4/1/2011 Opening Day

Well, it was finally here. Opening Day.

Finally.

What would this season bring following such an amazing World Series run?

Who knows, but I was very anxious to find out!

Dirk and I attended this game and we were joined by our friends Shawn and Kendall. For reasons that are beyond me, I cannot get my photos to upload from this game so you’re just going to have to imagine what I’m describing.

Game time was 3:05 and the gates were scheduled to open at 12:00. Since Dirk and I purchased a 20 game mini plan for this season we were given season ticket holder i.d. cards that get us in 30 minutes before everyone else for most games. I say for most games because we were unsure if they would apply to this game.

They did.

At 11:30 the gates opened, our tickets scanned and bags checked, and we made our way around to the left-centerfield bleachers. The cages were up, bu the only action on the field at this point were two Rangers on the first base side stretching.

We figured that we had at least 15-20 minutes or so before they started hitting, so I asked Shawn if he wanted to have a catch while we were waiting and he agreed. What proceded to happen was a three-way (easy now!) catch that included Shawn, myself, and I guy who’s name I don’t know but he was on the opposite side of the centerfield hill from us.

That’s right, we played catch over Green’s Hill in center.

Let me tell you, that’s a longer throw than you would think. Everything was cool until Shawn tried to push it and heaved one a lot farther than he should have and the ball ricocheted to a spot that was out of our reach. Game over. Thanks Shawn.

It didn’t matter because a few minutes later the Rangers were hitting.

Yes! It seemed like a year had gone by since I had taken in batting practice. I’m sure that’s how all the ballhawks feel during the first BP of the season. Anyways, it was great to finally be back at it.

Things got off to a slow start for me. I had picked the corner of the bleachers in left-center that was right next to the hill in centerfield which is where I spent a lot of time last season. I didn’t have any action until later in the session when there was a little boy on my right and Colby Lewis had fielded a ball at the wall just in front of me. I got Colby’s attention, held up my glove and pointed at the boy next to me, and he threw it right into the pocket of my glove. I then turned and opened my glove and let the boy take it out himself. He couldn’t have been more than 5 or 6 years old and was wearing a glove and was so excited. His dad was behind him (without a glove) and was just as happy as his son. I asked if that was his son’s first ball and he said yes. That made it even better for me.

Just the thought of giving a ball to young kid that is eager to get one, wearing a glove, being courteous, yet maybe a little unschooled in ballhawking 101, is enough to make me grin from ear to ear. Add to that the fact that sometimes it just so happens to be their first one ever?! Well, it just doesn’t get any better than that for me.

Anyways, BP was still pretty slow for me, though I was able to pull two different balls out of the gap in front of me that other kids had dropped. I was good with three balls. Especially since the Red Sox were in town and batting practice was crowded. I would’ve been content with one ball, so three was great to me. Dirk ended up with five so I’ll have to wait to outsnag him in 2011.

Our seats for the game were in the upper deck on the first base side towards the outfield. Section 340, row 14. Not the best place to watch a game from, but hey, we were there.

We watched the game from there until around the fourth inning when we went down to the gift shop in centerfield to look around for something that Dirk could get his kids. After a short spell in the a/c we made our way over to left field where Shawn and Kendall were sitting. They had told us that there were a couple open seats in the row in front of them, so we filled them.

The seats were directly behind the foul pole in left field, so viewing the game wasn’t great but it was better than where we were sitting earlier. An inning or so prior to us getting there, Kendall had a homerun slip off his fingers and land in the hands of the guy behind him. Mike Napoli hit a go ahead three run homer that just wrapped around the foul pole and skimmed off Kendall’s bare fingers. He had his glove, but had taken it off to do something else and didn’t have time to get it back on before it was already on him.

The game itself was good. The Rangers were down at first then came back to win it 9-5 in the bottom of the 8th inning. Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz, and Mike Napoli all went deep for the Rangers. David Murphy hit a pinch hit, go ahead double down the 3rd base line in the bottom of the 8th that got a rally going.

The atmosphere was awesome out there at this game, which is how it usually is on opening day but this one was better. Probably because of the way they finished last season, who knows. Nonetheless, it sure it cool not having so many Boston fans in the stands nowadays. What a beating that got to be in the past.

We fought the madness after the game, but didn’t mind since we witnessed a win and took some all around great baseball.

Time of Game: 3 hrs. 28 mins.

Attendance: 50,146

Next Game: Saturday 4/2 (Probably BP only)

Elation is an Understatement!

Even as I write this at 7:15 CST the morning after the Texas Rangers won the deciding game 5 in St. Petersburg to advance to the ALCS for the first time in franchise history, and after watching countless replays of the final out recorded by Elvis Andrus to insure the victory, and watching all of the post game interviews, even now I must admit that I’ve had to fight back a few tears.

Unbelievable!

What else can be said?

I just find it so hard to come up with the words I feel best describe what I’ve witnessed not just this postseason, but all season.

I’m not going to look back over the season and point out the highs and lows of what has become a very magical season (not yet anyway). No, right now I’m content with taking it all in, enjoying the moment as long as I can because who knows when I’ll have this chance again.

After attending game 3 of the ALDS this past Saturday I got my first taste of live playoff baseball, and man was it great. Even though they lost the game the feeling in the ballpark was amazingly intense. One could get used to that feeling really easily, but as the fans of the ’90s Rangers found out it can end just as easily.

11 years after their last postseason appearance I’m quite content with taking it one game at time.

And what a time it is to be a Texas (Rangers) Baseball Fan!

Get A Load Of This Guy …

You know, I’m a real sucker when it comes to off-the-wall baseball stories and this one is no exception.

I’ve attached an article that was posted on the Big League Stew section of Yahoo’s MLB section of their website.

This is an article about a Houston Astros fan that leaves his girlfriend hanging.

You can read the article here and be sure to watch the video that is included, that’s the best part.

 

 

What do “I” think?

As a self-proclaimed “Texas Baseball Fan” I feel it is almost my duty to share some of my thoughts on the auction that concluded early yesterday morning to determine ownership of the Texas Rangers.

Well to be perfectly honest, my first thought was “It’s about time!” Good grief. Could this have been drug out any longer?! Probably, but I was truly tired of hearing about it.

So it falls to Rangers Baseball Express which consists of Pittsburgh attorney Chuck Greenberg and the one and only Nolan Ryan.

Good. That’s the way it should have been all along.

When I heard the news that television magnate Rupert Murdoch was adding his name to the bidding list I had to chuckle. What else was going to happen? It was starting to seem as if everything was shaping up to keep RBE from acquiring the franchise.

Thank God that didn’t happen!

Technically, it’s still not “official”. The owners still have to approve the sale at the next owner’s meeting which is scheduled for Thursday, August 12, but this appears to be just a formality. What’s funny is at the beginning of the week when there seemed to be multiple potential bidders for the Wednesday auction, I had heard something that may be a rumor but I’m not sure. Apparently there was/is an addendum or caveat to the whole auction. Some entity; MLB, the court, someone held the authority to overturn the final high bid.

Example: Let’s say that the group that included Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban had the highest final bid at auction end. This particular entity could overrule the bid and make the runner-up the new highest bidder.

Weird huh?

Of course this led to speculation that this was all a way to keep Mark Cuban out of Major League Baseball. For those that may not know, the MLB “suits” do not particularly care for Mr. Cuban’s ownership style.

Whether any of this is true and factual, we may never know. Though it sure made for some hot sports opinions to be tossed around our neck of the woods in the last week or so.

Another detail that I heard ….

Back when RBE made their initial bid for the Rangers which I believe was in December or January, they were asked to raise this initial bid by another 25 million dollars to compensate for the land and parking lots. They declined. In the months since, the Hicks Sports Group (the previous owners) removed the land and parking lots from the sale, and during the auction RBE upped their bid another 60-65 million and lost the land and parking lots because they wouldn’t agree to pay an additional 25 million.

Again, this could be hearsay, but it sure added an odd dimension to this whole saga.

So where do I stand on this? As I stated earlier, I feel that Nolan Ryan and his group should have had this thing all along. The fact that it drug out as long as it did didn’t help them, the team, the fans, or anyone, but now that it’s just about done they can go about business as usual.

Like signing potential free agents, making plans for ballpark improvements, resigning manager Ron Washington, moving forward with the franchise and putting this whole mess behind them.

Being a fan, I am very excited to see what the remainder of this season has in store as well as next season. We may be in for changes we have never thought of now that we have an ownership team that “knows” baseball and has the franchise and fans in mind over  themselves.

7/28/10 vs. Oakland

It’s getting harder and harder for me to attend weekday games because I can’t always leave work as early as I’d like, and if I can’t make it for all of batting practice part of me doesn’t want to go at all. Call me weird, but that’s how I feel.

As it turns out, I figured out that even if I leave work just 30 minutes early (5:00 instead of 5:30) we can still make it to the ballpark by 5:30 and catch the last 30-40 minutes of the visiting team’s BP. Not bad, but still not as good as getting in 30 minutes earlier than everybody else.

This game was one of the times we got there at around 5:30 and there was a pretty decent crowd in the left centerfield bleachers so we hung back a few rows until some of the younger fans started to wander off and we claimed a couple spots in the corner next to the A’s bullpen.

My first ball of the day came within the first 5 minutes of us being there when a kid muffed a toss up and it landed in the gap. He was about 5-6 feet to my left and I was all over it. I took the ball over to where I was standing previously and handed it to a little boy around 5 years old who was wearing a glove but had not yet gotten a ball. He and his father were very thankful and that made it all worth it.

As I was reeling that ball up, Dirk was getting his one and only ball of the day out of the bullpen so we were both now on the board!

The A’s weren’t hitting many our way today and the ones that were in our direction weren’t even close to hitting the seats. Right field on the other hand was getting peppered with balls, but there’s always SO many kids over there that it’s just not worth it.

At one point a ball had to come to rest on the grass edge of the warning track directly in front of me. The only problem was I completely surrounded by kids, so I knew that if that ball were to reach the seats I would not be the one to snag it.

Well, I was wrong.

There was one pitcher in particular that was having fun with the crowd today during BP. He’s a former Texas Tech Red Raider so I guess he felt like he was “at home” this series. He came over and stood right next to the ball that was right in front of me and wouldn’t pick it up. Every 30 seconds or so he would bend down like he was going to pick it up and once the chorus of “Here!, Here!s” started he would stand back up and leave the ball on the ground. After the first couple of times I caught on to what he was doing but the younger ones weren’t as quick. That’s when I started to think that he would just flip the ball backwards without looking and I figured that would be my one and only shot at it.

I was right.

After about a minute or two of messing with the kids, he leaned over to pick the ball up with his glove and just sort of flung it directly off of the grass. Kind of cool if you ask me because it was going to be a win win for me either way. I would either get to reel in another ball out of the gap or I would just catch it and hand it over to someone. Turns out it was the latter. The ball was about a foot over my head on my left so I reached up with my glove and caught it in the pocket. I didn’t even touch the ball, I just opened my glove and let the boy on my left take it out.

“Who was the pitcher?”, you may be asking. Well, it was none other than Mr. Perfecto himself, Dallas Braden.

Not too shabby if I say so myself.

That would be it for me during batting practice although I can finally say that I outsnagged Dirk! That made it all worth it!

Wednesdays are Dollar Dog nights at the Ballpark in Arlington so after getting our free drink coupons from the designated driver booth we got some dogs and found a place to stuff our faces.

This game was exciting from a baseball fan standpoint but frustrating from a ballhawk standpoint. There were so many people at this game that we couldn’t find a spot to move to like we usually do. Actually, we did find a spot to move to but we did it too early and were asked for our tickets. Oh well. Rules are rules right?

So for a good majority of the game we stood against the wall out in left field. If you haven’t seen it, it looks like this….

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If you click on the photo and enlarge it the wall is red and had Lucas Oil on it.

I don’t mind it over there, it has great home run potential, I would just rather be able to sit somewhere out there instead of standing but oh well.

Turns out it didn’t matter anyways since we didn’t have even one close call. As Rangers’ manager Ron Washington says,”that’s the way baseball go!”

The Rangers would go on to lose this game by the score of 3-1. I don’t like watching them lose, especially in person since this is only the 2nd loss I’ve witnessed in 19 games attended this season.

I originally was going to use this game to gain some ground in the myGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt but after taking about three pictures I realized they weren’t correct, so I will have to try again another day. 

Here’s a couple that I got during the game….

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…. of Fox Sports Southwest reporter Jim Knox on the left and TV analyst and former MLB player Steve Busby on the right.

Even though my team lost it’s always fun to be at the ballpark. I truly feel at home there.

Time of game: 2 hrs. 40 mins.

Attendance: 38,269

Next Game: Tues. 8/10 vs. the Stankees (I’ll explain why later….)

 

7/22/10 vs. Anaheim

This entry is going to be relatively short and sweet because I didn’t take very many photos this time, and the photos I did take are all player photos.

My friend Dirk and I had very high hopes for this game, being the first home game for the Rangers after the All Star break, our first game to attend in nearly two weeks, and the outside shot at an All Star game ball (like I mentioned in my previous entry). All of these things combined made for a higher than usual level of anticipation.

When we reached the stands at around 4:30 we noticed that the cage was up for batting practice but the Rangers weren’t hitting. No big deal really, it’s kind of hit and miss for them to have BP anyway. By the time it reached 5:15 there were still no players on the field. For either team. To make matters worse, someone had set an empty bucket out in centerfield for the ball return.

This is when Dirk and I got very antsy.

Finally at 5:25 or so the Angels came out to throw and stretch so I went over behind their dugout not thinking they would hit. While I was there I took some photos.

Here’s the best one I could get of Bobby Abreu….

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…. and here’s a couple of Hideki Matsui….

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…. and how about Torii Hunter ….

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…. and speaking of Hunter, he would go on to hit me my one and only ball during batting practice that just happened to be my very first home run to catch on the fly! That may not seem like a big deal to anyone else, but after a couple years of snagging balls and reading about other guys catching multiple homers during BP, I have really been trying for one of my own. Man what a feeling!

So, I guess you can tell by now that the Angels did in fact start to hit. The bleachers that we normally set up in got reasonably crowded today so I knew that my range was going to be limited. Within the first 5 minutes or so a ball landed in the gap about two sections to our left and Dirk was all over it for his one and only ball of the game.

The Hunter homer was actually pretty cool, to me anyway, because I’ve read numerous times of balls being hit “straight to someone”. Well that’s never happened to me, at least not until today. Dirk was to my right and we were both in the first row of the left centerfield bleachers right next to the bullpen. Hunter hit one that started out towards the bullpen but quickly started to tail in our direction, actually towards me. I just wasn’t sure about the distance, but I prepared anyway. I leaned over the belt-high railing a little to make sure I could reach it and I noticed Dirk’s glove slowly coming into my view.

Let me back up a little….

Dirk is fully aware of my need to catch a homer on the fly. He has told me numerous times that he would back off to let me catch one and I have taken his word on it.

Okay, back to the story….

Once I noticed Dirk’s glove getting closer and closer I had to give the old “I got it!’, and once I did he pulled his glove back and within seconds “Smack!”. I had it.

Finally! What a cool feeling!

I have to say that it’s just as I hoped it would be.

After high-fiving Dirk he admitted that he had gotten caught up in the moment in trying to catch it himself and if I hadn’t said anything he may have fought me for it. Now that I got my first one out of the way I can tell I’m on my own from here on out.

Our seats for this game were in section 50 row 1. For those of you that may not know where that is, it’s directly between the hill in centerfield and the Rangers’ bullpen in right-center.

Here’s an idea of where they were….

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…. under the red arrow (don’t forget that you can click on the photos to enlarge them).

These seats gave us a great view to watch our starting pitcher warm up….

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…. Mr. Cliff Lee.

What a stud! This was our first time to see him pitch in person and he did not disappoint. He went 8-1/3 innings, striking out 4, giving up 2 runs (both earned), and walking none.

Not only was this our first time to see Lee pitch in person, but it was also Lee’s first win as a Ranger so that was pretty cool too.

What an electric atmosphere at the ballpark this game. I don’t know if it was Lee, the fact that the Rangers hadn’t played at home in over two weeks when they were swept in four games by Baltimore (Baltimore?!), or both but it was great. Especially when Neftali Feliz came in to get the final two outs of the game and also record his 27th save of the season. I truly hope the Rangers win the division and make the playoffs. Man that would be awesome!

Speaking of Feliz, here he is earlier in the game sitting in the bullpen….

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…. on this end of the bullpen.

The Rangers would go on to win 3-2. Michael Young hit another home run.

The closest we would come to a ball this game was around the 4th inning when Nelson Cruz hit a double off the wall directly below me, and Angels’ centerfielder Torii Hunter threw a 3rd out ball about 10 feet to our right. That was it.

But we had a great time.

Time of Game: 2 hrs. 44mins.

Attendance: 39,876

Next Game: Wed. 7/28 vs. Oakland

Another Goal for 2010? Maybe…

As I stated in this entry I have set a goal of snagging a Target Field ball (at least one) when the Twins come to town in August.

Since it’s the All Star break and I have nothing else to do but think of the next game I’m going to, I’ve come up with another goal.

After reading many blogs over the past couple years of ballhawks that snag commemorative balls at the weirdest moments (like snagging a World Series ball the next season at a BP of a team that wasn’t even in the Series the prior season), I began to think of the All Star game ball.

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The A.S. game is being held in Anaheim, who’s in the same division as the Rangers. What are the chances that some of those A.S. balls will find their way into the Angels’ batting practice bags/buckets?

It’s possible right? It has to be possible.

So there you have it. My goal is to be at the first game when the Angels come to town next week. They will be in for a four game set from Thursday 7/22 until Sunday 7/25 and I will be at the Thursday tilt with the sole purpose of potentially snagging an All Star game ball.

7/7/10 vs. Cleveland

Well once again I skipped a game. This makes twice just this season that I have done that. I don’t know why, I just get busy I guess.

The game I missed was Monday 7/5 against Cleveland. I snagged two in batting practice both via the toss up, one from Darren O’Day (who tried to hit the bullseye and just about got the bullseye below the belt, on purpose I’m sure) and the other by Neftali Feliz. Rangers lost 9-3. Bleh.

Okay, on to today. I had taken 1/2 a day off of work today because there was going to be a special guest at this game and I wanted to make sure that I had plenty of time to hang out before the game. So I left work at noon, got home and waited impatiently for 2:00 when my friend Dirk would pick me up and we would head to the ballpark. We went over to the home plate gate and picked up the special guest and his friend, and we went to Pappasito’s for some mexican food. Man I love that place!

We chatted and stuffed our faces and arrived at the season ticket holder gate at around 4:10ish. We got our bags checked and tickets scanned and booked it on over to left field for batting practice. Our guest and his friend stayed in left field while Dirk and I went over to the bleachers in left-center.

Within a few minutes I had my first ball. One fell in the gap right in front of a boy to my left, so I reeled it up and handed it to him. He was excited and his father was grateful which made the whole thing good. My second ball would come the exact same way not too long after and as I tried to hand the ball to the same boy (he was the only kid in the area) he told me to save it and give it to another kid who didn’t have one yet. What a great kid! So, I did as he asked and as I was putting my retriever in my backpack I heard Dirk yell “BRIAN!” Then a split second later I hear “BANG!”. A ball had sailed through the front row railing and clanged off the bleacher bottom right beside me. I picked the ball up off the ground, gave Dirk a puzzled look, and put the ball in my bag. Within the first 30 minutes or so I had matched my single game record of three, and I have to admit that I began to get a little giddy at the thought of there still being about another full hour of BP left.

Oh the possibilities….

You may have noticed by now that I haven’t posted any pictures yet. Well, I didn’t take any during BP, don’t ask me why. I guess everything was happening so fast at the beginning that I didn’t even think about it. I took a couple later on though so be patient.

All of those possibilities that I referred to a second ago, well they didn’t last long, as I got nothing during the Indians’ portion of batting practice. Actually, I shouldn’t say “nothing” because I did get one ball, and I must say it’s the weirdest way I’ve snagged a ball yet.

As I said earlier, Dirk and I were in the left-center bleachers which is the same place we’ve gone the last four games or so. He’s on one end and I’m on the other. I’ve developed a habit of looking in his direction every now and then, I guess to see if he happens to be snagging one when I look or something who knows, but with about 10 minutes or so left of batting practice I look over and see a ball on the ground rolling towards me.

What?! I know that I had kept track of every ball hit, so where did this one come from?

That was just so you know what I immediately thought. Naturally, I walked over and picked the ball up and I asked Dirk if it was his, and he said no. I asked the little boy behind Dirk that he had just given a ball to, and he too said no. There was another boy a couple rows back that said he thought it had come out of the Indians’ bullpen after a pitcher had deflected a throw from his catcher and the ball went into the bleachers. As odd as it may sound, I found that to be the only viable explanation and accepted it. I then handed it to that same boy.

So, I ended up with four balls. As anti-climatic as it was, I had beaten my previous single game record of three by one ball. I guess I just had higher hopes, oh well, it was still cool.

Once batting practice had concluded Dirk and I decided to get a photo with our special guest and his friend, and here it is….

From left to right: Dirk, Kenny from Milwaukee, Nick “The Happy Youngster” Yohanek, yours truly, and my other friend Shawn who arrived as BP was ending.

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That’s right, Happy was in Arlington. I was so stoked when he told me he was coming down that I could hardly wait for this day to arrive, and I wasn’t disappointed. Nick is one of the coolest dudes I’ve met, so laid back and easy to talk to. I don’t what I was expecting, if anything, I think I just had a couple of reservations about meeting someone in person that before today I had only emailed. Is that weird? Probably.

Anyways, we had a blast. After BP we just kind of wandered the stadium. Nick and Kenny had gone to the previous night’s game, so he had already done his picture taking. We took him over to the Rangers Hall of Fame for a little bit, and he seemed to enjoy seeing some of the history of the team.

As for the game, our seats weren’t together. Dirk and I had our mini plan seats that were up in the third level, and Nick and Kenny had seats next to the hill in centerfield.

While we were in our seats I tried to zoom in on Nick and Kenny….

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…. who you can see just to the left of the cameraman’s black umbrella. Nick is in the yellow shirt with his glove in front of his face. Funny, I didn’t know Nick was camera shy?!

Oh! I forgot to mention something that happened after the group photo above. I had brought my official “Happy Youngster” t-shirt to this game with the intention of having Nick sign it.

Here’s a shot as it went down….

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I told Nick after the game that I would send him a picture of it hanging on my wall, so after he sees it, you’ll see it here.

Anyways, I tried to get more used to the camera Dirk had given me by taking some zoomed in game pics.

Here’s Josh Hamilton after his first hit of the game….

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Here’s a couple more of Hamilton leading away from first….

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I took more game pics of Hamilton at the plate, guys in the field, but they were all blurry so I deleted them. I guess I need more work with the image stabilizer.

I met someone else at the game tonight, Jeremy Hyman and Alex (I’m not sure if Alex is his brother or a friend). If you don’t recognize the name they are the ones from the blog: 30 Stadiums in 60 Days. Jeremy is a recent college graduate that decided to load up his car and tour all 30 MLB stadiums in two months. Can you believe that! I would love to do that and told him so, to which he said that he has heard that from everyone he’s talked to. He and Alex are both great guys, really taking in and enjoying every moment of their journey. After talking with them for about 10 minutes or so I bid them farewell and told them we’d stay in touch via the blogs.

Dirk and Shawn and I spent the rest of the game in left field. We didn’t get anything out there, in fact the closest we came to a homer was in the top of the fourth when Jayson Nix hit a solo shot two sections to our left that a guy in the front row bobbled and dropped into the gap. Now, I didn’t get a picture of where the ball actually came to rest because I’m a dork and didn’t think about it, but to save time trying to type out an explanation I’m gonna give you an idea from an old picture I have….

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Now I must say that it doesn’t look like that any more. This picture is from two seasons ago when there was a manual scoreboard in left field. Now it’s a digital video board that is air cooled so most of the walkway back there is taken up, but the outfield side of the wall is still the same and the arrow is pointing to where the ball landed. It’s not completely flat, it’s recessed about a half inch or so, so the ball had a fairly good resting place.

The guy that dropped it was sick, he couldn’t believe he missed it (he would’ve had it if he were wearing a glove), and he stared at it for the rest of the game.

At that point, our minds were racing with ideas of how we could get that ball. We figured the quickest and easiest way was to throw our retriever at it and hope we hit it on the first try. We decided to wait until after the game so as not to draw any unwanted attention to ourselves but it wouldn’t matter. Somewhere around the seventh inning we noticed some comotion over there where the guy was sitting and a few minutes later Shawn went to look and said the ball was gone. Someone must have climbed up the wall from down below and gotten it.

Oh well. That’s okay.

The rest of the game was good, the Rangers came back to win 4-3.

After the game we all walked out of the park, said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.

Jeremy and Alex: It was great to meet the both of you, I hope to live vicariously through you for the next few weeks!

Nick and Kenny: You two are a couple of studs. You are more than welcome down here anytime (next time don’t stay in Dallas!). Nick, I’m glad I finally got to meet you bro. You truly are a class act. 

Time of Game: 2hrs. 56mins.

Attendance: 24,427

Next Game: Wed. 7/28 vs. Oakland

6/27/10 vs. Houston

Sunday June 27th was a long day. Literally, it was a long day, that’s not a complaint. We left our house at around noon, stopped at a convenience store for water and batteries, and headed to the ballpark. It was a 7:05 start. Why did we leave so early you ask?

Let me explain….

My friend Dirk and I had been talking to a gentleman that is a season ticket holder who mentioned all of the autographs he gets at the games he goes to. At any given moment he can pull a ball out of his bag that has been autographed by a Ranger. You name them, he has their autograph. Naturally, Dirk and I were very intrigued and inquired how he came about them. He then told us that he stands by the parking lot tunnel that the players drive into either before or after games. Some players stop and some don’t, but he says of all the times he’s been out there he has come away with at least one autograph. That settled it, we had to do this.

We had actually made one attempt at getting some autographs prior to this afternoon. Dirk and I went out there after the game on Thurs. 6/10, the only problem was the next day was an away game so all of the players were in a hurry to get to the airport to head to Milwaukee. At least we got a feel of where to go, plus we saw what some of the guys’ rides were.

So that brings us to this day. It was a weekend game as well as a 7:05 start, so we loaded up our daughters to make our first true attempt at getting some Rangers autographs.

Here’s a photo I took of the girls shortly after we arrived at the tunnel….

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The area was nothing more than a median, like on a roadway. There are two fairly tall pine trees that offered really good shade, as well as there being a decent breeze to make it even better.

We got there at around 12:30 and there was already about 8-10 other people there who said no one had stopped yet, and only a handful of people had been by so we knew we were in good shape.

Our first autograph would come from the manager, Ron Washington….

6_27_10 002.jpg
6_27_10 003.jpgThe photo on the left is of Dirk, his daughter Kaitlyn, and my daughter Sarah. The one on the right is just Sarah. I took two photos of each autograph so Dirk would have one of his daughter and I would have one of mine. Just a semi-unnecessary explanation of why there’s two pictures of each.

There were periods of inactivity between autographs, and during one of these periods I realized that I was in dire need of a bathroom. I had drank a bottle of Mountain Dew on the way there and was now paying for it. I didn’t want to have to walk anywhere, but I didn’t have a choice. Long story short, I had to walk about a quarter of a mile to a youth ballpark located just outside the Rangers’ ballpark. By the time I returned, the girls had gotten Nelson Cruz’ autograph and just finished getting catcher Matt Treanor’s….

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Just for the record, I don’t know the lady that’s in the photo, I just wanted to document what Treanor drove. And in case you’re wondering, we got Washington on a baseball, Cruz signed a hat that Sarah wanted to get a bunch of autos on, and Treanor signed a ball. If I had been there, I would’ve had Cruz sign a ball and Treanor sign the hat, but oh well. We were happy to have them period.

The next one that stopped was hitting coach Clint Hurdle….

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6_27_10 007.jpg…. who would sign Sarah’s hat.

The fifth and final autograph for today would come from pitcher Chris Ray….

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…. who would also sign Sarah’s hat.

Pretty cool! In all, we were out there for about two hours and came away with 5 autographs. Of course there were guys that drove by and didn’t stop, but that’s understandable. I didn’t expect to get all of the teams’ autos today. We were completely satisfied with what we came away with.

At around 2:30-2:40 we left and headed over to Pappasito’s for a late lunch. Gotta love Mexican food!

After stuffing our faces we headed back over to the ballpark and walked in the gate at around 4 o’clock. There was a pregame concert by Los Tigres del Norte so the gates were opened earlier than usual, but it didn’t matter because when we got out to the left field seats we saw this….

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The ballpark hosers. Yes, the cage was up but, I’ll admit, I was still a little scared because we usually don’t see them until after batting practice. After about 5 minutes of uncertainty a guy walked out and set an empty bucket by the screen in centerfield. Yes!

I shouldn’t have doubted that there would be BP, but I haven’t ever been in that early before so it threw me off.

Within the next fifteen minutes the Rangers would come out to stretch and throw….

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…. and five minutes after that, they would start to hit and I was forced to stare at these for at least 10 minutes….

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…. which, I’m sad to say that I would not get.

I would get on the board though when a kid next to me dropped a toss up into the gap that I would reel up with my device and give to him. He was thrilled, because he thought he was out of luck. When he saw me get it and slowly bring it up, he was ecstatic. I love doing that, because it’s a double win. I get to count it because I reeled it up, plus this kid in particular got his very first Major League baseball. It doesn’t get much better than that.

I came within inches of catching my first BP homer on the fly. I leaned as far over the rail as I could but was still about two inches short and the ball fell into the gap directly underneath me. Unfortunately, there just so happened to be a guy walking by down there that would pick up the ball (before I could tell him not to) and toss it up to someone else. Oh well, that’s the way it goes sometimes.

That was it for the rest of batting practice for me. Seriously, for both teams. Now if I wanted to start counting toss up “assists”, I would have cleaned up. I must have pointed to 6-8 different kids at various points of batting practice and every one of them got the ball. I even toyed with the idea of pointing to myself a couple times for fun but thought better of it. The kids would get their ball and run off to show someone what they got. That may have been my problem. If I had not pointed and just let them stay around, maybe I would’ve had more gap-retrieval opportunities. Who knows?

If you’re wondering why Sarah wasn’t by me trying for her own toss ups, it’s because she and Kaitlyn were by the left field foul pole up under an overhang in the shade. It was hot. Very hot.

Once the Astros’ BP concluded I walked a couple sections over to where Dirk was and we noticed a ball in the middle of the visitors’ bullpen. It wasn’t placed there, but hit there during batting practice. I asked the closest security guard if I could swing my device out to knock it closer and he said go for it. It was about 6-8 feet out from the wall so it took a few throws but it worked. I would soon reel it up for our 2nd and final ball of the day. Dirk would end up with 3 of his own (all with his device), and I had to fight off a little disgust at never being able to out-snag him.

We next went to track down the girls and go sign up to be designated drivers and get our free soda coupons. There’s two different places in the ballpark and if you do both, you get two coupons which is cool because Sarah and I both would get free drinks.

Along the way we saw the Silver Boot trophy which is what the winner of the two Rangers/Astros series receives….

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I’ve been told that the boot is a size 13. In case you were wondering…

The four of us didn’t sit together this game. Sarah and I were in the upper deck on the first base side, and Dirk and Kaitlyn were in the bleachers in left-center.

Here’s a picture from our seats….

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…. of the second appearance of the day by the Ballpark Hosers.

The camera I was using was given to me just that morning by Dirk, so I had to get the hang of using it. I had grown so used to my wife’s camera from using it for a couple years, that this new one was a whole new animal.

Here’s a shot of where I stood during batting practice….

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I know you can’t tell where I’m talking about, but it was above the “g” in the blue Samsung sign in left-centerfield.

Here, let me test out the zoom and show you a closer look….

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Come to think of it I was actually across the aisle from the spot above the “g”, but who’s keeping track?

I asked Sarah what she wanted me to take a picture of next and she said the Texas flag, so I obliged….

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…. with both “Texas” flags.

The pregame festivities included a tribute to Hispanic heritage….

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…. as well as the TCU baseball team, who had just been eliminated from the College World Series the previous day….

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I also took a few shots of the Rangers during their pregame warmups….

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6_27_10 025.jpgThe photo on the top left intrigued me because it’s the first time I’ve ever seen a catcher throw to a catcher. The photo on the bottom right was taken about 5 seconds too late. That’s Vladimir Guerrero getting stretched by the trainer and Josh Hamilton behind him (or above his head, however you want to describe it). Josh had gone about 10-15 feet away from Vlad and got down on his belly and “army-crawled” all the way to him. When he got there, he did something (I didn’t see what) to scare the he!! out of Vlad. I saw him crawling, looked away to get my camera ready, and looked back to see Vlad and Josh laughing. I wish I had seen what he did, but at least I saw some of it.

I mentioned before that Dirk and his daughter were sitting in the bleachers, well I zoomed in as far as I could and this is where they were sitting….

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If you click on the photo you’ll see two red arrows pointing to Dirk and his daughter. I told him to call me around the third or fourth inning to see if there were any empty seats that Sarah and I could have.

Somewhere around the fourth inning he said there were two available in the row behind him, so we headed that way and when we got there I took this photo of Sarah….

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…. behind section 53 in left-centerfield.

While sitting in the outfield I took the following two pictures of different angles of the park….

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…. and I must admit that I like them both.

As far as the game goes, the Rangers scored early and often accumulating 10 runs by the end of the 6th inning, and that would be all they would need to defeat Roy Oswalt and the Astros. 10-1 was the final. Josh Hamilton hit the second longest home run in the history of the Ballpark in Arlington. It was a 468 foot, two-run mammoth shot to the 2nd deck above the Rangers dugout in right field.

The game was exciting on all fronts and capped off what was an all around great day of baseball.

Time of Game: 2hrs. 38mins.

Attendance: 37,487

Next Game: Wed. 7/7 vs. Cleveland 

6/22 & 6/24/10 vs. Pittsburgh

Well, just like I did for this entry I am going to combine two games into one entry.

I didn’t have a camera for either game because my oldest daughter has it with her on vacation in Colorado. So that leaves me without one. It’s okay, I’ll have my own eventually.

Game #1 on Tuesday 6/22 was pretty cool because of the seats my friend Dirk and I had. We got tickets on StubHub that were the same ones we had for this game against Detroit.  Right next to the visitors’ bullpen.

I love these seats!

For batting practice, we got inside the park at around 5:30 and had a good 30-40 minutes of the Pirates’ BP. Dirk was able to snag 3 of his own, while I managed only 1. The one I got was a toss up behind the Pirates’ dugout by a guy that I assume is in the front office or something because he was wearing a dress shirt and dress pants. The Pirates were clearing the field and this gentleman was walking toward the dugout with a ball in his hand. As he got closer he started scanning the people behind the dugout, so I held my glove up and he tossed it to me. Whew! If not for that one I would have been shutout, and I’ve had enough of those this season.  

As for the game, since I sat on the end last time we were over there, this time was Dirk’s turn.

The Pirates as an organization were very impressive to me this game. Especially for a team that seems to be struggling like they are. For instance during batting practice, while I was behind the dugout Andrew McCutcheon was signing autographs on the third base line. He must have stood there for 20 minutes! It was amazing. Then during the game it seemed like all of the bullpen guys were interacting with the crowd at some point.

At around the start of the fourth inning Octavio Dotel came into the bullpen and sat right on the other side of the wall from Dirk. When he walked up he asked how we were doing and if we were enjoying the game (even though the Pirates were losing at the time). Later on in the game I told Dirk that I would buy his ice cream if he Octavio’s autograph for us. After a few moments of hesitation we both had one of these….

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… that would put an exclamation point on a great evening!

The Rangers won 6-3 thanks to trio of homers. A solo shot by Michael Young, a three run shot by Julio Borbon, and a solo jack by my man Josh Hamilton. Good times!

At some point during the game I noticed a lineup card taped to a wall in the bullpen and told Dirk that we needed to stick around for a little bit afterward so I could try and get it. First I asked the security guard working the ‘pen what happens to it after the game (I actually knew, but wanted to make it clear that I was not going to be a nuisance), and he said they usually throw it away. I asked if I could ask someone for it and he said go for it, so I did.

I asked I guy that came out and was grabbing all of the towels off the ground, and he walked over took it off the wall and came and handed it to me.

Yes! I’ve been wanting one of those for so long, it felt great to finally have one.

Here’s a picture of it that I took the next day….

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I like how the Rangers’ hitters are color-coded. It took me a moment to figure out their system but from what I can tell the black lettered hitters are righties, the red ones lefties, and Smoak in blue letters is a switch hitter. Pretty cool how they designate them. I also like how it has the old Ranger logo above the lineup!

It’s very cool to me and I plan on getting it laminated in the very near future.

That’s it for the first game, now onto the second one…. 

This game was not planned at all. Dirk had been messing around online and found tickets for this game in the exact same seats we had at the previous game.

I was somewhat hesitant to go at first, because he and I would be taking our daughters on Sunday, we had just gone two nights prior, so I was torn. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to go, I always want to go, but I wasn’t to thrilled with having to call my wife and see how she felt about it. And honestly, I don’t like to be away from home too much, so I didn’t want to push it.

Well, my wife didn’t mind so we were off.

We got inside the park at almost the same time as the Tuesday game and caught about the  same amount of batting practice.

Dirk changed it up a little this game, I stayed in true “left field” in the seats while he went over to “left-center field” in the bleachers.

I would get on the board within the first 10-15 minutes or so when Brendan Donnelly came to retrieve a ball by the wall in front of me. I had an idea that he might toss the ball up, but I couldn’t see him so I wasn’t sure. I paused for about 5-10 seconds waiting with my glove ready to snag a random no-look toss up, when all of a sudden there it was. I said I was ready, but apparently I wasn’t. The ball was about a foot to my left, but I had maybe a second to react, and I missed it and it fell into the gap. At least I was able to get it with my retriever!

That’s all I would get in the left field seats today. I didn’t really come close to any others, and before too long all of the kids in the park must have seen how generous the Pirates were being and decided to crowd all around me and start shouting for balls.

I moved. 

For the third straight game I went behind the visitors’ dugout. I don’t know what prompted me to start doing this, but I have. The first game was against Seattle and I got some great shots of the the guys in the cage, and I guess I was just drawn in by the close proximity of everything so I kept it up the last two games against Pittsburgh. I was tossed a ball last game by some random guy, and wouldn’t you know it but the same exact guy hooked me up again this game. Pretty sweet! I gave that ball to nearby kid that was trying to get autographs with his mother.

When BP concluded and I met up with Dirk, I decided that I just might change my strategy for future games. I mentioned earlier that Dirk had gone to the left-center bleachers, well he ended up with 6 on the day. That particular area is comprised of three sections and is probably 30 yards long. Dirk ended up going back and forth from end to end as parents would call him over to use his retriever to get the ball out of the gap that their child had dropped after getting it tossed to them by a Pirates player. What a deal! Even though he gave them all to the kids they were supposed to go to in the first place, they still count toward his totals because he snagged them. From now on, he and I are going to tag team that area, one on one end and the other one on the opposite end. With as generous as the visiting teams have been lately it sounds like a pretty good plan.

The game was good, the Rangers came back to win in walk off style 6-5 thanks to Vladimir Guerrero’s RBI single in the bottom of the ninth.

Octavio Dotel, the Pirates’ closer that we talked to some on Tuesday came back out around the fourth inning again and recognized us. I had given him my free taco voucher that the ballpark gives out if the Rangers score a run in a specific inning, and I asked if he used it and he said he couldn’t find the restaurant. He may have been lying, but it felt good to have a conversation with a big leaguer. I would soon have much more than just a conversation with him too.

To cut to the chase, at some point in the game Octavio took my phone. Yes, you read that correctly, he took my phone.  Not to be mean, or to steal it (like he couldn’t afford it!), but to be funny. I don’t know how long he had it, but I had it setting on a knee high wall next to me that is about head height to him. He grabbed it and handed it to the guy next to him to hide under his leg. When I went to grab it to check the other scores, it wasn’t there. I started to look at my feet, in the gap in front of me, in my backpack, in Dirk’s backpack in case he was trying to be funny, behind me, and it was nowhere. After around 10 minutes I started to panic, mainly because it’s an iPhone that is not under warranty and I really didn’t want to have to replace it.

I asked Octavio (we’re on a first name basis now), if he saw it on his side of the wall, and he played dumb for a second and then reached over to his teammate and got it back from him and gave it to me.

Man! What a dizzying array of emotions that swept over me in the next few minutes. Relief, at having it back. Slight embarrassment, from he and the rest of the bullpen laughing at me. And also hysteria. No the good kind. It was hard to stop laughing for a bit because after the rush of emotions stopped and reality began to sink in, I was beginning to realize that I was just pranked by a Major League baseball player!

Who else can say that?! Better yet, who else can say that that also has a blog to share it with the world?

Needless to say, I was thrilled to have such a cool story to tell. I already had gotten his autograph at the previous game, so to try and get something in return I mentioned his cap that was laying on top of the wall in front of him. I even went out of my way to say after the game, and he seemed to half-heartedly agree, but they lost. At the time fo the prank the Pirates had the lead, hence the good mood, since they wound up losing I was out of luck.

Oh well. As I said, the story is worth it.

The Pirates had another lineup card taped to the wall like the one I had gotten Tuesday night, and I told Dirk that if I was able to get it, that I would give it to him.

I did. Along with a smaller sheet of paper that I couldn’t decipher from that far away, but here it is….

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It seems to be the Pirates’ way of documenting stats on that game’s starter as well as the bullpen guys. Kind of different but it’s definitely worth keeping.

And here’s a ball that I had autographed by bullpen catcher Heberto Andrade….

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What an awesome two nights of baseball!

Game 1:

Time of Game: 2hrs. 45mins.

Attendance: 23,083

Game 2:

Time of Game: 3hrs. 6mins.

Attendance: 19,567

Next Game: Sunday 6/27 vs. the Astros

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