4/5/11 at Yankee Stadium
The day got off to a fun start as I was heading to the stadium…
It was 4:10pm. I was in the subway at 59th Street and Lexington, waiting for the No. 4 train, when an African-American high school kid noticed my Twins shirt.
“Yeah,” I said.
“And you’re wearing THAT?!”
“Be careful, man,” he said.
“Whatever, I’m not even a Twins fan,” I told him. “I have a hat and shirt of every team because it hel–“
“Wait a second,” he interrupted. “Weren’t you in, like, a newspaper or something?”
“Yeah, a bunch,” I said, and we talked for a couple minutes until the train came. It was pretty cool to have been recognized, even though I had to talk about myself in order for him to figure out who I was.
Anyway, it had rained all morning and afternoon. I was convinced that there wasn’t going to be batting practice, but I’d decided to go regardless, so you can imagine how excited I was when I ran inside the stadium and saw this:
Even though the ground was still wet (as you can see above), the Yankees were hitting. Right field, however, proved to be dead, so I raced over to the left field side and snagged three quick balls. The first was an A-Rod homer that landed in the bleachers and (very luckily) bounced down into the seats below. The following photo shows where it landed and where it ended up:
The second ball was tossed by Freddy Garcia, and it had a huge wet stain:
My third ball was a line-drive homer hit by a righty on the Yankees — probably Russell Martin, but I’m not certain. In any case, I darted 30 feet to my right, and at the last second, because there was a cluster of fans in front of me reaching for it, I flinched and turned completely to the side to protect my face — but I kept my glove in the spot where I figured the ball would end up. Then I heard the ball tip off of someone’s hands and felt it smack the pocket of my glove.
Nice. I needed some luck after the dreadful performance I’d had the day before during BP.
When the Twins took the field, I got Scott Baker to toss me my fourth ball of the day…
…and then I headed back to right field when Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Jim Thome starting taking their cuts. One of the three — I think it was Morneau — launched a deep homer that was heading a full section to my right. There were three guys in my row, so I had to shuffle down a few steps before cutting across, and by the time I got there, the ball had landed in the tunnel closest to the bullpen (and nearly taken out an oblivious female security guard in the process). Luckily, there was no one in the tunnel, and I was able to scoop it up.
Moments after I returned to my spot in straight-away right field, Morneau cracked a line drive that was heading ten feet to my left. I was in the back row, and I could tell that the ball was going to fall well short. As it got closer (and keep in mind that this all happened really fast), I could tell that it had a chance to clear the wall, but more specifically, it occurred to me that it might land on the flat concrete surface on top of the wall. The red arrow below shows what I’m talking about:
I started drifting to my left to get in line with the ball, figuring that if it DID land on top of the wall, it would bounce all the way back in my direction.
That’s exactly what happened. I had to jump about six inches to reach it because the ball took a big bounce. The best thing about snagging it was that I anticipated a highly unlikely ricochet, and when it happened, I was prepared.
Check out the beautiful smudged logo on that ball:
Less than a minute later, one of the three lefties launched another homer into the bleachers, just over my head. If it had been two feet lower, I would’ve jumped for it, but instead I just had to stand there and watch helplessly as it sailed toward a guy with a glove. Guess what? He bobbled it, and the ball plopped right down to me. That was my seventh ball of the day, and that’s when it occurred to me that I might be able to reach double digits for the first time at the new Yankee Stadium. This was only the 12th game that I’d ever attended there, and my record was eight balls. But I had to work fast. It was already close to 6pm, so there wasn’t much time remaining.
I headed back to left field, and although things were slow at first, I went on a mini-hot streak toward the end of BP. I caught a homer on the fly (a towering fly ball that I judged perfectly), and then I caught another (a line drive that forced me to run 20 feet to my right). I don’t know who hit either one, but the second of these two balls had barely flown over a kid’s outstretched glove in the front row, so as soon as I caught it, I handed it to him.
BP was moments from ending, and I just needed one more ball to reach the promised land. Someone on the Twins hit a deep fly ball that trickled to the wall in left-center field. Matt Capps wandered over to retrieve it, and I raced over to get as close to him as possible. Was he going to recognize me from the previous game and remember that he’d already tossed me a ball? Only one way to find out…
“Matt,” I said quietly since he was just a few feet away,” any chance you could spare that ball, please?”
He looked up and gave it an easy toss in my direction, and just like that, I’d done it. Double digits were mine. Domination of the new Yankee Stadium had essentially been achieved. And I wasn’t done.
I hurried to the Twins’ dugout as soon as BP ended. I couldn’t make it all the way down, of course, because of the ill-conceived partition, but I still managed to get the attention of Joe Vavra, the team’s hitting coach. He spotted me and chucked a ball to me over the half-dozen rows in front. I nearly lost the ball in the lights, but I made the catch.
Look who I ran into in that section:
Actually, I’d been running into him all day. His name is Mateo Fischer. You might remember as a former Watch With Zack client back on 7/27/10 at Citi Field. He has his own blog called “Observing Baseball,” and you can also check out his profile on MyGameBalls.com.
The following photo, taken just before the playing of the national anthem, shows where I sat during the game:
There were lots of empty seats. There was lots of room to run. And I nearly snagged Andruw Jones’ first Yankee homer. This was the view to my right; the guy in the yellow jacket ended up getting that home run ball:
“You know that’s Jones’ first home run as a Yankee, right?” I asked the guy during the following inning break.
He had no clue, so I explained that it was probably a meaningful ball to Jones. I told him that there was a 50/50 chance that some representative from the Yankees would show up and ask for it.
“At the very least,” I told the guy, “if you decide to give the ball back, you should be able to hand it to Jones yourself and shake his hand. If he won’t meet you, then the ball obviously isn’t that important to him, and you have every right to keep it.”
The guy was absolutely loving every word I was telling him, so I continued…
“In addition to meeting him,” I said, “you can ask for some memorabilia in return. Ask for his jersey or a bat. That’s not unusual in these situations.”
Long story short: the Yankees’ director of security came out half an inning later and tried to get the ball. The fan asked to meet Jones. The security guy said that was impossible. The fan asked for one of Jones’ bats as well as a ball signed by Jones. The security guy said he couldn’t give away a bat and offered two signed balls instead. The fan said no, and that was the end of it. He told me later that the home run ball itself was much more meaningful to him that a couple of autographs, even from a potential future Hall of Famer. Can’t argue with that. The Yankees are worth more than a billion dollars; if they can’t spare a few goodies in exchange for a meaningful home run ball, then they don’t deserve it.
As for the game itself, CC Sabathia pitched seven brilliant innings and left with a 4-0 lead — and the bullpen blew it. The Twins put up a four-spot in the top of the eighth and scored another run two innings later. Final score: Twins 5, Yankees 4.
It was late. I was freezing. I hurried to the subway, and while I waited for my train on the elevated platform, I took this photo of the stadium:
Ready for some stats?
• 13 balls in 2 games this season = 6.5 balls per game.
• 663 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 499 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball
• 141 consecutive Yankee home games with at least one ball
• 12 consecutive games at the new Yankee Stadium with at least two balls
• 133 lifetime games with at least ten balls
• 23 different stadiums with at least one game with ten or more balls
• 4,675 total balls
(I’m raising money again this season for Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. Click here to learn more.)
• 31 donors
• $4.87 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $53.57 raised at this game
• $63.31 raised this season
One last thing…
Nine of the ten balls have invisible ink stamps. Here they are in black light:
For the sake of comparison, here are the last two photos side by side:
Looking at baseballs in black light will never get old.