Tagged: happiness

9/28/09 at Yankee Stadium

There was rain in the forecast.
I didn’t really want to go to the game.
But my friend Brandon was visiting from San Diego.
He wanted to check out the new stadium.
So we went.

Thankfully, when we ran inside at 4pm, we saw that the field was set up for batting practice. Unfortunately, as I predicted, the Yankees didn’t start hitting until 4:40, so there was a lot of time to kill. This is how we spent a portion of it:

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That’s right. We were shown on the Jumbotron, and as you can see in the photo above, Brandon was ready with his camera.

Brandon is always ready, it seems.

Here’s another shot he took — probably my favorite photo of the day — during the lull before BP got underway. It shows me walking through an empty row of seats:

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Brandon had forgotten to bring his baseball glove, so I lent him one before we left my place. Big mistake. He ended up using it to rob me of a home run during the first round of BP, and then he rubbed it in my face for the next 15 minutes.

I had a few close calls early on, but nothing was working out in my favor, and for a while, I was concerned about getting shut out. The sky was already dark gray, and I knew that BP could get wiped out at any moment.

Eventually, after about 25 minutes of BP, some lefty on the Yankees (not sure who) launched a home run 30 feet to my right. I immediately took off running through an empty row and caught it back-handed, reaching high over my head at the far end of the section. Here’s a photo of me walking back toward Brandon with the ball in my right hand:

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The Yankees stopped hitting at 5:10pm. (Fabulous.) There was more time to kill, so I changed into my Royals gear and headed over to the left field foul line. Five minutes later, the Royals came out and started throwing, and when Willie Bloomquist finished up, I got him to toss me his ball. In the following photo, the red arrow is pointing to the ball streaking toward me:

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By the time the Royals started hitting, there were a few raindrops falling.

Three minutes later?

The rain intensified and batting practice was done.

As the players and coaches cleared the field, I raced to the seats behind the 3rd base dugout and arrived just in time to get some random equipment guy to throw me a ball. That made me feel a little better, but I was still disappointed.

The following two-part photo shows everything that happened for the next three hours:

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Fun, huh?

Right before the game started, Yuniesky Betancourt and Alberto Callaspo began playing catch in front of the 3rd base dugout. I worked my way as close to them as possible and got Callaspo to throw me the ball when they finished. In the following photo (which Brandon took from several sections over), the horizontal arrow is pointing at Callaspo, the arrow pointing up shows the ball in mid-air, and the arrow pointing down shows me getting ready to catch it:

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That was my fourth ball of the day. Not terrible for a game at Yankee Stadium with only 30 minutes of BP instead of 90.

The rain, I must admit, ended up working in my favor because it chased lots of people away. I’d decided to sit out in right field during the game (regardless of the weather) so now that I had some empty seats to work with, I was excited at the possibilities.

I wasn’t excited enough, however, to smile in the following photo:

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Brandon made me pose for it as we headed to our seats, and he insisted that I include it in this entry.

This was our view during the game:

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I nearly caught Ramiro Pena’s first major league home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. It was hit RIGHT in my direction, and I couldn’t believe my eyes. I jumped up and held my ground on the staircase, 100 percent sure that it was going to sail right to me in the fifth row, but then it died a bit (perhaps because the air was cold and damp) so I began to drift down the stairs, but then I got blocked by a cotton candy vendor at the last second, and it was over. The ball bounced off the bare hands of a man in the front row, and I still would’ve had it if it’d deflected back instead of sideways. It was frustrating, to say the least, but I didn’t blame myself. Watch any major league outfielder react to a fly ball hit right at him and he’ll do the same thing: he’ll hold his ground for a moment and THEN start drifting once he determines where it’s going to land, so whatever. The guy who ended up snagging that ball graciously tossed it into the bullpen when the relievers asked for it. In exchange, they tossed back another ball, and get this…it wasn’t signed, and it wasn’t even commemorative. It was just a standard Selig ball, and when the guy got it, he wasn’t too happy. To his credit, he stayed calm and simply asked the guys in the bullpen to autograph it. Once he got the go-ahead, he tossed the ball back, and it was returned to him five minutes later with the autographs of EVERYONE who was out there — at least a dozen guys — including Mariano Rivera. Very cool.

Anyway, the reason why I’m not throwing a fit right now (while writing this) is because of what happened a couple innings later. It was the bottom of the seventh. The Yankees, already winning 4-2, loaded the bases with nobody out against Royals starter Luke Hochevar. Robinson Cano stepped to the plate, and I told Brandon that I was going to catch a grand slam. I was already sitting one row behind him so that I’d have as much room as possible to run. My row had about 10 empty seats to my right, and the row behind me was almost totally empty. I had my whole route planned in case Cano happened to launch one to my right: I was going to start running and then climb back over a row (while the ball was in mid-air) and then keep running toward the far end of the section, or as far as I needed to go. And that’s exactly what happened. Cano turned on an 0-1 pitch and lifted a high, deep fly ball to my right. As soon as it left the bat, I knew that it was going to be a home run, and I knew that I had a chance to get near it…wherever it happened to land. I didn’t bother looking up at the ball at first. I just kept my head down and focused on not bumping into anyone or anything. As I approached the far end of the section, my hat got knocked off as I looked up for the ball:

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You can see the hat falling in the photo above. See the pole that’s covering the letter “o” in the word “York” on the red advertisement? My hat is right below the bottom of that pole, but anyway, I panicked when the ball sailed directly over my head toward a fan standing near the back of the section. Here I am, turning to watch the ball as it touched down:

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I couldn’t believe what happened next. I found myself standing all alone on the staircase as the other fan dropped the ball…and then the ball started bouncing right back down the steps toward me.

?!?!?!?!?!

I truly couldn’t believe it as it was happening. I bent down to scoop up my first grand slam ball ever…

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…and once I had it in my possession, the celebration was underway:

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Here I am going nuts…

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…and here I am running over to give Brandon (or someone) a high-five:

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I must’ve given more than 20 high-fives (and fist-bumps). It was truly insane.

Then I went back and grabbed my hat.

Happiness:

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Awe and disbelief:

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I was soooooo happy. Snagging a grand slam had been one of my lifelong goals, and now, finally, after two decades of going to games, I had finally done it. I called my parents. I called my girlfriend. I called a couple other people. I would’ve called everyone I knew if there were more time.

For the rest of the game, I kept asking Brandon the same two questions:

1) “Did that really happen?”
2) “Was that really a grand slam?”

The Yankees ended up winning the game, 8-2.

For Cano, it was his 25th home run of the season and 87th of his career. But here’s the cool stat: it was his 202nd hit of the season. I know that’s not a round number or a milestone or anything like that. I just like that fact that he has more than 200 hits and that I not only got one of them, but I got one AFTER hit No. 200.

After the game, I posed with the ball on the staircase where I’d snagged it:

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I posed with the ball about 50 more times after that (outside the stadium, on the subway, etc.) but I won’t torture you with all those pics.

The End.

(I still can’t believe it.)

SNAGGING STATS:

18_cano_grand_slam_ball.jpg• 5 balls at this game (the most important of which is pictured here on the right)

• 487 balls in 55 games this season = 8.85 balls per game.

• 624 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 486 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball

• 136 consecutive Yankee games with at least one ball

• 10 lifetime game home runs (not counting toss-ups from outfielders)

• 5 different stadiums with at least one game home run (Old Yankee, Shea, PETCO, Camden, and New Yankee)

• 4,307 total balls

CHARITY STATS:

• 126 donors (click here and scroll down for the complete list)

• $25.26 pledged per ball

• $126.30 raised at this game

• $12,301.62 raised this season for Pitch In For Baseball

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9/20/09 at Citi Field

Sixteen months ago, I had a Watch With Zack game at Shea Stadium with a seven-year-old kid named Cooper. Remember? It was Cooper’s first game ever, and even though there wasn’t batting practice that day, I managed to snag two commemorative baseballs for him.

Well, Cooper is now nine years old, and yesterday his family brought him back back to New York for another game with me. Here we are outside Citi Field:

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In the photo above, the woman is Cooper’s mother Becky; the older gentleman is his grandfather Arthur.

As soon as the stadium opened, Cooper and I raced out to the left field seats. It was a day game, so I was glad to see that the Mets were taking batting practice. Meanwhile, Cooper was excited because it was the first time that he’d ever been to batting practice. Here he is, running down into the seats:

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As soon as we reached the front row, Mets coach Razor Shines tossed a ball to another kid. That kid was older than Cooper (and wasn’t nearly as cute), so I called out to Shines and got him to look up at us, and then I asked him if he could possibly spare another ball. Shines said no and proceeded to mumble something about how we should stay where we were because there’d be some balls hit to us. (Gee, thanks!) But then he retrieved another ball that had rolled onto the warning track and, without much warning, tossed it up toward Cooper. Please don’t drop it, I thought. The ball was coming. I held my breath. It was falling a bit short, but Cooper wasn’t phased. He reached six inches over the railing and made a nice two-handed basket catch. I gave him a high-five and took his photo with the ball:

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It was the first ball that he had ever snagged on his own.

The Mets didn’t throw many balls into the crowd after that, and the seats were still pretty empty, so I moved back a few rows and focused on snagging home run balls. I explained some basic strategies to Cooper, and he caught on quickly. Even though we were more than 375 feet from home plate, and even though he had never been to BP, and even though he was only nine years old, he was able to track the flight of the balls. He admitted that he wasn’t quite ready, however, to actually make an attempt at catching one, so when David Wright lifted a deep fly ball in our direction, I drifted down the steps and reached out over the wall for the easy one-handed catch. As soon as I took the ball out of my glove, I realized that I had reached in front of another kid who’d been camped out underneath it, so I handed him the ball. Then, two minutes later, I grabbed another Wright homer after it sailed over my head and ricocheted back to me.

That was it for the Mets’ portion of BP. The players were only on the field for 20 minutes, so Cooper and I headed to the 3rd base side. The Nationals were stretching in front of their dugout, but because the rules at Citi Field are so strict, we couldn’t get anywhere near them. Still, I was able to convince coach Marquis Grissom to throw us a ball from more than 100 feet away. In the following photo, the arrow is pointing at Grissom…

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…and did you notice that Cooper was no longer wearing his Mets cap? Little things like that make a difference, but anyway, as the ball started sailing toward us, I was hoping that Cooper would be able to catch it. Unfortunately for him, it wasn’t within his reach, so I had no choice but to lean out over the railing and snare it. (It was a training ball.) Cooper had said that he didn’t mind which one of us actually caught the balls, but I knew it would be more exciting for him if he was actually the one to get them.

When the Nationals started playing catch along the left field foul line, I positioned Cooper behind THE most generous ball-giver in baseball: Livan Hernandez. Cooper was now wearing a red Nationals cap. He was all set. This was our view:

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As soon as Hernandez finished throwing, I called out to him and asked for the ball on Cooper’s behalf. Hernandez turned and tossed it to him. Here’s a photo of the ball in mid-air, and as you can see, the guy on my right tried to reach out and catch it:

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It was no coincidence that I was standing between Cooper and this other guy. I could tell just by looking at him that he was going to try to catch the ball no matter what, so I used my body as a shield to prevent him from reaching all the way out…and Cooper was able to make the catch! I was actually hoping that Hernandez had been using a training ball — Cooper had never gotten one of those — but it was just a standard Selig ball. I told Cooper that if he didn’t snag a training ball, I’d give him mine.

We moved to the left field corner in foul territory. Ron Villone jogged past and picked up a ball. Cooper was in the front row. I was standing right behind him. I asked Villone if he could toss the ball “to the little guy” and he DID toss it, but it sailed five feet over Cooper’s head and came right to me. Once again, I had no choice but to make the catch. That was my fourth ball of the day, and then after moving with Cooper to the seats in left-center, the same thing happened with Logan Kensing. I asked for the ball FOR Cooper, but it was tossed to me instead. (Another training ball.) My theory is that the players were afraid that Cooper wasn’t big/athletic enough to make the catches. Finally, J.D. Martin showed some faith and tossed a ball to Cooper, who caught it easily. (Standard ball.)

When batting practice ended, I had five balls and Cooper had three, and there was a chance to get one more. Someone on the Nationals had hit a home run that landed on (and rolled to the bottom of) the batter’s eye:

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I knew I wasn’t going to be allowed to use my glove trick, so I took Cooper to the other side of the batter’s eye (where the side railing is much lower) and asked a security guard if he could get someone to walk out there and retrieve the ball. The four-part photo below (starting on the top left and then going clockwise) shows what happened next:

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Let me explain:

TOP LEFT: A police officer climbed over the railing.
TOP RIGHT: The officer walked around the Home Run Apple toward the baseball.
BOTTOM RIGHT: The officer returned with the ball.
BOTTOM LEFT: The usher bobbled the ball when the officer tossed it to him.

And then the usher handed it to Cooper. (Another standard ball. Aarrghh!)

Cooper and I headed over to Shake Shack, where his mother and grandfather were already on line. We saw them before they saw us, so I placed all four of Cooper’s balls in his glove and had him stand in just the right spot so that when the line snaked back around toward us, his mother and grandfather would see him. This was their reaction:

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And THIS was my lunch:

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Arthur was kind enough to treat me, and let me tell you…I didn’t need to eat again for seven hours.

The photo above was taken from our actual seats. As good as they were, I still wanted to be a bit closer so that Cooper would have a steady flow of chances to snag a 3rd-out ball. Since we were on the Mets’ side, Cooper changed back into his Mets cap. Here he is from behind, sitting on the end of the row, getting ready to race down the steps:

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Most of the 3rd-out balls ended up in the hands of first baseman Daniel Murphy, who tossed them unpredictably all over the place. I really wanted Cooper to snag a Citi Field commemorative ball, or at least to snag one for him. In the middle innings, I nearly caught one of Murphy’s throws, and then late in the game, Cooper nearly got his glove on a toss from Carlos Beltran. Check out the photo below. You can see Beltran right above the security guard’s head. Cooper is in the front row (just to the right of the guard) and the ball is in mid-air (in front of the red advertisement on the left field wall):

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Unfortunately, the kid to the right of Cooper got that ball, but not all hope was lost.

In the 9th inning, I worked my way down with Cooper into the seats on the 3rd base side. The home plate umpire was Rick Reed. He was our last shot at getting a Citi Field ball, but the final three outs seemed to last forever, and Cooper seriously HAD to get going. He and his mother had to catch a flight at 5:30pm, and the game (which had started at 1:10pm) was coming up on three hours. She and Cooper probably would’ve left in the 7th or 8th inning if not for me, but I convinced them to stay until the end. I told them there was a good chance at getting one more very special ball, so she and Arthur lingered patiently (though perhaps anxiously) in the concourse while Cooper and I did our thing. Brian Stokes was not cooperating. He retired Willie Harris on seven pitches, but then surrendered a single to Ian Desmond, an RBI double to Ryan Zimmerman, and an RBI single to Adam Dunn. Then pitching coach Dan Warthen held a tea party on the mound. Then Stokes struck out Josh Willingham and walked Elijah Dukes after getting ahead on him 0-2. It was ugly. Manager Jerry Manual had seen enough. Pitching change. (Oh my God! Hurry UP!!!) Francisco Rodriguez came in and fanned Christian Guzman to end the game. (Finally! Thank you!!!) I bolted down to the front row and tried to get Reed’s attention as he headed toward the tunnel. He blew right past me without looking up, but I saw him pause briefly to toss balls to some other fans, so I raced back up the steps and moved alongside him as he walked quickly through the tunnel down below. Just before he reached the end, he pulled out one final ball and tossed it up near me. There were some other fans reaching for it too, but I managed to grab it, and I immediately handed it to Cooper. Here he is with that ball:

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But wait, there’s more!

The Nationals relievers were walking in from the bullpen, so I raced back over near the dugout and squeezed into the front row behind the photographers’ box. Someone wearing No. 55 was walking toward me with a ball, but I had no idea who it was, so I frantically pulled out my roster for a quick look. It was Marco Estrada. “MARCO!!!” I shouted when he was still 40 feet away. He spotted me and threw the ball right to me, but some HUGE guy on my right reached out in front of me. Our gloves bumped and the ball fell down into the photographers’ box. A security guard climbed down in there and got the ball and tossed it back to Estrada. I pointed at Cooper, and he threw the ball toward us for a second time. I wanted Cooper to be the one to catch it, but I knew that if I hung back and let him go for it, someone else was going to reach in and snatch it, so I reached out as far as I could and made the grab. It was a standard ball, and I handed that one to Cooper as well. Phew!

I really wanted to stay and take some photos, but Cooper and his mother ***HAD*** to go, so I walked outside with them and gave Cooper a training ball and said a very quick goodbye.

Final score: Zack 7, Mets 6, Cooper 4, Nationals 2.

SNAGGING STATS:

14_the_three_i_kept_09_20_09.jpg• 7 balls at this game (three pictured here because I gave four away)

• 472 balls in 53 games this season = 8.91 balls per game.

• 622 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 484 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball

• 349 consecutive Mets games with at least one ball

• 20 consecutive Watch With Zack games with at least two balls (click here for more Watch With Zack stats; note that Cooper is now the youngest client to have snagged a ball)

• 4,292 total balls

CHARITY STATS:

• 126 donors (it’s not too late to become No. 127)

• $25.26 pledged per ball

• $176.82 raised at this game

• $11,922.72 raised this season for Pitch In For Baseball

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:

zack_gives_ball_to_evan.jpg

(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:

ball_mlb_logo_imprint1.jpg

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:

ball_mlb_logo_imprint2.jpg

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:

tim_wakefield_warming_up.jpg

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

Opening Day: Thoughts & Observations

12:46pm — It’s raining here in NYC. No batting practice at Yankee Stadium, and I had no intention of being there. Haha. New estimated start time: 2pm.

1:08pm — Oh baby. Bonus coverage on ESPN. Royals in Detroit…

1:13pm — The official scorer in Detroit should be fired. Yeah, it was a low throw from Miguel Cabrera at 3rd base, but 1st baseman Carlos Guillen has to catch it. The ball reached him on a fly, and not only did he drop it, but he was in the base line and caused a dangerous collision with Mark Grudzielanek. Footwork, footwork, footwork! Keith Hernandez should be in the Hall of Fame. 

1:21pm — Whaaat?! Edgar Renteria is on the Tigers?! Man, I really HAVE slipped far out of baseball mode.


1:23pm — Helmets look funny on the 1st and 3rd base coaches, and I think it’s a mistake to force everyone to wear them this season. Grandfather clause, anyone?

1:43pm — Speaking of the Hall of Fame, Renteria (who just delivered an RBI single) is on his way. Mark my words.

2:00pm — The tarp is still out in the Bronx.

2:09pm — The tarp is coming off the field at Wrigley. Is it too late for a retractable roof to be added to Citi Field?

2:30pm — Got a call from my friend Michael Fierman (aka “tswechtenberg” to those of you who read the comments). He’s at Yankee Stadium and informed me that the game was postponed. Now he’s on his way over.

2:46pm — I’d just like to point out that Delta is a terrible airline, and you should avoid flying with them if at all possible. Long story short: My parents and I got stranded in Atlanta last night on our way back from Louisiana, and Delta didn’t even pay for our hotel. And their customer service was nearly nonexistent. Thank you.

3:11pm — Too busy catching up on emails…just noticed that the Brewers and Cubs are in the bottom of the 1st. Sheets versus Zambrano. Nice matchup.

3:20pm — Michael is here and leaning out a living room window and photographing his old apartment, which happens to be a few doors down.

3:33pm — AARRGHH!!! This new blog format is driving me crazy! I don’t know how anything works. I tried to link to something, and it’s not happening. And apparently, I’m no longer able to use em dashes. Those are the long dashes, and I like them. I used them a lot in my latest book (which I also can’t link to), but now I can only use en dashes – like that. I tried to use an em dash, and it got converted to two en dashes. Does anyone even care? Whatever. I can’t figure out how to reinstall my hit counter, nor can I figure out how to remove the “recent comments” section from the panel on the right. Does anyone know? I have a feeling I’ll grow to like (even love) the new-n-improved MLBlogs, but I’m one of those people who doesn’t deal too well with change, so right now this is pretty rough.

3:47pm en dash en dash Jona, the girlfriend, is now here. Oh, and the Cubs are now in a rain delay. Fabulous. At least the Royals and Tigers are in extra innings, and I’m getting bonus coverage of the D’Backs in Cincy.

4:05pm — I haven’t seen ONE fan wearing a glove at Comerica. Shameful.

5:03pm — Barry Zito just isn’t that good. First major league hit for Blake DeWitt. Nice catch by a fan (with a glove) earlier in the at bat down the right field line. Oh, and the Royals won, and I got the Giants/Dodgers on.

5:26pm — What?!?! The Mets are playing?! Jesus Aitch. Top of the 4th inning already?! I’m about to lose my mind. I just got off the phone with a local carpet cleaner. This is the type of stuff I’m dealing with these days.

5:33pm — Happiness: “It’s a three-run double for David Wright, and the Mets have a six-nothing lead!”

5:52pm — Oh hey. Luis Gonzalez is on the Marlins. Wow, I have a lot of catching up to do.

6:04pm — The SNY camera just showed a close-up of the ball in Johan Santana’s left hand, and it was NOT an Opening Day ball. It was just a regular ball. Good to know. (If I were able to link to things, I would show you what an Opening Day ball looks like.)

6:08pm — Michael left because I was being grumpy and anti-social and complaining about all the emails I have to answer. (I’ve already sent 51 emails today. I’m hoping to avoid triple digits.)

6:56pm — The Mets announcers are wearing some UGLY shirts, and this would be a great time for me to practice uploading my first pic under the new MLBlogs system. Ready? Here goes:

7:15pm — Nope. Didn’t work. I officially don’t know how to upload photographs to my blog.

7:21pm — Mets win, 7-2. Switching to ESPN2. Los Angeles of Anaheim in Minnesota. Bottom of the first. Torii Hunter looks funny in an Angels uniform.

7:30pm — Livan Hernandez plays for the Twins now? I didn’t know about that one either. (If you can’t tell by now, I really like to get away from baseball when it’s not baseball season.)

7:31pm — I’m surprised Torii didn’t get booed when he stepped into the batters box. If he’d left the Mets in his prime and then come back to Shea after signing for more money with another team, it would not have been pretty. That’s just how people are in New York.

8:32pm — Half paying attention to the Twins and Angels, half dealing with other stuff, and I forgot to mention that another friend, Darren Harris, is now here, working on my Arkanoid machine (which has lately been in constant state of semi-disrepair). As for this blog entry, I’m not being insightful or inspiring with my thoughts and observations. I’m aware of this. It’s just a reflection of my current state of mind. I got three or four hours of sleep last night and walked three or four miles inside the Atlanta airport. My brain is mush. I don’t want to think about anything or be productive. I’m really just vegging out in front of the TV.

8:50pm — Nice look at the construction site of the Twins’ new ballpark, scheduled to open in 2010. The question is: Do I go there during the inaugural season and make an attempt at getting a commemorative ball? Or do I wait a year or two for the crowds to shrink?

10:03pm — So tired. The Twins game is done. The Padres game is about to start. Arkanoid is working a little better than before. I’ve been up since about 4:50am. I’ve also been labeling pics from my trip, but of course I don’t know how to post them.

11:07pm — Remember when I mentioned a couple entries ago that I was buried in a pile of crumpled magazine pages with a few lovely ladies? I finally got a pic of it, and since I still don’t know how to upload it or create a link, just go here:


11:17pm — I’m loving this Oswalt-Peavy duel (Padres lead 1-0 in the fourth), but I’m outrageously tired and need to go to bed. G’night.