08 July 2009

Back to the Ballyard

Today, I decided to go and see the 12:40pm Padres-Diamondbacks game at Chase Field. I had it all planned out perfectly: wake up early and get ready, leave at 9:30, get to Chase at 10:20, get my ticket, go watch BP and try to get balls from the players, watch the game, come home. Last night, I prepped for the game by making a "Vote Mark "The Sheriff" Reynolds" t-shirt for the 2009 All-Star Game.

Yes, that really is me there... In case you don't follow the Diamondbacks organization religiously (meaning, pretty much everyone I know except myself!), this week until tomorrow at 4pm EST is the All-Star Game Final Vote, for which fans can vote for one of five players to round out the All-Star Game's rosters. Mark Reynolds (third baseman #27) is one player who is a finalist for the spot. So most of the sports radio stations, TV stations, Twitter, and Arizona blogosphere have been encouraging people to vote for Mark. In fact, Senator John McCain was on FSNAZ before yesterday's game to officially endorse Reynolds for the spot! He also Tweeted his support for Reynolds with this message: "Vote for Mark Reynolds for All-Star! He is a great athlete and an outstanding role model. Go D-backs, 3 in a row!"

After donning my shirt, and snagging my poster (which said "Reynolds 4 -President- -Supreme Court- -Congress- X All-Star Game 2009!" on one side, and "Decisions are made by those who make themselves heard and who VOTE. - Walter H. Judd Vote Reynolds 2009!" on the other) I was off to get gas and be on my way.

When I got to Chase, I parked ($12 parking.... but it kept the car cool, so I suppose it was worth it in the 108-degree heat!) and went directly to the ticket counter, where I exchanged my Junior Achievement Biztown Voucher (good for one free ticket in the bleachers) for one free ticket in the left field bleachers. Seeing as it was a day game on a Wednesday, I figured I'd be bound to get a good seat, and I did... section 140, first row, right out near the DBacks bullpen!

I waited for a couple minutes at the gate, waiting for it to open, and rushed inside to go watch batting practice.... which was cancelled. Big bummer. I was totally hoping to snag a couple balls from my section. So I was there about 2 hours early, and no BP going on... not even a player on the field throwing or anything.

I decided my best course of action would be to wander the concourse and see what I could see. I knew that the 3rd baseline was a good spot for autographs before the game, where different players would come out and entreat the fans, so I started to wander that way. I stopped to enter a couple contests, like guessing the number of balls in the case to win a raffle. I got plenty of positive comments on the shirt, too, by the way!

After a bit, I noticed that the relief pitchers and starters were moving out to throw for a bit near the bullpen, so I meandered over there to see if I could get a ball or an autograph. After just a couple minutes, Dan Haren's throw was misjudged by Esmerling Vasquez, and it skipped on by him and ended up at the base of the wall about 30 feet to my left. I waited a moment to give the kids that were standing there a chance to go for it (I mean, I'm not about to go shoving a bunch of kids around to get one ball that I could try to get anytime), but they didn't budge. After a minute, I moved over, said, "Hey, can I get in here to try and grab that ball?" and reached over the wall and picked it up! Thanks, Dan Haren! (I've also counted it in my MyGameBalls.com profile - a site dedicated to tracking balls that you get at games over time, so check my profile out on there!)

As the pitchers wound down, Vasquez was kind enough to come to the wall to sign a few autographs, and I was able to patiently wait my turn and get him to sign my ticket stub (yes, the ticket, since I wanted to try to get catcher Miguel Montero or Mark Reynolds' autograph on the ball I had just gotten). He signed it in loopy letters right across the tear-off of the ticket:

I decided to wait a while longer, since autograph time is supposed to stop 40 minutes before game time. I was really hoping Montero would come out of the clubhouse, or one of the position players, but they didn't. However, Tom Gordon, our relief pitcher who tore his hamstring on a wicked play at the plate back in April and has been on the DL forever (and who I was definitely not expecting to see out there throwing today) came out with a backup catcher and started throwing a flat-ground session. On his way back to the dugout, he also stopped to sign some autographs, and I was able to talk to him while I waited (Me: They've [all the kids] got you working like an autograph machine today, huh, Tom? Tom: Yeah, but I like signing for kids. Me: Well, we all really appreciate it. Hope you're coming back to the team soon. Tom: Yeah, me too!) and he signed my baseball:

The game itself was nerve-wracking until the 8th inning. We were no-hit through four innings against Chad Gaudin of the Padres, and one-hit through 6. Meanwhile, the Pads jumped out to a 2-0 lead. However, in the 7th inning we got one back on a sacrifice fly, and we busted out for five runs in the 8th inning on an error, an RBI single by Alex Romero, and a three run homer to right field by Felipe Lopez. Chad Qualls scared everyone in the ninth by loading the bases with one out, but struck out one batter and induced a flyout to center field to end it. We captured out first series sweep of the season, and are on a five-game winning streak, our longest streak of the year. Also, the win took us OUT of last place in the NL West division! We've got a ways to go to be in any kind of contention for anything, but it's definitely an improvement over losing 2-of-every-3 games week in and week out!

Vote MARK REYNOLDS for the 2009 All-Star Game by going to MLB.com or DBacks.com and clicking on the "Final Vote" buttons! We need EVERYONE'S support... including you guys in DC and Michigan who I know read this blog!!!! Thanks in advance!!!!

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