Remember all those sunflower seeds that I received the other day? Well, I brought a couple packs to this game at Yankee Stadium, and my friend Chris was the first person to try them. Here we are outside Gate 2 with the “Sizzlin’ Bacon” variety:
Chris appears to be unenthused, right? Well, look how his mood brightened once he popped a handful of ’em in his mouth:
Here’s his official critique:
The other pack I brought was the “Original” flavor. Several hours later, I tried both during the game (and made a fabulous mess with all the shells), and I was quite pleased. It’s a good thing I’m not being sponsored by an asparagus company.
When the stadium opened at 5pm, I rushed to the left field seats and promptly got Adam Warren to toss me a ball. Here it is:
For the Yankees’ 2nd group of hitters, I headed to the 2nd deck in right field . . .
. . . and eventually caught a Lyle Overbay homer on the fly. I had to climb down over a row of seats while that ball was in mid-air.
That was it for the first half-hour. Not great. Not terrible.
When the Diamondbacks took the field and started playing catch, I headed into foul territory . . .
. . . and eventually got J.J. Putz to throw me a ball. I keep using the word “eventually” because things were happening slowly; although I seemed to be getting baseballs everywhere I went, there was a whole lot of dead time in between each one.
My 4th ball was a homer that landed in the last row in straight-away left field, just below the State Farm ad on the right in the following photo:
Did you notice the little kid above the tunnel? That was a two-year-old girl. I gave her that ball by tossing it up to her mother.
My 5th and 6th balls were home runs that I caught on the fly. (I never knew who was hitting for the D’backs.) The first came *right* to me, and the second required me to drift down the steps and make a back-handed catch in the front row, directly in front of the TV camera.
That’s when I noticed something weird happening. Check out the photo below, and then I’ll explain:
See the coach near the warning track with the bat? That’s Steve Sax, and he was hitting EVERY ball back to the bucket as a fungo. Heath Bell was shagging in right-center field — you can see him out there — and whenever he fielded a ball, he chucked it over to Sax. Sax must’ve hit 50 of them back to the bucket. Maybe more. Maybe 100. I have no idea. I wasn’t counting, but I can tell you that I’d never seen anything like it.
I got one more ball in left field — a home run that I grabbed in the second-to-last row — and then headed to right field, where the visibility was brutal:
In the photo above, the guy wearing red is my friend Greg. He narrowly missed catching a homer, which sailed a foot over his glove and landed in my row. I snagged that one and then grabbed another home run ball that landed deeper in the seats. That gave me nine balls for the day, and I gave away two more.
Shortly before game time, I got my 10th ball from Yankees bullpen coach Mike Harkey. I promptly handed it to a father for his little boy and noticed them photographing it soon after:
Back in left field, I took a photo of Heath Bell with his teammates in the bullpen:
I sat in straight-away left field during the game . . .
. . . and got a lengthy visit from these two gentlemen:
They both write for Cut 4, a feature on MLB.com. The guy on the right is named Matt Latimer. He covers Yankee Stadium and did a feature on me last season. The guy on the left is named Andrew Harts, and he covers Citi Field. They’re both really cool guys with equally cool jobs.
As for the game itself, the Diamondbacks scored twice in the 1st inning off CC Sabathia and tacked on an insurance run in the 5th. It wasn’t enough. The Yankees tied the game with three runs in the 7th. Then they took a 4-3 lead in the 8th, and Mariano Rivera came in to pitch the 9th. Just before the final out, I took this photo of Heath Bell (and J.J. Putz) in the bullpen, watching the action:
Mariano closed it out for his 612th career save. He’s pretty good.
• 52 balls in 7 games this season = 7.43 balls per game.
• 879 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 404 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 212 lifetime games with ten or more balls
• 2 stadiums this season with a game-used ball: Citi Field and Fenway Park.
• 6,511 total balls
(For every stadium this season at which I snag a game-used ball, 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
• $65.52 raised this season through my fundraiser
• $1,000 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs
• $22,471.52 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009
Finally, one of the balls that I kept has TWO invisible ink stamps on it. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of it in regular light versus black light:
In case you’re not aware, this is highly unusual. It means that the ball failed its first inspection at the Rawlings baseball factory, got sent back to the employee who’d stitched it, got fixed, got sent back to the inspection room, failed the inspection again, got fixed again by the same employee, and finally passed. Oof.