2013 ALCS — Game 6

You know what really sucks?
Being on the outside looking in.

That’s what the first three weeks of the postseason felt like. I was home in New York City, watching everything on TV, and wishing I were there. Life was officially getting in the way of baseball, so when I found out I was going to be free for Game 6 at Fenway Park (and that it wasn’t supposed to rain and that the cheapest tickets on StubHub were only $123), I was psyched.

Anyway, let’s cut to the chase, huh? Here’s where I hung out for batting practice . . .

1_view_from_center_field_10_19_13

. . . and to properly set the stage, this was the view to my right . . .

2_cameras_on_the_right

. . . and to the left:

3_seats_on_my_left_10_19_13

My first ball of the day was thrown by a little Asian kid in center field, who, I found out later, is Kuji Uehara’s son. It was a regular Selig ball — kind of a bummer, but no surprise. Last year, when I attended Game 2 of the ALDS at Camden Yards and Game 5 of the ALDS at Yankee Stadium, none of the BP balls were commemorative, but I was hopeful this time around; I’d heard that the Tigers had been using postseason balls during BP.

Although the Red Sox were still hitting, my next two balls were thrown by a kid in Tigers gear. Take another look at the first photo — see him there wearing No. 28? It must’ve been Prince Fielder’s kid, and yeah, for some reason, he tossed me two baseballs in a 10-minute span. The first one came right to me, but the second one sailed over my head and forced me to scamper after it.

My fourth ball was a David Ortiz homer that landed in the camera area. I coulda/shoulda caught it on the fly, but let’s not talk about my failure to do so. I will, however, admit that my home-run snagging skills were noticeably rusty. I wasn’t judging balls well, and I wasn’t getting good jumps on them. Had I been in midseason form (and perhaps been a bit more familiar with the layout of this particular section), I would’ve caught two other home runs on the fly.

Shortly after the Tigers took the field, a ball rolled near the warning track roughly 40 feet to my right. Take a look at it in the following photo, and then I’ll explain more about what was happening at that moment:

4_ball7162_on_the_field

See the guy in the orange jacket? His name is Bruce Ely, and he was there to take this panoramic photo for MLB.com. He and I had been chatting throughout the Red Sox’s portion of BP, and I’d told him about my baseball collection. When the ball (pictured above) rolled near the edge of the grass, I asked if he could take a close-up photo on his fancy camera so that I could see if it had a postseason logo. I told him that if the stamping was dark blue, then it was a regular ball, and if it was gray, then it was the type of ball I wanted. Here’s the photo he ended up taking:

5_ball7162_on_bruce_elys_camera

It was gray!!

Moments later, Phil Coke started walking toward the ball from left field.

“In ten seconds,” I told Bruce, “I’m going to be holding that ball in my hand, and it’s going to have a postseason logo, and I’m going to be VERY happy.”

My prediction came true:

6_ball7162_in_my_hand

Outstanding.

I had already given away two regular balls at that point — one to a kid in the next section and one to Bruce, who had told me he was hoping to get one for his nephews back home in Oregon.

A few minutes later, Jim Leyland walked by and waved . . .

7_jim_leyland_looking_up_at_me

. . . and during the next group of hitters, I got two more toss-ups from Justin Verlander and Hernan Perez. All three of the balls I’d gotten from the Tigers had the gray stamping and postseason logo. Bruce really wanted one, but I told him that I never give away commemorative balls.

Toward the end of BP, I saw a ball land in one of the bullpens. Can you spot it in the following photo?

8_ball7165_in_the_bullpen

In case you can’t see it, the ball is sitting on the dirt near the far corner of the bullpen. See that little white speck between home plate and the orange Gatorade cooler?

Well, not only was Bruce nice enough to watch my backpack while I ran over there, but he took some photos of me snagging the ball with my glove trick. Here I am knocking the ball closer . . .

9_zack_glove_trick_for_ball7165

. . . and here I am reeling it in:

10_zack_glove_trick_for_ball7165

Now, in case you’re about to accuse me of being the Worst Guy Ever, let me say that YES, there were a bunch of kids near me, but NO, none of them seemed upset that I got the ball. In fact, they were all quite impressed (you can see it on their faces), and despite the fact that I was decked out in Tigers gear, some of them (along with their fathers) said “congrats” when I finished and gave me high-fives.

In other news, did you happen to notice something different about my face? More on that in a moment, but first, here’s what happened during the final group of BP: Anibal Sanchez threw me my ninth ball of the day, and Jose Veras tossed me ball No. 10. Both of those balls were commemorative, and I gave the final one to Bruce . . . just because.

Here I am with him:

11_bruce_ely_and_zack

The dude looks an awful lot like Roy Halladay, no? Check this out:

11b_bruce_versus_roy

By the way, Bruce doesn’t usually work for MLB. He mainly covers basketball and other sports, but he photographs just about everything. Here’s his website in case you want to take a look at his work, and here he is on Twitter.

Oh, and speaking of look-alikes, my girlfriend just told me that I “look like a white Torii Hunter.” What do you think? Any truth to that? I hope so because Torii is a handsome man.

Anyway, here I am with some of my baseballs after BP:

12_zack_six_baseballs_10_19_13

Before the game, I wandered around in the concourse under the seats, used the bathroom, got some pizza, and photographed a woman getting a beard painted on her face:

13_lady_getting_beard_painted_on

As I’d tweeted earlier in the day, I’d been planning to shave my beard before this game, but my girlfriend talked me out of it.

Back in the seats, I saw the Dropkick Murphys perform the national anthem:

14_dropkick_murphys

Then I wandered over to the outfield end of the Tigers’ dugout and witnessed something touching. There was a young man with special needs, standing in the front row with his father, and wearing a “CABRERA” t-shirt. When Miguel Cabrera headed in toward the dugout, the father waved him down and had his son turn around to show the back of the shirt:

15_fan_showing_his_cabrera_shirt_to_miguel_cabrera

Cabrera stopped and signed a baseball and tossed it to the father. Then Justin Verlander saw what was happening, and he told the father to toss it back. After signing it, Verlander got as close to the dugout as possible and gently rolled the ball to the young man so that he could catch it himself. That was pretty damn cool.

This was my view in the top of the 1st inning:

16_view_in_top_of_the_1st_inning

Everyone was standing, and as you can see, even the vendor was watching. This was a BIG GAME. The Sox were leading the series, three games to two. A win would send them to the World Series and end the Tigers’ season; a loss would force a Game 7 the following night in which they’d be facing Verlander.

It wasn’t long before the people came for their seats. I looked around for another spot, but didn’t see anything, so I headed up the steps . . .

17_heading_upstairs_10_19_13

. . . and went to the top deck on the 1st-base side:

18_view_from_the_very_top

I enjoyed seeing the field from way high up . . . for about 11 seconds, and then I seriously couldn’t take it anymore.

I wandered to the outer edge of the ballpark and looked out at Boston:

19_view_outside_of_fenway_park

No, I wasn’t planning to jump. I just needed a two-minute break, and after that, I snapped back to reality. There was playoff baseball to be watched!

I headed down this ramp . . .

20_ramps_to_lower_levels

. . . to the next level and stood here for an inning or two:

21_partially_obstructed_view

There were lots of righties in the lineups, so it seemed like a decent spot to maybe/possibly get a foul ball.

I didn’t get a foul ball. Nothing came close, and eventually I got antsy, so I moved here:

22_view_behind_on_deck_circle

Ha-HAAAA!!! Now THAT’S more like it.

Of course, I only got to sit there for half an inning, but man, what a half-inning it was.

My next seat was nearly as good . . .

23_view_behind_tigers_dugout

. . . and I got to stay there for most of the rest of the game. (By the way, can you spot Dave Dombrowski in the previous photo?) I can’t explain why the rightful owners of those seats weren’t there much. At one point, they came back and made a fuss over kicking me out, so I walked around for 10 minutes, and when I went back, they were gone . . . for good. The other people sitting around me were really cool. Obviously they knew I didn’t belong there, but they didn’t care, and in fact, they encouraged me to take advantage of the open seat. Check out my view of Max Scherzer leaving the game and getting a high-five from Verlander:

24_max_scherzer_coming_out_of_the_game

The game was incredible. The highlight (or, depending on your perspective, the lowlight) was Shane Victorino’s grand slam in the bottom of the 7th inning, which put the Red Sox on top, 5-2. But that was just one of many memorable moments. There was a questionable pitching change (John Farrell bringing in Franklin Morales), a run-saving defensive gem (Stephen Drew making up for his .050 batting average this series), a baserunning blunder (Prince Fielder lolol), and so on. I absolutely *loved* being there. It was baseball at its best.

The fans were PUMPED . . .

25_everybody_standing_10_19_13

. . . and so was I when I got this after the 8th inning:

26_ball7168_3rd_out_from_alex_avila

Al Albuquerque had struck out Jonny Gomes, and Tigers catcher Alex Avila tossed me the ball on his way in. That was my 11th and final ball of the day.

Koji Uehara came in to pitch the top of the 9th . . .

27_koji_uehara_bottom_of_the_9th

. . . and I’m telling you, there wasn’t one person sitting in the entire stadium.

The whole night, I was torn over who to root for. Part of me wanted to witness the home team getting into the World Series — something I’d never seen before. Another part of me wanted the Sox to get blown out so that lots of fans would leave early and I’d have more room to maneuver. That same part of me wanted the Tigers to win so there’d be a Game 7. And yet another part of me simply wanted the Red Sox to win because it would piss off all the Yankee fans in my life who constantly talk trash.

That said, upon taking the following selfie, I made a facial expression that went with the clothing I was wearing:

28_sad_tigers_fan_is_sad

Poor Tigers. As the clock struck midnight, their season was about to end:

29_scoreboard_for_final_batter

This was my view just before Jose Iglesias struck out to end the game:

30_game_about_to_end_10_19_13

I tried to film a video of the Red Sox’s celebration, but somehow, amidst the commotion, I failed. I guess I hit the wrong button on my camera, or maybe I pressed it twice by accident? Bummer.

I did get a photo of Dombrowski walking off the field . . .

31_dave_dombrowski_walking_off

. . . and look what else I got:

32_batting_gloves

I have no idea whose batting gloves those are. Someone inside the dugout tossed them up onto the roof, and get this: no one else in the seats noticed or cared. One of the gloves landed right in front of me, so of course I grabbed it. The other glove landed on the far edge of the roof (closer to the field) several feet to the right. No one asked for it. No one tried to reach it. I should’ve taken a photo of it sitting there, but instead I tried to get the attention of a security guard standing on the roof 20 feet to my left. He didn’t see me, so eventually I lunged/crawled out onto the roof and barely managed to snag it with the tip of my Rawlings glove. Of course, the security guard saw THAT and rushed over, but hey, no big deal. This was Boston. People are cool, and everyone was in a good mood. The batting gloves must belong to someone tall, like Miguel Cabrera, Torii Hunter, Don Kelly, or Victor Martinez because they’re way too big for my hands. Any theories?

I stood behind the dugout for at least 10 minutes and watched the action on the field. This was the best part:

33_kids_playing_on_the_infield

I would’ve loved to be the last fan to leave the stadium, but there was one tiny issue: I had to drive back to New York City, so I didn’t want to linger too long. (Actually, I had an offer to stay with a friend 30 miles south of Boston, but I had plans early the next day in Brooklyn, and I wanted to get home and sleep in my own bed.) Therefore, I started making my way to the other side of the stadium.

Check out the huge cluster of people on the infield:

34_huge_cluster_at_2nd_base

Here’s my favorite photo of the night:

35_fans_standing_on_seats

I hated leaving as the players were being presented with various awards, but I *had* to go.

As it turned out, I should’ve stayed. I wasn’t able to leave the garage because the exit was being blocked by police officers. Ten minutes passed. Then 20. And 30. I have no idea what the hold-up was all about — too many drunk pedestrians in the streets? It ended up taking nearly an hour before I was allowed to drive out of the garage. Then I was stuck in traffic for 20 more minutes just to go several blocks and get on the Mass Pike. I made it home at around 4:45am and was a complete mess the next day.

WORTH IT.

Here are the eight balls that I kept . . .

36_the_eight_balls_i_kept_10_19_13

. . . and here are three postseason balls with invisible ink stamps:

37b_black_light_10_19_13

That’s pretty much it, although I’m hoping my season isn’t quite done . . .

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 11 baseballs at this game

• 709 balls in 92 games this season = 7.71 balls per game.

• 76 balls in 12 lifetime games at Fenway Park = 6.33 balls per game.

• 119 balls in 22 lifetime postseason games = 5.41 balls per game.

• 964 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 489 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 237 lifetime games with 10 or more balls

• 60 different commemorative balls (click here to see my whole collection)

• 20 lifetime batting gloves (seven pairs and six individual gloves; click here to see them all)

• 30 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, the Oakland Coliseum, and Coors Field.

• 7,168 total balls

CHARITY STATS:

(For every stadium this season at which I’ve snagged 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.)

• 42 donors for my fundraiser

• $4.24 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $46.64 raised at this game

• $3,006.16 raised this season through my fundraiser

• $15,000 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs

• $39,412.16 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

33 Comments

I am surprised how friendly the Tigers players were for you in regards to tossing up balls! I was decked out in Tigers gear and came close multiple times, but didn’t get a postseason ball in 3 games. Hopefully I’ll have more chances next year! Anyway, I’m glad that you were able to snag so many postseason balls! Aside from leaving Boston, it looks like you had a pretty good day!
-Nick
http://nbbaseball.wordpress.com/

Zack: Do you think that the Cards/Sox will use commemorative balls during the WS? Hope you get to attend a game!

Think I might see you at Game 1 @ Fenway or games 3 and 4 in St Louis? I got a super cheap ticket for the Fenway game and Games 3/4 are my birthday weekend.

Zack, When I went to Fenway back in 1999, I had to convince the security guys in right Field that I only wanted to visit center field to take a few photos before the game. They said that ticket holders out there & in right field could not leave that area to go behind home plate. It was the same way at Yankee Stadium in 2008. Right Field bleacher tickets would not allow you near the dugout. How does the ticket deal now work at both venues? Looks like you could go anywhere you wanted at Fenway

Good to have you back, Zack. We’ve missed your updates.

Hey Zack!
the gloves do not belong to V-Mart he wears white gloves. They are also not Miggys. He has orange on his gloves. They look like the ones Prince Fielder was wearing in the photo of him diving back to third! Hope this is helpful! I would check out that picture of Prince to see if they match up!
-Jacqui

Nice playoff beard!

Yeah, they’re totally Prince Fielder’s!!! Check the picture!!! Now we BOTH own a pair of his gloves. Can you forgive him NOW?

Erik- I would say super cheap is a bit of an understatement! Try 99.99% off StubHub “Face” value!

Excellent face-fungus Zack. That was a great game to watch. Would have been unbelievable atmosphere at the ground. Prince Fielder’s base running/ waddling definitely the highlight for me. The better team triumphed though. Keep growing the beard for sure.

Nice. I haven’t seen the fans get so excited for a game since 2007. Are you attending any World Series games?

Zack,
Glad you had a great time. Would have been happy to see you and even happier to be there but it is what it is.

Great game! It seemed like a great atmosphere.

NICK-
It seems that visiting players often feed off the atmosphere of the home crowd/stadium. Fenway is classy and subdued, so the visitors are usually nice. Oakland’s stadium is not exactly the most beautiful place, and the fans are rowdy as hell. Same deal with Yankee Stadium. So many fans there are rude/hostile that the visiting players usually keep their distance and aren’t too generous.

EDISON-
During the games? Yes, of course. During BP? No clue, but probably not, based on my previous experience at World Series games.

ERIK JABS-
I heard about that cheap ticket after you commented here. That’s INSANE. I’m tempted to grab a standing room seat right now for Game 1 because they’re only about $250, but the weather is supposed to suck, and I don’t want to have to compete with you all night for 3rd-out balls, so I guess I’ll skip it. I might be there for Game 2, but I’m not going to St. Louis. That’s all you. I hate that stadium.

DREW-
Yeah, it really used to suck at both places. Now you can go anywhere at Fenway with any ticket except onto the Green Monster (unless you get there early and buy a membership to Red Sox Nation), and then you can only go there for the first part of BP. At Yankee Stadium, the bleachers are no longer a separate area. Anyone can come and go throughout the day, but of course the guards check tickets EVERYwhere, so the whole stadium is basically the opposite of fun.

TOM-
Thanks.

JACQUI-
Wow! Those gloves *do* look like Fielder’s. I wonder if anyone else on the team wears the same style gloves. Hmm. Any Tigers fans in the house?

NICK M-
Thanks. I might have to let it grow for another month or three.

BEN WEIL-
Are your Fielder gloves really really really big? Check out my response to Jacqui. How can we be sure that they’re his?

RAY BURTON-
Face fungus?! That’s a new one. I like it. What if I keep growing the beard until I get to Australia?

BEANTOWN BALLHAWK-
Not sure, but I might head back up for Game 2. I’m definitely not going to St. Louis (unless someone feels like paying for my trip).

MIKE-
Yep. Hopefully we’ll hit up some games together next season.

LARRY-
Totally.

Hey Zack, here is a link to a picture of Fielder and his gloves when we flopped. They are clearly a style match to the ones you got, and based on the circumstances of how you got them, it would be highly probable that he wore them. Did you notice any label or markings inside the gloves? Number 28 or PF?

http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20131021/SPORTS0104/310200001/Frustrating-Prince-Fielder-symbolizes-Tigers-postseason-flop?odyssey=tab%7Ctopnews%7Ctext%7CFRONTPAGE

Looks like you had a great time at Fenway; when you tweeted about snagging #700, I was going to ask if a kid had thrown it to you based on the picture…

you really should grow your beard until Australia. That would be funny.

That’s awesome that you were able to squeeze in one more post-season game, and what a game to watch!

Weather is really iffy for Game 1 tomorrow, but this was a once in a lifetime type of deal, can’t pass that up. I’m flying back late Thursday, so I’m thinking about hitting BP at game 2 if I can get a cheap ticket, then heading to the airport around 7.

The only good thing about Busch is being able to easily glove trick balls from the bullpens, until an usher notices…

…NICE!!!

Thought this picture might help you out with the batting gloves. I noticed the dirt stain on the palm of the glove and this picture of Fielder sliding back to first he is wearing the exact same style of glove, plus hes a big guy so it’s almost positive that they are his.

http://photos.denverpost.com/2013/10/19/photos-detroit-tigers-boston-red-sox-alcs-game-6/#8

-Mike

JAMES LEE-
Thanks for the link to that photo, but no . . . there aren’t any identifying numbers or names or initials on/inside the batting gloves. That was the first think I looked for when I first got them.

DEMETRIUS-
I don’t think it’ll last THAT long, but maybe I can keep it going until the new year? Hmm. I might need to start posting beard updates on my blog.

SAN BRUNO JESS-
Yes indeed, and who knows? I might just head up to Fenway for the World Series.

ERIK JABS-
I just saw an article which said that StubHub has cancelled the transaction and refunded your money. What the eff? I’ll go check your blog and twitter to see if you said anything about it there. What happened? Now what are you gonna do?

ROCCO SINISI-
Thanks!

MIKE-
The picture definitely helps, but as I mentioned to someone above, how can we be sure that no one else on the Tigers wears the same color/brand/style of batting gloves?

That makes a lot of sense! Thank You for your input!
-Nick
http://nbbaseball.wordpress.com/

Keep the beard going until Opening Day next year and I’ll grow one too. If yours is better , then I’ll make an appropriate donation to Pitch In For Baseball. It’s up to you . I’ll still sponsor next year even if you don’t fancy having a beard for that long. Great post on the game- commemorative baseballs , batting gloves , action on the field , glove trick. Any more games to go ?

#PostSeasonBeard

When was the last time you had a beard at a game?

Zack, going to tomorrow’s game at fenway. Will I see you there?

RAY BURTON-
Oish, I don’t think I can deal with having the beard THAT long. It hasn’t even been a month, and it’s already driving me crazy.

DEMETRIUS-
I had a crappy goatee on Opening Day in 1996, but I don’t think I’ve had any significant facial hair at a game since then.

RYAN B-
Not sure yet.

I should’ve went!

The beard ages you Z-Man. I find facial hair to be incredibly annoying. I would think that over a full season you might get less toss ups looking like a middle aged Duck Dynasty cast off.

I am getting excited for game 4 at Busch. I don’t mind the stadium, although I don’t really ballhawk anymore. I will bring the big glove and try to get a toss up or two. I might even go for an umpire ball. But, if I had to guess, the majority of my “ballhawking” will take place inside the team store.

I will be sitting in row one of 261 if anyone wants to stop by and say hello.

Big Glove Bob

CH1088-
You’ll have plenty more chances. The Red Sox look like they’ll be good for a while.

BIG GLOVE BOB-
Well, duh. Of course it ages me. Is there anyone in the world who actually looks younger with facial hair? I won’t keep the beard through next season. Don’t worry. I just looked at a seating chart for Busch. Is 261 the second deck? That’s well within foul-ball range, yes? I’ll look for you on TV.

It took me a half hour to read this entry because I was mesmerized by Bruce’s high res photo linked at the beginning. It is truly amazing to be able to easily recognize people from across a ballpark! And the action at the plate! I assume that was a called strike. And the story of the young Cabrera fan and his dad. Very sweet. Thanks for sharing your night with us. Spectacular.

Hey Zack, thanks for everything!

LIZ MERRY-
Yeah, well, unfortunately I don’t seem to be in that photo. Of course, that’s my own fault for wandering around nonstop. Anyway, thanks as always for the kind words.

YANKEE-
You’re welcome!

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