5/18/12 at Yankee Stadium
Batting practice got off to a good start. As soon as I ran inside stadium and got my first glimpse of the empty right field seats, someone on the Yankees hit a home run that landed in the last row. I’m not sure who it was, but I think it was Nick Swisher. Soon after, I got another home run ball from a security guard in the bleachers; there weren’t any fans in that section, so when the ball landed there, I got him to toss it down to me. Then, when things calmed down for a moment, I took the following photo:
Do you see the red “Modell’s” advertisement in the photo above? Well, the home run that had reached the bleachers had sailed just above it, and the home run that I’d grabbed in the seats had landed just below.
I headed to the left field seats for the Yankees’ second (and final) group of BP. This was the view, and as you can see . . .
. . . there were quite a few Reds fans.
I didn’t snag any more balls until the Reds came out and started throwing. In following photo, do you see the player walking toward the outfield along the edge of the warning track?
That’s Jose Arredondo. I took that photo less than a minute after I’d gotten him to throw me a ball. His throw had sailed so far over my head that I didn’t even bother jumping for it. The ball landed in the folded-up part of a seat, and I grabbed it just as several other adults were racing over.
When I got Mike Leake to throw me my 4th ball of the day in straight-away left field, the seats were still fairly empty, but look how crowded it got:
This is nothing new. Yankee Stadium is always crowded. There are less than a dozen rows of seats between the outfield wall and the bleachers, and when you combine that with the huge pre-game crowds . . . there’s just not any room for people to spread out. It’s one of many reasons why ballhawking in the Bronx is so difficult. That said, I got lucky and snagged SIX more balls by the end of batting practice — numbers 5 through 10 on the day. Here’s how I got ’em all . . .
Ball No. 5: I was standing in the third row, decked out in Reds gear. A 12-ish-year-old kid was standing in the first row, decked out in Yankees gear. Reds pitcher Alfredo Simon threw a ball in our direction, which ended up sailing a bit too high for the kid. As he reached for it, I flinched and got my face out of the way in case he deflected it. Both of us missed it. It landed in the second row. I grabbed it and handed it to him.
Ball No. 6: The story behind this ball started two days earlier at Citi Field, but I didn’t know it at the time. When batting practice ended at Citi Field, I was standing behind the home-plate end of the Reds dugout. One of the players was taking off his batting gloves as he walked toward me, and I wasn’t gonna say anything, but then he kinda looked up in my general direction, so I asked him if I could have them. “I need them!” he said playfully, so I replied, “I neeeed them too, in a different way.” He smiled before disappearing inside the dugout, and that was the end of it. Fast-forward two days to BP at Yankee Stadium. The same player — turned out to be Mike Costanzo — was standing in deep left field when one of his teammates hit a home run into the front row. The fans, none of whom had gloves, collectively reached for it and dropped it on the warning track. As Costanzo was walking over to get it, I said, “Hey, since I couldn’t have your batting gloves the other day, how about a baseball?” I’m not sure if he remembered the specifics of our brief exchange at Citi Field, but in any case, he looked right at me and flipped up the ball.
Ball No. 7: This was another home run that was misplayed by the fans in the front row, but this time, instead of plopping back onto the field, the ball landed in the folded-up part of a seat. I was in the third row, and the ball ended up in the front row, so I lunged over the seats and grabbed it. There was a little kid standing nearby, so I asked him if he’d gotten a ball yet, and when he said no, I handed it to him. I was later told by a couple of Reds fans that Chris Heisey had probably hit it, but they weren’t sure.
Ball No. 8: Brandon Phillips hit a deep line drive that was clearly going to reach the seats. The only question was how deep in the seats it was going to land. The ball was heading roughly half a section to my left, so I darted through a half-empty row to get in line with it. As it turned out, the ball traveled just the right distance for me to reach up and catch it. The only trouble was that I was surrounded by fans on three sides and got jostled slightly at the last second — not enough to drop the ball, but enough to cause it to hit me RIGHT in the palm of my glove. It hurt like a bitch and made an incredibly loud clap (that my friend Greg Barasch later told me he heard from two sections away), but I held onto it. The gloveless/mustachioed man on my left, who, for the record, had bumped into ME, was so pissed off (presumably about his athletic inferiority) that he later threatened to knock me down when I drifted near him for another ball. Rather than saying something and getting into tiresome war of words, I responded with my hands. That is, I snagged two more baseballs and shut him down in the process.
Ball No. 9: Do you remember the Reds’ equipment guy (pictured here) who tossed me a ball on 5/16/12 at Citi Field? Well, late in BP at Yankee Stadium, he was roaming the outfield and tossed another one to me. I handed that one to a very little kid on my right, who was probably four years old. He was too shocked (or perhaps just too shy) to say anything, so before his parents had a chance to embarrass him by coaxing him into saying thanks, I held up my right hand and told the kid, “I’m gonna need a high-five.” Then, after he smacked my hand with his, I said, “Now how about some glove love? That’s when two people hit their baseball gloves together. Here, touch my glove with yours.” Then I held out my leather, and he tapped it with his. Gotta teach these kids when they’re young. I think he was just old enough that he’ll always remember that moment. I hope so, anyway.
Ball No. 10: I was standing in the 3rd or 4th row when one of the Reds’ many right-handed batters launched a ball in my direction. I quickly determined that it was going to land well past my row, so I took my eye off it and bolted up the steps (past a guy with a glove who was frozen in place). When I reached the last row, I cut to my left and then looked up for the ball. An instant later, it smashed off the back wall — off the very top of the “State Farm” ad — and bounced down into the second-to-last-row, where it got wedged between the concrete and the bottom of a seat. Several other fans got there at the same time as me, but because they were coming from below and from the side, they didn’t see it. I then lunged down over the seats (causing THEM to lunge, although they didn’t actually see what they were lunging for) and yanked the ball free. My legs got banged up in the process, but the pain didn’t last long.
After BP, there was a police officer who was so impressed by my ballhawking performance that he asked if he could be in a photo with me on my blog. Here we are:
Okay, I made up the last part about the cop. What actually happened was that I had asked a security guard to take my picture, and as he was about to do it, the cop accidentally walked past me (from below) and apologized. I told him that there was nothing to be sorry about, and that he should be in the picture with me.
This was my view during the game:
Not bad, but unfortunately the only two home runs of the night landed nowhere near me. They were both hit in the bottom of the 8th inning. The first was an absolute BOMB by Robinson Cano that sailed 50 feet directly over my head and landed more than halfway up the bleachers. Check out this diagram on Home Run Tracker that shows its path. Estimated distance: 438 feet. The second homer, a line drive near the foul pole, only traveled 356 feet.
In other news, Jay Bruce is old . . .
. . . but let’s get back to the home runs for a moment. It’s a shame that nothing landed near me (specifically on my left) because for the final inning of the game, I had an entire row to myself:
Of the 15 games that were played last night in the majors, this one, surprisingly, was the shortest. Justin Verlander’s one-hitter in Detroit lasted 2 hours and 25 minutes; this game beat it by a minute. That’s because the score was 1-0 in the eighth inning, and both starters — Bronson Arroyo for the Reds and Andy Pettitte for the Yankees — were still in it. The game would’ve been much quicker had the Yankees not hit those two homers. Arroyo got the hook after 7 2/3 innings. If he’d retired one more batter, he would’ve recorded a rare complete-game loss. As for Pettitte . . . well, he was awesome. He pitched eight scoreless frames to earn his first win since 2010, lowering his season ERA in the process from 5.68 to 2.51.
Final score: Yankees 4, Reds 0.
Here’s a random photo for you, just because. It shows my view on the subway after the game:
Now that you’ve seen that, I want you to keep reading past the stats because I have some photos of the baseballs. They’re nice photos. I promise . . .
• 10 balls at this game
• 130 balls in 18 games this season = 7.2 balls per game.
• 810 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 556 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball
• 166 consecutive Yankees home games with at least one ball
• 187 lifetime games with 10 or more balls
• 5,949 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.)
• 28 donors
• $1.66 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $16.60 raised at this game
• $215.80 raised this season
• $19,372.80 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009
Okay, photo time . . .
Here are the seven balls that I kept:
Five of them, as you can see below, have “practice” stamps on the sweet spot:
Finally, here’s a two-part photo of one of the balls. There’s nothing THAT special about it. I just think that the smudges are kinda cool:
Click the photo above for a closer look. I made it big so you can really see the details and contours.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to start getting ready to visit my 50th major league stadium: Marlins Park. I’ll be there on Monday and Tuesday . . .