4/2/08 at Yankee Stadium

This was my first game of the year, and I have to start with three pics of the New Yankee Stadium. Here it is from the end of the #4 train subway platform:

new_yankee_stadium_construction1_04_02_08.jpg

Here’s the view from the middle of the other side of the platform:

new_yankee_stadium_construction2_04_02_08.jpg

Last one…from the same spot but looking to the right. Notice how the beautiful white facade is just ugly brown metal with a coat of paint:

new_yankee_stadium_construction3_04_02_08.jpg

As for the current Yankee Stadium…
It was $5 Night. I didn’t have a ticket. I didn’t know what to expect when I walked up to the ticket window at 4pm — a little more than an hour before the gates would be opening for batting practice. The people in front of me asked about the cheap seats. The man behind the bullet-proof glass said, “The five-dollar seats are sold out for the rest of the season. Cheapest ticket for tonight is sixty-five.”

“Sixty-five bucks?” I asked after the people ahead of me stepped out of line. “Even for a single?”

“Come back in an hour,” said the man, explaining that some cheaper tickets might get released into the computer system by then.

“I can’t wait an hour,” I said. “Batting practice will be starting and I need to be inside then.”

He shrugged. I walked away. Ran into a friend named Eric. Started eating a sandwich I’d brought. Got approached by two men. One had heard me trying to get a ticket, said he and his friend had an extra one, and offered it to me…for free. It was a $75 season ticket up in the Loge. No way I was going to sit there, but WOW. I really couldn’t believe it. I was sure it was a conspiracy to prevent me from snagging baseballs. (“Hey, Jimmy, see dat guy ova deh? Dat’s da baseball collecta. Give ’em wunna deez bogus tickets. Joik won’t be able t’get scanned at da gate. He’ll hafta get outta line and find anudda ticket and miss da starta battin’ practice.”) But as it turned out, the ticket was good.

The Yankees’ portion of batting practice was a disaster, and I got completely shut out, in part because I got outsnagged by a few other fans who regularly read this blog (“puckcollector” and “gregorybarasch” for those of you who read the comments…and I also want to say thanks to my friend Nelson who let me slip into the line ahead of him so I could be the first fan to enter the stadium). I came close to several balls — almost plucked one off the right field warning track with my glove trick, but a security guard stopped me just before I lowered it all the way down. A few other people had glove/cup tricks, and when we all complained that we were allowed to use them last year, the guard radioed his boss and then informed us several minutes later that yes, we WERE allowed to steal balls from the field. Woo-hoo!

first_ball_of_2008.jpgSure enough, my first ball of the season came via the glove trick, and let me tell you, it was a huge relief to get it out of the way. I snagged ball #2 with the trick and got ball #3 from a Blue Jays pitcher. I’m not sure who, but I think it was Dustin McGowan. It was impossible to identify any of the players because it was cold impossible_to_identify.jpgand they were all wearing warm-up jackets over their jerseys and none of their numbers were showing. I’d brought a team roster, but it was basically useless. Anyway, there was a thick cluster of Yankee fans shouting for the ball, and I was buried several rows back, so I took off my Blue Jays cap and waved it frantically when the player looked up to find a deserving recipient. He spotted it and lobbed the ball right to me. Perfect aim. Right over everyone’s head. I still had to jump and make a nice grab above the forest of outstretched hands, and it felt great.

At around 6pm, I had a chance to snag yet another ball with the glove trick, this time a few feet shy of the foul pole. Before I lowered my glove, I announced that I’d be giving the ball to a kid. Big mistake. It caused a frenzy as soon as I reeled in the ball. So many kids (and even a few grownups…fathers, I guess) hurried over and started pushing that I nearly toppled backwards over the wall and onto the warning track nine feet below. I announced that I would only consider kids with gloves who had NOT already gotten a ball that day. There were still dozens of kids swarming me, so I announced that I’d give the ball to the youngest one. Another mistake. This prompted every kid to lie about his age, and it was obvious. The whole thing caused quite a scene, and that was not my intention. I just wanted to do something nice and disappear back into the crowd. Finally, after a solid minute of mayhem, I handed the ball to the shortest kid I saw and got lots of thumbs-ups and pats on the back as I headed back to my spot in straight-away right fiel
d.

I got one more ball at the end of BP. One of the ball boys retrieved a ball that had rolled near the warning track, and he flipped it up into the aisle behind the wall. Everyone dropped it. The ball boy tossed it up again. Same result. I worked my way into the middle of the pack, and when the ball came up for the third time, I jumped and gloved it.

zack_four_balls_04_02_08.jpgI’d heard that the Yankees were using special balls during games to commemorate the final season of the stadium, but I didn’t get any during BP. No surprise there. As I mentioned, I didn’t get a single ball while the Yanks were on the field, and there was no chance that the Jays would be using them. I figured that within a few weeks or months, these balls would find their way into the BP buckets and eventually circulate around the league. And since I live less than five miles from Yankee Stadium and can go there anytime, I figured I’d get one of these balls eventually, but man, I wanted one right away.

BTW, the pic on the left shows me after BP with the four balls I kept. You can see the new Yankee Stadium way off in the distance.

Once the game started, I headed to straight-away left field and pretty much stayed there through the seventh-inning stretch. Other than getting my hands on one of those commemorative balls, my ONLY purpose for going to Yankee Stadium this season is to catch an A-Rod home run. Not during batting practice. I’m talking about real live action. I still haven’t forgiven myself for misjudging one of his blasts last season, and I need to redeem myself. He’s going to end up as the all-time home run king. I need to catch one. It’s as simple as that.

view_for_arod_04_02_08.jpgI was in a great spot for all his at-bats (the pic on the right shows my view when he stepped to the plate for the first time), and he DID hit a home run late in the game…but it went to dead center. At least he’s hitting well. It’d be great if he has another monster April. I’d like to catch one sooner than later, especially if I’m gonna be paying a $65 cover charge every time I go.

A.J. Burnett was mowing down the Yankees and took a 5-0 lead into the bottom of the seventh. That’s when A-Rod went yard, but the Yankees’ rally died, and half the crowd bolted for the exits. That’s when I snuck down to the Jays’ dugout, and at the end of the next inning, I got 1st base coach Ernie Whitt to toss me a ball. I didn’t even think he had one. In fact, I knew he didn’t, but I asked anyway, just in commemorative_ball_04_02_08.jpgcase there happened to be a loose ball sitting around in the dugout. And there was. And it was one of those commemorative balls. YES!!!

I ran back to left field for the bottom of the ninth. Jeter and A-Rod were both due up, so it was worth being out there. Thankfully, Jeter (who batted 2nd) and Abreu (who batted 3rd) both led off with singles, so when A-Rod finished his night by striking out, there was only one out, and I still had time to get back to the Jays’ dugout. Juicin’ Giambi and Robinson Cano both flied out to end the game, and I bolted down the steps to the front row. All the players and coaches walked out on the field to shake hands. I didn’t get the game-ending ball (which was the reason I was down there), but I ended up zack_lineup_card_04_02_08.jpggetting something even better. All the coaches headed back to the dugout in a small cluster, and I shouted (while wearing my Jays cap), “Hey, guys, any chance I can get the lineup card?!”

One of them (not sure who) looked up and said, “I got ya,” and disappeared from sight for a full minute. Was he serious?! Was he going to give it to me? What was taking so long? The few other fans standing around nearby were oblivious, so when the coach poked his head out of the dugout and slid a big piece of thick card stock my way, no one else bothered to lunge for it. Oh. My. God. It was beautiful. THAT’S what took so long. He had to peel the thing off the dugout wall. Most of the lineup cards I’ve gotten look like this, and they’re small–only about 5″ x 7″. But this one? How about 8.5″ x 13.5″. Check it out:

04.02.08_lineup_2.jpg

Every team seems to organize and mark its lineup cards differently. One thing I figured out about this one is that the Jays mark all the lefties (hitters and pitchers) with a yellow hi-liter and mark all the switch-hitters with blue. As for the black circles, every team keeps track of which hitter makes the last out in each inning. Then a coach writes the number next to the player’s name and circles it. The Jays, for whatever reason, color in the circles as the game progresses. Johnny Damon struck out swinging to end the bottom of the eighth, and you can still see the “8” next to his name because as soon as the final out was recorded in the ninth, there was no point in making the effort to scribble over it. Cool, huh?

STATS:

• 6 balls at this game

• 497 consecutive games with a
t least one ball

• 109 consecutive games at Yankee Stadium with at least one ball

• 3,283 total balls…ties me with Willie Mays for 11th place on the all-time hits list. (If you’re wondering why I’m comparing balls to hits, click here.)

18 comments

  1. PSU532@yahoo.com

    Zack, very cool recap. That’s so funny that I spotted you above the Toronto dugout when you got that ball from Ernie Witt. I’m very jealous about the lineup card! I’m dying to get my hands on one! I almost bid on one on the Steiner Sports auction site. It was from a Mets/Cards game back in 2002, and it was signed by Art Howe. I was actually at that game, so that gave me some incentive to bid on it, but it was like $40 or $50 or something.

    For some reason when I click on your pics (in Firefox and IE), it opens a blank white box. I’m not sure if other people are having this issue too……

    I can’t wait to hear your Watch With Zack recap from Fenway. The competition factor should be pretty high that day!

  2. gregb123

    Awesome! (Now if only Puck Collector got a commemorative ball too…)

    BTW, the pictures aren’t coming up for me either.

  3. beach71389

    Pictures aren’t coming up for me either…
    We all know that baseball is officially back once Zack posts the first game of the year.

  4. gjk2212

    awesome…yeah the only reason i wanna go to yankee stadium this year is for a commmemorative ball..i want one at shea too..then ill stick to shea because after bp at shea i actually care about the game thats going on. go mets!! lol

    ill be there this weekend, but i wont end up with anything unless i go tomorrow night because its 2 afternoon games. no bp. ugh.

  5. boblheader

    Zack-
    I LOVED the recap. I agree with twinslove that baseball is officially back once you post the first game. I remember during the off-season you mentioned that you were working on an L.A. snagging project. Did it come out and I missed it? If not, when is it coming? I planning a trip to Southern California this summer.
    I read your posts on Petco, but was wondering if there was anythingf you’ve thought of since that might help? Thanks.
    BTW, I’m planning on commenting often this year.

  6. thomasb.

    Zack what is the official price for a Watch With Zack? I’m thinking about doing it, unless it is too much for my parents to spare me some money. I will have a ticket provided, and I MAY be able to get a very very nice season ticket behind the Visitor’s dugout. I live north west of DC so it would be a four and half hour drive or so for ya.

  7. pujolsisahero5

    Hey its darron from st.louis rockies were in town and i went on the 31st rainout no bp faked out by jeff francis with a rubber ball then april fools day i was at the stadium for the make up game omg the rockies gave me four bp balls 3 with a practice stamp and one with out i made four or five people mad at me for snagging at the dugout i got three of them there and jumped on the dugout thats when it made them mad there were no kids except me so it was a fair compitetion they have longer legs longer arms so who had the advantage got to go bye

  8. deleted

    Zack,

    First, love the layout. Second, I just wanted to give you an update. So far having gone to 3 games, I’ve snagged 3 balls. Although I was pressured by an ENTIRE SECTION to give one of them to a kid who was at “his first game”… whatever.

    Pretty easy snags. 2 were in the bleachers which fell to me after being bobbled, and one where I was the only one in a section, and asked Daryle Ward nicely (he rocks, he’s also the one that tossed me one in the NLDS game)

    All of these are from BP, but one came “sorta” close to me during the actual game today…

    But “having” 2 balls from only 3 games seems like a really good start for me.

    As for your game, congrats as usual. I can only hope to be bringing in 6+ a game :)

    I’m going to New York this year, and “hopefully” will be going to a Yankees and Mets game, and my only hope is to not get booed and heckled… I might not wear my Cubs stuff like I normally do to all baseball games. Hmmm. What do you think? Will Yankees fans get mad at me? I’m sure the Mets fans will bring up ’69, but thaty doesn’t bother me in the least… I was many years away from being born.

    Anyway, I don’t want to jinx it, but good luck and congrats on the upcoming 500th consecutive game with a ball!

  9. utahsteeler

    Indeed, baseball is finally underway with you snaring a commemorative ball plus the lineup cards. Not a bad way to start the season. I’m still wishing winter would end here! But I have baseball fever even more now, if that is possible, after reading about your first snagging trip of the year.

  10. zackhample

    PSU532-
    I noticed that the pics aren’t working in those expanded pop-up windows, and I have no idea what to do about that. Does anyone have any thoughts? Don’t buy stuff from Steiner Sports. They’re evil (according to my friends who collect autographs).

    GREG-
    Thanks! And yes, Puck Collector needs to get one. I have faith. It’s a long season.

    TWINSLOVE-
    Aww, thanks. Nice to know that I’m helping to kick off the season for you (and a few others). Again…bummer about the pics not working. I’m at a loss.

    NJMETFAN-
    It’s supposed to rain tomorrow. Are you still going if there’s no BP?

    PJMORGAN11-
    Thanks so much. I really appreciate it. Not sure about the snagging article in the LA Times. I think it should be coming out soon, and obviously, as soon as I get a copy, I’ll share it here on the blog. As for PETCO, there really isn’t anything else I can tell you about the place beyond what I mentioned in the blog. Sorry.

    DB3PAR-
    It’s $500 plus travel expenses if I have to leave NYC…and…I’ll refund all your money if you don’t go home with at least one ball (provided there’s batting practice and we get there for the start of it). Here’s link to some FAQs:

    http://www.zackhample.com/watching_baseball_smarter/watch_with_zack/FAQs.htm

    DARRON-
    Congrats on the snags, and don’t let the grown-ups get you down. You have every right to for those balls.

    CUBS0110-
    Averaging one ball per game (and yes, you can count the ball you had to give away) is not bad at all…so congrats on that. The Cubs are not exactly a “rival” of either the Mets and Yankees, so assuming they’re not the visiting team when you’re here, you’ll be fine. You might get a bunch of comments, but I doubt anyone will throw beer at you and/or snatch the Cubs hat right off your head. (I’ve seen these things happen at Yankee Stadium plenty of times.)

    UTAHSTEELER17-
    Not bad at all. No complaints here. And thanks. Hope you get to a game soon.

  11. gjk2212

    yeah…family coming from michigan (tiger fans) and wanna go to a game there…so im goin with them$..theyre also where im gonna stay when i go to comerica this summer (and hopefully us cellular and wrigley while im there)

    im really, really hoping theres bp and even if theres not, i think i can manage a ball or two when they come out to throw.

    you wont be there, will you? i hope i get there early enough, they arent gonna get to my house til 4…i have til 5:05 gates open so i think ill be good..just not first in line. i want a commemorative ball SO bad. im gonna try all season lol and ill still get screwed

  12. zackhample

    NJMETFAN-
    If it’s rainy tomorrow, I’m not going. I really don’t want to be at Yankee Stadium if there’s no BP, so there’s a good chance you won’t be seeing me.

    EVERYONE-
    Two things…
    1) Since the pics on this blog still aren’t working quite right, you can see a large image of the commemorative ball here on my web site:

    http://www.zackhample.com/baseball_collection/photos/commemorative/yankee_stadium_final_season2.jpg

    2) I got lots of balls tonight (Thursday) at Yankee Stadium, and I’ll be blogging about it soon…

  13. Jake

    Hey Zack,
    Awesome blog! If you remember or not, I am the kid that you met at Chase Field the night you broke your record. I was wondering if you are going to come to AZ again. In the summer months there is hardly anyone for BP. I was at a game last season in June and the announce attendance was 16,000 and there were about 10 people in the right field bleachers. Good luck this season and will comment more

  14. sammywu17@hotmail.com

    Zack,
    Great job! I am so jealous on that commemorative ball and the lineup card. I went on a preseason game last Thur in Angel Stadium. I was in perfect spot but too bad no cards was tossed up. And the coliseum game, it was awesome. I will upload and post links to pics in next few days. I have been sick in last couple days.

    When will you be visiting SoCal this season? (Really looking forward to meet you in person)I am pretty sure I will visit NY in August. I will do whatever I can to snag at least one commemorative ball. (Hope you will show some mercy at games I attend.) I will book my trip in May. In addition to that, because there is a very high chance I will move back to Taiwan next year after my graduation, I will be visiting as many ballparks as I can this summer. The 2 in NorCal and Phoenix. And of course, I will go to SD for Reds game just for the hack of line-up cards.

    And I am doing pretty well on autographs: So far, 72 this year.

  15. gjk2212

    heading to the stadium in a few..its lightly drizling, the lightest of light…but im not expecting bp. i at least hope the rain keeps some ppl away so i can get down to the dugouts, and i hope they still open the gates 2 hrs early..sometimes they dont with no bp..then ill at least get a shot at players throwing..

  16. beach71389

    Zack you need to get to Camden Yards. Their opening day attendance was 46,807. Next two games? 10,505 and 14,429… It’s going to be an empty summer in the bleachers for the worst team in the American League.

  17. julia@lafashionistas.de

    Hi guys and girls,

    when i saw the pictures of the yankee stadium i was a little bit amuses, because i wrote today a small article on our german fashion blog about american people in a stadium.

    I was inspired by a great panorama-picture with a “google-earth” like zoom in function. You can see even what the people eat an drink. fabulous.

    http://www.lafashionistas.de/?p=428

    I think you will love this picture (the text in the article is in german, but you dont need to read, its not important for the usage of the picture)

    Kisses from Germany
    Julia

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