I picked this game because I figured there’d be a small crowd, but no, there were 40,108 other fans who were interested in seeing the Nationals on a Tuesday night. Good for the Phillies. Good for Major League Baseball. Bad for me and my mom. We hadn’t been to a game together since my 28th birthday. That was at Shea Stadium. This was the first time that the two of us had taken a road trip to a game. No special occasion. The weather was gorgeous, and we were both free, and it was a good excuse to hang out for 12 hours.
The left field seats started filling up fast, and there wasn’t much action. Within the first five minutes, however, I managed to stretch across the flower bed (in front of the first row) and use my glove trick to pluck a ball off the warning track.
Ten minutes later, a righty on the Phillies crushed a deep drive toward the foul pole. I sprinted through an entire row of seats as the ball sailed 20 feet over my head and bounced to the back of the section. Two fans lunged for it and missed. The ball hit a metal beam and ricocheted to the side. The fans chased it through the last row and were about to snatch it when the ball trickled down one step and into my waiting hands. I love gravity.
Soon after the Nationals took the field, I had a chance to get another ball with my glove trick in left-center when an old man with a cup trick appeared out of nowhere. I was annoyed, but quickly accepted the fact that he had as much of a right as I did to go for it. The ensuing competition was fair and good-natured and lots of fun–and interrupted by Nook Logan who walked over and stuck the ball inside the cup.
“Nook! How could you do that to me?!” I said.
Nook looked up, saw my Nationals cap, told me he’d get me a ball, and did. Thirty seconds later, I was eyeing another ball on the warning track when I sensed the people around me getting ready for something, so I looked up and saw a ball flying right toward me and reached out and caught it. It was a homer. I have no idea who hit it…and 30 seconds after that, all the fans in the front row started yelling yelling at Dmitri Young for the ball on the track. Unfortunately for them, it wasn’t Dmitri Young.
“Ray King!” I shouted. “I know your name! How about a ball?!”
He threw it to me without hesitating, and all the fans protested. I was tempted to protest, too, because the Nationals were using those cheap blue training balls.
I got my sixth ball of the day from Mike Bacsik in right field and got my seventh from the ever-dependable Manny Acta.
My mom saw me get every ball because she’d been following me from section to section. She was such a good sport…she even got up and moved around with me during the game, which was great because our seats were in a lousy spot, and I didn’t want to abandon her.
We started on the first base side of home plate, then moved to the third base side, then got kicked out of the section and went back to the first base side, and we ended up about a dozen rows behind the Nationals’ dugout.
I was rooting for the Nats, but Aaron Rowand untied the game with a solo homer in the bottom of the eighth. Final score: Phillies 4, Nationals 3.
I got my eighth and final ball of the day at the dugout after the game. It was flipped up from underneath the roof so I have no idea who tossed it.
What a great day. The two-hour car rides were nearly as fun as the game itself.
• 148 balls in 21 games this season = 7.047619 balls per game.
• 476 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 98 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball
• 650 lifetime balls outside of New York
• 15 balls from Manny Acta since 2003
• 3,109 total balls