9/18/11 at Kauffman Stadium
Not only was this a day game after a night game, but it rained. Not only wasn’t there batting practice, but for the first hour, there weren’t any players who came out to throw — a real shame because I was THE ONLY fan inside the stadium. Despite the weather, there was still an Early Bird Tour, and because of the weather, there weren’t any other fans who showed up for it. Incredible. I had the stadium to myself for 60 solid minutes and didn’t get a single baseball as a result. Instead, I watched the groundskeepers play with the tarp…
…and roll up a protective mat at home plate:
I also watched a stadium worker squeegeeing the steps behind the dugout:
As you can see, it was a very exciting day.
The ushers were chilling in the seats behind me…
…and a pair of coaches — one from each team — were having a leg-crossing competition in the bullpen:
After the stadium opened to everyone at 11:30am, two White Sox pitchers came out to play catch:
In the photo above, the player near the foul line is Jesse Crain, and when he finished, I got him to throw me the ball.
Ten minutes later, I wandered out to the right field bullpen…
…and when Gavin Floyd finished his session, one of the coaches tossed me the ball. (Not sure who.) I then handed it to the nearest kid.
Fifteen minutes later, the tarp was back on the field…
…and 20 minutes after that, the grounds crew rolled it back up:
The highlight of the day was getting to see Jeff Francoeur for the first time since last year, when I’d met him at a sporting goods store in New York City called Modell’s. Here he is tipping his cap to me and a few other fans at the dugout:
Okay, so, what was the big deal about seeing Francoeur again? Well, if you clicked the link above the previous photo, then you saw how I was dressed when I met him. As ridiculous as that outfit was, it helped jump-start a lengthy conversation with him during which he promised to give me a baseball the next time he saw me.
“In fact,” he had said last year, “I’m gonna give you two. I think what you’re doing is awesome.”
“Thanks so much,” I remember saying, “but how will you remember? Should I just mention Modell’s?”
As luck had it, he was traded from the Mets to the Rangers the next day, and I never saw him again — until this game at Kauffman Stadium.
Francoeur did remember me — “I’ll get you one to add to the collection,” he said at the dugout — but didn’t seem to remember that he’d promised me two baseballs. I was okay with that. I thought it was cool that he remembered me at all, so I waited at the dugout for him to come back out.
While I was waiting, half a dozen White Sox players began warming up along the left field foul line. I knew that I would’ve gotten at least one ball from them, but I didn’t want to lose my chance to get one from Francoeur. So I kept waiting. And waiting. By the time he came back out, the Sox players were gone, and he didn’t even have a ball. He simply came back out to do a little stretching and running in shallow right field. On his way back in, I shrugged when he made eye contact with me, and he said, “I got you.” At that point, I assumed that he was going to grab one of the many baseballs from the dugout and pop back out with it, but that didn’t happen. I thought there was still a chance that he’d have a ball for me when he ran out to take the field at the start of the game — but that didn’t happen either, so I headed to my favorite spot in left field.
This was my view…
…and this is what it looked like on my left:
Once again, if anyone had a hit a home run anywhere near me, I would’ve been all over it, but it never happened.
I’d pretty much given up on Francoeur at that point, but just for the hell of it, I went over to right field before the 5th inning got underway and tried to get his attention while he was warming up. Unfortunately, he didn’t see me until after he made his final throw back to the ballboy. Then he happened to look up in my general vicinity, so I waved. He saw me and pointed at me, which I (mostly) took as a good sign. Had he completely forgotten about me? Did he now suddenly remember and feel bad? Was he simply planning all along to give me a ball after the game? I had no idea what to think, so I headed back to right field when he came back out to play catch before the start of the 6th inning. When he finished, he turned and looked right at me. Then he took a few steps toward me and gingerly threw the ball in my direction. I’m not sure if he was afraid of hurting me or just trying to aim really carefully, but regardless, his throw was pretty much right on the money. I had to reach down and make a back-handed catch over the railing, but whatever. I had the ball, and it felt great. I’ve always liked Francoeur, so it was cool to get to add his name to this list.
This was my view soon after he threw me the ball:
Ready to hear about my bad home run luck?
I’d been running back and forth all game for just about every batter — right field for lefties and left field for righties. The one exception was Juan Pierre. I didn’t bother making the effort for him, and thankfully it didn’t cost me. But I’m telling you, for EVERY other batter, I was always in position.
Make that every other batter except one.
Paul Konerko, a right-handed batter, led off the 7th inning with a home run that landed in the left field bullpen. I ran over to try to get one of the White Sox relievers to toss it up, and while I was there, the left-handed-hitting A.J. Pierzynski crushed a home run to right field that got bobbled by some fans and rattled around the walkway roughly 50 feet from where I would’ve been standing. There’s no guarantee that I would’ve snagged that ball, but if I had to guess either way, I’d say that I probably would’ve gotten it. And of course the White Sox relievers kept the Konerko home run ball.
When the bottom of the 9th inning started, I thought, “Screw home runs. I’m going for an umpire ball.” It was “Bark at the K” Day at Kauffman Stadium — a promotion that allows people to bring their dogs to the game — and as I headed toward the dugout, I saw a funny sight:
This was my view for the last two outs:
Final score: White Sox 10, Royals 5.
I didn’t get an umpire ball, but I did get a photo with my friend Garrett:
Finally, do you remember what I said in my last entry about baseballs sinking in the fountains? Well, on my way out of the stadium with Garrett, we saw a whole bunch of balls clustered underwater in deep/straight-away right field:
Those might not all look like balls, but trust me, they were. The ripples on the surface of the water were creating weird shapes at the bottom, but anyway, isn’t that sad? Those baseballs could have ended up in the hands of children if the Royals weren’t so mean.
• 1,028 balls in 119 games this season = 8.64 balls per game.
• 780 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 305 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 5,690 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.)
• 59 donors
• $7.36 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $22.08 raised at this game
• $7,566.08 raised this season