Last game ever for me at Turner Field? I wasn’t sure, so I treated it like it was. I started by taking a good long look around the parking lot where the Braves’ former home, Fulton County Stadium, was located:
I made it to Fulton County for one game when I was 15 years old (here’s my blog entry about it), so to be back in this space was extra meaningful.
Here’s the spot where Hank Aaron’s record-breaking home run landed in 1974:
Here’s another look at the parking lot and its tall walls:
Turner Field was way off in the distance:
I headed over to the center field gate at around 4pm, and half an hour later, I was the first one in the seats. In the screen shot below, you can see me walking up the stairs toward the batter’s eye, looking for baseballs:
That screen shot was from a video that was filmed by a guy named Brandon. We’ve been traveling to various stadiums to get footage for my YouTube channel.
Before the Braves started hitting, Giants starter Matt Cain began playing catch in left field:
When he finished, I got him to throw me the ball, but it fell short and ricocheted back onto the field. The red arrows below indicate where it went:
In the following screen shot, you can see two important things. First, the Braves had started taking BP, and second, coach Eddie Perez had retrieved the ball and was in the process of hitting it back to Cain with his fungo bat. Check it out:
Cain threw it to me again, and this time his aim was perfect:
This was a particularly meaningful ball . . .
. . . because it extended my consecutive games streak to 1,200. The last time I went to a game and didn’t snag at least one ball was September 2, 1993.
Here I am standing next to Chocolate Papa:
That’s an awesome nickname — not sure how he got it, but hey, even if he made it up himself, he might as well wear it with pride.
I used the glove trick to snag my second ball of the day and then handed it to the nearest/littlest kid:
When the entire stadium opened at 5pm, I raced over to right field and found a ball in the front row. Then I snagged this ball . . .
. . . which was thrown by Bud Norris. I’m not sure who he was aiming for — probably the kid in the front row, so after I picked it up, I gave it to him:
Here I am catching my fifth ball — a toss-up from coach Alan Butts:
Here’s a screen shot that shows my sixth ball streaking into the seats in left-center field:
I’m not sure who hit it. All I can tell you is that it was a right-handed batter on the Braves, but anyway, if you look closely at the image above, you can see me (in the light blue shirt) on the stairs, just before I darted to my left and grabbed it in an empty row.
When the Giants took the field and started playing catch, Johnny Cueto stared me down:
Several minutes later, I got Brandon Belt’s attention and got him to chuck a ball to me from about 100 feet away. See him letting it fly?
His throw fell a bit short, so I had to climb down over a row to make the catch:
When the Giants started hitting, I rushed out to deep left field and played the cross-aisle for Hunter Pence. I ended up chasing down a ball that he hooked inside the foul pole. Unfortunately Brandon didn’t get a shot of it, so all I can do is show myself holding the ball (and grinning like a doofus) after the fact:
I headed to right-center for the final group of BP. I only got one ball out there, but man, lemme tell ya, it felt goooood. It was hit by Brandon Belt, and while the ball was in mid-air, I climbed/jumped down over three rows of seats. I knew that it wasn’t going to reach the stands on the fly, so I prepared to catch it on the bounce. Here I am jumping down over the final row as the ball skipped up off the warning track:
It bounced a bit higher than I expected, so I had to jump in order to catch it:
Then I climbed back up over a row and handed it to a girl:
People often assume that I steal baseballs from kids when in fact I often give baseballs away. By posting these images, I hope to encourage other fans to be generous too, and I also hope it’ll cast a positive light on ballhawking. We’re not monsters, and in fact the most experienced ballhawks are more likely to give away the most balls.
(By the way, the Braves are using special balls for the final season at Turner Field, but none of the ones I got in BP were commemorative. Womp-womp.)
After BP, I posed for photos with a bunch of fans:
It’s been great getting to meet and talk to so many friendly people at games this year.
Brandon got a shot of some folks doing the Tomahawk Chop:
Then I wandered all over the place to show and talk about the stadium:
I’m hoping that in 10 or 20 or 100 years, when people want to see what Turner Field was like, they’ll watch this video.
Here’s a photo that I took in the upper deck:
And yes, another:
Can you believe that it was almost game time when I took that last photo? The crowd was very very very small, and if the Giants hadn’t been there, it would’ve been even smaller.
Here’s a photo of the stairs and ramps leading downstairs, just because:
Turner Field is bland and cruddy, and love it even more because of that. I don’t want to see baseball games in malls and palaces. I want to feel like I’m AT a baseball game, ya know?
Would you believe that I missed a foul ball in the top of the 1st inning because I was just a bit too slow getting to my seat. If all those people hadn’t stopped me to take photos after BP, or if I’d done my wandering in the upper deck a little quicker, or if I hadn’t stopped right before game time to give a ball to a friendly usher to give to the child of her choice, I would’ve been in position to snag that 1st-inning foul ball, guaranteed.
I wasn’t THAT upset because (a) I’d already gotten two commemorative balls the day before and (b) I figured there’d be more action. This was my view during the game:
Nothing special, right? Well, ha-HAAAA, look at all this empty space on my left:
IS THAT THE MOST DELICIOUS THING YOU’VE EVER SEEN IN YOUR ENTIRE LIFE???
In the bottom of the 3rd inning, Mallex Smith sliced a high foul pop-up in my direction. I jumped out of my seat and drifted up the stairs, trying to reach the spot where I figured it would land, but the spin on the ball combined with the wind played all sorts of tricks, and at the last second, I had to rush back down the stairs and lunge out awkwardly. In the process, I got caught up on a railing and nearly busted my ass, but somehow I stayed upright, and the ball found the pocket of my glove. I’m sure it looked impressive to everyone else in the stadium, but all I could think was, “Wow, I’m an idiot and nearly misjudged that.” Here I am holding up the ball for the camera:
In the screen shot above, do you see the kid in the Giants cap? I’ll tell you more about him in a bit, but for now, here’s a closer look at the ball:
I didn’t care that the logo was smudged because one of my baseballs from the previous game was nearly perfect.
A little while later, someone sent me a screen shot of myself on TV:
An inning after that, these guys named A.J. and John asked me to sign their baseballs:
When the game became official after five innings, the number of home games remaining at Turner Field was reduced to 53:
Can you spot me in the following image?
I was going for a 3rd-out ball at the Giants’ dugout — no luck.
Now, about that kid in the Giants cap . . . his name is Cooper, and we hung out for a bit during the middle innings:
In the photo above, I was holding three different balls — one with “practice” stamped on the sweet spot, another with “SF” written there, and the third with a commemorative logo. Oh, and get this . . . after I had caught the foul ball, some bozo in the seats above shouted, “Give it to the kid!” Well, guess what? Cooper had snagged three balls during BP and got a commemorative gamer at the dugout, so he certainly didn’t need one from me. A few innings later, I talked about it in a local TV interview . . . with Cooper sitting beside me. Fun stuff.
Here I am with a local ballhawk named David Welch (aka DeeDubs24 on mygameballs.com):
Very nice guy. Very good at putting up huge numbers. It’ll be interesting to see how he adapts to the new stadium next year. There’s no way it’ll be as good/fun/easy for ballhawking as Turner Field.
Late in the game, I gave a ball to a man in wheelchair who was sitting just behind me in the cross-aisle:
Brandon rarely films these moments, but he happened to capture a bunch of my giveaways at this game, so I figure I might as well show them.
I moved closer to the action in the bottom of the 9th inning:
Twenty minutes later, when Julio Teheran, a starting pitcher on the Braves, was called up to the plate to pinch hit, I knew what I had to do. There were two outs in the bottom of the 10th, so I moved toward the home-plate end of the dugout. Sure enough, he ended up striking out, and Giants catcher Buster Posey walked back to the dugout with the ball. When he approached the warning track, he flung it high into the air. I backed up a step, jumped, and made the catch. That was my 11th and final ball of the day; I was back in my original seat when Freddie Freeman launched a walk-off homer in the 11th.
Final score: Braves 5, Giants 4.
Here are the two commemorative balls that I got:
On my way out, I spotted an image of what the Braves’ new stadium (SunTrust Park) is going to look like:
I’ll probably hit it up within the first month or two of the 2017 season.
Here are the five balls that I kept:
And there you have it — my last game ever at Turner Field . . . maybe. I don’t know. It’ll be tempting to head back in September and see it one last time. In the meantime, stay tuned for my YouTube video from this game.
• 11 baseballs at this game
• 296 balls in 34 games this season = 8.71 balls per game.
• 239 balls in 18 lifetime games at Turner Field = 13.28 balls per game.
• 1,200 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 306 lifetime games with 10 or more balls
• 169 lifetime foul balls during games (not counting balls that were thrown to me)
• 8,929 total balls
My fundraiser for Pitch In For Baseball is now in its eighth season. Once again, people are pledging money for every home run ball that I snag during games. Here’s some info about the fundraiser, and if you donate, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.
• 11 donors for my fundraiser
• $102.77 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $411.08 raised this season
• $190,914.74 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009