I had been looking forward to the All-Star Game in Anaheim for months! As soon as I knew the Angels would be hosting the ASG I started hinting to my wife that I wanted to go, started schmoozing all the ushers at the stadium I knew, and started hoping and praying we’d even have a chance to get tickets. We did–and ended up with extras–so I would get to do some sort of All-Star activity on each of the five days that they were happening.
The festivities of All-Star Week kicked off for me on Friday morning–at 9:00 in the morning I got off the freeway, parked at Anaheim’s Gardenwalk (which was dumb–I should’ve just parked at the venue), walked a couple of blocks from the structure, and arrived at the Anaheim Convention Center.
It was time for FanFest, baby!
When I got inside the gates had just opened and, along with security searching bags, mascots from different teams (including the Pirate Parrot) were welcoming guests to FanFest.
I stopped and had my photo taken with the Reds’ Gapper:
And then, finally, I got to head inside!
Let me summarize how I felt: Jubilant. FanFest is like Disneyland for baseball fans.
All the positive (and negative) things that you think when you read that last sentence are probably accurate. It’s great and it’s stressful and it’s fun and it’s a lot of waiting around and it’s unique and everything looks and sounds and smells so cool, and it’s over too fast.
Here’s how I spent my day (day one of five!):
The first thing I did (aside from snap the above photo) was receive a bag with a map in it… this place was huge! Then I grabbed a daily schedule and found out that Wally Joyner was signing autographs–he’d started at nine. I walked quickly to his autograph stage and when I got there the line was still pretty short. I saw Roger Lodge of AM 830, then saw a big Reebok ad you could stick your head through…
And after about twenty minutes I got Joyner to sign an old baseball card of his (and a volunteer snapped this picture):
After the Joyner signing I got to really start looking around at all the amazing stuff that was there at FanFest. Believe me, there’s no way to do it all in just one day.
Luckily, I was at FanFest on three different occasions! So, if I don’t talk about something in this entry then it’s sure to be in an upcoming one.
I checked out the Rawlings booth next… and their Gold Glove Award.
In addition to selling different kinds of baseballs they were selling official MLB helmets and they did baseball demonstrations every hour or so. This consisted of an explanation of what’s inside the ball and how they’re made.
They had a case of all the World Series balls dating back to 1978.
The one from 2002 was of particular interest to me:
Go Angels! As I walked back toward the front of the venue for an upcoming autograph signing I saw a familiar face:
It was Rex Hudler, former Angels player and broadcaster… and yes, it seems that he ALWAYS has a baseball in his hand. Arte Moreno and Rod Carew had been walking around that morning, too.
All the while during my time there I was getting free stuff from various booths… and registering to win various prizes. I stopped at one booth where you could make a “Game Saving Catch.” I wasn’t about to spend a ton of money on a photo there but, again, a volunteer stepped in and snapped this:
Nice! In case you’re wondering, the baseball is sewn into the glove… and you can stand on a couple of pegs to get some height up above the wall. It was pretty fun!
There were various pin giveaways throughout the day at various points around the venue. I’m not huge into pin collecting/trading like a lot of folks (especially in Anaheim) but I stopped to see the line and take a panorama… this is looking toward the entrance I came through that morning:
Only 100 pins were given away per line… in my three days at FanFest I got three of the six or seven pins that were there.
After the pin line I was off to another autograph signing. This one was Jim Fregosi at the Minor League Baseball stage… there, they’ve got a wall of hats of each minor league club from each of the thirty MLB teams. Check it out:
And here are the Angels’ teams:
I was having a blast.
After the autograph session I checked out some of the exhibits and memorabilia displays. You can buy everything from a pack of baseball cards to a used jersey from decades ago to a stadium seat from a long-since-torn-down park to an All-Star Game keychain (and ordinary stuff like that). There’s stuff to buy EVERYWHERE! I came around a corner after playing a “throw the ball through a Firestone tire” game and saw:
Red Sox Mickey! He was one of the thirty-six Mickeys around SoCal for the ASG and he had been beaten up outside his original location so I guess he got bandaged up and moved inside to a safehouse… oh, Disney. Some Angels fans out there must have been pretty upset to see Mickey dressed like he was from Beantown.
Next, I walked through a replica of a major league clubhouse where a lot of stuff that the players wear was on display. I snapped some photos and listened as Clyde Wright told a couple of stories… you see, they also have old-timers and Hall of Fame players give talks in that room, according to the schedule.
I then doubled back to get a shot of the diamond on which little kids were playing throughout the day. I tried to sign up for a contest to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” It was full. Darn.
There were hitting, fielding, and umpiring clinics, a mascot home run derby, and a bunch of other cool activities going on there at any given time.
Behind it, you could steal home (look at the photo above)–there was a timer to see who could run the fastest… and you could put on some special/weird-looking Reebok shoes if you wanted to do so.
Also, you may have seen that cool sand sculpture of Angel Stadium in the TV commercials for the All-Star Game… well, it’s pretty darn awesome in person:
How’d they get it into the convention center? Aagh!
And did you notice a giant baseball in the photo toward the beginning of this entry? Well, it is officially known as The World’s Largest Baseball and it’s lit very well… and here it is for your viewing pleasure:
It’s signed by everyone from Derek Jeter to Hank Aaron. So cool.
You know those patriotic hats the teams wear on July fourth weekend? How about a giant flag made out of those?
Wha–? Whoa! Seriously, FanFest is a must for any baseball fan. Not everything there is for everyone but I guarantee that there’s something there for everyone.
Monster truck… MLB-style.
In the midst of all my random picture-taking I sat down to eat at the MLB.com stage. They were doing live broadcasts:
And one of the interactive exhibits that I got to do on this, my first day, was “Steal A Base, Steal A Taco.”
You start at first base, take a lead when the video projection of the pitcher looks away and gets set… once he starts to pitch, you start to run. If you make it in safe you get a free taco–seriously. They have them right on the other side of that wall in the background. In all fairness, everyone is always safe. I totally beat the throw though–and slid… and did it right. Yeah.
Later, I stood in line for the pitching cage. I threw a blazing fastball–at 52 mph. Wow… a friend had told me I’d hit 65, tops. After I told him what I really threw he called me Jamie Moyer.
I also swung by the PS3 truck and played some Home Run Derby video game… and then went to the Angels exhibit where, among other things, you could be a part of the 2010 team photo. I made friends with Mike Scioscia and Mickey Hatcher.
Shortly after that, I headed home. It was almost 5:00pm. I could have stayed until it closed at 8:00 but I knew I’d be back the next day, this time with Michelle, and I’d get to see it all again. Awesome.
I was all excited for this 3:05pm start. Why? Well, I was out of class and could get to the park in plenty of time, the gates were set to open two hours early, and I was hoping for a small crowd. Plus, there was a Postseason Rally after the game… maybe I could snag a piece of equipment.
I was there when the Home Plate Gate opened at 1:00pm, as were a few other regulars (John, Chris, and Rob) and when I ran in I saw an entirely empty field:
Bummer… it would be a long afternoon. Usually if there’s no BP at a day game the gates open ninety minutes before the game. Now we had an extra half-hour to kill. The four of us regulars chatted behind the dugout for a minute… then I figured I’d take a walk. I checked the outfield/pavilions for stray Easter eggs. Nada. Next, I went to the bullpens… I saw a groundskeeper prepping the visiting team’s pen and asked him if there were any baseballs he could spare sittin’ around in there. He looked, then shook his head and said, “Nope, sorry. But thanks for being so polite about asking.”
Hmm… finally I saw a few players emerge from the dugouts. Scott Feldman started stretching and running in the outfield and Matt Palmer started playing catch with Sean O’Sullivan near third base. I headed toward the Halos… though I didn’t snag their warmup ball, Sean O’Sullivan signed a ticket for me.
A little while later some more Angels came out to throw. I hung out nearby and, while most fans were seeking autographs, I got a warmup toss from Jose Arredondo. Great! I’d gone to thirty-eight consecutive regular season games in 2009 and snagged at least one baseball at each game! I was thrilled! Action on the field was limited for a while so I went over to the Ranger dugout again, knowing that they’d come out to throw shortly. They did:
And I snapped this cool picture of C.J. Wilson (who’d thrown me two baseballs in this series):
But Chris was focused on snagging a baseball near C.J. so I headed to the foul pole where Eddie Guardado was warming up. I’d talked to Eddie in the first game of the series and wished him a happy birthday coming up on October 2nd… I didn’t know if he’d remembered that so I asked him, “Hey, Eddie, are they going to throw you a party tomorrow? Maybe tonight on the plane?”
He laughed and kept throwing. I followed up with, “Just wanted to make sure I got you a Happy Birthday before you guys left town.”
I never asked him for a ball… but this sort of interaction had proved rewarding when I’d talked to Shane Loux earlier in the season. Sure enough, five minutes later when Guardado finished I was sitting in a seat about forty feet from him and he tossed me his baseball. It was falling short and I leaned forward as far as I could in the middle of the row I was standing in. The ball hit off the seat in front of my glove… and I normally would’ve just hopped over the row and grabbed it. There wasn’t anyone else near me at that point… but the ball took a crazy ricochet and, from the fifth row, bounced back onto the field! I hoped Eddie was going to give me a second chance–after all, it was his bad throw and not my lack of catching ability that resulted in the ball going back on the field. I ran over one section and then down a few rows so I was much closer to him and asked for another shot. This time it was easier to get it to me… and I caught it (of course). It was a filthy, grass-stained, heavily used baseball:
Chris ended up with a ball, too. And we collectively decided that our chances for a ball were better back on the Angels side, as new players had emerged from the dugout to warm up. I just missed out on Jered Weaver’s baseball… back out to the bullpens I went… I saw Kevin Millwood getting ready for his start:
Then I hung out near the Angels for the remainder of the pregame stuff. Once the infielders started playing catch I stood about eight rows back from the field. Erick Aybar threw his baseball toward me but a barehanded fan snagged it in the row ahead of me. Good catch!
A minute later I moved a bit to my right and called out to Maicer Izturus who fired the ball into my glove! Great–three baseballs with no BP! That’s more than I snagged on Tuesday and more than I snagged on Wednesday–when there WAS batting practice!
Anywho, the game was set to start and I found a seat, with Chris and Rob, behind the visitor’s dugout. Chris got his first 3rd out ball… ever! And then left for another spot in the stadium but John sat in his vacated seat. Here was my view of the action:
Nice, huh? And John, Rob, and
I got to stay here for the whole game–none of us snagged a ball during the game but we got to talk baseball the whole time which was fun.
The Rangers beat up on the Angels pretty badly in this one… the score ended up 11-3 Rangers. I wasn’t concerned though… when you have Bobby Wilson playing first base you’re not sending out your A-team, you know?
Since a bunch of people who were just there to see the rally after the game would be let in at the conclusion of the eighth inning, Rob and I went behind the Angels dugout for the eighth. I actually was able to score a front row seat… and took a couple of pictures of Angels players hanging out in the dugout:
What’s with those goofy looks, guys? Funny.
Somebody threw a bunch of bubble gum to the fans, too… a shower of Dubble Bubble came down on us in the ninth inning. And I had a great view of Julio Borbon’s “wardrobe malfunction” in the ninth, too:
Kevin Millwood pitched a complete game against the Salt Lake Bees… and got the win. The game ended and the Angels threw a couple of baseballs… but no equipment… they still had a few games left in Oakland.
There was a pretty good crowd on hand for the Postseason Rally and it included the Golden Knights parachuting down onto the field:
Then some Angels players spoke to the crowd:
Speakers included Torii Hunter, Chone Figgins, Bobby Abreu, and Jered Weaver. As they spoke, Rex Hudler and Steve Physioc ran the show and called out to other Halos as they walked across the field to the team bus, all while being applauded by the hometown fans. I left as the players left and took this photo on my way out:
The Angels were headed to Oakland… then they’d meet up with the Boston Red Sox back in Anaheim the next week. ALDS in Anaheim! Go Halos!
So, before every Tuesday Angels home game AM 830 does an afternoon radio broadcast from a sports bar down the street from Angel Stadium. It’s called Throwbacks and I’d never been there… before August 25th of 2009.
We showed up to a fairly crowded bar at about 3:20pm. We had to grab random stools from the bar and take them to some empty counter space near the pool tables. At about 3:50pm Rex Hudler, who hosts the show (Jeff Biggs is the normal host–Hudler does the special Tuesday shows) arrived to applause. A minute later our food arrived… to applause… from the two of us. We were starving!
Chips & salsa, a club sandwich for me, a chicken Caesar wrap for Michelle… and crinkle cut fries. Everything was good. The fries were great.
Just before 4:00pm a tall guy in a blue shirt walked through the door. People started cheering… it was the man we all came to see, Chuck Finley. Finley has more wins than any other Angels pitcher in franchise history with 165. The crowd watched the interview between Hudler and Finley intently:
I also learned (during the broadcast) that he is the only pitcher in MLB history to–lemme make sure I get this right–strike out four batters in one inning three different times in his career. Maybe I’m a stat geek but I thought that was cool.
Here’s “Fin” (mimicking holding a microphone) with Hudler at the broadcast table:
A line quickly formed… for autographs. I was among those in line. It only took a few minutes and I got Finley on a 1990 Score card. He did it in black Sharpie… I went back later and got him twice, in blue, on Upper Deck cards from 1990 and 1995. Sweet!
I posed with the cards for Michelle:
Oh, and the cap I was wearing had been signed by Rex Hudler back on 9/11/08 before a game.
But wait… there’s more! Finley was entertaining and the crowd was lively. He told stories about driving a tractor growing up, how he was right-handed as a kid but his dad bought him a lefty glove… and he then went on to pitch left-handed but he plays golf and writes with his right hand. At about 5:30pm they were going to do a “raffle” of some sort…
As it turns out, the broadcast team was giving away tickets to folks that had raffle tickets. I had one, Michelle had one, and a guy that was just there for autographs had left early and given us his ticket. What, I just hand you this ticket and you hand me two tickets? What?!? We ended up with 6 tickets to Friday’s game against Oakland and a bunch of coupons… plus a couple of Angels baseball cards. Sweet!
And we had great food and a great time. I’ll definitely be going back to Throwbacks!
This was my first game by myself. I figured it would be weird not having anyone to talk with all afternoon/evening, so I told Michelle I’d call her throughout the night… to keep me company via cell phone. Let us begin:
I left my place in Irvine at 4:00. I parked my car at my super-secret-never-have-to-pay-spot just outside the ballpark and headed in. This is what I saw when I made it to the gate:
I was about 3 or 4 people from the front of the line and I had a while to wait. Luckily, I had brought a book but I kept my eyes and ears open for a certain person. After a few minutes, the guy I’d been waiting for, Rex Hudler, showed up. He always enters through the front gate and I had brought my MLB 07 The Show hat for him to sign. I left my backpack and book and asked him, “Mr. Hudler, could you sign my hat for me, please?”
“Well, sure!” he replied jovially.
I said, “You see, it’s from the video game that you’re on.”
He replied, “Aww… that’s cool! You know, we’re workin’ on the new one comin’ up here real soon!” Then I thanked him and he headed into the stadium. Here’s the hat he signed:
At 5:05 the Home Plate Gate opened and I (on the advice of Zack Hample) did NOT go straight to the left field foul pole and instead headed for the right field pavillion. A few players were shagging balls out there and I spotted Dustin Moseley and asked him for a ball–I was extremely polite. He told me, “If you don’t get one, I’ll make sure to throw one to you.” OK… a good start. A few minutes later a homer hit some chairs a section to my right and bounced back to the field. Dustin grabbed it and flipped it right to me! YES! Six consecutive games with at least one ball.
In center field, an Angel wearing number 71 was fielding alongside Dino Ebel (the Angels’ 3rd base coach). I asked him to throw one (from about forty feet away) and he did! Right on the money. Robb Quinlan was batting and hit a blast to the seats that hit some seats to my left. I ran over and caught it on a bounce. I had three baseballs and it was 5:13pm. Let me take a moment here to inform you that I had NEVER snagged more than two baseballs at any game… ever. I’d gotten two at an Angels/Red Sox game in 2004, at my first-ever game at Camden Yards in 2007, and twice this season (8/5/08 at Angel Stadium and 9/9/08 at PETCO Park). I had a new, single game record.
Well, the Angels finished BP and the Mariners started up. Let me tell you, Ichiro can hit the ball pretty well, at least in batting practice. Though he was wearing a coverup over his jersey, I recognized the facial hair of J.J. Putz and asked him for the next ball he got ahold of. A little while later he got one from another Mariner reliever near him and tossed it up to me. FOUR!
Later, a Mariners player wearing the number 89 threw a ball to me and then some righty smashed a ball over the fence and right into my glove. I wish I could have seen who it was… I’m thinking it was Adrián Beltre… no way to be sure. It was just after 6:00 at this point so I headed down to the right field line in the hope that Jarrod Washburn or Putz (who were nearby) would sign an autograph. They told some fans they would, but they didn’t. Bummer. I followed them toward the dugout and sat down for a minute.
As I wrote some notes about my adventure, Yuniesky Betancourt started playing catch in front of the dugout. There was hardly anyone around at this point so when he was through I simply said, “Yuniesky!” and stood up with my glove open. He saw me, he threw it. SEVEN!
I had more than tripled my record. After a Patriot Day salute, the game was underway. The players were wearing those nifty hats they had on the 4th of July… you know the ones. Ichiro stepped in to lead off the game. Then I realized just how many no-name call-ups from the minors were around. The Angels had clinched, so they were resting some regulars and the Mariners… well, can you say last place? Eliminated? So they had a few less-than-stellar players going for them. I settled in behind the visiting dugout. Here’s the view from where I sat:
The game was fun! The Angels were ahead 7-0 at one point before the bullpen gave up a few runs. Most of the fans had left early (while I tried, unsuccessfully, to play the dugouts to get a 3rd out ball) thinking it would be a blowout. Well, with men on and the score 7-3 in the ninth K-Rod came in. He had 56 saves. Boy, I’m gonna miss him when he’s not an Angel anymore… but he will make a LOT of cash somewhere. He let a run score, but notched save #57 on the year, tying the current record (set by Bobby Thigpen in 1990). Let this be a reminder, fans, don’t leave a game early! You might miss something great! He got interviewed for FSN West by Michael Eaves. I’m hoping he’ll break it this weekend.
Here’s another panorama for your enjoyment:
Also, I stayed after the game a bit to see if any players would sign autographs as they exited. They didn’t, but I experienced this little exchange as Frankie Rodriguez was leaving the park in his very, very nice car.
A dozen of us (Angel Fans): There’s Frankie! Hey, Frankie! Congrats!
F.R.: Thang you, guys. Gracias.
Us: You were great! Are you gonna break the record?
F.R.: Hey, c’mon. You know iz gonna happen.
- 6 games with at least one baseball
- 7 baseballs at this game
- 15 baseballs in 6 games this season = 2.5 baseballs per game
- 23 lifetime baseballs