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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