Angels, Astros & Freese!

 
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A few years ago, for my youngest son Gavin’s birthday, we traveled to Houston, TX. Our weekend was filled with baseball games and a few other surprises that I put together for his big day. It was also our first-time visiting Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros.

While visiting Houston, Gavin’s favorite team, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, were also in town. We planned to catch a few games so, as soon as we landed, we rushed off to the park.

The weather was unpredictable—light rain with an overcast sky that looked like it could downpour at any moment—but the Astros play in a covered stadium, so I told my boys that the weather would have no effect on the game because of the stadium’s retractable-roof.

We arrived early enough to watch the Angels take pregame batting practice (BP). Our seats were behind the dugout a couple rows up. We were in perfect catching territory for anything the players could toss our way. (This trip was before all MLB teams extended the safety net just pass the end of the dugout.)

C.J. Cron ripped his batting gloves so he threw them to the group of kids watching BP and Gavin was lucky enough to catch one! He’s kept it to this day and I doubt he’ll ever let go of it willingly.

The players and coaches were in high spirits and through balls to the group of kids hanging around the dugout. Aiden was lucky enough to snatch one or maybe two. My boys were having the time of their life and the game hadn’t even started yet.

Pregame is my favorite part of the game. I get to meet other parents who enjoy baseball and love watching the kids with their gloves asking for balls or trying to catch them as they fly into the stands.

If you ever want to hear true joyous laughter, watch a kid catch a ball during BP! Also, if you do catch a ball at game, no matter what your age, it’s tradition to hold it aloft so that all the other fans can rally and cheer for you! There is something about the roar of a crowd going wild (and they always do) that is just exhilarating!

This particular pregame was one of the few times that I was able to sit and talk to a few other parents and watch the kids enjoy themselves without adult fans trying to get Mike Trout’s autograph.

The actual game was very exciting. Trout became the youngest player in MLB history to reach 100 home runs and 100 stolen bases and I snagged a game bat from David Freese!

It was around the 7th or 8th inning, the crowd had thinned out and there were empty seats around us. That’s when David Freese stepped up to the plate, swung, and let go of the bat! It went soaring into the stands straight toward me and my boys! Everyone (including us) ducked down quick but I was on Momma duty, so I put myself in front of my boys to shield them. I watched Freese’s bat land in the vacant seats directly in front of us, so I leaned over and picked it up. When the boys looked up, they thought I had actually caught it! I inspected the bat and noticed that it was completely intact—no broken pieces at all (Freese must have lost his grip). I gestured to Alfredo Griffin asking if he wanted the bat returned and he gestured no.

Soon after that experience, my phone was buzzing. The game was televised and numerous friends & family saw the bat go into the stands and land in front of us. The local Angels TV announcers were commenting that the bat couldn’t have gone to a better group of fans. A bit later my father called and sent us a video of the replay that he had recorded. This is when my boys realized that Momma didn’t actually catch the bat. I told them that I may not have caught the bat but it was my job to make sure it didn’t hit them and I did my job.

The remainder of the trip included another game at Minute Maid Park and game at the Toyota Center to watch the Houston Rockets. Although we continued to celebrate Gavin’s birthday, both boys said nothing could ever top that day. I agree because it’s still a day that we talk about and, thanks to grandpa (my dad), we are still able to relive that moment.

A year later, David Freese was signing autographs at one of our favorite baseball card shops, the OC Dugout. I was out of town for work, so grandpa took my boys to meet him. Grandpa showed Freese the video of how we obtained the bat and the boys asked for his autograph. I hope the video made him smile when he met my boys because even though flinging a bat into the stands can be dangerous, it was one of the best days we’ve ever had. We never expected that celebrating Gavin’s birthday in Houston would have been that exciting. The batting gloves, the baseballs during batting practice, Freese’s bat, and Trout’s record all equaled one exhilarating trip and one of the best highlights from our baseball adventures!

- LISA

 
Lisa Serrano