I’ve been to Yankee Stadium nearly 200 times. Yesterday, for the very first time, I went to the upper deck for batting practice. Risky move? Perhaps. But look what I saw when I made it down to the front row:
As you can see, there was a ball sitting in a puddle, and let me tell you, it was NASTY. This wasn’t your typical fresh-water puddle from a nice spring shower. This was like…I don’t know…West Nile Virus-inducing garbage water.
The upper deck provided some interesting views, although I couldn’t see where half the balls were landing unless I was standing in the front row. In any case, I got a good look at the fans down below…
…and of the bleachers…
…and I got my friend Dania (rhymes with “mania”) to take a photo of the back of my head:
I had mentioned The Head in my last entry and said I’d try to get a pic of it at the stadium, so here you go.
As for Dania, this was the second game of her life and her first at Yankee Stadium. She guarded my drawstring backpack (which I smuggled back inside–oh the horror) while I tried to catch the few home runs that were hit into the upper deck. The previous day, the Yankees and Rangers must’ve combined to hit 20 balls up there, but yesterday, there were only five. Yes, I counted, and I’m proud to say that I batted .400.
Before the Yankees finished hitting, I snagged a brand new commemorative ball that flew 10 feet over my head and conveniently bounced down into my empty row. Then, toward the end
of BP, I made a leaping catch for a homer that might’ve been hit by Chris Davis. I don’t know and it doesn’t matter. My next ball, however, HAD to come from a source that I could identify because it was going to be No. 3,500. Unfortunately (though not surprisingly) the upper deck was pretty crowded by this point, and I didn’t snag another ball.
During the game, I experienced another Yankee Stadium first: Monument Park. I’d never been there because it’s only open to the (ticket-buying) public until 45 minutes before game time, and I was never willing to sacrifice a sizable chunk of BP in order to check it out. Anyway, did you know that there are actually a few dozen seats out there? Nothing fancy. Just folding chairs. The whole area is reserved for handicapped seating, but I was able to get a couple tickets out there from a friend, and of course I went nuts with my camera. This was my view of the field:
This was the view to my left:
Yeah, netting. Not exactly ideal for catching an A-Rod homer, which is why I only stayed there for an inning, but let’s continue with the photo tour…
This was the view to my right…
…and let’s not forget the scenery directly behind me. This is one of my favorite pics:
The Yankee relievers walked right past me on their way to the bullpen. The player on the right is Dan Giese, and I think the guy on the left is David Robertson. See the pink bag he’s carrying? It’s one of the oldest pranks…not even a prank…just something silly that rookies are forced to do. At least Robertson (assuming that’s who it is) was given a pink Yankee bag. I once saw a rookie who’d been forced to walk across the field (in a fairly crowded stadium) with a Rainbow Brite backpack. Yikes.
This was the view from the center-field end of Monument Park:
Too bad I wasn’t there eight innings later when Mariano Rivera entered the game.
Here’s a general view of the area behind the left field wall…
…and here’s a little Gehrig/Ruth action for ya:
The Rangers managed to score a run off Rivera and take a 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth inning. After the third out, I snuck down to their dugout and actually hoped that the Yankees would tie it up. Not only do I love Rivera and feel pain in my heart whenever he struggles, but I was hoping for extra innings so there’d be more chances for my milestone ball to be a gamer.
Rangers reliever C.J. Wilson walked Wilson Betemit on four pitches to start the bottom of the ninth, and just when there was hope, Melky Cabrera bounced into a 6-4-3 double play. Johnny Damon followed with a ground out to first base, and that was it.
I was hoping that No. 3,500 would get tossed by Mister Wilson–THAT would’ve been cool to get a game-used/game-ending ball with a commemorative logo–but he tucked the ball deep in his glove and marched into the dugout with his head down. As the last few players were disappearing from sight, a random hand appeared from below the dugout roof and rolled a ball at me. I grabbed it without thinking and then it occurred to me: I just got my 3,500th ball and had no idea who provided it. The man on my left immediately started protesting and claiming that the ball was meant for him.
“Sorry,” I said as I stuck it in my pocket.
“No…REALLY,” he insisted. “That ball was from Josh Hamilton. He said he was going to hook me up.”
“I don’t know that,” I said and shrugged him off.
“The ball is SIGNED!” the guy yelled. “Look at the ball! If it’s signed by Josh Hamilton, then it’s MINE!”
I pulled the ball out of my bag, noticed the commemorative logo, and then turned it around to see the sweet spot…and sure enough, it was signed.
I handed it back to the guy and apologized, not that I’d really done anything wrong. Hamilton should’ve poked his head out and pointed to him, and then there wouldn’t have been any confusion, but whatever. He got his ball, and in a way I was glad it played out like that. Normally, when I catch a ball and give it away, I still count it as part of my collection, but in this case, it turned out that the ball had already belonged to this other fan, so I couldn’t count it. It was just a situation in which I was returning someone’s property, so as far as my stats are concerned, it’s like it never happened and the NEXT ball I get will be No. 3,500.
? 3 balls at this game
? 222 balls in 30 games this season = 7.4 balls per game.
? 526 consecutive games with at least one ball
? 115 consecutive games at Yankee Stadium with at least one ball
? 3,499 total balls
Sorry for not answering comments on my last entry. I read them all (someone should post a “Leave Omar Alone!!!” video on YouTube) and I’ll answer them at some point, possibly this weekend, but right now I just don’t have time. I also have a LOT of emails pouring into my inbox (which is a good thing except when people ask me for commemorative balls), so if you’re waiting for a response, please be patient. Things are just crazy right now…