8/4/11 at Sun Life Stadium

After two games at Tropicana Field, Jona and I headed to Miami to check out Joe Robbie Stadium…no wait, Pro Player Park. I mean…Pro Player Stadium. Oops! Haha, Dolphins Stadium. Wait, what? Dolphin Stadium?! Umm, make that Land Shark Stadium, or whatever the hell they’re calling it this week. Oh, I know…Sun Life Stadium! Yes, that’s it. The temporary banner in the following photo says so:

In case you can’t tell, that’s me and Jona in the photo above. Based on the position of our arms, it appears that she was more excited to be there than I was. This was her first time visiting the stadium, but for me, the place brought back bad memories. My last game here was the day that Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 600th career home run — a ball that I missed catching by less than 10 feet. And yeah, okay, I still snagged 11 balls that day including a foul ball during the game, but still, let’s not talk about it.

While waiting for the gates to open, a nearby fan pulled out his copy of The Baseball and asked me to sign it. Here we are with it:

This guy’s name is Joe, and he reminded me that we’d met at Game 5 of the 2009 World Series. (Sometimes I really suck at remembering names and faces.)

The gates were supposed to open at 5:30pm, but I didn’t get inside until 5:35. Anyone want to guess why? C’mon, think of a really dumb/annoying reason. Ready? The ticket scanners weren’t working, so everyone got held up at the turnstiles, and let me tell you, we felt like a bunch of caged animals. Finally, when a security supervisor realized that the issue wasn’t going to be resolved anytime soon, he instructed the employees at the turnstiles to tear the tickets and let people in.

I headed straight to the club level in left field. In order to get there, I had to pay $41 per ticket — one for me and one for Jona — and it sorta-kinda paid off. Moments after I got there, I saw a Cardinals pitcher (not sure who) throw a ball deep into the totally-empty club-level seats in foul territory. I raced over, loving the fact that my day was about to get off to an easy start, but then I couldn’t find the ball. Thankfully, no one else got involved in the scavenger hunt because I searched in vain for a solid minute, at which point a random guy called down to me from a random window and pointed it out. Look where the ball ended up:

The ball was wedged at the back of a seat. No big deal, you say? Well, because the seats are tilted back at an angle, my view of the ball had been blocked when I looked straight across that row.

My second ball of the day was also thrown by a Cardinals pitcher that I couldn’t identify. (It seems like half the pitchers on the team are big right-handed white guys with beards, and from 100 feet away, they all look the same.) Jona, still making her way to the club level, got a photo of the ball sailing toward me:

(I had already changed into my Cardinals gear by that point.)

When I first entered the club level, I wanted to take photos of the fancy concourse and concession-area lounges, but I didn’t want to lose any additional snagging time. Jona, however, had no reason to rush, so when she made it up there, she took a moment to get the following photo:

See what I mean? Fancy. And practically deserted. (And air-conditioned!) It was very strange.

Here’s another photo (taken by Jona) in the club-level seats. I’m the guy wearing red all the way out in left-center field:

Batting practice was dead. I figured that Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday would pepper the seats with balls, but for some reason, there just wasn’t much action.

When lefties were in the cage, I passed the time by talking to some other fans…

…and not just any fans. In the photo above, the guy on my left is named Joe Scherer. He’s a regular ballhawk at Sun Life Stadium, and he’s the one who caught Griffey’s 600th. Here’s a closer look at him/us:

When BP ended, I still had just two baseballs. Thankfully, I was able to get Cardinals bench coach Joe Pettini to toss one to me after BP at the 3rd base dugout…

…but I still wasn’t happy. Check out my facial expression in the following photo:

As many of you already know, the reason why I’m holding a “14” sign is that this is the 14th stadium that I’ve been to this season. Here’s a collage of the first twelve, and yes, I’m still planning to hit up all 30. (For the record, this was the 15th major league stadium that Jona had ever been to: Yankee Stadium [new and old], Shea Stadium, Citi Field, Dodger Stadium, Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citizens Bank Park, PNC Park, Coors Field, Kauffman Stadium, Hiram Bithorn Stadium, Target Field, Tropicana Field, and Sun Life Stadium. Am I forgetting any?)

I spent the first two innings of the game in foul territory. There were so many empty seats that I simply *had* to make an attempt at catching a foul ball. Check out my view for left-handed batters:

Then it occurred to me that I was being an idiot; there were even more empty seats in left field, and Albert Pujols was due to bat at least three more times. In fact, his next at-bat was coming up soon, so I had to hurry back up to the club level to make it there in time.

That’s when things went awry, courtesy of a rather asinine security policy. Let me explain…

Toward the end of BP, when I wanted to go down to the field level, I took an elevator from the club level. Easy, right? Just behind the club-level seats in straight-away left field, there are four unguarded elevators. I pressed the button, and when the first one came, I got inside and pressed “1” to get down to the field level. Well, at the field level, the elevators ARE guarded, and when Jona and I tried to use them to get back upstairs, we were stopped by a lone security guard. I showed him my club-level ticket, but that wasn’t the issue.

“These elevators are for handicapped fans only,” he said.

“Oh,” I replied. “Well, since there are four elevators and there aren’t exactly a whole lot of fans waiting to use them, do you think you could make an exception and let us go upstairs to our seats?”

For the sake of providing visual evidence, look how empty the concourse was near the elevators:

Not exactly a whole lot of fans, right? Well, the guard (who was “just following orders”) insisted that we walk up one of the ramps instead.

“Where’s the closest ramp,” asked Jona?

“It’s just over there,” he said, pointing at a vague spot in the concourse.

Jona and I speed-walked in that direction, found the circular ramp 30 seconds later, and hurried up to to the club level.

Anyone want to guess what happened at the top?

I’ll tell you what happened: a lone security guard informed us that this particular club entrance was closed. Of course, moments later, I saw someone exit through one of the glass doors, and when I pointed that out, she said, “This is an entrance for employees only.”

I tried to plead with her. I mentioned that another employee had sent us up this way. But she wouldn’t budge. Access denied.

Let’s just say that I didn’t respond too politely.

Jona and I had to go all the way back down the ramp, then hurry through the concourse for about a quarter of a mile, and then head back up a different ramp. And then we still had to go another quarter of a mile (through the fancy/deserted concourse) to get to the left field seats. Sun Life Stadium is colossal, and the people who run it make it extremely difficult to get around.

Incredibly, we made it to the seats in time to see Pujols rip a single to left field. (If only he’d swung an inch lower!)

This was my view for most of the game…

…and hey, do you see those two totally empty sections on the 3rd base side? Those were closed because of an infestation of bees. If the show “Survivor” runs out of ideas for locations, they should send everyone to a Marlins game.

The club level is probably packed for Dolphins games, but for the Marlins…not so much. All the concession stands were closed except for a gigantic food-court-type area on the first base side, which was approximately 29 miles away.

I took more photos of the concourses and lounge areas…

…and saw something really cool along the way. Have a look for yourself:

Directly behind home plate, there’s a window built into the concourse wall that provides a peek into the TV control room.

Here’s a photo of the concession stands:

Very classy.

Here’s a look at the adjacent lounge/dining area:

Very large.

And here’s a look at the men’s room because…why not?

Back in the seats, I got Marlins center fielder Mike Cameron to throw me his warm-up ball before the 8th inning got underway — and that was it in terms of snagging.

Here’s a final look at the club seats (with me very much in the foreground):

The Cardinals won, 7-4, and Pujols DID hit a home run to left field. Unfortunately, it fell short of the seats and disappeared into the gap behind the scoreboard.

On my way out, I gave one of my baseballs to a kid. Here’s a three-part photo of the exchange:

In the photo on the left, I’m walking out in front of the kid and asking him if he’d caught a ball. (The answer was no.) In the middle photo, it might appear as if he’s cowering in fear of my impending high-five, but that was not the case. Look closely and you’ll see that he was leaning back in order to put some muscle into it. (See his left arm raised and bent at the elbow?) In the photo on the right, I’m assuring his family that I had a baseball to spare.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 4 baseballs at this game (three pictured here because I gave one away)

• 679 balls in 82 games this season = 8.28 balls per game.

• 743 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 268 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 250 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball

• 5,341 total balls

CHARITY STATS:

(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

• $4,834.48 raised this season

The photo above of the three balls was taken by me. I like to show close-ups of the logos and crop out all the extraneous stuff. Jona, on the other hand, is much more creative in her baseball photos. Check out her latest masterpiece:

It’s not quite as cute as her “tucked in bed” photo from my previous entry, but it’s still pretty cute.

13 comments

  1. Brad

    Wow it should be ball snagging heaven there. All those empty seats. I guess crowds don’t matter?

  2. Nick Badders (@nickbatters on twitter)

    Cook & Sun Bats, I would choose Sun Life stadium, becasue I have gone to so many games at the Coliseum. Which for the record is called the O.Co Coliseum, no the Oakland Coluiseum Which sucks. The coliseum, that is. If you can, anyone reading this comment, I want you to to right a letter to Commish Bud and ask him to get a new stadium for the A’s. And Zack, you could help design It to be the most Ballhawk-friendly ballpark in the world.

  3. Cook & Son Bats

    NICK-
    Yep, we were in Oakland last season and your observation is exactly why I asked Zack the question. However, my guess is that he will say Oakland because it seems a bit better for what Zack does. For the record, I never plan to call the Oakland Coliseum “O.co” because that is a ridiculous name…for a stadium or a website.

  4. orow24

    What happens if a ball gets hit into the orange seats in left field can you jump down there? probably not right?

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