Tagged: torii hunter

4/16/12 at Angel Stadium


My first game of the 2012 season had finally arrived.  It would be the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (boy, I hate that name) against the Oakland Athletics.  Jered Weaver would be pitching against Brandon McCarthy and I would be there, first in line, ready to go, when the gates opened up.  I was psyched.  I packed my bag for the first time–team rosters, bottled water, my camera, and the assorted accouterments associated with attending an Angel game… or any MLB game, I suppose.  I small-talked with a few of the Angel Stadium BP regulars while I waited.  Rob, Eli, Terry, Lou… a bunch of guys I’d have never know had it not been for this fun hobby I developed way back in 2008.

The security guards arrived and got the gates prepped… and I talked to them about the new rule at Angel Stadium that any security personnel that are on the field need to wear helmets.  Does anyone know if this is all across MLB?  And they weren’t even cool MLB helmets… they were, like, bicycle helmets.  I wish I’d taken a picture.  UPDATE:  Haha… I did!  Here’s TJ (the Angels Strength and Conditioning Coach) and Torii Hunter and Howie Kendrick joking about the stylish new trend:

Well, I got my bagged checked… and headed inside to the folks with the ticket scanners.  All this anticipation, I’m the first one through the gates, and, wouldn’t you know it?  The lady I went to was having scanner problems… ugh.  I watched as people in other lines flooded in past me before snatching my ticket from her and thrusting it into the next ushers face and telling him, “Hers isn’t working.  Please scan my ticket.”  He did–I was direct but polite, after all.  And I took off running.  As I rounded a corner on the Terrace Level I could see a couple of guys were already scouring for Eater eggs in the right field seats so I decided to change my strategy.  I took a hard left down some stairs and that’s when I looked at the field for the first time.  It was beautiful–perfectly manicured, actually–but there was something very wrong.

The hometown Halos weren’t hitting.  There wasn’t a single Angel on the field.  As it turns out, they’d gotten in from New York at about 3am so they had decided not to do a full BP session.  I quickly changed tactics and ran straight down to the front row along the third base line as the A’s started to play catch.  Virtually the whole team was out there–and a few of the coaches were near the dugout playing catch, too.  As I knew the coaches would finish first, I got the approval of an usher to head over there to ask for a ball.  A few moments later I got my first baseball of the season tossed to me by an A’s coach–not sure who–but it wasn’t Chili Davis, Mike Gallego, Bob Melvin, Tye Waller, or Chip Hale.  So that leaves Rick Rodriguez, Chris Pittaro, and Curt Young.  I’m going to go with Rick Rodriguez.  So, thanks, Rick!  He tossed it to me a it skipped off the roof of the dugout.  I bobbled it to my feet and then quickly snatched it up.  I’d say that is about as close to an error as I want to get all season long.

As the players finished up their throwing and began to make their way to the cage I got baseball #2 on the day from Josh Reddick after he finished playing catch.  He lobbed the standard Selig my way in the second row of Section 128.  Eric Sogard (who has been on the A’s roster for three years but only made the Opening Day starting lineup this season) started signing autographs and I got him on my ticket.  My next baseball came my way just a few minutes later as the pitchers finished throwing.  Fautino de los Santos hooked me up with a ball in Section 127–I didn’t know who he was at the time but checked through some photos online to confirm it was him.

After that I ran up to the pavilion in right field with the hope that the A’s (and their several lefties) would show some pop.  It’s clear that’s not what they were planning on this day, however, as only about four or five home runs came nearby–and I was out of range on all of them.  I did manage to get a brand new pearl of a baseball from Tyson Ross while I was standing in the third row of Section 239… and then the A’s finished hitting at 6:12pm… much earlier than I’d expected.  I wasn’t able to get to their dugout in time so I sat down, made some notes, got some water, and waited for the Angels to take the field.

First uniformed Angel siting of 2012:

Once they did come out to get loose, I saw Howie Kendrick’s son getting handed over to his dad from the seats–he wandered around on the field a bit and greeted the players.  My coolest photo of the night?  Howie’s kid giving Torii Hunter a high five:

But I couldn’t get a warmup ball from the Angels–nor could I get one from the A’s about ten minutes later after the national anthem.  I checked out the concourse of the stadium and notices the Halo front office had upgraded a few things… like these digital menu boards in the concession stands:

Six bucks for peanuts?  Yeesh–I buy ’em for two bucks a bag at the grocery store.  It was about this time that Michelle, who had been at work, arrived at the stadium.  I met her at the Left Field Gate and we found seats in the left field corner.  My goal this year is to catch a home run.  It’s something I’ve never done and I figure that 2012 is the best year to do it.  Last season, around the Big A, I was simply focused on snagging as many of those commemorative 50th anniversary balls as I could.  They’re still using some of those in BP, I’d learn, but this year–it’s all about the game home run ball.  And Albert Pujols was still sitting on zero home runs for the year–maybe I could catch his first!  Here was our view:

See that aisle with the vendor in the yellow?  I was ready to jump up and run down it with each pitch.  We stayed in the same spot throughout the game, chatted, ate food that we’d brought into the park (I’m so glad the Angels still let you do that), and watched the action. Kendrys Morales hit his first home run since May of 2010–a three run shot that just barely cleared the fence in left-center.  Albert hit a drive to the warning track… but didn’t go yard.  The A’s just couldn’t muster any kind of rally.  We got to see a pretty cool moment: Jered Weaver’s 1,000th career strikeout.

It was Josh Reddick in the sixth inning, in case you were curious.

After having not scored since that Morales homer in the first inning, the Angels were able to put up three more runs in the eighth.  The healthy 6-0 lead was plenty for Weaver, who was excellent yet again and went six and two-thirds innings, and three relievers.

Michelle had to leave around 9:15 to head home so I walked her to the gate and we parted ways (it was still only 3-0 when she left).  I returned to the seating area, stayed in the outfield seats for a bit longer but then decided to move.  After a half-inning behind the Halo dugout, I ended up behind the Oakland dugout for conclusion of that evening’s contest:  And when Erick Aybar grounded out to first baseman Daric Barton to end the 8th, I was about five rows back and he lofted me ball #5 on the evening.  I looked closely at it and realized he must have kept the gamer and tossed my the infield warm up ball because it was pretty beaten up.

LaTroy Hawkins came in for the ninth inning and, though he loaded the bases, closed out the game with the shutout in tact.

And I snapped photos of all the guys on defense, including the one below that I really like of Pujols and Kendrick ready for a pitch to be delivered… Kendrick’s on his toes with anticipation.

I asked manager Bob Melvin for his lineup cards but he ignored me… and the A’s relievers came in from the bullpen and Brian Fuentes had a baseball in his pocket.  I shouted to him, “Hey, Brian, could you toss me a baseball, please?”  He got a few steps closer, lobbed one my way… and a female A’s fan to my right leaned out and nabbed it just an inch in front of my glove.

Wow–I guess I should have been more aggressive.  I was a little bummed about that one but I was pretty pleased with my haul.  I ended up giving away the de los Santos ball to an usher who said she’d be certain to find a deserving youngster to give it to… and I headed home.

A pretty darn good first game of the year–it felt good to knock the rust off.  Here are the five baseballs (I gave the one away at my most recent game–so I still had it at this point):

I’d be heading back to see the O’s and Angels on Friday.


8/6/11 at Angel Stadium

It was a Saturday–Michelle had to work that evening–I wanted to go to a ball game.  Luckily, my uncle called me to say that he had four tickets to that evening’s Angels/Mariners game.  Then he asked, did I want two of them?  Score!  I got the family discount–Stubhub! can’t provide that!  So, after picking up the tickets I drove to the stadium and met Chris at the gates–he was using the second ticket.  We headed in and I took off for right field.

It was a frustrating batting practice.  Here was my view for part of it:

I would eventually move closer to right field.  I just wasn’t having any luck… but I had plenty of close calls.  I’ll just cut to the chase: I ended up with one ball through the whole ninety minutes of BP.  It was tossed by Jason Vargas and here it is:

I know the photo’s a bit dark bit it was a nice 50th ball with just one scuff on it… below the logo.  In case you’re wondering what that number on my palm means, I wrote ‘340’ so that I would remember the next ball I snagged was my 340th ball.

After the Angels did some pregame throwing and I missed out on a ball on that side I went to the M’s side of the field and, well, here’s Jack Wilson and Kyle Seager heading into the dugout after their warmup throws:

See how there are about three people looking over at the camera in that photo?  It’s because a moment before I took that picture Wilson tossed me this:

So a poor outing (from a snagging standpoint) got a little bit better.

I went to sit behind the Angel dugout for the first inning and sent my wife a picture message that said: I wonder how long I’ll get to stay here.

It turns out those fans showed up in the fourth inning–but my prime real estate didn’t get me another baseball.  Still, it was an excellent view of Ichiro as he prepared to swing:

And as he led off first base (with Angels rookie pitcher Tyler Chatwood in the foreground):


And then…

Well, he’d just stolen second… Aybar is making sure to keep a tag on Ichi while, I believe, the ball is getting switched out since it was scuffed and would no longer be usable in the game.

I spent a little time behind the M’s dugout, too:

Torii took that pitch for a strike, BTW.  After about five innings I checked in with my uncle (and his wife) near their seats:

My uncle Ivar is the man responsible for me being as big a baseball fan as I am–he started taking me to games when I was a little kid (and they were still called the California Angels).  And during the top of the sixth I told them I would be going on a brief walk.  I walked down to the Angel dugout and took a seat about fifteen rows back.  And when Franklin Gutierrez hit a grounder to second baseman Howie Kendrick, Kendrick fired the ball to Mark Trumbo at first for the final out of the frame.  And when Trumbo got near the foul line I waved my arms and called out to him from about six or seven rows back and he threw me the gamer.  Nice!

The night ended up being just fine from a snagging perspective.

Ludacris was scheduled to perform a postgame concert at Angel Stadium and I promised my uncle I would take a bunch of pictures–he also made sure I took one of this pre-recorded interview that played on the jumbotron between innings:

As for the game… well, let’s see… the Angels only scored one run… Treyvon Robinson hit his first career home run (and some fan jumped a railing to chase after it… then encountered some not-too-pleased security personell)… Blake Beavan tossed eight quality innings and Brandon League threw a scoreless ninth.  I was behind the M’s dugout at the time:

And League was pretty efficient.  He got Vernon Wells to pop out.  Then walked Howie Kendrick.

And then Mark Trumbo grounded into a double play to end the game.  :sigh:

I hung around for the postgame interview as Beavan (who’s 6′ 7″) got interviewed and the relievers walked in from the bullpen.

I didn’t get anything tossed to me though except for a few pieces of bubble gum.  A little later, once the stage was set up, assembled, and folks were let onto the infield dirt, Ludacris emerged from the visitor’s dugout and played an hour-long set.

There were over 42,000 in attendance for the game and I’d say at least 25,000 stuck around for the concert.  Some of the M’s were in the dugout watching… including Adam Kennedy–who then walked onto the field in street clothes with his kid and disappeared into the crowd (he came back a little later).

I left before Ludacris finished to beat the traffic out of the parking lot.

7/31/10 at Angel Stadium

After more than two weeks since my last game I was pretty anxious about getting out to Angel Stadium again, this time to watch them take on the (ugh) first place (double-ugh) Rangers.  Adding to my anxiety was the fact that I didn’t actually have my ticket in my hand as I approached the gates prior to their opening at 4:05pm.  You see, about a month prior to this game I donated blood through the Red Cross at one of their blood drives (I’m O+, in case you’re wondering).  There was an Angels/Dodgers tie-in and, long story short, I received a voucher for two free tickets to the game on this night.  The tricky thing was that I had to exchange the voucher for the tickets and the Red Cross volunteers would be arriving at 4:00.

Well, I arrived at 3:30, was first in line, set my bag down, walked across the main plaza to the Red Cross booth, and waited.  I also enlisted the help of BP regular, Eli, to help save my spot.  At 3:55 I convinced the volunteer to let me redeem my voucher (before her supervisor got there, which was the initial issue she had) and then ran to will call because Michelle would be arriving later in the evening and that was the only way that ticket could be used for someone who wasn’t me… because I was the one who’d donated blood and my name was on the voucher… blah blah blah.  Anyway, I did all that and got back into line with minutes to spare–and ran inside at 4:05 to set up shop in the bleachers.
beginning of 7.31 bp.JPGThe first ten minutes or so of batting practice were great!  There were hardly any people around and I snagged the first ball of the night off the bat of Hideki Matsui after he hit a homer that took a bounce in the seats of Section 236.  I beat out two other guys who were running for it.  Just minutes later I nabbed a Torii Hunter BP homer that flew over my head and took a bounce right back toward me after I’d positioned myself closer to center field.  With two baseballs in ten minutes I thought I’d be headed for a record-setting night–but things slowed down after that and the seats began to fill up.

Here was the view to my right:
view to my right 7.31.JPGNot too bad yet…

And left:
view to my left 7.31.JPGThat was at about a half hour after the gates had opened.  And, I should point out Rob, with his foot on the seat in the middle of the right view photo, who’s got over 800 baseballs (most of them batted balls) to his name.  And Skyler, the teenager in the black T-shirt and blue jeans near the usher in the left view photo.  He’s an up and coming ballhawk who can be a little wild at times but who’s made some very nice plays in the bleachers.  Also, that rather large usher who looks so stern is, in fact, making sure the young fan in the first row doesn’t stand on the seat or sit on the wall.  Usually the ushers hang out in the back of the pavilion and let us do our thing during BP–they’re very friendly and professional.

Anyway, back to the now dead BP session… yuck.  Well, the Angels left the field and the Rangers came out shortly thereafter.  I spent a few minutes near the foul pole trying to get a ball thrown to me by a pitcher but came up empty.  Once Vlad and Hamilton started hitting I ran back upstairs.  Here was the view:
rangers out to throw 7.31.JPGUnfortuantely, the Rangers exhibited an uncharacteristic lack of power during BP… except for Vlad who hit a couple shots to the rocks in center… but I didn’t snag another ball during BP.

I tried for a toss at the dugout.  Nada.  Tried for a warmup ball.  Nope.  As the game was starting Michelle still hadn’t arrived so I parked myself behind the Angels dugout to watch Dan Haren warm up before his second career outing with the Halos.
haren warmup 7.31.JPGHe did pretty well.  I was glad because his first start, against the Red Sox, was going well but then he took a line drive to the arm and left after 4+ innings.  He’d go longer today.

matt with asg ball.jpgOnce Michelle arrived we grabbed some seats… but then she had to take an urgent phone call from work so I followed her out to the concourse and used the opportunity to take a photo of myself with a commemorative ball from the All-Star Game (earning myself three points in the myGameBalls photo scavenger hunt).

We ended up in home run territory.  My new goal has been to go for foul balls and home runs during games more than third out tosses.  Those have become fairly easy.  I’m still only at one foul ball and zero home runs in my life.  Hopefully those numbers will improve soon.

This was our view for the game:
7.31 homer territory.JPGI didn’t take many pictures because, well, not a lot happened worth photographing.  I’ll say this though: the pitching was spectacular.  It was Haren against Rich Harden, returning fro
m the DL.  Texas got on the board first, in the fourth inning, when Vlad smacked a two-run home run to left-center field.  That was all the scoring the Rangers could do.  Not bad, right?  Haren went nine innings!  And got the loss… the Angels only scored once–in the seventh on a Howie Kendrick solo homer.  I thought we had a chance for a comeback but th ebullpen for the Rangers locked down a victory.  Harden threw seven great innings.  And the only chance I had at a homer?  Well, it was hit right to my section but was about twenty feet shy of the fence–and ending up being a flyout.

I went down to the Ranger dugout for the ninth inning (while Michelle watched from the concourse) and watched as Neftali Feliz shut down the Angels.  Alberto Callaspo flew out to center and Kendrick and Juan Rivera grounded out.  It was a one-two-three ninth and it allowed the Rangers to increase their AL West lead over the Angels.
callaspo swings 7.31.JPGkendrick atbat 7.31.JPGAs the bullpen guys for the Rangers walked across the field I noticed Scott Feldman with a baseball–I called out, “Hey, Scott!  Right here!”  He flipped the ball to me for my third on the night.  Not a bad night–but definitely not great.  Still, I had a lot of fun at the game and kicked off my birthday celebration with a good time at the ballpark with my wife–I’d turn 27 the next day–I just wish the Angels would’ve won.  The real celebration, however, would be the next weekend when Michelle and I would visit a new stadium…

6/26/10 at Angel Stadium

I had decided to avoid the Angels/Dodgers series midweek due to the crowds and instead bought a discounted ticket for me (and one for Michelle) for the Saturday night game against the Colorado Rockies.  We left home together at 4:00 and got to the stadium at 4:21.  There was no traffic–I’m used to traffic.  Since we were earlier than expected we walked across the parking lot to the nearby Grove theatre.  Why?  grove mickey.JPGWell, as of a couple weeks ago there are thirty-six Mickey Mouse statues around Southern California.  They’re part of the All-Star festivities and there’s one statue for each MLB team, one for the American League, one for the National League, and four All-Star statues.  I’d seen a few of them around town but wanted to get a good look at the one at the Grove because I didn’t recognize the paint job on it… I’d driven past it a few times.  We got closer and I realized it was All-Star themed.  Michelle took a photo of me with the more-than seven-foot-tall rodent.
matt with grove mickey.JPGI read later that each statue weighs close to 1,000 pounds… and that the Red Sox one in nearby Santa Ana got whacked… or beat up… by someone.

After that we made our way to the Home Plate Gate and waited for the gates to open.  When they did (at 5:00) I made sure Michelle got in all right and then took off toward the pavilion seats.  I played the two left-handed hitters in straightaway right field, like where I was standing as I took this photo:
6.26 bp pavilion panorama.jpgAnd for Torii Hunter, who’s a righty, I moved closer to center.  It’s my usual strategy for the first group of Angels and today it paid off.  Hunter launched one to right-center and I lined myself up and made an easy catch in the third row of Section 240.  It was great to get on the board with my first homer caught on the fly since (I had to look this up) mid-April.  Wow–that’s almost embarrassing.  Anyway, I was excited to snag it–and it was a pearl… except for the Practice logo the ball had on it.

Baseball #2 on the day would come after the first round of Angels BP.  Erick Aybar slice a ball to right field and I was hanging out near the foul pole.
6.26 rf foul pole panorama.jpgI was standing at the wall and saw the ball would hit about ten feet to the left of where I was, and where I’d taken the above photo, so I ran over there, jumped up and over and scooped up the ball in one precise move.  It was near the guy in the red shirt and hat in the panorama… on the left of the frame.  It, too, had a Practice logo… it seemed that the Angels had recently switched to those–in the past their BP balls had been stamped on the sweet spot in black ink with the word PRACTICE… now they’d switched to the official Practice ROMLB.  Interesting.

The Rockies pitchers came out to warm up a little while later.
626 rockies pitchers.JPGAnd I snapped a picture of soon-to-be Cy Young winner, Ubaldo Jimenez:
626 ubaldo 3.JPGI got a little wave and greeting from him, too.  That’s important.

About ten minutes later the pitchers were done throwing and I had returned to the pavilion for some of the powerful lefties on the Rockies.  A ball had rolled to the wall and Jimenez had been jogging nearby.  As he came to a stop I asked him if I could have the ball–he walked over, recognized me from earlier, and he tossed it right up to me.  Many thanks to Ubaldo–and I’m glad the Angels didn’t have to face you in this series.

Ball #4 would come toward the end of Rockies BP and it was a tossup from Matt Belisle back near the foul pole in right.  Nothin’ too special about it… I would end up giving it away to a young fan later in the evening.  More on that later.

I ended BP with four baseballs and I was okay with that… Michelle and I grabbed food and took up some seats in the Terrace Level seats just past third base.
view from terrace level 6.26.jpgWhen the Rockies came out to throw before the game started I decided I’d try to snag another ball… I went down to the front row, just behind the Diamond Field Box on the first base line.  Jonathan Herrera was throwing with another player (I forget who it was) but Herrera’s the important one here–he tossed me his baseball as he finished.  The fan to my left was really happy for me.

A minute later I was on the other side of the same section, near the camera well, because I’d seen that Melvin Mora had finished throwing and was taking some practice swings on the foul line.  The ball was still in his glove so I waited… and waited… and as he picked up his glove (and the ball) I yelled out, “Hey, Melvin, over here!” I held up my glove–he threw a strike right to me.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw the same fan from a moment earlier mumbling something and glaring at me.  I saw a nearby kid and asked him, “Hey, did you get a ball today, little g
uy?” intending to give it away.  He showed me the ball he’d gotten already.


I saw what appeared to be his brother near him.  “Did you get one yet?”  He held up his baseball and said, “Yeah–we were just trying to get autographs.”


Can’t say I didn’t try.  So, I was at six baseballs on the night and at that point I was REALLY okay with just hanging out and enjoying the game with Michelle.

The Angels got on the board quickly.  In the first inning they loaded the bases and Hideki Matsui unloaded them with a grand slam.!  It was his 150th MLB home run and I snapped a photo of the high fives in the dugout afterward:
after matsui slam.JPGAt that point I told Michelle that if anyone else hit a home run she should try to get a picture of me as the batter was jogging between 2nd and 3rd base.  Well, those four runs were all the Angels would get and the Rockies started a comeback in the third inning when Clint Barmes hit a solo shot.

I jumped up and Michelle grabbed my camera… the angle we were at made it difficult to get the shot I wanted for the myGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt but here was the result:
barmes homer.JPGI think it should count.  Barmes is just touching third in that pic… so his left leg is still between 2nd and 3rd, right?  It was a fun, goofy kind of night.

The Rockies got another run in the fourth and that was all they could
muster against starter Joe Saunders.

Michelle and I moved up to the view level a little bit later and took up some seats in the Lower View level… Michelle tried her hand at a panorama:
6.26 michelle panorama.jpgNot bad for a first try!  🙂

I took a few action shots:
seth smith swings.JPGbarmes swings.JPGSeth Smith hitting a fly ball on the left.
Clint Barmes about to foul one off on the right.
herrera pulls bunt back.JPGJonathan Herrera pulling the bunt attempt back.
matsui avoids.JPGHideki Matsui avoiding a pitch up and in.

Saunders went seven innings… Fernando Rodney and Brian Fuentes each pitched a scoreless inning and the final was 4-2.

angels mickey.JPGIt was a quick game!  Even after hanging out for a minute at the Rockies dugout after the game we were still heading out of the gates at 9:30… so we decided to take a photo with our second Mickey Mouse of the day!  This one’s an Angels Mickey and is located outside the stadium’s main gates:
matt and michelle with angels mickey.JPG
And one last thing… I had decide to score a few more points in the scavenger hunt as I gave away two baseballs to a pair of young sisters.  The older sister would be celebrating her birthday the next day, I found out.  As families were leaving the stadium I was looking for a little kid with a glove.

I found one and asked her if she’d caught a ball at the game.  She hadn’t and I said I’d caught one at batting practice and asked if she’d like it.  She was thrilled–her parents were thrilled.  They told me her birthday was the next day.  Her dad was speechless and then I saw her little sister–I pulled another ball out of my bag and gave it to the littler girl.  The dad went to shake my hand and he also was holding out a twenty dollar bill to me.  I took the handshake and told him to keep the money–then I told him about the photo scavenger hunt and gave him one of my business cards for the myGameBalls site.  Here’s the picture Michelle took as I gave a ball (two, really) to a fan (two fans) under the age of ten:
giveaway to birthday girl and sis.JPGTheir dad is standing behind me in the white shirt.

Man, my farmer’s tan is in full swing–yikes!

The whole family went off totally excited, the Angels had won, I’d gotten some great photos.  It was an awesome night.

Here’s the Big A:
halo not lit.JPGhalo lit.JPGOoh… pretty.

Michelle and I celebrated with frozen yogurt.  Delicious.

Thanks for reading!

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.

8/26/09 at Angel Stadium

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.

DSCF3001.JPGThe 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.”

trevor bell playing catch.JPGWell, 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:
IMG_0002.jpgI 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:
view from behind the bullpen cropped small.jpgIt 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:
DSCF3015.JPGI 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:
sextet of tigers.JPGArmando 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:
DSCF3073.JPGAfter 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:
DSCF3024.JPGIt 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.
bulger pitching.JPGThen Magglio Ordonez popped out.  And up stepped Miguel Cabrera.  I had this view to my left:
empty row.JPGAnd 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.
DSCF3039.JPGI 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:
my first foul ball.JPGYes!  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:
closer to home.JPGOn 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:
fuentes pitching.JPGHere was the view on the gorgeous summer day:
field level panorama cropped small.jpgFuentes 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.

Here I am after the game with my prize:
DSCF3064.JPGFirst foul ball, 99th baseball overall… I’m hoping to get number 100 on Friday when the Angels play the A’s.

The three of us after the game:
matt michelle toby after game.JPGThanks for reading!

8/24/09 at Angel Stadium

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.
outside home plate gate.jpgActually, 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.

DSCF3005.JPGAfter 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!

verlander warmup.JPGI 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:
DSCF3017.JPGNice 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.

mattmichelleangelsgame8.24.JPGWe watched most of the action from up there.  It was fun though the game looked like it was all set to be a walloping.  At one point the Angels were down 10-0.  BTW, Miguel Cabrera is a fantastic hitter.  He went 3-5 with 5 RBIs and he is now hitting .341!  Yowza!

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?
jk simmons.jpgCheck 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?”

He squinted his eyes and retreated below the dugout roof.  What a jerk!  The night’s souvenirs:
And I’m heading back to the ballpark on Wednesday for a day game.  Prayin’ for BP…