Tagged: boston red sox

8/26/08 at Yankee Stadium

This was my second straight Watch With Zack game with Mark, Evan, and Hailey–a family from Los Angeles who’d been to Shea Stadium with me the day before.

Evan (age 16) and Hailey (four years younger) had each snagged a commemorative ball at Shea. Now they were hoping to accomplish the same thing at a sold-out Yankees-Red Sox game.

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As I’ve mentioned in previous entries, the bleachers at Yankee Stadium are a) awesome for snagging baseballs during batting practice and b) completely separated from the rest of the ballpark. You can’t enter the bleachers without a bleacher ticket, and once you’re there, you can’t leave.

That said, Evan and I had two tickets apiece–one for the bleachers and another for the main part of the stadium, where we were planning to meet Mark and Hailey after BP. Well before the gates had opened, I gave Mark detailed instructions on how to reach the corner spot in the right field grandstand as quickly as possible. That whole area was going to be insanely crowded; it was essential that he and Hailey get there first and hold their ground.

Evan and I were first in line at the bleacher entrance. When we finally got to run inside, not only did we have the whole place to ourselves for 30 seconds, but we had a great view of Mark and Hailey running in and claiming the corner spot.

jose_veras.jpgEvan claimed a spot against the railing in right-center field, so I gave him some space and positioned myself one section closer to the foul pole. That’s when I got the first ball of the day–I’m not saying “my” first ball because it was literally THE first ball that entered the stands. It was thrown by Jose Veras. I had asked him in Spanish. He put some serious velocity on it. I had to jump two inches to make the catch, and when I opened my glove and noticed that the ball was commemorative I felt a bit guilty. That feeling, however, half-disappeared a few minutes later when Veras tossed another commemorative ball to Hailey.

I used my glove trick to snag my second ball from the gap between the outfield wall and the bleachers. It was a home run by Derek Jeter that landed there, and as soon as I reeled it in, all my guilt returned. Evan (for some reason) hadn’t brought the materials for HIS glove trick, and I realized I could have let him snag that ball with mine. I wasn’t too concerned, though, because it was still early, but I grew increasingly anxious as the remaining minutes of the Yankees’ portion of BP ticked away. Would the Red Sox be using commemorative balls that belonged to the Evil Empire? Doubtful.

Did Hailey feel guilty when she snagged a second commemorative ball?  Equally doubtful. It had fallen short after being thrown to her by a Yankee, landed in the gap between the bleachers and the grandstand, and gotten tossed up by a police officer who retrieved it.

With 20 minutes remaining before the Sox were going to take the field, I got extremely lucky and snagged my third ball of the day. Brian Bruney had tossed it to a woman in the front row who somehow managed to drop it and let it trickle behind her into the aisle where I was standing. No one else even saw the ball. Even the woman herself hadn’t seen it roll behind her, so no one else was reaching for it. It was the easiest and most undeserved ball ever, and of course it was commemorative. The woman, whom I’d met several weeks earlier (and who was very friendly), immediately turned around and asked for it. She said it had been thrown to her, and everyone else agreed. What did I do next? I asked Evan if he wanted it, and when he said “no” (because he hadn’t snagged it himself), I handed it to the woman. I hardly ever give away commemorative balls (because it gives me a sinking feeling in my gut), but in this case it was clearly the right thing to do.

The Yankees were beginning their final round of BP, and Evan still didn’t have a commemorative ball. He’d come extremely close to snagging an A-Rod homer (and later came close to two other balls), but got a dreadfully unlucky bounce and had to watch it ricochet all the way back onto the field. I felt responsible and awful. The bleachers were more crowded than ever because of the Red Sox, and for some reason there just weren’t any other balls dropping into the gap…but then, by some miracle, with five minutes remaining in the Yankees’ portion of BP, a ball fell short of the wall in right-center and landed there. Ohmygod. This was our chance, and yet we didn’t know if the ball was even commemorative because it was lying logo-side-down. Meanwhile, Evan told me he’d practiced using his glove trick at home but had never tried using it at a game…so I stretched my rubber band over my glove, then propped it open with a blue Sharpie, and handed it to him. I held the end of the string in case he lost his grip, but he had it under control and I talked him through it. He didn’t realize he had to aim for the ball with the tip of the glove, and it was hard for him to even see the ball because of a hanging net that’s two feet out from the wall. He finally managed to get the ball to stick inside the glove, but because I hadn’t put the rubber band on tight enough, the ball slipped out after he’d raised the glove one foot. The good news is that no one else had a ball-retrieving device. The better news is that security didn’t notice us. And the best news was that the ball had rolled onto its side, and we could see the edge of a commemorative logo.

I yanked the glove back up, tightened the rubber band, and handed it back to Evan. Then I reached down as far as I could and grabbed the netting and pulled it back so he could get a better view of the ball. (I realize this might be hard to visualize.) The entire operation took a minute after that. I was shouting instructions and encouragement (for example “jiggle the glove a little bit so the ball goes inside!”) and eventually he got it. I was afraid someone else would reach over the railing and snatch the ball away from him as he was raising the glove, but no one did, and he HAD it. The ball was nearly brand new. The logo was perfect.

He hurried over to the foul-pole end of the bleachers and called out to his father and sister to show them the ball. I followed close behind and took the following photograph as he was holding it up:

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Did you notice Mark and Hailey’s reaction? If you look closely (and please forgive the lousy image quality), you can see that he’s yelling/cheering and she’s giving a thumbs-up:

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After the Red Sox took the field, Evan didn’t snag any other balls, and I only managed to get one more. It was a home run to right-center by David Ortiz. I was standing at the railing. The ball landed half a dozen rows back and got bobbled into the tunnel, prompting a wave of fans to race after it. I happened to break through to the front of the pack, and I reached down and scooped the ball into my glove while on the run.

After BP, I took a photo of Evan leaning over the gap with his ball, and then I caught up with Hailey in the concourse and took a photo of her with the three–yes, THREE–balls she’d snagged.

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Her final ball was tossed by Justin Masterson, and she told me that all the fans around her were complaining that she’d gotten so many. (Too bad, people. Learn to show up earlier.)

During the game, as you might imagine, security was extremely tight and the crowd was enormous. There weren’t any empty seats to be had until the sixth inning, when the hometown crowd realized that the Yankees weren’t going to overcome a 7-3 deficit.

Mark stayed in his seat for most of the game while I ran around with Evan and Hailey. In the four-part photo below (starting on the top left and going clockwise), we were a) waiting for home run balls in the tunnel in right field, b) camping out in left field when A-Rod came up with a chance to hit a game-tying grand slam, c) checking out shirts in the team store, and d) enjoying a better view late in the game.

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Evan and I were able to get some ticket stubs from people as they were leaving the game–tickets for the seats behind the dugouts. He got one on the Yankees’ side, which he gave to me. I got two on Boston’s side, which I gave to him and Hailey.

Two minutes after Jonathan Papelbon recorded the final out for his 34th save, I got Damaso Marte to throw me a commemorative ball on his way in from the bullpen. Evan and Hailey, I learned five minutes later, unfortunately didn’t get anything.

Final score: Red Sox 7, Zack 5, Hailey 3, Yankees 3, Evan 1.

Just before we were all about to get kicked out of the stadium by security (you’re not allowed to linger after the game at Yankee Stadium like you can everywhere else), Evan and Hailey and I all started pulling out our baseballs for a group photo.

What happened next was distressing: Evan couldn’t find his ball.

We all emptied our bags and pockets, and his ball was literally NOWHERE to be found. We started looking under the seats, and within two minutes, the nearest security guard was demanding that we head for the exit. (He suggested that we check the lost-and-found. Thanks, genius.) We couldn’t figure out what had happened…but it was official. Evan had lost the ball. I’m amazed that he took it as well as he did. If it were me, I would’ve screamed and cried and cursed and carried on like a baby. Evan, as disappointed as he was, realized that there wasn’t anything he could do about it and stayed calm. I offered him one of my commemorative balls, and he wouldn’t take it until I insisted about four times. I still had three commemorative balls at that point and gave him a choice of two: the ball from Veras or the ball from Marte, which he ultimately selected after inspecting both logos for quite some time. We were in the concourse, and since security wasn’t yet hassling us about vacating THAT spot, we decided to turn the “hand-over” into an official ceremony. Here’s the silly photographic documentation:

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(You know you like my farmer’s tan.) I think I might have successfully convinced him that owning an actual “Zack Hample baseball” was nearly as cool as owning one that he’d snagged on his own…and then we all headed for the subway.

In case you were wondering, the reason why I didn’t give him a choice of all three commemorative balls was that one of them had a special marking that I wanted to take home and photograph (and keep). It was the Derek Jeter home run ball, which had a faint imprint of the MLB logo from another ball. Check it out:

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My theory is that another ball was pressing hard against this one in the BP bucket or basket…or even in a ball bag…and that the logo was slightly imprinted onto this one.

Here’s a photo of the imprinted ball next to another ball, which will hopefully illustrate my point:

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And finally, here’s one more photo which I took earlier in the day when Tim Wakefield was warming up in the bullpen. It’s just a cool shot that should be shared for all to see:

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STATS:

? 5 balls at this game

? 353 balls in 50 games this season = 7.06 balls per game.

? 546 consecutive games with at least one ball

? 122 consecutive games at Yankee Stadium with at least one ball

? 12 consecutive Watch With Zack games with at least two balls

? 3,630 total balls

8/1/08 at Fenway Park

I left New York City at 10:30am, blasted my iPod in the car the whole way up, got stuck in traffic half a dozen times, and finally parked in the garage behind the Green Monster at around 3pm. As soon as I walked down the garage ramp onto Lansdowne Street, a college-aged Red Sox fan walked up to me and asked if I was Zack Hample.

In my previous entry, I had mentioned that I was going to be there, and sure enough, this
guy had seen it. His name is Garo. He’s a semi-regular at Fenway Park. And the first thing he did was show me how to get a sneak peek inside the stadium. Check it out:

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There’s a new restaurant/bar tucked underneath the seats in center field. (The entrance is right on Lansdowne.) This was it. Pretty simple.

behind_the_monster_08_01_08.jpgFenway wasn’t going to open until 5pm, so when the Red Sox started taking batting practice at 4:30, Garo (wearing the red shirt in the photo on the right) and I went to the roof of the garage and camped out for home run balls. Of course nothing came over, so at 4:55 I left empty-handed and ran over to Gate A.

This was another Watch With Zack game–my second of the week and fourth of the season–and my clients still had not arrived at that point. They were from Tallahassee and included two 13-year-olds named Lars and Cody, as well as Lars’ grandmother Jean who had gotten in touch last year after hearing me on NPR. Even though we’d planned this game months in advance, they waited until the last minute to make an appearance. Lars and Cody had the basics–baseball gloves and Red Sox caps–but we didn’t have time to discuss any specific strategies for BP. All I could do was give them each a sheet with the rosters of both the Sox and A’s and tell them to follow me as soon as everyone was allowed in. With 30 seconds to spare, I asked them how many games they’d been to. Lars said he’d been to “one or two” major league games, and as for Cody…this was his first professional game! What a way to start. (Jean said she’d been to about 50 games, going back to the days of the Milwaukee Braves. And by the way, if there’s anyone from Tallahassee who’s reading this, or
even anyone who’d just like to talk baseball in general, Jean would
love to hear from you. Leave a comment and let me know, or email
me and I’ll put you in touch.)

When the stadium opened, several dozen fans got in ahead of us, but we were still the first ones to reach the seats along the left field foul line. Sweeeet!!! I grabbed the corner spot and positioned Lars and Cody about 20 feet apart against the wall in the middle of the section. You can kinda/almost see them leaning out with their gloves in the following photo:

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Here’s a close-up. Cody is the one wearing blue, and Lars is in black:

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Once the A’s took the field, I told Lars and Cody to turn their hats backward so the players wouldn’t see the logo. (I think Cody turned the logo toward me just for the photo and then quickly switched it back.) This simple form of trickery worked for Lars; he used the roster to identify pitcher Lenny DiNardo and then got him to toss up a ball. Cody, on the other hand, wasn’t as lucky. He had a few close calls during BP but didn’t end up with anything to show for it.

As for me…
Two minutes after the stadium had opened, Justin Masterson tossed a ball to a kid ten feet away, but his aim was off and the ball sailed high and landed in a patch of empty seats. There was a mini-scramble for the souvenir, which I ended up snagging as it trickled down the steps…and yes, I felt a bit guilty. Under normal circumstances, I would’ve handed this ball to the kid for whom it was intended. But this day was special. I had my own “kids” to take care of, so I held onto it, and as it turned out Masterson went and got another ball and hooked up the original kid. Everyone was happy.

Before the Sox finished hitting, I got a second ball by using what I refer to as the “half-glove trick.” I didn’t need the rubber band and magic marker. I only needed the string because the ball was just a few feet out from the wall…in a spot where the wall was nice and low…so I let who_the_hell_are_these_guys.jpg
out a bit of string and swung my glove out and knocked the ball closer and then leaned over the wall and grabbed it. Easy.

Despite the fact that I had a green and yellow A’s shirt to match my green and yellow cap, I couldn’t get a single player or coach to toss me a ball. I partially blame myself for not being able to recognize anyone, but seriously…Joey Devine? Dallas Braden? Sean Gallagher? Jerry Blevins? Who the hell ARE these guys?!

I managed to get one more ball during BP. It was a rocket-shot, pulled on one hop a few feet to my left. I wish the fan behind me had been holding a radar gun. I’d say it had to be traveling 80 to 90mph. Maybe even more. According to Hit Tracker, some balls fly off the bat in excess of 120mph, so there’s no telling how fast this one was traveling. I was about 200 feet from home plate, and it couldn’t have taken more than a second to reach me. Anyway, I half-dove and half-lunged over the wall and reached way out and half-snared the ball between my upper palm and the pocket of my glove. Yes…ouch. But I had it and that’s all that mattered. Between the ball that Lars snagged and the three that I got, there was exactly one ball for each of us.

After BP, Cody and Lars and I each got an autograph from Greg Smith…

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Then Jean joined us and we posed with our loot:

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There were a few more snagging opportunities that we passed up…like, for example…when the A’s were playing catch before the game along the left field foul line, the four of us were eating pizza in the fourth row on the opposite side of the stadium. That’s where our seats were. Check out the view:

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This game was Jason Bay’s first as a member of the Red Sox–or the “Bayston Red Sox” as one fan’s T-shirt read–and the ovation he received during his first at-bat gave me goose bumps and jason_bay_welcome.jpg
almost made my eyes a little misty. It was THAT thunderous and heart-warming. I didn’t get the sense that anyone at Fenway missed Manny. He’s behaved so poorly that even I (a longtime Manny supporter with a personal connection to him) have a tough time rooting for him now. On the other hand, Jason Bay is one of those quiet/professional types who consistently puts up solid numbers but gets no respect because he plays in Pittsburgh. I felt so happy for him. After five years of rotting in baseball hell, he was rescued and thrust into a pennant race in front of 37,832 fans who were truly thrilled to have him. With all due respect to the four million-plus fans who’ve been filling up Yankee Stadium each of the past few years, I have to say that the people in New England are without a doubt more passionate about their team than ANY fan base I’ve EVER encountered. There’s no comparison. It’s not even close.

Bay ended up drawing a five-pitch walk in the bottom of the second (you’ve never heard such loud cheers for a walk), moving to third on a J.D. Drew double, and scoring the game’s first run on a sacrifice fly by Jed Lowrie. Tim Wakefield and Justin Duchscherer matched zeros after that, and it looked like the Sox were going to hang on for 1-0 win until Jack Cust (who’s on pace to strike out 205 times this season) hit an opposite field bomb off Hideki Okajima to tie the game at 1-1 in the eighth.

Jean knew a lot about baseball, and in fact, so did Lars and Cody because they’d read my book. I don’t know if they tried to memorize it or what, but I was blown away with the amount of facts and details they remembered. We all wore our gloves, but since there wasn’t much action in the foul ball department, we focused on watching the game. They asked dozens of questions and I explained everything…from the stats on the scoreboard to the Pesky Pole (which was less than 20 feet to our right) to double-play depth…and on and on and on. I had lots of fun, and I’m pretty sure they did as well.

As the game headed into the 10th inning, I was surprised when hardly any fans left the stadium. Six outs later, however, a few seats opened up so I led Jean and Cody and Lars toward home plate…and this is where we settled down:

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With two outs in the bottom of the 11th, I took Lars and Cody to the third base dugout and explained exactly how to get a third-out ball. We were all set to charge toward the front row and yell at whichever A’s player ended up with the ball…when Kevin Youkilis took a called third strike and the catcher rolled it back to the mound.

Five outs later we were back in position, but we didn’t get another shot. Bay hit a towering fly ball high off the Monster for a triple, Drew drew an intentional walk, and Lowrie punched a weak grounder past the left side of the mound that allowed Bay to score the winning run. Final score: Zack 3, Red Sox 2, Athletics 1.

free_seeds_and_gum.jpgLars and Cody and I still went down to the dugout (even though I knew the A’s would be in a foul mood), and it paid off…sort of. We got some gum and seeds from one of the bat boys. He was carrying a few boxes of it, and after I called out and asked him if we could have some, he walked over and held it out and let us grab whatever we wanted. The photo on the right shows what I took. Cody and Lars each got their own stash.

We all lingered inside the stadium as long as possible, then headed outside and I told them where they might be able to get a few more autographs. I didn’t stick around for that, however, and they understood why. It was already well past 11pm, I’d been up since 8:45am, and I had a 211-mile drive ahead of me. Before we parted ways, Jean told me she might send me to a game at Citi Field next season with her son who was born on the day that the Mets won their first World Series…

STATS:

? 3 balls at this game

? 273 balls in 39 games this season = 7 balls per game.

? 535 consecutive games with at least one ball

? 128 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball

? 9 consecutive Watch With Zack games with at least two balls

? 3,550 total balls

5/31/08 at Camden Yards

It rained all afternoon and then got sunny just before the stadium opened. It was my nightmare: no batting practice and a big crowd.

I was the first fan to run inside when the gates opened at 5pm, and this is what I saw:

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Chad Bradford was playing catch in shallow right field, and he finished throwing before I could turn off my camera and put it away.

“Chad!” I shouted.

He didn’t respond.

“CHAD!!” I yelled even louder. “COULD YOU PLEASE THROW ME THE BALL?!?!”

ball_from_chad_bradford.jpgBradford whirled around and fired the ball at me (with a three-quarters release point, in case you were wondering), and I leaned out over the railing and made a back-handed catch.

At first, I was relieved to have gotten a ball right away on what was surely going to be a difficult day. Then, after a minute, my relief turned to excitement when it occurred to me that I had just snagged my 3,400th lifetime ball:

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When the rest of the stadium opened at 5:30pm, I headed to the left field side. The Red Sox pitchers were throwing, and the first few rows were packed with fans, so I stayed about 10 rows back…

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…and got Manny Delcarmen to toss me a ball over everyone’s head. It was a thing of beauty.

dave_trembley_autograph.jpgI didn’t have a chance to snag any other balls before the game started, but I did get Orioles manager Dave Trembley’s autograph. He is SUCH a nice guy, and in a way, you can tell by the way he actually wrote every letter in his name. The reason I got him to sign my ticket from the previous day is that I wanted to keep my May 31st ticket pure in case Manny Ramirez connected for his 500th career home run.

When the game started, there were still a few partially empty rows in left field, so I headed out there for Manny’s first at-bat. Look at my view:

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I took this photo DURING his at-bat…between pitches, obviously. There was only one other fan with a glove within 20 feet of me, and he was trapped in the middle of a long row. It was crazy. All the fans in left field were potential lottery winners–that’s how I thought of it–who weren’t doing anything to increase their chances. Sure, there were some people talking about catching the ball, but that was about it. I mean, I understand that not every fan cares deeply about snagging baseballs on a regular basis, but if you knew you were going to be sitting in left field and you knew that a historic home run was about to be hit by a right-handed batter, wouldn’t you at least bring your glove (or go out and BUY a cheap glove if you didn’t already have one)? Anyway, other fans’ stupidity enables me to do what I do, so I don’t mean to complain. Manny, by the way, could have changed my life forever by hitting a simple 370-foot line drive in my direction, but no, instead he had to hit a weak fly ball to Jay Payton in left-center.

manny_ramirez_left_field.jpgI moved one section over toward left-center after the top of the first inning. This put me closer to the direction in which Manny hit the fly ball, and it also made me happy to be sitting right behind him. Also, I considered that if an Orioles batter ended an inning with a deep fly ball to left field, I could run down the steps and have a pretty good chance of getting Manny to flip it to me.

In the top of the 3rd, Dustin Pedroia hit a home run ten feet to the right of where I’d been sitting for his first at-bat. It felt awful to be trapped in straight-away left field with the only empty space around me being a staircase on my left. Pedroia’s homer was a wimpy little fly ball 50 feet to my right–a ball that I might have caught on a fly during an empty batting practice–but I couldn’t even budge during the game.

David Ortiz followe
d with a home run to center field, and Manny ended the inning with a sharp grounder to Melvin Mora at 3rd base.

I abandoned left field and headed back to the standing room only section in right field, where I’d spent most of my time the night before. I knew Manny was unlikely to hit it there, but if he did, I’d have an incredibly good chance of catching it. The odds in left field were reversed: he was likely to hit the ball there, but because of my limited range, there was a very small chance that I’d catch it.

bradford_ramirez.jpgIn the top of the 6th, Manny faced reliever Lance Cormier and lined out to Jay Payton. One inning later, Manny was back in the box against Bradford and launched the first pitch toward the seats in right-center–basically the same spot where I’d been sitting for his first at-bat the day before. I ran toward the edge of the standing room only section and watched the ball descend toward the crowd. My heart sank. I got a lump in the back of my throat. I knew the ball was going to reach the seats, and it was one of the most helpless feelings of my life.

The ball landed about a dozen rows back, and just like that, Manny Ramirez had hit the 500th home run of his major league career. I grabbed my camera and ran over to the spot where the ball landed and saw that an Asian man in a blue shirt was the center of attention. In the four-part pic below (starting at the top left and going clockwise), you can see him a) freaking out right after he snagged it, b) being photographed by another fan as he exited the section, c) high-fiving people as he was whisked away by stadium security, and d) holding the ball up and looking right at me.

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Here’s a close-up of The Ball:

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You can see how MLB marked the ball. I’m not quite sure how the marking system works, but my guess is that the “M” is for Manny and that the “92” is there because this is the 92nd ball that was marked and used for his recent at-bats.

I was sooooooo disappointed not to have snagged the ball, but I was glad to have witnessed history and to have been close enough to see the aftermath firsthand. I did get a consolation prize, at least, and that was having one of my photographs appear in an article on the Boston Red Sox web site. (I learned from that article that the lucky fan’s name is Damon Woo.)

Manny got one more at-bat in the 9th and popped up to Kevin Millar at first base. Blah. Final score: Red Sox 6, Orioles 3, Zack 0.

ticket_stubs.jpgSTATS:

? 3 balls at this game

? 8 ticket stubs from this game

? 125 balls in 16 games this season = 7.8 balls per game.

? 512 consecutive games with at least one ball

? 115 consecutive games outside NYC with at least one ball

? 820 lifetime balls outside NYC

? 3,402 total balls

? 2 more pics for you, starting with my competition for Manny’s 500th:

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And finally, here’s one that a blog reader named Chris (aka “psu532” for those of you who read the comments) took on his way home from the game and sent to me:

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5/30/08 at Camden Yards

Manny Ramirez had 499 career home runs. The Red Sox were about to begin a four-game series at Camden Yards. I had to be there.

I took a train from New York City to Baltimore, met my friend Jake at the station, dropped off my laptop and four days’ worth of clothes at his place, and headed to the ballpark with him. I was prepared to stay for the whole series and then head straight to Boston, but this was the only game Jake would be attending.

jake_zack.jpgWe bought cheap seats (that we never sat in) and claimed a spot directly behind the Eutaw Street gate. We were the first ones there, and by the time the stadium opened at 5pm, there was an upsettingly long line behind us. Remember the crowd outside Camden for the Yankee game I attended late last season? It was something like that, so as soon as I got my ticket scanned, I sprinted through the concourse and headed into the right-center field seats. As I reached the front row, the batter ripped a deep line drive that rolled to the wall directly below me. Some random guy on the Orioles (wearing No. 68) happened to be jogging along the warning track, and I got him to flip the ball to me.

I didn’t expect to snag a lot of balls, so it felt great to take care of the first one early.

The right field seats filled up fast…

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…so when the rest of the stadium opened at 5:30pm, I raced around to the left field side. Less than 10 seconds after I got there, a righty on the Red Sox hit a ground-rule double that bounced over my head. Thankfully there was only one other fan behind me and I was able to grab the ball off the steps as he clumsily reached for it.

The left field seats kept getting more and more crowded–so crowded that I can’t even describe it, so I’ll just share a picture of the section toward the end of batting practice:

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Somehow, Jake managed to snag three balls without really trying. He did have a glove, and he was shouting at the players, but he never moved from the front row and hardly broke a sweat. Meanwhile, I was stressing and cursing and running all over the place, and it sort of paid off because I snagged a third ball with my glove trick back in right-center. The ball had dropped into the gap. I saw this happen from left field, so I ran over and got it easily. That gave me 3,399 lifetime balls, and I should’ve gotten No. 3,400…but didn’t. First, security stopped me from using the trick for a ball lying on the grass in front of the batter’s eye. Then, back in left field, I got Hideki Okajima to toss me a ball by asking in Japanese, but a women (with a glove and a Red Sox cap) reached up and caught it in front of my glove at the last second. She was in the front row. I was standing on the seat just behind her. I tried to get Okajima to toss the ball high, but he threw it at my chest which gave the woman in front of me a chance to interfere.

That was it for BP. I didn’t bother going to the dugout as the Sox left the field. The crowd was five rows deep. There was literally nowhere to go.

empty_seats_pregame_right_field.jpgJake ended up sitting with some friends near the Orioles’ dugout, so I headed out alone to right-center field just before the game started. Left field was packed, but there WERE a good number of empty seats across the stadium. I knew these seats would be filling up fast, and once they did, I’d have no choice but to position myself in the standing room only section in straight-away right field. Manny was batting cleanup, and I needed him to bat in the top of the first inning. That meant at least one of the first three hitters had to get on base and NOT get caught stealing or erased on a double play.

Jacoby Ellsbury led off the game with a double to left (woo!), moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Dustin Pedroia, and scored on a single by David Ortiz. Then the stadium got loud. Flashbulbs started popping. Manny was announced. Fans stood up. And Manny responded with a double down the left field line. So much for that. I left the seats and spent the rest of the night in standing room only. The good thing about that section is the lack of obstacles other than a few flagpoles and the 100 or so drunk fans who always crowd the front. That’s the only place where they can actually see the batter. Here’s a view from the front:

standing_room_only_view1.jpg

As you can see, there’s a fairly high wall so when I took just a few steps back, this is what happened to my view:

standing_room_only_view2.jpg

The good thing about the high wall is that most people are more interested in seeing the game (and having a place to put their beers) than snagging balls so they cram against it; the balls, of course, are more likely to land further back, so although I missed three-quarters of the game, I was at least in a great spot to catch a home run.

Manny struck out in the third, and when he came up in the sixth, there was a young woman with a glove who positioned herself directly in front of me:

view_for_manny.jpg

Manny ended up flying out to right field, and things never got better for him or for me. If anything, they got worse because the competition kept increasing throughout the night. Manny flied out to right field again in the eighth and popped up to the catcher in the 11th, and by the time he came up in the 13th, this is what I was up against:

competition.jpg

I was almost relieved when he grounded harmlessly to 3rd base. Melvin Mora ended up throwing the ball away–one of two 13th-inning throwing errors by the left side of the infield that led to three unearned runs. Final score: Red Sox 5, Orioles 2.

STATS:

? 3 balls at this game

? 122 balls in 15 games this season = 8.1 balls per game.

? 511 consecutive games with at least one ball

? 114 consecutive games outside NYC with at least one ball

? 817 lifetime balls outside NYC

? 3,399 total balls