Earlier this season, I had two Watch With Zack games with a 14-year-old Yankee fan named Joe. He and I combined for 22 balls on 5/8/09 at Citi Field, and then we visited the Pitch In For Baseball warehouse on our way to Citizens Bank Park on 7/6/09. Remember?
Well, Joe is incredibly generous. He had an extra season ticket for this game at Camden Yards, and he offered it to me. (A season ticket at Camden gets you into the left field seats half an hour early.) He didn’t care that I’d be competing with him for baseballs. He just wanted to see me in action and hang out and help me add to my collection. Truly amazing. And of course I took him up on it.
I made the drive from New York City with Jona, and we arrived at the stadium at around 4pm. Here we are with Joe outside the Eutaw Street gate:
See that ball I’m holding? It was a cheap, six-dollar “Babe Ruth” ball that Joe bought from the team store so that we could play catch:
He had just gotten a new glove and needed some help breaking it in.
The stadium opened at 5pm, and we hurried out to the left field seats. (Jona, unfortunately, was trapped in right field for the first half hour because she didn’t have a season ticket.)
Jeremy Guthrie was shagging in left field, so I shouted his name, and when he looked up, the first thing he shouted back was, “Hey! How’s the baseball collection coming along?!”
Then he walked a little closer and told me that he’d heard I was at Yankee Stadium the previous week.
“Yeah,” I said, “on July 20th. I was looking for you.”
And that was pretty much the end of our conversation.
Two minutes later, Joe and I each found a ball sitting in the second row. Here’s the one that I grabbed (which I later gave to an usher to give to the kid of his choice):
Then I went on a snagging rampage. I started by picking up a ball that bounced into the first row in left-center field. Then I caught FOUR home runs on the fly, all pretty much in straight-away left. (I think Ty Wigginton hit one of them and Adam Jones hit another, but whatever.) Then I won a two-person race and grabbed another home run ball that had
landed in the folded up portion of a seat, and I finished the first half-hour by catching another
homer on the fly (pictured here on the right). Some guy in the row in front of me had jumped for it at the last second, and it cleared his glove by six inches. That gave me eight balls on the day. It was nuts. At one point I had six balls bulging out of my pockets because I didn’t have a chance to label them and put them in my backpack. I should admit that I missed out on three balls that I should’ve (or at least could’ve) had. Two were home runs that basically came right to me, but I wasn’t aggressive enough in boxing out this one other guy. Then there was a ground-rule double that tipped off the very end of my glove when I jumped for it. AARRGHH!!! I wasn’t making flat-out errors, but I still wasn’t happy with my performance.
This was the scene shortly after 5:30pm when the left field seats opened to everyone:
Do you see anything disturbing in the photo above?
Let me zoom in a little for you:
What kind of IDIOT leaves a little kid alone in a section where baseballs go flying into the crowd, not to mention a little kid who’s sleeping?!?! (These are no doubt the the same type of parents who leave their kids in the car with the windows rolled up when they go shopping at Walmart, or better yet, who use their kids as drug mules.)
Halfway through the Royals’ portion of batting practice, I tried using my glove trick to pluck a ball off the warning track–and I would’ve gotten it if Roman Colon hadn’t walked over and moved the ball further out. Here’s a photo that Jona took from about 50 feet away. You can see my glove dangling on the field:
I could tell that Colon was just having fun and messing with me in a good-natured way (unlike our friend Gustavo Chacin), and sure enough, after teasing me for a solid minute, he picked up the ball and flipped it to me.
A few minutes later, I made my best play of the day. There was a deep fly ball hit in my direction, and I immediately judged that it was going to sail over my head, so I drifted back a couple steps, then looked down and scooted further up the stairs. It was kinda like I was an outfielder who takes his eye off the ball and runs to the spot where he thinks it will land. I looked back up and spotted the ball as it was descending…
…and then reached way up over my head at the last second and made the catch. See the guy wearing the yellow shirt? If this had been a basketball game, he would’ve been charged with a foul–possibly even a flagrant foul. At the instant that the ball smacked into my glove, his left arm was wrapped tightly around my neck. I think it was an accident, but still there’s no excuse for that.
Here’s my favorite photo of the day. It shows me taking notes while Joe is looking out at the field:
See that pinkish ring on the inside of my right knee? Yeah, ouch. Twenty minutes earlier, I banged into a seat while scrambling for a loose home run ball, and no, I didn’t get it.
Orioles manager Dave Trembley signed autographs after batting practice:
I got him on Jona’s ticket:
Here I am with Joe a few minutes later:
If you want to know how many balls Joe ended up snagging, you’ll have to check out his blog.
I headed over to the 3rd base side. Billy Butler and Zack Greinke started signing:
That’s me in the blue shirt, patiently waiting for my turn. I’d brought a ticket from Kauffman Stadium and got them both to sign it:
Greinke signed in black ON the black portion of the ticket with someone else’s Sharpie. Brilliant. And when I told him that my name is “Z-A-C-K as well,” he didn’t even look up or respond. What a doofus. Has anyone ever had a positive interaction with him? When I saw him last month in Kansas City, he was similarly quite/cold/rude. Is it the social anxiety disorder? Is that a legitimate excuse for not even responding when someone speaks politely to you from three feet away? I was the only fan who bothered to thank him for signing, and he didn’t say “You’re welcome.” I don’t care who you are or what kind of “disorder” you’re diagnosed with. How hard is it to say “You’re welcome”? Am I being too critical? I’ve met parrots who can say it.
Maybe I’m just writing this blog entry out of frustration…
Right before the game started, I positioned myself along the foul line in shallow left field to try to get a ball tossed my way. I was the ONLY fan with a glove, and I was the ONLY fan wearing Royals gear. If ever there was a guaranteed ball, this was it. What happened next? Alex Gordon threw me a ball…and missed…by ten feet! Here I am, climbing up onto the brick ledge, reaching out helplessly with an extreme look of dismay:
Here’s a closeup of my reaction (with Gordon trying to use body English on the upper right to direct his crappy throw my way):
Five words, Mister Gordon: That’s why you’re the Royals.
During the game, I stayed in the right field standing-room-only section for all the lefties, and of course there was no action. As for the righties, whenever there were at least two of them hitting back-to-back, I moved to a tunnel behind home plate. Perfect foul ball spot. At one point late in the game, I stopped to talk to a friendly usher on the way to my spot, and wouldn’t you know it, a high-arcing foul ball landed EXACTLY where I would’ve been standing–where I *had* been standing throughout the night. The ball clapped off the pavement in the middle of the empty cross-aisle. It was painful, so please, forgive me for being annoyed after having snagged 10 balls. The day was filled with more frustration than success.
Let me end on a positive note. Here are two nice things about the day:
1) I met a bunch of different people who read this blog, as well as a few folks who recognized me from YouTube and various other places.
2) Billy Butler was my Beat The Streak hitter, and he went 5-for-5, mwahaha! I now have a 10-game streak for the first time since I started playing last month. (I have Prince Fielder going tonight against Collin Balester.) Of course, now that I’ve bragged about it, it’s surely going to end. I’d just like to say, though, that if I somehow win the $1.5 million prize, I’m going to use the money to attend 150 (or more) baseball games in one season at all 30 major league stadiums, and I will attempt to snag 1,000 balls. (And, since I promised, I’m also going to buy Jona a Mini Cooper.)
Anyway, that was it. No homers near me during the game. No foul balls. No umpire ball. No dugout ball. No bullpen ball. Nothing. All of my snagging was confined to the first 50 minutes of the day. What a waste of a potentially monstrous performance. (So much for ending on a positive note. Oops.)
• 10 balls at this game (including 6 home runs that I caught on the fly)
• 332 balls in 39 games this season = 8.51 balls per game.
• 608 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 169 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball
• 110 lifetime games with at least 10 balls
• 49 lifetime games outside of New York with at least 10 balls
• 4,152 total balls
• 116 donors (click here and scroll down for the complete list)
• $24.69 pledged per ball
• $246.90 raised at this game
• $8,197.08 raised this season for Pitch In For Baseball
(Wait, THAT’S a positive note. I passed the $8,000 plateau…)