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.