As I mentioned in my previous blog entry, I’m staying here in Denver with my friends Danny and Nettie. Danny has THE most extraordinary collection of baseballs you’ll ever see. I blogged about it last year and showed a bunch of photos. Yesterday I visited his office where he has even more memorabilia. It’s truly unbelievable…
First, here’s a shot of Danny in his office. It was such a big space that I had to take two photos and fuse them together with Photoshop:
Seriously, THAT is an office.
Here’s a look at one of the walls:
Here are some bobblehead dolls:
Did you notice the shelves below?
Yup, all different kinds of baseballs. Here are my four favorites:
Here’s another cool ball, which has a painting of Buck O’Neil along with some info about him on the other side:
Of all the balls in Danny’s collection, my absolute favorite is this:
Those little metal things are the actual sewing needles.
Here are some wooden baseballs…
…and yes, Danny has a matching set from the American League.
Danny has a closet in his office.
Does he hang coats in there?
No, of course not.
He has more baseball stuff:
Have you ever seen a “Gold Glove Award” baseball?
Neither had I.
Danny has a few non-baseball items, such as this signed program from a golf tournament in 1994:
There actually IS a baseball autograph in there — someone who was serving as a caddy for one of the golfers. Can anyone pick out the signature and identify whose it is?
After the office tour, Nettie and Danny took me to lunch (they’re outstanding host-parents), and I headed to Coors Field at around 4pm. It had drizzled a bit earlier in the afternoon, and it was still cloudy when the gates opened, but there WAS batting practice.
I started out in the front row…
…and got Jorge De La Rosa to toss me my first ball of the day.
Then I met up with my friend Brandon. Here he is, refusing to look at the camera:
If Brandon looks familiar, that’s because we’ve been to several games together including (but not limited to):
Brandon is a professional photographer/videographer, and once again, he got some great photos of me in “action.” (The word “action” is in quotes because, as you’ll see, there wasn’t much of it.)
My second ball of the day was tossed by Rockies coach Mark Strittmatter at the 1st base dugout just after the Rockies finishing taking BP.
After that, I changed into my Dodgers gear and headed back to left field. My Dodgers shirt does, unfortunately, say “RAMIREZ 99” on the back. I’m no longer a Manny fan, and in fact I was ashamed to have his name on my back. But, for the record, I bought the shirt long before he was busted for steroids, and I do still feel somewhat of a connection to him because (as I’ve mentioned in the past) I’ve been close friends with Manny’s high school coach since Manny was in high school. The point is, it’s hard not to root for a guy that I’ve been hearing about since he was 16 years old, but I *am* in fact done with him.
I was dying to snag some balls from the Dodgers because of this. In case you’re too lazy to click the link, it’s a photo of fan from Los Angeles who’s known as “Mannywood” on MyGameBalls.com. In the photo, he’s holding a baseball that was stamped “DodgersWIN” on the sweet spot. The “WIN” stands for a charity called Women’s Initiatives Network. There’d been some talk about these new stamped balls in the comments section on this blog and so…I really REALLY wanted to get one.
Someone on the Dodgers hit a ball that rolled to the wall in left-center. I positioned myself right above the ball as Ramon Troncoso walked over to retrieve it. Here’s a photo of me leaning over the wall, asking him for it:
Troncoso looked up and flipped me the ball, or at least I thought he did. The ball sailed five feet over my head and landed behind me in the wide front-row aisle. I scrambled back and grabbed it off the ground, and when I looked at the ball, I was excited and puzzled and slightly disappointed. Here’s what was on the sweet spot:
I’d forgotten that the Dodgers are now stamping their baseballs in two different ways. Yes…it was all coming back to me. I’d seen photos of these “DODGERTOWN” balls as well. It was great to finally have one, but I still really wanted one of the balls that said DodgersWIN.
Two seconds after I grabbed this ball, I realized that Troncoso had been trying to toss it to a little kid who’d been standing in the front row behind the aisle. I decided to give him the ball…but wait…did I have to give him THAT ball? Could I keep the one that said DODGERTOWN and give him the regular ball from Strittmatter instead? The kid was there with his mother, and I explained the situation to them and pointed out the stamp on the sweet spot. The mother assured me that the kid just wanted *a* ball and didn’t care what was printed or stamped on it, so I made the switch.
I headed to the left field corner and lined myself up with Guillermo Mota and Jonathan Broxton. They were the last two guys who were playing catch, and Mota promised to give me the ball when he was done. I looked closely at it each time he took it out of his glove, and I finally saw that it was a brand new DodgersWIN ball. I was bursting with anticipation as the throwing session came to an end. When Mota caught the final throw, he flung the ball directly from his glove, and it sailed ten feet wide. The seats were empty at that point except for ONE guy who happened to be sitting right where the ball was heading. He didn’t even have a glove. He just reached back and snatched it out of the air with his left hand. I wasn’t too pleased. Mota didn’t even acknowledge his mistake, nor did he hook me up with another ball. He just walked out toward the middle of the field, and that was that.
I headed to right field and ran around nonstop…
…but didn’t catch anything.
Then I went back to left field and did some more fruitless running:
The photo above is actually kinda cool. As Troncoso was running for that ball, I was racing over from the opposite direction, hoping to get near it and convince him to toss it up.
Here’s another action shot. It shows me racing down the steps from the right while another guy is racing down on the left. We were both going for the ball that was sitting on the warning track:
It’s hard to tell from this angle, but that ball was about five feet out from the wall, so none of the fans were able to reach it. Once I moved into the front row, I let out of a few feet worth of string (which is tied to my glove) and easily knocked the ball closer. I bent down and grabbed it, and I was thrilled to see that it had a DodgersWin logo! But then some guy in the front row started making a big fuss about how the ball had been thrown to his kid, and he basically demanded that I hand it over. It was the biggest crock, and I was stunned when the other fans nearby took his side. The whole thing was about to turn ugly. I offered to give one of my regular balls instead, but they wouldn’t accept it. They wanted the DodgersWIN ball (even though they were Rockies fans). I had two choices: 1) Tell them all to **** off or 2) give them the damn ball. Fifteen years ago, I would’ve gone with Option No. 1, but this is 2009, and I like to think of myself as being a bit more generous and mature, so I went with Option No. 2. (What would YOU have done?) I figured I’d snag another one of those balls at some point in the following two days, so as frustrating as it was to finally get my hands on one and then immediately turn it over, I wasn’t terribly concerned.
Broxton (who is NOT a friendly man) had seen the whole thing play out and rewarded me with another ball. DodgersWIN?! No…Dodgertown. It was my fifth ball of the day (counting the two I’d given away).
Batting practice was almost done so I headed to the Dodgers’ dugout as everyone was coming off the field. Then, totally unexpectedly, a ball came flying up from below. Someone had tossed it from inside the dugout. It landed on the roof about five feet to my right and started rolling away from me. Luckily, the front row was empty enough that I had room to chase after it and grab it. I had no idea where Brandon was at that point, and in fact I was annoyed that he wasn’t with me. I didn’t know that he was watching my every move from afar, and as I learned later, he took a photo of me taking a photo of the ball. Did that make sense?
Here…look at the photo below. The arrow is pointing to me, and I’m taking a picture of the ball that I’d just snagged:
Why was I photographing it?
Check it out:
I’d snagged both kinds of balls and met Brandon back in left field:
Before the game, I got Casey Blake to sign a ticket…
…and then Blake tossed me his warm-up ball at the dugout five minutes later. It was another DodgersWIN ball, and then moments later, Rafael Furcal tossed me one that said DODGERTOWN. There was NO competition for balls at the dugout. The only challenge was that the ushers made me stay behind Row 10. That’s just one of the silly rules here. But thankfully there was no one in front of me with a glove.
This was my view during the game:
The fans behind me were heckling Manny nonstop. More on this in a bit…
This was the view to my left, and if you look closely, you’ll see a tiny red dot in the aisle, off in the distance:
I put that dot there to indicate where I ended up after running for Blake’s home run in the top of the 4th. It was probably 80 feet away, and I might’ve caught it had it actually landed in the aisle, but no, it landed three rows deep. That was the first of three home runs. Brad Hawpe hit the second one to center field in the bottom of the 4th (Jameson Sutton nearly caught it) and Clint Barmes hit one to my section in the 7th. I was in line at a concession stand at that particular moment (duh) so you know who ended up catching it? Dan Sauvageau, the guy who hooked me up with the front row ticket in the first place. Here he is with his five-year-old daughter Emily, who’s holding THE home run ball:
It’s the 41st game home run that Dan has caught on the fly. He’s snagged another 50 or so that have landed in the front row, but he doesn’t even count those.
Now, about those Manny hecklers…
They were out in full force. Here’s a Top Ten list (in reverse order) of the best heckles I heard:
10) “Get a haircut, you cheater!”
9) “How does it feel to be the worst left fielder in the National League?!”
8) “Where’d you get your uniform, Goodwill?”
6) “Hey, Manny, I got some weed for you from Jackson Heights!”
5) “You look like the Predator!”
4) “The only thing steroids gave you was hemorrhoids!”
3) “Hey, Manny! One word: shrinkage!”
2) “When you heard that Tulo hit for the cycle, did you think you had a new friend?!”
1) “You let everybody down!”
After Heckle No. 6, I shouted, “It’s Washington Heights!” to which the heckler replied, “Whatever, he doesn’t know the difference!”
There were, of course, a number of anti-gay (and otherwise obscene) taunts, the worst of which came from a fan who was wearing a Mets cap. Of course, the ushers did nothing to stop him, and yet security felt the need to stop me from using my harmless glove trick the day before for a damp ball that wasn’t even on the field.
The game went into extra innings. I moved to the seats behind home plate with Brandon. The Rockies put runners on the corners with nobody out in the bottom of the 10th. Coors Field was rocking:
Then, after a one-out intentional walk loaded the bases, Troy Tulowitzki delivered a walk-off single. His teammates mobbed him behind second base:
I didn’t get a ball from the ump. I didn’t get a ball from the Dodgers relievers when they walked in from the bullpen. Nothing. My night was over. But I’m not complaining. I snagged a bunch of interesting balls, hung out with some friends, and saw another great game.
Final score: Rockies 5, Dodgers 4.
• 393 balls in 45 games this season = 8.73 balls per game.
• 614 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 173 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball
• 4,213 total balls
• 120 donors (click here and scroll down for the complete list)
• $24.86 pledged per ball
• $198.88 raised at this game
• $9,769.98 raised this season for Pitch In For Baseball