You know, I’ve got no excuse for not getting these last couple of entries from the 2010 season up… but on the bright side, you get to read a baseball entry about a month early because I fell behind on my blogging!
So, this game on the 25th of September out in Anaheim was the last Saturday home game the Angels would have and the last time I figured there would be guaranteed batting practice going on–so I had to be there. Michelle came with me and, as usual, we got there early, I ran in as soon as the gates opened and I hoped for a successful day of snagging.
The Angels were hitting as I made it to the the right field seats and since there weren’t any Easter eggs around I played each of the batters hoping they would go yard. My first chance of the day came after a blooper from one of the other ballhawks in the pavilion. A guy who’s a regular at BP had a homer lined up and I was rushing in from his right side. Seeing he was in position for the catch in the second row I put on the breaks and stopped about six feet from him. He had a perfect snag set up but the ball bounced off the heel of his glove and back down to the field. He cursed at himself and walked a section to his left hanging his head… but I could see the ball still sitting on the warning track 18 feet below me. Reliever Michael Kohn walked over to pick it up. I think he must have seen what had happened because after I asked him to toss the ball up he made a comment about making sure I could catch it. I said, “Yeah, gimme your best shot!” He lobbed an easy one up to me and sure enough, it was the bobbled ball (with just one distinct mark on it–from where it had hit the warning track).
Shortly after that the relievers ran off the field:
In the above photo you can see Kohn in the center of the shot and the spot where I was when he threw me the ball, right there in the first row. I was on the board for the day. I thought briefly about offering it to my fellow snagger but I knew that if someone tried that with me I would have politely refused… so I kept the ball but agreed to give it away to a young fan later that night.
The first group of White Sox hitters were all righties and Juan Pierre (who, in ten years in the majors has hit 14 home runs) so I hung out near the foul pole in right field hoping for a slicer down the line. A few balls came close but they all seemed just a bit out of reach. That short wall is tough to judge sometimes.
Well, eventually I got my shot off the bat of Juan Pierre. The ball went slicing down the line, took a bounce off the wall to my left and skittered to me across the dirt of the track. I leapt up onto the wall, leaned out over, stretched out as far as I could and made the backhanded snag. The ball was worn, with brown and green stains all over it–but it was mine and looked perfect to me.
Despite my best efforts to snag a BP homer from the White Sox, there just weren’t more than a couple to be had and, though I made it to their dugout after BP–nothing got tossed up my way. I sat down with Michelle and convinced her to head over to the Angels’ side with me for their pregame throwing. It paid off…
I’ve mentioned before that Howie Kendrick and Peter Bourjos end their warmups by throwing knuckleballs to each other. Well, on this warm evening they did just that… and as they finished Howie ended up with the ball so I stood up and yelled, “Right here, Howie! Show me the knuckleball!” Wouldn’t you know it? He did… he threw a pretty darn good flutter-ball that arched over the first six rows and settled inside my black Mizuno. Three on the day!
After the anthem I ran back over to the visiting team’s dugout as their players began throwing. At this point in the season some September callups were in the lineup and I think that, due to my rosters, I was one of the only people in the stadium that knew that number 22 on the Sox was Brent Morel. He’d only appeared in about 15 games for them in 2010 and as he finished throwing I called out to him for the baseball he’d been using. I was here:And as Morel ran to my left he tossed me the ball from the steps of the dugout, over the camera well shown here:
I tried to give the ball away to the kid in the Sox hat two photos above but he told me he didn’t want it. So, back to my wife I went–we grabbed food and sat down to watch the game from these seats:
Mostly, I was hoping for an Angels win and looking forward to seeing Manny Ramirez hit for his new team. I only got to see one of those things though…
Scott Kazmir was pitching for the Halos and he gave up five runs in less than four innings. Ugh. He’d earn his 15th loss of the season as the Angels, who started out well with two runs in the first, wouldn’t score for the rest of the game. Manny laced a double off Kazmir for an RBI. Juan Pierre got an RBI, too. So, that was… good. And I ended up with four baseballs–I gave away two of ’em. But the Angels fell to 75-79 on the year and I knew the playoffs were in doubt. still, a crowd of more than 40,000 came out to cheer on the Halos and that’s saying something. Hopefully, 2011 will be a better year.
Weeks before I knew the Angels would be facing off against the Yankees in the ALCS I purchased tickets for both Game 4 and Game 5. I ended up with school commitments on both of those days. So, being the good student that I am, I put both pairs of tickets on StubHub. The Game 4 tickets sold… and I’m glad I wasn’t there for that blowout. The Game 5 tickets didn’t. I called around and got my friend, Julian (who loves the Yankees), to pay me for the ticket. I got someone to cover for me at school and told J that I’d meet him at the ballpark. I readied my stuff and made it to the stadium thirty minutes before it opened.
There was already a HUGE line of people waiting to get in:
And I hoped that I would know someone that might be close to the front of the line. Sure enough, I saw John Witt (aka MLBallhawk) in the last of the five lines. He invited me to slip in next to him and as soon as the gates opened we were off to the races. John headed down near the foul pole and I ran straight up to the pavilion. When I got there I didn’t find any Easter eggs but I saw Scot Shields shagging baseballs in right. I was kind of surprised to see him because he’d been on the DL all season. I yelled out a hello to him and a moment later he pointed up to the sky. A fungo had been hit a bit too far and ended up hitting the seats five rows behind me and to my left. The ball ricocheted right back to the field. Scot went over, picked up that ball and one other, tossed one to a guy down on the field level, then looked up toward me. He gestured with his glove, like I should hold mine up… I did and he fired the ball right to me.
“Thanks, Scot–it’s good so see you back out here!”
He gave me a thumbs up and I headed a few sections over toward center field. Rob was there… John ended up coming up to the pavilion, too. The sun’s tough in Anaheim if you’re trying to snag baseballs. It’s tough when there’s a 7:00 start… it’s tougher when it’s a 5:00 start. With my shades on and my cap low I still had trouble tracking some homers. Once though, with Kendry Morales hitting, I stayed with a ball as it got smashed toward right-center and sprinted through a row and across a whole section. I drifted further to my right and lost it in the sun for a moment… I stuck with it, kept drifting, and then I saw the silhouette falling toward me again. I reached out with my left hand across my body and made the backhanded catch. Whew. The couple behind me were a bit stunned. I heard the guy say, “Wow. I didn’t even see it.”
Shortly after that the Yankees came out and started throwing along the right field line. Here’s a panoramic I snapped:
The Yankees began hitting and peppered the right field seats with baseballs and, while I was close to quite a few (and banged my ankle pretty badly on a seat), I didn’t catch anything else during BP. It was exciting though; the Yankees sure can hit the ball. I’ve never been to a more active batting practice than that one. Lots o’ fun–but lots o’ people, too.
As the Yankees came off the field, I was right behind their dugout… but nobody tossed a baseball anywhere near me. I hung around for a minute and took this picture:
See that baseball with the Metrodome logo? I had seen an acquaintance of mine catch one of those during BP… I hoped somebody might toss one up my way… but the basket got emptied and everyone headed into the dugout.
Sights around the ballpark:
It was energetic and lively… and there were A LOT of Yankees fans. I’d say it was 50/50–Yankees fans to Angels fans. As the anthem was sung there was a flyover by some fighter jets:
And The Kingfish, Tim Salmon, threw out the first pitch. I was good to see him back:
I went to the last game Tim Salmon ever played… they cut a big ’15’ into the grass for that game to honor him. They’ll retire his number some day…
And then I settled into a seat behind the Yankee dugout temporarily… it didn’t start out looking too good for the Angels. Derek Jeter singled on the first pitch of the game:
And then Johnny Damon reached first… does anyone else see how he’s basically cheating in the picture below?
But John Lackey got the next three Yankees in a row to get out of the jam.
After half an inning I had to move… still no Julian. I took a great panoramic shot while I was waiting though:
He sent me a text message in the bottom of the first: “Parking!” I found a new set of seats. It took him thirty more minutes to get to the gate… then he called and said he’d printed the wrong ticket… the one I’d used to get in. Ugh–but I’m a stage manager and I prepare for these kinds of things. I’d printed his actual ticket. Just in case… I left “my” seat that I’d found on the field level and went to find my friend. I got him inside and told him where our ticketed seats actually were, adding, “But my goal is for us never to have to sit in them.”
We went back to the seats I had just vacated. They were still open… we plopped down in them and I got pictures like this:
And we stayed there through four innings! Finally, two ladies (Yankees fans) showed up and claimed the two aisle seats. But seats 3 and 4 were still empty… we sat back down.
The Angels had jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning… and despite both teams putting runners on in almost every inning, the score stayed that way until the seventh. We were still here:
Oh, man! No one had claimed our seats. Sure, we kept looking over our shoulders like the next person coming down the aisle was our doomsday bringer. But it didn’t happen! It was all Angels until the Yankees roared to life with six runs in the top of the seventh. J went crazy, along with all the NY fans. I was seriously worried. It was 6-4… and the Yankees had a solid bullpen. But the Angels found a way… they struck back with three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to retake the lead! That photo right above this paragraph is of Kendry Morales hitting an RBI single. I don’t think anyone sat in their seats from the 7th on… we were all standing, cheering, booing, crying, laughing, yelling, chanting, praying–etc.
At one point a random dude decided to take a walk on the fountains in center field. They even showed it on TV… I hope he had fun:
Jered Weaver came out of the pen and had a dominant eighth inning. The Yanks brought in Mariano… he did his thing, keeping it a one run game:
As the Angels were retired in their half I remember thinking, “Are they gonna leave Weaver in or bring in Fuentes?” They brought in Fuentes… and that made me nervous. But he nailed down the first two outs pretty easily. Then came Alex Rodriguez, who’d hit a home run off Fuentes back in New York days earlier. They intentionally walked him. Good idea, Angels. Then, Matsui walked and Fuentes hit Cano with a pitch. Ugh… bases loaded… two outs. Ninth inning and Nick Swisher up to bat. The count went full–I couldn’t believe I was watching this–and FINALLY Fuentes got Swisher to pop up to shortstop.
The Angels forced a Game 6… which they’d lose… I had told Julian as we left the park, “If it makes you feel any better, you’ll get to see ’em win on TV.” Sure enough… but, man, that was the most exciting game I’d ever seen. Wow. Just wow.
We took a couple photos as we left and I snagged some ticket stubs, too. Here’s me with Julian:
And a blurry shot of me with my two baseballs… and the renovated Big A behind me (it’s all LED-crazy now!):
Oh, and we saw Kelsey Grammer; apparently he’s a Yankees fan. He was sitting in the next section over from us… so was some guy who used to be on The Sopranos. What a game… wow.
I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get this entry up… boy, being sick is no fun.
After watching an awesome victory by the Halos on Thursday night I found myself heading back out to the park on Friday at about 3:00pm. Tonight’s matchup would be Jered Weaver vs. Josh Beckett and it was sure to be another sellout crowd. When I got to the Home Plate Gate I was first in line and I had about 45 minutes to kill… and before the gates opened there was another hearty crowd on hand:
I ran in, ignored the thunder sticks a worker tried to hand me, and made a beeline for the pavilion. With righties starting, there were sure to be some left-handed hitters knocking some balls out. I was out there first along with an older dude–we got to the seats at the same time but there were no Easter eggs to be found.
After a few minutes though, Kendry Morales smacked a pitch high and deep. It made it to the seats but I wasn’t quite in a position to catch it. I had moved to my left… but it was coming in a bit low. I leaned as far down and to the left as I could but it hit off the seats just below my glove. Luckily, the ball didn’t take a crazy bounce and I was able to nab it from the ground. Rob had come charging over and I heard him say, “Dang! Where’s my lucky ricochet?” with a grin on his face. I was thrilled that the bounce was lucky for me and not Rob–this was my 150th baseball. I wrote a nice 150 on it to commemorate the occasion. Rob congratulated me. It was a successful night, as far as personal goals were concerned.
Here’s what the stands looked like after that first snag of the day:
It filled up soon after. And it was just like the day before: not much space to maneuver. I adjusted my positioning based on the batters that were up but as the Angels finished I was stuck at just one baseball snagged. Though I got close to a few Red Sox homers—I was still at just one baseball as they began to wrap up BP.
I made it down to the field level and got to the dugout as the players headed off the field. As he headed into the dugout, I got my second (and final) ball of the day from Clay Buchholz. He threw it right to me in the third row. Nice–I’d doubled my playoff record. From one to two. Woo!
After that I decided to head over to the Angels’ side of the stadium as the players came out to warm up:
The players didn’t throw any balls into the stands but it was cooler than wandering aimlessly–after the Angels warmed up I went over to the visitor’s side:
Once the game started I got to hang out for a little while on the Field Level:
Then the seatholders started showing up. I decided to head up to the View Level… where my seats for both nights actually were. I started deep in left field:
And made my way behind home plate to the other side:
And finally, out to where my actual seat was located:
I sat there for exactly one half-inning. Bleh. Then it was time to continue my tour:
I’d been around this ballpark a hundred times, but never during the playoffs. There’s just a different energy. Normally the fans in Anaheim are very mellow and laid-back… I’m sure most Angel fans at the games come off as indifferent. That’s my perspective, anyway. But in the postseason there’s an energy that’s just simply wonderful to be a part of.
The pitching matchup, again, was intense. Weaver and Beckett were locked in a great duel. Each club put a single run on the board in the fourth. It was 1-1 going into the bottom of the seventh inning. Then the Angels put the game away. Maicer Izturis knocked in Howie Kendrick (running for Vladdy) and then Mike Napoli got hit by a pitch. With two men on Erick Aybar smashed a triple into the gap in right-center.
The place went nuts. Fans rejoiced:
It was 4-1 Angels at that point and that knocked Beckett out of the game:
And I managed to snag a seat behind the dugout (shown on the right) for the conclusion of the game.
Weaver pitched seven and a third innings and struck out seven. He yielded to Darren Oliver, and then Kevin Jepsen got the last out of the eighth and the first of the ninth. It was great! Scioscia made the call, with one out in the ninth, for his closer to come in and finish it.
Brian Fuentes came in–and though he made it pretty tense in that stadium (David Ortiz up to bat as the tying run), he nailed down the save. The crowd had been on their feet for, what seemed like, the last hour of the game:
It was a 4-1 victory and a two games to none series lead for the Angels! Two games, two consecutive nights, two wins for my team. It had been a great playoff experience!
After the game I hung out as long as the ushers let me, then grabbed some ticket stubs and found my way out to the main gate. I took a seat next to the Nick Adenhart memorial and just sat there and watched the people walk by for a few minutes:
It was somber. Fans left their ticket stubs with little notes to Nick on the mound. After a little while I made the trek to my car and home for the evening, two baseballs nestled safely in my backpack:
The Angels would head out to Boston to wrap up the series. Sweeping the Red Sox felt good–even though I was sick on Sunday morning when they won it. It was time to bring on the Yankees. Dun-DUN-DUHNN!!
Another great Fall evening with my wife at the stadium. I was feeling great, and the Angels were going to the playoffs (and the Rangers weren’t) and I was excited to simply enjoy some quality baseball, relax, spend time with my lady… and of course try to snag a baseball!
Since the Angels would be primarily hitting from the right side on this day I started my pursuit in left field. I ran into the stadium at five o’clock and took off for the seats in left. I hung out here:
Behind the bullpens, where I’d had moderate success in the past. Unfortunately, on this day no Angels were hitting the ball far enough to reach me. After the Angels headed off the field I ran down to the foul pole along the third base line. After a few minutes of trying to catch an Ian Kinsler home run… and failing. I called out to backup catcher Kevin Richardson. “Hey, Kevin!” was all it took as I held my glove up. I think he was probably delighted that someone actually knew who he was and he rewarded me with a throw from forty feet away, right over the heads of everyone clustered into the front row. Groovy!
After that I headed back up to the bleachers in left for a minute… just hoping. But, nope, no homers there so I ran around to the pavilion in right as a couple of lefties were taking their hacks: Chris Davis and Hank Blalock. Surprisingly, they only hit a couple of baseballs into the seats and after they were done, nothing was coming out that way.
He’d been a pretty cool guy to talk to for the last couple days. He’s definitely a joker on the team… I asked him, “If I went to the upper deck would you throw me one?” I’d seen him do that the other day… but he just laughed and shook his head. Oh, well. If you ever see this guy, start up a conversation with him. He’s pretty funny.
As BP finished I met up with Michelle in the Terrace Level and we hung out, ate our food we’d brought, and took in the national anthem. After the anthem I saw a couple of Rangers leave the dugout to play catch so I ran over. Ian Kinsler was throwing with… someone… I can’t recall. The important guy is Kinsler, though, because as he headed into the dugout he threw me his baseball (instead of taking it in with him like he’d done the day before). Cool!
With two baseballs on the evening I decided I was satisfied with my snagging and Michelle and I headed up to the View Level. Our seats were in the five hundreds… we sat in the four hundreds in a good foul ball spot… similar to where I’d caught my first foul ball back in August. From up there I was still able to zoom in and get some cool photos:
And I kept my glove on my hand, just in case. Nothing came near us… but we had a good time taking in the action. Matt Palmer pitched well, giving up just one hit in five great innings:
After that, the bullpen took over and no hit stuff for the rest of the game… literally. The Rangers got one-hit and lost 5-0! It was pretty cool! In the eighth Michelle and I moved (away from some irritating little kids) behind the dugout on the Rangers’ side:
There was hardly anyone there at that point and I took some more photos:
I figured that if the Rangers were going to throw anything into the crowd after the game I could get it… but they were in no mood. I guess I’d be pretty upset, too, if I lost big time against mostly minor leaguers. So, two baseballs on the night–another Angels win–a great night with my wife (and likely her last game of the season) and we had an usher take our photo as the crowds cleared after the game.
It’s really been nice going to as many games with Michelle as I have this season. Not only is she learning more about the game, but we really get to spend a lot of quality time together–and have a great time cheering for our team.
I had one regular season game left though, a 3:05pm start the very next day…
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.
I 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.
Tonight it became official. There will never be another baseball game played at Yankee Stadium. I have never been a Yankees fan but I feel like something great is disappearing. It seemed inevitable that the Yankees wouldn’t make the postseason due to the lineup-and-pitching-staff-altering injuries they suffered throughout the year, but as the Red Sox defeated the Indians tonight at Fenway, it actually happened. For the first time in the 14-year career of Derek Jeter, his Yankees, New York’s Yankees, will not be playing baseball in October. Certainly, many people wanted the Yanks to make it… to extend their legacy… but it wasn’t in the cards. Luckliy, there was a tremendous spectacle made of their final regular season game. It took place against the Baltimore Orioles on the twenty-first of September this year. The Yankees won, 7-3. It was a great way to go out… but it wasn’t what they wanted. They wanted a World Series… well, too bad. Their money and their new stadium will get ’em one of those someday. For now, my Angels are heading to October!
Speaking of the Angels… I had the privilege to attend a game at Yankee Stadium once–the Angels played the Yankees. I am pleased to say that I got to visit that grand stage in July of 2005 while on vacation with Michelle. It was a special trip for many reasons, but Yankee Stadium surely was one of them. Michelle and I had less-than-stellar seats, and I didn’t get to wear any Angels gear for fear of being shanked. But it was a great baseball atmosphere and I am glad I got be a small part of the history of that cathedral.
The Angels were taking batting practice so I wanted to get close to the field and maybe snag a ball. Mind you, this was before I knew any tips and/or tricks… so I came up empty-handed. Still, I got to get close enough to some of the players to hear them talking about that night’s game. And I got a great perspective… look at the stadium. It’ll be gone by next season. Kind of makes ya sad, huh?
After batting practice we headed back up to our nosebleed seats to enjoy the game… we looked around, of course, but I was there to see baseball. It was a great game and we had a lot of fun.
The Angels beat the Yankees 4-1 that night! It was the only game of that series they won and Michelle and I were glad to get to see them win on the road.
It is, and will always be a part of baseball history. Yankee Stadium. It was great to experience a day there and truly added something to special to an already fantastic vacation.
Goodbye, Yankee Stadium.