9/14/12 at Yankee Stadium

Let me start with a photo of (one teeny portion of) the crowd outside Yankee Stadium:

Did you notice the guy in the funky hat who’s holding open a blue book? He was asking people to write “get well” wishes to Mariano Rivera — 608 people, to be specific, in honor of Rivera’s 608 career saves. I was one of the people that he asked, so I wrote a short message and then photographed the page:

When the stadium opened at 5pm, I was disappointed to see that the Yankees were not taking batting practice. They were getting ready to hit, but for the first ten minutes, this was the only action:

(It’s wonderful to be at an empty stadium and have to stay 50 feet away from the field. The huge nets along the foul lines are real life-savers. I mean, if fans were standing in the front row with no protection, they could fall over and/or get nailed by wayward line drives. The Yankees sure know how to treat people and how to make everyone feel safe! Go Yankees! And it’s just great how they charge so much money for tickets and send people back to their seats halfway through BP. They know how important it is to keep out the riff-raff so the real fans can enjoy the game. Go Yankees!)

In the photo above, the player standing “closest” to me is Freddy Garcia, and when he finished playing catch, he threw me this:

When the Yankees started hitting several minutes later, I headed out to left field:

Despite the multitude of right-handed batters in the first group, the only ball I got out there was a home run that landed in the Rays’ bullpen. Cesar Ramos was standing nearby, and I got him to throw it to me, but he chucked it so high over the side fence that I had to chase it through a mostly-empty row. When the ball first sailed over my head, there was a man standing ten feet behind me in my row, so I thought I was screwed. For some reason, though, he didn’t run after the ball. Instead he stepped aside and watched it bounce into the folded-up portion of a seat and let me run past him to grab it. Very strange.

That’s when it occurred to me that the Rays weren’t going to hit. They’d played 14 innings the day before in Baltimore, and even though that had been a day game, it made sense (although I wasn’t happy about it) for Joe Maddon to let his players rest pre-game. That’s why the Yankees started hitting late. Damn!

For the next group of BP, I headed up to the second deck in right field and snagged three home runs off the bat of Ichiro Suzuki. (Three-chiro?) The first one landed in the seats and forced me to lunge over a row. Then, as I was standing up with that ball in my hand, I saw the second homer sailing toward me, so I drifted 10 feet to my left and caught it on the fly. The third homer landed in the seats, ricocheted to the right, and hit a woman in the back who was standing at the side railing and peering down at the seats below. I swooped in and caught the ball before it hit the ground again, and I gave it to her. She was fine — just a bit stunned. Look closely at the following photo, and you’ll see her sitting with the ball (and talking on the phone) at the end of my row:

After that group of BP, I headed down to the lower level in right field . . .

. . . but didn’t snag anything there.

After BP, I went back to left field and noticed several balls in the bullpen:

I also noticed how crappy the outfield grass looked as a result of the recent Madonna concert . . .

. . . but let’s get back to the bullpen, shall we? There was a groundskeeper out there who always throws the extra balls into the crowd. He had given me a few this season, but he usually tosses them to little kids and beautiful women. Well, when I asked him for a ball this time, he remembered me and (in a friendly way) told me that he’d given me enough. That’s when I used a desperation strategy that only works once per season: I told him it was my birthday and offered to show him ID to prove it. He kinda rolled his eyes at me, and when it came time to toss all the balls into the crowd, he made sure to take care of the more worthy recipients. At the very end, he called me down to the corner spot and said, “For your birthday.” Then he pulled a ball out of his pocket and handed it to me around the fence. Here I am with it, along with my driver’s license . . .

. . . and just for the hell of it, here’s a closer look at the license itself:

See? It really *was* my birthday. I’m 35 now (although I feel like I’m six), which means I’m old enough to be the president. (Wouldn’t THAT be something?) That photo of me was taken when I was 16 or 17; in New York State, people are given the option of taking a new photo or keeping the one they have. I plan to keep this one for as long as I’m allowed. It has certainly caused some funny looks/conversations, especially when I traveled to Israel in 2005 and pretty much had to be interviewed in order to get past airport security, but that’s not my problem. Quite frankly, I found the whole thing amusing. The most troubling thing on my license is my height. For the longest time, my official height was 5-foot-10 and five-eighths, so I always rounded up to 5-foot-11. That’s fair, right? I mean, I *was* closer to 5-foot-11 than 5-foot-10, so I’m not sure why the license is robbing me of a valuable inch. Several months ago, I went to my doctor for a physical — my first one in ages — and measured in at exactly 5-foot-11. I don’t know if I grew three-eighths of an inch in my 20s, or if my posture simply improved, but hey, I’ll take it. Meanwhile, I’m still holding out hope that I’ll make it to seven feet.

Anyway, after the groundskeeper hooked me up, I gave a ball to a little kid and left the stadium. That’s right. Bye-bye, Yankees! This was my view from the elevated subway platform:

Did I mention that it was my birthday?! Last year, I celebrated by snagging 36 balls in Cincinnati, but this year, my plans took me far away from the world of professional sports.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 6 balls at this game (four pictured here because I gave two away)

• 541 balls in 67 games this season = 8.07 balls per game.

• 859 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 384 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 6,360 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.)

• 45 donors

• $2.72 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $16.32 raised at this game

• $1,471.52 raised this season

• $20,628.52 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

One more thing: of the four balls that I kept, three have invisible ink stamps. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of them in regular light versus black light:

17 Comments

Since it’s your birthday, thought you’d be glad to know that everybody’s favorite pitcher Gustavo Chacin has a 5.5 era for the Rockland Boulders!

Cliffhanger!! What you possibly have been up to that would have pulled you away from a game at your least favorite park?

Quick question: I am going to a game next friday (O’s – BoSox) and really haven’t ever gone for BP at 5… How long will BP last?

Thanks
-Doug

SPORTSGUYT95-
Now THAT is some good news. Thanks for the update.

KSLO69-
Some things are better left unsaid.

DOUG-
Batting practice usually ends about 45 minutes before game time — sometimes a bit earlier . . . just because.

In response to your reply on my comment from 9/11/12 at Citi Field, I basically only tape balls that I know will be thrown to me. Filming myself catching batted balls would kind of be like stealing Dodgerfilms’ idea. However, during the game I kept my camera in my right hand in case a foul ball came back to me. Eventually I’ll be able to.

Which ballparks are generally the slowest to fill up giving you the highest chances of snagging?

That’s funny. My Dad apparently grew from 6’1 to about 6’1 and a 1/2 in his 30’s. He also grew a shoe size. I think it was due to him playing basketball, choosing to go to Mizzou instead of a crappy college, and playing basketball there. What I mean is that basketball probably beat him up.

yo Zack, you know your in this month’s issue of Yankee Magazine? Page 22 of the “Fun With Photos”

The Coliseum field looks worse. I promise you. It’s not pretty when they play on dirt pained green. Or for that matter, when the Raiders play on dirt. I am kind of worried if an when the A’s make the playoffs, how ugly the Coliseum field will look on National TV, with the lines still visible on the field… I say we kick the Raiders out. Oh… and I have officially reserved A’s playoff tickets! The bleachers sold out in 30 minutes, and since I had to get out of class first, I was, however able to get seats right near the foul pole for the Wild Card game, along with a potential ALDS seat. And I have a feeling it is somewhere if your entries from last year, but how early did you get to the stadium to be in the front of the line for the playoffs? I’m thinking 3 hours before the gates open, but you never know.

@SadPiratesFan If that guy didn’t look that tough, I’m sure something would’ve gone down. But either way, that’s inexcusable.

When the time comes, everybody please vote for me for Junior Ballhawk of the Year on mygameballs.com! My average is 5.25 per game. I have snagged 42 balls in 8 games, including a 7 ball performance at Citizens Bank Park without batting practice, an 8 ball performance at Fenway Park, and an 11 ball performance at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. In addition to Major League Baseball, I also snagged 12 balls in one game at MCU Park, the home of the NY-Penn League Brooklyn Cyclones (The low single A affiliates of the Mets), and I went to 6 Atlantic League games and snagged 35 balls in 6 games, including one performance each of 6, 7, 8, and 9. I will be attending another Atlantic game this upcoming Saturday, and the first ball I snag will be the 100th of this season for me, which may possibly be the only time I’ll ever reach triple digits in a season. I hope it isn’t, but it might be. I don’t always go to Major League games, but when I do, I make the most of it and snag the highest amount of balls possible.

It would mean so much to me to win an award like Junior Ballhawk of the Year after such a magical season. This season, I snagged 4 out of the 6 commemorative balls, I snagged my first 2 foul balls, I broke double digits twice, I visited 9 ballparks (soon to be 10), including 6 (soon to be 7) that I’ve never been to before, I snagged ball #25, #50, #75, and #100 of my life, and I will soon reach triple digits for the season. I will also try to get a bat next Saturday to cap the amazing season that I’m having.

So please, vote for me for Junior Ballhawk of the Year on mygameballs.com. And while you’re at it, check out my blog:
http://juniorballhawk.wordpress.com/

CBELTRAN15-
Makes sense, but as far as I know, “Dodger Films” hasn’t copyrighted/patented that idea, and he’s not the only one who does it. Some guy outside Wrigley has been doing it for years.

AL-
It’s not just the crowd size that affects my performance; the configuration of the stadium is the biggest factor. I’d take a sold out Camden Yards over a half-empty Citi Field any day.

LONG USERNAME GUY-
Interesting.

AUSTIN-
Your dad is an inspiration.

JEFF-
What?! No, I had no idea. Do you have a copy? I’ll see if I can track one down for myself.

NICK BADDERS-
I’d get there even earlier than that. Stadiums sometimes open earlier in the post-season, and even if the Coliseum only opens 90 minutes early, what’s the worst that can happen? Just bring a book and sit there and read for an extra hour. No harm done.

SAD PIRATES FAN-
I like your username more than the article. That said, I haven’t seen the video yet for the home run, but it sounds like an ugly situation.

Thankfully, I have no school that day, which will allow me to get there more or less as early as I can. Considering the fact that the game is on the West Coast, when would you expect it to start?

Lol in the magazine its the picture of that Ichiro catch when you were in your Homer shirt

Awesome drivers liscense picture! (not joking, its classic)
-Paul
http://apieceofthegame.mlblogs.com

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