7/29/08 at Yankee Stadium
My snagging nearly got off to an early start. Check out this pic I took in the subway on my way to Yankee Stadium:
Here’s a close-up:
This may surprise you, but I did NOT make an attempt to snag this ball. It’s probably still there. Go for it. Grand Concourse at 149th Street. No. 4 train platform. Let me know how it goes. Watch out for the rats.
I had to deal with a few human rats in the bleachers, but that goes without saying. Late in batting practice, after I’d changed into my Orioles cap and bright orange Orioles T-shirt, a 40-something-year-old man (who was so fat that he had to leave his Yankees jersey unbuttoned) told me, “You’ll be lucky to make it out of here alive.” He wasn’t giving me a friendly warning. He was issuing a threat, and several other fans joined him in harassing me. I resisted the urge to tell the guy he’d be lucky not to die of a heart attack before the seventh inning stretch.
The rest of BP was great. The stadium had opened at 5pm, and by the time the clock said 5:07, I’d already snagged three balls. The first was tossed by Jose Veras on that little platform in front of the bleachers. (Security was nowhere in sight for the first couple minutes.) The second was a home run by Derek Jeter that landed on the batter’s eye and somehow rolled close enough to the side fence that I was able to reach over from the seats and grab it. The third was a home run by Bobby Abreu that I caught on a fly. I was standing in the aisle, and the ball came RIGHT to me. I didn’t move an inch. All I had to do was reach up two feet over my head. (Of course I first had to judge the distance that the ball would travel and then make a split-second decision whether to stay put or run back.)
The bleachers kept getting more and more crowded, but I wasn’t done. I kept positioning myself differently for every hitter, moving toward right-center for some guys and staying deep and toward the foul pole for others…like Jason Giambi who launched a deep fly ball behind me and to the left. Most of the nearby fans didn’t move until the ball had landed, at which point I was in full stride, and I grabbed it as it quickly started rolling down the steps. FUN!!!
A few minutes later, I found myself standing in the aisle at the front of the section when Wilson Betemit ripped a deep drive in my direction. I quickly determined that the ball was going to travel too far, so I spun around and put my head down and focused on NOT tripping as I bolted up half a dozen steps next to the tunnel. Two seconds later, when I figured the ball was about to land, I turned back toward the field and looked up and got temporarily blinded by the sun but then spotted the ball zooming toward me. It was still a little too high, and it was heading for the middle of the tunnel to my left, so I took one more step and reached as high as I could and lunged over the slanted railing to my glove side at the very last second and made the catch in the tip of my glove over the tunnel. Ohmygod, it was beautiful–easily one of my all-time Top Ten catches–and because I wasn’t yet decked out in Orioles gear, the whole section erupted with cheers and applause.
I used my glove trick to snag two more balls from the gap–one before the Yankees left the field and the other during the Orioles’ portion of BP–and would’ve been able to use it twice more if my friend Greg (aka “gregorybarasch”) hadn’t been there. Of course HE would’ve been able to use his cup trick twice more if not for me, and he also would’ve gotten the Veras ball. We just happened to end up in the same section at the same game so we made the best of it and agreed to share the balls that dropped into the gap.
We sat together during the game and didn’t snag any other balls. Nothing came close. Jeter doubled off the wall about 40 feet to our left, and A-Rod hit a home run that Veras retrieved in the bullpen, about 80 feet to the right. Bleh. The biggest highlight of the game was seeing a fan reach too far for a foul ball, tumble of out of his luxury suite, and briefly get stuck in the netting just below. Final score: Orioles 7, Yankees 6.
After the game, as fans were filing out of the stadium, I took a baseball out of my bag and waited in the concourse. Thirty seconds later, I spotted a deserving recipient: a little kid, not more than seven years old, who was with his dad and still wearing his glove, which appeared to be empty. “Did you catch anything today?” I asked, and when he said no, I handed him the ball. You could say he was pretty excited.
With just a few minutes to spare before security would be kicking everyone out, Greg went to the left field bleachers to look for ticket stubs, and I photographed my six remaining balls:
? 7 balls at this game
? 270 balls in 38 games this season = 7.1 balls per game.
? 534 consecutive games with at least one ball
? 121 consecutive games at Yankee Stadium with at least one ball
? 3,547 total balls
My next game?
Watch With Zack.