Tagged: mariners

9/5/11 at Angel Stadium

Ah, Labor Day.  A perfect day for a trip to the ballpark!  And I was taking my wife with me to watch the Angels take on the Mariners in this AL West showdown.  Also in attendance was Zack Hample–ballhawk extraordinaire–and as I stood in line in the fifth of five lines I noticed him a few lines over.

Zack had been speaking with a columnist from the OC Register but took a moment out of his media day to pose for a photo with me and sign my copy of The Baseball that he’d published earlier in the year (photo courtesy of Zack’s blog–and Brandon Sloter).  We chatted about strategy and we’d end up running into each other throughout the day.  And you can read Zack’s entry about this game on his blog.  I ran in and quickly made it out to the right field seats.  The gates had opened at 4:02pm and at 4:04pm I got my first ball of the day from Bobby Cassevah.  A simple toss-up to get me on the board.  Not five minutes later I scored my second baseball of the day by asking Hisanori Takahashi for one that he had fielded–I guess my Japanese is still passable.  That ball had a practice logo on it.

That was it for the Angels… they just didn’t have anyone hitting much out.  I could tell Zack was a little frustrated–but he passed the time by talking to his reporter colleague and attempting to use his famous glove trick from atop the 18 ft. right field wall.  A couple of us warned him that security didn’t like devices… but I guess he could always plead ignorance if they tried to stop him.  I think he managed to get two baseballs before security asked him to step into the concourse–he was back a few minutes later–sans glove trick.

I, meanwhile, snagged the 365th ball of my life off the bat of Kyle Seager, who hit a homer into the second row of the seats.  I was in the third row to the left of where the ball would land and Zack, apparently, had been standing in the second row to the right of where the ball was headed.  We converged as the ball descended and I reached out and caught the ball in the the second row as Zack came zooming in from the right and his glove knocked into my hat and glasses.  Luckily, I held onto the ball and Zack checked on me to 1) make sure I’d caught it, and 2) to see if I was OK.  I was fine.  Now I can say I got hit in the head by Zack Hample…

My next ball was hit by an M’s players that I couldn’t identify–it was a standard ball, as were all the baseballs I’d snagged at this point, and I ended up giving it away to a small boy.  And that was it for BP.  I had been hoping to catch one off the bat of Ichiro but it just wasn’t in the cards.  And I’d spent a few minutes down by the RF foul pole… as you can see here:

That photo is courtesy of the OC Register… Zack and I are in M’s caps.  But I came up empty there and at the Mariner dugout.

Next up, Angels warm-up tosses over on the LF line.  Michelle took this photo as I headed down to the field once the Angels came out to stretch.

I was in the second row and got Maicer Izturis to toss me my fifth ball of the day–another standard Selig ball.

I sat with Michelle down the first baseline a bit as the game got underway and headed toward the dugout whenever the Angels had two outs on ’em, hoping I could get a third out toss from Adam Kennedy, the M’s first baseman for the day.

I saw Zack get one in the first inning–he had no competition, and he moves pretty quick!  In all seriousness, there is a reason that dude has snagged as many balls as he has–he’s good.  He’s fast, he plans well to find the right place to be, and he’s skilled.  I’ve met Zack twice now (the last time was on 9/2/08 at Dodger Stadium) and he’s made some pretty impressive snags that I’ve gotten to see in person.

On another third out try I leaped for a ball that Zack grabbed and I sort of fell into him a bit… no one fell down and I was glad that he could grab a gamer in Anaheim.  I got my shot later on in the bottom of the sixth inning.  Maicer Izturis grounded out to Adam Kennedy at first and Kennedy stepped on first, then headed to the dugout.  I was five rows back in the aisle and he tossed the ball my way.  It went just over my head and to the right but got bobbled by a fan behind me and the ball dribbled back to the aisle where I nabbed the game-used commemorative for my sixth on the day!

I wasn’t going to catch Zack (who’d end the night with eleven baseballs) but I was going to come away with a respectable number.  The game was winding to a 7-3 Halos victory powered by Mark Trumbo and the heart of the order and by the end of the evening the Angels had advanced to within 2 1/2 games of Texas in the American League West.

After the final out I got my seventh and final ball of the day from Jason Vargas before he retreated into the clubhouse.  Michelle and I chatted with Zack for a moment in the seating bowl, Brandon took a picture of us…  and then he and I went our separate ways.  It had been a pretty darn good holiday weekend.


8/6/11 at Angel Stadium

It was a Saturday–Michelle had to work that evening–I wanted to go to a ball game.  Luckily, my uncle called me to say that he had four tickets to that evening’s Angels/Mariners game.  Then he asked, did I want two of them?  Score!  I got the family discount–Stubhub! can’t provide that!  So, after picking up the tickets I drove to the stadium and met Chris at the gates–he was using the second ticket.  We headed in and I took off for right field.

It was a frustrating batting practice.  Here was my view for part of it:

I would eventually move closer to right field.  I just wasn’t having any luck… but I had plenty of close calls.  I’ll just cut to the chase: I ended up with one ball through the whole ninety minutes of BP.  It was tossed by Jason Vargas and here it is:

I know the photo’s a bit dark bit it was a nice 50th ball with just one scuff on it… below the logo.  In case you’re wondering what that number on my palm means, I wrote ‘340’ so that I would remember the next ball I snagged was my 340th ball.

After the Angels did some pregame throwing and I missed out on a ball on that side I went to the M’s side of the field and, well, here’s Jack Wilson and Kyle Seager heading into the dugout after their warmup throws:

See how there are about three people looking over at the camera in that photo?  It’s because a moment before I took that picture Wilson tossed me this:

So a poor outing (from a snagging standpoint) got a little bit better.

I went to sit behind the Angel dugout for the first inning and sent my wife a picture message that said: I wonder how long I’ll get to stay here.

It turns out those fans showed up in the fourth inning–but my prime real estate didn’t get me another baseball.  Still, it was an excellent view of Ichiro as he prepared to swing:

And as he led off first base (with Angels rookie pitcher Tyler Chatwood in the foreground):


And then…

Well, he’d just stolen second… Aybar is making sure to keep a tag on Ichi while, I believe, the ball is getting switched out since it was scuffed and would no longer be usable in the game.

I spent a little time behind the M’s dugout, too:

Torii took that pitch for a strike, BTW.  After about five innings I checked in with my uncle (and his wife) near their seats:

My uncle Ivar is the man responsible for me being as big a baseball fan as I am–he started taking me to games when I was a little kid (and they were still called the California Angels).  And during the top of the sixth I told them I would be going on a brief walk.  I walked down to the Angel dugout and took a seat about fifteen rows back.  And when Franklin Gutierrez hit a grounder to second baseman Howie Kendrick, Kendrick fired the ball to Mark Trumbo at first for the final out of the frame.  And when Trumbo got near the foul line I waved my arms and called out to him from about six or seven rows back and he threw me the gamer.  Nice!

The night ended up being just fine from a snagging perspective.

Ludacris was scheduled to perform a postgame concert at Angel Stadium and I promised my uncle I would take a bunch of pictures–he also made sure I took one of this pre-recorded interview that played on the jumbotron between innings:

As for the game… well, let’s see… the Angels only scored one run… Treyvon Robinson hit his first career home run (and some fan jumped a railing to chase after it… then encountered some not-too-pleased security personell)… Blake Beavan tossed eight quality innings and Brandon League threw a scoreless ninth.  I was behind the M’s dugout at the time:

And League was pretty efficient.  He got Vernon Wells to pop out.  Then walked Howie Kendrick.

And then Mark Trumbo grounded into a double play to end the game.  :sigh:

I hung around for the postgame interview as Beavan (who’s 6′ 7″) got interviewed and the relievers walked in from the bullpen.

I didn’t get anything tossed to me though except for a few pieces of bubble gum.  A little later, once the stage was set up, assembled, and folks were let onto the infield dirt, Ludacris emerged from the visitor’s dugout and played an hour-long set.

There were over 42,000 in attendance for the game and I’d say at least 25,000 stuck around for the concert.  Some of the M’s were in the dugout watching… including Adam Kennedy–who then walked onto the field in street clothes with his kid and disappeared into the crowd (he came back a little later).

I left before Ludacris finished to beat the traffic out of the parking lot.

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?

9/11/10 at Angel Stadium

I’m so sorry for the gap between entries… moving plus new job plus family stuff made for very little time for baseball.  I only attended three games in the month of September.  But I’ll get the blog goin’ again… starting now:

So, on the eleventh of September I headed out to Angel Stadium with Michelle to watch the Halos take on the Seattle Mariners.  Of all AL West teams, I think I like going to Mariners games the most.  They’re a lot of fun to watch.

The crowd was light when the gates opened at five after five:
505 opening crowd 9.11.JPGI ran in and spent the first round of Angels batting practice in the right field seats.  I didn’t snag anything up there and at the end of the round I walked down to the foul pole in right field.  I wasn’t there more than a few minutes before I snagged my first baseball of teh day.  It was a foul hit by an Angels righty.  It landed a few sections to my left.  I was running for it along with a few other people and the ball took a crazy bounce toward the section I was in but a few rows further from the field.  Then, it ricocheted off a seat a section to my left, then took a bounce and headed my way.  I ran up a few steps and grabbed it of the ground as it slowed down between sections 134 and 133 in the fifth row.  First of the night–and 267th of my life.

That was it for the home team’s half of BP.  After the Mariners started warming up I got my second baseball of the day from relief pitcher Jamey Wright.
foul pole panorama 9.11.jpgIt was a pretty standard toss from about twenty feet away after I couldn’t extend out over the fence to make a catch.  The ball bounced over to Jamey and he lobbed it my way.  I gave that ball away later in the evening to a young Angels fan.

Note to everyone:  Pay attention during batting practice.  From my vantage point near the foul pole I watched a middle-aged guy in the front row of the pavilion get smacked in the head by a BP home run.  It literally went bat to head.
injured guy 9.11.JPGKnocked his glasses off, he fell to the concrete, ushers and security took him away–he walked off under his own power so that’s a good sign… but PAY ATTENTION!

After batting practice I got shut out at the M’s dugout but I snagged ball #3 on the evening from Erick Aybar on the third base side after he finished his warmup throwing just before the national anthem.

Michelle and I had seats in the upper level and we decided to sit up there so I could try to snag a foul ball.
lower view panorama 9.11.jpgWith Felix Hernandez and Ervin Santana pitching, I figured guys would be fouling a ton of pitches off.  I was right–but it didn’t help me get one of ’em.

The Angels were up 5-0 after five inning s and 7-0 after seven innings.  The highlight of the night was watching Santana mow down the Mariners and also getting to see Hank Conger and Mark Trumbo (two up and coming prospects) get their first at-bats of their careers.  Conger made contact… but struck out.
conger first ab 9.11.JPGTrumbo whiffed on three pitches and looked bad doing it.
trumbo first ab 9.11.JPGHernandez is a tough assignment for your first MLB at-bat, I guess.

Santana was shutting out the Mariners for seven and a third spectacular innings before giving up a home run to Ichiro with two men on.  That ended his night.  The bullpen did well to help bail him out and earn Santana the win.

Since most of the fans had left in the seventh… I convinced Michelle that we should head down to the dugout.  She lingered back near the concourse but I spent the eighth and ninth innings with this as my view:
ninth inning view 9.11.JPGAnd here’s a picture of Jose Lopez fouling a ball into the dirt and off toward first base a bit:
lopez foul 9.11.JPGAnd here’s a picture of that very same baseball in my glove:
caught foul ball 9.11.JPGspot of foul ball catch 9.11.JPGTaa-daa!  Kevin Jepsen threw him a fastball that Lopez barely got a piece of.  I took the photo, then put my camera down and, well… Ball #4 on the night and my 270th of my lifetime!

Over to the right is the ball and the point of view from where I was sitting.  It happened pretty quickly and I was lucky to get a shot of the foul in action.  Luckily, it wasn’t a line drive or I might have gotten clocked–it took a nice bounce though.

And just for kicks, here’s a shot of Ichiro batting:
ichiro batting 9.11.JPGThat’s for Tim and Todd.

fireworks lot 9.11.JPGThe Angels would hold on for the victory, 7-4.

By that point at least half of the fans had left.  It was And there were fireworks after the game.  Michelle and I walked to the car and passed by the staging area… this was a much better fireworks view.

I’d only go to two more games this season–both at Angel Stadium–and by now you know the Halos didn’t make the playoffs… not even close.

But we had a great time and I added four baseballs to my total.  A night well spent.

Always glad to see the home team pound out a win.

7/15/10 at Angel Stadium

I’d barely had time to rest since the All-Star Game and I was back, driving along the 55 to the 5 to the 57… and I arrived plenty early for the AL West showdown between the Angels and the Mariners.

I was pretty pleased to see such a light crowd at the gates. 
I ran in and started searching the right field seats for Easter eggs.  No luck. 
I spent ten minutes of batting practice chasing homers and when Hideki
Matsui blasted one ten rows over my head I took off after it.  Another
fan snagged that one but as I walked back to my normal BP spot I
spotted Ball #1 in one of the last rows of the pavilion.  The gates had been open for more than ten minutes and I couldn’t believe it.  There were, at that point, at least twenty people in the seats… I looked at the guy next to me.

“Did you drop this?”  He said he didn’t.  So, I picked it up.  Wow–crazy… the only other time I had found a ball after the first minute or so of the stadium being open was earlier in the season at PETCO Park.

After a few more minutes I ranged to my right a nabbed a home run from an Angels
player on a bounce, just beating out a couple of other guys for it.  I think it was Torii Hunter that hit it but it could have easily been Mike Napoli or Juan Rivera… I never got a good look at the batter.  I gave that ball away to my favorite usher.  She usually finds a young kid to give the balls away to but I always tell her she’s welcome to keep ’em for herself if she wants.

Once the Mariners came out to throw along the first baseline I hung out near the foul pole:
ms come out to stretch.JPGAnd from there I got
closer David Aardsma to toss me Ball #3 after he finished playing catch.

The next ball I snagged came with an error attached to it, sadly.  I was right at the wall in the corner when some Mariner lofted a ball toward me.  I couldn’t tell if the ball would fall short of the seats and then bounce off the warning track or if it would clear the fence for a home run.  I backed up a couple steps, anticipating the bounce.  Then, I changed my mind: at the last second I reached forward over the wall as far as I could and, luckily, I had guessed right.  I
certainly could have caught it… but in my haste to get into position I
extended a bit too far and couldn’t make the basket catch.  The ball smacked off the heel off my glove and fell onto the warning track.  It hurt–I mean, like, it hurt my hand and my pride.  The ball had rolled away from the short wall just enough that I couldn’t reach over and scoop it up.  I expected that the nearby security guard would simply flip it back toward the bucket but he didn’t.  The
guard must have been preoccupied and that gave Jamey Wright the chance
to walk up, shake his head at me, and say, “Two hands, man.  Come on…”

Then he underhanded Ball #4 to me.  So, it counts as a thrown ball and not a hit ball.  I was glad to get the snag but bummed that I’d made such a poor play on it.  I gave that ball away to a nearby kid and ran back up to the pavilion but I didn’t snag any other baseballs during BP.  I ran to the dugout as the Mariners headed in but didn’t get anything there… I did see Mike Sweeney playing catch with a kid that, I assume, was his son.
sweeney catch with kid.jpgSweeney’s from the area and always has family and friends around when the Mariners play the Angels.  I’ve talked to him a couple of times.  He’s super nice and always signs autographs if fans are polite about it.  He’s a real cool guy in my opinion.

Michelle met up with me after the teams had warmed up (and I hadn’t snagged a Mariners warmup ball–booooo!) and we got food together.  We decided to watch the first few innings from the Terrace Level and we talked about
how small the crowd seemed after the ASG events we’d seen. 
And I, of course, planned to try for a third out ball each time the M’s came off the field.

In the bottom of the first inning I was behind the M’s dugout when Hideki
Matsui ended the frame by grounding out to second base (like he’s done
way too much this year).  Chone Figgins threw the ball to Justin Smoak and I was actually sitting right over the dugout in the first row as the Seattle players jogged in.  The recently traded Smoak had the ball in his glove and I didn’t even have to stand up… nobody else cared about the ball.

“Justin!  Right here!”  I held up my glove and waved it a bit–Smoak lobbed the ball, it bounced off the dugout roof and right into my glove.
smoak baseball.JPGIt was, quite literally, the easiest third-out toss I’d ever gotten.  For your reference, here was the view I had of the players coming in:
ms after bot of first.JPGNeither of those guys is Smoak, in case you were wondering.  Those two guys are Michael Saunders and Franklin Gutierrez but you get the idea: I was right there.  A moment later I jogged back to Michelle on the Terrace Level.

We’d end up moving down to the Field Level in the middle innings once the crowd had been established and we could see some open seats.
7.15 sunset panorama.jpgI was hoping for a foul ball but none came near us.  It was a fun game and pretty relaxing.  I’d never been so glad to see an attendance of “just” 41,000.
Michelle left a little after nine and I played for home runs through the last couple of innings.  First, I was in right field:
7.15 rf homer territory.jpgThen I tried left field:
lf homer territory 7.15.JPGBut no homers were hit.  I was behind the Angels dugout as they locked down the win:
7.15 ninth inning dugout.jpgI tried for a toss-up behind the dugout as the Angels came off the field but came up with nothing.  After this game I took a well-deserved two-week break from attending games… I realized I was pretty darn tired.  Still, a fun win to see… 8-3, Angels.  My next game would be at the end of the month, right before my birthday.

5/28/10 at Angel Stadium

The Mariners were in town for the first time this season and Michelle and I would start our anniversary weekend off by heading to a game to welcome Chone Figgins (and Casey Kotchman) back to the Big A.

I had one goal for this evening: snag baseball number 200.  I was sitting on 198 baseballs as we arrived–so I would be happy as long as I ended up with two on the night.  As we got to the gates there were huge lines.  We arrived a little later than I like to because there was a ton of traffic.  Luckily, I knew a few people close to the front and I was able to go in with them.  Michelle volunteered to hang back.

I ran in to left field and headed down near the foul pole.  When Michelle arrived I was still on zero but I had high hopes.  She started snapping pictures since she’d forgotten to bring a book with her.  Usually Michelle reads during BP… this time though she played photographer and got some good shots.

Here I am, excited, despite the fact that the teenager to the right just snagged a ball and I didn’t get it:
start of bp 5.28.JPGI noticed Joe Saunders in the bullpen.  I’d had a brief conversation with him two days earlier and he’d tossed me a ball.  As he came out of the bullpen I called out to him and he recognized me.  As he walked to the field I told him about myGameBalls.com and wished him well.  Michelle got this photo of our conversation before he started his pregame running with some other pitchers:
talking with joe 5.28.JPGIf you can’t find me right away just look at the photographer in the green shirt.  I’m to his right in the above photo.  And Joe’s on the field, obviously, drinking his Gatorade.

After that I went back to the wall and eventually was able to get on the board for the day by scooping a ground ball off the track.  I’m not sure who hit it but I was able to lean out and grab the ball as it rolled along the dirt.  Here I am just after snagging it:
inspecting first ball of the day 5.28.JPGI had a shot at one other ball.  It was a BP home run hit by someone on the Angels.  I didn’t get it but Michelle took two photos of the action as it unfolded:
tracking bp homer 5.28.JPGchasing bp homer 5.28.JPGIn the first photo we’re tracking the ball.  It would end up going over our heads.  The second photo shows me and one other guy getting to where we thought it had settled.  He ended up with the ball even though I’d gotten in front of him in the chase for it.  I overran the ball by a row.  Bummer.

Michelle was snapping photos all through BP and she ended up taking the following, which I turned into a panoramic shot:
5.28.bp panorama b.jpgI’m in it… can you find me?

The Angels would be done with their hitting soon and I’d seen the Mariners come out on the other side of the stadium to stretch.  Pretty soon, pitchers would be throwing over on the first base line.  I had been talking to the father and son duo immediately to my right all through BP and before Michelle and I switched sides of the stadium I handed over career ball #199 to the kid and told him, “Here you go.  But the deal is, if you use all these tips I’ve been telling you and you or your dad get another ball, give this one to an even littler kid then you, OK?”  The father was in shock, he asked, “Are you sure?  I mean, that’s your ball, you got it.”  I told him it was my pleasure and the little boy thanked me.  With that, we were off to the right field area.

Not long after we got there I remembered how I’d gotten baseball #100.  And I remembered that I had no idea who I got it from .  And I remembered that I was pretty frustrated by that.  So, I made sure to pay extra close attention to who was hitting and who was throwing nearby.  There were a bunch of Mariners right in front of me.  Some of them had their numbers showing, some didn’t.  The player directly in front of me:
kanekoa 200 1.JPGWas Kanekoa Texeira.  I had to check my Seattle roster to find out.  I’d never heard of him before.  But you can all read the Wikipedia entry of the guy who threw me baseball number two hundred.  And it wasn’t the one he was warming up with.  Some Mariner in the cage hit a ball that ended up bouncing off the wall and stopped near where he was throwing.  He leaned down to pick it up and as he did I checked my roster and then yelled out, “Texeira!  Texiera!  Right here!”  I didn’t know how to say his first name (now I know it is cahn-eh-KOH-uh) but I was the only person who knew his last name and he stopped his motion of throwing the ball back to the bucket and instead threw it right to my waiting glove in the front row.  Woo!

I took a couple other photos of Texeira to document the occasion:
kanekoa 200 2.JPGkanekoa 200 3.JPGAnd as of June 3rd he’s a member of the Kansas City Royals.  Them’s the breaks.  Maybe when the Royals come to Anaheim I can get him to sign the ball for me.

After that I took it pretty easy during BP.  I had reached my goal and I was ecstatic.  I mean, I didn’t stop trying to snag completely:
over the wall 5.28 1.JPGover the wall 5.28 2.JPGBut I didn’t go all out either.  Toward the end of BP a ball came to rest near the foul pole.  I wasn’t really close to it but I noticed that nobody had even tried to reach over for it.  I walked down the steps and got near the ball.  There was a little girl standing right over the spot where it was.  A security guard was walking over to the ball–and I knew he’d just toss it back and then nobody could have the ball (except the Mariners, I guess).  I quickly asked the woman near the little girl (who I assumed was her mother), “Can I try to get it?”

She looked sort of confused.  In her hesitation the security guard was getting closer so I told the woman and her daughter: “If you let me squeeze in front of you I can get that ball.”

They wordlessly, but excitedly, moved out of the way and in one quick move I jumped out, balanced myself on the stone wall, grabbed the ball in the tip of my glove and then came back up with it.  The mother looked at me like I had just done a magic trick.  I asked her, “Now, where’s the little one?”  The young girl came out from behind her mother’s leg and I held my glove open with the baseball still inside.  She looked up at her mom as if to ask, “Is it okay?”  Once her mom nodded she grabbed the baseball with a big smile on her face and they both thanked me.

201 and counting… I ran down to the dugout at the end of BP and got shut out there.  Michelle and I grabbed some dinner after that… and dessert after that.  Mmm… monkey bread and funnel fries!

figgins at bat 5.28.JPGWe watched the game from the 200 level out between first base and right field.  It was a pretty crowded game but we only had to shuffle around for actual seatholders one time.  I ran to the M’s dugout for tries at a third out ball but didn’t snag anything during the game… I was okay with that though.

The Angels jumped out to an early 2-0 lead on a fielder’s choice and then a groundout… but only mustered five hits for the whole game.  The offense looked silly… against Seattle.  Which is saying something.

ichiro on first 5.28.JPGCliff Lee was up against Scott Kazmir and Cliff Lee won… big time.  He struck out 10 over eight innings.  The Angels scored three runs (two earned) and that wasn’t enough.  Seattle actually hit the ball.  Go figure… they scored eight runs.  Six off Kazmir and two off Scot Shields, who has been awful.  His ERA is, at the time of this posting, 6.86.  Ugh.

Anyway, I was hoping that the Mariners would toss up something at the dugout after the game (and we moved pretty close for the ninth inning)  I took the following photo late in the game:
matsui foul ball 5.28.JPGIt’s a foul ball… heh… look at Mike Napoli.  The M’s didn’t throw anything up.  Except for Casey Kotchman, who passed a bat up over the dugout that was just to my left.  The teenager next to me who got it had flopped down on the dugout at the end of the game, then there was a little girl to his right, then there was me.  I thought Kotchman was giving the bat to the little girl.  The teenager ended up with it because I wasn’t aggressive.  Next time there’s a bat up for grabs I won’t be so nice because I was kicking myself all through the fireworks show:
fireworks 5.28.JPGWhich was fun.  And Michelle and I got a couple of friendly ushers to take our photo together as we kicked off our anniversary with a fun night at the ballpark:
matt michelle 2 5.28.JPGAnd we headed home… where I took another photo of the one ball I kept that night:
ball 200 2.JPGNumber 200!

3/27/10 at Camelback Ranch

My Spring Training excursion started the previous day.
sunrise.JPGFriday morning we left Orange County at 7:00 in the morning and made the drive along the 10 freeway to Arizona.  We got there around 1:00pm, put our stuff down at the hotel, and made the 10 minute walk into downtown Scottsdale.  I would have loved to catch the Angels and the Giants at Scottsdale Stadium but it was sold out so our group (which consisted of Michelle and I and four of our friends) spent the afternoon and evening at various restaurants at bars enjoying our brief Spring Break.

On Saturday morning, the morning of our trip to Camelback, Jesse (who attended a game with me on 9/2/09 at Dodger Stadium), Randy (who’d gone to a game with me on 4/8/09 and 7/27/09), and I got up and made it to the complex around 9:30am.

Camelback Ranch opens four hours prior to the day’s game, which gave us plenty of time to explore.  The facility is fantastic and sprawling.
outside stadium.JPGIn the photo above you can see the stadium gates on the left, a crowd waiting for the Dodgers to emege from their clubhouse in the center, and a body of water on the right.  A man-made river/lake separates the White Sox training facilities from the Dodgers facilities but the casual fan can roam pretty much anywhere they want.  Highlights of the morning included watching Matt Kemp hit off a tee in the batting cage:
kemp in cage.JPGWatching White Sox minor league guys practice their pitches:
white sox minor league pitchers.JPGAnd welcoming the Dodgers as they made their way from the clubhouse inside the stadium (which wouldn’t open until 11:30–bummer) to their practice field:
dodgers to field.JPGNote Manny on the tricycle for grownups.  James Loney was a bit late:
late loney.JPGI’ll go back to the White Sox minor leaguers for a minute.  Watching them warm up I snagged the only baseball I’d snag that day.  What?  I know, it kind of sucked but the stadium was sold out and I only had 30 minutes of BP to work with.

A guy named Zach Piccola had a throw from a teammate tip off his glove and land on the grassy hillside I was standing on.  I ran over and picked it up.  It was a ROMLB and I looked at the players on the field.  Piccola was looking at me and seemed to be wondering if I was going to keep the ball.  I made a gesture to communicate that I could simply give it back to him.  He didn’t seem to care too much (as there was a bag of baseballs a few feet from him.  He shrugged… I decided to toss it back to him.  I really didn’t care too much about it anyway.  I was just excited to be there.

I headed to one of the Dodger minor league fields for a minute:
dodgers minor league field b.jpgWell, after that I watched the Dodgers run some infield drills with Joe Torre standing  in the middle of the field calling plays:
infield drills dodgers.JPGAnd a little while later the three of us watched some PFP which was really cool.  We could hear everything the players and coaches said to each other and anytime a pitchers missed a grounder or a throw they had to run to the outfield wall and back… with one other guy of their choosing.
pfp 1.JPGpfp 2.JPGMost of the players picked poor Clayton Kershaw to run with them.  Pickin’ on the young guy.

At about 11:15 I went into the–well, it was kind of a foyer of the stadium.  I watched while at least a half dozen homers landed on the RF berm and were picked up by a staff member and given to little kids.
waiting to be let in camelback.JPGFinally, at 11:30 everyone was let in and I ran around to some rocks near the back of the berm checking for Easter eggs… but none were there.  It was a great place:
camelback berm bp b.jpgBut it was kind of a depressing BP.  Sure, it was great to get to run around freely without fear of smacking my thigh on an armrest, but it was so crowded and by the time we got inside the stadium there weren’t many baseballs being thrown or hit to fans.  I got close to two homers.  One came down to a sprint to the rocks between me and one other guy.  I lost.  And one bounced off the warning track and about two feet over my head as I ran to my left to try to get to it.  BP ended at 12:00pm and the guys and I past the far right field lawn:
camelback rf panorama b.jpgAnd to my seats.  The six of us (including the girls that were on their way) had seats in different sections.  While we were waiting for the ladies Chone Figgins and Casey Kotchman started playing catch down the right field line and a few other Mariners started stretching.
figgins kotchman catch.JPGI didn’t get a ball but I did get Milton Bradley to sign my ticket for that day.

I went back to my seat–they were pretty great seats that Michelle and I had:
camelback our seats panorama b.jpgAnd the girls showed up at about 12:15.  We all kind of split up at that point but before the game started I got Jack Wilson to sign a card I’d brought with me.

After that I kind of just relaxed in the warm Arizona sun–actually we had shady seats–and though I tried for a third out toss or two, I really just sat with Michelle and enjoyed the game.
lopez foul.JPGmanny on first.JPGGuess what?  It was a sold out crowd of 13,000 people–lots of Dodgers fans.  I really enjoyed Camelback Ranch but the next time I go I’ll do so for a White Sox game during the week.  A Dodgers game on the last weekend of ST is just really crowded.  Camelback is a beautiful facility, for sure, and it’s totally worth checking out.
camelback end of game panorama b.jpgAfter the game (which the Dodgers won… thanks mostly to Charlie Haeger’s knuckleball) we headed back to our cars.  Michelle, Jesse, Alison, and I made a quick stop in downtown Phoenix to take a look at Chase Field:
chase field exterior.JPGWe went into Friday’s Front Row Sports Grill and took a look at the field:
front row restaurant panorama b.jpgIt looks like an amazing facility–I’m rather fond of retractable roofs–and Jesse and I vowed to come back to watch a game at some point.

Then we headed back to Scottsdale for dinner and another relaxing evening.  There was another game the next day… Giants and Padres.