Things are never simple at Angel Stadium, it seems. The first time I was there (in 1995), I hung out with the grounds crew and walked on the field. The last time I was there (in 2008), I took a nasty spill during batting practice and cracked a rib.
So, what about this time? Well, as soon as I arrived at the home plate gate, I was approached by a couple of guys named Ryan (pictured below on the left) and David (on the right). Ryan had a copy of The Baseball and asked me to sign it. Here we are:
Both of those guys are new to the ballhawking scene, and they were really appreciative of what I do, so it was great to meet them and get to hang out for a bit.
Five minutes after I signed the book for Ryan, someone else approached me with a copy:
In the photo above, the gentleman on the left is named Matt Jackson. He’s a regular at Angel Stadium and has snagged more than 350 baseballs over the last few seasons. We’d met once before and had kept in touch, and I was glad to see him again.
As for things not being simple…
I was with a reporter named Marcia Smith and a photographer named Cindy Yamanaka from the Orange County Register. Marcia, you may recall, wrote this article about me after I caught Mike Trout’s first major league home run on 7/24/11 at Camden Yards. At the time, she told me that’d be interested in doing a follow-up story if I ever made it out to Angel Stadium — so here we were. In the following photo, I’m in the foreground, Marcia can be seen (in the pink shirt) above my right elbow, and Cindy (wearing white) is crouching on the lower right with her camera pointed at me:
One more thing about that photo: do you see the guy wearing the red shirt and tan pants? His name is Devin Trone, he’s a regular at Angel Stadium, and he’s snagged about 300 lifetime baseballs. You might remember him from this photo (he’s on the right) from the 2011 All-Star Game.
Jona was also with me at this game, as was my friend Brandon who got some great photos of me during BP. When the gates opened, Marcia ran with me to the right field seats and snagged the first ball of the day — a toss-up from one of the players that recognized her. The players, meanwhile, were ignoring me…
…but it wasn’t long before I got a ball from Garrett Richards, wearing No. 43 in the photo above.
Ten minutes later, I snagged a mammoth home run by Russell Branyan that landed in a tunnel at the back of the section. The following photo shows me running up the steps for it:
Note that I’m not looking at the ball; I knew that it was going to sail way over my head, so I focused on getting as close as possible to the spot where I predicted it would land.
Then I used my glove trick to pluck a ball off the warning track…
…and caught a Bobby Abreu homer on the fly. The following photo was taken just after the ball smacked the pocket of my glove:
See the kid in the front row wearing red? The ball had sailed three feet over his glove, so he had no chance to catch it, but I appreciated his effort and handed it to him.
The Mariners were already on the field at that point, and evidently, one of the players had seen me using the glove trick. As soon as the team started hitting, he walked over to the warning track, looked up at me, placed a ball near the base of the wall, and told me that he wanted to see me do it again. He even offered to move the ball closer for me, and I snagged it easily. At the time, I had no idea who he was, so I tweeted a photo of him that Brandon had taken and asked for everyone’s help. Turns out it was Shawn Kelley. Thanks to everyone who replied, especially my friend Wayne in Seattle who replied first.
By the way (and without getting into all the details), let me warn you that Angel Stadium security isn’t too fond of ball-retrieving devices. They should take a lesson from the Giants on how to treat fans. As soon as I was done being detained (yes, you read that right) and allowed to return to the seats, I threw on my Mariners gear and went on a mini-snagging rampage. It started when I leaned over the railing in the front row to catch this home run on the fly:
(I have no idea who hit it; the Mariners have a bunch of caucasian lefties, and they all look the same from 375 feet away.)
Moments later, I got Trayvon Robinson to throw me a ball in right-center field. Can anyone spot the ball in the following photo?
I gave that ball to the nearest kid — a boy who was probably eight to ten years old. Anyone want to guess how many lifetime balls that kid had snagged? More than 300. And he knew who I was. I found this out from Marcia, who interviewed him.
My 8th ball of the day was a home run that I caught on the fly by leaning even farther over the railing down in front. (That was my 900th ball of the season!) Then I moved back a couple rows and made a running/leaping catch on another homer. The following photo was taken as I squeezed my glove around the ball:
That was it for BP.
This was the 20th stadium that I’ve visited this season, and in the bottom of the first inning, I got Brandon to take my photo with a numbered sign:
My facial expression in the photo above is meant to say, “Angel Stadium? Really?!” Everyone seems to think that it’s beautiful, but I don’t see what the big deal is. I mean, it’s not fugly. It’s just kind of bland.
Here’s a collage from all 20 stadiums:
Several days before I’d arrived in Anaheim, Marcia told me that she could get tickets from the Angels, and she asked where I wanted to sit.
“Behind the first base dugout,” I told her.
She made it happen, and as a result, I got this after the 1st inning:
Adam Kennedy was playing 1st base for the Mariners. He caught a pop-up to end the inning, then had the infield warm-up ball tossed to him by the 1st base coach, then switched balls and tossed me the non-gamer. I’d only snagged two of these commemorative balls all year (one of which I gave to a friend who let me stay with him for four days in Denver), so I really wanted to snag another. The Angels were using a few of them during BP, but most of the balls had the standard MLB logo.
While I was busy snagging, Brandon was busy taking snazzy photos of the players. Check out this shot of Mike Trout watching an inside fastball zip past him:
Marcia, who’s been covering the Angels for 11 years, told me that when she saw Trout in the clubhouse recently, she mentioned that the guy who caught his first home run was going to be at this game. Nothing ever came of it — it’s not like he asked to see me again or anything — but it was cool to know that he’d at least gotten that bit of info. I’m sure I’ll see him again someday, and I hope he remembers me.
I got another commemorative ball from Kennedy after the 3rd inning. This one was rubbed up with mud, but it was also a bit scuffed and dirt-stained, so I’m thinking that the ball *had* been used during the game — perhaps an inning earlier — and was then briefly used as the infield warm-up ball. That was my 11th and final ball of the day.
I got a photo with Marcia before she left:
She’s the best.
At one point late in the game (during the 7th inning stretch, I think), I turned around to look at Brandon, and he snapped the following photo:
My thought was something along the lines of: “You want to photograph me? Hang on, pal, I’ll give you something to photograph.” Here it is:
Cindy (the photographer from the Orange County Register) wanted to get a shot of me with all my baseballs, so we went and did it in the concourse:
We would’ve preferred to do it in the seating bowl, but we needed a few minutes and didn’t want to block people’s view, and I also didn’t want to create a scene by holding up so many balls. Every kid in the section would’ve been begging for one, and I was glad to give a couple more away, but I also wanted to keep some for myself.
After the game (which the Angels won, 7-3), I gave two baseballs to a pair of kids behind the dugout. Here I am handing one over:
The kids’ mother, pictured above in the red shirt, was blown away by the unexpected gift.
“Shut the front DOOR!” she said when I handed the second ball to her daughter. That made us both laugh…
…and as I headed up the steps, her kids posed with the balls in the front row:
• 903 balls in 108 games this season = 8.36 balls per game.
• 769 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 294 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 5,565 total balls
(I’m raising money again this season for Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. Click here to learn more.)
• 58 donors
• $7.18 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $78.98 raised at this game
• $6,483.54 raised this season
Now, about that article that Marcia wrote, here’s a screen shot of the first part of it…
…and here’s the link to the whole thing.
Meanwhile, Ryan (the guy I met outside the stadium) also wrote something about me on his blog. Check it out.