April was an incredible month for me to say the least. Over the course of the month, I went to 8 Major League Baseball games and snagged 17 balls. I also went to 2 Minor League Baseball games and snagged 9 balls. I’ll be going in chronological order, starting out with the Bay Bridge exhibition series. You can click any of my ball totals that are in parentheses to see my MyGameBalls.com entry from the game!
4/2/15 at AT&T Park (3 balls)
While these first two games were technically exhibition games that don’t count in the standings, I’m going to count by ballhawking stats from these games with with my regular season stats because the attendance was equal to that of a regular season game, plus they were played at Major League Stadiums between Major League teams.
My dad and I hadn’t been to a game in San Francisco since 2013, so I was excited to be back, even though it is the home of the Giants.
I had no luck from a ballhawking standpoint during Giants BP, but it did end pretty quickly after I got in, so there were not many chances anyway. I was excited when the A’s took the field though, as I was decked out in A’s gear, so I expected to get a few balls. My first ball of the day was a tossup from A’s pitcher Brock Huntzinger. After he did finished routine catch at the start of BP, he jogged out to the outfield with the ball still in his glove. He looked into the crowd, spotted me and fired me the ball for my first of the day!
Ball #2 was a Mark Canha home run, which I had to run about 5 or 7 rows back for. AT&T Park has typical bleacher seating, with no seat backs, which makes it easier for ballhawks to run through the seats. Canha’s homer landed near the top of the section and I was able to catch it on the bounce.
The rest of A’s BP was pretty dead, Billy Butler and Brett Lawrie hit some good shots, but they were either too far away from me, or just didn’t make it over the fence. For me, one of the best parts of Batting Practice was seeing A’s farmhand and family friend Seth Frankoff decked on the field, in green and gold. The A’s had called him up for the exhibition series, so he was suited up alongside the rest of the team.I stayed in the outfield until the end of BP, so I could not say hello to him. However, when I did get over to my seat down the first base line, I found several other members of the A’s Right Field Bleacher crew hanging out. After talking with everyone for a while, A’s catcher Stephen Vogt posed for a picture with us.Here is how the picture turned out, it was a selfie taken by Bryanne! After that picture, my dad got a shot of me with the two balls that I snagged during A’s BP. I put the two balls away and noticed A’s bullpen catcher Casey Chavez walking out towards the bullpen area. He had a ball in his hand, so I called out to him and he flipped it my way, my 3rd and final ball on the day. The game got underway just after 7, here is the view from our seats. During the game, I found out that one of my friends from school was also at the game, and that she had pretty good seats. I met up with her in the concourse and followed her through a maze of tunnels, emerging here… Holy Toledo! We were literally a few rows behind home plate. Even though I didn’t have a ticket for the seat, I was able to sit there for about an inning before I was kicked out. While I was leaving, a streaker jumped onto the field and my dad was able to get a lot of great pictures of him. After being kicked out, I went up to the Right Field area, where several members of the Bleacher crew were. While we were up there, we got to see switch pitcher Pat Venditte pitch in person, which was really special! I stayed in Right Field for the final 3 innings. The TV cameras ended up finding us towards the end, here is a screen grab! After the A’s closed out the game, Bryanne took another selfie of the bleacher people.
It was a great day and I could not wait to be back at the Coliseum in two days!
4/4/15 at the Oakland Coliseum (5 balls)
This was my first time back at the Coliseum since September of 2014 and I was incredibly excited. As soon as my family got to the stadium, I went to the team store and picked up a shirsey for my favourite player on the A’s, Brett Lawrie. Afterwards, I took a picture of Will and the newest banner for the bleachers! Since Seth was with the team for this 3-game series, Will wanted to make sure we had a banner for him! Will then took this fantastic photo of me and my family! When the gates opened around 11, the A’s were in the middle of Batting Practice, and I was stoked for it! My first ball of the day was a tossup from Seth, who was standing on the field right below Section 149. My second ball of the day was a Matt Olson home run, which I gave away to a bleacher friend. Ball #3 was a tossup from A’s pitcher Kendall Graveman, who they acquired from Toronto in the Josh Donaldson trade during the offseason. That was my last ball of A’s BP, but I wasn’t the only person in my family who snagged a ball… My mom also got a ball, her first ever baseball ever at a professional game, and it was a home run during A’s BP! One thing to note would be the scoreboards for this game… While the A’s had replaced and upgraded the scoreboards in the offseason, they were still displaying the old format on the new ones, missing pixels and all. There was a big unveil scheduled for Opening Day!
I had 3 balls at the end of A’s BP and I was hungry for more, so I was excited for Giants Batting Practice to start.I went to left field for the first few groups of Giants BP and quickly came up with an Angel Pagan home run, which he ripped down the line. After this, I went back to right field, where Hunter Strickland tossed me up a ball, my 5th of the day! That was it for me during BP, here is a picture that Will took of me and the 4 balls I kept from the day. As usual, I was sitting in Section 149 of the RF Bleachers, so this was my view for the game. While Drew Pomeranz started the game for Oakland, it was incredibly special to get the chance to see former Athletic Barry Zito in an A’s uniform for the first time since 2006. The pitcher that followed Zito in the game was Doolittle. Not all-star closer Sean Doolittle, but his brother, Ryan, who also pitches in the A’s organization. He, like Frankoff, was called up for this series. Speaking of Seth Frankoff… Guess who pitched the 8th inning for the A’s? You guessed it, it was Seth! And he did an amazing job, striking out all 3 San Francisco hitters he faced in the inning. Like they did with the main scoreboards, the A’s also displayed the old ribbon boards along the second deck. The A’s ended up losing 2-1, but it was still a really fun day, considering I snagged 5 baseballs and got to see Barry Zito, Ryan Doolittle and Seth Frankoff all pitch in person. Opening Day was 2 days away…
4/6/15 at the Oakland Coliseum (1 ball)
Opening Day! This was my 3rd straight Opening Day in Oakland I was stoked! The day started off very early, with some tailgating. We hung out with the Section 148 crew in the parking lot, where there was lots of cornhole action going on, including Ryan (left) and Bryanne and Tike (right).Fellow 149er James (Also known as DJ Eden Roc) DJ’d the tailgate, which was a lot of fun.
After spending time at the 148 tailgate, I headed over to the tailgate hosted by the local clothing company, Oaklandish, where they had a prize wheel set up, which you can see Carlos (left) and Satoshi (right) spinning below!On our way up to the gate, we ran into Will MacNeil, one of the most well-known bleacher folks, as he is the creater of the Balfour Rage.
The A’s starting pitcher for this game was Sonny Gray, who led the A’s to an 8-0 victory, their first Opening Day win since 2004. WowAfter the game, my mom, sister and I took a picture together.
All in all, this was a great day. I snagged a ball, the A’s won and I had a great time with my family and friends!
4/10/15 at the Oakland Coliseum (2 balls)
This was the first real giveaway game of the season and it was going to be a popular one: a Sonny Gray replica jersey. But it wasn’t just any jersey, it was a road jersey. So it was a Sonny Gray grey jersey. Good stuff. Well my family got to the Coliseum super early, well before the gates opened.
When the gates opened at 5:05, we headed inside. Check out how huge the line outside was? Crazy!
Once inside, the A’s were already well into BP, with two groups done hitting and a third almost done.
Long story short, I was shut out during the A’s portion of BP. After the A’s left the field, the Mariners took the field and began throwing.
My first ball of the day was a tossup in right field from Mariners pitcher Yoervis Medina. I used a ball retrieval device to snag my second and last ball of the day off the out-of-town scoreboard. In case you’re wondering, I taped together two flags and put some duct tape on the end of one to pick up the ball. I ended up giving away both balls that I snagged at this game.
After A’s Batting Practice, a group of bleacher folks took a cool picture. Given that Friday, April 10th was National Sibling Day, all of the groups of siblings that sit in the bleachers got together for a group shot. From left to right in the back row, you have sisters Amber and Rebekah, myself and my sister Pascale and sisters Kimberlee and Amanda. In the front, Taylor, her brother Dylan and their sister Jordyn.
One of the most notable moments from the game was Oakland rookie Mark Canha hitting his first Major League home run. Since he’s a righty pull hitter and I sit in right field, I was nowhere near where it landed, but it was still a cool moment to witness.
This game was an absolute offensive explosion for the A’s, as the final score wound up being 12-0. The Mariners only had 3 hits all game, while the A’s were a run-producing machine. Ben Zobrist, Stephen Vogt, Sam Fuld and Billy Butler each recorded 1 RBI , while Mark Canha and Marcus Semien drove in two runs and Ike Davis finished the night with 4 runs batted in.
I liked getting to watch new fireballing relief pitcher RJ Alvarez take the mound in this game. We acquired Alvarez from San Diego in the Derek Norris trade.
Alvarez pitched a scoreless 9th, with 1 strikeout, giving the A’s their third blowout win in 5 days.
While this game was fun, it did not even come close to comparing to the next day…
4/11/15 at the Oakland Coliseum (3 balls)
Holy moly was this going to be a big day. When I woke up, I just saw it as another Saturday game, except that I would be running a 5K in the morning. I woke up around 7 and my entire family headed of to the ballpark around 7:30, getting to Oakland at 8.
Pascale and I were going to be running in the A’s inaugural PlayBall 5k, which would start at Home Plate on the field and finish in the parking lot. Once we signed in and got our race bibs, we jumped in the line forming at A Gate.
Once they opened the gate to the Coliseum, we had to stand inside the tunnel and wait to go down onto the field.
Eventually, the opened the gate to the left field stairs and we headed down to the field.
We walked along the warning and stopped in front of the dugout, as we waited for the other runners to get onto the field as well.
We were with Bryanne the entire time, who decided to take a Billy Martin-style photo in front of the dugout.
We got started at 9am, beginning at home plate on the field and running along the right field side of the warning track towards the center field tunnel. We exited the tunnel into the Coliseum parking lot, where we ran until reaching 66th Avenue, which was of course closed off. We went from 66th avenue to Oakport Street, which led us to a side street bringing us out along the San Leandro Bay. We ran back towards 66th Avenue, where we essentially retraced our path, heading back to the Coliseum Parking lot. Instead of going back where we had come from, we ran into the parking lot and turned right, doing a small loop that had us cross the finish line. Here are a couple of maps with poorly-drawn lines to give you an idea of the route.
In case you are curious, my official time was 27 minutes and 56 seconds. Fun!
I finished about 5 minutes ahead of Pascale, who finished in front other friends, including Bryanne, Dave and Carlos (Carlos was literally the last person to start the race). We took lots of pictures, including this selfie with Bryanne and Dave.
And then Bryanne, Carlos, Pascale and I took a photo with the A’s Hall of Fame racing mascots.
After the post-race festivities, which included snacks and a souvenir shirt, we headed up to our usual Gate, Gate MM to get in line. Since the race had started on the field and a night game had been played the day before, I did not expect there to be Batting Practice. However, once the gates opened at 11, I was surprised to run inside and see the A’s hitting!
On a side note, my dad took this really cool picture of the new LED ribbon boards on his way in.
I was shut out during A’s BP, but I did snag a couple balls during Mariners BP.
The first was a tossup from a Mariners player that I could not identity, the next ball was a tossup in left field from Mariners reliever Danny Farquhar.
I ended BP with the balls and considering the run beforehand and the surprise of BP, I was 100% okay with this.
I usually sit anywhere in the front row of 149 from seat 16 on the aisle to seat 12, but something told me this game that I should switch things up. Since Amanda’s fiancé, James, wasn’t going to be at the game, I took his normal seat, the seat next to her, seat 9. Pascale was in seat 8 and Will, who showed up late, sat in his normal 7.
On the mound for this game was Sonny Gray, who was making his second start of the season.
He was pitching fine until Dustin Ackeley stepped to the plate for the Mariners to lead off the top of the 3rd. I had just taken a picture to post in Instagram and I had my cowbell beater in my other hand, so I did not have my glove when his at bat began. All of a sudden, this happened…
And then I posted this picture on Twitter.
Yup. I snagged Dustin Ackley’s home run! And I didn’t just snag it, I caught it on the fly! What a moment! I immediately sat down, but most everyone was yelling at me to throw the ball back, since it was a visiting team home run. Thankfully, the people that know me well, like Will, Ross, Amanda and Carlos were all super supportive of me and the catch. There was one person, however that was not at all supportive: A’s right fielder Cody Ross. When I didn’t throw it back, he started staring up at me. I’m dead serious. I didn’t notice it until Will and Amanda pointed it out to me. He had his hands on his hips and a look of disgust on his face. He even turned back around every few pitches for the rest of the inning to see if I would throw it back. Of course, I did not.
After my phone was done blowing up with congratulations, I decided to go with my mom to purchase a cheap ball cube for it. When I got back to the bleachers, I found MLB.com Cut4 reporter Alex Espinosa waiting for me. He asked to interview me, so we went up the stairs, where we had a short conversation, which you can watch below.
In addition, the interview was integrated into an MLB.com Cut4 article about me, which you can see below. Click on that screen grab to read the piece.
I also did an interview with Tim Anderson of FanContract.com…
… as well as Alan Schuster of MyGameBalls.com.
You can click either of those experts to read the full articles.
When Ackley came up to bat in the 8th inning, I had my dad take a picture of the scoreboard.
After the game, I was finally able to pose for a picture with the ball.
WOW! What an insane day! I ran a 5K and snagged 3 balls, one of which was my first ever GAME HOME RUN. What a weekend.
4/12/15 at the Oakland Coliseum (0 balls)
Unfortunately, I don’t have a whole lot to say about this game, seeing as I did not snag any balls. I went to this game by myself, so I did not have my dad’s camera. In fact, I didn’t really take any pictures on my phone either, so I don’t have anything to share about this game. It was Little League Day, which meant no Batting Practice and no opportunities to snag balls before the game. It’s okay though! Let’s move on to the next game, shall we?
4/17/15 at Banner Island Ballpark (1 ball)
It was my golden birthday! Today was April 17th and it was my 17th birthday! In my family, it is a tradition that on your birthday, you get to choose where the family goes out to eat for a meal that day. Since I had school during the day, dinner was the only option. But I didn’t want to go to a restaurant for dinner. I wanted to go to the ballpark for dinner!
The A’s were not in town this weekend, they were in Kansas City, so I figured that Stockton would be the next best option. However, my high school baseball team, who I am the PA Announcer for, had a game at 4pm, so I would not be able to make it to Stockton for Batting Practice. After the game, I received these cupcakes from the sister of one of the players. They were delicious!
After the high school game ended, my family piled in the car and headed off to Stockton. Unfortunately, we didn’t arrive until the 4th inning, but that was okay! Once we arrived, we headed to our usual section in Stockton, Section 107, where we joined up with Will in the front row.
This wasn’t an incredibly eventful game, I was not able to snag anything else, but it was nice to enjoy a game on my birthday with my family and Will!
4/18/15 at Banner Island Ballpark (8 balls)
During the offseason, I had a conversation with Ross about potentially having an Oakland Bleacher gathering at a Stockton Ports game. Eventually, we decided upon this day. A ton of people in the right and left field bleachers from Oakland bought tickets for Section 107 in Stockton. We brought our drums and cowbells, along with our chants and enthusiasm. It was shaping up to be a fun game.
The stadium gates opened at 5:45, which I was really excited about. Usually, minor league stadiums open an hour before game time, after BP has ended, but the Ports open their doors 15 minutes earlier than normal on Saturdays, which means that I can run around inside for the end of BP! Ryan and I raced to the outfield berm when gates opened. I ended up patrolling the area in right field, while he took the berm more towards center field. He ended up snagging a couple of easter eggs out in that area.
In total, I snagged 4 balls inside during batting practice, all of them were home runs. I came close to several others, but there was a lot of competition. My dad got some cool photos of me during BP, but there was one sequence of photos that stood out to me. There was a deep fly ball that was headed my way. I tracked it like I would any other home run ball, the only different being the inflatable slide behind me. Once I realized the slide was there, I lost focus on the ball. I have labeled the pictures in order, 1-4, so that you can follow the sequence of events.
No I did not get the ball. No I did not push the kid or try and take the ball from him. Once I saw him go after it, I backed off. Batting Practice ended around 6pm, so I had an hour to kill before the game started.
I eventually made my way to our seats in Section 107, right next to the visitor’s dugout. While over there, I ran into fellow right field bleacher dweller Steph and her son Brennon. Brennon is super cool, so I had to hook him up with his first ever California League ball, one of the ones I got during BP!
And of course, the one and only Will MacNeil!
That picture was taken by Ross!
My waiting outside eventually paid off, as I was able to snag a Beau Taylor foul ball. Later in the game, I snagged my 8th ball of the day, a foul ball off the bat of Ports outfielder B.J. Boyd. Moments after I snagged the ball, a woman came running out towards me. She asked if she could have the ball. I was confused at first, so I said no. Then she pulled out and showed me her driver’s license and told her that she was B.J. Boyd’s mother. Of course, I handed her the ball, at which point she thanked me, gave me a hug and walked back inside the ballpark. Very cool! In the later innings, I spent some time playing the drum.
Throughout the game, we were playing the drums and cowbells to the beats and in the same situations that we normally do in Oakland. For the player-specific chants, we would change the names. For Beau Taylor, we did the “Yo” chant that we used to do for Yoenis Cespedes. Instead of “I Believe in Stephen Vogt,” we did “I Believe in B.J. Boyd.” For J.P. Sportman, we used our Billy Butler chant. It was a fun night.
I had an absolute blast at this game, snagging 8 balls and getting to sit with the awesome bleacher people.
4/25/15 at the Oakland Coliseum (0 balls)
I’m going to preface this with the fact that I went into the game not intending to ballhawk. Instead, I had one goal on my mind: to meet former Oakland reliever and current Astros pitcher Pat Neshek! Pat has been a favorite of mine for a long time, but I had never gotten the chance to get his autograph or take a picture with him, so I was pretty excited for the potential chance. I got to the stadium around 9:30 or so, which meant there was plenty of time to kill. While I did not participate, Adam, Britt and Alex played some catch in the plaza area outside our gate.
Once the gates opened and we had set our stuff down in our seats, Amanda, Kimberlee, Tom and I headed down to area near the visitor’s bullpen, where Pat Neshek was warming up. Tom and I spent some time talking with our friend Mark, who is the security guard in the area near the away bullpen.
How cool is that inscription??? I didn’t even ask him to write that, he did it on his own! Pat is without a doubt one of, if not the most fan-friendly player I have ever interacted with.
Such a neat experience!
For me, that was really special because he was one of the first players I ever saw play in Stockton. In fact, I even got to meet him on April 21st, 2013. Even better, I got to take two pictures with him! I took a selfie with him and a picture with catcher Ryan Delgado, Will and Vanessa.
I just thought it was kinda cool!
4/26/15 at the Oakland Coliseum (2 balls)
This was my final game in the month of April and it was very fun! After I set my stuff down in Right Field after the gates opened, I went down to the A’s bullpen area, where I was able to snag a tossup from Evan Scribner. I also took this picture with Sonny Gray!
After taking the picture with Sonny Gray, I hustled over to the Astros bullpen area, where reliever Joe Thatcher tossed me a ball. Unfortunately though, it was not one of the commemorative balls that the Astros used in 2015. Still very cool though! Here are my two balls from the day.
Once I was back in Right Field, I took a picture with Will, Adam, Ross and Bryanne, as we were all wearing white jerseys in honor of “Wedding Gown White Sundays.” And yes, there is a filter on this picture.
When the A’s first moved to Oakland, the A’s wore their “Wedding Gown White” jerseys exclusively on Sundays.
When Josh Reddick came up to bat in the bottom of the second inning, I was featured on the A’s TV broadcast waving my flag. The main reason I was shown though was because Kimberlee was holding up a WWE Title belt, since Josh is a huge WWE fan.
A’s Manager Bob Melvin was arguing a call with the home plate umpire Quinn Wolcott and as you can see from the pictures above, he was ejected.
Wow! April was such a fun month. I don’t even know what else to say. Well I guess I should say thank you because this entry was over 5,000 words. So THANK YOU very much for taking the time to read this! My next post will be about the games I attended in May. In May, I went to 10 A’s games and 2 Ports games, so the entry will be jam packed with lots of stories and pictures.
As always, thanks again for reading and stay awesome!
Nick Badders is a blogger for MLB.com. He writes the blog, 7000 Coliseum Way, and you can follow him on Twitter or Instagram at @RFNick149. This blog entry was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
To start off my 2015 recap series in January, we begin with the Spring Training trip that I took with my family to Arizona in March. We had never seen the A’s play anywhere other than in Oakland before this, so as you could imagine, we were all very excited.
Before you get too far into this entry, I would like to give a warning that I wrote a lot. While we were only there for 4 days, my family did so much, we had so many cool experiences. I wrote over 5,700 words. And there are plenty of pictures to go along, over 150 of them. If you need to, please read this in multiple sittings. I have conveniently separated the entry into each of the 4 days that we went to games, so hopefully that makes the reading a little easier!
Our plan was to fly into Arizona on Wednesday the 11th and fly out on Sunday the 15th, giving us time to watch the A’s play 4 games. One of my main goals for this trip was to visit as many new places and eat at as many new restaurants as possible and the first night of our vacation did just that.
We arrived at the Mesa Airport in the evening on Wednesday, then once we had our rental car, our family began to search for food. Upon recommendation from Bess Frankoff and a few others on Twitter, we decided to eat dinner at Cracker Barrel, which I LOVED. After checking into our hotel, the rest of the night was pretty calm, just preparing for the big day ahead of us on Thursday.
3/12/15 at HoHoKam Stadium (2 balls)
This was a pretty special day for my family. Not only was it our first ever Spring Training game, but we were going to get to see WILL FERRELL play for the A’s. To say that I was excited would be an understatement.
After a quick breakfast at Dunkin’ Donuts, we piled in the car and headed off to HoHoKam, which was about a 20 minute drive from our hotel. We arrived at the stadium shortly after 8:30, which was 90 minutes before gates were scheduled to open at 10am.
These signs were posted all of the exterior of the stadium, which signified that this was an important day.
HBO’s Funny or Die was shooting an hour-long documentary about Will Ferrell’s adventures this day, as he was playing 10 positions with 10 teams in 5 different games. The beginning of his day would be with the A’s and he was going to be starting at shortstop.
My first order of business once we parked was for Pascale and I to take a picture in front of this sign. We were very excited to be there!
We wondered around for a little bit, just exploring the outside of the stadium.
Pascale and I took a peek inside the team store, which I have to admit was pretty nice.
We then headed to the left field gate, where we set our stuff down and began to explore. I elected to head out to the fence behind the left field berm, where this was my view.
My dad looked inside with his camera, which is when we saw Will Ferrell in an A’s uniform for the first time! He was in the seats, talking with Bert “Campy” Campaneris, who Ferrell was honoring during the day.
Later, the two of them played some catch down the line, which was very cool to watch.
Once the gates opened at 10am sharp, I bolted for the berm in left field, which was incredible! It was very open, but crowded up quickly, given that Ferrell was in the building. It was awesome to see the A’s take batting practice again, specifically my new favorite player Brett Lawrie.
My first ball of the day was a tossup from pitcher AJ Griffin. I quickly got a second ball, a home run hit by an A’s player I couldn’t identify. I’m guessing it was Billy Butler or Mark Canha. After the first couple of groups of A’s BP, the one and only Will Ferrell stepped in the cage to hit.
What a special moment. He laid down a couple of bunts, knocked some solid ground balls and hit a few line drives into the outfield. It was fun to watch him! After he finished hitting, Ferrell jogged out the outfield, camera crew and all.
He decided to settle in left field, where we interacted with several A’s players, including Coco Crisp.
Several balls were hit his way, which he fielded and threw back in with ease.
He chatted up AJ Griffin for a bit.
And enjoyed a refreshing bottle of water.
Here is some behind-the-scenes footage of the films crews in left field, along with Will. If you click on the video, it will take you to my Flickr account so you can watch it.
Once I had noticed that Ferrell was in the outfield, I bolted over and thew on my 23-inch baseball glove and took a place in the front row.
This glove caught the attention of one of the producers, who came over and asked me to do some different poses and shots for the camera. I waved my glove around and called out for a ball several times for the cameras, all of which were pointed at me. Like I mentioned earlier, they were getting footage for the Ferrell Takes the Field documentary and guess what? I MADE THE FINAL CUT! I already showed it in my last entry, but here is a frame from it. Crazy awesome!
After BP concluded, Will started jogging off the field, but I decided to call out his name since he hadn’t yet seen the big glove. He turned around when he heard his name and spotted my glove and stopped.
Will: “Son, where did you get a glove that big?”
Me: “My parents gave it to me as a gift a year or so ago.”
Will: “Well that is a mighty big glove.”
Me: “Yup, it’s 23 inches.”
Nice is right. After this, Will gave me a thumbs up and jogged off the field towards the dugout. WOW.
A few months later, I was looking through the videos on my phone and found this one. I don’t know who in my family took it, but I appreciate whoever it was! While It doesn’t show much of the conversation, you can still see the last bit of it. Like the last video, if you click on it, it will take you to my Flickr account to watch it.
After batting practice was over, I decided to walk around the stadium and say hello to friends before the game started. I then headed over to the dugout and grabbed a spot in the first row, just to be as close to the pre-game action as possible. While we were down there, they announced the lineups. One of the renovations the A’s made to HoHoKam Stadium before moving in this season was the new scoreboard in left field. In fact, it’s the biggest in the Cactus League! Here is the image they showed when announcing A’s third baseman Brett Lawrie.
And here is the imagine they showed when announcing shortstop Will Ferrell!
The crowd behind the dugout was packed, but the crowd on the field in front of the dugout was insane. So many people!
All of the players were gathered around, talking with and listening to Will.
When the A’s took the field, I was forced to go back to my ticketed seat, but we were still behind the dugout. Will took his position at shortstop and began fielding ground balls and throwing them to first base. He had a pretty good arm!
His mechanics were very solid as well, he had a fluid transfer from his glove.
Unfortunately, he did not get any action during the inning, as he jogged off the field after 3 quick outs.
Notice the picture on the left? I tweeted that picture to Brett Lawrie and the next day, he POSTED IT ON INSTAGRAM. Seriously! Check it out:
Billy Burns led off the bottom of the first with a triple, which was exciting. Equally exciting was the graphic shown on the scoreboard. Being an A’s fan, I only knew 727-square foot scoreboards, so for a ballpark this size, this 1,800-square foot scoreboard was quite spectacular! That being said, it was nothing compared to the TWO 5,220-square foot scoreboards the A’s would be installing in the Oakland Coliseum for the 2015 season. Unfortunately, Will Ferrell had to leave the A’s, as after being traded by Billy Beane, he jogged over to the Mariners dugout. He later emerged in a Mariners uniform to play second base for them. After playing a half inning at second base, he jogged back towards the A’s dugout so that he and the film crew could head off to his next game. It truly was an honor to not only talk to him for a brief moment before the game, but to see him play during the game itself, even though he did not get any playing time. Lefty Scott Kazmir was on the mound for the A’s in this game. While Pascale and I were wondering around the stadium in attempts to find shade, we came across the Mustache Pretzels food truck. Their menu was pretty amazing.
We both got pretzels. I can’t speak for Pascale, but that was and still is the best soft pretzel I have ever had.
One of the fun things for my dad was being so close to the field, which meant he got to take a lot of great pictures. For starters, here was the view from our seats. He was able to get great pictures like this one of a Mariners coach pulling a broken bat out of the infield grass. And this one of the first base umpire.
One of my favorite pictures was this one of an A’s infielder Alden Carrithers. I tried every inning to get an A’s 3rd out ball, but even though I had the big glove, I had no luck. The A’s were down 3-1 heading into the bottom of the 9th, but doubles from Alden Carrithers and Bryan Anderson tied the game up for Oakland. Kent Matthes ended up driving in the winning run with 2 outs, a single to right field that scored Chad Pinder. After the game, I got a picture with my 2 BP balls.
Notice my shirt? It is a design from Ian Sagabaen, also known as Greatest Sign Maker! I wore it for this game since it features Brick Tamland of the movie Anchorman, which Will Ferrell starred in. After taking that picture, we decided to stroll to the exit the long way, circling around the stadium, along the outfield. There, my dad was able to get this cool picture of the sprinklers watering the outfield grass. Pascale and I then decided to get a picture in front of the new scoreboard, next to the final score. For some perspective on how big this scoreboard is, here you go. What a fun day! I had such a great time and I could not wait to head to Surprise on Friday to see the A’s play the Royals.
3/13/15 at Surprise Stadium (3 balls)
Day 2. Game 2. Let’s go! This game, we would be seeing the A’s take on the Kansas Royals at Surprise Stadium, a complex that the Royals share with the Texas Rangers.
For breakfast, we dined at Waffle House. This was my first time at a Waffle House (they don’t have any in California, don’t judge) and my waffles were pretty dang good.
After breakfast, we headed out on the 45-minute drive to Surprise, Arizona. We arrived at the ballpark around 9:30, which was 2 hours before the stadium itself opened. However, there were still lots of practice fields that we could explore! Before the practice fields opened at 10, my dad, Pascale and I walked around the exterior a little.As we were walking to the Rangers facilities, I spotted a ball just on the other side of a chain link fence. My dad was able to use his camera monopod to knock the ball right up against the fence so I could grab it. (Excuse my extremely derpy look) Ball #1 on the day! And the best part? It had the new commissioner, Robert Manfred’s signature on it!
Once we made it to the Rangers fields, we watched them play catch for a little while. After a bit, we made our way back towards the Royals side. We got in line to get into the Royals complex and let’s just say I stuck out a little. Before I get too much into my adventures in the practice complex, I’ll show an overview of the Royals complex so you have an idea as to what I am talking about.
I spent some of my time wandering around the four practice fields on the top, but I did peek around the two other fields a little. During batting practice, I stayed in between the two fields on the right side near the parking lot, where there is the empty space in between outfield walls.
Since batting practice had not yet started, I began my day by watching the players warm up by playing catch and doing various drills and conditioning. It was really cool to see the various Minor Leaguers working hard and practicing in ways that you don’t see at a Major League stadium.After they did some drills, BP began, so I decided to stay in the dirt area that I mentioned earlier. I positioned myself beyond the left field fence of the field where the Major Leaguers were hitting and it paid off.A lot of balls were flying over the fence, but there were so many people and it was so crowded, it was incredibly hard to snag anything. During the second group, I was, however, able to snag a couple of Alex Rios home runs, both were balls that bounced around a little and I was able to scoop up.
After BP, I headed into the stadium itself. And wow it was beautiful!One thing I noticed immediately was the number of baseballs on the roof of the stadium.There was a roof from first to third base, over the press box and whatnot and there had to have been at least 100 baseballs up there, I’m guessing most, if not all, were foul balls.
After saying hello to my cousin and uncle, who are Royals fans from Kansas and happened to be at the game as well, I went over down to the field to try and get some autographs.There, I ran into a couple of bleacher friends, Alex and Jaclyn, who were also trying to get autographs. While we were over there, I was able to get 4 autographs. Wade Kirkland, Bruce Maxwell and Beau Taylor all signed my flag, which was very cool!After he was done playing catch, Brett Lawrie came over and signed a few autographs. I had a baseball card of his with me and had him sign that.The game itself was fun. Chris Bassitt was the starting pitcher for Oakland.Edinson Volquez was the starter for the Royals.One thing I took note of was the score board in left field. It was much smaller than the one at HoHoKam, so I definitely had a new appreciation for Oakland’s. This game and the game the following day were split-squad games for Oakland. While half of the team and coaches stayed in Arizona, the other half traveled to Las Vegas for a two-game series against the Cubs. As a result, there were some things I saw in this game that were kind of cool. For example, I got to see Billy Butler play first base.And I got to watch Bryan Anderson catch.One of the best parts of the day for me was getting to see the minor leaguers that were up with the team for the day, all of whom I either have seen play with the Stockton Ports or got to see play for the Ports in 2015. I got to see Bruce Maxwell (2013/2014 Ports) come in behind the plate.John Nogowski (2015 Ports) got an opportunity to pinch hit.Brandon Cogswell (2015 Ports) also had a plate appearance.And Tyler Marincov (2014/2015 Ports) had an AB as well. The A’s ended up losing 8-4 and after the game, I saw a few reporters come onto the field to talk to Mike Aldrete, who was managing the half of the team who stayed in Arizona.
We sat in Friday rush hour traffic for about 90 minutes, but eventually made it to a restaurant called Oregano’s, where we ate dinner with the cousin and uncle I mentioned earlier, as well as a friend of theirs. If you have not been to Oregano’s and you’ll be in Arizona sometime, you MUST enjoy a meal there. Get a pizookie for dessert, you’ll thank me later. If you’ve been to Oregano’s, you know what I’m talking about 😉
3/14/15 at HoHoKam Stadium and Salt River Fields (1 ball)
Yes, you are reading that correctly. I went to two games on this day. And oddly enough, they were both games against the San Francisco Giants. The first game was at 1:05, as the A’s were hosting the Giants. In the evening, my mom, sister and I were heading over to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick Park to watch the Diamondbacks play the Giants.
The day started off early, as my family enjoyed a fabulous breakfast at U.S. Egg. After that, we picked up one of our bleacher friends, Ethan, who was staying with our friend Karl who goes to ASU. My dad dropped Ethan and I off at Fitch Park, which is where the A’s have their Minor League practice fields. Ethan and I looked around a little bit and watched some of the minor leaguers doing drills.After 10 or 15 minutes, we began the 15-minute walk to HoHoKam Stadium, where my family was waiting in line. Ethan and I got there a few minutes before gates opened at 11 and once they did, I sprinted inside to the Left Field berm, which filled up quickly, given that it was an A’s/Giants game.We had berm seats for this game, so we claimed our spot on the grass early.A’s batting practice was already underway when we got inside, so I had no time to lose.I chased after several home run balls, but I unfortunately did not come up with any. All of a sudden, Ethan noticed Barry Zito come out onto the field. In February, Oakland signed Zito, who pitched for the club from 2000-2006, to a Minor League contract and as a result, he was with the team for Spring Training.
We rushed over to where he was and I was able to get a jersey signedIt was a Barry Zito jersey that Ryan Dalton had given me to take down to Arizona and get signed for him.
Ethan then took a selfie with Zito.
I would have, but I was stupid and in my rush to get down to Barry, I forgot my phone on our blanket out on the berm.
When we got back to left field, there were two players who caught my eye: Brett Lawrie and Coco Crisp. I wanted to thank Lawrie for posting my dad’s picture on Instagram and I wanted to get Coco to sign the banner that I acquired during the offseason and brought down to Arizona.I pulled out the big glove and was able to quickly get Lawrie’s attention. As soon as he saw it, he tossed me a ball.
After I caught the ball, I thanked him for posting the picture and he smiled, waved and said “No problem!”
I then turned my attention to Coco Crisp. With the help of Ethan, I unrolled the banner and we held it up, yelling Coco’s name until he came over.
Holding one side, we dropped it over the edge as he walked over. Lawre, Zito and AJ Griffin all walked over, intrigued by the large banner. The three of them ended up holding it against the outfield wall so that Coco had a flat surface to sign on. He ended up signing it very large and I was pretty excited about it! After the game, Ethan, Pascale and I took a picture with the signed banner, a picture you’ll see later on in this entry.
I then headed over to the area next to the A’s dugout by the first row and met up with Alex and Jaclyn again in hopes of getting a few more autographs. While I didn’t get any autographs, I did take a selfie with speedy outfielder Billy Burns!
And it was a HOT day. Sitting in an area with no shade in the afternoon in Arizona was probably not one of our smartest ideas… We did what we could to keep cool though.My dad, Pascale and I went on a walk around the stadium for a bit. Mostly because there was shade, but also because we wanted to explore a bit more.We ran into bleacher friends like Carlos, Will, Ross and Tony, which was fun. The most important stop for us was the Mustache Pretzels truck. The pretzels last time were so good, Pascale and I had to have another.
Yup. They are soft pretzels shaped like mustaches. And they are DELICIOUS! Pascale got a cinnamon sugar one, I got a classic pretzel with salt. So good! If you ever see one of their trucks while in Arizona, you MUST get one!
After that, we began to walk around the area behind the outfield. We began at the bullpens, which are located right down the right field line.After that, we walked around the berm in right-center field, which was packed.However, there was a second berm in right field, above the other one, with lots of space available.From there, we decided to head back to the berm, where we joined my mom and Ethan.Pascale and I spent the final inning with Will, Ross and Carlos, who were sitting down the first base line. However my parents elected to stay in left field for the remainder of the game.Once the final out was recorded, I met back up with Ethan in left field, where we took a picture with the baseballs we snagged during batting practice.Then, Ethan, Pascale and I took a picture with the banner that Coco Crisp signed for me during BP.I know it’s hard to see in that picture, but there is indeed a signature on the banner. Here is a better picture of the signature itself.In case you’re wondering, it now hangs on a wall in my room.
After this game, my dad drove my mom, Pascale and I to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick Park, where we would watch the Diamondbacks play host to the Giants. The gates were not yet open when he dropped us off, so I wandered around a little bit and checked out the practice fields.Once gates opened, we headed to the berm in right field, where we claimed a spot, since we had berm seats again. With all due respect to the other teams in the Cactus League, I think Talking Stick is the nicest ballpark.Before the game started, I decided to take a lap around the stadium and explore. There were a few things that caught my eye. First, there were these sunscreen dispensers all around the ballpark. I had never seen something like this at a baseball stadium before, so I loved it!Next, there was a Coldstone Creamery Express. While I’ve been to Coldstone many times, I had never seen one inside a baseball stadium. Pascale and I ended up getting ice cream later in the game. Again, very cool (no pun intended).Lastly, I felt the need to share this picture. I guess Clayton Kershaw and Jeff Samardzija decided to take in some evening baseball. Either that or an A’s fan and a Dodgers fan wanted to scout out the rival Giants. Yay for incredibly arched lettering!
When I was walking behind home plate, I stopped and took this panoramic picture of the stadium.I eventually took a seat on our blanket in right field, just in time for first pitch.4 hitters into the game, there was some excitement for me. Brandon Belt hit a home run 20 feet to my left. As soon as I saw the ball in the air, I started running. Had I gotten a better jump or had their been fewer people in my way, I would have caught the ball on the fly easily. But I didn’t, I got there a split second too late and the only other A’s fan in the stadium caught it. Woo!
I ended up doing one more lap around the stadium with Pascale. In the left field corner, I took this picture.The Diamondbacks ended up winning the game 5-2, Belt’s first inning home run was the only offense for the Giants. Before we left, I took a selfie with my mom and Pascale.
And then I took this panoramic picture of the field.On our way out, we walked past the hitting cages, which were still illuminated. Very cool.While I didn’t snag a ball at the second game, I still enjoyed the day very much. It was fun to explore HoHoKam more and experience a new stadium with Salt River Fields.
One takeaway I had from Talking Stick was the separation that they managed to have between the Diamondbacks and Rockies within the stadium. One side was D-Backs and one side was Rockies, each team had a separate store and then they shared one behind center field. This was the most impressive stadium for me on the trip and I really look forward to visiting again soon and being able to document it in greater detail!
3/15/15 at Maryvale Baseball Park (1 ball)
This was the final day of our trip and we were spending it at the Maryvale Baseball Complex to watch the A’s take on the Brewers.
After checking out of the hotel, we hit up the legendary Bill Johnson’s for breakfast. Unfortunately, this was the only time we will ever have been able to come, as they closed two months after our visit.
I forget what time we rolled into the baseball complex, but once we arrived, we piled out of the car and began exploring. And wow. The area is HUGE! And there was almost nobody there!We were pretty much the only ones there. Crazy!
It was cool to get one last up-close look at the different drills.And it was also neat to see the massive bullpens.There was no place to get balls during Batting Practice once it started for the minor leaguers, so I decided to wander around the main stadium itself and look around. When I looked inside, I saw that the field was set up for BP!After going back and forth between the practice fields and the main field, I decided to jump in line, a line which had already formed.While I was in line, I noticed Domingo Ayala walking through the parking lot. I would have walked over and met him, but I was in line by myself and I didn’t have someone to save my spot. On the bright side, I did see Brett Lawrie.
He literally walked in, right past the line. By then, Pascale was with me, so I was able to walk over to him, where he had stopped for a moment to sign autographs. After signing maybe 10 autographs, he ended up having to leave, so I wasn’t able to take a picture with him or have him sign anything. It was still cool though!Eventually, when the gates opened at noon, this was the scene on the field. There was still Batting Practice going on!Given that there were 3 lefties out of the 4 hitters in the group, I decided to position myself in right field.Here was the view to either side of me.I don’t think those pictures do the outfield berm justice because it was INSANELY STEEP. And that was right after I got in. Soon, the berm began to fill up with people. In general, this area was really bad though. How bad? I was running for a home run ball and I couldn’t keep my traction because of how steep it was and I completely ate it. I slipped and fell, landing hard on my back. Of course I landed right under the ball, so I had a people literally stepping and falling on me, trying to chase the ball. I didn’t wind up getting it.
After BP, I spent a little bit of time wandering the stadium.I also met up with Ross and talked with him for a bit.You may notice the shirts under my arm in the picture. Those were shirseys I was hoping to get signed. After Yoenis Cespedes won the 2013 Home Run Derby, I decided to get a shirsey of his pitcher, A’s third base coach Mike Gallego. Cespedes participated and won again in 2014 and again, he had Gallego pitch. Josh Donaldson also participated in 2014 and his pitcher was A’s bullpen coach Darren Bush, who is now the team’s hitting coach. So I got shirseys of Gallego and Bush in 2014!
I brought the shirts with me on this trip because I wanted to show them to Gallego and Bush and get their autographs on them. You may remember back in 2013, I met Mike’s son Niko, who at the time played for the Modesto Nuts. I took a picture with him and he even signed the shirt!
Suddenly, I noticed that both Gallego and Bush were in the dugout, so I ran off towards the side of the dugout. From there, I held up Mike Gallego’s 2013 shirt to get their attention. He noticed it quickly, then came over and signed them and we talked for a bit. I mentioned that I also had one for Darren Bush, who Gallego called for and switched places with. Both of them thought that the shirts was awesome!As you can imagine, I was VERY excited to have gotten all 3 shirts signed!I then headed back over to the spot where Will and Ross were. Soon, the one and only Seth Frankoff walked over!
While I was in this area, I was able to get autographs from manager Bob Melvin, first base coach Tye Waller and shortstop Marcus Semien on my flag. I also took this selfie with Melvin, which Will did a fantastic job of photobombing!My dad took a picture of my selfie, which is cool.While I was over here, I got the chance to see Sonny Gray warm up, as he was the starting pitcher in the game.
I also got to see Seth throw, which is always cool.
After I finished with autographs, I moved to my right, closer towards the dugout, near where the infielders and outfielders were playing catch. While I was there, I was able to get Eric Sogard to toss me his warmup ball.
As usual, my first order of business for the game itself is to judge the scoreboard. There wasn’t even a video board!At least I got to see the racing sausages, right?So here was my view for the game.We were sitting behind the dugout, it was a good time.
One of the most exciting parts was the group of people sitting in front of us. They were childhood friends of Mark Canha, from little league to high school. Every time he came to the plate, they would heckle him, especially when he recorded an out.After Sonny Gray pitched the first 4 innings and Chad Smith took the 5th, Barry Zito came on to pitch the final 4 innings, which was fun to watch, considering that he only allowed one baserunner!Once the game was over, I took a picture with my one ball from the day.When we were outside the stadium, I took a picture with each of the shirts that I got signed before the game!
After the game ended, we returned our rental car and headed to get dinner at Whataburger, another restaurant (if I can call it that) that I had never been to. After finishing our meal, we then headed to the airport.
Like I mentioned at the beginning of the entry, we flew into and out of Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, not Sky Harbor. The airline that we flew on, Allegiant, is the ONLY airline that operates out of Mesa. We had to return our car by a certain time and our flight did not leave for a while after, so we had lots of time to relax in the smallest airport I’ve ever been to. The airport only had 10 gates. But it had 3 terminals. Because logic. The cool thing was that the space in between terminals was outdoors. Like there was grass and plants and stuff. Super cool. Pascale and I had our gloves. I had a few balls from the trip. What do you think we did? Well we played catch of course. Inside an airport. Outdoors. At night. I don’t have any pictures though 😦
And it’s a very good thing we were able to do this, because our plane was delayed close to 3 hours.
All in all, it was a super fun trip. I got to visit 4 stadiums, watch 5 games and I snagged 7 balls. Plus I got to see a bunch of friends, eat some great food and take some awesome pictures. Hard to complain!
My next recap entry should be up within the next few days, as I’ll be looking back at the games I attended in April. And if you haven’t read it, check out my last post, where I re-introduced myself. As always, thanks for reading and stay awesome!
Nick Badders is a blogger for MLB.com. He writes the blog, 7000 Coliseum Way, and you can follow him on Twitter or Instagram at @RFNick149. This blog entry was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.