8/1/06 at Yankee Stadium
Tier Reserved: sold out
Cheapest available ticket: $42
Zack Hample: sucker
When I ran into the right field seats for batting practice, there were already 50 little kids wearing gloves and adorable, green Little League jerseys. Five minutes later, the section was so full that I had to say “excuse me” before moving anywhere. It was THAT kind of day. I wish I had some wild snagging stories for you. I wish I were writing about leaping for home runs and interacting with future Hall-of-Famers, but instead, I can only report that I got four balls…all with the glove trick.
I got help on the first ball from a guy named Nelson who’s been reading this blog. He had spotted me an hour earlier outside GATE 4, and we talked for a while before going inside. I told him I’d be relying on the glove trick, so when he saw some fans drop a ball onto the warning track, he called me over. Nelson was in the front row (where he later caught a home run), and I was buried 20 feet back. That’s why I hadn’t seen the fans drop it. I wouldn’t have gotten the ball without Nelson because there was another kid with a ball-retrieving device. This kid was lurking with one of those cup things, and when I was reeling in my second ball, he shouted, “DROP IT!!!” I informed him that he wasn’t being sportsmanlike.
Five minutes later, a man approached me and asked, “Are you the guy that wrote that book?”
“Well,” he said, “I want you to know that you’ve made my life miserable.”
I had an idea of what he was getting at, and sure enough, he explained that because of me, his 12-year-old son is now obsessed with collecting baseballs.
One of the balls I got has the imprint of a bat. Last year, on June 15, I caught one with a similar marking which contained Derek Jeter’s signature. This one doesn’t appear to be as interesting, and I have no idea what it says. Any theories? Could some of those letters be part of the bat’s model number? Is there a team or player’s name hidden in there? The ball came from the Blue Jays, but who knows, it might’ve been hit/imprinted by a team they played two weeks ago.
Another ball was 10 feet from the wall, so I had to swing my glove out and yank the string at just the right moment so the glove landed on the ball and knocked it closer. It took several attempts, and the fans loved it. Unlike my last trip to Yankee Stadium, people were actually stepping aside so they could see me use the trick again and again.
As I was carefully reeling in a fifth ball, Blue Jays pitcher Gustavo Chacin walked over and knocked it out of my glove. Just like that. Totally unprovoked. But you know what? As bad as that was for me, it’s gonna be much worse for Gustavo, his family, his friends, his fans, his lovers, his pets, his plants, and his agent, for he has officially earned himself the Hample Jinx.
I went to the third base side after BP (where I took the photo of the imprinted ball) and nearly got Vernon Wells’ autograph. If he’d signed one or two more, I would’ve have him. Crap!
After that, my Night ‘o Wandering began. I photographed the concourses, the ramps, the way-too-fancy-for-a-baseball-game Club Level, and the view from the Loge…
Then I looked down at the latecomers before checking out the view from the last row of the upper deck. I ran into the famous “Freddy Sez” (take a lesson, cow-bell man) and snapped a pic of the anorexia-inducing main aisle. Seriously, who designs a stadium with an aisle that narrow?
My next stop was the top of the upper deck in left field. From there, I got a great view of the bullpens, the back of the facade, the crappy fields in the shadow of the stadium, and the overhang. I was so far from home plate that Superman on steroids couldn’t have reached me. Of course, there was one little kid up there with a glove, getting an early start to a life of disappointment.
The stadium was so crowded–in case you forgot, there were 52,237 people–that it took 20 minutes to reach the right field corner of the upper deck. On the way, I ate the worst slice of pizza that $4.50 can buy. Then I got some shots of the foul pole, the bleachers, and the last wisp of sunset. It was the bottom of the fourth inning, and I sat down for the first time all night because the Yankees had something going. Jeter drew a leadoff walk, stole second, and moved to third on a wussy single by Jason Giambi. A-Rod followed with an RBI double to right-center. (The fans who’d cheered him before his first at-bat and booed him after he’d struck out now decided to cheer again. Idiots.) Bobby Abreu, playing in his first game with the Yankees, drew a walk, Jorge Posada struck out, and Bernie Williams came through with a three-run double.
I headed down to the field level and took another pic of the concourse/ramp weirdness. Since there were only 52,237 people instead of 54,000-plus, I was able to find an empty seat on the first base side of home plate. It was a good foul ball spot except for the fact that no one hit a foul ball there. By the ninth inning, I’d worked my way into the precious ($105 apiece) and heavily guarded seats behind the Yankees’ dugout, from which I saw Kyle Farnsworth mow down the Jays with a fastball that topped out at 101mph.
Final score: USA 5, Canada 1.
• Competition Factor = 208,948.
• 119 balls in 16 games this season = 7.4 balls per game.
• 443 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 69 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 2,871 total balls
• 2 very tired feet