5/22/12 at Marlins Park
This entire day was insane.
It started when I met two members of the Japanese media outside the stadium at 4:30pm:
This wasn’t an accidental encounter.
In the photo above, the man on the left (a reporter named Gaku) had contacted me in February after he saw this blog entry with my tickets for the Opening Series at the Tokyo Dome. Several weeks later, he and the man pictured above on the right (a photographer named Ryo) met me in New York to interview me. Gaku’s plan was to write about my trip to Japan in early April, but when I mentioned that Marlins Park was going to be my 50th major league stadium, he decided to meet me there and hold off on the story until May . . . so here they were.
Meanwhile, look who else I ran into outside the stadium:
In the photo above, the young man on the left is a Florida-based ballhawk named Michael Calabro. He and I first met on 4/22/08 at Champion Stadium, and we’d recently run into each other on 4/15/12 at Yankee Stadium. It was good to see him again and finally get a photo together. (If you ever see him at a game, go say hi because he’s really cool, but don’t stand anywhere near him during BP because he’s really tall and catches absolutely everything.)
Now, do you remember how screwy everything was when I’d tried to get inside Marlins Park the day before? You may recall that I had a ticket for the club section behind the left field wall — officially known as “The Clevelander” — which failed to open on time. Allow me to make a long story short by sharing a few tweets:
So, what about those baseballs? Well, less than a minute after I entered the Clevelander, I got Marlins pitcher Ryan Webb to toss me this:
Look who showed up during the next group of Marlins hitters:
That’s my friend Rick Gold — a veteran ballhawk with more than 1,300 lifetime snags. (Why he was wearing a flannel jersey in Florida is beyond me.)
Several minutes later, I got a home run ball tossed to me by a guard in the Marlins bullpen, and soon after that, I spotted Allison Williams, the Marlins’ roving TV reporter. Here we are:
How did I recognize her? Because I’d met her on 4/24/12 at Citi Field, and let me tell you, the whole thing was totally random. At one point during that game, she happened to be standing near me on the Party Deck (with her FOX microphone), so I struck up a conversation. I mainly wanted to ask her how she’d gotten into TV and landed the job with the Marlins, and eventually I mentioned that I was going to be at Marlins Park in May. I forget exactly how it happened — it probably started when she asked me what was bringing me down to Florida, but anyway, I ended up telling her about my whole deal with baseball and writing and traveling and ballhawking, at which point she said she’d like to interview me when I made it down. I gave her the dates of my trip and scribbled down my email address, but never heard back. I figured she’d lost it or got sidetracked or simply didn’t care, and that was fine. She certainly wasn’t obligated to follow up with me, and I didn’t feel like forcing the issue. Fast-forward to batting practice on this fine day in Miami. Allison happened to wander through the Clevelander, and when I waved at her, she immediately remembered me. She admitted that she’d lost track of the dates of my trip, but said that she still wanted to interview me and that she’d come back and find me during the game. That’s when we had our picture taken together. (Photo credit: Rick Gold.)
While I was attempting to snag baseballs in the Clevelander, two important things were happening. First, this was taking place directly behind me . . .
. . . and second, Gaku and Ryo were watching/photographing me from the warning track in front of the 3rd-base dugout.
When the Rockies took the field and started hitting, I moved here:
I figured I’d get just as many (if not more) toss-ups by roaming around the stadium as I would’ve caught home runs in the Clevelander — and since Rick Gold was in the Clevelander, and since he *only* tries to catch home runs, it made sense to give him some space. When I first told him my plan (before the Rockies’ portion of BP got underway), he told me that when the 2nd group of Rockies started hitting, he was gonna move to right field . . . so I decided that I’d head back to the Clevelander at that point. Rick and I have attended lots of games together, and we hardly ever get in each other’s way.
Gaku came and found me along the right field foul line, just in time to see me catch a long/foul fly ball that sliced RIGHT to me. Two minutes later, I got Esmil Rogers to throw me my 4th ball of the day, and then Gaku followed me to right-center field. My good luck continued there when a right-handed batter (not sure who) crushed a 400-foot home run RIGHT to me. I caught that one on the fly, and then got a call on my cell phone. It was Joe Capozzi, the Marlins’ beat reporter for The Palm Beach Post. Joe had written this article about me after I narrowly missed catching Ken Griffey Jr.’s 600th home run in 2008, and we’d kept in touch. Several weeks before my trip to Marlins Park, I told him I was gonna be coming to town . . . so yeah, now he was calling me during BP, trying to figure out where I was. While talking to him and saying that I was in the 3rd row in right-center field (and briefly not wearing my glove because I was carrying too much and doing too much), I told him to hold on for a moment so that I could shout at Tyler Colvin. Colvin had just jogged over to the edge of the grass to retrieve a ball, and when he looked up and saw me waving, he threw it to me. With my phone pressed against my left ear, my glove tucked against my rib cage with my left elbow, and my backpack dangling off my right shoulder, I leaned forward a bit and caught the ball with my right hand.
“I think I see you,” said Joe. “Is that you that just made a bare-handed catch out there?”
“That’s me!” I told him. “Where are you?”
“I’m in left field.”
“Okay, give me a few minutes and I’ll meet you in the Clevelander.”
Gaku, meanwhile, was witnessing all of this, and Ryo was . . . probably halfway across the stadium, zooming in on me with his humongous telephoto lens. Although I wasn’t trying to do anything special or extraordinary, I realized that I was putting on quite a show for them.
When I finally made it back to the Clevelander, Joe was nowhere in sight. I hadn’t actually ever met him, so I had no idea what he looked like, but still, it was pretty clear that there weren’t any reporters (other than Gaku) in the club, so I called him.
“Where are you?” I asked.
“I’m in the left field seats,” he said. “Where are YOU?”
“What?! I’m in the Clevelander directly behind the outfield wall in straight-away left!”
“Can I get down there?” he asked.
“I assume they’ll let you in if you show ‘em your credentials.”
“Okay, I’ll head down your way. See you in a bit.”
As soon as I folded up my old-school flip phone and plopped my backpack on a seat, I walked up the few steps to the edge of the pool to check in with Gaku. Five seconds later, I scurried back down and caught a home run that was hit by a left-handed batter. That was my 7th ball of the day. Rick Gold told me after BP that it was hit by Carlos Gonzalez; he knew that because he’d gone to right field to try to catch one of his home runs — oh, the irony!
“Do you want me to get Jamie Moyer to sign a ball to you and write ‘50 stadiums‘ on it?”
“Nah,” I said. “I really appreciate the offer, but I’m not really an autograph guy.”
“Well, what else?”
“Listen,” I told him, “I don’t want you to get annoyed with me and feel like you need to avoid me in the future because I’m always asking for stuff.”
“It’s no problem,” he said. “You need a Marlins ball?”
“I actually got Tulo’s home run ball yesterday, so I’m all set there.” Then I thought for a moment and said, “I don’t know if it’s possible, but I know for a fact that two fans here have snagged Dodger Stadium commemorative balls from the Rockies during BP — one yesterday and another today. If you happen to see one, can you grab it for me?”
“I’ve been looking whenever I have to throw a ball back to the bucket, and I haven’t seen any.”
“Eh, all right,” I told him, “don’t worry about it. I’ll be in L.A. in a couple months, so hopefully I’ll get one then.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” he said before jogging back into the outfield. Sure enough, every time he fielded a ball, he took a quick peek at it before tossing it back in. At one point, he walked over to the other few players in left field and told them something. I have no idea what he said, but I hoped that he was telling them to be on the lookout for those special balls.
Several minutes passed, and I suddenly realized that Guthrie was gone. I also realized that Joe Capozzi was missing all the action, but whatever, I couldn’t control that. All I could do was focus on the batters and make sure not to fall into the pool. Then, out of nowhere, I saw Guthrie jogging toward me in shallow left field, and he had a baseball in his hand! Where the hell had he been? Had he gone to the bucket to look through all the balls? Or to the dugout or clubhouse to grab one from a secret stash? Was he going to prank me again with another Mexican League ball? I had no idea what to expect — Jeremy Guthrie will keep you guessing — but when he jogged closer and waved the ball at me, I knew that I was about to find out. There were a few other fans and employees scattered around me, so I truly hoped that he’d throw it accurately . . . and he did. Here’s what I saw when I pulled it out of my glove:
(In the photo above, did you notice Gaku? He’s wearing the green shirt.)
Of course, simply catching the ball wasn’t enough. I wanted to get a photo of it with Guthrie in the background, so I asked him to pose for me. This was the result:
Pretty cool, huh?
I asked him if he had to get going, but he said he wasn’t in a rush, so we took another photo:
(Nice fingernails, Jeremy. I’m very impressed.)
What a guy. Seriously. He and Heath Bell are The Best.
By the time Guthrie and I had finished chatting, Joe Capozzi found his way into the Clevelander. Batting practice was almost done, so he only saw me snag two baseballs. The first (my 9th of the day) was a home run that landed (and stayed) on a small patch of netting overhead. Can you spot the ball in the following photo?
I took that photo before I knocked the ball down by repeatedly throwing my glove at it. I was surprised/delighted that the Clevelander staff allowed me to do that. (At Yankee Stadium, I would’ve been arrested, and at Citi Field, I would’ve been ejected. I’m not joking.) Several minutes later, I misplayed a home run that barely cleared the outfield wall. As it was flying toward me, I was afraid that it was gonna clip the top of the outfield wall and deflect into my face, so I flinched at the last second and pulled my glove out of the way. The ball ended up clearing the wall by two inches, and when it landed near me, it took a horrendously unlucky bounce and ended up somewhere else. I made up for it, though (and reached double digits!) when I grabbed a ground-rule double that barely skimmed the top of the outfield wall. That one WAS lucky; if it had bounced two inches higher off the warning track, it would’ve cleared the wall and sailed 10 feet over my head, right into the glove of Rick Gold who was positioned behind me.
That was it for batting practice.
Before Joe Capozzi took off (I keep mentioning his last name because I love it), I asked him if we could get our picture taken together. He said yes and asked the two nearest waitresses to join us. Here we are:
Joe Capozzi does have a left arm, by the way. Its just . . . hiding.
Now let me show you something that wasn’t hiding:
In the photo above, the ladies are looking off to the side because several other people were taking pictures of them at that exact moment, and they happened to be looking at a different camera. I was okay with that.
(As I mentioned in my previous entry, these women are paid models. They get paid because they look like that, and they get paid to be nice to the fans and pose for photographs, so don’t get on my case about being creepy. I mean . . . I *am* creepy, but thankfully my behavior was acceptable in this situation.)
Gaku pulled me away from the eye-candy. He needed to ask me some questions, and Ryo needed to take more photos, so we headed here:
In the photo above, you can see Gaku taking notes and Ryo (four rows below in the darker green shirt) adjusting the settings on his camera.
When they were ready, we converged in the middle of a row. Then I pulled out all 10 baseballs (holding seven in my glove) and posed with my back to the field. Ryo only needed me for a couple minutes, after which he headed to the photographers’ box — not to take more pictures of me, but to get shots during the game for Sankei Sports, a daily sports newspaper in Japan that he and Gaku work for. Their story about me is supposed to run in a few days.
Shortly before game time, I parted ways with Gaku and headed through the concourse toward the 1st-base side. Look what I passed along the way:
I don’t collect Bobbleheads (or even understand the appeal), but seeing so many of them in one place was cool.
Just before the game started, I made it down to this spot . . .
. . . and got Troy Tulowitzki to throw me a ball over everyone’s heads down in front. It was beautiful.
Then I headed back to the Clevelander and stayed there for the rest of the game. This was my view of the field:
This was the view to my right . . .
. . . and this was the scene directly behind me:
The woman in the photo above is getting body-painted. (Don’t forget that you can click all these photos to expand them.)
At several points during the early innings, I wandered over near the tinted glass panels that separate the Clevelander from the Marlins’ bullpen. I was hoping that Heath Bell would see me and come over to say hello, but he didn’t look up. Eventually, though, he noticed me and we ended up talking for five minutes through a narrow gap in the wall. I mainly asked him about his family (his wife and four kids are still in San Diego, so he rarely sees them) and about the transition to Miami (he loves playing in front of bigger crowds), but the conversation went all over the place. At one point, I asked if he can see the Clevelander models from the bullpen, to which he replied, “Yeah, but it gets old after a while.” We also talked about the Opening Series in Japan and what it’s like as a player to make that kind of a trip and how the A’s are probably the last team that anyone in Japan wants to see. It was fun and educational. (Heath Bell for President!) (In 2024. Gotta give him time to finish his baseball career.) At the very end of our chat, I asked if he could move his face all the way forward against the chain-link fence so that I could try to take a photograph of him. Here’s how it turned out:
The photo above does not represent what it looked like while we were talking. It’s hard to explain, but because of the weird configuration of the beams and walls, we weren’t able to face each other. It was way too loud and would’ve been awfully uncomfortable. As I mentioned in my previous entry, in order to hear him, I had to turn sideways so that my ear was right in that gap, and vice versa.
Here’s something that I neglected to show in my previous entry:
That shower stall is inside the Clevelander bathroom. There are also lockers in there, so if you feel like ballhawking *and* swimming with the honeyz, you can store your towel and bathing suit. (Skinny dipping is not allowed. Yes, I asked.)
In the 4th inning, I ordered pizza, and in the 5th inning, it arrived:
It was damn good.
Allison Williams found me in the 6th inning, and in the top of the 7th, she interviewed me live. This was the very first shot of us:
In the screen shot above, the red arrow is pointing at me. Allison is on the left, and do you see the fan wearing the orange shirt on the right? That’s Rick Gold. He generously sat beside me (sacrificing his chance of running for a potential home runs) and took photos during the interview with his own camera. I’ll show you his best photo in just a bit, but first, here are some more screen shots from the FS Florida broadcast . . .
When the interview got started, the production crew put my Twitter handle on the screen for everyone to see:
While it was there, I gained approximately one follower per second; unfortunately it was only up for nine seconds, but hey, I’ll take it.
We kept talking while this was happening . . .
. . . and Allison kept the questions coming: How many baseballs have you caught? How did you get started? Can you share any tips with the people watching at home? What do you think of the stadium?
When I started talking about the stadium . . .
. . . and explaining that it’s a tough place to catch baseballs because the outfield seats aren’t expansive and because the second deck overhangs the lower level, the viewers saw this:
That shot panned slowly from left to right so that the viewers got a complete look at the outfield. It was very nicely done, and in case you’re wondering, I did say lots of nice things about stadium. I mentioned that I surpassed my per-game average and that the Clevelander is the best place to catch baseballs and that I really liked the overall design.
Here’s a photo that Rick took during the interview:
The interview lasted four minutes, which was longer than I expected. That gave me a chance to mention my connection to Heath Bell, and Allison gave a really nice plug for my second book, Watching Baseball Smarter. (A year or two ago, her producer had bought a bunch of copies and given them to all the interns and some of the full-time employees, so she had actually read it [and loved it!] long before meeting me at Citi Field.)
The best part of the interview might have been what was said immediately after by the Marlins’ announcers. I’m not sure who was doing the game, but anyway, here’s what they said:
ANNOUNCER NO. 1: “That’s one of the best in-game guests . . . “
ANNOUNCER NO. 2: “That’s a sharp guy.”
ANNOUNCER NO. 1: ” . . . that we have ever had.”
ANNOUNCER NO. 2: “He knows what he’s doin’.”
ANNOUNCER NO. 1: ” Knowledgeable, likes the park, and an author as well. Jordan Pacheco couldn’t hold up, and he goes down swinging.”
After Allison and I said goodbye, this happened:
In the bottom of the 8th, I noticed that very few people were paying attention to the game:
That’s because the Miami Heat were in the midst of a playoff game, which you can see on two of the TVs in the photo above. Also in that photo . . . do you see the guy in the white dress shirt with his back to the field? He’s sitting right in front of me, and his tablemate is staring in the same direction. Here’s why:
No matter which way I turned, there was lots to look at, but ultimately I just wanted to see this:
That was my view in the top of the 9th inning when Heath Bell came in to protect a 7-6 lead. When he gave up a leadoff double to Jordan Pacheco, I thought he was screwed. Carlos Gonzalez followed with a groundout to second which moved Pacheco to third, but Bell got Troy Toluwitzki to pop up to Jose Reyes at shortstop. That brought up Todd Helton, who took two called strikes and fouled off the next pitch. That’s when I took the following photo:
By golly, there were kids in the Clevelander! And they weren’t paying attention to anything that was happening on the field! Everyone else, though, was really into the game, and as Helton worked the count to 2-2, I turned to my left and took two interesting photos. Here’s one . . .
. . . and here’s the other:
Yes, even during tense 9th-inning moments involving my favorite player, I still find time to dick around with my camera.
Helton fouled off the 2-2 pitch and then took a called third strike to end the game.
After the game, I saw something that I can’t explain. Have a look:
The grounds crew rolled out the tarp in the outfield . . . and then left it there.
I understand that in a domed stadium, the grounds crew has to make an extra effort to get sunlight on the grass, but pulling out the tarp after the game? Where was the tarp during the game? I couldn’t recall seeing it on the field, so it must’ve come from a secret spot. Does the following photo offer any clues? Check out the space in the wall in center field:
Is that where the tarp stays when not in use? Why even HAVE a tarp? In case the roof malfunctions and gets stuck in the “open” position? As you can see in the photo above, the tarp was still sitting there in left field.
Before leaving the stadium, I gave one of my baseballs to the smallest, glove-wearing kid that I could find. (I would’ve given baseballs to the kids in the Clevelander, but they weren’t wearing gloves and didn’t seem to like baseball.) When I made it outside, it was drizzling:
And so . . . some bigwig with the Marlins had decided to open the roof? And then grounds crew decided to cover one little strip of grass in the outfield?
Somebody explain this to me!
• 151 balls in 20 games this season = 7.55 balls per game.
• 812 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 337 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 296 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball
•189 lifetime games with 10 or more balls
• 47 different commemorative balls snagged; click here to see my entire collection
• 5,970 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.)
• 29 donors
• $1.67 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $18.37 raised at this game
• $252.17 raised this season
• $19,409.17 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009