5/23/07 at Busch Stadium

scenes_at_the_arch.jpg

I had to make a tough decision when I woke up. I had to choose between staying in my stuffy hotel room and blogging about the previous night’s game–or wandering across the street and into the park and visiting The Arch.

Hmm.

It was 10am on a weekday, and most kids were still in school. Suckers.) I figured there wouldn’t be much of a line so I headed out.

The Arch is 630 feet high, and since the stairs are closed to the public, I had to ride up in a cramped pod (aka “tram”) with four women who freaked out every time the thing clanked. But the view from the observation deck made it all worthwhile…

busch_stadium_from_arch.jpg

I hung out at the top for 20 minutes, then rode back down, grabbed some lunch, went to the hotel, blogged until 4:15pm, gathered my stuff for the game, and walked two blocks to Busch Stadium’s right waiting_to_enter.jpgfield gate. I’d gone to left field the day before, and it was packed. Right field had been relatively empty for the first couple rounds of batting practice, so I thought I’d try a different approach for my second and final game.

Big mistake.

The bleachers filled up within a few minutes, and the Cardinals didn’t hit or throw a single ball into the seats. It was incredible. I’ve never experienced such a dead half-hour of BP. Even Scott Spiezio dissed busch_BP_view_from_RF.jpgme from right field. When I asked him for a ball that he had just fielded, he looked at it and then turned to me and said, “It’s too new.”

“How about if you get a dirty one?” I asked.

“You got it,” he said.

Two minutes later, he started jogging toward the infield.

“Hey! How about that dirty ball?!” I shouted.

He shrugged and kept jogging.

I still didn’t have a ball by the time the Cardinals finished BP. I was a bit nervous, but I figured the drought was about to end because of my secret weapon: color coordination. In addition to my Pirates cap, I was wearing a tight black t-shirt with a bold yellow stripe–a shirt so ugly that I was embarrassed to be seen in it except when the Pirates took the field, so I wore it under my white t-shirt the rest of the time.

Bayliss_capps_gorzelannyI abandoned right field and headed to the left field foul line. Within the next 15 minutes, I got three balls thrown to me by Pirates pitchers. The first came from Jonah Bayliss, the second from Matt Capps, and the third from Tom Gorzelanny.

I only managed to get one more ball during BP, but it was a personal victory. The day before, I’d been stopped by security during my lone attempt to use the glove trick. I really wanted to use the trick at glove_trick_location.jpgleast once at Busch, and I got my chance when some fans dropped a ball onto the grassy ledge in front of the left field wall. I was in foul territory at the time, and the seats were crowded, so it took a minute for me to get there. Luckily, the ball was still in place, and I snagged it with ease. The Pirates had marked a thick marked_ball_3035.jpg“X” on the sweet spot. (Some teams mark their balls so their employees won’t steal them and get them signed.) I marked it just below with a “3035” because it was the 3,035th ball of my collection.

After BP, I got Damaso Marte’s autograph and ran into a superstar baseball collector from Chicago damaso_marte_autograph.jpgnamed Dave Davison. We’d been emailing on and off over the years, but hadn’t seen each other since 1999. We took a few photos together, did as much catching up as possible, parted ways shortly before the game, and didn’t see each other again.

I had no agenda for the game. I’d taken all the photos I needed the day before, so I slipped into an empty seat in the first row behind the Pirates’ dugout. I figured I’d get kicked out after an inning (if not sooner) but it was worth it to get such a great view and also have a chance to get another ball.

zack_front_row.jpg

Pirates starter Ian Snell induced Scott Rolen to pop out to shortstop Jack Wilson to end the bottom of the first. Wilson took the ball with him toward the dugout. I stood up and yelled for it, and he tossed it to me. No competition.

I was convinced that an usher was about to appear out of nowhere and check my ticket…or that the people sitting behind me were going to complain that I stole their ball…or that the fan whose seat I was sitting in was on his way down the steps.

None of these things happened.

Cardinals starter Kip Wells struck out to end the bottom of the second, and Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit rolled the ball back to the mound. As he approached the dugout, I said, “Ryan, next time ya gotta bring the ball back this way.”

He looked me right in the eye and said “No” before disappearing from sight.

Jeff_coxThird base coach Jeff Cox was much friendlier. When I asked him for a ball after the top of the fourth inning, he started giving me signs as if I were the batter getting instructions to bunt. You know, he touched the bill of his cap, then his nose, left ear, nose again, chin, and finished by swiping his right arm. I responded by touching each of my ear lobes, then my nose, chin, nose, and followed with a swipe across my chest, two claps, and a swing of my imaginary bat. He ducked into the dugout and reappeared five seconds later. Then he pointed to his cap as if to say, “This is because of YOUR cap,” and he tossed me a ball–my sixth of the day and second since the game had begun.

Half an inning later, Gary Bennett made the third out by grounding to Pirates 3rd baseman Jose Bautista. First baseman Adam LaRoche caught the throw across the diamond and threw me the ball on his way in.

No one else in the section had been trying to get a ball, or even seemed to realize that they were sitting in THE ideal spot for getting one–and yet they started to grumble after LaRoche hooked me up. So I left. No big deal. I’d gotten to watch nearly half the game from the best seat in the stadium and snagged three balls in the process. And anyway, I was hungry and didn’t have the guts to order something from the waitress. The last time I ordered food from a fancy seat that didn’t belong to me, I got kicked out of the section before my food arrived and had to beg security to let me wait for it at the top of the stairs. Not a good situation.

bye_bye_busch.jpg

So I wandered. Ate a double-cheeseburger. Wandered some more. Vanilla ice cream cone. Wandered some more. Chocolate ice cream cone. Wandered some more. Took a few more photos. Wandered some more. Ended up behind the Cardinals’ dugout for the last few outs, but didn’t get another ball.

Final score: Cardinals 5, Pirates 3.

I took my time heading out. I knew it would be years, possibly even decades, before I’d be back.

STATS:

• 77 balls in 9 games this season = 8.6 balls per game.

• 464 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 93 consecutive games outside of NYC with at least one ball

• 620 lifetime balls outside of NYC

• 3,038 total balls

21 Comments

well zack i enjoyed seeing u at BP to… i think. no foul balls for me though, but i still ended up with 2. That puts me at 1.6 balls per game. hey thats better than chone figgins batting average!! they game was painfully slow, and my sisters and i were complaining, so we left when the score was 10-3. do any of the media gides say where the Nationals , and Brewers stay when they are in Pittsburg? My dad got a 4-star hotel on hotwire, so i hoping that they stay in our hotel. :)

good gm, so the pirates seem very nice!! cant wait to see the blog bout the gm last nite!!

Zack, sounds like you had fun at another game. That’s pretty cool about Jeff Cox. At every game I’ve been to, about 30 little kids scream for a ball from the player who made the third out. Usually when outfielders catch the third out, they usually throw it to the crowd before they even get to the infield. Your best bet is always infielders (except catchers, haha).

Just out of curiousity, what kind of camera do you use? What size memory stick?

im not directing this just twoards zack but it anyone knows where the cards stay in philly it would be great

Hey Zack,been so busy ltely havent had a chance to comment, I’m planning a trip to Chicago to meet my borther and go to a game or two at wrigley. I don’t think you have any accounts of games at Wrigley on this blog, any advice?

Zack, I thought you (and the other posters) would get a kick out of these lunatics……

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/multimedia/photo_gallery/0705/gallery.in.case.you.missed.it3/content.2.html

Hey Zack good job in St Louis. Not as exciting as last years trip to PETCO though. Why only two games though? Now that you’ve snagged a ball at every current park in the majors where are you planning on going to for your next trip?

And psu I saw those guys on TV teh Os were playing the jays and teh broadcasters constantly mentioned them

Are you going to post something about last night or are you too ashamed to admit that you went to Yankee Stadium on a Friday night?

“I took my time heading out. I knew it would be years, possibly even decades, before I’d be back.”
and yet you had such a good time…

BCIMONS-
Oh my God, that game was ridiculously slow. Stupid American League. I was at work last night, and there wasn’t a Nationals media guide. The Brewers guide (from last season) didn’t seem to list the hotels, or if it did, I couldn’t find it. Sorry.

PSU-

Usually, the little kids don’t realize they can get balls at the dugout until a few innings have passed, and I don’t understand why. Are ALL of those kids sitting behind the dugout for the first time in their lives? If not, why can’t they remember the routine from one game to the next? And what about their parents? Do THEY forget as well? Makes no sense. I use a Canon ELPH PowerShot SD700, and I have a two-gig card. (Nice lunatics!)

SGC90ACE-

Hmm…

JOHN-

Good to hear from you again. I only went to two games at Wrigley in 1998, so I don’t remember many details. You should definitely hang out on Waveland Avenue before the gates open and try to get a home run ball out there. It’s tough, and there’s lots of competition, but it’s fun. Inside the stadium, you’re basically trapped along the foul lines during BP. Focus on getting balls thrown, and bring a glove trick or cup trick if you have one.

TRUE PLAYA-

C’mon, there’s not much that’ll ever top last year’s trip to PETCO. I only went to two games at Busch because I knew that’d be all I would need. I didn’t know anyone in St. Louis, and I didn’t need extra time to wander the city. Last year, you may recall, I stayed with a great friend in San Diego, so I extended my trip a few extra days for that reason. I’ll probably go to Philly and Baltimore next month, but in terms of the next baseball trip that involves an airport…San Francisco for the Futures Game, HR Derby, and All-Star Game.

CHUCKSTER-

It’s not like I got shut out, but yes, I did feel pretty silly (and annoyed) being there. I’ll post an entry about it for sure. Probably within 24 hours. It was nice running into you. How’d everything go?

TSWECHTENBERG-

True, but that’s how it goes.

GREG-

Are you going to Shea this coming week for the Giants?

EVERYONE-

Last night, I interviewed a former major leaguer for an article on minorleaguebaseball.com. Check it out:

http://web.minorleaguebaseball.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20070526&content_id=249020&vkey=news_milb&fext=.jsp

YOU were anoyed!!if u werent there, i would have had 4 instead of 2(everyone will soon find out that zack does indead steal balls from little kids!!!) JK JK LOL!!
the gm was slow, and the LA angels Of Anehiem probably only threw 3 balls into the crowd, and the only hit 1. and now that i come to think about it, there were like no balls that were left sitting on the warning track.

Yeah, I think I’m going to Wednesday night’s game (great matchup: Glavine/Zito), even though I’d rather go on Tuesday for the hard-throwing Perez/Lincecum matchup and play for foul balls. I am also going to Philly tommorow (if the weather looks good).

By the way, I did get a ball from home plate ump Jim Joyce after the game. It was like the scariest moment of my life, because I was so worried I would get shut out if Joyce just happened not to have a leftover ball. But he did, and when I caught it, it was like the most relief I’ve felt in my baseball collecting career. (That makes 40 straight games with at least one ball, by the way.) Have you ever had a situation like this? Getting a ball at the last moment to end a shut out?

okay, im watching the yankee gm and melky is up, and he has that same bat waggle that robinson has. those balls that you got on Fri might have been hit by melky, not cano.

BCIMONS-
Well don’t forget about the ball that you got with the glove trick. I probably would’ve had that one if not for you…but I’m glad you got it instead of one of those guys with the cup tricks. You deserved it. So yeah, we competed directly with each other but I think it all worked out in the end. I’m convinced it was Cano, not Melky, but that’s a good point about the bat waggle. Cano is taller and thinner, and the guy who hit those balls was definitely a bit lanky.

GREG-

Cool. I wasn’t even aware of the pitching matchups. Good to know. Perez and Lincecum should be great for foul balls. Every year for nearly a decade, I’ve had at least one game in which I got two foul balls. The Tuesday matchup could be my best chance for 2007. (I just heard that Bonds isn’t going to play on Tuesday.) Congrats on keeping your streak alive. I’ve had some situations like that. I think my streak was at 59 games and I was at Shea and didn’t get a ball all night until Darren Daulton tossed me one at the dugout after the game. I nearly had a heart attack. And there’ve been other times when I only got one ball at a game, and I didn’t get it until the ninth inning. Paul O’Neil saved my streak one time by tossing me his warm-up ball, and I think I kept the streak alive by getting one from Mattingly around 1994.

I know exactly how you feel about having a heart attack!

I got 10 autographs (2 Kyle Farnsworth 8x10s, 1 Robb Quinlan card, 2 Jose Molina cards, 2 Reggie Willits cards, 3 Tommy Murphy cards) bringing my season total to 95

yeah, ur rite. but i would have had that cano ball on a fly. cant wait 2 read the blog ’bout it!! :)

GREG-
It’s nice to be understood.

:-)

CHUCKSTER-

What’s your single-season record?

BCIMONS-

Do you really think you would’ve caught it? I’m not saying you wouldn’t have, but the ball DID travel about 375 to 400 feet, and those can be challenging, but then again, you WERE right there. How many BP homers have you caught on a fly? (Did you get my email?)

i was Right there(and so were you). i havn’t checked my email, but i will know, and i have never caught a homer on a fly :( guess that i’ll have to wait til pittsburg

I have no idea what my single season record is, this is my first year keeping track, but I’m pretty sure I’ve broken it by now.

well, the ball was more a line drive, than i fly, so i got there on time and everything. i think that if u had been a step late, the ball would have definetly hit my glove, but i think that i might have been to clumsy and dropped it. that was a fun group for BP. (A-rod, cano, hit-deki)

BCIMONS-
If we were out ON a field and I was hitting fungos to you…long fly balls…would you be able to catch them? All of them? Some of them? One or two of them? That’s a good test for predicting how well you’d be able to catch home runs in the seats…how well you can judge the fly balls and then whether or not you’re actually able to catch them when you’ve gotten to the right spot.

CHUCKSTER-

Cool. I’d like to hear your numbers at the end of the season.

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