I attended this game with my friend Steve Gritzan. Here we are outside the stadium:
Steve and I have known each other for about three years, and I have to say . . . he’s pretty weird. He prefers listening to baseball on the radio rather than watching it on TV, and he likes the regular season more than the post-season. He says he enjoys the monotony of the season, when there are games every day that hardly matter. That said, I totally get his perspective and love the fact that he’s obsessed with baseball in his own special way.
One more thing about Steve and then I’ll move on: he owns an independent record store in Jersey City called Iris Records, and he once hosted one of my writing group meetings there. Here’s a photo of the place (taken during the meeting) in case you’re curious.
Soon after Steve and I had our picture taken, a nearby fan called me over. His name was Ian, he recognized me from this blog, and he asked me to sign his ticket. Here he is with it:
In the photo above, Ian is wearing orange, and his friend Ben is wearing yellow. Note the original Home Run Apple from Shea Stadium in the background.
As for batting practice . . . oy vey. I got completely shut out while the Mets were hitting. I didn’t snag my first ball until the Orioles came out, and even then it took another 20 minutes. Jake Arrieta threw me that ball, and I caught another less than five seconds later. Seriously. It happened THAT fast. The people near me were shouting and looking up, so I looked up too, saw a home run flying at me, took a few steps to my left, and reached up for the grab. Ta-daaa!! Then I gave one of the balls to the smaller of the two kids pictured below in the “WRIGHT” jerseys:
My third ball of the day was tossed by a player that I couldn’t identify. In the following photo, you can see him through the plexiglass. He’s standing on the right and wearing the black warm-up jersey:
I gave the ball to the kid pictured above, and then I took a slightly better photo of the mystery player:
I later showed that photo to my friend Avi Miller, who knows everything about the Orioles and was visiting from Baltimore. Avi needed approximately three-eighths of a nanosecond to identify the guy.
“That’s Pedro Strop,” he said.
“Are you sure?” I asked. “How do you know?”
“I recognize his necklace,” he said before “joking” that he could probably identify all the Orioles by their fingernails.
After batting practice, I got my fourth ball from an Orioles coach at the 3rd-base dugout. I’m not sure who it was, but if I had to guess, I’d say it was John Russell.
This is where Steve and I sat for the entire game:
At the end of every inning, I wandered down to the front row to try to get a 3rd-out ball from the Orioles. After four innings of neglect/failure, I finally got this:
It looked rather beat up for a game-used ball, but I assure you that it WAS the actual ball (as opposed to the infield warm-up ball that sometimes gets switched). How do I know? Because Justin Turner ended the inning by popping out to J. J. Hardy, and Hardy tossed me the ball. I had my eye on him the whole time.
An inning or two later, there was a brief pyrotechnic display (as part of an advertisement for Verizon) that left the stadium smokey:
Steve and I were not impressed:
As for the game . . . the Mets beat the Orioles, 4-3, despite Frank Francisco’s best effort to make things interesting in the 9th. (He entered with a 4-2 lead, loaded the bases, and walked in a run. It was ugly but exciting.) After the final out, I got a ball from home plate umpire Tim Timmons and then got a photo with Avi. Here we are:
Here are the four balls that I kept . . .
. . . and here’s a look at three of them in black light:
One last thing for now . . .
Do you remember this photo from my blog entry about Game 3 of the 2011 World Series? The photo shows me with a 14-year-old girl named Meggie Zahneis, who had won an essay contest sponsored by Major League Baseball. Meggie is now MLB’s Youth Correspondent, and she recently interviewed me for an in-depth article about ballhawking for charity. I tweeted the link last night, but for those who missed it, here it is again. Please read it if you have a few minutes to spare, and while you’re at it, give Meggie a shout on Twitter. She’s a great person and a very talented writer.
• 6 balls at this game
• 218 balls in 30 games this season = 7.27 balls per game.
• 822 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 347 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 6,037 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.)
• 34 donors
• $1.89 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $11.34 raised at this game
• $412.02 raised this season
• $19,569.02 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009