Tagged: jered weaver

4/16/12 at Angel Stadium

FINALLY!

My first game of the 2012 season had finally arrived.  It would be the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (boy, I hate that name) against the Oakland Athletics.  Jered Weaver would be pitching against Brandon McCarthy and I would be there, first in line, ready to go, when the gates opened up.  I was psyched.  I packed my bag for the first time–team rosters, bottled water, my camera, and the assorted accouterments associated with attending an Angel game… or any MLB game, I suppose.  I small-talked with a few of the Angel Stadium BP regulars while I waited.  Rob, Eli, Terry, Lou… a bunch of guys I’d have never know had it not been for this fun hobby I developed way back in 2008.

The security guards arrived and got the gates prepped… and I talked to them about the new rule at Angel Stadium that any security personnel that are on the field need to wear helmets.  Does anyone know if this is all across MLB?  And they weren’t even cool MLB helmets… they were, like, bicycle helmets.  I wish I’d taken a picture.  UPDATE:  Haha… I did!  Here’s TJ (the Angels Strength and Conditioning Coach) and Torii Hunter and Howie Kendrick joking about the stylish new trend:

Well, I got my bagged checked… and headed inside to the folks with the ticket scanners.  All this anticipation, I’m the first one through the gates, and, wouldn’t you know it?  The lady I went to was having scanner problems… ugh.  I watched as people in other lines flooded in past me before snatching my ticket from her and thrusting it into the next ushers face and telling him, “Hers isn’t working.  Please scan my ticket.”  He did–I was direct but polite, after all.  And I took off running.  As I rounded a corner on the Terrace Level I could see a couple of guys were already scouring for Eater eggs in the right field seats so I decided to change my strategy.  I took a hard left down some stairs and that’s when I looked at the field for the first time.  It was beautiful–perfectly manicured, actually–but there was something very wrong.

The hometown Halos weren’t hitting.  There wasn’t a single Angel on the field.  As it turns out, they’d gotten in from New York at about 3am so they had decided not to do a full BP session.  I quickly changed tactics and ran straight down to the front row along the third base line as the A’s started to play catch.  Virtually the whole team was out there–and a few of the coaches were near the dugout playing catch, too.  As I knew the coaches would finish first, I got the approval of an usher to head over there to ask for a ball.  A few moments later I got my first baseball of the season tossed to me by an A’s coach–not sure who–but it wasn’t Chili Davis, Mike Gallego, Bob Melvin, Tye Waller, or Chip Hale.  So that leaves Rick Rodriguez, Chris Pittaro, and Curt Young.  I’m going to go with Rick Rodriguez.  So, thanks, Rick!  He tossed it to me a it skipped off the roof of the dugout.  I bobbled it to my feet and then quickly snatched it up.  I’d say that is about as close to an error as I want to get all season long.

As the players finished up their throwing and began to make their way to the cage I got baseball #2 on the day from Josh Reddick after he finished playing catch.  He lobbed the standard Selig my way in the second row of Section 128.  Eric Sogard (who has been on the A’s roster for three years but only made the Opening Day starting lineup this season) started signing autographs and I got him on my ticket.  My next baseball came my way just a few minutes later as the pitchers finished throwing.  Fautino de los Santos hooked me up with a ball in Section 127–I didn’t know who he was at the time but checked through some photos online to confirm it was him.

After that I ran up to the pavilion in right field with the hope that the A’s (and their several lefties) would show some pop.  It’s clear that’s not what they were planning on this day, however, as only about four or five home runs came nearby–and I was out of range on all of them.  I did manage to get a brand new pearl of a baseball from Tyson Ross while I was standing in the third row of Section 239… and then the A’s finished hitting at 6:12pm… much earlier than I’d expected.  I wasn’t able to get to their dugout in time so I sat down, made some notes, got some water, and waited for the Angels to take the field.

First uniformed Angel siting of 2012:

Once they did come out to get loose, I saw Howie Kendrick’s son getting handed over to his dad from the seats–he wandered around on the field a bit and greeted the players.  My coolest photo of the night?  Howie’s kid giving Torii Hunter a high five:

But I couldn’t get a warmup ball from the Angels–nor could I get one from the A’s about ten minutes later after the national anthem.  I checked out the concourse of the stadium and notices the Halo front office had upgraded a few things… like these digital menu boards in the concession stands:

Six bucks for peanuts?  Yeesh–I buy ’em for two bucks a bag at the grocery store.  It was about this time that Michelle, who had been at work, arrived at the stadium.  I met her at the Left Field Gate and we found seats in the left field corner.  My goal this year is to catch a home run.  It’s something I’ve never done and I figure that 2012 is the best year to do it.  Last season, around the Big A, I was simply focused on snagging as many of those commemorative 50th anniversary balls as I could.  They’re still using some of those in BP, I’d learn, but this year–it’s all about the game home run ball.  And Albert Pujols was still sitting on zero home runs for the year–maybe I could catch his first!  Here was our view:

See that aisle with the vendor in the yellow?  I was ready to jump up and run down it with each pitch.  We stayed in the same spot throughout the game, chatted, ate food that we’d brought into the park (I’m so glad the Angels still let you do that), and watched the action. Kendrys Morales hit his first home run since May of 2010–a three run shot that just barely cleared the fence in left-center.  Albert hit a drive to the warning track… but didn’t go yard.  The A’s just couldn’t muster any kind of rally.  We got to see a pretty cool moment: Jered Weaver’s 1,000th career strikeout.

It was Josh Reddick in the sixth inning, in case you were curious.

After having not scored since that Morales homer in the first inning, the Angels were able to put up three more runs in the eighth.  The healthy 6-0 lead was plenty for Weaver, who was excellent yet again and went six and two-thirds innings, and three relievers.

Michelle had to leave around 9:15 to head home so I walked her to the gate and we parted ways (it was still only 3-0 when she left).  I returned to the seating area, stayed in the outfield seats for a bit longer but then decided to move.  After a half-inning behind the Halo dugout, I ended up behind the Oakland dugout for conclusion of that evening’s contest:  And when Erick Aybar grounded out to first baseman Daric Barton to end the 8th, I was about five rows back and he lofted me ball #5 on the evening.  I looked closely at it and realized he must have kept the gamer and tossed my the infield warm up ball because it was pretty beaten up.

LaTroy Hawkins came in for the ninth inning and, though he loaded the bases, closed out the game with the shutout in tact.

And I snapped photos of all the guys on defense, including the one below that I really like of Pujols and Kendrick ready for a pitch to be delivered… Kendrick’s on his toes with anticipation.

I asked manager Bob Melvin for his lineup cards but he ignored me… and the A’s relievers came in from the bullpen and Brian Fuentes had a baseball in his pocket.  I shouted to him, “Hey, Brian, could you toss me a baseball, please?”  He got a few steps closer, lobbed one my way… and a female A’s fan to my right leaned out and nabbed it just an inch in front of my glove.

Wow–I guess I should have been more aggressive.  I was a little bummed about that one but I was pretty pleased with my haul.  I ended up giving away the de los Santos ball to an usher who said she’d be certain to find a deserving youngster to give it to… and I headed home.

A pretty darn good first game of the year–it felt good to knock the rust off.  Here are the five baseballs (I gave the one away at my most recent game–so I still had it at this point):

I’d be heading back to see the O’s and Angels on Friday.

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7/21/11 at Angel Stadium

Just hours after leaving Angel Stadium I was back in line for more… waiting for the gates to open.  Well, I wasn’t waiting long.  It was a day game after a night game and the pregame crowd was pretty light.  There was absolutely no one at any gate but the Home Plate Gate so I took a walk around the stadium.  During my walk I passed the right field tunnel and looked down it to see there were no BP related activities going on.  I had figured as much.  I saw a group pf Rangers pitchers walking toward the outfield… that was it.  Devin rode by me on a bike and asked if anything was goin’ on.  I said there wasn’t much happening–he debated whether or not to even head inside.  I’d see him (and his wife and granddaughter) inside later.  I passed the players’ parking lot and then the left field tunnel… again, all I saw were a few Rangers pitchers in the outfield… and I ended up at the Left Field Gate.  Chris was waiting there, too, so we talked for a few minutes before 11:00am rolled around and we sprinted in to the seats.  As soon as I saw the field I noticed a bunch of Angels pitchers playing catch.  I took this photo a minute later:

The folks throwing are (from left to right) Dan Haren (in the navy undershirt), Tyler Chatwood (throwing with someone just out of frame), Jordan Walden, a trainer throwing to Haren, Rich Thompson, Hisanori Takahasi’s translator (throwing to Thompson), Takahashi (with his arms out), and Scott Downs.  Downs and Takahashi are laughing–at a poor throw by one of them, I think.

You may notice that closer Jordan Walden isn’t throwing with anyone.  He was the odd man out in this warmup–so, from about three rows back in the stands I called out to him, “Hey, Jordan!  You need someone to throw with?”  He turned and smiled, waved, then he said, “What, you wanna throw?”

I said, “Yeah, I’ll throw with you.”  He kind of waved his glove and said, “Nah, I can’t.”  He’s still new to the big leagues–I don’t think he’s aware yet that, yes, he can throw a ball to a fan… then ask for it back… and so on.  He’s still kind of humble.  Walden chuckled and started to turn around and I said, “C’mon, I’ll throw with you.  Really!”  I held up my glove.  Walden kind of looked around (I think to see if anyone was going to tell him ‘no’ to what he was about to do.  Then he grabbed a ball, wound up, and tossed it to me.  I caught it, then threw it back.  Then he threw it back to me–and this continued for a solid minute or so until another pitcher, recent call-up Horacio Ramirez, jogged to the field.  I threw the ball back to Walden and he smiled, nodded his head, then turned around to warm up with, you know, a professional player.  I called out, “Thanks, Jordan!”  And then I moved a section to my right… keeping my eye on the pair.  I talked with Chris for a minute, then Rob… and then I moved back toward my left when I could see that Ramirez and Walden were finishing up:

As they closed the gap between them I made sure there was plenty of space around me–I was just hoping Walden would end up with the ball.  I asked him, “Jordan, could you throw me that ball, please?”  He had started to tuck it into his glove–then he saw me and his body language signaled to me that he knew he should toss it to me–that it would mean way more to me than anyone else.  And he threw it right to me.  I yelled a huge, “Thank you!” to him and had a new favorite baseball in my collection.  Now, I’ve never caught a home run–I’ve gotten a couple foul balls… but those, to me, aren’t nearly as special as this one.  I got to play catch with the closer of my home team and then he threw me the ball–AND it was commemorative!  Then, Walden started signing autographs:

Fans flocked to him and I noticed which way he was moving up the line–and I got into a spot along the wall–and while I was waiting for him I got Rich Thompson and Tyler Chatwood to autograph a 2011 team ball I’ve been working on.  And then Walden got to me and I asked him to “sign it on the sweet spot, please.”  Then I told him, “That ball is going on display in my home.  Thanks so much, I appreciate it.”  And check it out:

He even put ASG ’11 on it.  New.  Favorite.  Baseball.

The day was a success at that point.  I didn’t need to snag another ball or even have a good seat.  Heck, the game could’ve gotten cancelled and I’d have gone home happy.  But, thankfully, it was a gorgeous day–the game would be played–and I wasn’t done getting baseballs OR autographs.

I got Colby Lewis’ autograph near the Rangers’ dugout after all the players had cleared the field but him.  Here was the view of the field a minute after I got the Lewis autograph:

Then it was dead for about twenty minutes.  Zero player activity.  During the dead time I photographed the Walden ball and took a seat in the shade–there, I took a picture of where Tommy Hunter had thrown me a baseball the day before:

Hunter was standing to the left of the Summer Concert Series sign (LUDACRIS!) and I was standing to the right of the staircase behind the batter’s eye.  Nice arm, huh?

A little later, some Angels came out to throw and after Howie Kendrick warmed up he tossed his ball… to someone else.  But then he went to the ball bag and pulled out two brand new 50th baseballs and one went a section to my left, the other one went to me… someone tipped it and I had to pick it up off the ground… but it was still in great shape!  The spot of the catch can be seen in the photo to the right.

Then, Kendrick started signing autographs and I got him on my 2011 team ball.  I debated having him sign the ball he’d just thrown to me–but I opted not to go that route since I already have his signature on a ball from last year right on the sweet spot.  Moments later, when when Maicer Izturis finished his warmup tosses with Erick Aybar  he lofted me the ball.    The row I was in was empty– which was good because as he was running his underhanded toss was a bit off the mark.  I moved a couple of steps to my right and I caught it here:

All three baseballs were commemorative.  Yay!

Before the game started I had gotten five autographs and three baseballs–with no BP!  And I was all set to enjoy a fantastic pitching matchup.  Jered Weaver vs. CJ Wilson.

Here was my view of the game’s first pitch:

Since it was a day game and attendance was lighter than usual, I was able to jog back and forth between the home dugout and the visitor dugout for each inning.

Unfortunately, the two starters were striking guys out left and right and I was almost always on the wrong end of the dugouts.  It was frustrating–but at least I was getting my cardio workout for the day.

In the second inning the Angels managed to score a run without getting a hit thanks to an error by Endy Chavez in center field.  I took a photo (left) of the scoreboard to mark the occasion–it was a pretty important run.

Wilson and Weaver were mowing down their respective opposition.  And the most tense moment in the game game in the sixth inning, when Weaver worked around a bases loaded jam:

Um… that half of a third base coach is due to my panorama-making software.  Hmm.

And he went back out for the seventh before giving way to Scott Downs in the eighth and then Jordan Walden (my new best friend) in the ninth.

Remember that one unearned run?  That was the only run of the game!  And the Angels got the win, 1-0.  I didn’t snag anything else once the game started but I still had a blast.

7/7/11 at Angel Stadium

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?

All-Star Game: Day 5

This was it!  The big game.  This was the game fans in Southern California had been waiting for since it was announced.  The 81st Annual All-Star Game was going to be taking place and I would be there (with my lovely wife in tow).

The Home Plate Gate would open up at 2:00pm for the scheduled 5:00pm start time and we got to Anaheim at 12:45. 

By the time we parked and walked to the gates there were lines forming underneath each of the big hats outside the ballpark.
asg before the gates open 1.JPGWe
spotted Chris and Warren (with their guests/families) at the front of
one of the lines and they let us slide into line along with them.  Thanks, guys.  We chatted for a while to pass the time and noticed we’d be receiving another giveaway upon entering the stadium.  For the Futures Game and the Home Run Derby we got ticket-holding lanyards.  Today it looked like–yep–we’d be getting a drawstring backpack.  Nice!

I made sure Michelle made it in safely and then ran off to start the afternoon of snagging, knowing she’d catch up to me soon.  I
originally intended to start the day near the American League dugout
but when I ran out of through a Field Level tunnel I realized batting
practice was already underway!  Yikes–I quickly
sprinted up the steps and all the way around the park to the right field
seats to try to grab a commemorative 2010 All-Star baseball.  I’d
seen pictures of the baseballs and I said a little prayer during my run
out to the seats that they’d be in use during batting practice.  Once I arrived I knew the crowds would get pretty large very quickly.  I hoped to get on the board as soon as possible.

I spent minutes (that seemed like
hours) tracking the occasional home run and hovering over the stray
baseball that made it to the outfield.  Among the players shagging in the outfield was Jered Weaver, new ace of the Angels staff, and a late add to the All-Star team.  I
wasn’t the only one asking him for a ball as he fielded one eighteen
feet below the first row of seats… but I did have a glove on and I did
say, “Please.”

Whatever works.
asg baseball.JPGI was psyched!  It was a beautiful, red-and-blue-stitched, All-Star ball.  It had a scuff on one side and a grass stain below the logo but I didn’t care.  It was mine–and it had been thrown by an Angels player and I couldn’t have been happier to snag it. 

I celebrated the snag internally and kept my sights on each player as they hit in the cage.  Conveniently,
Angel Stadium put up the name of each star that was hitting as he took
his hacks in the cage so I knew exactly who launched all the baseballs
that I couldn’t quite get to… I mean, with all the power in the AL
lineup (and quite a few lefties hitting) I had my share of chances to
snag a batted ball.  I’d seen BP regular Devin
catch two homers on the fly: one when the seats were still relatively
empty and another once the crowd had grown.  Soon, there was little room to run.
asg bp crowd 1.JPGBP wasn’t as packed as the Home Run Derby the day before but it sure was tough to maneuver up in that pavilion.

I played the staircase separating Section 238 from Section 239 as the American League hitters continued their portion of BP.

This was my view:
asg bp view.jpgBeautiful!  Though, more specifically, this was really my view:
really my bp view.JPGPeople all around.  A lot of people let their guard down when a righty stepped into the cage.  I knew better–especially when a certain righty named Alex Rodriguez was smacking the ball all over the field.

A-Rod went deep.  And he went deep to right field… and the ball was heading my way.  I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy catch.  There
were fans all around me and the ball had a pretty high arc to it,
giving people time to get underneath it… I moved down a few steps, saw
the ball slicing toward my general vicinity, moved to my right into a
row of seats, and then I saw the hands, arms, and gloves closing in.  In
my peripheral vision I saw limbs closing in on the ball and, keeping my
eye on it I realized that I had probably moved down one step too far.  Literally a dozen fans were reaching in, wanting that A-Rod blast for themselves.  I
kept my eye on the ball as it fell and at the last moment I leaped up as
high as I could, outreaching the fans to my left and right…

SMACK!

I couldn’t see it but I knew I had the ball.  I felt it hit the pocket of my glove as five gloves smashed into my extended arm.  I came down from my jump and crouched down just enough to regain my balancing, pulling my glove in toward my chest.  I looked down, opened up my Mizuno and saw the pearl nestled safely inside.  Whew…

The ball was just a standard Selig baseball, which wasn’t great, but it was in near perfect condition.  There was just one tiny mark on it, where A-Rod’s bat smacked it.  I
got a few congratulatory compliments from nearby fans (including Devin)
and then, proud of my catch, I held up the ball triumphantly.  The best moment though, came twenty seconds later when I heard a voice behind me: “I guess I got here at the right time.”

I turned around and saw Michelle standing in the row right behind me.  She’d arrived at the tunnel above the right field seats just in time to see me make the catch.  It felt great knowing that she saw it and was proud that I’d managed such a difficult (and highly contested) snag.  It was a a pretty cool feeling!  She chatted with me for a minute and then decided to get out of the July sun–I’d meet up with her after BP.

When the AL finished hitting there was a gap of very little action on the field.  Did you notice the stage set out in center field in the panorama above?  Well, it was there so the teams could be photographed.
al team photo.JPGI just noticed this now… but Andy Pettitte and David Ortiz are wearing those shoes I tried on at FanFest.  Hmm.

The National Leaguers came out to the field to take their photo right after the AL was done.
nl pre photo.JPGA
lot of fans retreated to the shade of the concourse but I took the
opportunity to make my way into the front row of the pavilion, knowing
that with the growing crowds, my best bet to snag another commemorative
would be a toss up from a player.

A group of teenagers were on my left
and a pair of teenagers were on my right when BP resumed with the
National League players taking their cuts.  The kids on my left were friendly and the kids on my right were not.  When I had been standing at the front row for a couple of minutes one of the boys on my right asked if I could move.  I asked him why and he said I was in their seats.  I said, “Which ones are yours?”

“Fourteen and fifteen.”

I told him that I would, in that case, stand in the space directly in front of thirteen.  He told me that his whole family had seats nine through sixteen.  I told him that I would move when they arrived.  He grumbled something to his friend.

A short while later I saw Matt Capps
long-tossing right below me with some other player who was stationed
over by the right field line.  People to my left and right were asking for the ball.  I said, to the kids on my left, “He’s warming up… you have to wait until he’s finished.”  I knew what I was talking about–and when Capps finished (and his throws were getting shorter) I yelled out, “Hey, Matt!  My name’s Matt, too, and I’d love to get a ball from you, sir!”  Capps looked up, checked the baseball in his hand, then looked right up at me and tossed the ball straight up.

I reached out to snag it, extending both hands (it’s fundamentals, kids), and then I felt pressure on my right forearm.  One of the kids on my right was trying for the ball.  The kid to my left reached out with his glove but I was easily going to out reach him.  Then, disaster.  The
person to my left gripped my arm and pushed it down with a lot of
force… ordinarily not a big deal since I wear my glove on my left hand.  However, there was so much force behind the push that it shifted my frame a few inches down and to the right.

I watched the ball sail inches over my glove and past my left shoulder into the row behind me.  I desperately tried to grab it from the second row but it bounced away from me and a fan in the second row ended up with it. 
I was furious.  I knew what had happened… I spun to the teens on my right and stared at the two of them.  Frustrated, I said, “OK, which one of you guys pushed me?”  They both looked down at the railing in front of them. 

I asked again and, again, they stared straight down.  I turned my attention back to the field and said, “That’s not cool, guys.  You can’t just grab a guy’s arm like that.”  I was pretty pissed… but I was even more determined to snag another ball at that point.

Like, if they had accidentally bumped me, OK, I’d be all right with it.  But this was intentional snag sabotage.  Not cool at all.

The kid nearest to me got out his
phone, texted someone, and two minutes later a taller person showed up
right behind these kids (an older cousin, I found out), and asked me to
move from his family’s seats.  I asked what ticket he had.  He showed it to me.  He had seat nine… remember, I was in the space directly in front of thirteen.  I told him he should tell the kids on my left to move out of his seat then.

Long story short, the older cousin ended up leaving because he understood the situation.  He had no more right to that seat during BP than I did.  And he knew his younger cousin was a whiner (and told him so).  And
I would snag my third ball on the day from Hong-Chih Kuo shortly after
that by asking him in Korean for it (thanks, Zack Hample).  When I caught it, I saw it was commemorative and then showed it to the kids on my right.

“Wow, a special All-Star baseball, cool!”  Then
I left the row, telling the kids on my left that they should crowd over
toward that pair of kids to the right if they wanted to… they did,
happily.

Next, I made my way down to the Field
Level seats, snuck as near to the NL dugout as I could, and watched the
players run in from the field.  I saw one baseball get tossed but not anywhere near me.  However,
fan-friendly Heath Bell walked to the bucket of baseballs and ended up
tossing roughly a dozen into the crowd including two to the Club Level
and two to the upper deck.  Sadly, none came to me, but it was still pretty cool to witness, well, that type of coolness from Heath in person.

I met up with Michelle after that and only then got a sense of how truly crowded the stadium would be.  The concourses were FULL of fans–and the seats were filling up throughout the stadium.  We grabbed food and found our seats.  The same seats we’d had for each of the All-Star events… this was out first time going anywhere near them:

It turned out that they were in the sun.  Bleh.
asg our seats panorama.jpgI didn’t crop this photo so you could see all the fans that had already arrived.  Also, down in the bottom-right corner you can see a line of people holding a giant American flag for the opening ceremony.

We
found comparable seats on the shaded (third base) side of the stadium
and took in the opening ceremonies after saying hello to a friend of
ours who also was at the game with his dad.  I took this photo as we walked behind home plate:
asg pregame ceremony panorama.jpgHere’s where we sat for the first few innings:
asg pregame outfield panorama.jpgThe ceremony was great.  Very
classy, and included a moment of silence for Bob Sheppard and George
Steinbrenner as well as an introduction of each of the thirty “All-Stars
Among Us.”  And one of the cast members from GLEE sang the anthem–but they were having sound issues within the stadium.  Did it sound all right on TV?  There had been sound issues on Sunday and Monday, too.

I was totally thrilled to be watching an All-Star Game!  We were far from the action but the environment was great!
asg confetti panorama 2.jpgConfetti!  It was electric in Angel Stadium, with fans from all over the world cheering on their favorite teams and players.  Although, the confetti seemed to halt Ubaldo’s warm up throws for a few minutes…
ubaldo warmup confetti.JPGThe two starters, Jimenez and David Price, began the game fantastically, each pitching two shutout innings.  We had a great view of who would be coming into the game for each team:
pettitte warmup.JPGjohnson warmup.JPGThe game was tense throughout.  I could tell early on that the game would be a pretty low-scoring affair.  Each team’s pitchers would dominate the game… and it helped that Ryan Braun made an outstanding catch in the middle innings.  And, did you know that Cliff Lee only threw six pitches to retire the side in order in the fourth?

Before the fifth inning started I told Michelle, “I think this is the inning where we [the AL] score.  Sure enough, the AL scored a run without a hit in the fifth.  Evan
Longoria, video game extraordinaire, lead off with a walk, then Kuo
made a throwing error on Joe Mauer’s dribbler and Robinson Cano hit a
sacrifice fly to cash in Longoria.  Unfortunately, that would be the American League’s only run of the game.  The
only National League offense to speak of came in the seventh when Matt
Thornton allowed a bases-clearing double to Brian McCann.  To his credit, Marlon Byrd kept the inning alive with a walk while McCann was on deck.
asg sunset our seats panorama.jpgMichelle and I had moved to our actual seats by this point… they were now shaded.  It was just before Byrd’s at bat that I began questioning Joe Girardi’s management choices.  I would have let Phil Hughes face Byrd, then, if needed, brought in Thornton.  Oh, well.  The
NL scored three runs–that was all they needed and, though the AL tried
to rally in the ninth, Byrd made a great play to get David Ortiz at
second base.  Why wasn’t A-Rod in the game to run for Ortiz?  Or, why didn’t A-Rod hit for somebody?  Oh, well… again.
asg night field level.jpgFor the ninth, we were down on the Field Level, hoping for an AL comeback.  I left Michelle for the last half of the inning and I managed to get in a great position for a toss at the end of the game.
broxton save.JPGgonzalez ortiz 9th.JPGJohn Buck stepped up to the plate…
buck at bat.JPGAnd Ian Kinsler smacked a ball into the right-center field gap that hung up just a bit too long. 
kinsler final out.JPGAnd when the NL wrapped it up I was right above the dugout, first row, and I did everything I could to get a player to toss a ball up… but no one did.  Jonathan Broxton was interviewed while the final out ball rested in his glove.
broxton final out.JPGHe kept it (I figured he would) and that was it for toss-up possibilities.  It was okay though.  I had really enjoyed the game.

It was exciting, quick (just under three hours), and fun.  Michelle met up with me on the concourse as the crowds cleared out.  She’s really starting to like baseball at this point, which is pretty darn cool.  We talked about all the great stuff we’d seen in the past few days as we headed out the gates.  Before we went to the car though, we got a picture together out in front of the ballpark:
m and m post game.JPGI’m holding up the Weaver baseball there.  But here’s a better shot of all three of my snags from the ASG:
three asg balls.JPGOh, and I asked Michelle to take one more photo before we left the stadium…
matt post asg.JPGI guess you could say I was a bit excited.  I knew I’d probably never get to have
such an intense and all-encompassing All-Star experience ever again, so we lingered at the
Sponsor Zone for a bit and watch the crowds leave the park.  My
feet were aching, I was tired, but it was hard to leave the party,
knowing the city of Anaheim wouldn’t see anything like it for quite
sometime.

Luckily, the Angels would be home from a
road trip on Thursday and I had received free tickets to that game… I’d
get to come back (to a less crowded stadium) pretty soon.

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!

ALDS Game 2 at Angel Stadium

I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get this entry up… boy, being sick is no fun.

After watching an awesome victory by the Halos on Thursday night I found myself heading back out to the park on Friday at about 3:00pm.  Tonight’s matchup would be Jered Weaver vs. Josh Beckett and it was sure to be another sellout crowd.  When I got to the Home Plate Gate I was first in line and I had about 45 minutes to kill… and before the gates opened there was another hearty crowd on hand:
pregame crowd 10.9.09.JPGI ran in, ignored the thunder sticks a worker tried to hand me, and made a beeline for the pavilion.  With righties starting, there were sure to be some left-handed hitters knocking some balls out.  I was out there first along with an older dude–we got to the seats at the same time but there were no Easter eggs to be found.

career 150.JPGAfter a few minutes though, Kendry Morales smacked a pitch high and deep.  It made it to the seats but I wasn’t quite in a position to catch it.  I had moved to my left… but it was coming in a bit low.  I leaned as far down and to the left as I could but it hit off the seats just below my glove.  Luckily, the ball didn’t take a crazy bounce and I was able to nab it from the ground.  Rob had come charging over and I heard him say, “Dang!  Where’s my lucky ricochet?” with a grin on his face.  I was thrilled that the bounce was lucky for me and not Rob–this was my 150th baseball.  I wrote a nice 150 on it to commemorate the occasion.  Rob congratulated me.  It was a successful night, as far as personal goals were concerned.

Here’s what the stands looked like after that first snag of the day:
start of bp.JPGIt filled up soon after.  And it was just like the day before: not much space to maneuver.  I adjusted my positioning based on the batters that were up but as the Angels finished I was stuck at just one baseball snagged.  Though I got close to a few Red Sox homers—I was still at just one baseball as they began to wrap up BP.

I made it down to the field level and got to the dugout as the players headed off the field.  As he headed into the dugout, I got my second (and final) ball of the day from Clay Buchholz.  He threw it right to me in the third row.  Nice–I’d doubled my playoff record.  From one to two.  Woo!

After that I decided to head over to the Angels’ side of the stadium as the players came out to warm up:
figgins guerrero warming up.JPGThe players didn’t throw any balls into the stands but it was cooler than wandering aimlessly–after the Angels warmed up I went over to the visitor’s side:
red sox warming up.JPGOnce the game started I got to hang out for a little while on the Field Level:
ortizswings.JPGThen the seatholders started showing up.  I decided to head up to the View Level… where my seats for both nights actually were.  I started deep in left field:
upper left field.jpgAnd made my way behind home plate to the other side:
over first base.jpgAnd finally, out to where my actual seat was located:
my actual seat for alds game 2.JPGI sat there for exactly one half-inning.  Bleh.  Then it was time to continue my tour:
weaver pitches to martinez.JPGI’d been around this ballpark a hundred times, but never during the playoffs.  There’s just a different energy.  Normally the fans in Anaheim are very mellow and laid-back… I’m sure most Angel fans at the games come off as indifferent.  That’s my perspective, anyway.  But in the postseason there’s an energy that’s just simply wonderful to be a part of.
view from left field.JPGThe pitching matchup, again, was intense.  Weaver and Beckett were locked in a great duel.  Each club put a single run on the board in the fourth.  It was 1-1 going into the bottom of the seventh inning.  Then the Angels put the game away.  Maicer Izturis knocked in Howie Kendrick (running for Vladdy) and then Mike Napoli got hit by a pitch.  With two men on Erick Aybar smashed a triple into the gap in right-center.

The place went nuts.  Fans rejoiced:
rejoice.JPGIt was 4-1 Angels at that point and that knocked Beckett out of the game:
beckett out.JPGgot a prime seat.JPGAnd I managed to snag a seat behind the dugout (shown on the right)  for the conclusion of the game.

Weaver pitched seven and a third innings and struck out seven.  He yielded to Darren Oliver, and then Kevin Jepsen got the last out of the eighth and the first of the ninth.  It was great!  Scioscia made the call, with one out in the ninth, for his closer to come in and finish it. 

fuentes gets the ball.JPGBrian Fuentes came in–and though he made it pretty tense in that stadium (David Ortiz up to bat as the tying run), he nailed down the save.  The crowd had been on their feet for, what seemed like, the last hour of the game:
crowd on feet.JPGIt was a 4-1 victory and a two games to none series lead for the Angels!  Two games, two consecutive nights, two wins for my team.  It had been a great playoff experience!

After the game I hung out as long as the ushers let me, then grabbed some ticket stubs and found my way out to the main gate.  I took a seat next to the Nick Adenhart memorial and just sat there and watched the people walk by for a few minutes:
adenhart memorial 1.JPGadenhart memorial 2.JPGIt was somber.  Fans left their ticket stubs with little notes to Nick on the mound.  After a little while I made the trek to my car and home for the evening, two baseballs nestled safely in my backpack:
two baseballs.JPGThe Angels would head out to Boston to wrap up the series.  Sweeping the Red Sox felt good–even though I was sick on Sunday morning when they won it.  It was time to bring on the Yankees.  Dun-DUN-DUHNN!!

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite action shots of the evening:
abreu gets back.JPGHe was safe.  Thanks for reading!

9/9/09 at Angel Stadium

I got a late start… and picked up my buddy, Dennis.  We hit traffic.  We ended up getting to the stadium right at 5:00 and I ran (he walked) out to the pavilion.
mariners angels marquee.JPGI saw regulars Rob, TC, John, and Chris already running around.  Today was a day of close calls.

After a few unsuccessful snagging minutes ticked by in the pavilion I headed down near the foul pole as the Mariners came out to throw:
ms pitchers warmup.JPGI kept being just out of place.  I recall four instances of being just a foot away from a baseball or a second too late… it was pretty frustrating.  Dennis had brought his glove along but ending up sitting in the shade and talking on his phone for the majority of BP.  Not his thing.  I saw all my ballhawking colleagues snag at least one ball and after being in the stadium for over an hour I was still stuck at zero.

Thank goodness for Bruce Hines.  With about ten minutes left of batting practice Mr. Hines fielded a ball in right field and looked to the crowd.  He was going to toss it but he couldn’t decide who to give it to so he lofted it about thirty feet high.  It was a bit to my right so I scurried down the row (about the eighth or ninth from the field) and camped under it.  I happened to be about six inches taller than the guy next to me and he didn’t have a glove.  I felt it hit the pocket of my glove and I yelled a big thank you out to Bruce.  People nearby clapped… whatever… I’ll take the polite applause.

Whew.

Shutout averted.  As the Mariners headed to the dugout Chris and I raced over… I called out to Alan Cockrell (he’d thrown me a ball the day before), he saw Chris in his M’s gear right next to me and tossed him the ball he’d been holding.  Chris thanked me (because he’d forgotten his roster and didn’t know the old coach’s name) and then we parted ways.  I grabbed a drink and went to search for Dennis who’d gone to get food.  We met up in some seats and watched the first three innings from just past first base.

Then we got booted by an usher when the actual seatholders showed up (an hour late).  We wandered a bit, I ate some Rally Monkey Bread from the Katella Grill stand, and we ended up on the opposite side of the field in equally great seats.  Our view:
And we got to stay there for the rest of the game.  The Angels had a four-run first and didn’t score again until Juan Rivera’s two-run homer in the eighth.  The Mariners scored two runs off Jered Weaver… and one off the Angels bullpen but the Halos hung on to win it 6-3.  Weaver got his fifteenth win and Fuentes kept the ball at the end of the game… it was his fortieth save of the year.

Torii Hunter got interviewed by Jose Mota after the game… right in front of me:
DSCF3123.JPGAnd after that Dennis and I headed back to Irvine.  A good game with a good friend… one baseball as a souvenir… not too shabby.