All-Star Game: Day 5

This was it!  The big game.  This was the game fans in Southern California had been waiting for since it was announced.  The 81st Annual All-Star Game was going to be taking place and I would be there (with my lovely wife in tow).

The Home Plate Gate would open up at 2:00pm for the scheduled 5:00pm start time and we got to Anaheim at 12:45. 

By the time we parked and walked to the gates there were lines forming underneath each of the big hats outside the ballpark.
asg before the gates open 1.JPGWe
spotted Chris and Warren (with their guests/families) at the front of
one of the lines and they let us slide into line along with them.  Thanks, guys.  We chatted for a while to pass the time and noticed we’d be receiving another giveaway upon entering the stadium.  For the Futures Game and the Home Run Derby we got ticket-holding lanyards.  Today it looked like–yep–we’d be getting a drawstring backpack.  Nice!

I made sure Michelle made it in safely and then ran off to start the afternoon of snagging, knowing she’d catch up to me soon.  I
originally intended to start the day near the American League dugout
but when I ran out of through a Field Level tunnel I realized batting
practice was already underway!  Yikes–I quickly
sprinted up the steps and all the way around the park to the right field
seats to try to grab a commemorative 2010 All-Star baseball.  I’d
seen pictures of the baseballs and I said a little prayer during my run
out to the seats that they’d be in use during batting practice.  Once I arrived I knew the crowds would get pretty large very quickly.  I hoped to get on the board as soon as possible.

I spent minutes (that seemed like
hours) tracking the occasional home run and hovering over the stray
baseball that made it to the outfield.  Among the players shagging in the outfield was Jered Weaver, new ace of the Angels staff, and a late add to the All-Star team.  I
wasn’t the only one asking him for a ball as he fielded one eighteen
feet below the first row of seats… but I did have a glove on and I did
say, “Please.”

Whatever works.
asg baseball.JPGI was psyched!  It was a beautiful, red-and-blue-stitched, All-Star ball.  It had a scuff on one side and a grass stain below the logo but I didn’t care.  It was mine–and it had been thrown by an Angels player and I couldn’t have been happier to snag it. 

I celebrated the snag internally and kept my sights on each player as they hit in the cage.  Conveniently,
Angel Stadium put up the name of each star that was hitting as he took
his hacks in the cage so I knew exactly who launched all the baseballs
that I couldn’t quite get to… I mean, with all the power in the AL
lineup (and quite a few lefties hitting) I had my share of chances to
snag a batted ball.  I’d seen BP regular Devin
catch two homers on the fly: one when the seats were still relatively
empty and another once the crowd had grown.  Soon, there was little room to run.
asg bp crowd 1.JPGBP wasn’t as packed as the Home Run Derby the day before but it sure was tough to maneuver up in that pavilion.

I played the staircase separating Section 238 from Section 239 as the American League hitters continued their portion of BP.

This was my view:
asg bp view.jpgBeautiful!  Though, more specifically, this was really my view:
really my bp view.JPGPeople all around.  A lot of people let their guard down when a righty stepped into the cage.  I knew better–especially when a certain righty named Alex Rodriguez was smacking the ball all over the field.

A-Rod went deep.  And he went deep to right field… and the ball was heading my way.  I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy catch.  There
were fans all around me and the ball had a pretty high arc to it,
giving people time to get underneath it… I moved down a few steps, saw
the ball slicing toward my general vicinity, moved to my right into a
row of seats, and then I saw the hands, arms, and gloves closing in.  In
my peripheral vision I saw limbs closing in on the ball and, keeping my
eye on it I realized that I had probably moved down one step too far.  Literally a dozen fans were reaching in, wanting that A-Rod blast for themselves.  I
kept my eye on the ball as it fell and at the last moment I leaped up as
high as I could, outreaching the fans to my left and right…

SMACK!

I couldn’t see it but I knew I had the ball.  I felt it hit the pocket of my glove as five gloves smashed into my extended arm.  I came down from my jump and crouched down just enough to regain my balancing, pulling my glove in toward my chest.  I looked down, opened up my Mizuno and saw the pearl nestled safely inside.  Whew…

The ball was just a standard Selig baseball, which wasn’t great, but it was in near perfect condition.  There was just one tiny mark on it, where A-Rod’s bat smacked it.  I
got a few congratulatory compliments from nearby fans (including Devin)
and then, proud of my catch, I held up the ball triumphantly.  The best moment though, came twenty seconds later when I heard a voice behind me: “I guess I got here at the right time.”

I turned around and saw Michelle standing in the row right behind me.  She’d arrived at the tunnel above the right field seats just in time to see me make the catch.  It felt great knowing that she saw it and was proud that I’d managed such a difficult (and highly contested) snag.  It was a a pretty cool feeling!  She chatted with me for a minute and then decided to get out of the July sun–I’d meet up with her after BP.

When the AL finished hitting there was a gap of very little action on the field.  Did you notice the stage set out in center field in the panorama above?  Well, it was there so the teams could be photographed.
al team photo.JPGI just noticed this now… but Andy Pettitte and David Ortiz are wearing those shoes I tried on at FanFest.  Hmm.

The National Leaguers came out to the field to take their photo right after the AL was done.
nl pre photo.JPGA
lot of fans retreated to the shade of the concourse but I took the
opportunity to make my way into the front row of the pavilion, knowing
that with the growing crowds, my best bet to snag another commemorative
would be a toss up from a player.

A group of teenagers were on my left
and a pair of teenagers were on my right when BP resumed with the
National League players taking their cuts.  The kids on my left were friendly and the kids on my right were not.  When I had been standing at the front row for a couple of minutes one of the boys on my right asked if I could move.  I asked him why and he said I was in their seats.  I said, “Which ones are yours?”

“Fourteen and fifteen.”

I told him that I would, in that case, stand in the space directly in front of thirteen.  He told me that his whole family had seats nine through sixteen.  I told him that I would move when they arrived.  He grumbled something to his friend.

A short while later I saw Matt Capps
long-tossing right below me with some other player who was stationed
over by the right field line.  People to my left and right were asking for the ball.  I said, to the kids on my left, “He’s warming up… you have to wait until he’s finished.”  I knew what I was talking about–and when Capps finished (and his throws were getting shorter) I yelled out, “Hey, Matt!  My name’s Matt, too, and I’d love to get a ball from you, sir!”  Capps looked up, checked the baseball in his hand, then looked right up at me and tossed the ball straight up.

I reached out to snag it, extending both hands (it’s fundamentals, kids), and then I felt pressure on my right forearm.  One of the kids on my right was trying for the ball.  The kid to my left reached out with his glove but I was easily going to out reach him.  Then, disaster.  The
person to my left gripped my arm and pushed it down with a lot of
force… ordinarily not a big deal since I wear my glove on my left hand.  However, there was so much force behind the push that it shifted my frame a few inches down and to the right.

I watched the ball sail inches over my glove and past my left shoulder into the row behind me.  I desperately tried to grab it from the second row but it bounced away from me and a fan in the second row ended up with it. 
I was furious.  I knew what had happened… I spun to the teens on my right and stared at the two of them.  Frustrated, I said, “OK, which one of you guys pushed me?”  They both looked down at the railing in front of them. 

I asked again and, again, they stared straight down.  I turned my attention back to the field and said, “That’s not cool, guys.  You can’t just grab a guy’s arm like that.”  I was pretty pissed… but I was even more determined to snag another ball at that point.

Like, if they had accidentally bumped me, OK, I’d be all right with it.  But this was intentional snag sabotage.  Not cool at all.

The kid nearest to me got out his
phone, texted someone, and two minutes later a taller person showed up
right behind these kids (an older cousin, I found out), and asked me to
move from his family’s seats.  I asked what ticket he had.  He showed it to me.  He had seat nine… remember, I was in the space directly in front of thirteen.  I told him he should tell the kids on my left to move out of his seat then.

Long story short, the older cousin ended up leaving because he understood the situation.  He had no more right to that seat during BP than I did.  And he knew his younger cousin was a whiner (and told him so).  And
I would snag my third ball on the day from Hong-Chih Kuo shortly after
that by asking him in Korean for it (thanks, Zack Hample).  When I caught it, I saw it was commemorative and then showed it to the kids on my right.

“Wow, a special All-Star baseball, cool!”  Then
I left the row, telling the kids on my left that they should crowd over
toward that pair of kids to the right if they wanted to… they did,
happily.

Next, I made my way down to the Field
Level seats, snuck as near to the NL dugout as I could, and watched the
players run in from the field.  I saw one baseball get tossed but not anywhere near me.  However,
fan-friendly Heath Bell walked to the bucket of baseballs and ended up
tossing roughly a dozen into the crowd including two to the Club Level
and two to the upper deck.  Sadly, none came to me, but it was still pretty cool to witness, well, that type of coolness from Heath in person.

I met up with Michelle after that and only then got a sense of how truly crowded the stadium would be.  The concourses were FULL of fans–and the seats were filling up throughout the stadium.  We grabbed food and found our seats.  The same seats we’d had for each of the All-Star events… this was out first time going anywhere near them:

It turned out that they were in the sun.  Bleh.
asg our seats panorama.jpgI didn’t crop this photo so you could see all the fans that had already arrived.  Also, down in the bottom-right corner you can see a line of people holding a giant American flag for the opening ceremony.

We
found comparable seats on the shaded (third base) side of the stadium
and took in the opening ceremonies after saying hello to a friend of
ours who also was at the game with his dad.  I took this photo as we walked behind home plate:
asg pregame ceremony panorama.jpgHere’s where we sat for the first few innings:
asg pregame outfield panorama.jpgThe ceremony was great.  Very
classy, and included a moment of silence for Bob Sheppard and George
Steinbrenner as well as an introduction of each of the thirty “All-Stars
Among Us.”  And one of the cast members from GLEE sang the anthem–but they were having sound issues within the stadium.  Did it sound all right on TV?  There had been sound issues on Sunday and Monday, too.

I was totally thrilled to be watching an All-Star Game!  We were far from the action but the environment was great!
asg confetti panorama 2.jpgConfetti!  It was electric in Angel Stadium, with fans from all over the world cheering on their favorite teams and players.  Although, the confetti seemed to halt Ubaldo’s warm up throws for a few minutes…
ubaldo warmup confetti.JPGThe two starters, Jimenez and David Price, began the game fantastically, each pitching two shutout innings.  We had a great view of who would be coming into the game for each team:
pettitte warmup.JPGjohnson warmup.JPGThe game was tense throughout.  I could tell early on that the game would be a pretty low-scoring affair.  Each team’s pitchers would dominate the game… and it helped that Ryan Braun made an outstanding catch in the middle innings.  And, did you know that Cliff Lee only threw six pitches to retire the side in order in the fourth?

Before the fifth inning started I told Michelle, “I think this is the inning where we [the AL] score.  Sure enough, the AL scored a run without a hit in the fifth.  Evan
Longoria, video game extraordinaire, lead off with a walk, then Kuo
made a throwing error on Joe Mauer’s dribbler and Robinson Cano hit a
sacrifice fly to cash in Longoria.  Unfortunately, that would be the American League’s only run of the game.  The
only National League offense to speak of came in the seventh when Matt
Thornton allowed a bases-clearing double to Brian McCann.  To his credit, Marlon Byrd kept the inning alive with a walk while McCann was on deck.
asg sunset our seats panorama.jpgMichelle and I had moved to our actual seats by this point… they were now shaded.  It was just before Byrd’s at bat that I began questioning Joe Girardi’s management choices.  I would have let Phil Hughes face Byrd, then, if needed, brought in Thornton.  Oh, well.  The
NL scored three runs–that was all they needed and, though the AL tried
to rally in the ninth, Byrd made a great play to get David Ortiz at
second base.  Why wasn’t A-Rod in the game to run for Ortiz?  Or, why didn’t A-Rod hit for somebody?  Oh, well… again.
asg night field level.jpgFor the ninth, we were down on the Field Level, hoping for an AL comeback.  I left Michelle for the last half of the inning and I managed to get in a great position for a toss at the end of the game.
broxton save.JPGgonzalez ortiz 9th.JPGJohn Buck stepped up to the plate…
buck at bat.JPGAnd Ian Kinsler smacked a ball into the right-center field gap that hung up just a bit too long. 
kinsler final out.JPGAnd when the NL wrapped it up I was right above the dugout, first row, and I did everything I could to get a player to toss a ball up… but no one did.  Jonathan Broxton was interviewed while the final out ball rested in his glove.
broxton final out.JPGHe kept it (I figured he would) and that was it for toss-up possibilities.  It was okay though.  I had really enjoyed the game.

It was exciting, quick (just under three hours), and fun.  Michelle met up with me on the concourse as the crowds cleared out.  She’s really starting to like baseball at this point, which is pretty darn cool.  We talked about all the great stuff we’d seen in the past few days as we headed out the gates.  Before we went to the car though, we got a picture together out in front of the ballpark:
m and m post game.JPGI’m holding up the Weaver baseball there.  But here’s a better shot of all three of my snags from the ASG:
three asg balls.JPGOh, and I asked Michelle to take one more photo before we left the stadium…
matt post asg.JPGI guess you could say I was a bit excited.  I knew I’d probably never get to have
such an intense and all-encompassing All-Star experience ever again, so we lingered at the
Sponsor Zone for a bit and watch the crowds leave the park.  My
feet were aching, I was tired, but it was hard to leave the party,
knowing the city of Anaheim wouldn’t see anything like it for quite
sometime.

Luckily, the Angels would be home from a
road trip on Thursday and I had received free tickets to that game… I’d
get to come back (to a less crowded stadium) pretty soon.

11 Comments

Dude, that All-Star ball looks so nice! and thats Outrageous of the kid pulling your arm. Haha, the NL finally won! Oh yea, and you made a catch on the fly in a packed place. I can’t even make a catch on the fly when its empty! Great job man!
http://bloggingandballhawking.mlblogs.com

M_KEMP_27 – I was pretty impressed when I saw the ball in person. You’ll get one on the fly one day – practice makes perfect.

Matt…

OUTSTANDING blog entry. Very not cool to get your arm grabbed. I would have lost it. Nice All Star snags for sure. See you sometime soon.

Leigh

LEIGH – Thank you, sir. Yeah–those teenagers were ridiculous. I felt better after getting that baseball right near them though. Hopefully we’ll cross paths soon–I’m going to be seeing your Padres play in AZ this weekend!

DUDE! —

Congrats on the media creds! That’s so cool. I tried to get some for the Ballpark in Arlington but they told me no. I’m gonna keep trying though. I’m anxious to see what kind of stories you can come up with.

Brian
http://txbaseballfan.mlblog.com

That’s what I was going for too. I actually got to slightly interview a guy a couple months ago that caught 2 foul balls in one game. Alan did a little write up on it, I don’t know if you saw it or not. Thankfully the guy was in an area that was not heavily guarded, but those are the things that I was looking to do with some more access. Oh well, I think I will try it again though. Good luck to you with yours!

Brian
http://txbaseballfan.mlblogs.com

BRIAN – Alan told me about your attempt at Arlington. Bummer that they denied you… my thing is a stadium access pass so I can move around the seating bowl… I’ll likely be interviewing fans that snag balls (fouls and home runs).

That’s all I wanted it for too. I actually slightly interviewed a guy a couple of months ago that caught two foul balls in one game. Alan did a small write up on it, don’t know if you saw it or not. Thankfully the guy was in an area that was not heavily guarded. Oh well, I’m gonna try again soon. Good luck to you with yours!

Brian
http://txbaseballfan.mlblogs.com

BRIAN – I sure did. It was a nice write-up. Thanks, sir, and good luck to you!

Wow that’s a really great story. A-Rod BP home rune ball?! That’s epic. I’m 14 and live in Brooklyn. I went to 1 Yankees game years ago because my semi-rich uncle gave my dad, who is poor, some free tickets. I was sooo exited but there was so much hate in the stadium due to it being a Yankees vs. Red Sox game. It was the thrill of my life because my family has never been able to afford tickets to anything at all let alone a permanent home. I remember going down and asking a Red Sox dugout batboy “would you possibly happen to have an extra baseball you don’t plan on using please sir?” and he smiled and said “yup. We have a whole bunch were not gonna use.” He then laughed and turned his head back towards the field. I was young so I’m not gonna lie. I cried. My dad said not to worry and enjoy the game. And we did. We had no money for a drink or food but its the highlight of my life(at least so far). Enjoy your souvenirs. I am very envious of that A-Rod ball but you caught it fair and square so you deserve it. I’m hoping i can maybe aquire a foul or game used ball from someone, anyone in the future but till then my baseball display case will be empty. I really enjoyed this story a lot. Thank you for writing it. – Pete C. from New York City

Hi, Pete. I’m so glad you liked the story. Please forgive the lateness of my reply.

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