I attended this game with four friends from my writing group:
1) Erik (from Wisconsin; pictured below in the Brewers cap)
2) Leslie (from Texas; wearing the green sweater)
3) Travis (from Michigan; leaning to his left)
4) Ky (from California; wearing the camera around her neck)
Here they are:
It was the first time that I’d been to a game with any of them. They had no interest in snagging baseballs, but enjoyed seeing me in action, speaking of which…
My first ball of the day was a batting practice home run off the bat of John Mayberry Jr. I was about six rows back in straight-away left field and determined that the ball was going to fall a bit short, so I climbed over two rows and lunged out at the last second for a back-handed catch. Here’s a photo of the ball:
Making that catch felt great. I was ready for another monster day ballhawking, but unfortunately that was the only home run I snagged. The players just weren’t hitting much into the seats. It was cold, and the wind was blowing in, and deep fly balls were simply dying.
That said, I still managed to snag several baseballs during the Phillies’ portion of BP. Cliff Lee tossed one to me in left-center, and then I got two more with my glove trick. Here’s a photo of the first of those two glove-trick balls sitting on the field; Lee is walking past on the edge of the grass:
The second glove-trick ball required more of an effort because it rolled onto the warning track in the left field corner:
Check out this awesome photo that Ky took while I was going for it:
(BTW, Ky’s name is pronounced like the word “key.” Her last name, which appears in the bottom left of the photos she took, is pronounced “Hyoon.”)
Here’s another photo she took after I reeled in the ball:
Ky took a bunch of other photos that I wasn’t in. Here’s one of my favorites:
For the first hour at CItizens Bank Park, fans are limited to the left field seats. As a result (and as you can see in the photo above) it gets really crowded, especially in the first few rows, so when it’s cold and the wind is blowing in and the few homers are barely clearing the wall, there’s not much opportunity.
Toward the end of the Phillies’ portion of BP, there was an entire group of left-handed batters. It was a complete waste of time. There was absolutely no chance that any of them would reach the seats, and by that point, the players in the field were only tossing balls to little kids in the front row, so I put away my glove and posed with my No. 4 sign and made a face to show what I think of the stadium:
Citizens Bank Park is the fourth stadium I’ve been to this season, and it’s pretty good for ballhawking. Those of you who’ve read The Baseball know that this stadium didn’t make my Top Ten list in the final chapter, and here’s why: The outfield seats are spacious, and I love that there aren’t any railings on the staircases, but there aren’t any cross-aisles or standing-room-only areas, so when it gets crowded (which is now always), there’s no room to run. Same with foul territory, for the most part.
Here’s a collage of photos from the four stadiums I’ve been to this year. (Only 26 more to go!) I didn’t make faces for the first two, so I’ll try to retake them at some point.
When the Marlins took the field…
…I changed into my Marlins gear and photo-bombed a shot that Ky was taking of Leslie and Travis. Have a look at the photo, and then I’ll explain:
When Leslie and Travis showed up at my apartment in NYC earlier in the day, they were completely underdressed for the frigid night ahead, so I lent them some warm clothes. I gave them several options, and they both went for the Scrabble sweatshirts (which, thank you very much, I got for free for having worked/played/volunteered for the National Scrabble Association). I also lent Erik a sweatshirt, but it was just a plain one, so he didn’t get to be part of the totally rad Scrabble photo.
Ricky Nolasco tossed me my 5th ball of the day, and Clay Hensley tossed No. 6. I gave that one to the nearest kid and headed to right field for the final 20 minutes of BP. This was my view:
I didn’t snag anything there. At one point, I got Edward Mujica to throw me a ball from about 150 feet away, but another fan reached up at the last second and bumped my glove, and neither of us got it. I was really pissed at the time, but hey, these things happen, and he had a right to go for it.
It was Jackie Robinson Day, so all the players were wearing No. 42:
As a result, it was hard to identify them. In the photo above, the player on the left is Hanley Ramirez, and the tallest guy (under the orange AT&T ad) is Mike Stanton, but other than that? Who knows. I was hoping/expecting Ramirez to throw me his warm-up ball, but instead he chucked it to a grown man with no glove who was decked out in Phillies gear. Go figure.
Despite the near-capacity attendance of 45,667, Erik and Travis and Leslie and Ky and I found some empty seats on the third base side. This was our view for most the game:
It was a decent foul-ball spot for left-handed batters, and there was a ball that landed exactly one staircase to my right, but I couldn’t get there. If the seats had been empty, I would’ve been able to drift through my row and make a very easy catch, so that was frustrating. (See what happens when there’s no cross-aisle?)
Here’s a photo that Ky took of the No. 42’s…
…and here’s a photo that I took in the 5th inning:
I’d moved behind the dugout to try to get a third-out ball, and it paid off one inning later. Shane Victorino grounded out (Haha!!) to second baseman Omar Infante to end the bottom of the 6th. Infante threw the ball to Gaby Sanchez for a 4-3 putout, and Sanchez tossed it to me as he jogged off the field.
The Phillies had jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the 1st inning. By the end of the 5th, they were winning, 3-1, but the Marlins scored three unanswered runs and won the game, 4-3. After the final out, I got my eighth ball of the day from home plate umpire Rob Drake, and when the Marlins’ coaches were walking off the field, I started shouting for the lineup cards.
“Yeah, THAT’S not gonna happen,” said a hulking frat-boy-like Phillies fan on my left.
“Whoa, cool!!” he yelled, sounding more like a schoolgirl. “That was pretty slick!!”
Less than a minute later, some random Marlins guy (no idea who) poked his head out of the dugout and moved to the top step. He had two baseballs in his right hand, and he eyed the crowd to find worthy recipients.
“Don’t throw it to him!” shouted the Phillies fan while pointing to me. “He just got one!”
The Marlins guy tossed the first ball to a kid on my left. He then tossed the second ball two feet over my head, so I reached up and gloved it. It occurred to me that he might’ve been aiming for someone behind me, so I turned around, and sure enough, there were two women standing there. I handed the ball to them, and when the Marlins guy saw me do that, he said, “Hang on, I’m gonna get you one.” He then disappeared into the dugout for a moment, then poked his head back out and tossed me another ball — and just like that, I’d stumbled into double digits.
Here’s a closer look at the lineup cards:
If you want to see all the lineup cards I’ve collected over the years, click here.
Here I am with Travis, Ky, Erik, and Leslie after the game:
I drove us back to New York City in record time. It only took 85 minutes to get from the parking lot of the Holiday Inn through the Lincoln Tunnel. Unfortunately (and as I mentioned on Twitter), I ended up getting a ticket while driving through Times Square. I was heading toward 6th Avenue to drop off Erik and Leslie and Travis near the F train when we ran into a police checkpoint. Were the cops looking for drunk drivers? No, of course not. That would’ve been too easy since I hardly ever drink alcohol. Instead, they were looking at everyone’s registration and insurance cards. Well, wouldn’t you know it? My insurance card (technically my mom’s since it’s her car) had expired FOUR DAYS EARLIER. She even had a new card, but hadn’t yet gotten around to putting it in the glove compartment. Sigh. I’m not blaming her. (Love ya, Mom. You’re the best!) I’m just reporting the lameness of the entire situation, but whatever, it was still a great day.
• 77 balls in 10 games this season = 7.7 balls per game.
• 671 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 207 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball
• 137 lifetime games with at least 10 balls
• 4,739 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
• $441.98 raised this season
Finally, here’s one more photo of the baseballs in black light:
The ball on the lower left (with the “80” stamp) is the one that Gaby Sanchez tossed me after the 6th inning. The ball to the right of it (“448”) came from the umpire. My favorite ball is marked “068” because the invisible ink stamp is so bright. I also like the one marked “429” on the sweet spot. (That could be a “1” to the left of the four, but I think it’s just an open bracket — you know, like the edge of the stamp. Not really sure. I wish I’d taken a closer look at the stamps when I visited the Rawlings baseball factory last year.) Wouldn’t it be cool to have both an autograph and an invisible ink stamp on the sweet spot?