As I mentioned last night on Twitter, I snagged three baseballs at this game in THE weirdest ways. Here’s how it all went down…
First, do you remember my friend Brandon’s epic photo of Matt Kemp’s home run bouncing out of Coors Field two days earlier? Well, yesterday, when I first entered the stadium, Dodgers TV broadcaster (and former major leaguer) Steve Lyons was filming a segment about it in the left field bleachers — and he was using a brand new baseball as a prop. In the following photo, he’s sitting 10 rows back:
In between takes, I called out to Lyons and asked if I could talk to him for 10 seconds when he finished.
“Nope,” he joked, “I can’t do that.”
“Oh man!” I shouted. “How about eight seconds?”
“What do you want to talk about?” he asked.
“Well,” I began, “way back in 1999, you narrated the opening of a segment about me on FOX Sports in Oakland. I’m the guy who’s caught a zillion baseballs at games, and I really just wanted to say hi.”
“Give me a minute,” he said before doing one final take — and then he walked down to the bottom of the section.
“I just caught my 5,000th ball two weeks ago in Toronto,” I said, “but I only had about 1,500 when you did that segment on me.”
“Well,” he said, flipping the ball to me, “here’s another one for your collection.”
Here’s a photo of us that was taken moments later:
Lyons was really cool. He stuck around for five minutes and talked to everyone:
Lyons recognized that the girl standing behind behind Dan (two photos above) was the same girl in the book and said, “Hey, Emily!”
Here’s Lyons with the book:
Before Lyons took off, he told me that he’d like to do another segment on me, but there was one catch…
“You’d need to come out to Dodger Stadium,” he said.
“No problem,” I told him. “I’m planning to hit up all 30 stadiums this season and should be there in late August or early September.”
“Tell ya what,” he said, “let me give you my card, and then you can get in touch when you figure out your plans.”
“Cool. How much of a heads-up will you need?”
“About a week.”
“Should I call or email?”
“Either way,” he said, and that’s how we left it.
Here’s a photo of Lyons’ business card:
As you probably noticed, I blurred out his contact info to protect his privacy. I left the “yahoo” portion of his email address in there as well as the Los Angeles area codes…just because. (No harm in that, right?)
By the time Lyons took off, several Dodgers pitchers were playing catch in shallow left field. (You can see a few of them in the photo above.) I would’ve headed over there, but (a) the rest the stadium hadn’t yet opened, and (b) I was still on crutches and it was difficult to get around. Several minutes later, with my friend Robert Harmon standing beside me, I saw one of the pitchers intentionally toss a ball into the empty seats near the tarp. Robert saw it too, and we both looked at each other.
“Man,” I told him, “if my foot weren’t [messed] up, I’d run over there and get that.”
“Well,” said Robert, “would you like me to run over there and get it for you?”
Robert is quite an experienced ballhawk — he was one of three guys involved in the scuffle for Barry Bonds’ final home run — and even though he gives lots of baseballs away, I was surprised that he was willing to give one up for me. That said, I told him that he couldn’t simply GET the ball and BRING it back to me. No sir. As a general/personal rule, in order for me to count a ball in my collection, it can’t come from another fan. I explained to Robert that the ball essentially had to enter my possession first.
“Okay then,” he said, “how do you want to do this?”
“If you’re willing,” I said, “run over there and when you find the ball, stand near it. Don’t pick it up. Just stay there and guard it and don’t let anyone else touch it.”
Robert understood the plan and hurried over to the seats in foul territory:
The rest of the stadium had just opened, and there were actually several other fans who had reached that section before he did. But they didn’t know that there was a ball there. Initially, Robert wasn’t able to find it. He was snooping around six rows back, but the ball had been tossed into the second row, so I shouted and got his attention and waved him down to the front. Thirty seconds later, I saw him look down at something — and then give me a fist-pump.
It took me 10 minutes to make my way over there. I had to climb up about 20 rows’ worth of steps in the bleachers, then proceed through the concourse into foul territory, and finally work my way back down to the front row. I was exhausted and drenched in sweat. My armpits hurt from where the crutches had been digging into me, and the heels of my hands were also sore. But it was worth it. Look what awaited me:
There he was, protecting the ball for me under his right foot (and holding up the copy of my book that he’d recently purchased). What a guy.
I took off my backpack and leaned my crutches against a seat.
“Are you ready to secure your baseball?” he asked.
“Yes, sir!” I replied.
“I hope you won’t mind my shoe print on it,” he said.
“Are you kidding?” I asked. “That only adds to the awesomeness of this whole situation.”
With that, Robert moved his shoe out of the way, and I carefully bent down and grabbed the ball.
Is that a cheap way to have gotten a ball? Yeah, but I think it’s also an interesting and creative way to have gotten a ball. It all depends on how you look at it, and personally, I don’t feel bad about it. I think it’s pretty damn cool, and I owe it all to Robert.
Here’s another photo of us. He’s holding my book (and a very special pen that Tommy Lasorda once complimented). I’m holding his five-page rant/manifesto/letter to the Rockies:
(Robert, if you’re reading this, I think you should post your entire letter here as a comment. I know that lots of people would get a kick out of it. And hey, thanks for the ball. You’re okay in my book…literally…pages 22-23.)
We had some time to kill before the game started, so Robert began reading the book — umm, I mean, flipping through and looking at all the pretty pictures:
More specifically, he was checking out the section (in the “Rawlings” chapter) about commemorative balls.
Shortly before game time, I found a club-level ticket and got Aaron Miles and Dee Gordon to sign it. Here’s Gordon in the following photo:
I was starving at that point, but the game was about to begin, and I had no way of carrying food down to my seat in the front row in left-center field. The solution? I treated Robert to lunch (for the second time in four days) in exchange for his schlepping services. I got a pork sandwich…
…and (for the first time in my life) some chocolate-covered bacon…
…which was kinda good, but kinda meh. At first, I was like, “Mmmm!! Chocolate!!” but then I was like, “Ew, this chocolate tastes like bacon.” But I like bacon…sometimes…if I don’t think too hard about what I’m actually eating. I swear that if I had a personal chef (who was as good at cooking as I am at Arkanoid), I’d be a vegetarian — maybe not forever, but for quite some time. There are certain things that I just wouldn’t want to give up forever.
Here I am with Dan and his seven-year-old daughter Emily:
This was the 381st major league game that she had attended — and it was a certifiable slugfest. (Humidor my ass.) There were seven home runs, and of course the only one that came anywhere near me sailed 30 feet over my head. Troy Tulowitzki hit it in the bottom of the 7th inning. Here’s a screen shot in which I’ve circled myself in red:
Can you spot the ball? I looked at that screen shot for five solid minutes, and I’m stumped. I found a couple of white specks here and there that could be the ball, but I’m not certain.
In the bottom of the 9th inning, I wandered over to the corner spot in center field. This was my view straight ahead…
…and this is what I saw to my left:
Once again, I was hoping to get a ball from the Dodgers when they walked across the field (from the bullpen) after the final out.
No luck. They completely ignored me. And that, I assumed, was the end of my snagging.
Final score: Dodgers 10, Rockies 8.
But hang on…
Do you remember the photos (see here and here) that Brandon took when we exited the stadium the other night? At Coors Field, the handicapped aisle in left field (where I’d been sitting) is connected to the secret, under-the-stands concourse and other restricted areas. That said, as I was limping up a ramp with my crutches, I had to step aside to let a cart drive slowly past — and when it passed, I noticed that it was loaded with the Dodgers’ equipment.
“Look at all those balls and bats,” I said to Emily, who was standing next to me. (Her dad had run ahead to get the car.) The driver of the cart — a young athletic white guy who couldn’t’ve been more than 25 years old — heard me, and as he reached the top of the ramp, he quickly turned around in his seat for a split-second and yelled “Here you go!” and dropped a baseball on the ground. The ball trickled down the ramp to me (along the side wall), and I stopped it with my aircast. Before I had a chance to pull out my camera, the guy was gone, so I got Emily to take the following photo:
That was my 3rd and final ball of the day.
See what I mean?
(I would’ve given the ball to Emily, but her dad has caught several thousand, so she didn’t exactly want or need another.)
Here’s a closeup of the ball on the ramp:
Seriously, how bizarre is that?! And just curious…is there anyone who thinks that any of my three baseballs shouldn’t count? I’ve already marked them and decided to count them, and I’m not going to reverse my decisions, but I’m just wondering. Let me know what you think. (My opinion on the final ball is that it came from a stadium employee; even though I didn’t snag it in the stands, it should still count.)
When I reached the top of the ramp, this is what I saw:
The exit was off to the left; the Dodgers’ equipment was in the trailer on the right. Here’s a closer look:
From a ballhawking (and not-being-in-pain) perspective, this four-game series was a disaster — but I still got to hang out with friends and see some really cool stuff along the way.
• 407 balls in 50 games this season = 8.14 balls per game.
• 711 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 237 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 5,069 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
• $2,824.58 raised this season
Finally, here’s a side-by-side look at the three baseballs in regular light versus black light:
Nothing too distinctive this time — just a bunch of glowy randomness, for the most part.