You may have heard about a little shindig. Each year (starting last year) there’s a gathering of ballhawks at a Major League stadium known as BallhawkFest. It’s more than just a bunch of folks who like to collect baseballs going to the same game though… it’s a whole day/night of activities! This year, there will be two incarnations of this event. Last year, in its inaugural form, BallhawkFest took place at Camden Yards on July 23rd. This year, a different East Coast venue has been chosen… PNC Park (on June 9th).
But… after last year’s success and the interest of a bunch of people out here on the West Coast, Alan Schuster approached me with the following question: “Would you be interested in helping to put together a West Coast version?” I was all over it–through a poll of some local ballhawks and discussions between Alan and I we established a date. The first incarnation of BallhawkFest to hit California will take place at Angel Stadium on July 28th, 2012!
You can comment on here for more information or send me a direct e-mail. Like last year’s festivities in Baltimore, there will be a baseball/softball game in the late morning, a luncheon at a local restaurant, and of course a huge afternoon/night of ballhawking. The Angels/Rays game that night starts at 6:05pm… so the gates will open at 4:00pm and we’ll be there.
And we’re planning on T-shirts… similar to those used at last year’s festivities! If you want to help plan, donate a raffle item, provide gear for the softball game, or help out in any way–just get in touch with me. Last year’s event in Baltimore had about a dozen participants… I’m hoping for that many (or more) out here in California!
And if you’re planning on coming–get your tickets to the game ASAP… there’s a post-game concert that night after the game ends (Goo Goo Dolls, anyone?) so there’s going to be a sizable crowd.
Show some love in the comments section. Are you coming? Get ready for a day of friends from far and near and a whole lot of baseball snagging!
I knew as I headed toward the stadium that I would only be staying for batting practice. I needed to head home to pack for an upcoming trip with Michelle. That said, I needed to have a great BP–I wouldn’t have any chances during the game because, well, I’d be at home. Also, the few pictures you’ll see were taken using my cell phone camera… so they aren’t great… but they’re better than nothing.
When I arrived I headed up to the front of one of the Home Plate Gate lines and met a few of the BP regulars there. When I ran in, I went straight to the right field seats and looked for Easter eggs. There weren’t any to be found but I saw Hank Conger chase down a fly ball in straight-away right field. Here was the view:
I called out for him to toss it up–and since I was the only fan in the seats at that point (and he was feeling generous, I suppose) he threw it my way… unfortunately, it fell short and bounced off the wall… it took a second try but I made a clean catch, thanked him, and was on the board for the day right as the second fan arrived in the stands. About five minutes later Bobby Abreu hit a homer that I ranged to my right to grab but it sailed over my outstretched glove, hit a row of seats behind me and rolled toward the staircase between section 239 and 240. I didn’t give up on it and snagged it barehanded as it rolled down a step. At that point there were still just a few fans around:
Both of the first two baseballs of the day were regular BP balls so I gave away the Conger ball to a young fan and kept the Abreu ball for me… hopefully I could get him to sign it at some point later in the season.
Once the Angels moved on to the next round of hitters I went over to the lower level seats near the right field corner. There, I was able to snag a foul ball sliced the other way by Erick Aybar (batting right-handed in preparation for facing lefty David Price that night). I gave that one away to a young fan near me shortly after grabbing it as it bounced through the third row of seats.
That would be all for the Angels’ portion of BP. When the Rays started warming up along the first baseline I called out to a few of them but didn’t snag anything until Andy Sonnanstine–one of the last to finish–threw me his warmup ball… and it was an Angels 50th commemorative! Bingo!
In the photo above, Sonnanstine is the Ray on the right.
I went up to the right field pavilion again but didn’t get anything there.
Ball #5 on the day would come via an unknown Rays right-handed batter and was a squibber down the line. I moved from one spot along the wall and leapt out over it, reaching way down to the warning track to grab it as it rolled by. It was a standard Selig ball and had a bunch of dirt and grass stains on it.
For some reason, I wrote down that my next snag occurred at 6:16pm. For reference, the gates opened at 5:00… the Angels hit until 5:25 or 5:30… the visitors hit until 6:25 or 6:30. There were about 15 minutes left in BP when I grabbed a blooper down in the right field corner by stretching out over the wall again. This one had a grass stain right on the MLB logo. That gave me six on the day. At that point I was wishing I could stay for the game to try to break my single-game Angel Stadium record of eight baseballs (which I’d done twice previously: on 5/14/10 and on 5/6/11). Alas, I knew I would be leaving right after BP… and I made the last few minutes count.
When batting practice ended I sprinted toward the Rays’ dugout and got a ball thrown to me by Bobby Ramos, the Rays bullpen coach. Some Rays fans to my left asked how I did that and asked if there was a chance they could get a ball. Well, he had a basket of ’em and Bobby is pretty generous. I called out to him again and asked for a ball for the middle-aged lady next to me (I didn’t verbalize the ‘middle-aged’ part). At that point she waved to Ramos and he tossed her a ball… well, technically he tossed it to me. I caught it, since I was wearing a glove, and immediately handed it over. I decided that I’d count the first Ramos ball (which was almost brand new) but not the second, as I wouldn’t have gotten it in my possession, even for that brief moment, if not for the lady nearby. It was hers from the start and that’s my rule. That left me with seven baseballs on the day and 307 in my lifetime as I headed out toward the gates.
It’s always strange to be leaving when so many other people are just arriving. Anyway, a great day at the stadium and I got to watch the game on TV as I packed my bags for our trip.
There was a lot of running around over the twenty-four hours between the start
of yesterday’s game and the end of this one. The Rays were still in town
and the Angels were looking to salvage the series by winning this day game
after losing the first two games. The Rays were trying to stay even with
the Yankees and maintain their share of the “best record in
baseball.” It was a gorgeous summer day in Orange County.
As soon as the stadium opened I headed inside and down to the field seats just
past first base. There, I scored some points in the myGameBalls.com Photo
Scavenger Hunt by getting a photo with All-Star pitcher David Price.
I also got his autograph on my ticket. There was no BP going on so I
didn’t have a lot to do for ninety minutes. Luckily, the weather was
great, there weren’t many fans, and I was able to get a few more autographs.
Kevin Jepsen and Jordan Walden came out of the Angel dugout to stretch and
throw. I was pretty sure Walden ended up with the ball when they were
finished… anyway, he started signing autographs along the outfield wall and I
got him on a ticket stub.
He kept signing and worked his way toward the infield… and when he was
through I asked if he could spare the baseball in his glove–and he told me he didn’t
have one. Sure enough, he held up his glove and it was empty. I
guess he’d handed over to someone at some point in the autograph process.
While I was near the dugout I saw DL-laden Maicer Izturis down there and he was
signing for the few fans that recognized him. I tossed him the team
baseball I was working on and he signed it for me… in black ink… from a pen
he was holding that another fan had thrown to him. All the other
signatures were in blue–but an autograph’s an autograph. I thanked him
and headed back toward the outfield. Hoping to get a warmup toss from
Scot Shields after he finished throwing, I had to settle for his autograph on
my team ball–in blue. I was still sitting on zero baseballs but had four
autographs at that point… that’s the best part about day game pregame
activity: it’s relaxed and the players and team staff members are approachable
and friendlier than usual. For example, I’ve never seen Shields sign
before. It was nice to get his autograph… he’s not stellar like he used
to be, but he’s been a good, solid pitcher for the Angels since 2002.
After getting shunned by Ervin Santana and Fernando Rodney (big surprise) I
headed back to the Rays’ side of the field where a trainer had come out in
preparation for the players to emerge from the dugout, I assumed.
up having a pretty nice chat with this guy, Chris is his name. I couldn’t
find him on the Rays’ website but his initials are CW… and he helps the
players get loose, plays catch with anyone that needs a partner, throws
football-style passes to Evan Longoria, and occasionally throws BP, so he told
me. Anyway, he was pretty cool and I liked his shades.
Shortly after talking with Chris I ran toward the visiting team’s dugout and
got their skipper’s autograph on a ticket stub. I already had Joe Maddon
(and Maicer Izturis AND David Price, for that matter) but it was good to get
I grabbed a drink (free) and headed back to the third base line where the
Angels had come out to throw. I got myself into the middle of a bunch of
fans and called out to Alberto Callaspo as he finished playing catch. He
tossed the ball to me in the first row (just behind the “Diamond Field Box Seats” (or whatever they’re called) and I had to fully extend my arm and
lean just slightly to the left in order to catch it. I took a photo (right) of the spot where I made the catch.
It helps to be able
to use Spanish to ask for baseballs… I mean, it’s great to be able to ask for
baseballs in different languages and I’ve gotten at least two by using Korean,
two using Japanese, and about ten using Spanish. Thanks to relatively new
Angel, Alberto Callaspo, I wouldn’t get shut out on this sunny, BP-less
afternoon. I had now gone to sixty-seven games and snagged at least one
ball at each one. That streak goes back to September of 2008.
I went back over to the Rays’ side as their players were warming up. There, I took a picture from a different angle of where I snagged the Callaspo ball (left)… you can see how that special section of box seats separates fans from the field and players. So, I was in the first row of the non-box seats… which is technically the second row.
I didn’t snag another ball or autograph from a player but I did get a baseball tossed to me from coach George Hendrick. I decided to keep the Callaspo ball and give away the Hendrick one. I found a little kid nearby and made his day (and his dad’s). They were thrilled to receive it.
The game started and I spent the top of the first behind the Angel dugout…
1. Check out Longoria’s socks.
2. Check out all the empty seats!
And I spent the bottom of the first behind the Rays’ dugout.
No third-out toss for me… and no foul balls anywhere near me which was a bummer because I had a ton of room to run:
After the first inning I relocated to the right field pavilion because the crowd out there was light and during day games more home runs tend to make it out there. As you may recall, I was within five feet of Bobby Abreu’s walk-off homer about two weeks earlier…
I saw BP regular Rob out there in the stands and he and I chatted throughout the game. No homers got hit out toward right field but Mike Napoli did hit a grand slam to left field. The Angels would crush the Rays on this afternoon, 12-3. Their offense decided to wake up, how ’bout that? Also, I watched as a fan who was sitting about four rows from the field down the right field line got nailed by a foul ball. It wasn’t a scorcher that took a hop into the seats or a line drive that he didn’t have time to see. It was a fly ball that Rob and I watched, I knew it was going foul. A half a dozen fans moved out of the way of it. This one guy did not.
He’s down on the ground in that photo… being tended to. The woman in white bending down is pretty much blocking the guy that got hit. Rob and I saw it and heard it hit him. That sound… I guess I should’ve felt bad for him… or sympathetic. But I just kept thinking, if you’re that close to the field: PAY ATTENTION! He got taken away by paramedics after a few minutes… he walked up the steps under his own power so I imagine it was just a bad bump on his head/face/leg/arm. Wherever he got hit.
So, I got some sun, a couple of baseballs, five autographs, and saw the Angels win. All in all, it was a good day. Toward the end of the game I tried to snag a ball from the bullpen guys… but failed… also I didn’t catch a home run in left field either. I saw a fan wearing a Reggie Jackson Angels jersey–more scavenger hunt points. Note: I actually have that jersey but mine’s the home white and not the road gray.
By the end of the game there weren’t a lot of fans left in the stands… the Angels were up by nine runs and it was pretty hot by that point. Rob and i kept thinking, “This is what it’s like to be at a Pirates game.”
As a colleague said to me recently about the Angels, “They’re just so mediocre this year.”
I promise that one day I’ll get caught up with these…
Anyway, on this Tuesday night Michelle had to stay at work late so I decided to hit up batting practice and stay for an inning or two. The Rays were in town and I’d always kind of had a soft spot for them–so I was glad to get to see them play twice in a row (I’d also be heading to the day game the very next afternoon).
When I ran in the Angels were hitting and were not providing any batted balls to Rob and I, the only two in the pavilion for the first five minutes. Seriously, there were TWO of us for five minutes–all the Halos had to do was hit a ball up there and I’d have had a 50% chance of getting it. But in their first round they hit zero baseballs up to us. Frustrating.
I got my first ball of the day from reliever Kevin Jepsen. He was way out in left-center field with another pitcher and I move over to the staircase between 239 and 240. You can see the staircase and Jepsen (circled) in the following photo:
When I saw him field a ball near the warning track I yelled out, “Keeeevvviiiinnn Jeeeepppssseeeennn, ooooooooovveeeeerrrrrrrr heeeeerrreee, plleeeaaaaasssee!” I elongated all of my words and was very, very loud (and the stadium was still pretty quiet). Well, he looked over and my request was granted. He chucked the ball well over forty yards to me. I made the catch in about the third row near the batter’s eye. Nice!
That was the only baseball I’d snag during the Angels’ BP. The Rays came out and I scored my second baseball from the Rays coach pictured below:
After checking online I’m pretty sure that it’s Stan Boroski. UPDATE: Stan’s sister has confirmed it’s him! Thanks, Stan… a year and a half later! He was fairly tall, older, and was wearing a catcher’s mitt while shagging in the outfield… he had sunglasses on. It wasn’t Scott Cursi, the bullpen catcher, but maybe there’s a big Rays fan that can let me know…
Anyway, I would officially be in the midst of a hit ball slump as of this game. I couldn’t get a glove on any ball hit up to the seats throughout the Rays’ batting practice. I was stuck on just two baseballs and the end of BP as I ran to the dugout.
Then, luck set in…
I saw Bobby Ramos, the bullpen coach, heading into the dugout and I knew he was very fan-friendly and he had thrown me a ball back in May when the Rays visited Anaheim). I called out, “Hey, Bobby, can you spare a ball, please? The most worn out one in there?!?” He was passing by the bucket and he turned, pulled out three baseballs, and threw one to my left, one to me, and one to my right. See? Super fan-friendly. I thanked him and he headed inside.
I moved to a different part of the section to label the ball I’d just received when Cursi (the bullpen catcher) who’d ignored my earlier request for a ball during batting practice jogged toward the dugout. Well, he must have recognized me because he said, “Hey!” and I looked up from the second row. He gestured with a baseball he’d been using, letting me know he wanted me to have it–I held up my glove and he flipped me the ball. I hadn’t even been paying attention. Cool.
I started to head up and to my right, back toward the outfield when I noticed the giant frame of Jeff Niemann heading in from the field. He was in a Rays sweatshirt that covered his name and number but I knew it was him. No one else on the team is six-foot nine. I waved my glove at him, he saw me and then looked around to see if anyone else was paying attention (someone younger or cuter, perhaps). I was the only one with a glove at the ready and I said, “Right here, Jeff!” He wound up and threw Ball #5 to me about six rows back from the dugout. A few guys in suits asked if he’d just thrown me that ball and I said, “Yeah. I guess because I was the only one around that knew his name.” They acted very impressed. Whatever. I gave away the Ramos ball to a young fan near the dugout and just then, Matt Garza popped his head out of the dugout and started signing autographs two feet to my right. Well, he’d just thrown a no hitter so I figured I couldn’t let such a fortuitous event go by the wayside… I grabbed the Niemann ball out of my cargo shorts (I hadn’t even labeled it yet) and tossed it to him… he signed it:
I think that kinda says “Matt Garza 22” but, you know, it’s hard to sign a baseball…
I thanked him and headed over to the Angels’ side of the field for warmups. I wouldn’t snag anything else over there but I did notice that Howie Kendrick and Peter Bourjous like to end their pregame throwing by trying out a few knuckleballs. Check out this photo:
Bourjous just threw a darn near perfect knuckler. See the seam? It didn’t rotate at all and Kendrick almost missed it.
In the second they tacked on four runs against Ervin Santana on a walk, a single, a double, a walk, a single, and a sac fly. Ugh.
By that point I was out in the pavilion trying to catch a gamer…
But the only home run I saw in my time at this game was by Evan Longoria to left-center. And it went a looonng way. It hit the second row of seats on the center field side of teh bullpens… well over 400 feet away from the plate. It was 5-1 Rays when I headed out of the park. The Angels, I’d find out, would lose 10-3. Double ugh.
Yeah, the Angels have moved their getaway day games from the BP-less
12:35pm starts to the BP-filled 4:05pm starts. I had a tip that the
teams took batting practice at these games but I’d yet to attend one.
Also, the gates would only be opening 90 minutes prior to the game as
opposed to two hours before. Bummer… but at least there was going to
be batting practice, albeit shorter than usual.
Instead of going through the Home Plate Gate as I usually do (because
that’s the one that opens two hours early for night games), I went over
to the Right Field Gate knowing that I’d be that much closer to the
pavilion and that the line would be nice and short. I saw John Witt
over there, too, and besides the two of us… here was the crowd:
The Home Plate Gate had at least 100 people hanging around.
Well, the gates opened up and I ran in and up… but somehow still
wasn’t the first fan in the pavilion area. Weird… I guess the first
guy in line another gate got let in a minute before I did… long story
short… no Easter eggs. We caught the end of Angels BP but I caught
zero baseballs in the ten minutes the home team was hitting. I did have
a quick conversation with Scott Kazmir though. I asked him if it was
true that if Reggie Willits hit a home run during BP he had to run a lap
around the stadium. He nodded and said, “Yep.”
“Well, that explains why I’ve never caught a BP home run from him then.”
Scott said, “Yeah, when he’s up it’s funny, baseballs are just bouncing
off the outfield walls.”
The Angels headed in a minute later and the Rays came out to hit.
BP had a nice, light crowd today. The biggest irritation was people
sunning themselves in prime snagging territory.
After about ten minutes of there being very few baseballs hit into the
stands I started asking players for tossups. Willy Aybar was fielding
in right-center and, to be honest, I wouldn’t have known it was him due
to the fact he was wearing a cover-up over his number. Damn those
cover-ups, making my roster useless!
Anyway, some Rays pitcher complemented him on a running catch by saying,
“Nice one, Willy.”
The next time he fielded a ball I called out, “Hey, Willy!” Without
even stopping to see that I had a Rays hat on he turned and fired the
ball to/at me. I mean, he rocketed that thing! scooped up the
grounder, pivoted, and fired like he was making a throw from shortstop
to first base. I was caught a little off guard but I made the catch in
front of my face. man, it had the velocity of a hit baseball… someone
nearby said, “It’s a good thing you caught it. That coulda done some
damage.” Yeah… to my face. But I’ll take it. Cool–on the board for
Sadly, that was it for Rays BP for me. As the were winding down I
headed to their dugout. There, I got a trainer (or someone) to toss me
my second ball of the day. He was stout and blonde and after I asked
him if he could spare a baseball (he was standing next to the bucket) he
threw it right to me… then tossed seven or eight others into the
crowd, too. Nice guy.
At that point there wasn’t much to do… but I knew the Angels Strike
Force would come out to shoot T-shirts and plush baseballs into the
crowd so I went toward right field. I’d seen these launches enough
times to know that the T-shirts fly into the View or Club Levels… the
baseballs make it to the back of the Field Level. So, I stood two rows
from the back of the section, caught one… then walked toward home
plate along with the Strike Force as they shot off more souvenirs.
Really, I was hoping a T-shirt would fall short of its target in the top
levels and I’d grab it… but I ended up snagging a total of three of
those squishy little baseballs. The last one I got by making a nice
basket catch while running to my left. It’s kind of fun… it’s like BP
snagging but safer and the wind really catches the ball. Anyway, I
gave one away to an older lady that wanted one and another away to a
little boy near the dugout. Then I sat down to wait for the game to
I missed out on a warmup ball from the Rays–but I had this view for the
And I had this to my right:
People don’t like to sit in the sun, plain and simple. So that first row out of the shade stays pretty empty. Come on, foul ball… sadly, none came my way. Michelle and I had
dinner plans so a little before 5:00pm I left the game to meet her and
some friends. I had stayed long enough to try for a third out ball
twice… but I came up empty.
So, two baseballs.
I’d be back again soon…
My Angels were finally back home after a miserable road trip where they went 2-8. Ugh. But I was glad to see them and glad to head to my sixth game of the year…
I would be meeting up with Michelle when she finished work so I headed into the stadium at 5:00 by myself and ran straight out to the pavilion in right field. There weren’t any baseballs to be found so I just hung out and waited for the home runs to come. They didn’t.
Well, more accurately, Hideki Matsui hit a home run one section to my left. I ran for it but Rob was positioned better than I was and he caught it on the fly. That was the only homer hit near me–luckily I recognized Kevin Jepsen and asked him if he could throw me a ball. He did and I was on the board for the day.
The Angels portion of BP was boring and I was thrilled when the Rays came out to start their practice.
I figured they would be peppering the seats but apparently the coaches on Tampa Bay’s roster have been instructing them to not pull anything… so they weren’t hitting for much power. Strangely, despite the lack of batting practice I didn’t have the presence of mind to take any other pictures than the one above… so… sorry.
Lance Cormier was shagging baseballs in right field and I asked him to thorw one up when he got one. Eventually he did. He fielded the ball, turned to me, fired, and launched it about five feet over my head. Despite my full extension and my well-timed leap I couldn’t get my glove on it and the ball hit two rows behind me and ricocheted to the feet of a fan ten feet to my right. I looked and Lance and shrugged. He looked right back at me and tapped his hand on his chest a couple times. I knew what he was telling me: “Sorry. That one’s on me.” I’d made my best effort… he just overshot me. When he moved over to center field a little bit later I saw him again and said, “Lance, you gotta give me one more try, please!” He nodded but he didn’t field another ball.
At about 6:15 I headed down to the field level seats near the foul pole in preparation to run to the dugout at the end of BP. I was about five rows back from the wall… and BP was wrapping up. Cormier ran toward right field from right-center and caught a ball. As he was slowing down I yelled out to him and held up my glove. He made up for his error a half hour earlier by throwing me a perfect strike over the heads of the fans hugging the wall. Thanks, Lance.
Later on in the evening I took a photo of where the overthrow happened (the white circle), where the catch was made (the red circle) and where Cormier was for each throw (the red X).
As BP ended I headed for the dugout and hung back in about the third row. As the Rays came off the field I saw coach Bobby Ramos with a few baseballs. He had tossed one to me a moment before I actually was looking at him though and my late reaction caused the ball to tip off my glove and roll to the left to another fan. Ramos stopped on his way into the dugout and shook his head at me, smiling. I made a big production of adjusting my hat and glove, assumed a ready position, then gestured to him to say, “Come on, one more and I’ve got it.”
Ramos laughed and pretended to wind up and throw another ball. Then lobbed an easy one to me which I, of course, caught with no difficulty. I thanked him and headed back toward the outfield.
Michelle hadn’t arrived yet and the Angels were about to start launching T-shirts and Softee balls into the stands so I kind of followed along with them from the right field pole to the visiting team’s dugout. Along the way I caught three of the soft, Nerf-style baseballs. A new record… sort of. Previously I’d caught two in one game. One got launched over my head and I made a nice basket catch on it with my back to the field. I gave that one away to an older lady nearby and I gave another one away to a little boy.
Michelle arrived at about that time and we were both STARVING so we got dinner and sat in the Terrace level to eat and chat about our days. I’d been at school all day and she had been at work. It was nice to hang out together (as it always is) and catch up with the happenings of our lives. We sat in section 227 and here’s a panorama:
At the conclusion of each inning I tried to get tossups from the Rays at their dugout but I failed each time.
In the above photo a guy one row in front of me stuck his hand up and deflected the ball thrown to me by Carlos Pena back into the dugout. Also, a boy in the front row got two tossups in consecutive innings. It was just bad luck, is all…
And I was less than happy as I headed back to my seat.
But we watched the Angels get out to a 4-0 lead through seven innings. At about 9:15 Michelle decided to leave to head home and get ready for bed. She gets up at 6:30 for work. I walked her out to the gate and said goodbye before heading back in to the stands. I found a seat on the field level right behind the Rays’ dugout. Can you spot the baseballs?
I hung out there and watched Blown Save Fuentes live up to his namesake. Aargh…
The Angels couldn’t score in the bottom of the ninth and the tenth went scoreless, too. In the bottom of the eleventh inning, Kendry Morales hit a single to left field (against the shift). Reggie Willits, who had come into the game to pinch run for Matsui, sacrifice bunted Morales to second and Juan Rivera came to bat. Grant Balfour (ball four?) threw a wild pitch which got Morales to third base. Then, Joe Maddon pulled out the old five infielders trick. Take a look:
I love it! The last time I’d seen this technique used in a game was on 9/14/08. There were only two outfielders since Ben Zobrist came in to play the infield (he even grabbed a different glove from the dugout). Look at how the coaches are positioning everyone… Carl Crawford and Gabe Kapler were playing shallow left and right field, respectively, and Rivera lifted one to right center. Kapler got to it, made the catch, but it was deep enough to score Morales! Boo-ya!
I was thrilled to see the Angels win a game–they’d had such a horrible road trip. The club really needed a win and I was worried when Fuentes blew it in the ninth. But the night turned out well and I made my way to my car and headed home.
Well, before Michelle and I left for our Midwest adventure where I got to see not one, but TWO games at Busch Stadium and one at Kauffman Stadium, too, I had bid on some Angels tickets on eBay. I won the auction and paid but I’d forgot about them. When I checked the mail on the night of Monday the tenth there they were: four tickets to the day game on the twelfth… Angels vs. Rays.
It was short notice and Michelle had to work and I figured there wouldn’t be batting practice and it was going to be hot–and I decided I was going to go to the game anyway.
So, I sold the three other tickets on craigslist and I headed out to the stadium just after 10am on Wednesday morning. For day games, Angel Stadium’s gates all open at the same time, 90 minutes prior to the game. I got to the stadium at about 10:30 and had plenty of time to walk around the whole park. I took a few photos of places I rarely see since I usually go straight to the gate at home plate. Like, the AM 830 radio office:And I tried to get a look in at the field through the tunnel in right field:
Who are those people that get to be in there before the park’s even open?!? Well, it looked like BP was not going to be happening for sure. I briefly thought about heading home but decided to challenge myself and try to snag at lest one ball! I also thought (correctly) that the crowd would be pretty light (for Anaheim) and maybe I got get an autograph or two.
A lot of folks were lined up at the Home Plate Gate waiting to get in:
Little did they know that all the gates were opening at the same time. But I knew… and I was the first person in line at Gate 6 (out near right field).
The gates opened at 11:05 and I ran inside. When I saw the field there were a total of four players on it. All Rays, all pitchers. Two stretching… and two playing catch. Heck yeah! A few Angels would come out a few minutes later.
I ran down and watched the two play catch. As soon as I got my camera out and took this picture–
–I heard a THUNK just a bit to my left. I looked and, as it turns out, the guy in the background (who I later identified as Russ Springer) had airmailed a throw. I picked up the ball in the fourth row and looked at the Rays pitcher closest to me. I was going to give it back to him, of course, but I had planned to ask if he’d toss it back when they were done. Instead, as soon as I looked at him he said, “Hey, just toss it here. I’ll give it back to you in a minute.”
“Wow, really?!? Thanks!” I said as I threw it back. He and Springer finished and then Springer tossed his best attempt at a knuckleball right to me. Cool! No shutout for me today!!!
That didn’t stop me from trying to snag as many as I could though. I ran over to the Angels side of the field and watched John Lackey throw with Jered Weaver. Whenever Weaver plays catch before a game he carries two baseballs. One he keeps in his glove as he throws, then transfers that one to his right hand before he catches. Anyone know any other players that do that? Is it a matter of efficiency or something? Or maybe just as a backup plan if a ball gets away? I’ve just never seen that before…
There were a lot of kids right around the wall at that point so I hung back and didn’t snag either of those two and then it was off to the bullpens in left field where I watched J.P. Howell, Scott Kazmir, and Lackey all throw. I got Howell to autograph my ticket when he was finished and called out to who I thought was Bobby Ramos, the Rays bullpen coach, for a ball. Instead, the guy I called out to said, “I’m not Bobby. He’s older than me and a lot fatter.” I apologized and then jogged back over to the first base line near the Rays dugout.
Akinori Iwamura, who has been injured all season, started signing autographs and I got him on a Rays/Angels stub from last year. As gametime neared and more and more players came out to the field, I managed to get David Price’s autograph on the same ticket as Howell’s and I JUST missed getting Evan Longoria (he had quite a crowd).
Oh, well. On to the game… just before it started I had been talking to a family of Rays fans behind their dugout. When I saw a few players come out to play catch I excused myself, went down to the outfield end of the dugout to see if I could get the baseball Jason Bartlett and Ben Zobrist were using. I was nearest to Zobrist and I was a little let down when Bartlett ended up with
the ball and headed for the shade of the dugout. Bummer.
But he stopped right before going down the steps and scanned the crowd. Turns out there wasn’t a single person ready to catch a ball near him… except me… on the other end of the dugout. He hovered there for a few seconds and then I called out, “Jason! Right here, Jason!” He looked, and lobbed it up and over the crowd right to me… thirty feet away. “Thank you!” I said. Off he went.
Rookie Trevor Bell was making his MLB debut that afternoon. Here he is throwing his first-ever big league pitch:
It was a strike. I’ve always thought that it’s much better to have had your first pitch be a strike rather than a ball. The crowd wasn’t too bad… for an Angels game. There were 37,859 in attendance but there was plenty of space for me right here:
It’s where I stayed for most of the game. Perfect for third out tries and lots of space to move for foul balls… but my snagging stopped at two. No foul balls anywhere near me and most of the third out baseballs were tossed elsewhere due to strikeouts or fly balls ending the innings. Bleh…
The game was a lot of fun.
Bell pitched all right. He went five and a third innings… his nemesis was Carlos Pena, who hit two home runs off Bell.
The game went back and forth until the bottom of the seventh inning when the Angels scored five runs. Howie Kendrick and GMJ both hit three-run homers and, though the Rays got a bit closer in the eighth, the final would be 10-5 Angels! Woo!
My total on the day: 2. My total this season: 67. My total in my life: 95. Maybe I’ll get to 100 at my next game!
As far as upcoming games… I know I’ll be at Angel Stadium on the 26th (another day game) and I might be at PETCO on the 31st. Definitely going to Dodger Stadium on Sept. 2nd.
Thanks for reading!!!