It was a day game, and the batting cage was set up…
…but there was no batting practice.
As you might imagine, I was nervous about getting shut out, but thankfully, within the first five minutes, I got A.J. Burnett to throw me a ball on the right field side. I was trapped 10 rows back, but managed to get his attention, and he made a perfect toss. Here I am reaching up and catching it:
(Jona was with me and took a bunch of photos.)
My 2nd ball of the day was thrown by Marc Rzepczynski just past the outfield end of the 3rd base dugout. The ball had randomly rolled onto the warning track, so when he walked by, I called out to him and got him to hook me up. I wasn’t thrilled to be begging for balls, but given the circumstances, it was all I could do.
One minute later, I got another ball from Blue Jays coach Luis Rivera near the home plate end of the dugout. In the following photo, the red arrow is pointing to him; Rivera had just tossed the ball, which can be seen inside the circle:
I had thrown on my Blue Jays cap and shirt, so in the photo above, that’s me wearing all blue.
Twenty minutes after that, several Blue Jays gathered along the left field foul line. One of them was holding a ball. It was Shawn Camp. Hmm…
Camp, you may recall, had tossed me two baseballs on 5/23/11 at Yankee Stadium, so before I asked him for this one, I took off my hat. I hoped that that’d make enough of a difference (in terms of changing my appearance) so that he wouldn’t recognize me.
It was noon. I had a little more than an hour to kill, and since there wasn’t anything happening on the field, I decided to visit Monument Park for the very first time at the new Yankee Stadium. For as long as I can remember (going back to the old stadium), Monument Park has been open until 45 minutes before game time. That wasn’t the case yesterday. When I reached the entrance (in the cramped center field concourse), this is what I saw:
Double thumbs-down! Even my shadow was pissed. But in all fairness to the Yankees, the stadium’s A-to-Z Guide, which I hadn’t read beforehand, does spell out the policy as follows:
“Monument Park, a museum in and of itself, recognizes former Yankees greats. On game days, it opens with the gates and remains accessible for Guests’ enjoyment until 45 minutes prior to the scheduled game start time (subject to capacity limitations). Please note that the line to Monument Park may close earlier than the Park itself…”
So, there you have it. “Duh” to me.
Jona had never been to the upper deck at the new stadium, so we headed up there to have a look. On the way, we stopped briefly on the 200 Level and discovered THE worst seat in all of Major League Baseball. Here I am in it:
Can you believe that? In the photo above, you can see half the infield, but from where I was sitting (two feet behind that support beam), the entire infield was blocked. I hope that seat is heavily discounted and comes with a personal masseuse.
The view from the last row of the upper deck was much better:
Here’s another photo from the very top:
Jona and I sat in straight-away left field during the game. This was the view:
I had some room to run for baseballs, but nothing came close enough. Andruw Jones hit two mammoth homers — the first landed in the Jays’ bullpen, the second in Monument Park — and Mark Teixiera hit one that reached the front row half a section to my right. The Yankees jumped out to a 5-0 lead after three innings, so the game wasn’t terribly exciting. I was glad to witness history, however, when Mariano Rivera entered the game in the top of the 9th inning and made his 1,000th career appearance. Better yet, he’s the first pitcher to make 1,000 appearances with just one team. Unfortunately, his scoreless outing didn’t result in a save because the Yankees were winning, 7-3. Whatever. Still cool. Even though I don’t like the Yankees, I absolutely *love* Mo and root for him all the time no matter what.
After the final out, I headed to the corner spot beside the bullpen:
In the photo above, that’s me with the backpack. I was hoping to get a ball from the Jays as they walked from the bullpen to the dugout.
I finished the day with four balls — but left with three. That’s because I gave one away. See the little kid in the photo above? He’s standing behind (and to the left of) the guy in the red shirt. I noticed that the kid didn’t have a ball, so before he left with his parents, I handed one to him:
Ten minutes later, I took the following photo from the elevated platform of the No. 4 train:
And right now, I’m in Toronto for a four-game series against the White Sox. It wasn’t my goal to see the Jays play every day this week, but that’s what’s going to happen…
• 314 balls in 37 games this season = 8.49 balls per game.
• 698 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 516 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball
• 147 consecutive Yankee home games with at least one ball
• 4,976 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.)
• 47 donors
• $6.84 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $27.36 raised at this game
• $2,147.76 raised this season