6/16/08 at Coors Field

coors_field_from_afar.jpgThe day started with five hours of sleep and a delayed flight from New York City to Denver. My friend Dan Sauvageau (who has caught 36 home runs on a fly during games) picked me up at the airport and drove me to my hotel, and soon after I made the 15-minute walk to Coors Field.

I didn’t have time to wander and take pics outside the stadium. I pretty much had to head straight to the gate, and even though I arrived with half an hour to spare, there were already dozens of fans on line. Not only were the Rockies playing the Braves, but there was a big giveaway: replica championship trophies. By the time the gates opened, there were hundreds of fans, and it didn’t matter to me because I had a ticket to snagging heaven…

front_row.jpg

The front row at Coors Field is THE place to be for batting practice, and I wouldn’t have been able to go there without a front-row ticket. I was psyched just thinking of the opportunities, but I knew I had to play it cool. I’d heard that the ushers weren’t too fond of ball-retrieving devices (like my glove trick), and I also wanted to be respectful of the regular ballhawks who hang out there. Dan was one of them, and Robert Harmon (the guy from my Bonds 762 story) was another. This was their den. I didn’t want to barge in and act like a jerk.

In the photo above, you can kind of see the number on the back of the nearest player’s jersey. It was number 23…Ryan Speier…the guy who’d given me his glove on 9/29/05 at Shea Stadium. After the “glove incident,” I didn’t see him for a couple years, so I was shocked when HE remembered ME. That was in Philadelphia. Now, here we were, a year later, in a different time zone. Would he still remember?

zack_talking_to_ryan_speier.jpgI walked over and said, “Hey, Ryan, it’s me, the glove guy.”

“Hey!” he said, then walked over and shook my hand. “What brings you out this way?”

“I’m gonna be written up by the Associated Press,” I told him. “There’s gonna be a writer following me around the ballpark starting tomorrow.”

“Sounds like you’re getting some good press,” he said.

“You know about my baseball collection, right?”

“Yeah, I’ve been to your web site,” he said.

“Oh yeah,” I said, “That’s right.”

Just then, the batter happened to hit a ball that rolled right to him, and I didn’t bother asking for it. I figured there’d be no way that he’d give it to me, but he scooped it up and said, “Here,” and flipped it my way.

“Wow, thanks!” I said and kept talking. “I want you to know that the glove you gave me is the absolute coolest item I’ve ever gotten at a game. It’s better than any of the balls, even the Barry Bonds home run that I caught, better than the bats, lineup cards, everything, so thanks again.”

ryan_speier_thumbs_up.jpg“You’re welcome,” he said. “I’m happy to hear that.”

And that was pretty much the end of the conversation.

My second ball of the day was a ground-rule double in left-center field. I could’ve actually caught a couple home runs by that point, but one of the regulars, an older guy named Danny (who caught Bonds’ 698th career homer), was hanging out nearby and I felt guilty about reaching in front of him, so I let him take a direct route to the edge of the wall, and I hung back in case the balls sailed over his head. On one of the homers, when the ball was at the top of its arc, I actually said to him, “Fine, you can have it,” and sure enough, he reached up right in front of my face at the last second and caught it. He appreciated my courtesy but also encouraged me to compete with him and the other guys for balls.

The Braves took the field, and I got two balls thrown to me within five minutes. The first came from Brandon Jones and the second (which I later gave to a little kid with a glove) came from Jeff Ridgway.

I finally got to use a little athleticism, and Robert was the unfortunate victim. One of the Braves batters hit a high fly ball that landed in the middle of the warning track in front of me. zack_front_row_batting_practice.jpgRobert had time to run over just before the ball hit the ground, and when it predictably bounced high above our heads, it was a straight-up battle of vertical leaps. There was no trash-talking. No shoving. No bitterness. I actually said “sorry” right after I gloved the ball and Robert gave me a high-five. Danny told me I got some “nice air.” Everyone was happy. The competition was friendly. It was the total opposite of Yankee Stadium.

Batting practice ended earlier than I expected. I figured it’d last until 6:25pm (or so) and I’d been planning to run over to the
Braves’ dugout to try to get a ball when all the players and coaches came off the field. So at about 6:10pm, as one of the rounds of BP was winding down–the last round, as it turned out–I found myself all the way out near the end of the left field pavilion, about as close as you can get to center field. There was a lefty in the cage (not sure who), and he ripped a deep line drive in my direction. There was no one else standing anywhere near me, so I shuffled over a few feet and got in line with it. The ball hit the edge of the grass just before the warning track and skipped up toward me. I leaned over the wall and made the catch, and when I looked up I saw all the Braves running off the field. It had been the very last swing of BP.

secret_concourse.jpgSoon after, Robert and Dan gave me a tour of the under-the-stands concourse that’s only accessible to players, employees, and fans with front-row tickets…and I have to say, it was pretty cool. At one point, we saw a Braves player (I think it was Manny Acosta) just sitting against the wall, wearing shorts and a T-shirt, talking on his cell phone.

Back in the seats, I met two fans who’d brought their copies of Watching Baseball Smarter for me to sign. The first was a guy named Don, who leaves comments on this blog as “Rock Pile Ranter,” and the second was a Braves fan (who reads this blog but doesn’t comment…yet) named Caroline. I also met several other fans who recognized me and just wanted to say hey. I was about 1,600 miles from New York City and felt like I was home.

Just before the game started, Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar began playing catch in very shallow left field, and when they took a break for the national anthem, I snapped a pic of the ball peeking through Johnson’s glove:

kelly_johnson_ball3456.jpg

Of course, I wouldn’t be showing you this pic if I didn’t actually GET the ball. As soon as the music finished, the guys continued playing catch, and since I was the only fan wearing a glove, Johnson had no choice but to toss it to me when he was done.

I worked the dugouts for third-out balls for the first few innings and didn’t get a thing. I was annoyed, obviously, every time Mark Teixiera jogged off the field and flipped his ball to grown men without gloves, but for the most part I was okay with it. My goal was to familiarize myself with the dugout seats so I’d be able to dominate the next day when the AP guy would be with me. Was it easy to sneak down? Which staircase was best? Were there enough empty seats on the ends of rows? I quickly answered my own questions and then headed to the upper deck to play with my new camera.

Here are two pics that I took from the last row directly behind home plate. When I got back to my hotel, I used Photoshop to combine them and make a panorama:

coors_upper_deck_panorama.jpg

No trip to the Coors Field upper deck is complete without visiting the purple row, which sits exactly one mile above sea level:

purple_row.jpg

The Rocky Mountains were hiding way off in the distance against the bright sky, so I darkened the following photo to make them stand out:

rocky_mountains.jpg

I headed downstairs in the fifth inning and photographed the mysterious area in front of the batter’s eye…

batters_eye.jpg

…and caught up with Dan and his four-year-old daughter Emily (who knows every Rockies player’s number) in the sixth inning…

emily_dan_during_game.jpg

…and finally made it to my actual seat in the seventh inning. This was the view:

view_from_actual_seat.jpg

I took off after the eighth inning and went to the Braves’ dugout, hoping to get a ball after the final out.

No luck.

Final score: Braves 7, Rockies 1. Chipper Jones went 2-for-4 with a walk to raise his batting average one point to .403.

johnson.jpgSTATS:

? 7 balls at this game

? 179 balls in 23 games this season = 7.8 balls per game.

? 519 consecutive games with at least one ball

? 122 consecutive games outside NYC with at least one ball

? 874 lifetime balls outside NYC

? 9 guys named Johnson who have now thrown balls to me

? 3,456 total balls

No Comments

Zack:
Nice job in colorado. How is the thin air? Good Luck
AC

Zack,
Can I use the picture of the bullpen as my desktop background ? It’s a great shot.

Jonathan

Hey, Zack nice game and good luck with the AP tonight, and what do you think of our beloved Mets getting rid of Willy, and replacing within the organization.

Wow. A whole post without mentioning Willie.

EVERYONE-
The AP is here at my hotel, waiting for me downstairs in the lobby. I have to run. I might not be able to answer comments until I get back to NYC, but I’m reading them all for now. It’s crazybusy here in Denver. Bear with me if you don’t get an answer from me for a few days…

Hey Zack will you still be putting up blogs eaxh day this week

sorry eaxh=each

There was just a homer hit to where zack sat last night. Thats just bad luck!!

Puck Collector…

Start spreading the news……Padres lose. So glad I didn’t make the trip East for that one!! What a terrible game for the Pads. Yankees looked good. An Abomb and two Steroid bombs do us in along with shoddy defense. How did you do in BP? Get any balls from the Padres? Anyone else get balls or autos? I’d like to know.

Zack….

Good luck tonight in Denver. Hope it is a prosperous game for you. Looking forward to your next entry.

Dan….

I’d like to see you and Zack go head to head for a game homer. I know you have the height advantage. I say you both miss it and Emily gets it. Good luck to both of you.

Leigh

leigh…
i was at the hotel today for san diego…
trevor hoffman x1
justin hampson x16
chase headley x3
khalil greene x1
paul mcanulty x4
tony clark x5
cha seung baek x1
mike adams x3
scott hairston x2
randy wolf x2
craig stansberry x2
bud black x1
mark grant x3

going again tomorrow…ill let you know how that goes

Bad news everyone Jose Reyes left the game with a left leg injury in the 1st, and Johan not looking to good, Let’s go Mets win one for Jerry

That’s too bad they don’t allow the glove trick at Coors. Thank god Bavasi got fired from the M’s. That firing was WAYYY overdue. Anyway, good luck tonight with the AP!

That scoreboard looks a lot like the one at citizens bank park.

ZACK I JUST GOT A START LAST NIGHT SNAGGING. I GOT ONE BALL AT A APPY LEAGUE GAME. THE PRINCETON RAYS LOST TO THE PULASKI MARINERS IN A 12 INNING GAME. DO YOU EVER GET TO COVER APPY LEAGUE BALL ? YOU SHOULD COME DOWN AND SEE US SOMETIME.

nice job!
as for me ill be quick. one ball(ross Ohlendof-again) a bobby abreu auto on that ball, and 20 bucks that i found lying on the floor in the lodge

oh yeah, trevor had his kids shagging balls during bp. they were good, but none of the players got the balls, so they couldnt throw any up. the kids just threw them back in. and there were 2 really good lefties, but they kept being like 5 seats ahead of the ball, so i was blocked from catching them

Joneli….

What hotel did the Padres wind up in? Nice work on the autos. Headley just got called up. Did you get him on a card or ball? I’d like to get his auto myself. I’m also going to try my hardest to catch his first MLB Home Run on Friday against Detroit in LF.

Puck Collector…

Trevor’s kids will throw balls up. You just have to ask em nice. I’ve got some from them. RF is the place to be for BP for sure. Glad to hear about the 20 bucks. I found a 20 on the trolley last year. It was sweet.

Hey Zack….

What hotel did you wind up in? (Please be a Hilton brand!!)

Leigh

See ya Friday Zack, I just got my tickets for the Mets game and I will be in that special row also…D

is dan from missoula montana (which is where i live)? because he has a montana griz hat on? just wondering if you knew but anyway good luck the rest of the trip

i didnt even ask. the players werent even throwing. i wish i knew they were gonna be there i woulda put them on my roster sheet! the kids were good too. they had all had guns, and could really catch. there was also an asian teeneager. i dont know if he was someones kid, but he wasnt socializing with the players like trevors kids, and then it lokked like he was the Padres bat boy during the game, but he looked too young to be a batboy when i saw him in BP.

AC-
The thin air is definitely making the balls travel farther, but otherwise I don’t even notice.

JONATHAN-
Absolutely. Thanks for asking. I would be honored.

DHBBALL18-
I think the Wilpons could’ve handled it better, but I support their decision. New York City is a “win now” place, and Willie failed to win. He also said some stupid things and caused a major distraction for his players and accused his bosses of being racist. If that’s not a reason to be fired, I don’t know what is. Jerry Manual is a good choice, at least for now. And yeah…I plan to blog every day while I’m here, although I might not get a chance to blog about Friday’s game until I’m back in NYC.

RKISER-
I’m not writing for minorleaguebaseball.com this season, but yes, I used to write the occasional Appy League story.

LEIGH-
I’ll email you about my hotel…

REDSOX342445-
I heard he answered you already.

If that really WAS Manny Acosta, Id have paid good money to throw a ball AT him. Haha.

dear Zack,
hi my names Evan, i am in 10th grade and i am a big fan… i have been reading your blog for a couple of months now and i find it so amazing how you can sometimes get 10 baseballs a game…
recently on June 13th i went to Shea for a game to get my first baseballs… i got there an hour late and i went over to the outer field box where i tried to get a ball… i told the players how i could get a baseball with the glove trick… i got his attention and he brought over a baseball to see what i was talking about… meanwhile i swore on my life to him that i would get this baseball… he said i can kill you if you don’t get this baseball… meanwhile i was in a crowd and these two 12 year old kids were being so annoying saying how i wont get the ball. Castro put the ball against the wall and i couldn’t see the ball… it was so embarrassing because 30 seconds later he tossed it to one of the a holes who said it was their birthday… liars! it was a yankees commemorative baseball and he signed it for the kid and when i tried to get an autograph he walked away… by that time i felt like killing myself because i am a die heart yankee fan and i wanted that baseball…
after that i decided to get Pedro Martinez attention by asking him for a ball in Spanish… after 20 minutes of begging i moved up got on a chair hit my glove alot and was determined to get a ball hoping it was a Shea commemorative. he looked into my eyes and finally threw a ball towards me… i leaned forward and made THE GREATEST CATCH OF MY LIFE!!! my best moment at a baseball game by far Pedro Martinez just threw a ball at me and it was a commemorative… don’t want to write an even bigger book right now Zack… so ill wrap it up.
stats this game
1 ball
4 tickets(found 2)
3 things signed by josh Hamilton (ticket, card, glove)
2 Shea stadium prepaid parking tickets (found 1)
1 once in a life time experience!
question COULD YOU PLEASE TELL ME THE BEST PLACE TO GO DURING BATTING PRACTICE AND WHEN TO LEAVE FOR A GAME

Thanks,
YOU ROCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
from,
your fan,
EVAN
PS. what is the next Shea game you are going to… i think i am going to is sept. 9th or 10th… maybe we could meet up there and you could teach me some of the tricks of the trade.

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