Well, now that the 2012 season is upon us I guess I can finally put up my final blog entry from the 2011 season. I know… it makes perfect sense.
Angels and Rangers on the final day of the 2011 regular season. Truthfully, neither side had anything to prove. At the time of this 4:05pm game, the Rangers were in and the Angels were not. The Rangers had clearly been the better team all season… much to my chagrin. Nevertheless, I was back at the stadium promptly as the gates were preparing to open. After another round of catch with Greg (while his dad held our spot in line), we were off to the races again. I headed for right field where this was my view:
Since the gates only opened 90 minutes prior to the first pitch, we didn’t get to see the Angels hitting–but as the Rangers took their hacks I got my first ball of the day, a commemorative Angels ball, from reliever Mike Adams.
I ran to the dugout but didn’t snag anything else there. During the lull between the end of BP and the start of pre-game throwing I got some water and rested. Then, I chatted with some other ballhawks and took a few photos. Around 3:30, the players finally emerged for their warmups. I stood in the fourth row on the aisle and ended up getting a ball thrown to me by Mike Trout for the second consecutive day!
While the Rangers started all of their regulars, the Angels lineup featured several backups (Mike Trout, Bobby Wilson) and some minor league callups (Gil Velazquez, Efren Navarro, Jeremy Moore).
Garrett Richards started for the Halos and did a great job. He gave up only two hits but one of them happened to be a second inning solo homer by Mike Napoli (who continued to hurt the Angels each time he faced them throughout 2011). The Angels came back to tie it in the 5th on a sac fly from Velazquez. The Angels’ bullpen kept the game tied while I switched from dugout to dugout trying for third out baseballs. And I kept snapping photos throughout… like Peter Bourjos bunting:
Despite my efforts, I was stuck on three throughout the game and I would end the 2011 season with 385 total baseballs.
And the Angels couldn’t score in the ninth. They were swept in three games by the Rangers on their own turf.
Now–recovering from the Angels loss was easy–securing a post-game freebie from their dugout wasn’t. Even though several baseballs, batting gloves, and even a couple bats came up over the dugout roof, I couldn’t get my hands on anything. Later, I found out Greg’s dad had secured an Erick Aybar bat–which I would later mail back to New York for them.
I hung out in the quickly-emptying seating bowl, knowing I wouldn’t be back for several months.
It had been a fun three games. I was sad to see the 2011 season go, but by the time you read this we’ll already be into the 2012 season. How ’bout that?
My first game of ’12 will be on April 16th–right back at Angel Stadium.
The day began with an autograph session with Howie Kendrick at an AT&T store in Seal Beach. Michelle and I each got him twice, and I knew I’d be giving one baseball I had signed away to a friend of mine who works for a charity to fight Huntington’s Disease.
Howie was very nice in person and I really liked his shoes… we chatted about them for a minute as he signed my second autograph. Thanks, Howie!
When we arrived (and got to park in super-close Diamond Parking) there were booths being set up for an animal adoption event and for Chevy. As it turns out, if you test drove a Chevy you got swag… including vouchers for Angels tickets. I was all over it–so was Joe. And he drove the new Camaro–it was pretty sweet. I ended up with a cap, a keychain, and two Angels tickets. Score! It was almost time for the gates to open:
They all decided to check out the animal adoption booths (which you can see to the right in the above photo) while I headed in for BP. My first ball on the day was a scoop off the warning track. Kendrick sliced one that bounced on the grass near the foul pole and I was able to jump out over the wall and snag it as it rolled by. It had the word “PRACTICE” stamped on the sweet spot. Bleh.
I headed up to the pavilion after that and got my next baseball from Mike Napoli. Nap blasted one to right-center and I ran across half a section, down to the front row and reached out over the wall to catch it on the fly. Here’s the spot where I caught it:
The kids in that photo were pretty excited on my behalf… they hadn’t even seen the ball coming and I snagged it three feet to the left of the smaller boy. It was a pretty nice snowcone catch–again, the ball had a practice stamp.
That was it for Angels BP. For the Blue Jays, I played the area behind the bullpens in left field.
I knew there was a lot of right-handed pop in the Toronto lineup and I hoped that they’d knock a few out that far. Most of the home runs they hit went into the bullpens–but thanks to Casey Janssen, a SoCal native who was talking to the woman in the red shirt in the above photo, I got Ball #3 on the day. A Blue Jay righty (I don’t know who) smacked one toward the bullpen. I yelled to Janssen, who was in the ‘pen, “Heads up!” He turned, found the ball as it descended, and caught it. He’d already given one to the lady he was talking to so, as a way of saying thanks to me for warning him, he flipped me the ball. The toss-up was, if my records are correct, my 100th ball of 2010! Many thanks to Mr. Janssen. BP kind of died after Jose Bautista, Vernon Wells, and Aaron Hill hit. I spent the last round in right field–but didn’t snag anything there.
I ran down toward the dugout, passing Michelle and her family in the process (they’d been hanging out in some shaded seats for the end of BP) and when I got to the Blue Jay dugout I got Ball #4 from John MacDonald as he headed into th dugout. It had a cool black smudge on it.
The rest of my party moved to our ticketed seats after that and I continued to hang out near the field for Blue Jays warm-up throwing–but I didn’t snag another ball there so I sat down with the rest of the family. Remember how I said they were awesome seats? This was our view:
BAM! So cool! And we were on the aisle. I told Joe, “These are the seats I have to sneak down to when Michelle and I usually come to games here.” He’d gotten them from someone at his work–so thanks to Joe and the folks he works with!
That’s Mike Napoli scoring on a two-run home run by Hideki Matsui. That was in the second inning so the Halos were off to a good start! I was thrilled to be in great seats that were actually OURS!
And Bobby Wilson, our backup catcher, ended up with two home runs and five RBIs on the night! Wow! It was a good atmosphere, pleasant company, and a great game to watch.
In the ninth inning I positioned myself right over the Blue Jay dugout and as the Jays retreated into the dugout someone (I think it was Shaun Marcum) flipped a ball up over the dugout unexpectedly. I didn’t catch it in my glove… I caught it with my glove, pinning it against my chest… luckily it didn’t hurt and that gave me five baseballs on the night. A pretty good haul–after we left the stadium we treated Joe and his son, Joey, to frozen yogurt at our favorite place and then they were on their way back home.
I got back from New York on Friday–and on Saturday I convinced Michelle that we should head to an Angels game. I was psyched and ready for a real game at the stadium this time (I’d already been to an exhibition nine days earlier). We didn’t have tickets in advance but we got to the ticket window near the gates at 4:40, bought two tickets, and got in line. Shortly after Michelle and I arrive I saw Chris and chatted with him about his offseason and a little while later we saw Rob and Terry. I’ve written about all these guys before, remember?
The gates opened at 5:00pm and I was off–running to the pavilion in right field. Rob was right in front of me heading up the escalator and I zoomed by him and made it out to the seats first. I ran down the staircase, checking each row of seats. As I got to the second row I saw a ball rolling… down into the first row. What? There are NEVER any Easter eggs in Anaheim!!! It probably had just been hit out to the seats just before I got there. As I scooped up Ball #1 on the day (and the 161st of my life) I thought back and this was only the 2nd game at Angel Stadium in which I’d found a ball. The last time it happened was 7/27/09 and I’d found two of them!
I’d forgotten my camera on this abrupt trip to the ballpark but Michelle had hers and she agreed to snap a few pictures during BP. She typically sits and reads in the shade out of the way of flying baseballs so the pictures are a little far away (or blurry) but she got some good ones.
Here I am tracking a home run (well, I thought it would be a home run):
A minute later Bobby Abreu was batting and I had been talking to Rob about Abreu hitting anything out in BP. He said, “I’m still waiting for him to hit one out up here.” And then he did–the ball went screaming into the pavilion behind us and to our right. It landed in the 10th row, took a high bounce as we were approaching it and in the picture below you can see me grabbing it just before Rob got there:
Hey, that’s my backpack in the seat just below Rob’s right arm…
I had to wait until almost the end of the Angels’ portion of BP.to get my next ball–but it was a great moment. I’d been hanging out on a staircase in right center. Mike Napoli was swinging and I knew he had good opposite field power. He smacked one that had a chance to make it up to the pavilion. I ran a full section to my left, down the staircase to the first row and reach out over the wall just to my left. The ball hit the pocket of my glove just in front of the wall… I kind of hit the wall, too. But it was worth the bruise on my leg to make that catch. It was my first ball caught on the fly in the 2010 season. I can still catch, go figure.
Since I knew that not many A’s had home run power to right field I decided to play down the line near the foul pole. I got a good spot… and at some point Michelle took a photo of me in my A’s garb:
Shortly after he finished his warmup throws, Andrew Bailey threw me Ball #4 on the day. There were a few slicers and foul balls that whizzed by but I couldn’t get a glove on any of them.
I moved down to the closest section to the dugout that I could. At Angel Stadium you’re not allowed to go close to either dugout until BP is over unless you have a ticket to that section… which is weird. That’s the opposite policy that most other stadiums have. Usually you get kicked out of dugout seats at the end of BP. Anyway, for the last few minutes of batting practice I was here:
And then as the A’s trotted in I sprinted to their dugout and Brad Ziegler tossed my my fifth baseball. Sweet!
I found Michelle sitting in the outfield and she took a photo of me with the baseballs I’d snagged:
The only other thing I got (other than stomach pain from the gross buffalo boneless wings I ate) was one of those soft baseballs the Strike Force shoots out of an air cannon. I tried for warmup tosses before the game and then tried for a third out toss in the bottom of the first… and then Michelle and I decided to find some seats in the upper level to watch the game.
Before we went upstairs we went to check something out… I had heard that the Rally Monkey would be making an appearance at this game. And that you could have your picture taken with said monkey. Now, I’d never seen the Rally Monkey before and I didn’t know if it would be an actual monkey or someone in a monkey suit.
Here’s a photo from where we decided to park ourselves:
It was a great game! It could have been better but, still, we had a lot of fun.
Ben Sheets pitched against Jered Weaver and Weaver gave up one run in six innings against Sheets’ three runs given up in six innings. But Weaver didn’t get the win. Erick Aybar and Jeff Mathis made base-running mistakes and Kevin Jepsen and Scot Shields each gave up a run so we went into the ninth inning tied at 3-3.
Bobby Abreu doubled with one out in the ninth… and then Torii Hunter was intentionally walked by Craig Breslow to get the lefty-lefty matchup against Hideki Matsui. Well, Matsui laced a double just fair down the right field line to score Abreu and the place went nuts!
4-3 Angels. It was a good time–and we headed out to the parking lot with smiles on our faces. On the way out I gave away two of the baseballs I’d snagged (and I had already given one away to my favorite usher during the game). I’m basically giving away most of the balls I snag this season unless their special/commemorative… I’ll run out of storage space eventually anyway. So, I’m making tons of kids (and parents) happy. Heck, I’ve snagged twelve baseballs and given away more than half of them to ushers and kids already.
Ah… it’s nice to have baseball back again!
I really didn’t have any intention of going to this game until about 36 hours before it actually happened. July 23rd happened to be the birthday of a good friend of mine named Garrett (who you might remember me mentioning in this entry from back in May). He didn’t have any big plans when I called him up so Michelle and I invited Garrett and his roommate, Julian, also a good friend, down to the OC for some baseball action. I found some cheap tickets on StubHub and the plan was set: Michelle and I would go to batting practice and the guys would drive down from L.A. for the start of the game. We were psyched to spend an evening with friends and I was extra jazzed because I hoped to snag a Twins Metrodome commemorative baseball. I hoped that they’d brought a few with them on the road trip.
We got to the stadium at 4:45pm (ugh… traffic) and got a surprisingly good spot in line. When the Home Plate Gate opened I ran out to right field but on my way I stopped mid-stride. There was nobody hitting!
But the cage was up…
But there was nobody hitting!
But– Oh, what the heck!?! I ran the rest of the way out to the pavilion anyway hoping to find an Easter Egg. Sure, the one day that the Angels aren’t hitting (I later realized they got in from their roadtrip at about 3:00am, hence the lack of BP) is the day most of my competiton is nowhere to be seen for the first five minutes. Look:
Four fans, three ushers. Not including me… I was the first one out there. I took this photo after I’d checked… no baseballs to be found.
My favorite usher did welcome me by laughing at me (my rush out to the pavilion only to be sorely disappointed seemed to amuse her) but otherwise the first fifteen minutes in the park were uneventful. I snuck past the field level ushers and down to the Twins dugout where I attempted to get a ball from Brendan Harris. He tossed it over my head… but then the Twins started hitting! My first ball of the day was a foul ball by a right-handed Twins player. I didn’t see who because, for once in my batting practice life I actually wasn’t paying attention to the batter at all! I was making my way back down the first base line toward the outfield in preparation to ask a pitcher or two for their warmup ball. I was in the first row and I heard a THUNK a few rows behind me and about twenty feet closer to the foul pole. I knew that sound! A ball had hit one of the seats and, could it be? No one else had paid attention to it. I rushed over as people turned their attention from the field to the mysterious source of that THUNK (and the guy running toward where the sound had come from) and I pulled baseball #1 of the day (and #75 in my lifetime collection) from its spot stuck in the seat. Not commemorative. 😦
A few minutes later I asked infielder Brian Buscher if he could please spare a baseball. I used his first name and said please and he pulled a ball out of his back pocket and flipped it to me. Simple. Easy.
Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer were hitting with the second group so I ran up to the pavilion and, get this, I couldn’t snag a ball for the rest of BP. I was just a bit off when homers were hit. I saw a few go right over my head when I thought I’d lined ’em up perfectly. Bah!
Anywho, I watched the Twins end BP early and run off the field. I ran over to Michelle and told her I was headin’ back down by the dugouts. And before you knew it I was here:
Hey, what’s that out there on the batter’s eye? Well, the Angels had revealed the 2010 All-Star Game logo that day–there it is:
Oooh! Anyway, Michelle came and met me on the Terrace Level after I watched some Angels players warm up:
Then we hung out and waited for Garrett and Julian to show up… we knew they were going to be a little late (ugh… traffic). Here’s the view:
We got kicked out of those seats a few minutes after that photo was taken so we took a walk and decided we were hungry. We went to Beach Pit BBQ, in my opinion it’s the best food Angel Stadium has to offer. We sat down in deeeep left field to eat our meals. Delicious, and the view wasn’t bad either:
After the first inning our friends called us. They were at the Left Field Gate so we met them there and then headed up to the View Level… our seatswere waaayyy up in the nosebleeds but I’d seen some decent seats in a nearly empty section and THAT’S where we stayed for the whole game:
Not too shabby. The game was great! The Angels trailed from the first inning, 3-0. They made i
t close with two runs in the bottom of the fifth but the Twins scored again in the sixth. Going into the bottom of the ninth the score was 5-3 Twins.
Joe Nathan was in the game with his under 1.30 ERA. It wasn’t looking good for the Angels. By this time we had all moved down to the Field Level (at Garrett’s request) to watch how the game ended. Gary Matthews Jr. and Howie Kendrick provided RBI singles in the ninth inning to tie the game! Kendrick hit was a lucky miracle dribbler up the middle that Nathan got a glove on. It rolled toward second and shortstop Nick Punto was all set to snag it and step on the bag to end the game but it hit the base and he couldn’t get a hand on it! Mike Napoli scored from third and we had some free baseball coming up! I was thrilled! Like, literally, I thought the game was over because there were two outs, two strikes, and that little roller was sure to be nabbed for the last out. I was right behind the Twins dugout thinking I might get a baseball tossed–but this comeback was way better! I ran back up to the group and high-fived the guys and Michelle. Brian Fuentes came in and shut down the Twins in the top of the tenth. About half of the 38,145 were still around in the bottom of the tenth when Mike Napoli doubled home Chone Figgins to win the game! We were there–it was awesome! The Angels came back AGAIN against an All-Star closer this time. One thing I can tell any Angels fan reading this is: don’t leave early. Especially with this team, you never know what’s gonna happen.
Then we headed back to the cars… it was a great birthday night for Garrett (who turned 23 on the 23rd = golden birthday) with the Halos winning a tight game.
So, two exciting things happened this week in the world of Matt and baseball.
1. Who’d the Angels sign?
Yep, Bobby Abreu’s an Angel, at least for this season. Why is this a good deal for the Angels? Well, as much as I liked Garret Anderson (and I really did–and do like him), it was going to cost us $14 million dollars just to keep him around and we got Abreu for about $9 million less than that. Abreu’s two years younger than Anderson and he has played in at least 150 games each season for the last ten years. So, he’s durable and should remain so because he’ll be splitting DH time with Vladdy, Mike Napoli (maybe), and Juan Rivera. I’m projecting seventeen homers and 100 RBIs for Bobby, which is about what G.A. would’ve given us. Also, he’s a career .300 hitter and he’s got a one-year deal which means he’s playing for a 2010 contract that he really wants to get… so he’ll go all out every day. Welcome aboard, Bobby, now just stay healthy.
And the next exciting thing?
2. My WBC tickets arrived!
I came home last night and my roommate said there was a package for me on the table… it was from Elysian Park Ave. Thrilling? Yes! I tore open the cardboard and…
Ooh. Pretty. I love specialty tickets. C’mon, March–get here soon!
I’ll be attending one game with Michelle and one game with my buddy, Josh, who you may remember from this entry back in September of last year. The third game will probably be a chance for Josh to take his brother to a game… assuming he pays me for the tickets.
I’m all jazzed about the start of the season… and there are still a few pieces to the MLB puzzle to connect: ManRam, where’s he going? How will fans treat A-Roid this year? And when on earth will my cable company here at UCI provide me with MLB Network?!? C’mon, guys!
This will be a shorter entry, I think, as I am tired and have another game to go to tomorrow. I’ll just get this out of the way. I DID NOT snag a baseball tonight at the game. I know, I know, tears and heartache. You know what? I still had a great time! First off, I got to attend this game with my fiancee, Michelle. This was the last game we’d get to see together until next season… school’s starting up soon (we’re both grad students at UC Irvine). Secondly, I got an autograph. Not from a player, but from a pretty important figure in the Angels organization. Third, the Angels won in dramatic fashion. Fourth, there were fireworks! Woo!
At 5:05 we were all off to the races. It was a strangely cloudy afternoon and pretty humid for SoCal. Plus, there were two lefties as the starting pitchers (I didn’t know that before the game, I should’ve checked). So, while Ichiro hit bombs into right, like always, not much else came to the right field seats. It was a day of close calls. I almost caught this and that. A lot of the players had coverups on. While I could recognize the Angels easily, I couldn’t really identify many of the Mariners. I got a big zero for BP. Sad day. Oh, well. I headed down to the third base line, then the dugout, trying to get a player to toss one. Just as Yuniesky Betancourt and Bryan LaHair finished playing catch, an usher asked me to “return to my seat.” Bummer… another close call. Betancourt threw the ball right where I’d been. It would’ve been cool to get two in two days from him. I snapped this picture, though, right before the national anthem:
The game was tight and ended up being tied 3-3 in the ninth. No chance for K-Rod to get a save… a few people left, but not many, as there were fireworks after the game. The good news: Mike Napoli crushed a two-run shot in the bottom of the ninth to win it! The bad news… no extra innings (aka FREE BASEBALL). The Angels celebrated on the field and then headed in before the postgame festivities.
Michelle and I moved closer to the Angels dugout to get a better view of the Big Bang Friday fireworks. They were great! Who doesn’t love a free fireworks show? A cool end to a cool (and relatively chilly) night in Anaheim.
In case you couldn’t guess… the autograph was from Arte Moreno, owner of the Angels.