Tagged: hideki matsui

7/31/10 at Angel Stadium

After more than two weeks since my last game I was pretty anxious about getting out to Angel Stadium again, this time to watch them take on the (ugh) first place (double-ugh) Rangers.  Adding to my anxiety was the fact that I didn’t actually have my ticket in my hand as I approached the gates prior to their opening at 4:05pm.  You see, about a month prior to this game I donated blood through the Red Cross at one of their blood drives (I’m O+, in case you’re wondering).  There was an Angels/Dodgers tie-in and, long story short, I received a voucher for two free tickets to the game on this night.  The tricky thing was that I had to exchange the voucher for the tickets and the Red Cross volunteers would be arriving at 4:00.

Well, I arrived at 3:30, was first in line, set my bag down, walked across the main plaza to the Red Cross booth, and waited.  I also enlisted the help of BP regular, Eli, to help save my spot.  At 3:55 I convinced the volunteer to let me redeem my voucher (before her supervisor got there, which was the initial issue she had) and then ran to will call because Michelle would be arriving later in the evening and that was the only way that ticket could be used for someone who wasn’t me… because I was the one who’d donated blood and my name was on the voucher… blah blah blah.  Anyway, I did all that and got back into line with minutes to spare–and ran inside at 4:05 to set up shop in the bleachers.
beginning of 7.31 bp.JPGThe first ten minutes or so of batting practice were great!  There were hardly any people around and I snagged the first ball of the night off the bat of Hideki Matsui after he hit a homer that took a bounce in the seats of Section 236.  I beat out two other guys who were running for it.  Just minutes later I nabbed a Torii Hunter BP homer that flew over my head and took a bounce right back toward me after I’d positioned myself closer to center field.  With two baseballs in ten minutes I thought I’d be headed for a record-setting night–but things slowed down after that and the seats began to fill up.

Here was the view to my right:
view to my right 7.31.JPGNot too bad yet…

And left:
view to my left 7.31.JPGThat was at about a half hour after the gates had opened.  And, I should point out Rob, with his foot on the seat in the middle of the right view photo, who’s got over 800 baseballs (most of them batted balls) to his name.  And Skyler, the teenager in the black T-shirt and blue jeans near the usher in the left view photo.  He’s an up and coming ballhawk who can be a little wild at times but who’s made some very nice plays in the bleachers.  Also, that rather large usher who looks so stern is, in fact, making sure the young fan in the first row doesn’t stand on the seat or sit on the wall.  Usually the ushers hang out in the back of the pavilion and let us do our thing during BP–they’re very friendly and professional.

Anyway, back to the now dead BP session… yuck.  Well, the Angels left the field and the Rangers came out shortly thereafter.  I spent a few minutes near the foul pole trying to get a ball thrown to me by a pitcher but came up empty.  Once Vlad and Hamilton started hitting I ran back upstairs.  Here was the view:
rangers out to throw 7.31.JPGUnfortuantely, the Rangers exhibited an uncharacteristic lack of power during BP… except for Vlad who hit a couple shots to the rocks in center… but I didn’t snag another ball during BP.

I tried for a toss at the dugout.  Nada.  Tried for a warmup ball.  Nope.  As the game was starting Michelle still hadn’t arrived so I parked myself behind the Angels dugout to watch Dan Haren warm up before his second career outing with the Halos.
haren warmup 7.31.JPGHe did pretty well.  I was glad because his first start, against the Red Sox, was going well but then he took a line drive to the arm and left after 4+ innings.  He’d go longer today.

matt with asg ball.jpgOnce Michelle arrived we grabbed some seats… but then she had to take an urgent phone call from work so I followed her out to the concourse and used the opportunity to take a photo of myself with a commemorative ball from the All-Star Game (earning myself three points in the myGameBalls photo scavenger hunt).

We ended up in home run territory.  My new goal has been to go for foul balls and home runs during games more than third out tosses.  Those have become fairly easy.  I’m still only at one foul ball and zero home runs in my life.  Hopefully those numbers will improve soon.

This was our view for the game:
7.31 homer territory.JPGI didn’t take many pictures because, well, not a lot happened worth photographing.  I’ll say this though: the pitching was spectacular.  It was Haren against Rich Harden, returning fro
m the DL.  Texas got on the board first, in the fourth inning, when Vlad smacked a two-run home run to left-center field.  That was all the scoring the Rangers could do.  Not bad, right?  Haren went nine innings!  And got the loss… the Angels only scored once–in the seventh on a Howie Kendrick solo homer.  I thought we had a chance for a comeback but th ebullpen for the Rangers locked down a victory.  Harden threw seven great innings.  And the only chance I had at a homer?  Well, it was hit right to my section but was about twenty feet shy of the fence–and ending up being a flyout.

I went down to the Ranger dugout for the ninth inning (while Michelle watched from the concourse) and watched as Neftali Feliz shut down the Angels.  Alberto Callaspo flew out to center and Kendrick and Juan Rivera grounded out.  It was a one-two-three ninth and it allowed the Rangers to increase their AL West lead over the Angels.
callaspo swings 7.31.JPGkendrick atbat 7.31.JPGAs the bullpen guys for the Rangers walked across the field I noticed Scott Feldman with a baseball–I called out, “Hey, Scott!  Right here!”  He flipped the ball to me for my third on the night.  Not a bad night–but definitely not great.  Still, I had a lot of fun at the game and kicked off my birthday celebration with a good time at the ballpark with my wife–I’d turn 27 the next day–I just wish the Angels would’ve won.  The real celebration, however, would be the next weekend when Michelle and I would visit a new stadium…

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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.

6/26/10 at Angel Stadium

I had decided to avoid the Angels/Dodgers series midweek due to the crowds and instead bought a discounted ticket for me (and one for Michelle) for the Saturday night game against the Colorado Rockies.  We left home together at 4:00 and got to the stadium at 4:21.  There was no traffic–I’m used to traffic.  Since we were earlier than expected we walked across the parking lot to the nearby Grove theatre.  Why?  grove mickey.JPGWell, as of a couple weeks ago there are thirty-six Mickey Mouse statues around Southern California.  They’re part of the All-Star festivities and there’s one statue for each MLB team, one for the American League, one for the National League, and four All-Star statues.  I’d seen a few of them around town but wanted to get a good look at the one at the Grove because I didn’t recognize the paint job on it… I’d driven past it a few times.  We got closer and I realized it was All-Star themed.  Michelle took a photo of me with the more-than seven-foot-tall rodent.
matt with grove mickey.JPGI read later that each statue weighs close to 1,000 pounds… and that the Red Sox one in nearby Santa Ana got whacked… or beat up… by someone.

After that we made our way to the Home Plate Gate and waited for the gates to open.  When they did (at 5:00) I made sure Michelle got in all right and then took off toward the pavilion seats.  I played the two left-handed hitters in straightaway right field, like where I was standing as I took this photo:
6.26 bp pavilion panorama.jpgAnd for Torii Hunter, who’s a righty, I moved closer to center.  It’s my usual strategy for the first group of Angels and today it paid off.  Hunter launched one to right-center and I lined myself up and made an easy catch in the third row of Section 240.  It was great to get on the board with my first homer caught on the fly since (I had to look this up) mid-April.  Wow–that’s almost embarrassing.  Anyway, I was excited to snag it–and it was a pearl… except for the Practice logo the ball had on it.

Baseball #2 on the day would come after the first round of Angels BP.  Erick Aybar slice a ball to right field and I was hanging out near the foul pole.
6.26 rf foul pole panorama.jpgI was standing at the wall and saw the ball would hit about ten feet to the left of where I was, and where I’d taken the above photo, so I ran over there, jumped up and over and scooped up the ball in one precise move.  It was near the guy in the red shirt and hat in the panorama… on the left of the frame.  It, too, had a Practice logo… it seemed that the Angels had recently switched to those–in the past their BP balls had been stamped on the sweet spot in black ink with the word PRACTICE… now they’d switched to the official Practice ROMLB.  Interesting.

The Rockies pitchers came out to warm up a little while later.
626 rockies pitchers.JPGAnd I snapped a picture of soon-to-be Cy Young winner, Ubaldo Jimenez:
626 ubaldo 3.JPGI got a little wave and greeting from him, too.  That’s important.

About ten minutes later the pitchers were done throwing and I had returned to the pavilion for some of the powerful lefties on the Rockies.  A ball had rolled to the wall and Jimenez had been jogging nearby.  As he came to a stop I asked him if I could have the ball–he walked over, recognized me from earlier, and he tossed it right up to me.  Many thanks to Ubaldo–and I’m glad the Angels didn’t have to face you in this series.

Ball #4 would come toward the end of Rockies BP and it was a tossup from Matt Belisle back near the foul pole in right.  Nothin’ too special about it… I would end up giving it away to a young fan later in the evening.  More on that later.

I ended BP with four baseballs and I was okay with that… Michelle and I grabbed food and took up some seats in the Terrace Level seats just past third base.
view from terrace level 6.26.jpgWhen the Rockies came out to throw before the game started I decided I’d try to snag another ball… I went down to the front row, just behind the Diamond Field Box on the first base line.  Jonathan Herrera was throwing with another player (I forget who it was) but Herrera’s the important one here–he tossed me his baseball as he finished.  The fan to my left was really happy for me.

A minute later I was on the other side of the same section, near the camera well, because I’d seen that Melvin Mora had finished throwing and was taking some practice swings on the foul line.  The ball was still in his glove so I waited… and waited… and as he picked up his glove (and the ball) I yelled out, “Hey, Melvin, over here!” I held up my glove–he threw a strike right to me.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw the same fan from a moment earlier mumbling something and glaring at me.  I saw a nearby kid and asked him, “Hey, did you get a ball today, little g
uy?” intending to give it away.  He showed me the ball he’d gotten already.

Oh.

I saw what appeared to be his brother near him.  “Did you get one yet?”  He held up his baseball and said, “Yeah–we were just trying to get autographs.”

Oh.

Can’t say I didn’t try.  So, I was at six baseballs on the night and at that point I was REALLY okay with just hanging out and enjoying the game with Michelle.

The Angels got on the board quickly.  In the first inning they loaded the bases and Hideki Matsui unloaded them with a grand slam.!  It was his 150th MLB home run and I snapped a photo of the high fives in the dugout afterward:
after matsui slam.JPGAt that point I told Michelle that if anyone else hit a home run she should try to get a picture of me as the batter was jogging between 2nd and 3rd base.  Well, those four runs were all the Angels would get and the Rockies started a comeback in the third inning when Clint Barmes hit a solo shot.

I jumped up and Michelle grabbed my camera… the angle we were at made it difficult to get the shot I wanted for the myGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt but here was the result:
barmes homer.JPGI think it should count.  Barmes is just touching third in that pic… so his left leg is still between 2nd and 3rd, right?  It was a fun, goofy kind of night.

The Rockies got another run in the fourth and that was all they could
muster against starter Joe Saunders.

Michelle and I moved up to the view level a little bit later and took up some seats in the Lower View level… Michelle tried her hand at a panorama:
6.26 michelle panorama.jpgNot bad for a first try!  🙂

I took a few action shots:
seth smith swings.JPGbarmes swings.JPGSeth Smith hitting a fly ball on the left.
Clint Barmes about to foul one off on the right.
herrera pulls bunt back.JPGJonathan Herrera pulling the bunt attempt back.
matsui avoids.JPGHideki Matsui avoiding a pitch up and in.

Saunders went seven innings… Fernando Rodney and Brian Fuentes each pitched a scoreless inning and the final was 4-2.

angels mickey.JPGIt was a quick game!  Even after hanging out for a minute at the Rockies dugout after the game we were still heading out of the gates at 9:30… so we decided to take a photo with our second Mickey Mouse of the day!  This one’s an Angels Mickey and is located outside the stadium’s main gates:
matt and michelle with angels mickey.JPG
And one last thing… I had decide to score a few more points in the scavenger hunt as I gave away two baseballs to a pair of young sisters.  The older sister would be celebrating her birthday the next day, I found out.  As families were leaving the stadium I was looking for a little kid with a glove.

I found one and asked her if she’d caught a ball at the game.  She hadn’t and I said I’d caught one at batting practice and asked if she’d like it.  She was thrilled–her parents were thrilled.  They told me her birthday was the next day.  Her dad was speechless and then I saw her little sister–I pulled another ball out of my bag and gave it to the littler girl.  The dad went to shake my hand and he also was holding out a twenty dollar bill to me.  I took the handshake and told him to keep the money–then I told him about the photo scavenger hunt and gave him one of my business cards for the myGameBalls site.  Here’s the picture Michelle took as I gave a ball (two, really) to a fan (two fans) under the age of ten:
giveaway to birthday girl and sis.JPGTheir dad is standing behind me in the white shirt.

Man, my farmer’s tan is in full swing–yikes!

The whole family went off totally excited, the Angels had won, I’d gotten some great photos.  It was an awesome night.

Here’s the Big A:
halo not lit.JPGhalo lit.JPGOoh… pretty.

Michelle and I celebrated with frozen yogurt.  Delicious.

Thanks for reading!

6/16/10 at Angel Stadium

I originally wasn’t going to go to this game but I got a text message from my friend, Dennis, on Tuesday saying that his and a pal from school, Chris, would be going.  Chris is from Wisconsin and wanted to catch the Brewers while they were in town.  Long story short – Michelle had to work that evening so I accepted their invitation.

I picked the guys up at 1:45 and we got to the park at about 2:05.  I love it when I don’t hit traffic in SoCal.  Chris had never been to Angel Stadium before so we took a long walk around to the front of the ballpark and he got his picture under the big hats while I bought the tickets for us.

There was a huge line at the Home Plate Gate but since this game would be starting at 4:05 I knew that all the gates would open at the same time… so we walked down to right field.  There were about three people in line there, including BP regular Rob.  I chatted with Rob for a while and Dennis and Chris played catch with an extra baseball I’d brought.  I’ve gotten into the habit of bringing an extra baseball with me to games nowadays because I want to give at least one away every time I’m there.

At about 2:30 the gates opened and Chris and I sprinted up to the right field pavilion.  I explained to him the importance of getting into the stands as quickly as possible to find Easter eggs or just be the only one there for a few precious seconds.  Somehow, we weren’t quite the first ones to arrive but I will say that I was the only one who thoroughly checked the seats for baseballs… because I found one in the second row of the furthest section of the pavilion.  Ball #1 on the day and #205 in my lifetime!

Once we’d scoured the seats I recognized that there weren’t going to be too many home runs hit out by the Angels… the wind was blowing toward left field and we had missed most of the first round of BP with the late opening time.  So, after Hideki Matsui and Bobby Abreu finished their cuts I went down near the foul pole in right field.  While there I watched as the Brewers came out to the field to stretch and then the Angels finished up.

I got shut out by this group of Brewers pitchers:
group of brewers pitchers.JPGThough they had a lot of time tossing baseballs to each other to read the various messages written on the balls.

My next baseball came off the bat of Casey McGehee.  I didn’t know it was him at the time–but a righty on the Brewers sent a ball slicing down the right field line and I was able to leap up on the wall, lean over, and scoop it off the track.  I analyzed the stance of the batter to figure out it was McGehee once I got home.

Before I get to much further into this entry I should point out that Dennis actually snagged a ball as we were both up in the pavilion.  Once the Angels finished hitting and Prince Fielder stepped into the cage I made sure to be back up in the stands 400+ feet from home plate.  After seeing Fielder hit the day before I knew he could launch some bombs up there.  I played about halfway up the pavilion and Dennis played even further back.  I got close to one shot from Fielder but it wound up two rows below me.  A few minutes later though I had one lined up that ended up flying ten feet over my head.  Dennis was a few rows behind me–the ball hit his glove, bounced out, but he was able to recover and snag the baseball.  The Brewers had written SICK! on that one.  I was really happy for him.

I took this photo during the game that shows where I found my first ball of the day (the red circle) and where Dennis snagged the Fielder homer (the white square):
where we snagged baseballs 6.16.JPGI went down to the foul pole again after that and eventually I saw my friends up in the pavilion again.  Though at that point they’d put snagging baseballs at a secondary priority:
dennis and chris with beer.JPGAnyway, I wouldn’t snag my third baseball until the end of batting practice (even though I thought for sure Chris Capuano would hook me up–he really liked my shirt).  But I’d snag Ball #3 on a toss up from a kid who had been fielding with the players.  I had asked bullpen catcher Marcus Hanel for a ball as he came in from the field.  The kid was near him and he’d said something to the kid like, “You can give him that one.”

Hanel started transferring baseballs into a bag and the kid tossed me the ball.  There was a blue line through the sweet spot on that one (no cool saying on it).
blue line through brewers baseball.JPGThen the kid went into the dugout.  Hanel finished what he was doing a moment later… and I had moved a bit to my left.  Then he spotted me and tossed me Ball #4 on the day!  He must not have known tif the kid had actually thrown me the ball–but he’d pulled one out of the bucket that had a practice logo–not just a stamp on the sweet spot.  I’d seen one of these before:
practice logo brewers baseball.JPGSo, I ended BP with four baseballs.  Dennis had one and Chris hadn’t gotten one.  When the Strike Force came by shooting T-shirts and Nerf baseballs I snagged a little Nerf ball and handed that one to Chris.  I figured he could at least have a souvenir of his first trip to the stadium that way.

We walked around the concourse and eventually ended up in some seats on the Terrace Level just past third base.  I saw some Angels warming up and tried to get a ball from them.
6.16 angels warming up.JPGNo luck there.  I sat behind the Angels dugout until the middle of the first, hoping for a toss up.
6.16. 1st inning 2.JPG6.16 first inning 3.JPGNo luck there either.  So, I went back and found Dennis and Chris.  We all decided to grab seats behind the Brewers dugout.  At day games in Anaheim the visiting team’s dugout is on the sunny side of the stadium and fans all sit in shady seats when possible–we were able to find warm, sunny seats (plenty of them) right near the dugout.  I didn’t take any pictures there… but take my word.  They were good seats.

Jim Edmonds was playing first base for the Brewers, as Fielder was their DH on the day.  Each inning I tried for a third out toss but Edmonds either threw the ball a section over from us or the inning ended in a strikeout…

Until the bottom of the fourth.  Brandon Wood popped out to Edmonds to end the frame.  There weren’t a bunch of little kids rushing down to the dugout for some reason… usually by the fourth inning of a game a dozen little kids have caught on to the pattern of rushing down there to get a ball.  Anyway, I was pretty much the only person at the bottom of the steps as the Brewers came off the field and I called out for the ball: “Jim!  Right here, please!  Hey, Jim!”

Edmonds flipped the ball right to me–a gamer–rubbed up from a great player and a former Angel.  I was thrilled!
edmonds baseball 209.JPGSo pretty.

I went back to the seats and showed the ball to my friends.  Then I explained to Chris the strategy behind third out tosses.  We agreed that he would try the next one–but the fifth inning ended in a strikeout and then we got booted from those seats when the actual seatholders arrived… in the fifth inning.  The end of the fifth inning!  Whatever.

We headed up to the top levels of the stadium and walked around a bit.  We ended up finding seats with this view:
6.16. upper deck seats b.jpgAnd we stayed there until almost the end of the game.  As the top of the ninth ended and the Angels were up 5-1, I went to the Angels dugout as Fielder batted.
fielder bats in 9th.JPGAnd I got shut out there.  Oh, well.
6.16 five baseballs.JPGFive on the day and an Angels win on an awesome summer afternoon makes for a pretty darn good baseball experience.

I decided to get super-closeups of the gamer from Edmonds.  Here’s what a baseball looks like from an inch away:
closeup 209.JPGcloseup 209b.JPGMy next game would be at PETCO down in San Diego.

4/10/10 at Angel Stadium

I got back from New York on Friday–and on Saturday I convinced Michelle that we should head to an Angels game.  I was psyched and ready for a real game at the stadium this time (I’d already been to an exhibition nine days earlier).  We didn’t have tickets in advance but we got to the ticket window near the gates at 4:40, bought two tickets, and got in line.  Shortly after Michelle and I arrive I saw Chris and chatted with him about his offseason and a little while later we saw Rob and Terry.  I’ve written about all these guys before, remember?

The gates opened at 5:00pm and I was off–running to the pavilion in right field.  Rob was right in front of me heading up the escalator and I zoomed by him and made it out to the seats first.  I ran down the staircase, checking each row of seats.  As I got to the second row I saw a ball rolling… down into the first row.  What?  There are NEVER any Easter eggs in Anaheim!!!  It probably had just been hit out to the seats just before I got there.  As I scooped up Ball #1 on the day (and the 161st of my life) I thought back and this was only the 2nd game at Angel Stadium in which I’d found a ball.  The last time it happened was 7/27/09 and I’d found two of them!

I’d forgotten my camera on this abrupt trip to the ballpark but Michelle had hers and she agreed to snap a few pictures during BP.  She typically sits and reads in the shade out of the way of flying baseballs so the pictures are a little far away (or blurry) but she got some good ones.

Here I am tracking a home run (well, I thought it would be a home run):
tracking home run.JPGA minute later Bobby Abreu was batting and I had been talking to Rob about Abreu hitting anything out in BP.  He said, “I’m still waiting for him to hit one out up here.”  And then he did–the ball went screaming into the pavilion behind us and to our right.  It landed in the 10th row, took a high bounce as we were approaching it and in the picture below you can see me grabbing it just before Rob got there:
race for homer.JPGHey, that’s my backpack in the seat just below Rob’s right arm…

I had to wait until almost the end of the Angels’ portion of BP.to get my next ball–but it was a great moment.  I’d been hanging out on a staircase in right center.  Mike Napoli was swinging and I knew he had good opposite field power.  He smacked one that had a chance to make it up to the pavilion.  I ran a full section to my left, down the staircase to the first row and reach out over the wall just to my left.  The ball hit the pocket of my glove just in front of the wall… I kind of hit the wall, too.  But it was worth the bruise on my leg to make that catch.  It was my first ball caught on the fly in the 2010 season.  I can still catch, go figure.

Michelle snapped a series of pictures at some point during BP that I turned into a panorama:
4.10 bp panorama arrow.jpgIn the above photo you can see a red arrow (click on the pic if you need to) and it’s pointing to me.

It was a pretty light BP crowd.

Since I knew that not many A’s had home run power to right field I decided to play down the line near the foul pole.  I got a good spot… and at some point Michelle took a photo of me in my A’s garb:

Shortly after he finished his warmup throws, Andrew Bailey threw me Ball #4 on the day.  There were a few slicers and foul balls that whizzed by but I couldn’t get a glove on any of them.

I moved down to the closest section to the dugout that I could.  At Angel Stadium you’re not allowed to go close to either dugout until BP is over unless you have a ticket to that section… which is weird.  That’s the opposite policy that most other stadiums have.  Usually you get kicked out of dugout seats at the end of BP.  Anyway, for the last few minutes of batting practice I was here:
end of bp.JPGAnd then as the A’s trotted in I sprinted to their dugout and Brad Ziegler tossed my my fifth baseball.  Sweet!

I found Michelle sitting in the outfield and she took a photo of me with the baseballs I’d snagged:
five baseballs 4.10.JPGThe only other thing I got (other than stomach pain from the gross buffalo boneless wings I ate) was one of those soft baseballs the Strike Force shoots out of an air cannon.  I tried for warmup tosses before the game and then tried for a third out toss in the bottom of the first… and then Michelle and I decided to find some seats in the upper level to watch the game. 

Before we went upstairs we went to check something out… I had heard that the Rally Monkey would be making an appearance at this game.  And that you could have your picture taken with said monkey.  Now, I’d never seen the Rally Monkey before and I didn’t know if it would be an actual monkey or someone in a monkey suit. 

Actual monkey:
rally monkey.jpgSuper cute li
ttle guy, but the line was super long… so we were fine with just getting a picture of the little critter.

Here’s a photo from where we decided to park ourselves:
our seats 4.10.JPGIt was a great game!  It could have been better but, still, we had a lot of fun.
matt michelle 4.10 angels game.JPGBen Sheets pitched against Jered Weaver and Weaver gave up one run in six innings against Sheets’ three runs given up in six innings.  But Weaver didn’t get the win.  Erick Aybar and Jeff Mathis made base-running mistakes and Kevin Jepsen and Scot Shields each gave up a run so we went into the ninth inning tied at 3-3.

Michelle and I watched the last inning and a half from here:
field seats 4.10.JPGFernando Rodney would throw a shutdown ninth.

shocked faces.JPGIt was exciting!

Bobby Abreu doubled with one out in the ninth… and then Torii Hunter was intentionally walked by Craig Breslow to get the lefty-lefty matchup against Hideki Matsui.  Well, Matsui laced a double just fair down the right field line to score Abreu and the place went nuts!

4-3 Angels.  It was a good time–and we headed out to the parking lot with smiles on our faces.  On the way out I gave away two of the baseballs I’d snagged (and I had already given one away to my favorite usher during the game).  I’m basically giving away most of the balls I snag this season unless their special/commemorative… I’ll run out of storage space eventually anyway.  So, I’m making tons of kids (and parents) happy.  Heck, I’ve snagged twelve baseballs and given away more than half of them to ushers and kids already.

Ah… it’s nice to have baseball back again!

Another Season, Another Left-Handed Former Yankee

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.