Ah, Labor Day. A perfect day for a trip to the ballpark! And I was taking my wife with me to watch the Angels take on the Mariners in this AL West showdown. Also in attendance was Zack Hample–ballhawk extraordinaire–and as I stood in line in the fifth of five lines I noticed him a few lines over.
Zack had been speaking with a columnist from the OC Register but took a moment out of his media day to pose for a photo with me and sign my copy of The Baseball that he’d published earlier in the year (photo courtesy of Zack’s blog–and Brandon Sloter). We chatted about strategy and we’d end up running into each other throughout the day. And you can read Zack’s entry about this game on his blog. I ran in and quickly made it out to the right field seats. The gates had opened at 4:02pm and at 4:04pm I got my first ball of the day from Bobby Cassevah. A simple toss-up to get me on the board. Not five minutes later I scored my second baseball of the day by asking Hisanori Takahashi for one that he had fielded–I guess my Japanese is still passable. That ball had a practice logo on it.
That was it for the Angels… they just didn’t have anyone hitting much out. I could tell Zack was a little frustrated–but he passed the time by talking to his reporter colleague and attempting to use his famous glove trick from atop the 18 ft. right field wall. A couple of us warned him that security didn’t like devices… but I guess he could always plead ignorance if they tried to stop him. I think he managed to get two baseballs before security asked him to step into the concourse–he was back a few minutes later–sans glove trick.
I, meanwhile, snagged the 365th ball of my life off the bat of Kyle Seager, who hit a homer into the second row of the seats. I was in the third row to the left of where the ball would land and Zack, apparently, had been standing in the second row to the right of where the ball was headed. We converged as the ball descended and I reached out and caught the ball in the the second row as Zack came zooming in from the right and his glove knocked into my hat and glasses. Luckily, I held onto the ball and Zack checked on me to 1) make sure I’d caught it, and 2) to see if I was OK. I was fine. Now I can say I got hit in the head by Zack Hample…
My next ball was hit by an M’s players that I couldn’t identify–it was a standard ball, as were all the baseballs I’d snagged at this point, and I ended up giving it away to a small boy. And that was it for BP. I had been hoping to catch one off the bat of Ichiro but it just wasn’t in the cards. And I’d spent a few minutes down by the RF foul pole… as you can see here:
That photo is courtesy of the OC Register… Zack and I are in M’s caps. But I came up empty there and at the Mariner dugout.
Next up, Angels warm-up tosses over on the LF line. Michelle took this photo as I headed down to the field once the Angels came out to stretch.
I was in the second row and got Maicer Izturis to toss me my fifth ball of the day–another standard Selig ball.
I sat with Michelle down the first baseline a bit as the game got underway and headed toward the dugout whenever the Angels had two outs on ’em, hoping I could get a third out toss from Adam Kennedy, the M’s first baseman for the day.
I saw Zack get one in the first inning–he had no competition, and he moves pretty quick! In all seriousness, there is a reason that dude has snagged as many balls as he has–he’s good. He’s fast, he plans well to find the right place to be, and he’s skilled. I’ve met Zack twice now (the last time was on 9/2/08 at Dodger Stadium) and he’s made some pretty impressive snags that I’ve gotten to see in person.
On another third out try I leaped for a ball that Zack grabbed and I sort of fell into him a bit… no one fell down and I was glad that he could grab a gamer in Anaheim. I got my shot later on in the bottom of the sixth inning. Maicer Izturis grounded out to Adam Kennedy at first and Kennedy stepped on first, then headed to the dugout. I was five rows back in the aisle and he tossed the ball my way. It went just over my head and to the right but got bobbled by a fan behind me and the ball dribbled back to the aisle where I nabbed the game-used commemorative for my sixth on the day!
I wasn’t going to catch Zack (who’d end the night with eleven baseballs) but I was going to come away with a respectable number. The game was winding to a 7-3 Halos victory powered by Mark Trumbo and the heart of the order and by the end of the evening the Angels had advanced to within 2 1/2 games of Texas in the American League West.
After the final out I got my seventh and final ball of the day from Jason Vargas before he retreated into the clubhouse. Michelle and I chatted with Zack for a moment in the seating bowl, Brandon took a picture of us… and then he and I went our separate ways. It had been a pretty darn good holiday weekend.
Hi, folks. Though I was able to resist the temptation for about a month… I finally caved and joined the Ballhawk League set up by Erik Jabs. Basically, it’s a group of us who are all keeping track of the baseballs we snag throughout the season, from coast to coast, from every MLB game we go to. It’s a friendly competition and the newest standings came out today. Erik’s blog has all the information but here’s the chart of Week 4:
And here’s the chart of the season totals:
I like that the pace I’m on has me snagging at least 100 baseballs this season… that would be pretty cool. Meanwhile, Zack Hample is on pace for 832 and Happy Youngster is on pace for 644! Thanks, Erik, for putting this all together this year!
Also, I have a trip to Busch Stadium planned this season as well as a visit up to Oakland to watch the Angels play the A’s in July.
I’ll post another entry after my next ball game. Thanks for reading!
It’s not baseball season. That’s sad… but good ol’ Zack Hample asked for all the folks that read his blog and collect baseballs to send a photo of themselves with their collection. I’m PHOTO #26. I was one of the thirty-two people that responded and you can see his blog entry with all of us and our stuff here:
Mine is by no means the most impressive of the lot… it’s cool to see the different ways people display their baseballs as well as the people that have helmets, batting gloves, bats, etc. Maybe someday I’ll snag a cool memento like that!
Thanks, Zack, for the chance to be featured on your site.
Here’s what’s up in the mind of Matt regarding baseball: I’m going to get tickets to the World Baseball Classic when it’s at Dodger Stadium in March. I’ll be going with Michelle, my fiancee, and my buddy, Josh. Also, I hope to go to the Angels home opener this year on April 9th! Other than that I’ve just been concentrating on school, my shows, wedding details, and occasionally checking to see the trades and deals that have and haven’t gone down. I hope the Angels come away with some star this offseason…
Until next time…
What a gloomy title…
Rain and snow will soon fall in parts of SoCal and the Angels will not add a second championship flag to their stadium. There’s always next year.
Had you asked me what teams would make the playoffs at the start of the year my predictions would have gone like this:
NL West – Dodgers
NL Central – Cubs
NL East – Phillies
NL Wild Card – Mets
AL West – Angels
AL Central – White Sox
AL East – Red Sox
AL Wild Card – Yankees
Not bad predictions, right? I mean, who thought the Rays would be that good? Who knew the Yankees would get that hurt? And who knew the Mets would collapse like that… again?
Once the eight teams were decided, I really hoped for a Freeway Series… that would’ve been great! Alas, it wasn’t in the cards. Not even ManRam and/or Big Tex could help the SoCal teams into the World Series. The NLCS… I didn’t care. The Cubs would’ve been fun to watch… and I don’t like the Dodgers. Brewers? Meh… Phillies? “Okay,” I thought. Sure.
The AL playoff race… man. I had to leave my apartment after Aybar couldn’t get that bunt down and the Red Sox won that series in four. Ugh. Then I had to choose between rooting for the team that had eliminated my Halos or the team that had manhandled them throughout the regular season. Well, the Red Sox had opened a fresh wound so I was all about the Rays–funny how if you drop “Devil” from your name and change your logo to a flash of light, you win baseball games–and their youthful team. As my friend, Josh, would say, “You get that many draft picks and you’re bound to be good eventually.” They were the underdogs; this year’s baseball Cinderella story.
It wouldn’t be a happy ending for the boys from St. Pete. In the end the Phillies had better pitching, more homers, and the experience necessary to hold down Joe Maddon and his kids.
I was satisfied. Nothing more, nothing less.
Now that the playoffs and World Series are over I can let out all the “whoas” that have been lounging around inside me with regard to the end of the baseball season.
I went to quite a few games this year! Roughly twenty… though I really am too tired to look that statistic up right now. I bet I could figure it out. Living in Orange County makes it easy to hit up Angels games. Currently, I live closer to their stadium than I ever have and it feels good to be just a fifteen minute drive from your favorite ballpark. I also visited some new parks this year. Michelle and I watched a game at U.S. Cellular Field and went on a walking tour of Wrigley Field while we were in Chicago… the Cubs were out of town at the time. This is in addition to the one Padres game, two Dodgers games, and many Angels games I saw this year. I watched a lot of baseball and I had some fun times at the stadiums.
I took up a collection of baseballs. The end of the ’08 season finds me with twenty-eight baseballs. At the start of the season my collection was still in single digits! My goal for next year: thirty baseballs! I plan to attend more Angels games (and see the other SoCal teams, should my schedule allow) and I’ll be taking my first ever trip to a certain park in Missouri where a certain team, affectionately called the Redbirds, plays. August… I’m hoping for a leftover All-Star ball. We’ll see…
It’s weird to not be able to see the diving catches and home runs on ESPN when I come home. Now there’s all this talk of this other game where you bounce a ball… and one where people get tackled. Whatever.
Some baseball highlights in the life of Matt from 2008:
- Getting a behind the scenes tour of Angel Stadium
- Seeing baseball in Chicago with Michelle
- Snagging seven baseballs in one game in Anaheim
- Meeting (and getting the autograph of) Zack Hample at Dodger Stadium
- Watching Karl snag his first-ever baseball at PETCO Park
I’m stage managing a play right now and there’s a line in it: “What’ll we do ’til spring?”
Hmm… good question. I’ve got school to keep me busy… so, so busy. Plus, I’ve got Michelle! We’ve got a wedding to plan. Things are good… things are very good.
This was my first game by myself. I figured it would be weird not having anyone to talk with all afternoon/evening, so I told Michelle I’d call her throughout the night… to keep me company via cell phone. Let us begin:
I left my place in Irvine at 4:00. I parked my car at my super-secret-never-have-to-pay-spot just outside the ballpark and headed in. This is what I saw when I made it to the gate:
I was about 3 or 4 people from the front of the line and I had a while to wait. Luckily, I had brought a book but I kept my eyes and ears open for a certain person. After a few minutes, the guy I’d been waiting for, Rex Hudler, showed up. He always enters through the front gate and I had brought my MLB 07 The Show hat for him to sign. I left my backpack and book and asked him, “Mr. Hudler, could you sign my hat for me, please?”
“Well, sure!” he replied jovially.
I said, “You see, it’s from the video game that you’re on.”
He replied, “Aww… that’s cool! You know, we’re workin’ on the new one comin’ up here real soon!” Then I thanked him and he headed into the stadium. Here’s the hat he signed:
At 5:05 the Home Plate Gate opened and I (on the advice of Zack Hample) did NOT go straight to the left field foul pole and instead headed for the right field pavillion. A few players were shagging balls out there and I spotted Dustin Moseley and asked him for a ball–I was extremely polite. He told me, “If you don’t get one, I’ll make sure to throw one to you.” OK… a good start. A few minutes later a homer hit some chairs a section to my right and bounced back to the field. Dustin grabbed it and flipped it right to me! YES! Six consecutive games with at least one ball.
In center field, an Angel wearing number 71 was fielding alongside Dino Ebel (the Angels’ 3rd base coach). I asked him to throw one (from about forty feet away) and he did! Right on the money. Robb Quinlan was batting and hit a blast to the seats that hit some seats to my left. I ran over and caught it on a bounce. I had three baseballs and it was 5:13pm. Let me take a moment here to inform you that I had NEVER snagged more than two baseballs at any game… ever. I’d gotten two at an Angels/Red Sox game in 2004, at my first-ever game at Camden Yards in 2007, and twice this season (8/5/08 at Angel Stadium and 9/9/08 at PETCO Park). I had a new, single game record.
Well, the Angels finished BP and the Mariners started up. Let me tell you, Ichiro can hit the ball pretty well, at least in batting practice. Though he was wearing a coverup over his jersey, I recognized the facial hair of J.J. Putz and asked him for the next ball he got ahold of. A little while later he got one from another Mariner reliever near him and tossed it up to me. FOUR!
Later, a Mariners player wearing the number 89 threw a ball to me and then some righty smashed a ball over the fence and right into my glove. I wish I could have seen who it was… I’m thinking it was Adrián Beltre… no way to be sure. It was just after 6:00 at this point so I headed down to the right field line in the hope that Jarrod Washburn or Putz (who were nearby) would sign an autograph. They told some fans they would, but they didn’t. Bummer. I followed them toward the dugout and sat down for a minute.
As I wrote some notes about my adventure, Yuniesky Betancourt started playing catch in front of the dugout. There was hardly anyone around at this point so when he was through I simply said, “Yuniesky!” and stood up with my glove open. He saw me, he threw it. SEVEN!
I had more than tripled my record. After a Patriot Day salute, the game was underway. The players were wearing those nifty hats they had on the 4th of July… you know the ones. Ichiro stepped in to lead off the game. Then I realized just how many no-name call-ups from the minors were around. The Angels had clinched, so they were resting some regulars and the Mariners… well, can you say last place? Eliminated? So they had a few less-than-stellar players going for them. I settled in behind the visiting dugout. Here’s the view from where I sat:
The game was fun! The Angels were ahead 7-0 at one point before the bullpen gave up a few runs. Most of the fans had left early (while I tried, unsuccessfully, to play the dugouts to get a 3rd out ball) thinking it would be a blowout. Well, with men on and the score 7-3 in the ninth K-Rod came in. He had 56 saves. Boy, I’m gonna miss him when he’s not an Angel anymore… but he will make a LOT of cash somewhere. He let a run score, but notched save #57 on the year, tying the current record (set by Bobby Thigpen in 1990). Let this be a reminder, fans, don’t leave a game early! You might miss something great! He got interviewed for FSN West by Michael Eaves. I’m hoping he’ll break it this weekend.
Here’s another panorama for your enjoyment:
Also, I stayed after the game a bit to see if any players would sign autographs as they exited. They didn’t, but I experienced this little exchange as Frankie Rodriguez was leaving the park in his very, very nice car.
A dozen of us (Angel Fans): There’s Frankie! Hey, Frankie! Congrats!
F.R.: Thang you, guys. Gracias.
Us: You were great! Are you gonna break the record?
F.R.: Hey, c’mon. You know iz gonna happen.
- 6 games with at least one baseball
- 7 baseballs at this game
- 15 baseballs in 6 games this season = 2.5 baseballs per game
- 23 lifetime baseballs
Here is why I was excited about this game:
1. I had the chance to hang out with my buddy, Josh, at a ball game.
2. I was trying to extend my baseball streak in a new venue.
3. I was hopefully going to meet Zack Hample and get him to sign a copy of his book for me.
Here is why I was not excited about this game: It was a Dodger game at Dodger Stadium.
Allow me to explain. I’m not a Dodgers fan… I have nothing against the team. They’re a good team. I do, however, have an issue with Dodger fans (and I’m generalizing). Mostly, they are OK… but I can’t ever go to a Dodger game without the sneaking suspicion that I might, just might, get shanked in the kidney by some drunk, illiterate tool that can’t handle the fact that his (or her) team might not win every single game.
I’ll give you an example of a Dodger fan at his worst in just a bit.
Josh and I got to the stadium at 4:45pm for a 7:10 game. The parking lot hadn’t even opened yet, so we lined up Josh’s car to get in. Here’s Josh:
We played catch, ignored some dudes trying to sell imitation Dodgers gear, chatted, offered to let a kid throw the ball once (and he did… right down a hillside.. he was only six years old)… and then the gates opened at 5:10. We had a Preferred Parking Pass that we got along with our tickets via uclaterry on eBay… a new favorite seller of mine. I would have preferred Field level seats but Josh was buyin’, so I couldn’t complain.
We parked in the lot and hurried down to the left field bleachers. The Dodgers have an interesting approach to BP: they open up the field. Like, you can stand on the warning track in center field and try to snag. We determined that would be way too crowded, though, and that more balls would head for the seats in left anyway. Well, we must’ve been right on because as soon as I headed up the stairs to the stands I saw a guy in a Padres cap and shirt wearing his glove just waiting for a ball to snag. I had to do a doubletake, but sure enough, it was Mr. 3700 baseballs, Zack Hample. I watched him for a second and then introduced myself.
“Hi. Are you Zack?”
“Hi. I’m Matt, I’ve left some comments on your blog and I brought the book like you said.”
He was cordial, but hard at work, too. He seemed like a cool guy and had a very firm handshake. I told him that as soon as he had some time I would love to have him sign my book and he said he, of course, would be happy to. As I scurried along for my own snagging I kept an eye on Zack, watching his technique.
After a while I convinced Mike Adams, a reliever for the Pads, to toss me a ball. For comparison, I saw Zack snag three in that time (plus he got one before Josh and I even got there)! Later, Dodger fans started giving Zack some crap because he wouldn’t give any balls to kids. They didn’t know that he usually DOES after BP is over. Whatever.
I asked him, “People hassling you?”
“Yeah,” he said, “but they don’t get that I give away baseballs all the time.” The guy bending down on the right side of the photo was a real jerk to Zack.
Dodger fans. Yuck! And now for MY story of confrontation.
Zack had signed my book and wished me luck (and Heath Bell of the Padres could’ve signed my book, too, apparently)… but he had to run to the Field level before the end of BP. It involves that walrus-sized dude in the red shirt right there. So, I attempt to catch a ball that clears the fence and my glove is outstretched next to another glove. Our gloves bump, the ball hits ’em, and neither of us gets the ball. Bummer, no big deal, right? Wrong! I see this HUGE Mexican guy next to me and he starts swearing up a storm. F this and F that and F you!!! In front of his little kid that he was trying to catch the ball for!!! I’ll give you an exact quote from this walrus:
“What’re ya f***in’ pushin’ me for? I’m f***in’ tryin’ to catch the f***in’ ball for my kid, eh?! You, back the f*** off! I’ma f***in’ throw you over this f***in’ railing. You want that?”
I didn’t want that, obviously, but I also knew that he was probably all talk and if I stayed a few yards from him he couldn’t hit me if he wanted to. A Dodger personnel person saw it and told me he knew I didn’t push anyone. I just said to the fat dude, “Nice mouth in front of your kid.” And I was done. Who the f*** wears a red plaid shirt to a Dodger game anyway?
Well, that was it for me for BP. One ball (shown to the right), but my streak was alive and well! Josh and I headed for our seats in foul ball range on the Loge. And in the first inning Juan Pierre smacked one that curved juuuuussst a little too far from us. The game went on… at one point the Dodgers were up 8-0. Manny hit ANOTHER home run. Andre Eithier had a chance at the cycle but was a double short. Most fans left after he grounded out in the 8th. And another foul came really close but was just out of my reach again.
I saw Zack snag a few more balls at the Padres dugout during the game. He ended up with ELEVEN. That man is insane! The score ended up being 8-4 Dodgers. I had a great time! One of the best parts about going to a non-Angels game is that I usually don’t care who wins or loses and I can just enjoy baseball. Ah.
Next up… PETCO Park on Sept. 9th! I hear it’s good for snagging. I’ll be there with my sister, her boyfriend, and Michelle. Woo!