5/11/12 at Yankee Stadium

My first ball of the day was an A-Rod homer that landed in the empty seats in right field. I snagged that one as soon as I ran into the stadium, and two minutes later, I got Phil Hughes to toss me another. Here’s a photo that I took from the spot where I caught it:

In the photo above, Hughes is the player standing closest to me.

After the first group of Yankee hitters, I ran over to the left field side, and it was dead. Andruw Jones hit two homers into the second deck, one of which bounced down into the lower level, but I was nowhere near it — and that was pretty much it. I had lots of room to run, but there was nothing to run for. I hate it when that happens.

I headed back to right field when the Mariners started hitting and promptly got Chone Figgins to throw me a ball in the last row. Unfortunately, he didn’t aim high enough, so the guy in front of me was able to reach up and grab it — but Figgins, a man of great character, quickly got another ball and gave me another shot. His second attempt was right on target.

Moments later, I won a mini-scramble for an Ichiro homer that landed near me in the seats. That was my fourth ball of the day, and let me be clear about something: it wasn’t easy. Not only was the sun in my eyes, but the section was crowded. Here’s a photo that I took during the next group of hitters. It’ll give you an idea of the conditions I was facing:

Despite the challenges, I ended up going on somewhat of a snagging spree, grabbing four home run balls within the next 10 minutes. I don’t know who hit any of them, so I’ll just give you a rundown of the action. The first home run — more of a line drive than a fly ball — landed 20 to 30 feet to my right. After darting through an empty row to get in line with it, I lunged/reached forward over TWO rows and caught it back-handed. The force of the ball hitting my glove slammed my left forearm against the back of a seat. It still hurts, and I don’t care. It was totally worth it. The second home run flew directly over my head and landed in the tunnel. Thankfully, there was no one in it at the time, so I had zero competition while chasing it down. I neglected to take a photo of the tunnel after this particular snag, so here’s a shot of it (and of me!) from a game last month. The third home run could not have been much easier. It was a lazy fly ball (relatively speaking) that came right to me in the last row. There was a gloveless fan in front of me (who looked to be in his 50s) who had every intention of trying to catch it . . . until he lost the ball in the sun. The fourth home run took me by surprise. I had just made a bone-headed mistake while scrambling for a ball and had to climb over a few rows to get back to my spot. While en route, I sensed that the people around me were jockeying for position. It was the type of mini-frenzy that can only mean one thing: a ball was coming. When I looked up, I spotted it instantly, high in the bright sky, and I quickly determined where it was going to land: one or two rows in front of me and several feet to the right. While the ball was still in mid-air, I looked back down for a split-second and climbed down over a row. Then I looked back up for the ball, drifted to my right, squinted in the intense glare of the sunlight, and reached up above a ducking kid for the catch.

“Who caught that?!” he asked.

“I did,” I said, showing him the ball inside my glove.

“Thank you!” he yelled. “That woulda killed me!”

I asked the kid if he’d gotten a ball, and he admitted that he had, so I started tossing balls to other kids. The whole section seemed to be in one collective state of shock. First I’d caught just about ever ball in sight, and then I started giving a bunch of them away — three to be exact, to some kids who turned out to be part of the same group. Several minutes later, a man (who must’ve been one of their fathers) came over and thanked me and asked if he could take my picture.

“Sure,” I said, “but let’s get the kids in it too.”

The father then took a couple photos of us in the last row, at which point I asked if he’d take another one with my camera. Here it is:

Unfortunately I didn’t get the kids’ names. They were all leaving, and BP was still underway, so we said a quick goodbye, and I turned my attention back to the field. But wait! Before I tell you what happened next, I have to point something out in the photo above. Do you see the ball that I’m holding? That was the final home run during my mini-snagging spree — my eighth ball of the day. I had started the day with 92 balls this season, which means that that one was No. 100, which means that 2012 is the 15th consecutive season in which I’ve hit triple digits.

During the final group of BP, a Mariners player in deep right field turned around and threw a ball into the stands. (I think it was Hector Noesi.) It was a fairly gentle toss, and he aimed it several rows deep. I was in the last row at this point, so the ball was clearly falling short. Way short. Like . . . 10 feet short . . . and get this: not only did the fans completely miss it, but the ball landed on the skinny/flat portion of an armrest — an ARMREST, for Chrissakes!! — and skipped right back to me, eluding several other fans along the way. It was probably the single luckiest ricochet of my life, and the guy standing next to me was so annoyed that he tried (unsuccessfully, for the record) to claw the ball out of my glove. That was my ninth ball of the day, and here’s a photo of No. 10:

Just before BP ended, I spotted a couple balls sitting on the field in foul territory, so I snuck over there (security had already kicked everyone out who didn’t belong) and ended up getting Mariners bullpen coach Jaime Navarro to throw one of them to me. His throw sailed 10 feet over my head, landed right in the middle of a group of gloveless adults, and bounced back down to me. Double digits had been achieved. Ooh yeah.

I celebrated by giving away another ball (NOT to the gloveless adults) and then attempting to talk my way into the exclusive Mohegan Sun Sports Bar in deep center field. Here’s a photo of it from the way-too-narrow-what-the-hell-were-they-thinking concourse that runs behind the batter’s eye:

($1.5 billion for a stadium, and they can’t even get the concourses right.)

In order to get into the Mohegan Club, you need to have a membership — or in this case, you simply have to be me and ask really nicely and say that you just want to take a few photos and then promise not to stay for more than five minutes. That’s all it took, and I don’t understand why. Over the past few seasons, I’d tried to get inside the club half a dozen times and was always denied.

Anyway, here’s what it looks like just inside the doors . . .

. . . and here’s the view to the right:

Here’s a closer look at the bar (with a glimpse of the field in the background):

This is what the main part of the club looks like:

This club is located inside the batter’s eye. The windows appear to be black from the outside, but from where I was standing, I could see out just fine:

The problem is . . . it’s INSIDE THE BATTER’S EYE, sealed off from the outside world. What’s the point of being at a baseball game if all you’re gonna do is watch it from a glorified cubicle?!

Check out the view of home plate from the club:

Would you pay extra to sit there? I’d pay extra NOT to sit there. I can imagine that it’d be quite nice to be inside the club during a rain delay when it’s 38 degrees and windy, but other than that? I really don’t get it. Can anyone explain to me, in a serious/non-sarcastic way, what the draw is? I would genuinely love to know.

Here’s a closer look at the club’s menu:

I have to admit that everything on the menu looks good, but DAY-um, sixteen bucks for a burger?! Hey, Pedro Feliciano’s contract isn’t gonna pay itself.

I’m glad to have seen the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar because now I never have to go back. As far as I’m concerned, this is the best possible place (within Yankee Stadium) to sit and watch a game:

Here’s what the Mohegan Club looked like from where I was sitting:

In the photo above, do you see the three flat-screen TVs mounted to the concrete wall? They’re way off in the distance, just above the “Toyota” and “DKNY” ads. Do you know why those TVs are there? It’s because the Mohegan Club obstructs the view of a *huge* portion of the bleachers. Here’s a photo from my archives that shows just how bad it is:

Who designs a stadium like that? And who, exactly, is dumb enough to sit there?

Let’s get back to baseball, shall we? In the top of the 6th inning, Jesus Montero hit a solo home run to right field that gave the Mariners a 2-1 lead. (I ran through an empty row and came within 10 feet that ball.) In the bottom of the 6th inning, Raul Ibanez hit a three-run homer off Felix Hernandez to put the Yankees on top, 4-2. (That ball also went to right field and missed me by the same distance.) Andruw Jones, pinch-hitting for Eric Chavez in the bottom of the 8th, blasted a two-run homer to the back of the bullpen in left-center, and that was it. Final score: Yankees 6, Mariners 2.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 10 balls at this game (six pictured here because I gave four away; check out the mis-stamped logo, barely overlapping the stitches, on the ball in the middle of the right-hand column)

• 102 balls in 15 games this season = 6.8 balls per game.

• 807 consecutive games with at least one ball

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

• 165 consecutive Yankees home games with at least one ball

• 15 consecutive seasons with 100 or more balls

• 185 lifetime games with ten or more balls

• 5,921 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.)

• 28 donors

• $1.66 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $16.60 raised at this game

• $169.32 raised this season

• $19,326.32 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

Here’s one more photo for you — a side-by-side comparison of two of the balls that I kept in regular light versus black light:

The End.

20 Comments

First comment…yay! (…unless someone beats me to it before I finish typing.) Anyway, I don’t have anything terribly interesting to say at the moment and I haven’t commented much in the last couple years, but I still read the blog on an almost daily basis during the season (and here and there in the off season.) Anyway…keep it up, Zack; you’re doing cool things! :)

Where do you plan to snag ball # 6,000?

hey zack! I went to the cards and brewers game (5/12/12) and I got 10 balls! The first five I got were laying in the outfield seats and I picked them up, the sixth ball was a foul ball I caught on the fly, the seventh was from the bullpen, the eighth ball was another foul ball that I caught on the fly, the ninth was an umpire ball, and the tenth was a ball tossed to me by the bat boy. Man, I wish I had a blog because I hade a MONSTER day at Busch Stadium! ( I gave the seventh ball to my 7 year old cousin, and my other cousin and my sister also got a ball too!) That leaves me with 22 lifetime balls and Im just getting started…

-Nick Gantz

great job zach, nice pics from inside the sports bar, did you say anything to the guy who tried to claw the ball out of your glove?

KURT-
Thanks so much. I really appreciate it.

SKIM-
I’m not sure, but I should probably decide soon.

NICK-
Very impressive! Where were all the Easter eggs? In the seats along the left field foul line?

UWFOOTBALL1-
Not really. I think I just shouted something like, “Nope! Nope! Nope!” as I covered my glove with my bare hand and yanked it away from him.

On Friday I get to go to Kauffman for the Diamondback game… How early does the early bird tour begin? Where do you go to get the tour passes?

Love your mini-rant on the Mohegan Club. I’ve never understood the appeal of sitting in a suite or club watching the game disconnected from the crowd. The amenities are great during a break in the action, but anytime I’ve been lucky enough to have premium seats, I’ve spent the entire game in the outdoor seats provided lol.

Based on Marlins Park’s Facebook pictures, it appears that there is a cross aisle going through field level and there is one in the upper deck. I don’t know if foul balls will reach the upper deck, but I would assume so, based on the fact that the stadium is so small.

If Nick Badders is reading this I will be at a area in Dublin at 1pm today. Email me at atyppo@comcast.net. Zack if I shouldn’t say this on here, feel free to delete it.

Whups, I meant the comment.

Told you you’d get double digits!

The prices for food at that batters eye thing is strange. In the MILB, I can get the same chicken fingers that cost 14 dollars for under half of that. Trenton charges six bucks for them. Anyway, Skim- I think that the lower cross aisle is just like Yankee Stadium and you have to get a club ticket to get there.

I can see the allure of the club for a few different types of people. First off, if you are older or have health issues, being in a climate controlled area where everything is easily accessible would be a draw. Secondly, I can see people that are OCD types liking the sterile atmosphere of the club over the relative rancor of the seating bowl. I can also see the club being good if you are mixing business with pleasure. It is quieter and you can sit at tables and have a discussion much easier than you could in the seating bowl. A draw for me would be that I love baseball, but hate hot weather and feeling crowded. Membership to a club like that would give me the option of doing some ballhawking and catching some BP from the seats and then when things got crowded I could retreat to the spacious and cool confines of the club. Sitting in the seating bowl can suck, especially with all the big people in the midwest. I am no small fry myself at 6 foot 250 pounds but I have been at games where I have had some real heavyweights sitting next to me and that is no fun. There is also the snob appeal for some people. The ability to leave the unwashed masses behind and watch the game from your ivory tower while being waited on hand and foot by some minions.
big Glove Bob

DOUBLE T-
As I recall, it begins two and a half hours before game time, and you can buy the tickets at one of the regular ticket windows, near home plate, I think.

MATT H-
Glad you agree.

SKIM-
As “philadelphia45″ said, the lower cross-aisle is part of a restricted area. I might just have to pay my way in there . . . or find a way to sneak down.

AUSTIN-
It’s all good.

CHRIS H-
You sure as hell did.

PHILADELPHIA45-
Everything in New York City is expensive, not just at baseball stadiums, but the Yankees’ prices for some items are downright outrageous.

BIG GLOVE BOB-
Everything you said makes sense. I don’t personally feel that way, but I do see how some people (yourself included) would prefer the club. Thanks for the lengthy explanation. I should’ve predicted that you’d come through.

Zack-
As usual, great entry! I would love to be inside the batter’s eye! I guess I will have to try and make it out to NY this summer.
Austin-
You know I’m always reading these comments:) but anyways, I just sent you an email.

I’m surprised at the prices inside the club. I mean, they’re high, but the don’t seem THAT bad. To me, they look about a couple bucks more than restaurant/sports bar prices, but I just figured that given the venue, they’d be astronomical.
Always cool to get insight into a new place, though! Thanks for sharing.
-Malcolm

http://theballparkguide.mlblogs.com/

two of the balls were in the third base side seats, two were in the left field seats, and one was in the plant gap between the left field seats and the field ( I had to use the glove trick).

NICK B-
Definitely come and visit New York, and hey, if you ask the guards nicely, they might just let you inside the batter’s eye for a sneak peek.

MALCOLM-
I agree. The prices aren’t stupid there.

NICK GANTZ-
Damn, man, you were all over!

I know right! I cant wait to go back! You might have the record for most balls at Busch Stadium right now, but not for long!

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