This was a dreaded “day game following a night game,” and as a result…
…there was no batting practice.
In the photo above, that’s me in the yellow shirt.
It was only 10:30am. The game wasn’t going to start until 1:05pm. There was a LOT of time to kill.
Eventually, Blue Jays pitcher Jesse Litsch headed to the bullpen with coaches Bruce Walton and Pat Hentgen. Here they are:
In the photo above, do you see the fan standing up above in the red shirt? That’s Trent Williams. He’s a regular ballhawk at Rangers Ballpark. The day before, he caught a Mitch Moreland home run during the game.
Anyway, when two other members of the Blue Jays began playing catch in shallow left field, Trent headed to the front row along the foul line:
As you can see, the stadium was empty. When the gates had opened, there were, like, two other fans waiting to get in. It’s a shame there wasn’t batting practice because I probably would’ve snagged 50 baseballs.
Litsch’s bullpen session seemed to last forever. I enjoyed watching from such close proximity:
I could hear some of what the coaches were saying. (They were giving Litsch pointers on his mechanics.) It’s like I was getting my own personal pitching lesson.
Finally, when the bullpen session ended, Litsch flung the ball to me directly from his glove. It was rubbed up with mud. Check it out:
In the photo above, do you see the player standing on the edge of the warning track in center field? That’s Kyle Drabek. He’d been running back and forth and was taking a short break.
Chris Woodward was also running:
Although I was disappointed at the lack of baseball-snagging opportunities, I really WAS enjoying myself. I had plenty of time to wander and play with my camera and take artsy shots like this:
Two more Blue Jays came out and played catch:
In the photo above, Carlos Villanueva is getting set to fire the ball to Mark Rzepczynski. When they finished, Rzepczynski was the one who had the ball so I asked him, “If I go long, will you throw it to me?”
“What?” he asked.
“If I run up the steps,” I clarified, “and go long like a wide receiver, will you throw me the ball?”
Rzepczynski responded by walking over to the front row and opening up his glove.
“Thanks,” I said, reaching for the ball, “but I wanted to work for it.”
He laughed and that was the end of our little exchange
Now, you know how I’m raising money for a children’s baseball charity by snagging baseballs at games? So far this season, 39 people have made pledges, ranging from one penny to 50 cents per ball. Why am I mentioning this now? Well, it’s never a bad time to talk about charitable fundraisers, but more specifically, the ball from Rzepczynski put the total money over the $1,000 mark. Coming into this game, the amount had reached $989.82, and if you add up all 39 pledges, each ball I snag is worth $6.11 for the charity. See how the math works out? Fun stuff. For those of you who’ve made pledges, thank you very much, and for those who haven’t, I hope you’ll consider it — even if it IS just one or two cents per ball. It all adds up and really helps, and it only takes 20 seconds. Click here to fill out the simple form. For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been raising money for three seasons. Here’s a press release from 2009 about my fundraiser, and here’s a link to the charity itself. It’s called Pitch In For Baseball, and it’s a totally legit organization that’s affiliated with Major League Baseball.
Soon after I got the ball from Rzepczynski, Litsch came over and started signing autographs. I got him on my ticket…
…and then I got three other guys — Rzepczynski, Ricky Romero, and Frank Francisco — to sign my tickets from the previous three games. Here’s a photo of Romero signing…
…and here are the autographs:
Rzepczynski’s autograph is on top (on the April 27th ticket), Romero’s is in the middle, and Francisco’s is on the bottom.
Ten minutes later, all the Rangers were gone except Hawkins and C.J. Wilson. They weren’t throwing. They were talking. And talking. And talking some more. I moved up to the seats along the foul line and took this photo of them:
The reason why I lingered there is that Wilson had a ball tucked in his glove. Luckily, when his conversation ended, Hawkins peeled off toward the bullpen in right-center, and Wilson headed my way. I shouted his name and held up my glove, and he chucked the ball to me.
There was more time to kill. I got some chicken tenders and fries. I found some shade. And eventually the Blue Jays’ position players came out for a session of pre-game throwing:
Jose Bautista threw me a ball — my 5th of the day — and I got another from the guy pictured above on the right. I assume it was the Blue Jays’ strength and conditioning coach, but I’m not sure. Basically, all the players had taken off and left those three balls sitting on the grass. This guy picked them up, and because he hadn’t seen me get the ball from Bautista, I was able to convince him to toss one to me.
Just before I left that section, I noticed this:
As you can see, it was a gigantic fishing net. How awesome is it that the Rangers allow their fans to bring stuff like that into the stadium? (Dear Major League Baseball, are you reading this? This is how it should be. Let me work with you as a consultant. I will help make your stadiums more fan-friendly. More people, especially kids, will grow to love baseball as a result. You will sell more tickets and more merchandise and make more money, and this great sport will continue to expand and prosper for generations.)
Shortly before the first pitch, a 24-year-old Rangers fan named Chase flagged me down. He’d brought his copy of my last book (Watching Baseball Smarter) for me to sign. Here we are with it:
A few weeks ago, Chase snagged a foul ball during a game at Rangers Ballpark. Click here to see a short video of it.
Do you remember the guy named Clyde that I met on 4/25/11 at Rangers Ballpark? I had mentioned that he’s a DJ for a hip hop radio station and that he has a bunch of tattoos. Well, Clyde sat right behind me during the game, and he took off his shirt for some photos. Check it out:
Clyde (aka “Cat Daddy”) is from Baton Rouge; the tattoo on his back is a crawfish. The station he works for is K104 in Dallas, and if you’re interested in his work, you can follow him on Twitter. (I’m also on Twitter @zack_hample.)
There was only one home run during the game. It was hit by Adam Lind in the top of the 1st inning, and it went to straight-away right field. The Rangers stole five bases. Alexi Ogando struck out seven batters to establish a new career high. But the Blue Jays won, 5-2.
After the game (and after all the players and coaches were gone), I got a lineup card from the Jays’ bullpen for the fourth consecutive day. The security guard out there peeled it off the wall for me. Here he is walking with it…
…and here’s a closer look at it:
Two days earlier, Trent and I had been talking about throwing “dummy balls” back onto the field after catching home runs hit by the visiting team. I’ve never thrown ANY ball back, but Trent was really geeked up about it. I told him that he had to write something funny on the ball and mentioned that some ballhawks write stuff like, “Don’t throw that pitch again” or “Cardinals suck!” or whatever.
As you can see, it says, “This is NOT the game ball. Do you think I would catch a home run and…”
Underneath that on the sweet spot, it says…
“Throw it back,” and just to the right of that, it says, “Hell no.”
(BTW, in case you didn’t notice, that’s Trent and Clyde standing in the background.)
Just above that, it says…
“Trash trash trash.”
Above the Rawlings logo, it says…
“Trent Williams Mr. Center Field.” And there’s another “trash” down below for good measure.
Even though I failed to catch a home run during any of my four games here, I still had an amazing time. Arlington rules.
• 168 balls in 20 games this season = 8.4 balls per game.
• 681 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 214 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball
• 4,830 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.)
• 39 donors
• $6.11 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $36.66 raised at this game
• $1,026.48 raised this season