5/6/13 at Great American Ball Park
A funny thing happened as I entered Great American Ball Park: the scanners weren’t working, so one of the employees tore the barcodes off everyone’s tickets. Here he is about to tear mine:
I loved it. It was such a non-New York solution. At Citi Field or Yankee Stadium (or hell, at most other places), fans would’ve been forced to wait while the scanners got up and running.
Anyway, the highlight of the day was that two different TV stations sent cameramen to film me during BP:
Thankfully, despite some seriously iffy weather, there WAS batting practice. My 1st ball was a home run that I caught on the fly in the front row. (I have no idea who hit it.) My 2nd ball was a homer that landed in the seats. Here I am reaching for it:
That photo, along with all the others of me, was taken by Neal Stewart from BIGS Sunflower Seeds. And by the way, do you see the guy wearing shorts who’s climbing down over a row of seats? That’s my buddy Rocco Sinisi, a regular at Great American who has snagged approximately 800 baseballs. More on him in a bit . . .
My 3rd ball was a homer that I caught on the fly by reaching out over the wall in the front row, and my 4th ball was a homer that landed in the seats. I was glad to be putting on a decent show for the cameramen, who were following me everywhere:
I used my glove trick to snag my 5th ball off the warning track in right-center. Then I made a nifty play for my 6th ball — a homer that landed 15 feet to my left and more than half a dozen rows back; I climbed/jumped to my left over a railing, ran through an empty row, and caught the ball as it ricocheted down unexpectedly right to me. I handed it to the nearest kid (who ended up snagging a couple more baseballs on his own).
My 7th ball was thrown by Aroldis Chapman after I asked him for it in Spanish. Several minutes later, a ball rolled onto the warning track, and I set up my glove trick again.
“That’s not gonna work!” yelled Homer Bailey from right-center field.
“Wanna bet?!” I yelled back.
He stood there shaking his head, so I shouted, “If I can get that ball, then I deserve to play catch with you! Do we have a deal?!”
As I pulled out my camera, Bailey turned his back on me. (Hmph.) Meanwhile, his teammate Sean Marshall gave me a little wave with his glove:
Then I went to work . . .
. . . and snagged the ball within 10 seconds. I shouted at Bailey, but he didn’t even look at me — but hey, at least he (and Marshall) were nice enough to have left the ball there. Many players would’ve jogged over and grabbed it, so I tip my cap to the Reds (and to stadium security) for being so cool.
My 9th ball of the day was somewhat of a milestone for me: No. 6,600 lifetime. It was a home run by a right-handed batter on the Braves. I caught it on the fly in the front row and then took the following photo of it:
My 10th ball was a towering home run — possibly hit by Freddie Freeman — that carried perfectly to my spot in the front row. I caught it on the fly, and soon after that, I got my 11th ball tossed by Julio Teheran. My 12th ball was a *DEEP* home run that must’ve landed 15 to 20 rows back; luck, evidently, was on my side because it ricocheted right down to me as several other fans were converging on it.
When the whole stadium opened at 5:40pm, I headed over to left field. (I’d been confined to the right field seats for the fist 70 minutes.) In the following photo, I’m standing near the bottom of the stairs:
That photo was taken just after I climbed/straddled a railing to catch a line-drive homer on the fly — my 13th ball of the day. Unfortunately, the cameraman from ABC had already taken off, and the guy from FOX hadn’t quite set up his camera in this new location. This was the fifth home run that I caught on the fly, and I’m not sure if the TV cameras captured any decent footage. I know that on several occasions, one of the cameramen appeared in the other guy’s shot, rendering it useless.
Here’s a random/candid photo of me that Neal took. Look closely and you’ll see a microphone clipped to my shirt:
After BP, I did a sit-down interview in right field, but before that got started, I took a photo of a little kid with a baseball:
That wasn’t just any random kid, and it wasn’t a random ball. Check it out:
As you might’ve guessed, that kid’s name is Nate. That was a ball that he’d snagged during BP, and his father Jim (standing behind him two photos up) had recognized me. Jim had something else for me to sign, but I had to ask him to wait for a few minutes because it was time for the interview. The following photo kinda shows the setup. Take a look and then I’ll explain:
The guy in the blue shirt was the cameraman. His name is Matt Coiner.
The guy in the white shirt was the reporter. His name is Brian Giesenschlag.
Nate was chillin’ on the right, and you can see me sitting several rows up. I was still miked, so I didn’t need to shout for the camera to pick up what I was saying.
The interview itself was typical, as far as these things go, and I don’t mean that as a diss. The whole segment was probably only gonna end up being two or three minutes, so Brian had to ask all the basic questions: how did you get started, what’s the best ball you ever caught, what are you doing this season with the charity, et cetera. He and Matt both did a solid job and were great to work with. Here they are:
The other cameraman from ABC was named Lanny. (Yes, Lanny. Not Lenny.) He did a fine job too, but I didn’t get to talk to him much off camera because he had to go film some other stuff. He ended up getting some shots of me going for 3rd-out balls early in the game, but then he had to leave for good at around 8pm. His piece was going to air at 11pm that night, whereas Brian (from FOX) was going to take more time to edit the footage and run the segment a few days later.
Once my TV obligations were done, I signed Jim’s copy of The Baseball:
Then I signed Rocco’s copy of Watching Baseball Smarter . . .
. . . and got a photo with both guys and their books:
I don’t know why Rocco wasn’t smiling; he’d snagged eight balls during BP.
Did you notice the photo-bomber in the previous shot? That was a young fan named Tyler, who asked me sign a baseball for him:
I don’t have any photos from the first two hours of the game. That’s because I spent the time running back and forth between the left field seats and the Braves’ dugout; Neal was watching my backpack for me, so I didn’t have my camera. Basically, I tried to catch a home run in the top half of every inning, and when when the Braves took the field, I headed into foul territory to try to snag a 3rd-out ball.
Six innings. That’s how long it took. That’s when Devin Mesoraco went down on strikes, and Brian McCann tossed me the ball on his way in. Given the fact that this was gonna be my only game in Cincinnati this season and a $500 donation for Pitch In For Baseball was riding on it, it was a *huge* relief.
I ran back to left field and posed for a photo with the ball:
I emailed that photo to Lanny, who ended up using it in the segment.
Neal brought his laptop to the game — something that’s not allowed at Yankee Stadium — and got some work done:
In the 8th inning, I gave one of my BP balls to a little kid in my section. Then, in the bottom of the 9th, I headed back to the 3rd base side. Look how much room there was to move around:
Earlier in the game, when I was standing there for one of Joey Votto’s at-bats, an elderly usher approached me and asked if I was waiting for someone.
“Yes,” I said, “I’m waiting for Mister Votto to hit me a foul ball.”
The usher chuckled and told me that I could stand there for a minute, but then I had to find my seat.
In Votto’s next at-bat, when I was sitting 380 feet from home plate in left-center field, he hit a foul ball to that EXACT spot. I’m really trying hard to snag some non-3rd-out gamers, but other than that April 18th game at Yankee Stadium, luck has not been on my side.
Anyway, Votto was up again when I made it down to the dugout with two outs in the bottom of the 9th:
As good as he is, it seemed like he had no chance against Craig Kimbrel. He managed to hit a foul ball on the first pitch, but ultimately went down swinging. Final score: Braves 7, Reds 4.
I’ve been to several games at which Kimbrel has gotten a save. He always seems to toss the game-ending ball into the crowd, but when I asked him for it here in Cincinnati, he gave me a Dikembe Mutombo finger wag. You see, Kimbrel recognizes me (as does his teammate Kris Medlen) and refuses to toss me baseballs. I can’t blame him, although I wonder if he knows about my charitable efforts — and if that would change his mind. If anyone knows him or gets a chance to talk to him or feels like tweeting him (@kimbrel46), do me a favor and let him know that I’m not the worst guy in the world. I mean, it’s not like he’s rude or anything. I think it’s cool that such a talented and popular player knows who I am, but still, I wanna set the record straight.
On my out, I gave away another ball to a little kid and caught up with Rocco to say goodbye. I wish I could spend a solid week at all of these stadiums instead of one game. Everything feels so rushed.
Given the fact that we had to be in Cleveland the following day, Neal and I hit the road and drove two hours to Columbus, Ohio. We stopped along the way at Waffle House . . .
. . . which is truly one of my favorite places to eat.
We checked into our hotel at around 1:30am, and I went to sleep three hours later. What can I say? As a general rule, I have too much energy and too little motivation to get into bed.
• 146 balls in 19 games this season = 7.68 balls per game.
• 87 balls in 6 lifetime games at Great American Ball Park = 14.5 balls per game.
• 891 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 11 stadiums this season with a game-used ball: Citi Field, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Angel Stadium, PETCO Park, AT&T Park, Safeco Field, Kauffman Stadium, Rangers Ballpark, Minute Maid Park, and Great American Ball Park
• 6,605 total balls
(For every stadium this season at which I snag a game-used ball, BIGS Sunflower Seeds will donate $500 to Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. In addition to that, I’m doing my own fundraiser again this season for Pitch In For Baseball.)
• 26 donors for my fundraiser
• $1.63 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $22.82 raised at this game
• $237.98 raised this season through my fundraiser
• $5,500 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs
• $27,143.98 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009