6/26/12 at Yankee Stadium
I normally don’t reveal much at the start, but I feel like making an exception, so I’m going to mention now that I snagged 16 balls at this game. There. I said it. And it feels good. Let me take you through the day and show you how it happened . . .
First, I’d like you to know that the paid attendance was 43,006 — and it seemed that all those people were waiting outside Gate 6:
I took that photo at 4:30pm — half an hour before the stadium opened, so imagine how crowded it was at 5pm. (This, by the way, is just one of four entrances.)
As soon as I ran into the right field seats (near the foul pole), I saw a home run land several sections over (near the Yankees’ bullpen). I narrowly beat out my friend George for that ball, and two minutes later, I caught a Mark Teixeira homer on the fly. Here’s a photo of my first two baseballs . . .
. . . and here’s a closer look at the first one:
Any theories about how that weird mark got there? In case you can’t tell, it’s an indentation of some sort. My first thought was that the stitches of another ball got smashed against the cowhide on this one, but the individual indentations appear to be too close together. Right?
Anyway, for a change, I used some reverse-strategy and stayed in right field for the Yankees’ final group of BP. All but one of the hitters in that group were right-handed, and the sun in right field was absolutely brutal. Therefore, it would’ve made sense to play the percentages (and save my retinas) and run over to left field, but that’s where all the other ballhawks went. If I’d gone there with them, I probably would’ve gotten a ball or two, but who knows? All I can tell you is that the lone left-handed batter was Eric Chavez, and I caught one of his homers. It was a high fly ball that momentarily eclipsed the sun, but pretty much came right to me. My only competition was Ra.
That was it for the Yankees’ portion of BP.
When the Indians started playing catch, I headed over to the left field foul line and got two baseballs thrown to me. The first came from Johnny Damon, indicated below with the red arrow . . .
. . . although I should mention that he was much closer when he tossed it my way. Here’s the ball that he gave me:
The second ball that I got in foul territory came from Ubaldo Jimenez. Here he is playing catch with it shortly before hooking me up:
Indians pitching coach Scott Radinsky also threw me a ball, but his aim was way off, and it sailed 10 feet over my head. There was only ONE other fan in the section, and it happened to be Mateo Fischer, who was backing me up. I know for sure that Radinsky was aiming for me because after Mateo caught it, I flung my arms up in disgust. Radinsky responded by jokingly flexing his left bicep and then shrugging, as if to say, “What can I say? I’m too strong.”
For the first few rounds of the Indians’ portion of BP, nearly every batter was left-handed. Rather than using more reverse-strategy, I went to right field and toughed it out against the large crowd. I grabbed a spot in the last row and ended up getting two balls thrown to me over everyone down in front. The first came from Joe Smith, pictured below after wandering back to center field . . .
. . . and the second was tossed by a lefty that I didn’t recognize at the time, but later identified as Scott Barnes. That was my 7th ball of the day, and I gave it to the nearest kid.
After that, I had three chances to catch home runs, but only got one one of them. The first one required me to run left and climb back over a row of seats (while the ball was in mid-air) and look right up into the sun and jump and lunge at the last second. It ended up tipping off the very end of my glove, and even though it wasn’t an “error” on my part, I was pissed for not being half a step quicker. The second ball was coming right for me until Mateo, who was positioned two rows below, jumped up and caught it. (Good for him. Tough titties for me. That’s just how it goes.) The third home run, which I actually caught, required me to maneuver between a few fans (who had no idea where it was going to land) and jump/lunge to my left. As soon as I caught the ball, I realized that there was a high-school-aged kid with a glove behind me (who would’ve had a clear shot at catching it if not for me), so I handed it to him.
That was my 8th ball of the day, and at that point, I wasn’t thinking about breaking the New Yankee Stadium record of 14 balls. I was just hoping to snag a couple more and reach double digits.
Every batter during the final group of BP was right-handed, so I worked my way into the left field seats and caught THREE home runs on the fly. Here’s what it looked like in that section:
In the photo above, do you see the guy in the black shirt and tan shorts? He’s wearing a drawstring backpack and standing several rows below me on the steps. That’s George, whom I mentioned at the start of this entry. George is very good at catching balls that come to him, or that require him to run left and right, but like a lot of people, he sometimes struggles to judge the precise distance of home runs. That’s not meant as a diss. I’ll admit that I’ve struggled with that too. There’ve been times when I thought that balls were falling short, so I moved down the steps only to watch in horror as they sailed over my headed and landed right where I’d been. That’s what happened to George on the first of the three homers that I caught during the final group of BP. (I had to reach far to my left over one of those awful staircase railings in order to glove it.) After misjudging it, he turned and said, “What do you want from me?! I’m a pitcher, not an outfielder!” The second homer that I caught in left field was my 10th ball of the day. It was a line drive that didn’t look like it was even going to clear the wall. Still, I drifted 20 feet to my left to get in line with it and was shocked when it reached my row. The third homer required me to move down two steps, then drift five feet to my left, and jump a few inches. That was my 11th ball of the day, and it was also the end of batting practice. I still wasn’t considering the record. All I could think was, “Why couldn’t I have had a day like THIS when the guy from Cut4 was following me around?!”
When BP ended, I noticed that there were several balls in the left field bullpen:
In the photo above, the guy walking around is a groundskeeper. I didn’t expect him to give me a ball, but I asked him just in case . . . and he did! That was my 12th ball of the day, and for the first time, I started thinking about the record (which I’d set on April 14, 2011). I knew, though, that if I sat in my normal spot in right field during the game, I probably wasn’t going to snag anything else, so I decided to work the 3rd base dugout . . . but first, here’s a photo of Mateo with five of the six balls that he’d snagged at that point:
He’d given one away, and he ended up getting another ball later.
After I took that photo, I handed him my camera so that he could get a photo of me from above:
In case you’re counting my baseballs and scratching your head, remember that I gave two away in right field. That’s why I “only” have 10 in the photo above.
Before the game started, I moved to the section behind the dugout and got Jason Kipnis to throw me a ball. Here’s a photo of him before he hooked me up:
The strange thing about it was that he didn’t throw me the ball that he’d been using. He gave that one to a kid in the very front row. Then, as he was about to jog back to the dugout, he saw me — and get this: he went back to the ball bag, pulled out a brand new one, and threw THAT to me. That was my 13th ball of the day, and I tied my record soon after thanks to Lou Marson (and some very loud yelling). In the following photo, the arrow is pointing *from* Marson and indicating the direction that he walked after finishing his warm-ups:
I was behind the outfield end of the dugout, and he was behind the home plate end, and yet I somehow managed to get him to hear me and lob a ball my way.
I only needed ONE more ball to break the record, and when Robinson Cano grounded out to end the first inning, I knew I was about to get my chance. Justin Masterson fielded it and tossed it to first baseman Casey Kotchman. Kotchman then jogged off the field with it, and when he crossed the foul line and looked into the stands, I got his attention. This was the result:
Just like that, I had my 15th ball of the day. I’m pretty sure, though, that Kotchman had pulled a switcheroo; rather than tossing me the actual game-used ball, I think he gave me the infield warm-up ball instead. Here’s a closer look at it:
In my experience, I’ve never seen a gamer that dirty, but whatever. Game-used or not, I still had a new record.
There was only one kid sitting in the entire section, and during the middle innings, he moved closer and sat on my right. Here’s a photo of him:
I decided to give him a ball. The only question was when. Part of me wanted to wait and see if he’d get one on his own, but the other part of me was like, “He’s not gonna get one, and even if he eventually does, why not give him one now so he can enjoy more of the game with a major league baseball in his hands . . . so I handed him the brand-new ball that Kipnis had thrown to me. The kid was excited, and his parents were truly thrilled. They thanked me a dozen times throughout the night, and at one point, they told me that if their son got a ball on his own, he’d return the one that I’d given him.
“No need,” I said. “He can keep it either way, but thanks.”
Something weird happened before the bottom of the 8th inning got underway. I didn’t even notice it at first because it seemed to just . . . I don’t know, happen out of nowhere. Take a look for yourself:
In the photo above, Jack Hannahan (wearing No. 9) had just gotten ejected by the 3rd base umpire, and as you can see, he was being separated by a teammate. What the hell was going on? The Indians were just starting to take the field . . . and there was an argument? My first thought was that Hannahan had probably been called out on a 3rd-strike/check-swing and was now bitching about it. I still don’t know for sure, but now that I’ve had some time to watch highlights and take a look at the box score, here’s what I think happened: With two outs in the top of the 7th, Yankees left-fielder Dewayne Wise made a leaping attempt to catch a foul fly ball and tumbled over backwards into the stands. I couldn’t see it from where I was sitting. All I knew is that it must’ve been hard for the umpire to see, because there was a pause before the call was made. After a few seconds, the stadium erupted, and Wise jogged off the field — and that seemed to be the end of it. I was suspicious, though, that the replay was never shown on the Jumbotron. As a general rule, stadiums never show replays of close calls, yet home teams love to show their own players making dazzling catches. Something was up. When I got home, I saw the replay of Wise’s “catch” and all I can say is wow. Have a look for yourself. What does all of this have to do with Hannahan? He was the batter who’d hit the ball; it had obviously taken him a full inning to see the replay, or at least hear from someone in the clubhouse that the ump had botched the call. Here’s an interesting New York Times article about it.
The Yankees ended up winning the game, 6-4. After the final out, I got my 16th ball from home plate umpire Jim Reynolds and then turned my attention to the players coming in from the bullpen:
I didn’t get anything from them, but hey . . . I’m not about to start complaining. Here I am with my final ball of the day:
Here’s a closer look at it — a perfectly mud-rubbed ball that never made it into the game:
Here’s a photo of the 13 balls that I kept . . .
. . . and here’s a black-light comparison of the four that have invisible ink stamps:
Finally, before I get to my stats, here’s a scan of my roster and notes. I thought it might be cool to show how I actually keep track of so many balls while I’m in the process of snagging them:
In case you’re wondering, the numbers that are circled indicate players who threw me balls for the first time. Joe Smith, for example, tossed one to me in 2008 at Shea Stadium, so he didn’t get a circle here. The circles help me remember which names to add to this list when I’m updating my website. Also, the balls that are crossed out indicate which ones I gave away (or, in the case of Kotchman, when I gave one away).
Nothing about this day stood out from a ballhaking perspective. I mean, it was nice catching six home runs on the fly during BP, but that’s not THAT unusual. What I’m saying is, this day never felt like an incredible, record-breaking performance. Certainly, nothing will ever compare to the 36 balls I snagged on 9/14/11 at Great American Ball Park, but even taking that insane game out of the equation, this just felt like a normal day that was consistently better than average.
• 16 balls at this game (new record for the new Yankee Stadium)
• 234 balls in 31 games this season = 7.55 balls per game.
• 823 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 348 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 171 consecutive Yankees home games with at least one ball
• 192 lifetime games with ten or more balls
• 6,053 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.)
• 34 donors
• $1.89 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $30.24 raised at this game
• $442.26 raised this season
• $19,599.26 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009