4/20/11 at Camden Yards
I didn’t put up great numbers at this game, but as I mentioned last night on Twitter, all my baseballs were batting practice home runs that I caught on the fly.
Jona was with me once again and got some great photos. Here’s one that shows me maneuvering into position for my first ball of the day…
…and here’s another photo, taken moments later, that shows me reaching up for the catch:
The left field seats were crowded from the start, and as a result, this was the only ball I got during the Orioles’ portion of BP.
Before I caught it, I’d been talking to Jeremy Guthrie, who was (jokingly?) complaining yet again about not being written into my new book. I can’t remember exactly what he said, but it was something along the lines of, “I gave you a ball on the final day of [the old] Yankee Stadium. I can’t believe that’s not good enough for more than a mention with everyone else in the acknowledgments.”
“Oh, Jeremy,” I said. “I mentioned you the other day on my blog, and I get about two thousand hits a day, so at least there’s that.”
“Did you link to me on Twitter?” he asked.
“No, but I will in my next entry.”
“Thank you,” he said, “and if I see you make a nice catch today, I’ll tweet about it.”
Well, Jeremy, I’m waiting…
In all fairness, my first catch of the day probably didn’t look all that impressive. The best part about it was that I judged the ball perfectly from the moment it left the bat and zig-zagged around a few fans and railings to get into position. The catch itself was easy. I was right there. I didn’t have to lunge or jump or do anything except reach up. And that’s probably the only thing that Guthrie saw. As soon as I caught it, I looked at him and held my arms out as if to say, “Was that good enough for you?” (It’s a shame he wasn’t with me when the Twins were hitting.) He just shrugged and held his glove up. It took me a moment to realize that he wanted me to throw the ball to him. So I did. We ended up playing catch for a few minutes, and Jona filmed the tail end of it. Here’s a screen shot of the video that shows me throwing the ball…
…and here’s another screen shot that shows Guthrie throwing it back:
In the screen shot above, the player standing 15 feet behind Guthrie (in the black shirt) is Chris Tillman. At one point when I was about to throw the ball, I noticed him waving and realized that he wanted me to throw it to him over Guthrie’s head. So I did. Then he tossed it to Guthrie, and Guthrie threw it back to me. Fun!
When the throwing session ended, I moved over to foul territory and talked to Tillman for a minute. Here we are shaking hands:
He asked me how many baseballs I’d snagged, and when I told him the grand total, he asked how many I’d caught during games.
“A hundred and twenty-seven foul balls, fourteen homers, and a ground-rule double,” I said.
I asked him if he’d ever tried to catch baseballs in the stands, even as a kid. The answer was “not really.” He said he’d once tried to get one during Spring Training.
“That’s a shame,” I said, “because you’re, like, 8-foot-19. You’d be really good at it.” (For the record, Tillman is 6-foot-5. So unfair. And yes, I’m obsessed with height.)
Ten minutes later, a man called out from the stands and asked Guthrie for two baseballs for his kids. “Can you hook them up?” he asked.
“No,” said Guthrie, “but I know someone who will.” Guthrie then pointed at me and and said, “That guy has thousands of balls and would love to give one to your kids.”
Here’s a photo that was taken during this whole exchange:
“Jeremy,” I said, “I was going to keep this ball because you and I played catch with it, so it’s special, but I’ll tell you what: I’ll give it to one of the kids if you give a ball to the other.”
As I handed the ball over, the Orioles finished hitting, and all the players (including Guthrie) jogged off the field. Bad timing.
Two things happened when the Twins came out:
1) I changed into my Twins gear.
2) The left field seats got really crowded.
Look how many gloves (including mine) ended up in the same spot for a home run in the front row:
I didn’t snag that ball, but did catch one less than a minute later in the same spot. And by the way, I have no idea who hit any of these balls. I think Mark Reynolds connected on the first one that I caught, but I’m not sure.
When several lefties started hitting, I moved to the standing-room-only section (aka “the Flag Court”) in right field. Here I am getting ready to jump for a long home run…
…and here I am in mid-air. The red arrow is pointing from the ball to my glove:
Here I am (STILL in mid-air!) coming down with the ball — my 100th of the season — in my glove:
I don’t think either mid-air photo captured me at the top of my leap. (I love that in the first jumping pic, my glove is blocking the sign that says, “Watch out for batted balls.” How perfect is that?)
Moments later, I caught another home run behind the Flag Court on Eutaw Street. When I saw the ball get up in the air, I backed up through an open gate and felt my back pressed up against a recycling bin. I couldn’t have moved back any farther. Luckily the ball came right to me and narrowly missed hitting the top bar of the gate. It was quite a blast.
There was another fan in the Flag Court who’d also caught two home runs. His name is Eddie, and he told me that he’s caught more than 300 balls overall. In the following photo, he’s the guy wearing orange. The usher pictured below, meanwhile, told us that if we caught another ball, we “had to” give it away to a kid:
That really pissed me off. The usher actually said, “For every three balls you catch, ya gotta give one away. That’s how it is.”
“Yeah, well, I already gave one away in left field,” I told him.
“Well, that’s not here,” he replied.
I’ve given away at least one ball at every game I’ve been to this year. Sometimes I’ve given away two or three, but not because I’m forced to. It bothered me when Guthrie put me on the spot and essentially made me give away my only ball. I forgive him because he’s always been really cool to me, but this usher had absolutely no right to make demands. As a general rule, I never EVER give baseballs to people who ask for them, and I don’t ever give baseballs to kids who aren’t wearing gloves. Sorry, but those are my personal rules.
Well, sure enough, there was another deep home run hit in my direction. Here I am staring up at it…
…and here it is about to fly into my glove:
Years ago, I would’ve kept that ball and told the usher to go you-know-what himself. But things are different now. Even though he should’ve been minding his own business and had no right to demand anything of me, I decided to give away the ball. He’s always in that section. I didn’t want to make an enemy that I’d have to see over and over. Keeping the peace, I realized, was more important than keeping the ball. And when he picked out a kid for me to give the ball to, I handed it to the usher so that he could get the satisfaction of giving it to the kid himself.
BP ended 65 minutes before game time (lame), so I found myself with extra time to kill. The same was true of the other regular ballhawks in attendance, and we all happened to end up in left field. Totally unplanned. Totally cool. THERE we all were.
We decided to gather close together for a few group photos. Here’s one of the lighter moments in between shots:
Yes, I’m wearing a “Shea Stadium” shirt at Camden Yards because…why not?
Let me identify everyone in the photo below…
Here’s another shot of us sitting in one row:
I can’t even count the number of “balls” jokes that were made. We had lots of laughs and also joked about sitting together during the game and chasing home runs as if we were a mob. Man, it was hilarious. You had to be there, and guess what? You CAN be there. On Saturday, July 23rd, there’s going to be a huge “BallhawkFest” at Camden Yards. Alan Schuster, the founder of the (awesome) website MyGameBalls.com, is working out the details, so stay tuned and drop him a line if you’re interested
During the game, I hung out here for most left-handed batters:
Nothing came my way, but look who caught Vladimir Guerrero’s third-inning homer:
It was Tim!
Here’s a screen shot that shows him celebrating after making the impressive jumping catch:
Meanwhile, this was the only action I saw in the Flag Court:
The Orioles won, 5-4. The game lasted just 2 hours and 18 minutes. After the final out, I didn’t bother going to the ump tunnel or dugouts. I stayed in the outfield (because the final two batters were lefties) and made a beeline for the exit.
• 102 balls in 14 games this season = 7.29 balls per game.
• 675 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 201 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 4,764 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.)
• 36 donors
• $5.74 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $28.70 raised at this game
• $585.48 raised this season
Finally, here’s another photo of the three balls, this time in black light. Check out the invisible ink stamps:
BTW, the reason why I didn’t include a black light photo in my previous entry is that my black light died. Turns out it just needed three new AA batteries, and now I’m back in business.