It was a Saturday–Michelle had to work that evening–I wanted to go to a ball game. Luckily, my uncle called me to say that he had four tickets to that evening’s Angels/Mariners game. Then he asked, did I want two of them? Score! I got the family discount–Stubhub! can’t provide that! So, after picking up the tickets I drove to the stadium and met Chris at the gates–he was using the second ticket. We headed in and I took off for right field.
It was a frustrating batting practice. Here was my view for part of it:
I would eventually move closer to right field. I just wasn’t having any luck… but I had plenty of close calls. I’ll just cut to the chase: I ended up with one ball through the whole ninety minutes of BP. It was tossed by Jason Vargas and here it is:
I know the photo’s a bit dark bit it was a nice 50th ball with just one scuff on it… below the logo. In case you’re wondering what that number on my palm means, I wrote ‘340’ so that I would remember the next ball I snagged was my 340th ball.
After the Angels did some pregame throwing and I missed out on a ball on that side I went to the M’s side of the field and, well, here’s Jack Wilson and Kyle Seager heading into the dugout after their warmup throws:
See how there are about three people looking over at the camera in that photo? It’s because a moment before I took that picture Wilson tossed me this:
So a poor outing (from a snagging standpoint) got a little bit better.
I went to sit behind the Angel dugout for the first inning and sent my wife a picture message that said: I wonder how long I’ll get to stay here.
It turns out those fans showed up in the fourth inning–but my prime real estate didn’t get me another baseball. Still, it was an excellent view of Ichiro as he prepared to swing:
Well, he’d just stolen second… Aybar is making sure to keep a tag on Ichi while, I believe, the ball is getting switched out since it was scuffed and would no longer be usable in the game.
I spent a little time behind the M’s dugout, too:
Torii took that pitch for a strike, BTW. After about five innings I checked in with my uncle (and his wife) near their seats:
My uncle Ivar is the man responsible for me being as big a baseball fan as I am–he started taking me to games when I was a little kid (and they were still called the California Angels). And during the top of the sixth I told them I would be going on a brief walk. I walked down to the Angel dugout and took a seat about fifteen rows back. And when Franklin Gutierrez hit a grounder to second baseman Howie Kendrick, Kendrick fired the ball to Mark Trumbo at first for the final out of the frame. And when Trumbo got near the foul line I waved my arms and called out to him from about six or seven rows back and he threw me the gamer. Nice!
The night ended up being just fine from a snagging perspective.
Ludacris was scheduled to perform a postgame concert at Angel Stadium and I promised my uncle I would take a bunch of pictures–he also made sure I took one of this pre-recorded interview that played on the jumbotron between innings:
As for the game… well, let’s see… the Angels only scored one run… Treyvon Robinson hit his first career home run (and some fan jumped a railing to chase after it… then encountered some not-too-pleased security personell)… Blake Beavan tossed eight quality innings and Brandon League threw a scoreless ninth. I was behind the M’s dugout at the time:
And League was pretty efficient. He got Vernon Wells to pop out. Then walked Howie Kendrick.
And then Mark Trumbo grounded into a double play to end the game. :sigh:
I hung around for the postgame interview as Beavan (who’s 6′ 7″) got interviewed and the relievers walked in from the bullpen.
I didn’t get anything tossed to me though except for a few pieces of bubble gum. A little later, once the stage was set up, assembled, and folks were let onto the infield dirt, Ludacris emerged from the visitor’s dugout and played an hour-long set.
There were over 42,000 in attendance for the game and I’d say at least 25,000 stuck around for the concert. Some of the M’s were in the dugout watching… including Adam Kennedy–who then walked onto the field in street clothes with his kid and disappeared into the crowd (he came back a little later).
I left before Ludacris finished to beat the traffic out of the parking lot.
It was a warm summer evening in Orange County and I was psyched about hats. Not just any hat, however… no, I was psyched about the Angels Flashback Hat promotion at Angel Stadium. I’m usually not too excited about a stadium giveaway (SGA) but I actually really liked the hat I’d seen on the Angels’ promotions page.
I’d been planning to go to this game for about a month and a half along with Michelle. Cool hat giveaway, plus I love watching the Seattle Mariners play–they’re fun to watch (and have quite a few powerful–in BP–lefties this year).
Unfortunately, Michelle got pretty sick and hadn’t recovered fully by the day of the game. So, I got her blessing to go to BP with both tickets, get two hats, chase a few baseballs, then return home. I probably could have stayed for the whole game but I wanted to make sure she was doing well at home. Off I went and I got to the stadium at about 4:45. There was already a substantial crowd:
I grabbed a spot in line near Devon, and headed inside. I nabbed my first free hat and ran out toward the right field seats.
Once there, I watched as only one home run got hit up to the pavilion during Angels BP. I didn’t get it. I did, however, ask Jordan Walden to throw me a baseball. And he did. But there was an extra step that led to me getting the ball. I saw Walden field a ball in the outfield. Instead of asking for it right away I said, “Hey, Jordan! Congrats, man!” He had just been named an All-Star that day. He looked up and said, “Thanks,” and gave me a thumbs up. A few minutes later he fielded another ball and I asked him if he could toss it up. He ignored the other five people who were blindly shouting, “Can I have a ball?” to everyone on the field and fired up Ball #1 on the day. I thanked him and wished him luck at the All-Star Game. The ball he threw me had a practice stamp and a few grass and bat stains on it And check out the cool scuff mark:
I’m guessing that it must have hit some concrete and then gotten back into the bucket somehow. Like it bounced off a seat or two.
That would be the only ball I’d get from the Angels. Hisanori Takahashi threw a ball up after I asked him in Japanese… but he threw the ball to an Asian fan on my right… I think he was confused as to who asked in Japanese for the ball. But I wasn’t worried… I knew that Ichiro hit first in the first group of Mariners. And I knew that he hit absolute bombs during BP.
I moved over into straightaway right field and only had to wait a minute until Ichiro started pulling the ball into the stands. He hit homer after homer and, luckily, I nabbed a brand new commemorative baseball off his bat
I wish I could say it went from his bat to my glove directly… but it didn’t. I still want to say I caught it on the fly though because the ball, follow me on this one, flew six to ten feet over my left shoulder. I turned around and my view of its landing spot was obscured by a fan in the row behind me–but only for a second as the ball suddenly bounced back toward me. Facing away from the field now, I leaned to my right and caught the ball. I quickly inspected it, saw the commemorative logo, did a little jig (not really) and then noticed that it didn’t have a single mark on it anywhere. It clearly didn’t hit one of the dark green seats of Angel Stadium… so what caused it to bounce back toward me? The only explanation I’ve come up with is that it hit another fan (or a fan’s glove) and then went bouncing my way again. So, since a player can have a ball bounce off his teammate and catch it before it hits the ground to get the out, I’ll say that I caught it on the fly. Thoughts? Here’s the ball:
It looks absolutely brand new. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even write a 324 over the “ings” in “Rawlings” since this was my 324th baseball snagged. I left it clean and pure, like the baseballs being sold for $24.99 in the Team Store.
Not three minutes later, on Ichiro’s next turn in the cage, I ranged a section to my right and snagged another BP homer from the future Hall-of -Famer… this one was a standard Selig ball. I made the snag from this spot:
Things slowed down a bit after that and I kept just barely missing out on some of the shots the lefties were puttin’ in the seats.
Rob made a catch on a ball in the row in front of me at one point. My glove was right behind his. I had it positioned, the ball was descending, and at the last possible second his glove rose up from under mine… he didn’t push me out of the way or deflect the ball or knock into my glove… he just got three inches in front of it. A clean play for sure. I congratulated him on the snag. Rob is, FYI, well over the 1,000 ball mark in his lifetime–and he only plays for hit baseballs which makes his quantity of baseballs snagged rather impressive, actually.
Ball #4 of the day came courtesy of lefty Jason Vargas. He’d been hanging out with Felix Hernandez (who has rather poor aim when tossing balls to fans during BP). After Hernandez missed me by four feet earlier in the BP session when trying to throw me a ball, Vargas scooped a ball off the warning track and tossed it right to me. The spot of the catch is shown in the photo above and to the left. I was in the first row. And Vargas is the Mariner on the left in the photo.
Thanks, Jason. This ball was almost brand new, with just one small black mark on it. The most interesting thing about that particular ball, however, is that one of the holes through the leather was too big or maybe misaligned… or the stitch got pulled too tight. Take a look:
Interesting, huh? Since all Major League Baseballs are made by hand, this is bound to happen. I’m just kind of surprised that this ball hadn’t been marked as BLEM (for “blemish”) or PRACTICE. You couldn’t use it in a game, right?
The Mariners ended BP at 6:25, as I expected, and I raced to their dugout. I didn’t get anything tossed to me there, unfortunately, and after that, I walked out (along with Chris) to the gates. We each had an extra ticket to get scanned–we did so, got our extra hats, and parted ways. I walked around the stadium through the concourse:
I stopped at the Guest Relations office for a second to grab some water–and while there I noticed a wall of old giveaways:
Can you tell what they all are? I’ll let you know that I have (or have had and then sold/given away) ten of the giveaway items pictured above. Like I said… I’m not usually too into giveaways at the stadium. I headed home as the crowds filed in and I made it there as the first inning got underway. Here are the four baseballs from the day:
The Angels would get the W for Jered Weaver, making his final start before the All-Star Break–he’d be named the AL starter with a record of 11-4 and an ERA of 1.86 after the first half of the season! Cy Young Award, anyone?
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:
But 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
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
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:
Chris 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:
That’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:
And 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…
I 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?
John 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.
I was watching from here:
Just 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.
Griffey (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:
I 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.
You wanna know how far it is from Centralia, IL to Kauffman Stadium? Wait… why’s that important? Well, Centralia’s where I was staying (along with Michelle and our friend, Jenny) at the home of the bride’s family… we were in the area because Michelle was to be a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding. So… they had a day of dress fittings and ribbon-tying… I had figured there might be a day that I had nothing to do… Seattle was playing the Royals.
The answer to the above question is 317 miles… roughly the distance from San Diego, CA to Las Vegas, NV. I left Illinois at about 11:45am and I made the trip in just under five hours, including a pit stop in Blue Springs, MO, home of 2008 American Idol David Cook. It says so on a sign when you enter the town. My route was along the 64 West, through St. Louis, to the 70 West… through city after city (and town after town), across two major rivers (the Mississippi and the Missouri) and to shiny, newly renovated Kauffman Stadium (which is right next to where the NFL Chiefs play–news to me). Woo-hoo!
I parked and immediately went to the Home Plate ticket windows and bought a ticket that was ordinarily $26.00 for $7.00 because it was College Night. What an awesome surprise! It was also Retro Night (80’s) and it was Buck Night (hot dogs, peanuts, and sodas for a dollar). Was I worried that this would attract a larger than average crowd? Yes. Did that hinder me? Heck no.
If I can snag at Angel Stadium, which averages about 40,000 fans per game, I can handle anything Kauffman Stadium had to offer.
So, ticket in hand, I headed around the third base side of the stadium to Gate A. There… I waited. It was 4:50pm and the gates weren’t going to open for forty minutes. I took as many photos as I could, talked to a couple locals, tried to see if the cage was up (it was), and then at 5:30pm the bell rang and I was the first ticket scanned. I ran in and scoured the left field seats for Easter eggs… no dice. I started running toward right field, behind the batter’s eye, and as I got there a guy grabbed a ball sitting in the Pepsi Party Porch. He then ran by me to check right field. I snapped this from my vantage point just on the left field side of the batter’s eye:
The Royals were done hitting by this point so I trotted over toward the left field foul pole where some Mariners were warming up. Right before I took this photo…
… I found a ball lying in a puddle of water near the pole. There were about a dozen people around it and the stadium had been open for about five minutes at this point. I was pretty shocked to see it was still there. I picked it up and that’s the story of Ball #1 on the day. It was WET! Like, soaking wet. Like, weighed double what a baseball should weigh. Here it is after I moved it to higher, drier ground:
I tucked it into a separate pocket of my backpack and set my sights on the M’s pitchers throwing nearby. After a few minutes Shawn Kelley tossed me my second ball of the day! It was a rubbed up (presumed former game) ball. Nice!
I looked toward home and saw the Mariners starting to hit. Ichiro and Griffey were hitting in the first group so I ran back past the batter’s eye and through the mist of the fountains to right field. After watching homer after homer pass to the left or right I tracked one and started running from the foul pole area up some some steps. I made it to the cross aisle, still tracking the ball, running as fast as I could… I wasn’t going to catch it on the fly but I kept after it, hoping for a lucky bounce.
Then something weird happened. The ball descended and hit a metal railing running parallel to the outfield wall. The ball somehow bounced not up or back to the field, but straight toward me. I had been sprinting toward the spot so the funky ricochet caught me off guard. Nevertheless, I was able to get my glove up and lean back a bit after stopping on a dime (knocking my own cap off my head in the process) and I had Ball #3 for the evening and the 90th in my lifetime total. Here’s a photo of the ball and the area where I caught it:
See the scuff mark from the pole? And there’s the silver pole it hit off of in the cross aisle…
I got a round of applause from a bunch of people nearby on that one.
After that group finished I headed back into the wetness of those Kauffman fountains and, after a while, I got Chris Jakubauskas to toss me a ball he fielded in right-center. I ended up giving that one away to a little boy.
n the left field seats I jogged down to the dugout as the Mariners came off the field. I tried to get third base coach Lee Tinsley’s attention, “Lee! Hey, Lee could you throw a ball here, please?”
And as Lee disappeared into the dugout a ball came flying at me from some player or coach still on the field. Somebody had noticed me… but I have no idea who it was. Cool! I was up to five!
And then, before the game started I got Adrian Beltre to toss me his warmup ball for Ball #6. I’d tied my season record and the game hadn’t even started yet! I had high hopes even though I knew I’d end up missing a few innings when I walked around to take photos. OK…
I took a ton of photos from the seat I found behind the M’s dugout. Here’s a panorama I did during a Griffey at-bat:
I left my super-sweet dugout seat behind in the third inning and started my tour of the stadium. First was the “elite” dugout concourse (which is below the main concourse):
Then I headed up to the 200 level:
Where the main concourse and the Team Store were located; pretty nice… and pretty empty:
Ooh… spiral walkway:
I actually took that from the escalator… before heading up to the View Level:
And out for a look at the field:
Then I headed all the way to the farthest left field seat and snapped this:
After a brief encounter with a wayward pigeon I headed down some stairs and ended up in the outfield pavilion section in right:
And I made my way along the promenade above the Party Porch and behind the fountains… there’s a mini golf course, batting cage, carousel, playground, and The Little K:
The Little K looks like an awesome place to take your kids. It’s right behind the Royals Hall of Fame Museum which is behind the left field seats.
I then took a leisurely walk past the M’s bullpen and along my oft-traveled route during BP that day, just in front of the fountains. Then I headed back to “my seat” behind the visiting team’s dugout as the sun began to set:
Kyle Davies… pitched. Kind of. He allowed eight runs over 3 2/3 innings. Ouch! And a cat got loose on the field in about the fifth… apparently that happens once or twice a year at the K, according to an usher. By the way, in most of my ballpark experiences the ushers are predominantly older folks… Kauffman Stadium had a lot of young ushers.
Later in the evening, Sluggerrr came out and danced around. Then one of his assistants handed him an air cannon that shoots hot dogs…
… which is possibly all-at-once the best
and worst invention ever. He got a couple to the upper level!
Starting in the seventh I decided to start playing each dugout for third out balls instead of just the one. So, back and forth I went, stopping to take photos along the way:
I ended up without an actual in-game ball despite my efforts but I had a good time running all around, switching hats, and scoping out a lot of details of the stadium that I was likely never to return to again (not because I didn’t want to… but when am I gonna be near KC again, eh?).
At this point (the eighth) the score was 11-6… the Royals were losing again. I stayed until the end of the game though, like I always do. I was hoping to get a ball from umpire Mike Estebrook as he left the field. He tossed three balls up but none came my way. The Mariners threw a ball up as they exited the field but I was at the wrong end of the dugout. Six balls on the night–an impressive showing, though it’s no 32. BTW, there were about eight balls in the center field gap (“the Hample gap”) and there was a ladder folded up in there, too.
But I had a five hour drive ahead of me and the game hadn’t ended until after 10:30pm. I got a kindly KC family to snap this picture:
I exited through the Diamond Club… ooh… and headed all the way around to my car at the right field side of the stadium. I took one last panorama before getting into my car:
And after ten minutes of stadium traffic I was back on the 70 heading east… I got home just after 4:00am. Woo–thanks, Kansas City. It’s a great park with some totally cool features. It’s affordable and fun and I hope your Royals get better… soon.
My fourth game of the year. I was accompanied by my fun and supportive fiancee, Michelle, and two friends would be meeting us at the game during BP. Brendan (a Giants fan) and Sophie (an Angels fan) planned to arrive a bit after 4:00 that day, and Sophie had mentioned she wanted to get a baseball as a souvenir, so we held their tickets so Michelle could hand them off as soon as they arrived. As the two of us approached the stadium we saw the ever-changing but constantly present memorial for Nick Adenhart outside of the Home Plate Gate. Fans add to it every day, it seems, and I am certain that it will remain in front of the stadium for the entire season. The Angels also pay tribute to Nick daily with their wearing of black patches on their uniforms. Here’s a photo of the memorial:
We headed through the gates at 4:05pm and I quickly took off toward right field. I had a feeling it would be a great BP session because the wind was blowing out to center field and both starters were righties so I figured the switch hitters on either team would be pulling the ball while batting from the left side of the plate. I was right. As I ran in an Angels batter hit a ball toward the right field foul pole. I watched it roll toward the wall and bounce off a bit. As I said hello to John Witt, a batter hit a ball to the seats and he took off after it and I decided to try and snag the pearl resting on the warning track dirt. I leaned out and over as far as I could and it was just out of reach. As I reared back for another attempt I saw red jersey in front of me… it was Jeff Mathis and he walked to the ball so I asked if he could give me a hand. He said, “Here you go. Since you tried so hard.” I thanked him and then headed up to the pavilion. My first ball of the day, which had a black PRACTICE stamp on it, was tucked snugly in my backpack after I labeled it with a 38 as I entered the pavilion. Here’s a panorama of what it’s like out there:
The Angels portion of BP wasn’t nearly as exciting as I’d hoped. I think three baseballs were hit up there and a couple more might have gottten tossed… but nothing came to me. Michelle arrived (she walks to BP–I sprint) and sat halfway up in the seats. After the Angels finished we headed down to the right field foul pole for the Mariners. I knew that a couple of hard-hitting lefties would be swinging, including Ichiro. You may remember that last season I caught two off the bat of Ichiro during a BP session after watching how he hit for a couple of days. It didn’t take long. He hit two to center, two to right center, then they started coming toward me. Eventually he got under one and sent it over all the fans right along the wall. I was about ten rows back and it bounced just to my left and I grabbed it on a bounce. A while later an M’s lefty (might’ve been Griffey) hit one high and deep. It hit off the tip of a glove in front of me a ricocheted over my right shoulder. I turned and it bounced back to me. Three!
There was a lull at that point as three of the four lefties on the M’s were done hitting. Ichiro jogged out to right and started fielding. He tossed a few into the crowd. There was a boy next to me along the wall at this point who had gotten really close to catching a ball… it was thrown to him and at the last second a big, burly dude stole it from a foot in front of his glove. He was bummed. When Ichiro threw one toward us it went just to my left, got dropped back onto the field, picked up by a security guard, then tossed again into the crowd. I got it, turned to the kid and handed it to him. “Here you go, dude.” He was thrilled… I was thrilled. He thanked me… turns out Brendan and Sophie had just arrived, too. I mention this mini-story because it was the first time in my baseball snagging career that I had given away a ball to a kid. His name was Austin. He deserved it: he’d been trying really hard and he had a mitt (not a glove!) and it felt good to send him home with a souvenir. Here’s a pic of Austin and I (taken by Brendan):
That ball was the 41st I’d ever snagged… but it wasn’t the last. After about ten minutes a ball rolled down near where I was standing and bounced of the wall and right toward me. I leaned out and over and reached it with my glove. A guy had fallen over the wall earlier in the afternoon so the security guard near me ran over to make sure I wasn’t going to do the same. I didn’t fall but I thanked him anyway… his name’s A.J. and he’s my favorite security guard at Angel Stadium. Let it be known.
I’d been talkin’ to Brendan for a while (and letting him wear my Angels hat–I think it burned his skin) and Sophie was sitting with Michelle about ten rows back from the wall. I knew Sophie wanted a ball so I waved her down. She joined us at the wall and I focused my energy on a trainer for the Mariners. I didn’t know his name… I just waited… and after a while he fielded a ball, ignored a bunch of screaming kids (and adults–that’s not the way you get a ball), eyed my Mariners hat… I said, “Could you spare that ball for the lady?” He could. He did. He tossed it to me and I handed it to her. Then I scolded her for not bringing a glove… she thanked me and we hung out by the wall for a bit longer. That was my sixth ball of the day and BP started winding down.
I told Michelle that I’d meet them at the seats and I rushed over to the visiting club’s dugout. While I was there I ran across teenage balhawk-in-the-making, Warren (aka yankeehater626) and we chatted for a bit before parting ways. I saw him behind the M’s dugout in the 6th inning or so getting a ball from a Mariners coach. No one threw a ball t
o me before the game, not even the ballboy that emptied two containers of baseballs into a bag right in front of me (how rude!) but I saw Mike Sweeney chatting with some people. As it turns out, Sweeney is from Orange, CA and he was actually talking to his family, including his grandparents. He has a reputation for being a great guy and based on the brief interaction I had with him I would have to agree. He signed a baseball for a kid near me (on which he also included what looked to be a Bible verse). “OK, I’ve gotta head in, guys,” he said to the small crowd that had formed. Then he said goodbye to his family and then looked at me and said, “Oh, yeah, I can sign that for ya,” referring to my ticket stub I’d been holding out to him. He signed an Angels/Mariners stub from last season: I’ll upload it soon.
Then I headed upstairs and met everyone. Michelle and I were hungry so we had some pulled pork sandwiches and sweet potato fries from Beach Pit BBQ. We stayed in section 428 for the whole game except when headed up to the top row of the stadium to take this:
A foul ball came fairly close to us but other than that–no action–but I was happy just hanging out. It ended up being a great game!
Recent Triple A callup, Andrew Ortega, pitched well enough… he kept the Angels in the game, giving up five runs in five innings but the bullpen (guess what?) gave up some more runs and it was 9-3 at the 7th inning stretch. ::sigh::
But the Angels made it interesting, scoring one in the 7th, two in the 8th, then Torii Hunter (who, along with Bobby Abreu, has had a great April) smashed a two-run dinger. 9-8 in the ninth with one out. But a Halos win was not in the card… a loooong flyout then a strikeout. Another loss.
It seems like I was just here… blogging… because I was. This was my fourth game in four days. I’d never been to more than two consecutive games before this weekend. I was tired but determined to make it a great day, as it might be my last game of the year (unless someone hooks me up with playoff tickets). I arrived at the stadium a little later than I would have liked. It had been open for five minutes or so when I headed inside. To my surprise, I saw this:
The Mariners were taking batting practice! I wasn’t really prepared for that so I quickly put on my Seattle hat and ran to right field. I debated between heading up to the pavilion and staying down on the field level. I chose the field, which ended up being a good call because no baseballs made it up to the pavilion except a couple that got tossed up there… and it was crowded. Each Sunday home game the Angels have Family Sunday and kids get all kinds of cool stuff and get to participate in fun activities. So, Sundays at Angel Stadium = lots of kids. I hung around near the foul pole. I just missed one that scooted by me off the bat of an M’s lefty.
Then, the Mariner pitchers started throwing right in front of where I was standing.
R.A. Dickey began warming up and I asked him if he could teach me how to throw a knuckleball. He laughed and said, “That would take too long.” I’ll assume he meant that in the it’s-hard-to-learn way and not the you’re-not-good-enough way. I like that guy. I like anybody that can throw a knuckleball. Here’s some trivia for you:
- R.A. stands for Robert Alan.
- Robert Alan Dickey is MISSING the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching arm (which is the one that gets replaced when a player has Tommy John surgery).
- There are only 3 players in the big leagues currently that throw a knuckleball. Can you name them?
Anywho, I watched R.A. for a while and saw Ryan Rowland-Smith throwing a few yards further down the field.
I yelled, “Ryan, will you sign an autograph when you’re done?” He turned. He had on those crazy-huge-baseball-player-day-game-sunglasses. He gave me a nod. True to his word, as soon as he was done he game over and signed a ticket stub from Thursday night’s game for me.
Well, the players finished throwing and the shortened BP session ended and I walked down near Seattle’s dugout as I had each of the past three games. I sat near some Mariners fans, chatted and waited for some guys to play catch after the anthem. They came out, as usual:
But, alas, I couldn’t get their attention as they headed into the dugout. No baseball for me… but I had a whole game to go! It was a bright, sunny day in Anaheim and that meant that spectators weren’t sitting in their awesome field level seats because they wanted to stay in the shade. I didn’t mind, and hung out in the fifth row for the whole game! I didn’t have to move at all.
Ervin Santana pitched well, striking out three and walking one while allowing two runs through seven innings. He was in line for the win after Mark Teixeira absolutely KILLED a ball to dead center. It went 432 feet and was his 10th home run as an Angel, his 30th this season, and his 200th career blast. Angels 3, Mariners 2.
As Big Tex touched home plate:
Then Scott Shields blew the lead in the eighth. Ugh. 3-3 tie and I thought, “Hey, maybe we’ll see some free baseball today.” Tied in the bottom of the ninth, Reggie Willits (one of my favorite Angels) led off as a pinch hitter and grounded out:
After that, I saw M’s first base coach, Eddie Rodriguez, with a baseball in the dugout (I’d gotten down to the first row). I asked him if he could spare it and he rolled it to me across the dugout–and some punk teenager tried to snag it from out of my glove. Eddie wears #1 for the Mariners, you can see him in action in many of my photos from previous entries, and he used to work for the Nationals/Expos. I had almost given up hope for a ball. Sweet!
Then Sean Rodriguez hit a deep drive. A walkoff home run maybe? No, Ichiro went back on it, tracked it, jumped at the wall… and it bounced off the wall about a foot above his glove! Rodriguez made it to third. Wow! Triples are freakin’ exciting to watch. That hit prompted Seattle manager, Jim Riggleman, to do something I’d only ever seen a couple times, and never actually witnessed in person. He opted to go with the five man infield by pulling Ichiro in from right field to play between shortstop and second base! Crazy, right! I love it when rare stuff happens at a ball game. Stuff like that keeps people (or me, at least) fascinated with the game. Here, count the infielders:
It didn’t matter though, Chone Figgins was up next and he hit one to the wall in right field that scored Rodriguez.
I saw two triples, two walkoff wins, a knuckleballer, a record breaking performance, and a sweep by the Angels, all in the four game series!
The Halos celebrated in the infield with Figgins and I almost got a second ball… J.J. Putz tossed one just to my left as he trotted in from the bullpen. Then, Sean Green, who’d thrown me a ball the night before, started signing a few autographs. I got him to sign a stub from that day’s game.
All in all, I did what I set out to do: I had a great time at the game! Now it’s time to gear up for school. UC Irvine starts up again soon. Go Anteaters!
Psst… in case you were wondering, the three knucklers are R.A. Dickey, Tim Wakefield (you knew that one, didn’t you?), and Josh Banks (he plays for the Padres). According to the knuckleball article on Wikipedia, there are a couple of players in the minors right now that throw it, too.
This entry is going to rock! Just watch… are you ready? OK, awesome.
I went by myself to this game. Nobody to talk to but LOTS of pictures!
Before this game, I drove to Howard’s in Laguna Hills to an autograph signing. Mike Scioscia and Howie Kendrick were signin’ and I got them both to autograph cards… plus I got an Angels beach mat and two free tickets (lousy tickets, but free) to the Angels/Rangers game on the 27th… I might just go… we’ll see. So, all that was in the morning AFTER I’d gotten up at 5:00am to help my mom set up for a yard sale she was having at her house. Ugh.
To the game!!! OK, it was a 6:05pm start. When did I arrive? 3:00… yep. Waaaayyy early. Here are some photos:
Walking from where I park to the stadium.
The Big A.
Staff members setting up for the night’s giveaway: Angels salsa bowls.
An empty walkway because I’m there THREE HOURS before the game.
No one else in line!
I was the first person in line to enter the stadium… I’d never been the first in before.
While I waited I read a book… kind of. I examined my surroundings. Panorama (crudely done) time.
I kept my eye out for Rex Hudler. Though he’d signed my hat already ( see 9/11/08 at Angel Stadium) I wanted him to sign an old baseball card of mine. He must’ve already been inside the park because usually he enters through the main gate. Oh, well. The crowds began filing in… and by about 3:55 it looked like this:
Then came 4:05pm. I headed in, received my salsa bowl, and bolted toward the seats in left field. Since the Angels were taking BP first (as home teams do) and the Mariners were starting a lefty, I figured that there would be mostly righties batting. I was right. Did this help me get a ball? Nope. Nobody pulled anything out toward the foul pole where I was. I DID get to watch some of the Angels pitchers act pretty goofy:
But they were not tossing balls to fans… not even any kids! Only three baseballs came out that way. I had a shot at the first but it kicked off the wall at a funky angle and ending up in the glove of a guy ten feet from me. Then, the Mariners started prepping for BP. After watching the M’s take BP for two days I knew three things:
- Ichiro hits first and in the first round.
- Ichiro pulls EVERYTHING he hits in batting practice (and is very precise).
- Ichiro hits the ball HARD.
That being known, I ran… RAN… to Section 135 in right field, positioned myself a few rows behind the foul pole, and waited for what I knew would happen. Sure enough, the second time Ichiro took his swings he smacked one hard and high that hit the warning track and bounced over everyone by about fifteen feet. I got a good jump, not good enough to catch it before it hit the seats, but good. No one was within twenty-five feet of where it landed (except me) and it didn’t bounce too crazily off the seats. I snagged it with my non-glove hand and felt pretty good about myself. By the way, snagging baseballs at games is great exercise! See, rockin’ so far, right? Then number 51 hit ANOTHER one toward me. It was drifting just foul and I raced to where it would land… again, I couldn’t catch it on the fly but it bounced pretty much straight up and I made a running grab. Two from the future Hall of Famer!!!
After Ichiro was done hitting I felt no need to stay so close to the foul pole so I headed up to the pavilion in right. There were twenty or thirty people there. I almost caught a
couple up there, but almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades (so says my father). Some Mariners relievers were shagging fly balls just ahead of me on the field.
After a ball came to rest on the warning track, I asked the player getting it to toss it up. My exact quote was, “Could you please toss that up here, sir?” I couldn’t tell who it was. He was very tall, right-handed, and Caucasian. He’s also the one on the right in the above photo. When he looked like he was just going to throw the ball back in I added, “Hey! Look at my hat!” He did… and my hat happened to have a Mariners logo on it and he lobbed me the ball. Turns out it was Sean Green. I thanked him… and then BP died down. Nobody got anything up over that 18-foot wall… so I headed down to the 3rd base line and tried to catch a ball on a bounce. No luck… had I smushed a little kid I could’ve snagged a little dribbler that rolled along the wall. The kids couldn’t reach it and I know not to push kids aside just to get a ball… so away that one went. Then BP was over and I followed the Mariners toward the dugout. No autographs or baseballs for a bit… so I sat and took some notes, listened to voicemail, and talked with the people around me. I met two nice families and sat in between them. Then three sets of M’s started playing catch… I kept my eye on them.
Here are the three on the end of the dugout I was sitting near: from top to bottom, Yuniesky Betancourt (who had thrown me a ball on Thursday AND who I had seen in STREET CLOTHES running in through the Home Plate gate ten minutes before they opened with a grin on his face), Raúl Ibañez, and Luis Valbuena. Yuniesky was looking for someone to throw his baseball to when he finished and I was right there. He looked like he would have rather thrown it to someone else but I was the only person paying attention to the fact that he WANTED to give the ball to someone. I got it. FOUR!
Then I got a text message from a UCI colleague saying that she (Ashley) and her fiance (Gavin) were at the game. The were on the Club Level… ooh, fancy. I told them I’d come visit them when I got kicked out of the section I was in. Surprise! That never happened. Turns out that I only had to move up one row and that was where I stayed for the whole game.
During the top of the 4th inning something interesting happened that’s worth noting. A beach ball landed on the warning track in left field and Reggie Willits, a player I think is fun to watch, grabbed it once time was called and threw it back to the fans! He got a lot of cheers. You don’t see that kind of behavior too often. I appreciated it, is all.
The Angels had a 4-2 lead when Jon Garland departed after the sixth and then I headed up to Ashley and Gavin’s club seats… courtesy of their extra ticket, thank you very much. Before I left I borrowed a ticket stub from a teenager I’d been sitting next to named Jake. He and his dad, Brad, had been talking to me all through the game. I left my glove with them as collateral and said I’d be back. Ashley, Gavin, and I chatted and watched as the the bullpen was solid. Oliver, Shields, and then Frankie, the man everyone was waiting for. I headed back to the field level. On Thursday he had tied the saves record (57) and with a 5-2 lead he needed to get three outs to make history. Needless to say, I was on the edge of my seat… so was everyone else. See Frankie on the mound out there?
The flashbulbs were popping with every pitch. He started off rocky, giving up a double, then a walk. Then, Ichiro grounded into a fielder’s choice. Runners on first and third. Then, Ichiro stole second and K-Rod got a K. Two outs, runners on 2nd and 3rd, Ibañez up to bat, everyone on their feet chanting, “Frankie! Frankie!” He struck him out with a changeup and Angel Stadium erupted! It was great, everybody high-fived and cheered, the players gathered on the mound, fireworks shot off… wow! I took a video on my camera… but here’s a photo from just after the celebration died down a little:
Then I scoured the stands for ticket stubs, said goodbye to Brad and Jake and Ashley and Gavin and then roamed the concourse for a few minutes. I saw an open tunnel and decided to snap a photo of the empty stadium. I saw a guy walking along the first base line in street clothes… it was José Arredondo. Weird.
Just walking around, I guess.