Forgive me for the massive wall of text. Normally I post lots of photos, but at this particular game, I snagged 18 baseballs before I pulled out my camera. Here’s how it all went down . . .
I headed to right field at the start of BP, and within the first 10 seconds, I asked a ballboy in the outfield to toss me a ball. His response was something like, “You already have a million in your collection.” That took me by surprise because I had no idea he recognized me. Thankfully it didn’t stop him from hooking me up. A minute later, I realized that several righties were going to be hitting in that group, so I ran over to left field. When I entered the section, I saw a ball sitting at the bottom of the stairs, and when I ran down and grabbed it, I spotted two more “Easter eggs” in the front row. Moments later, as several other fans made their way into the seats, I spotted yet another ball several rows back. (In case you’ve already lost count, I got a toss-up in right field and found four balls in left field.) Then, only a minute or two after that, a right-handed batter on the Yankees hit a towering fly ball in my direction. I predicted that it was going to land several rows behind me, so I raced up the steps and cut to the side, and when I looked back up, the ball was *right* there. My only miscue was catching it on the palm of my glove, but it was a good enough effort to prompt Brett Gardner, who was standing 50 feet away, to shout, “Sign him up!” Toward the end of the first group, I drifted half a section to my left and caught another home run, and after that group finished, I got my eighth ball tossed from the bullpen by a police officer. That was lucky. Yankee Stadium cops don’t usually give balls away, but for some reason, this guy did. In another stroke of luck, another group of Yankee hitters were getting ready to take their cuts. Normally, after the gates open, there’s only one group (or just a fraction thereof) before the visitors start hitting, but in this case, I saw about a group and a half. I headed back to right field, and within a minute or two of arriving, I snagged a ground-rule double by Garrett Jones. It was a tricky play because the ball didn’t clear the outfield wall; I had to rush down several steps and then lunge over the wall, trapping it between my glove and the padding. After that, I battled the sun to catch a pair of Slade Heathcott homers. I looked at the clock. It was only 5:14pm. I’d been inside the stadium for 14 minutes and already had 11 balls. That’s when it occurred to me that I had a chance of snagging 20 — something I’d never done at a Yankees home game — but everything had to go my way. I figured that any lull during the Royals’ portion of BP would be a killer. While the Yankees cleared the field and the Royals finished getting loose, I heard something hit a seat right behind me. I turned around and saw a woman scampering toward me. There wasn’t anything on the ground, so I looked in the padded/folded-up part of the seat, and whaddaya know, there was a baseball! As I picked it up, the woman told me that a groundskeeper had tossed it to her from the bullpen, so I gave it to her. It was a cheap/lucky way to pad my total, but hey, it counted as my 12th ball of the day. When the Royals started hitting soon after, I was hoping for a BIG first group, led by Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer. I camped out in the last row of the 100 Level seats, nearly 400 feet from home plate — a spot that turned out to be useless. Hosmer crushed half a dozen balls into the bleachers, including several to right-center that easily cleared the Yankees’ bullpen, while Moustakas yanked everything down the line and peppered the second deck with homers. I didn’t snag *any* batted balls during that group, though I did touch one that ricocheted near me, and I came close to another. The only ball I got during that group was tossed by rookie outfielder Paulo Orlando. Obviously I was thrilled to have snagged 13 balls, but I was bummed about my chances of reaching 20. For the next group, I ran back to left field and promptly caught a ground-rule double that skimmed several inches above the outfield wall. Then I caught two homers (not sure who hit ’em) and gave both of those baseballs to the nearest kids. That raised my total to 16. For the final group, I headed back to right field and quickly had a chance at another ball that was sitting on the warning track. Greg Holland walked over to retrieve it and looked up into the stands to find a worthy recipient. At that point, security had already done “the sweep” and kicked out everyone who didn’t have a ticket for that section, so there weren’t many fans. The seats were as empty as I’d ever seen them, perhaps because the Mets were also playing at Citi Field, and the New York Rangers had an NHL playoff game at Madison Square Garden. Anyway, Holland basically had to decide between giving the ball to me or to a pair of young women on my right. All things being equal, the women would’ve gotten the ball, but they were decked out in Yankees gear, and I was wearing a Royals cap. When Holland flipped me the ball and walked away, one of the women said to her friend, “What is he — a faggot?!” That was NOT cool, and I called them out on it, telling them that that was a disgusting thing to say and that I didn’t want to hear that kind of hateful garbage. They appeared to be somewhat embarrassed but also kinda whatever-y about the whole thing. That just gave me extra motivation to catch more baseballs — only three more to reach 20! — and make sure they didn’t get any. Therefore it gives me great pleasure to report that when a left-handed batter on the Royals smoked a line-drive homer into the seats near these homophobes, I swooped in and grabbed it before they had a chance to react. They weren’t happy about the fact that I’d just snagged two baseballs, but you know what? I wasn’t happy to have share this planet with them, so let’s call it even. That’s when I thought, “Maybe I should take a few photos in case I end up snagging 20 baseballs and feel obligated to blog about this,” so here you go. Let’s start with a peek inside my backpack:
I had snagged 18 balls and given away three, so that’s why there are “only” 15 pictured above.
Here’s what it looked like from the back of the section:
Shortly after I took that photo, a friend of mine named Jeff made his way into my section. He and I were the only guys with gloves behind the front row, so if we were going to be competing with each other, I figured I’d let him know what was going on.
“I’ve snagged 18 balls today,” I told him, “and I’ve NEVER gotten 20 at Yankee Stadium, so consider this a friendly warning. I’m gonna go ALL OUT to snag two more.”
Jeff was fine with that. He knew I wasn’t talking about knocking him down. (Despite what the haters would like you to believe, that’s simply not my style.) I just wanted him to know that I planned to run and jump and catch everything within my reach, even if it was heading right for him.
A little while later, I scrambled for a home run that landed in the seats. That was my 19th ball of the day, and as a gesture of good will, I gave it to him.
Just when I thought BP was ending, I got a groundskeeper in the bullpen to toss me my 20th ball! Here it is in mid-air:
I always felt that snagging 20 at a single game at Yankee Stadium was possible, but I wasn’t sure if I’d ever actually do it. On September 11, 2014, I snagged 19 thanks to the good fortune of having an ultra-fancy ticket that gave me dugout access and constant chances to pad my total throughout the night. But under the normal circumstances of being trapped in the outfield? Let’s just say that it was extremely satisfying to reach that number.
Here’s a closer look at my 20th ball:
My good luck continued when the Royals kept hitting! Four groups of visiting team BP? That happens on occasion, but usually there are only three.
At one point during the final group, Jeremy Guthrie wandered over to say hello:
I asked him if he’d wave for a photo for my blog.
He shook his head.
“Why not?” I asked.
“I already gave four balls to the blog,” he replied, referring to the home runs he’d surrendered the day before.
“Yeah, but I wasn’t here to catch any of them, so that didn’t do me any good.”
We chatted for a bit, and then he headed back to center field.
Now that Heath Bell has retired, Guthrie is the major leaguer who knows me best — one of the few who actually knows my name. I’ve become friendly with Vic Black and David Carpenter over the past season (and Mike Trout still follows me on Twitter), but my history with Guthrie easily puts him atop the list.
When there was a lull in the action, I took a picture of the homophobes:
Unfortunately there was only one lefty in the final group, and it was Jarrod Dyson. I didn’t expect many long balls from a slap-hitter who weighs less than I do, but guess what? The man has some pop! And I ended up catching two of his homers! The first was a towering shot that barely cleared the wall. For some reason, no one else saw it coming, so when I caught it, the man who was standing right in front of me thanked me for saving his life. The second Dyson homer was a line drive heading right toward Jeff, but true to my word, I sprinted nearly a full section to my left and reached out and caught it in the row in front of him. To make it up to him, I told him I’d buy him the concession item of his choice. Instead he asked for the ball — but of course I didn’t want to give him my 22nd and potentially final ball of the day, so I gave him a different one, and he was fine with that.
It should be noted that the second Dyson homer established a new single-game record for New York City. My record for the old Yankee Stadium was 14. My record at Shea Stadium was 19. My record at Citi Field (which was set on September 17, 2010) was 21. And now, after all these years and games and stadiums, I had snagged 22. Imagine if I’d gotten a few during that first group of Royals hitters . . . AND had a Legends ticket. I might’ve gotten 30 balls! (I’m never satisfied.)
Take a look at the notes I’d scribbled during BP:
That’s how I was able to remember all the balls and write about them with much greater detail here. Also, FYI, when a ball is crossed out, it means I gave it away. By the end of the night, I gave away seven baseballs, including two to a pair of little kids in my section during the game.
Before the game started, I figured I had one more reliable shot at getting another ball. Here’s where I positioned myself:
Sure enough, after Royals starter Jason Vargas finished warming up, pitching coach Dave Eiland tossed me my 23rd ball of the day:
I was tempted to linger near the bullpen during the game in the hope of getting another toss-up, or try to work my way closer to the dugouts for a 3rd-out ball. I even considered using the StubHub app to find a cheap Legends ticket at the last second, but decided it wasn’t worth the few hundred dollars — but you know what? If I had 26 or 27 balls at that point, I probably would’ve done it in a desperate attempt to reach 30. Instead I headed out to my seat in right field and hoped for a home run to fly in my direction. This was the view:
In the top of the 6th inning, with the Yankees leading, 5-0, Paulo Orlando hit his first major league home run to right field. The ball landed just 10 seats to my left, where it was clanked by the fan circled below in red:
As you can see, I had NO ROOM to move. That’s Yankee Stadium for you.
Two innings later, I tormented myself by photographing Orlando on the jumbotron:
Final score: Yankees 5, Royals 1.
After the game, I spotted a ball in the Yankees’ bullpen . . .
. . . and when I asked the groundskeeper for it, he simply shook his head. Then security told me I had to leave. Whatever. The day had some frustrating moments, but overall it was amazing.
Of the 23 baseballs that I snagged, here are the 16 that I kept:
Lots of smudged logos, huh? What’s up with that? Anyway. Yeah. Thanks for reading.
• 23 baseballs at this game
• 267 balls in 32 games this season = 8.34 balls per game.
• 907 lifetime balls in 132 games at Yankee Stadium = 6.87 balls per game.
• 1,085 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 749 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball
• 260 consecutive Yankees home games with at least one ball
• 17 lifetime games with 20 or more balls
• 8,073 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.)
• 15 donors for my fundraiser
• $118.40 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $118.40 raised this season
• $40,073.90 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009