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.
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:
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.
• 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
(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: