Tagged: matt palmer

9/30/09 at Angel Stadium

Another great Fall evening with my wife at the stadium.  I was feeling great, and the Angels were going to the playoffs (and the Rangers weren’t) and I was excited to simply enjoy some quality baseball, relax, spend time with my lady… and of course try to snag a baseball!

Since the Angels would be primarily hitting from the right side on this day I started my pursuit in left field.  I ran into the stadium at five o’clock and took off for the seats in left.  I hung out here:
behind the bullpens.JPGBehind the bullpens, where I’d had moderate success in the past.  Unfortunately, on this day no Angels were hitting the ball far enough to reach me.  After the Angels headed off the field I ran down to the foul pole along the third base line.  After a few minutes of trying to catch an Ian Kinsler home run… and failing.  I called out to backup catcher Kevin Richardson.  “Hey, Kevin!” was all it took as I held my glove up.  I think he was probably delighted that someone actually knew who he was and he rewarded me with a throw from forty feet away, right over the heads of everyone clustered into the front row.  Groovy!

After that I headed back up to the bleachers in left for a minute… just hoping.  But, nope, no homers there so I ran around to the pavilion in right as a couple of lefties were taking their hacks: Chris Davis and Hank Blalock.  Surprisingly, they only hit a couple of baseballs into the seats and after they were done, nothing was coming out that way.

grilli.JPGI went down to the foul pole where Jason Grilli was fielding.

He’d been a pretty cool guy to talk to for the last couple days. He’s definitely a joker on the team… I asked him, “If I went to the upper deck would you throw me one?”  I’d seen him do that the other day… but he just laughed and shook his head.  Oh, well.  If you ever see this guy, start up a conversation with him.  He’s pretty funny.

As BP finished I met up with Michelle in the Terrace Level and we hung out, ate our food we’d brought, and took in the national anthem.  After the anthem I saw a couple of Rangers leave the dugout to play catch so I ran over.  Ian Kinsler was throwing with… someone… I can’t recall.  The important guy is Kinsler, though, because as he headed into the dugout he threw me his baseball (instead of taking it in with him like he’d done the day before).  Cool!

With two baseballs on the evening I decided I was satisfied with my snagging and Michelle and I headed up to the View Level.  Our seats were in the five hundreds… we sat in the four hundreds in a good foul ball spot… similar to where I’d caught my first foul ball back in August.  From up there I was still able to zoom in and get some cool photos:
aybar swing and miss.JPGfiggins baseball leg.JPGAnd I kept my glove on my hand, just in case.  Nothing came near us… but we had a good time taking in the action.  Matt Palmer pitched well, giving up just one hit in five great innings:
palmer pitches.JPGAfter that, the bullpen took over and no hit stuff for the rest of the game… literally.  The Rangers got one-hit and lost 5-0!  It was pretty cool!  In the eighth Michelle and I moved (away from some irritating little kids) behind the dugout on the Rangers’ side:
rangers warmup.JPGThere was hardly anyone there at that point and I took some more photos:
willits on first.JPG
young hits one.JPGmattmichelle1.jpgI figured that if the Rangers were going to throw anything into the crowd after the game I could get it… but they were in no mood.  I guess I’d be pretty upset, too, if I lost big time against mostly minor leaguers.  So, two baseballs on the night–another Angels win–a great night with my wife (and likely her last game of the season) and we had an usher take our photo as the crowds cleared after the game.

It’s really been nice going to as many games with Michelle as I have this season.  Not only is she learning more about the game, but we really get to spend a lot of quality time together–and have a great time cheering for our team.

I had one regular season game left though, a 3:05pm start the very next day…

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8/26/09 at Angel Stadium

A day game after a night game on a Wednesday.  Angel Stadium.  August 26th, 2009.  It was an important day for me.  I’m glad that I had my wife and a friend of ours there with me.

DSCF3001.JPGThe day started at 10:15am when Michelle and I met up with our friend,
Toby, before driving to the stadium.  She’d wanted to head to a
baseball game with us ever since she’d heard about how I run around
catching baseballs (or trying to).  Off we went, arriving at the Big A
around 10:35.  We walked around the back of the stadium so I could peek
in through the outfield tunnels.  As I expected, BP was NOT happening
on this hot summer day.  I was a bit worried that I’d get shut out,
especially when I happened to pass by John Witt (aka MLBallhawk)
outside the Right Field Gate.  John’s some pretty good competition when
baseballs are flyin’ around!

Just after 11:00 the gates opened and I was denied taking in my sealed
bottle of Green Tea… grr.  I ran inside… I had picked right field
because I figured a few Tigers would be out warming up.  After all, the
visiting team had been out first at the last day game I’d attended. 
This day, however, I’d guessed wrong… there were a few Angels out on
the field, so what did I do?

I ran all the way over to the left field line… it was already so
hot!  When I got there Trevor Bell was tossing a ball to himself… he
needed to warm up.  I called out to him, “Hey, Trevor!”  He looked over
at me and I said, “I’ll play catch with you, man.”

He smiled and said, “Well, come on down here then.”  I was already in
the 2nd row of the seats… I went to the first row, right up against
the wall and looked at him.  I shrugged… what was I supposed to do
now?  Certainly he wasn’t serious… I couldn’t go down to the field. 
So, I held my glove up and made a throwing motion with my right hand. 
Just then, bullpen catcher Steve Soliz showed up and got Trevor’s
attention… dang.  Trevor held up his arms and kind of shook his head
as if to say, “Sorry.”

trevor bell playing catch.JPGWell, he played catch and I got Matt Palmer’s autograph.  I was a little bummed.  I had been hoping for a “played catch with a major leaguer” story.  I’ve gotten close a couple of times.  If you’re reading this… just try it sometime.  Go ahead, ask ’em…

Then later, Trevor headed over to the left field foul pole and started talking to someone that he seemed to know… he signed a ticket stub for me… on the back of the ticket.  I had handed it to him face up.  Weird, but a nice signature, and I told him so.  He thanked me.  Here it is:
IMG_0002.jpgI write the name of the player who’s autograph I get on the back of the ticket along with the date so I can remember… see it up there?

Then I got Rafael Rodriguez to sign another ticket.

All this time and there were still no Tigers on the field… they didn’t come out until fifteen minutes later…

Here was the view of the “action” on the field:
view from behind the bullpen cropped small.jpgIt was all right though.  I was having fun… I saw Rob in the crowd and said hello to him and then I took off for the bullpen (where I took the above photo) while Trevor Bell threw a session out there with Soliz and Mickey Hatcher.  As he was finishing up I saw a trio of Tigers emerge from their dugout and start tossing a ball way across the field:
DSCF3015.JPGI couldn’t get a baseball from Trevor after three interactions with him, including this last one when I asked him for the ball he’d just finished using.  Strike three–I was out of there and across the stadium.  I got down to the foul line on the Field Level and saw a small crowd there that included the aforementioned John Witt.

Justin Verlander, who’d pitched well on Monday night, was signing autographs and since I had already used up three ticket stubs I had I grabbed my silver Sharpie and got him to sign my Tigers cap!  Sweet!

At that point in time Michelle and Toby had come out to the seats near me after Michelle took an important phone call and Toby bought an Angels cap.  They sat nearby while I watched a sextet of Tigers pitchers play catch:
sextet of tigers.JPGArmando Galarraga (on the far right in the above picture) finished up and was talking to a trainer for a minute.  Nobody cared about his baseball, it seemed, so I asked him for it.  He looked over at me.  I repeated my request, in Spanish this time, and he tossed me my first baseball on the day!  Shortly thereafter Galarraga came over and started signing autographs.  I really only get autographs on the baseballs I snag by the player I got it from… so it made perfect sense… here’s the ball with the ‘graph:
DSCF3073.JPGAfter that Fernando Rodney was still throwing with Ryan Perry.  Rodney overthrew the ball and I jumped for it.  It ended up going just over my head… and an older guy behind me caught it.  He asked me if I’d seen the catch and when I said yes he pulled out a tape recorder.  As it turns out, he worked for a Detroit radio station… who knows, maybe I’m on the radio somewhere in D-Town.

I took the autographed ball back to Michelle and left it with her while I tried to nab another ball from Bobby Seay.  I got denied… but the game would be starting soon so we headed up to the 400 level.

We took up some seats in a good foul ball spot over first base:
DSCF3024.JPGIt was a great summer afternoon.  It was warm but, man, I love day baseball games.  It’s just a different environment.  I don’t like the lack of BP but I love the many, many empty seats.

Torii Hunter started off the Halo offense with a two-run homer in the first inning that just got out of the reach of Curtis Granderson at the wall.  The Angels tacked on a run in the third and another in the fourth.  Joe Saunders was pitching against Edwin Jackson and did well in his first start back from the DL.  He went five innings and gave up two runs… the bullpen shut it down after that.

But let’s pause for a moent and talk about the sixth inning.  As the top of the sixth arrived the row in front of where we were sitting had cleared out due to the lack of shade as the sun traveled through the afternoon sky.  I looked over at Michelle and said, “I’m gonna move down there a bit.  I’ve got a good feeling.”  So, I sat in the sun on a hot seat while Jason Bulger (who I knew could throw hard) got Placido Polanco to fly out.
bulger pitching.JPGThen Magglio Ordonez popped out.  And up stepped Miguel Cabrera.  I had this view to my left:
empty row.JPGAnd it turned out that I needed all the space in that empty row.  Bulger threw a fastball and Cabrera was just a bit late on it.  It came flying back toward me, arching toward the seats.  I knew it was going to get up to us… I took off to my right along the empty row and I got to the green handrail at the staircase just as a fan stood up to catch the ball (bare-handed) up in the fourth row.  It bounced off his hands, and since I know that gravity pulls things down (duh) I got right below him in the first row (right at the bottom of the staircase).  The ball hit off a second fan’s hand and spun down into the first row near where I was standing.
DSCF3039.JPGI was facing away from the field (that photo shows the view to my left, where the ball ended up).  I lunged to my left, reaching out with my glove hand (since the ball was still rolling).  All of a sudden I felt weight on my right shoulder… a lot of weight.  Later, I found out that a guy had tripped going for the ball and had fallen on me.  I braced myself against the concrete wall with my left arm (sticking my glove into that wet spot in the process… ew), scraping it against the concrete wall, and stretched out my right hand to grab the ball.  My first foul ball.  Ever!

It took me until I was twenty-six years old.  It wasn’t graceful… but it was just a bit of luck combined with quick reflexes and a little skill.  I didn’t make a big deal about it right away because the fans who didn’t get the ball were a little unruly (read: drunk).  Instead, I sat down next to Michelle, smiling, and I opened my glove.  This was inside it:
my first foul ball.JPGYes!  I was thilled.  Every one of my ninety-eight baseballs in my collection had been BP/warmup/3rd out/postgame baseballs.  This one was my first live game ball.  Man, I couldn’t believe it!  I’m excited about it even now as I’m writing this.  Woo!

After that… it was, you know, a baseball game.  We moved out of the sun and closer to home plate:
closer to home.JPGOn the left of the above photo can you see what’s going on?  Mike Scioscia is arguing that Chone Figgins should have been safe at home after stealing it… but time had been called… according to a replay I saw at home later, the umps were right.  Figgins went back to third and didn’t score.  It didn’t matter.  The Angels bullpen held down the Tigers and before I knew it it was the ninth inning.  I left Michelle and Toby when there was one out in the ninth.  I ran down to just behind the dugout as Fuentes was recording the second out:
fuentes pitching.JPGHere was the view on the gorgeous summer day:
field level panorama cropped small.jpgFuentes got the third out and I lined up with about twenty other people hoping to get a toss up.  A few baseballs came up but I didn’t snag anything… that was all right with me though.  I grabbed a few ticket stubs and an abandoned Angels Magazine on my way out to meet Michelle and Toby.  I ended the day with five autographs, two baseballs, and a great memory of a milestone in my ballhawking career.

Here I am after the game with my prize:
DSCF3064.JPGFirst foul ball, 99th baseball overall… I’m hoping to get number 100 on Friday when the Angels play the A’s.

The three of us after the game:
matt michelle toby after game.JPGThanks for reading!

7/6/09 at Angel Stadium

Now that the holiday weekend was over (and the crowds had dissipated–hopefully) it was time to hit up another game.

The Texas Rangers were in town and my Halos were locked in a tie for first place with ’em.  Thankfully for Michelle and I, a division rivalry series didn’t attract as many fans as fireworks and Rally Doodle Dandy monkeys did.

We arrived at the stadium at about 4:40pm and met San Diego ballhawk, Leigh (and his girlfriend) under one of the big hats.  I had two extra tickets to this game that I had planned to sell and Leigh just happened to be in the area.  The masses rushed in at 5:00pm and I was the second one out to the pavilion while Michelle headed to a shady spot to read a magazine.  Here was my view at the start of BP… straight ahead:
7.6.09 at Angel Stadium 001.JPGTo my right:
7.6.09 at Angel Stadium 002.JPGTo my left:
7.6.09 at Angel Stadium 003.JPGBP regular, Rob, was there, too… no Easter eggs were to be found but Bobby Abreu (who’d been taking fungos in right field) had just picked up a ball and was eyeing it.  I ran down to the first row and asked him if he could please toss it up in a mix of English and Spanish.  He gave it a pretty good inspection and then nodded to me and tossed it up!  Ball #1 of the day and the 63rd of my ballhawking career.  When I looked at it I could see why Abreu wanted to get rid of it:
7.6.09 at Angel Stadium 118.JPGPretty scuffed up, lots of stains… but a perfect souvenir for any fan!

It was 5:04pm and I was on the board.  It’s always a good feeling to get that first ball out of the way… it lessens the stress.

7.6.09 at Angel Stadium 004.JPGMatt Palmer, one of my favorite Angels, was shagging baseballs in center field with two other pitchers.  He fielded one and looked like he wanted to play catch but the other two guys were talking to each other.  He took a few mock windups then I yelled, from 18ft. up, “Hey, Matt!  I’ll play catch with you.”  He looked up (this was the third time I’d had a short conversation with him) and he said, “Really?”  Then he started laughing… I hit my glove and held it open.  He wound up and threw his best attempt at a knuckleball right to me for Ball #2 on the day!  A fan near me said, “Whoa, knuckleball!” But I managed to catch it, then I took it out of my glove and got ready to throw it back to him (not knowing if he really wanted me to just keep it).  Palmer looked up and then gestured that I didn’t need to throw it back.  Cool!  It was 5:07pm.

A few minutes later a ball was smacked up toward the pavilion by Kendry Morales.  I was about six rows back from the wall and it was a line shot that I couldn’t quite catch on the fly but I was about two feet from it when it hit the seats and, luckily, it didn’t take a crazy bounce.  Ball #3 was mine and it was only 5:11pm… I had high hopes for the rest of the day…

STA74452.JPGAt this point in time Rob and Leigh had also gotten a ball or two and BP was starting to fill up.  I knew the Rangers had some pop in their bats so they were sure to be peppering the stands with baseballs… sure enough, a few came up toward us in the seats but I was always just a bit to far from them.  One took a crazy bounce over my head… one deflected off a glove in front of me, one disappeared under a pile of little kids.  I was having a good time anyway.  Thanks, Michelle, for snapping some photos.

Vincente Padilla picked a ball up off the track and two teenagers started begging him for it.  He nonchalantly tossed it up without really looking and, though it was just to the right of me, I didn’t knock the teens out of the way.  They, however, were not wearing gloves and they let the ball fall back to the field.  Padilla picked it up again and as he did I asked him for it.  He looked straight up at me, saw my Rangers hat, pointed, and tossed it right to me… I turned to see if the two kids were still there but they were pestering some other player already… so I kept it.  Ball #4 (at 5:39pm)…

The funniest part of BP was that whenever Josh Hamilton would step up to the plate, dozens of people (including me) would move back ten to fifteen rows from where they’d been.  It was Josh’s first day back from the DL… and, though he tried, he didn’t put on much of a show.  I think he hit two into the seats and one to dead center (to the rocks).  I wasn’t close to either of the balls hit to the pavilion.  I think Rob ended up with one though.

As a matter of fact, I didn’t snag anything else for the rest of the day.  It had started so well… but I did see Jason Grilli teasing some fans about throwing them a ball.  One of them asked him to throw it hard (or fast?) and he proceeded to launch one over everybody to the very top of the pavilion.  It was pretty funny.

BP ended about twelve minutes early so I was caught off guard (and Michelle had gone to walk around) but I managed to get down to the field in time to get Doug Mathis (no relation to the Angels’ Jeff Mathis) to sign my ticket:
doug mathis auto.jpg
I like that he signed right over Joe Saunders’ face.  Ha!

Then I headed toward the dugout and sat for a minute while I tried to get in contact with my wandering wife… she was on the terrace level and was on the phone with her mom.  I found her and then headed back to the dugout to try to get another autograph.

Omar Vizquel was signing from the dugout so I couldn’t toss him a ticket.  I decided, “He’s probably goin’ to the Hall of Fame one day… I should really get him to sign something.”  So, I took my Rangers cap out of my bag, clipped a Sharpie to it and tossed it down to him…
7.6.09 at Angel Stadium 120.JPGTA-DA!  I was pretty excited about that.  Omar’s been one of the best shortstops in the game for, like, twenty years.  A long time… perhaps that’s why his signature is so blah… it really doesn’t look like his name at all, does it?

Michelle came down and we watched the pregame stuff happen.  Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus played catch but tossed the ball to a kid twenty feet from me.  We watched the first inning from the super-primo seats:
7.6.09 at Angel Stadium 036.JPG7.6.09 at Angel Stadium 042.JPG7.6.09 at Angel Stadium 045.JPG7.6.09 at Angel Stadium 054.JPG

But got kicked out by the actual seatholders before it ended.  We headed up to the view level (our seats were in Section 530, Row G) but we took up residence in an almost vacant section in the 400s just above first base… a decent foul ball spot.
7.6.09 at Angel Stadium 066.JPGThe game was great!  We were down by two after the first but Jeff Mathis knocked a three-run homer to give us the lead.  Here he is after rounding the bases:
7.6.09 at Angel Stadium 062.JPGThe Angels never gave up that lead.  Jered Weaver pitched well and the Angels ended up with nine runs on nine hits.

We moved back down to the field for the eighth inning.  I failed to get a ball from Hank Blalock as the Rangers came off the field… then we headed to the Angels dugout for the ninth.
Michelle snapped this action shot of Jarrod “Salty” Saltalamacchia fouling a pitch straight back:
7.6.09 at Angel Stadium 086.JPGThe Angels beat the Rangers by five runs and were a game in front of them in the AL West by night’s end.

7.6.09 at Angel Stadium 099.JPGAny love at the dugout this time?

Nope… I came away empty-handed (and saw that same lady from last Thursday get a game bat… again)… but Michelle and I had a great time!
7.6.09 at Angel Stadium 107.JPG
Me + Michelle + Angels win = awesome!

My next game will likely be someplace NOT in Anaheim… ooohh!  I know I’m going to two games in St. Louis (on Aug. 1st, for my birthday, and 2nd) and I am 99% sure I’ll be at an Angels/A’s game in Oakland coming up on the 19th of this month.  I may get to another game or two before then (or between those dates).

The four baseballs from the night:7.6.09 at Angel Stadium 112.JPGOh, and I wanted to share this picture I took before the game because I think it’s pretty funny that I caught Marlon Byrd mid-spit:

7.6.09 at Angel Stadium 026.JPGThanks for reading!

7/2/09 at Angel Stadium

Originally I was going to attend this game with Michelle but one of her girlfriends was in town, so I sold the extra ticket on craigslist and headed out by myself…

Traffic was rough so I didn’t arrive at the Home Plate Gate until 4:50pm (only ten minutes before opening).  There was quite a crowd due to it being a giveaway day:  Rally Doodle Dandy – a beanie baby, patriotic, rally monkey.  I know, exciting, right?
7.2.09 at Angel Stadium 001.JPGNormally, I’d have been pretty bummed to have to stand at the back of that line.  Lucky for me, I spotted BP regular, Terry, at the front of the line and he welcomed me alongside him.  YES!

I ran in, received my monkey, and was off for right field.  Another BP regular, Rob, was out there as I arrived in the pavilion, already looking for Easter eggs.  We both searched, found nothing, I lost a BP homer to a girl nearby… then an usher said, “Did you guys find that one that bounced around up here?”  WHA–???  How could we have missed it?

Rob took off and came back a minute later; he’d snagged it.  Boy, it was one of those days of BP.  The Angels were hitting a few to seats.  Rob got another one, that same girl got another one… I was still stuck at zero.7.2.09 at Angel Stadium 004.JPG  I hassled Matt Palmer about his recent shave-job and had a brief back and forth with him.  After a while an Angel righty, who I am fairly certain was Jeff Mathis, he was Caucasian, wore hi-sox, and smashed the ball toward right center… good opposite field pop (maybe Napoli, though he played in normal sock in the game), that headed toward me.  I took a step down and over to my left, I was camped under it.  Yes!  But at the last second I see a glove rise up next to mine–the gloves touch, the ball deflects away and we both lunge for it.  I get the favorable bounce and snag it as it’s falling through a seat.  I look up and there’s Rob–that guy is everywhere!  He ended up with, I think, four by the time BP was over.  I was just excited to be on the board!  And then… nothing during the O’s portion of BP… I couldn’t get Mark Hendrickson or coach Alan Dunn to toss anything to me.  Some homers were hit but I couldn’t quite get to any of them.  Boy, Baltimore’s got some pop in their bats… and a lot of strong lefties!  I just kept missin’ by just a few rows…

I could’ve had a BP homer on the fly but I opted not to lunge across a few small kids like some middle-aged guy in the front row… I think he hit his head on a cupholder though… karma.

As BP ended at 6:30pm I still had just the one ball but I was thrilled because my streak was still alive.  I’ve now attended 12 games and gotten at least one baseball at each of them.  Last season my streak went up to 8… but was snapped at this game last September.

I meandered down toward the Orioles’ dugout, no one was signing autographs.  I sat… watched the pregame entertainment during the national anthem: Navy Seals skydiving…
7.2.09 at Angel Stadium 015.JPGand…
7.2.09 at Angel Stadium 017.JPGand finally…
7.2.09 at Angel Stadium 022.JPGOoh…

I waited to see who’d be playing catch… three pairs of Orioles played catch and I didn’t get any of those baseballs.  It just wasn’t my day for snagging!  I did take quite a few photos from my prime seat as the game got going:
7.2.09 at Angel Stadium 031.JPG7.2.09 at Angel Stadium 025.JPG

7.2.09 at Angel Stadium 042.JPG7.2.09 at Angel Stadium 045.JPGNote:  Chone Figgins – 5′ 8″, Aubrey Huff – 6′ 4″  It just made me laugh to see the two of them standing together:
7.2.09 at Angel Stadium 051.JPGI also took this pic of me with my new primate friend:
7.2.09 at Angel Stadium 009.JPG
Thrilling.  I was two rows behind the dugout and I figured I would just move whenever the real seatholders came along.  They never did!  There were four seats on the aisle in Row D that never were occupied–except by me.  Any inning that ended with a strikeout, I thought, I would be sure to get a ball from rookie catcher, Matt Wieters (pronounced WEE-ters), but he kept rollin’ ’em back to the mound.  BAH!  But, I couldn’t complain… I’d purchased a ticket for $7.00 and I was in the best seats in the stadium, close enough to get a peek at manager Dave Trembley’s lineup cards:
7.2.09 at Angel Stadium 052.JPGMore photos:
7.2.09 at Angel Stadium 056.JPG7.2.09 at Angel Stadium 061.JPGThe Angels got on the board first, in the bottom of the 4th with a solo blast by Bobby Abreu:
7.2.09 at Angel Stadium 068.JPGThen, the O’s tied in in the top of the 5th but my Halos came back with four runs in the bottom of the 5th, three coming from Abreu’s second homer of the night!

The Angels led 5-1, then the O’s got one back when Luke Scott homered in the 7th…

WHOA–I got so excited about Abreu’s two dingers I almost forgot to mention my second snag of the day.  Kendry Morales flied out to left to end the 4th.  Nolan Reimold caught it and the team started jogging in.  I stood up, decked out in orange and put my glove up.  I figured I had a chance even though I was a bit far from where the players were leaving the field (I was closer to home plate than first base).  When he crossed the foul line Reimold looked toward me and tossed a perfect gamer right to me!  Check it out:
7.2.09 at Angel Stadium 136.JPGNo smudges or marks at all, really… NICE!

My snagging was officially done at that point.  I’d stay at two for the rest of the game.  I soaked up the game, though, and the great pitching, the homers, and the good defense by the Angels.  Here’s a picture I snapped once I was able to get down into the first row:
7.2.09 at Angel Stadium 119.JPG
I set my camera on the dugout, set the 10-second timer and ended up watching a play unfold as the shutter clicked.

Wow… I really look like an Orioles fan… I swear that’s actually an orange Angels T-shirt!  It’s from the ’07 All-Star Game… the one where Vlad won the Home Run Derby.

Lackey pitched a strong eight innings… the Angels were up by three runs, so…

7.2 angel stadium field level edited.jpgI moved to the Angels dugout for the 9th.  Brian Fuentes only needed eight pitches to retire the side and record his MLB-leading 23rd save of the season!  I saw a girl next to me get a bat… about five baseballs came up over the dugout–and I walked away empty-handed.  No dugout luck, post-game, for me… again.

My two baseballs on the night:
7.2.09 at Angel Stadium 139.JPGOh, well.  It was a quick game (2 hours, 14 minutes), a good game, and I was glad to head home to my wife!  Happy 4th, everyone!

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