February 2014

Opening Day ticket for Australia

Look what found its way into my inbox last night:

sydney_baseball_ticket

Baseball in Australia, baby! Here I come!

18 days until I leave.
20 days until I arrive.
23 days until I’ll be running inside the Sydney Cricket Ground.

I kinda wish I’d gotten hard tickets instead of e-tickets, but whatever. Just being there is the most important thing.

5/13/10 at Camden Yards

Several years ago, when MLBlogs switched over to WordPress, a bunch of my blog entries were lost, including this one — a 2,600-word account of my first time snagging two home runs during one game. Thankfully I had saved all the photos, along with the text from my original entry, so this was fairly easy to recreate. Enjoy!

This was my third and final game in Baltimore. The rain had finally stopped. There was finally going to be batting practice . . . right?

Yeah, how about no. This is what I saw when I first ran inside the stadium:

1_weather_education_day

What the–?!

It was “Weather Education Day” at Camden Yards. There were thousands of schoolchildren in the stands — and no players in sight.

Unbelievable. Three days in Baltimore. No batting practice.

Several minutes later, two Mariners started playing catch in left field . . .

2_weather_education_day

. . . so I headed over and waited impatiently:

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In the photo above (which was taken by my friend Brandon), you can see a weather balloon in the background. Thrillsville.

One of the two players was Ian Snell. When he finished warming up, he threw (and I mean THREW) the ball into the seats in left-center. He probably fired it 250 feet, and when I realized that there weren’t any fans out there — that he had randomly chucked the ball into an empty section — I ran over to look for it. A fellow ballhawk named Matt also ran out. It was an all-out race, and we pretty much arrived at the spot simultaneously. For a split-second, we were both looking around frantically for the ball, and I happened to see it first.

That was a huge relief.

Matt and I shook hands, and then I ran back and got Snell to sign my ticket:

4_ian_snell_autograph

A few more Mariners came out to play catch:

5_mariners_playing_catch_05_13_10

Ichiro Suzuki threw me my second ball of the day, and Sean White hooked me up with another. Here’s a photo of ball No. 3 flying toward me in the seventh row:

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Bullpen coach (and former World Series MVP) John Wetteland started signing autographs. Here I am getting him on Brandon’s ticket . . .

7_zack_getting_wetteland_autograph

. . . and here’s the ticket itself:

8_john_wetteland_autograph_05_13_10

As I mentioned in my previous entry, Wetteland enjoys talking to fans (at great length) about various scientific theories. This day was no exception. Here he is giving a speech about subatomic particles colliding:

9_john_wetteland_being_weird

It was really strange. Or maybe “unexpected” is a better way to describe it. At one point, I filmed him for 60 seconds. This is what he said during that time: “If you look at geology or archaeology or paleontology–astronomy, astrophysics, even theoretical astrophysics, cosmology–and you try and marry a lot of these things, a lot of them don’t make sense, in terms of time. Okay? So when a geologist tells you that the Pacific plate is moving northwest toward Japan–I can look at a singular event, like in Iceland, where it actually splits apart six feet in the matter of a day. Or the Deccan Traps or the Siberian Traps, where it laid down enormous land masses–millions and millions and millions of square miles within months, not billions of years.”

The fan he was talking to was like, “Right . . . yup . . . mm-hmm . . . right.”

I don’t know what else to say about this. I just felt the need to report it, so let’s move on.

jeremy_guthrie_2010I headed to the right field foul line when the Orioles came out to play catch. Jeremy Guthrie spotted me and lobbed a ball in my direction. He intentionally tossed it short so that it would land on the rubberized warning track and bounce up — but it didn’t bounce high enough and ended up settling against the base of the wall eight feet below me. As I started setting up my glove trick, Guthrie ran over and grabbed the ball and shouted, “C’MON, ZACK!! LET THE KIDS HAVE ONE BALL!! ONE BALL, ZACK!! COME ON!!”

I was stunned for a couple seconds until I realized that he was just messing with me. There were, in fact, lots of kids, so he handed the ball to one of them, and before he ran off, he flashed a big smile and gave me a fist bump.

Brandon took a photo of me and Matt . . .

10_zack_and_matt_05_13_10

. . . and then I got Brad Bergesen’s autograph on the back of a ticket:

11_brad_bergesen_autograph

Shortly before game time, I failed in my quest to get a warm-up ball. Brandon, meanwhile, succeeded in his attempt to get a really cool photo of Felix Hernandez:

12_felix_hernandez_warming_up

The starting lineups were announced. Ken Griffey Jr. wasn’t playing. Again.

Great. Just great.

Why did I even take this stupid trip in the first place? I just wanted to go home and get back to work on my book. I actually considered leaving. That’s how frustrated I was. But no, on second thought, that seemed silly so I stuck around, almost more as a formality than anything else.

This was Brandon’s view during the game . . .

13_brandons_view_during_game

. . . and this was my view for right-handed batters:

14_zacks_view_for_righties

It was a great foul ball spot, but nothing came my way.

Whenever lefties were at bat, I hung out in the standing-room area in right field:

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As you can imagine, I did lots of running back and forth all day. (The ushers were cool with it, and the fans didn’t mind either. A few of them told me that I was more entertaining than the game. I was very careful not to get in anyone’s way or block anyone’s view.)

At the start of the seventh inning, I was behind home plate when Josh Wilson, a right-handed batter, lined out to the shortstop. Rob Johnson, another righty, followed with a groundout to 3rd base, and as soon as he hit the ball, I took off for the standing-room area. Michael Saunders, a power-hitting lefty, was due to bat next, and I needed as much time as possible to get out there. As I headed through the cross-aisle toward the foul pole, Saunders took ball one. I thought about running up into the seats to leave my backpack with Brandon (I had to carry it briefly when he left to get food), but decided to hang onto it. I remember thinking that with my recent bad luck, a brief detour would probably cost me a home run ball, so I kept jogging through the aisle and heading straight to where I needed to be. The count was now 2-0 — Kevin Millwood was working fast — and by the time I settled into my normal spot, Saunders had fouled off a pitch.

Deep breath.

I couldn’t see the field from where I was standing, and then all of a sudden, a ball appeared out of nowhere and started flying to my left. It was a line drive. A home run? What?! It happened so fast that the crowd didn’t react, and it didn’t even occur to me at first what was going on, but I chased after it nonetheless. The ball skipped off the pavement and took a huge bounce toward the back of the section. All I could think was, “Please don’t bounce over the back gate,” and thankfully it didn’t. The ball hit some netting in between the bars about a foot from the top of the gate. Then it dropped at my feet and bounced back up to me — and just like that, I had snagged the 11th game home run of my life. Like I said, it happened so fast — and it was so lucky and anticlimactic — that I didn’t really know what to think. I didn’t celebrate. I just turned to my left and held up the ball so Brandon could see it. As it turned out, one of the cameras saw me holding it as well:

16_zack_first_homer_screen_shot

As I ran over to show the ball to Brandon, everyone around me started chanting, “Throw it back!! Throw it back!!” and then another chant of “Give it to the kid!!” broke out.

Kid? What kid? There weren’t any kids, and even if there were, too bad. This was a game home run ball, and I was keeping it. Period.

“Throw it back or give it to a kid!!!” shouted a nearby fan.

“I have an idea for you!” I yelled back. “How about YOU catch a home run and then YOU can decide what to do with the ball?!”

The guy shut up after that, but the rest of the section kept chanting at me to “give it to the kid.”

What kid?!?!?!?!

Oh…you mean THAT kid? The little kid with a glove who was sitting in foul territory 100 feet away from me when I grabbed the ball?

The whole section kept chanting. It was absurd and unsettling. Most of the sheeple probably had no clue what was happening or why they were even chanting in the first place, so I shouted the following as loud as I possibly could: “THIS IS A GAME HOME RUN BALL!!! IT’S VALUABLE TO ME!!! I’M NOT GIVING IT AWAY!!! I WILL GIVE THE KID A DIFFERENT BALL INSTEAD!!!”

I doubt anyone had any idea what I was talking about, but at least they all got quiet after that. Then they watched closely as I reached into my backpack and pulled out another ball, and when I handed it to the kid, everyone started cheering wildly. What a bunch of fools.

Brandon followed me back to my spot in the standing-room area and took a photo of me holding up the ball. As you can see, the reality/awesomeness of the situation had finally sunk in:

17_zack_excited_about_ball4457

Then, a few seconds later, he took another photo of me when I wasn’t expecting it:

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Seriously, though, the ball was worth admiring. There was a huge scuff mark where it had hit the pavement. Check it out:

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On the other side of the ball, there were some black streaks:

20_ball4457_saunders_homer

My guess is that the streaks were caused by the netting.

Brandon left the stadium soon after that. He had to get to the airport to catch a flight back home to San Diego, so we said a quick goodbye, and then I got back to business.

My goal?

Snagging another home run, of course. On three separate occasions, I’d snagged three foul balls in one game, but I’d never gotten multiple homers.

Fast-forward seven outs to the bottom of the eighth inning. Corey Patterson, recently recalled from Triple-A Norfolk, led off and fell behind in the count 1-2 off reliever Brandon League. Normally I stand at the back of the section, but in this case, since I didn’t think Patterson was likely to hit a monstrous home run, I stood just a few feet back from the wall at the front. In the following photo, the ‘X’ represents my location:

21_patterson_location

And then?

Patterson got under one and lifted a deep fly ball in my direction. The ball was heading about 10 feet to my right, and I could tell right away that it was going to sail about 10 feet behind me. Oh yes, it was going to be a home run, and I was going to catch it. I drifted back, and while I tracked the flight of the ball, I could sense that there wasn’t anyone else around me who was going to make a serious attempt at catching it. I positioned myself about five feet behind the spot where I knew it was going to land, and then I moved forward at the last second and reached all the way up for it. Here’s a screen shot taken at that exact moment:

22_zack_second_homer_screen_shot

(That’s right, Ichiro, you turn and watch it.)

BAM!!!

The ball hit the pocket of my glove. Clean catch. I had it. And then I went nuts:

23_zack_second_homer_screen_shot

Oh, man, I was so happy after that:

24_zack_with_two_home_run_balls

There was no “give it to the kid” chant. Instead everyone kept coming up and congratulating me and asking if they could touch the baseballs and take pics with me. It’s too bad that Brandon had left because it would’ve been nice to have him there documenting it.

Five batters later, with the Orioles trailing, 5-2, Luke Scott came up to bat with the bases loaded. I was in the zone. I was focused and ready for another ball to fly my way when two attractive 30-something-year-old women walked over to me.

“Hi,” said one of them, “we’re coming over over here to flirt with you.”

“That’s great,” I said, “but I need to stay focused.”

“What’s your name?” asked the other.

“Zack, but I really can’t talk now.”

“We’re trying to distract you so our friend can catch a ball.”

“That’s not gonna happen,” I said, keeping my eyes fixed straight ahead on where I needed to be looking.

“Can we see your glove?” asked one of the women who reached out and grabbed it. “What’s with this string?”

“Stop bothering me!” I said firmly, jerking my glove away from her. “I’m not playing around! I’m here on a mission! Please . . . just leave me alone!”

That did the trick. And then Luke Scott hit a grand slam — to left-center field, unfortunately. (I hate being rude to people, but in this case, I really had no choice.) Other fans were still coming up and talking to me, and in a word, it was chaotic. I’m not even sure if I would’ve been able to catch another ball if one came out, but I never got that chance.

The game ended on a play at the plate. Ichiro singled, Josh Wilson was on second, and Corey Patterson (who else?) gunned him down with a beautiful throw from left field.

Final score: Orioles 6, Mariners 5.

Here’s a photo of the two home run balls that I took before leaving the stadium:

25_two_home_run_balls

It’s hard to tell based on what you can see above, but the Patterson ball was rubbed pretty dark with mud. Here’s a closer look:

26_ball4458_patterson_homer

Man, what a day. The trip turned out to be pretty good after all.

SNAGGING STATS:

27_the_four_i_kept_05_13_10• 5 balls at this game (four pictured on the right because I gave one away)

• 100 balls in 11 games this season = 9.1 balls per game. (The Patterson homer was my 100th ball.)

• 13 consecutive seasons with at least 100 balls

• 640 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 191 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball

• 137 lifetime game balls (NOT counting game-used balls that get tossed into the crowd)

• 12 lifetime game home runs (again, not counting toss-ups)

• 16th time snagging two or more game balls in one game

• 1st time snagging two game home runs in one game

• 4,458 total balls

CHARITY STATS:

• 31 donors

• $4.95 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $24.75 raised at this game

• $495.00 raised this season for Pitch In For Baseball

Speaking of Pitch In For Baseball, you’re aware of the recent flooding in Tennessee and other areas in the south, right? Well, among countless other things, the water destroyed a large supply of baseball equipment that was being used by Major League Baseball’s RBI Program. (RBI stands for “Reviving Baseball in the Inner cities.”) Because of all the donations that Pitch In For Baseball has been receiving, it was able to replace all the equipment and get the kids back out onto the fields. This is the charity that I’ve been supporting for the last two years. It does amazing things for kids and for the game of baseball. I want to thank everyone who has donated money, and for those of you who haven’t, I hope you’ll consider giving something, or at least spread the word. Even if you simply tell a few friends about it, that would help. Click here to learn more about what I’m doing for this charity and about how you can get involved.

Next game for me?
Braves vs. Mets.
Turner Field.
May 17th.
Stay tuned . . .

Map of snagged baseballs, Part 2

Do you remember when I posted this map on my blog last September? As you may recall, it showed where I’d snagged all my baseballs up to that point in the 2013 season. That map was made by a gentleman named Marshall, and guess what? He just made me another. Check it out:

baseballs_milestones_map

This new map shows where I’ve snagged each of my milestone balls — No. 1,000, No. 2,000, and so on, all the way up to No. 7,000, which I caught on 8/27/13 at Nationals Park.

Meanwhile, it’s only 30 days until I leave for the Opening Series in Australia. I wonder how Marshall will incorporate *that* into his next map.

Film shoot at my apartment

It’s been an interesting weekend. I had a film crew in my apartment . . .

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. . . and the only time I went outside was to go get baseballs for them. Check it out — here are some of the balls in one of their equipment bags:

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Scroll back up to the first photo for a moment. See the guy on the right? He’s a filmmaker/producer named Eric Jankstrom, and this whole thing was his idea. Remember when I snagged two home runs in one game on 4/18/13 at Yankee Stadium? Well, he heard about it and randomly contacted me the following day . . . and now, nearly 10 months later, here he was in my apartment with two assistants.

One assistant was named John. The other was Brady, pictured here setting up some props:

3_brady_setting_up_baseballs_and_hats

Eric thought it’d be cool to have me sit on my 255-pound rubber band ball during the interview, so I posed on it while he and John set up their cameras:

4_zack_screen_test

Eric wanted to wait until it got dark to start shooting, so we filled the time by ordering pizza (his treat), playing Arkanoid (my treat), and setting up more baseballs:

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Here’s what my place looked like a little while later:

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This was my view just before they started filming:

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In the photo above, did you notice the weird/skewed reflection of Eric’s face? That was intentional. He had a special piece of equipment designed to do that. Therefore, when he asked me questions, I could look at his reflection, which was actually right in front of the camera. Somehow, despite all the TV interviews I’ve done over the years, I’d never seen that before. It sure made things easier.

Here’s a photo of me that Brady took during the interview, tweeted by Eric the following day:

8_zack_photographed_by_brady

It’s tough to sit on a large rubber band ball and NOT look awkward, but I did my best.

After the filming (which lasted two hours), Eric played more Arkanoid:

9_eric_playing_arkanoid

He played several games and achieved a “high” score of 23,850 points — not bad for a beginner.

Then we all grabbed a few baseballs and posed for a group photo:

10_eric_zack_brady_john_group_photo

I’m not sure when Eric’s film will be done or how long it’ll end up being, but I know he wants to finish it this season. He plans to attend several games with me (“within driving distance”) and get some footage of me in action, possibly with a GoPro strapped to my head or chest, so who knows? This mini-doc (as he’s calling it) might turn out to be spectacular. I really like what he’s done so far, and we’re just getting started.

8/24/95 and 8/25/95 at Anaheim Stadium

In June of 1995, I graduated from high school in New York City, and within a few weeks, I somehow ended up in Idaho, working for a minor league baseball team called the Boise Hawks. At the time, the Hawks were affiliated with the California Angels, so when I traveled to Anaheim to see a couple of games, I went as something of a VIP. That might explain my goofy grin in the following photo:

1_zack_outside_anaheim_stadium

This trip would not have happened without the Hawks’ head groundskeeper — a man named Joe Kelly, who not only set the whole thing up, but (against his better judgment) traveled to Anaheim with me. While I thought he was the coolest guy ever, he probably would’ve been glad not to have me tagging along. Still, he was nice enough to snap a few photos of me, including this one just outside the stadium:

2_zack_outside_anaheim_stadium

At around 2pm, we made our way to an office, checked in with a security guard, and headed inside to meet a women who’d been expecting us. She and Joe did all the talking, and before I knew it, she led us deeper inside the stadium and eventually down to the field. Imagine how excited I was when she left us to join the few groundskeepers who were working nearby. I got to walk out onto a pristine major league field and help set up BP. I remember standing at home plate and thinking of Rod Carew and all the other great players who had also stood in that exact spot.

After the batting cage and screens were ready to go, the groundskeepers led us to a wide-open area behind the center field wall. Here’s what it looked like:

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As you can see, the stadium was pretty much empty, so I took advantage by strolling out onto the warning track . . .

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. . . and taking more photos.

Here’s what the field looked like:

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This was my view to the right . . .

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. . . and to the left:

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See the guy without a shirt? That’s Joe Kelly. It’s not that he was trying to show off his tan or muscles. He simply hated wearing shirts. Over the previous two months at the Hawks’ ballpark, I don’t think I’d ever seen him wearing a shirt. Big meeting with the General Manager in the office? No shirt. Tending to the field at game time with three thousand people in the stands? No shirt. It amused me, and I respected him for not changing his ways just because we happened to be in a major league stadium.

Here’s a photo of him looking out at the field:

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Here’s another photo of the field:

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I understand that teams now want to maximize every inch of space inside their stadiums, but to me, the area behind the center field wall in the photo above looks much better than the new glitzy outfield configuration. You really could get lost in old stadiums — disappear in a concourse, hide behind a support beam in the last row of the 3rd or 4th deck, and maybe even find a baseball along the way. But nowadays? Forget it.

Here’s Joe with his own camera . . .

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. . . and here’s a photo he took of me:

11_zack_on_the_field_08_24_95

I was in baseball heaven.

A little while later, the groundskeepers showed us some of their tools:

12_groundskeepers_room_08_24_95

In Boise, there was one of everything — if you were lucky — and sometimes it didn’t work. In Anaheim, there was a dozen.

Joe, meanwhile, was talking nonstop with the groundskeepers and seemed to know everything they were telling him about the type and length of the grass, the lawnmowers, and various field maintenance techniques. They didn’t seem to be smarter or better at their jobs than him; there were just more of them, and they had a much bigger budget.

At around 4pm, I peeked over the center field wall:

13_peeking_over_the_center_field_wall

The Angels were starting to warm up along the left field foul line, so I decided to head over to the outfield seats. Of course, I felt a bit guilty about snagging baseballs in an empty stadium long before the general public was allowed to enter, but hell, why not? I’d suffered enough in New York, and now that I was living large nearly 3,000 miles away, I figured I’d take advantage.

So much for that. I was stopped by an usher, and since I didn’t have any credentials, he forced me to stay near the dugouts until the stadium opened at 5:30pm. Ugh!! Look at all these empty seats that were suddenly off-limits:

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Since there wasn’t much to do, I took three more pics from where I was sitting. Here’s the first:

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Here’s the second . . .

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. . . and here’s the third:

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While I was sitting there, a ball rolled onto the warning track behind 3rd base, and when Angels infielder Jose Lind wandered over to retrieve it, I got him to toss it to me. (Yay!) That was my 748th lifetime ball, and this was the seventh different major league stadium at which I’d snagged one.

When the gates opened at 5:30pm, I raced out to the seats along the left field foul line and managed to snag one more — a slicing line drive by Rafael Palmeiro that deflected off a player’s glove and rolled close enough to me that I was able to lean over the low wall and grab it.

That was my final ball of the day. Why? Because the Orioles were in town, and soon after they started hitting, I decided to camp out along the right field foul line in an attempt to get Cal Ripken Jr.’s autograph. He wasn’t just my favorite player; I pretty much worshipped him and was willing to stray far from my normal routine to be near him.

Long story short: Ripken was two weeks away from breaking Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played, there was a mob of fans six rows deep, and I didn’t get close.

As for me and Joe, the Angels had hooked us up with decent seats for watching the game, but not for snagging baseballs. Check out the view:

19_seats_during_game_08_24_95

I really wanted to move closer to the action, but Joe was worried about getting caught, so we stayed there for a while, and I hated it. Under normal circumstances, I would’ve wandered off on my own, but (a) I was exhausted and (b) I enjoyed his company.

Eventually, in the spirit of exploring a new stadium, we headed to the upper deck. Here’s a bad photo I took of the view . . .

20_view_from_upper_deck_08_24_95

. . . and here’s a better photo of the two of us:

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That photo amuses me greatly. Look at Joe wearing a shirt! Ha-HAAAA!! He looks so lost and confused — or maybe he was just pissed off to be babysitting me. I can joke about this now because Joe and I have become great friends, and we’re still very much a part of each other’s lives, nearly two decades later. (You might remember this photo of us from 4/26/13 at Safeco Field.)

Here I am with my two baseballs:

22_zack_with_balls_748_and_749

The Angels ended up winning the game, 6-4, despite two home runs by Orioles catcher Chris Hoiles. Ripken went 1-for-2 with a double, a walk, and a sacrifice fly, but the real hitting star was Angels 1st baseman J.T. Snow, who went 4-for-4 with a homer and four RBIs. Chuck Finley got the win, Troy Percival pitched a scoreless 8th inning, and Lee Smith closed it out for his 465th career save.

After the final out, I collected a bunch of ticket stubs. Here are eight of one kind . . .

23_ticket_stubs_08_24_95

. . . and here are a dozen more that were slightly fancier:

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Twenty minutes later, with the seating bowl empty and the stadium lights dimmed, I made my way down to the front row and got Joe’s attention. He was on the field with several groundskeepers, and they waved me out, right past a security guard. (Ha!!) I grabbed a rake and briefly helped to smooth out a small patch of infield dirt — but here’s the coolest part of all: they drove me and Joe around on their little golf-cart thingie while they put away some equipment, and after a while, they took us inside the Angels’ clubhouse! There were still a few players milling about and . . . just wow. I didn’t recognize any of them, but I did see some famous names on the lockers, including Lee Smith. I’d never been inside a major league clubhouse before. It was unbelievably spacious, with big tables and couches and TVs all over the place — just like in the movies.

Finally, about an hour after the game had ended, the groundskeepers drove us out one of the exit ramps, where there were hundreds of young fans waiting for autographs, mashed up against a chain-link fence and screaming at me to come over and sign. Yes . . . me. I jumped off the golf-cart and walked over and said I wasn’t a player, but they didn’t care — or maybe they just didn’t believe me, and they begged me to sign anyway. So I did. And it was really fun. I got to pretend to be famous while dozens of teeny-boppers pushed and shoved to get closer.

I don’t remember how I escaped. There must’ve been another exit, and eventually I made it back to the hotel with Joe.

We still had one more game at Anaheim Stadium the following day, and I had one goal — well, two goals. Obviously I wanted to snag at least one ball to keep my streak alive, but I also *really* wanted to get Ripken’s autograph. I’d even gone so far as to buy a brand-new ball from a souvenir store just for this purpose.

Joe and I arrived at the stadium even earlier on Day 2 — right around lunchtime. In fact, we were there so early that there wasn’t any security, so we waltzed down the ramp and out onto the field and found the groundskeepers. Joe told me that he didn’t mind if I wandered off on my own, so I did, and of course I got nabbed by security. (Walk onto the field? No problem! Wander around the concourses? Busted! That makes sense.) Once again, I had no credentials, so I was glad when the guard believed my story enough to haul me back to the groundskeepers and ask if they knew me. Joe was gone at that point, but thankfully one of the guys said it was cool, so I rejoined them and helped set up the field for early BP.

Despite that little episode, there seemed to be less security in the stadium, so when BP started at 3pm, I snuck out to the seats behind the left field wall. Stupid me . . . I didn’t take any photos, and now, of course, all these years later, that area of the stadium has been reconfigured, so I’ll try to describe the setup. Basically, the entire section in straight-away left field was a dead zone. There was a gap behind the outfield wall, and the secondary wall behind it was much lower. (Does that make any sense?) In other words, if you were sitting in the front row in left field, you would’ve been well below the top of the outfield wall and therefore unable to see the field. For that reason, there was a small platform, built for the Angels’ relief pitchers, that jutted up above the unused seats and provided a view of the field. Scroll back up to the photo of the empty seats along the left field foul line, and you’ll see this blue platform in the background, approximately 50 feet to the right of the foul pole. Okay, now that you know all of that, you can imagine what it was like for me during the first portion of BP. I hid below that platform and stared up at the sky, hoping for a long home run to come flying my way and land somewhere near me in the seats. I ended up getting three balls out there before I was asked to leave. Joe was not too pleased with me at that point — we were guests of the Angels and were supposed to be acting like professionals — but I couldn’t help it. I was obsessed with getting baseballs and could not be contained!

Unfortunately, a short while later, Joe and I both got in trouble when we wandered off beneath the left field seats to find a drink of water. We were spotted by a guard who demanded to know who we were, and when we didn’t provide credentials to back up our story, they threatened us with arrest for trespassing, but merely kicked us out of the stadium instead. We weren’t worried — just embarrassed and pissed off and inconvenienced. Eventually we headed back inside the stadium via the Angels’ offices and picked up a pair of field passes on the way. I don’t know why we hadn’t received those in the first place. It certainly would’ve made things easier for everyone, but whatever. As far as I was concerned, the whole ordeal with security only added to the adventure, and I was excited to find out what would happen next.

Here’s what happened: Joe made me stay with him, which sucked because the regular portion of BP was just getting started. I wanted to hang out near the dugouts, but instead I had to follow him all the way out to the groundskeepers’ area in the deepest part of center field. On the way there, while walking behind the left field wall, I spotted a ball in the front row of the seats, and when I climbed up there and grabbed it, Joe nearly killed me. (Sorry, Joe. I love you.)

The game was scheduled to begin at 8:05pm, which meant the gates would open at 6:30pm. Therefore, I wanted to head over toward the Orioles’ dugout at around 6:15pm, and somehow I convinced Joe to let me. Again, all I wanted was an autograph from Cal Ripken Jr., and this seemed like the best way to make it happen — get there early, claim a spot in the front row, and hope for the best.

Well . . . look who happened to be standing around when I got there:

25_cal_ripken_jr_08_25_95

No, not the guy in the white t-shirt. See the man just beyond him, looking my way? That was Ripken! And I got him to sign my ball! And I got him to sign a ticket stub too! I was too happy for words, practically jumping out of my shoes as I ran out to right field. The stadium was just opening to the public, and my day was already complete. Of course that didn’t stop me from snagging more baseballs — a toss-up from Mike Mussina and two grounders that I scooped up by leaning out over the wall. Including the four that I’d gotten before the gates opened, I now had seven overall . . . plus two from the day before. I was happy with that, even if I did acquire several of them under sneaky circumstances.

Half an hour before the game, there was only one player who came out to sign autographs. Wanna take a guess who it was? Here’s a hint:

26_cal_ripken_jr_08_25_95

It was Ripken again (what a guy!) surrounded by cops and security, and can you blame him? If *I* had been on the verge of breaking Lou Gehrig’s record, I would’ve avoided the public, yet there he was, being super-accommodating. I didn’t get his autograph this time, but it was interesting to witness his technique. Before signing each item, he deliberately moved away from the stands so that no one could reach him.

Joe and I had better seats for this game. This was our view:

27_seats_during_game_08_25_95

Did you notice Ripken in the on-deck circle? Ooh yeah. He ended up going 0-for-4, but he did draw a walk and score a run, and the Orioles won, 11-2. Rafael Palmeiro and Mark Smith hit home runs for Baltimore, while Jim Edmonds went yard for Anaheim. Mark Langston, the starting pitcher for the Angels, began the night with a record of 13-2 and lost to Scott Erickson, who threw a complete game. It’s fun to look back at all these old names.

Once again, I collected a bunch of ticket stubs:

28_ticket_stubs_08_25_95

Here are some more from the August 25th game . . .

29_ticket_stubs_08_25_95

. . . and just for the hell of it, check out the back of the stubs:

30_ticket_stub_backs_08_25_95

Heh. Gatorade . . . “For That Deep Down Body Thirst” When Capitalizing Every Word Still Leaves You Feeling Unsatisfied. Remember that slogan? I’m feeling very nostalgic right now for the 1990s.

Eventually, during the next season or two, I got a bunch of these ticket stubs signed. Here’s one from Troy Percival . . .

31_troy_percival_autograph

. . . and here’s another from Garret Anderson . . .

32_garret_anderson_autograph

. . . but the best one of all was signed by My Man:

33_cal_ripken_jr_autograph

Cal Ripken Jr.
Beautiful.

Now, as I’ve done with all my “Turn Back The Clock” blog entries, here’s my original handwritten journal entry (or in this case entries) about it. It started on August 23, 1995 — the day before the first game in Anaheim — when I was getting excited for the trip:

34_journal_volume2_page36_37

As you can see, August 24th was so busy that I didn’t get a chance to write, so I caught up on everything the next day. Here’s the part where Joe and I first entered the stadium:

35_journal_volume2_page38_39

Some things need to be bleeped. Deal with it:

36_journal_volume2_page40_41b

Here are more details about being inside the Angels’ clubhouse:

37_journal_volume2_page42_43

Day 2 at Anaheim Stadium starts here:

38_journal_volume2_page44_45

My pen sucked:

39_journal_volume2_page46_47

Here’s where I wrote about getting busted by stadium security. What a bunch of schmucks:

40_journal_volume2_page48_49

To quote myself from the following spread, “CAL RIPKEN JR. SIGNED MY BASEBALL!!!” Feel the excitement of my 17-year-old self!! Yes!

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I could’ve ended it here . . .

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. . . but I figured I’d give you a little Joe Kelly bonus:

43_journal_volume2_page54_55

That’s all I got. Thanks for reading. If you still want more, here’s a complete list of all my other “Turn Back The Clock” entries:

1) June 11, 1993 at Candlestick Park
2) June 11, 1996 at Shea Stadium
3) July 1, 1998 at Three Rivers Stadium 
4) July 2, 1998 at Cinergy Field
5) July 10, 1998 at Tiger Stadium
6) July 13, 1998 at County Stadium
7) July 14, 1998 at Busch Stadium
8) May 29, 1999 at the Kingdome
9) July 18, 1999 at the Astrodome
10) September 24-25, 1999 at the Metrodome
11) May 9-10, 2000 at Olympic Stadium
12) July 17-18, 2000 at Qualcomm Stadium

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