As an end of year recap, here are some of the most fun/coolest things I got to do/witness this baseball season (I’ll try to go chronologically):
- Exhibition game – Dodgers vs. Red Sox
What? Manny Ramirez in Los Angeles??? WHOA! I went with my buddy, Josh, to see this game in late March. This one was played at Dodger Stadium (not the Coliseum, though that would have been fun to see). And at that point in time who’d have thought that Man Ram would be taking an extended vacation to L.A. in the middle of summer? It was a lot of fun.
- My name on a brick at Angel Stadium!
It was a Christmas present from my mom last year (Christmas ’07) and came as a total surprise! I didn’t get to see it until April… but there it was, just to the first base-side of the pitcher’s mound out in front of the Home Plate Gate. In case you’re curious, Dr. Ivar Vasco is my uncle–also a big fan–and he’s started MY Angels fandom when he took me to games as a kid. Also, note the exclamation point after my name… totally my mom’s doing. I was shocked, but I guess I do get excited about games!
- Getting to tour Angel Stadium!
As part of the preparation for Take Me Out, a show we just did at UC Irvine, I organized a tour for the director and design team to see a real baseball stadium and clubhouse, etc. In the above photo, I’m sitting with our lighting designer, Adam, in the Angels’ dugout! I was thrilled to get to go behind the scenes and see a lot of cool stuff. The tour included a walkthrough of the visitor’s clubhouse, indoor batting cage, suites, dugout, press conference room, and TV and radio broadcast areas! A lot of stadiums do this… it just costs money. Still, for any fan I think it’s totally worth it!
- Baseball with Michelle and friends!
This happened a couple of times, with dirrerent friends each time… In June, Michelle and I went to a game with our firends, Darcy and Dennis (the above photo). It was great getting to share the excitement of a game with people… it makes it that much more enjoyable. And we got “rally sticks” or something… it was a giveaway. The Angels lost to the Mets, 4-5. We basically just ended up hitting each other with the foam rally things all through the game.
On an August trip that spanned four states in the Midwest, Michelle and I took a trip to see the White Sox play the Royals at U.S. Cellular Field. It’s always fun to take in a new ballpark we had a great time… with seats in foul ball range! Sadly, I didn’t catch a foul ball and I didn’t get a ball during batting practice either… thankfully, in the 8th inning Ross Gload tossed me a ball behind the visitor’s dugout as he came off the field. And Michelle saw it! We had a great time at the game and it was a good way to relax on our mini-vacation over the summer.
I wrote a whole entry about this magical place in Iowa where you can play on the field from the Kevin Costner movie. Michelle and I went (and took Helen along) and had a good time… I even played a pick-up game with some families that were already there. I’ll let you read the entry for yourselves.
- Lots o’ September baseball!
I tried to cram in as much baseball as I could in September because I knew that school would be starting and baseball would be over within a few short weeks. AND my blog got featured on the MLBlogs home page! I went to seven games that month, caught seven balls at one game (on the 11th of September – Angels/Mariners) got some nifty autographs, saw Frankie Rodriguez tie AND break the single season saves record, met Zack Hample, and did all this at three different stadiums. Plus, I got to meet Mike Scioscia and Howie Kendrick. Woo! Good times.
- Stage managing Take Me Out at UC Irvine
In October and November we rehearsed a play at my school U
CI. It’s called Take Me Out and it’s about baseball… as part of the rehearsal process the whole company played catch and talked about baseball trivia… so it was kind of like the season was extended a bit. The photo shows our set and some of the lighting… looks like a clubhouse, eh?
It was a great year of baseball and I’m sure next year will be great as well. I love to share my passion for baseball with Michelle and any friends that care to tag along. I hope you’ve enjoyed the trip down memory lane. Happy Holidays!
Oh, and PS…
I found this picture in a box at my mom’s place last month. Best I can tell it was taken by my uncle, Ivar, at Angel Stadium during a game against the White Sox… a day game. It looks like the batter is being walked intentionally. The umpire behind the plate is wearing #33. And look at those uniforms and logos… and I’m about ten or eleven in this photo. I’m going to guess this is in 1994. Anyone have any ideas? I’d like to figure out when this was shot… thanks in advance!
UPDATE: I believe that the catcher in the photo is Mike LaValliere… based on the letters I can see. He played for the White Sox from 1993 to 1995 and he only played in 142 games in that three year period. Gettin’ closer.
This entry is going to rock! Just watch… are you ready? OK, awesome.
I went by myself to this game. Nobody to talk to but LOTS of pictures!
Before this game, I drove to Howard’s in Laguna Hills to an autograph signing. Mike Scioscia and Howie Kendrick were signin’ and I got them both to autograph cards… plus I got an Angels beach mat and two free tickets (lousy tickets, but free) to the Angels/Rangers game on the 27th… I might just go… we’ll see. So, all that was in the morning AFTER I’d gotten up at 5:00am to help my mom set up for a yard sale she was having at her house. Ugh.
To the game!!! OK, it was a 6:05pm start. When did I arrive? 3:00… yep. Waaaayyy early. Here are some photos:
Walking from where I park to the stadium.
The Big A.
Staff members setting up for the night’s giveaway: Angels salsa bowls.
An empty walkway because I’m there THREE HOURS before the game.
No one else in line!
I was the first person in line to enter the stadium… I’d never been the first in before.
While I waited I read a book… kind of. I examined my surroundings. Panorama (crudely done) time.
I kept my eye out for Rex Hudler. Though he’d signed my hat already ( see 9/11/08 at Angel Stadium) I wanted him to sign an old baseball card of mine. He must’ve already been inside the park because usually he enters through the main gate. Oh, well. The crowds began filing in… and by about 3:55 it looked like this:
Then came 4:05pm. I headed in, received my salsa bowl, and bolted toward the seats in left field. Since the Angels were taking BP first (as home teams do) and the Mariners were starting a lefty, I figured that there would be mostly righties batting. I was right. Did this help me get a ball? Nope. Nobody pulled anything out toward the foul pole where I was. I DID get to watch some of the Angels pitchers act pretty goofy:
But they were not tossing balls to fans… not even any kids! Only three baseballs came out that way. I had a shot at the first but it kicked off the wall at a funky angle and ending up in the glove of a guy ten feet from me. Then, the Mariners started prepping for BP. After watching the M’s take BP for two days I knew three things:
- Ichiro hits first and in the first round.
- Ichiro pulls EVERYTHING he hits in batting practice (and is very precise).
- Ichiro hits the ball HARD.
That being known, I ran… RAN… to Section 135 in right field, positioned myself a few rows behind the foul pole, and waited for what I knew would happen. Sure enough, the second time Ichiro took his swings he smacked one hard and high that hit the warning track and bounced over everyone by about fifteen feet. I got a good jump, not good enough to catch it before it hit the seats, but good. No one was within twenty-five feet of where it landed (except me) and it didn’t bounce too crazily off the seats. I snagged it with my non-glove hand and felt pretty good about myself. By the way, snagging baseballs at games is great exercise! See, rockin’ so far, right? Then number 51 hit ANOTHER one toward me. It was drifting just foul and I raced to where it would land… again, I couldn’t catch it on the fly but it bounced pretty much straight up and I made a running grab. Two from the future Hall of Famer!!!
After Ichiro was done hitting I felt no need to stay so close to the foul pole so I headed up to the pavilion in right. There were twenty or thirty people there. I almost caught a
couple up there, but almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades (so says my father). Some Mariners relievers were shagging fly balls just ahead of me on the field.
After a ball came to rest on the warning track, I asked the player getting it to toss it up. My exact quote was, “Could you please toss that up here, sir?” I couldn’t tell who it was. He was very tall, right-handed, and Caucasian. He’s also the one on the right in the above photo. When he looked like he was just going to throw the ball back in I added, “Hey! Look at my hat!” He did… and my hat happened to have a Mariners logo on it and he lobbed me the ball. Turns out it was Sean Green. I thanked him… and then BP died down. Nobody got anything up over that 18-foot wall… so I headed down to the 3rd base line and tried to catch a ball on a bounce. No luck… had I smushed a little kid I could’ve snagged a little dribbler that rolled along the wall. The kids couldn’t reach it and I know not to push kids aside just to get a ball… so away that one went. Then BP was over and I followed the Mariners toward the dugout. No autographs or baseballs for a bit… so I sat and took some notes, listened to voicemail, and talked with the people around me. I met two nice families and sat in between them. Then three sets of M’s started playing catch… I kept my eye on them.
Here are the three on the end of the dugout I was sitting near: from top to bottom, Yuniesky Betancourt (who had thrown me a ball on Thursday AND who I had seen in STREET CLOTHES running in through the Home Plate gate ten minutes before they opened with a grin on his face), Raúl Ibañez, and Luis Valbuena. Yuniesky was looking for someone to throw his baseball to when he finished and I was right there. He looked like he would have rather thrown it to someone else but I was the only person paying attention to the fact that he WANTED to give the ball to someone. I got it. FOUR!
Then I got a text message from a UCI colleague saying that she (Ashley) and her fiance (Gavin) were at the game. The were on the Club Level… ooh, fancy. I told them I’d come visit them when I got kicked out of the section I was in. Surprise! That never happened. Turns out that I only had to move up one row and that was where I stayed for the whole game.
During the top of the 4th inning something interesting happened that’s worth noting. A beach ball landed on the warning track in left field and Reggie Willits, a player I think is fun to watch, grabbed it once time was called and threw it back to the fans! He got a lot of cheers. You don’t see that kind of behavior too often. I appreciated it, is all.
The Angels had a 4-2 lead when Jon Garland departed after the sixth and then I headed up to Ashley and Gavin’s club seats… courtesy of their extra ticket, thank you very much. Before I left I borrowed a ticket stub from a teenager I’d been sitting next to named Jake. He and his dad, Brad, had been talking to me all through the game. I left my glove with them as collateral and said I’d be back. Ashley, Gavin, and I chatted and watched as the the bullpen was solid. Oliver, Shields, and then Frankie, the man everyone was waiting for. I headed back to the field level. On Thursday he had tied the saves record (57) and with a 5-2 lead he needed to get three outs to make history. Needless to say, I was on the edge of my seat… so was everyone else. See Frankie on the mound out there?
The flashbulbs were popping with every pitch. He started off rocky, giving up a double, then a walk. Then, Ichiro grounded into a fielder’s choice. Runners on first and third. Then, Ichiro stole second and K-Rod got a K. Two outs, runners on 2nd and 3rd, Ibañez up to bat, everyone on their feet chanting, “Frankie! Frankie!” He struck him out with a changeup and Angel Stadium erupted! It was great, everybody high-fived and cheered, the players gathered on the mound, fireworks shot off… wow! I took a video on my camera… but here’s a photo from just after the celebration died down a little:
Then I scoured the stands for ticket stubs, said goodbye to Brad and Jake and Ashley and Gavin and then roamed the concourse for a few minutes. I saw an open tunnel and decided to snap a photo of the empty stadium. I saw a guy walking along the first base line in street clothes… it was José Arredondo. Weird.
Just walking around, I guess.
This was my first game by myself. I figured it would be weird not having anyone to talk with all afternoon/evening, so I told Michelle I’d call her throughout the night… to keep me company via cell phone. Let us begin:
I left my place in Irvine at 4:00. I parked my car at my super-secret-never-have-to-pay-spot just outside the ballpark and headed in. This is what I saw when I made it to the gate:
I was about 3 or 4 people from the front of the line and I had a while to wait. Luckily, I had brought a book but I kept my eyes and ears open for a certain person. After a few minutes, the guy I’d been waiting for, Rex Hudler, showed up. He always enters through the front gate and I had brought my MLB 07 The Show hat for him to sign. I left my backpack and book and asked him, “Mr. Hudler, could you sign my hat for me, please?”
“Well, sure!” he replied jovially.
I said, “You see, it’s from the video game that you’re on.”
He replied, “Aww… that’s cool! You know, we’re workin’ on the new one comin’ up here real soon!” Then I thanked him and he headed into the stadium. Here’s the hat he signed:
At 5:05 the Home Plate Gate opened and I (on the advice of Zack Hample) did NOT go straight to the left field foul pole and instead headed for the right field pavillion. A few players were shagging balls out there and I spotted Dustin Moseley and asked him for a ball–I was extremely polite. He told me, “If you don’t get one, I’ll make sure to throw one to you.” OK… a good start. A few minutes later a homer hit some chairs a section to my right and bounced back to the field. Dustin grabbed it and flipped it right to me! YES! Six consecutive games with at least one ball.
In center field, an Angel wearing number 71 was fielding alongside Dino Ebel (the Angels’ 3rd base coach). I asked him to throw one (from about forty feet away) and he did! Right on the money. Robb Quinlan was batting and hit a blast to the seats that hit some seats to my left. I ran over and caught it on a bounce. I had three baseballs and it was 5:13pm. Let me take a moment here to inform you that I had NEVER snagged more than two baseballs at any game… ever. I’d gotten two at an Angels/Red Sox game in 2004, at my first-ever game at Camden Yards in 2007, and twice this season (8/5/08 at Angel Stadium and 9/9/08 at PETCO Park). I had a new, single game record.
Well, the Angels finished BP and the Mariners started up. Let me tell you, Ichiro can hit the ball pretty well, at least in batting practice. Though he was wearing a coverup over his jersey, I recognized the facial hair of J.J. Putz and asked him for the next ball he got ahold of. A little while later he got one from another Mariner reliever near him and tossed it up to me. FOUR!
Later, a Mariners player wearing the number 89 threw a ball to me and then some righty smashed a ball over the fence and right into my glove. I wish I could have seen who it was… I’m thinking it was Adrián Beltre… no way to be sure. It was just after 6:00 at this point so I headed down to the right field line in the hope that Jarrod Washburn or Putz (who were nearby) would sign an autograph. They told some fans they would, but they didn’t. Bummer. I followed them toward the dugout and sat down for a minute.
As I wrote some notes about my adventure, Yuniesky Betancourt started playing catch in front of the dugout. There was hardly anyone around at this point so when he was through I simply said, “Yuniesky!” and stood up with my glove open. He saw me, he threw it. SEVEN!
I had more than tripled my record. After a Patriot Day salute, the game was underway. The players were wearing those nifty hats they had on the 4th of July… you know the ones. Ichiro stepped in to lead off the game. Then I realized just how many no-name call-ups from the minors were around. The Angels had clinched, so they were resting some regulars and the Mariners… well, can you say last place? Eliminated? So they had a few less-than-stellar players going for them. I settled in behind the visiting dugout. Here’s the view from where I sat:
The game was fun! The Angels were ahead 7-0 at one point before the bullpen gave up a few runs. Most of the fans had left early (while I tried, unsuccessfully, to play the dugouts to get a 3rd out ball) thinking it would be a blowout. Well, with men on and the score 7-3 in the ninth K-Rod came in. He had 56 saves. Boy, I’m gonna miss him when he’s not an Angel anymore… but he will make a LOT of cash somewhere. He let a run score, but notched save #57 on the year, tying the current record (set by Bobby Thigpen in 1990). Let this be a reminder, fans, don’t leave a game early! You might miss something great! He got interviewed for FSN West by Michael Eaves. I’m hoping he’ll break it this weekend.
Here’s another panorama for your enjoyment:
Also, I stayed after the game a bit to see if any players would sign autographs as they exited. They didn’t, but I experienced this little exchange as Frankie Rodriguez was leaving the park in his very, very nice car.
A dozen of us (Angel Fans): There’s Frankie! Hey, Frankie! Congrats!
F.R.: Thang you, guys. Gracias.
Us: You were great! Are you gonna break the record?
F.R.: Hey, c’mon. You know iz gonna happen.
- 6 games with at least one baseball
- 7 baseballs at this game
- 15 baseballs in 6 games this season = 2.5 baseballs per game
- 23 lifetime baseballs
Back home in California after more than a week exploring the Midwest…
My attendance at this game was a bit unexpected. Brendan, a college buddy of mine, was visiting the area from San Francisco. On Friday he mentioned that we should catch a game so I logged in at StubHub to find some seats for the next day. I found some for about twenty bucks a piece for the six of us that were going. Here’s a picture of all of us:
From left to right: Brendan, Sophie (his girlfriend), Katie, Josh (her boyfriend), Michelle (my fiancee), me.
So, print-at-home tickets in hand, Michelle and I left Irvine at about 2:45pm for the game. The plan was for Brendan and Josh to each call Michelle when they got to the stadium because we all knew I’d be running around frantically trying to snag baseballs. We were in line at 3:30 or so and at this point I’d like to point out that I am new to these baseball snagging ways. Since we didn’t decide to go to this game until the day before it happened, I found myself without a Twins hat… I rooted through all my baseball gear and found the closest Twins memorabilia I had. A 2007 Johan Santana All-Star T-shirt. To try to better my chances at getting balls from the Twins I decided to fashion a makeshift hat using a navy blue Angels cap I already owned. I printed out a Twins logo and taped it over the Angels logo. Sure, it didn’t look perfect but from 100 feet away I was sure it would fool the average ballplayer. Here I am outside the park before BP started (you can see the orange Santana shirt in my hand):
As soon as I was inside I rushed to the left field seats to see if I could find a ball that’d been hit out before the gates had opened. No luck there, but I was able to get a great spot right next to the foul pole in left, where quite a few liners bounce around. Plus, K-Rod, Ervin Santana, and a few other pitchers were throwing around that spot. I didn’t have to wait too long for my first ball of the day. Before Michelle had caught up to me (she met Josh and Katie just after the gates opened to give them their tickets) a line drive bounced off the short wall in foul territory and rolled right toward the pole… and me. A security guard was nearby, just waiting to throw the ball back to the infield, but I was able to lean out and over and pick the ball up in my glove just before it stopped rolling.
A note about the security folks at Angel Stadium: They HAVE to throw balls that stop on the playing field back in to the infield to be reused. They aren’t just being jerks if they won’t give you a ball. There are two instances in which they are allowed to give fans baseballs. 1. When the ball has gone into the stands and then out onto the field again (bouncebacks, ricochets). 2. When the ball goes into an out-of-play area like a maintainence tunnel, bullpen, etc. Most of the security folks are pretty nice if you talk to them… but they just have to do their job.
I saw the Twins start to head out onto the field and the Angels weren’t hittin’ more to the stands in left so I figured I’d ask the pitchers to give me a ball (a longshot since there were so many little kids around me). Just then, a liner came down the line, bounced into the stands thirty feet to my right and I heard gasps. Apparently, a kid of about ten (who didn’t seem to have a glove with him) had gotten hit in the torso by it. He looked like he was OK, but he was rubbing his shoulder a bit. A few Angels saw it happen and Steve Soliz walked over to the kid and handed him a ball. I thought, “Cool, how nice for that kid.” Then K-Rod (who would record his 49th save that night) walked over and gave the kid ANOTHER ball! At that point I was thinking, “Dude! He gets two balls for not paying attention to what’s happening on the field and not having a glove?!?” I guess I’m just getting bitter in my old age… of twenty-five.
No worries, it was time to change clothes anyway. I went from red hat and red shirt to navy blue (faux Twins) hat and orange shirt. I hoped that it would pay divedends. As Josh, Katie, Michelle and I headed over to the right field bleachers an Angel Stadium usher said to me, “Whoa… go easy on us tonight. You guys have already won two in a row.” We all had a good laugh at that… at least my gear had fooled ONE person.
Once we were in right field I noticed that most of the Twins shagging balls were wearing the cover-ups ballplayers have during BP that cover their numbers. It was tough to recognize most of them, but after a few minutes a Caucasian Twins player tossed a ball to me after I asked quite politely: Any chance I could have that ball, please, sir?” It pays to be polite! He was right-handed. I think it might have been Scott Baker or maybe Adam Everett. It was at that point that I remembered that I didn’t know who had hit me my first ball… it was a right-hander and at that point Howie Kendrick, Robb Quinlan, and Gary Matthews Jr. had been batting. Who knows?
Brendan and Sophie showed up at that point and batting practice was over after I failed to get a ball from Joe Nathan… who was throwing most of them up to fans. Dang. We headed up to our seats in Section 427. Here’s the view:
I had planned to move down closer to the field late in the game (which ended up being 5-7 Angels) but I was having a great time with all of my friends so I kind of forgot about it until the end of the eighth inning. I had already tied my record so I decided to stay put and just relax and savor a Halos win.
The game was great! It was 1-6 at one point but the Twins made it close with four runs in the fifth. Jon Garland and Nick Blackburn both exited before the sixth and Mark Teixeira hit a line drive homer late in the game (it hit the top of the short wall in right) to make it 5-7… that’s how it stayed. Woo! Fireworks… then a walk to the cars. We didn’t even need the Rally Monkey.
I might make it to another Angels game this week… but we’re moving Michelle from one apartment to another before school starts up… so I might not make it to a game until Sept. and I have a trip to PETCO lined up!