It was a day game, I assumed there wouldn’t be batting practice, and I was half-right. When I first ran inside the stadium, the Yankees were nowhere to be seen, but the batting cage and screens were all set up:
In the photo above, do you see the cluster of players down the left field foul line? That was the Brewers’ pitching staff, or a least most of it. I hurried over, and soon after I arrived, I got Yovani Gallardo to throw me a ball over more than a dozen rows of seats. This was my view after catching it…
…and then guess what happened? Gallardo motioned at me to throw it back…so I did…over all the people in the front row. He then threw it back to me and held up his glove again, and we ended up playing catch for a minute. Very cool.
I noticed that two Brewers were playing catch near the dugout, so I headed over for a closer look:
Manager Ron Roenicke was throwing with catcher Jonathan Lucroy. For some reason, the right-handed Lucroy was wearing a glove *on* his right hand, which means he was throwing left-handed. (Random piece of trivia: the last lefty-throwing catcher in the Major Leagues was Benny DiStefano, who appeared behind the plate in three games for the 1989 Pirates.) When they finished, Lucroy threw me the ball — and then he asked me to throw it back. What the hell was going on? I tossed it back, and then he threw it back, and we would’ve kept going if one of his teammates hadn’t absent-mindedly walked out of the dugout right in front of him. Lucroy let me keep the ball, and then BP got underway.
The Brewers hit for half an hour, during which time I snagged a grand total of ZERO baseballs. After BP, there were two balls sitting against the back wall of the left field bullpen:
I got a groundskeeper (pictured above in the white shirt) to toss one to me. Then, with more than 45 minutes to kill, I found a sliver of shade and read several chapters of this book:
It’s called The Bullpen Gospels, it was written by Dirk Hayhurst, and even though I’m only 100 pages into it, I can state definitively that it’s awesome. Hayhurst basically chronicled his life in Spring Training and the Minor Leagues, and he gives a real inside look at what it was like. There might also be some stuff in the book about his time in the Major Leagues. I don’t know. Like I said, I’m only 100 pages in. The point is, you need to buy this book immediately. It’s hilarious and crude and touching and revealing, and you will love it.
Just before game time, I got my 4th and final ball of the day from Brewers bullpen coach Stan Kyles. Here’s the ball with Kyles (facing me with his arms folded) in the background:
Kyles had seen me playing catch earlier with Gallardo. I’d been wearing my old-school Brewers hat at the time, so in order to get him to hook me up an hour later, I had to change my look. Here’s what I came up with:
Go on. Laugh all you want. No, really, it’s okay. I can take it. I know I looked ridiculous, but it worked. And in the process, I also shielded myself from the sun.
I got a good look at Randy Wolf warming up in the bullpen:
See the “batter” standing in against him? That was bullpen catcher Marcus Hanel.
From a ballhawking perspective, the highlight of the game took place in the bottom of the 3rd inning. Mark Teixeira hit his 300th career home run into my section, but unfortunately the ball sailed 15 feet over my head. Look how close I came. I’ve circled myself in the following screen shot. The ball hit just below the State Farm sign:
The ball was snagged by a beer vendor, who then handed it to this fan:
Here’s a photo of the vendor:
Even though I was really bummed about NOT getting that ball, I decided to give some advice to the lucky fan. Not surprisingly, he had no idea that it was a milestone homer, nor did he have any idea that he could get something for it. Long story short: he gave the ball back in exchange for all of the following:
1) a signed bat from Teixeira
2) a signed ball from Teixeira
3) the opportunity to watch BP from the field with his son at a future game
4) a photo-op with Teixeira during BP at the future game
Aside from Teixeira’s homer, the (non-ballhawking) highlight was CC Sabathia’s dominant performance. He pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings, giving up two walks and six hits (all singles) while tying his career high with 13 strikeouts. Final score: Yankees 5, Brewers 0. The Brewers began the series in first place in the NL Central; the Yankees swept them and made it look easy.
• 474 balls in 59 games this season = 8.03 balls per game.
• 720 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 525 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball
• 5,136 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.)
• 56 donors
• $7.12 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $28.48 raised at this game
• $3,374.88 raised this season
Finally, three of the four baseballs have invisible ink stamps on them. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of those balls in regular light versus black light: