This was my 20th major league stadium of the season, and I snagged two baseballs before I even stepped inside. The first one . . .
. . . was thrown over the right field bleachers onto Sheffield Avenue by a Cubs player — not sure who.
Before I caught the next one, I got a photo with Erik Jabs — a ballhawk with more than 2,000 lifetime balls — who had made the eight-hour drive from Pittsburgh. Here we are:
I had no idea that he was going to be there, so it was quite a surprise.
The unidentified Cubs player ended up chucking three more balls onto Sheffield Avenue — or at least he tried. The first one was snatched in a mad scramble by another ballhawk named Matt. Erik, leaping high above the competition, caught the second, and the third never reached the street. It landed in the walkway at the back of the bleachers, and everyone else gave up on it. A minute later, I noticed an employee up there and got him to toss it down. Neal Stewart from BIGS Sunflower Seeds was with me and took the following photo just before I reached up for the catch:
Here are the two baseballs that I’d gotten:
A few minutes past 11am (game time was 1:20pm), I headed over to the bleacher entrance. Just before it opened, this was the line behind me:
Wrigley Field is officially a pain in the ass, but it’s also beautiful. This was my view from right-center field . . .
. . . and here’s what the bleachers looked like on my right:
But did I mention that it’s a pain in the ass? The biggest nuisance is that the bleachers are separated-ish from the rest of the stadium. Basically, if you have a ticket anywhere in foul territory, you can’t enter the bleachers, but if you have a bleacher ticket, you *can* go into foul territory. (It used to be that you needed a special type of bleacher ticket; now, any bleacher ticket will do.) That said, bleacher tickets aren’t cheap. At the box office, they cost $43.68 (including tax), and on StubHub, they were going for more than $50. Sorry, but no one should have to pay that much for the privilege of seeing a stadium — not even Wrigley effin’ Field — from every angle. (Of course, tickets in straight-away left and right field at Yankee Stadium have a $90 face value, but let’s not go there. Literally.)
My 3rd ball of the day was tossed by Cubs pitcher Blake Parker, and after the Pirates took the field, my 4th was thrown by Mark Melancon. I got both of these balls in right field.
Toward the end of BP, I headed to left field. Here’s a photo of me, taken from afar by Neal who was trapped in foul territory:
Did you see me? In the photo above, I’m wearing yellow and standing in the very center.
Five minutes later, Erik robbed me of a homer, and I wasn’t too happy about it. Mainly, I was frustrated because I hadn’t snagged a batted ball since Monday’s game in Milwaukee, and I didn’t catch ONE homer on the fly on this entire trip. Getting toss-ups and using the glove trick is fine-n-dandy, but it gets old after a while when those are the only balls I’m snagging.
After BP, I got my 5th ball of the day tossed by Pirates manager Clint Hurdle at the 1st base dugout.
Then I went to this concession stand . . .
. . . and got a terrible slice of pepperoni pizza, along with THE absolute worst “cheeseburger” in the 13.8-billion-year history of the universe. Have a look at this loathsome excuse for a meal:
The bun was stale, the burger was dry and overcooked (not to mention awfully thin), and the cheese wasn’t even melted. It was truly inedible, and so, as a punishment to the Cubs for charging $6.50 for this vomitous crap, I hereby encourage everyone to avoid spending any money on concessions at this stadium. Eat a big meal beforehand, smuggle in a protein bar, and go out for a bite afterward. TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE. I’m not sure which stadium has the best food, but Wrigley Field is by far the worst. The worst cafeteria burger that I ever ate in my life (circa 1991 at Friends Seminary) was much better than this. Shameful. I’m not kidding. I’m still angry about that burger as I sit here writing about it three days later.
After the national anthem, I caught up with a Pirates TV reporter named Dan Potash:
Last year, Dan mentioned me on the air after I caught this Garrett Jones homer on 9/25/12 at Citi Field. Recently, he and I discussed doing a longer, follow-up interview, and since the Pirates were here at Wrigley, we decided to go for it. His producer wanted us to do it at the start of the 2nd inning, just to the right of the Pirates’ dugout where Dan would be spending most of the game.
This was my view in the top of the 1st . . .
. . . and as you can see in the following photo, Dan was sitting nearby on my right:
As soon as I failed to snag the 3rd-out ball that ended the 1st inning, I headed over to the fancy little media area where Dan was sitting. (He had told the ushers about the interview so I wouldn’t get hassled.) Neal, meanwhile, was chillin’ in the upper deck, and as the top of the 2nd got underway, he took the following photo of us:
The interview was in progress at that point. Here’s a screen shot from the telecast:
The interview lasted about two minutes, and if you want to watch it, click here.
By the way, my baseball total in the graphic above was wrong. When this trip started, I had 6,718 balls, but by the time I was live on the air here in Chicago, my grand total had reached 6,745. Also, did you notice the old guy sitting behind me in the light green sweater? HA!! I didn’t notice him at the time, but it seems that he got annoyed at me for blocking his view, and he ultimately stormed off. Normally I make a big effort *not* to block people’s views. For example, if I’m walking down a staircase when a pitch is about to be thrown, I’ll stop and crouch down until the pitch/play is over. (I’ve hardly ever seen anyone else do that.) But in this case, I have three words for the old guy: GET OVER IT. I wasn’t being one of those annoying fans, who stands for no reason. I was being interviewed on live TV. And did you notice all the empty seats in that section? Take another look at Neal’s photo from the upper deck. All the guy had to do was stand for a couple minutes (think of it as the 2nd-inning stretch) or move back a few rows. Jeez. Some people are cranky. Dan had actually apologized ahead of time to the folks sitting behind us. He told them that we’d only be in their way for a minute or two, but the old guy must not have heard.
After the interview, Dan and I sat down, and I was allowed to stay there until the 3rd out. It was nice to be so close to the action and get photos like this . . .
. . . but it really wasn’t much better than the spot where I’d been sitting behind the dugout.
Ryan Sweeney ended the 2nd inning with a routine fly-out to center fielder Andrew McCutchen. The ball was then tossed around among several Pirates as they jogged off the field; Neil Walker ended up with it and flipped it to me on his way in.
Just like that, I had raised an additional $500 for Pitch In For Baseball, and as for my season-long quest to snag a game-used ball at every stadium, I’m now 20-for-20.
I gave two baseballs (from BP) to a pair of little kids sitting near me and then took off for the bleachers. I couldn’t get there from the right-field corner because of a private event in that area of the stadium, so I headed all the way around the concourse to the left field corner. Here’s what it looked like:
In the photo above, the staircase leads up to the regular seats along the right-field foul line; the walkway on the left leads to the area behind the bleachers. I had to present my bleacher ticket there to get it scanned, and then I headed up the nearest staircase. This was my view of the field from the stairs . . .
. . . and this was the scene behind me on Waveland Avenue:
I decided to hang out at the back of the bleachers:
This was the view to my right . . .
. . . and to the left:
In the photo above, did you notice the flags atop the scoreboard in center field? The wind was blowing in HARD, and because of that, most of the regular Waveland Avenue ballhawks stayed home. One of the few guys who still showed up, of course, was Dave Davison. He’s standing on the corner in the following photo:
Did you notice the red cooler? It’s positioned just to the right of the dude sitting in the chair. Check out the sign above it:
In case you can’t tell, it says:
Cubs fans $1
Pirates fans $2
White Sox fans $3
It appears that the “$3” is crossed out and that the words “stay thirsty” are written underneath. Good stuff.
By the middle of the 6th inning, the Pirates were winning, 1-0, and it was clear that there weren’t going to be (m)any longballs, so I went back to the main part of the stadium. As I headed to the upper deck, I took a photo from the very back of the “field level” seats. Check out this wonky setup:
The photo above is a bit too dark, and the one below is too bright, but it’ll give you an idea of what it looks like:
Weird, huh? Lots of old stadiums used to look like that, but nowadays this type of design is unheard of.
It was really cold in the shade, and I stupidly hadn’t packed anything with long sleeves, but nevertheless, I stayed in the upper deck for the next hour. This was my view:
In the photo above, do you see the tiny area of shade on the right side, all the way out near the foul pole? Here’s a closer look at it:
I’m telling you, it was COLD.
I came close to a foul ball in the 8th inning, but there wasn’t much action, and in the middle of the 9th, I headed back down to the Pirates’ dugout. This was my view just after I snagged my 7th ball of the day:
In the photo above, do you see the helmet poking out of the dugout, just below home plate? That was Rick Sofield, the team’s first base coach, and I’d gotten there just in time to get him to toss me the infield warm-up ball.
Speaking of warming up, it felt sooooo much better in the sun. Sitting in the windy/shady upper deck, it felt like the temperature was in the upper 40s; down by the dugout, it felt like the low 70s.
The seagulls were also catching some rays:
The Pirates ended up winning, 2-0, and sure enough, there was a grand total of ZERO home runs. Unlucky pitchers (i.e. Cubs starter Travis Wood, who gave up one run in this game and lost) get lousy run support, and I have the ballhawk equivalent: lousy “home run support.” I’d love to know how many games there’ve been in the history of Citi Field with six or more home runs. I’d bet that Camden Yards and Great American Ball Park each typically have the same number of six-homer games per season. Go ahead. Look into it. I dare ya. Sure, there are lots of homers in the Bronx, but it’s not so easy to catch them when you’re handcuffed to your seat.
You want me to stop complaining?
Okay, I’ll stop complaining . . . for now.
Here’s a photo that I took as the Pirates walked off the field:
By that point, I’d already gotten my 8th ball from home plate umpire Jordan Baker. (I was tempted to scream at him for throwing huge wads of gum all over the outfield, but I went for the ball instead. Priorities.)
Moments later, I got another ball tossed up by the equipment manager.
Dan Potash was standing nearby, interviewing Jordy Mercer . . .
. . . and when he finished, we said goodbye. He’s a really good guy. Some TV people have lots of attitude, but he was totally genuine and positive and friendly.
I took one final photo outside the stadium . . .
. . . and then headed to the airport.
• 290 balls in 38 games this season = 7.63 balls per game.
• 47 balls in 7 lifetime games at Busch Stadium = 6.71 balls per game.
• 910 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 435 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 20 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, Camden Yards, U.S. Cellular Field, Comerica Park, Rogers Centre, Miller Park, Busch Stadium, and Wrigley Field
• 6,749 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.)
• 28 donors for my fundraiser
• $1.83 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $16.47 raised at this game
• $530.70 raised this season through my fundraiser
• $10,000 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs
• $31,936.70 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009