Tagged: michelle

9/26/11 at Angel Stadium

This was a great game for me as the budding ballhawk that I am.  This was a great game because I had fun, was successful, met some new friends, set a milestone, and walked away with memories and souvenirs.  And– to top it all off–my wife got to be at this game with me.  Here’s what happened…

I entered the day sitting on 369 lifetime baseballs.  When I approached the Home Plate Gate I surveyed the line situation to see where I should situate myself.  Upon closer inspection I saw a friend from 3,000 miles away.  I walked up to Greg Barasch and told him, “I didn’t know you were going to be here!”  Greg and I had met in April of 2010 at my only visit to Citi Field.  As it turns out, he and his father would be in Anaheim for the last three Angels home games of the year–just like me.  Greg and I played catch for a few minutes while his dad held our place in line.  Michelle had decided to sit in the shade and read for a while and I knew I’d meet up with her after batting practice had finished.

When the gates opened I immediately took of for the right field corner and within minutes, got a ball thrown to me by Hank Conger.

That ball–see it on the ground.  Conger walked over, picked it up, I asked for it and he lobbed it to me!  #370.  Just a couple minutes later a liner down the right field line took a bounce near the wall and I was able to reach out and snag that one… I have no idea who hit it.  Someone on the Angels.

I ran up to the RF seats atop that 18 ft. wall after that and quickly got a ball thrown to me by Mike Maddux–it was stamped “PRACTICE.”  Not all the Rangers were out on the field but Maddux and a few pitchers were and he tossed me this random ball that a Halo had hit.

The Angels then ran off the field a bit early and I was bummed–but I had already snagged three baseballs at I’d only been inside the stadium for about 15 minutes!

Greg’s goal was to snag a few Angels commemorative balls during his trip and I knew he’d get a couple–he’s no slouch as a ballhawk–but the first one he’d snagged on the day was a standard Selig ball.  So were the first three I’d ended up with.

Alexi Ogando tossed me baseball number four on the day–a grass-stained standard ball–

–and I was quickly racking up the stats.

Next up I caught this beauty thrown to me by Leonys Martin.

Then, the Rangers big left-handed power came to the plate–Mitch Moreland, Josh Hamilton, and David Murphy.  Well, I snagged a Hamilton homer on the fly in the first round about halfway up the pavilion.  That was career #375!  A few minutes later I grabbed a David Murphy bomb as it bounced around a row to my left.  After a few more minutes Endy Chavez blasted a ball up to me in the pavilion that I snagged on the fly.  That was my eighth ball of the day.

The Rangers headed into the dugout soon after that and I failed to get anything tossed to me as they left the field.  But I just needed two more baseball to get to my first double-digit game EVER!  Plus, I hadn’t snagged a commemorative ball yet on this day.  All eight had been standard Selig balls.

I met up with Greg and his dad after BP and we got this picture snapped of the two of us:

And we’d continue to run into each other throughout the evening.  I took a brief rest before heading over to shallow left field to wait for the Angels to throw.  Sure enough, after Torii Hunter accepted an award for citizenship, Erick Aybar and Maicer Izturis played catch for a few minutes along the foul line (as did a few other Angels).

When they were done, Aybar threw me the ball they’d been using–and it was commemorative!  That would be the only commemorative logo I’d take home that night… but I was up to nine baseballs!  By the way–did you notice in that photo that the Tigers beat Cleveland 14-0?  Wow.

And here’s the lone commemorative I grabbed at this game:

I ran back to where Michelle had been sitting.  I’d heard that instead of the random ex-Angel that would be signing autographs at this game out in center field, a certain Hall of Fame member would be filling in.  I had gotten a wristband during a change in BP groups and Michelle and I quickly took our places in line once I’d finished my pre-game snagging.  I handed my camera off to her so she could snap a picture of me as I got the autograph–

–of Rod Carew!  This was actually the second time he’d signed a ball for me.  The first time had been totally random and not nearly as organized.  This time, instead of signing my ball and inscribing HOF ’91, he inscribed #29 next to his name.  Rod’s a great member of the Angels community in Orange County, even though he’s more famous (and in the HOF) as a Twin.

Eight balls snagged and one HOF autograph and the game had just begun!

I told Greg I’d see him later or at the next day’s game and Michelle and I found some seats down the first base line.

The Angels were down 4-0 in the fourth inning as we watched from here:

Dan Haren pitched well, however, giving up just three earned runs over eight innings.  C.J. Wilson pitched two innings… he’d be pitching Game 1 of the ALDS later in the week.  But, while the Angels could muster a bit of offense, they’d end up losing 4-3 and their slim playoff chances would be dashed.

Michelle would end up leaving the game early to get ready for work the next morning–I made sure to stay to the end.  I’d been trying for third out tosses all night but I’d been unsuccessful.

In the eighth, I was over on the Angels’ side… but headed to the Ranger dugout for the ninth.  Sure enough, the Rangers locked down the win and Neftali Feliz got his 31st save.

I waved at all the players as they headed off the field and they all passed by me–I watched the bullpen guys march across the field… the tallest guy had a baseball… it was Alexi Ogando.  Would he remember me from the afternoon?  He’d already given me a ball and I hadn’t changed my appearance in any way.  As the relievers lumbered in I made my best effort… hands up, waving, and I called out, “Alexi!  Right here!!”  He looked up, pulled his hands out of his hoodie, and lofted ball number 10 right to my waiting glove.  And just like that… with my 379th ball, at my 84th game at Angel Stadium since 2008 (when I started ballhawking) I FINALLY reached double-digits!  I was thrilled–and the ball from Ogando was a rubbed up beauty–pristine.  It had been rubbed with mud and never dropped, scuffed, or hit in any way.  It was perfect.  And with that I took my leave of the Big A.

I would be back quite soon.

UPDATE: I found my notes from this game AND my following two games.  Since 9/26/11 was a special day for me–I thought I’d share my notes.

This is the list I take to every game I go to.  And now you’ve got a window into how I keep these things categorized and how I remember things for my blog.  It looks like chicken scratch, I know, but you can see I write a letter L next to each player if they’re a lefty.  For pitchers, if they throw left-handed… for batters, if they hit left-handed.  Or they get a letter S if they’re a switch hitter.  The starting pitcher is circled on each roster and each ball I snag is labeled with a number and a circle.  For example, Ball #377’s note is “377 – COF (which means Caught On Fly) E. (Endy) Chavez S. 238 (Section 238 of the right field pavilion) – 3rd row – right to me prac logo w/ brwn + grn (it was a ball with a practice logo and brown and green marks on it).  Want to know more about my notes, or care to explain how you make your own?  Let me know in the comments.

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.

8/21/11 at Angel Stadium

This was a special day.  It started three weeks earlier when I received a four-pack of tickets to this game from my sister-in-law, Crystal, as a birthday gift.  Fast-forward to August 21st and Michelle and I (along with Crystal and her boyfriend, Alex) were set to head to the game.  But that’s not all–they were Club Level tickets, ooh!  And, as a final surprise… Crystal said they would pick us up.  Here we are on the way to the game:

Oh, yeah–we got picked up by a limo!  WHAT?!?  That’s right, Crystal had arranged a limo to take us to and from the game through the company she works for.  So, thank you Crystal and thank you AMS Paving in Fontana!  Seriously, if anyone in Southern California needs anything paved… call these guys.

Well, we got to the stadium just a bit after the gates opened and, no surprise, there was no BP going on.  Michelle, Crystal, and Alex wandered around while I tried to snag a ball to keep my streak alive.  In case you’re wondering, the last time I went to a Major League Baseball game and didn’t snag at least one baseball was September 27th, 2008.  This would be my 90th game since then… and, sure enough, after hanging around the O’s dugout for a while, some unknown Oriole player (or coach–or assistant–or trainer) tossed up a ball.  I only saw him for a second and he had sunglasses on… so I have no idea who it was.  But my streak was safe–90 consecutive games with at least one baseball!

After that, there wasn’t much happening on the field.  Way out in right, Ronnie Deck (he’s the bullpen catcher for the O’s) was running and stretching.  He signed my ticket before heading off to the clubhouse.  Then–more nothing.

I looked up toward where I knew our seats were and saw a trio of people I recognized (circled in red–click on the photo on the right to enlarge it if you want).  Those are our seats… they saved the aisle for me.

Eventually some Angels came out to throw and after they finished they signed some autographs.

I was interested in getting Mike Trout’s but I have autographs from Mark Trumbo, Howie Kendrick, Peter Bourjos, Maicer Izturis, and Erick Aybar already, and Trout went further away from me… toward the outfield.  I didn’t get either of the baseballs tossed up by the Angels–and so I went over to see if the O’s would throw before the game.  They did–but J.J. Hardy kept the ball he had been using and so I headed upstairs to the Club Level.  I flashed my ticket to the usher guarding the section and took my seat.

And I was in great position to snag a foul ball.  As a matter of fact, during the game one was caught barehanded by a fan to my left and three rows behind me and another was bobbled by a group to my right and bounced down to the lower level seats.  Those were the two close calls–I figured I’d just get them out of the way in this entry right up front.  That was frustrating but the day was a blast!

I had intended to explore the Club Level but I had such a good view of the game that I seriously didn’t want to move–not even to go use the restroom–I just wanted to sit in my nicely-cushioned, perfectly-situated-in-the-shade, foul-ball-targeted seat.  I’m gonna have to get a seat up there in the 300 level again sometime.

This was my actual view from my ticketed seat:

Nice, right?

Any time a righty was up to bat I was ready…

That one shot straight back.  But I didn’t take many photos because, and this is amazing to me, I was so much more interested in the game from my vantage point than usual.  I’m sure I’ll be spoiled now having sat there for a game…

Ah, yes, the game… what happened?  Well, Jerome Williams (who?–he’s blocked in the photo on the right but he’s the guy in the middle) picked up his first win since 2005 by giving up only one run in seven innings.  Peter Bourjos homered for the third consecutive day, and Howie Kendrick hit his tenth dinger of the year.  The bottom third of the Oriole lineup went 0-for-10 with three strikeouts.  And it was a beautiful day in Orange County and I had a ton of fun–but halfway through the Halos’ 7-1 victory Crystal told me that she had one more surprise for me.  She was taking us to dinner, too!

We left the stadium after the game ended and I snapped the above shot before we got into the limo and headed to–

–Benihana!  Where dinner IS the show!

From left to right that’s Alex, Crystal, Michelle, and me.

And we got a private booth and the bill was totally taken care of for us!  WHAT?!?

What an awesome birthday celebration–man–I need more days like that.  Thanks again to my awesome sister-in-law!

8/3/11 at Angel Stadium

I was back at the Big A for a mid-week game against the Twins.  I always love to watch the Angels play the Twins because they’re very similar teams year in and year out.  I arrived at about 4:30 and waited for the gates to open at 5:00.  Michelle would be meeting me when she got out of work so I spent the time talking with a few of the BP regulars (like Chris and Rob).  It was a fairly good crowd once we all ran inside and I headed up to the pavilion, as both teams would be taking a lot of hacks from the left side of the plate since two righties, Joel Piniero and Scott Baker, would be facing off.

The seats filled up pretty quickly and almost every row had one or two people blocking paths to get from one section to another.  I managed to snag a Mark Trumbo opposite field shot that bounced in the fourth row after about twenty minutes.  I ran to my left and the ball ended up going over my head–so I climbed a row of seats and snagged it off the cement.  And here it is:

That photo was taken in the concourse shortly after batting practice ended.  Ball #337.  And the first one of the day.  Later, one of the last Angel home runs during batting practice was a shot by Russell Branyan and I sprinted a full section to my left and mid-stride was able to jump up, fully reach out and above me and snag the ball on the fly at the spot shown here:

That’s Rob in the white, sleeveless shirt on the right of the above photo.  I felt good about that jumping catch (and later a couple of people commented on what a good catch it was).  But one guy didn’t like it–he claimed that ball was hit right to him and that it was hishe was going to catch it and, not only that, he was going to give it to his son for his ninth birthday.  Whoa.  One–he didn’t have a glove.  Two–he had been sitting down.  Three–he had a beer in his hand at the time.  Really… he was so prepared to catch a 400 ft. shot going 80 mph.

If he had presented his concern/plan in a calm and polite way I would have probably given him (or his son) a baseball.  Instead, he was belligerent and said things like, “Yeah, you better walk away,” as I went to put the ball in my backpack.  A minute later, now that I was another full section away from him, he approached me (in a pretty aggressive manner) and started cursing and berating me.  Not a good example to set for your birthday boy, sir.

The other regulars (and the ushers in that area of the stadium) all know me and know I play by the rules.  If I’d thought I had done anything wrong (or they had suggested that I had truly not made a wise decision in making such a great catch that happened to be in front of that guy) I would have given the ball right over.  But, barring that–there was no way I was going to reward his crass behavior… what a lesson for his son, huh?  If you cuss and yell at people, that’s how you get things you want!

Here’s the ball, BTW:

After the Angels hit, the Twins started their BP session and the seats filled up a bit more at that point.  Here was the view to my left:

That’s Chris in the white hat and shirt.  And here was the view to my right:

I went on with my day and snagged my third baseball off the bat of a Twins lefty (I don’t know who).  I caught it on the fly in the third row of Section 237.  Here’s the spot of the catch:

And that kid in the blue shirt looking at the camera is Chris’ girlfriend’s little brother, Brandon.  He’s on his way to catching a ton of baseballs himself–I’m pretty sure he caught at least two at this game.  I ended up with three baseballs–all hit–two of ’em caught on the fly.  And one was a 50th Anniversary commemorative baseball.  Not a bad batting practice session.

I ran to the Twins’ dugout after BP but didn’t get anything there… nor did I get a ball from either team during their warmups before the first pitch, try as I might.

I was tired–and sweaty.  It had been really hot–but it cooled down to about seventy-seven degrees at game time.  Tired and sweaty was a beautiful combination for when my wife arrived at the stadium.  She was glad to see me anyway and we decided to get some food and sit down with this view:

Michelle and I watched the game from out there and, though I tried for a third out toss at the Angels dugout a couple of times, I was content to just hang out with her and enjoy the summer evening.

Then, as I was coming back from getting a soda in the third inning I watched Peter Bourjos smack a deep drive into the left field corner.  I saw a guy move into the aisle–he was wearing a white shirt–and reach up and make a great catch about eight rows deep in the stands.  Then he did a fist pump and turned a bit and I recognized this guy:

Rob!  Nice snag on the fly, dude!

After that, I continued to watch the game with Michelle as the Twins pounded out five homers against the struggling Joel Piniero.  It wasn’t pretty.  The Angels were down 9-4 when Michelle decided to head home in the seventh inning.  I walked her to the gate and we got this photo together before she left:

Then, I went and found a seat here:

And then here:

No third out baseballs came my way…

And then the Angels, down 11-4 in the ninth, tried to mount a comeback while I sat here:

It didn’t happen and the game went final.  The Twins tossed a couple baseballs up after the game but nothing came my way.  Still–a fun night at the stadium.

6/28/11 at Angel Stadium

It was Dan Haren bobblehead night at the Big A and I was expecting a big crowd.  I was happy to have Michelle with me at this game though–it had been over a month since the last time she’d come to a game with me.

My first ball came off the bat of Howie (I’ll never call him Howard) Kendrick.  He sliced a ball down the right field line.  I was able to position myself perfectly along the wall and scoop it off the warning track.  In my notes I wrote: #317-scoop Kendrick hit RF corner pretty colors.  The “pretty colors” thing came from the variety of markings on the ball.  I took the following photo when I got home that night.

The photo doesn’t do it justice but it had green grass stains,  reddish-brown warning track dirt, dark green markings from hitting the Anaheim seats, and a lighter brown marking (probably from pine tar/rosin), black bat marks, and blue markings from something else.  What causes blue markings on a BP baseball?

After that snag I ran up to the pavilion to try to chase down a home run – and because the Nationals pitchers were starting to conclude their warmups – and I had a plan.  Howie Kendrick smacked a homer the opposite way and I sprinted a section to my left… I couldn’t quite make the catch on the fly but the ball rattled around in the row in front of me and I grabbed it with my bare hand.  That ball had a worn out practice stamp from where the bat had smacked it:

That would be the last ball I would get from the Angels… but the Nats pitchers ended their stretching and throwing drills and, knowing their pattern after watching them the day before, I called out to Sean Burnett from the pavilion corner:

In the above photo he’s the one doing sit-ups near the warning track.  But a moment before he started those sit-ups, this happened:

Bam!  A rubbed-up commemorative baseball.  All I had to do was yell out, “Sean!” and flap my glove.  He fired a strike right up to me.  That was Ball #3 on the day.

Ball #4 on the day came off the bat of Danny Espinosa and he smashed a drive to Section 239 of the pavilion and I ran a section and a half to my right, watched the ball fly six feet over my head, and then snagged it from where it settled in a folded seat.  It, too, was a commemorative ball.  Score.  Why were the Angels hitting/throwing me practice balls and the Nats were hitting/throwing me commemoratives?

Anywho, BP wound down and I didn’t snag anything at the dugout.  I scarfed down a delicious chicken wrap while I sat with Michelle before pregame throwing, then I darted over to the third baseline and just missed out on getting Erick Aybar’s warmup baseball.  But I got this photo that I really like of him catching a throw:

See the ball through the webbing of his glove?

We sat here for dinner and the game:

We moved progressively closer to the field as fans left and the night went on… but we watched as the Angels pounded out eleven runs against the Nationals.  I can’t remember the last time I’d seen them score eleven runs!  Midway through the contest the presidents ran their race…

And Teddy cheated, knocking down his counterparts…

But he got his comeuppance.

And Abe won.

In case you weren’t sure, George, Abe, and Tom started the race.  Teddy was hiding in the right field tunnel.  He jumped out, threw a shoulder, knocked down the other three, then did a silly dance before taking off for the finish line.  Abe was close on his heels and when Teddy got about twenty-five feet from the finish line he fell down.  And Abe passed him up for the win.  Teddy thrashed around on the warning track for a good thirty seconds before retreating in shame.

Cheaters never prosper, Teddy.

I tried each inning to get a third out ball but Michael Morse kept bouncing the ball to someone in the dugout.  He did it every time.  The only chances I really had were when flyouts ended the innings and folks like Espinosa or Roger Bernardina ended up with the ball.  I just wasn’t having any luck though.

Michelle snapped a photo of me (left) on my return trip from one such attempt.  Notice that I am smiling despite being shut out since the end of batting practice on this particular night.

Gotta keep a good attitude!  Also… I could really use a haircut.

And I took a few photos in order to create a panorama of our view through the majority of the game.

The Angels won it, 11-5, and we got home late… and had to go tot work early in the morning.  But that didn’t stop me from staying up just a bit later to photograph the four baseballs I’d gotten at this game:

I would be heading back the next day!

5/20/11 at Angel Stadium

I’ll just come right out and say it: This wasn’t my most successful day of snagging baseballs.  No, siree.

Did I get shut out?  No… not in my home park with a full session of BP going on… here’s how it went down:

For those of you that read my previous entry, you know that I began the day sitting on 299 baseballs snagged in my lifetime.  I wanted to be sure to pay close attention to the players on the field–who was hitting–who was shagging balls in the outfield–I wanted to know who Ball #300 would come from.  Michelle and I arrived at the Home Plate Gate at about 4:40pm, saw some regulars we knew, jumped in line with them… and waited.  At 5:03pm the gate opened and I ran inside and headed to left field.

I was hoping that Torii Hunter or Mark Trumbo would clear the bullpens and hit me my first ball of the day.  As it turned out, Trumbo did hit one that cleared the home bullpen and most of the visitors’ bullpen… it hit the metal “roof” that shades the visiting players while they sit on the bullpen bench.  I had the snag lined up but the ball fell just short of the front row, hit the roof, bounced awkwardly over me and to a guy right behind me.  If he’d been five feet in any other direction I’d have been able to walk over and simply pick up the ball… Alas, #300 would have to wait a little longer.

I ran over to right field shortly after the second group of Angels finished hitting, knowing that there weren’t any batters that could hit many home runs in the last group I’d get to see.  I ended up down by the foul pole as Peter Bourjous took his hacks.  Bourjos, a righty, was going the other way and flicked a ball down the right field line that took a bounce on the grass, hit the wall in foul territory, and rolled toward the corner–where I leaned out over the wall and plucked it off the warning track in front of Section 1:34.  It was 5:23pm on May 20th, 2011.  And just like that–I’d snagged my 300th baseball!  I remember thinking… at least I know who it came from… and it’s a home team player (who I know signs autographs).

When the Braves came out to throw and hit I ran up to the pavilion since they had a few lefties with some pop.

When I got out to the seats it was still fairly empty but it took about ten minutes for anything to come my way… and when Brian McCann started pulling the ball to right field I was all over a homer–until the last second when I realized it was going over my head.  I turned my back to the field and watched the ball bounce off a seat two rows up and shoot to my left.  I raced over a few seats, climbed over a row, saw Rob closing in, and reached out as the ball headed for the staircase… I missed it!  But I didn’t give up and the ball bounced down a step and I grabbed it with my right hand a split second before Rob got to it.  Ball #301.  Here’s the view from near where I snagged the McCann ball.

It was marked PRACTICE.  And after that the Braves (who were missing Jason Heyward) experienced a severe power outage.  Not too many more baseballs made their way up to the seats and it got pretty crowded up there, too:

BP ended and I was ready (along with Chris) to race toward the Braves’ dugout.  I blazed through two sections (and past my wife, reading a book on the Terrace Level) before my left leg caught a bit of an armrest.  I was okay… until I took another step and realized I was losing my balance… I comically fell forward.  The only thing hurt was my pride… and my hand–I suffered a scrape.  And my watch got scratched up.  Chris stopped to make sure I was okay (I was) but it meant we were a bit late getting to the dugout.  I missed out on getting anything there.

Scraped (and with a bruised ego–it was a silly, embarrassing fall) I sat down next to Michelle.  She was concerned that I was hurt–I was concerned that I’d only snagged two baseballs in an hour and a half.  But at least I’d hit my milestone–the day couldn’t be considered a failure.  When the Angels came out to warm up I tried to get a ball from them.  I was in the third row as Maicer Izturis warmed up with Alberto Callaspo and when they finished I got Izturis to toss me the ball–but at the last second a fan in the second row stuck his arm up and deflected the ball to an old lady to the left, who promptly kept the ball (it did hit her on the head–I can’t blame her).

Cool uniforms, huh?  Flashback Friday!

Next, Alexi Amarista and Erick Aybar finished throwing and I got Aybar to toss the ball my way–but get this: a fan in the first row jumped up and made a stellar bare-handed catch in front of me.  How frustrating!!!  Two warmup baseballs thrown to me… and not a one of them made it to my glove.

And no Braves played catch near their dugout before the first pitch–bummer.  Michelle had eaten her dinner during BP and I’d scarfed mine down before pregame throwing–but we were still hungry so we vowed to try to find something healthy to eat–and we would end up succeeding AND finding a few new chow spots at the Big A.

But first, I tried for a third out ball from the Braves after the first–and failed.

We wandered the lower level concourse searching for some healthier than average ballpark food options–I learned you can get just about anything at a major league stadium nowadays.  We found a nifty ice cream spot, a chicken sandwich booth, two different kinds of BBQ joints, and ended up choosing some edemame from a sushi place!  It hit the spot… and we munched on it from our newly acquired seats in the right field corner:

If anyone had decided to pull a ball down the line in the middle innings I’d have been all over it!  My wife and I were, like, the only people who seemed to care about the game.  Everyone in the identical red hats in that photo above was there with some sort of conference/religious group/singles club.  We couldn’t figure out what the organization was about–but it wasn’t a group of baseball enthusiasts, that’s for sure.

From this spot I got a shot of the video clip Michelle and I appear in on the jumbotron:

We’re dancing in our seats to Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance” and Michelle is blocking her face with her arm–which is holding up her Rally Monkey… in case you were wondering.  I know you were.

The game was great from the point of view of an Angels fan!  The Halos knocked Braves starter Tim Hudson out of the game in the fourth after he’d given up eight runs and Ervin Santana pitched a complete game four-hitter.  The Angels won it, 9-0.  A lot of folks stuck around for the fireworks but I still managed to sneak down to the dugout before the last out was recorded:

And did it help me snag a ball?  Nope–I was stuck on two for the night.  Oh, well… stil had a great time:  Michelle and I watched the fireworks together:

And on our way out to the car she took a photo of me with my 300th baseball:


And when we got home I took some more pictures to document the occasion:

Logo:

And, inscribed:

My next game would be at the Big A two weeks later…

4/12/11 at Angel Stadium

The commemorative baseballs were out in full force at the ‘Big A’ so I was back just three days after my first regular season game.  Michelle and I each took off a bit early from work so we could make it to the stadium for BP.  Here I am at the front of the Home Plate Gate line before they opened at 5:00:
matt at front of line 4.12.JPGI was the second one to the right field seats so I didn’t bother looking for Easter eggs very thoroughly and instead went up to the wall overlooking the players shagging baseballs in the outfield.

One of the players out there was Hank Conger and as he fielded a ground ball I asked him, “Hey, Hank, could you throw that ball up here, please?”

He did–a nice, easy toss to me in the front row–and just like that I was on the board for the day.  The ball was a standard baseball and I decided I’d make sure to find a young fan to give it away to before I left that night.

About five minutes later I had a home run lined up and it ended up falling just a few feet short and bouncing toward a player in center field.  As it turns out, that player was Francisco Rodriguez and when he retrieved it I asked him in Spanish if he could throw it back up.

He looked up, gestured, and I took a couple steps back just in case his throw was short… it wasn’t… and I had baseball number two on the day.

Here’s the spot where I snagged it:
spot of rodriguez toss 4.12.JPGI moved a few sections to my left, closer to straight away right field, and ended up getting Ball #3 from rookie pitcher Tyler Chatwood.  He tossed it up to me in Section 238 after he fielded a ball and turned around and saw me waving.  I yelled out, “Right here, Tyler!” and that was all it took.

I turned the ball over in my palm to reveal a 50th Anniversary logo!  Nice!  Shortly after that the Indians came out to stretch, throw, and hit and I thought, “Wow!  Three balls from the Angels and the Indians can really hit… plus I’m one of, like, eight guys in an Indians hat in the whole stadium!  This is gonna be great.”

cabrera warmup 4.12.JPGAnd wouldn’t you know it?  I didn’t snag another ball for the rest of BP.  No toss ups from Indians pitchers, no mores caught in the seats from the many, many Indians lefties, no toss up at the end of BP at the dugout… and even though I was near Orlando Cabrera as he finished up his pregame throwing I didn’t get that ball, either.

I sat back down with Michelle as the game started up thinking of what could have been… but I looked at the commemorative ball I’d snagged from Chatwood and decided to change my mind.  I had some excellent souvenirs and I was at a ball game with my wife–no need for frustration, right?

I gave the Conger ball to a kid before the game started and the Rodriguez ball to a little guy on our way out of the stadium.  That made me feel even better… but on to the game!

Our friends, Beth and Randy, who we’d gone to Indians/Angels games with on 7/27/09 and 4/26/10 (and Randy came to a A’s/Angels game with me alone on 4/8/09), would be at this tilt, too… and when they arrived we met them at their seats with this view in front of us:
4.12.11 left field panorama.jpgNot too shabby, just barely in home run range.  I joked with the people around us when Michelle and I left to go to our seats that they’d have to fend for themselves without my glove around to protect them…

And after we grabbed some ice cream and made it to our seats here:
4.12.11 upper view panorama.jpgNot so great… but I was still having fun!  Anyway, after we got to those seats Mark Trumbo hit his first home run about a section away from where Beth and Randy’s seats were… and after talking with Beth at the end of the game I determined I wouldn’t have been able to snag it over/through the row full of fans.  Still, it was Trumbo’s first career jack–and some security folks came to get the ball… they traded something to the guy who caught it–Randy and Beth made it sound like they just traded a ball for a ball…

Talk about a missed opportunity.  After that, my uncle (who was also at this game), texted me to say that we should come sit with him in Section 126.  So, we did… here’s a photo from Section 126:
haren pitch 4.12.JPGAnd did I mention that Dan Haren was throwing a shutout?

And it would end up being a one-hit shutout!  And the game was over in two hours and fifteen minutes.  The Angels won it, 2-0.

We met up with Randy and Beth after the game to chat for a bit and then headed out to the car–it turned out to be a great night.  And… I had tickets to the next day’s game!