I’m in Texas, son!
Okay, that was ridiculous, but anyway, hello. Yes. Arlington. Rangers Ballpark. Most underrated stadium in the Major Leagues. Painfully gorgeous. Incredibly laid-back. And yesterday, no batting practice. This is what I saw when I first ran inside:
It’s bad enough when BP gets wiped out by rain. It’s even worse when BP gets cancelled because of the threat of rain. That’s what happened yesterday. In all fairness, there was a nearby tornado in the mid-afternoon, but the weather ended up being sunny and beautiful. It was extremely frustrating, but I still ended up having a good time thanks in large part to a 16-year-old season ticket holder who’d recognized me outside the stadium. He had started by asking me where I was from, and when I told him New York, he said, “Are you the guy who was on TV for catching a lot of baseballs?”
“Yup, that’s me,” I said, and we ended up having a long conversation until the gates opened. He told me that he was featured on SportsCenter last week for catching an Adrian Beltre homer, and he showed me the video of it on his iPhone. His name is Trent, and he was there with his friend Brent. For real. Trent and Brent. They were both really cool, and we spent the next two hours together.
Brent snagged the first ball of the day (I’m not sure how he got it) and Trent snagged another soon after in center field. For some reason (early BP?), there was a ball sitting in the gap behind the outfield wall, and he reeled it in with his cup trick. Here’s a photo of Trent dangling the cup before knocking the ball closer:
In the photo above, Brent is the other fan looking on.
Just about every ballhawk at Rangers Ballpark has a retrieval device because (a) there are gaps behind the outfield walls and (b) stadium security actually allows fans to reel in the balls that land there. What a concept! Fans can also bring as much food as they want into the stadium, and they can bring drinks too, as long as the drinks are not in glass bottles or metal cans. If you want to bring a gallon of water or a two-liter bottle of soda, no one will hassle you. And the stadium opens two and a half hours early every day for season ticket holders — not just full-season ticket holders, but anyone with any type of ticket plan. THIS IS HOW A STADIUM SHOULD BE RUN. And my god, look how beautiful it is:
The Rangers’ bullpen is out in the open where fans can actually see their favorite pitchers warming up. Again, what a concept!
Trent, it turns out, recognized me from this crappy segment on the CBS Evening News, so he knew all about my streak of consecutive games with at least one ball.
“It was up to four hundred and something back then,” he said.
“It’s now six seventy-seven,” I replied.
Trent and Brent both wanted to make sure that I’d keep my streak alive, so they told me they were going to let me have the next ball. I told them they didn’t have to — that I didn’t want any charity and I’d definitely find a way to snag at least one before the day was through — but they insisted.
There were two baseballs sitting on the field. The first was on the warning track in straight away right. Josh Frasier, the Rangers’ bullpen catcher, walked over and tossed that one up to me, and then we all turned our attention to this ball near the (not-yet-chalked) foul line:
I asked Trent and Brent how we should handle it — if we should all just jump for the ball when it ended up getting tossed our way, or if they wanted it. I told them that since this was their home turf, I didn’t want to get in their way, and I offered to back off and let them have it.
Two minutes later, Alexi Ogando walked out of the bullpen. Trent called out to him for the ball. I figured that meant that I wasn’t going to get it, but while Ogando was walking toward it, Trent told me that I could have it.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“It’s no big deal,” he said. “I already got one, so I’m good.”
“What about you?” I asked Brent.
He just shrugged.
By that point, there was another fan in the section — a guy closer to my age named Clyde, who was there with his four-year-old son, Suede. I had talked to Clyde outside the stadium as well. He’s a DJ for a local hip hop radio station, and although you won’t see it in the next photo, he was covered with tattoos. Anyway, I asked Clyde if he wanted the ball for his son, but they’d already gotten one, so he was like, whatever. Basically, everyone was cool with me getting the ball from Ogando, so when it ended up being tossed our way, I reached out and caught it.
Here I am with Trent (in the red shirt), Brent (in the blue shirt), Suede (coolest name ever), and Clyde (with the red glove):
After that, there was absolutely nothing happening on the field, so Clyde and Suede headed off to do their own thing. Trent and Brent, meanwhile, led me to the Wiffle Ball field to take some batting practice. Trent had vouchers so we could all hit for free. (He really hooked me up.) Here’s a photo of Brent at the plate:
The Blue Jays’ pitchers came out to play catch…
…and it’s hard to believe, but I didn’t get a single baseball from them. I was completely decked out in Jays gear, and I had a glove, and I knew all their names and asked politely and spoke to the Latino players in Spanish — and I didn’t get one ball. Unbelievable. The players were tossing balls to gloveless men in Rangers gear, but for some bizarre reason, it’s like I was invisible.
After the players were gone, Brent took a photo of me with my No. 5 sign:
Why No. 5?
Because this is the 5th stadium I’ve been to this season.
Why the silly face?
Because my facial expressions indicate how I feel about each stadium. Rangers Ballpark is as good as it gets.
There was more time to kill, so Trent and Brent led me up to the Diamond Club in deep left field. I had thought that I needed a special club-level ticket (or a season ticket holder ID card) to get in there, but no, it’s open to everyone. Check out the view…
…and look at the buffet area:
I grabbed a bottled water and treated Trent and Brent to sodas at the bar. I really wanted to go for the buffet, but it was expensive (close to $30), and I knew I wasn’t going to have enough time. Trent, however, decided to go for it, and while he walked around filling up his plate, I followed him and took pics of all the food. Here’s a gigantic collage of all the options:
I won’t bother listing everything that was available, but it was impressive. I mean, there was prime rib and stir fry and hot dogs and fruit and salad and fortune cookies and cake and sundaes and chips with chili and cheese sauce. Wow. I’m getting hungry just writing about it.
I explored more of the Diamond Club…
…and the guys came with me to show me the balcony. Here they are in another dining area that opens up to it…
…and here they are on the balcony:
Although I don’t typically like to sit 600 feet from home plate, I must admit that the view was spectacular:
Trent stayed in the club to get his money’s worth at the buffet. Trent and I headed back down to the field-level seats, and we said our goodbyes near the left field foul pole. He headed off to meet his father (who works at the stadium) near the Rangers’ dugout. I cut through the seats toward third base because the Jays’ position players were starting to throw along the foul line. As I made my way through one of the many empty rows, I literally did a double-take when I saw this:
If you don’t see what I’m talking about, look at the bottom right corner of the photo above.
It was 6:40pm — the stadium had been open for more than two hours — and I found a ball. Crazy stuff.
I realize that photos of baseballs sitting in the seats can be dubious. I mean, anyone could place a ball in the seats and take a photo of it and say, “Look what I found!” but seriously, this ball was sitting there, waiting for me to rescue it. Look at the sad/lonely expression on its face:
I headed down toward the front row, not because there were cute girls launching T-shirts into the crowd…
…but because the Blue Jays were throwing. Really. And I ended up getting THREE balls within a five-minute span. Yunel Escobar tossed me the first, and then less than five seconds later, someone else threw me another. I got so caught up in the moment that I totally spaced out and forgot who’d given it to me. (Has that ever happened to you?) Then a little kid with a glove wandered down and stood right beside me. He was shouting aimlessly (and not nearly loud enough) for the last ball in use, and when the players were almost done, he got distracted and turned his back to the field. (Duh.) John McDonald ended up tossing me the ball because there was no one else worth giving it to. As soon as I caught it, I tapped the kid on the shoulder and handed it to him.
This was my view for the game…
…and yes, that’s a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that I bought at a kids’ concession stand for two bucks. I actually bought two of these sandwiches and washed ’em down with an ice-cold bottled water.
I was sitting right next to the grassy batter’s eye (aka “Green’s Hill”). It was the perfect spot for running out and catching a home run ball. (Yes, fans are actually allowed to do that.) This was the view to my left (sans PB&J):
Trent was sitting directly across the grassy area from me. I was in the 5th row on the left side of the hill; he was in the 5th row on the right. That’s his regular spot, and I was looking forward to some friendly competition. We’d both been gracious about the pre-game toss-ups in right field, but we both knew that if a home run were hit to dead center during the game…oh yeah, it was gonna be ON.
Travis Snider was definitely not “on” when his headshot (or rather mugshot) was taken. Behold the frightening absurdity:
The closest I came to snagging a ball during the game was a deep drive by John McDonald in the top of the 3rd inning. Here’s a screen shot of Rangers center fielder Julio Borbon chasing it down:
I was hoping that the ball would land on the warning track and bounce up to me, and it totally would’ve *if* it had landed on the track. I was right in line with it, but it touched down several feet short on the grass. Damn!
Borbon wasn’t able to catch the ball. Here’s another screen shot taken moments later:
There were five home runs hit during the game, and they all went to left and right field. Nothing in center. (Frowny face.)
The Blue Jays won, 6-4, and after the final out, I raced over to their bullpen. Within a minute, everyone had left except Shawn Camp and bullpen coach Pat Hentgen (and bullpen catcher Alex Andreopoulos). Camp was getting in some extra work, so I stood and watched and waited and noticed that there was a lineup card taped to the far wall:
Camp finished his session a few minutes later and tossed me the ball. Not only was it was rubbed up with mud, but it had a few bonus clumps of mud attached to it:
(Wow! Major League mud! Except not. Ew.)
Then, several minutes later, I got one of the groundskeepers (pictured two photos above) to peel the lineup card off the wall and hand it to me, just as I’d done on 5/3/09 at Rangers Ballpark, only this time it was much easier.
In between the time that I got the ball and the lineup card, I talked to a kid who recognized me from this blog. His name is Dylan. He said he’d ready every single one of my entries (dating back to April 2005!), and he seemed really glad to meet me. The feeling was mutual. It’s always cool to meet people who appreciate what I do.
Here we are together with the lineup card:
Today (April 26th) is Dylan’s birthday. I believe he’s 12 years old (if I’m remembering correctly), so I’d like to take this moment to wish him a very happy birthday. (Dylan, I know you’re reading this, so I hope you have a great day. Leave a comment or send an email and keep in touch.)
Here’s a closer look at the lineup card:
Did you notice that the lefties are highlight in yellow, and that the lone switch-hitter is highlighted in blue? It’s kind of like the blue-and-red color coding on the lineup cards that I got on 4/15/11 at Citizens Bank Park. (FYI, I’m going to wait to put the Jays lineup card on this page on my website until I get back home and scan it.)
Another nice thing about Rangers Ballpark (and most stadiums outside of New York, for that matter) is that security doesn’t kick everyone out as soon as the game ends. They actually let people linger and take pics — like this one:
Is that not a gorgeous sight? I’m already bummed that I only have three more games here before I have to leave for Houston. (No offense, Houston. I’ll be bummed when I have to leave you too.)
• 116 balls in 17 games this season = 6.8 balls per game.
• 678 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 204 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 4,778 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 get involved.)
• 38 donors
• $6.09 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $42.63 raised at this game
• $706.44 raised this season