Jona and I left New York City at 1:30pm, arrived at Citizens Bank Park two hours later, and bought two tickets in right field so I could make an attempt at catching Todd Helton’s 300th career home run.
On the way to the Ashburn Alley gate, the ONE other fan we passed recognized me and said, “I was hoping I wasn’t gonna see you here today.”
“Don’t worry,” I told him. “There’ll be plenty of balls to go around.”
Jona and I were first in line…
…and it paid off yet again. As soon as the gates opened, I sprinted inside and cut through the concourse into the left field seats.
An usher was poking around, clearly looking for a ball. I checked the front row, but couldn’t find it until I overheard J.D. Durbin tell the usher, “It’s about five rows back.”
I bolted up a few steps, scanned all the seats, and spotted the ball sitting on the ground two sections over. The usher started walking up the steps toward it as I raced across, barely reaching the ball before he was about to see it.
I ran all over the place when the righties were up at bat…
…but didn’t get a thing. I misplayed the only home run that I could’ve caught on a fly and got unlucky bounces on all the others that landed near me. Since the rest of the ballpark wasn’t going to open until 5:35pm, I had nothing to do but sit and wait while the lefties took their cuts.
Jona stayed in one spot and guarded my backpack.
When the Rockies started taking BP at 5:25pm, a couple of balls rolled onto the warning track, and since the pitchers were busy playing catch, no one walked over to retrieve them. It was a perfect opportunity for the glove trick. The first thing I did was climb out onto the flower bed, carefully balancing on the railings so I could actually see where the balls were.
The ball in the distance was wedged in a small space under the padding of the outfield wall. The ball right in front of me was too far out for me to simply lower the glove on top of it, so I let out about 15 feet of string, then flung the glove at the ball and tried to knock it closer.
After several failed attempts, I finally moved the ball to within three feet of the wall. That’s when Ryan Speier walked over and picked it up. Was he going to chuck it back toward the infield? Was he going to toss it to me? Ever since he’d given me his glove on 9/29/05 at Shea Stadium, I’d been hoping to get a ball from him so I could add him to my thrown balls list, and this was as good a chance as I was gonna get.
I asked him politely for the ball, and he under-handed it gently to me. Then he said, “Hey, you’re the glove guy!”
I couldn’t believe that he remembered me nearly two years after the fact.
“Yeah!” I said. “That’s me! How did you know?”
“I’ve been on your web site,” he said.
“How did you happen to find it?” I asked.
“One of my friends was doing a Google search and sent me the link.”
I wanted to ask him what his friend actually searched for, but I knew he needed to keep throwing, so I thanked him for the ball and the glove and headed to the right field seats.
I had a great opportunity to use the glove trick and was about to let it fly…
…when Josh Newman hurried over and snatched the ball and fired it back to the infield.
Soon after, I spotted a ball sitting in the Phillies’ bullpen, right near the steps where the Rockies players had to walk down to get from their bullpen to the field. I was thinking of using the glove trick for that one as well when one of the Rockies catchers–I think it was Edwin Bellorin–started walking toward it. In the picture below, you can see me reaching over the wall and pointing at the ball.
Five seconds (and a polite request in Spanish) later, it was mine.
Helton hit a few homers during BP, and I made a nice backhand/running catch for one of them. It was my fourth ball of the day, and Jona took a pic right after I snagged it…like, literally less than a second after. If you look closely, you can see a little bit of white showing through the pocket of my glove.
Jeff Francis threw me my fifth ball of the day, and I got my sixth from 3rd base coach Mike Gallego at the Rockies’ dugout after BP.
Five of the six balls had “practice” stamped on the sweet spot.
Balls with defects, however small, are designated for batting practice and sold to the teams at a discount. (Ten years ago, defective balls were stamped with “BLEM.”) In this case, two of the five defects were easy to spot: mis-stamped logos.
The logo on the left was stamped so low that the word “commissioner” overlaps the stitches. The logo on the right (which, by the way, graces the Helton homer) was skewed and printed off-center.
Cory Sullivan threw me my seventh ball along the left field foul line before the national anthem, and then I got Garrett Atkins’ horrendously ugly autograph on my ticket stub.
I spent the whole game running halfway across the stadium and back, playing Helton in straight-away right field and then going for third-out balls behind the Rockies’ dugout during the innings that he wasn’t likely to bat.
1ST INNING: Matt Holliday lined into a triple play, and I barely saw it because I was jockeying for position for Helton who was on deck.
2ND INNING: Helton led off with a double to left.
3RD INNING: Helton got thrown out at second base trying to stretch a single into a double. In the bottom of the frame, Ryan Howard lined out to Holliday for the third out. Holliday jogged in with the ball, and I got him to toss it to me at the dugout.
4TH INNING: Helton hit a three-run double to put the Rockies on top, 9-0.
5TH INNING: Six up, six down.
6TH INNING: Ryan Howard, on the verge of breaking Adam Dunn’s single-season strikeout record, whiffed for the 179th time (in only 127 games).
7TH INNING: Helton flied out to center, and with the Rockies leading 10-0, he was replaced in the field by Joe Koshansky.
8TH INNING: Ninety percent of the fans had left. The remaining ten percent booed Jose Mesa.
9TH INNING: Instead of catching Helton’s 300th homer, I got to watch Koshansky strike out.
Final score: Rockies 12, Phillies 0.
After the game, I got my ninth and final ball of the day from home plate umpire Bill Welke as he walked off the field. Before he tossed it to me, he smiled and asked, “Did you yell at me tonight?”
“Not at all!” I said. “I thought you called a beautiful game.”
Thanks to Jona for taking so many pics and running around with me all night and being such a good sport. Apologies for rushing through this entry. If it weren’t my 30th birthday, and if I didn’t have big plans that were about to start, I would’ve written a lot more.
• 235 balls in 32 games this season = 7.34375 balls per game.
• 487 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 101 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball
• 686 lifetime balls outside of New York
• 3,196 total balls