After getting completely shut out in right field during the Yankees’ portion of BP, I headed to left field and snagged my first ball in an unusual way: I found it under a seat in the 8th row. It was brand new . . .
. . . but had the word “practice” stamped on the sweet spot, so I knew it wasn’t a store-bought ball that had been dropped by a fan. In fact, there were two fans standing nearby when I noticed it and reached down and grabbed it. They were stunned, and so was I. Finding a baseball 25 minutes after a stadium opens doesn’t happen too often.
Here’s what the field looked like during BP:
My second ball of the day was a Mike Napoli homer that landed half a section to my right and deflected off some fans in the front row. That was the 500th ball I’d ever snagged at the new Yankee Stadium.
A little while later, I got Ryan Dempster to throw me a ball, and ten minutes after that, Quintin Berry tossed me another. Toward the end of BP, when I tried to get a different player to throw me another ball, a large man (with a goatee and earrings and cut-off sleeves) standing beside me in the front row shouted, “Don’t give it to him!! He’s got 10,000 balls at home!!”
I turned to the man and said calmly, “You forgot to tell him the number of balls I’ve given to little kids.”
The man then claimed he’d never seen me give a ball away. He seemed to be daring me to do it, so I picked out a little girl (who didn’t have a glove) and handed her a ball . . . just to get him off my case. I hate giving away baseballs when I’m “told” (and I hate making a spectacle of being “generous”), but sometimes it’s necessary for the sake of keeping the peace.
Twenty minutes after BP, Red Sox bullpen coach Dana LeVangie was wrapping up a defensive drill with catcher Ryan Lavarnway:
LeVangie ended up tossing me a ball — my fifth of the day.
You know how Yankees bullpen coach Mike Harkey tosses a bunch of balls into the crowd before every game? Well, I got one from him while standing here:
I was in the last row of the right-center field bleachers (just in front of the George Steinbrenner mural), and let me tell you, it felt GOOD. That was the 17th ball that he has thrown to me over the years, tying Heath Bell for the 2nd-most ever; Livan Hernandez barely holds the lead with 18. Thanks to Alan Schuster at MyGameBalls.com for correcting me. I had initially stated that Harkey and Bell were tied for the most, but evidently, Alan keeps better track of my collection than I do . . . but enough about that. The real story on this fine day was the game itself. Take a look at the scoreboard in the following photo. That’ll give you a partial idea of how insane it was:
As you can see, the Red Sox had a 7-2 lead until the Yankees exploded for six runs in the bottom of the 7th. After that, David Robertson (one of MLB’s most dominant set-up men) worked a scoreless 8th inning, and Mariano Rivera came in to pitch the 9th. Game over, right? As you can see, the crowd was rather excited . . .
. . . and I have to admit that I was too. I assumed I was about to witness Mo’s 650th career save.
David Ortiz led off by smoking a line drive right at 1st baseman Lyle Overbay . . . one out.
Daniel Nava followed with a weak grounder to Overbay . . . two outs.
The Yankees were about to win a huge game in dramatic, come-back fashion, solidifying their incredible push for the playoffs. But wait! Mike Napoli batted next, worked the count to 3-2, and ripped a line-drive single to right-center field. Quintin Berry pinch-ran for him, and on the first pitch, he stole 2nd base and advanced to 3rd on catcher Austin Romine’s throwing error. Wow! The crowd was still pumped, but I could tell that everyone was nervous. On the very next pitch, Stephen Drew hit a soft line drive that blooped into right field, and the game was tied!
An inning later, with Joba Chamberlain on the hill, Jacoby Ellsbury hit a one-out single, stole 2nd base, and scored on a single by Shane Victorino. This was a big deal, not only because it gave the Red Sox a 9-8 lead, but because Victorino probably should’ve been called out on a borderline check swing on the previous pitch. Check swings are often murky, but slow-motion replays seemed to show that his bat *did* cross the plate. Joba was so pissed off at 1st-base umpire Joe West that he got ejected, and in the bottom of the frame, Koji Uehara retired the Yankees in order. Game over — 10 innings; 4 hours and 32 minutes. Just another night in the Bronx.
Look who was with me for all of it:
That’s Robin . . . my ex. She had joined me the night before because she wanted to see Mariano, and she attended this game because she’d never seen the Yankees play the Red Sox. Also, in case you’re wondering (as one person did in the comments section on my last entry), my current girlfriend knew I was with Robin and didn’t give a damn. Jealously is the stupidest thing ever; I don’t play that game. And another thing: see the ball that I’m holding in the previous photo? Franklin Morales tossed it to me from the bullpen after the final out. Yeeeeah!
• 572 balls in 76 games this season = 7.53 balls per game.
• 505 balls in 78 lifetime games at the new Yankee Stadium = 6.47 balls per game.
• 5 stadiums with 500 or more balls
• 948 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 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
• 7,031 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)
• $24.01 raised at this game
• $1,961.96 raised this season through my fundraiser
• $14,500 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs
• $37,867.96 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009
Finally, of the six balls that I kept, here’s the one with the best invisible ink stamp (as seen in regular light and black light):