April 2012

Tokyo Dome ticket stub

You know that I’m raising money for a charity called Pitch In For Baseball, right? And you know that I’m going to be giving away prizes at the end of the season to people who donate money? Well, here’s another item that’ll be up for grabs — a ticket stub from the Opening Series in Japan:

This is actually a two-part prize because the stub will come with this:

That’s an envelope with the Opening Series commemorative logo.

In order to win this ticket and envelope, you need to pledge/donate at least one penny per baseball that I snag during the 2012 season. As I explained last month in this entry, your name will be thrown into the raffle drawing once for every penny per ball that you donate. So yeah . . . go for it. Here’s a direct link to the pledge form.

4/27/12 at Yankee Stadium

I wish I hadn’t attended this game.

Not only did I overpay for my ticket and get shut out during the Yankees’ portion of batting practice, but I somewhat narrowly miss A-Rod’s 633rd career home run and froze my ass off — and now have a sore throat.

For a while, I thought I was going to get completely shut out, but Tigers pitcher Collin Balester saved the day. Here he is starting to play catch with Phil Coke:

Ten minutes later, he tossed me the ball near the foul pole.

This was my view during the final group of BP:

Not only was it crowded and nearly impossible to see, but I found myself standing directly behind a 6-foot-7 man (partially pictured above on the right edge of the photo). I’m not exaggerating. He was actually 6-foot-7. I know this because I asked him. With two minutes remaining in BP, one of the Tigers lefties hit a towering home run that ended up coming right to me. At the last second, as the tall guy reached up with his bare hands, I jumped and reached over him and felt the ball smack the pocket of my glove. That one felt great, not only because of the physical challenges that I’d overcome, but because it preserved my streak of consecutive games with two or more balls — a streak that goes all the way back to the 2007 All-Star Game.

The home run ball had a marker streak on the sweet spot:

Lots of teams mark their baseballs; that’s how the Tigers have been doing it for the last few seasons.

After BP, I ran into a kid named Jacob Resnick, who’s in the process of becoming more famous than me. Take a look at the photo of us below and see if he looks familiar:

I’d met Jacob several times before (check out this photo of us from 8/6/11 at Citi Field) and was glad to see him yesterday; in the photo above, I was jokingly making a disgruntled face because he’d outsnagged me during BP. But anyway, as I was saying . . . Jacob . . . famous.

Last year, the Mets had a contest through which several kids got to do some play-by-play announcing on TV during games. Jacob was lucky enough to be one of them, and while he was 0n the air, Jose Reyes happened to hit a home run. As it turned out, Jacob’s home-run call was so polished and awesome that it made headlines. And that’s not all. Jacob is now the Mets’ “kid correspondent” on SportsNet New York. (For the record, he’s a Mets fan and goes to Citi Field more than any other ballpark; he was only wearing a Yankee cap because he was *at* Yankee Stadium.)

Soon after Jacob (and his father) and I parted ways, I wandered over to the Yankees’ bullpen to see if there were any baseballs leftover from BP:

Score!

If you look closely at the photo above, you can see a groundskeeper in the bullpen. After he finished putting away some equipment, he tossed all the balls into the crowd. Most went to the rowdy men and their cute girlfriends up above in the bleachers, but one of the balls found its way into my glove.

After that (and because I had no way to get into the seats in foul territory), I passed the time here:

That’s me in the photo above with the black jacket and hood. I was reading Kitchen Confidential (which is extremely entertaining and well written).

This was my view during the game:

In typical Yankee Stadium fashion, dozens of fans screamed insults and obscenities at the visiting team’s right fielder throughout the game. The victim on this particular night was Brennan Boesch, who throws left-handed — an important detail, as you’ll soon find out. (The security guards did nothing to stop these fans, choosing instead to harass the few folks who were quietly sitting with their — GASP!!! — feet up on the cup holders.) Early in the game, Boesch fielded a ball near the foul line and make a quick throw to second base. His throw was strong and accurate and only bounced once, but it looked especially bad from the right field seats because it had been somewhat of a so-called lawn dart. Boesch had pretty much thrown it into the ground and gotten lucky when the ball skipped up nicely to the shortstop.

“HEY, BOESCH!!!” hollered a nearby fan. “ARE YOU SURE YOU’RE NOT RIGHT-HANDED?!?!?!”

It was the only funny thing I heard all night, but it *was* damn funny.

The not-funny thing about the game was the A-Rod homer. In the following photo (which was taken several innings later, after many of the “fans” had left), do you see the woman wearing the dark red hat? She’s standing between the L and S in front of the “Modell’s” sign:

She’s the one who snagged A-Rod’s home run ball, and even though there was nothing I could’ve done about it, it still pained me. The homer was a line drive that landed nearly one full section to my left (closer to the foul pole). The ball touched down in a totally empty patch of seats, roughly eight rows back, and ricocheted sharply in my direction. I was still 20 feet away from it at that point, and there were half a dozen fans who were closer. The woman in the red hat was closest and simply had to reach down and pick it up. AAAHHH!!!

And did I mention that it was cold? Despite wearing long underwear and gloves, my feet and hands were numb, and when I got up to use the bathroom during the 7th-inning stretch, my legs were like muscly icicles. It was hard to bend them or feel them or use them, and in addition to that, my face was so cold that my speech was slightly slurred. Has that ever happened to you? I don’t know how football fans manage to sit outside in the winter. This was April, and I was suffering. Granted, it was in the low 30s by the end of the game, and I’d been outside (and sitting still) for four solid hours, but still, in the grand scheme of things, that’s not THAT cold.

The game itself was exciting. Justin Verlander (whose 100th pitch of the night clocked in at 97mph), left after six innings with a 6-5 lead. The Yankees tied it in the bottom of the 8th, brought in Mariano Rivera to breeze through the top of the 9th, and won it in the bottom of the 9th on a wild pitch. Wanna guess who was at bat — who never got to finish his at-bat? Yeah, A-Rod.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 3 balls at this game (two pictured here because I gave one away after the game)

• 78 balls in 11 games this season = 7.09 balls per game.

• 803 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 550 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball

• 161 consecutive Yankees home games with at least one ball

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

• 5,897 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 about my fundraiser, and click here to see the prizes that I’ll be giving away to donors.)

• 19 donors

• $1.20 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $3.60 raised at this game

• $93.60 raised this season

• $19,250.60 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

4/25/12 at Citi Field

Things keep getting tougher at Citi Field. Last year it was the gates opening half an hour later. Then it was the Mets’ inability to hit. More recently it was the addition of the party deck, and now it’s the fact that Frank Francisco recognizes me. When the stadium opened yesterday at 5:10pm, I hurried out to the right field seats (where it’s nearly impossible to catch batted balls because of the overhang of the 2nd deck), and when I asked Francisco for a ball, he shouted, “How many you got now?!”

“Today’s a brand new day,” I said, “and I got none.”

I thought it was a cute answer, but he wasn’t impressed. Instead of tossing me the ball, he pointed me out to Ramon Ramirez, who later walked over and asked how many stadiums I’d been to.

For me, getting recognized by players is usually a bad thing. It means that they probably won’t ever throw me a ball, and you see, when I’m trapped in the stands of a cavernous stadium and the home team’s few power hitters take their cuts before the gates open, I rely on toss-ups.

Thankfully I got a ball from the center fielder pictured below:

At the time I didn’t know who it was, but now (after having combed through the Mets’ roster), I’m certain that it was rookie outfielder Jordany Valdespin. (Thanks to Francisco, he probably now knows all about me and won’t ever throw me another ball. Life is hard.)

I knew that right field was dead, so I headed over to the left field side for the final group of the Mets’ portion of BP. To my surprise, there was a right-handed batter with impressive power, and he hit a home run RIGHT to me. This was my view when I caught it:

Once again, I had no idea who it was, but later realized (when seeing the guy’s stance and swing during the game) that it was Zach Lutz. I’m no scout, and I’ve barely seen him play, but his swing is so violent that I can see him becoming a Mark Reynolds-esque/all-or-nothing type of hitter. I just hope he sticks around because he could single-handedly make batting practice much more entertaining.

When the Marlins pitchers started playing catch, I headed into foul territory . . .

. . . but didn’t stay there long. None of the players appeared to be using commemorative balls, and with a bunch of heavy-hitting righties taking turns in the cage, there was only one place I wanted to be: straight-away left field.

I’m not sure who hit the next ball I caught — probably Hanley Ramirez — but I can describe exactly how I got it. Starting in the same spot pictured two photos above, I ran 30 feet to my left and made a jumping/lunging catch on my glove side. I noticed right away that there was a kid two rows behind me, who had a glove and appeared to be about 10 years old. Would he have caught the ball if I hadn’t been there? Who knows, but I gave it to him regardless, and both of his parents thanked me.

Now, do you remember the conversation I had with Heath Bell the day before? Remember the part when I asked him to hook me up with a Marlins commemorative ball? Keep that in mind while I refresh your memory about something else . . .

Does this photo look familiar? (Go ahead and click it. Really. Do it. This is important. It’ll be okay. It’ll open in a new window, and you won’t lose your spot. Have you clicked it yet? Okay, good.) It was originally posted in my entry from 4/9/11 at Citi Field. See the kid on the left in the green hat? His name is Zach, he was at Citi Field yesterday, and as soon as he saw me, he asked if I’d sign his copy of The Baseball.

“Absolutely,” I said, “but let’s wait until there’s a left-handed batter.”

Waiting for a lefty turned into waiting for the group to end, and then there were several distractions after that. Twenty minutes later, I still hadn’t signed his book — but I was going to. That’s when Heath Bell (who was shagging in left-center) fielded a ball and turned around and threw it in our direction. Yes, OUR direction. Zach was in the front row, and I was standing directly behind him in the third row. The ball sailed right to him, but seemed to handcuff him a bit, and it tipped off his glove. Where did it end up? Right between us in the second row. As I bent down (over a row of seats) to pick it up, I had every intention of giving it to him, but once I had the ball in my hand, I noticed that it had the Marlins commemorative logo. Zach immediately started freaking out and claiming that the ball had been intended for him. I was like, “Yeah, but it has a commemorative logo,” and he was like, “YEAH!!! THAT’S WHY I WANT IT!!!” and I was like, “Oh Jesus.”

Part of me wanted to say, “Listen, kid, you could’ve caught the ball, but you didn’t, and I got it. The end.” But the other part of me was thinking, “This kid knows me and looks up to me and asked for my autograph last year and now wants me to sign his copy of my book and has the same name as me. Don’t be an ass. Give him the ball. You’ll get another next month in Miami.” And so, with ambivalence and a sinking feeling in my gut, I handed it to him. Here he is with the ball — and my book (which I signed):

What would you have done? Kept the ball? Given it to him? Dig deep and really think about it.

Five minutes later, Heath Bell threw me another ball near the Home Run Apple. I took a quick peek at it, noticed that it lacked the commemorative logo, and gave it to a father and his little boy. Here’s the father showing it to the nearest usher:

Back in the days when I kept every single ball, the ushers and security guards hated me and created a separate set of rules to keep me out of the sections. Now that the stadium employees see me giving balls away, they’re all on my side and often bend the rules so that I can enter their sections. Funny how that works.

Anyway, if you’ve lost count, I had snagged five balls and given away three.

After batting practice, I got two more balls at the Marlins’ dugout. The first was tossed at the home-plate end by a player that I couldn’t identify. (He was white, short, scruffy, muscly, and looked like a bully.) The second was tossed at the outfield end by team owner Jeffrey Loria. Here he is throwing another ball to someone else:

I headed back to left field at the start of the game and stayed there for the rest of the night. This was my view in the top of the 1st inning:

I had lots of room to run, and there *were* two home runs, but both were beyond my range. One of them — a 5th-inning blast by Omar Infante — was close enough that I jumped up and started running for it. In the following screen shot (courtesy of MLB.com), I’ve circled the ball and pointed myself out with an arrow:

The ball hit the “Mazda” advertisement and ricocheted off some people’s hands to the bottom of the staircase under the word “Parts.” I had no chance.

One inning later, David Wright hit a homer that would’ve been GREAT to catch. It made him the all-time Mets leader in RBIs, putting him two ahead of Darryl Strawberry. Unfortunately, though, the ball landed on the party deck, way the hell out in left-center near the batter’s eye.

After the final out of the Mets’ 5-1 victory, I raced over to the Marlins’ dugout in time to see Heath Bell walking off the field:

“See you next month in Miami!” I shouted, but he didn’t look up. Maybe he didn’t hear me. Maybe he was pissed because his team lost. Or maybe both. I’m just hoping that the Marlins can turn things around — if not this year, then next — because I want to see him pitch in the World Series.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 7 balls at this game (four pictured here because I gave three away)

• 75 balls in 10 games this season = 7.5 balls per game.

• 802 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 549 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball

• 389 consecutive Mets home games with at least one ball

• 51 consecutive games at Citi Field with at least two balls

• 5,894 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 about my fundraiser, and click here to see the prizes that I’ll be giving away to donors.)

• 18 donors

• $1.10 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $7.70 raised at this game

• $82.50 raised this season

• $19,239.50 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

Ready for some black light photos? All four of the balls that I kept have invisible ink stamps. Check out the following side-by-side comparison:

In the black light portion of the previous photo, did you notice the ball on the upper left? It appears to be double-stamped. Pretty cool, no? Here’s a closer look at it:

Don’t ask me to explain it because I can’t. Just . . . appreciate its beauty and soak it in.

4/24/12 at Citi Field

I had four goals at this game:

1) Snag one of the new Marlins commemorative balls.
2) Talk to Heath Bell (whom I’ve known for years).
3) Catch a game home run ball on the party deck.
4) Take advantage of (and photograph) the free food.

The day got off to a good start when Jon Niese tossed me this within the first minute of batting practice:

As you can see in the photo above, I was the only person there, so in order to create a little excitement, Niese had thrown me the ball with a bit of flair. Rather than making eye contact and under-handing it, he turned his back and faced away from me and and made a no-look flip over his right shoulder. The ball didn’t quite have enough oomph on it, so I had to reach two feet over the railing to make the catch.

The way I got my 2nd ball was much more fun. Mets coach Tim Teufel was patrolling the outfield with a fungo bat, so when he wandered near me to retrieve a ball, I called out and asked him to hit me a fungo. (For those who don’t know, Teufel is a former player who was on the Mets’ championship team in 1986, so therefore he was one of my childhood heroes.) Teufel responded by attempting to hit one to me from about 50 feet away, but the ball fell short and thudded off the padded wall below. He then tried again. And again. But each time, instead of lofting a gentle pop-up in my direction, he accidentally hit a line drive into the wall. After his third attempt, he picked up the ball and threw it to me — and here it is:

Sweet!

Then the food service got underway. The first thing I got was a bag of peanuts:

I didn’t eat it. I tucked it in my backpack “for later” and ended up taking it home. Did I feel guilty? Hell no. I’d paid $100 for my ticket and was determined to get my money’s worth.

The Marlins took the field at around 5:30pm, and whaddaya know — Heath Bell was the closest player to me. You can see him in the following photo, following through on one of his throws:

When he got a bit closer, I said, “Mister Heath Bell, sir, welcome back to Citi Field.”

He didn’t look up, but I saw him smile and knew that he recognized my voice, so I added, “Happy twenty-twelve to you. It’s nice to see you again.”

Bell then looked up and gave me a mini salute.

I was wearing a teal Marlins cap with the old logo, and several minutes later (after he’d finished throwing), he called me out on it. He looked at me (from about 75 feet away), pointed at his cap, and then pointed at me and shrugged.

“I haven’t gotten the new hat yet!” I shouted. “It’s ugly!”

“Not as ugly as THAT!” he yelled, pointing again at the monstrosity on my head.

He had a point.

My 3rd ball of the day was tossed by Mike Dunn in left-center (all the way out near the Home Run Apple) and my 4th ball was thrown by Austin Kearns in straight-away left. Neither of these two balls had the Marlins commemorative logo.

Four days earlier, the party deck was virtually empty throughout BP. Yesterday, for some reason, there were dozens of people. This was the view to my right . . .

. . . and this was the view to my left:

In the photo above, do you see the guy holding the canvas bag? That bag contained peanuts, as well as popcorn and potato chips. In the party deck, the food isn’t sitting out for people to take; employees make regular sweeps through the section and hand it out.

Toward the end of BP, Heath Bell walked over to say a more formal hello. When he got really close, I reached down over the railing, and he jumped up to give me a high-five. He asked how I’ve been and what I’ve been up to. I told him a few quick things and mentioned that I was hoping to get one of the balls with the Marlins commemorative logo.

“Man, that’s all we use during BP at home,” he said, so I told him that I’m going to be at Marlins Park next month for the Rockies series.

And so on.

(HEATH BELL IS AWESOME, AND I LOVE HIM.)

That was it for BP. Four balls. All thrown by players and coaches. Not a single home run anywhere near me. Bleh.

I made it to the Marlins’ dugout at the end of BP and noticed that the basket of balls was left out on the warning track:

I zoomed in with my camera to see if there were any commemorative logos:

Nope.

Two photos above, did you notice the little kid with a glove? Well, I noticed him while I was standing there, so I asked him if he’d gotten a ball, and when he said no, I handed him one of mine. Moments later, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria poked his head out of the dugout, prompting everyone to start shouting at him for baseballs. He grabbed half a dozen from the basket and tossed them into the crowd. I snagged one.

Shortly before game time, there was a Jose Reyes media frenzy in front of the dugout, so I tried my best to phot0-bomb him. See how all the cameras are pointed at me (okay, fine, HIM) in my photo below?

It was Reyes’s first game at Citi Field after having left the Mets in the off-season, so that’s why everyone was going nuts.

At 6:30pm, hot food started being served on the party deck, but I didn’t make it out there until the game was about to begin. This was my view (and food) in the bottom of the 1st:

It’s kind of hard to tell in the photo above (because the cheese had been placed on the bottom portion of the bun for some unimaginable reason), but that *is* a cheeseburger on the left. It was as good as it looks, which is to say: not very. It was cafeteria-quality. The water was nice and cold, but the server removed the bottle cap (so that I wouldn’t fling it onto the field) (because that’s what kind of person I am). Really annoying, Mets. Really really REALLY annoying. And as for the chicken tenders on the right, those were pretty good, but for the hundred dollars that I’d spent, I expected the server not to run out of barbeque sauce.

Wanna see what else was annoying? Mr. Met blocking the cross-aisle . . .

. . . not that it mattered because Johan Santana and Josh Johnson were locked in a pitchers’ duel.

For the next round of my “free” meal, I got a hot dog:

It was okay. No real complaint. I actually think hot dogs are gross, but I simply had to eat one.

Just before the hot food stopped being served at 8:10pm, I got another cheeseburger:

Then I got another (bigger) bottle of water . . .

. . . and got excited when I saw this:

Pretzels!

I had such high hopes, but perhaps should have known better. Not only was the pretzel absurdly small . . .

. . . but it was SO BAD that I found it to be inedible. There was no salt. There was no flavor. And it was stale.

I was then offered a bag of popcorn . . .

. . . followed by a bag of potato chips:

I put both of them in my backpack with the peanuts.

Water number three . . .

. . . preceded a cookie. Here’s a closeup:

It was a chocolate cookie with white chocolate chips. Very tasty but too hard — and I know cookies. The absolute best cookie place in the world is in my neighborhood on the Upper West Side. No, I’m not talking about Insomnia Cookies (which is excellent, by the way). I’m talking about the life-changing cookies at Levain. Go there and get some. They’re not cheap, but they’re huge, and you will thank me. Your perception of cookies (and, if you’re religious, of heaven) will never be the same. But back to Citi Field . . . the servers ran out of cookies after one sweep through the party deck. They blamed it on the fact that that everyone took two or three, and fine, okay, I’ll admit that I had taken three, but so what? For one hundred dollars (and having to watch a team of fragile players that can’t hit), I expect to have an unlimited supply of sugar. I had been told that the party deck was “all you can eat,” but it wasn’t. Certain things were only served at certain times, and other items ran out. Lame!

There was also “free” beer, which somehow didn’t run out. Here’s the beer station in action:

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m not much of a drinker, and I have absolutely no interest in beer. Go ahead and make fun of me for “not being a man.” I don’t care. Peer pressure is for babies. I just don’t like it and never will. For me, free beer is about as appealing as free cod sperm or free raw shark heart. So in that sense, I didn’t get my money’s worth on the party deck.

Late in the game, I went to the top of the stairs to take a few photos from above. This was the view to my right:

This was the view to my left:

And here’s what it looked like directly below me:

The Mets ended up winning the game, 2-1, and look who I ran into on my way out:

In the photo above, that’s my friend Ben Weil on the right, giving his subtle critique of the stadium.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 5 balls at this game (three pictured here because I gave two away — forgot to mention that I gave one to a disabled kid’s mother before the game)

• 68 balls in 9 games this season = 7.56 balls per game.

• 801 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 548 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball

• 388 consecutive Mets home games with at least one ball

• 50 consecutive games at Citi Field with at least two balls

• 5,887 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 about my fundraiser, and click here to see the prizes that I’ll be giving away to donors.)

• 18 donors

• $1.10 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $5.50 raised at this game

• $74.80 raised this season

• $19,231.80 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

One more photo . . .

Remember the commemorative ball that I got from Tim Teufel? Well, here’s a side-by-side comparison of the ball in regular light and black light:

You don’t see many baseballs with invisible ink stamps right on the logo.

And finally, in case you missed my tweet this morning, check out this nonsense about me on MSN. Yet again, the media have gone for the low-blow rather than doing a thoughtful, positive story that mentions my charity fundraiser. Thankfully (and not surprisingly) my publisher got it right when they posted this about me yesterday.

4/20/12 at Citi Field

I need to start by sharing some info that’s going to sound like an advertisement. Bear with me. Here goes:

Citi Field’s new party deck is meant for groups of 25 or more, but for a limited time, the Mets are selling individual tickets.

Why did I mention that? Because I got to spend the entire day there, and if I hadn’t mentioned it, you’d probably end up demanding an explanation. But enough about that. Here’s the first photo that I took at the start of batting practice:

See the wristband? An usher at the top of the stairs put that on me after checking my ticket and marking it with a Sharpie. While that was happening (and before I’d even taken my glove out of my backpack), I got Dillon Gee to throw me a ball. Let me try to explain how I actually caught it . . .

The usher was standing on my right, and as you can see above, the wristband is on my left wrist. That means I was reaching across my body with my left arm so that he could put it on me. Gee, meanwhile, tossed the ball to my left (presumably to avoid hitting the usher), so I reached across my body with my right arm (so that my arms were criss-crossed) and made a bare-handed, one-handed catch. Pretty wacky, huh? Unfortunately I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was my 800th consecutive game with at least one ball — a streak that dates back to September 10, 1993.

Five minutes later (with seemingly endless space on both sides), I made a running back-handed catch on a home run. I think it was hit by Scott Hairston, but I’m not sure.

With the exception of several party deck employees who kept offering me free beer . . .

. . . I had the entire place to myself. It was glorious. Of course, because David Wright and Jason Bay hit before the gates open and because the Mets have no other right-handed power hitters, I didn’t snag any more baseballs until the Giants took the field.

This was my view while the pitchers were playing catch:

After they finished, I got Jeremy Affeldt and Clay Hensley to toss me balls. (Hensley hadn’t seen me get the ball from Affeldt, but Affeldt did see me get the ball from Hensley. Haha!)

A little while later, Pablo Sandoval, batting from the right side, launched a home run into the front row of the regular seats up above. In the following photo, do you see the fan wearing the purple sweatshirt?

Sandoval’s homer bounced off his hands and ricocheted right to me. As soon as I snagged it, I tossed it back up to him and his (orange-shirted) kid.

My 6th ball of the day was a home run by Angel Pagan. That one landed near me (and thankfully didn’t bounce back onto the field) and I immediately tossed it up to a little kid.

Toward the end of BP, I got a ball from Giants coach Roberto Kelly, and the way he threw it to me was rather odd. After fielding a batted ball, he turned and faced the crowd and cocked his arm back. And then he paused. He seemed to be scanning the crowd in the front row of the regular seats — and he was clearly looking 50 feet to my left. Naturally, I started running in that direction, thinking that if the fans up above dropped the ball, I’d be in a good position to grab it. Two seconds later, while I was running at a pretty good pace, Kelly threw the ball toward the party deck, just far enough away from me that I was able to catch it. It’s like he was a quarterback and I was a wide receiver. But something didn’t seem right. There was little kid right above the spot where I’d made the catch, and I got the sense that Kelly didn’t intend for me to make the catch in the first place. But it’s not like I robbed the kid. The kid was 10 feet above me. If Kelly wanted him to have it, why didn’t he just throw it there in the first place? The old me would’ve kept the ball and shrugged it off; the new me tossed the ball up to the kid and shrugged THAT off. Kelly hadn’t seen me give the ball away, but Giants special assistant Shawon Dunston noticed, so when Kelly fielded the next ball, Dunston told him to hook me up. So yeah, in a weird little turn of events, I got two consecutive balls thrown to me by the same guy.

My view during the game was great . . .

. . . but the people around me? Not so much. Never in my life have I heard so much asinine chatter at a baseball game or seen so many drunk  “fans” NOT paying attention to the action on the field. The following photo pretty much sums it up:

The view to my right was much better . . .

. . . and several innings later, all that space was totally mine:

There were three home runs during the game, two of which landed on the party deck, but unfortunately the only thing I snagged was this:

Here’s a better look at it:

Not bad. I like the 50th anniversary logo, but if I were in charge of T-shirt design, I would’ve made the logo basketball-sized and done away with the word “Mets” — kinda like how the shirts looked in 2008.

Anyway, in the photo above, do you see the staircase in the background? Here’s a closer look at it:

There wasn’t anyone guarding it at any point in the day, but it was clearly off-limits, so I didn’t explore. Instead, I asked one of the supervisors what was down there.

“The pantry,” he said.

Ahh, yes, the pantry . . . for preparing all the free food that gets offered to everyone on the party deck throughout the game. I already have a party deck ticket for tomorrow’s game (it’s April 23rd as I sit here writing this, so I’m talking about the Marlins game on Tuesday the 24th), so I’ll photograph the food then and post the pics in my next entry. For now, I’ll leave you with one more shot from the party deck:

I wish that the deck weren’t so damn expensive and impossible to get into because I would buy a season ticket and sit there every game. Instead, I can only say that Citi Field is full of expensive/restricted areas; you either have to know people or have a lot of money to enjoy yourself. And that’s not how baseball should be.

On a slightly more positive note, I have a funny-but-annoying story to share — an exchange with a drunk/30-something-year-old female fan that happened soon after the Giants put the finishing touches on their 4-3 victory. Presumably, one of the guys that she was with had recognized me and told her to ask me for a ball. Here’s how it played out:

HER: Can I have a ball?
ME: No.
HER: Why not?
ME: I only give baseballs to little kids with gloves.
HER: I’ll give you a kiss on the cheek.
ME: No thanks.
HER: You knocked me over for a ball earlier.
ME: Now you’re making false accusations.

As soon as I said that, she turned and walked away.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 8 balls at this game (five pictured here because I gave three away)

• 63 balls in 8 games this season = 7.875 balls per game.

• 800 consecutive games with at least one ball!

• 547 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball

• 387 consecutive Mets home games with at least one ball

• 49 consecutive games at Citi Field with at least two balls

• 5,882 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 about my fundraiser, and click here to see the prizes that I’ll be giving away to donors.)

• 17 donors

• $1.00 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $8.00 raised at this game

• $63.00 raised this season

• $19,220.00 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

I have a few more photos to share. First, here are the sweet spots of the five balls that I kept:

As you can see, they’re all stamped with the word “practice.”

Finally, two of the balls have invisible ink stamps. Here’s a side-by-side comparison in regular light versus black light:

Wait, I just thought of one more thing that needs to be shared — an article about me (written by my girlfriend!) that was recently published in a local paper called the West Side Spirit. Here it is on my website. She’s an aspiring writer, and this is the first time that she’s gotten paid to write something, so congrats to her.

4/19/12 at Yankee Stadium

The story of the day was Curtis Granderson. Not only did he end up going 5-for-5 with three home runs, but he was also responsible for my 1st ball of the day — a batting practice blast into the right field seats that I caught on the fly. Here’s what the section looked like after I made the grab:

My 2nd ball was tossed by Boone Logan, and as soon as I caught it, I handed it to the nearest kid. Ball No. 3 was an Eric Chavez homer that landed in the bleachers and bounced back down into the regular seats. I had anticipated it perfectly (by running a full section to my right and eyeing the bleachers for a possible ricochet), but without the good luck that followed, my effort would’ve been meaningless. This is why I always insist that ballhawking requires a combination of luck and skill — and why I love Branch Rickey’s famous quote that “luck is the residue of design.”

Several minutes after the Twins started hitting, I ran nearly halfway around the stadium to the left field foul line, barely arriving before the pitchers finished playing catch. This was my view:

Brian Duensing ended up throwing me a ball . . . which sailed so far over my head that I didn’t bother jumping for it. I was more than a dozen rows back, and since there weren’t any other fans near me, I still ended up snagging it.

During the middle of the Twins’ portion of BP, there was one group of hitters who were all left-handed. I considered various scenarios and strategies and came up with three lousy options:

1) Hang out in left field (not crowded at all) and try to get a toss-up.
2) Hang out in right field (very very very crowded) and try to catch a home run.
3) Head up to the bleachers (semi-crowded) and hope for a moonshot.

I chose option number three. Here’s what it looked like as I headed into the bleachers:

I picked a spot near the front.
One ball reached the bleachers.
It went right to another fan.
Meh.

And yes, the visibility was brutal. Not only was the sunlight coming at me directly from the sky, but it was also reflecting off the metal benches.

The left field seats remained empty, so I headed over there for the final group of BP. Wanna see how empty? This was my view to the right . . .

. . . and to the left:

Wow!

Because there was virtually no competition, I easily got this player to toss me my 5th ball of the day:

Here’s a closer look at him:

At the time, I had no idea who it was, but now (after having done some Google-imaging) I’m almost certain that it was Jared Burton. Can anyone help me confirm this?

During the last few minutes of BP, I caught two home runs on the fly, and they couldn’t have been easier. I mean . . . I had to run 30 feet to my left for the second one, but there was no one else near me, and the ball came right to my row. The same batter hit both of these balls, but I don’t know who it was.

On my way out of the section, I gave a ball to a security guard to give to the kid of his choice, and late in the game, I gave away another to a little boy in my section who’d been sitting quietly with his glove (and his family) all night.

This was my view for the entire game . . .

. . . and for the first few batters in the top of the 1st, I had an entire empty row on my left:

Not surprisingly, it didn’t last long . . .

. . . but during those few minutes that I had all that space, it was fun to imagine the possibilities.

For the second game in the row, the Twins had a 4-3 lead after the 1st inning, but the real story (as I mentioned at the start) was Curtis Granderson. Here’s what the jumbotron said when he came to bat in the bottom of the 6th:

He already had three home runs by that point, and he was likely to bat again in the bottom of the 8th! My mind and heart were racing at the thought of catching his 4th (and/or 5th?!) home run of the night, but it wasn’t meant to be. Granderson cracked under pressure and ended up hitting singles in his final two at-bats. What a chump!

For the record, I didn’t come close to any of his home runs, although I did jump out of my seat and start running for one of them. Most of the seats were full, so even though the ball landed just one section to my right, I had no chance. Mark Teixiera and Ryan Doumit also homered to right field, so there was lots of action in my general vicinity, but all I could do was spectate. You people in half-empty stadiums with cross-aisles and standing-room sections have NO IDEA how good you have it.

One of the highlights of the game was seeing Mariano Rivera (whose age now matches his uniform number) retire Minnesota in order on seven pitches. He’s so good that it’s almost not fair.

Final score: Yankees 7, Twins 6.

Here’s a photo that I took of the stadium from the nearby/elevated subway platform:

The biggest highlight of the day was getting to talk at length to a part-time major league scout. He’s a friend of a friend, and I got to pick his brain for 20 solid minutes. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to reveal his name or the team that he works for, so let me just share one random/interesting fact with you: his team has a minimum height requirement for right-handed pitchers. In other words, when scouts are looking at high school and college pitchers and considering who to select in the draft, the front office won’t even consider a guy if he’s under 6-foot-2. For lefties, there’s no requirement. I always knew that teams prefer tall pitchers, but I figured that the cutoff was six feet, and I had no idea that there was an actual rule about it. I guess I’m going to have to marry a very tall woman.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 7 balls at this game (four pictured here because I gave three away)

• 55 balls in 7 games this season = 7.86 balls per game.

• 799 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 546 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball

• 160 consecutive Yankees home games with at least one ball

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

• 5,874 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 about my fundraiser, and click here to see the prizes that I’ll be giving away to donors.)

• 17 donors

• $1.00 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $7.00 raised at this game

• $55.00 raised this season

• $19,212.00 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

Here’s one final photo for you — a side-by-side comparison of one of the balls in regular light versus black light:

The end.

4/18/12 at Yankee Stadium

For the second game in a row, there was a baseball waiting for me when I made it to the right field seats:

Two minutes later, while the section was still fairly empty, I snagged a home run ball that landed several rows back. I’m not sure who hit it, but if I had to guess, I’d say Brett Gardner.

I do know who hit the following three home runs that I snagged — all in left field: Andruw Jones, Eduardo Nunez, and Jones again. The first of these three landed on a staircase one full section to my right and skipped high up in the air right to me after I’d cut through an empty row to get there. It was kinda crowded at that point, so the lucky bounce was essential. The second was a deep-but-lazy fly ball that carried half a dozen rows back near the bullpen. As the ball sailed toward my section, I drifted roughly 30 feet to my left and caught it thigh-high. The third was a line drive that pretty much came right to me. I caught that one on the fly and then took the following photo of it:

BOO-yah!!! Another Camden Yards commemorative ball.

When the Twins started hitting, I ran back to the right field seats (and stayed there for the rest of the night). This was my approximate view for the rest of BP:

In the photo above, the guy standing on the left with the draw-string “Adidas” backpack is named John. He reads this blog, so he recognized me and introduced himself. We chatted for a while and tried not to get in each other’s way, but there wasn’t much room to spread out.

During the following half-hour, I snagged four more home runs, and I have no idea who hit any of them. Justin Morneau? Yeah, no doubt. And probably Joe Mauer and maybe Sean Burroughs or Chris Parmelee or Clete Thomas. The first of these four smacked off the back wall and landed in the last row. I caught the other three on the fly, and there were people all around.

That gave me nine balls for the day, and I gave three of them to kids. Here I am with two of them — Sean on the left and Chris on the right — whose fathers asked if I’d pose for photos.

Sean asked me to sign his ball, which I did with a “5866″ below my name to indicate my up-to-the-minute lifetime ball total.

Did any of you see the Tweet that I’d posted earlier in the afternoon? Well, here’s the pizza:

Yum.

Shortly before game time, I wandered over to the Yankees’ bullpen (with my friend Andrew, who had just arrived) to watch Hiroki Kuroda warm up:

Several minutes later, he threw a 55-footer that skipped away from Russell Martin. Martin slowly got up and retrieved it and (thanks to some well-timed shouting on my part) tossed it to me. Unfortunately, the ball sailed too far over my head and landed in the seats behind me. Fortunately, there was no one there, so I was able to chase it down.

That was my 10th ball of the day. Reaching double digits always feels great; reaching double digits in New York feels super-duper extra great because both stadiums are really tough in nearly ever conceivable way.

Anyway, here’s a photo that I took of Martin soon after he hooked me up:

The game itself was great, except for my frequent view of this:

In case you don’t see what I’m talking about, here’s a closer look:

Haha!

(Yes, I’m 12.)
(Deal with it.)

But really, the game was fun. The Twins scored four runs in the top of the first, and the Yankees answered with three in the bottom of the frame. I came really close to Robinson Cano’s homer in the third. (I was directly in line it and watched in horror as it fell three rows short.) Justin Morneau, showing signs of no longer being concussed, went 3-for-4 with two home runs. Derek Jeter, showing everyone that he’s the man, went 3-for-5 with a ninth-inning homer. It was cold and drizzly, and the game dragged on, but it just felt great to be there. Final score: Twins 6, Yankees 5. I love baseball SO much, and that’s really all there is to say.

Here I am with Andrew after the game:

Keep scrolling past the stats for some black light photos . . .

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 10 balls at this game (seven pictured here because I gave three away)

• 48 balls in 6 games this season = 8 balls per game.

• 798 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 545 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball

• 159 consecutive Yankees home games with at least one ball

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

• 184 lifetime games with ten or more balls

• 5,867 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 about my fundraiser, and click here to see the prizes that I’ll be giving away to donors.)

• 15 donors

• 89 cents pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $8.90 raised at this game

• $42.72 raised this season

• $19,199.72 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

Okay, so, remember the whole deal with baseballs and black light? Well, of the seven balls that I kept, two have invisible ink stamps. Here’s a side-by-side comparison:

Pretty nifty, eh? But wait, there’s more — and this is REALLY cool. Another one of the balls seems to be half-covered with invisible ink. Have a look:

Do you see what I mean? It seems that one of the “figure-8″ pieces of cowhide is covered with the stuff while the other piece has none. I wonder if someone at the Rawlings factory did that on purpose just for the hell of it. Any theories?

JAPAN — Day 10

This was the final day of the trip, we spent most of it traveling, and it was rather uneventful . . .

We started with a nice breakfast in the the very nice restaurant of our somewhat nice hotel. Here’s my mom (Naomi) and half-sister (Martha) drinking and chewing, respectively:

After the meal, we headed to the train station. Before we entered, we spent a few minutes photographing Kyoto Tower . . .

. . . and a bunch of funky-lookin’ balconies jutting out of a nearby building:

Remember the bullet train from Day 5? Well, we got to ride it again — this time back to Tokyo — but before we boarded, Martha and I each got a pair of these:

Bullet train chopsticks!

After the two-hour ride, we had to wait for another train here:

The second train took 50 minutes to get us to the Narita airport.

At the airport, the two highlights were the escalator-proof luggage carts . . .

. . . and the Twinkie-like banana treats:

Like I said, the day was uneventful.

These “banana Twinkies” (as Martha and I called them) really did make us happy. We’d seen them early in the trip and wanted them, but didn’t buy them and eventually figured we’d lost our chance. Then we saw some more and bought them . . . except we got the wrong kind. The whole thing (like many things on this trip) became a joke, so when we finally saw the exact same banana Twinkies in the airport that we’d wanted from Day 1, we had to get them. Martha took one bite and was like, “Eh,” so I ate the rest. How I only gained four pounds on this trip is a mystery — and I’ve already lost two.

We had lots of time to kill at the airport. I spent it all on my laptop. Blah blah. Here’s a photo of my mom just before we got on the plane:

The flight was twelve and a half hours nonstop, and get this: because of the 13-hour time difference, we landed at the same time as we’d taken off. Our flight left at around 6pm in Japan, and we landed “the same day” at 6pm in New York. Pretty wild, huh?

Martha spent a good portion of the flight playing Tetris, while my mom (in typical mom fashion) read a book. Here they are doing their thing:

By the time we landed and got in a cab, we were SOOOOO tired. I’d managed to conk out for a couple hours on the plane, but it hardly mattered. As far as I was concerned, it was 8 million o’clock. Can you tell?

The worst thing about the trip was having to be at work the next day, but whatever. I’m not complaining. We all had an amazing time, and I’d do it all again.

4/15/12 at Yankee Stadium

My first Yankee game of the season started on a positive note:

The ball pictured above had been hit into the seats as I was running inside the stadium; the closest fan was two sections away so I had enough time to pull out my camera and take a photo.

Moments later, another Yankee batter (not sure who) blasted a homer into the empty section, and I snagged that ball as well.

Then I moved to the back row and took the following photo of the field:

Did you notice the fan in the front row? That’s my girlfriend Robin. (In case you haven’t heard, she and I have been seeing each other since November.) I’ll show you a better photo of her in a moment, but first, here’s one that she took of me:

I love that t-shirt. Too bad it’s going to shrink down to an embarrassingly small size when I wash it for the first time later this week. But anyway . . .

I have to admit that I wasn’t on my game. Yeah, I caught a Curtis Granderson homer on the fly, but pissed away two opportunities toward the end of the Yankees’ portion of BP. The first one required me to jump and make a back-handed catch high over my head, but I reached a couple inches too far, causing the ball to hit my palm and squirt out of my glove. ERROR!!! It was really lame, but you know what? Major leaguers occasionally drop balls too. The second one wasn’t quite as bad, but left me feeling just as dumb. Basically, I drifted down the steps on a towering home run which ended up landing exactly where I’d been standing. These things happen.

As for Robin (who, by the way, is from Kansas City and casually roots for the Royals), look what she end up snagging:

Before we had entered the stadium, I had offered to catch a ball for her. (Whatta guy, I know, I know.) I also told her that if she stood in the front row and called out to the players, she was virtually guaranteed to get a ball. Her response went something as follows: “What the hell am *I* gonna do with a baseball?” Although she was perfectly happy to get there early and watch me in action, she didn’t have any desire to leave the stadium with a ball. At least that’s how she felt before entering the stadium; once she ran inside with me and witnessed batting practice for the first time in her life and saw how much fun it was to chase baseballs, her attitude changed.

Just after the Angels took the field, she worked her way down near the corner spot beside the Yankees’ bullpen and got one of the players to toss her a ball. (She doesn’t know who it was, and I didn’t see him. She says the guy was tall and lanky and had a long nose. And maybe had blue eyes.) (Blue eyes?! Damn, she really IS a girl.) (And I’m quite happy about that.) (But I digress.) She says she didn’t do anything to get the ball. She was just standing there, and the player picked her out and pointed to her after scanning the crowd for a few seconds. In any case, as she reached out and caught the ball, the man standing beside her lunged for it as well. For an instant, they both had their hands on it — and then the guy yanked it from her. I didn’t see this happen because I was standing near the side netting of the bullpen, fixated on this:

Was that a commemorative logo?! More on that in a bit, but first I have to finish the Robin story. Right after she was robbed, she walked up the steps (I was 15 feet behind her) and told me what had happened. All I remember saying in response was “WHAT?!” and although I don’t recall my specific tone, I must’ve said it really loudly because the guy who’d robbed her immediately turned around and held up the ball apologetically. He was offering it to her. She refused. But he insisted and really seemed to mean it, so she accepted it. (Do we need to create a profile for her on MyGameBalls.com? Hmm.)

I lingered beside the bullpen for a few minutes, hoping to get someone to toss the special ball to me, but it was dead — and since most of the Angels were batting right-handed, I ran (with Robin) to the left field side.

It was dead over there too. The only ball I snagged came from Hisanori Takahashi after I asked him for it in Japanese.

As soon as BP ended, I signed a pair of tickets (upon request) for two brothers named Andrew and John. Nice guys. I would’ve stayed and chatted, but I was on a mission. I had to hurry back to the right field seats and try to get someone to hook me up with *that* specific ball in the bullpen. I figured it wasn’t going to be easy because there were lots of balls — and lots of people asking for them. Here’s what I saw when I made it back there:

As you might’ve guessed, the red arrow in the photo above is pointing at THE ball. How do you get someone — in this case, a groundskeeper — to give you a specific ball? Well, duh, you ask.

“Excuse me, sir,” I began, “is there any chance that when you’re done, you might be able to toss me a baseball?”

He looked up and made eye contact with me and gave a very subtle nod. Then he continued rolling up the protective netting.

“Thanks!” I said as he kept working. “I know this is gonna sound obnoxious, but there’s actually a specific ball near you that I’m dying to get my hands on. I think it has a special logo.”

He looked up again briefly and smiled in a way that I interpreted as follows: “This fan is so obnoxious and ballsy that I might just have to give him what he wants.”

Finally, when he was done putting away the equipment, he began retrieving the balls.

“It’s THAT one right . . . THERE!!!” I yelled as he picked up the one that I wanted. He took a quick peek at it and then seemed to lose it in the shuffle. He began tossing balls into the bleachers, and I had no idea if he still had THE ball . . . or if he even knew if he had the ball. He then walked a bit closer and waved me down to the corner spot. At that point, I knew that he was going to hand me a ball . . . but WHICH BALL?!?! Have a look for yourself:

Wooooooooooooooo!!!!!!

As I mentioned in my entry about the game on 4/9/12 at Citi Field, six teams are using commemorative baseballs this season, and my goal is to snag at least one of each. Last week I got this one, which the Mets are using to celebrate their 50th anniversary, and now, thanks to a friendly groundskeeper in the Bronx, I have the ball that the Orioles are using for their 20th anniversary at Camden Yards.

Hell.
To.
The.
Yes.

Here’s a closer look at it:

If you want to see my full collection of commemorative balls, click here. Hopefully I’ll be adding to it before the season is through; I still need to get a hold of (by which I mean SNAG, not purchase) commemorative balls from the Astros, Dodgers, Marlins, and Red Sox. I’ll go to Fenway if I have to, and I already have plans to be in Miami next month for a couple games, but I don’t know about the other two. If possible, I’d like to avoid going to Houston and Los Angeles, so these teams better bring these baseballs with them on the road. The reason why I managed to snag a Camden Yards ball at Yankee Stadium is that the Yankees were just in Baltimore and obviously brought a few back.

Switching topics for a moment, I want to give a shout-out to my friend and fellow ballhawk, Michael Calabro. He’s from Florida and was at this game — his very first time at the new Yankee Stadium — and I stupidly neglected to get a photo with him. I saw him outside the stadium, then inside during BP, and incorrectly assumed that I’d run into him later in the day. That never happened, but I’m glad to say that he snagged several balls. (BTW, I first met Michael on 4/22/08 at Champion Stadium. That was when the Jays and Rays played a regular-season series at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex.)

Robin and I sat in straight-away right field during the game. Here we are:

This was the view:

During the middle innings, I noticed a cool statistic for Raul Ibanez on the jumbrotron:

In case you can’t read it, it says, “Raul has homered in 30 different ballparks in his ML career.”

It made me think about the fact that I’ve snagged baseballs in 49 different major league stadiums. Next month, assuming I don’t get shut out in two consecutive games, Marlins Park will be No. 50 for me. I often wonder how high I’ll be able to push that number. I don’t think there are going to be many more stadiums built, so there are going to have to be regular-season games played in random places.

Here’s something else on the jumbotron that caught my eye — Albert Pujols in Angels gear:

So weird. I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to that. I still expect to see his name when I click the Cardinals’ box scores every day.

One of the highlights of the game was also the lowlight: hearing the fans heckle Angels right fielder Torii Hunter. It was funny at first — “Hey, Torii, your wife’s at Jeter’s place!!” drew the most laughs — but ultimately became incredibly annoying and just flat-out mean. There was one fan in particular who screamed more garbage than anyone — a black guy with a plaid short-sleeved shirt and a black cap. Wanna guess who ended up snagging Derek Jeter’s home run ball in the bottom of the 4th? Yeah, THAT guy, and he was less than 15 feet from me. Here he is holding the ball and talking on the phone:

Overall, the whole day turned out great. I’d been nervous about bringing Robin into my zany world of ballhawking, but she held her own and never complained and ran around with me and actually seemed to enjoy it. If she didn’t have to work five nights a week, I suspect she’d join me for games more often.

Keep scrolling past the stats to see more photos and hear from Robin in her own words . . .

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 5 balls at this game (three pictured here because I gave two away to a pair of *very* appreciative kids/parents on the way out)

• 38 balls in 5 games this season = 7.6 balls per game.

• 797 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 544 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball

• 158 consecutive Yankees home games with at least one ball

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

• 5,857 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 about my fundraiser, and click here to see the prizes that I’ll be giving away to donors.)

• 13 donors

• 82 cents pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $4.10 raised at this game

• $31.16 raised this season

• $19,188.16 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

Okay, as promised, here are some more photos, all of which were taken by Robin. I could’ve posted these earlier but figured I’d stick ‘em at the end and give you a bonus. What I really like about them is that she captured things that I normally don’t bother photographing. Here’s one that shows Nick Swisher running off the field at the end of an inning:

It was Jackie Robinson Day, so during the game, all the players were wearing No. 42.

Here’s another photo, taken earlier in the day, that shows some of the Yankees standing around during BP:

It’s not an award-winning photo or anything like that. It just captures a moment that I never bother documenting because it doesn’t relate directly to my snagging baseballs. Robin estimates that she’s been to 10 baseball games in her life, and she knows for a fact that she never  a) attended batting practice or b) had seats on the lower level, so everything was new and photo-worthy for her. In that sense, it was fun to see things through her eyes and re-experience them for myself. Here’s one more photo that she took at the very start of the day. We’d just gotten off the No. 4 train and were walking around the stadium:

Those are security guards waiting to get in.

On a final note, I thought it’d be nice for Robin to tell you about her experience at the game, so I told her that if she wanted to write a little sumpin’-sumpin’, I’d post it at the end of the blog entry. That said, here you go. I’m just copying/pasting what she emailed me:

I was born in 1984, so the Royals winning the World Series in 1985 was lost on me. I never played baseball, I never played basketball, never played football with my dad on Thanksgiving. My parents are hippies, and athleticism in my family was relegated to hiking on summer camping trips. While I picked up futbol fever in Argentina and was in Barcelona when Spain won the last World Cup, I don’t know too much about America’s most popular sports, and I knew even less about people who chase after baseballs. I really thought that only golden retrievers went after balls with such zeal, but Zack and the other guys at batting practice proved me wrong. I gotta be honest. I was a little anxious about going to a baseball game with Zack. I mean, I know he’s got this streak that he wants to keep going and all — at least one baseball snagged in a million and one consecutive games. Or something like that. Oh, and A-Rod has hit the same amount of homers as some other famous dude (Babe Ruth? Diego Maradona? Michael Jordan?) and I know how much Zack wants to get A-Rod’s next homer. I was genuinely worried about getting in the way and being tripped over. All that being said, I enjoyed my first baseball game at Yankee Stadium. Player and fan interactions during batting practice were hilarious — I didn’t know that players would be so up-close and personal. From our seats I got to see Nick Swisher spit his tobacco and had to hear Torii Hunter being harassed by the Bleacher Creatures. I even walked away with a ball from batting practice. I had a fun time, and I have to admit that I’d like to do it again.

JAPAN — Day 9

Japanese people are great. I really love ‘em. But they don’t know anything about bacon. Take a look at the photo below and you’ll see what I mean. It shows the “American” breakfast that the hotel staff brought to our room:

After breakfast, we had an hour before we were gonna have to check out, so we changed into our robes one final time and luxuriated in the baths. Here’s my half-sister Martha using a foot-massaging machine just outside the women’s entrance . . .

. . . and here I am in a nearby hallway. Don’t be alarmed by my skin-colored two-toed socks:

The relaxation ended soon after, and before I knew it, we were waiting for a train from Kinosaki-Onsen to Kyoto. The train was delayed — unusual in Japan where everything is incredibly efficient — so I passed the time by playing with my camera:

This was my dreary view from the train:

Halfway through the two-hour ride, I got up to use the bathroom, and when I locked the door behind me , I realized that I was going to have to return with my camera. Here’s why:

The train station in Kyoto is huge (here’s a photo of one part of it from my Day 5 entry), and we ended up taking the wrong exit (or maybe it was the right exit?), which led directly into THE BIGGEST electronics store that I’d ever seen. Here’s what it looked like just inside the entrance . . .

. . . and if you think THAT’S big, consider this: in the photo above, you’re looking at one part of one floor, and there were EIGHT FLOORS!!!!!!!!

I enjoyed seeing an entire section of rice cookers:

I also enjoyed seeing the Miller Park sausage race on one of the TVs.

How’s that for random?

The weather was awful in the early afternoon, so we lingered in our hotel room longer than we wanted. This was the view:

When the rain subsided, we headed back out . . .

. . . to our favorite Ramen place from Day 5. I ordered the same thing: pork dumplings and spicy pork soup with noodles and scallions:

It rained sporadically throughout the afternoon, but we managed to stay dry by spending most of our time here:

The single greatest thing I saw at the mall, if not in all of Japan, was the following bunch of mannequins at a clothing store:

“Hey, ladies, see how nice your ass is gonna look when you greet people by bowing?!”

Classic.

Another great thing that happened in the mall was the discovery of this t-shirt:

It says, “baseball fanatic.” How perfect is that?

Check out a few of the other shirts:

Here’s some more baseball at the mall, and it couldn’t have been more random:

The photo above shows a hair salon — I only know that because it says so in English on the sign — so why are there baseball decals on the window? My only explanation is that the people of Japan love the sport.

We made it back to the hotel at around 6pm and hung out in the room for a couple hours. It was still cold and damp outside, and I was exhausted, but dammit, this was our final night in Japan, and I wasn’t quite ready to pack it in. I suggested to Martha that we go get a massage — nothing incredibly scandalous. Seriously, I wasn’t looking for anything crazy. As long as there was a woman and some oil involved, I was set.

We ended up finding a place near our hotel that had the following sign:

Looks pretty good, right?

Yeah, well, that’s not exactly how things went down. The people at the massage place spoke *NO* English, so it was impossible to communicate what we wanted. You’d think that simply pointing to a certain type of massage on the sign would’ve done the trick, but no, for some reason, it still wasn’t clear. Evidently, because we asked for a half-hour massage, there wasn’t enough time for the full-body treatment with oil, so we had to keep all our clothes on, which sucked. That’s no way to get massaged. But that’s not all. The massage itself was brutal. It didn’t make me feel good. It didn’t make me feel relaxed. I was literally poked and prodded for half an hour, and I was in pain. And because of the language barrier, I couldn’t ask my massage therapist to be gentler. Notice how I used a gender-neutral term? That’s because these were the people who massaged us:

GEEEAAAHHH!!!

The guy on the right massaged me, so maybe it’s just as well that I’d kept all my clothes on. But wait, there’s more. The massage people assumed that Martha and I were, ahem . . . together, so they put us in the same room for a “couples” massage. The whole experience was so bad that it was laughable, and I know we’ll be joking about it for decades.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 283 other followers