Now that I’m back traveling to different baseball stadiums around the United States my charity has picked up again. If you didn’t know or are just browsing my blogs and are interested in more information about my charity I will provide the links that you can click on to check it all out. But allow me to explain a little bit about it first before you get all click happy. I’ve been going to live baseball games ever since I was nine years old and my very first baseball game was at the Kingdome in Seattle in 1989. Since then I’ve always wanted to catch baseballs at stadiums. Well, growing up I never really got the opportunity to do so. But in 2004 things really changed for me. It was during my first tour of Iraq when I was in the Army and I came home on Rest and Relaxation leave for two weeks. My friends in Kansas City had tickets to a double-header Kansas City Royals game. I didn’t really catch the baseball but an usher/security guard hooked me up with one when she found out that I was home from Iraq. Later I got the baseball signed by some Royals baseball players.
Since then I’ve made it a priority to travel the United States to see baseball games at different stadiums I haven’t been to yet. I’ve been to Safeco Field, Oakland Coliseum, AT&T Park, PETCO Park, Angels Stadium in Anaheim, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Coors Field, Kauffman Stadium, Busch Stadium, US Cellular, and Great American Ballpark. Last year was my first playoff game at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. This year alone I have been to five new stadiums. PETCO Park, AT&T Park, Oakland Coliseum, Angels Stadium of Anaheim, and Coors Field. And if everything works out for me I plan to get to Sun Life Stadium AND Chase Field this year. And maybe one more round at AT&T Park. I love that stadium so much. I’d love to catch a ball out on the Cove too. So anyway. This year I wanted to do something extra special WHILE doing my thing at baseball stadiums. Since 2004 Ive snagged 194 baseballs over the course of the years and this year alone I have snagged a career high of 97. I hooked up with the Seattle Humane Society and I was like, “Hey, I snag baseballs at Major League baseball games. How about if I find people to make a pledge per ball that I catch and at the end of the year tally up all the pledges and donate a ton of money to you guys..?” And they were like, “Whoa Wayne, that sounds awesome! Sure! We’d love to support that!” And I was like, “Okay, cool! I’ll go buy a ticket to a game and get to work!” Well, so far I’ve raised $160.00. That might not seem like a lot of money but think about how much money you spend on YOUR dog every month. $160.00 of other people’s’ money goes a long way at an animal shelter. Plus all the other things I’m bringing down there. Blankets, cans of dog food that I’m buying with my own money, (and yes I’m pledging money to my own charity as well) and an assortment of toys too. So if you want to get on board here is the link you can click on. Click here. Also if you want to follow me on Twitter you can click here. And if you want to follow me on Facebook you can click here.
I put the next stadium on my list on my sights and headed out. I landed in Orange county California around 11am and took a $40 dollar cab ride to my hotel room. Just for your information, (and I normally don’t do this) but I stayed at a Motel 6 when I went to Coors Field on 5-27-2011 and it was probably the worst experience of my life. Not only did I have to pay $5.99 for internet that barely worked but people were constantly coming and going all throughout the night. The actual room itself had that lingering cigarette smoke smell which just made me sick every time I went inside. Well, I stayed at a Motel 6 again when I arrived in Anaheim. The room was a lot better but I still had to pay for internet. $2.99 this time. That’s not the worst part. I couldn’t check into my room until 3pm! I had one bag of luggage that I had to leave behind in some back room and then I took a $10 dollar cab ride to the nearest Denny’s. But Denny’s milkshakes always makes things better.
When Angels Stadium of Anaheim came into view I took this photo…
…it was a glorious sight. Angels Stadium of Anaheim. My first time being here. I expected it to be really hot but it was really just a cool 85 degrees. As I ventured on I started my exploration of the stadium. Did you know that this stadium was built in 1967? That is a ton of baseball history folks. Seriously.
Right field gates. The area surrounding the stadium reminded me of PETCO Park when I visited there on 6-24-2011. All the green palm trees and lush vegetation. It was almost like a theme park. Oh wait. Disney land is right up the road! No wonder!
When I walked further around the stadium I found the back entrance where the baseball players entered the stadium. Of course there was a small group of people asking for autographs and sharing stories of how they got their favorite player to sign. There is always a group of people like this at every stadium. But since there was so much dense vegetation hiding the players parking lot the autograph hounds had to get creative.
Pretty sweet, right? Maybe the plants are like that because so many autographs have been signed that either the players or the autograph seekers just naturally broke plant branches away. Or maybe the grounds crew trims the bushes like that. Who knows. I continued my walk around the stadium..
The giant halo statue. But that’s as close as I got to it. I continued my stroll around the stadium and ended up at the front office. The door was wide open so I walked inside to find the lovely secretary taking phone calls at the desk. We talked for a moment but she was entirely too busy to field any of my questions. Instead I took some photographs of the front office. Take a look…
…and here’s a staircase that leads to Angels heaven…
Before I left I made sure to ask the secretary for some rubber bands. I had forgotten some before I left Seattle and I was frantic about it. Rubber bands are key for the glove trick. I didn’t know what I’d be up against at Angels Stadium so I wanted to get my hands on some rubber bands before batting practice started. And whaddayaknow! She had some!
When I finally made it to will call to pick up my tickets I was so hot and tired, (mainly from lack of sleep) that I decided to pull up some bench and catch a cat nap. It was just after 12pm anyway so I had boat loads of time. I think I slept until about 3pm. I felt energized and ready to snag some baseballs! The stadium didn’t open for another two hours so I found a comfy spot by the gate, out of the sun, out of anyones’ way and just relaxed. Being in Anaheim for the first time was really cool. I still couldn’t believe I was here. I would consider moving down here but I think I’d miss Seattle too much. I love Safeco Field.
The front of the stadium looks just like a movie set from Hollywood. With all those oversized baseball bats and oversized baseballs it definitely had the Disneyland theme going on there. But it was unique in a way. It wasn’t like the other stadiums. Of course being built in 1967 how could it be like all the other new stadiums? I couldn’t wait to get inside!
Here is me, me and me standing outside the stadium…
Isn’t that just the best picture ever? My Dad made it for me. Well, I didn’t really come up with the idea until after I boarded the plane to head back to Seattle…and now I wish I would have done different poses to make it look cooler. But it’s still cool. My Dad, in my professional opinion, is a pro photographer. He really does some quality stuff and if you want to check it out all you have to do is click here.
After my nap and after clowning around with my camera it was time to enter the stadium. I was so stoked. I didn’t have a game plan because, well, I’ve never been here before. I thought about following the crowd. But the problem with that is from a baseball snagging standpoint you want to go where fewer people are. So whichever way they went I’d go the opposite way. When the gates opened at 5pm sharp I bolted for the turnstiles. The security guard scanned my ticket and the crowd took a hard left towards the first base side. I took mental note that the Angels were on the first base side. Why else would a mob of Angels fans go that way? So I took a hard right and raced down the concourse for an open tunnel to enter the field level area. As soon as I found one I darted in and raced towards the dugouts…but I was stopped by security. Great. What stupid rule does Angels Stadium impose on their fans today? The security guard asked for my ticket and I just knew I wasn’t allowed down by the dugouts unless I had a ticket for that section. Even during batting practice. I hate these rules. It’s so anti-fan. It makes baseball less fun. Why not allow all fans to wander the entire stadium? Who cares? I was told by security I could enter the field level seating area at section 130. I knew she was going to say something like that so I snatched my ticket back and ran away before she really could explain anything to me. I’d figure it out on my own if anything.
When I got out in right field Tyler Chatwood was fielding the majority of the baseballs. He never once looked up at anyone or paid anyone any attention. And he’d pass the baseball off to Fernando Rodney and he would throw the ball in.
The base walls were about 5 feet high so there would be no leaning over the wall and making an easy scoop. If I wanted a baseball I’d have to literally hang upside down to scoop one up. In the next picture take a look at how high the walls are here at Angels Stadium…
Not only the high walls a major problem but the bright sun was in my face. Any home run ball or any foul ball that came my way I’d have to look directly into the sun. But incidentally enough the bright sun actually helped me. An older gentleman came wandering over and stood on my right side. Bobby Cassevah continued his warm-up tosses to his throwing partner, and then as he finished up he fielded a ground ball that came his way. People were calling out to him and at that time I had on my Twins hat. I was kind of kicking myself for putting on the hat prematurely. But to Bobby Cassevah it made no difference. He tossed the baseball right to me but the glaring sun was so bright I just stuck my glove out, closed my eyes, and hoped it would make it to me. This was the result…
…it was stamped with a “practice” logo on it which meant it was made in China. Still pretty cool. I don’t think I have a baseball with that particular stamp on it. I do have plenty of “practice” baseballs though.
I decided to circle the stadium and take more photos now that the pressure was off of getting a baseball. I really only wanted one. Just to say I caught a baseball at Angels Stadium. Mission complete. I went out into the outfield to check out the action. It was dead except for a few Angels Stadium regulars. When the baseballs clear the outfield fence in centerfield there is a security guard by the name of Patrick. He collects them all up and hands them off to various Angels Stadium regulars. I tried to get one from him but since he didn’t know me it wasn’t going to happen.
There’s a picture of Patrick. Notice where he is walking too. When baseballs land on that area they really spring-board off of it and into the seats. It’s really a lot of fun to try to run them down after they bounce. And in the result of that I took a hard spill into the seats when Jim Thome sliced one my way. It landed about where Patrick is standing and bounced over my head. I leaned way to my right to try to catch it but I lost my footing and went down onto the seating row. It hurt so bad and I thought I had maybe bruised a rib or even cracked one. It turned out to be just a minor scratch that ended up turning into a major bruise. And I didn’t even get the baseball. That was one of the two things I wanted to do while in Anaheim. Catch a Jim Thome home run ball either from BP or during the game. Jim Thome has so much power. It was a lot of fun watching him drop bombs to both sides of the stadium.
I went back over to the first base side to watch some of the Twins warmup and maybe snag an overthrow or two. When I arrived the woman in the below picture got nailed by a foul ball and when Alex Burnett came over to see if she was okay she immediately asked for an autograph. I thought that was pretty funny. Alex took the time to sign a few and then wandered off to shag fly balls.
If I would have been there a few seconds earlier that would have been my second ball on the day. And I may have been able to save the woman from getting hit by a baseball too. As Alex was signing Mr Jim Thome came out to stretch and do his pre-game routine. I think he came out just to get a crowd reaction. And he got one alright. People were begging for his autograph. He never once looked at the crowd or responded to one request.
He didn’t stay out long and then it was back into the dugout. Having almost caught a baseball off his bat moments ago only made this moment that much more special for me. I even called out to him that I would be the guy that would catch his 600th career home run. How true that was? Probably not very. He’s not an everyday player anymore either. So it would be a miracle to see him hit number 600 while I was here in Anaheim. But that’s why I came out.
After batting practice ended I would usually fight my way down to the dugouts to try to get one more baseball. But since Angels Stadium decided that only fans with those tickets should be allowed by the dugouts I didn’t bother to even try. I probably could have made it but I still wanted to watch the game. Getting kicked out of the stadium before the game wasn’t my thing. I went and found my seat instead and waited for the game to start. When it did here was my view…
Front row seating in fair territory! There was no possible way I wouldn’t end up catching something while sitting here! I think it was about the third inning when Peter Bourjos launched a deep drive right to me. I stood up as soon as it was hit and I watched it reach its apex. I thought to myself, “Wow! Here it comes! My first home run ball!” But the baseball continued to climb and fall deeper and deeper. I knew it was going to go deeper than my row so I turned and started to climb the stairs after it. But at that time fans just poured out into the staircase in front of me and I was blocked by kids. I made a lame attempt at trying to catch it but it landed two or three rows farther back. I waited for the bounce but it was a clean catch made by the fan that caught it.
Around the fifth or six inning Denard Span launched one nearly in the same spot but it bounced out of the guys hands and landed down in the tunnel area where the on duty cop chased after it and gave it to the nearest fan. And after that the Angels made a pitching change. So I snapped this photo of Vernon Wells hanging out.
The Angels were absolutely stomped by the Twins. They lost 11-4 and Jim Thome wasn’t even on the roster. I have one more day in Anaheim so I hope I’ll get to see him play.
Game; August 3rd 2011 Minnesota Twins vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Snagging Baseballs for Puppies has raised; $156.85 this season.
Snagging Baseballs for Relief in Japan has raised; $38.50 this