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…
So, while I didn’t plan to go to the game on Thursday until the day before, it led to me going to this game… just as unexpectedly. Here’s how it went down…
At the game on 7/23 I’d heard an announcement that said Angels outfielder Reggie Willits would be signing autographs at a store in the Tustin Marketplace… which is about ten minutes or so from where I live. After the game that night I told Michelle, “I have some free time tomorrow. I think I’ll go to the signing, Reggie’s a fun player to watch.” I thought it would be cool to have his autograph (and as I found out the last time I’d attended a signing, there are often cool giveaways).
Well, at 11:00am on Friday the 24th I headed to the Marketplace and waited in line and got Reggie Willits to sign two ticket stubs from 2007 (when he was third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting) and posed for this picture with him:
I also got a few coupons, some baseball cards, and four tickets to that night’s game against the Twins!
I called Michelle, who was running some crucial errands, and told her that I wanted to at least go to batting practice… and maybe stay for a few innings. We had dinner plans for that night a bit later on in the evening. I tried to get rid of some of the other tickets, too… and I did… eventually. The plan was that I’d hit up BP and leave the game so I could be home by 8:30pm for dinner… she was cooking. I love my wife!
At 4:30pm I was outside the Home Plate Gate with, yet again, hopes of snagging a Metrodome commemorative baseball. While in line talking to BP regular, Terry, I’d mentioned the extra tickets I had and he suggested I try to give them (or sell them) back to the box office… I headed over there and saw a young couple in the ticket line.
“Hey, are you two about to buy tickets?” I asked them.
“Yeah. Why?” the guy said.
“Well, here. How about you guys just take these? I’ve got these extra tickets that were a giveaway earlier. I’m not gonna use ’em. Why don’t you guys take them?”
“Wha-” They are both stunned. “Really?”
“Yeah, really. Here you go.” And I handed them over. “Enjoy the game.” I saw them later during BP… I was glad to help out a young couple. It felt good!
On to batting practice… I ran in and the Angels were actually hitting! Whew.
Knowing that the Twins were starting lefty, Francisco Liriano (and therefore, nearly all the Angels would be batting from the right side) I decided to head to the right field foul pole to play for slicers and bouncers down the line. My strategy paid off.
No, I didn’t get a player to toss me that ball sitting on the grass. I did, however, judge a slicing ground rule double pretty well. Some Angel righty lofted one high in the air and, while people jockeyed for position along the wall to scoop it up, I ran back a few rows, thinking it would hit the warning track. It did–and took a hop even over MY head and into an empty row. After a couple of settling bounces I snagged it before anyone else was anywhere near me. That was the 77th ball in my collection.
About five minutes later Robb Quinlan was hitting and knocked a ball down the right field line. It had enough momentum to get to the short wall near the pole so I positioned myself, jumped up, hung over the wall, reached out–
–and snagged it while it was still moving, just before it hit the wall. I had timed it perfectly… think of it like the inverse of an outfielder leaping up to take away a home run–kind of. Baseball #2 on the day!
The Twins started hitting and they had a few lefties that I knew could hit some bombs so I headed up to the pavilion. It was, by that point, pretty crowded up there:
Before too long I snagged another ball from the friendly arm of Matt Guerrier. He fielded one in right and I called out, asked him by name, said “please” and he tossed it up. Boy, even Major League players have trouble throwing a ball UP to someone… first Chris Coghlan down in SD… now Guerrier. His throw sailed wide… luckily, I was able to move five feet to my right and reach out as far as I could to catch the ball right in front of a lady’s face. She was about 45 years old and had been looking the other way and never saw the ball. Another facial contusion prevented by a humble baseball collector.
BP ended soon after that catch (the Twins stopped hitting at 6:10pm–usually BP lasts until at least 6:20. I jogged down to the visiting team’s dugout and waited for the game to start. I was just one person and there were a ton of open seats. I watched the Angels warm up across the field. Chone Figgins threw with Howie Kendrick:
Here’s Brandon Wood talking to Justin Morneau…I like to assume he’s asking him for some pointers on how to play first base:
Between the time I got there and the time I left (during the fourth inning) I probably moved four or five times. I was even told by an usher while I was stupidly sitting in the first row (don’t do it–the ushers know the season seatholders… you’re more likely to get kicked out if you’re up in the front) that I should return to my ticketed seat. I didn’t… and it paid off.
Bobby Abreu was caught attempting to steal second base in the bottom of the third inning. It caught everyone a bit off guard but I knew that was the third out–and that the second baseman, Alexi Casilla, still had the ball. As the Twins jogged off the field I was right on the other side of the dugout and I called out for the ball. There was a teenager on my right, a girl, and she was just yelling and begging for the ball–she didn’t even know who had it. After Morneau was out of sight, she went, “Aww…” and then Casilla, probably not used to having the inning ending ball, was reminded by a teammate that he should toss it to the crowd. Well, it was just me and this girl… Casilla turned his back to the stands and tossed the ball up in the air. I was taller (and had a glove on) so I got it. I would have probably given it to this girl but as the ball got thrown, she yelled, “NO!” and pulled my right arm down to keep me from getting it. How rude! Then she had the audacity to ask me, after I’d caught it, “Can I have that ball?” No “please.” I looked at her and said, “No,” and left the section.
1. Don’t grab other people to prevent them from getting a baseball.
2. Don’t, then, ask them for the ball you just tried to prevent them from getting.
Anyway, I watched a few more minutes of the game from the Terrace Level:
The Angels had already scored two runs on a homer by Robb Quinlan and Joe Mauer hit a homer (his first of two on the night) a moment before I snapped this photo:
…with one out in the top of the fourth inning–there weren’t going to be any no hitters to be seen this evening in Anaheim and it was about time for me to leave anyway. I gathered up my things as Mauer rounded the bases and made the walk through the concourse, down the ramp, past the usher (who was handing out coupons for a free taco from Del Taco) and out into the parking lot through the Left Field Gate:
The sun had just set and the sky was beautiful. I really wasn’t used to leaving the stadium at this time. I made sure to take a panorama of the sky and the park as I left for the night after a great time enjoying a summer afternoon/evening viewing the national pasttime:
I called Michelle and said I’d be home for dinner at 8:30, as planned, walked to my car, and listened to the game on the way home. The Angels would end up winning 6-5. Five baseballs in a BP session and 3+ innings and goin’ home to a freshly cooked meal… not a bad night.
It seems like I was just here… blogging… because I was. This was my fourth game in four days. I’d never been to more than two consecutive games before this weekend. I was tired but determined to make it a great day, as it might be my last game of the year (unless someone hooks me up with playoff tickets). I arrived at the stadium a little later than I would have liked. It had been open for five minutes or so when I headed inside. To my surprise, I saw this:
The Mariners were taking batting practice! I wasn’t really prepared for that so I quickly put on my Seattle hat and ran to right field. I debated between heading up to the pavilion and staying down on the field level. I chose the field, which ended up being a good call because no baseballs made it up to the pavilion except a couple that got tossed up there… and it was crowded. Each Sunday home game the Angels have Family Sunday and kids get all kinds of cool stuff and get to participate in fun activities. So, Sundays at Angel Stadium = lots of kids. I hung around near the foul pole. I just missed one that scooted by me off the bat of an M’s lefty.
Then, the Mariner pitchers started throwing right in front of where I was standing.
R.A. Dickey began warming up and I asked him if he could teach me how to throw a knuckleball. He laughed and said, “That would take too long.” I’ll assume he meant that in the it’s-hard-to-learn way and not the you’re-not-good-enough way. I like that guy. I like anybody that can throw a knuckleball. Here’s some trivia for you:
- R.A. stands for Robert Alan.
- Robert Alan Dickey is MISSING the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching arm (which is the one that gets replaced when a player has Tommy John surgery).
- There are only 3 players in the big leagues currently that throw a knuckleball. Can you name them?
Anywho, I watched R.A. for a while and saw Ryan Rowland-Smith throwing a few yards further down the field.
I yelled, “Ryan, will you sign an autograph when you’re done?” He turned. He had on those crazy-huge-baseball-player-day-game-sunglasses. He gave me a nod. True to his word, as soon as he was done he game over and signed a ticket stub from Thursday night’s game for me.
Well, the players finished throwing and the shortened BP session ended and I walked down near Seattle’s dugout as I had each of the past three games. I sat near some Mariners fans, chatted and waited for some guys to play catch after the anthem. They came out, as usual:
But, alas, I couldn’t get their attention as they headed into the dugout. No baseball for me… but I had a whole game to go! It was a bright, sunny day in Anaheim and that meant that spectators weren’t sitting in their awesome field level seats because they wanted to stay in the shade. I didn’t mind, and hung out in the fifth row for the whole game! I didn’t have to move at all.
Ervin Santana pitched well, striking out three and walking one while allowing two runs through seven innings. He was in line for the win after Mark Teixeira absolutely KILLED a ball to dead center. It went 432 feet and was his 10th home run as an Angel, his 30th this season, and his 200th career blast. Angels 3, Mariners 2.
As Big Tex touched home plate:
Then Scott Shields blew the lead in the eighth. Ugh. 3-3 tie and I thought, “Hey, maybe we’ll see some free baseball today.” Tied in the bottom of the ninth, Reggie Willits (one of my favorite Angels) led off as a pinch hitter and grounded out:
After that, I saw M’s first base coach, Eddie Rodriguez, with a baseball in the dugout (I’d gotten down to the first row). I asked him if he could spare it and he rolled it to me across the dugout–and some punk teenager tried to snag it from out of my glove. Eddie wears #1 for the Mariners, you can see him in action in many of my photos from previous entries, and he used to work for the Nationals/Expos. I had almost given up hope for a ball. Sweet!
Then Sean Rodriguez hit a deep drive. A walkoff home run maybe? No, Ichiro went back on it, tracked it, jumped at the wall… and it bounced off the wall about a foot above his glove! Rodriguez made it to third. Wow! Triples are freakin’ exciting to watch. That hit prompted Seattle manager, Jim Riggleman, to do something I’d only ever seen a couple times, and never actually witnessed in person. He opted to go with the five man infield by pulling Ichiro in from right field to play between shortstop and second base! Crazy, right! I love it when rare stuff happens at a ball game. Stuff like that keeps people (or me, at least) fascinated with the game. Here, count the infielders:
It didn’t matter though, Chone Figgins was up next and he hit one to the wall in right field that scored Rodriguez.
I saw two triples, two walkoff wins, a knuckleballer, a record breaking performance, and a sweep by the Angels, all in the four game series!
The Halos celebrated in the infield with Figgins and I almost got a second ball… J.J. Putz tossed one just to my left as he trotted in from the bullpen. Then, Sean Green, who’d thrown me a ball the night before, started signing a few autographs. I got him to sign a stub from that day’s game.
All in all, I did what I set out to do: I had a great time at the game! Now it’s time to gear up for school. UC Irvine starts up again soon. Go Anteaters!
Psst… in case you were wondering, the three knucklers are R.A. Dickey, Tim Wakefield (you knew that one, didn’t you?), and Josh Banks (he plays for the Padres). According to the knuckleball article on Wikipedia, there are a couple of players in the minors right now that throw it, too.
This entry is going to rock! Just watch… are you ready? OK, awesome.
I went by myself to this game. Nobody to talk to but LOTS of pictures!
Before this game, I drove to Howard’s in Laguna Hills to an autograph signing. Mike Scioscia and Howie Kendrick were signin’ and I got them both to autograph cards… plus I got an Angels beach mat and two free tickets (lousy tickets, but free) to the Angels/Rangers game on the 27th… I might just go… we’ll see. So, all that was in the morning AFTER I’d gotten up at 5:00am to help my mom set up for a yard sale she was having at her house. Ugh.
To the game!!! OK, it was a 6:05pm start. When did I arrive? 3:00… yep. Waaaayyy early. Here are some photos:
Walking from where I park to the stadium.
The Big A.
Staff members setting up for the night’s giveaway: Angels salsa bowls.
An empty walkway because I’m there THREE HOURS before the game.
No one else in line!
I was the first person in line to enter the stadium… I’d never been the first in before.
While I waited I read a book… kind of. I examined my surroundings. Panorama (crudely done) time.
I kept my eye out for Rex Hudler. Though he’d signed my hat already ( see 9/11/08 at Angel Stadium) I wanted him to sign an old baseball card of mine. He must’ve already been inside the park because usually he enters through the main gate. Oh, well. The crowds began filing in… and by about 3:55 it looked like this:
Then came 4:05pm. I headed in, received my salsa bowl, and bolted toward the seats in left field. Since the Angels were taking BP first (as home teams do) and the Mariners were starting a lefty, I figured that there would be mostly righties batting. I was right. Did this help me get a ball? Nope. Nobody pulled anything out toward the foul pole where I was. I DID get to watch some of the Angels pitchers act pretty goofy:
But they were not tossing balls to fans… not even any kids! Only three baseballs came out that way. I had a shot at the first but it kicked off the wall at a funky angle and ending up in the glove of a guy ten feet from me. Then, the Mariners started prepping for BP. After watching the M’s take BP for two days I knew three things:
- Ichiro hits first and in the first round.
- Ichiro pulls EVERYTHING he hits in batting practice (and is very precise).
- Ichiro hits the ball HARD.
That being known, I ran… RAN… to Section 135 in right field, positioned myself a few rows behind the foul pole, and waited for what I knew would happen. Sure enough, the second time Ichiro took his swings he smacked one hard and high that hit the warning track and bounced over everyone by about fifteen feet. I got a good jump, not good enough to catch it before it hit the seats, but good. No one was within twenty-five feet of where it landed (except me) and it didn’t bounce too crazily off the seats. I snagged it with my non-glove hand and felt pretty good about myself. By the way, snagging baseballs at games is great exercise! See, rockin’ so far, right? Then number 51 hit ANOTHER one toward me. It was drifting just foul and I raced to where it would land… again, I couldn’t catch it on the fly but it bounced pretty much straight up and I made a running grab. Two from the future Hall of Famer!!!
After Ichiro was done hitting I felt no need to stay so close to the foul pole so I headed up to the pavilion in right. There were twenty or thirty people there. I almost caught a
couple up there, but almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades (so says my father). Some Mariners relievers were shagging fly balls just ahead of me on the field.
After a ball came to rest on the warning track, I asked the player getting it to toss it up. My exact quote was, “Could you please toss that up here, sir?” I couldn’t tell who it was. He was very tall, right-handed, and Caucasian. He’s also the one on the right in the above photo. When he looked like he was just going to throw the ball back in I added, “Hey! Look at my hat!” He did… and my hat happened to have a Mariners logo on it and he lobbed me the ball. Turns out it was Sean Green. I thanked him… and then BP died down. Nobody got anything up over that 18-foot wall… so I headed down to the 3rd base line and tried to catch a ball on a bounce. No luck… had I smushed a little kid I could’ve snagged a little dribbler that rolled along the wall. The kids couldn’t reach it and I know not to push kids aside just to get a ball… so away that one went. Then BP was over and I followed the Mariners toward the dugout. No autographs or baseballs for a bit… so I sat and took some notes, listened to voicemail, and talked with the people around me. I met two nice families and sat in between them. Then three sets of M’s started playing catch… I kept my eye on them.
Here are the three on the end of the dugout I was sitting near: from top to bottom, Yuniesky Betancourt (who had thrown me a ball on Thursday AND who I had seen in STREET CLOTHES running in through the Home Plate gate ten minutes before they opened with a grin on his face), Raúl Ibañez, and Luis Valbuena. Yuniesky was looking for someone to throw his baseball to when he finished and I was right there. He looked like he would have rather thrown it to someone else but I was the only person paying attention to the fact that he WANTED to give the ball to someone. I got it. FOUR!
Then I got a text message from a UCI colleague saying that she (Ashley) and her fiance (Gavin) were at the game. The were on the Club Level… ooh, fancy. I told them I’d come visit them when I got kicked out of the section I was in. Surprise! That never happened. Turns out that I only had to move up one row and that was where I stayed for the whole game.
During the top of the 4th inning something interesting happened that’s worth noting. A beach ball landed on the warning track in left field and Reggie Willits, a player I think is fun to watch, grabbed it once time was called and threw it back to the fans! He got a lot of cheers. You don’t see that kind of behavior too often. I appreciated it, is all.
The Angels had a 4-2 lead when Jon Garland departed after the sixth and then I headed up to Ashley and Gavin’s club seats… courtesy of their extra ticket, thank you very much. Before I left I borrowed a ticket stub from a teenager I’d been sitting next to named Jake. He and his dad, Brad, had been talking to me all through the game. I left my glove with them as collateral and said I’d be back. Ashley, Gavin, and I chatted and watched as the the bullpen was solid. Oliver, Shields, and then Frankie, the man everyone was waiting for. I headed back to the field level. On Thursday he had tied the saves record (57) and with a 5-2 lead he needed to get three outs to make history. Needless to say, I was on the edge of my seat… so was everyone else. See Frankie on the mound out there?
The flashbulbs were popping with every pitch. He started off rocky, giving up a double, then a walk. Then, Ichiro grounded into a fielder’s choice. Runners on first and third. Then, Ichiro stole second and K-Rod got a K. Two outs, runners on 2nd and 3rd, Ibañez up to bat, everyone on their feet chanting, “Frankie! Frankie!” He struck him out with a changeup and Angel Stadium erupted! It was great, everybody high-fived and cheered, the players gathered on the mound, fireworks shot off… wow! I took a video on my camera… but here’s a photo from just after the celebration died down a little:
Then I scoured the stands for ticket stubs, said goodbye to Brad and Jake and Ashley and Gavin and then roamed the concourse for a few minutes. I saw an open tunnel and decided to snap a photo of the empty stadium. I saw a guy walking along the first base line in street clothes… it was José Arredondo. Weird.
Just walking around, I guess.