I’m in Toronto with my friend Andrew.
We’re staying at the Renaissance Hotel.
The hotel is located inside Rogers Centre.
And yes, our room overlooks the field.
Life is good:
That’s me in the photo above.
Here’s Andrew in the photo below:
This isn’t the first time I’ve stayed in one of these rooms. I was here in April 2009 for a series against the Tigers, and after the first game, I posted this monster blog entry about the hotel experience. If you’ve never seen it, check it out immediately.
Anyway, Rogers Centre opens just 90 minutes early during the week; since this was a Thursday, the Blue Jays began taking batting practice while Andrew and I were still in the room. Here’s what it looked like:
Last time I was here, I managed to get Jesse Litsch to throw me a ball in my hotel room. Naturally, I was hoping to get another one tossed up this time around — and Jays pitcher Ricky Romero tried to hook me up:
Unfortunately his throw fell short, but he tried again and again, and Kyle Drabek joined him in attempting to reach me. Andrew filmed an *awesome* two-minute video that captured all of it, and you can see it here on YouTube:
How cool is that?
At around 5pm, Andrew and I headed outside and lined up at Gate 5:
When I ran into the stadium, I found two baseballs in the front row behind the right field bullpen. Here’s the 2nd of those balls:
In the following photo, you’ll get a better look at the right field seats:
Did you notice the red circle? That’s our hotel room.
Andrew headed up to the 2nd deck (aka the “200 Level”) and took some photos. Here’s one of me standing in the front row in left-center field…
…and here’s another that shows me using my glove trick:
Someone on the White Sox had hit a home run that landed in the gap behind the outfield wall. Just as I was getting ready to snag it with my glove trick, a groundskeeper walked over and said, “I’m gonna make it easier for you, even though you’re a White Sox fan.” (Heh.) Then he picked up the ball and tossed it to me.
I really wanted to break double digits — according to MyGameBalls.com, no one had ever done it at Rogers Centre — but I didn’t know if I’d get enough opportunities. Sure, the day was off to a great start, but there wasn’t much batting practice remaining. At least that’s what it felt like. It was already 5:40pm, which meant I only had another 35 minutes to work with.
Another thing that was working against me was the difficult configuration of the outfield seats. Have a look and then I’ll explain:
At Rogers Centre, you can only snag one-third of the home runs no matter where you are. Basically, the way it works is that one-third of the homers will land in the bullpens, another third will land in the 100 Level, and the final third will reach the 2nd deck. In other words, when you’re in the 100 Level, many balls will either fall short or sail over your head, and if you’re up top, most balls will fall short. Not good.
Andrew stayed up top. Here he is waving at me from above:
I’d told him to hang out there. I knew it would be empty, and since the Sox are a power-hitting team, I figured he’d get some opportunities. As it turned out, he only snagged one ball there — an Adam Dunn homer that landed in the seats — but given the fact that he’d only snagged two baseballs prior to that in his entire life, he was happy.
As for me…
My 5th ball of the day was thrown by Ramon Castro in left field. (Castro threw a knuckleball to me.) My 6th ball was an Adum Dunn homer that I caught on the fly in right field. (I leaned way out over the railing for it.) My 7th ball was tossed by bullpen coach Mark Salas in right field. (Nothing special about that one.) And my 8th ball was another Dunn homer in right. (I made a basket catch on it and immediately handed it to a kid.)
Then there was this ball sitting behind the left field wall:
I used my glove trick to snag it. Below is a photo of me reeling it in. The arrow is pointing at my glove, and if you look closely, you can see the ball poking out at the bottom:
Moments after I got that ball, Tony Pena tossed me another, and then I grabbed a home run that landed right behind me. I don’t know who hit it. It was like…bang-bang-bang…and suddenly my total for the day had reached eleven!
That was it for BP.
I got Omar Vizquel’s autograph on my ticket:
If his autograph looks funny, that’s because it’s upside-down. I had made sure to hand him the ticket so that it was facing the right way FOR HIM, but then he turned it around without looking and signed it. Duh.
I was drenched in sweat because I’d been running back and forth constantly (right field to left field) during BP. Check out the inside of my White Sox cap:
I changed out of my Sox gear and got a photo with my No. 8 sign:
Why No. 8?
Because this is the 8th stadium that I’ve visited this season.
Why the silly face?
Because I’ve been making faces in all the photos (starting with No. 3) to show how I feel about each stadium. See below:
During BP, I’d met a guy named Mike who told me that he’d brought my books. He wanted me to sign them, but he knew I was busy running around, so we made a plan to meet after BP behind the White Sox dugout. I ended up having to leave that section when ushers started checking tickets, but Mike still found me down the right field line. Turns out he had all three of my books:
I was shocked. I know a bunch of people who own copies of all three of my books, but I can’t remember seeing all three at once.
Soon after I finished signing the last one, I caught up with another guy named Matt, who had a copy of The Baseball. Here I am with him and his daughter Ava:
It was her first game ever, and to commemorate the event, Matt had just snagged his first baseball ever during BP.
We all hung out for a bit, and then stayed there once the game began. It was soooooo empty. I truly couldn’t decide where to be, but I figured the right field line was a solid choice. This was my view to the left…
…and this was my view to the right:
In the photo above, that’s Andrew drinking beer. He wasn’t posing. He was actually drinking it. Oh, and hey, I forgot to mention that he got a second ball from Mark Salas at the dugout after BP (I lent him my sweaty Sox cap for that one) and got Vizquel to sign it. Not bad. Andrew always seems to get great autographs when we go to games together; on 7/8/09 at Citi Field, he got Donald Trump to sign a ball.
Speaking of balls, I’d left the one from Drabek on a ledge just inside the window of the hotel room — and I could see it during the game:
In the 2nd inning, Andrew and I moved closer to home plate. Soon after, Matt ended up snagging a foul ball! He and I had pretty much been sitting in the same spot, so if I’d stayed, there’s a good chance I would’ve had it. I’m glad he got it, though. It was a really special game for him (and for his wife Caitlin), so it’s cool that things worked out as they did.
Late in the game, I noticed the booth for the Blue Jays radio network — The Fan 590. Check it out in the following photo:
Why am I pointing this out?
Because tonight (Friday, May 27th), I’m going to do an in-studio interview on The Fan after the game. I’m supposed to get there at 11:30pm (Andrew’s gonna come with me), and if all goes according to plan, I’ll be on the air at around midnight. I might only be on for five or ten minutes, but the late-night host, Jeffrey Sammut, said he might keep me on for much longer, depending on how it goes and how much other sports news there is to discuss.
Anyway, back to the game…
I didn’t snag any foul balls or 3rd-out balls, and I spent the whole night wishing I were in different sections. There was seriously TOO MUCH ROOM to maneuver, and as a result, I didn’t know what to do with myself. (I want to give a quick shout-out to a guy named Kevin [and his friend Joe] who reads this blog regularly and came over to say hi during the middle innings.)
The White Sox won, 3-1, and after the final out, Matt and I both got balls at the 1st base dugout from home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman. My ball was particularly rubbed up with mud. Here I am with it, standing next to Andrew who’s holding the ball signed by Vizquel:
Here’s a close-up of the Dreckman ball:
On my way out of the stadium, I gave away a much cleaner ball to a 12-ish-year-old kid who was passing by with his father.
Good times in Toronto.
Only 12 more balls ’til 5,000…
• 326 balls in 38 games this season = 8.58 balls per game.
• 699 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 223 consecutive games outside of NYC with at least one ball
• 147 lifetime games with ten or more balls
• 25 different stadiums with at last one game with ten or more balls
• 4,988 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)
• $82.08 raised at this game
• $2,229.84 raised this season