It was “Carlos Gonzalez Bobblehead Day.” There was a huge crowd waiting to get in. I arrived at Gate E with 15 minutes to spare and used the time to sign copies of The Baseball for the following people:
In the photo above, that’s Don (aka “The Rockpile Ranter“) on the left, Gary X with the open jersey, me on crutches, and Marie on the right.
Here I am signing one of the copies:
(In case you missed it, I sprained my ankle on 6/3/11 at Citi Field, and I still can’t walk.)
By the time I’d arrived at Gate E, Marie had already been there for more than an hour — and she very kindly held a spot for me at the front of the line.
My friend Brandon arrived JUST as the gates were opening, so he missed the first few minutes of batting practice…during which time I snagged two baseballs. The first was thrown by Matt Lindstrom, and the second was a line-drive homer by Troy Tulowitzki. That one came right to me. I caught it on the fly. Several folks made a big deal about it and congratulated me, but there was really nothing to it. “My hands are fine,” I told them. “It’s my foot that’s the problem.”
Now, before I continue, I should mention that Brandon is a professional photographer/videographer. I’ve attended lots of games with him since we first met on 4/24/08 at Champion Stadium, and he always gets great shots. Ready to see some?
Here’s one that shows me leaning over the wall for what I thought was going to be a ground-rule double. The red arrow is pointing at the ball:
In the photo above, the guy on my left is named Robert Harmon. He’s a very well-known fan in Denver, and as I mentioned in my previous entry, he has pretty much stopped going to games. The only reason why he was here yesterday was because of the bobblehead.
Stupid bobbleheads. And stupid me for attending this game. The stands were packed for BP, and I wasn’t too happy about it:
Halfway through the Dodgers’ portion of BP, Tony Gwynn Jr. threw a ball in my general direction:
As it turned out, the ball wasn’t intended for me, but I still ended up snagging it. It sailed ten feet to my right and was dropped by a bunch of fans in the row directly behind my “wheelchair aisle.” The ball landed at my feet, so I picked it up and handed it to the smallest kid. It was one of the cheapest possible ways for a ball to (briefly) find its way into my possession, but it still counts.
Toward the end of BP, I tried hopping after a home run ball…
…but it was no use. I could barely move, and the aisle was crowded, and the Dodgers weren’t being particularly friendly (shocker!), and my left foot was getting tired, so I gave up. BP was still in progress, and I had to sit:
For me, this is about as frustrating as it gets. I was just wishing that it would hurry up and be July. Or maybe August. Or maybe 2012.
When BP ended, there was a ball sitting on the warning track in left-center field — and in the following photo, you can see me standing near it:
Normally, I would’ve unleashed my glove trick and snagged it within five seconds, but the ushers at Coors Field DO NOT allow it.
Five minutes later, the ball was still there, so I reached over the wall with one of my crutches:
I wasn’t even trying to snag it. I was just being silly and passing the time and seeing how close I could get. No harm in that, right? WRONG! Within two seconds, I heard someone shout my name, and when I turned around, I got a death-stare from an usher. Five minutes after that, some random security-guard-type-of-guy walked onto the field from the bullpen. He had three other balls in his hand, and he refused to toss any of them into the crowd.
As he picked up the ball below me, all he said was, “I can’t do it.”
That was truly lame. Every single one of those baseballs should have ended up in the crowd — that’s what would’ve happened at most other major league stadiums — and if one of them had ended up in my hands, it would’ve been my 400th ball of the season.
After that, I spent some time with Robert and Don and Don’s son Hunter:
Brandon, meanwhile, took some magazine-quality photos of the pre-game activity. Here’s Chad Billingsley warming up…
…and here’s “Dinger,” the Rockies’ mascot, playing kickball on the field with a bunch of kids:
(I wasn’t going to post the photo of Dinger, but Brandon insisted.)
The game got underway at 6:40pm. Here I am sitting next to Brandon:
Here’s a well-known beer vendor named Earthman:
Earthman hands out business cards (I have two different ones on my bathroom wall) so that fans can call him when they want beer. “This is Earthman,” he says upon answering his cell phone. “What section, what row?” It’s pretty damn entertaining.
At one point in the middle innings, I was visited by Marc Stout from Root Sports:
That’s the Rockies’ TV network. He and I hung out for a couple minutes and made plans to film a segment the next day during BP.
Here are two photos that Brandon and I took at the exact same moment — of Chris Nelson hitting a foul ball. Can you guess which one Brandon took?
Brandon and I were sitting next to a man named Jeff, who was there with his son Marcus. Jeff had bought four copies of my book — one for his iPad and three hard copies. I’d never seen the e-version of my book, so Jeff let me play around with it:
Here’s a closer look (at the “Evolution of the Ball” timeline):
Nifty. But nothing, in my opinion, beats an actual book, especially if you want it signed by the author. I offered to sign Jeff’s iPad, and not surprisingly he declined. Here I am with him and Marcus:
In the top of the 9th inning, Matt Kemp blasted a home run that (a) flew completely over the bleachers, (b) landed on the concourse, and (c) bounced out of the stadium. Thin air or not, it was damn impressive. According to Hit Tracker, it traveled 458 feet, and get this — Brandon got a photo of the ball just before it disappeared into the Colorado night. Have a look:
That might be the best photo he’s ever taken. I don’t know. There’ve been lots of highlights over the years.
The Dodgers, trailing 6-0 at the start of the 9th, scored five runs to make things interesting. During that long inning, Brandon took two cool photos of foul balls. Here’s one. Can you spot the ball?
Here’s a closer look:
I love everyone’s facial expressions, especially that of the guy with the mustache and glove. And did you notice the guy to his right — the guy who’s touching his cheek? He seems bizarrely passive, as if he’s looking at modern art.
Here’s another foul ball photo that shows a woman holding up her prized souvenir:
The Rockies outfielders schmoozed it up during a pitching change…
…and after the final out, I went here:
I was hoping to get the Dodgers’ relievers’ attention as they walked out of the bullpen.
So much for that.
Since Brandon was watching my backpack, this is how I had to carry my glove on the way out:
One great thing about sitting in the “handicapped” aisle at Coors Field is the chance to enter/exit through an otherwise off-limits area. This is what I’m talking about:
Here’s another look at this area:
This is the concourse that leads to the clubhouses and other special areas. Twenty-four hours earlier, when walking through that very spot, I saw Vin Scully get driven past on one of those little golf-cart thingies. I was officially star-struck.
Just before heading out, Jeff asked Dan Sauvageau to autograph his page in The Baseball:
And that, my friends, is the end.
• 399 balls in 48 games this season = 8.31 balls per game.
• 709 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 235 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 5,061 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)
• $20.82 raised at this game
• $2,769.06 raised this season
Finally, both balls have invisible ink stamps. Here’s a comparison in regular light versus black light: