6/28/11 at Yankee Stadium

Yankee Stadium was unbearably crowded yesterday. Here’s the line outside just ONE of the four gates…

…and here’s a look at the right field seats during the Yankees’ portion of batting practice:

There was absolutely no room to run.

Speaking of running, this was my first game off crutches since spraining my ankle on 6/3/11 at Citi Field. Obviously it felt great not to have to use them, but my foot still hurt every time I took a step, and I spent the entire day in fear of re-injuring it. I couldn’t run. I couldn’t jog. I couldn’t jump. I couldn’t even hurry. All I could do was limp around slowly and hope for a miracle.

When the stadium first opened, I spent 20 minutes in the right field seats and managed to grab a Brett Gardner home run that landed near me in the last row. Then, over in left field, I carefully drifted 15 feet through a partially empty row and caught a towering fly ball hit by Andruw Jones.

Just before changing into my Brewers gear, I met a guy named Daniel who’d brought his copy of my new book. Here we are after I signed it for him:

Daniel knew I was going to attend this game because I’d told him on Twitter two days earlier.

In the photo above, do you see the fan behind Daniel’s right elbow? He’s wearing a blue cap and a drawstring backpack. His name is Ben. We’d met on 4/14/11 at Citi Field. Here’s a better look at him, along with the insanely crowded left field seats:

Toward the end of BP, Brewers bullpen coach Stan Kyles tossed a ball to me from the left field bullpen — but it fell short and hit the cross bar on top of the netting. As the ball dropped back down into the bullpen, he yelled “HAAA-HA!!” in a sing-songy way. I thought he was taunting me and wasn’t going to give me another shot, but he quickly walked over and hooked me up.

Here’s a random photo of the batting cage being dragged away:

What you can’t see from this angle is that there was a guy on the inside of it, pushing really hard.

Zack Greinke was the starting pitcher for the Brewers. (Did you notice my Greinke shirt in the photo with Daniel?) Before the game, he went through the normal routine of long-tossing on the field, and then he continued warming up in the bullpen. I watched him on and off and kept my mouth shut. It was that time of day. He was getting ready. He was in the zone. I didn’t want to bother him. Eventually, as the public address announcer told everyone to rise and remove their caps for the national anthem, I noticed that Greinke made one final pitch. I thought that the timing of it bordered on being disrespectful, but whatever, no harm done, and anyway, it’s not my job to mandate patriotism. The anthem was still several seconds away, so the bullpen catcher quickly tossed the ball back. Greinke, who had already removed his cap by that point, caught the ball and (for some reason) looked *right* up at me and flipped it to me over the netting.

Ta-daaa!!

Here’s a photo that I took moments later:

In the photo above, that’s Stan Kyles on the right, wearing uniform No. 53. Do you see the white thing sticking up out of his back pocket? That’s a lineup card. During the 7th inning stretch, when he wandered over near my end of the bullpen, I called down to him and said, “Hey, Stan, is there any chance that I could have the lineup card after the game? If you’re not going to save it? Please?”

He looked up and told me that he needed to keep it because there were notes about which pitchers were being used, and that the team needed that info for the following game. “If you’re gonna be here tomorrow,” he said, “I’ll give it to you then.”

“I will be here tomorrow,” I told him, and he gave me a friendly nod before walking off. That made the whole night worthwhile and erased some of the frustration I’d felt during BP. (Earlier in the day, several balls had landed near me, and I didn’t even make an attempt at catching them. I simply couldn’t move. If I weren’t injured, I easily would’ve caught two or three more home runs.)

This was my view during the game…

…and it was officially a laugher. The Yankees scored twice in the 1st inning and added five more runs in the 2nd to chase Greinke — and things kept going like that from there.

In the 6th inning, I gave one of my baseballs to a woman who’d gotten hit so hard by a ball in BP that it left stitch marks on her skin. The ball had hit her near the elbow, and some kid, she said, grabbed it and ran off. I didn’t see it happen. I only heard about it in the 6th inning when she noticed the ASO brace on my ankle and started describing her own injury.

Before the 9th inning got underway, Chris Dickerson (who had just entered the game to play left field) threw me his warm-up ball. My friend Ben Weil had been sitting with me all night and was NOT happy about it. He had moved into the front row, I had picked a spot in the 6th row, Dickerson threw it directly over his head, and Ben was a good sport about it, as always.

The Yankees ended up winning, 12-2. Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira each finished with four RBIs. Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, and Alex Rodriguez each scored two runs. The Yankees stole four bases without getting caught. Swisher had two outfield assists. It was total domination — and the Brewers are a first-place team. It was such a brutal defeat for them that after the game, Kyles walked over and found me.

“Here,” he said, handing me the lineup card through the narrow space below the netting. “You might as well take this now. It might be bad luck.”

Here I am with it (check out my ankle brace)…

…and here’s a closer look at it:

If you look at my entire collection of lineup cards, you’ll see that teams are now regularly using colors to indicate lefties and switch-hitters. This lineup card from the Brewers is the first I’ve seen with three colors (not counting black): red for the lefties, blue for the righties, and green for switch-hitters. It’s also unusual that one left side of the lineup card is completely blank. It makes sense, though, for the Brewers’ bullpen to ignore their own lineup. After all, it’s not like they were gonna have to come in and face their own hitters, but still, there’s some cool stuff here, and I’m really glad to have gotten my hands on it. And by the way, there aren’t any notes on it. Maybe Kyles was planning to scribble down some notes after the game and used a separate piece of paper instead.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 5 baseballs at this game (four pictured here because I gave one away)

• 464 balls in 57 games this season = 8.14 balls per game.

• 718 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 243 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 20 consecutive games at the new Yankee Stadium with at least two balls

• 5,126 total balls

CHARITY STATS:

(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.)

• 52 donors

• $6.94 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $34.70 raised at this game

• $3,220.16 raised this season

One last thing…

Three of the four balls that I kept have invisible ink stamps. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of those balls in regular light versus black light:

I love how the magic marker streak happened to be drawn on top of the invisible ink stamp. It’s kind of like the stamp is being crossed out.

8 Comments

Hey Zack! Looks like you had a good game. I went to the A’s game and only got one ball during the 8th inning from Tye Waller, a coach. I sat right behind the dugout, there was an hour rain delay. Oh joy. I got the idea of a black light from you, so when I got home, I took a picture of the ball under the black light. I will post an entry on my blog later today. THought I should share. By the way, Logan Morrison saw me reading one of your books and asked about you. I explained to the best of my ability.

Zack, cool recap. Nick, Logan Morrison seems like a really cool guy on Twitter too, so I’m sure he was pretty cool in real life. Zack, I could see him chatting with you on the field….. Logan Morrison just tweeted that he took a tour of the Twitter corporate offices. haha

Zack, thoughts on this video? I don’t see you ever throwing back a gamer HR! haha

http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/blog/big_league_stew/post/Cubs-fan-8217-s-incredible-throw-returns-Tejada?urn=mlb-wp11089

Hey Zack, question for you.
On the lineup card, there are a series of circled numbers next to certain players names. At certain points in the game, they are filled/colored in, leaving the last remaining number.

What are these numbers? What do they tally or represent?
Thanks,
Daniel

And speaking of LOMo again, this tweet still makes me laugh every time. Tweeted by @LoMoMarlins: McKeon asked me what I had going on tonite. Told him I was going home 2 play w/ Twitter. He replied “oh, what kind of dog is it?”

Cool lineup card. Can’t remember the last time you got a lineup card in New York ’cause you say in The Baseball that stadium security kicks you out fast. Right now you’ve got 470 balls so I know you gonna make it to 1,000 and then 10,000.

You STOLE that Dickerson ball from me! STOLE!!! Pushed me to the ground and laughed in my face!!! STOLE!!!

Just kidding :-) But that ball should’ve come to me!

NICK BADDERS-
That’s awesome (and funny) about Morrison. Thanks so much!

PSU532-
I would never throw back a home run, but that video is EPIC and makes me want to give it a shot.

DANIEL-
Those numbers/circles represent the innings that those batters made the final out. It helps the coaches remember who’s due to hit so they can plan accordingly.

BIGGEST RANGER FAN-
You’re right. It’s really tough to get lineup cards in New York. As for snagging 1,000 balls this season, I’m really trying to get there…

BEN
Yeah yeah, whatever. :-p

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