Finding a baseball at Yankee Stadium? Doesn’t happen often, but when I hurried inside yesterday for batting practice, there was one waiting for me in the 6th row:
As I was taking that photograph, I heard another ball land nearby in the seats. That one was retrieved by a female security guard. I grabbed the first ball, she tossed me the second ball, and BAM, just like that, my day was off to a great start.
Unfortunately, those were the only two balls I snagged during the Yankees’ portion of BP. Look how crowded it got in the right field seats:
When the Rays came out and played catch, I moved to the left field foul line. This was as close as I could get…
…but I still got two baseballs tossed to me. The first came from a player that I couldn’t identify — possibly Sean Rodriguez or Justin Ruggiano — and the second was thrown by J.P. Howell.
The seats in straight-away left field were packed as well…
…so I only managed to get one ball during the Rays’ portion of BP. It was tossed by David Price. He was really cool and had a lot of energy and was running all over the place and throwing lots of balls into the crowd. I loved seeing such a good player act like a hyper little kid. Major League Baseball needs more personalities like that.
As the Rays started jogging off the field at the very end of BP, Jeremy Hellickson turned and chucked a ball into my section. I was half a dozen rows back, and it came right to me. That was my 6th ball of the day.
Right before the game, I was sitting next to the Rays’ bullpen and watching Jeff Niemann get loose. Here he is at the bottom of the following photo:
I wasn’t really paying attention because I was busy eating an overpriced meal from the stadium’s pizza stand. Still, when Niemann finished throwing, I noticed him looking up into the crowd in my direction. I wasn’t wearing my glove. Instead, I was holding a greasy garlic knot and…just look what happened:
I got his attention by waving at him, and when he tossed the ball to me, I dropped the garlic knot in order to have both hands free to make the catch. I don’t even remember dropping it. It happened fast, and it was all instinct. The garlic knots were stale anyway, and they weren’t even that garlicky, so whatever. No major loss there. In fact, I’ll probably live 15 minutes longer as a result of having wasted that little bit of bad food.
I was glad to have snagged seven balls, but the main thing on my mind was Derek Jeter. He entered the game with 2,997 lifetime hits, and when he led off the bottom of the 1st inning, he drilled Niemann’s first pitch into left-center for a double. This was the crowd’s reaction:
Jeter came to bat four more times after that and went hitless.
Niemann was sharp, the Rays won, 5-1, and the Yankees got bumped out of first place.
Late in the game, this was the scene in the Rays’ bullpen:
As you can see, there were a couple of baseballs sitting around, and after the final out, bullpen catcher Scott Cursi gave one to me.
• 527 balls in 64 games this season = 8.23 balls per game.
• 725 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 250 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 5,189 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 get involved.)
• 56 donors
• $7.12 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $56.96 raised at this game
• $3,752.24 raised this season
A few more things…
First, check out the wonky “practice” stamp on this ball that I got during BP:
Second, three of the seven balls that I kept have faint invisible ink stamps on them. Here’s a comparison of those balls in regular light versus black light:
And finally, for those who haven’t heard, something tragic happened last night at Rangers Ballpark. A 39-year-old man in the front row in straight-away left field reached a bit too far over the railing for a ball that was tossed up by left fielder Josh Hamilton. The man lost his balance, flipped out of the stands, and plunged headfirst to his death roughly 15 feet below. Here’s the story on MLB.com, and here’s a YouTube video with the horrifying footage. I was just interviewed about this by a reporter from the Associated Press, and I’m VERY upset about it. Some folks have already left comments about this incident on my previous blog entry, and I welcome more comments here. How are you feeling about it? Have you witnessed any near-death experiences at stadiums or experienced any yourself? Do you think Major League Baseball should/will implement new safety measures for fans? Do you think players should/will throw fewer baseballs into the crowd? What really upsets me is that this man had a young son who was with him at the game. The man was conscious as he was being carried off on a stretcher and was alert enough to ask stadium personnel to check on his kid. An hour later, he was dead. It’s just horrible, and I’m wondering if there’s anything that I (or we, as a baseball/ballhawking community) could do for the boy and his family. I’ll be back at Yankee Stadium tonight with a heavy heart…