The good news is that I caught a Ken Griffey Jr. home run. The bad news is that it happened during batting practice. But before I get into that, I want to share a dozen pics I took outside the stadium before the gates opened. Here are the first nine…
…and here are the rest:
Dolphin Stadium is unlike any other baseball stadium because…it’s a football stadium…hey! It’s so big and weird–and it felt so eerie and desolate–that it reminded me somewhat of Olympic Stadium. This was a good thing, as far as I was concerned; it was more interesting to wander and take pics. It was nice to be there early enough to even get to take pics, unlike the previous day when I arrived at the ballpark at the last minute.
When Gate H opened at 5:30pm, I raced to the right field seats and basically had the place to myself…
…but of course there weren’t any players on the field, at least not in fair territory. The Marlins had ended BP early and were nowhere in sight. The Reds, meanwhile, were stretching in front of their dugout, so I had to sit there like a putz for ten interminable minutes until things got started.
The seats were still pretty empty at that point, and the following ten minutes were action-packed. I started things off by using my glove trick to pluck a ball off the warning track in straight-away right field, then moved to right-center and ended up snagging FIVE home run balls. The first was hit by Griffey and landed in the seats. The second might’ve been hit by Griffey as well (not sure unfortunately) and landed less than ten feet behind me. As I was climbing over the rows, and just as I grabbed the ball, the seat I was standing on folded up and caught my right leg which slipped all the way through. I wasn’t in any pain–I just couldn’t get out, and for a second I was nervous…that is, until I used my left foot to kick off my right sneaker and then carefully pulled my foot out. I didn’t want to waste any time untying and retying my shoe, so I forcefully wedged my foot back in, and it paid off. Seconds later, another lefty hit a deep fly ball that was heading for the blue tarp in center field. I started moving in that direction as soon as he had made contact, and when I got to the edge of the seats, the ball took a lucky bounce and ricocheted in my direction and I scooped it up in front of another fan who was totally unprepared. (In the photo on the right, you can see this ball and the tarp-induced smudge.)
My fifth ball of the day was a Griffey homer that I caught on a fly. I had to drift about 15 feet to my left through an empty row and then reach high over my head for the one-handed grab. Nothing fancy.
My sixth ball was a monstrous drive to right-center by the 6-foot-6, 275-pound Adam Dunn. He must have hit it at least 450 feet. It was 404 to the outfield wall where I was standing, and this ball landed more than 20 rows behind me. It was incredible, but obviously I didn’t stand there admiring it. I bolted up the steps while it was still airborne and knew that if it didn’t take a crazy bounce, and if I didn’t struggle to find it in the seats, it was going to be all mine.
Okay, so I snagged five home run balls, right? I caught one on a fly, and another hit the tarp. Check out the markings on the other three:
These were the only balls I snagged that had landed in the seats–the very ORANGE seats–and they all had matching physical evidence. Cool, huh?
I thought I was on my way to a double-digit performance, but no, it started raining and the grounds crew pulled out the tarp 20 minutes before the scheduled end of BP:
Around that time, I was approached by two Marlins fans: an eight-year-old boy named Alejandro and his mother, Rosa. They’d emailed me several times in the week leading up to this series and only found out the day before that I was going to be attending this game. To put it lightly, Alejandro is quite a fan and was prepared for our encounter:
That’s right. He’d brought my first book and made a sign for the occasion. I ended up signing four autographs (two for him and two for his brothers), and I sat with him in right field for most of the game.
The game itself was exciting. There were several lead changes, and it ended with a two-out, come-from-behind, walk-off homer. But the Griffey factor was disappointing, mainly because I was sitting in the perfect spot…
…and (with the exception of Alejandro) had zero competition. Check out the pic below. I took it between pitches DURING Griffey’s at-bat in the seventh inning:
At another point in the game, when Griffey was up, I had fourteen empty seats on my right. Why couldn’t he have hit his 600th home run then? WHY?!?!?!?! Why did he have to finish his night with two maddening walks and a harmless single to center? Why did the only thing I caught during the game have to be a T-shirt between innings?
At least there were cheerleaders, and Lord knows I needed some cheer.
? 6 balls at this game
? 153 balls in 20 games this season = 7.65 balls per game.
? 119 consecutive games outside NYC with at least one ball
? 848 lifetime balls outside NYC
? 3,430 total balls