QUESTION: What do you do when you’re craving baseball, but you have a ton of work and a huge family dinner planned?
ANSWER: You go to batting practice and then leave.
That’s what I did yesterday at Citi Field (and yes, I still had to buy a ticket just like everybody else).
Here I am with some of the usual supects before the stadium opened:
In the photo above, you’re looking at:
1) Greg Barasch, who recently joined the 1,000-ball club.
2) Gary, who has some pretty impressive stats of his own.
3) Brian (aka “puck collector”) who’s not too far behind Gary.
6) Mike from Denver. I had just met him through a mutual friend: Robert Harmon of 762 fame.
7) Brian’s father Wayne (aka “father puck”) who’s holding up his copy of the new Sports Illustrated article about me.
When the gates opened at 4:40pm, Brian won the race to the left field seats and narrowly beat me out for the first ball of the day. It was a BP homer that landed in the 3rd row, and he was all over it.
Less than a minute later, I got Elmer Dessens to throw me a ball in left-center field, and moments after that, I got another tossed to me by Mike Pelfrey. That second ball was pretty special:
As you can see, it had a Citi Field commemorative logo from last year’s inaugural season of the stadium. It’s nice to see that these balls are still floating around. (Here’s what a good one looks like, and while we’re at it, here’s my entire collection of commemorative balls.)
After the seats had filled up a bit, I saw Chris Carter toss a ball to a little kid in straight-away left field — and wouldn’t you know it? The kid dropped it. I wandered closer as Carter jogged over to retrieve the ball, and when he gave it another toss, it happened to sail over the kid’s head and come right to me. I made the easy catch and immediately handed it to him. That was my third ball of the day. (I count balls even if I give them away.)
A bunch of lefties started hitting, so I headed over to the right field side. I wasn’t too optimistic because of the overhang of the second deck…
…but I gave it a shot anyway. As I headed down to the corner spot near the bullpen, a fan dressed in Rockies gear recognized me and introduced himself as Alex. He reads this blog. He was wearing a glove. And he pointed out a ball that was trapped nearby in a narrow gap behind the outfield wall. Check it out:
I asked Alex if he was gonna go for it, but he didn’t have a ball-retrieving device, so basically, it was all mine. All I had to do was a) use my glove trick to knock the ball closer and b) not get caught by stadium security.
While I was contemplating my next move, Hisanori Takahashi picked up a ball in right field. Once again, I asked Alex if he wanted to go for it — to call out to Takahashi and ask for it — but he was like, “Nah, that’s all you.”
So…I called out to Takahashi in Japanese, and he threw it to me.
Then I took another peek at the ball in the gap:
There was a gutter with a small metal flap jutting out at the bottom. I was going to have to be careful not to get my string tangled around it.
Long story short: I knocked the ball closer on the first try and reeled it in without incident.
I thanked Alex for being so generous, and before I took off, we got a photo together:
Alex is a fan of both the Rockies and Yankees, and he writes a blog called “Purple & Pinstripes.” Here’s the link. Check it out if you get a chance.
At around 5:30pm, I changed into some Rockies gear of my own. Remember when I got that free jersey on 8/26/09 at Coors Field? Well, it was time for the jersey to make its Citi Field debut:
The jersey didn’t draw as much attention as I’d hoped for, but it certainly didn’t hurt. Once the Rockies started hitting, Ubaldo Jimenez tossed me a ball in left-center, and I later got one in the same spot from Jorge De La Rosa. The latter wasn’t thrown specifically to me. It was tossed high in the air, and when I came down with it, I noticed that there was a really little kid standing nearby, so I handed him the ball.
At one point toward the end of BP, I had another chance to use my glove trick. This time the ball was sitting one foot out from the wall on the warning track in left field. I looked around, wondered if security was watching, and although I didn’t see a direct threat, I decided against going for it. Thirty seconds later, Gary hurried over with his cup trick and began lowering it over the railing. I got my camera out to take a photo of him reeling it in, but instead I ended up with a photo of this:
Stadium security (wearing maroon) appeared out of nowhere and confiscated the cup trick from Gary (wearing the black Rockies T-shirt). They didn’t give him a warning or anything. They just took it, leaving me to wonder what would have happened if they’d caught me instead. A cup is relatively easy to replace, but a well-worn baseball glove? Not so much.
In case you’ve lost count, I was now up to seven balls for the day. It would’ve been eight, but Gary had actually robbed me of a home run in right field during the Mets’ portion of BP. I’m not complaining — just reporting. He had a better angle on it and reached out right in front of my glove for the catch. You want to know how severely he robbed me? When I squeeze my glove to make the catch, I ended up squeezing his glove in the process. I basically caught his glove as he caught the ball. Lots of people teased me about it — Greg had seen the whole thing play out from right-center — but that’s just how it goes. You can’t win ’em all, and as I often say, what makes it fun is that it’s a competition.
I raced over to the Rockies’ dugout at the end of BP and got two baseballs within a 60-second span. The first was tossed by hitting coach Don Baylor, and the second came from bullpen catcher Mark Strittmatter.
Of the seven balls that I kept, four looked pretty cool:
Did you notice that the ball on the upper left is lopsided? And that the ball on the bottom right has a crooked logo? I love that kind of stuff.
It was tempting to stay and go for double digits, but quite simply, I *had* to head home.
This was my view of the Jackie Robinson Rotunda on my way out:
It bothered me that just inside the entrance, Jackie Robinson’s name was covered by a bunch of dirty floor mats, but hey, that’s the Mets for you.
The area outside the stadium was bustling, and let me tell you, it felt weird to be out there right before game time.
I’m not really sure what to say about the following photo other than the fact that I took it before heading to the subway:
What was that dog looking at, you ask?
Poor dog. Dressed up in Mets gear. How humiliating.
The dog’s owner, it should be noted, was making a LOT of money. Just about everyone (including me) put a dollar in the jug.
I took one final photo of Citi Field from the platform of John Rocker’s favorite train:
And that was it.
• 9 balls at this game (7 pictured on the right because I gave two away)
• 220 balls in 24 games this season = 9.2 balls per game.
• 653 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 494 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball
• 355 consecutive Mets home games with at least one ball
• 17 consecutive games at Citi Field with at least two balls
• 4,578 total balls
• 45 donors (click here to learn more)
• $6.49 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $58.41 raised at this game
• $1,427.80 raised this season for Pitch In For Baseball
I attended this game with my friend Jordan (aka “hockeyguy1011” if you read the comments) and his friend Josh. They’d flown in from Florida just to see Yankee Stadium, and of course they were each hoping to catch a commemorative ball. They had tickets for the main part of the stadium so I sent them to the corner spot at the end of the short porch. I had a seat in the right field bleachers and my day of snagging got off to a fast start.
Less than a minute after I entered the stadium, Phil Hughes tossed me ball number one. Even though his aim was perfect, I jumped up on the chest-high railing so that I was briefly balancing on my stomach…so that I could reach out as far as possible and prevent anyone else from interfering.
Five minutes later, I caught a Robinson Cano homer in the crowded aisle, and five minutes after THAT, I got another ball from Hughes. He didn’t intend to throw this one to anyone in particular. He just flipped it up randomly–one section to the right of where he’d tossed the first ball–and I happened to be standing there so I jumped and made the catch.
I was checking in on Jordan every now and then–his corner spot was only 30 feet from the left edge of the bleachers–and at one point, when I was more than 100 feet away, I saw a player toss him a ball. I ran over and yelled his name and got him to hold it up…
…and learned later that a) the ball was tossed by Alfredo Aceves who b) also tossed one to Josh, and that c) both balls were commemorative. Not bad.
I ended up snagging three more balls with my glove trick during the Yankees’ portion of BP. The first two landed in the narrow gap behind the outfield wall in right-center field, and I had to pounce on them because Greg (aka “gregb123”) was there with his cup trick, and another man (who told me he was inspired by this blog) was there with his own makeshift ball-retrieving device. Those two guys each pulled a ball out of the gap, and Greg ended up getting a couple other balls as well. Anyway, my third glove-trick ball came in left field. I saw a player throw a ball to some fans in the bleachers. Naturally they dropped it, and I ran over, and to my surprise Greg was already on the scene.
“You can have it,” he said. “It’s too far out.”
Cup tricks are better than glove tricks in certain situations (like when a ball is sitting on thick grass or surrounded by garbage, as is often the case in the various gaps at Shea Stadium), but here, when the ball needed to be knocked closer, I was all over it.
Fortunately, stadium security was nowhere in sight, so I was able to spend several minutes flinging my glove out past the ball and then dragging it back by pulling the string. Once I’d moved the ball off the grass, it took an extra effort to bring it closer because the dirt area was slightly sloped and the ball kept trickling away from me. Finally, though, I had the ball where I needed it and went in for the kill.
The man on my right was skeptical, as people often are.
“What you need is a secondary string,” he said.
I didn’t respond at first. I just went about my business, and ten seconds later I was holding the ball.
“What was that you mentioned about extra string?” I asked.
I ran back to right field with six commemorative balls in my drawstring backpack. It’d taken me 40 minutes to snag them, so I figured I’d be able to get four more over the next 45 minutes with the White Sox hitting. It always makes me happy to reach double digits, especially in a tough ballpark like Yankee Stadium, but guess what happened…
The Sox hardly tossed any balls into the crowd. Most of their hitters were right-handed. Their few lefties were either too wimpy to reach the bleachers or, in the case of Jim Thome and Ken Griffey Jr., having too much fun taking aim at the right field upper deck. It was totally dead and my once-promising day quickly turned into a slightly-below-average performance.
I caught up with Greg after BP, and he (expertly) took the following photo:
I only had the baseballs out of my bag for a minute, during which time two people approached me separately and wanted to buy one.
“How much do you want?” asked one guy.
I didn’t even bother asking how much he was willing to pay or making up a number, but it obviously would’ve been a lot more than $30. That’s how much these balls cost in the stadium souvenir stores–and mine were actually USED by the Yankees.
All I said was, “I’m sorry, they’re not for sale.”
I played the tunnels in right field for the first couple innings of the game and had a decent view of Jeter’s fake hit–the one that moved him past Lou Gehrig for “most hits all time at Yankee Stadium.” Seriously, I can’t believe it was ruled a hit. I don’t care what kind of pressure Bill Shannon, the official scorer, was feeling in terms of making a hometown call. He was wrong and his poor decision cheated Jeter and every Yankee fan. He ruined a historic moment. The ball was hit hard–I won’t deny that–but third baseman Juan Uribe should’ve caught it. He’s a major leaguer. Make the play. Get in front of the ball. Move your feet. Knock it down. I used to play shortstop and third base, and I was charged with errors on much harder plays than that. You know when there’s a line drive hit right at an infielder and it in-between hops him and deflects off his glove? In my summer ball leagues (where the fields were crappy and you were lucky if the ball didn’t take a bad hop), those were ruled errors. In the major leagues, why are these plays ruled hits more often than not? It makes me sick. Jeter’s routine ground ball three feet to the right of Uribe should have been caught, and since it wasn’t, it should’ve been an error. Everyone in the stadium kind of cheered as soon as the ball got through, but we were all holding our breaths and looking at the scoreboard. After five to ten seconds, when it was ruled a hit, THEN everyone cheered. It was terrible. And it’s not even like this was the last game at Yankee Stadium. There were still five games and eight innings remaining at that point, so the Captain was clearly going to have plenty of chances. What the hell.
In the second inning, one of my vendor friends walked out of the tunnel where I was standing and said, “No seat again tonight, Zack?”
I actually *did* have a seat in section 41–the second section over from the batter’s eye–but it was in Row M, and there was no way I was gonna sit there.
To make a long story short (and to protect the people who made it happen), I got to sit on an extra folding chair IN the actual aisle directly behind the wall. That aisle is normally reserved for wheelchair seating (just like at Coors Field), but not everyone there is necessarily disabled because those seats often end up getting released to the public shortly before game time.
My view of the game itself wasn’t great because I had to watch the action through the railings…
…but the space on either side of me (and the lack of competition) was to die for. Was this really happening at Yankee effin’ Stadium? This was the view to my left…
…and this was the view to my right:
Wow. If ever there was a night to catch a home run, this was it.
The bottom of the third inning was thoroughly entertaining, not in a snagging sense, but because of the idiot fans sitting directly behind me. Bobby Abreu had committed the horrible crime of grounding out to the pitcher with one out and runner on third, so the fans were already angry when A-Rod stepped into the batter’s box. One guy started screaming, “LOSER!!! LOSER!!!” which prompted his friend to shout, “Pop up to the infield and then pretend you care! I love it!”
(Clearly, A-Rod wants to fail and is more talented as an actor than as an athlete.)
After A-Rod ended the inning with a towering fly out to right field (which would’ve been a 430-foot homer had he swung half an inch higher), the first fan yelled, “YOU BUM!!! YOU BUM!!! YOU PIECE OF SH*T!!!” Then his buddy yelled, “Cheat on your wife!!”
When Abreu took his position in right field in the top of the fourth, another fan screamed, “Way to get the run in, Bobby!! Welcome to free agency!! The Yankees hate you!!”
(Let it be known that Abreu is batting .298 with 91 runs, 17 homers, 19 stolen bases, 38 doubles, and a .372 on-base percentage. Not exactly a terrible season.)
Then the fans started talking about how A-Rod should be dropped to the 8th slot in the lineup, and that the only reason why manager Joe Girardi won’t do it is because it “goes against the book.”
When Jason Giambi led off the bottom of the fourth inning, I was thinking that he had a better chance than anyone on either team to hit a home run to me. That said, I wasn’t rooting for this to happen. I don’t like the guy. To me, he’s a villain who deserves to fail.
Gavin Floyd quickly fell behind in the count 3-0, and all I could think was something along the lines of: “I don’t even want Giambi to enjoy the pleasure of getting a base on balls.”
Giambi predictably took the next pitch–a strike–and fouled off the next one to bring the count to 3-2. I was sitting on the edge of my seat, as I always do, hoping but not necessarily expecting anything to come my way.
Well, wouldn’t you know it, Floyd grooved a 91mph fastball, and Giambi launched it about 20 feet to my right. From the moment it left the bat, I knew it was gone, but at first I thought it was going to sail over the aisle and land out of reach in the packed section behind me. Still, I jumped up and drifted through the wide aisle and got in line with the ball. Somehow, either because it was a cool night or because the wind was blowing in (or maybe because I flat-out misjudged it initially), the ball didn’t travel as far as I thought it would, and it began descending toward me in the aisle. I stayed near the back railing, still preparing for the ball to carry (and of course because it’s easier to move forward than backward at the last second), and then determined that the ball was going to land right in the middle of the aisle. Rather than taking
one step forward and preparing to make a face-high catch, I took two steps forward, thereby forcing myself to jump for the ball so that I could catch it as high as possible–and in front of anyone else who might’ve been hoping to make their own attempt.
And that’s exactly what I did.
I jumped. I caught it. The place went nuts (not for me but rather for Giambi) and I held up the ball triumphantly. Then, since I knew I was sitting in a spot where I “belonged” and that I wasn’t going to get kicked out of the section by security (as was the case after my other two home run catches this season), I quickly decided to do a little dorky/celebratory dance…nothing fancy, and certainly nothing GOOD. Just a few silly moves so that that cameras might stay on me for a couple seconds…just to have fun with it and entertain my friends and family and all you blog readers (and the millions of baseball fans) who would end up seeing the highlights later that night.
As it turned out, the cameras captured the whole thing quite well.
My catch (leaping and reaching just behind the “G” in “AIG):
Holding up the ball:
Talking on my cell phone (to Jordan who saw me from the upper deck and called immediately):
I want to give a BIG thanks to my friend Michael Fierman (formerly “tswechtenberg” and now “pinched”) for taping the game and making a compilation of all the footage.
CLICK HERE to watch it, but be warned that it’s about 16 MB and might take a little while to load if you have a slow internet connection.
I was dying to catch another home run–two in one game is a very rare feat–but it wasn’t meant to be.
I am proud to say, though, that as of this moment, I am the proud owner of the last home run ever hit at Yankee Stadium. There are five more games remaining there, and I’ll be at three of them. What are the odds that a) there won’t be any more homers or b) there will be another and I’ll catch it?
Final score: Zack 7, White Sox 6, Yankees 2.
? 7 balls at this game
? 481 balls in 62 games this season = 7.8 balls per game.
? 558 consecutive games with at least one ball
? 124 consecutive games at Yankee Stadium with at least one ball
? 11 game balls this season (not counting game-used balls that get tossed into the crowd)
? 3 game home run balls this season (all of which were caught on a fly at Yankee Stadium)
? 122 lifetime game balls (115 foul balls, 6 home runs, 1 ground-rule double)
? 20 lifetime game balls at Yankee Stadium
? 3,758 total balls
When I got home, the following email was waiting for me. The subject was “I see 3’s and 1’s.” It was from my friend Brad. Here goes:
There has been a streak of HR catches by some notorious ballhawks over the last six (3 + 3) days. Wanna see how the numbers “3” and “1” occur prominently for each of these?
On Thursday in San Diego, T.C. got Drew Macias’s first (1) MLB homer. Macias’s jersey number is 11 (1) (1). And Leigh got Adrian Gonzalez’s’ 31st (3) (1) homer of the season.
On Friday in San Diego, T.C. got Pedro Sandoval’s third (3) homer of the season,
On Friday in Oakland, Tyler got Hank Blalock’s HR. Blalock went 1-3 that game and wears number nine (3) X (3).
On Saturday at PETCO, Leigh got Bengie Molina’s 13th (1) (3) homer of the year. That’s also 31 backwards from the Gonzalez homer (3) (1) and Molina’s jersey number is one (1).
Monday night at Coors Field, Danny got Matt Antonelli’s first (1) MLB HR. Antonelli is #9 (3) X (3). That catch also makes a total of (3) ballhawks that we know of who got a player’s first (1) major league home run this season; Tyler’s brother Tom in Oakland got Carlos Gonzalez’s first (1)
With all these one’s and three’s flyin’ around, we should have been able to predict that you would catch Giambi’s 31st (3) (1) on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium. That also made you the first (1) person to catch three (3) homers at Yankee Stadium in it’s final season. It also happened in the 4th inning (3) + (1). And Giambi ended up going 1-3
for the game.
Also on Tuesday night: Prince Fielder hit his 31st (3) (1) homer of the season onto Sheffield Avenue at Wrigley, and the probability is high that one of the regular ballhawks out there got it. So it is possible that You and Leigh and one of the Wrigley guys have someone’s 31st (3) (1) homer of the 2008 season.
And for the most bizarre stat of the night– the attendance at Yankee Stadium was 52,558.
5 + 2+ 5 + 5 + 8 = 25 (Giambi’s number.)
As awesome as that email was, the response of the night went to my girlfriend (a former professional dancer) who watched the footage and said, “So you were churning butter and then you started doing aerobics.”
Yup. And it worked.
What a stupid day. The White Sox didn’t take batting practice, and the game ended with Ken Griffey Jr. in the on-deck circle. But don’t worry. I still snagged five balls.
I used my glove trick to pluck two of the balls from the gap behind the outfield wall, and I had to work fast because there was another guy who had a ball-retrieving device of his own. His name is Tom (aka “runshouse” if you read the comments on this blog) and his device was a cup trick, which you can see on the ground in front of his right shoe in the following photo:
I also got a ball tossed by Phil Hughes and caught a home run on a fly. I think it was hit by Wilson Betemit. I’m not sure, but I can tell you that I made a pretty nice play on it. I was standing about 10 rows back in straight-away right field when the batter lifted a high/deep fly ball a bit to my right. I quickly determined that it was going to reach the stands but fall short of my row, so I climbed onto the bench in front of me and then cut diagonally–down and to my right–by stepping directly from one bench to the next. As the ball was in mid-air, I shifted my gaze between the benches (so I wouldn’t break my face) and the ball (so I wouldn’t lose it against the bright sky) and reached the spot where it landed at the last second. Several people without gloves reached up for it. I kinda reached through them (without bumping into anyone) and made a back-handed catch that drew applause from everyone in the section. It wasn’t a dazzling play by any means, but it still felt good.
You know what else felt good? All four of my balls to that point were commemorative:
Sadly, though, when the Yankees jogged off the field at 5:40pm, the White Sox were nowhere in sight:
Eventually some Sox pitchers came out and played catch along the left field foul line, but because there’s no access between the bleachers and the main part of the stadium, this was as close as I could get:
Nice view…sort of…but not ideal for getting another ball…at least not at first. After about 10 minutes, two of the pitchers–Ehren Wassermann and Mike MacDougal–walked all the way out to the bullpen to do some more throwing. Wassermann started off on the mound with MacDougal crouching for him behind the plate. When they switched and MacDougal walked past me, I asked if he’d be able to spare the ball when he was done. (I put in my request early because there was another fan with a glove and a White Sox cap.) He looked up and nodded, then pitched to Wassermann for another five minutes or so, and finally hooked me up with the ball.
That was it.
I spent the whole game in the right field bleachers, standing in various tunnels…
…and hoping to catch a home run off the bat of Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Jim Thome, and/or Griffey, but the Fantastic Four went a combined 0-for-15 with six strikeouts.
Bobby Abreu tossed his 9th inning warm-up ball directly over my head–30 feet over–and Mariano Rivera mowed down Chicago on seven pitches to earn his 36th save of the season and preserve reliever Phil Coke’s first major league win.
Final score: Zack 5, Yankees 4, White Sox 2.
I’m thinking the Sox skipped BP because they’d swept a doubleheader the night before and probably didn’t arrive in New York City until the wee hours. The question is…did they score a measly two runs because they were tired or because they neglected to take BP? I already know the answer. I hope Ozzie Guillen knows it too and makes his team hit every day for the rest of this four-game series.
? 5 balls at this game
? 474 balls in 61 games this season = 7.8 balls per game.
? 557 consecutive games with at least one ball
? 123 consecutive games at Yankee Stadium with at least one ball
? 3,751 total balls
My snagging nearly got off to an early start. Check out this pic I took in the subway on my way to Yankee Stadium:
Here’s a close-up:
This may surprise you, but I did NOT make an attempt to snag this ball. It’s probably still there. Go for it. Grand Concourse at 149th Street. No. 4 train platform. Let me know how it goes. Watch out for the rats.
I had to deal with a few human rats in the bleachers, but that goes without saying. Late in batting practice, after I’d changed into my Orioles cap and bright orange Orioles T-shirt, a 40-something-year-old man (who was so fat that he had to leave his Yankees jersey unbuttoned) told me, “You’ll be lucky to make it out of here alive.” He wasn’t giving me a friendly warning. He was issuing a threat, and several other fans joined him in harassing me. I resisted the urge to tell the guy he’d be lucky not to die of a heart attack before the seventh inning stretch.
The rest of BP was great. The stadium had opened at 5pm, and by the time the clock said 5:07, I’d already snagged three balls. The first was tossed by Jose Veras on that little platform in front of the bleachers. (Security was nowhere in sight for the first couple minutes.) The second was a home run by Derek Jeter that landed on the batter’s eye and somehow rolled close enough to the side fence that I was able to reach over from the seats and grab it. The third was a home run by Bobby Abreu that I caught on a fly. I was standing in the aisle, and the ball came RIGHT to me. I didn’t move an inch. All I had to do was reach up two feet over my head. (Of course I first had to judge the distance that the ball would travel and then make a split-second decision whether to stay put or run back.)
The bleachers kept getting more and more crowded, but I wasn’t done. I kept positioning myself differently for every hitter, moving toward right-center for some guys and staying deep and toward the foul pole for others…like Jason Giambi who launched a deep fly ball behind me and to the left. Most of the nearby fans didn’t move until the ball had landed, at which point I was in full stride, and I grabbed it as it quickly started rolling down the steps. FUN!!!
A few minutes later, I found myself standing in the aisle at the front of the section when Wilson Betemit ripped a deep drive in my direction. I quickly determined that the ball was going to travel too far, so I spun around and put my head down and focused on NOT tripping as I bolted up half a dozen steps next to the tunnel. Two seconds later, when I figured the ball was about to land, I turned back toward the field and looked up and got temporarily blinded by the sun but then spotted the ball zooming toward me. It was still a little too high, and it was heading for the middle of the tunnel to my left, so I took one more step and reached as high as I could and lunged over the slanted railing to my glove side at the very last second and made the catch in the tip of my glove over the tunnel. Ohmygod, it was beautiful–easily one of my all-time Top Ten catches–and because I wasn’t yet decked out in Orioles gear, the whole section erupted with cheers and applause.
I used my glove trick to snag two more balls from the gap–one before the Yankees left the field and the other during the Orioles’ portion of BP–and would’ve been able to use it twice more if my friend Greg (aka “gregorybarasch”) hadn’t been there. Of course HE would’ve been able to use his cup trick twice more if not for me, and he also would’ve gotten the Veras ball. We just happened to end up in the same section at the same game so we made the best of it and agreed to share the balls that dropped into the gap.
We sat together during the game and didn’t snag any other balls. Nothing came close. Jeter doubled off the wall about 40 feet to our left, and A-Rod hit a home run that Veras retrieved in the bullpen, about 80 feet to the right. Bleh. The biggest highlight of the game was seeing a fan reach too far for a foul ball, tumble of out of his luxury suite, and briefly get stuck in the netting just below. Final score: Orioles 7, Yankees 6.
After the game, as fans were filing out of the stadium, I took a baseball out of my bag and waited in the concourse. Thirty seconds later, I spotted a deserving recipient: a little kid, not more than seven years old, who was with his dad and still wearing his glove, which appeared to be empty. “Did you catch anything today?” I asked, and when he said no, I handed him the ball. You could say he was pretty excited.
With just a few minutes to spare before security would be kicking everyone out, Greg went to the left field bleachers to look for ticket stubs, and I photographed my six remaining balls:
? 7 balls at this game
? 270 balls in 38 games this season = 7.1 balls per game.
? 534 consecutive games with at least one ball
? 121 consecutive games at Yankee Stadium with at least one ball
? 3,547 total balls
My next game?
Watch With Zack.
The bad news is that I suffered an unfortunate cell phone incident toward the end of batting practice (don’t ask–all I can say is that Yankee Stadium is cursed) and rushed home soon after. The good news is that I didn’t get shut out, and in a way that’s big news because I’d ended the previous game with exactly 3,499 lifetime balls.
Before we continue, here’s a mini-history lesson:
My 500th ball was thrown by Cardinals catcher Terry McGriff at Shea Stadium on June 27, 1994.
My 1,000th ball was thrown by Braves pitcher Pedro Borbon Jr. at Shea on June 11, 1996.
My 1,500th ball was thrown by Twins pitcher Hector Carrasco at the Metrodome on September 24, 1999.
My 2,000th ball was thrown by Phillies pitcher Joe Roa at Olympic Stadium on May 24, 2003.
My 2,500th ball was a foul ball hit by Mets utility man Marlon Anderson during a game at Shea on June 7, 2005.
My 3,000th ball was retrieved with my glove trick at Yankee Stadium on May 7, 2007.
I was hoping to find a ball lying in the seats when I ran up to the upper deck, but no, I had to settle for yelling at LaTroy Hawkins instead. His first throw fell considerably short and landed in the seats below. Thankfully, he tried again and launched a beautiful commemorative ball right to me. No competition. No problem. Ball No. 3,500 was a done deal:
Before long, a dozen other fans had made their way down to the front row, including three lovely young ladies who quickly got a ball tossed to them by Alberto Gonzalez.
I didn’t mind the competition for two reasons. First of all, it enhanced my view…
…and secondly, two other players tossed balls over the ladies and into my waiting glove.
After I caught the second overthrow, some random guy protested and practically demanded that I give them the ball–and I might have if not for the fact that a) it was another commemorative ball, and b) none of the ladies were wearing gloves. To me, this indicated that they didn’t really care about snagging baseballs, and sure enough, halfway through batting practice, they left the seats, returned five minutes later with Dippin’ Dots, pulled out their cell phones, and started texting.
That’s when I caught my fourth ball of the day–a standard ball that was thrown by a Rangers player that I couldn’t identify. The ladies started complaining, and the random guy continued his pathetic protest. (Dude, next time, just be direct and ask for their numbers and leave me out of it.) I responded by telling them all that I only give balls to kids with gloves. Then I walked over to a young fan who fit that description and asked him if he’d gotten a ball yet. He said no, and I told him that if he didn’t get a ball by the end of BP, I would give him the ball that I’d just snagged. (Funny how neither the ladies nor the random guy said a word to me after that.)
Well guess what…
The kid’s father, who was sitting about a dozen rows back, ended up snagging the ONE home run ball that landed in the upper deck. Can you believe that? One lousy home run in 80 minutes of batting practice?! What a ripoff. But anyway, I was happy for the kid, and since he had a ball coming to him, I picked out a different kid and handed HIM the ball instead.
Here I am with the three balls I kept, all of which were commemorative:
Here are two more pics from batting practice. The first shows a fan (unsuccessfully) using a cup trick…
…and the second shows what happens when there are too many annoying fans crammed into one section:
The player who was shagging in right field got tired of hearing everyone asking for balls and wrote his answer on the warning track. I’d never seen that done before…
…and that’s pretty much it. I’m about to head off for a long weekend at the lake with my family. My next game will probably be on Tuesday the 8th. Possibly in Philly. Possibly at Yankee. Possibly at Shea. Possibly nowhere if the weather sucks. I don’t know, but I can tell you this: you’re going to be playing another round of “Where’s Waldo” on July 14th. Stay tuned…
? 4 balls at this game
? 226 balls in 31 games this season = 7.3 balls per game.
? 527 consecutive games with at least one ball
? 116 consecutive games at Yankee Stadium with at least one ball
? 3,503 total balls
Greg Barasch…a college freshman, Shea Stadium regular, and successful baseball-snagger. (He leaves comments on this blog as “gregorybarasch” and you might remember him from previous entries such as this and this and this.) In fact, he’s such a good snagger that I normally avoid Shea whenever he tells me he’s gonna be there. I was nervous about going to Citizens Bank Park with him because I figured we’d end up getting in each other’s way, but we made it work.
For most of the first hour of batting practice (when all the fans were confined to the left field seats), I positioned myself deep in straight-away left and Greg played shallow in left-center. Our unrealistic goal for the day was not to let any other fans catch a single ball. Our more realistic goal was to combine for 20 balls, and based on how things started, we were well on our way.
I used my glove trick to snag my first ball off the warning track near the foul pole–this wasn’t easy as I had to lean way out and balance on the double-railing over the flower bed–and 30 seconds later I got another ball tossed to me by the Phillies’ strength and conditioning coach.
My third ball was a home run that barely reached the first row and got bobbled by a group of gloveless fans. Then, when the mighty Pat Burrell started taking his cuts, I moved back about a dozen rows and quickly caught one of his bombs on a fly. I was glad to have four balls but frustrated I didn’t have seven. Not only did I misjudge one home run that should’ve been an easy catch, but there were two others that were coming right to me, and at the last second, other fans reached up and caught them RIGHT in front of my glove.
Greg had already snagged a few balls at this point, and I’ll let him share the details in a comment. As for me? I got my fifth ball tossed by Phillies bullpen coach Ramon Henderson in left-center.
As soon as the Rockies took the field, Manny Corpas thwarted my glove trick attempt by grabbing the ball before I had a chance to snag it. Five minutes later, as my glove was once again dangling over the left field wall, I was afraid Brian Fuentes was going to interfere as well, but instead he flipped the ball to me. Moments after I’d recoiled the string and tucked it into the palm of my glove, I caught a home run on a fly that required me to lunge to my left above a mini-cluster of fans who didn’t even see it coming.
The rest of the stadium opened at 5:35pm, and I headed to the right field seats. I saw several balls lying in the bullpen, and I got two of them tossed to me by a groundskeeper-type-dude. I gave the first to a little girl with a glove and kept the second because of the unusual marking. Any theories about what might’ve caused this curved black streak?
I headed into foul territory along the right field foul line and got my 10th ball of the day tossed by some guy on the Rockies named Josh Newman–and I wouldn’t have gotten it if not for my cheat-sheet. Actually, it was Greg’s sheet…sort of. He made one for himself and was nice enough to print a second copy for me. Newman was wearing a warm-up jacket over his jersey, so I couldn’t see his number. I correctly assumed that he was a pitcher, and since he was left-handed, I was able to narrow down the possibilities of who it might’ve been. I knew what Jeff Francis looked like. This wasn’t Francis. I knew Fuentes as well…nope. Was it Jorge De La Rosa? No way. It almost HAD to be Newman, and when I looked at his face pic, I felt confident in yelling his name. Sure enough, he tossed me a ball moments later.
Toward the end of BP, I caught a homer on a fly and grabbed another ball that landed in a small patch of empty seats.
I didn’t bother going to the Rockies’ dugout at the end of BP. I knew Greg would be there, and I was having too much fun chasing home runs, but nothing else came my way.
I caught up with Greg behind the dugout at around 6:40pm. Was it hard to get down there? No. Did security hassle me and ask to see my ticket? No. Did my being there cause any problems? No. And just to give you an idea of how pleasant the vibe can be inside a major league stadium…at one point I was half-standing/half-sitting against a chair in the middle of an empty row when an usher walked over and asked, “Is that your seat?”
“Umm…well, no,” I said nervously.
“Oh, no problem,” she said cheerfully, “’cause if it was, I was gonna wipe it off for you.”
ar Steinbrenner Family, THIS is how to treat people. Psychology 101. If you treat people with respect, they will act respectfully in return. But when you chain off every section and prevent fans from bringing backpacks into the stadium and instruct your vendors to remove bottle caps, people get pissed off and they ACT pissed off, and then you have to spend as much money on security guards as you do on acquiring free-agent pitchers at the trading deadline. So go ahead. Keep being rude…)
Greg and I each got a ball along the left field foul line during/after the Rockies’ pre-game throwing. The ball I got was the product of an errant throw that rolled against the tarp, and I leaned waaay out of the stands to grab it. The ball Greg got? You’ll have to read the comments.
Greg stayed behind the Rockies’ dugout for the entire game and managed to snag a few more balls. I stayed in left-center field because I wanted to catch a home run in back-to-back games. (In case you missed it, I caught a Shelley Duncan homer at my previous game.) But there were only two home runs all night, and both went to right field.
The Phillies won, 6-1. It was a fun day. Apologies for the quick write-up (there’s a LOT more I could’ve written), but I’m getting ready to spend the weekend in Baltimore. Manny Ramirez will be at Camden Yards tomorrow, and he has 499 career home runs…
? 13 balls at this game
? 119 balls in 14 games this season = 8.5 balls per game.
? 108 lifetime balls in 11 games at Citizens Bank Park = 9.8 balls per game.
? 510 consecutive games with at least one ball
? 113 consecutive games outside NYC with at least one ball
? 814 lifetime balls outside NYC
? 3,396 total balls