Tagged: rangers

9/28/11 at Angel Stadium

Well, now that the 2012 season is upon us I guess I can finally put up my final blog entry from the 2011 season.  I know… it makes perfect sense.

Angels and Rangers on the final day of the 2011 regular season.  Truthfully, neither side had anything to prove.  At the time of this 4:05pm game, the Rangers were in and the Angels were not.  The Rangers had clearly been the better team all season… much to my chagrin.  Nevertheless, I was back at the stadium promptly as the gates were preparing to open.  After another round of catch with Greg (while his dad held our spot in line), we were off to the races again.  I headed for right field where this was my view:Image

Since the gates only opened 90 minutes prior to the first pitch, we didn’t get to see the Angels hitting–but as the Rangers took their hacks I got my first ball of the day, a commemorative Angels ball, from reliever Mike Adams.Image

After about ten more minutes I got another ball tossed to me by Scott Feldman a bit deeper in center field.  This one was commemorative, too, but the logo was smudged in a weird/cool way.  Take a look:Image

I ran to the dugout but didn’t snag anything else there.  During the lull between the end of BP and the start of pre-game throwing I got some water and rested.  Then, I chatted with some other ballhawks and took a few photos.  Around 3:30, the players finally emerged for their warmups.  I stood in the fourth row on the aisle and ended up getting a ball thrown to me by Mike Trout for the second consecutive day!Image

Trout’s in the center with the ball in his hand in the photo above.  Then, I ran to the Ranger dugout and just missed getting the ball Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler used during their pregame throwing.Image

With three baseballs snagged, I found a seat behind the Angel dugout to watch the game.Image

While the Rangers started all of their regulars, the Angels lineup featured several backups (Mike Trout, Bobby Wilson) and some minor league callups (Gil Velazquez, Efren Navarro, Jeremy Moore).

Garrett Richards started for the Halos and did a great job.  He gave up only two hits but one of them happened to be a second inning solo homer by Mike Napoli (who continued to hurt the Angels each time he faced them throughout 2011).  The Angels came back to tie it in the 5th on a sac fly from Velazquez.  The Angels’ bullpen kept the game tied while I switched from dugout to dugout trying for third out baseballs.  And I kept snapping photos throughout… like Peter Bourjos bunting:Image

And Vernon Wells taking a hack:Image

Despite my efforts, I was stuck on three throughout the game and I would end the 2011 season with 385 total baseballs.

I got a couple cool shots of Trout on deck:Image

And then sliding into third base:Image

It got to the ninth–tied 1-1.  Bobby Cassevah and Hisanori Takahashi had combined to give up one hit and zero runs in three innings of work.  Jordan Walden came in, had a man on first with two outs–Image

–and then Napoli crushed a home run into the stands.Image

Ugh.  The stadium deflated…Image

And the Angels couldn’t score in the ninth.  They were swept in three games by the Rangers on their own turf.

Now–recovering from the Angels loss was easy–securing a post-game freebie from their dugout wasn’t.  Even though several baseballs, batting gloves, and even a couple bats came up over the dugout roof, I couldn’t get my hands on anything.  Later, I found out Greg’s dad had secured an Erick Aybar bat–which I would later mail back to New York for them.

I hung out in the quickly-emptying seating bowl, knowing I wouldn’t be back for several months.

It had been a fun three games.  I was sad to see the 2011 season go, but by the time you read this we’ll already be into the 2012 season.  How ’bout that?

My first game of ’12 will be on April 16th–right back at Angel Stadium.

Advertisements

9/27/11 at Angel Stadium

I was back at the Big A again just hours after I’d left.  I knew that this evening’s activity would be truncated… I had things to take care of at home so I had decided to leave after two innings of play.  But that meant I had a full BP session to work with!

I ran out to the seating area in right field as soon as the Home Plate Gate opened up.  I was the first one out there and I checked around for Easter eggs but there weren’t any to be found.  I focused on the hitters for a few minutes but there just wasn’t anything flyin’ out my way.  It’s a shame, too, since the seats were still relatively empty after five to ten minutes:

Soon enough, super-prospect Mike Trout fielded a ball as he was goofing around in right field and I asked him to toss it up.  He threw me a strike in the first row of Section 237.  It was a standard Selig ball that also had PRACTICE on it… but I was especially psyched to get a ball from Trout since he’s such a highly-touted up-and-comer.  Here’s the ball:

A while later I was in almost the same spot when I got a toss-up from pitcher Bobby Cassevah.  He threw it to me in the first row at the bottom of the staircase between Section 237 and Section 238.  Take note if you’re playing for toss-ups in Anaheim… that first row in either of those sections is the place to be.  The Angels just weren’t hitting anything out… I ended up giving that Cassevah ball away to a young fan after batting practice ended.

I tried left field after a while because anyone on the Angels that’s not in the first group of hitters the fans get to see that might be able to hit a ball out is right-handed.  My move yielded no additional snags, unfortunately, even though I got close to a couple of screamers down the line.  And baseballs seemed juuuuusst out of reach throughout my BP experience.

I headed back to right field for the Rangers portion of BP, waiting for their powerful lefties to connect.  The only ball I could get my glove on through their whole BP session was a bomb hit by David Murphy.  It was a commemorative ball that I caught on the fly in the sixth row of Section 238.  It always feels good to make a snag on the fly–so that picked me up after a rather disappointing eighty minutes of batting practice.

I drank some water, made a few notes, and then headed down to where I knew the Angels would warm up after I got shut out at the Ranger dugout.  The coolest thing that happened over there was that, as the Angels were stretching, someone in Howie Kendrick’s family was in the nearby seats and brought Howie’s son down to see his dad.  Howie picked him up from the first row and let him run around on the field a bit before the little tyke started playing catch with his dad.  Well, it was more like fetch… because the kid was too small to actually catch the ball that was getting tossed to him…

But that boy can throw!  I was impressed… that toddler has a better arm than some adults I know… and he appears to be (at this point) ambidextrous.  He was throwing strikes to his dad with both arms!  It was a pretty heartwarming experience… when the Angels were done throwing I didn’t snag another ball from any of them.

I found a seat behind the Angel dugout for the start of the game:

I wanted to play for third out balls… so I ran back and forth for two innings but came up empty.  I left after the bottom of the second, still on three baseballs snagged for the day.  I didn’t miss much of a game… the Angels lost (when you’re playing guys like Effren Navarro and Gil Valesquez, it’s clearly not that big of a deal to win) and the Rangers secured home field advantage in the playoffs… and I watched the game end from the comfort of my couch.

I had an afternoon game to go to the next day.

9/26/11 at Angel Stadium

This was a great game for me as the budding ballhawk that I am.  This was a great game because I had fun, was successful, met some new friends, set a milestone, and walked away with memories and souvenirs.  And– to top it all off–my wife got to be at this game with me.  Here’s what happened…

I entered the day sitting on 369 lifetime baseballs.  When I approached the Home Plate Gate I surveyed the line situation to see where I should situate myself.  Upon closer inspection I saw a friend from 3,000 miles away.  I walked up to Greg Barasch and told him, “I didn’t know you were going to be here!”  Greg and I had met in April of 2010 at my only visit to Citi Field.  As it turns out, he and his father would be in Anaheim for the last three Angels home games of the year–just like me.  Greg and I played catch for a few minutes while his dad held our place in line.  Michelle had decided to sit in the shade and read for a while and I knew I’d meet up with her after batting practice had finished.

When the gates opened I immediately took of for the right field corner and within minutes, got a ball thrown to me by Hank Conger.

That ball–see it on the ground.  Conger walked over, picked it up, I asked for it and he lobbed it to me!  #370.  Just a couple minutes later a liner down the right field line took a bounce near the wall and I was able to reach out and snag that one… I have no idea who hit it.  Someone on the Angels.

I ran up to the RF seats atop that 18 ft. wall after that and quickly got a ball thrown to me by Mike Maddux–it was stamped “PRACTICE.”  Not all the Rangers were out on the field but Maddux and a few pitchers were and he tossed me this random ball that a Halo had hit.

The Angels then ran off the field a bit early and I was bummed–but I had already snagged three baseballs at I’d only been inside the stadium for about 15 minutes!

Greg’s goal was to snag a few Angels commemorative balls during his trip and I knew he’d get a couple–he’s no slouch as a ballhawk–but the first one he’d snagged on the day was a standard Selig ball.  So were the first three I’d ended up with.

Alexi Ogando tossed me baseball number four on the day–a grass-stained standard ball–

–and I was quickly racking up the stats.

Next up I caught this beauty thrown to me by Leonys Martin.

Then, the Rangers big left-handed power came to the plate–Mitch Moreland, Josh Hamilton, and David Murphy.  Well, I snagged a Hamilton homer on the fly in the first round about halfway up the pavilion.  That was career #375!  A few minutes later I grabbed a David Murphy bomb as it bounced around a row to my left.  After a few more minutes Endy Chavez blasted a ball up to me in the pavilion that I snagged on the fly.  That was my eighth ball of the day.

The Rangers headed into the dugout soon after that and I failed to get anything tossed to me as they left the field.  But I just needed two more baseball to get to my first double-digit game EVER!  Plus, I hadn’t snagged a commemorative ball yet on this day.  All eight had been standard Selig balls.

I met up with Greg and his dad after BP and we got this picture snapped of the two of us:

And we’d continue to run into each other throughout the evening.  I took a brief rest before heading over to shallow left field to wait for the Angels to throw.  Sure enough, after Torii Hunter accepted an award for citizenship, Erick Aybar and Maicer Izturis played catch for a few minutes along the foul line (as did a few other Angels).

When they were done, Aybar threw me the ball they’d been using–and it was commemorative!  That would be the only commemorative logo I’d take home that night… but I was up to nine baseballs!  By the way–did you notice in that photo that the Tigers beat Cleveland 14-0?  Wow.

And here’s the lone commemorative I grabbed at this game:

I ran back to where Michelle had been sitting.  I’d heard that instead of the random ex-Angel that would be signing autographs at this game out in center field, a certain Hall of Fame member would be filling in.  I had gotten a wristband during a change in BP groups and Michelle and I quickly took our places in line once I’d finished my pre-game snagging.  I handed my camera off to her so she could snap a picture of me as I got the autograph–

–of Rod Carew!  This was actually the second time he’d signed a ball for me.  The first time had been totally random and not nearly as organized.  This time, instead of signing my ball and inscribing HOF ’91, he inscribed #29 next to his name.  Rod’s a great member of the Angels community in Orange County, even though he’s more famous (and in the HOF) as a Twin.

Eight balls snagged and one HOF autograph and the game had just begun!

I told Greg I’d see him later or at the next day’s game and Michelle and I found some seats down the first base line.

The Angels were down 4-0 in the fourth inning as we watched from here:

Dan Haren pitched well, however, giving up just three earned runs over eight innings.  C.J. Wilson pitched two innings… he’d be pitching Game 1 of the ALDS later in the week.  But, while the Angels could muster a bit of offense, they’d end up losing 4-3 and their slim playoff chances would be dashed.

Michelle would end up leaving the game early to get ready for work the next morning–I made sure to stay to the end.  I’d been trying for third out tosses all night but I’d been unsuccessful.

In the eighth, I was over on the Angels’ side… but headed to the Ranger dugout for the ninth.  Sure enough, the Rangers locked down the win and Neftali Feliz got his 31st save.

I waved at all the players as they headed off the field and they all passed by me–I watched the bullpen guys march across the field… the tallest guy had a baseball… it was Alexi Ogando.  Would he remember me from the afternoon?  He’d already given me a ball and I hadn’t changed my appearance in any way.  As the relievers lumbered in I made my best effort… hands up, waving, and I called out, “Alexi!  Right here!!”  He looked up, pulled his hands out of his hoodie, and lofted ball number 10 right to my waiting glove.  And just like that… with my 379th ball, at my 84th game at Angel Stadium since 2008 (when I started ballhawking) I FINALLY reached double-digits!  I was thrilled–and the ball from Ogando was a rubbed up beauty–pristine.  It had been rubbed with mud and never dropped, scuffed, or hit in any way.  It was perfect.  And with that I took my leave of the Big A.

I would be back quite soon.

UPDATE: I found my notes from this game AND my following two games.  Since 9/26/11 was a special day for me–I thought I’d share my notes.

This is the list I take to every game I go to.  And now you’ve got a window into how I keep these things categorized and how I remember things for my blog.  It looks like chicken scratch, I know, but you can see I write a letter L next to each player if they’re a lefty.  For pitchers, if they throw left-handed… for batters, if they hit left-handed.  Or they get a letter S if they’re a switch hitter.  The starting pitcher is circled on each roster and each ball I snag is labeled with a number and a circle.  For example, Ball #377’s note is “377 – COF (which means Caught On Fly) E. (Endy) Chavez S. 238 (Section 238 of the right field pavilion) – 3rd row – right to me prac logo w/ brwn + grn (it was a ball with a practice logo and brown and green marks on it).  Want to know more about my notes, or care to explain how you make your own?  Let me know in the comments.

8/16/11 at Angel Stadium

Hi, readers.  Sorry to have been out of the loop for a while–I moved!  Now I’m back online and back in business!

August 16th’s game was exciting because Michelle and I would be meeting her uncle and cousin at this game and her uncle Joe has a business hookup for fancy seats at The Big A.  We’d have ticketed seats in section 125, behind the visiting team’s dugout, and these were seats that I normally had to sneak down to.  And the Halos would be facing division rivals, the Rangers.

We arrived at 4:30 and Michelle took a seat in the shade of the big hats outside the stadium while I waited in line.  At 5pm I ran inside and up to right field.  I didn’t find any baseballs in the seating area but I was really excited to be there.  Pennant races in late summer!  Woo!  After about thirty minutes of little to no action up in the pavilion seats Russell Branyan started pulling the ball my way.  I managed to make a clean catch of a BP homer off his bat, here:

And, as you can see below, it was a standard Selig ball:

It had a grass stain on one side and that was about it–sorry for the blurry photo.  That would be it for the Angels.  When the Rangers took the field I snagged a BP homer that landed in the seats to my right (in Section 239).  I gave that one away to a little kid who’d been trying really hard to get a ball on his own.

Baseball #345 in my lifetime came off the bat of lefty David Murphy.  I caught it on the fly in the fourth row of Section 238–near where I’d snagged the Branyan ball.  It was dirty, with black bat marks, grass stains, and reddish-brown warning track dirt all over it.  It was beautiful and I loved it.

I walked over to the Texas dugout before BP ended, past the ushers once I waved my ticket at them, and was here for the end of BP:

But I didn’t get a toss-up despite my ideal positioning.  By that time, Michelle and Joe and his son Joey had all taken their seats so I chatted with them for about twenty minutes until the Angels game out for pregame throwing.  I left my camera with Michelle and she managed to pick me out of the crowd and snapped the following photo:

Can you find me?

I got shut out over there AND shut out when Texas did their throwing because, well, Texas didn’t do any pregame throwing.  No matter.  I was thrilled to have a ticketed seat with this view:

Yes!

And, unfortunately, Josh Hamilton hit a solo home run right after I took that photo.  And here he is at home plate, scoring the run:

And high-fiving:

It wasn’t a good night for the Angels, they did not do much high-fiving.  But it was a great night with family and they were GREAT seats.

And… I wasn’t done snagging baseballs, either.  Because Peter Bourjos got caught stealing second base to end the third inning and Elvis Andrus (who’d applied the tag) tossed me the ball as the Rangers ran off the field!  I was in Row N, near the aisle.  Seats start at Row C so I was in the twelfth row–it was a great throw!

The jumbotron told me there were 43,711 people at this game and I believe it.  The place looked pretty full.  And the Angels couldn’t win one for their hometown fans–they’d lose three of four to Texas in the series.

At least it was commemorative mug night:

And the three balls I kept.

This would be a week of three games… ooh!  More soon!

7/21/11 at Angel Stadium

Just hours after leaving Angel Stadium I was back in line for more… waiting for the gates to open.  Well, I wasn’t waiting long.  It was a day game after a night game and the pregame crowd was pretty light.  There was absolutely no one at any gate but the Home Plate Gate so I took a walk around the stadium.  During my walk I passed the right field tunnel and looked down it to see there were no BP related activities going on.  I had figured as much.  I saw a group pf Rangers pitchers walking toward the outfield… that was it.  Devin rode by me on a bike and asked if anything was goin’ on.  I said there wasn’t much happening–he debated whether or not to even head inside.  I’d see him (and his wife and granddaughter) inside later.  I passed the players’ parking lot and then the left field tunnel… again, all I saw were a few Rangers pitchers in the outfield… and I ended up at the Left Field Gate.  Chris was waiting there, too, so we talked for a few minutes before 11:00am rolled around and we sprinted in to the seats.  As soon as I saw the field I noticed a bunch of Angels pitchers playing catch.  I took this photo a minute later:

The folks throwing are (from left to right) Dan Haren (in the navy undershirt), Tyler Chatwood (throwing with someone just out of frame), Jordan Walden, a trainer throwing to Haren, Rich Thompson, Hisanori Takahasi’s translator (throwing to Thompson), Takahashi (with his arms out), and Scott Downs.  Downs and Takahashi are laughing–at a poor throw by one of them, I think.

You may notice that closer Jordan Walden isn’t throwing with anyone.  He was the odd man out in this warmup–so, from about three rows back in the stands I called out to him, “Hey, Jordan!  You need someone to throw with?”  He turned and smiled, waved, then he said, “What, you wanna throw?”

I said, “Yeah, I’ll throw with you.”  He kind of waved his glove and said, “Nah, I can’t.”  He’s still new to the big leagues–I don’t think he’s aware yet that, yes, he can throw a ball to a fan… then ask for it back… and so on.  He’s still kind of humble.  Walden chuckled and started to turn around and I said, “C’mon, I’ll throw with you.  Really!”  I held up my glove.  Walden kind of looked around (I think to see if anyone was going to tell him ‘no’ to what he was about to do.  Then he grabbed a ball, wound up, and tossed it to me.  I caught it, then threw it back.  Then he threw it back to me–and this continued for a solid minute or so until another pitcher, recent call-up Horacio Ramirez, jogged to the field.  I threw the ball back to Walden and he smiled, nodded his head, then turned around to warm up with, you know, a professional player.  I called out, “Thanks, Jordan!”  And then I moved a section to my right… keeping my eye on the pair.  I talked with Chris for a minute, then Rob… and then I moved back toward my left when I could see that Ramirez and Walden were finishing up:

As they closed the gap between them I made sure there was plenty of space around me–I was just hoping Walden would end up with the ball.  I asked him, “Jordan, could you throw me that ball, please?”  He had started to tuck it into his glove–then he saw me and his body language signaled to me that he knew he should toss it to me–that it would mean way more to me than anyone else.  And he threw it right to me.  I yelled a huge, “Thank you!” to him and had a new favorite baseball in my collection.  Now, I’ve never caught a home run–I’ve gotten a couple foul balls… but those, to me, aren’t nearly as special as this one.  I got to play catch with the closer of my home team and then he threw me the ball–AND it was commemorative!  Then, Walden started signing autographs:

Fans flocked to him and I noticed which way he was moving up the line–and I got into a spot along the wall–and while I was waiting for him I got Rich Thompson and Tyler Chatwood to autograph a 2011 team ball I’ve been working on.  And then Walden got to me and I asked him to “sign it on the sweet spot, please.”  Then I told him, “That ball is going on display in my home.  Thanks so much, I appreciate it.”  And check it out:

He even put ASG ’11 on it.  New.  Favorite.  Baseball.

The day was a success at that point.  I didn’t need to snag another ball or even have a good seat.  Heck, the game could’ve gotten cancelled and I’d have gone home happy.  But, thankfully, it was a gorgeous day–the game would be played–and I wasn’t done getting baseballs OR autographs.

I got Colby Lewis’ autograph near the Rangers’ dugout after all the players had cleared the field but him.  Here was the view of the field a minute after I got the Lewis autograph:

Then it was dead for about twenty minutes.  Zero player activity.  During the dead time I photographed the Walden ball and took a seat in the shade–there, I took a picture of where Tommy Hunter had thrown me a baseball the day before:

Hunter was standing to the left of the Summer Concert Series sign (LUDACRIS!) and I was standing to the right of the staircase behind the batter’s eye.  Nice arm, huh?

A little later, some Angels came out to throw and after Howie Kendrick warmed up he tossed his ball… to someone else.  But then he went to the ball bag and pulled out two brand new 50th baseballs and one went a section to my left, the other one went to me… someone tipped it and I had to pick it up off the ground… but it was still in great shape!  The spot of the catch can be seen in the photo to the right.

Then, Kendrick started signing autographs and I got him on my 2011 team ball.  I debated having him sign the ball he’d just thrown to me–but I opted not to go that route since I already have his signature on a ball from last year right on the sweet spot.  Moments later, when when Maicer Izturis finished his warmup tosses with Erick Aybar  he lofted me the ball.    The row I was in was empty– which was good because as he was running his underhanded toss was a bit off the mark.  I moved a couple of steps to my right and I caught it here:

All three baseballs were commemorative.  Yay!

Before the game started I had gotten five autographs and three baseballs–with no BP!  And I was all set to enjoy a fantastic pitching matchup.  Jered Weaver vs. CJ Wilson.

Here was my view of the game’s first pitch:

Since it was a day game and attendance was lighter than usual, I was able to jog back and forth between the home dugout and the visitor dugout for each inning.

Unfortunately, the two starters were striking guys out left and right and I was almost always on the wrong end of the dugouts.  It was frustrating–but at least I was getting my cardio workout for the day.

In the second inning the Angels managed to score a run without getting a hit thanks to an error by Endy Chavez in center field.  I took a photo (left) of the scoreboard to mark the occasion–it was a pretty important run.

Wilson and Weaver were mowing down their respective opposition.  And the most tense moment in the game game in the sixth inning, when Weaver worked around a bases loaded jam:

Um… that half of a third base coach is due to my panorama-making software.  Hmm.

And he went back out for the seventh before giving way to Scott Downs in the eighth and then Jordan Walden (my new best friend) in the ninth.

Remember that one unearned run?  That was the only run of the game!  And the Angels got the win, 1-0.  I didn’t snag anything else once the game started but I still had a blast.

7/20/11 at Angel Stadium

This game was one I’d been planning on seeing for a while.  The All-Star Break was over, the Angels had been gone for their first couple of series after the break, there had been a giveaway the night before… and this, finally, was a game I wanted to go to against the division rival Rangers.  And my schedule allowed for me to actually be there!  Whew…

As I waited at the Home Plate Gate I thought through my strategy.  The Angels would be facing a lefty, Derek Holland, so almost all of them would be hitting from the right side.  Since the bullpens take up so much real estate in left field I decided early on that I would play the wall in the right field corner for all those “going the other way” swings the Halos would inevitably be putting on the ball.  Also, I should mention that Michelle wasn’t able to come to this game with me due to work (and she was feeling a little under the weather, too).  So, I waited until 5:00 and then sprinted out to the seats.

There were a few Angels nearby–but nobody chose to throw me anything.

The next fan into that area, a BP regular named Warren, mentioned that an usher told him there was a ball still out in the seats to be found.  We checked–while still keeping one eye on the field–but neither of us found it.

My first ball of the day was hit by a righty on the Angels… I’m not sure who hit it (the sun was killer) but I watched it arc through the air, bounce off the grass, and roll toward the wall.  I was able to lean out and over to scoop it off the warning track.  My second ball came in similar fashion but for that one (that I snagged not more than two minutes later) I had to make a bit more of an athletic play.  Another Halo right-handed hitter lined a ball toward the right field corner.  I could tell immediately that the ball was headed for the wall to my left so I ran a full section closer to the infield and leapt up onto an empty spot on the wall, reached out, and snagged the ball before it had a chance to ricochet back toward the grass.  I heard a few people say things like, “Wow!” and, “Whoa–he got it!” as I stood up with the ball safely nestled in my black Mizuno.  I timed my jump just right to be able to snag it so I felt pretty proud of myself for that one.  I celebrated by finding a young fan with a glove to give the first baseball to… but he’d just gotten one from an Angel pitcher.  Luckily, he had a little brother (who was also wearing a glove) so I asked him if he’d like a ball.  The littler boy responded with an enthusiastic head nod and a stunned smile–then his parents thanked me and made sure their son thanked me and I went back to snagging.

I still couldn’t identify most of the batters because of the sun:

Ball #3 came my way in the same way as the first two.  I saw a ball heading for the corner, shifted to some empty wall space on my right and leaned out and over.  This one was coming a bit faster so I didn’t make a clean scoop of it but I stopped the ball and then grabbed it and propped myself back up.

At that point I was quite pleased with my decision to play the corner–even though all the baseballs I’d snagged were standard (and some had a PRACTICE stamp)–I was having a decent amount of success.  And I wasn’t done.

A few minutes later Alberto Callaspo, who I recognized mostly by his high socks) slashed a ball toward the corner and I grabbed that one, too.  Then, at 5:25pm I made my way up to the pavilion.  Once there I found my favorite usher and handed her a ball to give away to a young fan of her choosing.  The Angels cleared the field a moment later and I chatted during the dead time with a couple of BP regulars.

When the Rangers started hitting there was a group of ’em in center field:

At one point I got the attention of Tommy Hunter and asked him to throw me a ball.  Now, prior to our interaction I’d seen him throw a ball up to the Angels 50th Anniversary logo that rests on top of the batter’s eye.  When he turned toward me and was facing the right field seats I was standing about six rows back from the wall.  He gestured for me to move further back… so I did.  Another four rows back, actually.  He threw the ball up and it fell ridiculously short of me and was snatched up by a fan in the second or third row.  I had a feeling he didn’t do it on purpose either.

I gestured to him that he should give it another try.  He gestured back as if to say, “You shoulda had that!”  I threw my arms up and tossed my glove in mock exasperation–Hunter held up one finger as if to say, “Hang on a minute.”  When he got another baseball I walked down to the third row, did a big, dramatic, showy look around to make sure no one was going to intercept the ball, checked with Hunter, saying, “Is this all right?  Can you hit me here?”  Then he launched the ball ten feet over my head–that one, I’m sure he did on purpose.  I crossed my arms and shook my head at him as a random teenager ran and grabbed the ball.

He got another ball and gestured that I should back up.  I did… I went back a few rows.  He gestured with his glove again, “No… go way back,” he seemed to be saying.  I pointed behind me and gave him a thumbs up as I ran allllll the way up to, well, here:

Right behind the right field edge of the batter’s eye.  When I got there I flapped my glove at him and waved my arms.  Hunter wound up and launched a rocket up to me…

BAM!  Ball #5 on the day!  I thanked him and then proceeded to try to take a photo of me with the ball.  After struggled for a minute a passing fan offered some help and he was able to snap the following photo commemorating the occasion… showing me with the baseball in the spot of the catch–and Hunter can be seen down in center field:

Very cool.  I’d never snagged a ball way up there before and on the MyGameBalls.com Snag Tracker that area doesn’t show up in the seating plan… but it’s there.

Back down into straightaway right field I went, hoping to grab a homer off the bat of one of the Rangers’ powerful lefties.  Josh Hamilton, Mitch Moreland, and David Murphy each hit a few up to the seats but the only ball I snagged for the rest of BP was an opposite field homer off the bat of Michael Young that I caught on the fly in the second row of Section 238.  It was a regular ball and was pretty much brand new–just one black bat mark on it.

That was it for me during BP and I rushed to the dugout as the Rangers jogged off the field.  There was an older coach transferring baseballs from a bucket into a bag and I yelled, “Hey, Johnny, could you toss a ball up here, please?”  Johnny Narron looked up from his task and toward me, smiling, as I waved my glove at him from the third row.  He tossed me an Angels commemorative–my only one of those on the day.  And it was the 333rd baseball snagged in my lifetime.  Here’s the spot where he tossed it too me:

Since I had gotten into the game for free and I had an ill wife at home I decided to leave after that because I had determined that I would attend the day game the very next day.  Here are the five baseballs I kept:

Angel Stadium for a day game after a night game… coming up next!

7/31/10 at Angel Stadium

After more than two weeks since my last game I was pretty anxious about getting out to Angel Stadium again, this time to watch them take on the (ugh) first place (double-ugh) Rangers.  Adding to my anxiety was the fact that I didn’t actually have my ticket in my hand as I approached the gates prior to their opening at 4:05pm.  You see, about a month prior to this game I donated blood through the Red Cross at one of their blood drives (I’m O+, in case you’re wondering).  There was an Angels/Dodgers tie-in and, long story short, I received a voucher for two free tickets to the game on this night.  The tricky thing was that I had to exchange the voucher for the tickets and the Red Cross volunteers would be arriving at 4:00.

Well, I arrived at 3:30, was first in line, set my bag down, walked across the main plaza to the Red Cross booth, and waited.  I also enlisted the help of BP regular, Eli, to help save my spot.  At 3:55 I convinced the volunteer to let me redeem my voucher (before her supervisor got there, which was the initial issue she had) and then ran to will call because Michelle would be arriving later in the evening and that was the only way that ticket could be used for someone who wasn’t me… because I was the one who’d donated blood and my name was on the voucher… blah blah blah.  Anyway, I did all that and got back into line with minutes to spare–and ran inside at 4:05 to set up shop in the bleachers.
beginning of 7.31 bp.JPGThe first ten minutes or so of batting practice were great!  There were hardly any people around and I snagged the first ball of the night off the bat of Hideki Matsui after he hit a homer that took a bounce in the seats of Section 236.  I beat out two other guys who were running for it.  Just minutes later I nabbed a Torii Hunter BP homer that flew over my head and took a bounce right back toward me after I’d positioned myself closer to center field.  With two baseballs in ten minutes I thought I’d be headed for a record-setting night–but things slowed down after that and the seats began to fill up.

Here was the view to my right:
view to my right 7.31.JPGNot too bad yet…

And left:
view to my left 7.31.JPGThat was at about a half hour after the gates had opened.  And, I should point out Rob, with his foot on the seat in the middle of the right view photo, who’s got over 800 baseballs (most of them batted balls) to his name.  And Skyler, the teenager in the black T-shirt and blue jeans near the usher in the left view photo.  He’s an up and coming ballhawk who can be a little wild at times but who’s made some very nice plays in the bleachers.  Also, that rather large usher who looks so stern is, in fact, making sure the young fan in the first row doesn’t stand on the seat or sit on the wall.  Usually the ushers hang out in the back of the pavilion and let us do our thing during BP–they’re very friendly and professional.

Anyway, back to the now dead BP session… yuck.  Well, the Angels left the field and the Rangers came out shortly thereafter.  I spent a few minutes near the foul pole trying to get a ball thrown to me by a pitcher but came up empty.  Once Vlad and Hamilton started hitting I ran back upstairs.  Here was the view:
rangers out to throw 7.31.JPGUnfortuantely, the Rangers exhibited an uncharacteristic lack of power during BP… except for Vlad who hit a couple shots to the rocks in center… but I didn’t snag another ball during BP.

I tried for a toss at the dugout.  Nada.  Tried for a warmup ball.  Nope.  As the game was starting Michelle still hadn’t arrived so I parked myself behind the Angels dugout to watch Dan Haren warm up before his second career outing with the Halos.
haren warmup 7.31.JPGHe did pretty well.  I was glad because his first start, against the Red Sox, was going well but then he took a line drive to the arm and left after 4+ innings.  He’d go longer today.

matt with asg ball.jpgOnce Michelle arrived we grabbed some seats… but then she had to take an urgent phone call from work so I followed her out to the concourse and used the opportunity to take a photo of myself with a commemorative ball from the All-Star Game (earning myself three points in the myGameBalls photo scavenger hunt).

We ended up in home run territory.  My new goal has been to go for foul balls and home runs during games more than third out tosses.  Those have become fairly easy.  I’m still only at one foul ball and zero home runs in my life.  Hopefully those numbers will improve soon.

This was our view for the game:
7.31 homer territory.JPGI didn’t take many pictures because, well, not a lot happened worth photographing.  I’ll say this though: the pitching was spectacular.  It was Haren against Rich Harden, returning fro
m the DL.  Texas got on the board first, in the fourth inning, when Vlad smacked a two-run home run to left-center field.  That was all the scoring the Rangers could do.  Not bad, right?  Haren went nine innings!  And got the loss… the Angels only scored once–in the seventh on a Howie Kendrick solo homer.  I thought we had a chance for a comeback but th ebullpen for the Rangers locked down a victory.  Harden threw seven great innings.  And the only chance I had at a homer?  Well, it was hit right to my section but was about twenty feet shy of the fence–and ending up being a flyout.

I went down to the Ranger dugout for the ninth inning (while Michelle watched from the concourse) and watched as Neftali Feliz shut down the Angels.  Alberto Callaspo flew out to center and Kendrick and Juan Rivera grounded out.  It was a one-two-three ninth and it allowed the Rangers to increase their AL West lead over the Angels.
callaspo swings 7.31.JPGkendrick atbat 7.31.JPGAs the bullpen guys for the Rangers walked across the field I noticed Scott Feldman with a baseball–I called out, “Hey, Scott!  Right here!”  He flipped the ball to me for my third on the night.  Not a bad night–but definitely not great.  Still, I had a lot of fun at the game and kicked off my birthday celebration with a good time at the ballpark with my wife–I’d turn 27 the next day–I just wish the Angels would’ve won.  The real celebration, however, would be the next weekend when Michelle and I would visit a new stadium…