Tagged: Hank Conger

Baseball Book Report: The Bullpen Gospels + a Mish Mosh of Loosely Related Topics

 I read, rather incessantly if the truth be told. For me it’s primarily a way of maintaining sanity. Something about disappearing into someone else’ story or an intriguing bit of non-fiction boosts my mood and settles my oft chaotically busy brain back into less stressed out functionality. Except, since late February I haven’t read much of anything. I have been too stressed out to settle down long enough for anything to grab my interest. It’s been miserable.

Finally, I picked up Dirk Hayhurst’s tale of minor league life, The Bullpen Gospels. I was so charmed by his turn of phrase and the compelling mix of humor and gut wrenching introspection, that I devoured it like a starving person in about two days, thus breaking up the longest “slump” of my “career.” One of the jacket quotes describes the book as Bull Durham meets Ball Four. On some levels this is true, especially on the humorous end of things. Never have kangaroo court proceedings been reported with such glee and the tales of out heckling rowdy opposing team fans are truly hilarious. But on the serious side of things, Hayhurst’s very much non-fiction back story and his personal stakes for failure are much darker and the introspection is more deliberate.

Ultimately, it’s the book’s juxtaposition of different elements that grabbed me. The silly with the serious. The drive for a major league baseball career with the motivation to have a lasting impact on the world. Beautifully related insider game tidbits peppered with references to Narnia, Charley and the Chocolate Factory, Conan the Barbarian and other wonderful oddities. I am a huge fan of that last part especially, as you might have guessed from the hodgepodge of strange side stuff I incorporate into this blog. Suffice to say, add The Bullpen Gospels to my list of recommended reads and many thanks to Dirk Hayhurst for helping me find my way back to my reading mechanics, as it were. Yes, of course he will read this, just like the Angels. Why do you ask? 😉

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After busting out of my biblio-slump, I began tearing my way once again through the stack of books to be read, and one of the first things that caught my interest also happened to have a blog tie-in. Jim Butcher’s “Curses,” a new short story in the Dresden Files series included in Ellen Datlow’s recently released urban fantasy anthology Naked City. In this story we find Harry Dresden, detective, warden and the only wizard in the Chicago phone book taking on the Cubs’ Billy Goat Curse. And the end result? A very fun read. I had no idea Butcher was a baseball fan and if he isn’t, he fakes it nicely. This is a lighter Dresden tale, as Butcher often chooses to share in these anthologies, and would be relatively easy for someone who hasn’t read the series up until now to pick up. And if you had the misfortune of watching the Sci-Fi Channel’s terrible TV series adaptation of these books, don’t worry, the books are a completely different animal.

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Speaking of books and baseball, there was a really cute news feature in one of the early July episodes of Angels Weekly showing Angels rookies Hank Conger and Mark Trumbo and recent rookie Peter Bourjos car pooling to the interleague games at Dodgers Stadium. The adorable part was how nonchalant and professional they were trying to be about having reporters videoing their ride, when it was obvious they could barely contain their glee over the very Big Leagues novelty of the whole thing.

The three young Angels shot the breeze on a number of subjects, eventually settling on upcoming movie releases that had piqued their interest. Conger, it turned out, could not wait for the new Harry Potter movie because he loves Harry Potter and has read all of the books, thus earning several Kristen approval points, not that they’re worth anything. 😉 Bourjos and Trumbo laughed at this revelation and exchanged “Here Hank goes again” looks before each asked the other if he had ever finished an entire book willingly. No, neither one had, and both clearly thought Conger was the odd duck on this subject. But their teasing was affectionate and the whole conversation reminded me of a funny story from my high school days…

One day before class during my sophomore year, I had just put down a book I was reading to joke around with a group of baseball players, a fairly typical day. The guys were teasing me about my reading habits, mainly that I had them. I was the stat girl for the varsity team and had gone through grade school and then some with most of these JV players. We were friends. The teasing was affectionate and I was giving it right back. “Did your parents brainwash you or something?” asked a guy I had known literally since preschool. “Yes, and once you get past the machine that holds your eyes open really wide, the drugs are actually kind of fun…” I responded, or something to that effect.

Old friend kept it up and I finally asked him if there was any book he would willingly read. He pretended to gag and loudly protested, of course not. And all of the baseball players predictably laughed. Yeah, the boy didth protest too much, especially to someone who knew about his extensive Darth Vader collection. Fortunatley, timing was on my side and I held aloft the recently released book to reveal the shiny new cover – Timothy Zahn’s Dark Force Rising, the second book in the very first Star Wars series to tackle the question of just what happened after the conclusion of the original movie trilogy. Old friend emitted what can only be described as a squeal of delight and practically dove over a row of desks to get a closer look. “Oh my god! It’s out! I didn’t know it was out yet! Is it good? The last one was so good…” and so on. And he wasn’t the only one. Bwa ha ha.

The moral of this story? Careful Bourjos and Trumbo. Reading isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and there’s nothing wrong with that. But someday you may just find that one book that has you diving over a desk and looking silly, LOL.

Santana Pitches Another Gem and Pineiro…Well, Let’s Just Not Talk About That

Forgive me comissioner, for I have sinned. It’s been three weeks since my last Angels’ Stadium session…Hey, church of baseball and all that. 😉

Yes, Seth and I had our fair share of baseball on vacation, but it had been three weeks since we last visited the Big A. For this reason, and just plain not wanting to waste tickets, we arrived at the game on Tuesday night. Even though he had a loan customer right at closing, I was writing on deadline and the copy wasn’t flowing, and we both left work about 15 minutes before first pitch. Even though I was worried I would spend the whole game with attempts to describe open enrollment and systems migrations creatively percolating ineffectively in my brain. Even though the game was flying so quickly we arrived in the bottom of the 4th inning…ouch! Even though, I was still going to have to get on the computer and write some more when we got home. 

Here’s the funny thing about all of those worries and even thoughs, they tend to vanish once I walk inside a ballpark. For me it starts with the excitement of the fans as you walk through the gates, especially the younger children who are literally bouncing and wiggling with excitement. But the best part of that initial “I’m at the ballpark!” sensation is the first glimpse of the field from the concourse. The perfect green of the grass, the deep red of the clay and the bustle of the players, moving with the crack of the bat, all lit so brightly that it almost seems unreal, like a movie set. Gorgeous! Yes, I did have to write until after midnight when I got home, but getting to take in even the last five innings of the game was completely worth it, and I knew that the minute I saw the diamond peeking at us over the rows of field seats.

Mark Trumbo takes a swing (no, not that swing, but a good looking swing even so). Immediately after seeing that gorgeous green, Mark Trumbo blasted a Trumbomb an estimated 457 feet into centerfield. You know, just in case we had any lingering doubts about our decision to head for the ballpark. We cheered and whooped with packs of Angels fans along the concourse as we headed for our seats. And can I just say how much fun it is to hear the folks at MLBN picking up the term Trumbomb from Angels fans and giving this young man some well deserved recognition.

Trumbomb time?! Mark Trumbo takes a swing. Joe Mauer is catching. Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mark Trumbo, in the hole for his next at bat, grins, possibly over something Peter Bourjos (to the left) said. Grin away, Mark! That was homerun number 20. He has a serious shot at beating Tim Salmon’s club rookie homerun record of 31.

Mark Trumbo, in the hole for his next at bat, grins, possibly over something Peter Bourjos (on the left) said. Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Sunset over the Angels scoreboard. Of course, it didn’t hurt that it was also a beautiful night and just the right temperature for an evening out at the ballpark.

Sunset over the Angels' scoreboard. Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Ervin Santana had another dominant outing on the mound. It wasn’t a no-hitter. He started out a little wild, walking the first batter, Denard Span, on four pitches. And I was getting antsy listening on the radio on my way down to Anaheim. But Santana quickly got everything under control, eventually delivering a complete game, five to one win.

Ervin Santana takes the mound for the Angels. Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

“Well, I figured I would throw strikes and you guys would provide error-less defensive backup.” Of course, I have no idea what Bobby Wilson, Ervin Santana and Erick Aybar really said out there, and I’m sure that whatever it was it was it was much more strategic, but my inner imp of the perverse must speculate. Bobby Wilson had a strong game on both sides of the plate. I was sorry to see Hank Conger go back to AAA, though I think it’s probably for the best in terms of playing time and Hank getting his swing back. But getting to see Bobby play more and have the chance to shine is a nice consolation. Bobby and Jeff Mathis are supposed to split the catching duties at least until September call-ups.

Bobby Wilson, Ervin Santana and Erick Aybar meet on the mound. Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Brian Duensing takes the mound for the Twins. I always enjoy watching Duensing pitch – especially when we’re hitting him! His delivery, with that high pointed toe kick, is like a ballet dancer – all grace, control and strength. I don’t think he pitched badly so much as the Angels just had his number this time out…which was refreshing after last season, let me tell you.

Brian Duensing takes the mound for the Twins. Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Torii Hunter takes a strong swing. Not to be outdone, Mr. Hunter took one deep for a solo homerun in the very next inning. I like this kind of competition. Come on guys, everyone try to keep up with Trumbo!

Torii Hunter begins his swing. Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

The team congratulates Torii Hunter after his homerun! Can I just tell you how weird it was to see Bench Coach Rob Picciolo setting at Mike Scioscia’s desk? Or rather at the desk where Mike Scioscia sometimes hovers briefly while he wanders from the rail to the bench and back again? Scioscia is not protesting the one-game suspension meted out in response to Sunday’s Tigers game firewoks, and  served his sentence inmmediately, missing this game. On the way to the game I teased Seth that of course we knew the Angels would win this one. Scioscia’s bench coaches always have a perfect record.

Mark Trumbo, Russell Branyan, Bobby Wilson and the rest of the team congratulate Torii Hunter after his homerun. Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Dan Haren and Jered Weaver have a long chat in the dugout. They were laughing earlier in the inning, though they look serious here. I wish Haren had talked Weave out of appealing the suspension, if they even discussed it. I think appealing the decision is just more posturing. He isn’t going to get to duck missing one start and it would be a lot better for the team if Weave missed this weekend’s start against the Mariners instead of a later start against the much tougher Blue Jays or our pesky division rivals the Rangers, just one game ahead of us at the moment.

Dan Haren and Jered Weaver chat in the dugout. Especially after Sunday's game, one wonders what they might be discussing. Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Joe Mauer at bat and out at first. I’m not going to lie, I have a soft spot for the Twins. Playing the Twins is like playing old friends…old friends that you really want to beat handily, of course. I like a lot of the players on the team. I usually wind up rooting for them in the post season when they outlast the Angels, etc. It was nice to see Mauer playing again, and as catcher too at that. He even got a hit, though I was only pleased for that after the game and only then because it didn’t lead to any runs. 😉

Joe Mauer takes one low. Bobby Wilson is catching. Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Well played, Trumbo. Mauer, you're out! Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Such a first baseman! By which I mean both of them, of course. Mark Trumbo and Michael Cuddyer chat after Cuddyer reaches first, offering strong anecdotal evidence in support of the Chatty Cathy/First Baseman stereotype. The friendly conversation to total game face in a split second conversion always amuses me.

Mark Trumbo and Michael Cuddyer chat after Cuddyer reached first. First basemen! Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Cuddyer chats with Erick Aybar when he reaches second too. Yes, this is the same inning. Okay, so Cuddyer is clearly the chattier Cathy, but he’s been a first baseman longer. He knows more people. Give Trumbo time.

Erick Aybar and Michael Cuddyer chat at second base. Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Jeff Mathis, Alberto Callaspo and Erick Aybar hang out in the dugout during an Angels at bat. This photo amuses me for two reasons. First, this particular perch seems to be a coveted spot that almost always goes to the pitchers, but for whatever reason the position players got it this game. And two, Jeff Mathis appears to be either giving or receiving hitting advice…no offense Jeff, but I really hope it was the latter.

Jeff Mathis, Alberto Callaspo and Erick Aybar in the dugout. Is Mathis giving hitting advice or receiving it? Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Vernon Wells is out at first in the 8th inning. Wells had a fine game. He went two for three, walked and scored a run. But I liked the way this photo turned out the best, so there it is.

Vernon Wells is out at first, as Michael Cuddyer throws the ball back to the mound. Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And as for this evening’s debacle? After four bad starts, I am officially worried that Joel Pineiro has lost  hissinker ball to an extant that may be hard to recover from this season…and don’t think my Kaz scars have healed sufficiently that I’m not jumping to dark thoughts about his abilities next season as well. However, as the title of this post suggests, I don’t want to talk about that right now.

Angels and A’s say it’s a Beautiful Day for a Ballgame. Let’s Play Two!

Of course, I would have dearly loved to amend Ernie Banks’ famous quote to let’s win two for this post but, alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Not in the double header and not even in the series. Ouch. Seriously, did you see Sunday’s score?! Ouch!

With the Angels entering the All Star Break on such a roll, we didn’t really want to break just then. And then coming back from the break to Peter Bourjos moving from day to day status to the DL until the 23rd and Vernon Wells too ill to start? Suffice to say, it was not a recipe for success. However, it was not a guaranteed disaster either, despite the eventual outcome. No, the Angels old “friends”, lack of RISP and difficulty getting the third out, played a large roll here too. Whatever is going on, the Angels need to get it together by Tuesday, because Texas is coming to town and we can’t lose any more series in our division right now or things just went from hard to really darned difficult in a hurry.

But back to that double header part. Single admission. Double header. On Saturday in Oakland. Who could resist the old fashioned allure of a draw like that? Not this girl. Saturday I was at the Coliseum bright and early with my husband and a good friend from college, ready to continue the Bay Area Baseball Extravaganza with 18 innings of baseball…which turned into 19 by the end. It was a great day at the ballpark indeed. The weather was mild, our seats were excellent and we were seated in good company with just enough red nearby to not feel like we were cheering alone.

First, a note about the A’s ballpark. I heard horror stories before I headed up here and I have to say that’s really not fair. No one is ever going to put the Coliseum on their list of top 10 ballparks. It’s a no frills, mixed use facility, but those are the only problems with it. The park was clean, the seats were comfortable, most seats appear to have a good view of the field and we bought black and tans for only $8.25. Suffice to say no frills was far from uncomfortable. The no frills part does mean there weren’t a lot of unique regional specialities in the food court but we enjoyed polish sausage rolls, corn dogs and nachos – hey, it was a doule header. Nine hours at the ballpark. Don’t judge me. 😉 And even though the drawbacks of a mixed use facility are odd shaped seating and fields and still being able to see the lines from the previous week’s soccer match on the field, it’s still a baseball field, the most gorgeous shade of green in the world:

Mike Trout and Alexi Amariste. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Besides, in Oakland, instances of the wave were blessedly few and far between and no one, seriously no one, bounced stupid beach balls around the stadium. Angels fans, take note. Please! Also, I don’t know what the players think of them, but as a fan I really liked seeing the old fashioned, on the field, open bullpens and dugouts for a change:

The A's oldfashioned, wide-open on the field bullpen. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The A's oldfashioned, wide opened dugout. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

I took advantage of those on the field bullpens when I bought our tickets – on the field, 12 rows behind the mound in the Angels’ bullpen. It was a lot of fun to see the bullpen warmups up close:

Jered Weaver warms up in the bulpen before game 1. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

 

Scott Downs prepares to take the mound. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Jordan Walden warms up in the bullpen. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

It was also a lot of fun to have a good vantage for so many of the serious warm-ups, hanging out and general goofing around that goes on before a game. I’ve included more photos of that than game photos this time because, well, they’re fun and I don’t often have the opportunity:

Torii Hunter "helps" Jered Weaver warm up by providing a target before game 1. You can't see it here, but he was smiling and looking super confused over each pitch as if Jered had impossible to hit stuff. Very cute. And oh so very Torii. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Vernon Wells, Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo share a joke before the games begin. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Torii Hunter chats with Coco Crisp and Jemile Weeks before the games. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Dan Haren and Joel Pineiro prepare for long toss before the games begin. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

The bullpen says "Go get 'em Weave!" as the first game is ready to begin. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout stretch before game 1. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Ervin Satana and and Hank Conger warm up for game 2. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

And, of course, the games weren’t without their fair share of derring do. Jered Weaver was, well, Jered Weaver. Ervin Santana was shakey but kept it together. The bullpen was great. We had great hits, notably from Erick Aybar, Mark Trumbo, Vernon Wells and – yay! -from Mike Trout. We made some great plays too. With a few less stranded runners in the second game, who knows?:

Jered Weaver prepares to pitch...or will it be a throw down? Mark Trumbo prepares for the latter as Jemile Weeks leads off first. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Mark Trumbo takes it himself as Jered Weaver nods in approval. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mike Trout makes a catch in center. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Jeff Mathis move to catch a wilder change-up as Jemile Weeks takes a swing. Coco Crisp is on deck behind them. Weeks, Rickie Weeks' younger brother, looks like a fantastic A's call up from where I sit. He hits, he's clutch, he has a great glove and a good arm. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Trevr Cahill pitches as Erick Aybar takes a league off third in the background. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Trevor Cahill, Kurt Suzuki and the pitching coach have a meeting on the mound while Howie Kendrick and Alfredo Griffin look on from first base. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

If only the Angels had won the second game, it would have been a perfect day…and I’m sorry to say that as good a time as I had, I am not a good enough sport to have left the ballpark in perfectly high spirits after losing the second game. One great win, a near win and an amazing time at a double header should have been enough…but they weren’t quite, not for a perfectly gleeful mood. I still had a lot of fun, mind you. But it’s hard not to feel just a little but deflated even so. The A’s, or better yet the Angels, have to, have to, have to do this again next season. Have to! 🙂

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Outside of baseball, coming up to the Bay Area and hanging out with friends from college has a lovely feel of both fun in the here and now and nostalgia to it. I was definitely ready to start the rest of my life and move on from college once it was over, but those were four very fun years. Getting the band back together, as it were, for a few nights of fun however does remind me of a few things I miss, like the ability to spend long periods of time just hanging out…and that wonderful sense of possibility you feel when you know you’re smart and willing to work your butt off and life has yet to hand you any real beat downs…well, that, and the ability to be fully functional after three hours of sleep and 1/3 or so of a 1/5 of something tasty. 😉

Next Post: the Bay Area Baseball Extravaganza concludes with a trip to AT&T Park for a Giants vs. Dodgers game.

Angels Sweep the Mariners and Head into the All Star Break One Game Behind Texas

Sweeping the Mariners in a four game series was a most fitting way for the Angels to head into the All Star Break. After all, it was series win over the Mariners at the beginning of the epic Four Corners Road Trip that helped June’s struggling Angels turn it around and embark on a 19 and 6 streak. During the Angels reign of terror through the National League and back again, bats were discovered, starting pitchers delivered gems, bullpen pitchers delivered holds and saves a plenty and a talented nineteen-year old number one prospect made his Angels debut. I attended Saturday’s nine to three victory and hd a blast watching our guys do their thing and the kid fitting right in…you know, with all of the other Angels kids.

Yes, with Peter Bourjos’ unfortunate hamstring strain late in Thursday’s game, Trout-mas came early to Anaheim this year. No, Mike Trout did not knock two grandslam homeruns in his first game or singlehandedly field every single ball that made it to the grass as the increasingly outrageous hype surrounding this talented young man might have lead one to believe. But what he did do was get a hit and an RBI in his second game in the show. Show off his speed on the base paths and in the outfield. He did display a rookie’s hesitancy on several plays, which is to be expected, but more than made up for it with one highlight reel, game saving catch and several other catches of varying difficulty and generally charm the heck out of Angels fans everywhere with the joy he takes in the game and his pleasure at just being called up.

Mike Trout waits in the hole in his second major league game. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

So what is my assessment of the lad? I am really pleased. I think he’s extremely talented and a stellar future corner outfielder. Corner outfielder? What’s that you say? Yep. You read that right. Trout can fly and dive and catch but no more so than our current future Gold Glove centerfielder (if not this season then soon) Peter Bourjos. And Bourjos has a strong, sure arm while Trout…well he doesn’t have Johnny Damon’s arm or anything, but baring some serious improvement, it isn’t strong enough for centerfield. Still, the thought of an outfield in 2012 or 2013 with Bourjos in center and Trout in left gives me goosebumps thinking of all the extra base hits they will rob. And although he didn’t really get  piece of one this series, Trout has more of an extra base hits bat than Bourjos so they will complement one another nicely in that regard as well…as they blaze around the basepaths forcing errors left and right. To wax Christopher Lloyd as Judge Doom-ish for a moment: My God, it will be beautiful!

Center fielder Mike Trout looks to left fielder Vernon Wells after a play. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

But for this season, once Bourjos is back in shape, I like our existing outfield with players who have already ironed out their communications issues and work as a unit. I also think Trout’s bat is going to take the same amount of time to warm up as our other rookies’ did, and would rather the team deal with that at the beginning of next season rather than the middle of this one…and hopefully for Trout, the vets won’t make him walk up to Miley Cyrus’ Party in the USA next time. Too funny!

Mike Trout dives back to the back as first baseman Adam Kennedy catches the throwdown. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

But back to Saturday’s game. Now that’s a homerun swing! I lucked out and happened to snap the photo right as Torii hit his first of what would be two homeruns for the evening.

Now that looks like a homerun swing to me! And, indeed, it was the first of two for Torii Hunter. Miguel Olivo is catching. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Michael Pineda was every bit as formidable as his reputation states. He sat down six Angels in a row to complete the first two innings.

Rookie phenom Michael Pineda on the mound. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And I think that might have been the story of the game, were it not for our secret weapon: Rookies who had faced Pineda in the minor leagues just last season! Mark Trumbo said hey, I know how to hit this guy and got the Angels off to a nice start in the 3rd with a single. He would also homer in the 8th.

Mark Trumbo fouls one off. Miguel Olivo shown catching. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Hank Conger also knew Pineda and stood his ground against Pineda unafraid and worked the count into a walk. Then Mike Trout got his first base hit, a sacrifice he beat out with his speed, and his first RBI and Trumbo scored.

Mike Trout bats in his second major league game. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

…Setting the stage for Torii’s first homerun of the evening.

Hank Conger, Bobby Abreu and Mike Trout congratulate Torii Hunter on his three-run homer in the 3rd. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The rockpile at the Big A, wrapped in smoke from homerun fireworks. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Joel Pineiro pitched a pretty good game. He had a strong start and overcame a shaky 5th inning to deliver seven innings with seven strike outs and only one walk…he did allow ten hits, but the infield and outfield had his back. The Angels took off scoring runs again in the bottom of the 5th and the tide never came close to turning again.

Joel Pinero's pitching release. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Joel Pineiero wraps his arm and Maicer Izturis rests during the Angels at bat. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Here are a few other snapshots from the game. Erick Aybar tries to sell an attempted pick off of Greg Halman to the umpire. Don’t worry, the ump didn’t blow this one. Chalk it up to Erick’s poor acting chops…or, you know, the ball sitting there on the grass two feet behind him.

Erick Aybar tries to sell the tag on Greg Halman to the umpire. Ummm, Erick. The ball's about two feet behind you. No dice. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Peter Bourjos, Erick Aybar and Alberto Callaspo chat in the dugout during an Angels at bat. Bourjos is still day to day but it sounds like he should be well enough to play after the All Star Break.

Peter Bourjos, still day to day with a pulled hamstring, Erick Aybar and Alberto Callaspo chat in the dugout. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Batting coach Chris Chamblis, Adam Kennedy, Brendan Ryan and Jack Cust chat in the dugout. “Coach, if I see fireworks come out of the rockpile one more time…”

Batting coach Chris Chamblis, Adam Kennedy, Brendan Ryan and Jack Cust chat in the dugout. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Former Angel Adam Kennedy steps up to the plate. This was a good photo of Hank Conger maneuvering behind the plate.

Former Angel Adam Kennedy steps up to the plate with Hank Conger catching. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Trumbo decides to make the play himself. Yoooou’re out!

Mark Trumbo takes the out himself. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

The Angels bullpen heads for the clubhouse after the game. Hmmm…looks like it was Jordan Walden’s turn for the Cookie Monster backpack.

The Angels bullpen files out after playing their part in another successful game. Looks like it was Jordan Walden's turn for the Cookie Monster backpack and Michal Kohn called dibbs on Tinkerbell. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And now? Well, it’s good to be busy at work and headed up to the Bay Area because otherwise I’d be awfully mopey for baseball this week. I love seeing the right players named to the All Star Teams because it is an honor and it tickles them, but I seldom get really pumped for the All Star Game itself.

What Were Angels Fans Thinkin’? That the Post Win Dierks Bentley Concert Rocked, of Course!

Saturday, country singer Dierks Bentley and his band helped the Big A get a little bit Sideways following a killer 9 to 3 victory over the Mariners for the second concert in the Angels 50th Anniversary Summer Concert Series. Of course I went to the game too, and that was even more fun than the concert, but it was faster to write about the concert first…so stay tuned for the game/series/sweep! notes, same bat station, same bat blog…or something like that…but enough of that. Back to the concert.

The grounds crew move the stage into position and the is stage firmly in place behind second base and ready to rock and roll…er…with country flair?…well, I think country rocks just as hard as my rock and roll faves anyway, so you get the general idea. Anyway, when I was choosing tickets for this game, I was having a hard time picturing how the stage would be set up and didn’t find a lot of help online. So, Angels fans or anyone else planning on taking in one of the other concert offerings this summer, take a look at the pics below and think of the favorite places in your price range from which to view Aybar or Kendrick diving for a ball on the grass just behind second base.

The grounds crew hauls the stage into place on pulleys with trucks. Dierks Bentley at the Angels Summer Concert Series, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The summer concert stage, all set up behind second base. Dierks Bentley at the Angels Summer Concert Series, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Dierks Bentley and his bad move out to the stage. Hey, it was almost as cool as Downs or Walden making an entry from the bullpen. 😉

The band heads for the stage. Dierks Bentley at the Angels Summer Concert Series, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Dierks Bentley rocks out with his guitar and invites a fan to “come a little closer.” I liked Dierks Bentley before this concert. My husband turned me on to country about the time we got married and Bentley is one of many acts I have come to love for his clever, oft sarcastic lyrics, rich voice and rocking guitar. But hearing the band perform live, I love them all the more – especially after the bluegrass rendition of U2’s Pride they performed in honor of our grounds crew and their herculean efforts to prepare the Big A for and rehab it from the U2 concert last month.

Dierks Bentley performing at the Big A. Dierks Bentley at the Angels Summer Concert Series, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Dierks Bentley invites a fan to "come a little closer." Dierks Bentley at the Angels Summer Concert Series, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Angels players enjoy the concert! Interested Angels and their families watched the concert from in front of the dugout. It was nice to see the guys enjoying themselves one game away from ending a fantastic home stand. I have identified Angels players where I could, but some of these guys could be staff or Mariners players joining their friends. (There are no intentional shots of family members here.) Show me a headshot of any of the Angels in uniform and I can tell you who it is, but in street clothes I freely admit that I can’t identify most them. Sadly, I would be the fan who couldn’t recognize some of her favorite Angels if she accidentally sat next to them in a bar…until they spoke that is. That’s just how my memory works. I once sat in front of Martin Sheen at a performance of Death of a Salesman and had no idea it was him until he spoke.

(Back) Fernando Rodney, Bobby Wilson, Trevor Bell (?), Jeff Mathis, (front) Bullpen Coach Steve Solis and someone I do not recognize enjoy the concert. Dierks Bentley at the Angels Summer Concert Series, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Peter Bourjos, Mark Trumbo, Hank Conger and players/staff I do not recognize enjoy the concert. Dierks Bentley at the Angels Summer Concert Series, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Closer shots of the bass and fiddle players. I am a sucker for instruments beyond the typical “Rock Band” set up of guitar, bass guitar, drums and keyboard. The Barenaked Ladies bass. Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murpheys bagpipes. Boingo’s horn section and “rumba phones”. Jethro Tull’s “heavy metal” flute. I adore them all! So is it any wonder I started liking country music largely for the fiddles, banjos and bass?

A good shot of the fiddle player. Dierks Bentley at the Angels Summer Concert Series, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

A nice shot of the bass player while Dierks Bentley has a "guitar duel" with a band mate. Dueling guitars trump dueling banjos? Dierks Bentley at the Angels Summer Concert Series, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The band takes a “huddle” post concert. All told, Bentley and band gave us nearly an hour of great music. The set list was as follows: Feel That Fire, Every Mile a Memory, Am I the Only One, Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go), Trying to Stop Your Leaving, Settle for a Slowdown, Lot of Leavin’ Left to Do, Up on the Ridge, How Am I Doin’, Pride (In the Name of Love), Come a Little Closer, Sideways, What Was I Thinkin’. And, let me tell you, jotting that down at the concert gave me pleasant flashbacks to my college days, noting the set lists for Nine Inch Nails and the last Boingo Halloween concert to post on Occidental College’s usenet group for my less fortunate friends to enjoy. How’s that for the way back machine, ladies and gents? 😉

A post concert huddle. Dierks Bentley at the Angels Summer Concert Series, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

All told, I give the summer concert series a huge thumbs up. It was a lot of fun to cap off the win rocking out in the stands with other fans. The music was great and the sound was even decent considering the sheer amount of cement involved in stadium concerts. The Angels grounds crew and special events staff did an amazing job getting the concert set up quickly after the game and Bentley and his band absolutely did not disappoint. And they were so gracious and charming. Bentley repeatedly praised the Angels organization, grounds crew and players. He admired the fans’ tailgating expertise and kept telling us how tickled he was to be performing in a well lit stadium where he could see all of us. Apparently he’s a real baseball fan too and roots for the D-Backs.

I have but one small complaint. I have extremely eclectic taste in music. I was raised on classic rock. I went through a hair band and metal phase. I came of age during the alternative and grunge movements. I love, love, love punk, especially with bag pipes. I really like country music from the traditional to the poppy. I like ska, jazz, blues, surf rock, rockabilly, big band, Dixieland, Irish folk music, classical, some hip-hop, funk and pop, and the list goes on. And yet, there was only one out of the four concerts I wanted to attend. Granted, I really wanted to attend this one, but I anticipated drooling over at least two or three of the four. But even if that were to be the case every year from here on out, I would still vote for continuing the concert series promotion long after the anniversary. Way to go Angels!

Angels Earn 2011 Freeway Series Bragging Rights…and How!

Interleague has always been good for the Angels. This year the team won every Interleague series and finished by taking two from the Dodgers this weekend at the big A. Friday’s game was the Angels sole loss in this series, proof perhaps that a day of rest is not always in order. The team’s level of play across the board prompted me to comment on FaceBook “The Revolution may not be televised, but the Zombie Apocalypse just aired on Fox Sports West.” But they were back in fine form Saturday and Sunday, with a dominant performance against Clayton Kershaw on Saturday and a tightly contested duel between Ervin Santana and Chad Billingsley on Sunday.

Seth and I had tickets to Saturday’s game, good seats in the club section just on the foul side of the left field pole. It’s amazing what folks will part with cheap these days. 🙂 Anyway, the energy was high and the fan interaction was a lot of fun, one reason I love Freeway Series games. Our seats were in front of three suites – one with Dodgers fans sandwiched between two filled with Angels fans – and intermingled with  mix of fans of both teams. The suite dwellers were the fun, loud side of thoroughly hammered and formed the loudest component of both teams cheering/mostly friendly trash talk sections. The funniest part was after a one-two-three inning for Weaver when the Angels were already well ahead. The Dodgers suite switched from yelling “Let’s Go Dodgers” to “Let’s Go Yankees” of all things in perfect unison. They earned a lot of laughter and claps of approval from the Angels crowd. Who doesn’t appreciate a good sport?

Jered Weaver and Clayton Kershaw warm up in the bullpens just before first pitch. This photo shows off the side by side terraced bullpens I spoke of earlier. Seth and I did take the camera to the game, but some absolute dork left the memory stick at home in her computer. She had long brown hair and freckles…oh, yeah…it was me. J So there aren’t as many from the game and these photos are not as good as some of our others. To get the good photos, you have to have enough memory to snap several shots of a play or an at bat.

Clayton Kershaw and Jered Weaver warm up before the game in the Angels side by side bullpens. Angels vs. Dodgers, July 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Jered Weaver warms up before the game. Weaver pitched a dominant game, allowing only four hits and one run in eight innings. At first it didn’t look like he was going to get much run support, as usual. But in the end the guys gave him downright gaudy seven runs. Hey, I could get used to gaudy and I’ll bet our pitchers could too.

Jered Weaver warms up with Jeff Mathis before the game. Angels vs. Dodgers, July 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Garret Anderson throws out the first pitch. As part of the 50th Anniversary celebration Angels alumni will throw out every first pitch this season. Recent retiree Garret Anderson threw out the first pitch on Saturday and I was thrilled to be on hand to watch this Angels great, still the holder of eight different team batting titles, accept the honor. Fernando Valenzuela threw out the first pitch on Friday, a controversial choice among Angels fans because he only played for the Angels for one year. I, personally liked the idea of including Fernando because of what he meant to baseball in California and how his rising star helped show off the considerable talents of our own skipper, Mike Scioscia, when he was a young catcher trying to earn the everyday role. Besides, I think it was a nice touch on the part of the Angels front office to choose Angels alumni for this series who also had Dodger ties, underscoring the long, intertwined history between our two teams.

Angels great Garret Anderson throws out the first pitch. Angels vs. Dodgers, July 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Hank Conger chats with Jordan Walden and the bullpen and Bullpen Coach Steve Soliz address the relievers before the game. One, I like these photos my husband took from our vantage just above and in front of the bullpen because you can see some of the personalities and bonding in our bullpen this season. But also, this series, and indeed for most of interleague, the bullpen flat out rocked and I wanted to take a minute to recognized their important contribution.

Hank Conger chats with Jordan Walden in the bullpen before the game begins. Angels vs. Dodgers, July 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Rich Thompson is all ears as Bullpen Coach Steve Soliz address the bullpen before the game begins. Angels vs. Dodgers, July 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Jeff Mathis leads off of second base after knocking a double into left field. This series was marked by unexpected but extremely welcome contributions at the plate from unlikely sources. Russell Branyan knocked in the winning run plus on with a two-run no doubter on Sunday and on Saturday it was Jeff Mathis with a solid double putting him in position to score the Angels first run of the night. He also had a single and a nice sacrifice bunt (and a badly failed sacrifice bunt, but we’re only talking positive here.)

Jeff Mathis leads off second past Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon after hitting a solid double into left field. Angels vs. Dodgers, July 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Vernon Wells crossing the plate and celebrating with Mark Trumbo and Erick Aybar after another timely homerun. I am really enjoying his bat right now!! I managed to catch Wells doing his point to the sky as he crosses the plate and I love the exchange between Wells and Trumbo. It looks like Trumbo is saying “Dude, what was that?! How far did that go?!”

Vernon Wells crosses home plate after a two-run homerun. Angels vs. Dodgers, July 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mark Trumbo and Erick Aybar congratulate Vernon Wells on his homerun while Alberto Callaspo and Mike Scioscia wait to clap him on the back. Angels vs. Dodgers, July 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Behold the power of the rally manicure! I fidget. When I’m writing, when I’m resting, when I’m watching the game from home, just whenever. Sometimes the end result is useful, like folded laundry or and organized bill file and sometimes it’s just really silly, like random nail art for work or, you know, the ballgame. But I got more compliments on the silly things Saturday that I figured I would post them for posterity and/or mockery…and hey, if I were the sort to be superstitious about such things, they did win didn’t they? 🙂

Behold the power of the Rally Manicure! Angels vs. Dodgers, July 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Doesn’t everyone love a win?! The Angels celebrate after the game.

Dan Haren, Jordan Walden, Bobby Wilson and DH Bobby Abreu congratulate the fielders after the Angels win. Angels vs. Dodgers, July 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The Angels and Angels coaching staff celebrate after the win. Angels vs. Dodgers, July 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And in news outside of baseball, this weekend further rocked because Seth and I got out on the bikes a lot. I have come a long way since Memorial Day weekend and was able to ride in the rough again…okay, it was mild rough, but still. We took this trail on Saturday and again this morning. Go go Gadget knee. 🙂

Nature trails inside the Santa Fe Dam recreation area. July 4, 2011 Photo by This is a very simple game...

The Day(s) the Angels Bats Stood Still (with runners in scoring position)

Okay, so that title could accurately describe most Angels games this season, including games we win. But, after scoring only 10 runs in the last 6 games (or the month of June so far, if you prefer), I felt it was particularly appropriate today. Mercifully, and quite improbably, the entire AL West lost on both Monday and Tuesday so this hasn’t hurt the Angels as badly as it could have, though it means we missed to stellar opportunities to gain ground on Texas and Seattle. I’m not seriously pushing the panic button yet, but Klaatu barada nikto already! Angels stop the team’s self-destruction now, while we still can without an extremely difficult slog uphill!

I spent the majority of Monday’s game against the Rays alternately begging, pleading and threatening in the direction of the TV for the Angels to just score some runs in the plural. No dice. Last night was sadly much of the same, but it was bittersweet. The loss was a blow, but any night at the ballpark, especially an unexpected one, can only be a good one. Yes, an unexpected night at the ballpark. My husband called me just before four yesterday, obviously very busy at work, and barely had time to listen to my excited “Hell, yeah!” response to his “If I told you we had the company seats tonight could you run into Pasadena and pick up the tickets?” before rushing me off the phone with an OkayThanksCallYouLater. Tease.

Except he wasn’t teasing. (Also, he wasn’t rude. We give each other leave to outright hang up on one another at work if necessary. Business is important and when it has to come first, well then, it does with no whining or hurt feelings.) Long story short – sales contest, Angels tickets reward, amazing company seats and your intrepid blogger’s mission, which she ecstatically chose to accept, was driving from Whittier to Pasadena for the tickets, to Azusa for the Angels gear and camera, to Brea to pick up the husband and then to Anaheim for the game. A journey of 75 miles, in less than 3 hours, in L.A. rush hour traffic…and we just made it inside the stadium by first pitch, whoo hoo!
The view from the seats – yes, that is home plate you see. We were ten rows back from the sign in front. Just, wow! I only wish we could have seen an amazing comeback from these seats. If I were ever so lucky as to be outrageously wealthy, I wouldn’t have a box, I would buy season tickets someplace like this – on the field, home team side, close to plate but still on the dangerous side of the net and as close to the front row as I could get.

The view from the company seats. I hope my husband is lucky enough to earn these again. 🙂 Angels vs. Rays, June 7, 2001. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Dan Haren on the mound, executing the brief pause in his delivery. I call it the antici…..pation delivery. This was Haren’s first time back on the mound after the back pain that delayed his originally scheduled Saturday start – because he was able to pitch in the same spin through the rotation, it counts as a delayed start, not a missed start, so his personal record remains intact. He was really working for each pitch in the first four innings and my initial thought was that he started back too soon. But he worked back into a strong rhythm after that and looked as good as ever by the 5th. I guess the guy really did just need to get out there and pitch. My hat’s off to you Dan. Even with the rough patch, you pitched well enough to win.

Dan Haren on the mound, executing the famous - and wickedly effective! - pause in his delivery. Angels vs. Rays, June 7, 2001. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Bobby Abreu in left field. Because he is Mike Scioscia and this is what he does, but more so lately because of the team’s miniscule RISP, there have been quite a few lineup shakeups the last few weeks. Sorry Bobby, but last night’s lineup resulted in one of my least favorite outfield configurations – Bobby in left, Vernon Wells in center and Torii Hunter in right. We have absolutely zero speed on the left side of the outfield with this configuration and less speed than ideal in the center and on the right. Also, Wells is much better these days in the smaller area of left field and he just plain doesn’t play our center field wall well. The end result was a triple to left that should have been a double and a double to center that should have been an out, among other issues.

Bobby Abreu in left field, preparing to break with the pitch. Angels vs. Rays, June 7, 2001. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mark Trumbo and runner Casey Kotchman (At least, I’m 90% certain it’s Kotchman based on the order of the photos. Let me know if I am wrong) move with the pitch. This was partially just me playing with the camera from our close to the field vantage, but I like the photo. Mark Trumbo has been a bright spot in terms of hitting for power and continuing to produce during the team’s at the plate slump. It was a shame that his leadoff double turned triple by an error in the 7th was wasted.

First baseman Mark Trumbo moves positions with the pitch as Casey Kotchman takes a lead off the bag. Angels vs. Rays, June 7, 2001. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Hank Conger maneuvers behind the plate. This is partially another Kristen was playing with camera again (see the ball), and partially a Kristen really loves catchers photo. I can’t help it, most of my favorite players are catchers (or centerfielders…or short stops…or more or less anyone in an Angels uniform 😉 ). What can I say? I admire the guy who calls the shots on the play, holds the pitcher together when things are getting rough, and faces down major league freight trains bearing down on him several times a game, while he blocks the plate like a badass. Catchers rock! And I think Conger is shaping up to be a very, very good one.

Catcher Hank Conger moves into position with the pitch as Reid Brignac decides to take this one. Home plate umpire Laz Diaz is one of many MLB officials who helps guage the direction the play is going with one hand on the catcher's back. Angels vs. Rays, June 7, 2001. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Joe Maddon says, oh and one other thing during an argument with the umpires. I still haven’t watched the replay myself, wherein it sounds like Johnny Damon was in fact out at the plate, as it appeared from my vantage pretty much right there, but it was a really close play. Great throw from Torii to the plate and great execution by catcher Hank Conger either way. And wow, Damon really is playing like his younger self again on the Rays.

"And another thing..." Rays manager Joe Maddon argues a close call at the plate. Angels vs. Rays, June 7, 2001. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Howie Kendrick at the plate with Bobby Abreu on deck. Howie, less than a week off the DL, had a strong ground rules double hit this evening and Bobby continued his streak at the plate, going 2 for 4, both of which were bright spots.

Howie Kendrick at bat with Bobby Abreu taking practice swings on deck. The Rays' John Jaso is catching. Angels vs. Rays, June 7, 2001. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Torii warms up before his final at bat. I really hate it when Torii strikes out and especially in the last inning, because you can see in his face how much not coming through bothers him. But he went 2 for 4 this game so maybe things are falling back into place for him.

Torii Hunter warms up before his final at bat as Alberto Callaspo warms up behind him. Angels vs. Rays, June 7, 2001. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Erick Aybar looking sheepish – as well he should after those plays at short. This photo montage wasn’t meant to be a litany of the Angels ills last night, but it’s hard to be a complete Pollyanna. Aybar is one of my favorite short stops most of the time. But every few games he starts making errors and missing plays such that it boggles the mind to think it’s still the same guy at short. This was one of those games, though he did help out with a hit to open the first inning and his outs at the plate came early enough in each inning that he was not one of the game’s rally killers.

Shortstop Erick Aybar does not look happy in the later innings of the game. Vernon Wells is seen behind him in centerfield. Angels vs. Rays, June 7, 2001. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Kevin Jepsen takes the mound. Jepsen had a refreshing outing for the last one and one/third innings – one hit, one intentional walk (I hate this play, and question it almost every time even though I know it is well accepted strategy.) and one very well timed and important strike out. When Jep pitches like this, I love to see him on the mound. Even though he is no longer number 65, he’s started walking out to Rob Zombie’s Thunderkiss ’65 again which is always a fun one to hear, especially if it helps Jep bring back the swagger of some of his better outings in years past.

Reliever Kevin Jepsen begins his pitch as second baseman Howie Kendrick moves into position behind him. Angels vs. Rays, June 7, 2001. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And that was my impromptu evening at the ballpark. Yay for the ballpark. Sob for the loss. Hopefully the Angels bring their clutch bats to the final game because I am about to leave for the game…with more planned tickets this time.