2013 in review

Hey, guys! Apparently a few of you out there still like my blog… even though it hasn’t changed much in 2013.

I appreciate each and every visitor and each and every comment.

Best of luck in 2014!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 10,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Follow Along…

Hi, loyal readers.

I know that this blog has been comatose for some time now but I’m just dropping a quick post here to remind everyone that if you’d like to keep up with any and all baseball activity in which I’m participating you can check out my page on MyGameBalls.com (username: SonicMAJ) or – for an even more personal experience – feel free to follow me on Twitter: @MattJackson999.

I hope the 2013 season has been treating you well – I’m still snagging away – mostly in Anaheim.  But I’ll be up in Seattle for a game on July 26th!  And, who knows, maybe I’ll drop in on a Padres game, a Dodgers game, or somewhere else… anything’s possible.

Enjoy the All-Star break, everyone! Baseball’s back in just 24 hours!

End of Season Update

Well, folks. The 2012 season has come and gone and, as you may have noticed, I pretty much stopped blogging midway through the season.  As it turns out, I suddenly was way over my photo allotment on this site (Thanks, WordPress!).  Without being able to upload photos, I felt that blogging about my further adventures was pretty pointless.

While I found myself with extra time (which came in handy since my wife and I adopted a dog in August), I sure do miss being a part of the blog community… I still read two blogs with regularity.  Those would be Zack Hample’s blog and Todd Cook’s blog.  So, I still get to learn about what other folks are up to and I enjoy going through the comments to see the branches of the ballhawking community extending through the blogosphere.

And I’m still keeping up with MyGameBalls.com, too.  All of my 2012 gamesd are updated there and you’ll notice that I started adding notes to each baseball that I snagged throughout the year.  Sort of like a mini-blog for each ball.  I ended up with 105 baseballs this season to bring my lifetime total to 490.  And I currently have a streak going… 121 games with at least one baseball pocketed as a souvenir!  Not too shabby for a guy who just started doing this in August of 2008.

Along the way I went to three different stadiums (none new) and snagged three new types of commemorative baseball: Dodgers, Orioles, and Red Sox.  I’m looking forward to the Astros being around in Anaheim often next season in hopes that I can snag an older 50th ball or an inaugural season ball (for their AL switch–if thosee exist).  Also, I ended up with quite a few autographs, both from mail-in submissions and in-person stuff.

I’ll be keeping the blog active but you’re not likely to see too many new posts from me going forward.  Keep checking MyGameBalls for details on my games, snags, and other cool stuff I might be up to, loyal readers.  Enjoy the off-season!

Too Many Photos?

In an interesting development, I’m over my quota for photos!
This message popped up on my account when I logged in recently: “Tip: You have uploaded 8 GB of files, exceeding your quota by 5 GB. Consider deleting some files to free up more space, or purchasing a space upgrade so you can upload more.”
As it turns out, a 10 GB upgrade costs 20 bucks PER YEAR! Yikes!  And I’m already at about 8GB of files… and the cap is at 3GB… so I would get upgraded to 13GB.  Or I could spend more money and get more space.
So, I’m a couple of entries behind, loyal readers, while I figure out what to do about this situation. I’d love to keep entertaining you with photos from my baseball journeys but I don’t really want to add X amount of bucks a year to my bills I have to pay… so… what to do?
I came up with a couple of ideas. Feel free to tell me what you think:
1. Go back through all my photos that I can and re-size them… I might be able to get back under the cap… but for how long? And that seems like it would be pretty time consuming.
2. Get a kickstarter campaign (or something similar) going… people donate a few bucks here and there so I can purchase an upgrade for my blog. Would anyone donate? I kind of hate to ask my readers for money–it seems kind of lame.
3. Move to a new blog… maybe a different MLBlog… or a different hosting site? I’d have to redirect my traffic… and may lose a lot of readers.
4. Continue blogging… but with no pictures. Would anyone be OK with that? This is fun for me–but it’s all about what keeps my blog visitors happy and returning for more.
Let me know if you’ve got other ideas, everyone. And thanks, as always, for reading.

BallhawkFest: West Coast Edition – July 28th, 2012

Hi, everyone.

You may have heard about a little shindig.  Each year (starting last year) there’s a gathering of ballhawks at a Major League stadium known as BallhawkFest.  It’s more than just a bunch of folks who like to collect baseballs going to the same game though… it’s a whole day/night of activities!  This year, there will be two incarnations of this event.  Last year, in its inaugural form, BallhawkFest took place at Camden Yards on July 23rd.  This year, a different East Coast venue has been chosen… PNC Park (on June 9th).

But… after last year’s success and the interest of a bunch of people out here on the West Coast, Alan Schuster approached me with the following question: “Would you be interested in helping to put together a West Coast version?”  I was all over it–through a poll of some local ballhawks and discussions between Alan and I we established a date.  The first incarnation of BallhawkFest to hit California will take place at Angel Stadium on July 28th, 2012!

You can comment on here for more information or send me a direct e-mail.  Like last year’s festivities in Baltimore, there will be a baseball/softball game in the late morning, a luncheon at a local restaurant, and of course a huge afternoon/night of ballhawking.  The Angels/Rays game that night starts at 6:05pm… so the gates will open at 4:00pm and we’ll be there.

And we’re planning on T-shirts… similar to those used at last year’s festivities!  If you want to help plan, donate a raffle item, provide gear for the softball game, or help out in any way–just get in touch with me.  Last year’s event in Baltimore had about a dozen participants… I’m hoping for that many (or more) out here in California!

And if you’re planning on coming–get your tickets to the game ASAP… there’s a post-game concert that night after the game ends (Goo Goo Dolls, anyone?) so there’s going to be a sizable crowd.

Show some love in the comments section.  Are you coming?  Get ready for a day of friends from far and near and a whole lot of baseball snagging!

5/5/12 at PETCO Park

By now you realize that I love an excuse to head down to San Diego and visit PETCO Park.  This time my excuse was that my wife had to work all day on a Saturday (and I actually had almost the whole day off) and the Marlins would be visiting the Padres–perhaps with some of their inaugural season at Marlins Park baseballs in tow.

I headed down the 5 freeway and got to the park at 3:00pm for a 5:35pm start.  The Park at the Park was open so I showed the staff my ticket, received my free Padres T-shirt, and jogged in.  When I finally saw the field from the bleachers just beyond the beach I was not pleased with what I saw.

The only activity was a random Marlin throwing over by the foul line… hundreds of feet away.  It turned out that since the game the night before went 12 innings, the Marlins decided not to take BP on the field… which meant the Padres would be taking the visitors’ BP slot.  Which meant that the only action on the field for the first 40 minutes I was there was a few Marlins pitchers throwing off in a corner… and that was as close as I could get.  Bummer.  And that player “closest” to me was Sandy Rosario.  I called out to him… a long shot… but he didn’t even look my way.

I went over to the Team Store to see if the cutout was accessible and to my shock and horror, it had been (as of this season) turned into a luxury suite.  Good for the folks that get to eat a buffet dinner and sit their… bad for a nobody like me who was trying to snag a baseball.

I ended up waiting for the rest of the stadium to open.  At 3:30pm I ran up the steps and darted down toward where the Marlin pitchers had been throwing.  But they were gone!  Just two coaches were left and when I asked them for a baseball (and they ignored me) I ran to the other side of the stadium because I saw a few Padres emerge from the dugout.  The cage was up so I knew they’d start hitting soon.  First though, they would throw.

I got shot down by the first pair of Padres I asked, but the second pair paid attention.  And after Nick Hundley threw, then signed a few autographs, I got him to toss me his warmup ball before he headed down the dugout steps.

The ball from Hundley commemorated a very special day that I didn’t even think would ever happen when I caught my first baseball at a game seven years ago.  As he tossed the ball to me and I caught it… I had officially snagged at least one baseball in each of my last 100 games attended.

Whew!

After that I watched as baseball after baseball was NOT hit to the seats–anywhere.  I think there were maybe three home runs during the 30 minutes of Padre BP that I saw.  It had started out as a pretty frustrating day.  The guys who were using commemorative baseballs had barely been on the field and the guys who decided to hit weren’t putting anything anywhere near the fans.Jeff Suppan acted like he was going to toss me a ball out in right field–but never did.  And the Padres ran off the field with me still stuck on one baseball.

Eventually, I went over to my seat.  And taped to it I found a sign that basically said, “Hey–come get a prize from us–you’ll just have to let us try to get you to buy season tickets.  Thanks!  -The Padres.”

Well, I had twenty minutes to kill before any players would take the field for pregame throwing so I went–found the ticket representative, told them I didn’t want season tickets, and got my prize.  Know what it was?  It was a Padres hat–what do you think of that?  I got a shirt and a hat–a whole Padre ensemble, just for being at a game on Cinco de Mayo.

Now, if I could just snag another ball…

At about 5:20 a few Marlins started warming up down the third base line.Among them was Hanley Ramirez (just out of frame to the left in the above photo).  I tried to figure out if he had a commemorative ball in his hand.Try as I might, I couldn’t snag another ball.  But I did snag something pretty sweet, an autograph from Han-Ram on a 2007 Upper Deck card!

So, with that–I returned to my seat.  Which just happened to be here:

Yep, just hours before the game I picked up a seat from StubHub for thirty bucks.  Not too shabby, huh?  And my seat, not just useful for the view, paid dividends early on.  See, when Gaby Sanchez took the throw from starter Mark Buehrle when Chase Headley hit a soft grounder back to the mound, I stood up in my seat and yelled, “Hey, Gaby–right here!”  I waved my glove and he lofted the ball to me.Easy as that.  Everyone around me was pretty astonished.  And I just sat back down and went back to watching the game.  It was a great game.

It’s crazy–when you actually have a fantastic seat you’re not tempted to move from it.  Instead… if you’re me… you take pictures.  Like Clayton Richard delivering pitches:And Mark Buerhle doing the same…Two lefties battling it out.  And here’s Giancarlo Stanton getting ready to bat:

I mean, I could hear Ozzie Guillen talking to his players as they returned to the dugout.  I could tell when a pitch was outside without looking–I head the ump calling, “That’s outside.”   I mean, look, I could see all the gunk on Han–Ram’s helmet:

And the groovy patch the Marlins players and coaches are wearing on their uniforms this year.And when hunger overcame me… I ran to get a pretzel and a beverage and ran back to my seat… I didn’t want to miss anything.  Like Chase Headley getting the sign from his third base coach:

Buerhle was mowing down the Padres.  He’d end up giving up just one run on five hits and pitching his first complete game since 2010.  And Giancarlo (formerly Mike) Stanton CRUSHED a solo homer in the ninth which made the score 4-1.  And I took a couple of nifty action shots as he rounded third and then got back to the dugout:

Feel free to click to make them larger.  I hope you all recognize how much that high five picture makes me laugh.  Like, Stanton is trying to make it seem like he’s jumping because Emilio Bonifacio needs to jump just to high five him… but Stanton’s totally on the ground.  But Bonifacio  is jumping as high as he can.  Ha!

OK, no one else… fine.

Like I said, the Stanton shot made it 4-1.  That’s where it would stay.  Man, Buehrle’s good–and quick.

I’d been speaking to a couple of families around me in the seats throughout the game.  One father and son duo was great.  I chatted with them both about how I knew what to do in order to get a ball… and advised the boy about the umpire tunnel.  In case you couldn’t tell… it was immediately to my left from my seat.  Here’s a good view of it:

I recommended that the little guy position himself near there, call out the umpire’s name (“Gary,” in this case), and hope there was a ball or two to be given… and in the ninth inning we made our move.  He to the ump tunnel and me to the dugout.  Here was my view just before the final out of the game:See the staircase on the left?  I planned to run down it to an opening right at the dugout.  The usher (who was strict, even in the ninth) wouldn’t let me go past him until I clearly told him I wasn’t going to compete with the little kids for an ump ball… I told him instead I was planning to go straight to the dugout.  He finally let me through.  As soon as Buerhle finished off his complete game I got myself in position at the dugout–but didn’t snag a darn thing.  I was stuck on two baseballs for the whole day.  My poor showing didn’t hamper my giving spirit though, and I flipped the Hundley ball the the young fan at the umpire tunnel after I noticed the umps all ignored him.

As it turns out, the Long Haul Bombers would be holding a softball mashing tournament round.  So, as soon as the Marlins were all in the dugout I bolted for right field… and I took up a spot here:

It’s right near where I caught one of these softballs the year before.  Sadly though, even though I ran from right to left and back a couple of times… I couldn’t snag another ball.  As I left the stadium, Michelle called me to say she was getting off of work–so I booked it to the car and made the drive up the 5 to Orange County.  A free hat, a free shirt, a great seat, two baseballs, and an autograph… not a bad haul.

5/3/12 at Angel Stadium

Guess what?  I’d been listening to sports talk radio and I ended up winning two tickets to the Angels/Blue Jays matchup on the 3rd of May.  I had high hopes for this game, as it came the day after Jered Weaver threw a no hitter at Angel Stadium… the 10th in club history.  The evening before that, Jerome Williams had shut out the Twins on only three hits.  Dan Haren would be taking the mound on this particular evening and I figured, if things progressed, it would be a shutout on Tuesday, a no hitter on Wednesday, and a perfect game on Thursday.  Makes sense, right?

I’d be ready–I got to the stadium nice and early.  I was the third person in line.  I would be the first person to reach the seating area…

Well, did you read anything about a perfect game?  Nope.  But that was a ridiculous thought… even though Haren made a similar comment to the media (jokingly).

There would be no perfect game… though Brandon Morrow got close.  This one would end up being all Blue Jays.  But let’s get on to batting practice.  I was third in line and Michelle decided to sit in the shade and read and make a couple of phone calls.  I raced in and up to the right field seats at 5:05pm.  There weren’t any baseballs to be found lying around but I did see Weaver in right field with Bobby Wilson and David Carpenter and took advantage of the empty stadium and the relative silence by congratulating him.  He responded kindly and went back to work.

And about five minutes later, Wilson tossed me my first ball of the evening.  It had a few grass and dirt scuffs and the word PRACTICE was stamped on the sweet spot.  I’d gotten several of these stamped baseballs and I turned around looking for a kid to give it to, but there weren’t any in the section.  I trotted up the stairs and handed it to an usher to give away for me–and I saw him make a little boy’s day by handing the ball over to him about five minutes later.

The next ball I caught came from [former] closer Jordan Walden.  He’d already tossed a couple of baseballs into the stands… one in particular to a little kid to my left.  Well, this little kid (who already had two baseballs of his own–one from Walden) decided to ask for the next baseball that Walden fielded.  The pitcher looked up at him and shook his head no, then I piped up, “Hey, Jordan, how about one for the big kids?”  It’s the first time I’ve ever used that line… and wouldn’t ya know it?  It worked.  He flipped up baseball #2 on the day and I gave that one away to a different usher a little while later.

Unfortunately for the BP regulars in Anaheim, the Angels have quite a few righties that can hit the ball pretty far.  I call that unfortunate because a lot of baseballs fly out to left and center fields–and there are bullpens and a pile of Disney-era rocks that prevent us from snagging said baseballs.  Boy, we sure hope Kendrys Morales (the lone bat from the left side with any power) gets taken out of the first group of BP hitters… at least Mark Trumbo and Albert Pujols hit a few the opposite way into right field for us.  I couldn’t get a glove on any other baseballs while the Angels were hitting though.

I went down to first base side of the stadium as the Blue Jays came out to throw… but no matter where I went–I couldn’t get their attention… so when a round of lefties started hitting I ran back up to right field.  I came close to snagging two baseballs on the fly… but close was all I got.  One was a shot to the first row of the pavilion by Adam Lind.  The other was a bomb about five or six rows back that San Diego ballhawk TC snagged since my leap was about six inches too short.  Speaking of TC, you can see him in this photo:

But the real reason I took that is LOOK AT HOW MUCH SPACE THERE WAS!  I should have been close to double digits–note the time–the stadium had been open for forty-five minutes.  It was just a struggle to snag anything through Blue Jays BP.

The day would pick up for me a bit at the end of batting practice though, as I got three baseballs thrown my way as the Blue Jays ran off the field.  The first came from pitcher Drew Hutchison as he headed down the dugout steps.  I quickly put that one in my pocket and, as the coaches finished rounding up all the baseballs from BP, hitting coach Dwayne Murphy threw me a ball in the fourth row.  But a huge guy with a beard in the third row reached out and caught that one in front of my face… then he looked at me and said, “You already got one.”  Well, actually, I’ve already got three.  Then Murphy, who must have seen what happened, lofted another ball my way–this one with a much higher arc.  And I caught it by reaching out as far as I could, shocking the bearded fellow in front of me.  I went on my way to track down my lovely wife, who’d found a spot in the sun to read her book on the field level in foul territory.

We grabbed sandwiches (which were delicious… and cost us $9.75 each) and some Cracker Jack and headed out to left field.  Pujols was still sitting on zero home runs for the year so I figured he was kindly waiting until I was in attendance so that he could hit it to me–ready and waiting–in the left field corner.

For pregame throwing I hung out by the Angel dugout.  Only one pair played catch (Trumbo and Howie Kendrick) and the second baseman kept the ball.  I ran to the visiting team’s side and watched as Brett Lawrie threw with Kelly Johnson–then Johnson went into the dugout and Yunel Escobar took over.  Well, I was on Lawrie’s end of the dugout, a few rows back, and Escobar ended up with the ball.  I was the only one asking if he could toss it up though–so he did… from about forty feet away.  Escobar underhanded it about twenty feet high and everyone seated around me just stared as it fell perfectly into my glove.

The blue circle represents where Escobar was standing and the red circle shows where I actually caught the ball.

Want to know what happened during the game?  A blue Jay homer for three runs and a Mark Trumbo error for two more.  And that was it.  Morrow limited the Angels to only three hits and shut them out.  The 28,000 people had little reason to cheer throughout the evening.  So, when Michelle got a phone call from her sister we walked over to the concourse behind the Blue Jays’ dugout in the eighth inning.  By the ninth I was here:

And I watched as Trumbo doubled–but that was as much of a rally as the Angels got going.  That was their third and final hit of the night.  Trumbo was stuck on second base and Morrow got his complete game shutout.  By that point I was here:

Right behind the Blue Jay dugout as they came off the field.  But I didn’t see any souvenirs come my way.

It was a pretty lousy night for Angels fans–I made a young kid’s evening a little happier by giving him a baseball I’d brought with me from a previous game as we left the stadium.  I’m always up for a ball game but this particular one wasn’t even close to being up there amongst my favorites.  Michelle and I enjoyed our time together–and I simply hoped the next Angel game we’d attend would have a better outcome.

4/27/12 at Dodger Stadium

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

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

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

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

Check out the ball in this pitcher’s glove.

Might that be a commemorative logo?!?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

50th!  Woo!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I had a great view of the action…

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

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

Um… Matt Kemp is very good at baseball:

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

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

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

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

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

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

A successful night.

4/20/12 at Angel Stadium

It was a beautiful Friday in Orange County and I was off to the Angels game again.  This time they’d be taking on the Orioles… and I was hoping for a Camden Yards commemorative baseball.  Maybe a few of them would be in the mix.  I arrived to the gates a bit later than I would have liked but luckily, a fellow BP regular let me slip into line with him.

I was off to left field as soon as the gates were open.  I knew the Angels would be facing a lefty and that everyone (except Bobby Abreu) would be batting from the right side.  I figured there was a pretty good chance someone would pull a ball or two down the line so I stayed near the foul pole.

The Machine (aka Albert Pujols) was taking his hacks and just as I thought to myself, “Man, it would be great to snag a ball from Prince Albert,” I got my chance.  He hit a screamer down the third base line that bounced off the wall twenty feet from me and headed my way.  I reached out and balanced myself on the wall–I was really hoping I didn’t misplay this one.  I stretched as far as I could and nabbed it as it skittered across the warning track.  Then, I lifted myself back to my feet and took a look at my prize from Pujols:

Awesome!  Not a Camden Yards ball–but a commemorative baseball is a commemorative baseball.  I won’t complain.

Unfortunately, that was the only ball I could get during the twenty or so minutes I saw of Angels BP.  They ran off the field and I ran to the other side of the stadium, where the O’s had come out to warm up.

As Troy Patton finished throwing with a trainer I asked him for the baseball they had been using.  He nodded to me and cocked back his arm to toss it my way but in that instant the trainer he’d been throwing with must have called his name.  Patton turned his head to the side and then, sadly, tossed the ball to the trainer–who handed it to a kid in the first row.

“What a tease!” the usher near me said.  But Patton saw that he’d gotten my hopes up so he pointed my way and actually said to me, “Don’t worry, I’ll get you one.”  Then he headed off into right field.

Sweet!  But now I was confined to the foul line so I could be in the vicinity when Patton fielded another ball… even though the Orioles had started taking their hacks.  I was conflicted.  I pretty much had a guaranteed snag coming my way–but I wanted to run up to the pavilion to try for batted balls.  I decided to wait–hopefully my guarantee wouldn’t take too long.  I tried to make a play on a foul that a righty flared off my way but an older fan grabbed it when it ricocheted right to him.  The same thing had happened to me earlier on the other side of the stadium when Abreu had fouled one off.  I ended up only being stuck for another five minutes because Patton finally fielded a baseball near the warning track and then, from seventy feet away, waved at me and I flapped my glove and he threw me a ball–that almost didn’t make it to me.  I had to scoot over to the middle of the row I was in (about the sixth) and lean forward over the seats in front of me to make a basket catch.  Apparently, that impressed Patton because he gave me a fist pump and yelled, “Nice catch!”

All right, Mr. Patton.  I’m a fan of yours now–thanks for giving me credit… and a baseball (which you can see over on the left).  And I looked at it hoping to see a commemorative logo but it was just a standard Selig ball.  I started to run up right field at that point but then realized everyone in the current O’s BP group was right-handed.  So, after longing to escape the foul line I opted to hang out there a bit longer, hoping for another shot at a foul ball.  Well, wouldn’t you know it?  A righty O fouled a ball toward me in Section 130… and I ran up the steps for it and snagged it as it bounced around.  I ended up giving that ball away to a young fan… in a Cardinals shirt… weird.  And he thanked me–then went to show his family–then came back a minute later and shook my hand and told me he really appreciated the kind gesture.  Wow!  You’re welcome, kid.

Off to right field I went where, inexplicably, I didn’t snag another baseball for thirty minutes.  Ugh.  The Orioles just didn’t hit many that way and I couldn’t get a single toss up from any pitchers I saw in the outfield.  And I got shut out at the dugout after BP, too.

So… three baseballs.  Not too shabby, but not great.  About that time my lovely wife showed up and we ate dinner together in the seats.  Then I tried to get a ball from each team at their dugout during pregame throwing… but failed.  Out to left field I went, in search of my first game home run.  Here was the view:

The pitching matchup was Jerome Williams against Brian Matusz.  And Williams fared better than he did in the Bronx his last time out.  He checked the Orioles on three runs in 6.2 innings… his farewell was a two-run homer he gave up to Nolan Reimold… but at that point the Halos had already put up six runs of their own, highlighted by a three-run double by Howie Kendrick (who I am confident will hit .320 this year).  Reimold’s homer was the only one of the game at it went to right-center.  Nothing close for me.

Since it was a Big Bang Friday–there would be fireworks after the game–Michelle and I relocated to the seats directly behind the Oriole dugout for the ninth inning.Jordan Walden shut down the O’s to earn his first save of the year.  And, although I couldn’t convince Buck Showalter to toss me the lineup cards, I did manage to snag something else at the close of the game.  I’d jumped into the first row and got the attention of the relievers as they walked in.  Not wanting to repeat the circumstances of my last game, that ended with a fan reaching in front of me as the relievers entered the dugout and a baseball was tossed my way, when Tommy Hunter tossed me a ball before heading down the steps I leaned way out to catch it before anyone else could stick their hand in front of my glove.  And just like that I upped my total to four.  It was a rubbed up ball, too!  Then I jogged back to Michelle and watched the fireworks–set to the music of The Beatles–light up the sky.  Also, I have no idea what’s on that child’s head…

This particular fireworks show incorporated lasers into the mix.  It was neat–nothing too spectacular… though I’m a sucker for a fireworks finale–I mean, who doesn’t love a good fireworks show, huh?

We booked it out of there right after the finale and were in our car and on the way home before most people had even left the stadium.  I was thrilled to watch the Angels get a win.  They have been off to a pretty poor start… and Texas has been winning left and right.  Yikes!  Sadly, as a buddy of mine mentioned on Facebook recently, he is tied with Albert Pujols in home runs this season.  Prince Albert’s still sittin’ on a goose egg in that department.  I figure he’s just waiting until I’m at another game… how considerate of him!

Hey, I’ve been to two Angels games and they’ve won ‘em both.  As of this posting I’ve been at 33% of their wins.  And 50% of their home wins.  I guess I should go to more games…

Here are the three baseballs I kept:

Next up–a trip to Dodgertown!

4/16/12 at Angel Stadium

FINALLY!

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.

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