This was my first game at Fenway Park since 2008, and I had a new trick up my sleeve: early access to the Monster Seats. I’d heard about this from a couple friends, and now I’m gonna pass this lesser-known trick onto you. If you line up outside Gate C at around 4pm, you’ll see a woman selling memberships to Red Sox Nation. She basically walks up and down the line with a clipboard and wristbands, so you can’t miss her. (She works for the Sox, so it’s all totally legit and official.) The membership, which is good for a full season, costs $15, and once you have it, you can enter the Monster Seats two and a half hours early for batting practice. The rest of the stadium opens two hours early, but for the first half-hour, fans have to stay behind home plate and the dugouts, so getting into the Monster Seats effectively provides an hourlong head start on the competition. I’d never done this before. In fact, I’d never even been in the Monster Seats, so I was excited to finally see what it was all about. Here I am in line outside the ballpark:
If you look closely at the photo above, you can see that I was still wearing that gosh-darn aircast, 17 days after spraining my ankle on 6/3/11 at Citi Field. Do you see my crutches leaning against the gate? See the guy (in the beige shorts and black shirt) standing next to them? His name is David A. Kelly, and he’s a fellow baseball author. More on him in a bit.
Because I was on crutches, I got to enter the Monster Seats a few minutes early. It didn’t help me snag any extra baseballs, but it was still cool to be there ahead of the crowd and get to soak it all in. Here I am heading to the seats via a walkway at the back of the section:
Just about every photo in this entry was taken by my friend Brandon Sloter. He’s a professional photographer/videographer, and I’ve mentioned him lots in the past. Prior to this, our last game together was on 6/10/11 at Coors Field.
…but was told that I couldn’t stand there — Acchh!! So many rules!! — so I moved toward straight-away left field:
It was amazing to finally BE in those seats, but from a ballhawking perspective, the setup was lousy. The rows were narrow, and the stairs were steep, and of course the whole section got really crowded. I did manage to snag a couple baseballs in the front row and got a little bit of help on both of them. The first was thrown over my head by rookie pitcher Tommy Hottovy. David (the author I mentioned after the first photo) could’ve snagged it, but he let me grab it. That was very kind of him, so when a home run landed in the second row and was handed to me by a stadium employee, I gave that one to him. Yes, I know, these snags were lame and uneventful, but I do have a rigid set of rules for what counts and what doesn’t, and both of these baseballs fell within the parameters.
After a while, I moved to the back of the section and played the walkway — or at least attempted to do so. I still couldn’t run because it was too painful, so whenever a ball came near me, I had to hop after it on my right foot. The closest I came was on a home run that deflected off a kid’s glove right in front of me. Here I am flinching as I reached down for it:
The ball bounced past me and promptly got snatched by another fan.
When the Padres took the field, I immediately spotted Heath Bell. Look! Here he is:
I called down to him, and we had a minute-long conversation. (Even though I was so high up, it was easy for us to hear each other.) I told him about my ankle. He thanked me for the book. It was nice to catch up briefly.
A few minutes later, I got Ernesto Frieri to throw me a ball by asking for it in Spanish. Unfortunately, he was standing near the foul line, and there was a kid standing directly on my right. I mean, it was good for the kid but bad for me because the kid was able to reach out and rob me. Here’s some photographic evidence:
I could’ve boxed the kid out or reached around/over his glove, but that’s not my style. I stayed where I was and simply extended my arm directly out. If the kid hadn’t been able to reach it, then I would’ve caught it (and I might’ve then handed the ball to him), but as it turned out, he made a nice play.
When the rest of the stadium opened, I headed to the center field seats. Heath Bell was out there (in the deepest part of the ballpark) talking to the fans and deciding who to give a ball to:
Here’s a photo of the right field seats…
…and if you look closely at the following shot, you can see me hopping after a ball:
I didn’t snag it, but I did get one tossed to me out there by Clayton Richard.
That was my 3rd ball of the day, and I got No. 4 at the Padres’ dugout right after BP ended. As all the players started walking off the field, I noticed the ball sitting on the grass and pointed it out to Mike Adams:
He actually stopped and walked out of his way to pick it up and then threw it to me. If you look closely at the following photo, you can see the ball in mid-air:
Fenway Park is the 11th stadium I’ve been to this season, so once all the players were gone, I posed for a photo with my “11” sign:
Can you interpret my facial expression up above? (In case you’re new to this blog, I’ve been making different faces in most these photos to show how I feel about each stadium. Here’s a collage of the first nine.)
Moments later, a longtime reader of this blog found me with his copy of The Baseball. Here we are with it:
His name is Jere (pronounced “Jerry”), and he has posted lots of long/insightful comments over the years as “jere80.” It was great to finally meet him. (UPDATE: Here’s Jere’s blog entry about the day. I’m mentioned several times in it, and there’s also a video of the kid robbing me atop the Monster.)
David had also brought The Baseball, along with his copy of Watching Baseball Smarter. And hey, do you remember when I mentioned that he’s a baseball author as well? Here we are holding each other’s books:
David (who stumbled upon my blog in February while doing research) has written two books and has several more on the way. They’re part of a Random House children’s book series called Ballpark Mysteries. In the photo above, the one on the left is called The Fenway Foul-Up, and the one on the right is called The Pinstripe Ghost. I’ve gotten to read these books, and they’re really fun, so check ’em out if you have kids who like baseball.
Before the game, I caught up again with Heath Bell at the dugout…
…and asked for his medical advice. I was hoping he’d tell me about some secret major-league/sprained-ankle remedy, but all he said was, “I don’t know, elevate?”
Thanks, Heath. Thanks a lot. Don’t mind me. I’ll just keep limping around.
Brandon took a great photo of the umpires discussing the ground rules with Bud Black…
…and then he got an even better photo of Black walking back to the dugout:
(Brandon, a die-hard Padres fan and San Diego native says, “Having lost eight of his last nine games, he looked miserable, and he should be. Reverse the curse, dude.”)
Here are a bunch of other photos that he took…
Our very brief view in the top of the 1st inning (before the people came for their seats):
Dustin Pedroia throwing the ball across the diamond:
Pedroia getting out in front of a pitch and connecting on a fly ball…
…that barely stayed fair for a double. Here’s the ball making its descent:
This was our actual view from our actual seats, which cost $73 apiece (including the fees) on StubHub:
(We were packed in the middle of a row. I didn’t bother wearing my glove.)
This is me, exhausted:
I’d taken a redeye flight from Portland, Oregon the night before and slept one or two (or maybe three hours). Then, before heading to Fenway, I managed to take a nap on a horrendously uncomfortable couch in Brandon’s friend’s place in Allston. (I’m at this place now. It’s a total bachelor bad, and I know I shouldn’t complain because I’m staying here for free and saving about $200 on a hotel room, but I’m going to complain anyway. There’s no toilet paper, okay? And when I woke up this morning and took a shower, I had to dry myself with one of my T-shirts. The guys who live here are great, though, and I *do* appreciate getting to crash.)
As for the game…
…all I can say is that the Red Sox are really good, and the Padres are really bad. The final score was 14-5.
After the final out, I headed down to the dugout…
…and got a final ball from home plate umpire Ed Rapuano. Here I am holding it up as I headed back toward Brandon through the cross-aisle:
In the photo above, do you see the kid (wearing the backwards gray cap) looking up at me? When I noticed that, I asked her if she’d gotten a ball…
…and when she said no, I handed it to her:
She was SO happy — a nice end to an overall difficult day. As I mentioned last night on Twitter, Fenway is gorgeous but stressful.
• 443 balls in 54 games this season = 8.2 balls per game.
• 715 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 241 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 5,105 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)
• $27.76 raised at this game
• $3,074.42 raised this season