The weather was miserable, and not surprisingly, the tarp was out when I entered the stadium at 5pm:
Normally I would’ve stayed home — ballhawking without batting practice isn’t much fun in New York — but I hadn’t attended a game since April 30th, and I was seriously antsy.
The stadium was still empty when the first few Rays came out to play catch at around 5:20pm:
In the photo above, Jose Molina is the player in very shallow left-center. I have no idea who the other guy was, which is a shame because he ended up throwing me the ball when they finished. Here’s a photo of him that I took as he was heading back into the dugout:
Does anyone know who that is? Just to be clear, I’m talking about the white guy with the shaved head. My only guess is Chris Gimenez, but I’m really not sure. I’d like to know so that I can add his name to this very long list.
I got two more balls thrown to me during the next 10 minutes. The first came from Cesar Ramos, and the second came from Matt Moore.
All of these balls (including the one from the unknown player) were thrown over the entire “Legends” section. Take another look at the photo that shows Molina in shallow left-center. That was as close as I could get to the field.
The grounds crew removed the tarp at around 6:40pm . . .
. . . and since no one bothered to check my ticket, I stayed there for a while. (I passed the time by reading another brilliant chapter of Kitchen Confidential.)
Fast-forward 20 minutes. The game was about to begin. Jeff Keppinger and Will Rhymes were playing catch on the edge of the outfield grass, and when they finished, I got Keppinger to throw me the ball. I ended up giving that one away to a little kid.
This was my view during the game . . .
. . . and this is the home run ball that I snagged in the bottom of the 4th inning:
Yes, that’s right. As I mentioned last night on Twitter, I snagged a Raul Ibanez homer during the game. Here’s how it played out . . .
I was sitting in the 4th row in straight-away right field, three seats in from the staircase. The two seats to my right were empty; the reason why I’d moved over was because the TV camera (pictured above) was blocking my view. Anyway, with two outs and a runner on first, Ibanez lifted a 1-2 pitch from James Shields in my direction. I knew right away that it was going to be a home run and that it was going to land near me . . . but where exactly?! My first instinct was to jump up and move to the staircase. Then I froze and looked skyward. Before the ball reached its apex, I realized that it was going to sail about five feet over my head, so I turned away from the field and scurried up a few steps. Then I looked back up for a split-second to pick up the ball, then turned away from it again, then darted into a partially empty row and climbed back over a row because I knew I was positioned too shallow. By the time I looked back up for the final time, the ball was about to land, and I suspected that I wasn’t going to be close enough. At the very last second, I jumped as high as I could and reached back and missed it by six inches. Luckily, the guy who had a clear shot at catching it was not wearing a glove, and the ball bounced off his hands and landed at my feet. Everyone around me started to lunge for it, but I had already scooped it up, and just like that, I’d snagged my 17th lifetime game home run ball. Here I am with it:
Two innings later, a fellow ballhawk named Tony Bracco made his way out to my section to say congrats. Here we are together:
See the ball that Tony’s holding? That’s a 3rd-out ball that Robinson Cano had tossed him earlier in the game near the Yankees’ dugout.
Tony, an aspiring sports photographer with his own MLBlog, told me that he’d gotten a few shots of me, both before and immediately after the home run, and he emailed them to me later that night. Here are my two favorites (which I’ve photoshopped in order to point things out). The first one isn’t an action shot, but sets the stage nicely . . .
. . . and the second one shows me celebrating with the ball:
Huge thanks to Tony for helping to capture a special moment for me.
Ibanez launched another homer in the 7th inning — that one hit the foul pole — and when he came up to bat again in the 8th, I took a picture of the jumbotron:
I love seeing a home run listed on the jumbotron and knowing that I own that ball. That’s the great thing about snagging a homer, or even a foul ball (or even a 3rd-out ball): I get to enjoy the ball and relive the moment long after it has passed.
Want to see something funny? Check out the following screen shot, taken just as the Ibanez home run ball was first rattling around the seats:
Not only is there a guy with his legs up in the air (it was his own fault for diving over a row), but if you look five seats to the left, there’s a woman who appears to be terrorized by the action.
In the screen shot above, just where exactly am I?
Good question. I’m not visible because I was (a) wearing black and (b) bending all the way down to grab the ball. But look . . . here I am moments later, emerging from the pile with the ball:
In the screen shot above, did you notice the two women on the lower right? I love ’em. They’re wearing gloves and looking at each other and probably shrieking something along the lines of, “OMG!!! OMG!!! OMG!!!”
I don’t blame them. Being anywhere near a home run ball is VERY exciting — even for me after all these years.
• 88 balls in 13 games this season = 6.77 balls per game.
• 805 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 552 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball
• 163 consecutive Yankees home games with at least one ball
• 17 lifetime game home run balls (not counting the four gamers that I’ve gotten tossed to me by players, coaches, and other stadium personnel)
• 5,907 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.)
• 28 donors
• $1.66 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $8.30 raised at this game
• $146.08 raised this season
• $19,303.08 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009
Here’s one final photo of the home run ball:
Yeah, it looks like just about every other ball, but it obviously means so much more.
Two more things . . .
1) Here’s the home run footage on MLB.com. (You might have to wait through a 15-second commercial.)
2) It was a good night for ballhawks, as two of my friends also snagged home runs in other stadiums. Rick Gold got his hands on a Kelly Johnson homer in Oakland, but more impressively, Tim Anderson grabbed the second of FOUR homers that Josh Hamilton hit in Baltimore. Congrats, gentleman.