Tagged: snag

4/27/12 at Dodger Stadium

After conferring with fellow Orange County ballhawk, Devin (aka DevoT,) I was set to make my first appearance as just a fan at Dodger Stadium since September of 2009.  Each of the other times I’d taken a trip up to Elysian Park it had been with a media credential… and I wrote columns for myGameBalls.com each time, both in August of 2010 and Sept. of 2011.  And you can read those entries on that awesome site or at my blog: here (Aug. 2010) and here (Sept. 2011).  Obviously, since I was at work as a member of the media, those games weren’t about me snagging baseballs, they were about others who got to snag… and I didn’t record those games in my stats.

But on this particular day I was just me, the guy who tries to catch as many baseballs as he can at each game, and the Dodgers (who’d be facing the Washington Nationals–both teams were in first place at the time) were using commemorative baseballs for their fiftieth year at Dodger Stadium.  And I wanted one.

I parked outside the stadium and hiked up the hill with Devin.  We crossed the parking lot and headed down some stairs…

We went inside the Field Level gate as the Dodgers were hitting (and some pitchers were warming up and it was great–we were severely limited in where we could go–but there was such a small crowd that I had plenty of room to run around (even though they kept us along the left field foul pole).

Check out the ball in this pitcher’s glove.

Might that be a commemorative logo?!?

I had a shot at my first ball of the day when Kenley Jansen (owner of the photographed glove, above, who was long-tossing with an unknown pitcher, maybe Scott Elbert) overthrew his target.  I watched the ball as it was sailing through the air and yelled, “HEADS UP!”  I ran toward where I thought it would land, a section to my right, lost the ball for a second, watched as it hit some seats… then bounced away from me.  But I tracked it down in the fourth row and took a look at the logo… it WAS commemorative!

I was thrilled… but my joy was short-lived.  I looked toward the field and Elbert (or whoever) flapped his glove at me.  I knew what this meant.  They weren’t done long-tossing and needed the ball back.  Cool, I flipped it to him, willingly, and figured he’d get it back to me when they were finished.  That’s what had happened plenty of other times.  Then I looked over my shoulder.  Apparently, the errant throw had grazed a lady who was, get this, sitting in the second row and not paying attention.  She was lucky it hadn’t broken her face… but she wasn’t complaining… just rubbing her shoulder a bit.  I felt badly… I knew she should get a ball.  But would it be my ball?  The commemorative one I’d just given to the pair of Major Leaguers to use on the field?  I could have kept the ball and been done with it–and at that point I’d probably have noticed the lady and debated whether or not I should have given it to her–and scolded her for not paying attention to the on-field activity.  But I never got the chance.  Jansen finished his throwing, walked toward the lady, and apologized to her.  And then signed the baseball I’d given to him and Elbert to use… and then neither of them acknowledged me.  Think about it, loyal readers, am I overreacting?  Should I not have counted the ball?  Because I counted it… and I’m a bit irritated that such careless behavior gets rewarded.

Anyway, Devin beat me out for a liner that went foul as we almost tumbled over a row of seats together.  But then, when a couple Dodgers played catch further toward the infield I had another shot at a ball I’d actually get to keep.  Mark Ellis warmed up with Adam Kennedy and when they finished I yelled out, Hey, Mark!  Over here!”  Ellis threw me the ball over all the box seats along the third baseline and I caught it chest high–it was a great throw–then grabbed it out of my glove and checked it out:

BAM!  And this one was all mine!  I wasn’t giving it up.  I quickly ran back to my backpack, stored it safely, and went back to snagging with a feeling of relief.  Mission accomplished.  If I didn’t snag another ball all evening, I’d be fine.  But the Jansen ball was #395 and the Ellis ball was #396.  So I started actively thinking about the big 4-0-0.

Some unknown Dodger drove a ball into the left field corner that came to rest on the warning track about 10 to 12 inches away from the wall in fair territory right near the bullpen gate.  The drop to the field is probably about a foot or so more than in Anaheim so it takes a bit more athleticism to scoop balls off the warning track in Dodgertown than it does at the Big A.  But I figured that I should give it a shot–no one else figured they could get it.  After a couple of fans let me squeeze by them, I set my bag down, jumped up and balanced myself on the wall, leaned out and over stretching my left (gloved) hand as far as I could while steadying myself on the wall with my right hand and arm.  The ball was just out of reach, so I adjusted my position on the wall, shook my glove so it was on the end of my hand instead of comfortably wedged on there… and just got the tip of it on the ball.  I rolled it toward me a few inches and then snagged it and pulled myself back to my feet.  I got a nice little round of applause from the nearby fans on that one–and the ball was a standard Selig ball.

About that time Devin decided to head up to the LF bleachers (where his ticketed seat was located) and we parted ways.  We kept in touch throughout the evening though.  As the crowd grew and BP became a bit less lively, I set my bag down and was looking through it when I heard a THWACK nearby.  I looked up as I was kneeling near a staircase just in time to see a baseball bounce right toward my face!  I grabbed it, barehanded, and then looked around.  Had a kid dropped it?  Was it meant for another fan?  I asked a few people near me where it had come from–and no one knew.  It didn’t sound like it had hit the seat with enough force for me to determine it was a home run.  Maybe a ground rule double into the LF corner?  Maybe it had been thrown from the bullpen?

Oh… and it was another commemorative ball!  Sweet!  It had been rubbed with mud… and it had a dirt scuff on it.  So, it’s possible that a pitcher had been using it and then tossed it into the seats.  But I have no idea–this is the first ball I have ever entered into myGameBalls.com with the listed method of snagging as “Unknown.”  Totally weird–but I’ll take it!

That was #398… and I was totally focused on #400… so I didn’t mind that I was unsure of who hit my next ball.  It was some lefty Dodger that flared a ball into the box seats just past third base.  The ushers nearby (who were all super friendly–much more so than in past seasons) let me dart after it and check this baby out:

50th!  Woo!

The Dodgers were about to leave the field.  And I saw the Nationals starting to warm up on the far side of the stadium.Unfortunately, because Dodger Stadium has weird rules, that side of the stadium wouldn’t open until 5:40pm… ten minutes is a long time to wait around.  I tried to get a ball from Ted Lilly as he finished some throwing… but that was all there was to do. And then I spent another eight grueling minutes waiting for the ushers to let the maddening crowd head toward first base.  I ran that way and was the first one out to the seats in the right field corner–but I found no Easter eggs and the Nationals were being pretty stingy with tossups.  And the sun was brutal:And I didn’t snag another batted ball all evening.  At least there was a Stephen Strasburg sighting…

It was really important to me that I identify who my next baseball came from.  It was a mini-milestone for me.  I had snagged baseball number 100 on August 28th, 2009 at Angel Stadium.  And I have no idea who hit it to me.  Ball #200 was thrown to me by Kanekoa Texeira of the Seattle Mariners on May 28th, 2010… again in Anaheim.  And my 300th baseball was hit to me by Peter Bourjos on May 20th, 2011 at the Big A.  I thought to myself, “I need to know who gets this next ball to me”  And it would also be the first time I’d snagged a milestone baseball (for me) outside of my “home ballpark” down in Orange County.

Wouldn’t you know it?  Throughout all of Nationals’ BP I didn’t snag another baseball…

Until the last few players ran off the field… and I was standing near the dugout… and Jordan Zimmermann tossed me this one as I leaned over the concrete partition that separates the haves from the have-nots.

My sixth ball of the night–and #400 in my lifetime.  Woo!

With that, it was off to the restroom–and then I took a seat to rest for a while before the game began.  And what a great pitching matchup: Clayton Kershaw vs. Ross Detwiler.  And If you’ve never sat up close and watched Kershaw pitch–man, it’s epic!  A 95 mph fastball and a 73 mph curveball.  It’s just not fair.  This was my view for the first pitch:

And then I sat here and tried to get a ball from A.J. Ellis after Kershaw struck out the side in the first.No luck.

The only blemish on Kershaw’s record was a two-run homer he gave up to Adam LaRoche… which tied the game after Andre Ethier hit a two-run shot in the bottom of the first.  The difference in the score would turn out to be an RBI single by Juan Uribe.  That was it for scoring… 3-2 Dodgers.

And tried to get LaRoche to toss me a third out ball.  No dice–damn that partition!

But I had a great view of the action…

See the concrete partition that keeps folks away from the dugout?  Lame.

And there were plenty of open seats around me.  At one point I had a whole row open to my right.  I shifted seats twice once the game started but there certainly weren’t over 44,000 people there… even though that was the announced attendance.

Um… Matt Kemp is very good at baseball:

Fast-forward to the top of the ninth inning… Jansen came in to close the game out (since Javy Guerra apparently isn’t the closer any longer because, well, he took a line drive off his face).  And he made it interesting.  He got the first out by inducing a fly ball to center off the bat of Mark DeRosa.  Then, Danny Espinosa turned on a fastball at hit it to the seats… about ten feet foul into the right field corner.  He nearly tied the game with that almost-homer… but eventually flied out to center, as well.Jansen then drilled pinch hitter Chad Tracy on the wrist with a mid-nineties fastball.  Tracy was pulled from the game.  Because the Nationals called up Bryce Harper but he hadn’t arrived in L.A., the team played with only twenty-four men on the squad, meaning there was one less bench bat available, and Edwin Jackson was forced to pinch-run for the Tracy so that final bench option, Rick Ankiel, could pinch hit in the pitcher’s spot if the inning got that far. But Jansen ended up striking out the catcher, Jesus Flores, in the next at-bat, and the game ended.

I shouted for a toss-up at the dugout as the Nats left the dugout but nobody even looked my way–and the bullpen guys coming in ignored me, too.  A kid on my left said, “I think they’re upset because they just lost.”

So I ended the game with six baseballs snagged–and I’d gotten some commemorative balls and snagged #400.  I wasn’t disappointed by any means.  I didn’t plan to stay for the Friday Night Fireworks–I needed to get home–but I did want to take advantage of one cool thing that Dodger Stadium does…

I got into a line and ended up on the field.  The Dodgers let a certain quantity of fans watch the fireworks from the outfield grass.  I took a few photos, like this one from the field looking up at the stadium:

And I touched the grass–a major league field feels so nice!  And then, the the confusion of the ushers… I asked to leave.

And they had to open a special gate so I could leave.  I snapped a picture of the explosions in the sky as I headed through the parking lot to my car… and was on the road before most people even got out of the stadium.  I had a long drive back to Orange County… it’s roughly an hour with no traffic.  But I’ll be back to Dodger Stadium this season–probably when the Marlins, Astros, and Mets come to town.

A successful night.

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5/6/11 at Angel Stadium

OK… here we go… my first post now that MLBlogs has converted everything to WordPress… I apologize for all the weird formatting things throughout my older blog posts… and for not getting this one posted sooner.  It was a great day at the Big A.

Once I was inside the stadium I committed an error.  I was in the right field seats and was the first one there–I saw a ball get hit to where near an Angel was shagging balls in the outfield.  I thought it was Jordan Walden and yelled, “Hey, Jordan!  Could you toss that one up, please?”  The guy looked at me for a moment, then tossed the ball back toward the bucket.  In that moment of brief face to face time I recognized him as backup catcher Bobby Wilson… not fireballing closer Jordan Walden.  Oops… stupid coverups.

That’s Bobby Wilson in the center of the above photo… and the real Jordan Walden is on the right.  A few minutes later Wilson fielded a ball closer to center field and, this time, I got his name right when I asked politely for the ball from the first row and he yelled up, “You ready?”  I backed up a few feet (in case his throw was going to be short–so it didn’t fall back on the field) and then yelled back, “Sure.  Gimme your best shot!”  Wilson wound up and delivered a loopy knuckle ball.  I almost misplayed it but once it was securely in the pocket of my glove I yelled out, “Nice knuckler!”  He gave me a thumbs up, I thanked him… then he headed to a different part of the outfield.  Here’s where I caught the ball, on the staircase between Sections 239 and 240:

The ball had a black PRACTICE stamp on the sweet spot.

I’ve decided, after fruitless attempts to catch home runs during the home team’s BP in right field, that I’m going to start snagging in the left field seats from now on… there is just no lefty power in the Angels’ lineup.  I spent most of their BP watching balls just miss being home runs.  Ugh.  So, in the Halos’ last round of batting practice I headed down the first base line and asked a couple of pitchers for toss-ups.  Reliever Francisco Rodriguez ended up getting a ball to me in a way I’d never gotten one before.  A blooper died on the grass in front of him and he walked toward it.  Rodriguez was about ten to fifteen feet from the wall and I was in the third row.  As he neared the ball, he flipped it up a few inches with his foot and bounced it to his other foot, then kicked a tailing pop up to me, soccer-style.  I moved to my right a little bit and snagged my second ball on the day.  It was a standard Selig ball and I ended up giving it away to a kid (the kid in the below photo, actually) a little while later.

That was it for the home team’s BP session and the Indians pitchers had come out to run, stretch, and throw.  When Chris Perez arrived near the foul line in front of me without a throwing partner he looked back toward the dugout in a way that I would call ‘longingly.’  I took the opportunity to ask him, “Hey, Chris!  You need someone to play catch with?”  Then I held up my glove.  I’d never actually played catch with a Major League Baseball player before but I’d asked a few–usually they chuckled or just ignored me but Perez responded, “Yeah.”  I gestured to my awaiting glove and flapped it open then closed.  He asked me, “You’ll throw it back?”  I told him I would.

And he reached back and threw the ball to me.  Whoa!  And then I threw it back to him–and as I released the ball I thought, Man, I hope I don’t embarrass myself.  The throw got to Perez all right–I’d have liked it to have been a bit higher but–whatever.  This continued for a few more seconds before some guy (perhaps the bullpen catcher) jogged out and on my last throw Chris gave me a wave and then started playing catch with whoever the guy on the field was.  Still… pretty cool, right?  Then, I thought–I’d better stick around, I bet he’ll end up letting me keep that ball.  So, I snapped this picture as Perez and the other dude continued throwing:

Then they finished their throws, chatted for a moment… and wouldn’t you know it?

Perez threw me the ball.  I thanked him and then I labeled it with a ‘294’ (as it was the two hundred ninety-fourth ball I’d ever snagged) and tucked it into my backpack.  My first baseball that I’d actually thrown back and forth with a Major Leaguer!  Sweet!

I’d missed out on a few chances up in the pavilion while I was waiting for Perez to finish throwing so I bolted up the stairs and through the concourse to the right field seats again to catch the last half of a group of lefties.  Shin-Soo Choo drilled a ball high into the air and pretty deep.  I moved down a few steps to the fourth row and ranged to my left.  I was in Section 237 and got to a spot where I anticipated the ball would land, drifted a bit further to my left while tracking the ball, saw the gloves of other fans come darting in from all sides, reached high up and ::SMACK::–I felt the ball hit the pocket of my glove.  Whew… it’s always a great feeling to catch a ball on the fly during BP–it’s something I don’t get a lot of chances to do in Anaheim.

That would be the last ball I managed to snag during BP and the Indians jogged off the field unexpectedly at about 6:20pm.  Usually the visitors are out there until at least 6:25… so I was a bit late getting to their dugout and didn’t get a toss-up there.  I did, however, get Vinnie Pestano’s autograph on my ticket stub.

Now that all the players had cleared the field I drank some water, had a snack, and sat down for a minute in the Field Level down the third base line.  I mentioned the coverups the Angels were wearing before–well, the first player to come out of the Halo dugout was catcher Hank Conger and here’s what they were covering up:

I’d forgotten that this game was a Flashback Friday game!  The Angels had their 1980s uniforms on for this game.  I took a few more photos as the rest of the players came out:

And then I watched as two sets of Angels played catch before the game.

Maicer Izturis ended up with the ball after he and Alexi Amarista finished throwing and he tossed it right to me–almost a brand new ball–just two grey smudges on one side.  And a moment later I got my second autograph of the day: Rich Thompson (over at the dugout).

I should take time now to mention that all of my five baseballs snagged at this game so far were standard baseballs–none of them had the Angels 50th Anniversary commemorative logo.  I knew I had a good shot of snagging a ball during the game though–so I was counting on getting at least one commemorative before the night was over.

I went over to the Indians’ dugout as the national anthem was sung and snagged a ball during their pregame throwing.  Asdrubal Cabrera tossed it to me after he finished throwing with Orlando Cabrera.  Here he is in the dugout a bit later:

I was behind the Angel dugout for the top of the first and had a great view… but I failed to get the third out toss.  So, I ran over to the Indian dugout as Erick Aybar batted to lead off the bottom of the first:

And when Torii Hunter stepped up to bat with two outs I was ready.

Torii grounded out to the pitcher, Justin Masterson, who threw to first for the third out of the inning.  Matt LaPorta was playing first base and I got his attention as he entered the dugout and he tossed me my sixth ball of the night.  I couldn’t help but notice that it was a standard ball with dirt and grass stains all over it–the switch!  Some first basemen switch the infield warmup ball with the one that’s game used when they come in from the field.  LaPorta did this the last time I saw the Angels play the Indians and he was still doing it.  I described the situation to a nearby Indians fan and jotted down the following note about ball #298: Hunter grnd out to pitcher Masterson to end 1st – toss – stns grn and brwn – switch game ball – not comm – LaPorta.

After a deep sigh I ran back over to the Angel dugout and the seat I’d previously occupied there was still available–so I sat in it thinking I’d get bumped fairly soon.  I didn’t.  This was my view (taken later in the evening):

Nice!  At one point I did spend a half inning in the left field seats hoping for a home run:

But nothing came remotely close and I really wanted to snag a commemorative before the night was over so I headed back to ‘my’ seat in the second row behind the dugout.  While I was there I experienced a Kendrys Morales sighting:

And I found out about a week later that he’d decided to have a second surgery on his ankle–so he’s out for the season–again.  Bummer.  Anyway, I took a ton of photos and had a great vantage point for the game but I was striking out when it came to third out tosses.  More and more kids caught on to the game within a game and they’d crouch by the dugout every time there were two outs.  I had to simply try to get myself noticed… something much easier to do if you’re little or a girl.  Kids and girls kept getting the toss-ups as the Angels would leave the field.

I wasn’t about to box ’em out or jump in front of anyone… I just waited, inning after inning, and finally, after Alberto Callaspo caught a popout that ended the top of the ninth inning (with the game still tied 1-1, FYI)… I stood up near the dugout, waved my arms, shouted out, “Alberto!  Over here!  Hey, Alberto–right here, please!”

BAM!

Beautiful.  It was at that moment–my goal for the night accomplished–that I realized I had a shot to break my single game record.  I had snagged eight baseballs–something I’d only done once before.  And with the game still tied I had a shot for another ball.  Also… I was now sitting on 299 baseballs snagged in my lifetime.  I could accomplish 300 and set a new personal best for one game.

I figured my best shot would be at the Indians’ dugout… less competition.  I went over there for the bottom of the ninth–the Angels didn’t score.  No one scored in the tenth… I couldn’t snag the third out ball nor did any fouls come my way.  I was hoping that, win or lose, the Indians would toss a ball or two up.

The eleventh inning rolled around and I watched as the Indians were shut out by Fernando Rodney–then the Angels came up to bat.  Each inning the view I had was as follows:

Note the security guard and usher at the bottom of the staircase.  They were there to keep people from rushing the dugout and not allowing those in the front rows to be able to leave.  Also note that the Angels have two men on… yep… Aybar singled leading off the inning, then Bobby Abreu singled, and Izturis would single to load the bases for Torii with  no outs.  Well… Torii smashed a pitch into the left field corner to bring home Aybar and the Angels won it!  Great for them… but would the Indians feel generous after the loss?

One ball was tossed up from the dugout.  And it wasn’t to me.  And one reliever had a ball in his jacket pocket–but it didn’t go to me.  So, milestones would have to wait for another day–maybe if so many fans hadn’t decided to stick around for the fireworks it would have been a different story.

While most of the remaining fans watched the fireworks show I took a photo of my prizes from the night.

A great game, a great haul, a great time at the ballpark yet again.  Thanks for reading.

9/25/10 at Angel Stadium

You know, I’ve got no excuse for not getting these last couple of entries from the 2010 season up… but on the bright side, you get to read a baseball entry about a month early because I fell behind on my blogging!

Winning, anyone?

So, this game on the 25th of September out in Anaheim was the last Saturday home game the Angels would have and the last time I figured there would be guaranteed batting practice going on–so I had to be there.  Michelle came with me and, as usual, we got there early, I ran in as soon as the gates opened and I hoped for a successful day of snagging.

The Angels were hitting as I made it to the the right field seats and since there weren’t any Easter eggs around I played each of the batters hoping they would go yard.  My first chance of the day came after a blooper from one of the other ballhawks in the pavilion.  A guy who’s a regular at BP had a homer lined up and I was rushing in from his right side.  Seeing he was in position for the catch in the second row I put on the breaks and stopped about six feet from him. He had a perfect snag set up but the ball bounced off the heel of his glove and back down to the field.  He cursed at himself and walked a section to his left hanging his head…  but I could see the ball still sitting on the warning track 18 feet below me.  Reliever Michael Kohn walked over to pick it up.  I think he must have seen what had happened because after I asked him to toss the ball up he made a comment about making sure I could catch it.  I said, “Yeah, gimme your best shot!”  He lobbed an easy one up to me and sure enough, it was the bobbled ball (with just one distinct mark on it–from where it had hit the warning track).

Shortly after that the relievers ran off the field:
9.25 kohn tossup spot.JPGIn the above photo you can see Kohn in the center of the shot and the spot where I was when he threw me the ball, right there in the first row.  I was on the board for the day.  I thought briefly about offering it to my fellow snagger but I knew that if someone tried that with me I would have politely refused… so I kept the ball but agreed to give it away to a young fan later that night.

The first group of White Sox hitters were all righties and Juan Pierre (who, in ten years in the majors has hit 14 home runs) so I hung out near the foul pole in right field hoping for a slicer down the line.  A few balls came close but they all seemed just a bit out of reach.  That short wall is tough to judge sometimes.
9.25 rf pole panorama.jpgWell, eventually I got my shot off the bat of Juan Pierre.  The ball went slicing down the line, took a bounce off the wall to my left and skittered to me across the dirt of the track.  I leapt up onto the wall, leaned out over, stretched out as far as I could and made the backhanded snag.  The ball was worn, with brown and green stains all over it–but it was mine and looked perfect to me.

Despite my best efforts to snag a BP homer from the White Sox, there just weren’t more than a couple to be had and, though I made it to their dugout after BP–nothing got tossed up my way.  I sat down with Michelle and convinced her to head over to the Angels’ side with me for their pregame throwing.  It paid off…

I’ve mentioned before that Howie Kendrick and Peter Bourjos end their warmups by throwing knuckleballs to each other.  Well, on this warm evening they did just that… and as they finished Howie ended up with the ball so I stood up and yelled, “Right here, Howie!  Show me the knuckleball!”  Wouldn’t you know it?  He did… he threw a pretty darn good flutter-ball that arched over the first six rows and settled inside my black Mizuno.  Three on the day!

After the anthem I ran back over to the visiting team’s dugout as their players began throwing.  At this point in the season some September callups were in the lineup and I think that, due to my rosters, I was one of the only people in the stadium that knew that number 22 on the Sox was Brent Morel.  He’d only appeared in about 15 games for them in 2010 and as he finished throwing I called out to him for the baseball he’d been using.  I was here:white sox near cam well 9.25.JPGAnd as Morel ran to my left he tossed me the ball from the steps of the dugout, over the camera well shown here:
morel toss over cam well 9.25.JPGI tried to give the ball away to the kid in the Sox hat two photos above but he told me he didn’t want it.  So, back to my wife I went–we grabbed food and sat down to watch the game from these seats:
9.25 our seats.JPGMostly, I was hoping for an Angels win and looking forward to seeing Manny Ramirez hit for his new team.  I only got to see one of those things though…

Scott Kazmir was pitching for the Halos and he gave up five runs in less than four innings.  Ugh.  He’d earn his 15th loss of the season as the Angels, who started out well with two runs in the first, wouldn’t score for the rest of the game.  Manny laced a double off Kazmir for an RBI.  Juan Pierre got an RBI, too.  So, that was… good.  And I ended up with four baseballs–I gave away two of ’em.  But the Angels fell to 75-79 on the year and I knew the playoffs were in doubt.  still, a crowd of more than 40,000 came out to cheer on the Halos and that’s saying something.  Hopefully, 2011 will be a better year.

Angels + Commemorative Baseballs = Excitement!

I just read a news release:

http://losangeles.angels.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110114&content_id=16440194

The Angels will be using commemorative baseballs at all their home games during the 2011 season.

Surely, this will mean more ballhawks coming to Angels games this season but it also means that I’m likely to end up with a handful of ’em.  There’s at least one photo of the baseball the Halos will use in 2011 online:

http://www.bigleaguebaseballs.com/main/angels-50th-anniversary-baseball/

Anyone else know anything more about this?  For me it’s simply one more reason to look forward to baseball–pitchers and catchers report in less than a month!  Even though I likely won’t go to as many games this season as I have the past two years, I fully intend to go to at least one new stadium and snag as many of those commemoratives as I can.

4/26/10 at Angel Stadium

The Indians were in town for a few days and, since my friend Randy (who I’ve mentioned in blogs before) is always down for the Tribe, I was heading to the game and Michelle, Randy, and his girlfriend, Beth, would meet me there a little after 7:00.

I got an early start, didn’t hit any traffic, and parked with plenty of time to get into line so I took a few pictures.  Here’s a photo of the Big A:
the big a 4.26.JPGAnd a panorama of the stadium taken from the parking lot.
parking lot big a b.jpg
I still think that Angel Stadium is one of the best stadiums to visit.  It’s clean, the employees are friendly, and it’s affordable.  Plus, the Angels are a great team!

I headed past the Left Field Gate:
lf gate 4.26.JPG
Down the promenade toward the Home Plate Gate:
promenade.JPGUntil I got to where the lines had been set up:
home plate gate 4.26.JPGI was the first one in my line.  A few minutes later BP regulars John, Chris, and Rob showed up.  John and I played catch for a few minutes and we all talked strategy for the day.  My plan was to head straight in to left field since the Angels would be facing a lefty.  All their switch hitters would be batting from the right side… I was the only one of the four of us that wanted to head that way.  Cool, no competition.

5:00 came and we headed inside.  I was the first one to reach the seats and this was my view:
lf corner bp.JPGThe pavilion in left field is separated from the playing area by both teams’ bullpens so not a lot of homers (even in BP) go up there.
lf pav.JPGWell, the first Angels group consisted of Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter, and Hideki Matsui.  Torii took a big cut at a pitch and launched it into left field.  It went just to the center field side of the bullpens, hitting some seats and then settling in one of the rows.  I had a decision to make–there was no one in that section… yet.  There wasn’t anyone in the pavilion area at all.  But it wasn’t as easy as just making a beeline for the ball.  To get from the lower left field seats to the pavilion you have to run up the steps and around–let me show you:
path i took.JPGThe photo above (taken in the ninth inning) shows the route I ran after the ball.  Feel free to click on it for a larger view.  I left my backpack near where I’d been (the white circle) and sprinted to the circle with the X.  I got there moments before Terry, another regular who’d walked to the section, arrived.  I snagged the ball and he looked at me strangely.  “How’d you know it was there?”

“I saw it get hit when I was way over there,” I said, gesturing.  A second later another home run landed in the seats above us and bounced right to Terry.  My backpack!  I ran back to the lower seats, deposited the ball, the 167th in my life, and went back to my hobby–snaggin’ baseballs.

Some Angels pitchers were nearby and after a little while Scott Kazmir fielded one and hung onto it.  He still had it a few minutes later so I yelled out, “Hey, Scott, could you thrown one over here, please?”  I stepped back away from the wall… he held the ball up and fired it from forty feet away–over the heads of the folks in front of me–and I had my second baseball of the day.

I’d previously missed out on a screamer down the line because the guy near me saw my reaction and jumped up, hung over the wall, and snagged it first.  But after I’d labeled the Kazmir ball another one came dribbling out to the track.  It was moving pretty slowly and was an easy grab for Ball #3.  That was it for the Angels portion of BP, though Rob had come over to left field by that point as well and I watched a ground rule double go a few feet over my head and Rob ran, leaped, and snagged it for a cool catch of his own.

We both headed to right field when the Indians started hitting–they’ve got some lefties that can really smash the ball!
rf pav 2.JPGI called out to a few players for toss ups but got ignored by Jake Westbrook and Kerry Wood.  After a while, some lefty, either Grady Sizemore or Shin Soo Choo, drilled a ball deep into the stands.  I couldn’t make the catch on the fly but the ball went over my head, hit some seats, and bounced nicely into the fold of a chair one row above me.  I climbed over and snagged it for my fourth ball on the afternoon.  The next snag would be a BP homer as well, this one off the bat of Asdrubal Cabrera.  He hit it high and deep, to the center field area of the pavilion and up about ten rows.  I tracked it well, headed
up the stairs and–just missed making the catch.  I was still able to grab the ball as it rolled across the concrete nearby.  Five!

But despite quite a few more homers, I couldn’t get close to any of them and at 6:15 I ran down to the first base line and waited for BP to end.  It did and both Chris and I ran toward the dugout.  I was near the home plate end of the dugout as the Indians trotted in and someone threw me number six on the day.  I never saw the player or coach’s face.  Just the arm after I pointed to my Indians cap as he headed into the dugout.

Michelle, Beth, and Randy still hadn’t arrived so I made myself comfortable in the seats near the dugout.  Eventually the Indians came out to warm up.
DSCF3025.JPGhafner sizemore.JPGMaybe a few of them would play catch.  After the national anthem Choo came out and threw with someone–but they didn’t throw their ball into the crowd.  But Andy Marte played catch with Luis Valbuena and when they finished I stood up and yelled out, “Andy!  Right here!” from the fourth row.  He looked up and tossed me the ball.  The lady in front of my screamed because she saw it at the last second and reached up, mostly out of fear, I think.  And then smiled and sighed when she saw my glove over her head.  The guy sitting to my right was amazed.  He asked me, “Did he just throw you that ball?”  I replied in the affirmative and he asked, “How’d you get him to do that?”

Well, I knew his name, was in Indians gear, stood up, made myself noticeable, called out to him–

“I guess he saw my hat.”

After that I moved back a few rows and the game was under way.  I took some great action shots.  Like Jered Weaver throwing the second pitch of the night:
weaver 2nd pitch.JPGAnd Erick Aybar running between second and third after he hit his first homer of the year:
aybar home run trot.JPGAnd a couple others:
cabrera takes.JPGmatsui swings.JPGIn the bottom of the first Michelle called me to say they’d arrived.  I waited until the inning ended, tried for a third out toss from Russell Brayan, I let the kid in front of me get it even though I’m prety sure it was meant for me… but I didn’t want to fall on the little dude… and then I met them at our seats on the 500 level.

michelle with baseballs.JPGI was happy to see all of them.  They asked me if I’d caught a ball…

I showed them.  Can you tell my wife was impressed?  Michelle and I have both been working a lot and it would be so great to have some relaxing time at the ball game.  So, for a while at least, I put catching baseballs out of my mind so we could just enjoy the game.  But first, food.  They were all hungry so Randy and I bought refreshments–hot dogs, sausages, Chinese food, drinks–oh, yeah!  It took a while but it was all delicious and we all hung out in Section 524 for most of the game.  It was a light crowd (not surprising–a Monday against the Indians) which, at Angel Stadium, means 35,000 or so.  The seats I gotten were through eBay for six bucks each and I sure couldn’t complain.  I love eBay.

Here was the view:
view from section 524 b.jpgI decided to take a panorama from the highest point of the stadium (like I did last year):
2010 angel stadium panorama1b.jpgAnd we watched the Angels, who were up 3-1 after the second inning, take on Randy’s Tribe.  The last time we all watched a game together was back in July of ’09.  In that game the Indians came back to beat the Halos in a thriller–for Randy.  This time would they do it again?  Bobby Abreu hit a two-run bomb in the sixth inning to make it 5-1.  In the eighth we left our upper level seats.and found seats with this view:
back down to the field.JPGIt was 5-2 at this point because Austin Kearns had homered as we walked down the ramps… I was a little nervous.  Fernando Rodney got the last two outs of the eighth… the scored stayed 5-2 going into the ninth.  Brian
“Makes Me Nervous” Fuentes was called in to close it out.

Fuentes struck out Choo leading off the inning, then Travis Hafner reached first on a throwing error by Brandon Wood.  Fuentes struck out Branyan, then walked Kearns… yikes.  Finally, Fuentes struck out Jhonny Peralta to end it.  Whew.  Not pretty–but he struck out the side.

Predictably, the Indians didn’t toss anything up at their dugout and we all made our way out to the parking lot.  Michelle and I parted ways with Beth and Randy but first we all posed for a picture.
parking lot group.JPGIt was a great game, a fun time, and the Angels won!  So I was ecstatic.

The prizes of the day…
seven baseballs 4.26.JPGThanks for reading.

ALDS Game 2 at Angel Stadium

I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get this entry up… boy, being sick is no fun.

After watching an awesome victory by the Halos on Thursday night I found myself heading back out to the park on Friday at about 3:00pm.  Tonight’s matchup would be Jered Weaver vs. Josh Beckett and it was sure to be another sellout crowd.  When I got to the Home Plate Gate I was first in line and I had about 45 minutes to kill… and before the gates opened there was another hearty crowd on hand:
pregame crowd 10.9.09.JPGI ran in, ignored the thunder sticks a worker tried to hand me, and made a beeline for the pavilion.  With righties starting, there were sure to be some left-handed hitters knocking some balls out.  I was out there first along with an older dude–we got to the seats at the same time but there were no Easter eggs to be found.

career 150.JPGAfter a few minutes though, Kendry Morales smacked a pitch high and deep.  It made it to the seats but I wasn’t quite in a position to catch it.  I had moved to my left… but it was coming in a bit low.  I leaned as far down and to the left as I could but it hit off the seats just below my glove.  Luckily, the ball didn’t take a crazy bounce and I was able to nab it from the ground.  Rob had come charging over and I heard him say, “Dang!  Where’s my lucky ricochet?” with a grin on his face.  I was thrilled that the bounce was lucky for me and not Rob–this was my 150th baseball.  I wrote a nice 150 on it to commemorate the occasion.  Rob congratulated me.  It was a successful night, as far as personal goals were concerned.

Here’s what the stands looked like after that first snag of the day:
start of bp.JPGIt filled up soon after.  And it was just like the day before: not much space to maneuver.  I adjusted my positioning based on the batters that were up but as the Angels finished I was stuck at just one baseball snagged.  Though I got close to a few Red Sox homers—I was still at just one baseball as they began to wrap up BP.

I made it down to the field level and got to the dugout as the players headed off the field.  As he headed into the dugout, I got my second (and final) ball of the day from Clay Buchholz.  He threw it right to me in the third row.  Nice–I’d doubled my playoff record.  From one to two.  Woo!

After that I decided to head over to the Angels’ side of the stadium as the players came out to warm up:
figgins guerrero warming up.JPGThe players didn’t throw any balls into the stands but it was cooler than wandering aimlessly–after the Angels warmed up I went over to the visitor’s side:
red sox warming up.JPGOnce the game started I got to hang out for a little while on the Field Level:
ortizswings.JPGThen the seatholders started showing up.  I decided to head up to the View Level… where my seats for both nights actually were.  I started deep in left field:
upper left field.jpgAnd made my way behind home plate to the other side:
over first base.jpgAnd finally, out to where my actual seat was located:
my actual seat for alds game 2.JPGI sat there for exactly one half-inning.  Bleh.  Then it was time to continue my tour:
weaver pitches to martinez.JPGI’d been around this ballpark a hundred times, but never during the playoffs.  There’s just a different energy.  Normally the fans in Anaheim are very mellow and laid-back… I’m sure most Angel fans at the games come off as indifferent.  That’s my perspective, anyway.  But in the postseason there’s an energy that’s just simply wonderful to be a part of.
view from left field.JPGThe pitching matchup, again, was intense.  Weaver and Beckett were locked in a great duel.  Each club put a single run on the board in the fourth.  It was 1-1 going into the bottom of the seventh inning.  Then the Angels put the game away.  Maicer Izturis knocked in Howie Kendrick (running for Vladdy) and then Mike Napoli got hit by a pitch.  With two men on Erick Aybar smashed a triple into the gap in right-center.

The place went nuts.  Fans rejoiced:
rejoice.JPGIt was 4-1 Angels at that point and that knocked Beckett out of the game:
beckett out.JPGgot a prime seat.JPGAnd I managed to snag a seat behind the dugout (shown on the right)  for the conclusion of the game.

Weaver pitched seven and a third innings and struck out seven.  He yielded to Darren Oliver, and then Kevin Jepsen got the last out of the eighth and the first of the ninth.  It was great!  Scioscia made the call, with one out in the ninth, for his closer to come in and finish it. 

fuentes gets the ball.JPGBrian Fuentes came in–and though he made it pretty tense in that stadium (David Ortiz up to bat as the tying run), he nailed down the save.  The crowd had been on their feet for, what seemed like, the last hour of the game:
crowd on feet.JPGIt was a 4-1 victory and a two games to none series lead for the Angels!  Two games, two consecutive nights, two wins for my team.  It had been a great playoff experience!

After the game I hung out as long as the ushers let me, then grabbed some ticket stubs and found my way out to the main gate.  I took a seat next to the Nick Adenhart memorial and just sat there and watched the people walk by for a few minutes:
adenhart memorial 1.JPGadenhart memorial 2.JPGIt was somber.  Fans left their ticket stubs with little notes to Nick on the mound.  After a little while I made the trek to my car and home for the evening, two baseballs nestled safely in my backpack:
two baseballs.JPGThe Angels would head out to Boston to wrap up the series.  Sweeping the Red Sox felt good–even though I was sick on Sunday morning when they won it.  It was time to bring on the Yankees.  Dun-DUN-DUHNN!!

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite action shots of the evening:
abreu gets back.JPGHe was safe.  Thanks for reading!

9/15/09 at Dodger Stadium

When a friend of mine said he wasn’t going to use his Dodgers tickets for a mid-week game against the Pirates he offered them to me.  I said, “Sure, I’ll take ’em.”  He told me he just wanted the blanket–it was Blanket Night.  I told him it was his… so I ended up with his $4 Top Deck tickets… and I ended up at Dodger Stadium at 4:30pm on the 15th of September with 97 baseballs snagged on the year.
dodger reserve level.JPGMy first stop was the Top Deck…
to the top deck.JPGskyline.JPGBut, due to the night’s giveaway, they weren’t allowing anyone to enter early and watch BP from up there.  Slightly confused as to what I’d do for the next 40 minutes I headed down…
to the field level.JPGTo the field level… WHA???
open field level gate.JPGIt’s blurry, I know… I literally was jogging with my camera when I took this.  It felt like I was a cartoon character.  I did a double take… there were a few people in street clothes inside this open gate… so, what did I do?  I joined them.  When I got to the fence where they were standing I saw this:
early bp.JPGAnd this:
early warmups.JPGAnd I hung out there.  I didn’t have much else to do and watching pitchers warm up and hitters take early BP was way more fun than standing around waiting for the gates to open.  I put on my Dodgers cap and hung out… and then Ken Howell got my attention.  I didn’t ask for anything, I didn’t call out to him, I didn’t hold up my glove.  It was on my hand, I’m no fool… but I just wanted to clarify that he initiated the interaction.  Once I made eye contact with him he held his arm up.  There was a baseball in his hand!  He shook it as if to say, “You ready for this?” And I held up my glove.  He threw me a perfect strike.  Wow!  I’d snagged a ball and the stadium wasn’t even open.

howell ball.JPGI think that Howell had thrown it to me because Guillermo Mota had been using it but it had gotten scuffed so he couldn’t use it any longer.  It was rubbed up and just had one brown mark on it.  Nice!

I looked at my watch.  It was 4:48pm… and no one had asked me to move yet.  I asked the people next to me, who’d been speaking to a stadium employee, if they did this often (this meaning standing inside the stadium watching the players before everyone prepare for the game).  They told me they did… and that they would be asked to leave at about five ’til five.  I said I was thrilled to just hang out there with them.  They were really nice.  At that point there were employees, players, and the three of us inside the park.  It was so quiet that I could hear players talking in the pen and on the field.  Eerie but so cool.

At 4:55pm a security guard approached, joked with the couple next to me saying, “What?  Nobody’s kicked you guys out yet?”  I smiled, tipped my cap, and exited the way I came in.  I know how to take cues and the guard was very friendly.  I had fifteen minutes to kill so I went to the center field gate where baseballs sometimes get tossed or roll to the few that mingle there… it’s also where Autograph Alley is located.  I killed ten minutes there with little activity… then my phone rang as I left center field and headed back toward the gate to enter the Field Level.  It was Chris, who’d mentioned he was catching a ride up to the game.  I had an extra ticket and told him so, so he agreed to buy it off me.  I saw him sprinting toward the line to get in right as we were about to start entering.

We both got our fleece blankets and headed into the seats in Mannywood.  No Easter eggs to be found (unlike in the Pavilion sections… ugh) but we were the only two in Pirates gear around.  Our chances were good.  At one point during the first half hour inside the stadium I put my glove down to get my camera out of my backpack:

See how there’s not a photo there?  🙂  That’s because while my glove was off and my bag was open a Dodger player smacked a ball down the line that hit the dirt in fair territory and bounced over the wall in foul territory–right where I was standing.  Like, I didn’t move… it came right to me.  It was amazingly lucky that I ended up with it.  It hit my bare hands and I bobbled it to my feet… and quickly picked it up.  Take a look:
dodgerswin ball.JPGGood thing I’ve got quick hands… DodgersWIN!

At 5:40pm the other side of the stadium… stupid Dodger Stadium rul
es,,, opened and I ran over there to where some Pirates were shagging in right field.  I paid close attention to who was out there, knowing the DodgersWIN ball was my 99th of the season… and the next one would put me into triple digits.
pirates bp.JPGIt didn’t take long.  Garrett Jones, the right fielder for the Pirates that night, fielded a ball about twenty feet from me.  I called out to him, held up my glove and he tossed it to me along the front row right near the foul pole.  It wasn’t fancy.  It was, in fact, a pretty ordinary toss and it was a pretty ordinary ball:
triple digit ball.JPGBut it was the 100th of 2009 for me and the 128th snagged baseball total for me in my lifetime.  So it was special enough to deserve a picture on my blog!  100 baseballs and I got there at my thirty-second game of the year!

The second round of BP for the Pirates ended and I sprinted to the dugout… a few players came into the dugout and, when I held up my glove at the concrete barrier between the normal field seats and the super-primo seats, some guy in a polo shirt threw me the dirtiest, grass-stainiest, most used ball in my collection:
dirty ball.JPGCool.  He was probably a trainer or conditioning coach for the Pirates.  I thanked him and started to head back toward the foul pole and as I did that a Pirates player headed into the dugout with a ball in his hand which he threw right to me.  It might have been Jason Jaramillo but I’m not sure.  Two baseballs, numbers 4 and 5 on the day, in less than a minute.  My most successful (and luckiest) day at Dodger Stadium ever!

Check out this view:
sunshine bp.JPGAt this point I’d like to point out that my sunglasses broke earlier in the afternoon.  Tough sun.  I had my cap brim low and that was it, but pretty soon a Pirate batting from the left side fouled a ball toward me.  I saw it go up, put my glove up to block the sun, moved up the aisle to my left about ten feet, tracked the ball as it fell and caught it cleanly… right in front of a young kid who hadn’t even seen it.  His family thanked me.  An older couple cheered and said I should be down on the field… that the Pirates needed me on their team.  A few people applauded.  That one felt good.

Here’s Ball #6 on the day, Ball #103 on the season, Ball #131 in my life:
foul smudge.JPGThere’s a cool smudge on it from where the batter made contact.  Fun stuff.

As BP ended Chris and I met up.  He’d snagged four on his own.  I found a kid wearting a glove sitting with his family and asked him if he’d gotten a ball yet.  He said he hadn’t so I handed him the ball from the unknown Pirate player.  He was thrilled, his family was incredibly happy, they all thanked me, and then I headed off.  Chris and I watched Zach Duke warm up on the field:
zach duke warmup cropped small.jpgAnd then in the bullpen:
zach duke bullpen.JPGEventually the Pirates stretched:
pirates stretch.JPGBut I couldn’t get down by the dugout when some players played catch.  I grabbed some food and then a seat just past first base.
dodger warmup toss.JPGpearce batting.JPGI had to move a few times but was always in good foul ball territory.  The Pirates scored three runs off Randy Wolf in the second inning.  That was all they’d do.  About halfway through the game I sat in Section 6:
section 6.JPGThat’s Duke delivering a pitch to Manny. 

I was within five feet of a foul ball in the eighth inning… just missed it because I was blocked by some clueless fans.  Anyway, the Dodgers chipped away at the 3-0 deficit and tied it in the ninth inning.  Extra innings again!  I love free baseball.  I had been behind the Pirates dugout b
ut when Matt Capps blew the save I moved to right behind the home dugout:
behind the dodger dugout.JPGThe game ended up going thirteen innings and ended when Andre Ethier hit the first pitch he saw out of the park after the Pirates had taken the lead in the top of the inning.  It was a two-run shot that won it, 5-4.  An exciting night and a fun evening, even at my least favorite park.  The five baseballs (of six) I kept:
5 of my 6.JPGIt’s hard to complain when you’re lucky, successful, and get to watch some great baseball!