I began the day with a total of 299 baseballs at the new Yankee Stadium, and it didn’t take long to snag No. 300. Within seconds of running into the right field seats for BP, I grabbed an Eric Chavez home run that landed several rows deep. Thirty seconds later, I sprinted nearly a full section to my left and caught a Raul Ibanez line-drive homer on the fly. Then, less than two minutes after that, I snagged a ground-rule double by Chavez that bounced in the seats, and one minute later I caught a Mark Teixeira homer on the fly in the last row.
The seats started filling up after that, and when I had a moment to spare, I took a photo of my first ball of the day. Check out the asymmetrical seams:
I didn’t snag anything during the next group of BP, but when the Mariners started playing catch in shallow left field, I got two balls thrown to me. The first came from John Jaso, and the second came from Trayvon Robinson. Here’s a photo of Robinson before he hooked me up:
My 7th ball of the day — a ground-rule double to straight-away left field — was sliced by a left-handed batter. John Jaso? Dustin Ackley? Kyle Seager? Mike Carp? I have no idea. All I can tell you is that I made a nifty play on it. Check out the red numbers in the following photo, and then I’ll explain:
When the ball was hit, I was standing in the front row where the number 1 appears. I then darted to the number 2, turned right and bolted up the steps to the number 3. That’s where I was when the ball landed on the warning track, but I wasn’t yet in line with it, so I kept cutting across to the number 4. The ball skipped through/over the hands of the people in the front row, allowing me to catch it in the 3rd row while still on the run.
After BP, I gave one of my baseballs to a little kid with a glove, who was clearly upset that he hadn’t snagged one. He wasn’t being a brat about it. He wasn’t flaunting his emotions as a means to an end. I could tell that he was genuinely disappointed, so I handed one to him.
Before the game, I headed here:
Kevin Millwood was warming up, and when he happened to bounce one of his pitches, the ball was tossed to pitching coach Carl Willis, who flipped it to me. When Millwood finished, bullpen coach Jaime Navarro tossed at least 10 balls into the crowd, mostly to fans in the bleachers. It was an awesome display of generosity, and I’m glad to report that I got one of them. That was my 9th ball of the day.
I gave away another ball before heading to my seat in right field. Soon after I got there, I took a photo of something that I haven’t shown before — the bleacher creatures doing “roll call.” Have a look:
It’s no secret that I don’t care for the Yankees, but I have to admit that this tradition is incredible. For those who don’t know, there’s a famous fan named “Bald Vinny” who leads it at the start of every game. (Vinny can be seen in the photo above. He’s standing several rows back and wearing sunglasses, and his head is poking up above everyone else.) All the fans collectively chant each player’s name and clap rhythmically until that player waves or acknowledges them with some sort of gesture . . . from the field . . . BETWEEN PITCHES!! Then they move on to the next guy. Sometimes it gives me chills.
The highlight during the early innings was seeing a fan wearing a “Yankees suck” t-shirt:
There’s a rule at the stadium prohibiting fans from wearing “clothing deemed to be derogatory, profane or offensive,” but given the fact that Yankee fans regularly wear shirts that say “Boston sucks” (and worse), security couldn’t say anything to this guy.
The highlight during the middle innings was the sunset . . .
. . . and the highlight during the final innings was seeing a kid with no shoes:
Another highlight (which was actually a lowlight because it frustrated the hell out of me) was when Dustin Ackley crushed a home run that sailed about seven feet directly over my head. Take another look at the photo of the bleacher creatures. See the fan in the blue shirt who’s sitting down and playing with his phone? He’s the one who caught it . . . on the fly . . . with a VERY old glove that was falling apart. He ended up throwing the ball back onto the field — directly to Nick Swisher, the right fielder, who caught it and then pointed at the fan as if to say, “You da man.” (Okay, fine, maybe it WAS a highlight after all.)
The Yankees won the game, 6-3, behind a 103-pitch, 10-strikeout, complete-game effort from CC Sabathia. I was hoping to get one more ball after the game so I could reach double digits, but it wasn’t meant to be.
• 375 balls in 47 games this season = 7.98 balls per game. (BTW, I’ve given away 108 balls this season. Yes, I just combed through all my blog entries and counted.)
• 839 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 364 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 178 consecutive Yankee home games with at least one ball
• 6,194 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)
• $18.90 raised at this game
• $785.50 raised this season
• $19,944.50 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009
Two of the balls that I kept have interesting marks on them. Here’s one . . .
. . . and here’s the another:
Strange, huh? Any theories about how those marks got there?
Two other balls have invisible ink stamps. Here’s one . . .
. . . and here’s the other:
I’m not sure when my next game will be. Monday in Philly or Baltimore? Tuesday at Citi Field? It’s nice to have options (even though one of the options sucks) because I’m loving baseball right now as much as ever.