Tagged: joe saunders

8/8/10 at Chase Field

After a nutritious complimentary breakfast at our hotel and a speedy checkout, we left our bags with the concierge and drove downtown to Chase Field for our second of two games.  We parked and headed for Friday’s yet again.  I knew two things about this game:
1. The crowd would be smaller than yesterday.
2. There might not be batting practice.

When we walked out onto the patio I saw this:
8.8 fridays view.jpgNo cages… no BP.

It was eerily quiet in the stadium.  I tried to get the lone player I could recognize, Jordan Norberto, to throw a ball way up to the patio but he ignored me as he finished his throwing session.  outside stadium matt.JPGWith about five minutes to go before the gates would open Michelle and I took the elevator down, went outside Friday’s and got in line…

Were there thousands of people there waiting like there had been just sixteen hours earlier?  No.  I was fifth in line… with five minutes to go before the gates opened… even though kids would be receiving a “Back to School Kit.”  It was hot outside…

I was actually much more excited than this photo depicts… but it was sooo hot outside!

With no batting practice to focus on I went over to the D-backs bullpen where Daniel Hudson was getting his work in.  He’d thrown me a ball the day before… so I asked Jeff Motuzas, the bullpen catcher, for the ball when they were done.  He tossed it to a D-backs fan to my left though.  Sigh.  I did get Mel Stottlemyer, Jr. to autograph a ticket stub for me while I was waiting for any further action to commence.  Mel signed it upside-down…
mel signing ticket.JPGWhen I saw a few Padres come out to throw I ran over near the first base line while putting on my Padres stuff.
matt on padres side.JPGAnd, lo and behold, I saw the guy who had gotten the ball from Motuzas decked out in Padres gear!  So, Arizona ballhawk, if you’re reading this: Good form–sorry we didn’t get to meet.  How many baseballs did you end up with?  And did I see you snagging along the left field foul line on Saturday, too?

Anyway, I watched a few pitchers warm up… then got Luke Gregerson’s autograph… though I wanted the baseball he’d been using.  And then Kevin Correia threw in the bullpen.  And Nick Hundley pretended to bat against him.  When Correia finished I was standing right over bullpen catcher Justin Hatcher and shouted, “Kev, right here!”

Correia chucked Ball #1 right to me.  No shut out today.

There was little to no action happening on the field so Michelle and I wandered a little and took some pictures.

Then, finally, a few more players came out close to game time.  Before that, D. Baxter had driven around the warning track on a motorcycle… weird.
baxter on bike.JPGJust before the game started I saw a few Padres emerge from the dugout to play catch.  Our tickets for the game were good… but they weren’t dugout seats and the ushers weren’t allowing folks down to the dugouts so close to game time… so when Jerry Hairston, Jr. headed into the dugout after his warmup tosses I waved at him from the cross aisle (ten rows back) and he threw a great fly ball right toward me.  After I made the catch I decided that catching a ball with a roof as the backdrop is pretty tough–tougher than a solid blue or black sky.  So, good job, fielders who play at Chase Field.  Fly balls must be tough.

With two baseballs to my name, I met Michelle at our seats  with about ten minutes to go until the game started.

BAM!
8.8 our seats.jpgNice, huh?  The were thirty bucks a pop on StubHub… and they were on the aisle.  Sweet!
saunders pitching.JPGI was excited to get to see Joe Saunders (former Angel) pitch for his new team.  I’d always like Joe and I’d gotten a few baseballs and autographs from him during his time in Anaheim.
saunders at bat.JPGparra at bat.JPGNow in the NL, he had to bat, too.  Neither his hitting nor his pitching was all that great on this day, however, and Saunders went six innings and gave up five earned runs.  He also grounded out in that at-bat… and looked bad doing it.  But I had a lot of fun rooting for him.

Saunders was out-dueled by Mat Latos–who gave up zero runs in six innings and struck out six.  Unfriendly he may be, but this rookie’s got a great arm.  He would go to 12-5 on the season af
ter the day’s victory.  Man, I just checked the stats of the San Diego pitchers… wow.  They make the Giants’ staff look like the Pirates’ staff.

Innings continued, baseball was played… the other, psuedo mascots of the Diamondbacks, the Legends, run a race at each game.  At Saturday’s game they let Gonzo win…

Michelle and I had a great view for the Legends Race…
legends race 1.JPGlegends race 2.JPGAnd we chowed down on barbecue sandwiches followed by some TCBY.  Delicious!

I tried to take a picture of the two of us.  You know, one of those, stretch your arm all the way out ones… but it didn’t go so well.

The family behind me noticed the trouble I was having and offered to take a photo for the two of us.
matt and michelle 1.JPGI can honestly say that the people in Arizona are a pretty friendly bunch.

The game continued, and after five innings it was 6-0 San Diego.  The D-backs weren’t putting up much of a fight.  I’d been running for foul balls throughout the game… and I got close to one but it was still at least fifteen feet out of my reach.

I did see D. Baxter walking through the cross aisle, however, and made sure to get a photo as I high-fived him.
matt and baxter 2.jpgIn about the eighth inning I realized I hadn’t gotten a good panorama of the stadium from the top deck… I asked Michelle if we could head up there after the game but she reminded me we’d have to leave pretty much right away since we were making the trek back to California that evening.  So, I ran allllll the way up to the last row of the seats at Chase Field and took this:
last row panorama 2.jpgOooh!  And, believe me, there were a lot of steps… I was beat when I got back to our seats.

Once it got to the ninth inning and it was 10-1 Padres I made my move down toward the dugout.  Michelle was snapping photos the whole time:
matt moving to dugout.JPGI made it to right where I knew Gary Darling would leave the field… and I called out to him, hoping he’d toss me a ball: “Mr. Darling, could you spare a ball please?”
matt at dugout.JPGGary was looking down into his pouch at the time… and he flipped the ball to the teenager on my left, who was clueless and had no idea what had happened.  D’oh!

The Padres didn’t throw anything up over their dugout… so I went back to Michelle and we looked for a few ticket stubs, and I took one last photo of the scoreboard:
scoreboard 8.8.JPGThen a nice usher took our photo together:
postgame matt and michelle.JPGAnd we headed out toward the parking structure.  It had been a really fun birthday celebration: a new ballpark, lots of memories, autographs, baseballs, good food, and lots of time with my wonderful wife who is a great sport about putting up with all this baseball in her life.
chase field exterior panorama.jpgThanks, Michelle!

We made the seven hour trip back to California without any trouble and got home around 10:30pm… my next game would be at Angel Stadium in a few short days.

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5/26/10 at Angel Stadium

Another one of these wacky Wednesday 4:05 games… it was a bright,, sunny afternoon in Anaheim and the Blue Jays were still around.  I had a ticket (that I’d gotten for free) to see Brandon Morrow face off against Joel Piniero.

I ran in through the Right Field Gate and up to the pavilion.  As soon as I got there I said, “Hi,” to Dino Ebel who was fielding in center.  He picked up a few baseballs off the track and asked him to toss one up.  He asked me, “How many do you already have today?”  I said none.

Just then a family with a little kid came down the steps nearby and the little boy with them stood near me.  Dino asked who the kid was, like he was my little brother or something.  I just shrugged and said, “I don’t know.”

Dino tossed me the ball and I decided to hand it to the kid.  Then I told him to show it to Dino and say thank you.  The kid did so–and Dino gave me a thumbs up.  He knew I didn’t have to give the ball away.

And… man, I wish more home runs would have been hit… look at how much space there was to run.  This is seven minutes after the gates had opened:
open for 7 minutes.JPGJoe Saunders was near center field, too… and since the founder of myGameBalls.com had told me something that might get Joe’s attention I was able to snag my second baseball on the day.  Basically, Alan Schuster, who runs that site (that I write for on occasion) knows Joe from high school.  He’d passed along an inside joke from 1998 and when I yelled it down to it to him he looked up and laughed, giving me a thumbs up.  The next time a ball came to him he just tossed it right to me.  I didn’t even ask–nice.  Thanks, Mr. Saunders.
bright bp.JPGAt about this time the Mariners came out and their pitchers started throwing.  I’d already snagged two balls up in the pavilion and the Angels’ last round wouldn’t hit any homers up there so I headed down near the foul pole in right field.  I was just in front of the pole and I saw Reggie Willits hit a ball that had a good shot to roll into the corner.  So I ran from where this picture was taken:
5.26 where i ran.JPGTo the gap in between the two fans with gloves in the above photo.  I was just to the left of the 330 sign.  I reacted so quickly that I got there and was out and over the wall trying for the scoop before either of them moved a step toward the ball… sure enough, it rolled right to my new position and just like that I had baseball number three.  Three baseballs from the Angels during a full BP is good—three from them during ten minutes is fantastic.  Sadly, my hot streak would fizzle out after that.

The Angels finished and the Blue Jays started hitting.
blue jays started hitting.JPGMy next baseball wouldn’t come until about a half hour later.  What?  It was still so empty in the stadium!  There just weren’t any baseballs hit near me… finally Casey Janssen, as he and some other pitchers were running, fielded a ball barehanded and I called out for it.  He tossed it right to me.  BP wrapped up after that.

I decided that since there still weren’t many fans in the stadium once the Angels started warming up that I’d head over that way.  Usually the third base side of Angel Stadium (where the home dugout is) gets super crowded.  Even for day games–because that’s the shady side.  But since people were still at school/work there was quite a bit of room to maneuver.  Kendry Morales came out to play catch with the Angels’ strength coach, T.J. and I snapped this picture:morales playing catch with tj.JPGIt’s an important picture because that ball Morales is throwing (he was “pitching” to T.J. at that point) ended up in my possession.  As he jogged off the field I shouted, “Kendry!” and held up my glove…everyone in the first few rows wanted autographs.  He threw it over their heads and right to me.  Cool!

A little while later I made a pretty spectacular catch of one of those Nerf-like baseballs that get shot into the crowd.  I gave that one away to a kid nearby… and his dad complimented my catch: over the shoulder, leaning over a row of seats.  Woo.

Before the anthem I saw Bobby Abreu head toward the wall to sign some autographs:
abreu signing.JPGAnd I managed to be the last person he signed for before, “Oh, say can you see…”  I got him on a baseball I’d been carrying around simply for a good autograph.  Then I snapped these shots during the anthem:
5.26 angels anthem.JPG5.26 torii anthem.JPGThe game would be starting at about four and I had to leave at about five so I decided to be proactive in trying to snag third out baseballs… I ran from dugout to dugout for three innings.  I got
some great photos… like:
izturis warmup.JPGreed batting.JPGAnd:
torii bunt.JPGmorrow ready.JPGBut no more baseballs… it was fine… I was happy with five… and I left at about five to head home for dinner. 

On my way out I sat in the bleachers for an at bat… just in case Erick Aybar wanted to blast a home run in my direction…
home run view.JPGNo luck.

The Angels would win on a walk-off single by Bobby Abreu.  See?  Good things happen when you sign an autograph for me!

5/14/10 at Angel Stadium

I knew my wife would have to be at work during this game so I made plans with my friend, Josh to head out to see the Angels play the A’s on a Friday night.

You might remember Josh if you’ve been reading this blog for a while.  He’s been to a couple games at Dodger Stadium with me (on 9/2/08, 5/2/09, and 9/18/09)… but we’d never been to Angel Stadium together before.  It turned out to be a pretty cool night.

After lunch with Michelle we played video games at my apartment before leaving for Anaheim at about four o’clock.  We parked, walked to the Home Plate Gate, saw BP regular, Terry there (and he let us stand at the front of the line with him), and we waited for the stadium to open.  About this time, I heard a voice say, “Are you Matt?”

“Yes.”  I looked and saw a boy of about thirteen to my left.  He said, “I read your blog.”  I said, “Cool!  What’s your name?”

His name’s Kevin and he was there with his dad.  He’s left some comments on this blog as m_kemp_27.  He’s a nice kid and would end up snagging a few baseballs of his own on the night.

I told Josh, “Now, I’m gonna run in to left field.”  He said he’d run with me but when the gates opened he lagged behind and I kept going.  As it turns out, I would snag two baseballs before he even got there… he stopped to use the restroom.

BP was fully underway and here was my view:
5.14 bp foul ball panorama b.jpgWhen Josh walked down the steps toward me near the foul pole I tossed him the ball I had just plucked off the dirt.  It had been hit by some Angel batting from the right side… most were… as today they’d be facing a lefty.

It had the following imprint, likely from the bat used to hit it.  Any ideas?
closeupball2.JPGBut I’m getting ahead of myself.  I mentioned that I’d snagged two by the time Josh got there… well, as soon as I made it to the seating bowl I looked for any baseballs hiding in the stands.  None were to be found… but as I set my backpack down to get my camera Bobby Abreu hit a ball that sliced foul and into the seats.

The ball was two sections over to my right–but I got a great jump on the ball and it was only me and one other guy going for it.  He was running left from near the infield and I was running right from near the pole.  We got to the ball at the same time and closed in on it from either side. Luckily, it was still rolling and I know that at Angel Stadium baseballs will trickle down row after row.  So, while he positioned himself in the row the ball was in at the time we arrived, I positioned myself two rows closer to the field… the ball rolled right to me.  And that was number one on the day… and you know about Ball #2.

A few minutes later, Ervin Santana fielded a ball near the warning track.  I moved to my left and called out to him and he tossed it right to me.  Ball #3 and Ball #185 of my lifetime.

At about this point I told Josh, “Wow… three from the Angels.  You’re like a good luck charm, dude.”  He hadn’t snagged a ball but that’s not really his thing anyway… he was enjoying the shade and the relaxing atmosphere.

I told him I was going to head over to right field when the A’s came out to hit.  He said something about not wanting to be in the sun–but he came with me anyway–and we headed down toward the the opposite side of the stadium:
a's pitchers warmup.JPGKevin’s in the above photo near the foul pole wearing the green hat and shirt with a 2 on the back.  I was able to scoop a ball off the warning track a few minutes later that had been hit by a right-handed batter on the A’s.  I ran to my right, jumped up on the wall at the right moment, and made the snag.

About this time I saw Kevin again… he asked if he could hang out with me for a bit and learn some tips… I told him, “Sure, man,” and then I talked to him for a while and told him about heading to the dugout at the end of BP.

braden warmup.JPGWell, Kevin got a ball a little while later.  I ran to the dugout and got Ball #5 from a trainer as the A’s headed off the field.  Kevin was nearby and he and his dad decided they would sit behind the dugout until they got kicked out.  I left to regroup with Josh.  We watched Mr. Perfect, Dallas Braden, warm up.  He’d be pitching against Joe Saunders… both of them wear 51… weird.

And when the A’s came out to play catch I headed back to the dugout.  There, I got former Cub Jake Fox to toss me my sixth ball of the day.

Now, I should mention that my personal record of baseballs snagged at one game is seven.  I’ve done it four times… at three different stadiums (Angel Stadium, PETCO Park, and Citi Field)… but I’d never cracked seven.

About this time I was thinking I had a shot to do it.  Josh and I sat on the Field Level with this view:
hopes for a foul ball.JPGI was hoping for a foul ball… I mean, look at the space around us.  Look at the row we were in!

Also, each inning I’d try for a third out toss from the A’s at there dugout.  One time when I headed over there I saw Kevin… he’d snagged at least two baseballs at that point in the evening and I helped him figure out who had thrown him one before the game.

In the bottom of the fifth inning with two outs, Brandon Wood popped out to Daric Barton at first base.  I was about six rows behind the dugout and as a bunch of little kids rushed down to the bottom of the steps I simply stood up and waved my arms.  “Daric, right here!” I shouted.  And as he jogged in, Barton tossed me my seventh b
aseball.  I looked down at it and was disappointed.  Why?  Because he had switched the actual game ball with the infield warmup ball he’d used.  First basemen do that sometimes… I have no idea why.  But my disappointment lasted only a moment, as I had again tied my record.  It was only the sixth inning and I knew I had to try to snag one more ball before the night was over.  I kept hoping for a foul ball and a few came close over the closing innings.

In the ninth, Josh and I moved nearer to the visiting team’s dugout.
view in 9th inning.JPGThe game had been great up to that point.  It was a good BP, we were talking about baseball the whole night, the Angels were winning 4-0, we’d seen some excellent defensive plays, and Joe Saunders was staying in to pitch the final frame.
saunders pitching well.JPGI will happily say that I have now been present for both of Joe Saunders’ complete game shutouts in his career (he threw one last season against the Royals and Zack Greinke).  The Angels won it, four to nothing, and I was in a great mood.  I was still stuck at “lucky number seven” though.

Now, we were behind the A’s dugout at the end of the game because the Angels dugout is super-crowded after a home win.  Plus, there were fireworks coming up and the game had been fast… about two hours and fifteen minutes.  So, I took a chance and trotted down to the dugout as the A’s came off the field.  As expected, none of the players wanted to thrown anything up.  They silently trudged down the steps and into the dugout… one bullpen pitcher tossed a ball ten rows behind me.  And that was it… they were gone.

But right as I was about to leave a kid in A’s gear appeared in the dugout.  I wondered if he was the same kid I’d seen last season on the field shagging BP balls.  Anyway, he had a ball in his hand he was planning to throw to the crowd.  I was the only one in an A’s hat and I thought it was a sure thing.  This’ll be number eight!  But he started to walk away… saw a young Angels fan a little further down the dugout and said to the teen, “Take off your hat.”  I knew what he was doing.  He didn’t want to toss the baseball to someone in Angels gear.  The fan didn’t get it… and wouldn’t take off his hat.  So, the A’s kid turned around to face the field and tossed the ball backwards, like a bride tossing a bouquet.  It was up for grabs… and I was the only one with a glove out of the six or so people still around.  I leaned out over the dugout and made the catch.  Ball #8!  And #190 of my career… I was so excited that I gave three baseballs away on my way out of the stadium that night, two to a pair of brothers who weren’t more than ten years old, both had gloves, and would’ve gone home empty-handed.  I was so psyched… I had Josh take the following picture:
eighth ball of the day.JPGMe with my (personal) record-setting baseball.  A new game high, a great night at the park with a friend, and an Angels victory.

And, yes, there were fireworks:
5.14 fireworks.JPGAnd the game was over so quickly that Michelle and I had time to make it to a sports bar later that night to celebrate our other friend’s birthday.  It was a really great evening!

7/19/09 at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum

111.JPGMichelle and I knew months ago that we’d be heading up to the Bay Area in July and I’d checked the Angels schedule to see if they would be playing the A’s.  Sure enough, the Angels and Athletics met up right out of the All-Star break.  Due to our busy schedule (and wanting to see all of our Bay Area-based friends) we could go a game either on a Saturday or a Sunday.  I picked Sunday because both games were during the day and Saturday’s was a day game after a night game.  It was the Angels–away from Anaheim.  The last time I’d seen them play on the road was in July of 2005 in New York against the Yankees.

I hoped there would be batting practice at this day game after a day game…

Look to the left–ooh!  My first view of the stadium…

When we got to the stadium at 10:55am there was already quite a bit of a line:
112.JPGIt was Kurt Suzuki T-Shirt Day at the Coliseum… complete with pooka shells printed on the neck.  By the time I got to right field and took my first look at this new (to me) stadium it was already 11:05.
113.JPGThere were a dozen people already there and the only people fielding baseballs in right were two batboys… a friendly Oakland fan told me they never toss anything up.

After a few minutes I headed over to left field and Michelle took some photos that I turned into this panorama:
coliseum left field cropped.jpgIt was a bit more crowded but there were plenty of righties hitting and some pitchers shagging in the outfield.  The A’s hit about two or three baseballs to the stands… none near me.  And I saw a few balls thrown to fans… nothing to me.  I wasn’t nervous about getting shut out because I was one of a handful of Angels fans in the stadium.  The A’s wrapped up BP at about 11:35am (the Angels were scheduled to start hitting at 11:40).  I took off the green and put on the red: my circa 2004 Darin Erstad T-shirt.  I chatted with Michelle while we waited for the Angels to take the field.
136.JPGI’d seen a few pitchers come out to throw along the first base line… but no hitters were anywhere to be found.  11:40 came and went… still no hitters.  Oh, no!  Groundskeepers started taking the cage down… I was still without a baseball.  I told Michelle the Angels weren’t going to hit and we took off for the field level.  I got over to the line just as the pitchers were finishing but nobody threw their ball anywhere.

To get over my disappointment and not snagging a ball during (severely shortened) batting practice I figured I’d go for autographs.  Our actual seats for the game were in Section 111, just behind the Angels dugout.
coliseum field cropped.jpgYes, I actually paid for these seats. Got ’em for less than 72 bucks for two on StubHub… sometimes you find some good deals on that site.  Be sure to check it out.

146.JPGFirst up was Matt Palmer, who has grown his facial hair back since the last time I talked to him.  After that I got backup catcher Bobby Wilson’s signature and then some of the Angels came out to play catch and stretch.  After getting snubbed by Howie Kendrick and Chone Figgins as they finished throwing I got Gary Matthews, Jr. to throw me my first ball of the day.  YES!  No shutout for you today, Oakland Coliseum!  I also saved a little kid’s life on this snag, by the way.  Gary threw the ball from about fifty feet away but it tailed to my right a little bit.  I stretched as far as I could and made the catch in the front row of the stands… right in front of a boy about six years old who had his hands down by his sides.  He and his family hadn’t even seen it coming.

Now I was psyched.  I had a ball and two autographs and it was still an hour before gametime.  Jeff Mathis was catching John Lackey’s warmup session:
184.JPGSee the ball?  Look over the “c” in Athletics.

I saw Brian Fuentes heading out toward the bullpen… he stopped to talk to a family he knew and I waited patiently until–aannndd a little kid ran right up and asked him for his autograph.  He looked down and said, “Hang on.”  I lined up right behind the little dude and a minute later I had the All-Star’s autograph.  I made sure to thank him for taking the time.

I saw Erick Aybar tossing with a trainer back along the first base line.  When they finished I yelled, “Erick!  Over here!” and as he was walking toward the dugout he threw me Ball #2 on the day.  Someone behind me said, “Good catch.”  Really, I’d just stood there and he threw it right to me.  I didn’t have to move an inch.

Jered Weaver and Joe Saunders were signing autographs nearby and since I’d already gotten Joe’s (three times–on stubs from his complete game in May) I decided to hang out and get Jered’s.  He reached up across the dugout and signed this ticket:

Then Stomper came by in a little car and I took his photo because, well
, I love mascots.
195.JPGAnd a little later Robb Quinlan signed a few and I got him, too!  Five autographs in one day–that’s a record for me!

About this time the game was getting started and, man, it was a great one.  In the second inning though, Michelle and I toured the stadium.  As this was our only trip to the Coliseum, possible ever, we wanted to take a good look around.  Plus, it got us out of the sun for a while…214.JPGLook at that concourse–pretty ordinary… that’s right off of first base.  And…
221.JPGWalking behind the batter’s eye… pretty dead out there.  Yuck–so much concrete.  Cold, unfriendly, Oakland Coliseum.  Blah.

Then we ended up in deep left field:
left field upper cropped.jpgBefore going down to the third base line:
third base line cropped.jpg255.JPGA’s starter, Brett Anderson, who didn’t allow an Angel to reach base until he had two outs in
the seventh inning, gave up two hits and no walks in eight shutout
frames–and lost!  Michelle and I watched a great duel between Anderson and John Lackey, who went nine innings and got the win!  Brian Fuentes picked up the save in the 10th inning after Bobby Abreu hit a line shot out to right that produced the game’s only run!  Here he is touching home plate after the homer.

About three other balls got hit really well, too… but they were just too high up and the wind caught ’em.  Jason Giambi hit a blast to center that I thought was gone but Matthews grabbed it on the warning track.

So, my impression of the Coliseum is this: ordinary.  It wasn’t lousy by any means.  It was nice (the ushers were a bit grumpy–nothing new).  My expectations were low so I wasn’t disappointed.  There’s absolutely NO personality to this park and I see why they’re not selling many tickets (aside from the fact that the A’s are lousy this year)… who wants to really come back to the Coliseum day after day?  Not me.  The attendance was 18,539… less than half of what I’m used to in Anaheim.  But it was great to see it with my own eyes, watch a game with my wife, enjoy the beautiful weather (surprise, surprise!), and snag three baseballs…
285.JPGWhat?  Yep, the third ball of the day came from recently promoted (and playing first base) Brandon Wood.  He recorded the third out of the sixth inning and jogged toward the dugout.  Normally, Chone Figgins gets the third out balls and tosses them, at home and, apparently, on the road.  This time, however, Wood tossed it right to me while I was in position behind the dugout!  Cool!  I love to look at the difference between a rubbed up game ball and a BP ball.

So long, Oakland–I may never see another game at your Coliseum.  I’ll leave you with some more photos, enjoy!

Angels:
201.JPG188.JPG

A’s:
206.JPG199.JPG

234.JPG262.JPGAnd for some reason MLBlogs won’t let me delete this picture… so here’s Bobby Abreu taking a practice swing before stepping into the box in the first inning:
202.JPG

5/9/09 at Angel Stadium

The stage was set for a pitching duel… Zack Greinke (6-0) vs. Joe Saunders (4-1).  I attended this game with a friend I know through a schoolmate, Gavin.  He’s a big Cardinals fan and wore his #51 Willie McGee jersey… here he is (in awe of… something) with the crowd before the gates opened:
5.9.09 at Angel Stadium 006.JPGI was out to snag some baseballs so I wore my Angels button-up with a blue T-shirt underneath.

We got to the stadium at about 3:40pm for the 6:05pm start.  There wasn’t much of a crowd and I thought, “Today might be a great BP day.”  Gavin and I played some catch and then at 4:02 the gates opened.  I had mentioned to Gavin that my plan was to run in and try to find an Easter egg… he volunteered to keep up with me and said, “It’s part of the experience.”  We took off for right field and as I headed into the field level I saw dozens, maybe hundreds, of little kids along each foul line.  Gwah?!?  As it turns out, it was one of the Little League Days that Angel Stadium hosts.  I was disheartened… no Easter eggs… just lots of kids more adorable, and more likely to have a ball tossed to them, than me.  Gavin and I decided we had no choice but to head up to the pavilion.  Look how many little kids were already there (note the foul pole area, too):
5.9.09 at Angel Stadium 007.JPGThis was the view to my left (can you see Gavin?) and all the kids were frantically yelling, “OVER HERE!” whenever a ball came within thirty feet of them.  I tried to get Matt Palmer to toss up a baseball but to no avail.  I like him… he’s now 3-0 for the Halos this season, a thirty year-old rookie.  After a while, Maicer Izturis, batting from the left side (with Greinke, a righty, pitching that night) walloped a ball. I was three rows back from the wall, moved a section to my left and lined it up pretty well.  My only concern was that it would go over my head… a few gloves popped up in front of me but I had my eyes locked on that ball as it fell.  At the last second I jumped up and stretched out my arm–

–and felt the ball hit my glove as I fell back just enough to loose my footing.  I ended up half sitting, half laying on the row of seats behind me.  No pain… just a snowcone catch and my first BP homer caught on the fly since Giambi’s blast back in Opening Week.  I have to admit, that one felt good.  I figured that with all the kids around one ball was likely to be my total for the day.  For the rest of the Angel BP time nothing came near me.

The Royals were coming up so I darted into the concourse and switched into my royal blue cap and shirt.  A friendly usher named Barbara who works in the pavilion section noticed me and said, “What is this?  You’re a traitor!”  I told her not to worry… it was only for BP and she laughed.

5.9.09 at Angel Stadium 011.JPGI saw Ron Mahay and a few other pitchers standing below me in right-center but every time he fielded a ball my requests were drowned out by a chorus of higher pitched voices.  There were literally hundreds of kids at this batting practice!  AACK!  The Royals were puttin’ too many in the seats so Gavin and I headed down to the foul pole in right (I’d seen an opening).  Barbara stopped me and asked if my trick had worked.  “Not yet,” I said as we jogged by.  We got down to the field and squeezed in just fair of the pole.

Before too long a Royals righty pulled one down the line.  It caromed off the wall twenty feet to our right and I was out and over the edge of the wall… I snagged it as it rolled along and that was my second of the day!

5.9.09 at Angel Stadium 015.JPGAt that point BP was close to ending so I told Gavin the plan for the rest of the evening… we’d follow the Royals to their dugout, try to get a ball, then grab some seats in the section near the dugout.  As it turns out, after some of the Royals stretched and a girl sand the anthem (poorly), Mike Aviles and Alberto Callaspo played catch (Can you see it in Aviles’ glove in this photo?) but Aviles tossed the ball to the section on my left.  After the game started I figured we’d get kicked out of our pirated seats.

Nope.

In the bottom of the second inning Juan Rivera grounded out to Callaspo at second.  He threw the ball to Billy Butler, playing first, and I was already up and waving my arms.  Butler saw me and tossed it up… it went a bit to my right so I had to lay out across the dugout but I caught it and I had a beautiful, rubbed up game ball for my third of the day!

There wasn’t any snaggin action for the rest of the night.  But the craziest thing was that we never got kicked out of our seats.  We watched the whole game from the third row behind the Royals dugout!  Another third out toss came close and Gavin had a chance to catch it but it went just over his head (and actually hit the elderly lady behind us–don’t worry, she was fine).  The game itself was a thing of beauty.
5.9.09 at Angel Stadium 023.JPG5.9.09 at Angel Stadium 016.JPG
Greinke and Saunders had quite a duel going.  In the third inning GMJ (Gary Matthews, Jr.) doubled, Erick Aybar sacrifice bunted him to third, then Chone Figgins hit a sacrifice fly to right, scoring the Angels’ first (and only)
run.

Some action shots:
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5.9.09 at Angel Stadium 021.JPGEach pitcher was dealing.  Greinke allowed only four hits, Saunders allowed five.  In the eighth inning Saunders faced a two on, one out situation.  Willie Bloomquist had reached on an error by Aybar… his throw to first pulled Kendry Morales off the bag.  Miguel Olivo singled, then Aviles bunted the runners to second and third.  With a 1-0 lead, Joe Saunders faced what could have been has last batter in Coco Crisp.  Crisp hit the ball sharply to third but Chone Figgins looked Bloomquist back, then tagged Olivo heading from second to third!  Two outs.  David DeJesus hit the ball sharply to third base as well and Figgins made a great play and got the out at first.  Saunders was pumped, the 39,776 in attendance were pumped, and Saunders would finish to get his first-ever shutout with a one-two-three ninth.  He only needed 101 pitches.  Greinke took the loss… a complete game loss.  His ERA had skyrocketed to 0.51.

Nothing got tossed up from the Royals dugout after the game but I did manage to find a few ticket stubs as we left.  What a game!  Here we are at the end of the night:5.9.09 at Angel Stadium 041.JPG
5.9.09 at Angel Stadium 042.JPGAnd me with my three snagged baseballs.  Numbers 49, 50, and 51 in my collection:
5.9.09 at Angel Stadium 045b.jpg