Remember the article I wrote in 2008 about Barry Bonds’ final home run ball? Remember the guy named Robert Harmon who nearly snagged it? Well, Robert and I have become good friends, and before this game at Coors Field, he invited me to his house for lunch. Here he is holding up a big bite of steak:
In case you’re wondering, I had turkey cheeseburgers (which Robert cooked to perfection), and yes, that’s my laptop on the right. That’s how committed I am to writing this blog — I was stressing about it while I should’ve been enjoying a leisurely meal — and why I’m constantly tempted to give it up.
After we ate, Robert gave me a tour of his place. This was my favorite part . . .
. . . and this was my favorite ball:
I’ve seen lots of mis-stamped balls over the years, but this one (with the sides missing) was a first.
Did you notice how bright and sunny it was in the photo of Robert eating lunch? Look how un-bright and un-sunny it was by the time we got to Coors Field at 3:55pm:
Fifteen minutes before the gates opened, it was raining in the distance:
Not only did I assume there wouldn’t be batting practice, but I was cringing at the thought of getting soaked while waiting to enter.
Guess what happened next?
The sky brightened, and the stadium opened, and when I ran inside, I was thrilled to see that there *was* BP! Unfortunately, though, the Rockies didn’t hit, and I had several run-ins with stadium security, and it took me 48 minutes to snag my first ball. Can you believe that? Forty-eight effin’ minutes! I won’t bore you with excuses about all the balls I didn’t snag, nor will I dignify the misguided employees by complaining about their offenses. Instead I’ll just show you where I was when I got my first ball:
See those three players standing together? One of them was Edward Mujica. He threw it to me from nearly 100 feet away.
My second ball of the day was cheap. I won’t deny it. Jake Westbrook tossed it to a little kid behind me, who dropped it. I picked it up and handed it to him.
My third ball should’ve been a ground-rule double, but I completely tanked it. (It had a lot of topspin, okay?!) I felt really stupid and embarrassed about dropping it, but I channeled those toxic emotions and used them to get another chance. Basically, when Joe Kelly wandered over to retrieve a different ball, I asked him to help me erase the humiliation of my error.
“I am totally ashamed,” I told him.
“That was bad,” he said, shaking his head.
“It was REALLY bad,” I replied, “but let me show you that I *can* catch. I need to redeem myself, Joe. Please don’t let me go on feeling this way.”
“Alright,” he said, moving several feet back toward the edge of the outfield grass, “let’s see if you can catch this one.” Then he spiked the ball onto the warning track, causing it to bounce up toward me, and yes, I caught it.
I thanked him, and he congratulated me sarcastically, and you know what? That was fine. I deserved whatever abuse he felt like giving me.
Here’s the mark that the spiked ball created on the warning track:
That was it for BP. The Cardinals finished hitting 70 minutes before game time, and I spent the next hour stressing out. That’s because I’d begun the day with a lifetime total of 96 balls at Coors Field; this was going to be my last game here until who-knows-when, and I really wanted to reach triple digits. I figured I’d have six or eight or maybe even ten balls by the end of BP, but somehow I only managed to snag three.
Finally, the Cardinals came out for pre-game throwing:
Despite the fact that there were seven players in shallow left field, only one ball got used, and Daniel Descalso ended up tossing it to a little kid on my right.
I decided to work the dugouts in the 1st inning on my way out to left field. If I got a 3rd-out ball, great, and if not . . . well, I wasn’t going to stay in foul territory all night. Maybe I’d go for an umpire ball in the 9th inning, and that would be the end of it.
Anyway, this was my view in the top of the 1st . . .
. . . and here’s where I sat in the bottom of the inning:
As planned, I headed toward left field in the top of the 2nd. The first people I saw when I entered the section were my good friends Danny and Nettie. Here they are — do they look familiar?
You may recall that I stayed with them the last few times I visited Coors Field. Remember my blog entry from 2008 about Danny’s incredible baseball collection? Well, I’m glad to say that the two balls pictured above are not part of it. That’s right. Those were MY baseballs that he was holding for the photo. I snagged them both in the 1st inning — a 3rd-out ball from Todd Helton in the middle of the 1st and another one three outs later from Matt Adams on the 3rd-base side. BOOYA!!!
(After getting the ball from Adams, I gave one of my BP balls to a little girl who may have been too young to fully appreciate it. Her father, however, was delighted and shouted “Thanks!” at me as I headed up the stairs. I hadn’t robbed her of the ball, but she was near me when I got it, so I thought it’d be nice to hook her up.)
The ball from Helton was my 100th lifetime at Coors Field — mission accomplished. Coors is the 12th stadium at which I’ve reached triple digits. Here’s the complete list:
1) Shea Stadium — 2,173 balls
2) Citi Field — 737 balls
3) Old/Better Yankee Stadium — 560 balls
4) Camden Yards — 525 balls
5) Current/Awful Yankee Stadium — 511 balls
6) Citizens Bank Park — 292 balls
7) Nationals Park — 275 balls
8) Turner Field — 217 balls
9) Kauffman Stadium — 116 balls
10) PETCO Park — 110 balls
11) Rangers Ballpark — 109 balls
12) Coors Field — 101 balls (and counting)
In the top of the 3rd inning, I headed over here . . .
. . . to look for a Daniel Descalso ground-rule double that had bounced into the trees. I did end up spotting the ball, but never made an attempt to snag it. I’m not sure how I would’ve done so — perhaps lingering in the stadium after the final out and asking a groundskeeper to retrieve it?
For most of the game, I hung out in left field and had endless room to run. This was the view to my left . . .
. . . and to my right:
It was home run heaven except for one trivial detail: NO ONE HIT A HOME RUN. In the three games that I attended at Coors Field, there was a grand total of *one* homer, and it landed in the Rockies’ bullpen.
Here I am with a guy (and his daughter) who knows a thing or two about catching homers:
In the photo above, that’s Dan and Emily Sauvageau. He has snagged 87 home runs — all at Coors Field — and she has attended nearly 500 games with him. As I’ve mentioned in each of my last two entries, I featured him in The Baseball (see pages 287-288) as one of the Top Ten Ballhawks of All Time.
In the bottom of the 9th inning, with the Cardinals clinging to a 4-3 lead, I went here for an umpire ball . . .
. . . and nearly ended up with a whole lot of regret. In the photo above, did you notice that the bases were loaded? And that Todd Helton was at bat? If he had hit a walk-off grand slam to my seat, I might have harmed myself in some way, so it’s a good thing that he went down swinging to end the game. Less than a minute later, thanks to home plate umpire Kerwin Danley, I was holding this:
On my way out, Robert photographed me with my three commemorative balls . . .
. . . and gave me a ride back to my hotel:
Goodbye, Coors Field. It might be a while ’til I return . . .
• 647 balls in 85 games this season = 7.61 balls per game.
• 102 balls in 18 lifetime games at Coors Field = 5.67 balls per game.
• 12 different stadiums with 100 or more balls
• 957 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 30 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, the Oakland Coliseum, and Coors Field.
• 7,106 total balls
(For every stadium this season at which I’ve snagged 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.)
• 39 donors for my fundraiser
• $3.48 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $20.88 raised at this game
• $2,251.56 raised this season through my fundraiser
• $15,000 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs
• $38,757.56 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009