9/15/10 at Camden Yards

The good thing about going to an all-you-can-eat Indian buffet in Baltimore…

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…is that there’s plenty of room to run around at Camden Yards and burn off the calories:

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Within the first few minutes of BP, a right-handed batter on the Orioles smoked a line-drive homer that landed in the empty front row. I ran down and grabbed the ball:

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“Who hit that?!” I shouted at my friend Rick Gold, who was camped out ten rows back.

“Fox,” said a voice that came from the warning track.

As it turned out, Kevin Millwood was standing just short of the wall and answered the question for me. How about that? Jake Fox. Yes, of course.

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One minute later, I caught a home run on the fly, and once again I was unable to identify the batter.

“Who was THAT?” I asked Millwood.

“Tatum,” he said.

Ha! Awesome. Craig Tatum. I never would’ve known. And then I caught another Jake Fox homer on the fly.

At around 5:10pm, I snagged my fourth home run ball of the day. It wasn’t Fox. It wasn’t Tatum. Damn. I had no idea who hit it, and Millwood was gone. But whatever. I got the ball — that’s what matters — and (my girlfriend) Jona took a series of photos of me chasing it down. Here’s the first one. It shows me tracking the ball as I drifted to my left:

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As soon as I determined that the ball was going to fall a bit short, I took my eyes off it and focused on climbing over a few rows of seats:

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Then I looked back up as the ball was descending; note the red arrow pointing to it:

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The ball landed, prompting a scramble with the fan in the gray jersey:

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Finally, I beat him to it and grabbed the ball just as he was lunging for it:

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Don’t feel bad for the other guy. He’s there every day and always snags at least a few balls.

Before the Orioles finished their portion of BP, I played catch for a minute with Jeremy Guthrie. Here’s a screen shot from a video that shows me catching one of his throws…

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…and here’s another screen shot that shows me tossing it back:

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(Whenever I try to embed a YouTube video on my blog, the format gets messed up, so I’m afraid you’ll just have to click here to watch it.)

In case you’re wondering how I got to play catch with Guthrie, it’s pretty simple: I asked. It also helped that I’ve gotten to know him over the years, but I’ve played catch with lots of players that I’d never met before…like Kyle Farnsworth. Now THAT was fun.

When the Orioles finished hitting, Rick and I each had four baseballs. I asked if we could get a photo together, and as we walked over to a sunny spot, he found a fifth ball hiding in the folded-up portion of a seat. Unbelievable. Here we are moments later:

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The Blue Jays started warming up on the 3rd base side, so I changed into my Jays gear and headed to their dugout. Aaron Hill threw me my fifth ball of the day, and less than a minute later, I got another from Vernon Wells. In the following photo, the horizontal arrow is pointing to Wells, and the vertical arrow is pointing to the ball in mid-air:

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Once the Jays started hitting, I raced back out to the left field seats. Look how empty it was; the arrow is pointing to me:

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Then an amazing thing happened: I got three more balls in a 20-second span. The first two were home runs that I caught on the fly on back-to-back pitches. The third was another homer that landed in the seats…two pitches later, I think. I wasn’t sure who had hit them. Rick (who works for MLB.com) was almost certain that it was Edwin Encarnacion, so I’m gonna assume that that’s who it was.

A few minutes later, Jona called out to me from her spot 15 rows back.

“Can you come here for a minute?” she asked.

I couldn’t imagine what was so important that she’d be pulling me away from my normal spot.

“What is it?” I called back.

She didn’t say anything. She just gave me a look as if to say, “I can’t explain it, so you need to come over here,” and as soon as I started running up the steps, she very subtly pointed at the ground in the middle of a row.

I should know by now not to question her. This is why she called me over:

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Jona knows that I will NOT count a baseball in my collection if another fan gains possession of it first, so instead of picking it up and handing it to me, she called me over so I could grab it myself. If that’s not love, then I don’t know what is.

That was my 10th ball of the day and No. 4,599 overall. The next ball was going to be a milestone, and in case it ended up being a home run, I wanted to know who was batting.

Well, it WAS a home run. Here I am catching it:

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Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to identify the batter, and when I asked the players who was hitting, they all ignored me except for Fred Lewis, who saw my Jays gear and said, “You’re a fan. You should know.”

All I know is that it was a right-handed batter with a very open stance. His left side was practically facing third base before he squared up and stepped straight into the pitch. Any ideas?

Here I am posing with No. 4,600 soon after:

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Toward the end of BP, I got Blue Jays bullpen catcher Alex Andreopoulos to toss me a ball near the foul pole, and then I headed to the 3rd base dugout. Brian Butterfield, the team’s 3rd base coach, ended up walking in with a spare ball in his hand:

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He tossed it to me. Here’s a photo of the ball in mid-air:

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That was my 13th ball of the day, and I got another from Yunel Escobar just before the game (no arrow necessary):

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You may have noticed that in the photo above, I wasn’t wearing my Blue Jays shirt. That was intentional. I figured that everyone on the team recognized me by that point, so I changed my appearance and just went with the hat.

The game itself was incredible — not because I caught anything, but because it only lasted an hour and 55 minutes! I don’t think I’d ever attended a game that finished so fast. The Orioles won, 3-1, behind a 95-pitch, complete-game effort from Brad Bergesen. For the Jays, Kyle Drabek made his major league debut and did pretty well. He allowed three runs in six innings…gave up nine hits, walked three, and struck out five, but the most impressive thing is that he hit 99mph on the radar gun, and I wasn’t even paying attention to the velocity for most of the night, so who knows? He might have even touched triple digits when I wasn’t looking. By the way, Drabek threw 88 pitches, and then two relievers — Shawn Camp and Scott Downs — combined to work the last two innings with thirteen pitches. The Jays and O’s threw a total of 196 pitches. THAT is how to play a game in under two hours. Normally, I love it when games last long, but not when I have a 200-mile drive waiting for me after the final out. Of course, Jona and I didn’t rush toward the garage right away. First I headed to the 3rd base line as the Jays relievers walked in from the bullpen. This was my view as they headed toward me:

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Jesse Carlson tossed me a ball — my 15th of the day — and then Kevin Gregg threw me another 30 seconds later.

After that, I gave away two of my baseballs to kids and headed toward the Eutaw Street exit. Here are the 14 balls I kept:

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The End.

SNAGGING STATS:

• 16 balls at this game

• 247 balls in 26 games this season = 9.5 balls per game.

• 655 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 201 consecutive games outside New York with at least one ball

• 129 lifetime games with at least 10 balls

• 4,605 total balls

CHARITY STATS:

• 45 donors (click here to learn more)

• $6.49 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $103.84 raised at this game

• $1,603.03 raised this season for Pitch In For Baseball

12 Comments

Zack,
As you may know, the 2011 MLB schedule was released yesterday. In an article that I just read, it said that there is a possibility that a Marlins Mariners series could be played in Vancouver next year, due to the fact that U2 is playing at Sun Life Stadium while the Marlins are at home. I just thought I would let you know about that, considering that if it does happen, I know you will be there. And FYI, the series is in June. Here is the link for the article: http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2010-09-15/sports/fl-marlins-notes-0916-20100915-9_1_alex-sanabia-marlins-sun-life-stadium

-Will
http://snaggingautographsandbaseballs.mlblogs.com/

Zack –

Looks like you got your groove back after being out of the game for at least a month. I’m happy if I get one ball per game. I only try for batted balls. That Indian food looks good!

– Ken

Looks like you shook off your rust. I’ve been doing pretty well in Cincinnati – got double digits in 3 consecutive Diamondbacks/Reds games. Will there be commemorative balls for each series in the playoffs or just the World Series? And any chance you make it down to Nationals Park for the Phillies/Nationals series starting in 11 days?

-Justin

aye, aye, aye…I was hoping to hit up that Mariners series in Florida next season. How can U2 trump an MLB game? That’s not right. By the way, nice entry, Zack.
-Todd
http://cookandsonbats.mlblogs.com

Short games always leave me feeling like I got swindled a little bit out of my ticket money. I was at the shortest game in Arizona Diamondbacks’ home history on 5/31/08 versus the Nationals – Brandon Webb threw 9 innings of shutout, 113-pitch baseball, and Jason Bergmann threw 8 innings of 103-pitch baseball (no ninth inning since we won), giving up four solo home runs. There were 13 hits among both teams, and zero walks issued. The game lasted a mere 1 hour, 45 minutes by my watch and I’d barely had time to eat a hot dog before it ended! Don’t get me wrong, I don’t really want 4-hour averages like the Yankees-Red Sox or Dodgers, but less than two hours is too fast a game for my taste!

saw you at citi field tonight, i had the blue mets fleece pullover on with the 1st base glove. Sorry if anyone around me was a *** to you. I don’t want to come off as a dick to a stranger or anyone in general. There was a group of guys in the front row that kept coming up to me and my friend saying get in your way etc. Figured i would let you know. Hopefully it all worked out. You had to be up to 15 or more by the time BP ended. Maybe ill turn up in a pic or two in the next entry lol Good luck with the book

WILL-
Wow!!!!! Thanks for letting me know. That would be beyond awesome. I hope it happens.

KEN-
If you’re only going for batted balls, then one ball per game is actually pretty good. But you know what? It all depends on the stadium? At some places, it’s easy to catch BP homers, but in other places its almost impossible.

JUSTIN-
Wow, that’s very impressive. I might have to try to make it out there next season. As for the Nats/Phillies series, that’s doubtful.

TODD-
Meet me in Vancouver, eh?

DBACKS1985-
I hear ya…and damn, an hour and 45 minutes is ridiculous.

LI7039-
That was YOU? How come I never recognize you? That was only the second time that we’ve been at Citi together, right? Or was it the third? Next time, will you do me a favor and *please* identify yourself at the start of BP if I don’t recognize you first? Sometimes, I just really suck with faces and names, so I apologize. It’s actually really embarrassing. Anyway, no worries about anyone else’s behavior. Everyone seemed like they were acting fine, as far as I could tell. The problem with Citi is that there aren’t many good places to go during BP, so if there are even a few ballhawks out in LF, we all just end up getting in each others’ way. On a final note, nice catch on that homer in front of me. I should have boxed you out or climbed on a chair or something, but I didn’t expect you to judge the ball so precisely and move that well…so I tip my cap to you.

Ha very cool Boise Hawks shirt

HI!!!

I am calling out to you for a little favor. My husband and I set a baseball signing in 1998 with (3) great legends Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and ?Stan the Man? Musial. We have 600 balls autographed and signed their stats. These are really nice baseballs for serious collectors. We sold most of them, and saved the best ones for ourselves, I thought you would be a great source to see if you know anyone that would love to buy one or more of these rare baseballs. I am sure I do not have to tell remind you these (3) greats are the only baseball player ever to participate in the 6000 total base club. They signed it and signed their stats on this beautiful ball, we are proud of this accomplishment, and think any serious baseball collector should own one. These players are part of baseball history. We have Cert of Auth, and pictures of the signing, I am so glad to have been able to be there to meet them!! We are selling them for $300.00 each. If you know of anyone I would be so grateful your any help, thanks for your time!

MIGNONE-
Sounds like you have some really impressive items on your hands. Thanks for telling me about them. I’m sorry to say, though, that I can’t think of anyone in particular that would be interested. I have a lot of friends who collect autographs, but these guys get all their autographs in person. They don’t pay for any of them. But who knows? The fact that you just left a comment about it might catch someone’s eye…

Heh heh, comment 2 years later:)

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