I need to start by saying that I don’t like Bobblehead Dolls — no disrespect to everyone who does, but for me, personally, they don’t mean anything. I avoid Bobblehead giveaways (and other popular promotions) because things tend to be insane, and I have more fun when there are fewer fans. That said, the Yankees were going to be giving away Mariano Rivera Bobbleheads at this game to the first 18,000 fans — a total nightmare as far as I was concerned — but I showed up for two reasons. I’ll explain everything in a bit, but first, here are some photos of the MASSIVE crowd outside the stadium. This was the scene near Gate 6:
As you can see below, the line wrapped around the corner and down the street under the elevated subway tracks:
Here’s another look at the crowd outside Gate 6:
Keep in mind that there are four gates at Yankee Stadium:
Gate 2 = left field
Gate 4 = home plate
Gate 6 = right field
Gate 8 = bleachers/center field
In other words, the photos above only show one-quarter of the mayhem.
Want to see what it looked like outside Gate 4? Yes, of course you do, and I hope you appreciate my photographic effort because in order to get there, I had to work my way through this crowd:
I should mention that I took these photos at around 4:45pm — a mere 15 minutes before the stadium was going to open — but I’d arrived before 3pm. My friend Tak was holding my spot (and watching my backpack) near the front of the line outside Gate 2 so that I could wander with my camera.
Anyway, at the Babe Ruth Plaza, which is located at the midpoint between Gate 6 and Gate 4, there was actually a civilized line of fans:
But get this — there was another line running parallel to it (and in the opposite direction) along the outer edge of the property:
There was no security. There were no barricades. I had no idea where the lines started or ended or which gate they were even heading for.
This was the scene outside Gate 4 . . .
. . . and of course there was a very long line outside Gate 2 — so long that I couldn’t see the gate from the end of it:
I wish I’d taken a few pics of what happened next, but (a) there wasn’t actually much to photograph and (b) I got caught up in the stress of it all. It was so messed up that I couldn’t believe it at the time and I’m shaking my head now while writing this: when the stadium was supposed to open at 5pm, the Bobbleheads hadn’t yet arrived! So guess what happened? The stadium DIDN’T open. And there was no telling when it would.
I was tempted to leave. I swear, I was THIS close to stepping out of line and marching back to the subway, but I decided to stay, at least for a little while, for two aforementioned reasons. First, my friend Ben Weil had bought me a ticket so that I could get the Bobblehead for him, and second, I’d heard that there were going to be commemorative balls used during the game with a Mariano Rivera logo. The free ticket was nice, but the chance to snag one of those balls was the clincher. That’s why I was willing to endure this madness.
At around 5:10pm, I had a brilliant idea and waved over a security guard to pass it along: let people in who don’t care about the Bobbleheads, and everyone else can wait outside until they arrive. Haha, yes! I’d have to go on eBay later and buy Ben a Bobblehead, but it’d be worth it to pretty much have the stadium to myself during BP, which I was now missing. The security guard called a supervisor over, and the supervisor said no. Shocker.
Long story short: the gates finally opened at around 5:35pm, and security handed out vouchers for the Bobbleheads, so in addition to having waited outside the stadium for TWO hours, I was gonna have to wait in another effin’ line to actually get the damn thing.
I was *very* nervous about getting shut out. Between the size of the crowd and missing a huge chunk of BP, this was going to be one of my toughest challenges. I ran into the left-field seats, saw that several lefties on the Rays were taking cuts, and hauled ass to the right-field side. Ten minutes later, I was holding these:
They were home runs hit by the same guy (not sure who), and I caught them both on the fly. For the first one, I drifted 10 feet to my left and made a careful two-handed catch. For the second, I hurried 30 feet to my right, climbed back over a row of seats, drifted a few more feet, and reached high over my head for a back-handed grab. That one felt GOOD.
When there was a quick break in the action, I photographed my voucher . . .
. . . and headed back to left field:
Did you notice me in the photo above? (Photo credit: Andy Bingham.) I’m standing just to the right of the TV camera in the front row, and as you can see, I’m holding a ball. It was thrown to me by Fausberto.
That was it for BP. Normally I’d complain about “only” snagging three balls, but given the circumstances, I was thrilled. Here I am holding the baseballs next to young man named Josh:
Josh recognized me from this blog and asked to take a photo (which he later sent to me), and tweeted about it.
I also met a guy named Sean who tweeted about our encounter.
A little while later, I got a ball tossed from the bullpen by Rays bullpen catcher Scott Cursi. Then, just before game time, I headed up to the bleacher terrace and got my fifth ball of the day from Mike Harkey. He usually throws a bunch of balls into the crowd after the starting pitcher is done warming up. Here he is tossing the final ball into the bleachers:
That was the 18th ball that Harkey has ever thrown to me, tying Livan Hernandez for the most. (Heath Bell is next with 17. I gotta let him know he’s slacking.)
I was eager to hurry back downstairs when a man standing next to me recognized me and asked me to sign a ball. His name is Dave. Here he is with it . . .
. . . and for the record, yes, he asked me to write that.
On my way through the center field concourse, I saw a guy in handcuffs being escorted by a police officer:
Sorry for the crappy quality of that photo. It’s actually a zoomed-in screen shot from a video, but anyway, I wonder what that guy did to end up cuffed. Any guesses? I’m thinking he either used the glove trick or put his feet on a cup holder.
I barely made it back to the Rays’ bullpen in time to see Matt Moore finishing his warm-ups:
He ended up tossing me the ball — my sixth of the day — and I handed it to the nearest kid.
Now, as for those commemorative balls . . .
Do you remember when I flew to Atlanta on September 29, 2012 *just* for the purpose of snagging a Chipper Jones ball? I had found out about those balls from a high-ranking employee at Major League Baseball. He had recently told me about the Mariano Rivera commemorative balls. More specifically, he said they were going to be used during the final four games of the season at Yankee Stadium. He had told me about other balls in the past, and he was always right. He’s the most reliable source I could possibly ask for, so you can imagine how stunned and disappointed I was to snag THIS ball after the 3rd inning:
It was a 3rd-out ball tossed by Ben Zobrist. My first thought was . . . did he somehow pull a switcheroo and throw me the infield warm-up ball instead? The answer is no. Zobrist is a 2nd baseman, so there’s no way that he would’ve handled an extra ball on his way back to the dugout. The only player who ever does that is the 1st baseman. I had seen Zobrist make the play and jog in. I kept my eye on him the whole way, and THAT was the ball. Ugh!! I heard from a confused friend later on who also snagged a gamer — another regular ball.
I immediately emailed my guy at MLB, told him about the regular ball I’d just snagged, and asked if the plan to use the commemorative Mariano balls at the final four home games had changed.
He wrote back several innings later and said that the balls *were* supposed to be used.
I had NO idea what to think at that point, and I was actually quite upset. Remember the guy who’d bought me tickets two months earlier for the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game in exchange for half the balls I snagged? Well, based on the info about the Mariano balls that I’d gotten from MLB, he had already bought me a Legends ticket for the following game so that I could attempt to snag two of them — one for him and one for me — and now there was a chance that his money was going to be wasted.
I needed to take a walk, and the timing was actually good. The Yankees had made an announcement that fans could redeem their vouchers and claim their Bobbleheads “near the Turkey Hill Ice Cream stand at Gate 2” from the 3rd inning until half an hour after the game. Well, when I headed up the steps into the concourse, here’s what I saw:
The line (if you want to call it that) extended all the way from the 3rd-base side . . .
. . . into the center-field concourse. Two words: SCREW THAT. I went back to my seat and watched the game (which the Rays ended up winning, 7-0, pretty much demolishing the Yankees’ chances of reaching the postseason). At one point in the later innings, two fans returned to their seats nearby with Bobbleheads.
“Excuse me,” I said, “how long did you guys have to wait in line to get those?”
“An hour and a half,” they said.
It would’ve been nice to have the stinkin’ Bobblehead in my possession by the time the game ended, but whatever. I figured I’d get one eventually since I *did* have a voucher. I mean, it wouldn’t’ve surprised me if the Yankees ended up running out, but that wasn’t my problem. I had talked to Ben during the game, and he told me it was fine to wait until it was over to go get it. I was hoping that the line would be shorter after the game, but no, it was even longer. Here’s a screen shot from a video that shows it snaking through the center-field concourse:
I’d post the video if not for all the four-letter words that I was mumbling under my breath.
The line wrapped three-quarters of the way around the 100 Level concourse — from the 3rd-base side around the left-field foul pole, into the center-field concourse, and into foul territory along the right-field foul line. I got on line at 10:52pm. Here’s what it looked like ten minutes later:
By the way, I use the phrase “on line” when I’m the last person ON the line. I don’t feel that I’m “in” in the line unless I’m actually surrounded by people on both ends. Got it?
As the line crept along and moved into the left-field corner . . .
. . . I had a few thoughts:
1) What if I’m still in line after half an hour? Are the Yankees going to stop handing out Bobbleheads? If they do, there’s going to be a riot.
2) Who paid for all the cops to work overtime — the Yankees or taxpayers?
3) Why the hell weren’t these Bobbleheads shipped to the stadium earlier, like, oh, you know, a MONTH earlier? Obviously, the Yankees had been planning this for a while. Why wait until the last second when something could (and did) go wrong and screw everything up?
Here’s a photo of the line behind me:
Half an hour came and went, but the line was still moving.
Eventually, after 35 minutes, I entered the home stretch:
Here’s how I was feeling at the very end:
Thanks for the ticket, Benjamin. I hope you enjoy playing with your little dolly-poo.
• 654 balls in 86 games this season = 7.60 balls per game.
• 518 balls in 80 lifetime games at the new Yankee Stadium = 6.48 balls per game.
• 958 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.
• 7,113 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)
• $24.36 raised at this game
• $2,275.92 raised this season through my fundraiser
• $15,000 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs
• $38,781.92 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009