I wasn’t kidding when I said my average bedtime is 6am. Last night, I went to bed so late that I would’ve gotten just 75 minutes of sleep had I gone to Shea today. I still wish I could’ve been there, but I’ve been preparing for future ball-snagging. Instead of watching the The Unit mow down the Rangers on YES, I chose the less exciting Phillies-Braves game on TBS because the Braves are coming to Shea tomorrow, and I plan to be there.
I don’t know the exact percentage, but I’d say that nearly half my baseballs have been thrown to me by players and coaches. (Some people tell me those balls shouldn’t count. I say, “Okay, then don’t count them in your collection.”) Getting those balls starts with being able to identify the players. If you’re really young or exceptionally cute, you can get balls without knowing anyone’s name. Just beg or flirt or wave or scream and good things will happen. Unfortunately, I’m not young or cute (at least not in the way that interests most players), so I don’t get charity balls. Whenever I want to get a player’s attention, I need to shout his name. “Hey you!” or “Number forty-threeeeee” or “But it’s my birthday” just won’t cut it.
Before every game I attend, I visit both teams’ web sites (www.braves.mlb.com, for example), print their rosters, check out the photos of players I know I won’t be able to recognize, and make notes: this guy’s a lefty, that guy has a skinny face, so-and-so looks like the kid who bullied me in 7th grade, etc. It helps me figure out who’s who, especially on colder days when players wear nameless/numberless warmup jackets over their jerseys.
I try to avoid IDing guys solely by their facial hair. What if they shaved since spring training? Now that I finally have cable, I don’t have to worry. I can flip on TBS and confirm that Dan Kolb does, indeed, still have the goatee.