My friend Brandon Sloter joined me at this game and started taking photos as soon as we entered the subway. Here I am just before boarding a No. 4 train to the Bronx:
Here I am outside Yankee Stadium . . .
. . . and here I am catching a home run during batting practice:
I think it was hit by Chase Headley, but I’m not sure.
That was actually my fourth ball of the day, but it was the first that Brandon saw. Before he made it inside, I had found a ball in the left field seats, gotten a toss-up from David Carpenter (who’s very very nice), and retrieved a home run that landed near me.
When the Orioles started hitting, I didn’t have to wait long to see more action. Here I am tracking a deep line drive:
It ended up carrying a bit farther than I expected, so I had to jump to make the catch:
Here I am with the ball:
I don’t know who hit that one or any of the other homers I’m about to tell you about — just mentioning it now so I don’t have to keep repeating myself.
Here’s a funny photo that makes it look like I’m afraid of the ball:
Why was I flinching instead of running over to catch it on the fly?
Two reasons . . .
First, when that ball was hit, I wasn’t standing there. I had to dart down the steps and then move to my right, so that was as close as I got before it landed. Second, deflections are the worst. Remember when this happened to me on 7/31/13 at Turner Field? I was trying to avoid a similar situation here at Yankee Stadium, so once I realized that I wasn’t going to catch the ball, I didn’t want to get too close. I ended up snagging it, though, so whatever.
After that, I headed over to right field for a bit and caught two home runs. The first one was fairly routine, and I gave it to the nearest fan. The second one, however, required a bit of an effort including fighting the sun and jumping. Check out this amazing photo that Brandon took as the ball was entering my glove:
See the guy behind me in the dark blue shirt? He and I are friendly acquaintances. He’s often in that spot, and whenever we see each other, we say hello. After I caught the ball, I apologized for jumping in front of him, and he was super-cool about it. He was like, “Don’t even worry. I just did the same thing to someone else, and anyway, we got eleven balls today, so it’s all good.” Then he told me that he’s not able to run and jump anymore like he used to, and he encouraged me to do it while I can.
THAT is the true spirit of ballhawking. You go for what you can (while making sure not to crash into anyone). Sometimes you rob people. Sometimes you get robbed. And you just accept that that’s how it goes.
I finished BP with eight balls. Then I headed to the upper deck with Brandon:
In the photo above, that’s him on the staircase. He’s a professional videographer/photographer, and he wanted to get some pics up there. (FYI, he’s the guy who has filmed me at PETCO Park, Wrigley Field, Citizens Bank Park, and Dodger Stadium.) Of course, before we headed back downstairs, he offered to take one of me:
Just before the game started, I got my ninth ball of the day . . .
. . . from Orioles bullpen catcher Jett Ruiz.
This was my view during the game:
As I mentioned on Twitter, Delmon Young was playing right field for the Orioles, and this fan in the bleachers . . .
. . . was yelling, “MARKAKIS!!! I HATE YOU!!!”
Just about everyone on Twitter thought the guy was a complete idiot for not realizing that Nick Markakis no longer plays for the Orioles. At the time, I didn’t feel like tweeting back and forth with dozens of people, so let me set the record straight now: the guy was joking. Trust me. He knew what he was doing. And he was LOUD. He was yelling in a comical, raspy/nasal-y way that somehow made his voice carry like you wouldn’t believe. I’m sure there were at least 1,000 people who heard every word he was saying, including Delmon Young (who deserves heckling). Later on, the guy spent a few innings yelling, “MARKAKIS!!! YOU’RE TERRIBLE!!!” and eventually he screamed, “MARKAKIS!!! YOU’RE LUCKY SECURITY IS HERE!!!” which might seem threatening or menacing, but the guy was so over-the-top goofy that it just made everyone laugh.
You know what else was funny? All the mustache photos of the Yankees on the jumbotron. Look at this nonsense:
This was my dinner — garlic fries with cheese sauce:
As for the game, the Yankees jumped out to a 5-0 lead. Then the Orioles scored four runs to make it interesting, but that was it. Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller each pitched a scoreless inning (YET AGAIN) to shut things down. Neither one of those guys has given up an earned run all season! That’s great if you’re a Yankee fan, but if you’re like me, and you just wanna watch baseball and see compelling games which might feature a comeback once in a while, it kinda sucks.
Check out the following photo, which I took after the game:
Did you spot the baseball in the bullpen? See the groundskeeper working on the mound? I asked him for it (in the most polite way imaginable), and he just shook his head. Thanks.
Here are the eight balls I took home:
Not bad overall, though Yankee Stadium always stresses me out and makes me considerably poorer.
• 9 baseballs at this game
• 169 balls in 22 games this season = 7.68 balls per game.
• 859 lifetime balls in 128 games at the new Yankee Stadium = 6.71 balls per game.
• 1,075 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 740 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball
• 256 consecutive Yankees home games with at least one ball
• 7,975 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 about my fundraiser, and if you donate money, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.)
• 15 donors for my fundraiser
• $118.40 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $118.40 raised this season
• $40,073.90 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009
I usually avoid day games, but I made an exception for this one. Not only was Alex Rodriguez one homer away from tying Willie Mays on the all-time list, but more importantly, my girlfriend, Hayley, wanted to go.
Here’s what we saw upon entering the stadium:
The good news was that the cage and screens were set up for batting practice. The bad news was that no one was hitting.
After a few minutes, several Rays began throwing in deep left-center field, so I ran out to the bleachers to get as close to them as possible:
In the photo above, that’s me in the front row.
That turned out to be a waste of time, but thankfully I had another opportunity before long. Several Yankees began throwing along the right-field foul line, so I raced over there and got Justin Wilson to chuck me a ball. Take a close look at the following photo — see the ball in mid-air?
The ball sailed way over my head . . .
. . . but the seats behind me were empty, so I was able to chase it down.
Here I am taking a photo of the ball . . .
. . . and here’s the ball itself:
Nice! I love ’em when they’re worn and beat up.
The Rays started hitting 10 minutes later:
This was the extent of the action — me maneuvering into position on a ball that fell short:
But hey, it’s still a cool photo.
Batting practice was dead. The Yankees didn’t hit at all, and the Rays only had one group — that’s right, just ONE group of BP — consisting of two righties and a lefty, who combined to hit one home run into the left-field seats. It was so lame that I had time to catch up with my friend Eddie and inform him that he had a tiny of blob of sun block on his earlobe:
Yup, that’s the spot. You got it.
After BP I headed over to the Rays’ dugout and got a ball thrown to me by Charlie Montoyo, the team’s 3rd base coach. Then, moments later, after he had disappeared inside the dugout, I got another toss-up from the equipment guy. Here’s the ball in mid-air . . .
. . . and here’s the guy (with the shaved head) who tossed it:
A little while later, I moved to the left-field foul line:
Here I am getting my fourth ball of the day from Ernesto Frieri:
(Nice job, Hayley, with the photos!)
I think it’s funny that no one else made an attempt to snatch it. They’re all just . . . standing there.
Here’s the $16 meal that Hayley and I shared before the game:
It was a significant portion of food — probably two to three pounds of french fries, steak, onions, and cheese sauce. Last season I tried to eat that by myself and failed (I could’ve done it in high school, but I was a fat-ass back then), so I was glad to make this a team effort.
Here’s Hayley watching Michael Pineda warm up before the game:
This was our view during the game:
There were a whole lot of empty seats around me, so of course the only two home runs were hit to left field.
Here’s something that amused me at first and left me shaking my head:
As you can see, the kid in the front row was focusing on the video game on his phone, but whatever — no big deal, right? Kids have short attention spans and are prone to being distracted . . . right?
Well, this was a special child. He was *so* disinterested in baseball, and the sun was shining *so* brightly on his mobile device that he ended up doing this:
But who am I to judge? When I was 11 years old, my mom took me to Disney World, and I spent the entire week playing Arkanoid in the hotel game room.
For Hayley, this game at Yankee Stadium probably felt like it lasted a week. Take a look at the scoreboard:
It wasn’t the 3rd inning — oh no no no. It was the 13th inning. Hayley wanted to leave after 9 innings, and she was THIS close to bailing after 10. To get her to stay, I had to bribe her with fries and a chocolate shake from the Johnny Rockets concession stand halfway across the stadium — but *she* had to go get it.
There was no 14th inning, and that was fine by me. Nineteen days earlier, I’d sat through the entirety of a 19-inning game, which was incredible, but I didn’t feel the need for an encore.
Here I am with Hayley after the final out:
Moments after that photo was taken, I found a crinkled-up $20 bill in the seats.
• 108 balls in 15 games this season = 7.2 balls per game.
• 842 lifetime balls in 126 games at the new Yankee Stadium = 6.7 balls per game.
• 1,068 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 733 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball
• 254 consecutive Yankees home games with at least one ball
• 7,914 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 about my fundraiser, and if you donate money, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.)
• 14 donors for my fundraiser
• $115.40 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $115.40 raised this season
• $40,070.90 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009
This was my first Mets game of the season, and I was expecting a big crowd. No, it wasn’t the home Opener. Mets ace Matt Harvey, who had missed all of last season while rehabbing from Tommy John Surgery, was going to be pitching at Citi Field for the first time in 19 months.
The stadium looked calm from afar . . .
. . . and because I’d arrived so early, there wasn’t much action yet outside the Jackie Robinson Rotunda.:
Do you remember all the metal detectors outside Yankee Stadium that I saw last week? Major League Baseball and the Department of Homeland Security had worked together this past offseason and decided that every stadium would have metal detectors in 2015 — so how come there weren’t any at Citi Field?
I figured the guards and supervisors were going to bring them out any minute and set them up. It was only 4pm, so there was still plenty of time — more than an hour until the stadium would open.
Well then. Let’s fast-forward an hour, shall we? First take a look at the loooooong lines of fans waiting to get in:
Now check out the area between the barricades and the stadium gates:
Do you see any metal detectors? I didn’t see any, but as it turned out, there were a bunch. Sort of. Rather than using the big, airport-style rectangular things that fans would have to walk through, the Mets’ security guards all had hand-held metal-detecting wands. Here’s how it worked: the guard at my table inspected my backpack as he had always done. Then, after being told that I could go, I headed toward the gate and was stopped by a guard, who had me spread my legs and arms, at which point he wanded me front and back for about 20 seconds. Despite the fact that I was first on line, several fans at other lines got in ahead of me, presumably because they weren’t wanded as thoroughly. Overall I’d say the level of security was pretty good, though not foolproof or consistent. I heard later from a guard I know that the Mets only got SIX of the walk-though metal detectors and placed them at the club/suite entrances — two each at the Stengel, Seaver, and Hodges gates. Not that I’m complaining or anything (because this whole metal-detecting thing is awful), but how can they get away with that?
Anyway, last season the Mets often finished taking BP before the stadium opened. Here’s what I saw at my first Mets game of 2015 when I made it out to left field:
David Wright was in the cage, and before anyone else made it out to the left field seats, he launched a home run in my direction. Just my luck . . . it sailed 40 feet over my head, landed in the second deck, and bounced back onto the field. That might have prompted me to curse the universe. Wright proceeded to hit two more homers into the empty seats surrounding me. Even though there still wasn’t anyone else nearby, I scrambled after the balls. Here they are:
During the final group of Mets BP, I got a toss-up from rookie pitcher Erik Goeddel, and then I got THE luckiest bounce on a John Mayberry Jr. home run. I was standing in the fourth row, not too thrilled about another guy who had decided to stand directly in front of me in the third row. Mayberry hit a deep line drive right at us, and we both knew it was going to fall short. The other guy drifted down the steps to the front row, but I stayed in my spot — not for any particular reason. It just seemed pointless to move because I could tell that the ball might not even reach the Party Deck down below.
Guess what happened? The ball struck the railing at the very front of the Party Deck . . .
. . . and ricocheted up into the stands, looping directly over the other guy and landing *right* where I was standing. I didn’t have to move. I simply reached up and gloved it. Ha!
When the Phillies took the field, I headed into foul territory. As usual, I would’ve liked to be behind the 3rd base dugout, but wasn’t allowed to go any farther than this:
In the photo above, do you see the guard on the right in the green jacket? There’s always a guard there during BP, whose *only* job is to prevent people from walking through the seats toward the dugout. No other stadium does that during BP. Even at the prison-like Yankee Stadium, which has more rules than the other 29 stadiums combined, all fans are allowed to go behind the dugouts early on — not all the way down to the “Legends” area, where people need wristbands, but whatever. Just being able to hang out in the vicinity of the dugouts is a nice thing. It enables fans to interact with the players and see them up close, but the Mets have not allowed it since Citi Field opened in 2009.
When the Phillies started hitting, I headed to the seats in right-center field:
I chose this section for two reasons. First, a bunch of lefties were taking turns in the cage, and second, I wanted to see the new outfield configuration. In case you haven’t heard, the Mets moved in the fences during the offseason . . . AGAIN. Here’s what it looks like up close:
SO MUCH WASTED SPACE!!!
If the Mets want to maximize revenue (and happiness), they should consider building a little staircase down to that area, replacing the outfield wall with a chain-link fence, and converting that dead zone into a group/party area. Hell, they don’t even need to sell it separately. They could just open it up to anyone . . . ya know, to be nice. Put a beer cart down in there. Sell some pretzels and sausages. Turn the dead zone into a fun zone.
Back in left field, I found myself standing behind four Mets fans wearing jerseys of the all-time greats:
Wait a minute . . . Klemm and Lenefsky? I think not.
I snagged two home runs hit by Jeff Francoeur — my fifth and sixth balls of the day. The first landed in the seats one section to my left, and as I lunged for it, I bashed my right tit on the metal corner of a seat. The second one, thankfully, was uneventful by comparison; it came right to me, and I caught it on the fly.
Look how crowded it was after BP:
All this for Matt Harvey?!
Shortly before the season started, I read an article about various concession items debuting at stadiums around the major leagues. When I learned that Citi Field was going to offer thick-cut bacon covered in s’mores, I *had* to try it.
After BP, I met up with my friend Mark McConville, and we headed to the “Pig Guy NYC” stand together. As you can see below, there was quite a line:
No problem, right? How long does it take to dip a piece of bacon in a vat of gooey chocolatey stuff? The answer is that it takes a LONG-ASS TIME when you run out of bacon. And it takes even longer when you have to wait five minutes for a new container of bacon to arrive. And it takes *even* longer when that new container of bacon is uncooked. If we’d known at the start how long it was going to take, we wouldn’t have waited, but by the time everything got held up, Mark and I had already invested 10 minutes and were in the middle of the line.
So we waited.
And then we waited some more.
No exaggeration — we were on that effin’ line for nearly 40 minutes, and when we finally made it up to the front, the bacon wasn’t even close to being adequately cooked:
I prefer my bacon crispy, but what could I do? Leave after waiting such a long time?! Wait another 10 minutes for one piece of it to be cooked more just for me? Mark and I were in danger of missing the start of the game.
I was tempted to bail, but then I saw this sign up close:
I couldn’t resist. I’d waited too long, and I was starving, so I handed over my money and received this in exchange:
It was meh.
Perhaps I’ve been spoiled. Just a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of eating thick-cut bacon (followed by a full steak dinner) at Peter Luger. Take a look at this photo. THIS is how it’s supposed to be done — it was like the Mike Trout of bacon. What I got at Citi Field was the Ruben Tejada of bacon. It was soft and lacked oomph. The chocolatey s’mores coating wasn’t flavorful enough and therefore didn’t add much, and there wasn’t nearly enough marshmallow. Remember when I tried some chocolate-covered bacon on 6/12/11 at Coors Field? That certainly looked gross, and at the time I didn’t think much of it, but at least the flavors were powerful.
It should be noted that Mark got the s’mores-covered bacon *and* the caramel-coated bacon. He agreed with me about the s’mores, but said the other one was much better.
I barely made it here for the first pitch:
Matt Harvey struck out Odubel Herrera (not to be confused with Asdrubel Cabrera) to start the game, and everyone in the stadium was PUMPED:
There was palpable energy and enthusiasm everywhere; this game felt like a hybrid of Opening Day and the playoffs.
When Harvey struck out Freddy Galvis with a 98mph fastball, the stadium erupted. Here’s the pitch speed on the jumbotron:
Here’s Harvey delivering a pitch to Chase Utley:
When the count went to 1-2, it felt as if the stadium were about to explode:
But then something funny happened: Chase Utley hit a home run. Everyone was like, “WTF did we just see?” But it was only one run, and Harvey struck out the next batter, Ryan Howard (which probably wasn’t all that difficult), to get everyone re-energized.
The Mets tied the game in the bottom of the 1st inning, and then I headed to left field for a bit. Look how crowded it was out there:
The paid attendance for this game was 39,489. And let me remind you that this was NOT the Mets’ home opener. That had taken place the day before, drawing a crowd of 43,947 — the biggest in Citi Field history.
Here’s where I sat for the next few innings:
I absolutely hate sitting in the middle of a row, but I had no choice because it was so damn crowded. Thankfully I had a bit of room on my right . . .
. . . but I was antsy. I felt like a caged animal, and to make matters worse, I had a lousy view of the scoreboard because of the overhang of the second deck:
I had to get out there. I just couldn’t sit still.
I headed up to the second deck in right field, stopping along the way to take this photo:
Then I went to the outermost staircase in the second deck. I wanted to get a view from above of the new/shorter outfield wall and all that dead space behind it. Check it out:
That is THE weirdest outfield/bullpen setup in the major leagues.
Look who was at the bottom of my staircase:
SIN GUY!! He commits all sorts of horrible acts and . . . oh wait, his ponytail was blockin’ the gee.
SIGNGUY. My bad. I’d never seen him up close.
I could write 10,000 words about all the oddities in this game, but instead I’ll summarize them quickly. Two Mets players were injured — Michael Cuddyer on a hit-by-pitch followed by David Wright, who messed up his hamstring on a stolen base and is now on the disabled list. Chase Utley was beaned (probably intentionally) by Harvey and hit a second homer later on. Both teams were warned by the home plate umpire. There were instant replay reviews that dragged on. Mets manager Terry Collins got ejected for arguing a catcher’s interference call (which turned out to be a bad call). Mets backup catcher Anthony Recker played 3rd base in the 9th inning — the first time in his professional career that he’d done that. And so on. I’m probably forgetting a few things, but you get the idea. This game was weird, and the Mets held on for a 6-5 win.
After the final out . . .
. . . I got my seventh and final ball of the day from home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez. (Can you spot him in the photo above?) Here I am with the balls:
On my way out, I lingered in the concourse for a few minutes until I saw a cute kid walking by slowly with an empty glove. I drifted over to the kids’ father and asked, “Did you guys catch a ball today?” When the kid predictably shook his head, I reached into my pocket, pulled out a clean BP ball, placed it in his glove, and said, “Well, you got one now.”
They were thrilled, of course, and I felt good too. I had survived my first of many Mets games this season.
• 30 balls in 5 games this season = 6 balls per game.
• 1,008 lifetime balls in 134 games at Citi Field = 7.52 balls per game.
• 1,058 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 723 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball
• 470 consecutive Mets home games with at least one ball
• 7,836 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 about my fundraiser, and if you donate money, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.)
• 11 donors for my fundraiser
• $108.40 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $108.40 raised this season
• $40,063.90 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009
There was nothing special about this day early on. The weather was dreary, and I headed out to right field at the start of batting practice:
I managed to catch one baseball out there — a home run that was hit by a left-handed batter on the Yankees. I’m not sure who it was, but if I had to guess, I’d say Stephen Drew. It was heading between me and another guy. We both reached for it, and I happened to reach a little farther. It felt good to catch it and get on the board, but things went downhill from there.
When the Red Sox started hitting, I headed over to left field and misplayed TWO home run balls! On the first one, I darted down the steps and reached over the outfield wall, at which point the ball hit the palm of my glove and squirted right out. I felt *so* dumb, and then five minutes later, I had one clang off my wrist. If there’s an excuse for that one, it’s that I was half-reaching for it and half-flinching because a tall guy in front of me was going for it too, and it seemed to be well within his reach. But no. He whiffed. And I tanked it. And then I started doubting myself in all sorts of ways.
Thankfully I regained my edge during the next group of hitters. First I grabbed a Hanley Ramirez homer during a mad scramble in the middle of a row. Then, moments later, I jumped and back-handed another Hanley homer, and a little while after that, I got Joe Kelly to toss me a ball.
All three of the balls I got from the Red Sox had red check marks on the sweet spot. Here’s a photo of one of them:
I’ve snagged lots of marked balls over the years, but this was new to me, so I have to ask: if there are any Red Sox fans reading this, do you know the story? Is this simply the team’s way of keeping track of their baseballs, or is it some kind of social media thing?
After BP, I caught up with a few friends, ate a sandwich I’d brought from home, fiddled around on my phone for a while, and eventually headed to my seat in straight-away right field.
The Red Sox jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the 1st inning and scored twice more in the top of the 6th. Then the Yankees rallied for two runs in the bottom of the 6th to trim the lead to 3-2 — pretty standard stuff, right? Not exactly. If you use the number of fights breaking out in various sections as a barometer, it was anything but “standard.” The Yankees and Red Sox, of course, are huge rivals; this was the first of 19 games that they’d play in 2015, and lots of fans were GOING AT IT. There was a major fight in the left field upper deck, and I saw other skirmishes in the bleachers. There was so much drunken hostility that it kinda felt like the old Yankee Stadium.
During the 7th-inning stretch, while standing at a urinal in the men’s room, I heard something hit the floor on my left. It had made somewhat of a clapping noise, so in the instant before I looked over, I assumed someone had dropped a book or a plastic cup, so I was surprised when I saw that a young man had fallen over backwards, not much more than five feet away from me. Did he slip on something? Was he drunk? I didn’t know what to make of it, and then BAM!!! Out of nowhere, another guy jumped on top of him and started punching him as hard as you can possibly imagine . . . on the head and in the face . . . over and over and OVER and OVER. It was relentless and absolutely terrifying! I had never seen a fight that close to me, nor had I ever witnessed anything so brutal. I truly thought the guy on the bottom was going to be killed or blinded or suffer permanent brain damage. It wasn’t at all like a movie. There were no fake sound effects for the punches. Instead there were eerie thumps each time the guy’s skull was struck by the other man’s fist. Within five or ten seconds, I head someone shout, “NYPD!! GET THE F*CK OFF OF HIM AND DON’T F*CKING MOVE!!!” The guy shouting wasn’t in uniform. I don’t know if he was working undercover or if he was off-duty, but thankfully he broke it up. The guy who’d been getting pummeled managed to stand up with a bit of help, and almost instantly, I saw a whole lot of blood starting to trickle down his face in various spots. That’s about the time that I finished my business at the urinal, and I got THE HELL out of there. I’ll admit it — normally I like to gawk, but this was way too real and horrific. I couldn’t handle it. I was practically shaking as I ran out of the bathroom and made my way back to my seat.
I don’t know what happened to the guy who’d gotten beat up, but I heard that the other guy got arrested and that the bathroom was shut down for several innings because it was a crime scene.
I’m still in shock as I sit here writing this. It was one of those “Did that really happen?” moments. I don’t know what caused the fight, but I can tell you that neither of the guys was wearing Red Sox gear — not that that alone would justify violence, but it could serve as a preliminary explanation.
Wow. Okay. Let’s move on . . .
The Red Sox took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the 9th, and when they brought Edward Mujica into the game, I thought, “Hoo-boy, here we go.” And sure enough, with two outs, Chase Headley crushed a 401-foot bomb into the 2nd deck.
Extra innings. NOT GOOD. I was sooooooo not feeling it. I just wanted to go home and cuddle with my girlfriend and go to bed, but on the other hand, I couldn’t bear the thought of a home run landing near my seat and not being there to catch it.
No one scored in the 10th inning. Or in the 11th inning. And guess what happened in the 12th? Some of the stadium lights flickered and went out. From where I was sitting, it seemed bright enough for the game to continue, but obviously it was too dark for the players, so there was a delay.
OH MY GOD. I wanted to go home. I was cold and hungry and tired, and my cell phone was nearly dead, and I was still upset about the BP balls I’d dropped, and worst of all, I was having constant flashbacks of the fight in the bathroom. If ever there were a time NOT to be at a baseball game, this was it. But I stayed.
As the delay dragged on, several fans behind me in the bleachers turned on their cell phones and held them up to (jokingly) provide extra light for the field:
That put a brief smile on my face.
Within a few minutes, hundreds of fans all over the stadium were holding up their phones:
After a 16-minute delay, the game resumed.
No one scored in the 12th inning.
Or in the 13th.
Remember when I was sponsored two years ago by BIGS Sunflower Seeds? Well, I still have a bunch of seeds left over, and I still bring them to games. On this particular occasion, I decided to break out a few sample packs as the game headed to the 14th inning:
This was the point at which the length of the game suddenly switched over from annoying to cool. The longest game I’d ever been to was 17 innings back in 1993 at Shea Stadium. I remember staying until the very end and then getting a ball tossed to me at the dugout, so maybe something good would come of this long game too? Balls or no balls, I suddenly found myself rooting for the game NOT to end. If the game lasted 14 innings, why not make it 18? Or hell, how about 20?
No one scored in the 14th inning.
Or in the 15th inning.
By now most of the fans had left, so the seats (as you can see in the photo above) were quite empty. If, by some great stoke of luck, a home run happened to fly in my direction, I knew I’d have a good chance of catching it, so I was genuinely excited. That said, I was still rooting for for good pitching and defense — just one more scoreless frame and it would tie my longest game ever.
Before the 16th inning got underway, Yankees right fielder Carlos Beltran tossed his warm-up ball toward a family sitting directly in front of me in the second row. One of the kids ended up getting it, which was great except for the fact that her brother was now empty-handed . . . so I reached into my backpack and gave him my cleanest ball.
Esmil Rogers struck out Dustin Pedroia to start the top of the 16th. The next batter, David Ortiz, fell behind in the count 0-2, but then connected on a hanging slider:
From the moment his bat hit the ball, I knew it was going to be a home run and that I had a good chance of catching it. I jumped out of my seat, drifted about 10 feet to my right, and climbed back over a row of seats. By that point, I knew the ball was going to land right near me. My section was fairly empty, and no one else was wearing a glove, so basically it was all mine as long as I didn’t screw it up. Therefore, I climbed back over another row of seats to be safe. It’s easier, of course, to move forward than backward, so given the fact that I had the room to maneuver, I decided to get behind the spot where I predicted it would land.
If you zoom way in on the following screenshot, you can see me lifting my leg to climb back over that second row of seats:
The ball had been hit VERY high, so I had plenty of time to judge it and get into position, and as it descended, I simply *knew* I was going to catch it. I just had to make one final quick-ish movement to my right to get in line with it, and then I reached up and out for a fairly easy back-handed catch.
Here’s another screenshot for you to zoom in on; take a close look and you’ll see me reaching up for the ball:
My momentum took me farther down the row . . .
. . . and then it was time to celebrate:
Everyone in right field, especially in the bleachers, was yelling at me to “THROW IT BACK!!!” which was fine. They had every right to yell, and I had every right to keep the ball, but they persisted, so I decided to mess with everyone a little bit. I faced the field and cocked my arm back as if I were going to chuck it . . .
. . . but then I stopped mid-motion and held onto the ball:
Then I turned around and faced the fine folks in the bleachers and shook my index finger at them as if to say, “No no no.” Check it out:
Despite the negative things being said about me on the internet, I wasn’t trying to antagonize anyone. I wasn’t doing it for attention. I had no idea that my fake throw-back would be shown on TV. I didn’t intend for it to be cocky. The stadium was so empty at that point, and everyone remaining was so stunned by the circumstances, that it really didn’t cause much of a fuss. A few people questioned what team I was rooting for, and one guy (wearing a Red Sox jersey) offered me $50 for the ball, but that was it. In the immediate aftermath, the best thing that happened was being recognized by a guy sitting 20 feet to my right, who turned out to be a teammate from my summer baseball team in 1994. WOW!! We hadn’t seen each other since then, so it was quite a nice surprise. Here I am with him and a few of his friends; he’s the guy holding the ball:
As amazing as it would’ve been to leave the stadium after 16 innings with a game-winning home run ball in my possession, I didn’t want the night to end — and lucky me! In the bottom of the 16th, Mark Teixeira hit a leadoff homer (on his birthday, no less) to tie the game! Here’s a photo of the small celebration in the seats as he rounded the bases:
In the photo above, the girl wearing pink is the one who had gotten the warm-up ball from Beltran. Here’s a better shot of her with her brother (holding the ball I gave him) and their father:
Very nice people.
Here’s a photo of the scoreboard in the 17th inning:
It might look like it was only the 7th inning, but that’s because the scoreboard operators took everything down after the 10th and started from scratch. On the jumbotron, however, the inning numbers were accurate. I didn’t have a clear view of it from my seat (because of that awful Mohegan Sun Sports Bar), but you can still kinda see it here:
Normally I don’t root for the Yankees, but this insanely long game was messing with my head. When the Red Sox scored in the top of the 18th inning, I was disappointed, and when the Yankees tied it up in the bottom of the 18th, I was ecstatic. And by the way, the mere fact that it even reached the 18th inning meant it was THE longest game I had EVER attended. Hot damn!
The inning numbers were refreshed AGAIN at the start of the 19th:
Innings 19 through 27 . . . can you even imagine a game lasting THAT long?!
Here’s a photo I took in the top of the 19th inning when the clock struck 2:00am:
Look how empty the seats were:
I was fantasizing about catching another home run, but of course I was rooting for more scoreless baseball. I wanted the game to last 20 innings, but UGH, the damn Red Sox scored in the top of the 19th.
During the inning break, I took a photo of my home run ball . . .
. . . which, by the way, raised more than $100 for the charity Pitch In For Baseball. For the last six years, I’ve been encouraging people to pledge money for every ball I snag, but now as a new experiment this season, I’m asking for bigger pledges and only counting game home runs. In previous years, people sometimes pledged as little as one penny per ball, but that was fine because I’d snag about 500 or 600 balls (including BP) and they’d end up donating $5 or $6. This year I’m telling people to multiply their pledges by 100, so in other words, if you used to donate 10 cents per ball and you want to contribute again in 2015, you should consider donating $10 per home run. If the David Ortiz homer is the only one I snag this season, that would be incredibly lame, and if I somehow get really lucky and catch 10, that would be insane. Mostly likely I’ll end up somewhere in the middle, so the multiply-by-100 math should work pretty well.
Here’s what the scoreboard looked like in the middle of the 19th inning:
As you can see, the Red Sox had a 6-5 lead.
Unfortunately that’s the last scoreboard photo I got because the Yankees never posted the final score anywhere. Therefore I can only share an image of the Red Sox spilling out onto the field after the final out:
Did you notice Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia near 2nd base walking away from their teammates? They’d just turned a double play to end THE longest game in Red Sox history (6 hours and 49 minutes) and must’ve needed a moment to clear their heads.
As for me . . . I was bummed that the game didn’t last 20 innings, but overall I was thrilled with how it went down. One of the highlights of the night was the overwhelmingly positive reaction on Twitter from so many people. Here’s a gigantic screenshot to show you what I mean; many thanks to everyone who gave me a shout-out, especially my friend Chris Hernandez for being first on the list . . .
Please accept my apology if you Tweeted at me and I didn’t respond. As you can see, it got kinda crazy there for a while, and of course I was still trying to watch a baseball game, and my phone was on the verge of dying. But I promise I read everything, and as I mentioned up above, it really meant a lot to me.
Naturally I was curious to know exactly what Bob Costas had said about me. He was announcing the game with John Smoltz on the MLB Network, and as several people mentioned on Twitter, he called me a “disgrace.” What’s up with that?!
The next day, with some help from a friend who wishes to remain anonymous, I managed to get my hands on the footage. Here’s how Costas called it: “A high drive, deep right field, Beltran retreats to the track, and Ortiz has given the Red Sox the lead in the sixteenth . . . a Yankee fan retrieved it and then hurled it back in disgust, but it’s Ortiz rounding the bases and touching the dish to make it four to three.” Nearly a minute later, Costas said, “And you know, I may have been wrong. I think the guy may have pantomimed throwing it back and then held onto it. Either he’s a Red Sox fan traveling incognito without any identifying garments or else he’s just a civic disgrace from the standpoint of Yankee fans who remain. Either way he’s got the ball and the Red Sox have the lead.” Moments later, there was a replay showing what I did with the ball, prompting Costas to cut himself off mid-sentence and say, “Here’s the guy — here look, he fakes the throw. There it is. That’s why I thought he’d thrown it back. He fakes it to taunt the fans surrounding him, and then he keeps it.”
Damn right I kept it. I’ve always had mixed emotions about the practice of throwing visiting teams’ home run balls back onto the field. Personally, that’s not my style, but it can be entertaining when other people do it. If you have an opinion one way or the other, you need to see this Reddit comment. Seriously, click that link. It will make you think and put a smile on your face.
• 16 balls in 3 games this season = 5.33 balls per game.
• 807 lifetime balls in 121 games at the new Yankee Stadium = 6.67 balls per game.
• 1,055 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 721 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball
• 249 consecutive Yankee home games with at least one ball
• 31 lifetime game home run balls (including 23 that I caught on the fly); click here for the complete list.
• 7,822 total balls
• 11 donors for my fundraiser
• $107.17 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $107.17 raised this season
• $40,062.67 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009
This was my first game of the season, and look what I had to deal with:
Metal detectors! Yay!
In case you haven’t heard, they’re now being used throughout Major League Baseball this season. And beyond.
Here’s what it looked like a bit later from my spot at the front of the line:
There were LOTS of security guards outside Gate 6 . . .
. . . and I was ready for the worst.
As it turned out, the metal detectors are a joke. It’s all for show — the kind of thing that won’t actually make the stadium safer, but will make stupid people think they’re safer. Quite simply, the guards didn’t seem to know what they were doing.
My backpack has a zillion compartments, but the guard who “inspected” it only peeked inside briefly. Then, as I walked through the metal detector, the guard carried my bag alongside me. Guess what happened? The detector beeped, but it wasn’t clear what had set it off. The guard told me that the detector picks up metal objects that pass NEAR it, and then to prove that what he said was true, he waved the bag back and forth beside (but not inside) the metal detector, and sure enough, it beeped again. But how did he know that I didn’t have any metal objects in my pockets? The prudent course of action, obviously, would’ve been for him to make me walk back through the detector, but instead he handed me my bag and sent me on my way. How dumb is that? And wait — there’s more! Nearly an hour earlier — long before there was a line of fans waiting to get in — various employees (mostly vendors) passed through the metal detectors. Each time, the detectors beeped, but none of the guards noticed or cared. It was just a formality to have these employees walk through. None of them were asked to remove the metal objects from their pockets. There were no rules or regulations. There was no concern or oversight. These people had to show their employee ID cards upon entering the stadium, but so what? Any one of them could’ve brought a weapon inside. Do you trust Yankee Stadium vendors? I sure as hell don’t — but the Yankees do. And you know what? I don’t give a damn because living in fear is stupid.
Moments later, Brett Gardner hit a deep fly ball in my direction, and I knew exactly what was going to happen. I knew it was going to fall short, land on the warning track, and bounce right up to me. The only question was whether or not it would have the new commissioner’s signature stamped on it.
Here’s the answer:
I’m sure there are plenty of people who’ve never gotten a Selig ball, who are hoping that they’ll still be used during BP. Personally, after snagging more than 6,000 balls with Selig’s signature, I was ready for a change, and I was *so* glad not to have to wait.
Let’s talk about Rob Manfred’s signature for a moment. I think it’s decent, albeit a bit shaky and little kid-ish. It’s certainly legible — I’ll give him a tiny bit of credit for that — but I still have to make fun of it for looking like it says “Robut Manped.” And for the record, I’m more qualified than just about anyone to critique signatures. My family owns an old book store at which an entire floor is devoted to autographs. I work on that floor, nearly full-time, photographing and cataloging historical items and documents (and often attempting to decipher hard-to-read handwriting). The best signature I’ve ever seen belongs to a famous artist named Maxfield Parrish, who was born in 1870. I would love to see THAT on a baseball. But back to the new commissioner, I noticed that his signature is darker and longer than his predecessor’s. Look at Bud Selig’s signature on this ball. It starts below the R in “MAJOR” and ends below the E in “BASEBALL.” If you count the spaces between words, his signature spans 13 characters. Manfred’s signature, which you can see here, is three characters wider. It is a known fact that the more ink is stamped on a baseball, the easier it is for batters to see it and hit it; perhaps this is Manfred’s way of improving offense. Why ban the defensive shift and alienate an entire generation of baseball purists when you can simply write your name bigger than the last guy?
My second ball of the day was a home run that landed near me in the seats. I don’t know who hit it, but I can tell you that it also bore the signature of the new commissioner. Roughly 10 minutes later, Brett Gardner launched a home run that came right to me for an easy catch. Once again, the ball had Manfred’s signature, as did the next one that I snagged here:
In the photo above, did you notice the red arrow on the right? That’s pointing at Danny Valencia, who threw me the ball (from more than 100 feet away) just before the Blue Jays started hitting.
I headed out to left field . . .
. . . but there was hardly any action, which was probably a good thing for this guy:
How clueless do you have to be to sit in an area where baseballs land . . . and be looking down at your phone the whole time? Seriously: duh.
I spent the last group of BP in right field . . .
. . . but didn’t come close to anything. Justin Smoak hit a few balls into the 2nd deck in right field, but the lower level was dead.
After BP, I spent some time in the left field bleachers. Check out the starting lineups:
Don’t get all excited about A-Rod’s .500 batting average. He went 1-for-2 in the first game of the season and ended up going 0-for-4 in this one to lower his average to .167. I hate him so much and want him to fail and suffer (although if he ever decides to hit a home run to me during a game, that’d be cool).
Here are the four balls I’d snagged:
After Jays starter R.A. Dickey finished warming up . . .
. . . I got a ball tossed to me from the bullpen by pitching coach Pete Walker.
This was my view during the game:
It was so cold that I could see my breath. I was wearing two pairs of long underwear. And a hoodie. And a scarf. And my heaviest winter jacket. And it sorta/barely rained — misted, really — on and off throughout the night. It was so unpleasant that it actually made me hate all my friends who live in warm baseball cities. Why couldn’t I have been in Phoenix, where the game-time weather was 74 degrees and clear? And where the attendance was nearly 10,000 lower? And where I would’ve paid about $70 less for a seat in the same spot? Oh, right, because I love New York City (even when I shouldn’t) and find the thought of living elsewhere to be unbearable.
Anyway, here’s something nifty:
Can you tell what I’ve circled in red? It’s the new between-inning countdown clock. I really like it. I’m glad that Manfred is trying to speed up games, but how is that going to work when he’s also trying to find ways to increase offense? What gives?
As for this game, the Blue Jays blew a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the 8th with one of the sloppiest half-innings I’ve ever seen. There was a bloop double, a hit by pitch, a pitching change, a wild pitch, an intentional walk, another hit by pitch, a deflected seeing-eye single, and another pitching change. It was painful. But you know what? So was my ballhawking performance.
Final score: Yankees 4, Blue Jays 3.
Here’s a photo of the stadium from the elevated subway platform:
• 796 lifetime balls in 119 games at Yankee Stadium = 6.69 balls per game.
• 1,053 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 719 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball
• 247 consecutive Yankee home games with at least one ball
• 7,811 total balls
• 8 donors for my fundraiser
• $87.80 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $0.00 raised this season (but just you wait!)
• $39,955.50 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009
Finally, here’s one more photo for you — a comparison of the four baseballs in regular light versus black light:
I’m not sure how many games I’ll attend this season — probably somewhere between 80 and 100. I don’t plan to blog about them all, so if you want to keep up with me, follow me on Twitter: @zack_hample
For the last six years, I’ve been raising money for a children’s baseball charity called Pitch In For Baseball, and for the last three seasons, I’ve given away a bunch of prizes to the people who’ve donated. I’ve decided to do it again in 2015 — with one major difference — so let me start with a quick list of the stuff you can win. Then I’ll show you photos of everything and explain how this is going to work:
1) a baseball signed by Willie Mays
2) three baseball cards signed by Kent Hrbek, Rick Cerone, and Dave Stieb
3) a Mickey Mantle ball with an image of his 1952 Topps rookie card
4) a Bernie Williams ball with his image and the Yankees logo
5) a Curtis Granderson bobblehead
6) signed copies of The San Francisco Splash and The Wrigley Riddle
7) a signed copy of Man Versus Ball
8) two Mets prints
9) three Mets t-shirts
10) a Mark McGwire rookie card
Here’s a photo of the ball signed by Willie Mays:
Why am I just giving this away? Because I want to make it irresistible for you to donate money to this worthy cause.
In case you’re wondering, this ball was given to me on a private tour of the Panini America headquarters before I went to a game on 5/3/13 at Rangers Ballpark. I’ve been holding onto it ever since, indecisive about what to do with it, and this seemed like a good idea. Obviously it’s a very special item, so good luck.
Here are the three signed cards, which, FYI, will be given away as one prize:
They came from the autograph department at my family’s business — the Argosy Book Store. My mom thought about selling them, but then she was like, “Eh, why don’t you take them and give ’em away.”
Here’s the Mickey Mantle ball:
I have no idea where it came from. Same deal with the Beanie Williams ball:
That was a giveaway at Citi Field during the 2014 season, and yes, I’ll send it to you in the box with all the packaging.
Here are the covers of The San Francisco Splash and The Wrigley Riddle . . .
. . . and this is how they’re signed:
They were dated “2013” because that’s when the author, David A. Kelly, gave me a bunch of books to be used as charity prizes. These two “Ballpark Mysteries” books will be given away as one prize, and by the way, David and I are friends. We met on 6/20/11 at Fenway Park, and we’ve kept in touch.
Here ‘s the copy of Man Versus Ball:
I’m friends with this author too — Jon Hart. Remember this article he wrote about me last season? Anyway, this book isn’t signed yet, but it will be. Jon will personalize it for the winner, so when the time comes, let me know and I’ll pass along your autograph request.
Here are the two Mets prints:
The one on the left shows the very first Opening Day ever at Shea Stadium in 1964. The one on the right shows the Mets’ dreamy captain, David Wright. These two prints, which each measure 12 x 9 inches, will be given together as one prize. They were giveaways at Citi Field in 2014, as were these shirts:
All three shirts will be given away as one prize.
And finally, here’s Mark McGwire’s rookie card:
Somehow this card found its way into the Argosy. I have no idea how much it’s worth. I used to collect cards like a maniac until 1995, but now I’m officially out of the loop.
People who donate money to Pitch In For Baseball through my fundraiser will be eligible to win these prizes. (I don’t get any money from this because my fundraising page is simply a place for people to make pledges. After the final game of the World Series, I will email everyone with info about how to actually donate the money directly to the charity.)
From 2009 through 2014, people used to pledge money for every ball I snagged over the course of the season — batting practice, toss-ups, foul balls, home runs, you name it. But now, for a change, the only balls that will raise money are the home runs I snag DURING games. Previously, if someone wanted to donate about five bucks over the course the season, they’d pledge one penny per ball. But because I’m going to raise money exclusively with game home runs, the math is much different. Now, in order to donate five bucks, you’ll want to pledge one dollar per ball. This is not an exact formula, of course, and that’s what makes it fun. It’s highly unlikely that I won’t snag any home runs, but there’s a chance I might only get one or two. There’s also a chance that luck will be on my side (for a change) and I’ll end up snagging half a dozen or more.
Previously, for every penny per ball that people donated, their names were entered into the drawing. But now, for every dollar per game home run that you donate, your name will be entered. Are you with me? For example, if I snag five game home runs this season, and you’ve pledged $5 per ball, that will amount to a $25 donation, and your name will be entered into the drawing five times. If someone else pledges $25 per ball, they’ll end up donating $125 at the end of the season, and they’ll have five times the odds of winning something. The person whose name is picked first will get to pick which prize they want; the person whose name is picked second will get the next choice, and so on.
You can make a pledge anytime — here’s more info about my fundraiser — but in order to be eligible to win a prize, you’ll need to send in the money by December 1, 2015.
On a final note for those who don’t know, Pitch In For Baseball is a non-profit charity that provides baseball and softball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. Here’s a blog entry that I wrote a couple of years ago about the charity helping Hurricane Sandy victims. Here’s a TV segment about the charity on the NBC Nightly News. There’ve also been a bunch of articles about Pitch In For Baseball on MLB.com, which you can read here and here and here and here.
As I mentioned in my last entry, I recently converted a bunch of old home videos from the 1990s, including several that were filmed at baseball games. I was thrilled when I stumbled upon this particular tape — 31 minutes of footage from Game 5 of the 1993 World Series — because I’d forgotten that I even had it.
This was my first postseason game. My dad and I drove down to Philadelphia for the day, and I was in awe of the gorgeous tickets:
Yes, that’s a screen shot from the video, and the quality sucks. Deal with it. The video isn’t worth sharing — trust me on that — but the story is still worth telling.
It should be noted that in the days before StubHub, getting tickets to premium events was extremely challenging. It often took a special connection just to have the opportunity to buy them. In this case, my dad had a close friend who ran an advertising agency with ties to CBS. Back then, CBS had the broadcasting rights to the World Series, so the agency got free tickets, and my dad’s friend passed them along to us.
As great as that may sound, I was bummed because of the weather. Look how gloomy it was as we approached Veterans Stadium:
Here’s the one photo that was taken that day:
That’s me at my heaviest — roughly 200 pounds at the age of 16 — wearing a “Bucky Dent’s Baseball School” t-shirt. Because I hadn’t yet started bringing a backpack to games, I was holding my glove and Blue Jays cap in the crook of my left arm. Everything about me was soooooo awkward back then (and some things still are).
Long before the stadium opened, I approached the gates for a sneak peek inside:
“Please, please, PLEASE!!!” I thought, “let there be batting practice!!”
And then I saw this:
NOOOOOOOO!!! It wasn’t even raining! Why was the tarp on the field?!
I tried to think positive thoughts. Maybe it wasn’t going to rain. Maybe it was going to clear up. Maybe the grounds crew had put the tarp out as a precaution for an early-afternoon storm that never happened, and maybe they were about to set up the field for batting practice.
I went and found my dad, who was sitting patiently on the base of a nearby statue:
In the screen shot above, that’s him in the gray sweater, facing to the left.
Then I wandered for a bit and marveled at the ugliness of the stadium:
Here’s the stadium itself from below:
Did you notice the sky in the previous image? Yeah, it was cloudy, but it was bright. That made me extremely hopeful that there might be BP after all.
Then this happened:
In case you can’t tell, it was raining.
Not surprisingly, when the stadium eventually opened, the tarp was still covering the field:
There’s hardly any footage from the following two hours. Very few players came out, and the stadium stayed empty for a while. All I can tell you is that I managed to get a Blue Jays player to throw me a ball shortly before game time along the left field foul line. I never knew who it was. I was just glad to extend my consecutive games streak (of snagging at least one ball per game) to 16.
That’s right: sixteen. The streak had begun just six weeks earlier at Shea Stadium.
The ball I got here in Philly had some unusual writing on it. You’ll see it in a bit, but first check out the 1993 World Series logo on the jumbotron:
Just before the game started, I walked through the cross-aisle in straight-away left field:
I’m sure that was a great place to catch home runs, but I didn’t really start thinking about that for another 15 years. Back in 1993, I was just happy to peek over the railing and watch Juan Guzman warming up:
I’m sad to admit that I didn’t even try to get the ball from him when he finished. I don’t know what I was thinking, but looking back on it now, it’s no wonder I snagged fewer than three balls per game that season.
Here’s a quick selfie I took . . .
. . . on the way to the concourse:
I had no agenda other than wandering and seeing what it looked like.
Then I headed back to the seats:
At the time, I didn’t think much of this . . .
. . . but now I can point something out. Do you see the triangle of dead space in the stands along the foul line? Shea Stadium also had dead space down the lines, and so did a bunch of other ballparks. That used to be a thing — the thing being bad design. Of course, these little gaps were great for snagging baseballs. Whenever a ball ended up in there, I’d fish it out with my glove trick. Unfortunately these gaps have all pretty much disappeared. Lots of stadiums still have dead space in the outfield, but security is usually strict, and when they’re not, other fans always have retrieval devices. The point is: I had it MADE back in the day, but didn’t realize it. (In 22 years, I’ll probably reminisce about 2015 and lament about how good things were THEN. It’s a vicious cycle.)
This was my view during the game — not great, but it could’ve been a lot worse:
In the bottom of the 4th inning, the Phillies had a 2-0 lead:
Curt Schilling was the starting pitcher for the Phillies, and he was dominant.
At one point in the middle innings, I remember seeing a foul ball fly back behind home plate and get stuck on a metal ledge in front of the press level. I asked my dad if I could wander over there for a closer look. He didn’t care. He was like, “Do your thing,” so I hurried over and was astonished to see that (a) the ball was too far out for anyone in the press level to reach, and (b) it was lined up perfectly with the edge of the overhang of the seats up above. My plan was to head up to that level of seats and then use my glove trick from the front row. I was sure that it would work. The only issue was security. Could I possibly get away with it *during* a World Series game?
Just as I was about to head up to the next level, a guard told me I would need my ticket stub to get back into the lower level. Unfortunately I didn’t have it with me — my dad was holding onto all my other stuff — so I had no choice but to head back to my seat.
I don’t remember why I didn’t run back and grab the ticket and then make a beeline for the 2nd deck. Maybe someone from the press level managed to reach the ball after all, or maybe I just lost my nerve. Whatever the case may have been, this remains one of my biggest “what if” ballhawking moments.
Back in my seat, I filmed the ball that I’d snagged before the game — an official American League ball with Bobby Brown’s signature:
Remember the writing on the ball that I mentioned earlier? This was already there when I snagged it:
Weird. I wonder who wrote it.
In the 6th inning, some random drunk guy started shouting at me from the cross-aisle just behind our seats, and when I turned around with my camera, he stuck his tongue out:
Once he had my attention, he chugged his beer:
What a classy individual:
My dad, meanwhile, had struck up a conversation with a very nice man sitting next to him:
I forget who he was or what he did, but he had some kind of baseball-related connection and ended up mailing me a cap with the commemorative 1993 World Series logo, along with some other goodies.
Here’s a screen shot that shows a bit of action — Phillies center fielder Lenny Dykstra catching a deep fly ball hit by Tony Fernandez in the 7th inning:
When the Blue Jays took the field, I got a shot of Rickey Henderson:
I always loved that guy.
With the Jays leading the series, 3 games to 1, the Phillies HAD to win to stay alive — and they did. Curt Schilling went the distance, and the final score was 2-0.
Two interesting facts about the game:
1) It was only the second time that the Blue Jays had been shut out all season.
2) It was the last postseason game ever played at Veterans Stadium.
After the final out, I filmed a bit more from our seats:
Then my dad filmed me walking around:
Here’s one last look at the seats and field:
Once again, I have no idea what I was thinking. I should’ve been behind the Phillies’ dugout, trying to get a ball. Perhaps I wouldn’t have made it past security, but it pains me that I didn’t even try. This was obviously a tough game for ballhawking — 62,706 fans and NO batting practice — but if the 30-something-year-old me could go back in time and do it over, my guess is that I’d snag at least three baseballs and possibly as many as six or seven.
Oh well. It was still a great day, and my dad deserves all the credit for making it happen.
On a final note . . .
The following season, when I saw Curt Schilling signing autographs at Shea Stadium, I mentioned that I had a ticket stub at home from Game 5 of the World Series, and I asked if there was any way to get him to sign it.
“Mail it to me,” he said, and I was like, “Really? I don’t want to lose it,” but he promised that he’d be on the lookout for it and take care of me.
He ended up coming through. Check it out:
I still think he’s a schmuck, but really, how awesome is that autograph? Also, in case you care, here’s the back of my ticket stub:
Oh wait! One more thing — a list of all of my other “Turn Back The Clock” entries. Enjoy . . .
1) October 4, 1992 at Fulton County Stadium
2) June 11, 1993 at Candlestick Park
3) August 24-25, 1995 at Anaheim Stadium
4) June 11, 1996 at Shea Stadium
5) July 1, 1998 at Three Rivers Stadium
6) July 2, 1998 at Cinergy Field
7) July 10, 1998 at Tiger Stadium
8) July 13, 1998 at County Stadium
9) July 14, 1998 at Busch Stadium
10) May 29, 1999 at the Kingdome
11) July 18, 1999 at the Astrodome
12) September 24-25, 1999 at the Metrodome
13) May 9-10, 2000 at Olympic Stadium
14) July 17-18, 2000 at Qualcomm Stadium
Two months ago, I discovered a trove of old home videos, mostly from the early to mid-1990s, on half-hour-long VHS-C tapes. Anyone remember those? If not, I envy you, but anyway, I’ve been quite busy lately converting them digitally, cataloging all the highlights, and cringing at my younger self. This is relevant to ballhawking because six of the videos were filmed at major league baseball games, including this one at Fulton County Stadium — the former home of the Atlanta Braves — on the final day of the 1992 regular season. If I had the skills, I’d edit the footage into a tight little segment and post it online. Perhaps I’ll learn how to do it someday, but for now I’ve taken a bunch of grainy screen shots and pieced the day back together.
It started with a late-morning drive to the stadium:
I was 15 years old. This was the fifth stadium I’d been to, and I’d snagged a lifetime total of 145 baseballs — not bad, I suppose, but looking back on it now, I had no idea what I was doing.
I was *so* looking forward to batting practice, but of course it was drizzling:
I walked up alongside the line, and with my camera still running, I zoomed in through the gates:
Given the fact that I grew up attending games at two stadiums (Shea and old Yankee) with solid gates that prevented fans from peeking inside, I always loved doing it on the road.
I should mention that I was at this game with my dad, Stu, my half-sister, Martha, and her then-girlfriend, Sandra. Here’s a closeup of my dad holding his ticket:
Our seats were on the lower level in left field. They cost nine dollars apiece. Sigh.
Here’s what it looked like as I entered the stadium:
Less than a minute later, I headed through a tunnel for my first look at the field:
No batting practice:
But the place was beautiful! (That’s probably what I was thinking at the time, but looking back on it now, ew.)
Here’s what the stands looked like on my left:
No standing room.
Lots of dead space behind the outfield walls.
What a nightmare of a stadium.
There was very little action early on. For a while, the best I could do was hang out along the right field foul line and try to get a ball thrown to me by the Braves:
In case you couldn’t tell, that’s me up above, looking at the camera. And hey, did you notice that I wasn’t wearing any Braves gear? I was totally unprepared, and that was just the beginning. Soon after failing to get anything in that spot, I noticed a ball sitting in a gap in foul territory. It’s hard to describe, but basically there was a random patch of dead space ten feet below me. Old stadiums were weird like that. I remember there being at least a dozen fans packed against the railing, peering down at the ball, waiting for someone to wander out and retrieve it and toss it up. If I had my glove trick, I would’ve snagged the ball easily, but I didn’t invent that device until the following season.
Thankfully I had a Padres cap, and shortly before game time, I used it to get a ball thrown to me by someone you definitely haven’t heard of: Guillermo Velasquez. He was playing catch in shallow left field, and I was in foul territory, and a light mist was falling, and there wasn’t any competition. Did I ask him in Spanish for the ball? Did I even know how to ask for a ball in Spanish back then? I have no idea. All I can tell you that it was one of those old National League balls with William D. White‘s signature. This is not the actual ball I snagged that day, but the logo looked like this.
Here’s a view from my seat at game time:
Look who was warming up:
That was future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine. At the time, he was wrapping up his second of three consecutive 20-win seasons.
Here’s an awkward shot of me holding my baseball:
I was self-conscious about being fat and zitty and therefore didn’t really want to be filmed, but what could I do? My dad had briefly taken control of the camera, so he captured what he deemed important, including Martha (with the goofy grin) and Sandra (giving the peace sign):
If Martha looks familiar, that’s because I’ve blogged about her many times, most recently when we were in St. Martin last month. Remember? She was also with me for MLB’s Opening Series at the Tokyo Dome in 2012, and we’ve traveled together several other times.
Before returning the camera to me, my dad filmed this:
He always felt a special connection to Warren Spahn; way back in 1939, he was a ballboy for a minor league team that Spahn played for. How’s THAT for a random/ancient connection?
Glavine retired the Padres in order in the top of the 1st inning. Tony Fernandez led off with a routine fly ball to right field. Kurt Stillwell followed with groundout to short, and then Darrin Jackson was called out on strikes:
Before the bottom of the 1st got underway, I filmed my new favorite player — Guillermo Velasquez — warming up in left field:
After having seen fans doing the Tomahawk Chop countless times on TV, it was fun to see actual (well, foam) tomahawks in person:
In the bottom of the 1st, Otis Nixon led off with a single to left field, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jeff Blauser, and scored on Terry Pendleton’s 199th hit of the season — a single to center. David Justice followed with a two-run homer, giving the Braves a quick 3-0 lead:
I decided to take a little walk. I headed through the concourse . . .
. . . and got a glimpse of the field from the 3rd base side:
I wanted to be closer to the action, and to my surprise, it was easy. This wasn’t Shea Stadium, where all the mean old ushers, it seemed, were out to get me, or Yankee Stadium, where the robotic guards fiercely protected the dugout seats. This was Atlanta, baby! I could go wherever the hell I wanted! Check it out:
There was a cross-aisle that made it easy to move around:
In the screen shot above, that’s a vendor walking in front of me — snazzy uniform, huh?
After an inning or two, I headed back to left field and rejoined my family. We were all amused by this guy sitting nearby, who was fast asleep:
My dad did the Tomahawk Chop:
Martha showed me her hot dog:
This was my dad’s reaction:
When Pendleton came to bat in the bottom of the 5th, he was still one hit short of a milestone:
I really wanted to see him get No. 200, but he grounded out:
He batted again in the 8th inning . . . and grounded out again. One inning later, Vinny Castilla (who then had just 20 career at-bats) replaced him and ended up getting an at-bat in the 10th. Can you believe that?! Pendleton could’ve had another shot at 200 hits — a plateau he never ended up reaching in the major leagues — but missed his final chance.
Late in the game, I couldn’t help but notice this guy:
The screen shot above doesn’t capture his true essence. He was wandering into every section and hollering at the players and revving up his fellow fans. Here’s a better look at his sign:
Uncle Willy, huh? Well, guess what? It turns out he was somewhat well known and also spent a lot of time at Yankee Stadium. Check this out.
The Padres ended up winning, 4-3, in 12 innings on an RBI single by Paul Faries. Randy Myers got the win, Pedro Borbon Jr. took the loss, and the game only lasted 3 hours and 15 minutes.
Back in the car, Martha said, “Thank GOD you got a ball so we don’t have to listen to you KVETCH!!” Then she added, “Can I see it?” and snatched it out of my glove:
I love her.
My dad was a bit more dignified. Here he is tipping his cap to say goodbye:
As for me . . .
Rather than posting a screen shot that looks like all the others, I’ll show you what it looked like on my laptop as I cataloged all the highlights last night:
Now, I wonder which video I should watch next . . .
Ever since I started ballhawking, I’ve been storing baseballs in my old childhood bedroom at my parents’ place. My folks were never happy about the amount of space that my collection took up, but I convinced them to let me keep it there. What didn’t fit (or rather, what wasn’t allowed to remain) in the bedroom got sent downstairs to their DISASTER of a basement storage locker. Here’s what it looked like several years ago:
Here’s another old photo of the locker:
The big green bins (pictured above in the back left corner) hold 600 balls apiece. The smaller barrels each hold 400.
Sometimes, when the media comes over to interview me about my collection, I’ll move a few barrels upstairs. That’s why the following photo makes it look like there’s space . . .
. . . but it probably only stayed that way for a day or two. For the last few years, the locker has been FILLED with barrels holding more than 5,000 balls, and yes, I know this is officially a First World Problem, but I’ve been stressed lately about storage space.
This past weekend, I took a little road trip to the Bronx:
No, I didn’t visit Yankee Stadium, but it just so happened that my route took me right past it. My destination was a lumber yard, and I brought a special friend with me:
His name is David. That’s him in the photo above, and as you can see, the wood took up all the space in our station wagon — and then some.
Here’s what it looked like inside the car:
I drove *very* carefully back to the Upper West Side. Then I dropped off David with the wood at my mom’s building, returned the car to the garage, and grabbed us some lunch. When I finally made it back to the building, I was surprised to see that David had moved all the barrels out of the locker:
The locker was empty, except for a few planks of wood that he’d placed in there:
I should mention that David is super-handy. He used to work as an elevator mechanic. Now he repairs trains for the MTA. There’s truly nothing that he can’t build or fix. Several weeks earlier, I had told him that I wanted an L-shaped storage unit built into the locker. More specifically, I wanted it to have a little platform so that if there’s ever a flood in the basement, the barrels will be elevated several inches off the floor. I also wanted it to have a sturdy countertop that could support a second layer of barrels.
While David took some measurements, I dumped my final batch of balls from the 2014 season into a brand new barrel:
Storing baseballs in barrels doesn’t allow me to be nearly as organized as I’d like. The best I can do is keep the commemorative balls on top:
FYI, I keep the best one of each commemorative ball in a separate place, neatly displayed. The commemorative balls in the barrels are all extras.
David, meanwhile, was cutting wood . . .
. . . and drilling it together with screws . . .
. . . and starting to put things in place:
The project was taking much longer than we’d expected, and for a while, I wondered if it was even going to work. But it HAD to work. I needed this more than you can imagine.
Here’s another photo of David going at it:
Eventually my mom showed up to say hello and check in on our progress.
After several hours, the countertop was finally in place:
At some point late in the evening, David told me to start getting the barrels ready to be moved into the locker. I interpreted that to mean: “Take the lids off all the barrels to see which balls are in them and if there’s any extra space to squeeze in a few more.” Some barrels were filled with standard Selig balls, while others brimmed with commemoratives:
I know I’ve snagged 67 different commemorative balls (here are 64 of them in one photo), but I don’t know how many total balls I’ve gotten with commemorative logos.
Anyway, here’s David putting the finishing touches on the storage unit . . .
. . . and here he is sitting on it to prove its strength:
That didn’t actually prove anything. He only weighs about 150 pounds — slightly more than each barrel.
In the photo above, did you notice the barrels tucked underneath the counter? Here are the rest put in place (including a little stack of empty ones):
That’s right — ALL the barrels that used to completely fill up the locker are pictured above. And look how much space is remaining! There are still three barrels upstairs in my old bedroom (plus another 720 balls in the drawers), but now I could fit all of them in the basement, if I had to.
In case you can’t tell, the long part of the L-shaped counter can hold five barrels, and the short part against the back wall can hold two more . . . on each level. That’s 14 total barrels’ worth of space, plus I now have room on the floor. For the first time in years, there’s legitimate space for my collection to grow, and let me tell you, it’s a great feeling. Here I am with David at the end of our 12-hour day:
Finally, for dramatic purposes, here are the “before” and “after” photos side by side. Behold the difference!
In the “before” photo, do you see all those boxes on the left? Those are mostly filled with baseball cards, which are now tucked away at the back of several closets upstairs.
I realize this isn’t the most exciting blog entry, and in fact it might be downright boring for some people. For me, though, maximizing the space in the basement will make a huge difference in my life, and I wanted to document the change.
Several years ago, when MLBlogs switched over to WordPress, a bunch of my blog entries were lost, including this one. (Here’s proof.) Thankfully I had saved all the photos, along with the text from my original entry, so this was fairly easy to recreate. Enjoy!
I had a BIG day ahead of me at Kauffman Stadium . . .
. . . and it was made even better by the fact that Jona was with me. Here she is, caught slightly off-guard in my Diamondbacks cap:
I was going to be filmed during batting practice by FSN — the Royals’ TV network — so I made my way to the TV truck and took a few photos of the outside of the ballpark:
Needs landscaping. But it’s still a glorious facility.
I made it to the truck and met up with a guy named Kevin, who was going to be producing my baseball-snagging TV segment. He and I had emailed and talked a few times over the past few weeks, but we still needed to discuss some last-minute details.
Here’s a look at the inside of the truck . . .
. . . and here I am (red arrow pointing to me) with Kevin, looking at a shot of the field and establishing the plan:
I’d brought copies of both of my books (How to Snag Major League Baseballs and Watching Baseball Smarter) so that Kevin could have a cameraman get a shot of them. I figured the books would be filmed right there in the truck, so I was surprised to see this:
Gravely dirt surrounding the books?
Here I am with Kevin outside the truck:
See that tent on the right? I hung out there for about half an hour, drank a much-needed bottled water (that had been buried under ice in a gigantic cooler) and talked to a bunch of people from the TV crew. One guy brought me back inside the truck and gave me a five-minute explanation of how all the equipment works, for example . . . how the network can provide a slow-motion replay RIGHT after the play happens live. It was fascinating. I’ve probably watched tens of thousands of baseball games on TV, and I never knew the details of how they’re produced.
Jona took off the D’backs cap. I put on my Royals shirt. Here we are near the left field gate:
See that little black thing between my chin and the Royals logo? That’s a microphone. I had a battery pack clipped to my belt in the back, and the wire ran up the inside of my shirt. Kevin had said that he’d have a camera on me at all times during BP, often from afar, and that he’d be able to pick up everything I said. (We joked about that scene in “Naked Gun” where Leslie Nielsen goes to the bathroom and doesn’t realize his mike is on.)
The line to get in was LONG:
That’s because there was a Zack Greinke T-shirt giveaway (ugh) and there ended up being 10,000 more fans at this game than usual.
The newly renovated outfield area was exquisite. Here’s a look at the field from the concourse . . .
. . . and here I am, practically all by myself, after running inside:
(In case it’s not obvious, I’m the one at the back of the section with the black backpack.)
See the fountains on the left? More on that in a bit.
It didn’t take long before I snagged my first ball of the day. Someone on the Royals hit one that rolled to the wall in straight-away left field, and I was able to reel it in with my glove trick. First I had to knock the ball a bit closer, and in the following photo, you can see me just starting to fling the glove out:
Here I am leaning out as far as possible to snag it:
See the guy standing just behind me and to the left, pointing a camera down at me? His name is Fred. He was there with his two kids. They’ve been reading this blog for a while, and they’d gotten in touch to let me know they were going to be there. More on them in a bit.
I snagged a second ball off the warning track with my glove trick and then pulled up a third ball from the gap in front of the batter’s eye. Here’s an artsy photo of my successful attempt at Ball No. 3, taken by Jona. It’s kinda hard to see the ball because of the sunlight, so I drew a red arrow pointing to it:
The stadium had opened at 4:30pm, and for the first hour of BP, everyone was confined to the outfield — more specifically, the area between the bullpens. That was fine, though, because there was SO much room to run. Check out the fantastically wide walkway at the back of the “Pepsi Party Porch” in right field:
Unfortunately, there wasn’t a single homer that landed there all day. The balls just weren’t carrying. It was frustrating as hell.
One beautiful thing about the outfield setup at The New K is that the walkway extends all the way around the outfield, right behind the batter’s eye, so it’s easy to move back and forth between right field and left field. As a result, I positioned myself differently for lefties and righties and did a whole lot of running in the process:
Now, about those fountains, here’s the best photo of them (for ballhawking purposes) that you’ll ever see:
Can you imagine how many balls land in the water?!
If only there were some way to fish them out.
Oh wait . . . there is!
Check it out:
Ha-HAAAAAA!!! Yes, that’s right, I was prepared. The day before I flew to Kansas City, I was with my family at a lake about an hour north of NYC, so I came up with an invention and practiced in the water.
Here’s a photo (taken at the lake) of the contraption:
It’s basically a collapsible colander — you know, like, a pasta/vegetable strainer.
Look how it opens up:
And look how well it worked:
Yeah, I practiced with a tennis ball. So?
My only concern was sneaking the device past security at the stadium. Most places frown upon fans bringing anything with metal inside, but as it turned out, no one noticed or cared. Remember, this is Kansas City. There’s no one named Wilpon or Steinbrenner running the show.
Anyway, back to dry land . . .
I went down to the lower level of the Porch in right field (it’s all standing-room-only; anyone can go there at anytime, even during the game), and it was way too crowded as you can see below:
At that point, the Royals were wrapping up BP, so I began the process of changing into my D’backs gear. I say “process” because I had to unclip the microphone before I took off my Royals shirt. Here I am futzing with it:
Then, of course, once I had the D’backs shirt on, I had to put the mike back in place:
Even after the D’backs starting hitting, there was still a depressing lack of longballs, so I focused on using the glove trick. Here I am reeling in my fifth ball of the day:
Remember the guy named Fred that I mentioned earlier? He took the following photo, which shows me jumping and catching a ball tossed by Chris Young:
Another ball landed in the water. I ran over and frantically set up my device and went in for the kill . . .
. . . but the ball sank before I could get it. NOOOO!!!
The balls only seem to float for about 30 to 60 seconds. Keep that in mind in case you ever find yourself making a water attempt of your own.
In the four-part photo above, did you notice that there was a camera pointed at me? A cameraman had finally made his way out and caught up with me. His name was Mickey, and at one point, he had to take me aside (behind the batter’s eye) and make me stop running for a minute so he could hook me up with a second microphone:
Then he followed me around everywhere for the rest of BP:
Jona got a fun photo of me right after I snagged my next ball. It was a homer that flew over the batter’s eye and bounced up onto the bushy embankment behind it. There were a couple of other guys (neither of whom had gloves) who saw the ball bounce up there and thought they had it, but they reacted too slowly, and I came running out of nowhere and raced up the hill and grabbed it. They weren’t mad at all. They seemed to be amused and impressed, and I think you’ll agree when you see their reactions. Check it out:
A couple of minutes later, I scooped another ball out of the water:
Here I am just after reeling it in:
Yeah, I was pretty happy, and by the way, the photo above might look grainy, but that’s just the result of mist from the fountains.
One problem with the left field seating is that there are only four rows, so it gets crowded fast (especially during the first hour when everyone HAS to stay in the outfield) and the walkway behind the seats is narrow, so it gets pretty packed at times. See what I mean?
I think I ran about five miles inside the stadium. I wish I’d counted the number of times I ran back and forth from right field to left. I kept doing it throughout the game, as well as during BP.
I had eight balls at that point, and I was hoping to reach double digits. (That’s always my goal, and actually, at this point in my ballhawking career, I almost feel like something has to go wrong for me NOT to reach double digits. I don’t mean that to be cocky. It’s just that I’m averaging about eight balls a game, includes games without BP, so yeah, as long as a stadium opens at least two hours early and there’s BP, I really should snag at least 10.)
I used the glove trick again in the left field bullpen, and in the following photo, you can see Mickey with white earphones, listening to me and pointing the camera my way:
Then I used the trick AGAIN along the left field foul line. The four-part photo below, starting on the top left and going clockwise, shows me:
1) Starting to fling my glove out to knock the ball closer.
2) With the glove just past the ball as Jon Rauch and Scott Schoeneweis look on.
3) With the glove back up, briefly, so I can set up the rubber band and Sharpie.
4) About to snag my 10th ball of the day. The arrow on the left is pointing to the kid that I ended up giving the ball to, and the arrow on the right is pointing to the cameraman:
After BP ended, I had a fan reach in front of me and snatch a ball that a D’backs coach had tossed up (fair enough), and then I changed back into my Royals gear. The battery in my microphone had died, so Mickey had to unhook it and give me a new one:
Then I gave him a close-up demo of the glove trick:
I was done being filmed after that, so I had time to pose for a few photos and sign a couple of baseballs for Fred’s kids:
(I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: writing on a ball is not easy. There’s no place to rest your hand. If you have an old ball lying around, try signing it. You’ll see what I mean.)
As far as posing for photos, here are five that were taken throughout the day with people who’ve been reading this blog:
1) Kent (holding up a copy of Watching Baseball Smarter which I signed for him)
2) Fred and his kids (Colin, age 9, and Laurel, age 11)
3) Bob Buck
5) Brenda (she actually brought food into the stadium for me and fed me . . . wow! . . . and she had a copy of my book, too, but it’s hard to see because of the sun)
Just before the game started, several D’backs infielders played catch in front of the dugout, and I got Ryan Roberts to toss me the ball when they were done. You can see the ball on its way to me in the following photo:
Once the game started, I happened to notice this in the center field gap:
I never got any closer to them than that.
During the game, I hung out on the walkway in LF for right-handed batters . . .
. . . and I stayed on the upper porch in right field for all the lefties. I’m not in the following photo, which shows the RF walkway, but it’s still cool, so here it is:
Several ushers in left field (where I had scooped two balls out of the water earlier) had told me that they’d NEVER seen a fan do that before. I find this hard to believe. The New K has been open for more than two months; I expected to run into a few regular ballhawks with water-retrieval devices. I expected some serious competition, if even just from one or two other guys, but nope, I was all alone out there to do my thing. It’s really a shame that there weren’t any homers hit during the game because I would’ve had a great chance to snag them.
This was the view from my actual seat:
I didn’t sit in it much. In fact, I think I only sat in it to take that photo.
After the game, I changed back into my D’backs gear (for what felt like the 8 millionth time) and raced over to the bullpen.
Chad Qualls spotted my reddish shirt amidst a sea of blue and threw me a ball without my even asking. Then, about 30 seconds later, I pointed out a ball lying off to the side and got coach Jeff Motuzas to toss it up, but of course he tossed it short and it bounced back down. He was already gone by that point (didn’t even linger two seconds to see if I’d catch it), but I was lucky to get hooked up by a security guard who’d seen the whole thing unfold. (Well, he must not’ve seen the ball I got from Qualls.)
Jona got a photo just as I caught that last one:
Here I am with Jona (photo by Fred) after the game:
Two more things . . .
1) The Royals won the game, 5-0, behind a complete game, four-hit, 132-pitch effort from Gil Meche. It was impressive, but of course it killed me. Where are the slugfests when I need ’em?
2) The footage that was filmed of me during BP is going to air today, June 17th, during the Royals’ pre-game show on FSN. Also today . . . I’m going to be interviewed live on the pre-game show at around 6:30pm (local time), and then I’m going to be interviewed again *live* during the game itself. It was supposed to happen in the broadcast booth, but just my luck — today the announcers are gonna be doing the game from the Party Porch, so I won’t get to wander around the press box and cause trouble. At first I was told that my interview would be taking place for half an inning during the fourth inning, but I just heard from Kevin that it’s gonna happen in the top of the third. Great. I already know how it’s gonna go down: Zack Greinke (who’s pitching tonight) is gonna mow down the D’backs on seven pitches, and I’ll be gone before I can blink. Maybe, just maybe, since I’m going to (hopefully) be talking about my charity work, karma will be on my side and Greinke will have his worst inning ever, and the D’backs will bat around . . . twice . . . and there’ll be lots of pitching changes and pick-off throws and conferences on the mound, and hey, why not throw in a rain delay while we’re at it? Maybe I’ll get to talk on the air for like an hour. (I’m such an optimist. Sometimes.)
Okay, I gotta go . . .
• 233 balls in 29 games this season = 8.03 balls per game.
• 598 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 164 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball
• 105 lifetime games with at least 10 balls
• 45 lifetime games outside of New York with at least 10 balls
• 4,053 total balls
• 110 donors (click here to make a pledge or just to get more info)
• $24.16 pledged per ball
• $314.08 raised at this game
• $5,629.28 raised this season for Pitch In For Baseball
One more thing . . .
Earlier today, I got an email from Fred with some photos, including this one of his kids with the balls I signed: