I knew there wasn’t going to be batting practice; this was a 12:35pm game, and the A’s and Astros had played 11 innings the night before. Thankfully, though, both teams were playing catch when I entered the stadium . . .
. . . so I figured I’d have a couple of chances to get a toss-up.
After heading down toward the front row and standing around for a minute or two, I saw a ball get thrown wildly and roll onto the warning track. Take a look at the following photo — see it there against the little side-wall that juts out?
Did you notice the guy standing in the front row with the green bag? When I ran over there and eyed the ball, he said, “That’s my ball. I just dropped it.”
“Oh really,” I replied without missing a beat. “Were you just out there on the field playing catch? Because I’m pretty sure it was an overthrow.”
He laughed nervously and said, “Well, I’m claiming it.”
“Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way. No one can claim a ball until they actually have possession of it.”
“Oh, so you’re one of THOSE guys,” he said.
“One of what guys? I’m just a human being, and I’m trying to get a baseball.”
By that point, I was starting to set up my glove trick, and a security guard was walking toward us. The other fan asked for the ball, but the guard said he wasn’t allowed to give it away. The guard then noticed my string and informed me that “retrieval devices are not allowed at the Coliseum.” And that was it. I have no idea what ended up happening to that ball, but I can tell you that I got one thrown by A.J. Griffin. Then I raced over to the right-field foul line and got this one from an Astros player that I didn’t recognize:
Nice! I’d been hoping to get one of those. (For those who don’t know, that’s one of the commemorative balls that the Astros used last season for their 50th anniversary. Here’s a better photo of one that I snagged on 5/14/12 at Citizens Bank Park.)
Here’s a random photo of two players walking across the field, presumably after taking BP indoors:
The player on the right is Brett Wallace. Any idea who the other guy is? In general, I’m pretty good at recognizing major leaguers, but Great God Almighty, I have no clue with the Astros. Talk about a bunch of no-names! I think I’m more famous than half the team, which is pretty sad for them.
Do you remember the nice conversation I’d had the day before with Astros bullpen catcher Javier Bracamonte? Well, I caught up with him again. This time I gave him three different flavors of BIGS Sunflower Seeds . . .
After chatting for a while with Bracamonte, I got a visit from my friend and fellow ballhawk Spencer. Here’s a photo of us . . .
. . . which was taken by the Astros’ other bullpen catcher, Jeff Murphy.
Can you spot the BIGS Seeds in the following photo?
I’d assumed that Bracamonte had taken those sample packs into the clubhouse, so it took me by surprise to see them sitting with the other equipment in the bullpen.
A little while later, Murphy did a catching drill with Carlos Corporan . . .
. . . and yes, a bunch of the balls *did* have last year’s commemorative logo:
I didn’t get any of them, but I did get three Astros to sign my ticket:
The signature on the left is Chia-Jen Lo. The signature in the middle is Josh Zeid. (He’s the player in the photo above.) As for the signature on the right . . . I think it’s Brad Peacock, but I’m not sure. His jersey was hidden, and he jogged off before I had a chance to take his picture. Can anyone confirm who it is? (Who ARE these guys? Is this really the major leagues?)
I lingered along the foul line just long enough to watch Erik Bedard finish warming up:
Then I headed up to my *actual* ticketed seat in the second deck:
If you want to catch a foul ball, that’s where you should sit for left-handed batters. Anywhere in Row 1 of Section 219 is pretty much ideal, and those seats are almost always empty. Just walk up to the ticket window on the day of the game and ask for it. If you sit there for an entire game, it’s more likely than not that you will snag a foul ball. For right-handed batters, Section 215 is the place to be. Be advised that the ushers do check tickets in those spots, and since it’s always so empty, there’s no way to sneak in there. They’ll see you, so just buy a ticket. They’re not that expensive, and the A’s could really use the money.
Anyway, this was my view of the field . . .
. . . and here’s what it looked like on my left:
See what I’m talking about? I’m telling you, it’s foul ball heaven, and in the top of the 2nd inning, I caught one:
Before I explain how it all went down, I need to share two more photos. First, here I am with the ball:
Second, here’s the best height differential that I’ve ever seen in the major leagues:
The photo above shows Nate Freiman (6-foot-8) standing next to Jose Altuve (5-foot-5). Given my fascination with tall people, you can imagine how much that made me smile.
Now, as for the foul ball that I caught . . . I was promptly congratulated by the nearest usher who handed me a “Foul Ball Club” card, which I eventually filled out. Here’s the front of it . . .
. . . and here’s the back:
By the way, this is the ball that I’ll be offering in the end-of-season auction to benefit Pitch In For Baseball. I think it’s better than the Josh Reddick strikeout ball that I got the day before because this one was thrown by Sonny Gray in his first major league win. Of course, there’s no telling what kind of career he’ll have, but c’mon, that’s pretty cool.
Over the course of the game, I moved back and forth from the 3rd-base side of home plate (for lefties) to the 1st-base side (for righties). Although it would’ve been much easier to use the cross-aisle, I didn’t want to block anyone’s view, so I took the following route instead. From my seat on the 3rd-base side, I headed through this tunnel and down the stairs:
Then I hurried through the concourse for 100 to 150 feet . . .
. . . and finished by running up here:
This is how I stay fit during the season. Seriously.
I was hoping to catch another foul ball — or maybe six more foul balls — but nothing else came near me.
The A’s won the game, 5-0. I took a photo of the players and coaches spilling onto the field . . .
. . . and I ran downstairs in time to see Bracamonte walking in from the bullpen:
On my way out, I got a pair of “goodbye” waves from a friendly guard and usher on the field:
I had talked to them for a while before the game. Really nice people.
Even though I only snagged five balls in two days and had miserable luck during the games, I was sad to leave. Watching baseball in Oakland is a unique experience, and I probably won’t be back for a while.
• 3 baseballs at this game (pictured on the right)
• 489 balls in 66 games this season = 7.41 balls per game.
• 54 balls at 8 lifetime games at the Oakland Coliseum = 6.75 balls per game.
• 938 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 463 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 156 foul balls snagged during games (not counting toss-ups)
• 29 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, Nationals Park, Marlins Park, Tropicana Field, Turner Field, Citizens Bank Park, Dodger Stadium, Chase Field, and the Oakland Coliseum
• 6,948 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, and if you donate money, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.)
• 38 donors for my fundraiser
• $3.43 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $10.29 raised at this game
• $1,677.27 raised this season through my fundraiser
• $14,500 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs
• $37,583.27 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009