I arrived so early that there weren’t many people around . . .
. . . but by the time the gates opened at 5pm, there was a quite a crowd. Here I am just before heading inside:
I was looking forward to racing out to the empty right field seats and scouring the ground for baseballs, but when I made it there, this was the scene:
That guard was new and told me he didn’t know what he was supposed to do with the balls. Last year, those balls would’ve been given to the first three fans to get there, but this year, they just disappeared.
I was in a good spot and had lots of room to run . . .
. . . but there wasn’t much to run for. Last year, Curtis Granderson, Eric Chavez, Alex Rodriguez, and Raul Ibanez would’ve hit a dozen balls into the seats, but now I was stuck with Brett Gardner, Kevin Youkilis, Vernon Wells, and Lyle Overbay.
Finally, toward the end of the Yankees’ portion of BP, I caught a home run on the fly — the first with my new glove. Here I am with it:
I’m pretty sure that Travis Hafner hit it. Overbay had taken his cuts in the previous group, but could it have been Brennan Boesch? I’ll learn these guys’ stances/swings before long. As for the catch itself, I made it harder than it needed to be. I backed up a row and *then* cut to my right, but because it was cold, the ball didn’t carry, so I ended up having to climb back down over a row at the last second before back-handing it. Duh.
The previous photo was taken by a guy named Andrew, who reads this blog and is getting into ballhawking. (He and I first met on 6/16/12 at Citi Field). When the Red Sox started hitting, he followed me to left field. Here he is giving a thumbs-up:
This was my view just before I snagged my second ball of the day:
In the photo above, do you see the chain at the bottom of the stairs . . . on the right? It’s blocking the space between the railing and the outfield wall. Are you with me? Well, a right-handed batter hit a deep fly ball that had a chance of bouncing into the seats, so I hurried down the steps, and just before it landed, I climbed over the chain into the empty camera well. The ball bounced off the warning track, but it wasn’t going to clear the wall, so I lunged over the edge and swatted down at it with my glove and trapped it against the padding. (I hope this makes sense.) Andrew Bailey was standing 10 feet away from me at the time, and when he looked up, I said, “Pretty slick, huh?!” He gave me a friendly nod.
At 5:45pm, with roughly 35 minutes remaining in BP, the security guards started checking tickets and kicking everyone out who didn’t belong. That included me, which sucked at the time, but turned out to be a good thing; my actual seat was in right field, so I headed over there and ended up catching three more home runs on the fly. (I don’t know who hit any of them. Mike Carp? Daniel Nava? No clue.) Do you see the little kid in the green jacket in the following photo?
I ended up giving the ball to him because I ran right past him to catch it, and for record, no, I didn’t shove him or reach in front of him. I had bolted through the row behind him, and at the last second, I reached into his row to make the one-handed, thigh-high catch. If I hadn’t been there, and if the ball hadn’t ricocheted to any of the other fans who were closing in on it, then the kid might’ve snagged it on his own, but as things stood, I was happy to have caught it, and he was glad when I handed it to him. His mom came over later and thanked me.
The next home run required me to run left to nearly the exact same spot, but this time I reached all the way up — any higher and I would’ve had to jump.
Several minutes later, I snagged my final homer after drifting 10 feet to the right and reaching across my body for a back-handed catch. There were several grown men (none with gloves) directly behind me, so I gave the ball to the nearest one.
That’s when I posted this tweet, but as it turned out, my day of ballhawking wasn’t done. Just before the game, I got Yankees coach Mike Harkey to throw me a ball — my sixth of the day — from the right field bullpen, and then I got a photo of him chucking more balls into the bleachers:
Given the facts that (a) the Yankees won and (b) I didn’t catch any more balls, I’d have to say that my personal highlight during the first eight innings was this mullet sighting:
This creamsicle-flavored lollipop was pretty great too:
The lowlight was having to listen to these guys all night:
They were seated/standing/screaming directly behind me in the bleachers, and I truly can’t comprehend how or why they weren’t ejected. They were hollering nearly every curse imaginable, including threats at Red Sox right fielder Shane Victorino. They were shouting homophobic slurs and cursing/insulting women seated near me in the 100 Level. What the hell is the matter with the Yankees? They have 8 million security guards patrolling the seats and checking tickets at 5:45pm, but NO guards during the game to deal with people like this?
With the Yankees leading, 4-1, Mariano Rivera entered the game in the top of the 9th. Here’s what it looked like from my section:
This was his first appearance since injuring his knee last season, and it was GREAT to see him. (Even though I don’t care for the Yankees, I *love* Mariano.) I decided to play close attention to the radar gun readings, and when his first pitch clocked in at 88 miles per hour, I thought, “Ohhh, boy, this is going to be a rough season for him.” But that turned out to be the slowest of his 20 pitches. The rest of them were thrown between 89 and 91 miles per hour — not bad for a 43-year-old.
Mariano was not his usual unhittable self. He allowed two guys to reach base and surrendered a run, but escaped the jam and recorded his 609th career save.
As soon as the final out was recorded, I bolted for the subway and took the following photo before boarding the No. 4 train:
Now, in case you’re wondering about the whole sponsorship thing and my apparent “failure” to snag a game-used ball at Yankee Stadium . . . relax. I live in New York and plan to attend lots of Yankee games. If September rolls around and I still haven’t caught a game home run, then I’ll work my way closer to the dugouts and go for a 3rd-out ball, okay? The season is young.
• 11 balls in 2 games this season = 5.5 balls per game.
• 874 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 599 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball
• 399 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 189 consecutive Yankee home games with at least one ball
• 60 consecutive games at the new Yankee Stadium with at least two balls
• 6,470 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.)
• 19 donors
• $1.13 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $6.78 raised at this game
• $12.43 raised this season
• $21,418.43 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009
Finally, three of the four balls that I kept have invisible ink stamps, and the other one seems to have invisible ink all over it. (That’s the one that Mike Harkey gave me.) Here’s a side-by-side comparison of them in regular light versus black light: