Tagged: petco park

5/5/12 at PETCO Park

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.

Whew!

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!

So, with that–I returned to my seat.  Which just happened to be here:

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.

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6/25/11 at PETCO Park

Before this day, the last time I’d gone to a Major League Baseball game that wasn’t at Angel Stadium was when Michelle and I had gone to Chase Field for two games back in August of 2010.  Fifteen consecutive games at the Big A… and finally I got a chance to take a mini road trip down to San Diego.

I parked my car in a structure at about 2:45 (for a 5:35 game) and walked south a few blocks until I saw:

I wandered all around the exterior of the stadium until the Park at the Park and the beach opened at 3:00… then I ran in and spent about thirty minutes with this view in front of me.

Not a single baseball got hit to the beach during the time I was there but I did get Luke Gregerson’s autograph on an old ticket I had with me before heading up to the left field seats when the rest of the stadium opened at 3:30.  I spent a lot of BP in left field and eventually snagged a Ryan Ludwick homer after it bounced in the spot shown in the photo on the left.  As you can tell, the seats were pretty full.

And after that they filled up even more so I ran over to right field where there was a little more space to move.

The Padres ran off the field and the Braves came out to hit–and after ten minutes a BP ball got hit up to the seats, was bobbled by some fans and fell back onto the field.  Tim Hudson walked over and tossed it up (to no one in particular) and a fan three feet from me dropped it.  The ball fell onto a chain link covering between the seats and the field.  I walked over, leaned out, and plucked it off the fencing.  Then I found a little kid nearby (wearing a glove) and handed it to him.

In the photo to the right you can see my view from near where I snagged Ball #2 and Tim Hudson standing in the outfield.  BP got pretty boring after that.  Surprisingly, the Braves didn’t hit too many baseballs to the seats.  I became very aware of the expansive space that is PETCO Park.  I’d seen these same Braves a month earlier hitting bombs in Anaheim… but in SD they barely cleared the fences.

So, it was a frustrating BP made slightly better by the fact that, as the Braves ran off the field, I got a ball tossed to me at the dugout by Julio Lugo.

Then, some Braves came out to stretch and throw before the national anthem:

Freddie Freeman kept the ball he used during warmups with Jason Heyward:

First basemen tend to do that since they usually need them for the first inning to warm up their fellow infielders.

When the game started I sat near my ticketed seat… not in it… but near it.  I stayed on the aisle and two rows closer to the field than I should have been… but even on a beach towel giveaway night the attendance was just over 38,000 so there was plenty of space.  Here was my view:

I did snag a ball during the game–but it was tossed into the seats by the Pad [pahd] Squad and was squishy:

Chipper Jones was playing third base and I was glad to get to see him play–who knows how long he’ll still be able to?  He’s one of the few players I’ve followed since I first got into watching baseball when I was a kid.

And Jason Heyward is quickly becoming my new favorite Brave to see play… he went two for five with two doubles and two RBIs in this game.  That guy can hit!

As far as stats about the game… it was close through seven innings: 3-1 Braves… but Atlanta pulled away in the eighth with three runs and then scored four more in the ninth.  Dan Uggla crushed a three-run homer in that ninth inning and as he touched home plate… well, look:

Butt slap!  Why is that always how players congratulate each other?

I moved right behind the dugout for the bottom of the ninth:

As the game came to a close the Long Haul Bombers prepared for their home run derby…

The Braves won the MLB game, 10-1.  And if you’ve never heard of the Long Haul Bombers… they are a group of burly dudes that absolutely crush specially made softballs as far (or farther) than Major League hitters hit baseballs.  I’d only ever read about these guys online and, as it turned out, they would be doing a round of their HRD at PETCO on this evening.  I did not get a ball from home plate ump Kerwin Danley, nor did I get anything from the Braves postgame.  After the Braves retreated to their clubhouse I ran out to the outfield stands–and to the second deck of left field.

It was pretty packed up there and the first hitter turned out to be a lefty–who, obviously, pulled everything to right field.  The second hitter was a righty and… man, oh, man… they were crushing the balls.  Multiple softballs actually hit the jumbotron in left field.  I decided to go all out and run back and forth from left to right and back again depending on which hitter was up.  It was exhausting and I was on the verge of frustration when a drive got crushed up to section133 in right field.  I ran up a staircase, cut through a row and made a final lunge to catch the ball in the spot in the photo on the right.

And for your reference, here’s what these softballs look like (from the spot where I caught it–about 440 feet from home plate)!  Yowza!

And then I jogged to the car and made it home in just over an hour.  Exhausted.

6/19/10 at PETCO Park

About a month prior to this game I got a text message from a friend of mine.  He told me that for Father’s Day he was flying down from San Francisco (where he lives) to San Diego (where he grew up) to take his dad to a game.  He wanted a few of us from college to go with him.  As it turns out, Jason, Josh, Brendan, and I would attend this game… and since I had committed to donating blood that morning before making the trek down to SD I asked Jason to get me my ticket ahead of time.  That worked out well because after I donated a pint of O+ at the Red Cross donation site, I headed down the 5 freeway and made it to downtown San Diego at about 2pm for the 5:35pm game between the Padres and the Orioles.

I had a little time to kill so I checked out the ticket windows:
619 padres ticket windows.JPGAnd went in the Team Store:
619 padres store.JPGThen I walked past all the Park at the Park gates:
619 park gate 1.JPG619 park gate 2.JPGAnd saw these adorable dogs in a nearby office:
619 2 awesome dogs.JPGThe other guys would be arriving toward the end of batting practice.  At 3pm the Park at the Park opened and I ran in to the beach in center field.
view from the beach 6.19b.jpgThere wasn’t anyone hitting when I got there–a few Padres were throwing near the right field line but I ended up just sitting around for about ten minutes.  Finally, BP was under way and… well… take a look at the below photo:
619 beach scene.JPGSo, Oscar Salazar was running from right field to center field and back again.  I was near the fence.  A baseball had come to rest about thirty feet from the fence.  When he got close to center field I yelled out, “Oscar!”  He looked over and then I asked him for the baseball in Spanish.  In one move he turned to run back toward right field, grabbed the ball, and flipped it underhand to me–I had taken a few steps away from the fence–but the ball was heading over my head so I backpedaled–right through that pile of plastic toys–and made the catch over my head.  I was on the board.

At 3:30 the stadium would open–and I’d still have just the one baseball.

That would change pretty quickly.  I had decided to hang out on a staircase in the left field seats.  After a couple of close calls, a Padres righty launched a homer a bit to my right.  I moved down the stairs, across half a section and watched the ball hit off a seat over my right shoulder.  It took a bounce in the row behind me, hit a fan’s hands, then rolled down to the first row… just to my right as I was facing away from the field.  I snagged it as it trickled away from me for Ball #2 on the afternoon.

I was getting text updates from the guys as they made the trip down from L.A. and then to Jason’s folks’ house, then onto the trolley–they still hadn’t arrived as the Orioles took the field.  I ran around to the third base line as the O’s pitchers started their pre-game throwing.  It was there that I got bullpen coach Alan Dunn to toss me my third baseball.  A few minutes later, rookie Jake Arrieta tossed me a ball as he finished throwing.  I’d moved about twenty feet closer to home plate.

About ten minutes later I saw Garrett Atkins playing catch with another Oriole and I positioned myself nearby.  When they were through I held up my glove and said, “Hey, Garrett, right here, please.”   And that was ball #5 on the day.
619 atkins catch.JPGI had pretty much exhausted my options along the left field line at that point so I went back to left field–this time to the second deck.  I know that every now and then a powerful righty can launch a homer or two up there.  Here was my view:
second deck view bp 6.19b.jpgAnd unfortunately, only one home run got hit up to the second level… and it was two sections away from me.  I did have a bit of luck up there though.  I’d tried calling out to various players to toss a ball up to the second level.  They all ignored me or didn’t even give it a shot.  I knew it could be done though… I’d caught two toss ups there back on 7/21/09 from a couple of Marlins.  Toward the end of BP a bald-headed trainer was fielding near the left field corner and I yelled out to him–and he launched up Baseball #6 on the evening.  Here’s a photo:
619 trainer 2nd deck.JPGThe box is around the trainer and I was standing at the red circle (along the railing in the second row).  I got some cheers from a few people nearby because I had to lean way out and over to make the catch since the throw had been falling a little short.

I was at the dugout as BP ended but didn’t snag a ball there.  The guys had just arrived and so I went to get a drink (and a Frequent Friar lanyard) before heading up to the second level above third base where our assigned seats were.  I met up with everyone and decided to spend the game in my seat:
panorama from our seats 6.19b.jpgI had a shot at a foul ball… maybe… but it was nice to just relax and enjoy the great weather and the great ball game.

It was nice to chat with my friends… and the game was pretty exciting.  The Padres and Orioles scored in the first.  It was 3-1 Padres.  The Orioles scored two more in the third–and then two more in the sixth to take the lead, 5-3, on an Adam Jones home run.  Kevin Millwood was set up for his first win of the season.  My friends were very emotional about the game:
619 bren and josh.JPGVictor Willis (formerly of The Village People) sang YMCA–badly–at the seventh inning stretch.  I think he forgot the words at one point.
619 village person.JPGI went down to the Field Level for the ninth inning and told the guys I’d meet them after the game.  Since the Orioles were winning I went behind their dugout:
view from field level 6.19b.jpgThe Padres made it interesting though and got a run in in the bottom of the ninth–and the tying run was on third… when the final out was recorded.  Tense, fun, a fantastic game… plus, there was a Kyle Blanks bobblehead giveaway and we all got coupons for free tacos from Jack in the Box.

The night’s baseballs:
619 six baseballs.JPGI stopped in Lemon Grove to say good night to the guys and to Jason’s parents.  Then it was a two hour drive north on the 5.

4/29/10 at PETCO Park

looking up at the scoreboard.JPGI’d barely recovered from my trek to Angel Stadium on Monday and I was planning on making the drive down the 5 freeway to good ol’ PETCO Park in San Diego.  My wife, Michelle, had to work that evening so I went to class, worked on my thesis, met her for lunch, dropped her off at her office, then set out to SD.  I’d be meeting up with my ballhawk buddy, Leigh, once I got there and, since there was no traffic, I parked at 3:30pm and headed to the box office to by my ticket.  I opted on the cheapest Field Level seat I could buy.  You can get five buck tickets to the Park at the Park… but in my experience the ushers at PETCO are pretty strict.  I felt like I needed to get down to the field–then I could move around as needed.

I got my first baseball of the day at 3:43pm… before the stadium was open.  It came from Fred Dabney, an interim coach for the Brewers.  And here it is:
dabney ball closeup.JPGAh, remember when the Brewers wrote clever things on their BP baseballs?

Ball #2 came from a groundskeeper much later.  I’d met up with Leigh and we talked, spent some time on the beach in center field:
leigh on beach.JPG… and waited for the rest of the park to open.  I’d seen quite a few homers land in the seats in left field but a vendor inside had been pocketing all of them.  Except one that had gone into the upper deck… halfway up.  I knew what section it was in and just me and one other guy ran up there at 5:30 to find it… he got to it first.  Dang.

As a matter of fact, I would go through all the rest of BP stuck on two baseballs. 
rf stands petco b.jpgAfter I ran over to right field (for Prince Fielder) I asked Randy Wolf,
“Could you toss a ball up here?”  He told me, “Don’t worry, you’ll get
plenty.” and gestured to the batter.

Is that so, Randy?  Well, Fielder was a bust.  He hit, maybe, two into
the right field stands.  BP regular TC ended up with one of them.  I went back over
to left field after that and continued to get shut out.
lf stands panorama petco b.jpgI hung out in the second deck of left field until Ryan Braun was done taking his swings.  A total of two baseballs were hit up there… I didn’t snag either.  I’d been counting on a toss or two.  But the Brewers–and this was the first time I’d ever seen them play–are stingy.

It was a bummer–the day had started out so well.  As I walked over toward the area of my actual ticketed seat after BP I was grumbling about my bad luck… I hoped for a chance at a warmup ball.  As I sat down to take the following picture:
third base field petco b.jpg… I looked down to my left.  I saw this:
found bsm.JPGWha–?  It was, at this point, about 6:35pm.  Maybe it was a Brewers overthrow from early in the afternoon–or a foul ball that just went unseen.  I have no idea but it was one of the oh-so-familiar cryptic messages the Brewers are famous for, though this year they seem to have gotten lazy and they just make a “–” on their BP baseballs… like the one at the beginning of this entry.

Cool.  I’ll take it–Ball #3.  What do you think BSM means?

I moved right behind the dugout for pregame throwing but Carlos Gonzalez let a ball skip by him into the outfield stands… a fan reached out and nabbed it.  So, Gonzalez just let it go and he ran into the dugout.

Here was my view for the start of the game:
petco dugout panorama b.jpgI stayed in the first row for two innings before the actual seat holders showed up.  Then I was banished.  Since there were two lefties starting I headed over to the first base side hoping for a foul ball.  Here was my view:
first base panorama petco b.jpgThe Padres scored four runs in the fourth and five runs in the fifth.  And that was it for the scoring.  Seriously.  I came pretty close to a few foul balls… a guy in the section behind me complimented my range as I strafed right to get within a few feet of one of them.  But I came up empty.

Leigh texted me around 10:00 to say he was leaving–he had work.  I was determined to stick it out through the chilly, windy San Diego night.  The crowd had been recorded at just under 17,000… there were not many people left by the eighth inning.

The Padres won and I was behind their dugout to try to snag something… but nothin’ doin’.  I grabbed a few discarded ticket stubs and started to head along the cross aisle back toward third base so I could exit and walk back to my car.  As I did that I noticed a few Brewers head out onto the field.

Weird… Fred Dabney, LaTroy Hawkins and some other Brewer all set up so Hawkins could get some throwing in.  I lingered in the seating bowl as long as I could.  There were a half dozen or so Brewer fans hanging out right by the field.  I waited a few minutes… the seating bowl was 98% empty at that point.  The ushers were kicking everybody out–I was about a dozen rows from the field.

hawkins leaving field.JPGAll the fans in the first row were asked to leave by the ushers.  I headed up slowly… I stopped in about the twentieth row to “look through my backpack.”  There was a chance to salvage the below average night.  As the last few fans exited an usher approached me and said everyone had to leave.  I said, “Sure, just one second.”  I left my backpack, the trio on the field had just finished.  I yelled out, “LATROY!”  He heard me as he began to walk toward the dugout… of course he did.  The stadium was eerily quiet at that point.  I held up my glove and opened up my jacket to show off my Brewers old school logo T-shirt.  Hawkins fired a strike from a hundred feet away right to me.  Check it out:
hawkins ball.JPGI’d never seen a situation like that after a game before.  The usher asked, surprised, “Did he just throw you that ball?”

matt leaving petco.JPG“Yep.  You have a good night.”

I quickly headed out to the promenade near the Park at the Park and gave away the ball from the groundskeeper to a little boy.  Then I headed for my car.  On the way out I stopped and had a security guard take my picture before I left.  When I got to the parking garage and put my stuff away I couldn’t find my ticket for the garage… finally, I found it in my back pocket, badly wrinkled.  When I handed it to the lady at the kiosk she couldn’t scan it… so she charged me the day rate since I had gotten there so early… which was half of the event rate.  Score!

I had long drive ahead of me.  Four baseballs, I got to see a baseball buddy of mine, a small crowd; it was a fun night at the park.

Thanks for reading–my next game will be som
etime when the Angels come back home.

7/21/09 at PETCO Park

315.JPGI know, I know.  Don’t even say it–I know it.  I’ve been behind with these entries but it’s only because I’ve actually been able to go to quite a few games!  So much blogging to do, so little time…

Let’s go to PETCO!

This was my first trip down to SD to see a game since September 9th, 2008.  I remember meeting a dude named Leigh while I was down there and we’d been in touch since then.  Leigh got Michelle and I a pretty good hookup on tickets so we made the trek down.  We parked, got some tasty food at a local restaurant and then headed to the park at about 4:10pm.
308.JPGI called Leigh once we were outside the stadium and he showed up a few minutes later with the tickets.  The Park at the Park opened at 4:30pm and I’d already snagged a ball by that time!  How?  Well, that’s a secret… but it came from Chase Headley, who had tossed me a ball earlier in the season at Dodger Stadium.

339.JPGIn all of the time we spent out on the beach (and the batter’s eye) I think there were about four balls to be snagged… none for me.  I got a few fun pictures and got to talk to Leigh for a while.  There he is in the dark red shirt to the left.

He’s got some pretty cool baseball stories!  Thanks, Leigh, for sharin’ your ballpark experiences!  We’re on the beach–which got crowded.  I’ve got the GONZALEZ 23 jersey on (no, not the little boy) and Leigh is blocked by the woman looking up to the left…
341.JPGPhoto credit: Michelle

At 5:25pm we walked over toward right field–then at 5:30pm the floodgates opened and all the early fans rushed inside.  I’d seen about three or four baseballs get hit up to the second deck during beach time so that’s where I headed.  I got up there, was the first one in the area, and somehow all the baseballs were gone.

One word: USHERS

Bah!  Luckily, I had my Marlins hat on and after a few minutes my second ball of the day was tossed up to me on the 2nd deck by relief pitcher Renyel Pinto.  Not long after THAT I got me third ball tossed up by reliever Burke Badenhop.  It should be noted that when I first ran into the section and saw Burke field a ball I shouted to him, he looked, then I jumped up and down a waved my glove… and he made fun of me.  All is now forgiven, Burke.

Meanwhile, Michelle was down on the first level in our seats (sort of right underneath where I was) reading a book–her new favorite hobby while I run around during BP.  And my camera was with her… hence the lack of photos from the upper level.

I saw TC, a fairly famous ballhawk, up on the second deck with me.  One or two got hit up there but I didn’t see who got ’em.  Hanley Ramirez, by the way, hit a ball up to the ROOF of the Western Metal Supply Co. building!  That was pretty cool to see.

Chris Coghlan fielded a ball in right field and I asked him for it.  He fired it up but it was too short and slammed off the facing just below my section.  The next one he fielded he threw up and this one was too high!  I jumped as high as I could and reached up but the ball tipped off my glove, hit a metal railing behind me as I turned around, then it bounced (literally) off my head and a guy in a Marlins jersey grabbed it in the air a second before I could.

Rather than offer it to me (I would have told him to keep it), he yelled, “YEAH!” and high-fived me.  It goes without saying that I was less enthusiastic about about the high-five than he was.  Coghlan didn’t toss anything up for the rest of BP.  I blame him–bad arm.  But I guess I get charged with the error.  Oh, well.

Just when I was thinking that nothing else would come up to me, Ricky Nolasco threw me my fourth baseball on the day!  I headed down to the field level, checked in with Michelle, then made the oddly lengthy journey over to the third base line.

Once I arrived there I saw Luis Ayala talking with another pitcher:
350.JPGI yelled to him as he fielded a ball, “Dame la bola, por favor.”  He chatted with the other pitcher for a moment, looked over, I waved my glove and said, “Luis, aqui, por favor,” and he (is the one further from the camera) threw a perfect strike to me, much to the dismay of an angry mother who told her son as I walked away, “Well, that’s not fair you can’t get a ball just cuz you can’t ask for it in Mexican or whatever.”  Whoa.  Calm down, lady.

BP was wrapping up so I headed down to the Marlin dugout hoping to get one more toss but it wasn’t meant to be.  So, I headed back toward the outfield and–wait–
353.JPGJosh Johnson, Marlins All-Star pitcher, was signing autographs so I ran over and got his signature on my ticket stub for the day:
josh johnson auto.jpg
What an ordinary signature… still cool!

Then it was back to the seats.  We were a row behind Leigh… here’s the view:
421.JPGAnd:
petco long toss cropped.jpgThat’s Padres starter, Chad Gaudin, playing long toss with the bullpen catcher, by the way. Man, ballplayers throw the ball SO freakin’ far.

Thanks again, Leigh!

Before the game actually started Michelle and I took a walk.  The view from deep left field:
377.JPG380.JPGHere’s a nice ivy-covered bridge in the main concourse.  See how much more pleasant that is when compared to this in Oakland?

And look at this… the zoo was at the park and they were displaying animals… I took a photo of the HD-TV:
375.JPG

GO ANTEATERS!

After taking a full tour of the lower level we headed up… and ended up on the roof of the warehouse in right field:
386.JPGHey!  It’s the park (at the park)!
petco roof cropped.jpgAnd the park from the roof!

We had an usher snap a photo of the two of us:
396.JPG
Then we grabbed a 5 for $5 deal and went back to the seats.  I figured that if there were to be a home run to right field we’d be in the thick of it.  But it was a pretty boring game… mild, more like.  It was a mild game.  But here was the view as the sun went down:petco sunset panorama cropped.jpgOooohh… pretty.

The only home run during the game was the first one of Kyle Blanks’ career–to the upper deck (where I’d been in BP) and I found out later that TC caught it!  That made the score an amazing three runs for the Marlins to two runs for the Padres.  Typical PETCO game, right?  By that time, however, I was right behind the Marlins dugout.
dugout cropped.jpgI’d said goodbye to Leigh after the top of the ninth.  The scored stayed 3-2.  Wouldn’t you know it… they didn’t throw anything up over the dugout to the dozen or so fans that were there.  No matter–five baseballs and a great ballpark experience!  I’ll take it.  We headed out to the car after I picked up a few ticket stubs as bonus souvenirs.

The treasures of the night:
454.JPGWe made it back home to Irvine at about 12:45am and I knocked out for the night.  Little did I know that I’d be going to another game very soon…

The End of Baseball in 2008

What a gloomy title…

Rain and snow will soon fall in parts of SoCal and the Angels will not add a second championship flag to their stadium.  There’s always next year.

Had you asked me what teams would make the playoffs at the start of the year my predictions would have gone like this:

NL West – Dodgers
NL Central – Cubs
NL East – Phillies
NL Wild Card – Mets
AL West – Angels
AL Central – White Sox
AL East – Red Sox
AL Wild Card – Yankees

Not bad predictions, right?  I mean, who thought the Rays would be that good?  Who knew the Yankees would get that hurt?  And who knew the Mets would collapse like that… again?

Once the eight teams were decided, I really hoped for a Freeway Series… that would’ve been great!  Alas, it wasn’t in the cards.  Not even ManRam and/or Big Tex could help the SoCal teams into the World Series.  The NLCS… I didn’t care.  The Cubs would’ve been fun to watch… and I don’t like the Dodgers.  Brewers?  Meh…  Phillies?  “Okay,” I thought.  Sure.

The AL playoff race… man.  I had to leave my apartment after Aybar couldn’t get that bunt down and the Red Sox won that series in four.  Ugh.  Then I had to choose between rooting for the team that had eliminated my Halos or the team that had manhandled them throughout the regular season.  Well, the Red Sox had opened a fresh wound so I was all about the Rays–funny how if you drop “Devil” from your name and change your logo to a flash of light, you win baseball games–and their youthful team.  As my friend, Josh, would say, “You get that many draft picks and you’re bound to be good eventually.”  They were the underdogs; this year’s baseball Cinderella story.

It wouldn’t be a happy ending for the boys from St. Pete.  In the end the Phillies had better pitching, more homers, and the experience necessary to hold down Joe Maddon and his kids.

I was satisfied.  Nothing more, nothing less.

Now that the playoffs and World Series are over I can let out all the “whoas” that have been lounging around inside me with regard to the end of the baseball season.

I went to quite a few games this year!  Roughly twenty… though I really am too tired to look that statistic up right now.  I bet I could figure it out.  Living in Orange County makes it easy to hit up Angels games.  Currently, I live closer to their stadium than I ever have and it feels good to be just a fifteen minute drive from your favorite ballpark.  I also visited some new parks this year.  Michelle and I watched a game at U.S. Cellular Field and went on a walking tour of Wrigley Field while we were in Chicago… the Cubs were out of town at the time.  This is in addition to the one Padres game, two Dodgers games, and many Angels games I saw this year.  I watched a lot of baseball and I had some fun times at the stadiums.

October and November 2008 018.jpgI took up a collection of baseballs.  The end of the ’08 season finds me with twenty-eight baseballs.  At the start of the season my collection was still in single digits!  My goal for next year: thirty baseballs!  I plan to attend more Angels games (and see the other SoCal teams, should my schedule allow) and I’ll be taking my first ever trip to a certain park in Missouri where a certain team, affectionately called the Redbirds, plays.  August…  I’m hoping for a leftover All-Star ball.  We’ll see…

It’s weird to not be able to see the diving catches and home runs on ESPN when I come home.  Now there’s all this talk of this other game where you bounce a ball… and one where people get tackled.  Whatever.

Some baseball highlights in the life of Matt from 2008:

  • Getting a behind the scenes tour of Angel Stadium
  • Seeing baseball in Chicago with Michelle
  • Snagging seven baseballs in one game in Anaheim
  • Meeting (and getting the autograph of) Zack Hample at Dodger Stadium
  • Watching Karl snag his first-ever baseball at PETCO Park

I’m stage managing a play right now and there’s a line in it: “What’ll we do ’til spring?”

Hmm… good question.  I’ve got school to keep me busy… so, so busy.  Plus, I’ve got Michelle!  We’ve got a wedding to plan.  Things are good… things are very good.