All-Star Sunday

“All-Star Sunday” was my first full day in San Francisco, and I was exhausted from the start. Brad picked me up at 9:30am, and as we walked to the nearest BART station, we stopped to talk to one of his friends who was waiting for autographs outside the St. Francis Hotel. Two minutes later, Raul Ibanez and J.J. Putz rushed outside (the Mariners had a game that afternoon in Oakland) and I got Ibanez to sign as he jumped into a waiting cab.

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The Futures Game was scheduled to begin at 1pm. Brad and I got to AT&T Park two and a half hours early and headed to the portwalk to snag some baseballs before the gates opened. I definitely wanted a ball, but I wasn’t taking it seriously, at least not at the start. Even though the game was at a major league stadium, it was being played by minor leaguers, and I’d already decided not to count the balls in my collection.

“Here it comes!” yelled a portwalk regular named Joe Dirt.

I looked up from my pizza just in time to see a ball clear the railing at the back of the arcade and fly right toward me. THWACK!!! It hit the pavement three feet from where I was standing and bounced into McCovey Cove. Brad and I looked at each other and then watched helplessly as Joe Dirt calmly scooped the ball out of the water with a net attached to a fishing pole.

“Take a look,” he said, holding out the wet ball.

I shielded my eyes and turned away. I knew it had a special “Futures Game” logo, and I didn’t want to see it until it was on a ball that I owned.

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I scarfed the rest of my pizza, put on my glove, and marched to the outer wall of the ballpark to take a peek inside. I could see the field. I could see the batter. I could see the players. And before long, I got Emiliano Fruto to toss me a ball. Not only did futures_game_ball.jpgit have the Futures logo, but it also said “Official Major League Baseball.” I wasn’t expecting that. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it made me think twice about whether or not to count the ball in my collection. I was glad to own it, but I stuck to my original decision and didn’t count it. (Was that the right thing to do? What do you think? Keep in mind that I’ve never counted balls from Spring Training or Minor League games.)

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A little while later, one of the Futures hit a home run that landed in the right field seats, trickled back into the arcade, and got tossed down by a camera man. I grabbed that one as well and ended up getting in line at the gate with two balls already in my backpack. The line wasn’t THAT long, but it took forever to move. Security was inspecting every bag, and all the fans had to pass through metal detectors.

By the time I got inside and headed to my section in right-center field, BP was almost done. There were a few fans already out there, and we all gathered behind the outfield wall when Wladimir Balentien jogged over to retrieve a ball. I was the only fan who knew his first name, and when I shouted it, he flipped the ball high in the air right to me. I knew everyone else was going to reach for it, so I jumped straight up and snatched it with my bare hand.

“Oh, so it’s gonna be like THAT,” snapped the guy on my right, who then proceeded to talk trash for the next 30 seconds and tell me that if I wanted it to be a competition, then he’d show me some real competition, and that I’d better watch my back for the next two days, and blah blah. I’d been warned earlier about this guy, so in a way I wasn’t surprised, but at the same time…excuse me?!

I don’t remember actively wishing harm on this young man, so perhaps my subconscious was at work. Less than a minute later, he was writhing in pain in the aisle. Just like that. Out of nowhere. It’s like the God of ball-snagging saw what happened and struck him down with a Hample Jinx lightning bolt. Apparently, he had bad knees and one of them gave out. The ushers came running over, propped him up on a chair, and waited with him for Emergency Medical Services to arrive.

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The most annoying thing about AT&T Park (other than its name and the handful of aggressive ballhawks) is that you can’t get behind the dugouts unless you have tickets for those sections. There’s a railing that cuts through the seats, 15 rows back, and that’s as close as I was able to get when both teams took infield/outfield practice.

It ended up not making a difference. The seats in front of me were so empty that when the US team came off the field, I was able to shout loud enough to get coach Todd Steverson‘s attention and convince him to throw me my fourth ball of the day.

When the World team took the field, one coach started hitting the normal fungos while a second coach stood on the foul line in shallow right field and hit fly balls to the outfielders. That coach was Hensley Meulens, and when he was done, he tossed me ball number five. Less than a minute later, Michael Saunders (who wasn’t even alive when the Mets won their last World Series) jogged by and tossed me another. The infielders were almost done taking fungos, so I hurried over to the dugout–15 rows back, that is–and got coach John Shoemaker to throw me a ball on his way in.

The one kid who happened to be walking through the seats at that moment stopped and asked, “Weren’t you on TV?”

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For the next half-hour, dozens of players on both teams stood on the warning track in foul territory and signed autographs. If I’d been thinking, I would’ve gotten as many as possible to sign one of my baseballs, but the seats were packed by that point, and it took a real effort to get close to the players. I managed to get two guys to sign old ticket stubs that I’d been carrying everywhere, just in case. Collin Balester, a Washington Nationals prospect, signed a Mets-Nationals ticket from April, and Joba Chamberlain of the Yankees organization signed one from last month’s Subway Series.

Right before the game, I ran into Brad who introduced me to a guy named Tony Dobson who’s basically THE baseball collector at Chase Field. Every season, Tony attends all 81 of the Diamondbacks’ home games, plus minor league games, college games, Spring Training, and winter ball. In a few months, he’s going on a guided baseball tour in Japan…something like six games in six different cities in one week. He said fans in Japan aren’t allowed to keep balls during BP. He also said that he attended 219 games last year.

Brad and Tony (and many others) were eager to go for home run balls during the game. I had little interest in the balls–or in the game itself for that matter. In an alternate universe, I would’ve been content just to sit and watch the game and pat myself on the back whenever I recognized a name, but in reality I just wanted to wander and take pics and eat. I didn’t think I’d have much time to do that over the next two days, so I wanted to take advantage of my brief opportunity.

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AT&T Park is similar to Camden Yards in its design and layout and overall gorgeousness. The main difference is that one has a 1,016-foot warehouse in right field, while the other has a brilliant view of the water.

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I love the water. I’ve always been drawn to it. In that alternate universe, I’d spend months at a time out at sea.

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I also love the hoopla surrounding All-Star Week–the greeters at the airport, the banners around town, the police escorts for the players, the metal detectors at the gates, the All-Star garbage cans, and even the All-Star napkin dispensers. Everything at AT&T Park was decked out for the Main Event, and it was a treat to see it firsthand. It’s a good thing those dispensers weren’t empty because I needed a bunch of napkins to clean up after eating one of Stormin’ Norman’s Frybreads. (He’s got a stand just frybread.jpgbelow the right-field edge of the batter’s eye. If you go to AT&T Park, you need to get a Frybread. Tell Norman that Brad’s friend Zack sent you.) This one was topped with powdered sugar, strawberries, and whipped cream.

I finally made it down to my seat–not the greatest view, but that’s not really the point of sitting 415 feet from home plate in home run land. I didn’t expect anyone to hit a ball my way, but I still wore my view_from_section_144.jpgglove for the hell of it and nearly ended up catching one. Jay Bruce smoked a line drive 20 feet to my left, and I took off through the aisle and got right in position to catch it, but it ended up hooking a bit and hitting the brick wall just above the “421″ sign.

By the time Bruce had trotted into 3rd base, two regular ballhawks with seats just to my left walked over with their beers and informed me that I was in their section, that they’d been sitting there for years, and that there was no way that I could just show up out of nowhere for three days and expect to catch any balls, especially during the Home Run Derby. One guy said he was “going to play dirty” and go out of his way to prevent me from getting balls. The other guy said he was “going to do whatever it takes to get a ball” and that his friends sitting in the second row might clothesline me if I got up out of my seat.

These guys continued to harass me for a full inning, and even though I knew their juvenile threats were fueled by alcohol, I have to admit that I was nervous. I can get around strict security. I can deal with sellout crowds. I can outsmart fans who are half a foot taller. But there is no defense–at ballgames and in life–against crazy people. Were they really planning to assault me? Kick me in the knee? Elbow me in the temple? Knock me down? Get their friends to gang up? I really had no idea what to expect, and it bothered me for the rest of the day.

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Thankfully, the game was only scheduled to last seven innings. The World team won, 7-2. Chin Lung Hu, a shortstop in the Dodgers organization, was the MVP. I should mention that center fielder Gorkys Hernandez caught the final out and lobbed the ball toward my section. Half a dozen fans mobbed each other for it. The ball bounced out of their hands, off a slanted railing, off the usher’s left shoulder, and into my glove. Yawn.

I was tired and sunburned and fed up with snagging balls that I wasn’t going to count, but I couldn’t leave. There was a celebrity softball game to be played, and I was determined to watch it. I’d never been able to force myself to watch the whole game on TV–and not surprisingly, it wasn’t any different in person. Perhaps I should’ve been more excited to see baseball greats like Rickey Henderson, Ozzie Smith, Andre Dawson, Fred Lynn, Wade Boggs, Gary Carter, Dave Winfield, and Rollie Fingers, along with celebrities like Jerry Rice, Dane Cook, Bobby Flay, Alyssa Milano, Rob Schneider, Jimmy Kimmel, David Bryson, the mayor of San Francisco, and that correspondent from “EXTRA”…but no. The game was boring, and it always will be. Sorry.

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There WAS a great moment before the game started. While the players were warming up and throwing behind the auxiliary wall in left field, Dane Cook was exposed as being completely unathletic. This prompted a fan behind me to yell, “Hey, Dane!!! Stick to comedy!!!”

Another fan shouted, “This IS comedy!!!” and the whole section erupted with laughter.

I tried to make the game more exciting by trying to catch a softball, but it just wasn’t happening, and I’m glad. Sour grapes, yeah, but seriously, what would I have done with a softball? It just would’ve been one more thing to carry home.

Finally–mercifully!–the game ended, and I took off with Brad and Tony. I had dinner with them and another ballhawk named Kevin Kruse (whom I’d met on 8/14/06 at PETCO Park), and the day was complete. I’d met the characters and key players. I’d gotten a feel for my section. Home Run Derby? Bring it on…

36 Comments

Seem like there are many crazy fans in all-star games.

Good thing you got that moreau HR.

Btw, Chin Lung Hu is from the same country as I am from (Taiwan)also Yankee’s number 1 pitcher. So glad that Hu won the MVP. It was national front page news.

Zack-

You’re a New Yorker; you can’t let West Coast guys get to you. All you had to say was that if there was any trouble, you’d make sure your cousins in Brooklyn took care of business–especially now that you knew where these jokers sat every game!

Btw, if you love the water, do you take in Staten Island Yankee or Brooklym Cyclone games? It’s only short-season A-Ball, but the views are terrific!

wow, nice job zack!
that guy who went to 200+ games is crazy(no offense)!!

how can one guy make enough money to do all that AND have the time.

are the crazy fans worse than NY?

did you make cheat sheets for the futures game, or did you just study players online?

Zack -

You can’t get nervous because of a few drunken fools! You have to figure out how to get more balls and tick them off!

If I let everyone that has threatened me over the years get to me I would have nothing! Sometimes it’s even worse at minor league parks believe it or not!

Anyway, day 1 sounded like fun and I can’t wait to hear about day 2!

John

http://majorleagueballhawk.mlblogs.com

http://majorleagueballhawk.com

wow, that logo is nice. cant wait to get some of them next year!!

Okay, I’m definitely going to the Futures game next year!

Congrats on all of those balls! I think you should count them…

Hmm…. Insane fans? did they get mad when you caught that ball in the home run derby?

I’m sure you’ll say in your next entry…. just wondering…

And I’m going out to “AT&T Park” this summer…. so any special tips would be appreciated.

Zack, sounds like those fans in the next section were real winners.

I wonder what it’s going to be like for all of the all-star events at Yankee Stadium next year, especially in the right field bleachers. Granted, they haven’t been selling beer in that section for years, but people still get drunk across the street at the bars, then head in to the game.

FYI for anyone going to there next year, do not buy left field bleacher seats. You’re separated from the field by both bullpens, so it’s nearly impossible for a ball to even land in those bleachers. I think it’s like 450-475 feet to the front of those bleachers. Also, if you have any bleacher seats, you will be confined to the bleachers only, because there’s a separate entrance.

Are you goin to make a AT&T photo album, like you did for Petco?

the day i got the ball from steve kline a kid that was about 1 foot taller than me said that he would do what ever it would take to get that ball he smashed me against the rail but that helped me reach out a little farther out i got the ball and that kid got sent back to his seat and told he could not stand there the rest of the day becuase me and the usher that made him leave is my friend so thats what to remember sometimes it dosent help to play dirty
Darron

haha, yeah.

I’d rather snag balls nicely.

Nice job Zack, can;t wait to see your posts about the HR Derby and the ASG. I’m going to be an idiot again tomorrow and actually go to Shea stadium tomorrow, I just hope that this time obnoxious little kids aren’t going to try and attack me.

by the way, of the top of your head, do you know any nice guys on the Reds?
http://autographound.wordpress.com/

I snagged seven balls tonight at Shea, including my 100th ball of the season. I’ll also be at Fenway Park on Monday.

SAMMY-
Everything about the All-Star Game is crazy…not just the fans, but the whole spectacle of it. I didn’t know Hu was from Taiwan. I’d always figured he was Chinese (although I could’ve just looked it up). Thanks.

WCIMONS-

Right. My cousin. Tyrone. Tyrone Hample. He’s gonna fly out there and break some kneecaps. I’ve never been to a Cyclones or a Staten Island Yankees game. Someday…

PUCK COLLECTOR-

Most fans at AT&T Park were great. There were just a few jerks who cast a negative light on everyone. The people at Yankee Stadium are much more obnoxious, and for no apparent reason. At least the obnoxious fans in San Francisco are chasing baseballs. I’m definitely planning to make a photo album for all the All-Star stuff, but it might take me a few days, if not weeks. Things are just insanely busy for me right now.

JOHN-

I can’t imagine people being more aggressive at a minor league game, but you’ve been to far more than I have, so I’ll have to take your word for it.

GREG-

Do you plan on counting next year’s Futures balls in your collection? I’m guessing you will since you already count Spring Training balls…right? Congrats on your solid night at Shea, and on reaching triple digits. Good stuff.

CUBS0110-

Thanks, but I’m definitely not counting the balls. I’ve already labeled all my other balls from the rest of All-Star Week as if the Futures balls never existed, so it’s too late to change my mind now. I’ll tell you all about the other fans in my next entry…and as for tips on AT&T Park, rest assured that I’ll spare no details in all these blog entries, so just use those to develop your own strategies for the ballpark.

PSU532-

Security at Yankee Stadium was nearly as strict for the Subway Series last month as security in AT&T Park was for the All-Star Game. In other words, next year’s All-Star events are going to be in-SANE. I’m thinking I might avoid them entirely and spend a more relaxing week in prison. Good advice about avoiding the bleachers, but it’s not like people will be able to move around even they have tickets anywhere else. I think it’s more like 500 feet to the LF bleachers, so it’s possible that a ball or two could land there.

DARRON-

That’s a great story. Sorry you got smashed, but it’s pretty cool that it actually helped you.

JOHNJAMAHONEY-

Thanks. I really wish I could’ve gone to Shea last night (believe it or not, I miss that place), but I had to work. Good luck. As for the Reds, they were pretty snotty overall when I saw them in Philly a few weeks ago, but David Weathers has always been supernice. Jeff Conine is a good guy, and Adam Dunn is usually generous when it comes to throwing balls into the crowd. Not sure who signs on that team.

EVERYONE-

I still plan to catch up on old comments at some point, and of course I’m already working on my entry about the Home Run Derby. Not sure when it’ll be up. I’d rather take my time and write about EVERY detail than rush through it and do a cheap job just to be able to post it a day sooner. So hang tight. It’s coming soon…

hey zack

i went to shea last night…pretty good day

5 balls, autos from eddie guardado and kevin burkhardt(mets sny tv guy)

excited to hear about your derby/allstar game

GJK2212-
Not just “pretty” good. I’d say “very” good, especially considering there were over 48,000 fans in attendance. Congrats.

PUCK COLLECTOR-

I forgot to say a couple things:

1) I had rosters of both Futures teams, although I knew a bunch of the players anyway.

2) The guy who went to over 200 games last year isn’t crazy. He’s lucky. While most people are trapped in cubicles or in classrooms or wherever, he’s traveling the world and watching baseball. What’s crazy about that? I think it’s awesome. I don’t know what his financial situation is, but if he doesn’t need to work (full-time), more power to him.

Wow! Do you think they would rough up a girl, too? I think if I ever got in this situation that I would find the biggest guy and tell the jerks that I’m with him. Just another tip for would-be female ball snaggers. You’re welcome! And that’s in addition to what I reported to your earlier on how I just sat in my seat and had a game ball hand delivered! ;)

Well, im a New Yorker, and New Yorkers always have something to do, so in my mind, its crazy that he can make time for a game a day. but know that i think about it, if i could do a game per day, i probably would.
Is he single?

No, I won’t count Futures Game balls. My reason for counting Spring Training balls is that they were all thrown by Major League players. That won’t be the case at the Futures Game.

By the way, the Reds may have been snotty in Philly, but they were one of the most generous teams I’ve ever seen last night. I got all seven of my balls in the 55 minutes they were on the field for BP. (Also, they actually took full fielding practice, which I haven’t seen in a long time at a Major League game).

gregorybarasch were you the one at shea last night who had a plain red hat and then taped a c for the reds logo on it? because i saw someone who did that…

Yeah, that was me. But don’t sell my effort short! It wasn’t just any “C”. It was a beautiful Cincinnati “C” logo, printed on label paper, and carefully cut out. Plus, my blank red shirt helped the illusion of being a Reds fan. And it worked very well.

If you saw me do this, I think I know who you were. Were you one of like three kids who started out in the RF Loge and jogged all the way around to the LF Loge when the Reds came out? (Did you get any balls yesterday?)

yea, i got 1 on the field level as soon as i came in, one from guy conti in the mets bullpen(sitting on the bag) one from eddie guardado and one from jon coutlangus, then went back to the left field field level and got 1 from adam dunn. so 5. and a guardado autograph. security from the bullpen called up to the loge and kicked us out

“Yeah, that was me. But don’t sell my effort short! It wasn’t just any “C”. It was a beautiful Cincinnati “C” logo, printed on label paper, and carefully cut out. Plus, my blank red shirt helped the illusion of being a Reds fan. And it worked very well”

that’s the most entertaining thing i’ve heard all day

mike

very innovative greg! i like it…jesus what is the deal with all those idiots on the ultimate collectors site? its unbelievable how many people have responded to something that was over and didnt concern them..

tswechtenberg – By “entertaining”, do you mean that positively or negatively?

redsox – Thank you, and yeah, what the **** is wrong with those people? (It was a reasonable conversation until Sarah and Rick got involved. Idiots.)

gjk2212 – I saw you get the ball from the Mets bag in the bullpen. I was in the Loge corner spot when that got thrown up. Cool. Who were the other two(?) people with you?

i have no idea what is wrong with them except they feel that they have to protect a kid who made his own blog and is perfectly capable of talking for himself…they are idiots

what ultimate collectors site?
did i miss something?

my friend, my brother, and my brothers friend…good luck at fenway

btw, how did you get your 7? i’m always looking for more tips on how to get more balls at shea as its my most visited ballpark.

SURFNUSA-
Not only would they rough up a girl…they DID. Well, not the two guys that I talked about here, but read my new entry and you’ll see what I mean. Unfortunately, the biggest guy in the section WAS the guy who was being aggressive, so I’m not sure who you could’ve turned to for help.

PUCK COLLECTOR-

I’m not sure if he’s single. Perhaps he’ll leave a comment here one day and introduce himself so everyone (who’s curious about his life) can ask him questions.

GREG-

What if you got a ball from a guy in Spring Training who hadn’t yet reached the majors? Or what if you get a ball at the Futures Game from a guy who’s already had a cup of coffee? Hmm? I miss infield/outfield practice so much. It was great to see it at the Futures Game. I’m pretty sure that “tswechtenberg” wasn’t being sarcastic.

REDSOX-

I didn’t see anything on the “Ultimate Collector” site. What are you guys talking about?

GJK2212-

If you want tips for getting balls at Shea, you should comb through my old blog entries.

EVERYONE-

My Home Run Derby entry is finally up, and it’s nearly 2,800 words. Also, in case anyone cares, there was a WILD game in the Gulf Coast League a couple nights ago, and I wrote it up for work (and even got to interview a former major leaguer). Here’s the link:

http://web.minorleaguebaseball.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20070712&content_id=273919&vkey=news_milb&fext=.jsp

zack: it is under 7/06/07 at rodgers centre. myself and gregory and chris had a little bit of an agrument about wheter or not he had gotton vip passes and why he felt the need to be so secretive about it. SO then we all resolved it, chris and gregory were fine, gregory and i were fine (we always had been) and chris and i were fine but then a bunch of other people started coming on to his site and posting under that topic, stirring things up again even when we told them everything had been worked out…but its not that big of a deal

how the heck did you escape that evil usher?

REDSOX-
Ahh, I see. Thanks for explaining the situation.

MARK (and redsox)-

Didn’t see your comments ’til now. Sorry for the delayed reply. But as for the usher, I don’t know. I think he had a split personality. Sometimes he was okay. Other times he TRIED to get me, so I just tried to stay on his good side and make my moves when he wasn’t right near me.

Anyone have any used 2007 Futures game balls i would like to get one. or if anyone has anything by adrian cardenas. email me at aandtcollectible@aol.com thanks

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