I should’ve stayed home. This whole day sucked, and my mind was elsewhere. I should’ve been packing for my upcoming trip, answering important emails, planning my writing group‘s next meeting, cleaning up all the clutter in my apartment, spending time with my loved ones, eating healthy food, and relaxing. But stupid me . . . I couldn’t resist this game because the Astros were in town, and I was hoping to snag one of their commemorative baseballs during batting practice.
On my way to the stadium, I ran into a familiar security guard who warned me that my photograph had recently been circulated during an employee roll call. Why? Because of those two home run balls that I snagged during the game on April 18th. Remember how I got the first one in right field and the second one in left? Well, evidently, I’m now on the Yankees’ Most Wanted List as a result. After I caught that second homer, one of the TV announcers joked, “I wonder where his ticket says he’s supposed to be,” but it was no laughing matter to stadium security. So yeah. The whole day sucked, and this was just the beginning.
When the stadium opened and I ran inside, this was what I saw:
All of the Yankees were stretching . . . as in, NOT taking batting practice. But there was a Yankee coach on the mound with a basket of balls, which meant they WERE going to hit, which meant the Astros weren’t — no chance that both teams would hit with BP starting so late. So yeah. My entire reason for being at this game was pretty much wiped out from the start.
One of the few bright spots was finding a ball in the front row:
It was my 100th baseball of the season. Yay.
While the Yankees were wasting time along the right field foul line, two Astros were playing catch on the left side:
They were hoping that the player who ended up with the ball would “go long.” Some players enjoy tossing baseballs deep into the crowd rather than hooking up fans in the front row with easy toss-ups, but in this case, I pretty much knew I was gonna get it. That’s because I’d politely asked the player closest to me if I could have the ball when he finished; he didn’t make an official promise, but I took his subtle head-nod as a good sign. Sure enough, when the warm-up session ended, he tossed it to me, and I was ready with my camera. Check out this photo of the ball in mid-air:
Does anyone know who that player is? Here’s a closer look at his face:
Once the Yankee started hitting, I headed to 100 Level seats in right field:
I had considered going to the second deck, but thought, “Nah, the last two times I went up there, it was dead.” Then, of course, the Yankees proceeded to hit half a dozen balls up there — maybe even eight or ten. My bad luck was out of control, and when a few longballs finally landed in my section . . . let’s just say that things didn’t exactly go my way. There were two that I could’ve easily caught on the fly, but other fans caught them right in front of my glove. There was another homer that landed right behind me in a totally empty spot, but took a wild ricochet 30 feet away, and when I finally had my chance — albeit a difficult one where I was looking into the sun and jumping and trying to reach above two other fans — the ball tipped off my glove. Thankfully I managed to grab that one in the seats, but DAMN, everything was a struggle.
Toward the end of BP, in a similar jumping/reaching situation, I had another home run deflect off my glove in left field, only this time I didn’t end up getting it. WTF?! It was a tough play, one that might not have been scored an error if a major league outfielder had done the same thing on the warning track, but it felt like an error to me, and I was as stunned as I was bummed. I think it was just a lack of focus on my part, and I’m sorry to say that I cost Ben a chance to catch it, as he was cutting through the row directly behind me.
While I was in left field, a security guard told me that from now on, during games, if I ever want to move from one section to the next, I can’t walk through the seats, even if they’re empty. Instead, I have to use the tunnel, walk through the concourse, and then use the next tunnel.
Ben and I hung out after BP and made our way to the left field bleachers. Remember the Astros jersey that he was wearing? Check out the back of it:
Mike Scott. Wow. That name brings back some bad memories. (I used to love the Mets. Now I root against them. But back in the 1980s, when I lived and died with the team, Mike Scott was an unbeatable nemesis.)
Astros catcher Jason Castro was doing a drill with pitching coach Doug Brocail — one that involved lots of baseballs:
I looked at every single ball and didn’t see any commemorative logos. Then I was told by a security guard not to lean out over the wall.
Roughly fifteen minutes before game time, I headed to the right field bleachers and got a toss-up from Yankees bullpen coach Mike Harkey. Then I rushed back to the left field bleachers and got my 5th ball of the day from Brocail. (I’d like to thank my buddy Jay for not reaching out and robbing me.) It wasn’t commemorative, but whatever. I’ll be at Minute Maid Park on May 4th, so I’ll have a good chance of getting one (or twelve) then.
Here’s where I sat for the most of game:
I had started off in the 4th row, which was gloriously empty until a rather hefty young man climbed over from the row behind me and parked himself half a dozen seats to my left. I thought about offering him a ball as a form of bribing him to move back, but (a) he was about 20 years old so I doubted that it would’ve worked, and (b) one of his friends climbed over and sat down beside him. I felt trapped, so I moved to a totally empty row near the back of the section and ended up giving one of my BP balls to someone else.
In the top of the 8th inning, Chris Carter blasted an opposite-field homer that landed in the middle of the section on my right. I got caught up on a railing and scurried over a bit too late and watched helplessly as the fans bobbled it and then couldn’t immediately find it on the ground. When I returned to my seat, the 19-year-old security guard told me that I’m not allowed to go into the next section.
“Not even to try to catch a home run during the GAME?!” I asked.
“You can’t do it, Zack,” he replied. “You’re gonna get me in trouble.”
I wanted to shout, “Wrong! The fact that you use your cell phone for half of every game is going to get you in trouble!” but instead, all I said was, “You have got to be kidding.”
“That ball landed in section 103. Your ticket is in 104. You gotta stay there.”
Half an inning later, Lyle Overbay hit one of those lazy, Yankee-Stadium homers into the seats on my right. It landed in the empty 4th row. Anyone wanna guess who snagged it? Yeah, the hefty fan, and he had raced over from section 104. Of course the guard didn’t say anything to him, so I asked the guard, “Does this rule apply to everyone or just to me?”
As it turned out, this guard hadn’t noticed that the kid had crossed over into the next section — and why should he have noticed? Who the hell cares? It’s a baseball stadium. People try to catch baseballs. Jesus Aitch. LET. IT. GO.
Thankfully my fingernails didn’t suffer because I had a whole bunch of sunflower seeds with me. I had fun spitting the shells on the ground and seeing how big of a mess I could make. As I tweeted late in the game, I dare anyone to try to eat more BIGS seeds and make a bigger mess at one baseball game than this:
Not surprisingly, the Yankees beat the Astros, and as you might imagine, I’m glad to be hitting the road again. I’m writing this entry from Kansas City. I’ll be at Kauffman Stadium tonight, followed by games in Arlington, Houston, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. For specific dates (and to see when I’m going to be at other stadiums later in the season), visit bigsbaseballadventure.com and click the link that says “The Adventure.” Scroll down a bit, and you’ll see a calendar. Gotta run for now.
• 104 balls in 15 games this season = 6.93 balls per game.
• 887 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 412 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 195 consecutive Yankee home games with at least one ball
• 16 consecutive seasons with at least 100 balls
• 7 stadiums this season with a game-used ball: Citi Field, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Angel Stadium, PETCO Park, AT&T Park, and Safeco Field
• 6,563 total balls
• 184,539,116 stupid rules at Yankee Stadium
(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.)
• 25 donors for my fundraiser
• $1.61 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $8.05 raised at this game
• $167.44 raised this season through my fundraiser
• $3,500 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs
• $25,073.44 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009