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!!
This particular trip to Angel Stadium began a few weeks ago with a simple message on Facebook from my buddy, Rob:
thursday day game. angels-red sox. may 14th.
can this happen
Well, it so happens that all the little details worked out and at 10:20am I was on my way to the park with Michelle, Rob, and Dennis (another friend from UCI). We got there nice and early and, as it was Rob’s first trip to the stadium, we walked all around the outside of the stadium, past the Nick Adenhart memorial, and ended up at the Right Field Gate about 10 minutes before it opened. All the gates were to open at the same time so I figured, why not be close to the outfield? As this was a day game after a night game, I was worried that there wouldn’t be any BP… also, this was the site at the main gate:
Lots of fans, late opening time, day game after a night game… I was worried I’d be unable to walk away with a baseball.
11:00 came and I ran inside (the rest of my group chose to walk) and I quickly headed to right field and I saw this:
Dang… I called Michelle and said, “No batting practice today. I’ll be near the foul pole.” And that’s where I was a few minutes later when they arrived. Nothing was happening on the field.
I knew the players would come out to stretch and throw eventually so I stayed put. Sure enough, some Red Sox pitchers soon trotted out and after some basic warmups they started throwing. There were a bunch of Red Sox fans all along the wall. I watched Tim Wakefield throw a few knuckleballs and then tried asking Takashi Saito for a ball in Japanese (like I did last September at PETCO Park) but I only managed to get a smile out of him, not a ball. Jonathan Papelbon started signing closer to the infield so I headed over there and, with the help of a Sox fan in front of me, got his autograph on my ticket stub for that day. He progressed out toward the outfield, signing for virtually everybody, and I stuck where I was because Hideki Okajima was finishing up his pregame throwing. He wrapped up and I asked, in Japanese (thanks, Zack Hample) for the ball. He turned, confused as to where the request came from and I put my glove up, repeated my call from the third row of the stands and he saw me! He tossed it right to me–perfect throw! I was so psyched! That’s the first time I’d ever successfully gotten a ball from a player by asking in a non-English language. This would be a day of firsts for me at the ballpark, actually.
Now, I wasn’t shut out… whew – but I didn’t snag any other actual baseballs during pregame stuff… I did, however, snag an Angels Softee Ball from the Strike Force as they shot off their air cannons just before the game. My first time snagging one of these, too!
Here I am with Michelle before the start of the game:
We found seats on the first base side and were able to stay there for the first third of the game (see some shots below). I tried to get a ball from the infielders playing catch before the game and from any players that had recorded third outs as they headed into the dugout. Nope–just wasn’t happening on this day. The souvenirs kept going to the section to the left or right of me.
The four of us headed up to the Lower View Level after a walk (for Rob’s sake) through the different concourses in the fourth inning. We
ended up here:
That’s my new favorite Japanese left-handed pitcher, Okajima, on the mound. I had a chance for a foul ball, I thought. Nope–no luck. We had a great view though and had some snacks and watched a great game unfold. I wanted to be back to the Field Level for the final out of the game so we headed down in the top of the ninth with the game tied at 4 to the third base side. Our view:
You know what’s awesome? Free baseball! The Angels and Red Sox were still tied at the end of the ninth so the game headed into extras. I’ve got to say that this ended up being one of the best ballgames I’ve watched in person in a long, long, long time. Each team had chances to score. The Red Sox would end up leaving a total of thirty-four men on base, twelve of those by Ortiz (who went 0 for 7). It was thrilling… I mean, this game had triples, double plays, stolen bases, hit batters, lots of strikeouts, arguments between managers and umps, and twelve innings! Oddly enough, no home runs… whatever. Still, so exciting!
In the bottom of the twelfth, Juan Rivera hit a clean single. Reggie Willits (who I am a big fan of) pinch ran for him. Erick Aybar sac bunted him to second base and then Jeff Mathis came up, knocked a line drive into left-center and that was the game! 5-4 Angels! Man, it was great!
Did I mention that this walk-off win for the Halos occurred after they escaped a Big-Papi-at-the-plate-with-the-bases-full situation (shown above)? And Torii Hunter stole Dustin Pedroia’s (potential) 5th hit of the day from him with a great catch in center? Both Pedroia and Hunter are studs and I really respect how hard they play the game. Awesome! Really, the teams fought each other hard the whole way and most of the 35,124 fans there stayed to see the end… a miracle in SoCal, I’ve noticed.
And though I didn’t snap a photo of it… I was on the Jumbotron for the first time ever! I just happened to be standing up during a pitching change and Dennis said, “Matt!” and the guy on the other side of me said, “Hey, is that you?” and he pointed to the screen. Sure enough, it was me… I gave a nice thumbs up and looked straight into the camera before they cut to someone else. That was pretty cool.
As an end of year recap, here are some of the most fun/coolest things I got to do/witness this baseball season (I’ll try to go chronologically):
- Exhibition game – Dodgers vs. Red Sox
What? Manny Ramirez in Los Angeles??? WHOA! I went with my buddy, Josh, to see this game in late March. This one was played at Dodger Stadium (not the Coliseum, though that would have been fun to see). And at that point in time who’d have thought that Man Ram would be taking an extended vacation to L.A. in the middle of summer? It was a lot of fun.
- My name on a brick at Angel Stadium!
It was a Christmas present from my mom last year (Christmas ’07) and came as a total surprise! I didn’t get to see it until April… but there it was, just to the first base-side of the pitcher’s mound out in front of the Home Plate Gate. In case you’re curious, Dr. Ivar Vasco is my uncle–also a big fan–and he’s started MY Angels fandom when he took me to games as a kid. Also, note the exclamation point after my name… totally my mom’s doing. I was shocked, but I guess I do get excited about games!
- Getting to tour Angel Stadium!
As part of the preparation for Take Me Out, a show we just did at UC Irvine, I organized a tour for the director and design team to see a real baseball stadium and clubhouse, etc. In the above photo, I’m sitting with our lighting designer, Adam, in the Angels’ dugout! I was thrilled to get to go behind the scenes and see a lot of cool stuff. The tour included a walkthrough of the visitor’s clubhouse, indoor batting cage, suites, dugout, press conference room, and TV and radio broadcast areas! A lot of stadiums do this… it just costs money. Still, for any fan I think it’s totally worth it!
- Baseball with Michelle and friends!
This happened a couple of times, with dirrerent friends each time… In June, Michelle and I went to a game with our firends, Darcy and Dennis (the above photo). It was great getting to share the excitement of a game with people… it makes it that much more enjoyable. And we got “rally sticks” or something… it was a giveaway. The Angels lost to the Mets, 4-5. We basically just ended up hitting each other with the foam rally things all through the game.
On an August trip that spanned four states in the Midwest, Michelle and I took a trip to see the White Sox play the Royals at U.S. Cellular Field. It’s always fun to take in a new ballpark we had a great time… with seats in foul ball range! Sadly, I didn’t catch a foul ball and I didn’t get a ball during batting practice either… thankfully, in the 8th inning Ross Gload tossed me a ball behind the visitor’s dugout as he came off the field. And Michelle saw it! We had a great time at the game and it was a good way to relax on our mini-vacation over the summer.
I wrote a whole entry about this magical place in Iowa where you can play on the field from the Kevin Costner movie. Michelle and I went (and took Helen along) and had a good time… I even played a pick-up game with some families that were already there. I’ll let you read the entry for yourselves.
- Lots o’ September baseball!
I tried to cram in as much baseball as I could in September because I knew that school would be starting and baseball would be over within a few short weeks. AND my blog got featured on the MLBlogs home page! I went to seven games that month, caught seven balls at one game (on the 11th of September – Angels/Mariners) got some nifty autographs, saw Frankie Rodriguez tie AND break the single season saves record, met Zack Hample, and did all this at three different stadiums. Plus, I got to meet Mike Scioscia and Howie Kendrick. Woo! Good times.
- Stage managing Take Me Out at UC Irvine
In October and November we rehearsed a play at my school U
CI. It’s called Take Me Out and it’s about baseball… as part of the rehearsal process the whole company played catch and talked about baseball trivia… so it was kind of like the season was extended a bit. The photo shows our set and some of the lighting… looks like a clubhouse, eh?
It was a great year of baseball and I’m sure next year will be great as well. I love to share my passion for baseball with Michelle and any friends that care to tag along. I hope you’ve enjoyed the trip down memory lane. Happy Holidays!
Oh, and PS…
I found this picture in a box at my mom’s place last month. Best I can tell it was taken by my uncle, Ivar, at Angel Stadium during a game against the White Sox… a day game. It looks like the batter is being walked intentionally. The umpire behind the plate is wearing #33. And look at those uniforms and logos… and I’m about ten or eleven in this photo. I’m going to guess this is in 1994. Anyone have any ideas? I’d like to figure out when this was shot… thanks in advance!
UPDATE: I believe that the catcher in the photo is Mike LaValliere… based on the letters I can see. He played for the White Sox from 1993 to 1995 and he only played in 142 games in that three year period. Gettin’ closer.
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.