8/30/08 at Angel Stadium

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…

zack_outside_angel_stadium.jpg

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:

outside_angel_stadium1.jpg

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.

outside_angel_stadium2.jpg

When I made it back to the home plate gate, Brandon (wearing the shades) and Sean were there…

sean_zack_brandon.jpg

…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:

crowd_outside_gate_08_30_08.jpg

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.)

zack_anaheim_batting_practice1.jpg

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.

zack_anaheim_batting_practice2.jpg

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?

sean_during_batting_practice.jpg

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:

brandon_holding_his_ball.jpg

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.

zack_tumbling.jpg

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.

1000th_non_NYC_ball.jpg

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…

zack_getting_ball_from_johnny_narron.jpg

…and here I am wincing in pain as I headed up the steps:

zack_in_pain.jpg

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:

sammy_wu_autograph.jpg

I also got an autograph, but it wasn’t THAT impressive. Milton Bradley signed my ticket. Here it is:

milton_bradley_autograph.jpg

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_and_boggs_playing_catch.jpg

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:

view_before_snagging_ball3673.jpg

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:

zack_labeling_ball3673.jpg

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.”

inside_angel_stadium1.jpg

Before we headed toward home plate, Brandon made me pose for a photo:

zack_holding_camera.jpg

Then he got a real action shot–of me hitting a beach ball:

zack_hitting_beach_ball.jpg
This was the view (thank you, Photoshop) from the last row of the upper deck behind home plate:angel_stadium_panorama.jpg

Brandon and I headed to the left field corner of the upper deck…

zack_anaheim_eight_balls.jpg

…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:

inside_angel_stadium2.jpg

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:

pumpkin_seeds.jpg

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.

inside_angel_stadium3.jpg

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.

STATS:

• 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

31 Comments

Zack, you truly ARE amazing! What a trooper to keep going, when you could’ve(& I probably would’ve) gone to first aid. I have to admit I’m jealous about the Hamilton ball. All the games I go to here(Tx) & I still don’t have one from him. I bought a HR derby ball on ebay that I’m trying to get him to sign. Well nice haul as usual, look forward to reading about the rest of your trip! Brian

johnny naron is hamiltons special friend who makes sure he doesnt smoke crack or drink or anyhing like that, so it *IS* a special asignment.

Zack,
Have fun getting better, nice game. Good luck on 3700
AC

Zack- Two games and thirty two baseballs. Wow. Congrats- Joe

are you going to do a wondering photo thing for shea and yankee stadiums now that there in the last days. I only have 3 games left if they make the playoffs or 6 if they do make the playoffs at shea. So im going to take some pictures this weekend.

Zack, I know what you mean about Frank Francisco. He acts like that everywhere he goes (I enjoy it). Does the stadium have a different feel since you got to roam around the empty park before the renovation? It’s really weird how everything between the foul lines have changed but they kept the lower and upper the same. I think of the old park as a completely different place and with it’s own unique feel. But that’s just from pictures.

bmpowell74, how much did that Hamilton ball cost? Must have been a hefty sum for ball from the the most amazing Home Run Derby round in history.

Aaron
http://districtboy.mlblogs.com/

Johnny Narron is on the most special assignment of all–helping Josh Hamilton stay on the straight-and-narrow. I adore him for it.
Saturday was my birthday… and, by the look of all the balls you snagged, you stole my presents :]
I think the Big A is my second favorite stadium, behind Coors Field. I went there last year–the huge hats in front are SO cool.
Kylie — http://kylie.mlblogs.com

hey zack,
congratulations on #1000 outside nyc, soory about your ribs. hope you get better soon. has angel stadium changed since the last time you went there?

Hey Zack, congrats on the 11 baseballs. Sorry about what happened to your ribs. I hope you finish your road trip strong.
AutographHound

EVERYONE-
I just answered comments on my previous entry, so if you’ve been waiting for me to answer a question, check it out. Now I’m getting started on my entry about August 31st at PETCO Park. Get ready for another story about Heath Bell.

BMPOWELL74-
Thanks. Sounds cool about the Derby ball. Good luck getting it signed. Let me know if you do.

PUCK COLLECTOR-
Seriously?

AC-
Thanks!

JOE-
Thank you as well. (The snagging scene is so much better outside my own hometown. What a shame.)

LI7039-
Nah, I already did it for both NYC ballparks.

AARON-
The pre-renovated stadium felt like an old ballpark because of all the wasted space and nooks/crannies in left field…and yet it’s a really generic structure in many other ways.

KYLIE-
Wow, okay, so I guess Puck Collector was right. How come I didn’t know that ’til now?

RICKYMCENTIRE-
Yeah, it’s changed quite a bit. Look at my reply (just two people above you) to Aaron.

AUTOGRAPH HOUND-
Thanks. I’m sorry too. :-)

Just when I thought the only thing that could slow you down was injury (bight my tounge, knock on the hardest piece of wood you can find)….you go put up double digits will bruised ribs…i’m sure you’ll have an update in the next entry….good luck

yeha if you had watched the Derby and listened to chris berman on tv instead of actually GOING to the game you would have know that. that was the only relevent thing berman talked about all night, but that took up like 80% of the broadcast. josh hamilton is a recovering addict

You can read all about Johnny Narron in the SI cover story they did on Hamilton a couple months ago. I’d let you borrow mine, but I got Josh to sign it when the Rangers came to Houston earlier this year.

Wow! A successful trip. You weren’t kidding. I’m usually one of those that gets to Angel Stadium and heads toward the 3rd base side but after reading this I think I’ll just head straight out into right field from now on. I’m hoping to break my (lousy) record of two balls at one game during the Mariners series coming up.
Congrats again! And I’ll send you the pics I have from the game on the 2nd.
~Matt

I can’t remember the last batting practice I was at that I didn’t get some kind of bump, bruise, cut, scrap, banged knee, stepped on toe..you get my point. Snagging can be a body abusing sport (Yes I said sport), at times thanks to the bleachers. Zack, way to take a lickin and keep on tickin..Don..Rock Pile Ranter
http://baseballsnatcher.mlblogs.com/

Zack,
I got Milton Bradley twice that day, 16 total. Hamilton’s auto has been MUCH MUCH harder to get after he put on the show in derby. He used to sign like crazy. I really have it tough on the line-up cards. Here is what going on in Angel Stadium. Every angel game, and I mean every game. There is always a group of 3-5 hispanic adults/kids (most time different kids) will positioned in different spots behind the angel dugout for free stuff. They are very experienced (in a deceitful way)of what they are doing and very annoying. During the time I got my first line-up card one kid asked me to buy it for 5 bucks. The day I got Anderson’s wrist band one kid told me I should give it to the people who sat near there. They like to mess with people there. Those kids have gotten bats, gloves and over 50 pairs of cards. I think they are adopted. Wish me luck on Yankee line-up card next week.

AARON (dwright94) — It’s not a game used ball, just an official ball with the derby logo. I still think it’s cool though. Most ebay auctions are between $20-30 w/ shipping.

hey..

i SHOULD be at shea tomorrow..i hate how the cheapest ticket is $25. hope your outside before the gates open, but youll outsnag the S*** out of me anyway so it doesnt matter. hoping for a few, but its gonna be crowded. no guarantee if ill go yet, but look for me.

im going tomorrow but it looks like i’ll only be there about 10 minutes before the gates open. oh well.

and zack, how come we’ve never hear about this:
http://www.ugo.com/ULTIMATEFAN/Interview.aspx?FanID=2

i remember the blog about it and how you said you were being filmed that day but i didn’t know it was a web site. there is also another video of you talking about your collection.

JOSHSCARDS-
Bah, injury-schminjury.

PUCK COLLECTOR-
Ahh. Gotcha.

TXFILMMKR-
I don’t blame you for not wanting to lend me that copy. I’ll see if I can find it elsewhere.

MATT-
Yeah, definitely, go to right field next time, and get ready when Ichiro steps into the cage. The man hits BOMBS in batting practice. No joke.

DON-
Well said. Thanks.

SAMMY-
This just confirms that you’re the man. Those other fans sound awful. I’m glad I don’t have to deal with them on a regular basis.

GJK2212-
I don’t expect to have a big day tomorrow at Shea. There’s going to be a monster crowd, and I’m going to be helping a 13-year-old do some snagging. But that’s fine. As long as we each get at least one ball (and see the Mets kick some heinie), I’ll be happy.

GOISLANDERS4-
I never shared the link for this? Damn…I thought I had. Oh well. Now it’s here for all to see.

Hi .good job on Ana pics,too bad you couldnt catch a pumpkin seed on the fly,sue player if hit in eye.Espn said Arod will end up with 850 his career.

Sammy…

That Josh Hamilton jersey is awesome. You’ll be the only one cruising around Taiwan with that one. Very nice signing.

Zack…

Nice game once again. I’m impressed by your dugout sneaking into ability. I was a little less impressed with some of the Anaheim ballhawks the last game I was there. Very hands on and pushy. My friend got jostled quite a bit. I will guarantee this to any of you Anaheim ballhawk pushy types that might be reading this. If any of you lay a hand on me or touch me in any way, you’re going to get knocked out. That’s a promise. Back to snagging…..Zack, that was a nice game snagging wise. I really liked the Milton Bradley auto too. Can’t wait for the next entry.

Leigh

Leigh,
Glad you like it. That Hamilton auto is really nice, actually one of the nicest in my collection. Definitely my most favorite hound this year. As for snagging, I don’t think there is anyone, maybe except John, is good enough to be considered as ballhawk. Fans in Angel Stadium really suck at snagging. (Including me)

Sammy

Ok, maybe the people I saw the other day were amateurs. People that are full time snaggers like Zack, me, and alot of others on here do our best not to run into people and kids, etc. I just saw a lot of out of control people in Anaheim. I didn’t like it. Hopefully, it was an isolated incident that happened to my buddy. We’ll see. Great auto for you. Talk to you later.

Leigh

Leigh – At least i don’t try to run people over! The night you were out only 2 or 3 “regulars” were out there plus TC. Unfortunately it gets crazy out there sometimes when balls fly around like they did that night. It is an oddity to have a good BP up there.

Zack – Again we didn’t cross paths. One of these days it will happen. Glad you had a good trip! Since the Phillies are going to oust the Mets and the Yankees are out of it maybe you can come back for some playoff ball! I decided making money was more important than snagging baseballs. Unfortunately that is the case when you have a family.

Later

John
http://ballhawk.mlblogs.com
http://mlballhawk.com

TRACYCOLLINSBECKY-
I believe that about A-Rod. Should give us all some amazing snagging opportunities.

LEIGH-
Thanks, as always. I truly appreciate all your support and encouragement.

JOHN-
The Phillies aren’t ousting anyone.

Hey Zack,
What a great time with you and Brandizzle.. We both had scars from the chairs on our legs.. and you definitely made an amazing catch in the seats. I remember the ball hit your glove, tried to bounce out, and in almost slow motion poetry.. I saw your eyes light up and you dive into the stands for it. Your article doesn’t even do it justice.
Brandon also sent me the back to back home run grab footage at Yankee stadium.. you are too funny. I love the dance.
Anyway, it was really nice meeting to you and seeing what’s possible first hand at a ball game. I told everyone I knew of our fun at Anaheim and Dodger stadium.
Keep up the good work, and keep in touch.

Sean

i always wondered about the sammy guy

ive seen him everywhere…always at angel games and i saw him 3 days in a row once

angel stadium, petco park, oakland coliseum

Friday I’m headed to the Big A on monday I’ll be chillin at Dodgers stadium,

My question, Does anyone know the earlies times the gates open. Any secret entrances or cheap ticket deals. I plan to show up, get a ball and sit at the top of the stadium. I love that.

Thanks ahead of time for your’re suggestions

Awesome! I went to the Angels v. Rays game on Tuesday and I ended up making a diving catch during BP in the same section you fell and I bruised my thigh and collar bone when I fell to the ground. Luckily I held onto the ball. Two workers came down and asked if I was ok, and I also got a standing ovation from the fans for how awesome a catch it was. :-)

I’ll be at this stadium tomorrow and Thursday. Thought Id read up on your blogs and it looks like the crowd for BP isnt bad at all despite near sell-outs all the time.

Thanks for writing up an amazing blog entry and that sucks you got hurt. BUt Im glad thats all in the past.

http://stock350i.mlblogs.com/

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