My afternoon started with a huge, unhealthy meal at a place near PETCO Park called BUB’S:
I had to eat fast and rush to the ballpark to meet a local TV sportscaster named Steve Smith by 4pm. He’s the guy who filmed me on 8/29/08 at PETCO Park, and now that I was back with a sponsor, he wanted to do another segment. Here I am talking to him before the gates opened:
In the photo above, Steve is on the left, and I’m on the right, having just put on my BIGS Sunflower Seeds cap. The dude in the middle works for BIGS; his name is Neal, and he’s traveling with me and helping with all the logistics and media stuff. If you’re wondering who took that photo, that would be my friend Brandon. He’s the guy who helped me build the pyramid of baseballs, and just so you know, he took most of the pics of me that you’re about to see . . .
My 1st baseball of the day was thrown by a Padres coach at the 1st base dugout. I’m pretty sure it was Alonzo Powell, but I’m not sure. After that, I changed into my Brewers gear and got a kick out of the fact that Steve was filming everything. When I retied the laces on my left sneaker, he was all over it:
Here I am catching my 2nd ball, which was thrown from the middle of the infield by Rickie Weeks:
The outfield seats weren’t yet open, so I killed some time along the left field foul line. Here I am on the staircase; look how gorgeous the stadium is:
Steve filmed me taking a peek at my rosters:
When the rest of the stadium opened, I headed up to the 2nd deck in left field. With Ryan Braun and several other power-hitting righties in the cage, I figured there’d be some action, but no, it was totally dead. Here I am looking over the railing at the seats below:
I was doing that in order to see which section/row was least crowded.
I ended up in left-center, and within a few minutes, I got Ryan Braun to throw me a ball. Here I am reaching out for the catch:
Here’s a face that should look familiar:
He and I had our picture taken together the day before at Angel Stadium, remember? And he’s featured in The Baseball as one of the Top Ten ballhawks of all time. In case you’re drawing a blank, his name is T.C.
If Brandon had brought his fancy-schmancy camera (or rather, if he hadn’t forgotten his memory card and been forced to use my camera), the following photo wouldn’t have been blurry, but I don’t really care. I still like it. It shows me snagging my 4th ball of the day — a home run that I caught on the fly:
My 5th ball was another homer that I caught on the fly. Then I got Yovani Gallardo to hook me up with ball No. 6. Normally, when there’s a photo that shows a ball flying my way, I like to circle it in red or draw an arrow, but I’m not gonna do it here. Your challenge is to spot the ball on your own:
I handed that ball to the nearest kid, pictured below in the red hoodie:
Now, as you’ve probably heard or seen, the Padres brought the fences in over the winter. One of the wonderful changes (from a ballhawking perspective) is that there’s now a gap behind the outfield wall in left-center. Here I am using my glove trick to snag a ball from it.
I was worried about getting busted by stadium security, but the only guard who saw me didn’t seem to mind. In fact, he was rather intrigued by the whole operation. Here he is watching me do my thing:
Just as I was starting to coil up my string, I heard people shouting and sensed everyone tensing up in such a way that could only mean one thing: a ball was flying toward me. I awkwardly wedged my left hand into my glove and looked up and saw the ball and reached up and caught it:
That was my 8th ball of the day and the final one that I snagged during BP. I came close to another homer soon after, and when I saw the photo of myself scrambling for it, I had to laugh. Check out how ridiculous my face looks:
Neal brought his glove on this trip:
His goal is to snag ONE ball, and he would’ve gotten it during BP at this game if I hadn’t robbed him on one of the homers. (Oopsie!)
After BP, I was hoping to get a photo with T.C. and another PETCO regular named Leigh (aka “Padre Leigh” in the comments on this blog). It didn’t happen. T.C. vanished, and I didn’t see him for the rest of the night, but I did catch up with Leigh. Here we are with our baseballs:
Then I did a sit-down interview with Steve . . .
. . . and got a photo with him before he took off:
He’s really nice. And knowledgeable. And professional. For those of you in San Diego, keep an eye on Channel 10. The segment should air at some point in the next week or two, and for the rest of you, I’ll post a link when it’s available.
Here’s another photo of the gap . . .
. . . and here’s a shot of the new bullpen configuration:
Do you remember that the visitors’ bullpen was on the field along the right field foul line? Well, now it’s positioned behind/above the Padres’ bullpen in deep left-center. In the photo above, do you see the stairs (a white-ish railing, really) on the left side? That’s how the visiting team accesses its new bullpen, and look! Here I am getting my 9th ball of the day from it:
In the photo above, the guy standing on the right is Brewers bullpen coach Lee Tunnell. That’s who threw it.
Brandon took the following photo of Jason Marquis warming up, and he insisted that I post it:
(Are you happy, Brandon? I insist that you not forget your memory card next time.)
When the game got underway, I was sitting behind the Padres’ dugout. It took me all of three outs to snag a game-used ball. Jason Marquis pitched it. Alex Gonzalez check-swung at it and hit a wimpy pop-up. Padres 1st baseman Yonder Alonso caught it and tossed it to me on his way in. By that point, the Brewers were already winning, 5-0.
I moved to the 3rd base side for a bit because there were a zillion empty seats . . .
. . . but then, when all the power-hitting righties came up for the Brewers, I ran to the 2nd deck in left field. This was my view:
That’s pretty much what I did all night: 3rd base side for the wimpy/lefty Padres hitters and the left field 2nd deck for the Brewers. If I’d been in that spot in the top of the 1st inning, I would’ve caught Yuniesky Betancourt’s three-run homer. It landed at the bottom of those stairs, so it would’ve been pretty easy for me to drift forward and make the play.
Look how wide the cross-aisle is in the 2nd deck:
There was NO competition up there. It was just me versus fate, and on this particular night, fate gave me the finger.
Here’s a photo of me that Neal took from foul territory:
In the photo above, do you see the fans sitting just above the red circle? Well, when they saw all the BIGS gear that I was wearing, they started asking/pestering me for seeds in a funny way. They threatened to eat competitors’ seeds unless I brought them free samples. I told them I had samples. The issue was that the seeds were in my backpack, which Neal was holding for me on the 3rd base side. I promised these fans that I’d be back in a couple innings with seeds, and they were like, “You better!! We’re counting on you!!” Even the usher wanted seeds, and I promised her I’d bring some.
First, though, I needed (and I do mean NEEDED) to wander out to right field and photograph the new Jack Daniels Party Deck. It’s sort of like the party deck at Citi Field, except nicer and roomier and cheaper (because there’s no free food) and easier to get into. Take a look for yourself:
Here’s what the end of the deck looks like closest to the foul pole:
There was an usher stationed at the bottom of the stairs in the middle of the deck. You can kinda see her through the small glass panel two photos above, but anyway, I noticed that none of the fans there had wristbands, so naturally I tried to get down there — and let me tell you, it was very easy. I waited ’til there was a group of fans heading down, and then I merged into the middle of their pack, and I pretended to be looking at my phone as I went down the steps. And that was it. I waltzed right past the usher and ended up here:
Can you imagine having that much room and so little competition? Man, oh man.
Here’s what the tables and chairs look like on the party deck . . .
. . . and here’s a big logo on the back wall:
Why does every stadium party deck have to be named after alcohol or some other crappy beverage? Why not the “Pink Lady Apple Party Deck” or the “National Scrabble Association Party Deck?” or the “Drink Water Because Its Free And Healthy And Won’t Give You Diabeetus Party Deck”? Know what I mean?
I hung out there for an inning or two and would’ve stayed longer (like, forever) except I had a promise to keep: BIGS Sunflower Seeds for the fans in the 2nd deck in left field.
Check it out:
They were SO happy to get the seeds. As a sucker for free food, I know the feeling.
With the Brewers holding a 7-1 lead in the bottom of the 9th inning, I really wanted to go to their dugout and try to get a ball or two after the final out, but damn, Jedd Gyorko was due to bat 4th, and he was still stuck at ZERO career home runs.
I decided to start near the dugout, and if anyone got on base, then I’d run out to left field. As it turned out, Mark Kotsay reached base on a one-out error, so I took off. Chris Denorfia followed by striking out on three pitches. That meant Gyorko was coming up (I was still racing through the concourse when his name was announced) and the game would end unless HE got on base.
Just as I was entering the left field seats, the son-of-a-gun swung at the first pitch and hit a single. GAH!! I was pissed about the lack of a home run, but excited to possibly have a chance to get back to the Brewers’ dugout. I just needed Nick Hundley to have a longer-than-average at-bat in order for me to make it in time, and whaddaya know? He did. Just after I got here . . .
. . . he grounded out on the 6th pitch of the at-bat.
Moments later, I got a ball from a ballboy –my 11th of the day — and handed it to a little kid on my right. Less than a minute after that, I shouted at the coaches and ended up getting them to give me their magnificent lineup card. I was pumped:
Neal and Brandon and I went to In-n-Out Burger:
Neal, trying to reduce his carb intake, ordered his burger on a lettuce wrap. I’d never heard of such a thing, so I ordered one for myself. Here’s what it looked like:
It was weird and disappointing, and here’s how I see it: if you’re gonna have a salad, be healthy and eat a damn salad; if you’re gonna have a burger, accept the fact that you’re THIS much closer to dying of cancer and go all out. It’s like diet muffins or diet soda or low-fat anything. If you have to eat or drink the diet version, well, I’m sorry, but you probably shouldn’t be eating or drinking it in the first place.
Speaking of malnourishment, Neal and I spotted a HOOTERS in a nearly mall, and we simply *had* to stop and take a photo:
It’s amazing how big of a difference two missing letters can make, although it could be argued that in this case, they made no difference at all.
At around midnight, Neal and I went to an all-night FedEx shipping center:
He had to mail a 50-something-pound tent back to the office, and I decided to mail the lineup card to myself in New York City. In the photo above, the lineup card is sitting on the end of the counter (five feet to the right of Neal). Here’s a closer look at it:
Is that the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen in your entire life, or at least in the past 24 hours? Seriously, I think it’s amazing, and I can’t believe I got it. I’ve collected dozens of lineup cards over the years, but this was only the second big one. Click here to see the other.
I’d like to point out three unusual language-related things about the lineup card pictured above:
1) The reserve players’ names were all written without vowels. (But why?)
2) Norichika Aoki’s name is written in Japanese.
3) The Hebrew word (in the middle near the top) says “Jesus.”
• 72 balls in 10 games this season = 7.2 balls per game.
• 882 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 407 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 213 lifetime games with ten or more balls
• 5 stadiums this season with a game-used ball: Citi Field, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Angel Stadium, and PETCO Park
• 6,531 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)
• $13.86 raised at this game
• $90.72 raised this season through my fundraiser
• $2,500 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs
• $23,996.72 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009