that and got my third baseball of the day thrown to me by Logan Forsythe near the camera well.
Eventually, the folks who actually had those seats arrived and we relocated to the outfield with this view:
I was hoping to get a home run but the only homers hit this day would go to center field. Bummer.
Toward the end of the game, with the score 9-2 Angels we moved here:
And as the Angels wrapped up the victory I got behind the Padre dugout to try to snag a postgame baseball… but all the Padres went into the dugout without tossin’ up a thing… except for the last player to leave the field. A short, Latino pitcher from the bullpen who I later identified as Samuel Deduno tossed me a rubbed up baseball as he headed down the steps for my fourth baseball on the afternoon.
And, though it took him several tries, a nice, elderly usher took a photo of Michelle and I as we left the park.
It had been a long day–lots of running–and we were both exhausted.
Not a bad start to the season,,. a good run, four baseballs, three autographs, some swag from FanFest, an Angels win, and a lot of fun.
And later that night I checked online to see my official results from the 5k… I came in at 28:46, not fantastic, but I ran faster than I expected! It would be over a week before my next game, with the Angels heading out on the road. I was anxious for them to get back because I knew that when they did return they’d be using commemorative baseballs and hopefully some of those would have found their way into the BP buckets…
My next game would be on April 9th. More to come soon, loyal readers, and happy 2011 baseball season to all of you.
OK, so after today’s shocking trade that sent Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera to the Blue Jays for All-Star outfielder Vernon Wells I spent some time thinking about the lineup for the season.
What do you think?
Potentially, we’ve got an outfield of Wells/Bourjous/Hunter… or that could shift depending on who the DH is on any given day. Bobby Abreu figures to split DH/outfield time.
The infield likely will be Callaspo/Aybar/Kendrick/Morales… the odd men out in that situation are Maicer Izturis (who’s actually higher on the Angels’ depth chart than Callaspo but more prone to injury) and Brandon Wood. Those two can play any infield position between the two of them–so we have backups should anyone go down.
Mathis figures to get the bulk of the catching duty with his former roommate heading to Canada and he’ll be backed up by Bobby Wilson and, soon enough, Hank Conger.
Willits will continue as a backup option in the outfield/pinch runner.
With a starting rotation that projects as:
And a bullpen of newly-acquired lefties Takahashi and (also former Blue Jay) Downs along with Jordan Walden, Fernando Rodney, Francisco Rodriguez, Kevin Jepsen, and a couple others… I’m feeling pretty good.
Is this enough to take down Texas and the always-dangerous A’s? We’ll see…
I’m so sorry for the gap between entries… moving plus new job plus family stuff made for very little time for baseball. I only attended three games in the month of September. But I’ll get the blog goin’ again… starting now:
So, on the eleventh of September I headed out to Angel Stadium with Michelle to watch the Halos take on the Seattle Mariners. Of all AL West teams, I think I like going to Mariners games the most. They’re a lot of fun to watch.
The crowd was light when the gates opened at five after five:
I ran in and spent the first round of Angels batting practice in the right field seats. I didn’t snag anything up there and at the end of the round I walked down to the foul pole in right field. I wasn’t there more than a few minutes before I snagged my first baseball of teh day. It was a foul hit by an Angels righty. It landed a few sections to my left. I was running for it along with a few other people and the ball took a crazy bounce toward the section I was in but a few rows further from the field. Then, it ricocheted off a seat a section to my left, then took a bounce and headed my way. I ran up a few steps and grabbed it of the ground as it slowed down between sections 134 and 133 in the fifth row. First of the night–and 267th of my life.
That was it for the home team’s half of BP. After the Mariners started warming up I got my second baseball of the day from relief pitcher Jamey Wright.
It was a pretty standard toss from about twenty feet away after I couldn’t extend out over the fence to make a catch. The ball bounced over to Jamey and he lobbed it my way. I gave that ball away later in the evening to a young Angels fan.
Note to everyone: Pay attention during batting practice. From my vantage point near the foul pole I watched a middle-aged guy in the front row of the pavilion get smacked in the head by a BP home run. It literally went bat to head.
Knocked his glasses off, he fell to the concrete, ushers and security took him away–he walked off under his own power so that’s a good sign… but PAY ATTENTION!
After batting practice I got shut out at the M’s dugout but I snagged ball #3 on the evening from Erick Aybar on the third base side after he finished his warmup throwing just before the national anthem.
Michelle and I had seats in the upper level and we decided to sit up there so I could try to snag a foul ball.
With Felix Hernandez and Ervin Santana pitching, I figured guys would be fouling a ton of pitches off. I was right–but it didn’t help me get one of ’em.
The Angels were up 5-0 after five inning s and 7-0 after seven innings. The highlight of the night was watching Santana mow down the Mariners and also getting to see Hank Conger and Mark Trumbo (two up and coming prospects) get their first at-bats of their careers. Conger made contact… but struck out.
Trumbo whiffed on three pitches and looked bad doing it.
Hernandez is a tough assignment for your first MLB at-bat, I guess.
Santana was shutting out the Mariners for seven and a third spectacular innings before giving up a home run to Ichiro with two men on. That ended his night. The bullpen did well to help bail him out and earn Santana the win.
Since most of the fans had left in the seventh… I convinced Michelle that we should head down to the dugout. She lingered back near the concourse but I spent the eighth and ninth innings with this as my view:
And here’s a picture of Jose Lopez fouling a ball into the dirt and off toward first base a bit:
And here’s a picture of that very same baseball in my glove:
Taa-daa! Kevin Jepsen threw him a fastball that Lopez barely got a piece of. I took the photo, then put my camera down and, well… Ball #4 on the night and my 270th of my lifetime!
Over to the right is the ball and the point of view from where I was sitting. It happened pretty quickly and I was lucky to get a shot of the foul in action. Luckily, it wasn’t a line drive or I might have gotten clocked–it took a nice bounce though.
And just for kicks, here’s a shot of Ichiro batting:
That’s for Tim and Todd.
By that point at least half of the fans had left. It was And there were fireworks after the game. Michelle and I walked to the car and passed by the staging area… this was a much better fireworks view.
I’d only go to two more games this season–both at Angel Stadium–and by now you know the Halos didn’t make the playoffs… not even close.
But we had a great time and I added four baseballs to my total. A night well spent.
Always glad to see the home team pound out a win.