My first Yankee game of the season started on a positive note:
The ball pictured above had been hit into the seats as I was running inside the stadium; the closest fan was two sections away so I had enough time to pull out my camera and take a photo.
Moments later, another Yankee batter (not sure who) blasted a homer into the empty section, and I snagged that ball as well.
Then I moved to the back row and took the following photo of the field:
Did you notice the fan in the front row? That’s my girlfriend Robin. (In case you haven’t heard, she and I have been seeing each other since November.) I’ll show you a better photo of her in a moment, but first, here’s one that she took of me:
I love that t-shirt. Too bad it’s going to shrink down to an embarrassingly small size when I wash it for the first time later this week. But anyway . . .
I have to admit that I wasn’t on my game. Yeah, I caught a Curtis Granderson homer on the fly, but pissed away two opportunities toward the end of the Yankees’ portion of BP. The first one required me to jump and make a back-handed catch high over my head, but I reached a couple inches too far, causing the ball to hit my palm and squirt out of my glove. ERROR!!! It was really lame, but you know what? Major leaguers occasionally drop balls too. The second one wasn’t quite as bad, but left me feeling just as dumb. Basically, I drifted down the steps on a towering home run which ended up landing exactly where I’d been standing. These things happen.
As for Robin (who, by the way, is from Kansas City and casually roots for the Royals), look what she end up snagging:
Before we had entered the stadium, I had offered to catch a ball for her. (Whatta guy, I know, I know.) I also told her that if she stood in the front row and called out to the players, she was virtually guaranteed to get a ball. Her response went something as follows: “What the hell am *I* gonna do with a baseball?” Although she was perfectly happy to get there early and watch me in action, she didn’t have any desire to leave the stadium with a ball. At least that’s how she felt before entering the stadium; once she ran inside with me and witnessed batting practice for the first time in her life and saw how much fun it was to chase baseballs, her attitude changed.
Just after the Angels took the field, she worked her way down near the corner spot beside the Yankees’ bullpen and got one of the players to toss her a ball. (She doesn’t know who it was, and I didn’t see him. She says the guy was tall and lanky and had a long nose. And maybe had blue eyes.) (Blue eyes?! Damn, she really IS a girl.) (And I’m quite happy about that.) (But I digress.) She says she didn’t do anything to get the ball. She was just standing there, and the player picked her out and pointed to her after scanning the crowd for a few seconds. In any case, as she reached out and caught the ball, the man standing beside her lunged for it as well. For an instant, they both had their hands on it — and then the guy yanked it from her. I didn’t see this happen because I was standing near the side netting of the bullpen, fixated on this:
Was that a commemorative logo?! More on that in a bit, but first I have to finish the Robin story. Right after she was robbed, she walked up the steps (I was 15 feet behind her) and told me what had happened. All I remember saying in response was “WHAT?!” and although I don’t recall my specific tone, I must’ve said it really loudly because the guy who’d robbed her immediately turned around and held up the ball apologetically. He was offering it to her. She refused. But he insisted and really seemed to mean it, so she accepted it. (Do we need to create a profile for her on MyGameBalls.com? Hmm.)
I lingered beside the bullpen for a few minutes, hoping to get someone to toss the special ball to me, but it was dead — and since most of the Angels were batting right-handed, I ran (with Robin) to the left field side.
It was dead over there too. The only ball I snagged came from Hisanori Takahashi after I asked him for it in Japanese.
As soon as BP ended, I signed a pair of tickets (upon request) for two brothers named Andrew and John. Nice guys. I would’ve stayed and chatted, but I was on a mission. I had to hurry back to the right field seats and try to get someone to hook me up with *that* specific ball in the bullpen. I figured it wasn’t going to be easy because there were lots of balls — and lots of people asking for them. Here’s what I saw when I made it back there:
As you might’ve guessed, the red arrow in the photo above is pointing at THE ball. How do you get someone — in this case, a groundskeeper — to give you a specific ball? Well, duh, you ask.
“Excuse me, sir,” I began, “is there any chance that when you’re done, you might be able to toss me a baseball?”
He looked up and made eye contact with me and gave a very subtle nod. Then he continued rolling up the protective netting.
“Thanks!” I said as he kept working. “I know this is gonna sound obnoxious, but there’s actually a specific ball near you that I’m dying to get my hands on. I think it has a special logo.”
He looked up again briefly and smiled in a way that I interpreted as follows: “This fan is so obnoxious and ballsy that I might just have to give him what he wants.”
Finally, when he was done putting away the equipment, he began retrieving the balls.
“It’s THAT one right . . . THERE!!!” I yelled as he picked up the one that I wanted. He took a quick peek at it and then seemed to lose it in the shuffle. He began tossing balls into the bleachers, and I had no idea if he still had THE ball . . . or if he even knew if he had the ball. He then walked a bit closer and waved me down to the corner spot. At that point, I knew that he was going to hand me a ball . . . but WHICH BALL?!?! Have a look for yourself:
As I mentioned in my entry about the game on 4/9/12 at Citi Field, six teams are using commemorative baseballs this season, and my goal is to snag at least one of each. Last week I got this one, which the Mets are using to celebrate their 50th anniversary, and now, thanks to a friendly groundskeeper in the Bronx, I have the ball that the Orioles are using for their 20th anniversary at Camden Yards.
Here’s a closer look at it:
If you want to see my full collection of commemorative balls, click here. Hopefully I’ll be adding to it before the season is through; I still need to get a hold of (by which I mean SNAG, not purchase) commemorative balls from the Astros, Dodgers, Marlins, and Red Sox. I’ll go to Fenway if I have to, and I already have plans to be in Miami next month for a couple games, but I don’t know about the other two. If possible, I’d like to avoid going to Houston and Los Angeles, so these teams better bring these baseballs with them on the road. The reason why I managed to snag a Camden Yards ball at Yankee Stadium is that the Yankees were just in Baltimore and obviously brought a few back.
Switching topics for a moment, I want to give a shout-out to my friend and fellow ballhawk, Michael Calabro. He’s from Florida and was at this game — his very first time at the new Yankee Stadium — and I stupidly neglected to get a photo with him. I saw him outside the stadium, then inside during BP, and incorrectly assumed that I’d run into him later in the day. That never happened, but I’m glad to say that he snagged several balls. (BTW, I first met Michael on 4/22/08 at Champion Stadium. That was when the Jays and Rays played a regular-season series at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex.)
Robin and I sat in straight-away right field during the game. Here we are:
This was the view:
During the middle innings, I noticed a cool statistic for Raul Ibanez on the jumbrotron:
In case you can’t read it, it says, “Raul has homered in 30 different ballparks in his ML career.”
It made me think about the fact that I’ve snagged baseballs in 49 different major league stadiums. Next month, assuming I don’t get shut out in two consecutive games, Marlins Park will be No. 50 for me. I often wonder how high I’ll be able to push that number. I don’t think there are going to be many more stadiums built, so there are going to have to be regular-season games played in random places.
Here’s something else on the jumbotron that caught my eye — Albert Pujols in Angels gear:
So weird. I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to that. I still expect to see his name when I click the Cardinals’ box scores every day.
One of the highlights of the game was also the lowlight: hearing the fans heckle Angels right fielder Torii Hunter. It was funny at first — “Hey, Torii, your wife’s at Jeter’s place!!” drew the most laughs — but ultimately became incredibly annoying and just flat-out mean. There was one fan in particular who screamed more garbage than anyone — a black guy with a plaid short-sleeved shirt and a black cap. Wanna guess who ended up snagging Derek Jeter’s home run ball in the bottom of the 4th? Yeah, THAT guy, and he was less than 15 feet from me. Here he is holding the ball and talking on the phone:
Overall, the whole day turned out great. I’d been nervous about bringing Robin into my zany world of ballhawking, but she held her own and never complained and ran around with me and actually seemed to enjoy it. If she didn’t have to work five nights a week, I suspect she’d join me for games more often.
Keep scrolling past the stats to see more photos and hear from Robin in her own words . . .
• 38 balls in 5 games this season = 7.6 balls per game.
• 797 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 544 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball
• 158 consecutive Yankees home games with at least one ball
• 29 consecutive games at the new Yankee Stadium with at least two balls
• 5,857 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 about my fundraiser, and click here to see the prizes that I’ll be giving away to donors.)
• 13 donors
• 82 cents pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $4.10 raised at this game
• $31.16 raised this season
• $19,188.16 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009
Okay, as promised, here are some more photos, all of which were taken by Robin. I could’ve posted these earlier but figured I’d stick ’em at the end and give you a bonus. What I really like about them is that she captured things that I normally don’t bother photographing. Here’s one that shows Nick Swisher running off the field at the end of an inning:
It was Jackie Robinson Day, so during the game, all the players were wearing No. 42.
Here’s another photo, taken earlier in the day, that shows some of the Yankees standing around during BP:
It’s not an award-winning photo or anything like that. It just captures a moment that I never bother documenting because it doesn’t relate directly to my snagging baseballs. Robin estimates that she’s been to 10 baseball games in her life, and she knows for a fact that she never a) attended batting practice or b) had seats on the lower level, so everything was new and photo-worthy for her. In that sense, it was fun to see things through her eyes and re-experience them for myself. Here’s one more photo that she took at the very start of the day. We’d just gotten off the No. 4 train and were walking around the stadium:
Those are security guards waiting to get in.
On a final note, I thought it’d be nice for Robin to tell you about her experience at the game, so I told her that if she wanted to write a little sumpin’-sumpin’, I’d post it at the end of the blog entry. That said, here you go. I’m just copying/pasting what she emailed me:
I was born in 1984, so the Royals winning the World Series in 1985 was lost on me. I never played baseball, I never played basketball, never played football with my dad on Thanksgiving. My parents are hippies, and athleticism in my family was relegated to hiking on summer camping trips. While I picked up futbol fever in Argentina and was in Barcelona when Spain won the last World Cup, I don’t know too much about America’s most popular sports, and I knew even less about people who chase after baseballs. I really thought that only golden retrievers went after balls with such zeal, but Zack and the other guys at batting practice proved me wrong. I gotta be honest. I was a little anxious about going to a baseball game with Zack. I mean, I know he’s got this streak that he wants to keep going and all — at least one baseball snagged in a million and one consecutive games. Or something like that. Oh, and A-Rod has hit the same amount of homers as some other famous dude (Babe Ruth? Diego Maradona? Michael Jordan?) and I know how much Zack wants to get A-Rod’s next homer. I was genuinely worried about getting in the way and being tripped over. All that being said, I enjoyed my first baseball game at Yankee Stadium. Player and fan interactions during batting practice were hilarious — I didn’t know that players would be so up-close and personal. From our seats I got to see Nick Swisher spit his tobacco and had to hear Torii Hunter being harassed by the Bleacher Creatures. I even walked away with a ball from batting practice. I had a fun time, and I have to admit that I’d like to do it again.