This was my third stadium in three days, and once again, things got off to a lousy start. That’s because I found out at the very last minute that Busch Stadium now opens half an hour later on weekdays. Fans used to be able to enter two hours early every day, but since this was a Thursday, the gates opened just 90 minutes before game time. For a team with such a huge and passionate fan base, that’s awful.
This was the scene outside the left-center field gates:
In the previous photo, the building on the right wasn’t there the last time I visited Busch Stadium. It’s part of the new St. Louis Ballpark Village. I would’ve liked to go inside and explore, but there wasn’t time.
Just before heading inside, I switched into my Pirates gear:
I usually dress for the home team when entering a stadium, but because the gates opened so late, the Cardinals had finished taking batting practice, and the Pirates were already on the field.
The previous image is a screen shot from a video that was filmed by my friend Brandon Sloter. I’ll share that video at the end of this entry, but for now, here’s the only “action” shot from BP:
Getting a ball thrown to me in a mostly-empty stadium wouldn’t normally be much of a highlight, but this one was kinda cool. As soon as I caught the ball, Tony Watson, the player who tossed it, pointed at me and shouted my nickname: “Foul Ball Guy!”
“That’s me!” I shouted back, surprised that he recognized me.
“You caught A-Rod’s homer, right?”
Rather than answering him, I asked a question of my own: “Don’t you think I’ve graduated to ‘Home Run Guy’ as a nickname?”
“You caught A-Rod’s homer, right?” he asked again.
“Yeah, man, that’s cool that you saw that,” I said, resisting the urge to explain that I hadn’t actually caught the ball, but rather picked it up off the ground. Then I added, “Thanks for helping me get on the board today.”
“Pirates fan for life now?” asked Watson (who, by the way, was standing next to Gerrit Cole).
I didn’t hear him at first, so he repeated himself.
“I’m more of a baseball fan,” I said. “I don’t want to say it too loud, but between you guys and the Cardinals, it’s you all the way.”
That was the truth. I usually root for the underdog and/or the visiting team, and in addition to that, the Cardinals had just screwed me out of 30 minutes of BP, so I really did want the Pirates to win.
Just as I was settling into a decent spot for BP . . .
. . . it ended! Look at this crap:
I’d been inside the stadium for 10 whole minutes, and BP was done. It’s bad enough when that happens in New York when I’m by myself; the fact that it happened here at my only game at Busch Stadium with a professional videographer that I was paying to get good footage of me . . . GAH!!!
After BP, I got some random guy in the bullpen to toss me a ball:
That was a nice little bonus. Now I had two baseballs . . .
. . . which I realize is two more than most people will ever snag in their entire lives, but I was still tremendously disappointed.
A few minutes later, I caught up with a guy named Steve who’d been following me on Twitter:
Nice guy. We chatted for a while, and I signed a ball for him:
(FYI, when I sign baseballs for people, I sign *their* baseballs. Some folks occasionally ask me to sign and expect ME to provide the ball. That’s not how it works.)
Before the game, I got my third ball of the day in left field. Pirates bullpen catcher Heberto Andrade tossed it to me as he walked into the bullpen:
Here’s where I sat for the entire game:
I usually stay in the outfield, but Busch Stadium is always so crowded, and it’s a bad place to catch home runs, and I was still in a pissy mood from the lack of BP, and I just wanted to sit close to the action and enjoy the game (and maybe get another ball or two).
If the rules at Busch were anything like those at the Texas Rangers’ stadium, I would’ve been sitting beside the grassy berm in center field, and I almost certainly would’ve snagged Pedro Alvarez’s 1st-inning home run that landed there. In Arlington, fans are allowed to run out there for baseballs, even during BP, but here in St. Louis, it’s forbidden (unless, you know, David Freese hits a walk-off shot to end a World Series game, in which case all hell breaks loose, and there’s nothing that stadium security can do about it), so an usher went and retrieved the ball:
As it turned out, that was the only homer of the game, so it’s just as well that I wasn’t sitting in the outfield.
Cardinals starter Lance Lynn didn’t make it out of the 1st inning, though it wasn’t entirely his fault. Thanks in part to a throwing error by 3rd baseman Matt Carpenter, he gave up seven runs (three earned) in two-thirds of an inning. Here he is making an early exit:
Take a look at the scoreboard:
Before the bottom of the 1st got underway, Pirates 3rd base coach Rick Sofield tossed me the infield warm-up ball. Look closely and you’ll see my glove poking out behind Big Red:
I gave that ball to the nearest/smallest kid:
Halfway through the game, Brandon headed to the upper deck and took the following photo:
That doesn’t even begin to show his skills with a camera, but trust me, he’s REALLY good. You should check him out on Instagram, especially in you’re into photos of live music, nature/weather, baseball stadiums, and Crystal Hefner.
Here’s what things looked like from my perspective in the 6th inning:
With one out in the bottom of the 7th, I got my fifth ball in a very unusual way. Here’s how it all went down:
1) Pirates manager Clint Hurdle made a double-switch.
2) Michael Morse entered the game to play 1st base.
3) Home plate umpire Larry Vanover threw him a ball with which to warm up.
4) Morse eventually threw the ball back to the Pirates’ dugout.
5) Someone in the dugout tossed it into the crowd.
6) The ball landed on the dugout roof and was picked up by an usher.
7) I was the first one to ask him for it, so he handed it to me.
I can’t officially call it an “umpire ball” since it didn’t come directly from Vanover, but it came from his pouch, and it’s mud-rubbed, and I still think it’s cool. Here it is:
By the end of the 8th inning, the Cardinals had closed the deficit to 7-5, but the Pirates scored three runs in the top of the 9th — and that was it.
I tried to get a ball at the dugout after the game . . .
. . . but came up empty.
A few minutes later, I took off my Pirates gear and caught up with an old friend named Darron who now works for the Cardinals:
Ready to see something funny/cute? Here we are on 5/22/07 at Busch Stadium (which was my first time there) and here we are again on 9/21/11 at Busch Stadium (when I visited all 30 stadiums in one season). At this rate, we’re due to cross paths again in 2019. Darron will probably be the head of security by then, so we can all look forward to Busch Stadium opening two and a half hours early every day.
On my way out, I took one final photo of the stadium:
And now, as promised, here’s the video that Brandon filmed and edited. I wish there were more action, but I still think it’s interesting. Enjoy!
• 5 baseballs at this game
• 542 balls in 76 games this season = 7.13 balls per game.
• 48 lifetime balls in 7 games at Busch Stadium = 6.86 balls per game.
• 1,129 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 8,348 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.)
• 24 donors for my fundraiser
• $162.54 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $190,503.66 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009