Day games are awful because there’s usually no BP.
Weekend games are rough because of all the little kids.
Weekend day games are the worst thing ever — yet here I was.
It was Mother’s Day, and I was here for one reason: to snag one of the “pink baseballs” that were supposedly going to be used during the game. I’d heard about these balls from my friend Zach, who runs the website bigleaguebaseballs.com. He’d managed to get his hands on a few of them ahead of time and would’ve sent a photo had I’d asked, but I wanted to be surprised. Were the stitches pink? What about the stamping? Was there a special commemorative logo? Was the cowhide itself tinted pink? I had no idea what to expect.
When I entered the stadium, I was glad to see that the batting cage was set up:
The Mets weren’t yet doing anything — just standing around and BS’ing — but it was a good sign.
Twenty minutes later, after Dillon Gee and Shaun Marcum finished their bullpen sessions, I got Dan Warthen, the Mets’ pitching coach, to throw me a ball from the bullpen. Then he walked out onto the field (with bullpen coach Ricky Bones), and I took the following photo:
When BP got going, I ran over to left field and promptly got a ball from 3rd base coach Tim Teufel. He was roaming the outfield with a bat, so when he scooped up a ball, I called out and asked him to hit me a fungo. His aim was way off. The ball sailed 20 feet over my head, glanced off the facade of the 2nd deck, and plunked down into the seats behind me. I ran up the steps and had a mini-panic attack when I couldn’t find it. What the hell? It’s not like there was an open drain anywhere. The ball couldn’t have disappeared, but it wasn’t anywhere on the ground.
After five full seconds of searching (which is a dreadfully long time in situations like that), I discovered it here:
Jeez, no wonder I had a hard time finding it.
Here’s what my view looked like from left field:
There were several lefties hitting at that point, so I ran back to right field . . .
. . . and got a ball from bullpen catcher Dave Racaniello without asking. “Rac” (as he’s known) has recognized me for years and knows about my baseball collection, and as a result, he’s pretty much stopped adding to it. He’s perfectly nice and always says hello, but in terms of actually giving me baseballs? Not anymore, so I was surprised when he fielded this one, gave it a quick inspection, and chucked it to me. The word “practice” was stamped on the sweet spot, and the whole thing felt a bit soft.
“This ball is soft!” I shouted. I wasn’t annoyed, and I wasn’t telling him anything he didn’t know. I was just making conversation.
“That’s why I threw it to you!” he yelled back.
(Well, okay then.)
Two minutes later, I caught a home run on the fly, and five minutes after that, I grabbed another home run ball that landed behind me in the seats. I’m not sure who hit them, but if I had to guess, I’d say Jordany Valdespin and Lucas Duda.
Back in left field, Duda threw a decent knuckleball to me, and then I caught a home run on the fly. (No idea who hit it. Maybe Anthony Recker?) These were my 6th and 7th balls of the day.
I was hoping that the Pirates would hit. If they had, I probably would’ve ended up with 15 to 20 balls, but no, that was the end of BP. Several Pirates, however, did come out to stretch and run and throw. I managed to get a toss-up from Jeff Locke and then got five players to sign my ticket:
From top to bottom (and then left to right), the signatures are:
1) Mark Melancon
2) Jason Grilli
3) Jeff Locke
4) A.J. Burnett
5) James McDonald
When Matt Harvey took the mound, I was sitting in the 5th row behind the home-plate end of the Pirates’ dugout:
I felt great about my chances of snagging a game-used ball, and on the 2nd batter of the game, I got an opportunity. Travis Snider hit a towering foul pop-up that initially appeared to be heading right for me. As it turned out, though, I had to drift down to the front row, but hey, whatever. Fifth row, front row . . . it was all the same, and I couldn’t believe my luck! When I reached out for what should’ve been a routine, waist-high catch, another fan reached out and bumped my glove. We both ended up dropping the ball and watching helplessly as it trickled across the dugout roof and dropped out of sight. But wait! Pirates manger Clint Hurdle turned around and looked up into the stands. I figured he had the ball, so I asked him for it, and he tossed it to me, and ohmygod, when I opened my glove and looked at it, I nearly jumped out of my shoes. Check out this beautiful specimen:
All I can say is WOW. The folks at Major League Baseball nailed it. I can’t imagine how they could’ve possibly made this ball look any better — and what a cool idea. A pink ball for breast cancer awareness? Outstanding.
I *really* wanted to snag another, but I didn’t want to hog everything in that section, so I moved two staircases over past the outfield end of the dugout. I would’ve moved one staircase over — that was clearly the next best spot — but my friends Ben Weil and Chris Hernandez were there, and since I already had one, I wanted to stay out of their way. In fact, we’d all agreed beforehand, along with Greg Barasch (who was sitting behind the Mets’ dugout), that we’d all try to make sure that we each got one. If one of us didn’t have one at the end of the game, for example, then we’d let that person take the first shot at getting an umpire ball.
Chris ended up getting a 3rd-out ball from Garrett Jones early in the game, so he was all set. Now we just needed Ben and Greg to get theirs, and it would be a totally successful day. That said, I almost felt bad when Jones tossed this to me after the 5th inning:
I said “almost” because Ben was quick to make an obscene gesture at me from the next section.
As you can see, that ball was kinda beat up. I’m almost positive that Jones pulled a switcheroo and tossed me the infield warm-up ball on his way in, but even so, it was still a game-used ball, right? Not only was it mud-rubbed, but these balls were never used during batting practice. MLB intended for them to be used during games on this day only.
An inning or two later, Ben got a 3rd-out/strikeout ball from Pirates catcher Michael McKenry, and around that time, Greg got a 3rd-out ball on the Mets’ side from rookie outfielder Juan Lagares. By the end of the 7th inning, all four of us had gotten a commemorative Mother’s Day ball, so I didn’t feel bad all when I snagged this in the bottom of the 8th:
I’m not sure who threw it or which ball it was, but I can tell you this: I got it after Daniel Murphy hit a one-out double down the left field line. That ball ended up getting tossed out of play into the Pirates’ dugout, so I walked down to the front row and got the attention of one of the players. I didn’t think he had the ball — I didn’t know who had it at that point — but I still asked him for it. I figured he might be able to get it from one of his coaches or teammates, so why not ask him? Well, it just so happened that he already had a ball (although I don’t think it was THE ball that had been hit for a double), and he tossed it to me. As you can see above, the ball he gave me was grass-stained and scuffed; I’m quite certain that a pristine gamer wouldn’t sustain that amount of wear on one play. Anyway, the one I got was probably another warm-up ball that *had* been used during the game. I’m thinking that I’ll give it to BIGS Sunflower Seeds for their end-of-the-season charity auction. I’ve promised to give them a game-used ball from every stadium, so I want to make sure that this one counts as a gamer before I hand it over. What do you think?
Speaking of seeds, look at the wonderful mess I made over the course of the game:
Matt Harvey had another solid performance — two runs on five hits in seven innings — but had to settle for a no-decision. He came out of the game with the score tied, 2-2; the Pirates took a 3-2 lead in the top of the 8th and held on for the victory.
Home plate umpire Andy Fletcher didn’t toss any balls into the crowd. Ben somehow got a pink wristband from one of the umps, which he should’ve been wearing in this photo:
That’s Greg on the left, Ben in the middle, and Chris on the right.
I ended up giving three balls away — one during BP, one right before the game, and one during the game. Here are the eight balls that I kept:
Now, if only Major League Baseball would design a special ball for Father’s Day . . .
• 11 balls at this game (eight pictured above because I gave three away)
• 182 balls in 23 games this season = 7.9 balls per game.
• 895 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 54 different commemorative balls; click here to my whole collection
• 14 stadiums this season with a game-used ball: Citi Field, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Angel Stadium, PETCO Park, AT&T Park, Safeco Field, Kauffman Stadium, Rangers Ballpark, Minute Maid Park, Great American Ball Park, Progressive Field, PNC Park, and Camden Yards
• 6,641 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.)
• 26 donors for my fundraiser
• $1.63 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $17.93 raised at this game
• $295.66 raised this season through my fundraiser
• $7,000 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs
• $28,701.66 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009