It had been three years since my last visit to AT&T Park. That’s when BIGS Sunflower Seeds sponsored me and sent me to all 30 major league stadiums. Now I was back for another big reason: to film a ballhawking video for my YouTube channel. Here’s how it all went down . . .
I started by doing the opening shot from a promenade on the other side of McCovey Cove:
It was cold and windy, and I was severely underdressed, but what the hell was I supposed to wear? I’d been in Phoenix the day before, where it was about 243 degrees, and after this game in San Francisco, I was planning to be in Anaheim, San Diego, and Los Angeles. Should I have lugged my heaviest winter jacket around for five days only to wear it once for a few hours? Nah. I chose to suffer instead.
It was roughly three hours before game time when I headed over to the portwalk:
Do you remember this guy from my last visit to AT&T Park?
Here’s a photo to refresh your memory. His name is Joe Dirt, and he has fished a *lot* of home run balls out of the water, both during BP and games. After I caught up with him for a bit, the Giants finally started hitting. Here I am looking at the field through the gates:
My goal was simple. I wanted to snag a baseball on the portwalk before the stadium officially opened, and look! It happened:
If you don’t have a water retrieval device, the best way to snag a ball on the portwalk is to get a player or coach to chuck one up/over/out of the stadium. That’s what happened in the four-part photo above. Unfortunately I’m not sure who hooked me up. I didn’t get a good look at his face, and no one else recognized him.
Before heading over to the Marina gate, I met a guy named Rodrigo who had brought his copy of my book The Baseball:
I signed it for him, and we talked for a few minutes. He’s a huge baseball fan and passionate about ballhawking, so it was nice to see him get a baseball later on.
Over at the gate, I caught up with my friend Bill — a regular ballhawk at AT&T Park:
Bill has been great to me over the years, giving me advice about the stadium and just making me feel welcomed in general.
Then I caught up with these trouble-makers:
Those are my cousins Sam and Juliana, who might look familiar if you’re a diehard fan of this blog. Remember them from this photo on 8/14/13 at the Oakland Coliseum? Or this photo on 7/17/12 at Dodger Stadium?
Anyway, when I ran inside here in San Francisco, this was my view from left field:
Now check out what it looked like on my right:
Is that glorious or what?
Unfortunately that aisle always gets packed within a few minutes of the stadium opening, so as great as it looks in the photo above, it’s actually a waste of time to stay there. That’s part of the reason I headed to right field for the final group of Giants BP:
In the photo above, did you notice the deep fly ball descending on my right?
It was tough to snag baseballs out there. Here I am explaining why:
As you can see, there were dozens of fans on the warning track. They all had special tickets. That’s how they got to be there — good for them, but bad for me because it made it nearly impossible to get toss-ups in the seats.
Before the Brewers started hitting, I got a ball thrown to me by Jonathan Villar on the 1st base side:
Yes, that’s me after changing into Brewers gear. I came prepared with a good outfit because of how tough this stadium is. (Big thanks to my friend Ben Weil for lending me that jersey.)
Look how crowded it got in left field:
I was all the way out in left-center because that was the only spot where I had a bit of room to work with . . . and it paid off. Here I am reaching up for a home run — my third ball of the day:
I have no idea who hit it.
Back in straight-away left field, I caught up briefly with a guy named Alex Patino:
If that name is familiar, it’s because I featured him in The Baseball as one of the top ten ballhawks of all time. Turn to pages 283-284 to see the interview I did with him. It’s truly hilarious. Here’s my favorite quote — his answer to my question about the worst ballhawking injury he ever suffered:
“I got taken out by a big fat usher lady. We call her Helga. She checked me, like, I ran into her stomach. She’s about six-three, but to me she’s like six-a-hundred, and I ran into her panza. I went down, bro. I didn’t even move. My knee twisted, and I didn’t want to show it, but I was [in serious pain]. And she knew she did it too. You’ve seen those boxing videos where they get knocked out and the guy’s just looking down at you ’cause you got knocked out? That’s what it looked like.”
I regret not getting him in the video, but things were hectic, and we didn’t have much time together — but hey, that just means I’ll have to go back.
After BP, I got my fourth ball from a ballboy at the 3rd base dugout. Here he is flinging it to me:
FYI, you can’t get down to the dugouts at AT&T without dugout tickets, even during BP. I knew this ahead of time and splurged on a pair of nice seats.
A few minutes later, a kid asked me to sign his hat:
Normally I sigh hats underneath the bill, but this one was black, so obviously I had to sign it elsewhere. Since the gray portion was flimsier than the bill, I signed it while he was wearing it. That was fun.
Then I wandered to a few different spots and took some photos along the way, starting with this:
That’s a lot of money for a baseball, but they ARE “authentic.”
One place I checked out was the garden in center field, which actually provides fresh fruit and vegetables for the two bistros there:
That opened a few years ago, but it was new to me.
Did you notice the batting cage sitting there? I went over and touched it, just because. Whenever I’m in a beautiful, unique spot, I always wonder why the stadiums in New York City don’t look like that, and then a harsh reality sets in: people would destroy it.
After a little trolly action . . .
. . . I passed by the Marina gate . . .
. . . and headed to the outer edge of the right field upper deck. Ready for some more beauty?
Just as the Giants were taking the field, I did a quick shot for the video:
(Hey, because of where the right fielder was standing, it looks like I have an earring.)
As for the game, check out my awesome view:
My seat was in the second row next to the stairs. I basically knew I was going to get a 3rd-out ball, so it was just a matter of when.
My cousin Sam was sitting several seats to my right with his father (my first cousin), Howie:
Juliana was sitting there too, but I guess she’d wandered just out of the frame when I took that photo.
The 2nd inning ended with a Denard Span groundout. First baseman Chris Carter fielded it and tossed to pitcher Matt Garza, who caught it on the run and stepped on the bag. Garza then tossed it to 2nd baseman Scooter Gennett, who’s basically the designated 3rd-out ball tosser. Here’s what happened next:
As you can see, I was already down in the corner spot beside the dugout, and Gennett tossed me the ball. Here’s a closer look at it:
I then gave one of my BP balls to a girl:
After that I signed another BP ball for Silly Sam:
Then I signed the gamer for Juliana:
I’ll have you know that the “Peace out, bro!” line was her idea.
There were lots of baseballs to go around. Here’s a double photo that shows the kid in front of me catching a ball and then hiding it behind his back while asking for another:
Don’t be like that kid. Put your first ball away so both of your hands are free. Come on! And of course I encourage everyone to be generous with baseballs. No one ever has the right to peer-pressure you into giving balls away. If you snag 20 in one game and want to keep them all, that’s your choice, but if you have extras, it’s nice to share the love.
While my stupid videographer was taking stupid photos in the upper deck for his stupid Instagram, THIS happened:
I was sitting in my seat and looking at my phone between batters when I heard something hit the short metal fence in front of me. I assumed that a player had tossed up a ball which fell short, so when I looked up, I was shocked to see a baseball bat rolling away from me toward the far edge of the dugout roof. I jumped up and darted down the steps to the corner spot in the front row, just to the right of the dugout. The bat had completely rolled off by that point, and two Brewers players were starting to poke their heads out to decide who to give it to. I waved to get their attention, and they handed it to me. That’s it — simple, random, and awesome.
The trademark portion of the bat was coated with pine tar and *very* sticky, and as you’ll see in just a bit, the handle had a large, splinter-y crack. That didn’t matter to me. I was just excited to be able to add another bat to my collection because they’re pretty hard to come by. I’ve attended more than 1,400 major league games, and this was only my 10th bat. You can see all them here, along with some other “bonus items” I’ve gotten through the years.
Wanna know what else my videographer missed? Another 3rd-out ball, once again tossed by Gennett, but this time I was half a dozen rows back. In case you’re wondering, it was the ball that ended the 4th inning — a Brandon Belt pop-out to Villar.
After that, the Giants’ social media team paid me a visit and photographed me for their Snapchat:
(I had to borrow a ball from my cousins for that photo. Oh! And I should mention that their father, Howie, snagged a toss-up during BP.)
Late in the game, I wandered a bit and ended up here:
As A Courtesy To Both My Eyeballs And Grammatical Sensibilities, Please Don’t Begin Every Word With A Capital Letter.
The Giants won the game, 3-2, behind a strong eight-inning performance from Madison Bumgarner. There was only one home run all night — a 5th-inning blast by Jonathan Lucroy that I wouldn’t have caught even if I’d been sitting in the outfield, so whatever. But really, it was a good game.
I didn’t expect much from the Brewers after the final out. Losing teams generally aren’t in much of a ball-tossing mood, but nevertheless I gave it a shot near the home-plate end of the dugout:
Bullpen catcher Marcus Hanel was the last guy in the dugout, and just before he disappeared, he threw me my seventh and final ball of the day.
Here I am doing the closing shot for the video:
Did you notice all the seagulls in the background? You can see them all over the bleachers and outfield in this photo:
Two final thoughts:
1) AT&T Park is both beautiful and difficult. It’s super-crowded and competitive during BP, but I still love it there.
2) The video is almost ready. I’ll add a link here when it’s done, but in the meantime, you might as well subscribe to my YouTube channel. There’s lots more good content on the way, and you’ll hate yourself if you miss it.
Here’s the video.
• 378 balls in 45 games this season = 8.4 balls per game.
• 49 balls in 9 lifetime games at AT&T Park = 5.44 balls per game.
• 1,211 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 9,011 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