This was my first game of the season, and look what I had to deal with:
Metal detectors! Yay!
In case you haven’t heard, they’re now being used throughout Major League Baseball this season. And beyond.
Here’s what it looked like a bit later from my spot at the front of the line:
There were LOTS of security guards outside Gate 6 . . .
. . . and I was ready for the worst.
As it turned out, the metal detectors are a joke. It’s all for show — the kind of thing that won’t actually make the stadium safer, but will make stupid people think they’re safer. Quite simply, the guards didn’t seem to know what they were doing.
My backpack has a zillion compartments, but the guard who “inspected” it only peeked inside briefly. Then, as I walked through the metal detector, the guard carried my bag alongside me. Guess what happened? The detector beeped, but it wasn’t clear what had set it off. The guard told me that the detector picks up metal objects that pass NEAR it, and then to prove that what he said was true, he waved the bag back and forth beside (but not inside) the metal detector, and sure enough, it beeped again. But how did he know that I didn’t have any metal objects in my pockets? The prudent course of action, obviously, would’ve been for him to make me walk back through the detector, but instead he handed me my bag and sent me on my way. How dumb is that? And wait — there’s more! Nearly an hour earlier — long before there was a line of fans waiting to get in — various employees (mostly vendors) passed through the metal detectors. Each time, the detectors beeped, but none of the guards noticed or cared. It was just a formality to have these employees walk through. None of them were asked to remove the metal objects from their pockets. There were no rules or regulations. There was no concern or oversight. These people had to show their employee ID cards upon entering the stadium, but so what? Any one of them could’ve brought a weapon inside. Do you trust Yankee Stadium vendors? I sure as hell don’t — but the Yankees do. And you know what? I don’t give a damn because living in fear is stupid.
Moments later, Brett Gardner hit a deep fly ball in my direction, and I knew exactly what was going to happen. I knew it was going to fall short, land on the warning track, and bounce right up to me. The only question was whether or not it would have the new commissioner’s signature stamped on it.
Here’s the answer:
I’m sure there are plenty of people who’ve never gotten a Selig ball, who are hoping that they’ll still be used during BP. Personally, after snagging more than 6,000 balls with Selig’s signature, I was ready for a change, and I was *so* glad not to have to wait.
Let’s talk about Rob Manfred’s signature for a moment. I think it’s decent, albeit a bit shaky and little kid-ish. It’s certainly legible — I’ll give him a tiny bit of credit for that — but I still have to make fun of it for looking like it says “Robut Manped.” And for the record, I’m more qualified than just about anyone to critique signatures. My family owns an old book store at which an entire floor is devoted to autographs. I work on that floor, nearly full-time, photographing and cataloging historical items and documents (and often attempting to decipher hard-to-read handwriting). The best signature I’ve ever seen belongs to a famous artist named Maxfield Parrish, who was born in 1870. I would love to see THAT on a baseball. But back to the new commissioner, I noticed that his signature is darker and longer than his predecessor’s. Look at Bud Selig’s signature on this ball. It starts below the R in “MAJOR” and ends below the E in “BASEBALL.” If you count the spaces between words, his signature spans 13 characters. Manfred’s signature, which you can see here, is three characters wider. It is a known fact that the more ink is stamped on a baseball, the easier it is for batters to see it and hit it; perhaps this is Manfred’s way of improving offense. Why ban the defensive shift and alienate an entire generation of baseball purists when you can simply write your name bigger than the last guy?
My second ball of the day was a home run that landed near me in the seats. I don’t know who hit it, but I can tell you that it also bore the signature of the new commissioner. Roughly 10 minutes later, Brett Gardner launched a home run that came right to me for an easy catch. Once again, the ball had Manfred’s signature, as did the next one that I snagged here:
In the photo above, did you notice the red arrow on the right? That’s pointing at Danny Valencia, who threw me the ball (from more than 100 feet away) just before the Blue Jays started hitting.
I headed out to left field . . .
. . . but there was hardly any action, which was probably a good thing for this guy:
How clueless do you have to be to sit in an area where baseballs land . . . and be looking down at your phone the whole time? Seriously: duh.
I spent the last group of BP in right field . . .
. . . but didn’t come close to anything. Justin Smoak hit a few balls into the 2nd deck in right field, but the lower level was dead.
After BP, I spent some time in the left field bleachers. Check out the starting lineups:
Don’t get all excited about A-Rod’s .500 batting average. He went 1-for-2 in the first game of the season and ended up going 0-for-4 in this one to lower his average to .167. I hate him so much and want him to fail and suffer (although if he ever decides to hit a home run to me during a game, that’d be cool).
Here are the four balls I’d snagged:
After Jays starter R.A. Dickey finished warming up . . .
. . . I got a ball tossed to me from the bullpen by pitching coach Pete Walker.
This was my view during the game:
It was so cold that I could see my breath. I was wearing two pairs of long underwear. And a hoodie. And a scarf. And my heaviest winter jacket. And it sorta/barely rained — misted, really — on and off throughout the night. It was so unpleasant that it actually made me hate all my friends who live in warm baseball cities. Why couldn’t I have been in Phoenix, where the game-time weather was 74 degrees and clear? And where the attendance was nearly 10,000 lower? And where I would’ve paid about $70 less for a seat in the same spot? Oh, right, because I love New York City (even when I shouldn’t) and find the thought of living elsewhere to be unbearable.
Anyway, here’s something nifty:
Can you tell what I’ve circled in red? It’s the new between-inning countdown clock. I really like it. I’m glad that Manfred is trying to speed up games, but how is that going to work when he’s also trying to find ways to increase offense? What gives?
As for this game, the Blue Jays blew a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the 8th with one of the sloppiest half-innings I’ve ever seen. There was a bloop double, a hit by pitch, a pitching change, a wild pitch, an intentional walk, another hit by pitch, a deflected seeing-eye single, and another pitching change. It was painful. But you know what? So was my ballhawking performance.
Final score: Yankees 4, Blue Jays 3.
Here’s a photo of the stadium from the elevated subway platform:
• 796 lifetime balls in 119 games at Yankee Stadium = 6.69 balls per game.
• 1,053 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 719 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball
• 247 consecutive Yankee home games with at least one ball
• 7,811 total balls
(I’m raising money again this season for Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. Click here to learn about my fundraiser, and if you donate money, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.)
• 8 donors for my fundraiser
• $87.80 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $0.00 raised this season (but just you wait!)
• $39,955.50 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009
Finally, here’s one more photo for you — a comparison of the four baseballs in regular light versus black light:
I’m not sure how many games I’ll attend this season — probably somewhere between 80 and 100. I don’t plan to blog about them all, so if you want to keep up with me, follow me on Twitter: @zack_hample