If I could sum up the entire day with one sentence, it would go as follows: Luck was on my side early and deserted me when I needed it most.
I found a baseball in right field when I ran inside the stadium at 5pm. Then I headed over to left field and snagged a bunch more, starting with a high-arcing homer that I caught on the fly in the second row. I have no idea who hit it, but if I had to guess, I’d say it was Austin Romine.
That was it for the Yankees’ portion of BP. Lame.
The Royals took the field soon after . . .
. . . and I got toss-ups from Greg Holland and Alex Gordon. That might sound easy, and it mostly was, but for the record, I jumped as high as I possibly could for the ball from Gordon.
This is when my luck became insane. While focusing on the batter, I heard something on my left that sounded like a ball hitting the seats. I looked over, and sure enough, there was a ball rattling toward me — and there was a little kid stampeding after it. I stopped the ball with my foot, picked it up, handed it to him, and found out from another fan that it had been thrown from the bullpen. (Technically, this was my 5th ball of the day.) Here’s a photo that I took moments later:
As you can see, the entire row between me and the bullpen was empty.
In the photo above, did you notice all the padded seats? At Yankee Stadium, every seat in the 100 Level is padded — pretty fancy, right? Well, here’s something that you won’t see on the YES Network:
Many of the seats have small rips and tears, and some are so badly damaged that they have patches glued on. (In case you’ve forgotten, it cost $1.5 billion to build Yankee Stadium.)
Anyway, when there was a quick break in the action, I had my picture taken with a fan named Yisrael, who had brought his copy of The Baseball:
After signing the book for him, I enjoyed more good luck. Lorenzo Cain threw a ball into the crowd, which ended up landing in no-man’s land. I’m not sure if he overthrew the folks in the front row or underthrew the fan in the sixth row, but regardless, the ball landed in my row, which still happened to be empty, so I scampered 30 feet to my left and grabbed it. I then offered the ball to the fans down in front — a family with two kids, but the father told me they’d each gotten one.
Several minutes later, I wiggled through the crowd to my right to line myself up with an incoming home run. The ball ended up sailing five or six feet over my head, so I didn’t bother jumping. Instead, I just stood there and watched everyone else battle for it. Three or four guys, all of whom were wearing gloves, reached for it and dropped it, and whaddaya know? The ball plopped down right to me. I gave that ball to a kid and gave away the next two as well — two more homers that I caught on the fly. The first of these final two longballs was a line drive by Cain that I caught just behind the empty camera well. The second was hit by a guy I couldn’t identify, and I grabbed it after darting up a few steps and cutting to my left.
My total number of baseballs for the day had reached nine, and thanks to Yankees bullpen coach Mike Harkey, I reached double digits just before game time. Here’s the ball he threw me:
The highlight of the game was the rain. Here’s a photo that I took just before it started coming down:
Because the wind was blowing toward me, I knew exactly when it was going to start raining because I could actually see it. It was pretty wild . . . it was barely drizzling in left field when I suddenly noticed sheets of rain glistening in the lights high above the 1st-base side. Given the fact that there was a lefty at bat (and several more to follow) who had no chance of going oppo, I ran for cover and then photographed other fans doing the same:
It rained so hard that I was stunned that the game was still being played, but the umps and groundskeepers obviously knew what was up. It was just a passing shower, and the game was not delayed.
Look how crowded it was in the concourse:
For the next few innings, it rained on and off, which was great because the seats remained fairly empty. As a result, I had some room to run for Billy Butler’s solo homer in the 7th inning, but unfortunately, I had horrendous luck and came up empty-handed. Basically, the ball was hit 20 feet to my left, but I couldn’t cut straight across because I was blocked by a railing. (That’s not the “bad luck” part.) I had to run back and around the railing. I started in row 14 and decided to run through row 16 because the ball looked like it was really going to carry. I got in line with it and would’ve been able to make an easy catch, but of course it fell several feet short. The ball deflected off the bare hands of a guy in row 14. If he hadn’t been there, I still could’ve caught it by reaching forward into row 15, but anyway, it bounced off of him and ended up in row 15. I jumped down there to look for it, assuming that I was still gonna get it because that row was empty. Amazingly, the ball rolled away from me ALL THE WAY to the end of the row, where some guy on the staircase picked it up and chucked it back onto the field. It was terrible. The only thing I could’ve done better would’ve been to pick row 15 instead of 16, but I can’t blame myself for that. Looking back on it, I feel like I did everything right. It was just a case of *really* bad luck. Here’s the video highlight in case you want to look for me.
After the final out of the Royals’ 3-1 victory, I hurried over to the bullpen . . .
. . . and got coach Doug Henry to toss me a ball. That was my 11th and final ball of the day. Because I’d given away four, here are the seven that I took home:
Three of the seven have invisible ink stamps. Check ’em out in regular light versus black light:
• 11 balls at this game
• 353 balls in 47 games this season = 7.51 balls per game.
• 473 balls in 73 lifetime games at Yankee Stadium = 6.48 balls per game.
• 919 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 444 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 225 lifetime games with ten or more 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
• 6,812 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.)
• 30 donors for my fundraiser
• $1.88 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $20.68 raised at this game
• $663.64 raised this season through my fundraiser
• $11,000 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs
• $33,069.64 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009