4/30/11 at Minute Maid Park
It was a Saturday. It was Hunter Pence Bobblehead Day. And Minute Maid Park was packed for batting practice.
I started off in right field…
…and it sucked. There simply wasn’t room to run, and in case it’s not obvious, my body language in the following photo indicates how I felt about it:
That’s me in the tan pants and black shirt; my friend Mike Miles was with me again and had his camera.
At one point, I had an easy opportunity to use the glove trick for this ball in the bullpen…
…but I chickened out because there was a nearby security supervisor patrolling the section.
I abandoned right field and headed for the concourse behind the arches in left field. During the half hour that the Astros were hitting, I managed to snag one ball there. It was a home run (not sure who hit it) that deflected off someone’s glove and trickled into the walkway. I darted over and lunged for it, and just as I snatched it, a 50-something-year-old man came flying out of nowhere and dove/fell at my feet. I asked if he was okay, and even though it wasn’t my fault, I apologized for the scuffle. He was totally fine and laughed it off, and as I reached out to help him up, he congratulated me for the nice grab. Later on, I ended up giving that ball to a kid.
The Brewers took the field, and I held my spot. This was my view…
…and this is where I ran to snag my 2nd ball of the day — a home run that I caught on the fly:
That one felt good, although I’m sorry to say that I don’t know who hit it.
(In the photo above, my friend Mike is standing just to the right of the arrow and wearing the orange shirt.)
Meanwhile, there wasn’t anywhere for me to go. The Crawford Boxes were more crowded than usual…
…and there wasn’t much room in right field either:
Here’s a photo of me (wearing Brewers gear) in the arch next to the Crawford Boxes:
The photo looks totally posed/staged, but it wasn’t. That’s just how I was standing there. I didn’t even know that Mike had taken this photo until we got back to his place at the end of the night.
I got one more ball during batting practice, thrown by Brewers 3rd base coach Ed Sedar from quite a distance. Here’s a photo of him that I took just after he chucked it my way:
Just before the end of BP, I headed toward the Brewers’ dugout and took a couple pics along the way. Here’s one…
…and here’s another:
Minute Maid Park is beautiful, though not the easiest place to snag baseballs.
When the Brewers cleared the field, bullpen catcher Marcus Hanel tossed me my 4th ball of the day.
Then I caught up with a woman named Mary and her brother Mark. They’ve been reading this blog for years, during which time she has posted countless comments under the name “marypolitan.” This was the first time I’d ever met them. Here we are:
As you can see, they’d brought their copies of my last two books — Watching Baseball Smarter and The Baseball. After I signed the books for them, Mark generously treated me to a much-needed bottle of water, and we all ended up sitting together for part of the game.
Before the game got underway, Yuniesky Betancourt tossed me his warm-up ball after playing catch with Casey McGehee in front of the dugout. All four balls that I’d gotten from the Brewers were marked like this on the sweet spot:
As I’ve mentioned many times before, some teams mark their baseballs to prevent their own players and employees from stealing them and getting them signed. When I visited Miller Park two years ago, the Brewers marked their balls more creatively, but hey, we’re in a recession now, so I guess they need to save money on ink.
Once the game got started, my plan was to stay behind the dugout until I got a third-out ball. The previous day, there was NO competition when I got one from Price Fielder after the 5th inning, but that wasn’t the case here. It was a Saturday, remember? There were a zillion little kids, and whenever there were two outs, they ran down the steps and crouched behind the dugout:
Barbara and George Bush thought it was cute…
…but I wanted no part of it. I didn’t want to compete against the kids, so I scrapped my plan and headed back to the arches in left field:
There was no action for me, but at least I got to see a great game. Wandy Rodriguez pitched eight scoreless innings, and the Astros took a 1-0 lead into the top of the 9th. Brandon Lyon entered at that point, and after retiring Ryan Braun, he surrendered a one-out bomb to Prince Fielder. I was all set for a 24-inning game, but with two outs in the bottom of the 9th, Jason Bourgeois sent everyone home (and made a winner of Lyon) with an RBI single.
Final score: Astros 2, Brewers 1.
I hurried down to the umpire tunnel on the outfield side of the 3rd base dugout. Home plate ump Derryl Cousins handed baseballs to the few kids who were there and then tossed the last one to me. Here’s a photo of the ball, taken just before I left the stadium:
On a final note, I want to give a shout-out to an 11-year-old kid named named Angel, who emailed me weeks ahead of time to let me know that he was going to attend this game and that he really wanted to meet me. We had discussed a bunch of times and places where we might be able to connect at the stadium, but it never happened. Angel, if you’re reading this, I want you to know that I looked all over for you, and I’m sorry we didn’t meet, but I really appreciated all your emails, and I hope we’ll find each other next time.
• 184 balls in 22 games this season = 8.36 balls per game.
• 683 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 209 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 4,846 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.)
• 41 donors
• $6.46 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $38.76 raised at this game
• $1,188.64 raised this season
One more thing…
Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the five balls I kept; the image on the lower left shows them in regular light; the image on the lower right shows them in black light:
Gotta love those invisible ink stamps.