Just 16 hours after I left the Big A on Tuesday night I was back–Wednesday afternoon–2:00pm. And the gates were set to open at 2:30 for the 4:05 game between the Angels and Indians. I was by myself for this one–almost everyone I knew had school or work and event though I had an extra ticket I ended up just keeping it in my backpack to maybe get an autograph on it.
Since the Home Plate Gate doesn’t open earlier than any other gate afternoon games and only a handful of people know that, I didn’t bother getting in line (at the right field entrance) until five minutes before the slated opening time. I hung out here for the first few minutes I was on site:
That’s the tunnel that leads into the stadium in right field. There’s one in left, too. The crucial part about my stop here was… well, here’s a closer look:
Batting practice was underway!. Awesome… sometimes even at 4 o’clock games teams won’t take BP. Granted, fans couldn’t even get into the stadium until the last 5-10 minutes of the home team’s BP session, but I was glad there would be at least a little bit of BP to work with. Also, upon further review… that’s Kendrys Morales taking grounders at first base. He’s still yet to play in a game this season. What’s takin’ so long? He’s always makes BP a bit more interesting!
I ran in at 2:30 along with a handful of other fans… I’d been first in line and I was the first one to the right field seats but the ushers, I’m sure, had already snatched up the Easter eggs, as there weren’t any to be found. And the Angels didn’t hit a single ball out to right.
Well, I stayed in the pavilion in right for all the Indians lefties and after about 15 minutes I lined up a homer from Luis Valbuena (right) and caught it on the fly in the third row of Section 238.
And, sadly, that would be the only ball I snagged during BP. Coaches and players ignored my requests for tossups, I didn’t get close to another homer, and I was late getting to the dugout… so I missed out on a chance there.
So, having gotten on the board but having also had a sub-par BP… and since there were no longer any players on the field… I grabbed a bottle of water, ate some snacks I’d brought with me, signed up for the designated driver program (doing so will get you a voucher for a free soda), and took pictures of the one baseball I’d caught since running inside the stadium. This is my favorite one:
Scuffs, scrapes, dirt and grass, fraying seams… lovely.
My next stop was the third base line for Angels throwing.
While over there I didn’t get a ball from Brandon Wood or Peter Bourjous… but I did get them to sign my 2010 Angels team ball… so it wasn’t a total waste of time.
I went to the Indians’ dugout after the national anthem in hopes that O. Cabrera and A. Cabrera’s pregame baseball they were throwing around would end up in my glove… but it didn’t. O. Cabrera decided one more throw was necessary, and then A. Cabrera decided one MORE throw was necessary, and they ended up taking the ball into the dugout with them.
Back to the Angels’ side I went–and I parked myself behind their dugout about six rows back. I snapped a photo of Ervin Santana, the day’s starter for the Halos and, later, I took a photo of Austin Kearns as he batted. Note the many empty seats. The lovely thing about a 4pm game.
Anyway, I missed out on the third out toss from the Angels after the top of the first and headed over to the visiting team’s side. The Angels went quietly in the bottom of the first and when Bobby Abreu grounded out to first baseman Matt LaPorta to end the frame I was waiting on the other side of the dugout. He tossed me the ball and, well, look:
Gah! It’s the infield warmup ball! Still has a commemorative logo though–which is great! But I was a little bummed that I didn’t get the gamer. Oh, well.
After that I tried to get a third out ball at the Angels dugout but inning after inning it just didn’t pan out for me. It was fine though, because I got to stay in my seat as Santana pitched a strong seven innings, allowing just three runs. I snapped a bunch of action shots:
Santana gave up an Adam Everett single leading off the eighth and that was it for him.
I really like that photo–though it makes it look like he’d just given up a home run or something–it was a solid start.
Scott Downs came in from the bullpen and gave up a hit to get Everett to third… then a fielder’s choice to get the out at home. One out and runners on second and first–then a wild pitch and then a groundout that allowed the tying run to score. That was it for Downs…
No one would score again until a sac fly by Jeff Mathis ended the game in the 12th inning. A Halo victory and I was on my way home.
Finally! My first regular season game at good ol’ Angel Stadium… and there was a good crowd on hand as I waited (along with a few other ballhawks) for the gates to open at 4:00 for the 6:05 game.
But, the horror! 4:00 came and went and the gates didn’t open… 4:10… nothing… 4:15… finally, some movement at the gates and we were allowed to pass through security. When I got up there I encountered something I hadn’t seen at a ballpark since the late ’90s. They tore my ticket… tore the bottom of it right off along the perforated edge. Weird. I found out later they were having scanner issues… and after keeping us waiting for fifteen minutes they knew they just had to let us in. Thanks, Angels management, for not waiting until who-knows-when to let us in.
I ran in and the Angels were in the midst of BP. My first destination was the right field pavilion. And, wouldn’t you know it? In the twenty or so minutes the Angels were hitting only one baseball flew up to the pavilion… and BP regular Rob ended up with it. Mark Trumbo sure hit some bombs to left field and center field, too! Without Kendrys Morales in the lineup the pavilion loses a bit of luster in terms of catching baseballs… though Trumbo will occasionally get one up there, I hear.
When the Blue Jays pitchers came out to throw I made my way over to the first base line and snagged my first baseball from a Blue Jays righty pitcher… all I know is he was Caucasian and relatively short. I wish I knew who it was because here’s the ball he threw to me in the fourth row:
BAM! Commemorative baseball! Beautiful!
Jose Bautista was up in the first group of Jays hitters so I moved to left field.
I figured he could reach the seats past the bullpens–well, he made it to the bullpens with some of his shots and one or two of them bounced out… one went just a couple feet over my head! But he finished and the next group started and I was still stuck on one baseball. But, just look at the bullpen…
If only someone had been around toss one or two or three baseballs up to the fans. ::sigh::
I moved down to section 101, near the field next to the foul pole. That’s where I got the attention of a couple Blue Jays pitchers…
Well, the guy on the right (who I don’t recognize) threw me a ball while I was in the tenth row of the section. I ended up giving that one away to an usher and told her to find a kid to give it to for me. For that transaction I was back in right field for the few Blue Jays lefties–again the pavilion wasn’t kind to me. I’d end batting practice with just two baseballs.
I tried for a ball during the Angels warmups and then again on the Blue Jays side for theirs… no dice.
I took a seat here:
And stayed there as the game started… and when Jeff Mathis tried a snap throw to first base–he got Bautista! And that was the third out in the top of the first–and I was at the dugout as Trumbo ran in from the field–and check this out:
YES! A rubbed up game ball from the Angels–commemorative! From Mathis to Trumbo to me–I was thrilled and I didn’t care if I caught another ball all night.
OK, maybe that’s not true… I tried for a foul ball or two as they came near me. When my uncle arrived, who had ended up giving me a ticket to the game, I told him on the phone I wasn’t near our ticketed seats. He joined me near the dugout. Did I mention it was beanie night? I am definitely more excited about my beanie than he is about his.
My uncle, Ivar, is the one who first started taking me to Angels games and the one who took this photo that I wrote a whole blog entry about. I know a lot about the game based on my uncle taking me to a bunch of games as I grew up and I am thankful for that now.
He’s a season seat holder and has been for quite some time. It was fun to spend so
me time with him and chat about the game and baseball in general. One inning, as I tried for a third out ball again he snapped this photo (left) of me running back to “my” seat from the dugout. I didn’t get the ball but I had fun trying.
I knew I’d have to leave the game a bit early on this night because I had planned to pick Michelle up from work when she finished running a theatre event. So, as the night went on and Mike Scioscia argued a call at third…
… and a kid ran to steal third as part of a promotion…
… and batters swung at pitches and fouled them off and pitchers came into the game… I stayed right where I’d been with my uncle.
Snapping pictures the whole time:
We hung out a dozen rows back from the dugout for the whole game…
… except after the seventh inning stretch when I ran over to the Blue Jays’ dugout.
And I took some photos–but the main event over on that side was when Howie Kendrick grounded into a double play to end the seventh inning and Adam Lind tossed me the rubbed up gamer at the dugout.
It has a grass stain from the trek it took through the infield and a bit of wear over the 1961 on the logo… not quite as clear as the Trumbo ball… but I’ll take it! That was my fourth ball of the night–and the third commemorative one.
Jordan Walden came in to keep the score tied in the ninth and did his job–he looks sharp as the Angels’ new closer with Fernando Rodney setting him up.
And then my uncle and I had to leave–I know, I know, “You left a tied game in the ninth inning, Matt?!?!”
Yep–I did. Grown-up responsibilities and such. He took this picture (right)as we headed out of the stadium.
I would hear the game on the radio as I drove to pick up my wife, then I snapped a few photos of the day’s haul while I waited a few minutes for her to finish up at work:
We heard the end of the game on the radio on the way home, a 6-5 Angel victory after over five hours of play–in the 14th inning.
I’d be back for the Indians against the Halos a few days later…
Now that the holiday weekend was over (and the crowds had dissipated–hopefully) it was time to hit up another game.
The Texas Rangers were in town and my Halos were locked in a tie for first place with ’em. Thankfully for Michelle and I, a division rivalry series didn’t attract as many fans as fireworks and Rally Doodle Dandy monkeys did.
We arrived at the stadium at about 4:40pm and met San Diego ballhawk, Leigh (and his girlfriend) under one of the big hats. I had two extra tickets to this game that I had planned to sell and Leigh just happened to be in the area. The masses rushed in at 5:00pm and I was the second one out to the pavilion while Michelle headed to a shady spot to read a magazine. Here was my view at the start of BP… straight ahead:
To my right:
To my left:
BP regular, Rob, was there, too… no Easter eggs were to be found but Bobby Abreu (who’d been taking fungos in right field) had just picked up a ball and was eyeing it. I ran down to the first row and asked him if he could please toss it up in a mix of English and Spanish. He gave it a pretty good inspection and then nodded to me and tossed it up! Ball #1 of the day and the 63rd of my ballhawking career. When I looked at it I could see why Abreu wanted to get rid of it:
Pretty scuffed up, lots of stains… but a perfect souvenir for any fan!
It was 5:04pm and I was on the board. It’s always a good feeling to get that first ball out of the way… it lessens the stress.
Matt Palmer, one of my favorite Angels, was shagging baseballs in center field with two other pitchers. He fielded one and looked like he wanted to play catch but the other two guys were talking to each other. He took a few mock windups then I yelled, from 18ft. up, “Hey, Matt! I’ll play catch with you.” He looked up (this was the third time I’d had a short conversation with him) and he said, “Really?” Then he started laughing… I hit my glove and held it open. He wound up and threw his best attempt at a knuckleball right to me for Ball #2 on the day! A fan near me said, “Whoa, knuckleball!” But I managed to catch it, then I took it out of my glove and got ready to throw it back to him (not knowing if he really wanted me to just keep it). Palmer looked up and then gestured that I didn’t need to throw it back. Cool! It was 5:07pm.
A few minutes later a ball was smacked up toward the pavilion by Kendry Morales. I was about six rows back from the wall and it was a line shot that I couldn’t quite catch on the fly but I was about two feet from it when it hit the seats and, luckily, it didn’t take a crazy bounce. Ball #3 was mine and it was only 5:11pm… I had high hopes for the rest of the day…
At this point in time Rob and Leigh had also gotten a ball or two and BP was starting to fill up. I knew the Rangers had some pop in their bats so they were sure to be peppering the stands with baseballs… sure enough, a few came up toward us in the seats but I was always just a bit to far from them. One took a crazy bounce over my head… one deflected off a glove in front of me, one disappeared under a pile of little kids. I was having a good time anyway. Thanks, Michelle, for snapping some photos.
Vincente Padilla picked a ball up off the track and two teenagers started begging him for it. He nonchalantly tossed it up without really looking and, though it was just to the right of me, I didn’t knock the teens out of the way. They, however, were not wearing gloves and they let the ball fall back to the field. Padilla picked it up again and as he did I asked him for it. He looked straight up at me, saw my Rangers hat, pointed, and tossed it right to me… I turned to see if the two kids were still there but they were pestering some other player already… so I kept it. Ball #4 (at 5:39pm)…
The funniest part of BP was that whenever Josh Hamilton would step up to the plate, dozens of people (including me) would move back ten to fifteen rows from where they’d been. It was Josh’s first day back from the DL… and, though he tried, he didn’t put on much of a show. I think he hit two into the seats and one to dead center (to the rocks). I wasn’t close to either of the balls hit to the pavilion. I think Rob ended up with one though.
As a matter of fact, I didn’t snag anything else for the rest of the day. It had started so well… but I did see Jason Grilli teasing some fans about throwing them a ball. One of them asked him to throw it hard (or fast?) and he proceeded to launch one over everybody to the very top of the pavilion. It was pretty funny.
BP ended about twelve minutes early so I was caught off guard (and Michelle had gone to walk around) but I managed to get down to the field in time to get Doug Mathis (no relation to the Angels’ Jeff Mathis) to sign my ticket:
I like that he signed right over Joe Saunders’ face. Ha!
Then I headed toward the dugout and sat for a minute while I tried to get in contact with my wandering wife… she was on the terrace level and was on the phone with her mom. I found her and then headed back to the dugout to try to get another autograph.
Omar Vizquel was signing from the dugout so I couldn’t toss him a ticket. I decided, “He’s probably goin’ to the Hall of Fame one day… I should really get him to sign something.” So, I took my Rangers cap out of my bag, clipped a Sharpie to it and tossed it down to him…
TA-DA! I was pretty excited about that. Omar’s been one of the best shortstops in the game for, like, twenty years. A long time… perhaps that’s why his signature is so blah… it really doesn’t look like his name at all, does it?
Michelle came down and we watched the pregame stuff happen. Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus played catch but tossed the ball to a kid twenty feet from me. We watched the first inning from the super-primo seats:
But got kicked out by the actual seatholders before it ended. We headed up to the view level (our seats were in Section 530, Row G) but we took up residence in an almost vacant section in the 400s just above first base… a decent foul ball spot.
The game was great! We were down by two after the first but Jeff Mathis knocked a three-run homer to give us the lead. Here he is after rounding the bases:
The Angels never gave up that lead. Jered Weaver pitched well and the Angels ended up with nine runs on nine hits.
We moved back down to the field for the eighth inning. I failed to get a ball from Hank Blalock as the Rangers came off the field… then we headed to the Angels dugout for the ninth.
Michelle snapped this action shot of Jarrod “Salty” Saltalamacchia fouling a pitch straight back:
The Angels beat the Rangers by five runs and were a game in front of them in the AL West by night’s end.
My next game will likely be someplace NOT in Anaheim… ooohh! I know I’m going to two games in St. Louis (on Aug. 1st, for my birthday, and 2nd) and I am 99% sure I’ll be at an Angels/A’s game in Oakland coming up on the 19th of this month. I may get to another game or two before then (or between those dates).
Originally I was going to attend this game with Michelle but one of her girlfriends was in town, so I sold the extra ticket on craigslist and headed out by myself…
Traffic was rough so I didn’t arrive at the Home Plate Gate until 4:50pm (only ten minutes before opening). There was quite a crowd due to it being a giveaway day: Rally Doodle Dandy – a beanie baby, patriotic, rally monkey. I know, exciting, right?
Normally, I’d have been pretty bummed to have to stand at the back of that line. Lucky for me, I spotted BP regular, Terry, at the front of the line and he welcomed me alongside him. YES!
I ran in, received my monkey, and was off for right field. Another BP regular, Rob, was out there as I arrived in the pavilion, already looking for Easter eggs. We both searched, found nothing, I lost a BP homer to a girl nearby… then an usher said, “Did you guys find that one that bounced around up here?” WHA–??? How could we have missed it?
Rob took off and came back a minute later; he’d snagged it. Boy, it was one of those days of BP. The Angels were hitting a few to seats. Rob got another one, that same girl got another one… I was still stuck at zero. I hassled Matt Palmer about his recent shave-job and had a brief back and forth with him. After a while an Angel righty, who I am fairly certain was Jeff Mathis, he was Caucasian, wore hi-sox, and smashed the ball toward right center… good opposite field pop (maybe Napoli, though he played in normal sock in the game), that headed toward me. I took a step down and over to my left, I was camped under it. Yes! But at the last second I see a glove rise up next to mine–the gloves touch, the ball deflects away and we both lunge for it. I get the favorable bounce and snag it as it’s falling through a seat. I look up and there’s Rob–that guy is everywhere! He ended up with, I think, four by the time BP was over. I was just excited to be on the board! And then… nothing during the O’s portion of BP… I couldn’t get Mark Hendrickson or coach Alan Dunn to toss anything to me. Some homers were hit but I couldn’t quite get to any of them. Boy, Baltimore’s got some pop in their bats… and a lot of strong lefties! I just kept missin’ by just a few rows…
I could’ve had a BP homer on the fly but I opted not to lunge across a few small kids like some middle-aged guy in the front row… I think he hit his head on a cupholder though… karma.
As BP ended at 6:30pm I still had just the one ball but I was thrilled because my streak was still alive. I’ve now attended 12 games and gotten at least one baseball at each of them. Last season my streak went up to 8… but was snapped at this game last September.
I waited to see who’d be playing catch… three pairs of Orioles played catch and I didn’t get any of those baseballs. It just wasn’t my day for snagging! I did take quite a few photos from my prime seat as the game got going:
Note: Chone Figgins – 5′ 8″, Aubrey Huff – 6′ 4″ It just made me laugh to see the two of them standing together:
I also took this pic of me with my new primate friend:
Thrilling. I was two rows behind the dugout and I figured I would just move whenever the real seatholders came along. They never did! There were four seats on the aisle in Row D that never were occupied–except by me. Any inning that ended with a strikeout, I thought, I would be sure to get a ball from rookie catcher, Matt Wieters (pronounced WEE-ters), but he kept rollin’ ’em back to the mound. BAH! But, I couldn’t complain… I’d purchased a ticket for $7.00 and I was in the best seats in the stadium, close enough to get a peek at manager Dave Trembley’s lineup cards:
The Angels got on the board first, in the bottom of the 4th with a solo blast by Bobby Abreu:
Then, the O’s tied in in the top of the 5th but my Halos came back with four runs in the bottom of the 5th, three coming from Abreu’s second homer of the night!
The Angels led 5-1, then the O’s got one back when Luke Scott homered in the 7th…
WHOA–I got so excited about Abreu’s two dingers I almost forgot to mention my second snag of the day. Kendry Morales flied out to left to end the 4th. Nolan Reimold caught it and the team started jogging in. I stood up, decked out in orange and put my glove up. I figured I had a chance even though I was a bit far from where the players were leaving the field (I was closer to home plate than first base). When he crossed the foul line Reimold looked toward me and tossed a perfect gamer right to me! Check it out:
No smudges or marks at all, really… NICE!
My snagging was officially done at that point. I’d stay at two for the rest of the game. I soaked up the game, though, and the great pitching, the homers, and the good defense by the Angels. Here’s a picture I snapped once I was able to get down into the first row:
I set my camera on the dugout, set the 10-second timer and ended up watching a play unfold as the shutter clicked.
Wow… I really look like an Orioles fan… I swear that’s actually an orange Angels T-shirt! It’s from the ’07 All-Star Game… the one where Vlad won the Home Run Derby.
Lackey pitched a strong eight innings… the Angels were up by three runs, so…
I moved to the Angels dugout for the 9th. Brian Fuentes only needed eight pitches to retire the side and record his MLB-leading 23rd save of the season! I saw a girl next to me get a bat… about five baseballs came up over the dugout–and I walked away empty-handed. No dugout luck, post-game, for me… again.