Tagged: nationals

4/27/12 at Dodger Stadium

After conferring with fellow Orange County ballhawk, Devin (aka DevoT,) I was set to make my first appearance as just a fan at Dodger Stadium since September of 2009.  Each of the other times I’d taken a trip up to Elysian Park it had been with a media credential… and I wrote columns for myGameBalls.com each time, both in August of 2010 and Sept. of 2011.  And you can read those entries on that awesome site or at my blog: here (Aug. 2010) and here (Sept. 2011).  Obviously, since I was at work as a member of the media, those games weren’t about me snagging baseballs, they were about others who got to snag… and I didn’t record those games in my stats.

But on this particular day I was just me, the guy who tries to catch as many baseballs as he can at each game, and the Dodgers (who’d be facing the Washington Nationals–both teams were in first place at the time) were using commemorative baseballs for their fiftieth year at Dodger Stadium.  And I wanted one.

I parked outside the stadium and hiked up the hill with Devin.  We crossed the parking lot and headed down some stairs…

We went inside the Field Level gate as the Dodgers were hitting (and some pitchers were warming up and it was great–we were severely limited in where we could go–but there was such a small crowd that I had plenty of room to run around (even though they kept us along the left field foul pole).

Check out the ball in this pitcher’s glove.

Might that be a commemorative logo?!?

I had a shot at my first ball of the day when Kenley Jansen (owner of the photographed glove, above, who was long-tossing with an unknown pitcher, maybe Scott Elbert) overthrew his target.  I watched the ball as it was sailing through the air and yelled, “HEADS UP!”  I ran toward where I thought it would land, a section to my right, lost the ball for a second, watched as it hit some seats… then bounced away from me.  But I tracked it down in the fourth row and took a look at the logo… it WAS commemorative!

I was thrilled… but my joy was short-lived.  I looked toward the field and Elbert (or whoever) flapped his glove at me.  I knew what this meant.  They weren’t done long-tossing and needed the ball back.  Cool, I flipped it to him, willingly, and figured he’d get it back to me when they were finished.  That’s what had happened plenty of other times.  Then I looked over my shoulder.  Apparently, the errant throw had grazed a lady who was, get this, sitting in the second row and not paying attention.  She was lucky it hadn’t broken her face… but she wasn’t complaining… just rubbing her shoulder a bit.  I felt badly… I knew she should get a ball.  But would it be my ball?  The commemorative one I’d just given to the pair of Major Leaguers to use on the field?  I could have kept the ball and been done with it–and at that point I’d probably have noticed the lady and debated whether or not I should have given it to her–and scolded her for not paying attention to the on-field activity.  But I never got the chance.  Jansen finished his throwing, walked toward the lady, and apologized to her.  And then signed the baseball I’d given to him and Elbert to use… and then neither of them acknowledged me.  Think about it, loyal readers, am I overreacting?  Should I not have counted the ball?  Because I counted it… and I’m a bit irritated that such careless behavior gets rewarded.

Anyway, Devin beat me out for a liner that went foul as we almost tumbled over a row of seats together.  But then, when a couple Dodgers played catch further toward the infield I had another shot at a ball I’d actually get to keep.  Mark Ellis warmed up with Adam Kennedy and when they finished I yelled out, Hey, Mark!  Over here!”  Ellis threw me the ball over all the box seats along the third baseline and I caught it chest high–it was a great throw–then grabbed it out of my glove and checked it out:

BAM!  And this one was all mine!  I wasn’t giving it up.  I quickly ran back to my backpack, stored it safely, and went back to snagging with a feeling of relief.  Mission accomplished.  If I didn’t snag another ball all evening, I’d be fine.  But the Jansen ball was #395 and the Ellis ball was #396.  So I started actively thinking about the big 4-0-0.

Some unknown Dodger drove a ball into the left field corner that came to rest on the warning track about 10 to 12 inches away from the wall in fair territory right near the bullpen gate.  The drop to the field is probably about a foot or so more than in Anaheim so it takes a bit more athleticism to scoop balls off the warning track in Dodgertown than it does at the Big A.  But I figured that I should give it a shot–no one else figured they could get it.  After a couple of fans let me squeeze by them, I set my bag down, jumped up and balanced myself on the wall, leaned out and over stretching my left (gloved) hand as far as I could while steadying myself on the wall with my right hand and arm.  The ball was just out of reach, so I adjusted my position on the wall, shook my glove so it was on the end of my hand instead of comfortably wedged on there… and just got the tip of it on the ball.  I rolled it toward me a few inches and then snagged it and pulled myself back to my feet.  I got a nice little round of applause from the nearby fans on that one–and the ball was a standard Selig ball.

About that time Devin decided to head up to the LF bleachers (where his ticketed seat was located) and we parted ways.  We kept in touch throughout the evening though.  As the crowd grew and BP became a bit less lively, I set my bag down and was looking through it when I heard a THWACK nearby.  I looked up as I was kneeling near a staircase just in time to see a baseball bounce right toward my face!  I grabbed it, barehanded, and then looked around.  Had a kid dropped it?  Was it meant for another fan?  I asked a few people near me where it had come from–and no one knew.  It didn’t sound like it had hit the seat with enough force for me to determine it was a home run.  Maybe a ground rule double into the LF corner?  Maybe it had been thrown from the bullpen?

Oh… and it was another commemorative ball!  Sweet!  It had been rubbed with mud… and it had a dirt scuff on it.  So, it’s possible that a pitcher had been using it and then tossed it into the seats.  But I have no idea–this is the first ball I have ever entered into myGameBalls.com with the listed method of snagging as “Unknown.”  Totally weird–but I’ll take it!

That was #398… and I was totally focused on #400… so I didn’t mind that I was unsure of who hit my next ball.  It was some lefty Dodger that flared a ball into the box seats just past third base.  The ushers nearby (who were all super friendly–much more so than in past seasons) let me dart after it and check this baby out:

50th!  Woo!

The Dodgers were about to leave the field.  And I saw the Nationals starting to warm up on the far side of the stadium.Unfortunately, because Dodger Stadium has weird rules, that side of the stadium wouldn’t open until 5:40pm… ten minutes is a long time to wait around.  I tried to get a ball from Ted Lilly as he finished some throwing… but that was all there was to do. And then I spent another eight grueling minutes waiting for the ushers to let the maddening crowd head toward first base.  I ran that way and was the first one out to the seats in the right field corner–but I found no Easter eggs and the Nationals were being pretty stingy with tossups.  And the sun was brutal:And I didn’t snag another batted ball all evening.  At least there was a Stephen Strasburg sighting…

It was really important to me that I identify who my next baseball came from.  It was a mini-milestone for me.  I had snagged baseball number 100 on August 28th, 2009 at Angel Stadium.  And I have no idea who hit it to me.  Ball #200 was thrown to me by Kanekoa Texeira of the Seattle Mariners on May 28th, 2010… again in Anaheim.  And my 300th baseball was hit to me by Peter Bourjos on May 20th, 2011 at the Big A.  I thought to myself, “I need to know who gets this next ball to me”  And it would also be the first time I’d snagged a milestone baseball (for me) outside of my “home ballpark” down in Orange County.

Wouldn’t you know it?  Throughout all of Nationals’ BP I didn’t snag another baseball…

Until the last few players ran off the field… and I was standing near the dugout… and Jordan Zimmermann tossed me this one as I leaned over the concrete partition that separates the haves from the have-nots.

My sixth ball of the night–and #400 in my lifetime.  Woo!

With that, it was off to the restroom–and then I took a seat to rest for a while before the game began.  And what a great pitching matchup: Clayton Kershaw vs. Ross Detwiler.  And If you’ve never sat up close and watched Kershaw pitch–man, it’s epic!  A 95 mph fastball and a 73 mph curveball.  It’s just not fair.  This was my view for the first pitch:

And then I sat here and tried to get a ball from A.J. Ellis after Kershaw struck out the side in the first.No luck.

The only blemish on Kershaw’s record was a two-run homer he gave up to Adam LaRoche… which tied the game after Andre Ethier hit a two-run shot in the bottom of the first.  The difference in the score would turn out to be an RBI single by Juan Uribe.  That was it for scoring… 3-2 Dodgers.

And tried to get LaRoche to toss me a third out ball.  No dice–damn that partition!

But I had a great view of the action…

See the concrete partition that keeps folks away from the dugout?  Lame.

And there were plenty of open seats around me.  At one point I had a whole row open to my right.  I shifted seats twice once the game started but there certainly weren’t over 44,000 people there… even though that was the announced attendance.

Um… Matt Kemp is very good at baseball:

Fast-forward to the top of the ninth inning… Jansen came in to close the game out (since Javy Guerra apparently isn’t the closer any longer because, well, he took a line drive off his face).  And he made it interesting.  He got the first out by inducing a fly ball to center off the bat of Mark DeRosa.  Then, Danny Espinosa turned on a fastball at hit it to the seats… about ten feet foul into the right field corner.  He nearly tied the game with that almost-homer… but eventually flied out to center, as well.Jansen then drilled pinch hitter Chad Tracy on the wrist with a mid-nineties fastball.  Tracy was pulled from the game.  Because the Nationals called up Bryce Harper but he hadn’t arrived in L.A., the team played with only twenty-four men on the squad, meaning there was one less bench bat available, and Edwin Jackson was forced to pinch-run for the Tracy so that final bench option, Rick Ankiel, could pinch hit in the pitcher’s spot if the inning got that far. But Jansen ended up striking out the catcher, Jesus Flores, in the next at-bat, and the game ended.

I shouted for a toss-up at the dugout as the Nats left the dugout but nobody even looked my way–and the bullpen guys coming in ignored me, too.  A kid on my left said, “I think they’re upset because they just lost.”

So I ended the game with six baseballs snagged–and I’d gotten some commemorative balls and snagged #400.  I wasn’t disappointed by any means.  I didn’t plan to stay for the Friday Night Fireworks–I needed to get home–but I did want to take advantage of one cool thing that Dodger Stadium does…

I got into a line and ended up on the field.  The Dodgers let a certain quantity of fans watch the fireworks from the outfield grass.  I took a few photos, like this one from the field looking up at the stadium:

And I touched the grass–a major league field feels so nice!  And then, the the confusion of the ushers… I asked to leave.

And they had to open a special gate so I could leave.  I snapped a picture of the explosions in the sky as I headed through the parking lot to my car… and was on the road before most people even got out of the stadium.  I had a long drive back to Orange County… it’s roughly an hour with no traffic.  But I’ll be back to Dodger Stadium this season–probably when the Marlins, Astros, and Mets come to town.

A successful night.


6/29/11 at Angel Stadium

After snagging five baseballs on Monday and four baseballs on Tuesday I was at Angel Stadium for a day game after a night game on Wednesday.  When I approached the Home Plate Gate I saw plenty of people waiting to get inside the stadium.  The gates would open at 2:30pm for the 4:00pm game.  And I knew something all these people didn’t know.

When the stadium only opens 90 minutes before the first pitch, all the gates open at the same time.  For a night game the Home Plate Gate opens thirty minutes earlier than all the other gates.  On this day, however, I felt comfortable strolling by all these folks at 1:50pm and ending up here:

At the Right Field Gate… by myself… and I was the first guy in the door and the first one to get to the pavilion.  I got there just as the Angels cleared the field.  A couple of minutes later the Nats got set up for BP… yes, both teams help BP… and took a photo of the still relatively empty seats:

With only about an hour of batting practice to work with, I didn’t have high hopes of huge numbers at this game.  That worked out well for me because I didn’t snag too many baseballs.  My first ball on the day was tossed to me in Section 236 by reliever Ryan Mattheus.  It was a training ball.  After that… I ran around for the homers that were hit and tried to get another toss-up or two but I was always just out of position.  I didn’t snag a thing for the rest of BP.  And to make matters worse, the Nats end their BP session earlier than usual.  Typically, the visiting team ends BP at Angel Stadium thirty-five to forty minutes before game time.  Game time today? 4:05… so I was still in right field when the Nats started clearing the field at 3:20pm.  I sprinted out to the concourse, down to the seating bowl, through the aisle, and down the steps toward the dugout and got here:

Hey, kid–you’re in my photo.

Anyway, that’s the spot where coach Rick Eckstein tossed me a well-worn Angels commemorative 50th Anniversary ball for my second on the day.  How about that?

I took a much-needed break from the sun after getting Drew Storen’s autograph on my ticket for the game.  And I should note, at this point, that one reason I enjoy games in natural light is that my camera does well in natural light.  I’m always please with the quality of shots I get at day games.  Have you ever noticed that most of your baseball cards are daytime photos?

When the Strike Force came out to shoot T-shirts to fans (along with Hawaiian-shirted presidents) I ran up to the upper levels of the stadium to try to catch one.

I failed… but it was fun to try.

I went back downstairs as the Angels came out to stretch:

On my left, Mark Trumbo played catch with Howie Kendrick and Peter Bourjos.

On my right, Erick Aybar and Alberto Callaspo threw for a few minutes.

Trumbo kept his baseball (and then signed a baseball for me!)–and Aybar tossed his to my right.  I just wasn’t having much luck.  But I found a seat in the shade with this view for the first pitch of the ballgame:

Dan Haren was on the mound for the Halos.

And here’s Ryan Zimmerman at the dish:

I missed out on a third-out toss in the first inning from the Angels and after that I headed over to the first base side to try for one from the Nats.  I found a seat in the third row–in the sun–and decided to just stay there.

Jerry Hairston, Jr. got hit on the hand (he’d later blame the shadows and the 4:00pm start time) midway through the game:

He was replaced by Ian Desmond:

Haren was still going strong as he pitched to Pudge Rodriguez.

He’d end up going seven and a third innings… and the Angels got their only run of the game without getting a hit–a walk, an error, a groundout–and held a 1-0 lead when Haren was replaced by Scott Downs.

Downs got two outs and then fireballing closer, Jordan Walden, came in:

Walden had blown his last three save chances.  He got one out, then Zimmerman doubled, the ball just squeaking fair down the line.  I was here:

Zimmerman went to third on a ground out…

And went no further than that–Michael Morse struck out to end the game.

And I was still behind the Nationals’ dugout–they didn’t toss anything up.  Why would they?  They’d just been swept.  I zipped on home shortly after that.  The Halos were rolling–and I’d snagged eleven baseballs in the three game series.  Not too shabby.

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!

6/27/11 at Angel Stadium

This was a Monday game and my first of three consecutive Angels/Nationals tilts at my home ballpark.  I expected smaller crowds than usual… except for the Tuesday bobblehead game.  What I got was no real change in the usual attendance figures… I realize now–it’s summertime.  School’s out and the Angels had just returned home from quite a long road trip.  Here’s how day 1 shaped up:

I went by myself to the Monday game.  When the Home Plate Gate opened I sprinted toward right field and was the first one to the seats.  I scanned the rows for Easter eggs (which is usually a useless process in Anaheim) and found a ball under a seat in the first row of Section 240 (seen in the photo to the right), which is the section closest to center field.  I also  noticed that, while the Angels were hitting, the Nats’ pitchers were already out on the field, chatting and stretching.

The found ball was a training ball so my initial thought was that it came from the Nationals… which meant that some players must have been doing some early rounds of BP.  I watched as the Angels were underwhelming in their rounds of batting practice.  The one other ball I snagged while they were on the field was a standard Selig ball that I got from Hisanori Takahashi in the corner spot of Section 240 by asking him in Japanese.  This was the first time I had gotten a ball from him since he’d become an Angel (though I did get one from him in New York via the same tecnique at my sole game at Citi Field back in April of 2010.  Takahashi gave me a thumbs up after I caught the ball and yelled out, “Arigato!”  Here’s my view from the corner spot:

After that I moved into straightaway right field for the Nationals.  Part of the pitchers’ ending warmup was that they threw football-style passes to each other.  And when they finished that I simply took note of the fact that they threw their leftover baseballs into the seats.  The next ball I snagged was from fan-friendly Livan Hernandez over in the RF corner spot.  I asked him for a ball in Spanish and the next one he fielded got tossed up to me.  Pretty simple.  That one was a training ball, too.  The Nats’ hitters were blasting quite a few home runs during BP but most of them were going to center field.  I left the pavilion and went down to the short wall in the right field corner.  A few Nats tossed balls to kids but I was coming up empty until I moved closer to the infield and Jason Marquis threw me my fourth ball on the day.  His throw was a bit short and the ball tipped off the end of my glove as I reached down over the wall… but luckily it settled right underneath me on the warning track and I was able to lean out and over the wall to pluck it off the warning track.  I gave that ball (also a training ball) to a little boy to my right just a moment later.

I didn’t get anything at the visiting team’s dugout after BP and I spent the next twenty minutes watching as the presidents accompanied the Strike Force around the stadium as they threw T-shirts into the stands:

The presidents would be running their typical race during each game of the series.  The Halos came out to warm up and I was close by.  But Mark Trumbo kept the baseball he’d been using and Maicer Izturis tossed his a section to my right.

I tried to get a ball from the Nationals when they warm-up in front of their dugout but nobody threw… they just stretched and ran.  I headed over to the Angel dugout before the game got underway, hoping for a third out toss.

Here was my view for the first pitch of the game:

Ervin Santana had a good start… and Laynce Nix grounded out to Trumbo at first base to end the top of the first.  By the time Trumbo stepped on the bag I was already at the base of the stairs.  As soon as Trumbo crossed the foul line I called out to him and he tossed me the game-used ball, a 50th Anniversary commemorative.  And his throw was just high enough that I had to hop a little to get it… unaware that there was a hot dog vendor behind me, kneeling down while he was preparing a ballpark frank for a fan.  I caught the ball and went to take a step back to regain my balance and almost tripped over the poor vendor.  Luckily, I didn’t fall over him and he didn’t drop the freshly prepared dog.  With that I ran over to the Nats’ dugout for the bottom of the first.  And here was my view:

First baseman Michael Morse bounced the ball off the warning track and into the hands of a coach in the dugout.  Weird… so I didn’t get a ball there.  And since I already got a ball from Trumbo, I decided I’d spend my last inning at the game trying for a foul ball with this view:

Yes, I planned to leave after the second inning–and did so.  But on my way out I gave away another baseball to a young fan.  Then, before I climbed into my car I got this photo of me with the gamer I’d snagged:

Here’s a picture of the three baseballs I kept:

That would be the one from Takahashi, the one from Hernandez, and the one from Trumbo.  Three different types of ball.

I watched the game from the comfort of my couch as the Angels beat the Nats 4-3 in ten innings via a walk-off single by Maicer Izturis.

8/31/09 at PETCO Park

A day in San Diego… and a game featuring two last place teams…

Thanks to Leigh I was able to go to this game along with Michelle.  We made a day of it, first checking out Seaport Village for the day before getting to the stadium at about 4:15pm.

matt on beach.JPGAt 4:30 we were able to head in and I spent an hour on the beach.  It wasn’t action packed but it wasn’t totally boring, either, and I always appreciate that one unique feature of PETCO Park.

race for a ball cropped small.jpgIt was during this time that I snagged my only Official Major League Baseball of the day.  I was close to one that got hit out to the warning track but I misjudged the bounce and the guy with the intense facial hair ended up with it.

A little later Edgar Gonzalez was doing some sprints in the outfield and as he came to a stop near the chain link fence I said, “Hey, Edgar, is there any chance you could toss me that ball right there?”  I gestured to a baseball sitting near the warning track.

He looked at it, then at me and said, “You know, I’m not really supposed to.”  I don’t quite know what that meant… wasn’t supposed to?  Well, he must not have taken that rule too seriously because he did a quick look around, walked five feet to his right to pick up the ball, looked around again, and flipped me the 103rd baseball in my collection.

That was at about 4:45pm… did I snag anything else on the beach?  Nope… but there was a new sand sculpture out there and Michelle used my camera to snap a photo of it.
sand sculpture.JPGFan friendly Heath Bell was out in center field and I got to talk with him for a minute about Wii Fit and Zack Hample before he signed an autograph for me.

I did see TC and John Witt on the beach and we bumped into each other a couple other times throughout the afternoon.  As far as snagging goes, I managed just the one Official Major League Baseball.  But the Nationals sure did hook me up with a fair share of Official Training Balls…

The first of the evening came as soon as I ran to the left field seats.  I was scanning for Easter eggs (a couple ended up in cupholders but I missed ’em) and saw a coach walk toward the wall in left.  He bent down and I assumed he was picking up a baseball (he was out of my line of sight at that point).  I called out, “Could you please toss that up here?”  I didn’t even have my Nats gear on at that point but a white haired gentleman in a Nats uniform tossed me my 2nd ball of the day.  Turns out that it was Steve McCatty.
first training ball.JPGThere’s the first training ball I’d ever snagged… woo.  After not getting a ball tossed by Jason Bergmann (I did help a little girl get one by telling her to say please and that his name was Jason, not James) I headed off to right field because Adam Dunn was in the next group of hitters.  He hit a bunch of smashes all over right… one of them was fielded by Jorge Padilla who threw me a perfect side-armed strike from forty feet away.  Ball #3!  Here was my view:
padilla during bp.JPGquartet of nats.JPGI saw a trio of pitchers closer to center and spent a few minutes trying to get them to toss me a ball but they all ignored me.  Note: this whole time I was actively trying to catch home runs but the combination of Training Balls not flying quite the same as regular balls and it being hitter-nemesis PETCO Park equaled not a lot of homers to catch.  I did see a few get hit to left field… so I headed back over there.

Baseball #4 on the day came from Jason Bergmann.  He decided to hook me up after all.  I barely missed a couple of homers but just couldn’t maneuver enough in the crowded aisles and bleachers.  BTW, a couple of the PETCO regulars are, well, kind of jerks… this includes body checking people and nabbing baseballs intended for little kids.  Yuck.

I ran over to the third base side of the field just as BP was ending at caught two baseballs within ten seconds of each other.  As the players and coaches came off the field I called out to Randy Knorr for a ball.  He acknowledged me, turned around to set down something, dropped the three baseballs he was holding into the ball bag, then dug around for (what I can only assume was) a not-as-new baseball.  As that was happening, another coach that I couldn’t identify threw me a ball as he went into the dugout.  I thanked him and then took the ball out of my glove to put it in my pocket as Knorr tossed me one from about ten feet further out and a bit to the right.  I literally didn’t even have the first one in my pocket yet… I was still holding it in my right hand when Knorr’s ball hit my glove.  Those were baseballs #5 and #6.

I checked in with Michelle at that point back at our seats in left field.  We hung out for a bit before the Nationals players came out to stretch along the foul line.  After Willie Harris warmed up he came over and signed a few autographs including one on my ticket.

Then the Nats played catch in front of their dugout.  I didn’t get a ball from Adam Dunn and I got kicked out by a strict and unpleasant usher before Josh Willingham finished throwing… I mean, the attendance was less than 20,000 that night and I was up front with him.  Just trying to catch a ball.  His response?  “You can’t be down here, son, you know that.”  Whatever… enjoy guarding your half-empty section.

I headed up to the concourse I saw John again and we talked about the day… and he told me how to score a free soda.  Also, he mentioned a few baseballs had ended up in the bullpen.  Hmm…

I sat right near the bullpen… here was the view to my left:
padres bullpen.JPGSee how there’s NOT a baseball in there?  That’s because when Nick Hundley and pitching coach Darrel Akerfelds arrived at the bullpen I asked them for a ball and, after getting all their stuff situated and setting up the pen, Akerfelds tossed me my seventh ball of the day!  Another training ball, but I had hit a new record for myself on the year and tied my highest game total ever.  Seven baseballs!  At that point I figured I had a shot to break my record.  The game hadn’t started yet.

Here was the view from our seats in left field:
view from seats lf.JPGI was hoping for a shot at a home run but the only homer of the game was hit to the upper deck of right field by Chase Headley (as a pinch hitter).  It was quite a shot–414 ft.
salazar injured.JPGHad the ball Oscar Salazar injured himself catching the inning prior been five to ten feet higher I probably would’ve caught it.  I watched the replay online and I’m right behind a guy in a red shirt (I’m wearing white and red) in the third row… it was a great catch though.  I hope he’s okay.

The Padres were winning, 3-1 in the ninth and Heath Bell came in…bell runs in.JPG

Michelle and I headed toward the infield so I could make it to their dugout for the end of the game.  Bell mowed down the Nats right as I headed down the steps to the dugout and as soon as I arrived there a ball got flipped up–and a kid on my right snagged it.  I just reacted a second too late… that was my only real shot at a ball after the game (another one got tossed at the other end).  I grabbed a few ticket stubs and we walked up to the concourse.  Then we took a photo together on the concourse:
matt and michelle.JPGThen Michelle snapped this (of me organizing my stuff):
organizing.JPGmatt with 7 balls.JPGAnd I posed with the souvenirs of the evening.

seven from petco.JPGThe game ended at, like, 9:25… it was a fast game!

Livan Hernandez pitched the whole thing for the Nationals and there were only a total of four runs scored (typical PETCO) so it was an early night which was great because we had an eighty-five mile drive back to Irvine.

Up to 109 baseballs snagged… and counting!