Reds versus Phillies? Whatever. I was just excited to get out of New York City for a day and see some playoff baseball.
This was the scene outside the 3rd base gate at Citizens Bank Park:
The whole street was blocked to traffic, and there was all kinds of stuff that you don’t see during the regular season. Check out the four-part photo below. Starting on the top left and going clockwise, you’re looking at a) a stage for a band, b) a live broadcast by a classic rock radio station, c) inflatable goodness, and d) various TV trucks:
Want to see what else there was?
Free/unlimited ice cream samples courtesy of Turkey Hill:
Given the sad fact that I’m allergic to sugar, I only had two. (But given the fact that I seem to be immune to calories, I still consider myself lucky.)
By the time the gates opened at 3:35pm, this was the crowd waiting to get in:
(Don’t get excited about the early opening time; the first pitch was scheduled for a little after six o’clock.)
Less than a minute after I reached the seats in left-center field, I got Phillies pitcher Jose Contreras to throw me a ball:
Two minutes later, it occurred to me that that was my 300th ball of the season.
This was the view to my right soon after:
The front row was already packed, and the left field seats ended up getting seriously crowded.
I headed over to right field. There was more room to run over there:
The main challenge was battling the sun. You can get an idea of the intense glare in the following panorama photo, taken by a friend and fellow ballhawk named Ryan. The red arrow is pointing to me:
Forty-five minutes into BP, I made a nice play in order to come up with my second ball. I’m not sure who was hitting. It was one of the Reds’ lefties. It was probably Jay Bruce or Joey Votto, but might’ve been Laynce Nix. Anyway, the batter ripped a line-drive homer that was heading one full section to my left, so I bolted in that direction, and as I reached the next staircase, I jumped and lunged and caught it on the fly — all this with the sun in my eyes and another guy reaching for the ball from behind. It probably didn’t look all that special from afar, but trust me, there was a lot that went into it.
My third ball was as unexciting as it gets: Aaron Harang retrieved a ball from the warning track in right-center and tossed it up to me. (I ended up giving it away to a kid after the game.)
I headed back to left field when a bunch of righties started hitting. Look how crowded it was:
There wasn’t an empty row anywhere, except at the very back of the section in left-center.
Toward the end of BP, I got the attention of Reds 1st base coach Billy Hatcher. He was roaming the outfield with his fungo bat, and I convinced him to hit me a fungo. I stood on the armrests of a seat in order to elevate above the crowd and give him a better target. He was only about 75 feet away, and I was probably in the sixth row. His fungo was right on the money, but it fell a few feet short of where I wanted it. I wanted to be able to reach up and catch the ball over my head. That would’ve prevented anyone else from interfering, but the ball ended up waist-high, so another fan in front of me got his glove on it. Conveniently, after we both bobbled it, the ball dropped straight down and bounced straight up off the concrete in my row, and I was able to grab it.
After BP, I raced to the 3rd base dugout and got my fifth ball of the day from the Reds’ equipment guy. Here he is just before he tossed it to me…
…and here are two photos of the ball itself:
Is that beautiful or what?
Here’s another beautiful thing — the military jet flyover after the national anthem:
The fans were pumped…
…and so was I because I had a ticket for the fancy-schmancy Diamond Club area behind home plate. (I won’t get into all the details of the club here. If you want to know more about it, check out my entry from April 25, 2007. That was my first time there.) This was my view during the bottom of the 1st inning. Note Bronson Arroyo’s fantastic leg kick, in addition to all the standing room behind the seats:
Did I mention that the fans were pumped?
Here’s another photo, pretty much taken from the same spot as the one above. The difference here is that Aroldis Chapman was on the hill:
It was my first time seeing him pitch in person, and MAN-ALIVE can that young fella throw a baseball!!! Look at the radar gun reading in the following photo:
That wasn’t even his fastest pitch.
I don’t know how to describe the movement on his fastball. In fact, there appears to be very little movement. When Chapman releases the ball, it just stays straight, like there’s no gravity or air resistance. It doesn’t even seem that much faster than, say, a 95mph fastball. It just seems sturdier, if that makes sense. Everyone in the aisle was frozen in place…just standing around and watching him pitch:
It was truly awesome, and I was glad to be so close to the action.
Despite Chapman’s velocity, the Phillies managed to score three runs off him, all of which were unearned. The Reds’ defense fell apart. Look how many errors they made:
Despite all the standing room I had, I didn’t come close to a foul ball, but you know what? That hardly even mattered. MLB used to have commemorative balls (like this and this) during the first two rounds of the postseason, but not anymore.
With Brad Lidge in the process of nailing down the save, I worked my way to the seats behind the Reds’ dugout…
…but didn’t get anything there after the final out.
Final score: Phillies 7, Reds 4.
• 5 balls at this game (4 pictured on the right because I gave one away)
• 304 balls in 32 games this season = 9.5 balls per game.
• 661 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 204 consecutive games outside New York with at least one ball
• 13 consecutive post-season games with at least one ball
• 4 consecutive seasons with at least 300 balls
• 4,662 total balls
• 48 donors (click here to learn more)
• $7.53 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $37.65 raised at this game
• $2,289.12 raised this season for Pitch In For Baseball