For the last five years, I’ve been raising money for a children’s baseball charity called Pitch In For Baseball, and for the last two seasons, I’ve given away a bunch of prizes to the people who’ve donated. I’ve decided to do it again in 2014, so let me start with a quick list of the stuff you can win. Then I’ll show you photos of everything and explain how this is going to work:
1) game-worn uniform pants autographed by Dwight Gooden
2) a 2001 World Series ball
3) a 2007 Home Run Derby “gold ball”
4) an inscribed copy of The Baseball
5) a signed copy of Miracle Mud
6) signed copies of The San Francisco Splash and The Wrigley Riddle
7) baseball cards from the 1987 and 1988 Topps Traded sets
Here’s a photo of Gooden’s uniform pants (which he signed with his nickname “Doc”):
Why am I just giving this away? Because (a) I want to make it irresistible for you to donate money to this worthy cause and (b) the pants are damaged . . . slightly. Do you remember when the top three floors of the Argosy Book Store got soaked during Hurricane Sandy? (Here and here are two blog entries about it.) That’s how the damage occurred, and as a result there’s now a faint orange stain on the crotch:
It looks nasty, but I promise it was only water that caused it. Maybe that makes the pants extra valuable in a weird way — you know, getting damaged in a famous storm. Maybe if you win this prize, you can carefully remove the stain. Who knows? Your call. But anyway, the Argosy received insurance money for everything that got damaged or destroyed, so that’s why I’m able to give this away.
Here’s one more photo of the pants:
Obviously that’s a VERY special item, so good luck.
Here’s the 2001 World Series ball, which, as you’re about to see, is an alternate collector’s version:
Because of 9/11, Major League Baseball replaced the World Series logo with the American flag — not on balls that were actually used at stadiums, but just as a separate tribute.
Here’s the 2007 Home Run Derby gold ball:
No, I didn’t snag this ball at the Derby — although I *was* there. It was given to me (along with the 2001 World Series ball) when I got a private tour of the Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball in 2009.
Speaking of balls, here’s the copy the The Baseball:
If you win this prize, tell me how you want it signed, and I’ll personalize it to you.
Here’s the cover of Miracle Mud . . .
. . . and here’s the autograph on the title page:
It was signed “2013″ because that’s when the author, David A. Kelly, gave me a bunch of books to be used as charity prizes. Here are two more of his books . . .
. . . and this is how he signed them:
Here are the baseball cards:
As you can see, there are two sizable stacks from the 1987 and 1998 Topps Traded sets. They’re arranged alphabetically in the photo above, so don’t be discouraged by the Juans on top. There are more recognizable names buried within:
There’s a good chance I’ll add a few more prizes over the course of the season, so keep an eye on this entry for updates.
People who donate money to Pitch In For Baseball through my fundraiser will be eligible to win these prizes. (I don’t get any money from this because my fundraising page is simply a place for people to make pledges. After the final game of the World Series, I will email everyone with info about how to actually donate the money directly to the charity.) Remember how this worked last year? It’s all based on how many baseballs I snag over the course of the MLB season. For every penny per ball that you donate, your name will be entered into the drawing; in other words, someone who donates 25 cents per ball will have five times the odds of winning over someone who donates a nickel per ball. The person whose name is picked first will get to pick which prize they want; the person whose name is picked second will get the next choice, and so on. If I had to guess, I’d predict snagging about 500 balls this season, so if you pledge one penny per ball, that will end up being about a $5 donation. You can make a pledge anytime — here’s more info about my fundraiser — but in order to be eligible to win a prize, you’ll need to send in the money by December 1, 2014.
On a final note for those who don’t know, Pitch In For Baseball is a non-profit charity that provides baseball and softball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. Here’s a blog entry that I wrote last year about the charity helping Hurricane Sandy victims. Here’s a TV segment about the charity on the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. There’ve also been a bunch of articles about Pitch In For Baseball on MLB.com, which you can read here and here and here and here.
Look what found its way into my inbox last night:
Baseball in Australia, baby! Here I come!
18 days until I leave.
20 days until I arrive.
23 days until I’ll be running inside the Sydney Cricket Ground.
I kinda wish I’d gotten hard tickets instead of e-tickets, but whatever. Just being there is the most important thing.
Several years ago, when MLBlogs switched over to WordPress, a bunch of my blog entries were lost, including this one — a 2,600-word account of my first time snagging two home runs during one game. Thankfully I had saved all the photos, along with the text from my original entry, so this was fairly easy to recreate. Enjoy!
This was my third and final game in Baltimore. The rain had finally stopped. There was finally going to be batting practice . . . right?
Yeah, how about no. This is what I saw when I first ran inside the stadium:
It was “Weather Education Day” at Camden Yards. There were thousands of schoolchildren in the stands — and no players in sight.
Unbelievable. Three days in Baltimore. No batting practice.
Several minutes later, two Mariners started playing catch in left field . . .
. . . so I headed over and waited impatiently:
In the photo above (which was taken by my friend Brandon), you can see a weather balloon in the background. Thrillsville.
One of the two players was Ian Snell. When he finished warming up, he threw (and I mean THREW) the ball into the seats in left-center. He probably fired it 250 feet, and when I realized that there weren’t any fans out there — that he had randomly chucked the ball into an empty section — I ran over to look for it. A fellow ballhawk named Matt also ran out. It was an all-out race, and we pretty much arrived at the spot simultaneously. For a split-second, we were both looking around frantically for the ball, and I happened to see it first.
That was a huge relief.
Matt and I shook hands, and then I ran back and got Snell to sign my ticket:
A few more Mariners came out to play catch:
Ichiro Suzuki threw me my second ball of the day, and Sean White hooked me up with another. Here’s a photo of ball No. 3 flying toward me in the seventh row:
Bullpen coach (and former World Series MVP) John Wetteland started signing autographs. Here I am getting him on Brandon’s ticket . . .
. . . and here’s the ticket itself:
As I mentioned in my previous entry, Wetteland enjoys talking to fans (at great length) about various scientific theories. This day was no exception. Here he is giving a speech about subatomic particles colliding:
It was really strange. Or maybe “unexpected” is a better way to describe it. At one point, I filmed him for 60 seconds. This is what he said during that time: “If you look at geology or archaeology or paleontology–astronomy, astrophysics, even theoretical astrophysics, cosmology–and you try and marry a lot of these things, a lot of them don’t make sense, in terms of time. Okay? So when a geologist tells you that the Pacific plate is moving northwest toward Japan–I can look at a singular event, like in Iceland, where it actually splits apart six feet in the matter of a day. Or the Deccan Traps or the Siberian Traps, where it laid down enormous land masses–millions and millions and millions of square miles within months, not billions of years.”
The fan he was talking to was like, “Right . . . yup . . . mm-hmm . . . right.”
I don’t know what else to say about this. I just felt the need to report it, so let’s move on.
I headed to the right field foul line when the Orioles came out to play catch. Jeremy Guthrie spotted me and lobbed a ball in my direction. He intentionally tossed it short so that it would land on the rubberized warning track and bounce up — but it didn’t bounce high enough and ended up settling against the base of the wall eight feet below me. As I started setting up my glove trick, Guthrie ran over and grabbed the ball and shouted, “C’MON, ZACK!! LET THE KIDS HAVE ONE BALL!! ONE BALL, ZACK!! COME ON!!”
I was stunned for a couple seconds until I realized that he was just messing with me. There were, in fact, lots of kids, so he handed the ball to one of them, and before he ran off, he flashed a big smile and gave me a fist bump.
Brandon took a photo of me and Matt . . .
. . . and then I got Brad Bergesen’s autograph on the back of a ticket:
Shortly before game time, I failed in my quest to get a warm-up ball. Brandon, meanwhile, succeeded in his attempt to get a really cool photo of Felix Hernandez:
The starting lineups were announced. Ken Griffey Jr. wasn’t playing. Again.
Great. Just great.
Why did I even take this stupid trip in the first place? I just wanted to go home and get back to work on my book. I actually considered leaving. That’s how frustrated I was. But no, on second thought, that seemed silly so I stuck around, almost more as a formality than anything else.
This was Brandon’s view during the game . . .
. . . and this was my view for right-handed batters:
It was a great foul ball spot, but nothing came my way.
Whenever lefties were at bat, I hung out in the standing-room area in right field:
As you can imagine, I did lots of running back and forth all day. (The ushers were cool with it, and the fans didn’t mind either. A few of them told me that I was more entertaining than the game. I was very careful not to get in anyone’s way or block anyone’s view.)
At the start of the seventh inning, I was behind home plate when Josh Wilson, a right-handed batter, lined out to the shortstop. Rob Johnson, another righty, followed with a groundout to 3rd base, and as soon as he hit the ball, I took off for the standing-room area. Michael Saunders, a power-hitting lefty, was due to bat next, and I needed as much time as possible to get out there. As I headed through the cross-aisle toward the foul pole, Saunders took ball one. I thought about running up into the seats to leave my backpack with Brandon (I had to carry it briefly when he left to get food), but decided to hang onto it. I remember thinking that with my recent bad luck, a brief detour would probably cost me a home run ball, so I kept jogging through the aisle and heading straight to where I needed to be. The count was now 2-0 — Kevin Millwood was working fast — and by the time I settled into my normal spot, Saunders had fouled off a pitch.
I couldn’t see the field from where I was standing, and then all of a sudden, a ball appeared out of nowhere and started flying to my left. It was a line drive. A home run? What?! It happened so fast that the crowd didn’t react, and it didn’t even occur to me at first what was going on, but I chased after it nonetheless. The ball skipped off the pavement and took a huge bounce toward the back of the section. All I could think was, “Please don’t bounce over the back gate,” and thankfully it didn’t. The ball hit some netting in between the bars about a foot from the top of the gate. Then it dropped at my feet and bounced back up to me — and just like that, I had snagged the 11th game home run of my life. Like I said, it happened so fast — and it was so lucky and anticlimactic — that I didn’t really know what to think. I didn’t celebrate. I just turned to my left and held up the ball so Brandon could see it. As it turned out, one of the cameras saw me holding it as well:
As I ran over to show the ball to Brandon, everyone around me started chanting, “Throw it back!! Throw it back!!” and then another chant of “Give it to the kid!!” broke out.
Kid? What kid? There weren’t any kids, and even if there were, too bad. This was a game home run ball, and I was keeping it. Period.
“Throw it back or give it to a kid!!!” shouted a nearby fan.
“I have an idea for you!” I yelled back. “How about YOU catch a home run and then YOU can decide what to do with the ball?!”
The guy shut up after that, but the rest of the section kept chanting at me to “give it to the kid.”
Oh…you mean THAT kid? The little kid with a glove who was sitting in foul territory 100 feet away from me when I grabbed the ball?
The whole section kept chanting. It was absurd and unsettling. Most of the sheeple probably had no clue what was happening or why they were even chanting in the first place, so I shouted the following as loud as I possibly could: “THIS IS A GAME HOME RUN BALL!!! IT’S VALUABLE TO ME!!! I’M NOT GIVING IT AWAY!!! I WILL GIVE THE KID A DIFFERENT BALL INSTEAD!!!”
I doubt anyone had any idea what I was talking about, but at least they all got quiet after that. Then they watched closely as I reached into my backpack and pulled out another ball, and when I handed it to the kid, everyone started cheering wildly. What a bunch of fools.
Brandon followed me back to my spot in the standing-room area and took a photo of me holding up the ball. As you can see, the reality/awesomeness of the situation had finally sunk in:
Then, a few seconds later, he took another photo of me when I wasn’t expecting it:
Seriously, though, the ball was worth admiring. There was a huge scuff mark where it had hit the pavement. Check it out:
On the other side of the ball, there were some black streaks:
My guess is that the streaks were caused by the netting.
Brandon left the stadium soon after that. He had to get to the airport to catch a flight back home to San Diego, so we said a quick goodbye, and then I got back to business.
Snagging another home run, of course. On three separate occasions, I’d snagged three foul balls in one game, but I’d never gotten multiple homers.
Fast-forward seven outs to the bottom of the eighth inning. Corey Patterson, recently recalled from Triple-A Norfolk, led off and fell behind in the count 1-2 off reliever Brandon League. Normally I stand at the back of the section, but in this case, since I didn’t think Patterson was likely to hit a monstrous home run, I stood just a few feet back from the wall at the front. In the following photo, the ‘X’ represents my location:
Patterson got under one and lifted a deep fly ball in my direction. The ball was heading about 10 feet to my right, and I could tell right away that it was going to sail about 10 feet behind me. Oh yes, it was going to be a home run, and I was going to catch it. I drifted back, and while I tracked the flight of the ball, I could sense that there wasn’t anyone else around me who was going to make a serious attempt at catching it. I positioned myself about five feet behind the spot where I knew it was going to land, and then I moved forward at the last second and reached all the way up for it. Here’s a screen shot taken at that exact moment:
(That’s right, Ichiro, you turn and watch it.)
The ball hit the pocket of my glove. Clean catch. I had it. And then I went nuts:
Oh, man, I was so happy after that:
There was no “give it to the kid” chant. Instead everyone kept coming up and congratulating me and asking if they could touch the baseballs and take pics with me. It’s too bad that Brandon had left because it would’ve been nice to have him there documenting it.
Five batters later, with the Orioles trailing, 5-2, Luke Scott came up to bat with the bases loaded. I was in the zone. I was focused and ready for another ball to fly my way when two attractive 30-something-year-old women walked over to me.
“Hi,” said one of them, “we’re coming over over here to flirt with you.”
“That’s great,” I said, “but I need to stay focused.”
“What’s your name?” asked the other.
“Zack, but I really can’t talk now.”
“We’re trying to distract you so our friend can catch a ball.”
“That’s not gonna happen,” I said, keeping my eyes fixed straight ahead on where I needed to be looking.
“Can we see your glove?” asked one of the women who reached out and grabbed it. “What’s with this string?”
“Stop bothering me!” I said firmly, jerking my glove away from her. “I’m not playing around! I’m here on a mission! Please . . . just leave me alone!”
That did the trick. And then Luke Scott hit a grand slam — to left-center field, unfortunately. (I hate being rude to people, but in this case, I really had no choice.) Other fans were still coming up and talking to me, and in a word, it was chaotic. I’m not even sure if I would’ve been able to catch another ball if one came out, but I never got that chance.
The game ended on a play at the plate. Ichiro singled, Josh Wilson was on second, and Corey Patterson (who else?) gunned him down with a beautiful throw from left field.
Final score: Orioles 6, Mariners 5.
Here’s a photo of the two home run balls that I took before leaving the stadium:
It’s hard to tell based on what you can see above, but the Patterson ball was rubbed pretty dark with mud. Here’s a closer look:
Man, what a day. The trip turned out to be pretty good after all.
• 100 balls in 11 games this season = 9.1 balls per game. (The Patterson homer was my 100th ball.)
• 13 consecutive seasons with at least 100 balls
• 640 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 191 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball
• 137 lifetime game balls (NOT counting game-used balls that get tossed into the crowd)
• 12 lifetime game home runs (again, not counting toss-ups)
• 16th time snagging two or more game balls in one game
• 1st time snagging two game home runs in one game
• 4,458 total balls
• 31 donors
• $4.95 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $24.75 raised at this game
• $495.00 raised this season for Pitch In For Baseball
Speaking of Pitch In For Baseball, you’re aware of the recent flooding in Tennessee and other areas in the south, right? Well, among countless other things, the water destroyed a large supply of baseball equipment that was being used by Major League Baseball’s RBI Program. (RBI stands for “Reviving Baseball in the Inner cities.”) Because of all the donations that Pitch In For Baseball has been receiving, it was able to replace all the equipment and get the kids back out onto the fields. This is the charity that I’ve been supporting for the last two years. It does amazing things for kids and for the game of baseball. I want to thank everyone who has donated money, and for those of you who haven’t, I hope you’ll consider giving something, or at least spread the word. Even if you simply tell a few friends about it, that would help. Click here to learn more about what I’m doing for this charity and about how you can get involved.
Next game for me?
Braves vs. Mets.
Stay tuned . . .
Do you remember when I posted this map on my blog last September? As you may recall, it showed where I’d snagged all my baseballs up to that point in the 2013 season. That map was made by a gentleman named Marshall, and guess what? He just made me another. Check it out:
Meanwhile, it’s only 30 days until I leave for the Opening Series in Australia. I wonder how Marshall will incorporate *that* into his next map.
It’s been an interesting weekend. I had a film crew in my apartment . . .
. . . and the only time I went outside was to go get baseballs for them. Check it out — here are some of the balls in one of their equipment bags:
Scroll back up to the first photo for a moment. See the guy on the right? He’s a filmmaker/producer named Eric Jankstrom, and this whole thing was his idea. Remember when I snagged two home runs in one game on 4/18/13 at Yankee Stadium? Well, he heard about it and randomly contacted me the following day . . . and now, nearly 10 months later, here he was in my apartment with two assistants.
One assistant was named John. The other was Brady, pictured here setting up some props:
Eric thought it’d be cool to have me sit on my 255-pound rubber band ball during the interview, so I posed on it while he and John set up their cameras:
Eric wanted to wait until it got dark to start shooting, so we filled the time by ordering pizza (his treat), playing Arkanoid (my treat), and setting up more baseballs:
Here’s what my place looked like a little while later:
This was my view just before they started filming:
In the photo above, did you notice the weird/skewed reflection of Eric’s face? That was intentional. He had a special piece of equipment designed to do that. Therefore, when he asked me questions, I could look at his reflection, which was actually right in front of the camera. Somehow, despite all the TV interviews I’ve done over the years, I’d never seen that before. It sure made things easier.
Here’s a photo of me that Brady took during the interview, tweeted by Eric the following day:
It’s tough to sit on a large rubber band ball and NOT look awkward, but I did my best.
After the filming (which lasted two hours), Eric played more Arkanoid:
He played several games and achieved a “high” score of 23,850 points — not bad for a beginner.
Then we all grabbed a few baseballs and posed for a group photo:
I’m not sure when Eric’s film will be done or how long it’ll end up being, but I know he wants to finish it this season. He plans to attend several games with me (“within driving distance”) and get some footage of me in action, possibly with a GoPro strapped to my head or chest, so who knows? This mini-doc (as he’s calling it) might turn out to be spectacular. I really like what he’s done so far, and we’re just getting started.
In June of 1995, I graduated from high school in New York City, and within a few weeks, I somehow ended up in Idaho, working for a minor league baseball team called the Boise Hawks. At the time, the Hawks were affiliated with the California Angels, so when I traveled to Anaheim to see a couple of games, I went as something of a VIP. That might explain my goofy grin in the following photo:
This trip would not have happened without the Hawks’ head groundskeeper — a man named Joe Kelly, who not only set the whole thing up, but (against his better judgment) traveled to Anaheim with me. While I thought he was the coolest guy ever, he probably would’ve been glad not to have me tagging along. Still, he was nice enough to snap a few photos of me, including this one just outside the stadium:
At around 2pm, we made our way to an office, checked in with a security guard, and headed inside to meet a women who’d been expecting us. She and Joe did all the talking, and before I knew it, she led us deeper inside the stadium and eventually down to the field. Imagine how excited I was when she left us to join the few groundskeepers who were working nearby. I got to walk out onto a pristine major league field and help set up BP. I remember standing at home plate and thinking of Rod Carew and all the other great players who had also stood in that exact spot.
After the batting cage and screens were ready to go, the groundskeepers led us to a wide-open area behind the center field wall. Here’s what it looked like:
As you can see, the stadium was pretty much empty, so I took advantage by strolling out onto the warning track . . .
. . . and taking more photos.
Here’s what the field looked like:
This was my view to the right . . .
. . . and to the left:
See the guy without a shirt? That’s Joe Kelly. It’s not that he was trying to show off his tan or muscles. He simply hated wearing shirts. Over the previous two months at the Hawks’ ballpark, I don’t think I’d ever seen him wearing a shirt. Big meeting with the General Manager in the office? No shirt. Tending to the field at game time with three thousand people in the stands? No shirt. It amused me, and I respected him for not changing his ways just because we happened to be in a major league stadium.
Here’s a photo of him looking out at the field:
Here’s another photo of the field:
I understand that teams now want to maximize every inch of space inside their stadiums, but to me, the area behind the center field wall in the photo above looks much better than the new glitzy outfield configuration. You really could get lost in old stadiums — disappear in a concourse, hide behind a support beam in the last row of the 3rd or 4th deck, and maybe even find a baseball along the way. But nowadays? Forget it.
Here’s Joe with his own camera . . .
. . . and here’s a photo he took of me:
I was in baseball heaven.
A little while later, the groundskeepers showed us some of their tools:
In Boise, there was one of everything — if you were lucky — and sometimes it didn’t work. In Anaheim, there was a dozen.
Joe, meanwhile, was talking nonstop with the groundskeepers and seemed to know everything they were telling him about the type and length of the grass, the lawnmowers, and various field maintenance techniques. They didn’t seem to be smarter or better at their jobs than him; there were just more of them, and they had a much bigger budget.
At around 4pm, I peeked over the center field wall:
The Angels were starting to warm up along the left field foul line, so I decided to head over to the outfield seats. Of course, I felt a bit guilty about snagging baseballs in an empty stadium long before the general public was allowed to enter, but hell, why not? I’d suffered enough in New York, and now that I was living large nearly 3,000 miles away, I figured I’d take advantage.
So much for that. I was stopped by an usher, and since I didn’t have any credentials, he forced me to stay near the dugouts until the stadium opened at 5:30pm. Ugh!! Look at all these empty seats that were suddenly off-limits:
Since there wasn’t much to do, I took three more pics from where I was sitting. Here’s the first:
Here’s the second . . .
. . . and here’s the third:
While I was sitting there, a ball rolled onto the warning track behind 3rd base, and when Angels infielder Jose Lind wandered over to retrieve it, I got him to toss it to me. (Yay!) That was my 748th lifetime ball, and this was the seventh different major league stadium at which I’d snagged one.
When the gates opened at 5:30pm, I raced out to the seats along the left field foul line and managed to snag one more — a slicing line drive by Rafael Palmeiro that deflected off a player’s glove and rolled close enough to me that I was able to lean over the low wall and grab it.
That was my final ball of the day. Why? Because the Orioles were in town, and soon after they started hitting, I decided to camp out along the right field foul line in an attempt to get Cal Ripken Jr.’s autograph. He wasn’t just my favorite player; I pretty much worshipped him and was willing to stray far from my normal routine to be near him.
Long story short: Ripken was two weeks away from breaking Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played, there was a mob of fans six rows deep, and I didn’t get close.
As for me and Joe, the Angels had hooked us up with decent seats for watching the game, but not for snagging baseballs. Check out the view:
I really wanted to move closer to the action, but Joe was worried about getting caught, so we stayed there for a while, and I hated it. Under normal circumstances, I would’ve wandered off on my own, but (a) I was exhausted and (b) I enjoyed his company.
Eventually, in the spirit of exploring a new stadium, we headed to the upper deck. Here’s a bad photo I took of the view . . .
. . . and here’s a better photo of the two of us:
That photo amuses me greatly. Look at Joe wearing a shirt! Ha-HAAAA!! He looks so lost and confused — or maybe he was just pissed off to be babysitting me. I can joke about this now because Joe and I have become great friends, and we’re still very much a part of each other’s lives, nearly two decades later. (You might remember this photo of us from 4/26/13 at Safeco Field.)
Here I am with my two baseballs:
The Angels ended up winning the game, 6-4, despite two home runs by Orioles catcher Chris Hoiles. Ripken went 1-for-2 with a double, a walk, and a sacrifice fly, but the real hitting star was Angels 1st baseman J.T. Snow, who went 4-for-4 with a homer and four RBIs. Chuck Finley got the win, Troy Percival pitched a scoreless 8th inning, and Lee Smith closed it out for his 465th career save.
After the final out, I collected a bunch of ticket stubs. Here are eight of one kind . . .
. . . and here are a dozen more that were slightly fancier:
Twenty minutes later, with the seating bowl empty and the stadium lights dimmed, I made my way down to the front row and got Joe’s attention. He was on the field with several groundskeepers, and they waved me out, right past a security guard. (Ha!!) I grabbed a rake and briefly helped to smooth out a small patch of infield dirt — but here’s the coolest part of all: they drove me and Joe around on their little golf-cart thingie while they put away some equipment, and after a while, they took us inside the Angels’ clubhouse! There were still a few players milling about and . . . just wow. I didn’t recognize any of them, but I did see some famous names on the lockers, including Lee Smith. I’d never been inside a major league clubhouse before. It was unbelievably spacious, with big tables and couches and TVs all over the place — just like in the movies.
Finally, about an hour after the game had ended, the groundskeepers drove us out one of the exit ramps, where there were hundreds of young fans waiting for autographs, mashed up against a chain-link fence and screaming at me to come over and sign. Yes . . . me. I jumped off the golf-cart and walked over and said I wasn’t a player, but they didn’t care — or maybe they just didn’t believe me, and they begged me to sign anyway. So I did. And it was really fun. I got to pretend to be famous while dozens of teeny-boppers pushed and shoved to get closer.
I don’t remember how I escaped. There must’ve been another exit, and eventually I made it back to the hotel with Joe.
We still had one more game at Anaheim Stadium the following day, and I had one goal — well, two goals. Obviously I wanted to snag at least one ball to keep my streak alive, but I also *really* wanted to get Ripken’s autograph. I’d even gone so far as to buy a brand-new ball from a souvenir store just for this purpose.
Joe and I arrived at the stadium even earlier on Day 2 — right around lunchtime. In fact, we were there so early that there wasn’t any security, so we waltzed down the ramp and out onto the field and found the groundskeepers. Joe told me that he didn’t mind if I wandered off on my own, so I did, and of course I got nabbed by security. (Walk onto the field? No problem! Wander around the concourses? Busted! That makes sense.) Once again, I had no credentials, so I was glad when the guard believed my story enough to haul me back to the groundskeepers and ask if they knew me. Joe was gone at that point, but thankfully one of the guys said it was cool, so I rejoined them and helped set up the field for early BP.
Despite that little episode, there seemed to be less security in the stadium, so when BP started at 3pm, I snuck out to the seats behind the left field wall. Stupid me . . . I didn’t take any photos, and now, of course, all these years later, that area of the stadium has been reconfigured, so I’ll try to describe the setup. Basically, the entire section in straight-away left field was a dead zone. There was a gap behind the outfield wall, and the secondary wall behind it was much lower. (Does that make any sense?) In other words, if you were sitting in the front row in left field, you would’ve been well below the top of the outfield wall and therefore unable to see the field. For that reason, there was a small platform, built for the Angels’ relief pitchers, that jutted up above the unused seats and provided a view of the field. Scroll back up to the photo of the empty seats along the left field foul line, and you’ll see this blue platform in the background, approximately 50 feet to the right of the foul pole. Okay, now that you know all of that, you can imagine what it was like for me during the first portion of BP. I hid below that platform and stared up at the sky, hoping for a long home run to come flying my way and land somewhere near me in the seats. I ended up getting three balls out there before I was asked to leave. Joe was not too pleased with me at that point — we were guests of the Angels and were supposed to be acting like professionals — but I couldn’t help it. I was obsessed with getting baseballs and could not be contained!
Unfortunately, a short while later, Joe and I both got in trouble when we wandered off beneath the left field seats to find a drink of water. We were spotted by a guard who demanded to know who we were, and when we didn’t provide credentials to back up our story, they threatened us with arrest for trespassing, but merely kicked us out of the stadium instead. We weren’t worried — just embarrassed and pissed off and inconvenienced. Eventually we headed back inside the stadium via the Angels’ offices and picked up a pair of field passes on the way. I don’t know why we hadn’t received those in the first place. It certainly would’ve made things easier for everyone, but whatever. As far as I was concerned, the whole ordeal with security only added to the adventure, and I was excited to find out what would happen next.
Here’s what happened: Joe made me stay with him, which sucked because the regular portion of BP was just getting started. I wanted to hang out near the dugouts, but instead I had to follow him all the way out to the groundskeepers’ area in the deepest part of center field. On the way there, while walking behind the left field wall, I spotted a ball in the front row of the seats, and when I climbed up there and grabbed it, Joe nearly killed me. (Sorry, Joe. I love you.)
The game was scheduled to begin at 8:05pm, which meant the gates would open at 6:30pm. Therefore, I wanted to head over toward the Orioles’ dugout at around 6:15pm, and somehow I convinced Joe to let me. Again, all I wanted was an autograph from Cal Ripken Jr., and this seemed like the best way to make it happen — get there early, claim a spot in the front row, and hope for the best.
Well . . . look who happened to be standing around when I got there:
No, not the guy in the white t-shirt. See the man just beyond him, looking my way? That was Ripken! And I got him to sign my ball! And I got him to sign a ticket stub too! I was too happy for words, practically jumping out of my shoes as I ran out to right field. The stadium was just opening to the public, and my day was already complete. Of course that didn’t stop me from snagging more baseballs — a toss-up from Mike Mussina and two grounders that I scooped up by leaning out over the wall. Including the four that I’d gotten before the gates opened, I now had seven overall . . . plus two from the day before. I was happy with that, even if I did acquire several of them under sneaky circumstances.
Half an hour before the game, there was only one player who came out to sign autographs. Wanna take a guess who it was? Here’s a hint:
It was Ripken again (what a guy!) surrounded by cops and security, and can you blame him? If *I* had been on the verge of breaking Lou Gehrig’s record, I would’ve avoided the public, yet there he was, being super-accommodating. I didn’t get his autograph this time, but it was interesting to witness his technique. Before signing each item, he deliberately moved away from the stands so that no one could reach him.
Joe and I had better seats for this game. This was our view:
Did you notice Ripken in the on-deck circle? Ooh yeah. He ended up going 0-for-4, but he did draw a walk and score a run, and the Orioles won, 11-2. Rafael Palmeiro and Mark Smith hit home runs for Baltimore, while Jim Edmonds went yard for Anaheim. Mark Langston, the starting pitcher for the Angels, began the night with a record of 13-2 and lost to Scott Erickson, who threw a complete game. It’s fun to look back at all these old names.
Once again, I collected a bunch of ticket stubs:
Here are some more from the August 25th game . . .
. . . and just for the hell of it, check out the back of the stubs:
Heh. Gatorade . . . “For That Deep Down Body Thirst” When Capitalizing Every Word Still Leaves You Feeling Unsatisfied. Remember that slogan? I’m feeling very nostalgic right now for the 1990s.
Eventually, during the next season or two, I got a bunch of these ticket stubs signed. Here’s one from Troy Percival . . .
. . . and here’s another from Garret Anderson . . .
. . . but the best one of all was signed by My Man:
Cal Ripken Jr.
Now, as I’ve done with all my “Turn Back The Clock” blog entries, here’s my original handwritten journal entry (or in this case entries) about it. It started on August 23, 1995 — the day before the first game in Anaheim — when I was getting excited for the trip:
As you can see, August 24th was so busy that I didn’t get a chance to write, so I caught up on everything the next day. Here’s the part where Joe and I first entered the stadium:
Some things need to be bleeped. Deal with it:
Here are more details about being inside the Angels’ clubhouse:
Day 2 at Anaheim Stadium starts here:
My pen sucked:
Here’s where I wrote about getting busted by stadium security. What a bunch of schmucks:
To quote myself from the following spread, “CAL RIPKEN JR. SIGNED MY BASEBALL!!!” Feel the excitement of my 17-year-old self!! Yes!
I could’ve ended it here . . .
. . . but I figured I’d give you a little Joe Kelly bonus:
That’s all I got. Thanks for reading. If you still want more, here’s a complete list of all my other “Turn Back The Clock” entries:
1) June 11, 1993 at Candlestick Park
2) June 11, 1996 at Shea Stadium
3) July 1, 1998 at Three Rivers Stadium
4) July 2, 1998 at Cinergy Field
5) July 10, 1998 at Tiger Stadium
6) July 13, 1998 at County Stadium
7) July 14, 1998 at Busch Stadium
8) May 29, 1999 at the Kingdome
9) July 18, 1999 at the Astrodome
10) September 24-25, 1999 at the Metrodome
11) May 9-10, 2000 at Olympic Stadium
12) July 17-18, 2000 at Qualcomm Stadium
This was the final day of our trip. (Frowny face.) It started with a group photo in front of our condo . . .
. . . followed by a short walk . . .
. . . to this restaurant:
After breakfast, we packed up our stuff and got a ride to the airport:
Here’s my boarding pass:
(This is very exciting, no?)
The worst part about the flight was that it was delayed one hour. The best part was getting to walk outside to board the plane:
Only 46 days until I’ll be heading to Australia . . .
At around 9am, we headed down to the waterfront to check out the boat we’d rented for the day:
No, not the huge yacht on the left. I’m talking about the teeny motorboat on the right. The plan was to take a 45-minute ride to a town called Soufrière, do a little sight-seeing, and hit up a couple beaches on the way back.
My mom (Naomi) and half-sister (Martha) sat in the front. Here’s a photo of them once we got moving:
Martha’s girlfriend (Amy) and my girlfriend (Hayley) were sitting near me.
The ride was relaxing, and we enjoyed the beautiful scenery:
Here’s a photo of the captain of our ship — a local guy named Cuthbert:
Cuthbert turned left and steered us toward a narrow gap in a cliff:
Ready to see what was inside? Take a look:
See all that lumpy gray stuff? Those are bats — hundreds and hundreds of bats. Maybe even thousands. Some of them were flying around, and they all combined to make a high-pitched squealing/squeaking sound. Yeesh!!
Soon after, when we docked in Soufrière, I helped guide my mom up and off the boat:
Did you notice the guy pulling her up? At the time, I thought he was just some random friendly dock worker, but as it turned out, he was our taxi driver and tour guide for the next three hours. His name is Dickson, and as you can see, he and my mom seemed to like each other:
We walked a short distance to his van and then headed up into the hills.
Five minutes later, he pulled over onto the side of a quiet road, lined on both sides with lush, tropical vegetation. His friend had a home there, and Dickson hopped out of the van to go get something for us. Check it out:
That might not look like much, so let me explain. It was a fresh cinnamon leaf that he had plucked off a tree, and when he bent/cracked it for us, it gave off the freshest and most intense cinnamon smell you could imagine.
Then he handed a big yellow podlike fruit to my mom:
He told us it was cocoa, the plant that’s used to make chocolate. Here’s what the inside looked like:
Those little white things were slimy — kinda covered in mucus. They looked nasty, but since it *was* just a plant (as opposed to goat brains, for example), I popped one in my mouth and chewed it up. The inside was purple, and it didn’t taste like chocolate — not even a little bit. It was bitter and somewhat unpleasant, but the whole experience was interesting.
After that, Dickson showed us the pods that produce coffee beans . . .
. . . and then he sliced up a sweet, fresh grapefruit.
This was our next stop:
See all that white cloudy stuff in the background? That was sulphur gas rising out of an active volcano. Unlike the cinnamon leaf, it was nice to look at, but smelled like crap.
There were a whole bunch of folks nearby taking mud baths in the natural spring water:
We were all tempted to jump in, but that would’ve meant getting back in the van in wet bathing suits. Bleh.
On the way to lunch, Dickson took us to a scenic overlook. Here’s an amazing photo, taken by Hayley, that shows him pointing out stuff to Amy:
Here’s what they were looking at — the town of Soufrière way down below:
Remember the bat cave that I showed earlier? If you click the photo above and zoom in, you can barely see dat gap in the cliff on the extreme left side.
After lunch, we went here:
In case you can’t read the sign, it says “Welcome to the Diamond Botanical Gardens, Mineral Baths, and Waterfall.”
Basically, we wandered for an hour and saw a whole lot of beautiful plants . . . like this:
It was exactly the type of thing I would’ve haaaated doing when I was a teenager, but now I kinda liked it. It was just nice to be out in nature with friends and family.
Here’s a photo of my mom and I walking leisurely along one of the paths . . .
. . . and just for the hell of it, here’s another weird-ass plant:
At around 2pm, Dickson drove us back to the dock, and we got back on the boat with Cuthbert. This was our first stop:
We didn’t stay there long. Martha wanted to snorkel for 15 minutes, so I played around on the beach:
That photo was taken by Hayley, who stayed on the boat with Amy and my mom.
A little while later, we went to a different beach. Check out the view and then I’ll point out three things:
1) The head poking out of the water between the beach and the boat belongs to Hayley.
2) If you look really closely, you can see Amy’s head just in front of the boat. She told us she was “flinking” — that is, floating while drinking (a beer).
3) See the gray blob just above the horizon . . . between the two boats? That’s rain.
It rained quite a bit on our way back, and of course it was windy on the boat, and of course I was wearing a wet bathing suit — funny to think that I was craving a hot shower in the Caribbean, but I really needed it.
In the evening, we all hung around the pool for a few hours and ordered food and drinks. Here’s the before-dinner photo . . .
. . . and here’s the after-dinner photo:
Back at the condo, Amy went to bed, and the rest of us played a team game of Scrabble — Martha and my mom versus me and Hayley. Somehow they won. Let’s not talk about it.
During the game, I spotted THE biggest cockroach of all time, climbing up the wall ten feet to my left. It was like a medjool date with legs. And wings.
Did you hear me?
I SAID WINGS!!!
When Martha tried to kill it with her flip flop, it not only escaped but FLEW RIGHT AT US, prompting a whole lot of shrieking and laughter. Best (or perhaps worst) of all, I got the whole thing on video, having instinctively hit the “record” button on my camera just as Martha took her first swat at it. During the commotion, I managed to whack my ankle on the metal edge of a chair, and when the bug proceeded to crawl toward me, I retreated to my mom’s room, never taking my eyes off it. Thankfully, before entering the room, it veered to the left and headed down the stairs. Martha scampered after it, half-screaming and half-swatting. Unfortunately the bug escaped yet again, and guess whose rooms were downstairs? Yup . . . the rest of us. We were all scared to go to bed — I had visions of that thing landing on my face in the middle of the night — but everything ended well. The bug survived, and so did we.
Saint Lucia is lawless!
Okay, that might be an exaggeration, but seriously, things are much more relaxed there. Take a look at the following photo and you’ll see what I mean:
I’ve never seen anyone riding like that back home in the States, but it was a common sight on this vacation.
Day 3 started with a 45-minute drive, which took us through a traffic jam in Castries, the capital of the country:
It was worth it, though, not just for the glimpse of city life, but because we ended up on this beach . . .
. . . with this view:
Here’s a dweeby photo of me in the shade:
Some people are willing to get skin cancer in exchange for being tan. I’m not one of them. I was perfectly content to lie there for a while and read a few chapters of this book:
Did you notice the words “uncorrected proof” below the image of the car? This book has not yet been published — it’s coming out in May 2014 — and the publisher sent me an advanced copy, hoping that I’ll like it enough to give them a blurb. I’m about halfway through, and thankfully for everyone involved, I’m loving it. It’s really funny.
As for the beach, part of it was terribly crowded . . .
. . . but after walking past all the dumb tourists for five minutes, Hayley and I found a nice, peaceful area:
Here’s something that made us smile:
It’s hard to tell, but there was a guy in that boat who was selling all kinds of tropical fruit. I bought two tiny bananas from him for a total of two Eastern Caribbean dollars. That’s about 80 cents’ worth of US currency, but it was worth it. We were so hungry that our stomachs were practically hurting, and it helped bridge the appetite gap until lunch:
In case you missed my first two entries from this trip (or have a bad memory), that’s my mom, Naomi, in the white shirt, my girlfriend, Hayley, in the black dress, my half-sister, Martha, wearing sunglasses, and Martha’s girlfriend Amy at the head of the table. (I ate lamb roti.)
After lunch, I decided to rent a jet ski. Here I am putting on my life jacket . . .
. . . and look who joined me!
That’s Hayley sitting behind me — and did you notice the expression on her face? Here’s a closer look:
When we reached open water, the only thing louder than the roar of the engine was her constant shrieking in my ear. She thought we were gonna die. It was cute.
As you can see below, we didn’t die:
That’s a photo of us back at the hotel, reading near one of the swimming pools.
When it got dark, we returned to the condo and started a game of Scrabble:
Poor Hayley. I went first and played IGNORES for 70 points. She then played DEAN for 12 points, at which point I threw down ADDiCTs to take a 146-12 lead. To be fair, most relationships have a mismatch of intellect, and she happens to be the smart one. No joke. You know how some people need to have everything explained, and they’re still like, “What? You mean . . . wait, I don’t get it.” Hayley is the opposite. It’s scary. So yeah: poor Hayley because she has a dumb boyfriend (although I *am* quite good at Scrabble).
Halfway through the game, all five of us headed out to dinner. We had to walk to the nearby waterfront and wait for a ferry, during which time I got hustled by this guy making palm-leaf grasshoppers:
I didn’t want a palm-leaf grasshopper, but I couldn’t help it. According to my family, I’m too friendly. They told me later that when the guy said hello from 10 feet away, I should have ignored him and kept walking — easy for them to say, but it contradicts my nature. When someone says hello to me, I say hello back, or in this case, I glanced at him and gave a friendly, subtle nod. That prompted him to scurry over, and before I could blink or say “no thanks,” he was already performing palm-leaf origami in my face. At that point, I knew it was too late to get out of it, so I figured I’d take a photo and give him a dollar. After all, the grasshopper *was* pretty cool, but then of course he started making another and ended up asking for five US dollars “for the grasshoppers and the photo.” I reluctantly handed him the money, and as I walked away, he said, “Give me another dollar.” I flat-out refused and felt unsettled about the whole situation. I hate to say it, but that’s how I often felt in Saint Lucia. There was a level of desperation and shadiness that went beyond what I’m used to dealing with back home.
Anyway, let me now return to being a “privileged ass-hat,” as Hayley just called me. Here’s a wannabe-artsy photo I took on the short boat ride across Marigot Bay:
We had dinner at a really nice place called Rainforest Hideaway – the one legitimately fancy meal of our trip. Here’s what the outdoor seating area looked like:
I started with Thai-spiced coconut and pumpkin soup (and a unicorn horn):
For my main course, I had salmon, or, to quote the menu: “parmesan crusted salmon with cauliflower puree and roasted root vegetables and fire roasted pepper pesto”:
We all shared a bunch of desserts:
In the four-part photo above, starting on the top left and going clockwise, you’re looking at 1) pineapple and coconut cheesecake with caramel and pineapple sauce, 2) rum sauteed bananas with rum raisin ice cream, 3) white chocolate creme brulee with lime and raspberry compote, and 4) rich velvet chocolate tart with vanilla ice cream.
I don’t consider myself a foodie, but damn! Sometimes I feel the need to document my meals. Is that so bad?
This was the scene outside the restaurant as we waited for the ferry to retrieve us:
Back at the condo, Hayley and I finished our game of Scrabble . . .
. . . and went for a midnight swim. Here she is testing the water at the smaller/colder of the two pools:
Here I am in the water:
Everything was so beautiful . . .
Our first full day of the trip started in the hotel pool. Here I am tossing Hayley around:
We swam for about half an hour and then had to get going. Here’s a gratuitous Hayley-in-a-bikini photo that shows her getting out of the pool . . . just because I like it:
Here’s a gratuitous photo of me in my bathing suit, just because Hayley likes it:
A little while later, we walked a short distance to this free ferry . . .
. . . which took us just across Marigot Bay to a small beach. Here we are walking ashore . . .
. . . and here we are at a restaurant soon after:
In the photo above, that’s my mom, Naomi, in the white dress, my half-sister, Martha, in the blue tank top, and Martha’s girlfriend, Amy, at the far end of the table.
I had ordered chicken roti, which was excellent.
Check out the beautiful view I had during the meal:
Yeesh! Talk about a gratuitous photo! But seriously, there *was* a nice view, which included this at one point:
That guy ended up selling one of those leaf-woven bowls to Martha for five bucks.
This was the scene on the beach:
The worst thing about that beach (and about Saint Lucia in general) was the steady flow of locals who kept trying to sell us stuff — meals, drinks, jewelry, souvenirs, boat rides, rain forest tours, and so on. When I got up for a minute, one guy tried to rent me a beach chair, and when I told him that I already had one, he mumbled a question that I had to ask him to repeat.
“Do you smoke?” he asked cautiously.
“Oh . . . no thanks,” I said, feeling dumb and completely un-slick. He then gave me a fist-bump and told me to let him know if I need anything.
When I told Martha about it, she was like, “How come no one offered ME any weed?” This became a pattern and a joke among our group; whenever we went somewhere new, I’d inevitably get the same offer, and the others would complain about it. It’s not that Martha or the others wanted to smoke weed. They just wanted to at least be asked.
Anyway, after relaxing in the sun for a while, Hayley and I went for a swim. You can see our heads in the red circle in the following photo:
The water was surprisingly shallow, which was good for Hayley — a novice swimmer. In fact, it was shallow enough for us to touch the bottom several hundred feet out from the shore.
Back at the hotel, Hayley and I started up a game of Scrabble in the late afternoon, and as the sun was setting, we found Martha and Amy at a different pool:
The Scrabble got interrupted by (a) the darkness and (b) dinner plans at a nearby restaurant. Here are the five of us, about to dig into our entrées:
Here’s a closer look at the chicken curry I ate:
Hayley was shocked to see me drink this:
That’s because it had alcohol in it, albeit a sugary concoction of coconut rum with pineapple juice and lime.
Check out this cool photo of dessert — banana flambé:
After dinner, Hayley and I finally finished our game of Scrabble. Here’s a photo she took of the final board:
Good times. Stay tuned for Day 3 . . .