8/23/13 at Citi Field
I brought a secret weapon to this game:
No, I wasn’t invited to a tailgate party; I had some wacky ballhawking plans . . .
Do you remember the ball that I saw in a bullpen gutter on August 21st? In case you don’t, here and here are photos of it. You may recall that I wasn’t quite able to reach that ball, in part because a security guard stopped me from leaning out of the stands. When I blogged about it the next day, several people told me that I should make another attempt to snag it, and one guy suggested that I bring barbecue tongs to extend my reach — more on that in a bit, but first take a look at the crazy-long lines outside the Jackie Robinson Rotunda:
My line was so long that it curved into the parking lot. Why was it so crowded? Because this was a Friday, and the weather was perfect, and the mighty Tigers were in town, and there was going to be a post-game concert by Third Eye Blind.
As I was running toward left field at 5:10pm, a home run landed in the empty seats and trickled down to the front row. Naturally, I took a photo of the ball before I grabbed it . . .
. . . and within the next few minutes, I got two more baseballs. The first was thrown by Josh Satin, and the second was tossed up from the party deck by an employee.
That’s when I made my move.
Hoping that the ball would still be in the gutter, I ran over to the seats in right-center. Here’s what I saw:
The ball was there! And when the security guard turned his back, I pulled out the tongs and snagged it:
The ball was nasty. I have no idea how long it had been sitting there, but it felt damp — and it smelled like it.
Question: What does one do with such a putrid object?
Answer: One places it in a plastic bag and ties it in a knot.
And then what?
Well, after tossing it in my backpack, I wondered whether or not to count it — you know, as a “snagged ball” in my collection. What do you think? Should I count it or not? I’m going to let YOU decide, but in order to do that, you need to leave a comment with your vote, and if possible, explain your reasoning. After 24 hours, we’ll count the votes, and that will settle it.
Here are two things to consider when voting . . .
2) A few people have said it shouldn’t count because it’s not a complete ball. That’s true, but neither was this one that I snagged during BP at Game 3 of the 2011 World Series. I counted that one, and everyone seemed to agree that I’d made the right decision, so why is this ball less valid? Because more of it is missing? (It’s still a “ball,” after all.) Because I can’t verify the source? (We can’t verify the source of “Easter eggs,” but we still count those.)
There’s lots to consider, but rather than typing an endless list of potential arguments, I’ll let you decide. I’m leaning toward counting the ball, but if you guys collectively tell me not to, then I won’t. It’s that simple, so speak up!
Anyway . . . back in left field, an unidentifiable Met tossed a ball to me that fell short and landed on the party deck. The same employee who’d given me the other ball tossed me this one, and I immediately handed it to the nearest kid. That was my 4th or 5th ball of the day, depending on the outcome of the vote.
My next ball was a home run by a right-handed batter on the Tigers. It sailed five feet over my head — the wind was shifty and making it tough to judge fly balls — but I was able to grab it in the seats. Take a look at it:
Lots of teams have marked their baseballs over the years; this is how the Tigers have been doing it for a while.
I snagged three more balls during BP:
1) A home run which I caught on the fly in a rather crowded area.
2) A toss-up from Matt Tuiasosopo which I handed to the nearest kid.
3) A toss-up in left-center from one of the bullpen catchers, I think.
That brought my total for the day to eight or nine.
I headed to the Tigers’ dugout after BP, but all I got there was a photo of Max Scherzer:
You know about his eyes, right? If you’ve never noticed, they’re different colors.
During the lull before the game, I decided to unravel the cover-less ball and settle the main argument once and for all. If it turned out to be an official major league baseball, that would strengthen the case for counting it — and believe me, I would know if it were the real deal.
I took the ball out of the plastic bag . . .
. . . and placed it on the ground and began pulling the thread:
It was hard to get started because there was a crusty layer on the ball, but once I got past that, the process was smooth. After five or ten minutes, I’d removed the entire outer layer:
Why did it take so long? Because that layer contains 555 feet of poly/cotton thread. That material is supposed to be white — it basically looks like dental floss — but this ball was waterlogged straight through to the core.
The next layer — 150 feet of gray three-ply yarn — came off quicker:
The third layer — 65 feet of tan three-ply yarn — came off really fast . . .
. . . and I kept going with the fourth/innermost layer:
That final layer had even thicker (four-ply) yarn. Here’s what it looked like when I reached the end:
Yep, this was definitely an official major league baseball — no doubt about it. That little pink ball is called the pill . . .
. . . and I decided to cut it open when I got home.
Here I am with the entire ball:
After that photo was taken, I placed the pill and all the thread and yarn back in the plastic bag. Then I went to the bathroom and scrubbed my hands with warm water and soap for like two solid minutes.
Here’s where I sat during the game:
There were three home runs (two of which were hit off Daisuke Matsuzaka in the first two innings of his Mets debut). Unfortunately, they all landed one or two sections to my right. Miguel Cabrera hit one of the homers — a three-run shot in the second inning, giving him 41 longballs this season, to go with 126 RBIs and a .356 batting average. That’s just sick.
The Tigers won the game, 6-1, and no, I didn’t stay for the concert. I did, however, give away another ball before leaving the stadium.
When I got home, I began the difficult process of cutting open the pill:
That rubbery reddish/pink layer measures one-tenth of an inch thick.
The black layer underneath . . .
. . . measures 0.15 inches thick . . .
. . . and the little ball in the middle (aka “the pellet”) has a diameter of thirteen sixteenths of an inch. I talked about all this stuff in great detail in The Baseball, specifically in Chapter 7 which is called “The Rawlings Method.” If you consider yourself a serious baseball fan, you really oughta read it. The manufacturing process is so complex that it’ll change the way you think about the sport.
Anyway, that’s pretty much it. I snagged nine balls at this game and kept six of them. Here they are:
Of course, if you guys think I should only count eight, then that’s what I’ll do. I’m torn, and I could argue either way, so help me figure it out. Voting will end at 12pm ET on Sunday, August 25, 2013.
And hey, even if the ball doesn’t count, it was still fun to snag it and take it apart and share the process with everyone.
• 9 baseballs at this game . . . I think.
• 510 balls in 70 games this season = 7.29 balls per game . . . right?
• 942 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 467 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 29 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, Great American Ball Park, Progressive Field, PNC Park, Camden Yards, U.S. Cellular Field, Comerica Park, Rogers Centre, Miller Park, Busch Stadium, Wrigley Field, Target Field, Nationals Park, Marlins Park, Tropicana Field, Turner Field, Citizens Bank Park, Dodger Stadium, Chase Field, and the Oakland Coliseum
• 6,969 total balls . . . maybe?
(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, and if you donate money, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.)
• 38 donors for my fundraiser
• $3.43 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $30.87 raised at this game . . . yes?
• $1,749.30 raised this season through my fundraiser (or perhaps only $1,745.87?)
• $14,500 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs
• $37,655.30 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009 . . . or not.