The weather was iffy, but there WAS batting practice, and I snagged two baseballs within ten seconds of running out to the right field seats:
In the photo above, do you see the guy wearing the tan shirt? Well, I was the first fan to enter the stadium, and when I made it out to that section, he was already standing there with two baseballs in his left hand.
“Do you work here?” I asked him.
“Yeah,” he said.
“In that case, is there any chance that I could have one of those balls?”
He shrugged and tossed one to me. (In the photo above, you can see that he still has one ball in his left hand.) As soon as I caught it, someone on the Yankees hit a home run that landed several rows behind me. I grabbed that one and was delighted to see that it had a Camden Yards commemorative logo . . . so yeah, those are the two baseballs that I’m holding in the photo above.
Let me show you a closeup of the first ball that I got — the one that the employee gave me:
Any ideas how the ball might’ve ended up looking like that? Perhaps by being hit into a net several times?
Now let me show you what it looked like directly behind me:
In the photo above, did you notice the guy waving in the bleachers? That’s my friend Andrew. He’d headed up there at the start of BP, hoping for a few long home runs. Instead, all he got a was a bird’s eye view of my 3rd snag of the day — a ground-rule double by Curtis Granderson.
When the Rays took the field, I headed into foul territory along the left field foul line and got Burke Badenhop, identified below with the arrow, to throw me a ball:
That’s where Badenhop was when he threw it, and I took that photo from the spot where I caught it. He and I were easily 100 feet apart. Fun.
A little while later, I moved to straight-away left field and got two more balls thrown to me. The first came from Wade Davis, and the second came from Joel Peralta. For both of these toss-ups, I was positioned several rows back and got the players to throw the balls over everyone in front of me. I love it when that happens. Here’s what it looked like after I got hooked up by Peralta:
My 7th ball of the day was a home run by B.J. Upton. While it was in mid-air, I drifted down the stairs to the front row, and as soon as I caught it, I handed it to the nearest kid. (As you can see, there weren’t many kids at BP for some reason.)
During the final group of hitters, I ran back to right field and got Alex Cobb (pictured below) to throw me ball No. 8:
That’s not why I’d gone to right field. I’d headed out that way because (a) three of the four hitters in that group were left-handed and (b) Hideki Matsui was shagging in right field, and I wanted a ball from him. I didn’t get one — he’s not exactly fan-friendly — and that was it for BP.
At around 6:30pm, while standing in the concourse on the 1st base side, I saw a very little boy posing for a photograph with his family. I quickly pulled a ball out of my backpack and walked it over to them.
“Here,” I said, placing it in the boy’s tiny glove, “this’ll make the photo a little bit better.”
His parents thanked me several times, and while they were posing for additional photos, I snapped one of my own. It’s kind of dark, but if you look closely, you can see the boy holding up the ball:
Turns out it was his first game. Hopefully he’ll be a baseball fan for life.
Before the game, Andrew and I wandered up here:
In the photo above, do you see the person standing on the elevated bench in the Yankees’ bullpen? That’s Mike Harkey, the team’s bullpen coach. Just before every game starts, he tosses a bunch of balls into the stands — and he loves to throw them far. I brought Andrew up to that spot because I wanted *him* to catch a ball. I was now six balls away from 6,000 and really didn’t want to snag any more (so that I could hold off on my milestone until I made it to Fenway Park). Well, wouldn’t you know it . . . with my glove tucked away in my backpack and Andrew waving his own to be spotted, Harkey chucked a ball in our direction that sailed away from Andrew and flew over some other people’s heads . . . and dammit, I just couldn’t resist taking a step to my right and sticking out my bare hand and knocking it down and grabbing it on the bounce as everyone around me scrambled like crazy. So yeah, I didn’t even WANT the damn ball, but ended up getting it. How often does that happen? It was my 9th of the day No. 5,995 overall.
After that, I decided that I wouldn’t even attempt to snag another ball for ANY reason unless it was a game home run. Andrew and I were certainly sitting in a good spot — Russell Martin’s grand slam landed 40 feet to my right, but in a totally packed row — but the only thing we got was this:
In case you can’t tell, that’s an order of garlic cheese fries, and in case you can’t imagine how it tasted, it was the stuff that dreams are made of.
Yankees starter Andy Pettitte was dominant. He worked 7 1/3 scoreless innings, gave up two hits, walked two batters, and struck out 10. Freddie Garcia and his 8.22 ERA took over for Pettitte and somehow didn’t allow any runs.
Final score: Yankees 7, Rays 0.
Andrew and I got a photo together before heading out:
I have a Watch With Zack game tonight at Yankee Stadium, and after that . . . Fenway! I’d been planning to be in Boston on Thursday, June 7th, but now I’m aiming for June 8th instead.
• 176 balls in 23 games this season = 7.65 balls per game.
• 815 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 340 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 5,995 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.)
• 32 donors
• $1.83 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $16.47 raised at this game
• $322.08 raised this season
• $19,479.08 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009