Back home in Orange County and I was off to a day game… after a night game… what?
hadn’t planned to go to this game but I ended up with free tickets, so I
was off to the Big A at about 10:40am. When I got to the stadium I
walked past the Home Plate Gate… no matter how many times I go to day
games at Angel Stadiums I never get used to all the people crammed in
line at the Home Plate Gate. I got in line at the Left Field Gate…
and the crowd there was much smaller:
I ran in there were no Angels on the field but some Royals pitchers
were throwing over on the first base side of the stadium.
And when I looked toward home plate…
cage was up! Were the Royals going to take BP? I walked over to the
Royals dugout (where Mike Aviles was playing catch) and stood over it,
waiting. When Aviles finished throwing, he and the unknown player he
was throwing to walked toward the cage a talked for a minute. When they
headed back toward the dugout I held up my glove and said, “Mike!
Right here!” He flipped me my first ball of the afternoon. Easy as
that… there was hardly anyone else around at the time. It was
I recognized Wilson Betemit and saw him with a bat in his hands.
He looked over. “Are you guys gonna hit?” He nodded, then went to put
on his helmet. I headed out toward the outfield and passed by Kanekoa
Texeira and Joaquin Soria again as they were finishing their warmup
tosses. I asked Soria for the ball when he ended up with it but he
threw the ball back toward the infield… but Texeira had an extra ball
with him and he tossed that one to me. The Royals had begun taking
their hacks so I jogged out to the foul pole, hoping a Royal in the
first round would slice one toward me.
spent about five or six minutes near the foul pole but then I saw
someone hit a ball up to the pavilion–it was home run time and I was
off to the upper level seats in right. I saw Rob and Devin up there,
already running around. It didn’t take long for me to snag Ball #3…
was close to center field and Betemit was in the cage. He drilled a
ball toward me… I moved to my right a little and ended up on the
staircase between Sections 240 and 239. I reached up over my head and
made the catch on the fly.
The Royals ended BP abruptly… that
was all right. I was thrilled to even get the fifty minutes of batting
practice that occurred. I headed back to their dugout… but missed out
on any toss-ups. I was pretty warm after running around so I grabbed a
drink and had a seat on the shaded (third base) side of the stadium.
The Angels came out, stretched a bit, a couple played catch. I was watching that day’s starter, Zack Greinke, warm up:
moved into the bullpen shortly after I took this photo and the Angels
kept their baseballs that they had being throwing around. I ran over to
the Royal dugout for pregame throwing over there and got my fourth ball
of the afternoon from Yuniesky Betancourt. He actually saw me, tossed
the ball he had been using to a kid to my left, then threw another one
to the kid’s brother… then he looked back at me again and held up one
finger (as if to say, “Hold on.”) and he went into the dugout. He
popped back out and tossed be a ball with a gnarly black smudge on it.
The game would be starting in five minutes and I was on four balls for
the day… and 249 for my lifetime. I thought it would be cool to get a
game-used ball for number 250 so I decided to try for a third out toss,
first from the Angels, then from the Royals. I would go back and forth
if I needed to each inning…
And even though I missed out on the Angels’ third out toss, I was in a
good mood when I parked myself behind the Royals dugout for the bottom
of the first. There were still a ton of free seats, it was a beautiful
day for baseball, and I was probably the only one in the stands that
knew the guy’s name who was playing first base for K.C.
Kila Ka’aihue. His first name is pronounced KEE-luh. And when Bobby
Abreu struck out, then Erick Aybar flew out, then Alberto Callaspo
grounded out weakly to first, I was ready. Before Kila even stepped on
the bag I was right at the opposite side of the dugout, seated in the
first row on the aisle. I stood up and called out to him. “Kila! Over
here, please! Kila!”
He flipped me the beautiful, rubbed-up ball for my fifth on the day and number 250 overall!
With my mini-milestone out of the way I decided to try for another one.
I was still without a game home run in my life… I thought a day game,
with a smaller than average crowd, would be a good time to try to nab
one. Here was my view for the remaining eight innings:
And with the exception of some day-campers being irritating in the
sections around me, it was an excellent game. Greinke dueled against
Jered Weaver and they each only gave up one run. Weaver went eight and struck out eleven! It was 1-1 in the
ninth, then 1-1 in the tenth. Lots of great pitching and defense, not a
lot of home runs… Betancourt hit one to center. That had been it.
I had time to take a picture with fellow ballhawk, Rob, who’s on the myGameBalls Lifetime Top 10 list.
And, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but when there are pitching changes at Angel Stadium (for the visiting team) and it’s not time to unleash the Rally Monkey, Angel Stadium plays video compilations of fans dancing around, being excited, and just having a good time. I’m happy to say that Michelle and I are a part of one of those compilations. So, when Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance” plays when a visiting team makes a call to the bullpen… check out the video. We’re totally in it… at least for this season. I snapped a picture of our two seconds of screen time… it’s us dancing in our seats:
I told you I had time…
Then things got really interesting as the game headed into extra innings…
I was one of just a few hundred people left in the pavilion in the tenth. The Royals went down in order in the top of the inning, thanks to Brian Fuentes. Then, in the bottom of the tenth, Reggie Willits grounded out for the first out and that brought up Bobby Abreu. Abreu took a called strike one, then held up on a fastball to make the count one-and-one. Then, he smashed a changeup that Jesse Chavez had left up in the zone. As soon as he hit it I knew it was gone. I jumped up out of my seat and into the aisle. Abreu had crushed the ball so I retreated a step or two up the staircase… it had a good angel, but then…
Oh, no! The wind had been occasionally blowing in… and I watched as the ball lost momentum… I moved down to my original spot… the ball was falling fast.
And it hit the ground (or a seat) five feet to my left… I was blocked by a fan. Then it took a huge hop up in the air–and slightly further away from me. I made a desperate lunge, but to no avail. The stadium was on its feet, cheering for the walkoff win… which was all well and good. But I angrily started zipping up my backpack. I’d been so close… the ball had even bounced once. I’ve watched the video a dozen times (you can, too)… I’m in the white shirt and black shorts, sunglasses, and on the staircase (I was the first one up out of my seat), moving up, to the right, and then down… and if I had just stayed put I probably could have caught it. ::sigh::
I won’t dwell on it too much–gamers are tough to come by. I did snag five balls at a day game following a night game, so that’s good. I did get my 250th ball, so that’s good, too. I took a photo while getting on the 57 freeway heading south… on my way home.
And I’d get to come back to Angel Stadium in just a few more days with Michelle and some family, and we’d have some pretty awesome seats!
You wanna know how far it is from Centralia, IL to Kauffman Stadium? Wait… why’s that important? Well, Centralia’s where I was staying (along with Michelle and our friend, Jenny) at the home of the bride’s family… we were in the area because Michelle was to be a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding. So… they had a day of dress fittings and ribbon-tying… I had figured there might be a day that I had nothing to do… Seattle was playing the Royals.
The answer to the above question is 317 miles… roughly the distance from San Diego, CA to Las Vegas, NV. I left Illinois at about 11:45am and I made the trip in just under five hours, including a pit stop in Blue Springs, MO, home of 2008 American Idol David Cook. It says so on a sign when you enter the town. My route was along the 64 West, through St. Louis, to the 70 West… through city after city (and town after town), across two major rivers (the Mississippi and the Missouri) and to shiny, newly renovated Kauffman Stadium (which is right next to where the NFL Chiefs play–news to me). Woo-hoo!
I parked and immediately went to the Home Plate ticket windows and bought a ticket that was ordinarily $26.00 for $7.00 because it was College Night. What an awesome surprise! It was also Retro Night (80’s) and it was Buck Night (hot dogs, peanuts, and sodas for a dollar). Was I worried that this would attract a larger than average crowd? Yes. Did that hinder me? Heck no.
If I can snag at Angel Stadium, which averages about 40,000 fans per game, I can handle anything Kauffman Stadium had to offer.
So, ticket in hand, I headed around the third base side of the stadium to Gate A. There… I waited. It was 4:50pm and the gates weren’t going to open for forty minutes. I took as many photos as I could, talked to a couple locals, tried to see if the cage was up (it was), and then at 5:30pm the bell rang and I was the first ticket scanned. I ran in and scoured the left field seats for Easter eggs… no dice. I started running toward right field, behind the batter’s eye, and as I got there a guy grabbed a ball sitting in the Pepsi Party Porch. He then ran by me to check right field. I snapped this from my vantage point just on the left field side of the batter’s eye:
The Royals were done hitting by this point so I trotted over toward the left field foul pole where some Mariners were warming up. Right before I took this photo…
… I found a ball lying in a puddle of water near the pole. There were about a dozen people around it and the stadium had been open for about five minutes at this point. I was pretty shocked to see it was still there. I picked it up and that’s the story of Ball #1 on the day. It was WET! Like, soaking wet. Like, weighed double what a baseball should weigh. Here it is after I moved it to higher, drier ground:
I tucked it into a separate pocket of my backpack and set my sights on the M’s pitchers throwing nearby. After a few minutes Shawn Kelley tossed me my second ball of the day! It was a rubbed up (presumed former game) ball. Nice!
I looked toward home and saw the Mariners starting to hit. Ichiro and Griffey were hitting in the first group so I ran back past the batter’s eye and through the mist of the fountains to right field. After watching homer after homer pass to the left or right I tracked one and started running from the foul pole area up some some steps. I made it to the cross aisle, still tracking the ball, running as fast as I could… I wasn’t going to catch it on the fly but I kept after it, hoping for a lucky bounce.
Then something weird happened. The ball descended and hit a metal railing running parallel to the outfield wall. The ball somehow bounced not up or back to the field, but straight toward me. I had been sprinting toward the spot so the funky ricochet caught me off guard. Nevertheless, I was able to get my glove up and lean back a bit after stopping on a dime (knocking my own cap off my head in the process) and I had Ball #3 for the evening and the 90th in my lifetime total. Here’s a photo of the ball and the area where I caught it:
See the scuff mark from the pole? And there’s the silver pole it hit off of in the cross aisle…
I got a round of applause from a bunch of people nearby on that one.
After that group finished I headed back into the wetness of those Kauffman fountains and, after a while, I got Chris Jakubauskas to toss me a ball he fielded in right-center. I ended up giving that one away to a little boy.
n the left field seats I jogged down to the dugout as the Mariners came off the field. I tried to get third base coach Lee Tinsley’s attention, “Lee! Hey, Lee could you throw a ball here, please?”
And as Lee disappeared into the dugout a ball came flying at me from some player or coach still on the field. Somebody had noticed me… but I have no idea who it was. Cool! I was up to five!
And then, before the game started I got Adrian Beltre to toss me his warmup ball for Ball #6. I’d tied my season record and the game hadn’t even started yet! I had high hopes even though I knew I’d end up missing a few innings when I walked around to take photos. OK…
I took a ton of photos from the seat I found behind the M’s dugout. Here’s a panorama I did during a Griffey at-bat:
I left my super-sweet dugout seat behind in the third inning and started my tour of the stadium. First was the “elite” dugout concourse (which is below the main concourse):
Then I headed up to the 200 level:
Where the main concourse and the Team Store were located; pretty nice… and pretty empty:
Ooh… spiral walkway:
I actually took that from the escalator… before heading up to the View Level:
And out for a look at the field:
Then I headed all the way to the farthest left field seat and snapped this:
After a brief encounter with a wayward pigeon I headed down some stairs and ended up in the outfield pavilion section in right:
And I made my way along the promenade above the Party Porch and behind the fountains… there’s a mini golf course, batting cage, carousel, playground, and The Little K:
The Little K looks like an awesome place to take your kids. It’s right behind the Royals Hall of Fame Museum which is behind the left field seats.
I then took a leisurely walk past the M’s bullpen and along my oft-traveled route during BP that day, just in front of the fountains. Then I headed back to “my seat” behind the visiting team’s dugout as the sun began to set:
Kyle Davies… pitched. Kind of. He allowed eight runs over 3 2/3 innings. Ouch! And a cat got loose on the field in about the fifth… apparently that happens once or twice a year at the K, according to an usher. By the way, in most of my ballpark experiences the ushers are predominantly older folks… Kauffman Stadium had a lot of young ushers.
Later in the evening, Sluggerrr came out and danced around. Then one of his assistants handed him an air cannon that shoots hot dogs…
… which is possibly all-at-once the best
and worst invention ever. He got a couple to the upper level!
Starting in the seventh I decided to start playing each dugout for third out balls instead of just the one. So, back and forth I went, stopping to take photos along the way:
I ended up without an actual in-game ball despite my efforts but I had a good time running all around, switching hats, and scoping out a lot of details of the stadium that I was likely never to return to again (not because I didn’t want to… but when am I gonna be near KC again, eh?).
At this point (the eighth) the score was 11-6… the Royals were losing again. I stayed until the end of the game though, like I always do. I was hoping to get a ball from umpire Mike Estebrook as he left the field. He tossed three balls up but none came my way. The Mariners threw a ball up as they exited the field but I was at the wrong end of the dugout. Six balls on the night–an impressive showing, though it’s no 32. BTW, there were about eight balls in the center field gap (“the Hample gap”) and there was a ladder folded up in there, too.
But I had a five hour drive ahead of me and the game hadn’t ended until after 10:30pm. I got a kindly KC family to snap this picture:
I exited through the Diamond Club… ooh… and headed all the way around to my car at the right field side of the stadium. I took one last panorama before getting into my car:
And after ten minutes of stadium traffic I was back on the 70 heading east… I got home just after 4:00am. Woo–thanks, Kansas City. It’s a great park with some totally cool features. It’s affordable and fun and I hope your Royals get better… soon.
The stage was set for a pitching duel… Zack Greinke (6-0) vs. Joe Saunders (4-1). I attended this game with a friend I know through a schoolmate, Gavin. He’s a big Cardinals fan and wore his #51 Willie McGee jersey… here he is (in awe of… something) with the crowd before the gates opened:
I was out to snag some baseballs so I wore my Angels button-up with a blue T-shirt underneath.
We got to the stadium at about 3:40pm for the 6:05pm start. There wasn’t much of a crowd and I thought, “Today might be a great BP day.” Gavin and I played some catch and then at 4:02 the gates opened. I had mentioned to Gavin that my plan was to run in and try to find an Easter egg… he volunteered to keep up with me and said, “It’s part of the experience.” We took off for right field and as I headed into the field level I saw dozens, maybe hundreds, of little kids along each foul line. Gwah?!? As it turns out, it was one of the Little League Days that Angel Stadium hosts. I was disheartened… no Easter eggs… just lots of kids more adorable, and more likely to have a ball tossed to them, than me. Gavin and I decided we had no choice but to head up to the pavilion. Look how many little kids were already there (note the foul pole area, too):
This was the view to my left (can you see Gavin?) and all the kids were frantically yelling, “OVER HERE!” whenever a ball came within thirty feet of them. I tried to get Matt Palmer to toss up a baseball but to no avail. I like him… he’s now 3-0 for the Halos this season, a thirty year-old rookie. After a while, Maicer Izturis, batting from the left side (with Greinke, a righty, pitching that night) walloped a ball. I was three rows back from the wall, moved a section to my left and lined it up pretty well. My only concern was that it would go over my head… a few gloves popped up in front of me but I had my eyes locked on that ball as it fell. At the last second I jumped up and stretched out my arm–
–and felt the ball hit my glove as I fell back just enough to loose my footing. I ended up half sitting, half laying on the row of seats behind me. No pain… just a snowcone catch and my first BP homer caught on the fly since Giambi’s blast back in Opening Week. I have to admit, that one felt good. I figured that with all the kids around one ball was likely to be my total for the day. For the rest of the Angel BP time nothing came near me.
The Royals were coming up so I darted into the concourse and switched into my royal blue cap and shirt. A friendly usher named Barbara who works in the pavilion section noticed me and said, “What is this? You’re a traitor!” I told her not to worry… it was only for BP and she laughed.
I saw Ron Mahay and a few other pitchers standing below me in right-center but every time he fielded a ball my requests were drowned out by a chorus of higher pitched voices. There were literally hundreds of kids at this batting practice! AACK! The Royals were puttin’ too many in the seats so Gavin and I headed down to the foul pole in right (I’d seen an opening). Barbara stopped me and asked if my trick had worked. “Not yet,” I said as we jogged by. We got down to the field and squeezed in just fair of the pole.
Before too long a Royals righty pulled one down the line. It caromed off the wall twenty feet to our right and I was out and over the edge of the wall… I snagged it as it rolled along and that was my second of the day!
At that point BP was close to ending so I told Gavin the plan for the rest of the evening… we’d follow the Royals to their dugout, try to get a ball, then grab some seats in the section near the dugout. As it turns out, after some of the Royals stretched and a girl sand the anthem (poorly), Mike Aviles and Alberto Callaspo played catch (Can you see it in Aviles’ glove in this photo?) but Aviles tossed the ball to the section on my left. After the game started I figured we’d get kicked out of our pirated seats.
In the bottom of the second inning Juan Rivera grounded out to Callaspo at second. He threw the ball to Billy Butler, playing first, and I was already up and waving my arms. Butler saw me and tossed it up… it went a bit to my right so I had to lay out across the dugout but I caught it and I had a beautiful, rubbed up game ball for my third of the day!
There wasn’t any snaggin action for the rest of the night. But the craziest thing was that we never got kicked out of our seats. We watched the whole game from the third row behind the Royals dugout! Another third out toss came close and Gavin had a chance to catch it but it went just over his head (and actually hit the elderly lady behind us–don’t worry, she was fine). The game itself was a thing of beauty.
Greinke and Saunders had quite a duel going. In the third inning GMJ (Gary Matthews, Jr.) doubled, Erick Aybar sacrifice bunted him to third, then Chone Figgins hit a sacrifice fly to right, scoring the Angels’ first (and only)
Some action shots:
Each pitcher was dealing. Greinke allowed only four hits, Saunders allowed five. In the eighth inning Saunders faced a two on, one out situation. Willie Bloomquist had reached on an error by Aybar… his throw to first pulled Kendry Morales off the bag. Miguel Olivo singled, then Aviles bunted the runners to second and third. With a 1-0 lead, Joe Saunders faced what could have been has last batter in Coco Crisp. Crisp hit the ball sharply to third but Chone Figgins looked Bloomquist back, then tagged Olivo heading from second to third! Two outs. David DeJesus hit the ball sharply to third base as well and Figgins made a great play and got the out at first. Saunders was pumped, the 39,776 in attendance were pumped, and Saunders would finish to get his first-ever shutout with a one-two-three ninth. He only needed 101 pitches. Greinke took the loss… a complete game loss. His ERA had skyrocketed to 0.51.
Nothing got tossed up from the Royals dugout after the game but I did manage to find a few ticket stubs as we left. What a game! Here we are at the end of the night:
And me with my three snagged baseballs. Numbers 49, 50, and 51 in my collection:
This blog should have come long ago but I’ve been traveling and my access to the internet has been limited. My second ever trip to the Windy City
(and Michelle’s first) included my first trip to a White Sox game. I had
my Sox hat, my Royals hat, my glove (and the trick), Sharpies, Field tickets
and a lot of excitement. I was unfamiliar with the train schedule, but we
were able to take the Red Line south from our hotel to 35th St. From there, it was just a
quick walk across the bridge to U.S. Cellular. Here’s what we saw as we
I was psyched for BP! Michelle told me to just go do my thing and she’d
try to catch up. Batting practice was pretty awful. Sure, I was
thrilled to be in a new stadium, but the White Sox were only hitting for a few
minutes once I got to a spot in the outfield. There were a ton of people
with gloves, AND the Royals just couldn’t hit any to the seats. I decided
to head over to where I saw some pitchers (Ron Mahay and Gil Meche) shagging
fly balls and I donned my Royals cap. Not only did they not even look up
at me when I politely asked for a ball, but they specifically threw every ball
they got back in–nobody got ANY from these two! Long story short: I got
shut out in BP and I was really concerned that my streak of consecutive games
with at least one ball would stop at, well, one. Come to think of it,
that’s not even a streak at all.
Michelle and I headed to our seats in Section 129. Here’s the
Not too shabby, eh? Anywho, after we explored a bit, I saw some players
come out on the visiting team’s side for warm-ups. Billy Butler, David
DeJesus, Mark Teahan, and a few others were right at the foul line in front of
our section. I headed down to the field and couldn’t believe that
security didn’t bug me right away. I was ten feet from the players!
Again, however, I was shut out. No ball… no autograph… nothin’.
Man, those Royals are stingy… maybe I’d be in a funk too if I played for a
team that hadn’t had a winning season since 2003. Not lookin’ any better
this year, guys. I did get super-close to see them… here’s a photo:
Well, the game started (at 7:11pm because the White Sox have an agreement with
a certain convenience store chain) and I was a bit dejected. My best hope was to catch a foul ball or make
it down to a dugout to get one tossed to me.
The game was one-sided from the beginning. Get this–a home run, a home run, a home run,
a home run… then five more runs. It was
ridiculous. The Royals couldn’t put
together much of anything against Javier Vasquez (Javy, as Sox fans say). And, in his major league debut, Chris Getz
smacked his first big league hit and nailed down his first RBI to boot. He’s
below in the photo after being congratulated at first base by coach Harold
Baines. The game ended up being 9-0.
I won’t keep you in suspense… I DID get a ball. One. It
is the tenth ball in my collection… hooray for double digits! It was from Ross Gload (on the right in the above picture), the only non-stingy
Royal I saw all night. After the eighth
inning he jogged to the dugout, looked up to me standing just behind the dugout
in a royal blue cap, tossed the ball straight to me, and then probably went to
commiserate with the rest of his sub-par team.
Man, at least they aren’t the Nationals.
This wasn’t the best game I’d ever seen, but I did have a
blast. It’s a great looking park, I had
an Italian Beef Sandwich, Michelle had her first Chicago-style Hot Dog… and we
both had a lot of fun just being in a new environment. Note the kid on the right being way too interested in what’s going on with us. It makes me laugh every time.
Before we left, I got a picture of the grounds crew putting the tarp on the field because there was rain in the forecast for later that night. It made for a pretty cool shot.
I’m heading to Angel Stadium tomorrow (Saturday) to see the
Angels play the Twins, so expect another blog soon.