You know what really sucks?
Being on the outside looking in.
That’s what the first three weeks of the postseason felt like. I was home in New York City, watching everything on TV, and wishing I were there. Life was officially getting in the way of baseball, so when I found out I was going to be free for Game 6 at Fenway Park (and that it wasn’t supposed to rain and that the cheapest tickets on StubHub were only $123), I was psyched.
Anyway, let’s cut to the chase, huh? Here’s where I hung out for batting practice . . .
. . . and to properly set the stage, this was the view to my right . . .
. . . and to the left:
My first ball of the day was thrown by a little Asian kid in center field, who, I found out later, is Kuji Uehara’s son. It was a regular Selig ball — kind of a bummer, but no surprise. Last year, when I attended Game 2 of the ALDS at Camden Yards and Game 5 of the ALDS at Yankee Stadium, none of the BP balls were commemorative, but I was hopeful this time around; I’d heard that the Tigers had been using postseason balls during BP.
Although the Red Sox were still hitting, my next two balls were thrown by a kid in Tigers gear. Take another look at the first photo — see him there wearing No. 28? It must’ve been Prince Fielder’s kid, and yeah, for some reason, he tossed me two baseballs in a 10-minute span. The first one came right to me, but the second one sailed over my head and forced me to scamper after it.
My fourth ball was a David Ortiz homer that landed in the camera area. I coulda/shoulda caught it on the fly, but let’s not talk about my failure to do so. I will, however, admit that my home-run snagging skills were noticeably rusty. I wasn’t judging balls well, and I wasn’t getting good jumps on them. Had I been in midseason form (and perhaps been a bit more familiar with the layout of this particular section), I would’ve caught two other home runs on the fly.
Shortly after the Tigers took the field, a ball rolled near the warning track roughly 40 feet to my right. Take a look at it in the following photo, and then I’ll explain more about what was happening at that moment:
See the guy in the orange jacket? His name is Bruce Ely, and he was there to take this panoramic photo for MLB.com. He and I had been chatting throughout the Red Sox’s portion of BP, and I’d told him about my baseball collection. When the ball (pictured above) rolled near the edge of the grass, I asked if he could take a close-up photo on his fancy camera so that I could see if it had a postseason logo. I told him that if the stamping was dark blue, then it was a regular ball, and if it was gray, then it was the type of ball I wanted. Here’s the photo he ended up taking:
It was gray!!
Moments later, Phil Coke started walking toward the ball from left field.
“In ten seconds,” I told Bruce, “I’m going to be holding that ball in my hand, and it’s going to have a postseason logo, and I’m going to be VERY happy.”
My prediction came true:
I had already given away two regular balls at that point — one to a kid in the next section and one to Bruce, who had told me he was hoping to get one for his nephews back home in Oregon.
A few minutes later, Jim Leyland walked by and waved . . .
. . . and during the next group of hitters, I got two more toss-ups from Justin Verlander and Hernan Perez. All three of the balls I’d gotten from the Tigers had the gray stamping and postseason logo. Bruce really wanted one, but I told him that I never give away commemorative balls.
Toward the end of BP, I saw a ball land in one of the bullpens. Can you spot it in the following photo?
In case you can’t see it, the ball is sitting on the dirt near the far corner of the bullpen. See that little white speck between home plate and the orange Gatorade cooler?
Well, not only was Bruce nice enough to watch my backpack while I ran over there, but he took some photos of me snagging the ball with my glove trick. Here I am knocking the ball closer . . .
. . . and here I am reeling it in:
Now, in case you’re about to accuse me of being the Worst Guy Ever, let me say that YES, there were a bunch of kids near me, but NO, none of them seemed upset that I got the ball. In fact, they were all quite impressed (you can see it on their faces), and despite the fact that I was decked out in Tigers gear, some of them (along with their fathers) said “congrats” when I finished and gave me high-fives.
In other news, did you happen to notice something different about my face? More on that in a moment, but first, here’s what happened during the final group of BP: Anibal Sanchez threw me my ninth ball of the day, and Jose Veras tossed me ball No. 10. Both of those balls were commemorative, and I gave the final one to Bruce . . . just because.
Here I am with him:
The dude looks an awful lot like Roy Halladay, no? Check this out:
By the way, Bruce doesn’t usually work for MLB. He mainly covers basketball and other sports, but he photographs just about everything. Here’s his website in case you want to take a look at his work, and here he is on Twitter.
Oh, and speaking of look-alikes, my girlfriend just told me that I “look like a white Torii Hunter.” What do you think? Any truth to that? I hope so because Torii is a handsome man.
Anyway, here I am with some of my baseballs after BP:
Before the game, I wandered around in the concourse under the seats, used the bathroom, got some pizza, and photographed a woman getting a beard painted on her face:
As I’d tweeted earlier in the day, I’d been planning to shave my beard before this game, but my girlfriend talked me out of it.
Back in the seats, I saw the Dropkick Murphys perform the national anthem:
Then I wandered over to the outfield end of the Tigers’ dugout and witnessed something touching. There was a young man with special needs, standing in the front row with his father, and wearing a “CABRERA” t-shirt. When Miguel Cabrera headed in toward the dugout, the father waved him down and had his son turn around to show the back of the shirt:
Cabrera stopped and signed a baseball and tossed it to the father. Then Justin Verlander saw what was happening, and he told the father to toss it back. After signing it, Verlander got as close to the dugout as possible and gently rolled the ball to the young man so that he could catch it himself. That was pretty damn cool.
This was my view in the top of the 1st inning:
Everyone was standing, and as you can see, even the vendor was watching. This was a BIG GAME. The Sox were leading the series, three games to two. A win would send them to the World Series and end the Tigers’ season; a loss would force a Game 7 the following night in which they’d be facing Verlander.
It wasn’t long before the people came for their seats. I looked around for another spot, but didn’t see anything, so I headed up the steps . . .
. . . and went to the top deck on the 1st-base side:
I enjoyed seeing the field from way high up . . . for about 11 seconds, and then I seriously couldn’t take it anymore.
I wandered to the outer edge of the ballpark and looked out at Boston:
No, I wasn’t planning to jump. I just needed a two-minute break, and after that, I snapped back to reality. There was playoff baseball to be watched!
I headed down this ramp . . .
. . . to the next level and stood here for an inning or two:
There were lots of righties in the lineups, so it seemed like a decent spot to maybe/possibly get a foul ball.
I didn’t get a foul ball. Nothing came close, and eventually I got antsy, so I moved here:
Ha-HAAAA!!! Now THAT’S more like it.
Of course, I only got to sit there for half an inning, but man, what a half-inning it was.
My next seat was nearly as good . . .
. . . and I got to stay there for most of the rest of the game. (By the way, can you spot Dave Dombrowski in the previous photo?) I can’t explain why the rightful owners of those seats weren’t there much. At one point, they came back and made a fuss over kicking me out, so I walked around for 10 minutes, and when I went back, they were gone . . . for good. The other people sitting around me were really cool. Obviously they knew I didn’t belong there, but they didn’t care, and in fact, they encouraged me to take advantage of the open seat. Check out my view of Max Scherzer leaving the game and getting a high-five from Verlander:
The game was incredible. The highlight (or, depending on your perspective, the lowlight) was Shane Victorino’s grand slam in the bottom of the 7th inning, which put the Red Sox on top, 5-2. But that was just one of many memorable moments. There was a questionable pitching change (John Farrell bringing in Franklin Morales), a run-saving defensive gem (Stephen Drew making up for his .050 batting average this series), a baserunning blunder (Prince Fielder lolol), and so on. I absolutely *loved* being there. It was baseball at its best.
The fans were PUMPED . . .
. . . and so was I when I got this after the 8th inning:
Al Albuquerque had struck out Jonny Gomes, and Tigers catcher Alex Avila tossed me the ball on his way in. That was my 11th and final ball of the day.
Koji Uehara came in to pitch the top of the 9th . . .
. . . and I’m telling you, there wasn’t one person sitting in the entire stadium.
The whole night, I was torn over who to root for. Part of me wanted to witness the home team getting into the World Series — something I’d never seen before. Another part of me wanted the Sox to get blown out so that lots of fans would leave early and I’d have more room to maneuver. That same part of me wanted the Tigers to win so there’d be a Game 7. And yet another part of me simply wanted the Red Sox to win because it would piss off all the Yankee fans in my life who constantly talk trash.
That said, upon taking the following selfie, I made a facial expression that went with the clothing I was wearing:
Poor Tigers. As the clock struck midnight, their season was about to end:
This was my view just before Jose Iglesias struck out to end the game:
I tried to film a video of the Red Sox’s celebration, but somehow, amidst the commotion, I failed. I guess I hit the wrong button on my camera, or maybe I pressed it twice by accident? Bummer.
I did get a photo of Dombrowski walking off the field . . .
. . . and look what else I got:
I have no idea whose batting gloves those are. Someone inside the dugout tossed them up onto the roof, and get this: no one else in the seats noticed or cared. One of the gloves landed right in front of me, so of course I grabbed it. The other glove landed on the far edge of the roof (closer to the field) several feet to the right. No one asked for it. No one tried to reach it. I should’ve taken a photo of it sitting there, but instead I tried to get the attention of a security guard standing on the roof 20 feet to my left. He didn’t see me, so eventually I lunged/crawled out onto the roof and barely managed to snag it with the tip of my Rawlings glove. Of course, the security guard saw THAT and rushed over, but hey, no big deal. This was Boston. People are cool, and everyone was in a good mood. The batting gloves must belong to someone tall, like Miguel Cabrera, Torii Hunter, Don Kelly, or Victor Martinez because they’re way too big for my hands. Any theories?
I stood behind the dugout for at least 10 minutes and watched the action on the field. This was the best part:
I would’ve loved to be the last fan to leave the stadium, but there was one tiny issue: I had to drive back to New York City, so I didn’t want to linger too long. (Actually, I had an offer to stay with a friend 30 miles south of Boston, but I had plans early the next day in Brooklyn, and I wanted to get home and sleep in my own bed.) Therefore, I started making my way to the other side of the stadium.
Check out the huge cluster of people on the infield:
Here’s my favorite photo of the night:
I hated leaving as the players were being presented with various awards, but I *had* to go.
As it turned out, I should’ve stayed. I wasn’t able to leave the garage because the exit was being blocked by police officers. Ten minutes passed. Then 20. And 30. I have no idea what the hold-up was all about — too many drunk pedestrians in the streets? It ended up taking nearly an hour before I was allowed to drive out of the garage. Then I was stuck in traffic for 20 more minutes just to go several blocks and get on the Mass Pike. I made it home at around 4:45am and was a complete mess the next day.
Here are the eight balls that I kept . . .
. . . and here are three postseason balls with invisible ink stamps:
That’s pretty much it, although I’m hoping my season isn’t quite done . . .
• 11 baseballs at this game
• 709 balls in 92 games this season = 7.71 balls per game.
• 76 balls in 12 lifetime games at Fenway Park = 6.33 balls per game.
• 119 balls in 22 lifetime postseason games = 5.41 balls per game.
• 964 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 489 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 237 lifetime games with 10 or more balls
• 60 different commemorative balls (click here to see my whole collection)
• 20 lifetime batting gloves (seven pairs and six individual gloves; click here to see them all)
• 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.
• 7,168 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.)
• 42 donors for my fundraiser
• $4.24 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $46.64 raised at this game
• $3,006.16 raised this season through my fundraiser
• $15,000 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs
• $39,412.16 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009