There are four gates at Yankee Stadium. This was *part* of the crowd waiting to enter one of them:
In the photo above, do you see the fan on the far left in the black Nike t-shirt? His name is Andrew, and he recognized me . . . and here’s why:
As you can see, he had a copy of my 2nd book, Watching Baseball Smarter. After I signed it for him, I asked why he had it with him.
“Were you just hoping that I’d be here today?” I asked.
“No, I was reading it on the train,” he said.
Andrew told me that he had never snagged a ball, and I’m sorry to say that we lost each other as soon as the gates opened, so I have no idea how his day turned out. (Andrew, if you’re reading this, leave a comment and let us all know.)
The Yankees’ portion of BP was deader than dead. There was only one full group of hitters, all of whom were right handed, none of whom hit ANY home runs. Here’s a photo that shows me standing around, wishing I were anywhere else in the world, except maybe Damascus:
That photo, along with all the other shots of me that you’re about to see, was taken by my friend Andy Bingham (who occasionally writes this blog). Andy is a semi-regular at Yankee Stadium — that’s how I got to know him — and since he’s not a ballhawk (and recently got a new/fancy camera), he kindly took some pics of me in action. Here’s a three-part photo that shows me (wearing Rays gear) snagging my first ball of the day in foul territory:
Here’s how I got it — kind of a funny story . . .
Two sets of Rays had finished playing catch at the same time. I waved and shouted at one player for a ball, but a different guy ended up tossing one my way. That ball ended up falling short, landing on a staircase, and bouncing into the empty seats behind me. Because I’d been looking at the other player, I had no idea who threw it, so ten seconds later, when I saw Evan Longoria standing around with a ball in his hand, I called out to him and asked for it.
“I JUST GAVE YOU ONE!!!” he shouted.
I felt really stupid and didn’t blame him for being annoyed. I just hoped he didn’t get a good look at my face so that he wouldn’t remember me.
Five minutes later, this happened:
It’s pretty self-explanatory: Matt Moore tossed me a ball, and I jumped to make the catch. I wish my shoes were visible in that photo because they were a foot or two off the ground; I was using my right arm to push down on the concrete ledge in order to hoist myself up for some extra hang-time.
The next photo shows me catching my third ball — a home run (hit by an unknown Rays righty) that I caught on the fly:
See the guy trying to reach in front of me? His name is Tobias, and he’s from Germany. And he recognized me. We’d been chatting for a few minutes before that ball was hit. After I caught it, he said somewhat jokingly, “You should have something in your book that warns people not to stand near you.”
“I thought that goes without saying,” I replied.
But seriously, don’t feel bad for Tobias. He said he’d gotten a ball the day before at Yankee Stadium, and he’s in the process of hitting up a bunch of ballparks on the east coast.
(By the way, in the photo above, did you notice the ball in the background being tossed up to the fan in the bleachers? Just a fun little bonus detail.)
Andy didn’t get any more action shots of me (because stadium security kicked everyone out of the left field seats that didn’t have a ticket for that area), so I’ll have to describe what happened next. For starters, I got my fourth ball tossed by Jamey Wright. Here’s a photo of him that I took moments later:
Toward the end of BP, I made my best catch of the day. I was standing on the staircase in the 4th row when a deep fly ball was hit 20 or 30 feet to my left. As I started running for it, I determined that it was going to fall a bit short, so at the last second, I jumped down over a row of seats and made a thigh-high catch. I was pretty sure that I’d landed before catching the ball, but the nearest security guard (who’s actually really cool) had gotten a good look from the back of the section and insisted that I was in mid-air. I don’t know who hit this ball either.
After making that catch, I wandered to the next section and handed two baseballs to a pair of little kids in the front row. Shortly before game time, I gave away another to a young fan sitting near me.
Okay, ready to see something **REALLY** cool? I need to set it up by sharing this photo first:
The photo above shows my view of the Rays’ bullpen just before game time. I’d been standing there for several minutes, watching Roberto Hernandez warm up.
While he was warming up, I noticed that a coach was standing directly below me with a clipboard in his hand. I was able to press my camera against the netting and point it straight down and zoom in and . . . well, just take a look:
HOW COOL IS THAT?!?!
I’d never seen anything like it before. Have you?
It seems that each main box represents the strike zone for one pitch. I’m guessing that the number indicates (a) the type of pitch and (b) the location of the catcher’s target; the circle seems to show where it was actually caught. But maybe I’m wrong?
Also, did you notice all the times written at the top of the chart? I had no idea that teams are so meticulous about charting this stuff — or maybe it’s just the Rays? And did you notice the random stuff scribbled on the actual clipboard? It makes me wonder who “Shady Brady” is.
Just before game time, I witnessed the Yankees being the Yankees, otherwise known as stadium security treating people like crap. See the two guys in the photo below?
They were minding their own business and eating some concession food when a female security guard walked over and told them they had to move. Why? Because that precious metal ledge is a “RESERVED” seating area. Despite the fact it was otherwise empty, the guard was adamant about enforcing the rule. I don’t blame her because she was just doing her job; I blame the Steinbrenners for running a stadium in which there’s a serious lack of decency and common sense. Those fans were mid-bite. They had drinks on the ledge. One guy had barbecue sauce on his hands. And they were abruptly forced to move. They should’ve been allowed to stay there for three minutes to finish their meal. But no. At Yankee Stadium, there are a zillion unnecessary rules and no exceptions. *I* was even told to move because I wasn’t standing behind the white line (which is painted so far back in the concourse that you can’t see it in the photo above).
That said, if you have an issue with anyone or anything at Yankee Stadium, write a letter and send it to the following address:
New York Yankees
Attn: Guest Relations
One East 161st Street
Bronx, NY 10451
Several weeks ago, I mailed a letter to the Yankees and included my phone number at the bottom and actually got a phone call back from them. Of course, the employee who called was devoid of humanity and tried to justify the stadium’s asinine policies. In that same letter, I had praised a particular security guard for being friendly — there ARE a few cool people who work there — and later heard that this guard’s supervisor had read that portion of my letter to him during roll call.
The point is: WRITE A LETTER TO THE YANKEES. They will receive it and read it; if enough people do this, it might actually make a difference.
Here’s where I sat for the entire game:
There were three players in the starting lineups without any major league home runs: Wil Myers and Austin Romine, who are both right-handed, and Zoilo Almonte, who’s a switch-hitter. Well, wouldn’t you know it? There was only one home run all night — a solo shot by Almonte that was pulled into the Yankees’ bullpen in right-center.
No other balls landed anywhere near me. I would’ve loved to move to right field when . . . oh, you know, the first SIX guys in the Yankees’ lineup were at bat since, you know, they were all batting left-handed. But no. At Yankee Stadium, you go to your seat, and that’s that.
Here’s a photo of the moon:
It looked like a baseball, and I wanted to catch it.
Final score: Yankees 6, Rays 2.
On a final note, a friend and fellow Guilford College alum named Doug is doing PR for an event coming up at Yankee Stadium called the Runyon 5K, which benefits cancer research. As much as I hate Yankee Stadium, I must admit that this does sound kinda neat, so I’m doing him a favor by mentioning it here in case anyone’s interested. Basically, you run a 5K race inside the stadium — all through the concourses and up the ramps and stairs and even around the warning track. Here’s more info about it. The entry fee is $40 right now, but it’ll increase to $50 in a week. The event itself will take place on Sunday, August 18th.
• 313 balls in 41 games this season = 7.63 balls per game.
• 462 balls in 72 lifetime games at Yankee Stadium = 6.42 balls per game.
• 913 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 438 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 22 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, Wrigley Field, Target Field, and Nationals Park
• 6,772 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.)
• 29 donors for my fundraiser
• $1.85 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $9.25 raised at this game
• $579.05 raised this season through my fundraiser
• $11,000 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs
• $32,985.05 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009