9/2/11 at the Oakland Coliseum
This was my first game at the Oakland Coliseum in 12 years — and look who joined me:
In the photo above, that’s me on the left and Jona on the right. She wasn’t planning to attend this game until Hurricane Irene struck the east coast several days earlier; she was already in California, and her return flight to New York was canceled, so given the fact that she kinda had to stick around, she decided to join me for the west coast leg of my road trip. And yes, I know that this stadium is officially named “O.c0 Coliseum,” but I’m sorry, that’s stupider than stupid, and I refuse to call it that. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve known this place to be “the Oakland Coliseum.” So there.
Those are football seats; the A’s share the Coliseum with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders, and the stadium gets converted depending on which sport is being played.
Even though I’d been to this stadium before, I didn’t remember anything, so I dragged Jona all the way around it. This is what it looked like when we started walking…
…and here’s a four-part photo that shows some other stuff we saw along the way:
Nothing special. Not pretty. But great to be there.
Fifteen minutes before the gates opened, I was approached by a man who’d brought his copies of my last two books — Watching Baseball Smarter and The Baseball. His name is Peter. Here we are with them:
The gates opened 90 minutes before game time, so by the time I got inside, the Mariners were already taking BP. (It must really suck to be an A’s fan or to be a fan of any team that doesn’t open the stadium early enough to let you see the players warming up. I feel bad for the people in Oakland, and I don’t blame them for staying away.) I started off in the right field corner…
…and got a ball thrown to me by Trayvon Robinson. Here’s a photo that shows me catching it. Look closely and you’ll see the ball inside the small red circle, just a few feet from my glove:
I was planning to stay there, but then the usher (pictured two photos above) set up a barricade in the cross-aisle near the foul pole. All the seats in fair territory were reserved for a group barbecue, so I got the hell out of there and headed to the right field bleachers. Then I realized that most of the batters were right-handed so I ran to the left field bleachers.
That’s when my friend Brandon caught up with me and got a couple of action shots with his fancy camera. First I snagged a home run that landed in the empty seats directly behind me. Here I am climbing back over a row just before the ball landed:
In the photo above, I’m in Mariners gear under the Budweiser sign; the ball is the little white speck on the right.
Then I caught a home run on the fly, and in the following photo, you can see me reaching out for it:
After that, I snagged three more home runs that landed near me in the seats. I don’t know who hit any of them. All I can tell you is that I gave two of these balls away on the spot.
The next group had a pair of power-hitting lefties, so I ran back to the right field side. I didn’t catch any homers there, but I did get a toss-up from one of the Mariners. At the time, I had no idea who it was, so later on, when I got back to my hotel, I turned to Twitter to ask for help identifying him. Of the dozen or so people who replied, most said it was Blake Beaven, but other folks suggested that it was Shawn Kelley or Josh Lueke or possibly Casper Wells. I knew it wasn’t Wells, but didn’t know who to believe. Ultimately, after seeing several players close up near the dugout, I determined that it *was* Beaven. Thanks to everyone who replied.
Before I took off for the Mariners’ dugout, I ran into a guy named Todd, who recognized me from my blog. Here we are:
Todd turned out to be a major player in my weekend in the Bay Area, so don’t forget him. You’ll be seeing more of him.
Just before BP ended, I headed to the dugout…
…and when the players cleared the field, I got my 8th ball of the day from Chone Figgins. Take a look at the ball. It has some cool markings:
Todd had brought copies of my books and asked me to sign them. So had a couple of kids (with no relation to each other) named Nick and Kate. Normally, the lull after BP is the best time for me to hang out, but in this case, I really wanted to explore the stadium and take a bunch of photos, so I asked them all if I could sign their books after the game. They said that was fine, so we planned to meet by the Mariners’ dugout after the final out.
I had less than half an hour to explore the stadium and take photos, so I literally ran all over the place to get it done.
Here’s a look at the 100 Level concourse:
Here’s a wannabe artsy photo of the right field foul pole from the concourse:
Here’s the weird staircase (that you always see on TV) from above:
Not the prettiest stadium, right?
Two words: who cares?
I’ll take all the ugliness in the world for glorious cross-aisles like these:
I headed to the upper deck. Here’s the concourse…
…and here’s my lame attempt at capturing a panorama from the last row:
The entire upper deck is closed and covered with tarps…
…except for the few sections directly behind home plate. Most of the tunnels up there look like this:
Sad, huh? And yet not. I’m so used to dealing with the mayhem of Yankee Stadium that I always enjoy being in stadiums that aren’t packed, although this was rather extreme.
From there, I headed back down to the left field bleachers. Check out the long tunnels that lead to that section from the concourse:
Here’s a look at the wonky setup behind the center field wall:
While rushing through my self-guided tour of the stadium, I noticed that Kurt Suzuki was playing catch with pitching coach Ron Romanick in shallow left field. Not only weren’t there any fans waiting to get the ball from them, but there was just a handful of fans in the entire section. The whole stadium was unbelievably empty. Where were all the kids? It was a Friday night! Where were all the ballhawks? This stadium is bad, but it isn’t THAT bad. I mean, it’s not the most attractive stadium, and it clearly wasn’t built for baseball, but there are plenty of opportunities to catch baseballs.
That said, here’s my overall assessment of the place:
Why the sign with the number 18?
Because this is the 18th major league stadium that I’ve visited this season.
I probably should’ve been smiling in the photo above because, as I tweeted late that night, Oakland is foul ball heaven. When I first saw the layout of the second deck behind home plate, I *knew* that I was going to get a foul ball, and sure enough, in the top of the 3rd inning, it happened. Check out the following photo, and then I’ll explain what’s happening:
The photo was taken while the ball (hit by Justin Smoak off of Guillermo Moscoso) was in mid-air. I’m standing in the cross-aisle at the bottom of the section, eating pizza, watching to see where it was going to land. Do you see the two fans in the 4th row on the other side of the tunnel? The guy standing closer to the tunnel dropped the ball; unfortunately for him (and very fortunately for me), it deflected off his hands and landed in the tunnel and rolled into the aisle. Here I am scrambling for it:
I reached for the ball with my glove because my right thumb and index finger were greasy. Here I am holding it…
…and if you look closely, you can see that (a) those fingers aren’t touching the ball and (b) my mouth is full. There’s something about eating pizza that makes me snag foul balls. Remember the one I got on 5/29/11 at Rogers Centre? That’s just the first that came to mind. There’ve been several others.
The layout of the second deck made it easy for me to position myself differently for right- and left-handed batters. As a result, I was in the perfect spot half an inning later when Kurt Suzuki sent a foul ball flying back off Jason Vargas. I caught that one on the fly.
I should show you why the foul ball set up was so heavenly. Ready for it? You’re going to gasp and wish that you were there. This was my view for left-handed batters…
…and this was the view to my right:
Now do you get it?
THERE WAS NO ONE THERE, AND I HAD ENDLESS ROOM TO RUN.
As bad as this might sound, I was actually disappointed to “only” snag two foul balls. There were lots of close calls throughout the night, and I really thought that I could’ve/should’ve broken my single-game record of three.
(Despite the fact that this entry is nearly 2,000 words, I feel like I’m rushing through it. I have so much to say, but there’s so little time to say it.)
The A’s won the game, 9-2.
After the final out, I gave away two more of my baseballs to a pair of random kids. Then I met up with Todd, Nick, and Kate. Here we all are near the Mariners’ dugout:
Kate and Nick had each snagged two baseballs at this game; Nick has been leaving comments on this blog as “Nick Badders,” and he wrote an excellent blog entry about this game. Click here to check it out.
• 870 balls in 104 games this season = 8.37 balls per game.
• 765 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 290 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 36 games this season with 10 or more balls
• 157 lifetime game balls (not counting game-used balls that get tossed into the crowd; 140 foul balls, 16 home runs, and 1 ground-rule double)
• 5,532 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.)
• 57 donors
• $7.16 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $78.76 raised at this game
• $6,229.20 raised this season