Let me start by pointing out the lump just below the neck of my shirt:
This day was special because I was being filmed for my YouTube channel, and for the first time ever, it was done with microphone that I wore. There was a wire running up my shirt, and the mic itself was taped inside my shirt. That’s the lump.
As soon as I rushed inside the stadium, I headed down to the front row in left field. Just before I got there, some other guy picked up a ball in the front row, but as it turned out, he was an employee, so he tossed it to me, and yes, that counts. A few minutes later, I drifted to my right, jumped, and caught a J.J. Hardy homer near another fan. You can see how this played out in the video, but basically, it was someone I knew, so he congratulated me before I tossed the ball to the nearest kid.
Here’s what it looked like in left field:
When the Astros started hitting, I switched caps . . .
. . . and headed to the Flag Court in right field. Soon after I got there, someone (maybe Colby Rasmus) launched a deep fly ball to my left. Here’s a screen shot of me running for it:
As you can see, I ran toward the back gate and out onto Eutaw Street. (That’s the open-air concourse beside the warehouse.) Once I reached the spot where I predicted the ball would land, I looked up and lost it briefly in the sun. By the time I spotted it, I realized it was falling a bit short so I lunged forward and tried to make a shoe-string catch. (My camera man didn’t make it out onto Eutaw Street quick enough to get a shot of this, so that’s why I’m describing it in great detail.) The ball tipped off the end of my glove and thankfully didn’t bounce too far away, though it hardly mattered because there wasn’t anyone else nearby going for it. When I picked up the ball, I was happy to discover that it had the Blue Jays’ “40th Season” commemorative logo on it. (The Astros had recently played in Toronto and gotten a bunch of those balls.) I’d already snagged a few over the course of the season, but hey, why not have another?
When right-handed batters took their cuts, I moved down into the seats in right-center field. That paid off as I got my hands on two more home run balls. Here I am catching the first one on the fly . . .
. . . and here I am retrieving the second — another Blue Jays ball — in the seats:
That brought my total number of balls to five.
Back on the Flag Court, I caught two more home runs back to back. Here’s the second one streaking down toward me:
Here I am with those two baseballs:
Here I am simultaneously flinching and catching my eighth ball of the day:
Did you notice the guys at the table covering their heads? It’s kinda scary out there, even if you ARE paying attention — lots of bodies, hands, ricochets, deflections. That whole area seems like an injury waiting to happen, but it IS fun.
Over the course of the day, I gave away five baseballs. Here are screen shots of three of three of them:
That was it for BP.
Here I am showing my two Blue Jays balls:
Commemorative balls are keepers. Sorry not sorry!
In the video, you can see how sweaty I was. (At one point, I sweated off the microphone, and it had to be clipped to my shirt for the rest of the day.) Here’s a photo to provide further evidence:
That’s Caitlin. She’s special.
I chugged two 20-ounce bottles of water and didn’t need to use the bathroom — that’s how dehydrated I’d gotten from running around for 75 minutes. My body absorbed all that liquid like it was nothing.
Shortly before game time, two Astros signed autographs along the foul line. First I missed out on Carlos Correa, and then I failed to get George Springer, pictured below:
Oh well. It was cool just to be near them for a few moments.
Then I headed out to deep left-center field and said a quick hello to the Astros’ friendly bullpen catchers — Javier Bracamonte and Carlos Munoz. Here’s the latter waving at me:
Then I turned my attention to (hopefully) catching a home run. Here I am on the Flag Court in the 1st inning:
For the first half of the game, I never left that spot, not even for right-handed batters. In the past, I would’ve wandered toward the 1st base side and attempted to snag a foul ball, but not this time. Why? Because three of the top ballhawks at Camden Yards — Alex Kopp, Grant Edrington, and Tim Anderson — all happened to be unable to attend this game. They normally hang out on the Flag Court during games, so I was determined to take advantage of their absence. That said, I did take a quick break at one point to grab a hot dog with a whole lot of delicious stuff on it, including chili, cheese sauce, and bacon:
(I might have to go vegan for the entire off-season.)
In the top of the 6th inning, hot dog still in hand, I headed back to left-center:
Alex Bregman had hit a home run ball that ended up in the Astros’ bullpen. I was hoping to get it tossed up by one of the bullpen catchers. Here I am asking Bracamonte for it when he returned from playing catch with the outfielder between innings:
“They want it,” he said, meaning I couldn’t have it.
Then I was recognized by a bunch of young fans who all wanted my autograph:
Here I am signing a glove . . .
. . . and check this out — one kid asked me to sigh his cap near Cal Ripken Jr.’s autograph:
While this was taking place, J.J. Hardy homered, and three batters later, Manny Machado followed with a blast of his own. The whole time, I was getting more and more antsy about not being on the Flag Court, but kids kept asking me to sign stuff and take selfies, and it was hard to break free. Realizing that Chris Davis was due to bat next, I finally insisted that I had to go, and AS I WAS HEADING BACK TO THE FLAG COURT, Davis hit a home run that landed right near the spot where I’d been standing all night. He hit it on the second pitch of the at-bat. Look how close I was (and look at my dismayed reaction — hands on head):
If I had walked away from the bullpen 15 seconds sooner, or if Davis had waited until the third pitch of the at-bat, rather than the second, to unleash that blast, I would’ve caught it. Here’s my buddy Doug Hakey explaining where it landed and how it ricocheted up against the warehouse:
It was a line drive that touched down roughly 20 feet behind the spot where I’d been standing all night, meaning I only would’ve had to back up about 10 feet in order to reach and/or jump and catch it.
I felt like absolute crap. You can see it below on my face. I wasn’t acting. It was like I’d gotten kicked in the gut:
In the video, I went off on a rant about how pissed I was. I thought about editing it out and pretending like it was no big deal, but that’s stupid. It might not be a big deal to 99.9999999999 percent of the people on this planet, but it was a big deal to me (in part because of this), and I decided to share the true emotional aspect of the moment.
Adding to my frustration, a crowd formed as an Orioles employee marked the spot on the pavement where the ball had landed:
Here’s what it looked like:
I felt absolutely deflated, but what was I supposed to do? Go cry in the bathroom? Leave the game three innings early and drive back home to New York? Hell no! I’ve found that the best remedy for ballhawking heartbreak is to get back out there and keep doing it. So that’s what I did. And amazingly, I got another chance. With no outs in the top of the 7th inning, Astros rookie 1st baseman A.J. Reed crushed a home run in my direction, and best of all, my camera man managed to capture the tail end of it. Here’s a screen shot of the ball in mid-air:
As I drifted back and tracked the ball . . .
. . . I didn’t merely hope or think that I was going to catch it. I *knew* I was going to catch it — and voila! Here’s the ball streaking into my glove:
This was my reaction:
That’s Doug on the left, graciously congratulating me with a high-five. (No, I didn’t leave him hanging.)
I didn’t celebrate or go crazy, but let me tell you, it felt gooooooood.
Here’s a closer look at the ball — my eighth game home run ball of the season:
Whenever I catch a homer, I think it’s fun to get a photo of the jumbotron, listing the homer when that player comes back up to bat . . . like this:
The Orioles won 13-5 and slugged six home runs.
The Astros also went yard twice, so it was great night to be in the outfield. Here I am doing the closing shot for the video before driving back to New York:
Normally I post my blog entries before the videos, but this time I did things backwards, so in case you still haven’t seen the video, click here.
• 565 balls in 75 games this season = 7.53 balls per game.
• 1,241 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 46 lifetime game home run balls (not counting toss-ups)
• 9,198 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.
• 16 donors for my fundraiser
• $135.77 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $1,086,16 raised this season
• $191,589.82 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009