I knew I was going to head out to one of the Angel games against the Tigers this week. I randomly chose Tuesday’s game. As it turns out, the weather was not a friend to me on this day. This will be a pretty quick entry because not a lot happened.
I left in plenty of time to get to the stadium before it opened. As I was driving along the freeway it started to rain. Ridiculous. Then the rain let up… then, as I got of the freeway it picked up again. Ugh.
I parked and walked up to the outfield tunnel to peer in at the field. I was disappointed to see the tarp out on the field. I headed up to the Home Plate Gate anyway. At about 5:00 the rain had lessened again but I just knew there wouldn’t be batting practice. I called Michelle, who had planned on meeting me at the game, and she decided to just go home… she told me if the weather got better she might drive out to meet me later. I considered just calling it a night right then (I thought about my streak–I’d snagged at least one baseball at 43 consecutive games).
I ended up heading inside–grabbing my giveaway item (an Angels wall calendar) as I went. I ran toward the first base side and out onto the field level. Cue the sad trombone. No BP. I did see a few Angels throwing over near left field–so away I went.
Rodney almost threw one over the center field fence.
When they finished, Rodney threw his ball to a little kid (who already had a ball given to him by Scot Shields as he passed by). The mystery player still had a baseball in his pocket. I took a wild shot as he moved the ball from his pocket to his glove as he walked away toward the dugout…
“Rodriguez! Aqui, por favor!”
Now, let me just say that the player looked to be Hispanic. Also, according to my roster the Angels have three players with the surname Rodriguez on their forty-man roster… all pitchers. The player turned, saw my glove up in the air, and tossed the ball over a few rows of fans and to me. I bobbled it–but held on and, just like that, my streak was at forty-four. After checking photos at home I confirmed that it was Francisco Rodriguez who threw it to me. Not the one who used to be an Angel and is now a Met… a different Francisco Rodriguez. He has since been reassigned.
I walked over to the bullpen. Mike Butcher was heading toward the dugout and the rain had continued… I asked if they were going to play if this kept up and he assured me they would. After that… nothing happened. For a while. Seriously.
Here it is from the first base side:
Around 5:45 the grounds crew felt the weather was good enough to take the tarp off the infield. They were right to do so, it wouldn’t rain for the rest of the night.
They did a good job:
And finally, a couple of Tigers came out to throw. By this point I had decided that I would just head home before the game started (due to traffic, the weather, and wanting to watch LOST). I watched Ryan Perry and Joel Zumaya throw. I stood behind Perry for a few minutes as Zumaya pitched fireballs to him. Yikes!
And they put on their own long toss show.
I ended up getting both of their autographs on ticket stubs, and Phil Coke signed a baseball for me, too.
Three autos, one baseball, a free drink, and a calendar. A quick night.
A day game after a night game on a Wednesday. Angel Stadium. August 26th, 2009. It was an important day for me. I’m glad that I had my wife and a friend of ours there with me.
The day started at 10:15am when Michelle and I met up with our friend,
Toby, before driving to the stadium. She’d wanted to head to a
baseball game with us ever since she’d heard about how I run around
catching baseballs (or trying to). Off we went, arriving at the Big A
around 10:35. We walked around the back of the stadium so I could peek
in through the outfield tunnels. As I expected, BP was NOT happening
on this hot summer day. I was a bit worried that I’d get shut out,
especially when I happened to pass by John Witt (aka MLBallhawk)
outside the Right Field Gate. John’s some pretty good competition when
baseballs are flyin’ around!
Just after 11:00 the gates opened and I was denied taking in my sealed
bottle of Green Tea… grr. I ran inside… I had picked right field
because I figured a few Tigers would be out warming up. After all, the
visiting team had been out first at the last day game I’d attended.
This day, however, I’d guessed wrong… there were a few Angels out on
the field, so what did I do?
I ran all the way over to the left field line… it was already so
hot! When I got there Trevor Bell was tossing a ball to himself… he
needed to warm up. I called out to him, “Hey, Trevor!” He looked over
at me and I said, “I’ll play catch with you, man.”
He smiled and said, “Well, come on down here then.” I was already in
the 2nd row of the seats… I went to the first row, right up against
the wall and looked at him. I shrugged… what was I supposed to do
now? Certainly he wasn’t serious… I couldn’t go down to the field.
So, I held my glove up and made a throwing motion with my right hand.
Just then, bullpen catcher Steve Soliz showed up and got Trevor’s
attention… dang. Trevor held up his arms and kind of shook his head
as if to say, “Sorry.”
Well, he played catch and I got Matt Palmer’s autograph. I was a little bummed. I had been hoping for a “played catch with a major leaguer” story. I’ve gotten close a couple of times. If you’re reading this… just try it sometime. Go ahead, ask ’em…
Then later, Trevor headed over to the left field foul pole and started talking to someone that he seemed to know… he signed a ticket stub for me… on the back of the ticket. I had handed it to him face up. Weird, but a nice signature, and I told him so. He thanked me. Here it is:
I write the name of the player who’s autograph I get on the back of the ticket along with the date so I can remember… see it up there?
Then I got Rafael Rodriguez to sign another ticket.
All this time and there were still no Tigers on the field… they didn’t come out until fifteen minutes later…
Here was the view of the “action” on the field:
It was all right though. I was having fun… I saw Rob in the crowd and said hello to him and then I took off for the bullpen (where I took the above photo) while Trevor Bell threw a session out there with Soliz and Mickey Hatcher. As he was finishing up I saw a trio of Tigers emerge from their dugout and start tossing a ball way across the field:
I couldn’t get a baseball from Trevor after three interactions with him, including this last one when I asked him for the ball he’d just finished using. Strike three–I was out of there and across the stadium. I got down to the foul line on the Field Level and saw a small crowd there that included the aforementioned John Witt.
Justin Verlander, who’d pitched well on Monday night, was signing autographs and since I had already used up three ticket stubs I had I grabbed my silver Sharpie and got him to sign my Tigers cap! Sweet!
At that point in time Michelle and Toby had come out to the seats near me after Michelle took an important phone call and Toby bought an Angels cap. They sat nearby while I watched a sextet of Tigers pitchers play catch:
Armando Galarraga (on the far right in the above picture) finished up and was talking to a trainer for a minute. Nobody cared about his baseball, it seemed, so I asked him for it. He looked over at me. I repeated my request, in Spanish this time, and he tossed me my first baseball on the day! Shortly thereafter Galarraga came over and started signing autographs. I really only get autographs on the baseballs I snag by the player I got it from… so it made perfect sense… here’s the ball with the ‘graph:
After that Fernando Rodney was still throwing with Ryan Perry. Rodney overthrew the ball and I jumped for it. It ended up going just over my head… and an older guy behind me caught it. He asked me if I’d seen the catch and when I said yes he pulled out a tape recorder. As it turns out, he worked for a Detroit radio station… who knows, maybe I’m on the radio somewhere in D-Town.
I took the autographed ball back to Michelle and left it with her while I tried to nab another ball from Bobby Seay. I got denied… but the game would be starting soon so we headed up to the 400 level.
We took up some seats in a good foul ball spot over first base:
It was a great summer afternoon. It was warm but, man, I love day baseball games. It’s just a different environment. I don’t like the lack of BP but I love the many, many empty seats.
Torii Hunter started off the Halo offense with a two-run homer in the first inning that just got out of the reach of Curtis Granderson at the wall. The Angels tacked on a run in the third and another in the fourth. Joe Saunders was pitching against Edwin Jackson and did well in his first start back from the DL. He went five innings and gave up two runs… the bullpen shut it down after that.
But let’s pause for a moent and talk about the sixth inning. As the top of the sixth arrived the row in front of where we were sitting had cleared out due to the lack of shade as the sun traveled through the afternoon sky. I looked over at Michelle and said, “I’m gonna move down there a bit. I’ve got a good feeling.” So, I sat in the sun on a hot seat while Jason Bulger (who I knew could throw hard) got Placido Polanco to fly out.
Then Magglio Ordonez popped out. And up stepped Miguel Cabrera. I had this view to my left:
And it turned out that I needed all the space in that empty row. Bulger threw a fastball and Cabrera was just a bit late on it. It came flying back toward me, arching toward the seats. I knew it was going to get up to us… I took off to my right along the empty row and I got to the green handrail at the staircase just as a fan stood up to catch the ball (bare-handed) up in the fourth row. It bounced off his hands, and since I know that gravity pulls things down (duh) I got right below him in the first row (right at the bottom of the staircase). The ball hit off a second fan’s hand and spun down into the first row near where I was standing.
I was facing away from the field (that photo shows the view to my left, where the ball ended up). I lunged to my left, reaching out with my glove hand (since the ball was still rolling). All of a sudden I felt weight on my right shoulder… a lot of weight. Later, I found out that a guy had tripped going for the ball and had fallen on me. I braced myself against the concrete wall with my left arm (sticking my glove into that wet spot in the process… ew), scraping it against the concrete wall, and stretched out my right hand to grab the ball. My first foul ball. Ever!
It took me until I was twenty-six years old. It wasn’t graceful… but it was just a bit of luck combined with quick reflexes and a little skill. I didn’t make a big deal about it right away because the fans who didn’t get the ball were a little unruly (read: drunk). Instead, I sat down next to Michelle, smiling, and I opened my glove. This was inside it:
Yes! I was thilled. Every one of my ninety-eight baseballs in my collection had been BP/warmup/3rd out/postgame baseballs. This one was my first live game ball. Man, I couldn’t believe it! I’m excited about it even now as I’m writing this. Woo!
After that… it was, you know, a baseball game. We moved out of the sun and closer to home plate:
On the left of the above photo can you see what’s going on? Mike Scioscia is arguing that Chone Figgins should have been safe at home after stealing it… but time had been called… according to a replay I saw at home later, the umps were right. Figgins went back to third and didn’t score. It didn’t matter. The Angels bullpen held down the Tigers and before I knew it it was the ninth inning. I left Michelle and Toby when there was one out in the ninth. I ran down to just behind the dugout as Fuentes was recording the second out:
Here was the view on the gorgeous summer day:
Fuentes got the third out and I lined up with about twenty other people hoping to get a toss up. A few baseballs came up but I didn’t snag anything… that was all right with me though. I grabbed a few ticket stubs and an abandoned Angels Magazine on my way out to meet Michelle and Toby. I ended the day with five autographs, two baseballs, and a great memory of a milestone in my ballhawking career.
All right! Back at the Big A with my wife and a fine summer evening of baseball. We arrived plenty early and I took a spot in line while Michelle sat in the shade.
Actually, you can see Michelle in the background of that photo as she checks out the Nick Adenhart memorial. It’s always changing as people add to it… August 24th, 2009 would have been Nick’s 23rd birthday. R.I.P.
I was the first one there and arrived just in time to watch Frank Robinson enter the gates after totally snubbing a Detroit Tigers fan. Ouch!
Soon enough the lines were growing and I saw John, Terry, Rob, and Chris (all Anaheim BP regulars) around me. The security guard for my line was late gettin’ with the program so Rob beat me up to the pavilion but there weren’t any Easter eggs to be found.
After a few minutes I walked to the center field side of the pavilion as Torii Hunter was shagging out there. He fielded one near the wall and I exclaimed, “Torii! Could you toss that one up here, please?”
He looked up, smiled, and side-armed Ball #1 right to me. Awesome! I’d never gotten a ball from Torii before. I told him, “Thank you! It’s good to have you back, Torii!” And he gave me a thumbs up–this game would be his first home game back since he’s been on the DL.
I just kept being out of place for the few homers that went up there during BP. I saw a few Angels pitchers in right and thought Shane Loux was one of them. I headed down to the front row and got right above where Loux was fielding and said, “Is that Shane down there?” No response.
“Well, if it is… I just want to say Happy Birthday next week, man.”
He turned around and looked up saying, “Thank you.” He pointed to me with his glove. Cool.
About five minutes later I was in the fourth rows of the stands trying to catch a homer by Gary Matthews, Jr. A ball went to Loux and he turned around, wanting to toss it to someone. I put my arms up and waved halfheartedly… and he tossed it over a half dozen people in the first row straight into my glove. For the record, I never asked him for a baseball… but I sure appreciate having it! Note to self: that birthday stat on the rosters I print out comes in handy after all.
After the Angels finished hitting I got entirely shut out! Not too many homers made it up to us in RF and those that did were just too far from me. I almost got two or three… but almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, as my dad says.
After BP I found Michelle in the seats further up in the pavilion and we found some shade on the Terrace Level and ate our dinner we’d brought in with us. The Angels Strike Force made their rounds and I snagged my third ball of the day… but it was made of soft plastic and foam. I’ve snagged three of these Softee balls this year without really trying too hard. Too bad they don’t count in the standings of the Ballhawk League!
I saw Justin Verlander come out and warm up near the line in right. When he started throwing I sat behind the bullpen catcher in case of an overthrow. Geez! Verlander’s got some great movement on his pitches. Neither he nor the catcher tossed a ball to anyone… but Michelle mentioned that a player was signing closer to the dugout.
I took a closer look and saw Curtis Granderson–he posed for some photos and signed for a good ten minutes! I got him on my ticket from that game. Lemme tell you, some of these ballplayers don’t try very hard when signing their name. Ugh. Thanks anyway, Curtis, for taking the time. Your fans appreciate it.
A couple of Tigers tossed before the anthem but only one ball got thrown to the crowd… it was just a bit too far to my left. Oh, well. Michelle and I headed up to the View Level and found some seats here:
Nice foul ball spot, eh?
Verlander throws hard… I figured a lot of foul balls from the Angels batting left-handed (Figgins, Abreu, Izturis, Morales, Aybar) would make it up this way. Nope. Only one close call.
The Angels made a comeback though and knocked Verlander out of the game in the sixth. They beat up on the Tigers bullpen a little, too… it was 10-7 after Bobby Abreu knocked a three-run homer of the fence in right field. Fernando Rodney came in and got the final four outs of the game though… and I was right behind the dugout as the players came off the field. The only thing that got tossed to me: a piece of Sugar Free Double Bubble by current coach and former player Andy Van Slyke.
Oh, and Michelle and I saw actor J.K. Simmons in the crowd behind the dugout at the game’s end. He signed a few autographs and posed for some photos. Apparently he is a BIG Tigers fan. He was born in Detroit in ’55 and, here’s some entertainment/sports trivia, he played the manager of the Tigers in the Kevin Costner film “For Love of the Game.” Cool, huh?
Check out his left hand. I respect him even more as an actor and sports fan now: he had bro
ught his glove to the game. Props to you, J.K.
As the visiting team clubhouse attendant was cleaning up he looked up over the dugout with a ball in his hand. I asked him, politely, if I could have it. He scanned around to see if anyone else was still nearby. Everyone but me had cleared out. I said, “There’s nobody younger or cuter near me! C’mon, man… please?”
I arrived at about 4:30pm and parked for free using a secret told to me by Mr. Sammy Wu. As I approached the Home Plate Gate I saw this:
I was the second person in my line. Pretty mellow. Here’s what it looked like at 5:00pm, right before they let us in:
Man, even on days that I expect small crowds there are SO many people at this stadium. The paid attendance was over 43,000! Most of them, however, were not there for batting practice AND most of them did not run in and set up shop in the pavilion… like me.
OK, so baseball #1 came to me from the friendly arm of Angels reliever Justin Speier. As a group of Angels pitchers jogged along the warning track there was a ball 18 ft. below my spot in right field. I yelled, “Hey, Justin, could you toss that ball up, please?” And he responded, “Aw, man… I would love to.” Funny. And there it was, my first of the day, complete with a black PRACTICE stamp on the sweet spot. Bleh.
After getting dissed by Rich Thompson and Daniel Davidson (Who? Yes… our pitching staff is currently rather thin.) I waited for the Tigers pitchers to warm up. I got Fernando Rodney’s attention after asking him for a ball and pointing to my Detroit hat. He finished long tossing and threw one up to me. Now, despite Zack Hample‘s dislike for them, I was very excited to see that I’d just snagged my first ever International League baseball. Here’s a photo:
The font and logo are different, they feel different, they’re made in China… but it was something NEW! Cool. When I have thousands of baseballs in my collection I’ll probably look back on this and think, “Boy, I was really excited about a lame international whatever ball.” But for now–it’s way awesome.
Feeling that I had exhausted my resources in right field I headed toward center, to the corner spot of the pavilion. A few Tigers players were taking Fungos in center including Matt Treanor and Curtis Granderson. An odd combination? Yes. Anyway, Curtis ran down a fly ball that I didn’t think he could reach. I mean, he sprinted forty feet, leapt at the wall below me and caught it in the tip of his glove. I said, “Nice wheels!” And he looked up, grinned, and did like, a corny 1990s I’m-using-my-hand-like-it-is-a-gun-to-show-you-I-approve thing. My friendliness paid off. The next time he was nearby I asked if he could toss up a ball… and he did! Another International League ball and my third souvenir of the day.
At that point Michelle, who’d be meeting me at the game, called to say she was stuck in traffic, so I took a timeout from snagging to make sure she could get to the stadium. When I headed back my corner spot was occupied so I hung back a few rows as Mr. Granderson stepped into the cage. That guy not only can run… he can HIT! The night before he smacked a pair of homers and he was killin’ the ball in the cage, too. Before long he belted one to right center and it went right over the glove of the guy in Tigers gear who’d taken the corner and bounced around in the row I was in a few feet from me… ball #4 on the day! In the photo below you can kind of see the green marking that the seats left on the ball when it smacked into them in the pavilion.
That would be it for BP but I had seats on the Field Level for the game so I didn’t care if I got any other baseballs. Michelle arrived in the second inning and we headed up to the Beach Pit BBQ stand in center field for some pulled pork and beef brisket sandwiches. We ate out in the center field seats. Here’s our view during dinnertime:
We stayed here through most of the game and watched the action (including Ryan Raburn misplaying two fly balls). No foul balls came near us and none of the outfielders tossed warmup balls into the crowd at all! The Angels were ahead for most of the game but, yet again, the bullpen gave up a bunch of runs and…
See that guy on the left in the photo above? He stumbled (drunkenly) down the aisle and started talking to the dudes in front of Michelle and I about how he was a Marine and how his buddy had bet him a car (a Porsche nonetheless) that he wouldn’t run out on the field and high five the right fielder. He spent twenty minutes trying to psych himself up, asking for advice, trying to figure out “what that sign” actually meant.
Then, randomly, a dude in a gray hoodie two sections to our left leaps onto the field and starts sprinting. Three security guards and a cop chase him. So this genius in front of me stumbles over the wall as if he thought, “Well, if he can do it, I may as well do it, too.” He wobbles, jogs to Gary Matthews Jr. in right and I can see him explaining and gesturing that he’s gonna get a car if he high fives this man. Gary shakes his head and crosses his arms so this drunk dude kind of taps his hand and starts to then run away, Then he notices a cop ten feet from him and puts his head down and calmly walks off… to get arrested. I remembering hoping he actually would get a car out of it.
In the meantime, the first dude in the gray hoodie is STILL running full speed away from the guards. He gets grabbed by the sleeve, wriggles out of his hoodie, and makes a beeline back for the stands where he came from. He makes it over the wall but is met by two guards in the aisle. So, he’s going to jail for the night, too. They never put that stuff on TV… it was really amusing. Downright hilarious, as a matter of fact. Two guys runnin’ on the field at the same time, totally not associated with one another. Ha!
So, the bullpen gave up some runs and a bunch of fans left and Michelle and I moved to right behind the Tigers dugout.
It was 12-8… in the ninth the Angels made it close, 12-10. That’s where the score stayed, though, and the Angels lost again while I was in attendance. Bummer. It was an exciting game though, 22 runs scored, home runs, double plays, I love all that stuff. I grabbed a few ticket stubs on my way out… and, oh!
I almost forgot to mention I got Gerald Laird to autograph a ticket stub before the game. I couldn’t find my black Sharpie so I handed him the silver one from my bag. It’s not the best autograph ever but…
Actually, it’s kind of lame… no offense, Gerald, I shoulda had my black Sharpie ready… bah!
I’ll be at the game Saturday to watch Ichiro, Griffey, and the M’s with Michelle and some friends from out of town. It should be a good matchup!