5/7/09 at Camden Yards
I attended this game with my friend Sean, and we met up with a couple other guys who read this blog: Donnie (aka “donnieanks” in the comments) and Gary (aka “gjk2212”). Here we all are outside the Eutaw Street gate. From left to right: Donnie, Sean, me, and Gary:
As a baseball fan, this was one of the worst days of my life. Not only did I learn that Manny Ramirez is officially a fraud (I’m done rooting for him now), but it was sunny and there was NO batting practice. This was the ugly scene when I ran inside the stadium at 5pm:
Jeremy Guthrie was walking from the bullpen through right-center field. I ran down to the front row and called out to him and thanked him for playing catch with me the day before. He told me he saw me get the two foul balls during the game. I asked him why there wasn’t batting practice. He shrugged and headed off toward the dugout. (I later heard two theories about the lack of BP. The first was that the field was still too wet from all the rain the night before, and the second was that the managers decided to skip BP because the players had been up so late.)
I saw a pitcher throwing in the Orioles’ bullpen, so I ran over…
…and got one of the guys to toss me a ball when they were done, but it fell inexcusably short and bounced off the wall and rolled back toward them. Bullpen coach Alan Dunn walked over and picked it up.
“Go ahead and THROW it!” I shouted. “I won’t get hurt. I’ll catch it. I promise.”
That convinced him and he fired the ball right to me. It felt good to get that first ball out of the way.
There wasn’t anything else going on at that point, so I cut through the seats and slowly made my way toward the infield. Moments later I saw Sean running toward me and frantically waving me over. He said Guthrie had been talking to Ken Rosenthal about me, and that Rosenthal wanted to interview me.
“Are you SERIOUS?!” I said. “Thanks so much! How did that happen?”
Sean just told me that Guthrie was in the dugout and that I should go over there and talk to him.
This is what I saw when I got to the dugout:
In the photo above, you can see Rosenthal wearing a suit and tie, standing off in the distance on the warning track. I couldn’t believe this was really going to happen. Finally, I was going to have a chance to tell a national audience about my charity efforts.
I asked Guthrie what was up. He told me to “go over and talk to Ken.” I thanked him profusely and then headed toward the outfield end of the dugout.
Rosenthal was busy talking to Adam Eaton, so I stood there and waited.
Then the grounds crew covered the field:
In the photo above, Rosenthal is like, “Is this really happening?”
That was my thought too. This whole thing seemed fantastically bizarre, so when Eaton finally walked off, I shouted, “Hey Ken!”
He looked up, and I continued by saying, “I think I might be the victim of a practical joke, but Jeremy Guthrie told me you were looking for me.”
“Yeah, you are,” he said.
“Oh…” I replied, mildly amused and a bit deflated by the whole situation…”well, do you know who I am?”
“He didn’t tell you about me? I’m the guy who collects baseballs. I have almost 4,000 of them and–”
Rosenthal clearly wasn’t interested, so I stopped talking and walked off. Guthrie was already gone by that point, and 10 seconds later I saw Gary get a ball tossed to him behind the Twins’ dugout. Fabulous. Jeremy Guthrie COST me a ball (and cost Pitch In For Baseball roughly $20), but I suppose it was worth it. I can forever say that I’ve been pranked by a major league baseball player.
I did end up getting a ball behind the Twins’ dugout about five minutes later. Two coaches were playing catch. Gary was still over there, camped out in the front with his Twins gear, so my only chance was to move back about 10 rows and hope that the coach who ended up with the ball would take pleasure in making the more difficult throw to ME. That’s exactly what happened. The only problem was that the coaches were wearing warm-up jerseys covering their uniform numbers, so I had no idea who they were. Before they disappeared into the dugout, I pulled out my camera and took a few quick pics of the guy who’d hooked me up. When I got back to NYC late that night (and was reunited with my internet connection), I emailed the pics to my friend Bob (aka “bigglovebob”) in Minnesota and asked him who it was, and when I woke up this morning, I had an answer: Jerry White. Yay for technology. (And thanks to Bob.)
I headed toward the right field foul line because a couple Orioles were playing catch:
In the photo above, you can see two fans all the way down in the front row. The fan on the right (in the orange shirt) was Donnie, and he still hadn’t snagged a ball, so I told him I’d stay back, and that I wouldn’t even ask for the ball when the guys were done. The only problem for Donnie was that he didn’t assert himself enough when the throwing session ended. The guy closer to him was first base coach John Shelby, and he started walking toward the dugout with TWO balls in his glove.
“Go on,” I told Donnie, “walk alongside him in the seats.”
Donnie moved slowly and asked softly, and Shelby was escaping with his brisk walk.
I decided at that point that I had to go for it, so I cut through the seats and caught up with Shelby and said, “Excuse me, is there any chance you could spare a baseball, please?”
“SPARE a baseball?” replied Shelby. “I never heard THAT one before. SPARE a baseball? Are you planning to give it back?”
(Yeah…anyway. Thanks. I didn’t say “borrow,” so why don’t you stick to coaching first base and leave the wordplay to the professionals?)
Thankfully it was a rhetorical question, and as soon as he finished asking it, he reached into his glove and pulled out a ball and flipped it to me.
Five minutes later, the confused grounds crew half-removed the tarp…
…and several Twins came out and started throwing:
Jesse Crain tossed me a ball when he was done, and less than a minute later, an overthrow (by Jose Mijares, I think) skipped off the top of the brick wall and landed several rows back. There was an all-out race for the ball, and thanks to the fact that other fans never seem to realize that gravity makes balls roll down steps, I ended up getting it. (People always run RIGHT to the spot where the ball lands, rather than heading to a spot several rows below as I always do.)
If I’d had anything worth getting signed, I probably would’ve gotten about a dozen autographs. It seemed like half the Twins’ roster came over and signed, but I didn’t have any ticket stubs, and I didn’t want the balls signed (I keep those pure except for my own teeny markings), so I just got close and took photos. Here’s a shot of Kevin Slowey (what a horrible name for a pitcher, but at least his first name isn’t Homer) and Joe Nathan:
You know how players have their names stitched onto their gloves? Well, I don’t know if this was Nathan’s practice glove or what, but there was something funny stitched on it. Check it out:
I got my sixth ball of the day thrown by Michael Cuddyer right before the game started. Nothing fancy. Pre-game throwing along the foul line. Yawn. None of the six balls were commemorative.
I spent most of the game in the standing room only section (aka “the flag court”) down the right field line. Here’s a look at that section from a spot just foul of the pole:
Pretty nice, eh?
The only problem with that section, from a ballhawking perspective, is that when you’re standing at the back of it, you can’t see the field:
I nearly caught Aubrey Huff’s home run in the bottom of the third inning. It was a line drive that barely cleared the wall on my right, and as I ran up to make the catch, the people who were standing at the wall backed up and flinched and got right in my way, forcing ME to back up and flinch (so I wouldn’t get creamed by a deflection). The ball hit some lady on the butt, and before I could see where it landed, some other guy (with no glove, of course) swooped in and snatched it. I definitely would’ve caught it on the fly if not for these people. Very very very very very very very frustrating…but I can’t blame them. I blame Aubrey Huff for not hitting it five feet higher.
That was the only action for me for the rest of the night. I ran over to the Orioles’ dugout with two outs in the ninth inning…
…but didn’t get anything there.
Final score: Zack 6, Orioles 5, Twins 4.
• 6 balls at this game
• 147 balls in 19 games this season = 7.7 balls per game.
• 588 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 158 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball
• 3,967 total balls
• 103 donors (click here and scroll down for the complete list)
• $20.38 pledged per ball
• $122.28 raised at this game
• $2,995.86 raised this season for Pitch In For Baseball