Those of you who are familiar with my writing probably already know how much of a baseball-obsessed dork I am. I was born and raised and Angels fan, grew up going to as many games as possible with my dad, played baseball for as long as I could (until my junior year of college) with the hope of playing pro ball one day, and nowadays I rarely miss a game on TV, radio, or by following the action on my phone. I'm an unapologetic baseball-loving Angels diehard through and through.
I'd always dreamt of setting foot on the field at Angel Stadium, but realized it'd probably never happen because: a) I'm not a professional baseball player (obviously), b) I'm not capable of singing "The Star Spangled Banner" without sounding like I'm being strangled (not surprising), and c) I'd never streak a professional sporting event (because I'm not sure whether the hefty fine or being seen naked by 40,000 people would be more damaging and I'm not eager to find out.)
Last Wednesday, in a moment that was totally surreal, that dream came true thanks to Twitter, music, and Angels first baseman Mark Trumbo.
1) Making Contact
Trumbo joined Twitter a few months ago, and I noticed via some of his pre-game playlist tweets that we share similar taste in music. Knowing that he grew up in Orange County (Villa Park), I wondered if he was familiar with Thrice, and tweeted him to let him know that (if he was) I'd have to get him some new music as soon as I could. Well, he was, and apparently he's been a fan of the band for a while. After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I got back to him and we started exchanging emails.
Those emails led to an invitation from Trumbo to come out to an Angels game early to watch batting practice. Now, my dad and I had been out to the stadium early a few times to watch batting practice from the stands, wrestle other Angels diehards for homerun balls, and have my dad show me the finer points of how big league ballplayers work on their swings in the cage before a game. But this experience, as I was about to find out, was going to be totally different.
My girlfriend and I headed out to the stadium at 4:30 to pick up what I thought were going to be tickets and passes to a section of the stands where we could watch the guys take batting practice without getting in anyone's way. We got those tickets all right, but we also got passes that said "field" on them. My heart started racing.
We took an elevator down to the field level, walked down a red carpeted hallway (with the words "holy crap" running through my head the entire time, walked through some double doors, up a flight of stairs and there we were. On the field.
We posted up near the Angels on-deck circle, as the team did their stretching down the left field line and reporters milled about in and in front of the dugout. I just stood there in awe, looking around me, glowing, pinching myself, and trying to explain to my girlfriend how unfathomably awesome the whole situation was. I failed. I think. There was just no way to put it into words.
We watched the team take batting practice, got to meet Torii Hunter and Tim Salmon, and have a nice chat with longtime Angels Assistant Trainer, Rick Smith. After Trumbo got done with his work in the cage (crushing balls into the rock pile in centerfield), I gave him some music, he gave me a bat (which blew my mind), and we got a chance to hang out a bit and talk about baseball, music (he plays guitar and drums), and the similarities between life as a touring musician and life as a professional baseball player (there are many.) He couldn't have been any kinder. It was an unforgettable experience. I'm still buzzing a week later.
My girlfriend asked if Angels officials and security were going to have to drag me off the field kicking and screaming (which they might have, because I really didn't want the experience to end), but after watching the Texas Rangers take their hacks in the cage, we left the field without commotion, and headed up to our seats to watch the game.
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3) Game Time And making an unbelievable night even more unbelievable, in Trumbo's first at-bat of the night, he walked up to the plate to an old-school Thrice song, "To Awake And Avenge The Dead" from 2002's The Illusion Of Safety, and crushed a double off the top of the right-centerfield fence. (Note: The next night, with the same walkup music, he hit a walk-off, two-run bomb to beat the Rangers. I think the song's a keeper.) As if I needed any more reasons to root for one of the best players on my favorite team. Not only is he one hell of a ballplayer (with great taste in music), but he's hard-working, humble, and one of the nicest guys I've met on or off a baseball field.
My dad and I shared an incredible bond through the game of baseball, and more specifically, Angels baseball. He passed away in January. That entire afternoon and night at Angel Stadium on Wednesday, I couldn't help but think that he was looking down on me and smiling.