I had two unofficial photographers at this game. One was my friend Andy, who got a great shot of me reaching over two rows of seats for my first ball of the day — a toss-up during BP from Curtis Granderson:
The other photographer was my girlfriend, Hayley. Here I am with her . . .
. . . and here’s a shot that she took of me running for my second ball — a Vernon Wells homer that landed in the soon-to-be-crowded seats:
A little while later, Hayley photographed me watching helplessly as a home run sailed over my head and landed in the bleachers:
At that point, there were a few other fans near me, who began talking about climbing up there and grabbing it. I advised them not to, and when they asked me why not, I was like, “You guys can do whatever you want, but I can’t get away with that because all the security guards here recognize me.”
“Yeah, I doubt that,” said a middle-aged man that I didn’t recognize.
“No, really,” I said. “Half the guards here hate me, and the other half loves me, so I need to make sure that I don’t piss off the ones that’re on my side.”
“You think way too highly of yourself if you think anyone here actually recognizes you,” said the guy.
“O-kayyy,” I replied sarcastically, “I’m here pretty regularly, and I kinda stand out.”
“I don’t care how often you’re here. There are 50,000 people here everyday.”
“Hey, whatever, it’s not worth arguing about,” I finally said.
Ten minutes later, when the Yankees began clearing the field after one lousy group of batting practice, I shouted, “Booooo!!! That’s weak!!!” prompting the man to walk over and snap, “I can see why people hate you!” Then he turned to his teenage son and said (loud enough for everyone to hear), “Let’s go back to our seats — this section is polluted.”
Imagine what the man would’ve said if he’d stuck around long enough to see me change into my Red Sox gear:
A little while later, I got a toss-up from Craig Breslow, which Andy and Hayley photographed simultaneously from different angles. Here’s his shot from behind as I bare-handed it . . .
. . . and here’s her shot from the side:
It kind of looks like I’m holding up the ball for an autograph, but trust me — I really *was* reaching out and catching it. Did you notice the kid in the blue shirt standing on my left? I offered him the ball, and he said, “That’s okay, you can keep it.”
To my surprise, I got a similar response several minutes later when I snagged a home run ball in the second row. Here I am holding it out for the nearest kid . . .
. . . but he didn’t want it either.
I had terrible luck during the second half of BP. There were a decent number of homers, but they all seemed to fall a row or two short or sail a few feet over my head. That’s just how it goes sometimes.
Here’s something funny for you — a photo by Andy that shows me looking in the complete wrong direction for a baseball:
Now let me explain . . .
That ball had entered the stands in the form of a towering home run. In order to get near it, I had to move five feet back and then run through an entire 24-seat row. I didn’t get there in time to catch it on the fly, and since it appeared to be heading for the staircase, I assumed it was going to ricochet high off the pavement. That’s why I was looking up and to the right, but evidently, someone got a piece of it and prevented the big bounce.
After BP, Hayley and I trekked to the last row of the upper deck . . .
. . . just for the hell of it. We weren’t gonna be sitting there for the game, but since this was her first time at The Almighty Stadium, I figured she should see the field from a few different angles.
I made sure to show her the wonderful view from the center-field bleachers:
Oh, Yankees, how you make me laugh and cry and want to tear out my nonexistent hair.
In the previous photo, did you notice that two members of Red Sox were playing catch on the edge of the warning track? Well, when they headed into the bullpen, I got a ball tossed to me by coach Dana LeVangie.
Then I photographed Monument Park (which I don’t ever plan to visit) . . .
. . . and headed to left field with Hayley for the start of the game. Here’s a photo that shows where we were sitting early on:
See us there on the left? At the time, I had no idea that Andy was anywhere near me, so it was a nice surprise when he sent me that photo (along with all the others) later that night.
After several innings, we moved one staircase to the right, and in the top of the 5th, I should’ve caught Will Middlebrooks’ home run. Basically, it was hit right to me, but I made the mistake of drifting five feet down the stairs, and when I began moving back to my original spot, I got blocked by a guy who appeared out of nowhere. It was seriously the dumbest thing ever. All I had to do was stand up and NOT go anywhere, and I would’ve made the catch — no doubt about it — but instead I managed to outsmart myself and maneuver myself out of position. Needless to say, I felt very very very VERY bad, and to make matters worse, one of the most obnoxious fans of all time ended up getting the ball. He’s the guy wearing the red jersey in the following photo:
He’d been sitting one row behind me, but in the photo above, he had moved down in between innings to taunt Yankee fans.
Why all the taunting? Because the Yankees had an 8-3 lead after six innings, and the Red Sox tied the game with a five-run rally in the top of the 7th. The obnoxious fan wasn’t actually there for the rally. He’d gone to get food, so what did he do when he returned to the section? He started shouting, “Hey, what did I miss?!?! WHAT?! The game is TIED?! Oh my GOD, how did THAT happen?!?! Ohhhhh, man, are you SERIOUS?! The game is TIED?! Really?!” And so on. I have to admit that it was funny, but I was cringing on behalf of Yankee fans.
Take another look at the photo above. See the guy standing on the right? He got ejected soon after for throwing a punch — not at the Red Sox fans, but at some random fan in a Mickey Mantle t-shirt. Here’s a screen shot from a video that shows two cops rushing down the stairs just after it happened:
In the image above, the guy who threw the punch is holding his arms up.
In the top of the 8th inning, the Red Sox scored four more runs to take a 12-8 lead, prompting a fan in the front row to stand up and fling his hat onto the field. He tossed it frisbee-style with all his strength, and it sailed about 50 feet. The result? Another ejection. Here’s a screen shot that shows him and his buddies being escorted out:
The guy who threw the hat is the one in the gray “New York” jersey.
It was one of those nights, and things kept getting more intense. When a bunch of disgruntled Yankee fans started heading up the steps, the obnoxious Red Sox fan jumped up . . .
. . . and shouted, “Where are you guys GOING?!?! The game’s not over!!! COME ON, don’t be like that — stick around!!”
I’m not a fan of violence, and I’m not saying that I wanted this to happen, but I was surprised that no one tried to kick his ass. He was *really* annoying everyone off and asking for trouble. At the old Yankee stadium, he would’ve left in an ambulance, guaranteed, but at the new stadium? Meh. No one really cared enough to say or do anything.
Eventually, one of the cops scolded him from the concourse . . .
. . . and finally got him to shut up.
Here’s a photo of the scoreboard in the bottom of the 8th:
Quite simply, it was a miserable game for Yankee fans and an awesome game for everyone else. Of course, given my inexcusable misplay on the Middlebrooks homer, it was tough for me to enjoy myself, but I was still glad to be there.
Here’s a statistical oddity that I noticed in the top of the 9th:
See what I’m talking about? In his season debut, Matt Daley struck out the first two batters, giving him a K/9 rate of 27.00, which, you know, is pretty good.
The Red Sox held on for a 12-8 win, and after the final out, I got a ball from coach Dana LeVangie — yes, two baseballs from the say guy in one day. (It happens.) For the first one, I was in the bleachers, and for the second one, I was in the 100 Level. I gave the ball to the nearest kid, and after everyone had cleared the section, I got the security guard to take a photo of me with Hayley:
Phew! What a night.
I’m still upset about missing the home run ball, and I know I always will be, but having gone through this before . . . perhaps I can offer some advice for anyone who’s trying to get over a klutzy moment of their own. Basically, go to another game as soon as possible, and after that, go to ten more. If you keep trying, you’ll have a chance to redeem yourself, and it’ll feel great when you do.
• 578 balls in 77 games this season = 7.51 balls per game.
• 511 balls in 79 lifetime games at the new Yankee Stadium = 6.47 balls per game.
• 949 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
• 7,037 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)
• $20.58 raised at this game
• $1,982.54 raised this season through my fundraiser
• $14,500 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs
• $37,888.54 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009