This was a day game. I knew there wasn’t going to be batting practice, but I still went. Why? Because Nick Swisher had 199 career home runs, and Adam Jones had 99. That’s all there was to it. I was hoping to catch a milestone.
Of course, even without BP, there were still several opportunities to get toss-ups, and it started with Hiroki Kuroda. Just after I entered the stadium at 11am, I saw him walking from the bullpen to the Yankees’ dugout on the first base side. He happened to have a ball with him, and when he approached the right field foul line, I got him to throw it to me. Here’s a photo of him that I took soon after. He’s standing on the warning track, just to the left of the dugout:
In the photo above, did you notice the three guys standing on the grassy area behind home plate? One of them was Orioles 3rd base coach Demarlo Hale. I noticed that he was holding a ball, so I headed over to the 3rd base side, figuring I’d get him to toss it to me whenever he finished chatting and headed toward the dugout. This was my view:
Why is there a red arrow in the photo above? Because it’s pointing at my friend Andrew. I invited him to join me on the 3rd base side, but he decided to stay put and try to get a ball from Yankees bench coach Tony Pena. That’s who was talking to Hale after the other coach (Mick Kelleher) left.
As it turned out, Andrew got the ball from Pena, and I got dissed by Hale, who made up some baloney about needing it to throw with; there was probably a whole bag of balls in the dugout, and Hale never came back out until the game started.
A little while later, I noticed some action in the Orioles’ bullpen and took off for the left field bleachers. There were several Orioles fans in the 100 Level, so I figured I’d stand out more if I went up above. Here’s what it looked like from where I ended up standing:
In the photo above, that’s pitching coach Rick Adair on the right. He and the other guy (whom I can only assume is a Taiwanese translator) were watching Wei-Yin Chen throw a bullpen session.
You noticed that Adair was holding two baseballs, right? But did you notice the logo on the upper ball? Here’s a closeup:
Though scuffed and worn, it had the unmistakable commemorative logo for the 20th season at Camden Yards. Here’s what the logo looks like on a pristine, mud-rubbed ball, and look . . . there was at least one more commemorative ball in the ball bag:
Eventually, when there was a break in the action, Adair tossed me the ball with the worn logo . . .
. . . and hooked up Andrew with a better one:
At the time, I thought this was Andrew’s first commemorative ball, but he reminded me (in the comments on this very entry) that it was his second; earlier this season, he got one of these at Dodger Stadium.
It was still more than an hour before game time when Joba Chamberlain and Boone Logan started playing catch in shallow right field:
In the photo above, Joba is standing near the foul line, and if you look closely, you can see two baseballs (and a water bottle) scattered on the grass.
When Joba finished, I got him to throw me a ball, but it fell short and landed in the Legends area. He then threw another ball to me, and THAT one fell short too — a sign of things to come for the embattled reliever. Thankfully one of the security guards realized that I was the intended recipient and handed the second ball to me. I later gave that one away.
It rained a lot during the game. This was my view underneath Andrew’s umbrella (ella, ella) during an inning break:
With two outs in the bottom of the 3rd, Jayson Nix belted an RBI double to left-center field — but this was no ordinary double. It was a ground-rule double that bounced into the Orioles’ bullpen, one full section to my left. I quickly switched hats, trading my umpire cap for one with the Orioles logo, and hurried through an empty row to have a look. The ball was sitting in the middle of the grassy area. There were players and coaches everywhere, yet it lay untouched for 10 or 20 seconds. Bullpen catcher Rudy Arias eventually picked it up, heard me calling his name, and tossed it to me. Here’s a photo of him on the grass right after he hooked me up:
Arias is The Man. You may recall that he threw me Nolan Reimold’s walk-off home run ball on 8/10/11 at Camden Yards — but I’m not here to talk about the past. Here’s the ball that Nix hit:
I love the huge dirt/scuff mark next to the logo. That’s obviously where it landed on the warning track.
(Okay, I do need to talk about the past. The only other ground-rule double that I’ve ever snagged was on May 7, 2000 at SkyDome. David Justice hit it, the ball ended up in a random/empty area behing the right field wall, and I used my glove trick to reel it in. Fun stuff.)
Two innings later, a young fan named Eran found me and asked me to sign his glove. His friend Gabe was with him, and they both had me sign the backs of their print-at-home tickets. Here they are.
In the photo above (which was taken in the tunnel because they weren’t allowed to enter the seats), Eran is on the left.
In the top of the 6th inning, Mark Reynolds launched a deep, towering fly ball in my direction. It seemed to have way too much height to reach the seats, yet it kept carrying toward me. I was sitting in the last of 10 rows, and I knew that the ball wasn’t going to carry THAT far, so I drifted down the steps. By the time I made it down to the front, it was just about to land. I was certain, right up until the last second, that I was going to catch it — and if it had been hit during batting practice, I would have. There’s no doubt in my mind. But in order to catch it, I would’ve had to lunge over the wall. As crazy as I am about snagging baseballs, I know when NOT to go for them, and this, unfortunately, was one of those times. All I could do was flinch and pull my glove back and hope for a deflection . . . but no, Ichiro made a leaping catch. If the ball had traveled ONE FOOT farther, I would’ve caught it.
Despite the fact that I *didn’t* interfere, I got a visit from a security supervisor, who was not happy about what I’d done. (Evidently, when you’re me, almost interfering is almost as bad as actually interfering.) He gave me an “official warning” and was pretty much convinced that I *had* interfered somewhat — that is, until the slow-motion replay was shown on the jumbotron. I made him watch it, and I pointed out the exact moment when I yanked my glove back. For a split second, my glove may have been slightly over the wall, but when it mattered most — when Ichiro jumped up for the catch — I was definitely NOT in the way.
As for Nick Swisher and Adam Jones, they both played well, but neither of them went yard. Swisher went 2-for-4 with a double, a walk, two runs, and an RBI; Jones simply went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles. Joba Chamberlain, meanwhile, had a miserable performance. In his first game in nearly 14 months, J.J. Hardy greeted him with a wall-scraper of a homer (two sections to my right). Joba then lowered his season ERA from infinity to 10.80; he ended up surrendering two runs on four hits and a walk in 1 2/3 innings.
After the Yankees recorded the final out of their 12-3 victory, all of the Yankee highlights from the game were shown on the jumbotron. I had my camera ready and got the following shot of Ichiro’s catch:
Yes, that’s me in the yellow “Homer Simpson” shirt. (Here’s a better photo of the shirt the first time I wore it in 2008.)
I was dying to get home and study the highlight from various angles, but before that happened, I saw something funny in the concourse on the way out:
Wang? Johnson? GET IT?!?!?! (Yes, I still act like I’m 12 because life is more fun that way.) When I got home, I posted that photo on Reddit with a juvenile/attention-grabbing headline. Here it is, along with the 192 comments that it generated.
Then I watched the Ichiro highlight. Keep scrolling past the stats to see some screen shots . . .
• 366 balls in 46 games this season = 7.96 balls per game.
• 838 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 363 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 177 consecutive Yankee home games with at least one ball
• 6,185 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.)
• 38 donors
• $2.10 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $8.40 raised at this game
• $768.60 raised this season
• $19,925.60 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009
Okay, ready for some Ichiro action? First take a look at the following screen shot of the yankees.com homepage. As you’ll see (in the red circle that I added), my yellow shirt is showing:
Now, here’s how it all played out . . .
Here I am (again in a red circle) in the last row, just about to make my way down the steps:
Keep in mind that there was another fan near me wearing yellow — a rain slicker, to be specific. In the following screen shot, the other fan appears to be in the 6th row, and as you can see, I’m in the 3rd row:
Here’s something that I didn’t mention in my initial account of the play: when I reached the front row, I had to move to my right, and in order to do that, I had to climb over a waist-high chain that was blocking an unoccupied camera well. (That’s part of the reason why the security supervisor was upset. Meanwhile, I’m always upset at the Yankees for putting so many damn obstacles in my way.) Now that you know that, take a look at the following screen shot:
It’s kind of hard to tell, but in the screen shot above, I was in the process of climbing over the chain. If you look directly above the ‘S’ in the State Farm advertisement, you can see my leg up in the air. My right knee is about as high as my elbows, and my right foot is just behind the top of the wall. I’m pointing this out so you can appreciate the effort that I constantly put into getting in position here in New York. You bastards with grassy hills and Flag Courts and cross-aisles and railing-less staircases have nooooooooooo idea how easy you have it, but anyway, here’s Ichiro making the catch:
Here’s a better/closer look at the ball flying into his glove . . .
. . . and here’s a side-angle that clearly shows me NOT interfering:
I might whine and bitch and moan and act like a baby, but I do NOT interfere with balls in play. Got that?!
Oh, and hey, this was the six-year anniversary of the day on which Gustavo Chacin fell victim to the Hample Jinx. What’s ol’ Gussy-boy up to nowadays, you ask? Well, I have to admit that he DID pitch seven scoreless innings on August 1st — but he pitched them for an independent team called the Rockland Boulders in the Can-Am League. Ha. Ha. Ha.