My secret photographer was with me once again and (as usual) got some shots of me running all over the place. Here I am dashing through the seats for a batting practice homer:
(Puerto Rico in the house!)
I can’t remember if I snagged the ball that I was running for in the photo above, but I did grab three home run balls within the first 10 minutes, all of which landed in the seats. The first was hit by Mark Reynolds, and the next two came off the bat of Derrek Lee.
Here I am tracking Lee’s second homer:
Several minutes later, Orioles pitcher Jake Arrieta wandered near the warning track to retrieve a ball. I had just changed into my Tigers gear, so I didn’t even bother asking him for it. (The reason why I changed early is that the Tigers were already playing catch along the foul line, and because the Orioles rarely toss balls into the crowd during BP.)
Arrieta must’ve seen me change because he looked up and asked, “Why are you wearing a Tigers shirt?”
“I’m just wearing it to try to get the Tigers to toss me a ball,” I said apologetically.
This is what happened next:
That’s right. Arrieta tossed me the ball anyway — and then he told me to throw it back:
We ended up playing catch for two minutes, and we threw nothing but knuckleballs. It was kind of wimpy because we were only 40 feet apart, but it was still fun. Ultimately he let me keep the ball. Below are two cool photos of it. The image on the left shows the extensive grass stains; the image on the right was taken in black light. Note the invisible ink stamp below the MLB logo:
If you haven’t yet seen my entry called “Baseballs and black light,” you must check it out immediately. Here’s the link.
I headed over to the foul line and got my 5th ball of the day from an on-field security guard. Here’s a photo of the ball being tossed to me:
Looks incredibly easy, right? Well, the catch itself was easy, but there was more to it than what you can see here. A right-handed batter on the Tigers had hit a ground ball just inside third base. I knew it was going to hook to me, but one of his teammates was standing on the foul line, and the ball was heading right to him. As he prepared to scoop it up, I yelled, “Let it go! Let it go!” The player (not sure who) understood that the ball was heading toward a fan in the front row, so he backed off and let it roll. The guard, however, stopped the ball with his foot just before I was about to reach out and snag it. I think he felt guilty after doing that, so he picked it up and tossed it to me.
Back in straight away left field, I finally managed to catch a home run on the fly, and it took a bit of an effort. I’m not sure who hit it, but anyway, the ball was heading 15 feet to my left, and as soon as it got up in the air, I could tell that it was going to sail a bit too far, so I climbed back over a row of seats…
…and then moved farther down the row for the catch:
In the photo above, the guy two rows behind me in the white shirt is another Camden regular. His name is Ben Huff, and he’s about 6-foot-30 and catches everything, so don’t stand anywhere near him. He’s perfectly nice, but he WILL out-snag you. Beware.
The following four-part photo shows what happened on my 7th ball of the day. See how much of the action you can figure out on your own, and then I’ll give the play-by-play account:
1) An unidentifiable right-handed batter on the Tigers hit a deep drive toward some fans in the front row. The arrow is pointing to the ball.
2) The two grown-ups and the little kid all reached out for it. I stayed just to the right because (a) I didn’t want to interfere with their chance to catch a home run and (b) in case they missed it, I didn’t want the ball to deflect off their hands and hit me in the face. (I did once get hit in the face by a deflection. Remember? It happened on 4/22/08 at Champion Stadium.)
As it turned out, all three of them missed/deflected the ball. I was able to snag it in the second row, and I handed it to the kid.
3) Moments later, the kid and his father decided to leave the section. On their way up the steps, I got a high-five from the kid…
4) …and from the father.
That was it for BP. Not great. Not terrible. I used to do much better in Baltimore, but now that I have to compete with Avi and Tim and Ben (and usually Matt Hersl) everyday, my numbers are way down.
After BP, I met up with a friend from Baltimore named Adam. Look what he’d brought with him:
It’s a copy of my new book, The Baseball. I signed it for him, and we ended up hanging out for most of the game. (I’ve posted pics of Adam before, so he might look familiar.)
Shortly before game time, a bunch of Tigers played catch along the left field foul line. Austin Jackson tossed me his ball when he finished, and then I moved over to get in position for Ramon Santiago. There was a little kid on my left with a glove. I asked him if he’d gotten a ball yet, and he said no.
“If Ramon Santiago doesn’t throw you that ball,” I told him, “I’ll give you this one that I just got from Austin Jackson.”
The kid was too stunned to be excited, and he didn’t quite know what to make of the whole situation, so I explained that no matter what happened, he was going to get a ball.
For whatever reason, Santiago ended up tossing the ball to me:
As soon as I caught it, I held my glove open for the kid and let him grab the ball. (I know, I know, I promised him the ball from Jackson, but ended up giving the ball from Santiago instead. Oh no.)
Then I moved closer to home plate and got my 10th ball of the day from Victor Martinez:
Martinez gave me a bounce-pass. He aimed low and skipped the ball to me off the rubberized warning track. As you can see in the photo above, no one was even paying attention to Martinez because Miguel Cabrera was signing autographs nearby, and yes, I got Miggy to sign my ticket:
Adam and I spent most of the game in the Flag Court…
…but nothing was hit there all night. There were three home runs, but one (Vladdy Guerrero) went to center field, another (Alex Avila) went to straight-away right, and the last (Adam Jones) went to left. And…it was freezing. And the game moved at a painfully slow pace. And both of my knees hurt from having smacked them against the new cup holders in left field. I was happy, of course, to simply BE at a baseball game, but the whole day/night was draining and physically uncomfortable.
Final score: Orioles 9, Tigers 5.
• 33 balls in 4 games this season = 8.25 balls per game.
• 665 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 206 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball
• 135 lifetime games with at least ten balls
• 65 lifetime games outside of New York with at least ten balls
• 4,695 total balls
(I’m raising money again this season for Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. Click here to learn more.)
• 36 donors
• $5.74 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $57.40 raised at this game
• $189.42 raised this season
Here’s one more double-photo of the eight balls I kept. The image on the left shows them in normal light; the image on the right shows them in black light. As you can see, six of the balls have invisible ink stamps:
Meanwhile, I’m still in Baltimore, and the weather is terrible, but I’m still planning to attend the game tonight (against the Rangers). No way there’s gonna be BP. I’d love to snag five balls and reach 4,700, but that might be impossible.
UPDATE: It’s 5:23pm, and I’m *not* going to the game tonight. It’s absolutely freezing and rainy, and I didn’t pack warm clothes. I was just outside for 10 minutes, and my hands were completely numb. I’m not going to risk getting sick by being outside for the next five hours (or more if there’s a rain delay). I have a big/non-baseball weekend ahead of me, and I’m planning to attend a bunch of games next week. Gotta look at the big picture.
ANOTHER UPDATE: The game got rained out. Haha! I made the right decision.