The last time I’d attended a game in Anaheim, the home team was known as the “California Angels” and the No. 1 song in America was “Waterfalls” by TLC.
Yeah, it was good to be back…
I made the trip from San Diego with my friend Brandon and his friend Sean. We arrived half an hour before the parking lot opened, so they offered to deal with the car while I walked in and wandered around the stadium with my camera. In the four-part pic below, starting on the top left and going clockwise, you can see a) the entrance to the parking lot, b) what it looked like as I started walking toward the stadium, c) the home plate gate from afar, and d) the rich vegetation on the way to right field:
Here’s another four-part pic which shows a) the right field gate, b) a peek through the gate, c) the Angels’ offices, and d) something random and weird that was connected to one side of the stadium.
When I made it back to the home plate gate, Brandon (wearing the shades) and Sean were there…
…and for the record, Brandon’s only an inch taller than me. It’s just the angle. But anyway, we were among the first fans to get on line (or “in line” as they preferred), and there was a pretty decent crowd by the time the stadium opened:
Thankfully, most of the fans went to the Angels’ side (on the 3rd base side) while others hung out near the foul poles. I bolted to the seats in straight-away right field and got off to a good start. In the four-part pic below, I’m a) trying to avoid the guy wearing the white shirt because he clearly knew what he was doing, b) enjoying the fact that I still pretty much had the section to myself, c) holding up my first ball of the day–a home run by Mark Teixeira that landed in the seats–while wearing a ridiculous-and-yet-somehow-almost-cool pair of MySpace sunglasses that Brandon had given to me and d) about to catch my second ball, which was thrown by Joe Saunders. (Brandon, by the way, works as a videographer for both MySpace and the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. Someday he’s gonna make a video of me snagging baseballs, but for now it’s all about the still photography.)
Here are four more pics in which I’m a) changing into my Rangers costume, b) jumping and catching a ball thrown by Josh Hamilton, c) climbing over seats in an unsuccessful attempt to snag a tape-measure blast, and d) using two hands (because I thought I was about to get jostled by the fans behind me) in preparation for a home run that I ended up catching on the fly. I have no idea who hit it.
That home run was actually my sixth ball of the day. My fourth was tossed by Kameron Loe (after a rude fan tried to prevent him from giving it to me by saying that I’d just been wearing an Angels hat), and the fifth was a home run that was dropped by a gloveless man and rolled down a couple steps right to me.
Brandon and Sean had both brought their gloves, but Sean didn’t snag a thing. Any guesses why?
Brandon, meanwhile, managed to catch a home run that sailed 10 feet over my head, and he made quite a nice play on it. The ball was sinking fast as it approached him so he gracefully reached over a row of seats and made a knee-high, back-handed grab–all this while holding his fancy camera in his right hand. Here he is with the ball:
My seventh ball of the day was thrown by Joaquin Benoit. It fell a bit short of the front row, and I nearly bobbled it back onto the field when several other fans (rightfully) tried to reach in front of me and snatch it.
This brings us to the dreaded eight-ball.
I was standing about a dozen rows back when a left-handed batter tattooed a ball over my head. It landed in an empty row and skipped up high in the air back toward me. At first I thought I was going to have an easy catch, but then as the ball continued its mini-arc in my direction, I realized it was drifting a little too far toward the field. I turned sideways so that my glove hand was closer to the field. (My back was now facing the RF foul pole.) The ball was sailing back over my head, but still appeared to be staying within my reach, so I braced myself and began leaning out for it. I reached farther…and farther…and the ball was coming closer…just a little bit farther…I knew I could reach it…and as I reached out an extra few inches at the last second and made the catch, I lost my balance and toppled over sideways onto the row of seats below.
I held onto the ball–that’s the good news–but unfortunately I slammed the left side of my rib cage against an armrest. My whole left side was instantly throbbing after that, and as soon as I was helped up, a pair of ushers rushed down the steps and asked if I was okay.
“I’ll be okay,” I said, fully aware that I’d be feeling the pain for days, if not weeks.
“Do you want some ice?” one of them asked.
“I’d need a whole body suit of ice,” I said, and since there were still more balls to be snagged, I declined their offer to take me to the first-aid room.
I was in serious pain, though. It hurt when I breathed. It hurt when I sat down. It hurt when I ran. And it killed when I laughed. It still hurts. A lot. Even right now, five days after the fact, as I’m sitting here writing this, it still hurts. Worse than ever. I feel it every time I take a breath. I feel it every time I move…or don’t move. It’s bad. I don’t know how to describe the pain other than saying it’s like I have the most intense cramp of my life. It sucks. And it was all my fault. But hey, maybe it was worth it because the ball, I later discovered, was the 1,000th I’d ever snagged outside of New York City.
As batting practice was coming to a close, I ran (ouch) to the the Rangers’ dugout and got a ball tossed to me by “special assignment coach” Johnny Narron. (Apparently transferring the BP balls from the basket to the bag is a special assignment.) Little did I know that Brandon had followed me and was taking photos from the concourse. Here I am getting the ball…
…and here I am wincing in pain as I headed up the steps:
In the photo above, the guy on my right wearing the black pants and blue shirt is an expert autograph collector named Sammy Wu (who you might remember from 8/6/08 at Shea Stadium). Check out the autograph he’d gotten earlier in the day:
I also got an autograph, but it wasn’t THAT impressive. Milton Bradley signed my ticket. Here it is:
I desperately wanted to reach double digits. I was one ball away, and I got my chance when Brandon Boggs and Chris Davis started playing catch in very shallow right field:
Davis ended up with the ball, tucked it into his glove, and walked over to a small group of women in the front row about 50 feet toward the foul pole. I kept pace with him by walking through the seats, and we both arrived at the same time.
“Chris,” I said almost apologetically, “is there any chance that you could possible spare that ball? Please?”
He looked up and gave a subtle nod, so I stood and waited while he signed a few autographs and posed for a photograph with his female fans. He finished 30 seconds later, took a few steps away from the wall, and flipped me the ball. SWEET!!! Double digits for the third game in a row! I celebrated by giving away one of my BP balls to a nearby kid.
I knew I wasn’t going to snag too many more after that. This was my only game in Los Angeles of Anaheim, so I was prepared to sacrifice a few innings (and therefore a few potential balls) in order to wander all over the stadium and take photos. I wanted to be in the upper deck before it got dark. That was a must. But since the game started at 6:05pm (an hour earlier than usual), I had an inning to spare and spent it in the seats behind the Rangers’ dugout. Hank Blalock was playing first base. I’d always liked him. I was glad to have a chance to get to add him to my list, and it seemed like I was in the perfect spot to get a third-out ball from him as he came off the field. This was my view:
Mark Teixeira ended the first inning by flying out to left fielder Marlon Byrd, who jogged in and tossed the ball one section to my right.
I called Brandon. He and Sean were sitting in their assigned seats (who DOES that?) along the right field foul line. Brandon wanted to wander with me. Sean wanted to sit and watch the game. I told Brandon I was going to stay behind the dugout for one more inning, and that no matter what happened I’d head over and find him after that.
Vladimir Guerrero led off the bottom of the second with a groundout to first base, and Torii Hunter followed with a single through the left side of the infield. Juan Rivera came up next and bounced into a 1-6-4-3 double play; pitcher Scott Feldman deflected the ball to shortstop Michael Young who flipped it to Ramon Vazquez who stepped on second and fired the ball to Blalock. Before Blalock even caught the ball, I was crouching at the bottom of the stairs. As he jogged off the field, I stood up and started shouting, and since it was still early in the game, I had no competition. Blalock had no choice but to throw the ball to me, and I reached out for the easy catch.
I met up with Brandon, took a few notes on a piece of scrap paper about how I snagged that ball, and then labeled the ball itself:
Finally, the in-game wandering and photo-taking was underway.
In the four-part pic below, you can see a) an usher guarding the tunnel that leads from the lowest concourse to the field level seats, b) the upper deck concourse, c) the view from the corner of the upper deck in right field, and d) the right field seats and “Budweiser Patio.”
Before we headed toward home plate, Brandon made me pose for a photo:
Then he got a real action shot–of me hitting a beach ball:
Brandon and I headed to the left field corner of the upper deck…
…and the wandering continued. In the four-part pic below, you’re looking at a) the field from the corner of the upper deck, b) the view from the ramps as we headed down to the field level, c) the same view as the first pic except from the field level, and d) the horribly-positioned bullpens:
The bullpens are horribly positioned in terms of snagging (because they waste home run real estate in straight-away left field) but they’re great in terms of spying on the players. There are a few rows of seats that wrap around the center-field end of the visitors’ bullpen. I went down there, and this is what I saw:
See the player sitting on the right? That’s Frank Francisco. Can you tell what he was doing? He was entertaining himself (and annoying the fans) by flicking pumpkin seeds over the fence and into the stands. When he finally saw me taking pictures, he flicked a whole bunch at me (one at a time), including two which I ate after they made it through the fence. Soooo funny. I even got to chat with him a little bit.
Then, realizing it was the sixth inning and that the Angels were winning, 4-3, I made my way toward the seats behind their dugout. That’s when Brandon peeled off and caught up with Sean so I was on my own as I a) walked behind the rock form-A-tion in center field, b) passed through the bar in deep right-center, c) snuck a quick peek at the seats behind first base, and d) headed through a desolate concourse toward the first-aid room.
I was in serious pain, so I got some ice and Ibuprofen and was, for the time being, back in business.
I met up with Sammy behind the dugout, and we watched as Francisco Rodriguez mowed down the Rangers for his 53rd save.
• 11 balls at this game
• 396 balls in 53 games this season = 7.5 balls per game.
• 549 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 135 consecutive games outside NYC with at least one ball
• 88 lifetime games with at least 10 balls
• 33 lifetime games outside NYC with at least 10 balls
• 19 different stadiums with at least one game with 10 or more balls
• 5 lifetime trips to the First Aid room
• 3,673 total balls