By now you realize that I love an excuse to head down to San Diego and visit PETCO Park. This time my excuse was that my wife had to work all day on a Saturday (and I actually had almost the whole day off) and the Marlins would be visiting the Padres–perhaps with some of their inaugural season at Marlins Park baseballs in tow.
I headed down the 5 freeway and got to the park at 3:00pm for a 5:35pm start. The Park at the Park was open so I showed the staff my ticket, received my free Padres T-shirt, and jogged in. When I finally saw the field from the bleachers just beyond the beach I was not pleased with what I saw.
The only activity was a random Marlin throwing over by the foul line… hundreds of feet away. It turned out that since the game the night before went 12 innings, the Marlins decided not to take BP on the field… which meant the Padres would be taking the visitors’ BP slot. Which meant that the only action on the field for the first 40 minutes I was there was a few Marlins pitchers throwing off in a corner… and that was as close as I could get. Bummer. And that player “closest” to me was Sandy Rosario. I called out to him… a long shot… but he didn’t even look my way.
I went over to the Team Store to see if the cutout was accessible and to my shock and horror, it had been (as of this season) turned into a luxury suite. Good for the folks that get to eat a buffet dinner and sit their… bad for a nobody like me who was trying to snag a baseball.
I ended up waiting for the rest of the stadium to open. At 3:30pm I ran up the steps and darted down toward where the Marlin pitchers had been throwing. But they were gone! Just two coaches were left and when I asked them for a baseball (and they ignored me) I ran to the other side of the stadium because I saw a few Padres emerge from the dugout. The cage was up so I knew they’d start hitting soon. First though, they would throw.
I got shot down by the first pair of Padres I asked, but the second pair paid attention. And after Nick Hundley threw, then signed a few autographs, I got him to toss me his warmup ball before he headed down the dugout steps.
The ball from Hundley commemorated a very special day that I didn’t even think would ever happen when I caught my first baseball at a game seven years ago. As he tossed the ball to me and I caught it… I had officially snagged at least one baseball in each of my last 100 games attended.
After that I watched as baseball after baseball was NOT hit to the seats–anywhere. I think there were maybe three home runs during the 30 minutes of Padre BP that I saw. It had started out as a pretty frustrating day. The guys who were using commemorative baseballs had barely been on the field and the guys who decided to hit weren’t putting anything anywhere near the fans.Jeff Suppan acted like he was going to toss me a ball out in right field–but never did. And the Padres ran off the field with me still stuck on one baseball.
Eventually, I went over to my seat. And taped to it I found a sign that basically said, “Hey–come get a prize from us–you’ll just have to let us try to get you to buy season tickets. Thanks! -The Padres.”
Well, I had twenty minutes to kill before any players would take the field for pregame throwing so I went–found the ticket representative, told them I didn’t want season tickets, and got my prize. Know what it was? It was a Padres hat–what do you think of that? I got a shirt and a hat–a whole Padre ensemble, just for being at a game on Cinco de Mayo.
Now, if I could just snag another ball…
At about 5:20 a few Marlins started warming up down the third base line.Among them was Hanley Ramirez (just out of frame to the left in the above photo). I tried to figure out if he had a commemorative ball in his hand.Try as I might, I couldn’t snag another ball. But I did snag something pretty sweet, an autograph from Han-Ram on a 2007 Upper Deck card!
Yep, just hours before the game I picked up a seat from StubHub for thirty bucks. Not too shabby, huh? And my seat, not just useful for the view, paid dividends early on. See, when Gaby Sanchez took the throw from starter Mark Buehrle when Chase Headley hit a soft grounder back to the mound, I stood up in my seat and yelled, “Hey, Gaby–right here!” I waved my glove and he lofted the ball to me.Easy as that. Everyone around me was pretty astonished. And I just sat back down and went back to watching the game. It was a great game.
It’s crazy–when you actually have a fantastic seat you’re not tempted to move from it. Instead… if you’re me… you take pictures. Like Clayton Richard delivering pitches:And Mark Buerhle doing the same…Two lefties battling it out. And here’s Giancarlo Stanton getting ready to bat:
I mean, I could hear Ozzie Guillen talking to his players as they returned to the dugout. I could tell when a pitch was outside without looking–I head the ump calling, “That’s outside.” I mean, look, I could see all the gunk on Han–Ram’s helmet:
And the groovy patch the Marlins players and coaches are wearing on their uniforms this year.And when hunger overcame me… I ran to get a pretzel and a beverage and ran back to my seat… I didn’t want to miss anything. Like Chase Headley getting the sign from his third base coach:
Buerhle was mowing down the Padres. He’d end up giving up just one run on five hits and pitching his first complete game since 2010. And Giancarlo (formerly Mike) Stanton CRUSHED a solo homer in the ninth which made the score 4-1. And I took a couple of nifty action shots as he rounded third and then got back to the dugout:
Feel free to click to make them larger. I hope you all recognize how much that high five picture makes me laugh. Like, Stanton is trying to make it seem like he’s jumping because Emilio Bonifacio needs to jump just to high five him… but Stanton’s totally on the ground. But Bonifacio is jumping as high as he can. Ha!
OK, no one else… fine.
Like I said, the Stanton shot made it 4-1. That’s where it would stay. Man, Buehrle’s good–and quick.
I’d been speaking to a couple of families around me in the seats throughout the game. One father and son duo was great. I chatted with them both about how I knew what to do in order to get a ball… and advised the boy about the umpire tunnel. In case you couldn’t tell… it was immediately to my left from my seat. Here’s a good view of it:
I recommended that the little guy position himself near there, call out the umpire’s name (“Gary,” in this case), and hope there was a ball or two to be given… and in the ninth inning we made our move. He to the ump tunnel and me to the dugout. Here was my view just before the final out of the game:See the staircase on the left? I planned to run down it to an opening right at the dugout. The usher (who was strict, even in the ninth) wouldn’t let me go past him until I clearly told him I wasn’t going to compete with the little kids for an ump ball… I told him instead I was planning to go straight to the dugout. He finally let me through. As soon as Buerhle finished off his complete game I got myself in position at the dugout–but didn’t snag a darn thing. I was stuck on two baseballs for the whole day. My poor showing didn’t hamper my giving spirit though, and I flipped the Hundley ball the the young fan at the umpire tunnel after I noticed the umps all ignored him.
As it turns out, the Long Haul Bombers would be holding a softball mashing tournament round. So, as soon as the Marlins were all in the dugout I bolted for right field… and I took up a spot here:
It’s right near where I caught one of these softballs the year before. Sadly though, even though I ran from right to left and back a couple of times… I couldn’t snag another ball. As I left the stadium, Michelle called me to say she was getting off of work–so I booked it to the car and made the drive up the 5 to Orange County. A free hat, a free shirt, a great seat, two baseballs, and an autograph… not a bad haul.
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.
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:
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!
After a nutritious complimentary breakfast at our hotel and a speedy checkout, we left our bags with the concierge and drove downtown to Chase Field for our second of two games. We parked and headed for Friday’s yet again. I knew two things about this game:
1. The crowd would be smaller than yesterday.
2. There might not be batting practice.
It was eerily quiet in the stadium. I tried to get the lone player I could recognize, Jordan Norberto, to throw a ball way up to the patio but he ignored me as he finished his throwing session. With about five minutes to go before the gates would open Michelle and I took the elevator down, went outside Friday’s and got in line…
Were there thousands of people there waiting like there had been just sixteen hours earlier? No. I was fifth in line… with five minutes to go before the gates opened… even though kids would be receiving a “Back to School Kit.” It was hot outside…
I was actually much more excited than this photo depicts… but it was sooo hot outside!
With no batting practice to focus on I went over to the D-backs bullpen where Daniel Hudson was getting his work in. He’d thrown me a ball the day before… so I asked Jeff Motuzas, the bullpen catcher, for the ball when they were done. He tossed it to a D-backs fan to my left though. Sigh. I did get Mel Stottlemyer, Jr. to autograph a ticket stub for me while I was waiting for any further action to commence. Mel signed it upside-down…
When I saw a few Padres come out to throw I ran over near the first base line while putting on my Padres stuff.
And, lo and behold, I saw the guy who had gotten the ball from Motuzas decked out in Padres gear! So, Arizona ballhawk, if you’re reading this: Good form–sorry we didn’t get to meet. How many baseballs did you end up with? And did I see you snagging along the left field foul line on Saturday, too?
Anyway, I watched a few pitchers warm up… then got Luke Gregerson’s autograph… though I wanted the baseball he’d been using. And then Kevin Correia threw in the bullpen. And Nick Hundley pretended to bat against him. When Correia finished I was standing right over bullpen catcher Justin Hatcher and shouted, “Kev, right here!”
Correia chucked Ball #1 right to me. No shut out today.
There was little to no action happening on the field so Michelle and I wandered a little and took some pictures.
Then, finally, a few more players came out close to game time. Before that, D. Baxter had driven around the warning track on a motorcycle… weird.
Just before the game started I saw a few Padres emerge from the dugout to play catch. Our tickets for the game were good… but they weren’t dugout seats and the ushers weren’t allowing folks down to the dugouts so close to game time… so when Jerry Hairston, Jr. headed into the dugout after his warmup tosses I waved at him from the cross aisle (ten rows back) and he threw a great fly ball right toward me. After I made the catch I decided that catching a ball with a roof as the backdrop is pretty tough–tougher than a solid blue or black sky. So, good job, fielders who play at Chase Field. Fly balls must be tough.
With two baseballs to my name, I met Michelle at our seats with about ten minutes to go until the game started.
Nice, huh? The were thirty bucks a pop on StubHub… and they were on the aisle. Sweet!
I was excited to get to see Joe Saunders (former Angel) pitch for his new team. I’d always like Joe and I’d gotten a few baseballs and autographs from him during his time in Anaheim.
Now in the NL, he had to bat, too. Neither his hitting nor his pitching was all that great on this day, however, and Saunders went six innings and gave up five earned runs. He also grounded out in that at-bat… and looked bad doing it. But I had a lot of fun rooting for him.
Saunders was out-dueled by Mat Latos–who gave up zero runs in six innings and struck out six. Unfriendly he may be, but this rookie’s got a great arm. He would go to 12-5 on the season af
ter the day’s victory. Man, I just checked the stats of the San Diego pitchers… wow. They make the Giants’ staff look like the Pirates’ staff.
Innings continued, baseball was played… the other, psuedo mascots of the Diamondbacks, the Legends, run a race at each game. At Saturday’s game they let Gonzo win…
I tried to take a picture of the two of us. You know, one of those, stretch your arm all the way out ones… but it didn’t go so well.
The game continued, and after five innings it was 6-0 San Diego. The D-backs weren’t putting up much of a fight. I’d been running for foul balls throughout the game… and I got close to one but it was still at least fifteen feet out of my reach.
I did see D. Baxter walking through the cross aisle, however, and made sure to get a photo as I high-fived him.
In about the eighth inning I realized I hadn’t gotten a good panorama of the stadium from the top deck… I asked Michelle if we could head up there after the game but she reminded me we’d have to leave pretty much right away since we were making the trek back to California that evening. So, I ran allllll the way up to the last row of the seats at Chase Field and took this:
Oooh! And, believe me, there were a lot of steps… I was beat when I got back to our seats.
Once it got to the ninth inning and it was 10-1 Padres I made my move down toward the dugout. Michelle was snapping photos the whole time:
I made it to right where I knew Gary Darling would leave the field… and I called out to him, hoping he’d toss me a ball: “Mr. Darling, could you spare a ball please?”
Gary was looking down into his pouch at the time… and he flipped the ball to the teenager on my left, who was clueless and had no idea what had happened. D’oh!
The Padres didn’t throw anything up over their dugout… so I went back to Michelle and we looked for a few ticket stubs, and I took one last photo of the scoreboard:
Then a nice usher took our photo together:
And we headed out toward the parking structure. It had been a really fun birthday celebration: a new ballpark, lots of memories, autographs, baseballs, good food, and lots of time with my wonderful wife who is a great sport about putting up with all this baseball in her life.
We made the seven hour trip back to California without any trouble and got home around 10:30pm… my next game would be at Angel Stadium in a few short days.
I knew I was going to head out to one of the Angel games against the Tigers this week. I randomly chose Tuesday’s game. As it turns out, the weather was not a friend to me on this day. This will be a pretty quick entry because not a lot happened.
I left in plenty of time to get to the stadium before it opened. As I was driving along the freeway it started to rain. Ridiculous. Then the rain let up… then, as I got of the freeway it picked up again. Ugh.
I parked and walked up to the outfield tunnel to peer in at the field. I was disappointed to see the tarp out on the field. I headed up to the Home Plate Gate anyway. At about 5:00 the rain had lessened again but I just knew there wouldn’t be batting practice. I called Michelle, who had planned on meeting me at the game, and she decided to just go home… she told me if the weather got better she might drive out to meet me later. I considered just calling it a night right then (I thought about my streak–I’d snagged at least one baseball at 43 consecutive games).
I ended up heading inside–grabbing my giveaway item (an Angels wall calendar) as I went. I ran toward the first base side and out onto the field level. Cue the sad trombone. No BP. I did see a few Angels throwing over near left field–so away I went.
Rodney almost threw one over the center field fence.
When they finished, Rodney threw his ball to a little kid (who already had a ball given to him by Scot Shields as he passed by). The mystery player still had a baseball in his pocket. I took a wild shot as he moved the ball from his pocket to his glove as he walked away toward the dugout…
“Rodriguez! Aqui, por favor!”
Now, let me just say that the player looked to be Hispanic. Also, according to my roster the Angels have three players with the surname Rodriguez on their forty-man roster… all pitchers. The player turned, saw my glove up in the air, and tossed the ball over a few rows of fans and to me. I bobbled it–but held on and, just like that, my streak was at forty-four. After checking photos at home I confirmed that it was Francisco Rodriguez who threw it to me. Not the one who used to be an Angel and is now a Met… a different Francisco Rodriguez. He has since been reassigned.
I walked over to the bullpen. Mike Butcher was heading toward the dugout and the rain had continued… I asked if they were going to play if this kept up and he assured me they would. After that… nothing happened. For a while. Seriously.
Here it is from the first base side:
Around 5:45 the grounds crew felt the weather was good enough to take the tarp off the infield. They were right to do so, it wouldn’t rain for the rest of the night.
They did a good job:
And finally, a couple of Tigers came out to throw. By this point I had decided that I would just head home before the game started (due to traffic, the weather, and wanting to watch LOST). I watched Ryan Perry and Joel Zumaya throw. I stood behind Perry for a few minutes as Zumaya pitched fireballs to him. Yikes!
And they put on their own long toss show.
I ended up getting both of their autographs on ticket stubs, and Phil Coke signed a baseball for me, too.
Three autos, one baseball, a free drink, and a calendar. A quick night.
A day game after a night game on a Wednesday. Angel Stadium. August 26th, 2009. It was an important day for me. I’m glad that I had my wife and a friend of ours there with me.
The day started at 10:15am when Michelle and I met up with our friend,
Toby, before driving to the stadium. She’d wanted to head to a
baseball game with us ever since she’d heard about how I run around
catching baseballs (or trying to). Off we went, arriving at the Big A
around 10:35. We walked around the back of the stadium so I could peek
in through the outfield tunnels. As I expected, BP was NOT happening
on this hot summer day. I was a bit worried that I’d get shut out,
especially when I happened to pass by John Witt (aka MLBallhawk)
outside the Right Field Gate. John’s some pretty good competition when
baseballs are flyin’ around!
Just after 11:00 the gates opened and I was denied taking in my sealed
bottle of Green Tea… grr. I ran inside… I had picked right field
because I figured a few Tigers would be out warming up. After all, the
visiting team had been out first at the last day game I’d attended.
This day, however, I’d guessed wrong… there were a few Angels out on
the field, so what did I do?
I ran all the way over to the left field line… it was already so
hot! When I got there Trevor Bell was tossing a ball to himself… he
needed to warm up. I called out to him, “Hey, Trevor!” He looked over
at me and I said, “I’ll play catch with you, man.”
He smiled and said, “Well, come on down here then.” I was already in
the 2nd row of the seats… I went to the first row, right up against
the wall and looked at him. I shrugged… what was I supposed to do
now? Certainly he wasn’t serious… I couldn’t go down to the field.
So, I held my glove up and made a throwing motion with my right hand.
Just then, bullpen catcher Steve Soliz showed up and got Trevor’s
attention… dang. Trevor held up his arms and kind of shook his head
as if to say, “Sorry.”
Well, he played catch and I got Matt Palmer’s autograph. I was a little bummed. I had been hoping for a “played catch with a major leaguer” story. I’ve gotten close a couple of times. If you’re reading this… just try it sometime. Go ahead, ask ’em…
Then later, Trevor headed over to the left field foul pole and started talking to someone that he seemed to know… he signed a ticket stub for me… on the back of the ticket. I had handed it to him face up. Weird, but a nice signature, and I told him so. He thanked me. Here it is:
I write the name of the player who’s autograph I get on the back of the ticket along with the date so I can remember… see it up there?
Then I got Rafael Rodriguez to sign another ticket.
All this time and there were still no Tigers on the field… they didn’t come out until fifteen minutes later…
Here was the view of the “action” on the field:
It was all right though. I was having fun… I saw Rob in the crowd and said hello to him and then I took off for the bullpen (where I took the above photo) while Trevor Bell threw a session out there with Soliz and Mickey Hatcher. As he was finishing up I saw a trio of Tigers emerge from their dugout and start tossing a ball way across the field:
I couldn’t get a baseball from Trevor after three interactions with him, including this last one when I asked him for the ball he’d just finished using. Strike three–I was out of there and across the stadium. I got down to the foul line on the Field Level and saw a small crowd there that included the aforementioned John Witt.
Justin Verlander, who’d pitched well on Monday night, was signing autographs and since I had already used up three ticket stubs I had I grabbed my silver Sharpie and got him to sign my Tigers cap! Sweet!
At that point in time Michelle and Toby had come out to the seats near me after Michelle took an important phone call and Toby bought an Angels cap. They sat nearby while I watched a sextet of Tigers pitchers play catch:
Armando Galarraga (on the far right in the above picture) finished up and was talking to a trainer for a minute. Nobody cared about his baseball, it seemed, so I asked him for it. He looked over at me. I repeated my request, in Spanish this time, and he tossed me my first baseball on the day! Shortly thereafter Galarraga came over and started signing autographs. I really only get autographs on the baseballs I snag by the player I got it from… so it made perfect sense… here’s the ball with the ‘graph:
After that Fernando Rodney was still throwing with Ryan Perry. Rodney overthrew the ball and I jumped for it. It ended up going just over my head… and an older guy behind me caught it. He asked me if I’d seen the catch and when I said yes he pulled out a tape recorder. As it turns out, he worked for a Detroit radio station… who knows, maybe I’m on the radio somewhere in D-Town.
I took the autographed ball back to Michelle and left it with her while I tried to nab another ball from Bobby Seay. I got denied… but the game would be starting soon so we headed up to the 400 level.
We took up some seats in a good foul ball spot over first base:
It was a great summer afternoon. It was warm but, man, I love day baseball games. It’s just a different environment. I don’t like the lack of BP but I love the many, many empty seats.
Torii Hunter started off the Halo offense with a two-run homer in the first inning that just got out of the reach of Curtis Granderson at the wall. The Angels tacked on a run in the third and another in the fourth. Joe Saunders was pitching against Edwin Jackson and did well in his first start back from the DL. He went five innings and gave up two runs… the bullpen shut it down after that.
But let’s pause for a moent and talk about the sixth inning. As the top of the sixth arrived the row in front of where we were sitting had cleared out due to the lack of shade as the sun traveled through the afternoon sky. I looked over at Michelle and said, “I’m gonna move down there a bit. I’ve got a good feeling.” So, I sat in the sun on a hot seat while Jason Bulger (who I knew could throw hard) got Placido Polanco to fly out.
Then Magglio Ordonez popped out. And up stepped Miguel Cabrera. I had this view to my left:
And it turned out that I needed all the space in that empty row. Bulger threw a fastball and Cabrera was just a bit late on it. It came flying back toward me, arching toward the seats. I knew it was going to get up to us… I took off to my right along the empty row and I got to the green handrail at the staircase just as a fan stood up to catch the ball (bare-handed) up in the fourth row. It bounced off his hands, and since I know that gravity pulls things down (duh) I got right below him in the first row (right at the bottom of the staircase). The ball hit off a second fan’s hand and spun down into the first row near where I was standing.
I was facing away from the field (that photo shows the view to my left, where the ball ended up). I lunged to my left, reaching out with my glove hand (since the ball was still rolling). All of a sudden I felt weight on my right shoulder… a lot of weight. Later, I found out that a guy had tripped going for the ball and had fallen on me. I braced myself against the concrete wall with my left arm (sticking my glove into that wet spot in the process… ew), scraping it against the concrete wall, and stretched out my right hand to grab the ball. My first foul ball. Ever!
It took me until I was twenty-six years old. It wasn’t graceful… but it was just a bit of luck combined with quick reflexes and a little skill. I didn’t make a big deal about it right away because the fans who didn’t get the ball were a little unruly (read: drunk). Instead, I sat down next to Michelle, smiling, and I opened my glove. This was inside it:
Yes! I was thilled. Every one of my ninety-eight baseballs in my collection had been BP/warmup/3rd out/postgame baseballs. This one was my first live game ball. Man, I couldn’t believe it! I’m excited about it even now as I’m writing this. Woo!
After that… it was, you know, a baseball game. We moved out of the sun and closer to home plate:
On the left of the above photo can you see what’s going on? Mike Scioscia is arguing that Chone Figgins should have been safe at home after stealing it… but time had been called… according to a replay I saw at home later, the umps were right. Figgins went back to third and didn’t score. It didn’t matter. The Angels bullpen held down the Tigers and before I knew it it was the ninth inning. I left Michelle and Toby when there was one out in the ninth. I ran down to just behind the dugout as Fuentes was recording the second out:
Here was the view on the gorgeous summer day:
Fuentes got the third out and I lined up with about twenty other people hoping to get a toss up. A few baseballs came up but I didn’t snag anything… that was all right with me though. I grabbed a few ticket stubs and an abandoned Angels Magazine on my way out to meet Michelle and Toby. I ended the day with five autographs, two baseballs, and a great memory of a milestone in my ballhawking career.
Michelle and I knew months ago that we’d be heading up to the Bay Area in July and I’d checked the Angels schedule to see if they would be playing the A’s. Sure enough, the Angels and Athletics met up right out of the All-Star break. Due to our busy schedule (and wanting to see all of our Bay Area-based friends) we could go a game either on a Saturday or a Sunday. I picked Sunday because both games were during the day and Saturday’s was a day game after a night game. It was the Angels–away from Anaheim. The last time I’d seen them play on the road was in July of 2005 in New York against the Yankees.
I hoped there would be batting practice at this day game after a day game…
Look to the left–ooh! My first view of the stadium…
When we got to the stadium at 10:55am there was already quite a bit of a line:
It was Kurt Suzuki T-Shirt Day at the Coliseum… complete with pooka shells printed on the neck. By the time I got to right field and took my first look at this new (to me) stadium it was already 11:05.
There were a dozen people already there and the only people fielding baseballs in right were two batboys… a friendly Oakland fan told me they never toss anything up.
After a few minutes I headed over to left field and Michelle took some photos that I turned into this panorama:
It was a bit more crowded but there were plenty of righties hitting and some pitchers shagging in the outfield. The A’s hit about two or three baseballs to the stands… none near me. And I saw a few balls thrown to fans… nothing to me. I wasn’t nervous about getting shut out because I was one of a handful of Angels fans in the stadium. The A’s wrapped up BP at about 11:35am (the Angels were scheduled to start hitting at 11:40). I took off the green and put on the red: my circa 2004 Darin Erstad T-shirt. I chatted with Michelle while we waited for the Angels to take the field.
I’d seen a few pitchers come out to throw along the first base line… but no hitters were anywhere to be found. 11:40 came and went… still no hitters. Oh, no! Groundskeepers started taking the cage down… I was still without a baseball. I told Michelle the Angels weren’t going to hit and we took off for the field level. I got over to the line just as the pitchers were finishing but nobody threw their ball anywhere.
To get over my disappointment and not snagging a ball during (severely shortened) batting practice I figured I’d go for autographs. Our actual seats for the game were in Section 111, just behind the Angels dugout.
Yes, I actually paid for these seats. Got ’em for less than 72 bucks for two on StubHub… sometimes you find some good deals on that site. Be sure to check it out.
First up was Matt Palmer, who has grown his facial hair back since the last time I talked to him. After that I got backup catcher Bobby Wilson’s signature and then some of the Angels came out to play catch and stretch. After getting snubbed by Howie Kendrick and Chone Figgins as they finished throwing I got Gary Matthews, Jr. to throw me my first ball of the day. YES! No shutout for you today, Oakland Coliseum! I also saved a little kid’s life on this snag, by the way. Gary threw the ball from about fifty feet away but it tailed to my right a little bit. I stretched as far as I could and made the catch in the front row of the stands… right in front of a boy about six years old who had his hands down by his sides. He and his family hadn’t even seen it coming.
I saw Brian Fuentes heading out toward the bullpen… he stopped to talk to a family he knew and I waited patiently until–aannndd a little kid ran right up and asked him for his autograph. He looked down and said, “Hang on.” I lined up right behind the little dude and a minute later I had the All-Star’s autograph. I made sure to thank him for taking the time.
I saw Erick Aybar tossing with a trainer back along the first base line. When they finished I yelled, “Erick! Over here!” and as he was walking toward the dugout he threw me Ball #2 on the day. Someone behind me said, “Good catch.” Really, I’d just stood there and he threw it right to me. I didn’t have to move an inch.
Jered Weaver and Joe Saunders were signing autographs nearby and since I’d already gotten Joe’s (three times–on stubs from his complete game in May) I decided to hang out and get Jered’s. He reached up across the dugout and signed this ticket:
Then Stomper came by in a little car and I took his photo because, well
, I love mascots.
And a little later Robb Quinlan signed a few and I got him, too! Five autographs in one day–that’s a record for me!
About this time the game was getting started and, man, it was a great one. In the second inning though, Michelle and I toured the stadium. As this was our only trip to the Coliseum, possible ever, we wanted to take a good look around. Plus, it got us out of the sun for a while…Look at that concourse–pretty ordinary… that’s right off of first base. And…
Walking behind the batter’s eye… pretty dead out there. Yuck–so much concrete. Cold, unfriendly, Oakland Coliseum. Blah.
Then we ended up in deep left field:
Before going down to the third base line:
A’s starter, Brett Anderson, who didn’t allow an Angel to reach base until he had two outs in
the seventh inning, gave up two hits and no walks in eight shutout
frames–and lost! Michelle and I watched a great duel between Anderson and John Lackey, who went nine innings and got the win! Brian Fuentes picked up the save in the 10th inning after Bobby Abreu hit a line shot out to right that produced the game’s only run! Here he is touching home plate after the homer.
About three other balls got hit really well, too… but they were just too high up and the wind caught ’em. Jason Giambi hit a blast to center that I thought was gone but Matthews grabbed it on the warning track.
So, my impression of the Coliseum is this: ordinary. It wasn’t lousy by any means. It was nice (the ushers were a bit grumpy–nothing new). My expectations were low so I wasn’t disappointed. There’s absolutely NO personality to this park and I see why they’re not selling many tickets (aside from the fact that the A’s are lousy this year)… who wants to really come back to the Coliseum day after day? Not me. The attendance was 18,539… less than half of what I’m used to in Anaheim. But it was great to see it with my own eyes, watch a game with my wife, enjoy the beautiful weather (surprise, surprise!), and snag three baseballs…
What? Yep, the third ball of the day came from recently promoted (and playing first base) Brandon Wood. He recorded the third out of the sixth inning and jogged toward the dugout. Normally, Chone Figgins gets the third out balls and tosses them, at home and, apparently, on the road. This time, however, Wood tossed it right to me while I was in position behind the dugout! Cool! I love to look at the difference between a rubbed up game ball and a BP ball.
So long, Oakland–I may never see another game at your Coliseum. I’ll leave you with some more photos, enjoy!
This particular trip to Angel Stadium began a few weeks ago with a simple message on Facebook from my buddy, Rob:
thursday day game. angels-red sox. may 14th.
can this happen
Well, it so happens that all the little details worked out and at 10:20am I was on my way to the park with Michelle, Rob, and Dennis (another friend from UCI). We got there nice and early and, as it was Rob’s first trip to the stadium, we walked all around the outside of the stadium, past the Nick Adenhart memorial, and ended up at the Right Field Gate about 10 minutes before it opened. All the gates were to open at the same time so I figured, why not be close to the outfield? As this was a day game after a night game, I was worried that there wouldn’t be any BP… also, this was the site at the main gate:
Lots of fans, late opening time, day game after a night game… I was worried I’d be unable to walk away with a baseball.
11:00 came and I ran inside (the rest of my group chose to walk) and I quickly headed to right field and I saw this:
Dang… I called Michelle and said, “No batting practice today. I’ll be near the foul pole.” And that’s where I was a few minutes later when they arrived. Nothing was happening on the field.
I knew the players would come out to stretch and throw eventually so I stayed put. Sure enough, some Red Sox pitchers soon trotted out and after some basic warmups they started throwing. There were a bunch of Red Sox fans all along the wall. I watched Tim Wakefield throw a few knuckleballs and then tried asking Takashi Saito for a ball in Japanese (like I did last September at PETCO Park) but I only managed to get a smile out of him, not a ball. Jonathan Papelbon started signing closer to the infield so I headed over there and, with the help of a Sox fan in front of me, got his autograph on my ticket stub for that day. He progressed out toward the outfield, signing for virtually everybody, and I stuck where I was because Hideki Okajima was finishing up his pregame throwing. He wrapped up and I asked, in Japanese (thanks, Zack Hample) for the ball. He turned, confused as to where the request came from and I put my glove up, repeated my call from the third row of the stands and he saw me! He tossed it right to me–perfect throw! I was so psyched! That’s the first time I’d ever successfully gotten a ball from a player by asking in a non-English language. This would be a day of firsts for me at the ballpark, actually.
Now, I wasn’t shut out… whew – but I didn’t snag any other actual baseballs during pregame stuff… I did, however, snag an Angels Softee Ball from the Strike Force as they shot off their air cannons just before the game. My first time snagging one of these, too!
Here I am with Michelle before the start of the game:
We found seats on the first base side and were able to stay there for the first third of the game (see some shots below). I tried to get a ball from the infielders playing catch before the game and from any players that had recorded third outs as they headed into the dugout. Nope–just wasn’t happening on this day. The souvenirs kept going to the section to the left or right of me.
The four of us headed up to the Lower View Level after a walk (for Rob’s sake) through the different concourses in the fourth inning. We
ended up here:
That’s my new favorite Japanese left-handed pitcher, Okajima, on the mound. I had a chance for a foul ball, I thought. Nope–no luck. We had a great view though and had some snacks and watched a great game unfold. I wanted to be back to the Field Level for the final out of the game so we headed down in the top of the ninth with the game tied at 4 to the third base side. Our view:
You know what’s awesome? Free baseball! The Angels and Red Sox were still tied at the end of the ninth so the game headed into extras. I’ve got to say that this ended up being one of the best ballgames I’ve watched in person in a long, long, long time. Each team had chances to score. The Red Sox would end up leaving a total of thirty-four men on base, twelve of those by Ortiz (who went 0 for 7). It was thrilling… I mean, this game had triples, double plays, stolen bases, hit batters, lots of strikeouts, arguments between managers and umps, and twelve innings! Oddly enough, no home runs… whatever. Still, so exciting!
In the bottom of the twelfth, Juan Rivera hit a clean single. Reggie Willits (who I am a big fan of) pinch ran for him. Erick Aybar sac bunted him to second base and then Jeff Mathis came up, knocked a line drive into left-center and that was the game! 5-4 Angels! Man, it was great!
Did I mention that this walk-off win for the Halos occurred after they escaped a Big-Papi-at-the-plate-with-the-bases-full situation (shown above)? And Torii Hunter stole Dustin Pedroia’s (potential) 5th hit of the day from him with a great catch in center? Both Pedroia and Hunter are studs and I really respect how hard they play the game. Awesome! Really, the teams fought each other hard the whole way and most of the 35,124 fans there stayed to see the end… a miracle in SoCal, I’ve noticed.
And though I didn’t snap a photo of it… I was on the Jumbotron for the first time ever! I just happened to be standing up during a pitching change and Dennis said, “Matt!” and the guy on the other side of me said, “Hey, is that you?” and he pointed to the screen. Sure enough, it was me… I gave a nice thumbs up and looked straight into the camera before they cut to someone else. That was pretty cool.