It was a beautiful day in San Diego, and thanks to this sign on the sidewalk, I knew I was heading in the right direction:
There were actually lots of signs advertising/pointing to different events:
I decided to start by checking out FanFest, but before I got there, I was distracted by this:
I knew that in just a few hours, there’d be thousands of fans crammed against the barricades, cheering all the players rolling past in the parade. For now, though, things were calm, so I took advantage by doing something silly — and you can see it in my YouTube video. That’s right! Deal with it — a little teaser to leave you hungry and wanting more. The same videographer who captured all the action the day before at the Home Run Derby was with me again.
FanFest took place at a huge convention center located several blocks from the stadium. Here’s what it looked like outside:
Here I am inside posing near a huge baseball:
Did you notice my snazzy new shirt? I mentioned it in my last entry about the Derby — a new purchase that nearly put me in debt.
FanFest had countless things to see and do. Here I am talking about it:
One of those things was a baseball talk led by John Smoltz:
The topic was preventing pitching injuries. I would have loved to stay and hear the rest of it, but time was limited.
By the way, a funny thing happened in the video during the talk. After I commented about how a Hall of Famer was sitting just 30 feet away, a kid recognized me (“Are you Zack Hample?”) and asked for an autograph and selfie. The timing was so perfect that you might be tempted to accuse me of staging it, but that’s truly how it happened. I’ve been getting recognized a lot lately; I usually choose not to include footage of it in the videos, but every now and then I’ll make an exception.
Let’s get one thing straight, though — this is who everyone *really* wanted to see:
That’s Padres 1st baseman Wil Myers. He had participated in the Home Run Derby the day before, and in just a few hours, he’d be the starting cleanup hitter for the National League. Of course the line to meet him had already been cut off at that point, so I wasn’t able to get a photo with him. That’s when I knew it was time to leave.
As I approached the stadium, I walked along a street that was set up with all kinds of fun stuff:
It was nearly empty because everyone in downtown San Diego was camped out along the parade route. Here’s what it looked like right across from the stadium:
Several players were about to roll up in their trucks:
Here’s Jose Altuve waving to the crowd:
Here’s Ian Desmond looking dapper as hell:
Here’s Manny Machado before getting out:
Many more players were still due to arrive, but after 10 minutes there, I’d had enough. Some people make a whole day of the red carpet parade, arriving early to claim the best spots and then sticking around for the whole thing. I can’t deal with that. I don’t like being trapped with big crowds, and my attention span is limited.
As I walked away from the parade route, I found myself crossing the street behind the truck that had transported Mookie Betts:
FYI, you’ll find a link to the video toward the end of this entry, so keep scrolling/reading. Right now I’m just providing a few extra details and photos.
The stadium opened half an hour earlier than it had the day before, and the employees in left field were, to put it lightly, unprepared. One woman demanded to know what I was doing inside the stadium, and less than a minute later, a male guard stopped my cameraman and insisted that the gates hadn’t yet opened.
“Then how could we be here?!” I asked. It was the dumbest situation, and as other fans started trickling in, the employees realized what was up.
Once again, I decided to hang out in left-center field for BP. This was my view:
That spot had worked well for me the day before, but for whatever reason, it was DEAD at the All-Star Game. Look how crowded it got:
Dozens of fans all around me got baseballs — a combination of home runs and toss-ups — but I just couldn’t make anything happen.
Finally I got a toss-up from this random kid in center field:
Do you remember the commemorative baseballs I had snagged the day before? I got a bunch of Futures Game balls and All-Star Game balls, but no Home Run Derby balls. Therefore I was *extremely* happy to get this from the kid in center field:
That was the only ball I got during the American League’s portion of BP. Then both leagues took turns posing for team photos:
My cameraman (not Brandon but a different friend named Jeff) went up to the 2nd deck to get some shots from above. Here he is waving at me:
He succeeded in getting the shots. I, however, failed to snag any more baseballs, so in case you’ve somehow lost count, I finished BP with one.
I grabbed some food (a fried chicken sandwich, if you must know) and then headed off on a mission: to find my buddy Heath Bell. He had texted to say that he was in Suite 33, but evidently there were two levels of suites, and neither of us knew exactly where I needed to go.
While wandering around and trying to figure it out, I stopped to pose for a photo with more oversized baseballs:
After asking twice for help/directions, I finally made it up to the terrace level. Here I am discussing the beautiful stadium design:
Most stadiums, by the way, require fans to have suite-level tickets just to get anywhere near the suites, but here at PETCO, there was enough other stuff on this level that it was open to everyone.
When I found Suite 33, Heath welcomed me inside. Here’s what it looked like:
Here I am with the man himself:
During that particular portion of the conversation, he was telling the camera that if I ran out onto the field, he would throw me a ball from the suite. What a guy! (How do I know him? Watch the video. You’ll get an explanation.)
Here I am with his son Reece:
I only stayed for a few minutes and then headed upstairs for the pre-game ceremony. Click the following photo (a high-res panorama) to enjoy the true splendor:
Did you notice all the people on the balconies of the building behind the light tower? Here’s a closer look:
Just after the national anthem concluded, six U.S. Thunderbirds performed an incredible flyover at 600 miles per hour! I knew it was coming, but still wasn’t prepared and was actually startled. Thankfully Jeff was ready with his camera and got a really cool shot:
Here’s where I hung out during the game:
PETCO Park has standing room build into the cross-aisle in right field; somehow, despite waiting until game time to head down there, I found a spot.
Here’s Mike Trout on the jumbotron in the bottom (yes, the BOTTOM) of the 1st inning:
Why was the American League batting in the bottom of the inning at a National League stadium? I was confused until my friend Brent explained it. Basically the All-Star Game took place in Cincinnati last season. Next year it’ll be played in Miami, and in 2018 it’ll happen in Washington D.C. — all National League ballparks. To compensate for that, the American League was the “home” team here at PETCO. Very strange.
Did you notice the “fun fact” about Trout below his photo on the jumbotron? He’s the first player ever to win consecutive All-Star Game MVP honors. #GOAT
Here’s what the cross-aisle looked like on my right:
I was hoping to catch a home run, and man, let me tell ya, if anyone had hit a ball near me, I would’ve had a great shot.
Here’s who I spent most of the game with:
That’s Brent on the left. Remember him from this photo on 9/24/14 at PETCO Park? That’s when we first met. He’s a great guy and super knowledgeable about baseball. The man in the red hat is an even older friend. His name is Ismael, and if you’ve been reading this blog for a very long time, you might remember this photo of him from when he put me on the phone with Heath Bell on 8/31/08 at PETCO Park.
There were three home runs during the game, but unfortunately they all went to left field. Therefore my only chances came on warm-up balls thrown by outfielders. Here I am reaching for one:
I didn’t snag it.
Here I am late in the game — just a random candid moment:
Here are the fireworks that went off after the home team won, 4-2:
Eric Hosmer won the MVP. (He went 2-for-3 with a homer and 2 RBIs.) Here’s the award ceremony from afar:
Here’s Hoz on the jumbotron:
I like Rob Manfred’s face — not specifically in the photo above, but in general. Is that a weird thing to say? I just think he looks friendly.
• 478 balls in 59 games this season = 8.10 balls per game.
• 157 balls in 16 lifetime games at PETCO Park = 9.81 balls per game.
• 25 balls in 5 lifetime Home Run Derbies = 5 balls per game.
• 1,225 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 85 different commemorative balls
• 9,111 total balls
My fundraiser for Pitch In For Baseball is now in its eighth season. Once again, people are pledging money for every home run ball that I snag during games. Here’s some info about the fundraiser, and if you donate, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.
• 14 donors for my fundraiser
• $123.77 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $618.85 raised this season
• $191,122.51 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009