Batting practice got off to a great start. Within the first minute that I was inside the stadium, Phil Hughes threw me a ball in right-center field, and then a security guard tossed a home run ball down to me from the empty bleachers. Here’s a photo that shows the layout (with Hughes standing in deep center):
Two minutes later, I happened to notice this:
I don’t know how I missed it on my way in, but whatever. I now had three baseballs and was already feeling like I had a good shot at reaching double digits.
That’s when everything fell apart — at least temporarily. Ichiro Suzuki and Travis Hafner were in the next group of hitters, so I headed up to the second deck:
Not only did they fail to reach the second deck, but Ichiro hit two home runs within a few feet of where I’d been standing down below. It was painful. And to make matters worse, the Yankees jogged off the field 20 minutes before the Orioles were due to start hitting. This was the result:
I stood around and watched the Orioles standing around. How exciting.
Once things picked back up, Orioles bullpen catcher Rudy Arias tossed me my 4th ball of the day in left field. Then I drifted to my left and climbed down over a row of empty seats to catch a home run; it was hit by a tall, right-handed white guy, so I assumed it was Nolan Reimold.
My 6th ball was thrown by Jake Arrieta in left-center, and my 7th came from Pedro Strop after I shouted his name and added the words “por favor.”
That’s when several things happened. First, two members of the media (pictured below) got a lesson from a colleague on how to operate the parabolic microphone:
Then, less than a minute later, a Yankee fan overheard me asking for another ball and called me a d-bag. (This fan is pictured above, undeservedly wearing Derek Jeter’s No. 2 on his back.)
“What’re you gonna do with TWO?!” he demanded, and when I offered a sensible explanation, he shouted, “Shove it up yer ass!!”
Moments later, the head security supervisor in left field — a new guy who’s clearly trying to assert his dominance — approached me and asked to see my ticket. I asked if there was a problem, and basically, yeah, there is: he said he’s seen me running around for balls, and he told me not to climb over the seats. Why? Because he doesn’t want me to hurt myself or anyone else. Sounds reasonable, right? Well, it’s not. I’ve been to more than 1,000 games in 50 major league stadiums, and this was the first time I’d ever heard that. (Keep in mind: this is the same supervisor whose guard wouldn’t let me move back ten rows the other night to avoid the rain — an hour before game time when the section was empty.) I’ll admit that I’ve often been told not to run through the aisles at various ballparks, and that a certain grumpy usher down the right field foul line at Shea Stadium used to nag me about climbing over those annoying orange railings, but never had I been told not to climb over seats. I don’t even step on the seats; I carefully step/hop completely over. No harm done. People do it all the time when they’re going in and out of their seats. You know what I mean? If someone is sitting in the middle of a packed row, and he needs to get up and the row behind him is empty, what does he do? He climbs back over it to avoid hassling everyone next to him. Anyway, I told the guard, “No problem,” and we shook hands, and that seemed to be the end of it, but I’m telling you now: it’s a huge problem, and things are gonna get ugly.
A few minutes after that, I saw a pair of little kids with gloves enter the next section — there hadn’t been any kids prior to that — so I walked over and handed them each a ball.
Evidently, while I was gone, a home run had landed near the spot where I’d been standing because the rude fan (the guy wearing the Jeter jersey) looked at me and shouted, “Where were you on THAT one?!”
“I was over there,” I said, “giving away a couple baseballs to those kids. Where were YOU?!”
That seemed to set him off because he started cursing at me and threatening me all over again and calling me greedy and selfish and blah blah, so what did I do? I pulled another ball out of my bag and walked over to him and held it out and said, “Here’s a ball for you too.” The look on his face was priceless; he was so stunned by my unexpected kindness that he got even more pissed off.
“I was just kidding!” he shouted, acting all tough and nonchalant. “I don’t want it.”
“Okay,” I shrugged, and when I started walking off, he shouted, “NOW SHOVE IT UP YER ASS!!!”
The look on his face was even more priceless (if that’s even possible) when he saw me get another ball moments later from Orioles coach Bill Castro.
Toward the end of BP, I ran the full length of the section (to my left toward the bullpen) and caught a home run on the fly — my 9th ball of the day — without climbing over any precious seats. I don’t know who hit it, but I can tell you that it made a terrific THWACK as it hit the pocket of my new glove.
Fast-forward half an hour. Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen was warming up in left field, but rather than photographing him, I took this shot of the stands behind me:
In the photo above, do you see the little girl in the pink hat? I gave her a ball. See the Yankee fan in the white jersey over the State Farm ad? He was shouting all kinds of garbage at Chen, the worst of which was, “Where are my egg rolls?!?!”
Welcome to Yankee Stadium, where you can curse and threaten people and shout racist slurs, but if you want to move back to avoid the rain or climb over a row of seats, security will be all over you.
Shortly before game time, I got Mike Harkey to toss me ball No. 10 from the right field bullpen. I’ve gotten one from him at each of the three Yankee games I’ve attended this season.
During the game, I sat in right field and had the misfortune of overhearing several despicable hecklers. At one point, I actually wrote down the second-worst thing they said because I wanted to remember it and share it here later. (The worst thing they said is too awful to repeat here.) I want everyone to recognize the culture of hatred and loathsomeness that exists at Yankee Stadium — a culture which is able to exist because the police officers and security guards do nothing to stop it. Here’s what one of the hecklers shouted (for the whole section to hear, including a smattering of women and children): “Hey, Markakis!! My mother stands like that!! You look like a lady out there!! Make me a sandwich while you’re standing like that!!”
There was a middle-aged Scottish couple sitting directly behind me, so I turned to them and said, “Please don’t judge this entire country based on how these idiots are behaving.” They smiled and assured me they wouldn’t.
Given the fact that I was rooting extra-hard for the Orioles (because of all the crap I had endured here over the past few days), the game itself was miserable. Hiroki Kuroda pitched a shutout, and the Yankees won, 3-0.
Look who I ran into after the game:
In the photo above, that’s Avi Miller (a Camden Yards regular) on the left and the Cook family (prolific bloggers from Pennsylvania) on the right — Todd and his two boys, Tim (age 7) and Kellan (age 2). Avi and the Cooks had been at Fenway Park earlier in the day for the one o’clock game against the Rays, and despite the fact that they didn’t experience any batting practice, the Cooks managed to snag baseballs at both venues — a feat that has come to be known as Youngblooding.
We all headed out together, and look what Avi had:
As I mentioned in a recent entry, I’m being sponsored this season by BIGS Sunflower Seeds. The folks at BIGS are going to be sending me a whole bunch of seeds any day, but this was actually the first time that I’d seen any, so I really *was* excited.
Kellen, unfortunately, wasn’t nearly as excited about giving me a fist-bump for the camera. Remember when I met Todd and Tim for the first time on 6/3/09 at Nationals Park and got a fist-bump from Tim? No? Well, even though this wasn’t the first time I’d met Kellen, I was hoping to recreate that moment with a double fist-bump. Tim was willing to participate, but I needed him to face the camera:
Then he gave me a brief fist-bump, but he had too much energy to hold still, and Kellen just wasn’t feeling it:
As you can see, I was saddened by the whole experience . . .
. . . but I vow to get a double fist-bump photo with these boys before long — maybe next year? Next season, Kellen will be the same age (3) that Tim was when I met him and got the fist-bump in D.C. It’s gonna happen. I can feel it.
Todd was kind enough to give me a ride back to Manhattan, but it wasn’t particularly comfortable. Check out this photo of his boys from a recent road trip — not a whole lot of space between those two car seats, huh? Yeah, well, I managed to partially cram my big butt in there, and it was brutal:
My head was hitting the ceiling, Kellen’s seat was digging into a kidney, and within five minutes, both of my feet were numb and tingling. It was worth it, though. It had been a while since I’d seen these guys, so I didn’t mind being in pain in exchange for getting to hang out for an extra half-hour.
By the way, Avi is working on a massive ticket stub wallpapering project and needs help. He needs as many stubs as possible and is hoping that people from all over will send some to him. If you gather up enough for him, he’ll send you a self-addressed stamped envelope, and he’s also willing to “make a qualifying donation to Pitch In For Baseball” to thank me for sending people his way. He’s thinking one penny for each regular stub and two pennies for fancier season ticket stubs. That might not sound like a lot, but it’ll really add up if a bunch of people get involved. He also wants pocket schedules too, and he’s planning to give away some pretty cool baseball prizes to the top few contributors. Give him a shout on Twitter (@AviMillerBSR) to find out more.
• 34 balls in 5 games this season = 6.8 balls per game.
• 877 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 601 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball
• 211 lifetime games with ten or more balls
• 2 stadiums this season with a game-used ball: Citi Field and Fenway Park.
• 6,493 total balls
(For every stadium this season at which I snag a gamer, BIGS Sunflower Seeds will donate $500 to Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. In addition to that, I’m doing my own fundraiser again this season for Pitch In For Baseball.)
• 23 donors for my fundraiser
• $1.26 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $12.60 raised at this game
• $42.84 raised this season through my fundraiser
• $1,000 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs
• $22,448.84 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009
Finally, four of the seven balls that I kept have invisible ink stamps, but rather than posting a side-by-side comparison like I normally do, I’m going to show you separately so that you can do your own little comparison. Grab this photo (of the balls in regular light) . . .
. . . and now grab this one (of the balls in black light):
Did you do it? Did you download them or drag them onto your desktop? Good. Highlight them both and double-click and flip back and forth. They should be right on top of each other so that the balls are in the exact same place, and only the light is changing.
That’s it for now. I’ll be back at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, unfortunately.