5/20/11 at Citizens Bank Park
This was the story of my day:
No wait, it was the story of my week — rain, more rain, even more rain, and no batting practice.
Yesterday in Philly, things were dead for the first 30 minutes. There wasn’t a single player on the field, and I was wishing that I’d stayed home in New York City. It’s not that I was worried about getting shut out; it’s that I simply wasn’t having fun. (No offense to Jona, who was with me.)
Several Rangers players finally came out and took a slow lap around the field. I was trapped in the left field seats — that’s the rule for the first hour at Citizens Bank Park — so I couldn’t get near them at first. Now, it just so happened that they had a couple of baseballs, so when they headed back toward their dugout on the 3rd base side, I called out and got Chris Davis to throw one:
The ball landed in the seats and took a perfect bounce right to me, and as soon as I caught it, I handed it to the nearest kid.
Fifteen minutes later, the Phillies’ pitchers began playing catch in right field:
Of course I couldn’t get near them, so I waited and watched the clock and hoped that they’d still be there when the rest of the stadium opened. Well, by the time I was allowed to run over, there were three players remaining — and three baseballs sitting near them on the field. There was a little kid with his father in foul territory. They got the first ball. There was another little kid on my right. He got the second ball. And since there weren’t any other kids, I got the final ball. Antonio Bastardo (yes, that’s actually his name) tossed it to me, and you can see it inside the red circle in the following photo:
The Rangers had already started playing catch across the field, so I hurried over and promptly snagged a ball that was thrown wildly into the seats. Then, five minutes later, I got bullpen coach Andy Hawkins to toss me my 4th ball of the day. Here’s a photo of that ball flying toward me; note where Neftali Feliz was looking:
Quite simply, he wasn’t looking at me. In other words, he hadn’t seen me get that ball, so when he started jogging toward the dugout with an extra ball in his glove, I realized that I might be able to get it. I cut through the seats (in an attempt to keep up with him) and shouted his name. He ignored me and kept jogging. I shouted again and asked for the ball in Spanish. He immediately looked up and tossed it in my direction. Unfortunately, it sailed 10 feet over my head, but because the seats were so empty, I still managed to chase it down. Here I am about to grab it with my glove:
Moments later, Matt Harrison started walking toward me. Rather than asking for an autograph, I thought it’d be cool just to shake his hand. This was the result:
Ouch! I got completely dissed!
I suspected that Harrison hadn’t seen or heard me, so when he stopped soon after to sign for a couple kids, I tried again:
Now THAT’S more like it.
I enjoy getting autographs, but in some cases, I actually find it more rewarding to simply shake hands. By not asking for anything (except the handshake itself), I feel like I’m equal to the player. You know what I mean? I spend so much time begging for baseballs that it’s nice to break free from the collecting mindset every now and then. That’s what I did on 5/16/11 at Citi Field when I got close to Mike Stanton, and it really felt nice. Of course, it’d also be nice to have his autograph, but the handshake was a solid alternative.
Anyway, back in begging mode, I got David Murphy to toss me his warm-up ball right before the game. Can you spot it sailing toward me in the following photo?
(Don’t forget, you can click all these photos for a closer look.)
That ball was actually hard to catch. For a split-secont, I completely lost it in the lights and nearly had it clank off my glove.
Jona and I wandered a bit during the game, but spent most of our time behind the Rangers’ dugout. This was our view in the bottom of the 1st inning:
I wasn’t just hoping for a 3rd-out ball. I was expecting to snag one, but I came up empty. Rangers starter C.J. Wilson struck out so many batters (ten in seven innings) that catcher Yorvit Torrealba ended up tossing a bunch of balls over the home-plate end of the dugout. First baseman Michael Young, meanwhile, kept lobbing balls deep into the crowd, and the one time that Elvis Andrus ended up with a ball, he looked right at me before tossing it to a grown man wearing Phillies gear.
At least the game was exciting. Roy Halladay pitched for the Phillies and was pretty close to dominant, as usual. In eight innings of work, he allowed two runs on six hits, while walking one and striking out seven. Wilson only surrendered four hits, but one was a two-run homer by Ben Francisco and another was a solo shot by Raul Ibanez. That was your offense. Final score: Phillies 3, Rangers 2.
Jona took a great photo of the crowd’s reaction when David Murphy was caught stealing to end the game. Check it out:
After the final out, three things happened:
1) Arthur Rhodes threw me a ball when he walked in from the bullpen.
2) Some random ballboy-type-guy tossed me another.
3) I gave a ball to a little girl in the concourse.
The following three-part photo shows these things happening:
Keep reading past the stats to see more photos…
• 295 balls in 34 games this season = 8.68 balls per game.
• 695 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 221 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 4,957 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 get involved.)
• 46 donors
• $6.74 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $53.92 raised at this game
• $1,988.30 raised this season
Okay, so, more photos…
First, here’s a side-by-side look at the six balls I kept. The image on the left shows them in regular light, and the image on the right shows them in black light:
Next up, since a bunch of people have said it’d be cool to see non-baseball/”behind-the-scenes” photos, here are a few that were taken at the start of the day…
This is what it looked like while driving on the New Jersey Turnpike from New York to Philadelphia:
I assumed there wasn’t going to be batting practice, but I knew I’d find happiness elsewhere:
After getting off the Turnpike at exit 3, Jona and I stopped at an amazing custard place called Rita’s. Even though I’m allergic to dairy (life is cruel) and sugar (really really cruel), stopping at Rita’s has become a ritual on my trips to Philly. And for the record, the vanilla cone with rainbow sprinkles was just one of three things I got. In case you haven’t noticed, I have issues with moderation.
When we reached the stadium, the sugar made me hyper…
…but then again, so did the air. (Can you imagine how hard it was for me to sit still in school, especially after ingesting juice and cookies at snack time? I can’t even sit still at baseball games, and I *like* baseball.)
Finally, here’s a photo of Jona grabbing my face:
See what kind of stuff takes place behind the scenes? It’s not always pretty, but there you have it.
Next week, I might attend seven Blue Jays games and snag my 5,000th ball. We’ll see how that goes, but at the very least, I’ll definitely be at the Rogers Centre from May 26-29, so if you’re there, come say hi.