I’ve been accused of doing all sorts of horrible things over the years, and in my last blog entry, someone posted a comment that accused me of another: pretending to be disabled in order to get baseballs. “I just think that’s really low,” wrote the commenter, “and it was surprising to see you go that far.”
Let me set the record straight: I’m not pretending. “Disabled” is a strong word, but the fact is that I have a horrendously sprained ankle, and I’m on crutches, and it hurts every time my left foot touches the ground. I’ve been to the emergency room for X-rays. I’ve been to a foot specialist. I spent $70 on crutches and $150 for an aircast. I’ve been taking pain-killers every day and wrapping/elevating/icing my foot. I’m in bad shape, and it blows.
That said, I took small pleasure yesterday at LaGuardia when my “disability” allowed me to board the airplane before anyone else:
When I first arrived at the airport (with four and a half hours of sleep), I checked my bag curbside and was offered a wheelchair.
“How much extra will that cost?” I asked.
“Nothing,” said the baggage guy, “and they’ll take you right to the gate.”
Again, just to be clear, I’m truly injured, and I’m not happy about it, and I know that there are folks with far more severe disabilities, but I did enjoy being rolled through the airport and getting to bypass every line you could possibly imagine. I guess that makes me a horrible person.
Once I made it to Denver, my friend (and honorary mom) Nettie Wood picked me up at the airport and gave me a ride to her place. Here she is in the car.
At 2:30pm, I headed over to the Blake Street Tavern for lunch with this guy:
That’s Robert Harmon. You might remember him from this article that I wrote about Barry Bonds’ 762nd career home run ball — and you might also recognize his name from pages 22-23 of The Baseball. Robert used to be a diehard Rockies fan, but now (as you might have noticed based on his hat in the photo above), he roots against them. Because of several incidents that have taken place in the last year, he feels that he’s been unfairly targeted and bullied by team personnel, and as a result, he has pretty much stopped going to games. In the photo above, do you see the piece of paper to the right of my plate? (That’s a buffalo burger, BTW.) That’s just one page of a long letter that Robert has written to the Rockies. He’s still editing it and will soon drop it off at Coors Field.
After lunch, Nettie gave me a ride to Coors, where I met up with her husband Danny (pictured below on the left) and another friend named Dan Sauvageau (on the right):
Danny, you may recall, is the guy with THE most incredible collection of baseballs. Dan, meanwhile, might look familiar because he’s one of the “Top Ten Ballhawks” in The Baseball. Each ballhawk got two pages in the book. Here’s the first page of Dan’s profile/interview:
For the record, Dan has now snagged 80 game home runs, including 47 on the fly.
Batting practice was slow, or rather *I* was slow. I used my crutches for about one-third of the time, hopped around on my good foot for another third, and walked VERY slowly and carefully for the remainder. No matter what I did, it sucked, and I was once again reduced to begging for balls. When an entire group of Rockies lefties started hitting, I couldn’t run over to the right field seats. When the Dodgers came out and played catch along the left field foul line…
…I was stuck in left-center. Pre-game throwing at the dugout? Not a chance. It was unbelievably frustrating not to be able to reposition myself throughout the day — not to use certain strategies when I *knew* they would’ve worked.
Here’s a photo of me that Nettie took during BP:
I managed to snag five baseballs, all of which were all thrown/handed to me by the following players:
1) Jason Hammel (as soon as I entered the left field seats)
2) Matt Guerrier (when he finished warming up)
3) Ramon Troncoso (when he saw my crutches; he handed it to me)
4) Marcus Thames (after his first throw fell short)
5) Rubby De La Rosa (because I asked him in Spanish)
I ended up giving away two of those baseballs to kids.
After BP, I caught up with a Rockies fan named Ken, who’d brought his copy of The Baseball. (Ken leaves comments on this blog as “rocktober_93.”) I signed the book for him, and then we got a photo together:
Soon after, two folks in the bleachers walked down to the front row with their copy of the book. Their names were John and Catherine. Here I am with them:
See the Rockies lineup in the photo above? Show of hands: who here has heard of Charlie Blackmon?
Another show of hands: based on the photo below, who here thinks that I’m “pretending” to be injured and that I’ve stooped to new lows by letting the players see my crutches during BP?
Shortly before game time, Nettie took the following photo of me with my “9” sign:
Why number nine?
Because this is the ninth major league stadium that I’ve visited this season.
Here’s a collage of all nine photos:
This was my view during the game:
Nothing special, right?
Well, here’s what it looked like to my right…
…and to my left:
I had SO much room to limp for baseballs, but never really got the chance. The closest I came was on a Carlos Gonzalez double in the bottom of the 8th. After standing up and hopping 10 feet to my right, I watched helplessly as the ball hit the top of the wall several seats over. Here’s a screen shot that shows me in the stands:
The temperature had dipped into the 40s, so I was wearing my gray hoodie — and if you look closely, you can see my aircast just over Tony Gwynn Jr.’s right shoulder.
The Rockies were losing 4-0 after five innings, and they were trailing 7-3 at the seventh inning stretch. But they won. They scored five times in the bottom of the seventh and added an insurance run in the eighth. Final score: Rockies 9, Dodgers 7.
There was only one home run in the game — a lazy, Coors-Field floater off the bat of Matt Kemp that barely carried over the wall in dead center and clanked off some guy’s glove. Someday, I’m going to catch a home run here. It might not happen on this trip, but it WILL happen.
• 396 balls in 47 games this season = 8.43 balls per game.
• 72 balls in 12 lifetime games at Coors Field = 6 balls per game.
• 708 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 234 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 5,058 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.)
• 52 donors
• $6.94 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $34.70 raised at this game
• $2,748.24 raised this season
One last thing…
Two of the three balls I kept have invisible ink stamps. Here’s a comparison of those balls in regular light versus black light: