Just hours after leaving Angel Stadium I was back in line for more… waiting for the gates to open. Well, I wasn’t waiting long. It was a day game after a night game and the pregame crowd was pretty light. There was absolutely no one at any gate but the Home Plate Gate so I took a walk around the stadium. During my walk I passed the right field tunnel and looked down it to see there were no BP related activities going on. I had figured as much. I saw a group pf Rangers pitchers walking toward the outfield… that was it. Devin rode by me on a bike and asked if anything was goin’ on. I said there wasn’t much happening–he debated whether or not to even head inside. I’d see him (and his wife and granddaughter) inside later. I passed the players’ parking lot and then the left field tunnel… again, all I saw were a few Rangers pitchers in the outfield… and I ended up at the Left Field Gate. Chris was waiting there, too, so we talked for a few minutes before 11:00am rolled around and we sprinted in to the seats. As soon as I saw the field I noticed a bunch of Angels pitchers playing catch. I took this photo a minute later:
The folks throwing are (from left to right) Dan Haren (in the navy undershirt), Tyler Chatwood (throwing with someone just out of frame), Jordan Walden, a trainer throwing to Haren, Rich Thompson, Hisanori Takahasi’s translator (throwing to Thompson), Takahashi (with his arms out), and Scott Downs. Downs and Takahashi are laughing–at a poor throw by one of them, I think.
You may notice that closer Jordan Walden isn’t throwing with anyone. He was the odd man out in this warmup–so, from about three rows back in the stands I called out to him, “Hey, Jordan! You need someone to throw with?” He turned and smiled, waved, then he said, “What, you wanna throw?”
I said, “Yeah, I’ll throw with you.” He kind of waved his glove and said, “Nah, I can’t.” He’s still new to the big leagues–I don’t think he’s aware yet that, yes, he can throw a ball to a fan… then ask for it back… and so on. He’s still kind of humble. Walden chuckled and started to turn around and I said, “C’mon, I’ll throw with you. Really!” I held up my glove. Walden kind of looked around (I think to see if anyone was going to tell him ‘no’ to what he was about to do. Then he grabbed a ball, wound up, and tossed it to me. I caught it, then threw it back. Then he threw it back to me–and this continued for a solid minute or so until another pitcher, recent call-up Horacio Ramirez, jogged to the field. I threw the ball back to Walden and he smiled, nodded his head, then turned around to warm up with, you know, a professional player. I called out, “Thanks, Jordan!” And then I moved a section to my right… keeping my eye on the pair. I talked with Chris for a minute, then Rob… and then I moved back toward my left when I could see that Ramirez and Walden were finishing up:
As they closed the gap between them I made sure there was plenty of space around me–I was just hoping Walden would end up with the ball. I asked him, “Jordan, could you throw me that ball, please?” He had started to tuck it into his glove–then he saw me and his body language signaled to me that he knew he should toss it to me–that it would mean way more to me than anyone else. And he threw it right to me. I yelled a huge, “Thank you!” to him and had a new favorite baseball in my collection. Now, I’ve never caught a home run–I’ve gotten a couple foul balls… but those, to me, aren’t nearly as special as this one. I got to play catch with the closer of my home team and then he threw me the ball–AND it was commemorative! Then, Walden started signing autographs:
Fans flocked to him and I noticed which way he was moving up the line–and I got into a spot along the wall–and while I was waiting for him I got Rich Thompson and Tyler Chatwood to autograph a 2011 team ball I’ve been working on. And then Walden got to me and I asked him to “sign it on the sweet spot, please.” Then I told him, “That ball is going on display in my home. Thanks so much, I appreciate it.” And check it out:
He even put ASG ’11 on it. New. Favorite. Baseball.
The day was a success at that point. I didn’t need to snag another ball or even have a good seat. Heck, the game could’ve gotten cancelled and I’d have gone home happy. But, thankfully, it was a gorgeous day–the game would be played–and I wasn’t done getting baseballs OR autographs.
I got Colby Lewis’ autograph near the Rangers’ dugout after all the players had cleared the field but him. Here was the view of the field a minute after I got the Lewis autograph:
Then it was dead for about twenty minutes. Zero player activity. During the dead time I photographed the Walden ball and took a seat in the shade–there, I took a picture of where Tommy Hunter had thrown me a baseball the day before:
Hunter was standing to the left of the Summer Concert Series sign (LUDACRIS!) and I was standing to the right of the staircase behind the batter’s eye. Nice arm, huh?
A little later, some Angels came out to throw and after Howie Kendrick warmed up he tossed his ball… to someone else. But then he went to the ball bag and pulled out two brand new 50th baseballs and one went a section to my left, the other one went to me… someone tipped it and I had to pick it up off the ground… but it was still in great shape! The spot of the catch can be seen in the photo to the right.
Then, Kendrick started signing autographs and I got him on my 2011 team ball. I debated having him sign the ball he’d just thrown to me–but I opted not to go that route since I already have his signature on a ball from last year right on the sweet spot. Moments later, when when Maicer Izturis finished his warmup tosses with Erick Aybar he lofted me the ball. The row I was in was empty– which was good because as he was running his underhanded toss was a bit off the mark. I moved a couple of steps to my right and I caught it here:
All three baseballs were commemorative. Yay!
Before the game started I had gotten five autographs and three baseballs–with no BP! And I was all set to enjoy a fantastic pitching matchup. Jered Weaver vs. CJ Wilson.
Here was my view of the game’s first pitch:
Since it was a day game and attendance was lighter than usual, I was able to jog back and forth between the home dugout and the visitor dugout for each inning.
Unfortunately, the two starters were striking guys out left and right and I was almost always on the wrong end of the dugouts. It was frustrating–but at least I was getting my cardio workout for the day.
In the second inning the Angels managed to score a run without getting a hit thanks to an error by Endy Chavez in center field. I took a photo (left) of the scoreboard to mark the occasion–it was a pretty important run.
Wilson and Weaver were mowing down their respective opposition. And the most tense moment in the game game in the sixth inning, when Weaver worked around a bases loaded jam:
Um… that half of a third base coach is due to my panorama-making software. Hmm.
And he went back out for the seventh before giving way to Scott Downs in the eighth and then Jordan Walden (my new best friend) in the ninth.
Remember that one unearned run? That was the only run of the game! And the Angels got the win, 1-0. I didn’t snag anything else once the game started but I still had a blast.
Just 16 hours after I left the Big A on Tuesday night I was back–Wednesday afternoon–2:00pm. And the gates were set to open at 2:30 for the 4:05 game between the Angels and Indians. I was by myself for this one–almost everyone I knew had school or work and event though I had an extra ticket I ended up just keeping it in my backpack to maybe get an autograph on it.
Since the Home Plate Gate doesn’t open earlier than any other gate afternoon games and only a handful of people know that, I didn’t bother getting in line (at the right field entrance) until five minutes before the slated opening time. I hung out here for the first few minutes I was on site:
That’s the tunnel that leads into the stadium in right field. There’s one in left, too. The crucial part about my stop here was… well, here’s a closer look:
Batting practice was underway!. Awesome… sometimes even at 4 o’clock games teams won’t take BP. Granted, fans couldn’t even get into the stadium until the last 5-10 minutes of the home team’s BP session, but I was glad there would be at least a little bit of BP to work with. Also, upon further review… that’s Kendrys Morales taking grounders at first base. He’s still yet to play in a game this season. What’s takin’ so long? He’s always makes BP a bit more interesting!
I ran in at 2:30 along with a handful of other fans… I’d been first in line and I was the first one to the right field seats but the ushers, I’m sure, had already snatched up the Easter eggs, as there weren’t any to be found. And the Angels didn’t hit a single ball out to right.
Well, I stayed in the pavilion in right for all the Indians lefties and after about 15 minutes I lined up a homer from Luis Valbuena (right) and caught it on the fly in the third row of Section 238.
And, sadly, that would be the only ball I snagged during BP. Coaches and players ignored my requests for tossups, I didn’t get close to another homer, and I was late getting to the dugout… so I missed out on a chance there.
So, having gotten on the board but having also had a sub-par BP… and since there were no longer any players on the field… I grabbed a bottle of water, ate some snacks I’d brought with me, signed up for the designated driver program (doing so will get you a voucher for a free soda), and took pictures of the one baseball I’d caught since running inside the stadium. This is my favorite one:
Scuffs, scrapes, dirt and grass, fraying seams… lovely.
My next stop was the third base line for Angels throwing.
While over there I didn’t get a ball from Brandon Wood or Peter Bourjous… but I did get them to sign my 2010 Angels team ball… so it wasn’t a total waste of time.
I went to the Indians’ dugout after the national anthem in hopes that O. Cabrera and A. Cabrera’s pregame baseball they were throwing around would end up in my glove… but it didn’t. O. Cabrera decided one more throw was necessary, and then A. Cabrera decided one MORE throw was necessary, and they ended up taking the ball into the dugout with them.
Back to the Angels’ side I went–and I parked myself behind their dugout about six rows back. I snapped a photo of Ervin Santana, the day’s starter for the Halos and, later, I took a photo of Austin Kearns as he batted. Note the many empty seats. The lovely thing about a 4pm game.
Anyway, I missed out on the third out toss from the Angels after the top of the first and headed over to the visiting team’s side. The Angels went quietly in the bottom of the first and when Bobby Abreu grounded out to first baseman Matt LaPorta to end the frame I was waiting on the other side of the dugout. He tossed me the ball and, well, look:
Gah! It’s the infield warmup ball! Still has a commemorative logo though–which is great! But I was a little bummed that I didn’t get the gamer. Oh, well.
After that I tried to get a third out ball at the Angels dugout but inning after inning it just didn’t pan out for me. It was fine though, because I got to stay in my seat as Santana pitched a strong seven innings, allowing just three runs. I snapped a bunch of action shots:
Santana gave up an Adam Everett single leading off the eighth and that was it for him.
I really like that photo–though it makes it look like he’d just given up a home run or something–it was a solid start.
Scott Downs came in from the bullpen and gave up a hit to get Everett to third… then a fielder’s choice to get the out at home. One out and runners on second and first–then a wild pitch and then a groundout that allowed the tying run to score. That was it for Downs…
No one would score again until a sac fly by Jeff Mathis ended the game in the 12th inning. A Halo victory and I was on my way home.
Another day, another game…
The Angels were back home to face the Blue Jays (before facing the Royals and Red Sox). It would be quite a week… I knew it… I’m going to one game against each opponent. I’d like to mention, also, that I was starting to feel that I was a bit of a bad luck charm for my Halos. They were 0-4 in games I’d been to at the Big A this year. Did that stop me? NO WAY!
Michelle joined me (and some friends from school would meet up with us later) and we arrived early, as usual, for batting practice.
There weren’t too many folks waiting as we arrived. Michelle checked out the ever-present memorial to Nick Adenhart while I waited in line. I didn’t really want to look at it close up again… it really is a tragedy. I took a photo of some of the fans paying their respects:
At 5:05 the gates opened and I ran inside, not forgetting to collect my 1980s retro Angels cap (cool giveaway!). I scanned to right field seats quickly… no Easter eggs. Up to the pavilion… no Easter eggs (but I was the third one to arrive up there). I then took up a spot in right center. The view to my right:
And the view to my left (and notice the guy closest to me in the front row):
Woo! And how many homers were hit up there during the Angels BP session?
And I didn’t snag it… grr.
I did, however, get a ball thrown to me by rookie pitcher, Matt Palmer. Here’s how our brief interaction went down:
KID NEAR ME: Hey, Shane Loux, can you throw a ball? Shane?!?
PALMER: I’m not Shane. Do you even know who I am?
PALMER: Can you read (I’ll assume he meant “Can you read the name on my glove I’m holding up?” and not “Are you smart enough to read, kiddo?”)?
ME: Matt! Matt Palmer, how about a ball for another Matt? Please?
A few seconds later he fielded a ball and looked up to me, gestured, and threw it. His throw was a bit off and the ball was just a bit to my right… and that guy I mentioned in the photo above reached out, barehanded, and tried to catch the ball. He reached, it hit his hands, he bobbled it, I yelled, “Come on, man!” And he backed away a step. I must have sounded fairly angry (I was… that ball was totally meant for me) but I would have let it go if he’d really wanted that ball. As soon as it was on the ground I scooped it up. Ball #1 on the day and #45 in my collection… not graceful, but still a snag. That was it for Angels BP.
I noticed that there wasn’t much of a crowd near the right field foul pole so I left the pavilion and switched to my Jays hat as I jogged down to the field level. Some Blue Jays pitchers were warming up.
After Scott Downs finished throwing (he’s in the background, with the long hair, in the above photo) I got his attention and he lobbed me my second baseball of the day. Then I hung out just fair of the pole and a lefty Blue Jays hitter knocked a ball down the line. It ricocheted toward me and I was able to snag it by hanging down over the wall. It was pretty impressive, if I do say so myself. The ball bounces off that curved wall fairly randomly and this one was still moving pretty wall when I snagged it. Not to mention I did it while most of me was on the field side of that green wall. My third of the day! I asked the Jays fan near me who’d hit it and he told me it was either Travis Snider or Lyle Overbay.
By the way, want to know how hard it is to snag during the afternoon BP sessions at Angel Stadium? Look at this pic:
Bring sunglasses and keep your cap brim low… you’re staring right below where that bright SoCal sun is… and as soon as a ball gets airborne you’ll lose it if you’re not careful.
My fourth ball of the day would also come via leaning out over the wall. A ball came to rest just foul of the pole and I ran over to it… two guys had tried to get over far enough (without falling down to the field)… they couldn’t reach it. I heard someone say, “Hey, son, bring me your glove.” I got to just above the ball, leaned out and over and Ball #4 on the day was in my glove. I ended up giving it to a boy who’d come over to answer his dad’s call for assistance. He hadn’t gotten a ball and he had his glove… and I handed him a souvenir. He stared at it in disbelief. His dad said to me, “That’s really great, man. Thanks.” Then the boy thanked me and we shook hands. It felt nice to make that father and son’s day a little brighter. Just think, they’ll go home and say, “Wow, that Jays fan was so nice!”
That was it for my snagging. No Blue Jays played catch by their dugout before the game and after the national anthem Michelle and I were hungry so we grabbed some grub and ate it while watching the first inning from the pavilion:
And we hadn’t heard from our friends yet… we cruised over to a virtually empty section in Lower View:
Section 412: a good foul ball section. Our friends, Garrett and Darcy, arrived just after we won Star Trek foam hands for being in the “lucky section.”
The Angels were in retro uniforms on retro 80s night… and Photoshopped pictures of all the players showed up on the Jumbotron instead of their normal player pics. Here is my favorite of the night (of Maicer Izturis):
I forget in which inning this happened, but a Blue Jays hitter knocked a foul ball up to near where I was sitting. I lunged to my right (over Garrett) and the two teenagers a few seats down from me reached out and over the edge of the level we were on, the ball smacked off one of their hands and fell to the Club Level below. They got a hearty round of booing from the fans around us. That was the closest a foul ball had ever come to me… probably within five feet. Had they not been there I’m sure I would have gotten that one. Maybe next time…
For the ninth inning we all headed down to the Field Level and I went behind the home dugout as Jered Weaver closed out the game. Three hits, one run, seven strikeouts, no walks. It was his first CG…. a bunch of baseballs, a bat, and some gloves came flying up from the dugout and I, somehow, didn’t get near any of them… more near misses. Still, I upped my average on the year and the Angels got a victory while I was there! Plus, I got a retro hat, four baseballs, a foam hand, and had a great time with my fiancee and our friends. Attendance: 41,007. A great night overall!