Guess what? I’d been listening to sports talk radio and I ended up winning two tickets to the Angels/Blue Jays matchup on the 3rd of May. I had high hopes for this game, as it came the day after Jered Weaver threw a no hitter at Angel Stadium… the 10th in club history. The evening before that, Jerome Williams had shut out the Twins on only three hits. Dan Haren would be taking the mound on this particular evening and I figured, if things progressed, it would be a shutout on Tuesday, a no hitter on Wednesday, and a perfect game on Thursday. Makes sense, right?
I’d be ready–I got to the stadium nice and early. I was the third person in line. I would be the first person to reach the seating area…
Well, did you read anything about a perfect game? Nope. But that was a ridiculous thought… even though Haren made a similar comment to the media (jokingly).
There would be no perfect game… though Brandon Morrow got close. This one would end up being all Blue Jays. But let’s get on to batting practice. I was third in line and Michelle decided to sit in the shade and read and make a couple of phone calls. I raced in and up to the right field seats at 5:05pm. There weren’t any baseballs to be found lying around but I did see Weaver in right field with Bobby Wilson and David Carpenter and took advantage of the empty stadium and the relative silence by congratulating him. He responded kindly and went back to work.
And about five minutes later, Wilson tossed me my first ball of the evening. It had a few grass and dirt scuffs and the word PRACTICE was stamped on the sweet spot. I’d gotten several of these stamped baseballs and I turned around looking for a kid to give it to, but there weren’t any in the section. I trotted up the stairs and handed it to an usher to give away for me–and I saw him make a little boy’s day by handing the ball over to him about five minutes later.
The next ball I caught came from [former] closer Jordan Walden. He’d already tossed a couple of baseballs into the stands… one in particular to a little kid to my left. Well, this little kid (who already had two baseballs of his own–one from Walden) decided to ask for the next baseball that Walden fielded. The pitcher looked up at him and shook his head no, then I piped up, “Hey, Jordan, how about one for the big kids?” It’s the first time I’ve ever used that line… and wouldn’t ya know it? It worked. He flipped up baseball #2 on the day and I gave that one away to a different usher a little while later.
Unfortunately for the BP regulars in Anaheim, the Angels have quite a few righties that can hit the ball pretty far. I call that unfortunate because a lot of baseballs fly out to left and center fields–and there are bullpens and a pile of Disney-era rocks that prevent us from snagging said baseballs. Boy, we sure hope Kendrys Morales (the lone bat from the left side with any power) gets taken out of the first group of BP hitters… at least Mark Trumbo and Albert Pujols hit a few the opposite way into right field for us. I couldn’t get a glove on any other baseballs while the Angels were hitting though.
I went down to first base side of the stadium as the Blue Jays came out to throw… but no matter where I went–I couldn’t get their attention… so when a round of lefties started hitting I ran back up to right field. I came close to snagging two baseballs on the fly… but close was all I got. One was a shot to the first row of the pavilion by Adam Lind. The other was a bomb about five or six rows back that San Diego ballhawk TC snagged since my leap was about six inches too short. Speaking of TC, you can see him in this photo:
But the real reason I took that is LOOK AT HOW MUCH SPACE THERE WAS! I should have been close to double digits–note the time–the stadium had been open for forty-five minutes. It was just a struggle to snag anything through Blue Jays BP.
The day would pick up for me a bit at the end of batting practice though, as I got three baseballs thrown my way as the Blue Jays ran off the field. The first came from pitcher Drew Hutchison as he headed down the dugout steps. I quickly put that one in my pocket and, as the coaches finished rounding up all the baseballs from BP, hitting coach Dwayne Murphy threw me a ball in the fourth row. But a huge guy with a beard in the third row reached out and caught that one in front of my face… then he looked at me and said, “You already got one.” Well, actually, I’ve already got three. Then Murphy, who must have seen what happened, lofted another ball my way–this one with a much higher arc. And I caught it by reaching out as far as I could, shocking the bearded fellow in front of me. I went on my way to track down my lovely wife, who’d found a spot in the sun to read her book on the field level in foul territory.
We grabbed sandwiches (which were delicious… and cost us $9.75 each) and some Cracker Jack and headed out to left field. Pujols was still sitting on zero home runs for the year so I figured he was kindly waiting until I was in attendance so that he could hit it to me–ready and waiting–in the left field corner.
For pregame throwing I hung out by the Angel dugout. Only one pair played catch (Trumbo and Howie Kendrick) and the second baseman kept the ball. I ran to the visiting team’s side and watched as Brett Lawrie threw with Kelly Johnson–then Johnson went into the dugout and Yunel Escobar took over. Well, I was on Lawrie’s end of the dugout, a few rows back, and Escobar ended up with the ball. I was the only one asking if he could toss it up though–so he did… from about forty feet away. Escobar underhanded it about twenty feet high and everyone seated around me just stared as it fell perfectly into my glove.
The blue circle represents where Escobar was standing and the red circle shows where I actually caught the ball.
Want to know what happened during the game? A blue Jay homer for three runs and a Mark Trumbo error for two more. And that was it. Morrow limited the Angels to only three hits and shut them out. The 28,000 people had little reason to cheer throughout the evening. So, when Michelle got a phone call from her sister we walked over to the concourse behind the Blue Jays’ dugout in the eighth inning. By the ninth I was here:
And I watched as Trumbo doubled–but that was as much of a rally as the Angels got going. That was their third and final hit of the night. Trumbo was stuck on second base and Morrow got his complete game shutout. By that point I was here:
Right behind the Blue Jay dugout as they came off the field. But I didn’t see any souvenirs come my way.
It was a pretty lousy night for Angels fans–I made a young kid’s evening a little happier by giving him a baseball I’d brought with me from a previous game as we left the stadium. I’m always up for a ball game but this particular one wasn’t even close to being up there amongst my favorites. Michelle and I enjoyed our time together–and I simply hoped the next Angel game we’d attend would have a better outcome.
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.
After losing two of three to the Rays I was hoping that the Angels could keep some playoff hopes alive by beating up on the Orioles. It was a cool Saturday afternoon in Anaheim, and my sister-in-law and her boyfriend would be meeting Michelle and I at the game.
This was also a way for us to relax before the big move. Michelle and I would be moving out of Irvine to a new apartment the very next day…
When the gates opened I ran in and set up shop in right field. I was hoping to catch a homer on the fly for my first baseball of the evening but I settled for a ball from new reliever, Jordan Walden. BP regular Devin had a ball glance off his glove and fall back to the field… I happened to be nearby and asked Walden if he could spare it. He could–and I was on the board.
The ball was in really great shape. There were just two marks on it. One brown spot from where it hit the warning track after the miscue in the stands and this:
Bleh… a big ol’ PRACTICE stamp.
I went down to the corner in right for the remaining portion of Angels BP. And didn’t catch a darn thing. But here’s a photo of Walden, who throws 99 MPH, by the way.
The Orioles came out to throw and I watched them from field level as the Angels finished up their portion of batting practice.
After a few minutes of nothing slicing toward me down the line I headed back upstairs, knowing that a couple of their lefties hit the ball pretty well. But the next ball I caught was thrown, too, by Alan Dunn. His throw was a little off, and I had to barehand it since it was heading to my right a bit but I made the catch leaning over the wall in the spot shown below:
And the ball had a pretty neat-looking mark on the logo:
Before BP ended I had noticed a ball that got hit to deep right field, hit the wall… and stayed there. Can you see it?
How ’bout now?
It got stuck on the bottom of the scoreboard… I’d never seen that before.
Anyway, that was it for batting practice. I was a bit frustrated… I didn’t even get anything at the O’s dugout. So, I chatted with my group (who’d all arrived by that point) and we walked over and found a place to sit down over third base as the Angels came out to throw.
Peter Bourjos and Erick Aybar ended up with baseballs after they were done throwing… and when Bourjos threw his to someone a section away I turned my attention to Aybar. Then, out of the corner of my eye I saw a baseball floating through the air. I wasn’t hallucinating… no, remember that in a previous post I mentioned that Bourjos and Howie Kendrick like to end their warmups by throwing knuckleballs to each other? Well, a knuckler came flying in toward me–I pivoted, threw my glove up, and caught it… and looked to the field (to my left) to see Howie Kendrick there–he must have had another baseball in his pocket.
Another interesting mark. Thanks, Howie!
I went back to the group again and we decided to watch the first inning or two from the seats we’d found, then get dinner, then head up to the view level (in potential foul ball seating).
I made an attempt to get a third out ball after the first inning but failed… and then we all grabbed our things, got some grub, and ended up here:
I like these seats because: 1) I snagged my first foul ball just to the left of this section and 2) the row in front of me was empty and in front of that row is a camera well where no one sits. It’s the most empty space around in the upper levels in Angel Stadium.
Well, to make a long story short, the Angels couldn’t score any runs… and the crowd was less than abuzz since the teams involved weren’t heading to the playoffs, and no foul ball came near us… though one ended up about two sections to my left. The score was 5-0 Baltimore by the time they’d batted in the eighth. At least we all got free candy jars as a giveaway item.
We moved down to the lower level:
And I went for a third out toss at the end of the eighth. I made my way down near the Oriole dugout and when Alberto Callaspo grounded out to end the frame I stood up in my seat in the third row. I’d been watching Ty Wigginton all night as Baltimore ran off the field: he wasn’t one of those first-basemen who tossed the ball to the front row… no, he threw the ball a bit deeper, and he seemed to be seeking fans that were on their feet.
Sure enough, I yelled out, “Ty! Right here, man! Ty!” And Wigginton fired the ball to me in the third row as all the little kids filed down to the front. It was a beautiful, rubbed-up gamer. Thanks, Ty!
Well, that made my night right there. I walked back to the group and sat down excitedly, then took a picture of my prize:
The scoreboard told me there were over 43,000 fans at the game but by the ninth inning, down by five–most of them had left. I tried to get something post-game from the O’s but didn’t succeed.
Oh, well… four baseballs, a candy jar, and a night with the family got me charged for the big move.
At home (our new home!), this is how the room looks as I organize my things after a game…
Thanks for reading.
Today would be a busy, long day. It started out fine… the middle was less than ideal… and the end was, overall, quite good.
woke up at 7:00am, saw Michelle off to work, got ready, then headed to
Anaheim. Michelle would be meeting me at the stadium for the Derby
later that evening. I arrived at the Anaheim Convention Center for my
third (and final) time, sold some extra tickets that I had to a guy that
contacted me through Craigslist, and headed inside.
thing I did? Headed to an autograph line… I stopped to buy a baseball
card for Fred Lynn to sign (sure, I’d gotten him before) because he’d be
signing in the same booth at the same time as Hall of Famer, Rickey
Obviously, I wasn’t the only one excited to get Rickey’s autograph:
was at 9:20am. He would begin signing at 10:00am. Normally, I
wouldn’t wait this long for an autograph but I had done everything else
there was to do at FanFest so I sat down and waited for the queue to
About the time I was twenty or so minutes from the
front of the line I overheard a FanFest staff member telling some people
toward the front that, “Rickey isn’t signing baseballs.”
was the collective thought of everyone in line. A few minutes later
(and after I’d seen Rickey on a cell phone while signing) the same staff
member said to a guy nearby, “Now he’s not signing hats or baseballs or
People were getting all sorts of
anxious… as it turns out, the official explanation was that Rickey’s
management informed him that he was not to sign anything that wasn’t
specifically FanFest-related. It was lame. I had planned to get him on
a card… I got him on my commemorative FanFest ticket instead. A lot of people were pretty upset about the situation. Not
ideal… but I’m over it.
After that semi-fiasco I decided to see
if I could get a pin… they had special pin giveaways throughout the
days at FanFest. I’d gotten a couple already–I scored my third on this
They only gave out 100 per location… at this point in the line I was about number eighty-eight. They’d started giving out numbered cards to people since the last time I’d tried to receive one of those pins. I was glad to see that they had made an effort to keep people from cutting in–people go crazy for pins. Jeez.
Next up, I went to play some video games:
And Evan Longoria was at the 2KSports booth playing the game sporting his likeness on the cover. That was kind of cool–apparently I’d just missed Joe Mauer over at the PS3 truck.
I played some Home Run Derby, didn’t break the day’s record, then headed to the exit, taking a few photos on my way out:
There’s the MLB.com stage. And here’s just one of the concourse areas:
And a last look at the exit/entrance…
I was off to the REAL HRD…
got to the stadium early. Like, the gates were set to open at 2:00 and
I got there an hour before that. I walked past the train station that
shares a parking lot with the stadium and did a double-take when I saw
these stairs (at right) heading to the platform.
There were a ton of media
trucks taking up a portion of the parking lot so I took the loooonnng
way around the ballpark and got in line. No wonder so many people had trouble parking… half the lot was taken up my media trailers and satellite trucks and a big fenced off area for guests of the All-Star players… plus the sponsor zone. That was all in the parking lot! Anyway, I got in line. Not a lot to say about it–I
just stood in line for an hour. I had a plan–BP wouldn’t be going on
until a half hour after the gates opened so I would get as close to the
AL dugout as I could… and wait.
After seventeen minutes the American League All-Star team made it out onto the field:
Tiny, broken-footed Dustin Pedroia was there, too:
Look how little that guy is! Holy cow–and he’s a great baseball player.
As BP started up I headed toward the outfield. Note the crowd in any/all of the outfield sections:
American League finished up and I was behind their dugout as they came
off the field. But they came off the field to a huge media presence.
So, nobody had a baseball to spare by the time they made it into the
The National League started up and it was back to the outfield for me.
was no room to move anywhere… and by the end of BP I had positioned
myself near some of the adorable children of the players (since they
were tossing baseballs into the seats with regularity).
they were so small that they never got a ball over the first row–and I
wasn’t able to be in the first row. Frustrating.
I had a couple close calls but ended BP still sitting on a goose egg for the day.
Before Train performed a song and a half on these trailers:
was behind the dugout while some guy with a jersey that said Holland
was warming up his arm. He would be throwing to one of the HRD participants… I totally thought he was going to throw me the ball–he
looked right at me–but he kept it.
That was a theme on the day. Most
people over the age of four were keeping any HRD ball they came in
contact with. Dang.
On to the Derby itself. There were six batters hitting right-handed… I had this view for them:
case you’re wondering… I was about 460 feet from home plate. During a
game–no way would a homer reach me but I had a shot at the HRD. I was
in front of/underneath the Hit It Here sign in left… but nobody hit it
there… or to me. If Matt Holliday’s 497-foot blast had been about
twenty feet closer to center field I’d have nabbed it. Instead, it hit
the edge of the Club Level seats. I was the only one standing out on
the concourse (who wasn’t drunk) with a glove. If anything HAD come
near me I’m sure I’d have gotten it. Alas, I couldn’t get down into the
seats since the ushers were guarding each staircase.
For the two
lefties (Ortiz and Swisher) I had a bit more opportunity. An usher out
in right field let me play the staircase near them.
That was about 420 feet from home plate. I was at least
fortunate in that David Ortiz was a participant in each round (and that
he won the Derby). The closest I got was… I’ll say ten feet from one
of his blasts. In watching the highlights afterward I was able to see
myself in the mix for a ball… but I was still shutout for the day.
had arrived (after dealing with the awful parking situation) halfway
through the first round and we ate dinner together in the outfield.
the end of the action she was very supportive of me trying to snag at
least one ball… letting me run wild while telling me she’d just wait
for my phone call at the end of the event and we’d meet up.
behind the AL dugout yet again… so were Warren and Chris (who I’d
seen at the gates on our way into the park). We all had the same goal:
get a ball as the players came off the field. Well, I got taunted by
Adrian Beltre’s daughter (who was, like, four years old) as she held a
gold HRD ball out to me from the field, then pulled it back and shook
her head. The media had attacked all the players and when the dust
settled I was still empty -handed. However, I struck up a conversation
with a lady who worked with/for one of the sponsors. It had been a
long, hot day… and I didn’t go home without snagging something:
Yep… that was the most delicious Gatorade I’d ever had.
Michelle and I still had a great time. The HRD was exciting and crowded
and the energy was high. The in-between rounds interviews were cool
and it was fun trying for a homer. We stopped briefly at the sponsor
zone–but decided to head out. We walked to my car and then I drove
Michelle to hers. We were home by 9:00pm…
All-Star Tuesday was coming up. The big event: the 2010 All-Star Game.
Thanks for reading!
I knew my wife would have to be at work during this game so I made plans with my friend, Josh to head out to see the Angels play the A’s on a Friday night.
You might remember Josh if you’ve been reading this blog for a while. He’s been to a couple games at Dodger Stadium with me (on 9/2/08, 5/2/09, and 9/18/09)… but we’d never been to Angel Stadium together before. It turned out to be a pretty cool night.
After lunch with Michelle we played video games at my apartment before leaving for Anaheim at about four o’clock. We parked, walked to the Home Plate Gate, saw BP regular, Terry there (and he let us stand at the front of the line with him), and we waited for the stadium to open. About this time, I heard a voice say, “Are you Matt?”
“Yes.” I looked and saw a boy of about thirteen to my left. He said, “I read your blog.” I said, “Cool! What’s your name?”
His name’s Kevin and he was there with his dad. He’s left some comments on this blog as m_kemp_27. He’s a nice kid and would end up snagging a few baseballs of his own on the night.
I told Josh, “Now, I’m gonna run in to left field.” He said he’d run with me but when the gates opened he lagged behind and I kept going. As it turns out, I would snag two baseballs before he even got there… he stopped to use the restroom.
BP was fully underway and here was my view:
When Josh walked down the steps toward me near the foul pole I tossed him the ball I had just plucked off the dirt. It had been hit by some Angel batting from the right side… most were… as today they’d be facing a lefty.
It had the following imprint, likely from the bat used to hit it. Any ideas?
But I’m getting ahead of myself. I mentioned that I’d snagged two by the time Josh got there… well, as soon as I made it to the seating bowl I looked for any baseballs hiding in the stands. None were to be found… but as I set my backpack down to get my camera Bobby Abreu hit a ball that sliced foul and into the seats.
The ball was two sections over to my right–but I got a great jump on the ball and it was only me and one other guy going for it. He was running left from near the infield and I was running right from near the pole. We got to the ball at the same time and closed in on it from either side. Luckily, it was still rolling and I know that at Angel Stadium baseballs will trickle down row after row. So, while he positioned himself in the row the ball was in at the time we arrived, I positioned myself two rows closer to the field… the ball rolled right to me. And that was number one on the day… and you know about Ball #2.
A few minutes later, Ervin Santana fielded a ball near the warning track. I moved to my left and called out to him and he tossed it right to me. Ball #3 and Ball #185 of my lifetime.
At about this point I told Josh, “Wow… three from the Angels. You’re like a good luck charm, dude.” He hadn’t snagged a ball but that’s not really his thing anyway… he was enjoying the shade and the relaxing atmosphere.
I told him I was going to head over to right field when the A’s came out to hit. He said something about not wanting to be in the sun–but he came with me anyway–and we headed down toward the the opposite side of the stadium:
Kevin’s in the above photo near the foul pole wearing the green hat and shirt with a 2 on the back. I was able to scoop a ball off the warning track a few minutes later that had been hit by a right-handed batter on the A’s. I ran to my right, jumped up on the wall at the right moment, and made the snag.
About this time I saw Kevin again… he asked if he could hang out with me for a bit and learn some tips… I told him, “Sure, man,” and then I talked to him for a while and told him about heading to the dugout at the end of BP.
Well, Kevin got a ball a little while later. I ran to the dugout and got Ball #5 from a trainer as the A’s headed off the field. Kevin was nearby and he and his dad decided they would sit behind the dugout until they got kicked out. I left to regroup with Josh. We watched Mr. Perfect, Dallas Braden, warm up. He’d be pitching against Joe Saunders… both of them wear 51… weird.
And when the A’s came out to play catch I headed back to the dugout. There, I got former Cub Jake Fox to toss me my sixth ball of the day.
Now, I should mention that my personal record of baseballs snagged at one game is seven. I’ve done it four times… at three different stadiums (Angel Stadium, PETCO Park, and Citi Field)… but I’d never cracked seven.
Also, each inning I’d try for a third out toss from the A’s at there dugout. One time when I headed over there I saw Kevin… he’d snagged at least two baseballs at that point in the evening and I helped him figure out who had thrown him one before the game.
In the bottom of the fifth inning with two outs, Brandon Wood popped out to Daric Barton at first base. I was about six rows behind the dugout and as a bunch of little kids rushed down to the bottom of the steps I simply stood up and waved my arms. “Daric, right here!” I shouted. And as he jogged in, Barton tossed me my seventh b
aseball. I looked down at it and was disappointed. Why? Because he had switched the actual game ball with the infield warmup ball he’d used. First basemen do that sometimes… I have no idea why. But my disappointment lasted only a moment, as I had again tied my record. It was only the sixth inning and I knew I had to try to snag one more ball before the night was over. I kept hoping for a foul ball and a few came close over the closing innings.
In the ninth, Josh and I moved nearer to the visiting team’s dugout.
The game had been great up to that point. It was a good BP, we were talking about baseball the whole night, the Angels were winning 4-0, we’d seen some excellent defensive plays, and Joe Saunders was staying in to pitch the final frame.
I will happily say that I have now been present for both of Joe Saunders’ complete game shutouts in his career (he threw one last season against the Royals and Zack Greinke). The Angels won it, four to nothing, and I was in a great mood. I was still stuck at “lucky number seven” though.
Now, we were behind the A’s dugout at the end of the game because the Angels dugout is super-crowded after a home win. Plus, there were fireworks coming up and the game had been fast… about two hours and fifteen minutes. So, I took a chance and trotted down to the dugout as the A’s came off the field. As expected, none of the players wanted to thrown anything up. They silently trudged down the steps and into the dugout… one bullpen pitcher tossed a ball ten rows behind me. And that was it… they were gone.
But right as I was about to leave a kid in A’s gear appeared in the dugout. I wondered if he was the same kid I’d seen last season on the field shagging BP balls. Anyway, he had a ball in his hand he was planning to throw to the crowd. I was the only one in an A’s hat and I thought it was a sure thing. This’ll be number eight! But he started to walk away… saw a young Angels fan a little further down the dugout and said to the teen, “Take off your hat.” I knew what he was doing. He didn’t want to toss the baseball to someone in Angels gear. The fan didn’t get it… and wouldn’t take off his hat. So, the A’s kid turned around to face the field and tossed the ball backwards, like a bride tossing a bouquet. It was up for grabs… and I was the only one with a glove out of the six or so people still around. I leaned out over the dugout and made the catch. Ball #8! And #190 of my career… I was so excited that I gave three baseballs away on my way out of the stadium that night, two to a pair of brothers who weren’t more than ten years old, both had gloves, and would’ve gone home empty-handed. I was so psyched… I had Josh take the following picture:
Me with my (personal) record-setting baseball. A new game high, a great night at the park with a friend, and an Angels victory.
And, yes, there were fireworks:
And the game was over so quickly that Michelle and I had time to make it to a sports bar later that night to celebrate our other friend’s birthday. It was a really great evening!
I donated blood about two weeks prior to this game. In addition to the
snacks and drinks they provided to all the donors the Red Cross gave us
coupons, an Angels hat, and a voucher for two free tickets to this game
between the Angels and Mariners. At about 4:35 I parked, headed to the
Red Cross table under one of the big red hats at the Big A, and then
met Chris at the front of the line… we were pretty much the only
people in line at that point.
My strategy when the gates opened was a change from my normal
activity. Since the Angels would be facing lefty Ryan Rowland-Smith I
knew that they’d all be batting from the right side of the plate.
Therefore, it made little sense for me to run to the pavilion in right
field… nothing would’ve been hit out there because the Angels would
only have one left-handed batter who’d have hit at the point we ran
inside. It might seem complicated or like I thought about it a bit too
much… but it’s kind of like a manager leaving a righty reliever in to
face a lefty batter because the batter can’t hit this one pitch he
throws or he’s struck out twelve times out of forty… just statistics
but sometimes they work out. Sometimes you can play the percentages
all you want and it really doesn’t do you any good.
5:00pm–gates opened and off I went, sprinting left instead of right.
It felt weird… but I got out to the left field seats first, scanned
the ground for Easter eggs… nothing. Dang.
Up to the left field pavilion just behind the bullpens. I’d never been out here for BP:
But it didn’t take long to get my first baseball of the day. Robb
Quinlan fielded a ball in the outfield and then tossed it to a player
in the bullpen… or, rather, at a player in the bullpen. I didn’t
ever see this person but I heard Robb say after he threw the ball,
“Well, you need to pay attention then.” Presumably he wanted to scare
that person and he succeeded. The mystery bullpen person threw the
ball back to Robb and then I called out to him and held up my glove.
He fired a strike right to me (over both pens) and I thanked him.
Cool! I knew I wasn’t going to go home empty-handed. The ball had a
PRACTICE stamp on the sweet spot. More on this ball later.
At this point in time (about 5:10) I was one of two people in the left
field pavilion, the other being a young man named Scotty who I had met
earlier in the afternoon. He got a ball that was a homer by some Angel
and the ball took a friendly bounce, rolled up the grassy slope in
center field, and he picked it by reaching over the fence. Then he ran
off toward right field.
After Scotty left I was the only fan out there again. There had been a
ball lying in the Mariners bullpen since I’d arrived but since M’s
pitching coach Rick Adair had been going over some drills with the
previous night’s starting pitcher, Ian Snell. When he finished and
Snell started to head out of the bullpen I asked Adair, “You guys gonna
win this one tonight?” He shrugged and smiled and instead of me asking
for the ball lying in the pen he tossed me the one he’d been using with
Snell. I hadn’t asked for it but I certainly appreciated it. I
thanked him, wished him well in the game, and headed off to the right
field foul pole as the Halos finished their second round.
Now, I have learned where to hang out during Ichiro’s BP cuts… but it
hadn’t paid off for me in the series. Nevertheless, I took up my usual
spot about a half-dozen rows back just fair of the pole as the Angels
finished and the M’s started up. In his second round of cuts Ichiro
knocked a ball way out… but it went into the tunnel between the right
field pavilion and the lower right field seats. Ordinarily I wouldn’t
have given that ball a second thought but two days prior I had seen a
guy wearing sunglasses and an Aramark uniform in there and he’d tossed
a couple of baseballs to fans. I looked over into the tunnel and, sure
enough, the guy was there and he’d retrieved the ball. He looked at me
and I asked him, “Are you allowed to toss those over?”
He didn’t do anything other than shrug and reach his arm back–he was
going to throw it. I took a few steps back from the fence and held up
my glove. His aim was right on. Ball #3 on the day… I wish I could
say I caught that Ichiro homer on the fly… but an Ichiro BP homer is
an Ichiro BP homer. Cool. I should really find out that Aramark guy’s
I headed up to the pavilion in right after that. I knew the M’s had a
few lefties still to hit and I figured I might catch a homer. I almost
did… and this time I didn’t make an error. I got assaulted. A ball
got hit and I tracked it, heading to my right. I got under it, reached
up as high as I could. I was going to have to jump. I bent my knees,
fully extended my glove, and–OUCH!
I didn’t know what happened at first. I felt pressure on my head, my
cap got knocked off and I heard the ball hit someone’s glove. I turned
around an some old guy had hit me with his forearm from behind in order
to catch the ball. I was irritated… but I figured he’d apologize for
knocking into me and I would say it was all right and congratulate him
on his catch. He didn’t… he just laughed and held up the ball, very
pleased with himself. I minute later I talked with Chris and he’d said
he’d seen it and “was I OK?” I was… but I’m not too fond of that old
guy… nor are many of the other regulars, as it turns out.
Well, on to happier news. A Mariner pitcher threw me my fourth ball of
the day. I couldn’t tell who it was but he’s the guy in the center in this photo. The one not looking up toward the camera, the one who isn’t Felix
BP wound down after that and Chris and I ran down to the dugout as the
players came off the field. I saw Chris get a ball from a coach and
then he said, “Did you see that?”
I said, “Yeah, you got a ball.”
“Yeah, but if I was smaller and cuter I could have had a bat.” I
looked… yep, a little kid had received a bat from a player. Further
down, right where the good seats met the Diamond Club seats, another
kid was receiving a bat from a Mariners player. I didn’t know who he
was, but on a whim I yelled to him as he approached the dugout, “Hey,
could you spare the batting gloves, too?” He was already removing
them, didn’t even look, and tossed them up as he went down the steps.
One of them hit the dugout and fell back down. The other one came
straight to me. I snagged it with my non-glove hand. Wow! My first
piece of equipment from a major league player (aside from the 122
baseballs, of course)! I had to find out who it was. I’d gotten a
good look at him. A Mariners player, Caucasian, pretty fair skinned…
a batter (so it wasn’t a pitcher, obviously)… and then I though about
the bat. I ran over to where it had been handed over and asked who’s
it was but the person who had received it had already been taken away to
check it with security. Dang…
Well, after some sleuthing at home I was able to determine that the
generous batting glove thrower was M’s catcher Rob Johnson. Many
thanks to him. Here’s a pic of it:
Chris had to leave so we grabbed some free sodas on his way out and I
wandered a bit, found a seat as the national anthem was about to start
and realized I recognized the performer:
That’s Kenny G… he played the anthem and when he got to “the land of
the free” he held the “free” note for, I’m not kidding, about a
minute. It was really impressive!
OK, so before the game started Jose Lopez played catch with Adrian
Beltre in front of the dugout. When they finished I was standing in
the third row and had my glove up. No one else was noticing that
Beltre wanted to toss his baseball into the crowd… since there wasn’t
anyone younger or cuter he tossed it to me. Sweet!
I ended up in three different seats throughout the game. All near each
other and all awesome. In the first inning I was here:
And in the second the Angels went up 2-0 on a Torii Hunter home run.
Here’s Torii being congratulated as he heads back into the dugout. I
think this photo’s amusing because Mike Scioscia is clearly about to
smack Torii on the butt. Baseball rituals…
I took a few photos of Ken Griffey Jr. because I figured that this
might be the last time I ever got to see him play. Who knows if he’ll
retire after this season?
John Lackey was dominating the Mariners… he only allowed five hits
(three of them to Bill Hall) and was still in the game after the Angels
got him a third run in the seventh.
I was watching from here:
Just hoping for a foul ball… nothing came close though.
As Lackey took the hill in the ninth I was right behind the Angel
dugout… how close? Well, I zoomed in with my camera as Franklin
Gutierrez made the second out.
Griffey (seen in the above photo)
popped out in foul ground to give Lackey his eighth career shutout…
his first since ’07. It was a great game–a quick game, too. By 9:25
I was looking through the concourse for a kid with a glove. Remember
that Robb Quinlan ball? Well, I decided that (as long as I snagged at
least one after that) I’d give it away after the game. I meandered
through the field level as folks exited for at least five minutes and
the only kid with a glove that I found was talking to his folks about
the ball he’d already gotten that night. I decided to keep it
temporarily and give it away when I was at the game on Saturday.
That’s right–Angels/White Sox day game on Saturday! I hope there’s
BP–it’s the FOX game of the week so I’m guessing they’ll take batting
practice… but you never can tell for sure.
Here are the five baseballs I snagged:
I realize as I write this that I went to every game in the Seattle
series and the Angels won all three of them. That’s the first time
I’ve been at every game of a sweep. Cool! The Halos AL West lead is
now five games.
I had been looking forward to this game for a couple of weeks. It was the first chance I had to implement some of my recently learned Hample tricks. The Home Plate gate at Angel Stadium opens at 5:05, a half hour before the rest of the gates. I wasn’t the first fan through the gates (on floppy hat giveaway night, mind you) but I was one of the first few to make it out to the left field seats. I checked around to see if there were any home run balls already out there, just waiting to be snagged, but I couldn’t spot any. I picked a spot just past the foul pole and got my glove (with string and Sharpie and rubber band) ready. While the Angels took BP some of their pitchers were stretching and throwing in left field. I tried to get any of them to throw me a ball, but I just wasn’t gettin’ any love–because I wasn’t five years old. Ervin Santana threw a ball to a little boy near me and Jose Arredondo threw one to a little girl right near the pole, but I was being shut out. Howie Kendrick (I think) belted a foul ball down the line and I hung out over the fence to grab it but the guy right in front of me (a superb athlete) somehow managed to stretch a few inches further and the ball was his. At this point I’d been at BP for 20 minutes and I was starting to worry that my planning would be all for naught. My goal was to get at least one ball at this game. Some Angel righty hit a couple of smashes deep into the seats and two of them almost smashed into a group of senior citizens ten rows up. A security guard joked that if I really wanted a ball I should go guard them… none of the old timers had a glove… nor were they paying attention in the least to the happenings on the field. After the Angels batted I once again asked politely for a ball (in Spanish) but couldn’t get anyone to throw me one. I was disheartened, but also hopeful as I rushed up toward the right field bleachers.
I had learned the sneakiness of bringing a hat to wear with the visiting team’s logo. I had my Orioles hat out and on as I jogged to the wall in right. I saw Lance Cormier and Garrett Olson shagging flies and tried to get them to notice that I was a (faux) O’s fan. Lance wasn’t feelin’ it, but Garrett noticed me and a couple of real Orioles fans and I knew that was a good sign. Now, I will admit that I’m not the person most players would want to immediately throw a ball to… they give balls to kids mostly, and sometime to girls. In my case today, a female Orioles fan got two balls before I’d gotten any… just by being a girl! Ridiculous. Thankfully, after a few minutes of, “Please, Garrett, how ’bout a ball for an O’s fan?” the young pitcher lobbed one up to me! There it was! My studying and planning (I knew all the Orioles by name thanks to a cheat sheet and I won the hat for $8 on eBay) had paid off.
Throughout my BP adventure, Michelle was sitting or wandering through the stadium, not wanting to run around in the warm weather. Understandable. Now I had a souvenir to show her when BP ended at 6:20. I thanked Garrett Olson and told him I wouldn’t bug him anymore. So I started to move down a section or two, closer to the right field pole to bug the two bullpen catchers (Ronnie and Ruben). Just as I started to move I heard it. That sound that any fan knows, whether it’s in BP or during a game. That CRACK that means a ball is flying out of the yard. I saw Aubry Huff at the plate and saw the ball soaring toward the seats in right. It took me a second but I realized the ball would clear my reach by a good twenty feet. I turned around as it flew over my head and to my shock it bounced of some seats a dozen rows up and ricocheted back right to my glove! That was two… and I had tied my record for baseballs at a single game. Man, that Huff can hit. He hit three more out in the next few minutes, all bombs. I pestered Ronnie and Ruben for a bit, but I was polite and I was an O’s fan. With about 10 minutes left in BP Ronnie looked up and threw me a peace sign… I thought for sure he’d toss me the next ball he got. He fielded four more in the time left and threw one to a Halo fan–grr! And he didn’t give me a second look… I was disappointed but I was nowhere near empty handed. Garrett Olson (#18), who’d thrown me my first ball of the day headed over to the seats on the field level to sign autographs. I jogged over with my ticket stub and a Sharpie, tapped a female O’s fan on the shoulder and asked her to hand it to him to sign. My first autograph of 2008:
I find it interesting that he signed for me and the ticket I had pictured another Garrett. Even stranger, neither Garrett appeared in the game.
Anywho, I headed up to the 400 level where Michelle had been patiently waiting for me. We grabbed some dinner and I regaled her with my triumphs, minor as they may have been, and we sat down to enjoy the game. It was a great game… if I had really been an Orioles fan. The Angels got shutout 3-0 and couldn’t touch MLB debut pitcher Chris Waters. In the 8th inning Michelle and I went down to try to get a ball from the Orioles as they ran back to the dugout but to no avail. I headed down at the end of the game after George Sherrill closed it out and saw that FSN was interviewing Waters. Melvin Mora ran up behind him and got him good with a cream pie. The rookie was in great spirits after the hazing and chucked his game used hat into the stands. It was a few feet to my right and a skinny, tall teenager caught it… residual whipped cream and all. Dang! What a cool souvenir that would’ve been. I couldn’t complain though. Two balls, an autograph, a free floppy hat, and a night at the ballpark with my sweetheart. What a great evening–just wished the Angels would have mustered more than two hits.