Relatively speaking, it was an uneventful day. The highlight was my mom. The lowlight was the weather. And as for batting practice? Well, at least there *was* batting practice. By most people’s standards, I suppose it was pretty damn good, but for me the whole day felt like a struggle.
It started when Angel Pagan attempted to throw me my 1st ball of the day and missed. At the time, I was the *only* fan in left field, so if he was concerned about my safety, he should’ve aimed for the empty seats behind me. Instead, he babied the throw, and when the ball fell short and bounced back onto the outfield grass, he left it there. Two dreadfully long minutes later, he got another ball…
…and gave me another shot. This was more than bullpen catcher Eric Langill did half an hour later when *his* throw fell short. When Langill saw that his aim was off, he shrugged and ignored me for the rest of BP, so yeah, it was like that.
After I got the ball from Pagan, I snagged two home runs that landed in the left field seats. (I’m not sure who hit the first one. I think Jason Bay connected on the second.) Then I got Ryota Igarashi to throw me a ball in left-center, and I snagged two more homers, this time on the fly. Pagan hit the first one; I moved to my right and climbed up on a seat to make that catch. Nick Evans hit the second; I drifted down the steps and reached above the “BELTRAN” fans in the following photo:
These guys hadn’t seen the ball coming, and they weren’t wearing gloves, so they weren’t the least bit annoyed that I caught it.
When the Braves took the field, I noticed that the jumbotron was playing an episode of “Mets Weekly.” More specifically, there was a segment about a kid named Jacob that I’d met earlier this season at Yankee Stadium. Here he is on the big screen:
The reason why Jacob was being featured is that he’d recently won a contest to do the play-by-play announcing for an inning during a Mets game; the reason why I took the photo of him on the jumbotron is that I was planning to email it to his father. Well, moments after I put my camera away, Jacob and his father showed up. It was quite a pleasant surprise, and when there was a quick break in the action, they asked me to sign their copy of Watching Baseball Smarter. Here I am with Jacob and the book:
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to hear Jacob’s inning on the air because I was at Tropicana Field that night, but based on the clips that played during the “Mets Weekly” segment, he seemed to do a great job — and I’m not surprised. He’s a really sharp kid.
After signing the book and posing for a couple of photos, I caught two more homers on the fly. The first was a line-drive shot by Chipper Jones in left-center field; some random guy tried (unsuccessfully) to buy it from me soon after. The second, my best catch of the day, was hit by a batter that I couldn’t identify; I started in the second row, then climbed into the first row as the ball sailed toward me, and lunged over the railing for it at the last second. My mom had arrived when the Braves took the field, so she witnessed both of these catches and, you know, looked all mom-ish and proud.
Check out the smudged Rawlings logo on the Chipper Jones home run ball:
The left field seats were pretty crowded by the end of BP…
…so I didn’t snag any more homers. I’m happy to say, though, that Jacob and I each got a ball from rookie pitcher Anthony Varvaro. That was my 9th of the day, and when BP ended, I got a toss-up at the 3rd base dugout from Braves hitting coach Larry Parrish. This ball raised my season total to 699, so obviously, I wanted to snag at least one more. No problem, right? The day before, I had four baseballs when BP ended and finished with ten, so I assumed I’d have several more chances here.
At around 6:30pm, the grounds crew pulled out the tarp:
The game started an hour late, and as for the weather…oof. It drizzled on and off and eventually rained like hell:
As for me…no more baseballs. I won’t bother listing all the close calls I had during BP or the instances of bad luck that took place during the game. I’ll simply repeat what I stated at the beginning: the whole day felt like a struggle. I mean, I’m always happy when I break double digits, and I know that I shouldn’t be complaining, but if things had gone better — if I’d been a little more WITH IT and on my game — I could’ve easily finished with 16 or 17. Just to give you a couple examples of how lame things were…
After the game, when the Braves walked across the field from the bullpen, I noticed that Jonny Venters had a ball tucked in his glove. It was raining hard. There weren’t any kids nearby. I was decked out in Braves gear. And when I asked him politely for the ball, he ignored me. Then, moments later, when bullpen coach Eddie Perez walked in and I asked *him* for a ball, he looked up at me and said, “Stay right there. I’ll be back.” But guess what happened? He never came back out. Stupid stuff like that happened all day, and ohmygod, I won’t even get into the Freddie Freeman foul ball that landed three rows directly in front of me…or the infield warm-up ball that bounced over Terry Pendleton’s head and ended up in the crowd…or the muddy game-used ball thrown by Chipper Jones that the drunk guy behind me caught because I looked down for two seconds (because my backpack was getting soaked). I’m just gonna shut up.
• 699 balls in 84 games this season = 8.32 balls per game.
• 745 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 270 consecutive games with at least two balls
•31 games this season with at least ten balls
• 5,361 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)
• $71.20 raised at this game
• $4,976.88 raised this season
Of the nine balls that I kept, four have invisible ink stamps. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of those balls in regular light versus black light:
Finally, I’m very sorry for being slow to respond to comments, Twitter replies, and emails. I have several hundred dating back to July 29th that I simply haven’t had time to answer. I usually respond to the shortest emails first, so if you contact me to share a link to an article or to tell me a long story about something or to ask a bunch of questions, I probably won’t get to it for a while. If you want advice about a particular stadium, there’s a good chance that I’ve blogged about it already (or shared tips about it in The Baseball), so do a Google search for “baseball collector” along with the name of the stadium, and my entries about it should appear at the top. I’m currently in the midst of attending 12 games in 13 days at 5 different stadiums. This week I’ll be in New York and Baltimore. Next week I’ll be in Boston and Washington, D.C. The week after that I’ll be Cleveland and Pittsburgh, and the week after THAT I’ll be flying to Los Angeles to begin a 25-day/15-stadium roadtrip with my friend Brandon. Combine all of this travel with writing thousands of words per day on my blog (and choosing/editing/uploading dozens of photos, sometimes with a painfully slow internet connection), and I don’t have time to do much else. It’s not my intention to ignore anyone; I’ve been reading every incoming email and blog comment, but I simply haven’t had a chance to respond. I hope you understand. And whenever I find a few minutes free, I’ll get back to you as best I can.