You know, I’ve got no excuse for not getting these last couple of entries from the 2010 season up… but on the bright side, you get to read a baseball entry about a month early because I fell behind on my blogging!
So, this game on the 25th of September out in Anaheim was the last Saturday home game the Angels would have and the last time I figured there would be guaranteed batting practice going on–so I had to be there. Michelle came with me and, as usual, we got there early, I ran in as soon as the gates opened and I hoped for a successful day of snagging.
The Angels were hitting as I made it to the the right field seats and since there weren’t any Easter eggs around I played each of the batters hoping they would go yard. My first chance of the day came after a blooper from one of the other ballhawks in the pavilion. A guy who’s a regular at BP had a homer lined up and I was rushing in from his right side. Seeing he was in position for the catch in the second row I put on the breaks and stopped about six feet from him. He had a perfect snag set up but the ball bounced off the heel of his glove and back down to the field. He cursed at himself and walked a section to his left hanging his head… but I could see the ball still sitting on the warning track 18 feet below me. Reliever Michael Kohn walked over to pick it up. I think he must have seen what had happened because after I asked him to toss the ball up he made a comment about making sure I could catch it. I said, “Yeah, gimme your best shot!” He lobbed an easy one up to me and sure enough, it was the bobbled ball (with just one distinct mark on it–from where it had hit the warning track).
Shortly after that the relievers ran off the field:
In the above photo you can see Kohn in the center of the shot and the spot where I was when he threw me the ball, right there in the first row. I was on the board for the day. I thought briefly about offering it to my fellow snagger but I knew that if someone tried that with me I would have politely refused… so I kept the ball but agreed to give it away to a young fan later that night.
The first group of White Sox hitters were all righties and Juan Pierre (who, in ten years in the majors has hit 14 home runs) so I hung out near the foul pole in right field hoping for a slicer down the line. A few balls came close but they all seemed just a bit out of reach. That short wall is tough to judge sometimes.
Well, eventually I got my shot off the bat of Juan Pierre. The ball went slicing down the line, took a bounce off the wall to my left and skittered to me across the dirt of the track. I leapt up onto the wall, leaned out over, stretched out as far as I could and made the backhanded snag. The ball was worn, with brown and green stains all over it–but it was mine and looked perfect to me.
Despite my best efforts to snag a BP homer from the White Sox, there just weren’t more than a couple to be had and, though I made it to their dugout after BP–nothing got tossed up my way. I sat down with Michelle and convinced her to head over to the Angels’ side with me for their pregame throwing. It paid off…
I’ve mentioned before that Howie Kendrick and Peter Bourjos end their warmups by throwing knuckleballs to each other. Well, on this warm evening they did just that… and as they finished Howie ended up with the ball so I stood up and yelled, “Right here, Howie! Show me the knuckleball!” Wouldn’t you know it? He did… he threw a pretty darn good flutter-ball that arched over the first six rows and settled inside my black Mizuno. Three on the day!
After the anthem I ran back over to the visiting team’s dugout as their players began throwing. At this point in the season some September callups were in the lineup and I think that, due to my rosters, I was one of the only people in the stadium that knew that number 22 on the Sox was Brent Morel. He’d only appeared in about 15 games for them in 2010 and as he finished throwing I called out to him for the baseball he’d been using. I was here:And as Morel ran to my left he tossed me the ball from the steps of the dugout, over the camera well shown here:
I tried to give the ball away to the kid in the Sox hat two photos above but he told me he didn’t want it. So, back to my wife I went–we grabbed food and sat down to watch the game from these seats:
Mostly, I was hoping for an Angels win and looking forward to seeing Manny Ramirez hit for his new team. I only got to see one of those things though…
Scott Kazmir was pitching for the Halos and he gave up five runs in less than four innings. Ugh. He’d earn his 15th loss of the season as the Angels, who started out well with two runs in the first, wouldn’t score for the rest of the game. Manny laced a double off Kazmir for an RBI. Juan Pierre got an RBI, too. So, that was… good. And I ended up with four baseballs–I gave away two of ’em. But the Angels fell to 75-79 on the year and I knew the playoffs were in doubt. still, a crowd of more than 40,000 came out to cheer on the Halos and that’s saying something. Hopefully, 2011 will be a better year.
If you read this blog regularly you’ll know that I am not a big fan of Dodger Stadium. It has silly rules, aggressive and often irritable fans, and it’s just… old. It’s fine, just not my favorite place. I did, however, score some tickets to this game for free and so I made the drive up the 5 freeway through the smokier than usual weather and met a buddy from UC Irvine (who had driven down from Bakersfield ) named Jesse, let him use my spare glove (just in case), and at 4:30pm and we headed up to the stadium together.
Our first stop was the Top Deck where the gates are open and you can watch early BP. I’d actually never been up there before–it’s a great view but I’d never want to watch a whole game from this vantage point:
We watched the Dodgers smack quite a few baseballs into the stands. We tried to track where they ended up. Manny actually hit one to the middle part of the bleachers that took a big bounce out of the stadium! Here he is knocking one out to left field:
At five ’til five we headed down to the entrance to the left field bleacher entrance where we were informed by a fan waiting there that Dodger Stadium had a new policy–formerly you could enter the bleachers for BP regardless of where your ticket actually was–currently you can’t. I confirmed it with a security guard nearby. Bummer… so we figured we’d at least get Field Level access during BP and try our luck there. Dodger Stadium has ridiculous rules.
We got into the Field Level (with our Reserve Level tickets) right at 5:10. Jesse and I checked the seats for Easter eggs but couldn’t find any. Meanwhile, the bleachers had about four sittin’ up there. Bah! Anywho… the Dodgers ended BP at about 5:15 and we attempted to head around from the left field side where we’d entered to the right field side. Guess what? That side of the stadium doesn’t open until 5:40… dumb.
So, we played left field for a while. I had a shot at a slicer down the line but couldn’t quite get my glove low enough to snag it. The fence wall is a bit taller in Dodgertown than I’m used to at Angel Stadium. I tried (unsuccessfully) to get a ball from Dan Haren. He wouldn’t toss anything over despite the fact that I was the only guy wearing a D-backs hat in the whole stadium at that point.
At 5:40 I ran (and Jesse walked) to right field where some Arizona players and coaches were hanging out and within a few minutes got Ball #1 from coach Jeff Motuzas. As far as I was concerned it was a successful day at Dodger Stadium at that point. In my only two other ballhawking adventures there I’d snagged two baseballs (one each time). Exactly one year prior (the day I got to meet Zack Hample) I’d snagged one and back in May I’d snagged one. Woo. Again, I’m not a big fan of Dodger Stadium.
I should mention at this point that Jesse is a huge Dodger fan. Here’s a photo of him watching BP from right behind the foul pole. A few pitchers came over and started doing some running drills. One of them, Daniel Schlereth, fielded a ground ball barehanded and I asked him (by using his first name and saying please) to throw it over. He did. I’d set a record for myself in Dodgertown! It was at that point I heard someone near me say to Schlereth, “He already got one.” The pitcher shrugged and continued his running. This wouldn’t be the last time a fan was upset by my good fortune.
It was Army Night at the stadium and when a foul ball got knocked into the seats a few sections from me and I sprinted toward it I saw a guy in fatigues running to where it landed as well. I was a second or two ahead of him, looked at the ball as I was running, saw his camo, and stopped so he could grab it. Then he smiled at me and we shook hands. I told him, “Good job, soldier.” And we parted ways. Hey, I’m not gonna contest an Army man for a baseball on Army Night. God bless ’em! He was pretty excited to snag it on his own (probably more excited than if I’d grabbed it then handed it to him).
Anyway, as some of you might know the Dodgers are putting blue stamps on their BP baseballs this season. They either say DODGERTOWN or DodgersWIN (for the Women’s Initiative Network). I’d been kind of excited to potentially end up with one of those but since I hadn’t gotten anything from the Dodgers I was disheartened, thinking my chances at a stamped ball were squashed.
When BP ended I had grabbed my backpack and was just starting to head toward the D-backs dugout… I ran as I saw the players coming in. I was a little late getting to a spot (as close as I could get because of the concrete partition that separates the box seats from the stands) and most of the players had already left the field. I saw a couple of coaches and one wore number 5. I looked at my roster as he picked up a couple of baseballs and then found his name, Chip Hale.
Jesse and I found seats on the third base side o
f the field. He’d ended up baseball-less for BP but was having a blast because, as I mentioned, he’s a big Dodgers fan. It didn’t hurt that the seats we found for the first couple innings gave us this view:
After multiple ceremonial first pitches and an adequately sung anthem and me NOT getting a ball from Arizona players during their warmup tosses as well as just missing out getting Justin Upton’s autograph, the game started. Chad Billingsley and Max Scherzer were both doing well to start out. We got booted from our seats in the 2nd inning and ended up on the other side of the field, here:
And we got to stay for the rest of the game. No one ever showed up for ’em. The two starters put up zeroes through four innings. Billingsley had a no hitter through four. In the bottom of the fourth Max Scherzer got Matt Kemp to ground into a double play to end the inning.
Arizona first baseman, Brandon Allen had tried to toss me a ball in the third as he came off the field but his throw was a bit to my right… and I let the teenager next to me have it. I’m not overly aggressive about catching baseballs… I don’t knock people down, steal balls from kids, or elbow and push my way through stands.
I mention that because as Allen trotted off the field after Kemp hit into that double play he saw me (one section to the left this time) and tossed the ball my way. I caught it. I didn’t have to move; it was a chest high strike. The guy behind me spilled his beer on my foot trying to get it and then he and a few other fans told me to give it to a kid. They weren’t happy that I chose not to and had some unkind words for me as I headed back to my seat. A few innings later some older fellow left his seat a few rows in front of me and stopped by where Jesse and I were sitting. He leaned down and said, “Can I ask how old you are?”
“Because you just jumped in front of a lot of little kids to catch a ball.”
“No, I didn’t.” Then he stormed off, badmouthing me as he left. This was a good half hour after I’d caught that ball. He never came back.
The next inning, Billingsley’s no hitter was broken up by a ball hit in the left-center gap and Brandon Allen stepped in a hit a two-run homer right as I took this picture:
The D-backs would score four runs in the fifth and that was all they needed. Scherzer pitched very well, allowing just one run in seven and two-thirds. That one run was on a Ramirez RBI single in the eighth. The D-backs bullpen shut down the Dodgers the rest of the way. I tried to snag something after the game at the dugout but, again, came up empty-handed.
On the way out I got pictures of Jesse and of me:
And we headed out through the crowds, back to our cars, and on our separate ways. He was headed 100 miles north and I was drivin’ 50 miles south.
A fun time and a pretty successful snagging outing. And I spent a total of… the gas it cost me to get there and back. You can’t beat a deal like that!
So, two exciting things happened this week in the world of Matt and baseball.
1. Who’d the Angels sign?
Yep, Bobby Abreu’s an Angel, at least for this season. Why is this a good deal for the Angels? Well, as much as I liked Garret Anderson (and I really did–and do like him), it was going to cost us $14 million dollars just to keep him around and we got Abreu for about $9 million less than that. Abreu’s two years younger than Anderson and he has played in at least 150 games each season for the last ten years. So, he’s durable and should remain so because he’ll be splitting DH time with Vladdy, Mike Napoli (maybe), and Juan Rivera. I’m projecting seventeen homers and 100 RBIs for Bobby, which is about what G.A. would’ve given us. Also, he’s a career .300 hitter and he’s got a one-year deal which means he’s playing for a 2010 contract that he really wants to get… so he’ll go all out every day. Welcome aboard, Bobby, now just stay healthy.
And the next exciting thing?
2. My WBC tickets arrived!
I came home last night and my roommate said there was a package for me on the table… it was from Elysian Park Ave. Thrilling? Yes! I tore open the cardboard and…
Ooh. Pretty. I love specialty tickets. C’mon, March–get here soon!
I’ll be attending one game with Michelle and one game with my buddy, Josh, who you may remember from this entry back in September of last year. The third game will probably be a chance for Josh to take his brother to a game… assuming he pays me for the tickets.
I’m all jazzed about the start of the season… and there are still a few pieces to the MLB puzzle to connect: ManRam, where’s he going? How will fans treat A-Roid this year? And when on earth will my cable company here at UCI provide me with MLB Network?!? C’mon, guys!
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.