It started at 5pm when I ran inside the stadium and saw this:
It was just starting to drizzle. The groundskeepers were just starting to roll out the tarp. The Orioles, who HAD been taking batting practice, were walking off the field. Why was this a big deal? Because the last two times I was at Camden Yards for batting practice, I snagged 22 balls the first day and 25 the second.
Normally, I would’ve raced out to left field to look for balls in the empty seats, but instead I stopped by the dugout to talk to Jeremy Guthrie (whom I’ve gotten to know quite well over the past two seasons). Why was this a big deal? Because a fellow ballhawk named Matt, who had entered the stadium 10 seconds after me, ended up running out there and finding ELEVEN balls!!!!!!!!!!! (That’s one exclamation point per ball.)
My friend Brandon showed up soon after with his fancy camera. Here’s a photo he took of the batting cage being rolled away:
Five minutes later, Ichiro started playing in shallow left field. This is how I wore my Mariners shirt to get his attention:
As he finished throwing, I waved to get his attention…
…and he threw the ball to me. Here I am reaching out for it:
I adore Ichiro. Getting a ball from him was the highlight of my day. It would’ve been the highlight of my month if he hadn’t thrown one to me on 5/10/05 at Yankee Stadium.
Brandon takes amazing photos…like this one…of my reaction to the weather:
(Note the raindrop on the upper right.)
In the photo above, you can see someone on the Mariners playing catch in the background. It was Jack Wilson. He was throwing with the team’s strength and conditioning coordinator. At least that’s who I think it was — and that’s who tossed me the ball when they finished. Here’s the ball in mid-air, heading to me:
See the guy to my right in the tan cargo shorts? That’s another fellow ballhawk named Avi. He’s the one who visited the Camden Club with me the day before.
A few more Mariners came out to play catch. Here’s a photo (taken by Brandon) of Sean White:
In the photo above, the orange seat indicates where Eddie Murray’s 500th career home run landed.
My third ball of the day was thrown by Brandon League, and my fourth ball, pictured below in mid-air, was tossed by Mariners bullpen catcher Jason Phillips:
Even though it was raining, a bunch of Mariners signed autographs. Here I am getting David Aardsma on my ticket…
…and here’s the ticket itself:
As you can see, I got four guys to sign it, and they all (sloppily) wrote their uniform numbers. Aardsma (53) is on the upper right, Jesus Colome (37) is in the middle, Ian Snell (35) is on the left, and Sean White (46) is on the lower right.
Brandon gave me his ticket, and I got John Wetteland to sign it:
Wetteland was talking (to all the fans who were willing to listen) about electro-magnetism and atomic radiation and the big bang theory. And that was just the beginning. It was weird and funny — although he wasn’t trying to be funny. He was being totally serious, which made it funny…to me.
Eventually, when it really started raining hard, I took cover under the overhang of the second deck and pulled out my tickets to have a look. The nearest usher thought I needed help finding my seat, so I explained that I was merely checking out the autographs that I’d gotten. He and a couple other guys gathered around to have a look at them, too:
Brandon photographed everything, including this:
It’s a shot of me giving away one of my baseballs to a little kid — something I try to do at least once or twice at every game.
I headed down to the front row for pre-game throwing…
…and got a ball from Josh Wilson. The following eight-part photo shows the ball from the time it was in his hand until I caught it. You might want to click it for a closer look:
The game was delayed 24 minutes at the start.
And then…look how small the crowd was:
You’d think I would’ve caught 17 foul balls and five home runs, right?
Yeah, not exactly.
And guess what? Ken Griffey Jr. wasn’t in the starting lineup. He was THE reason why I took this little roadtrip in the first place. Things just kept getting worse and worse.
This is where I positioned myself for most right-handed batters:
Over the course of the game, two foul balls landed less than five feet from me. In both cases, I was the closest fan to them — and in both cases, the balls ricocheted wildly off the seats and ended up getting grabbed by other people. If the balls had simply stayed where they landed, these would’ve been easy snags.
NOW do you see why this game was so frustrating?
Well, there’s more…
In the bottom of the fourth inning, Luke Scott connected on the game’s lone home run. I was at the back of the standing-room-only section. The ball was heading right toward me, but falling short, so I raced up toward the wall and reached out at the last second to make the catch. It was THAT close to me. I actually squeezed my glove in anticipation. The ball never touched my glove, however, because the guy standing directly in front of me stuck his bare hands up and deflected it. The ball didn’t hit me in the face — I do have THAT to be thankful for — but instead it bounced directly over my head and rolled back to the exact spot where I’d been standing.
I was doing everything right, but couldn’t catch a break. Not to sound overly dramatic, but in all seriousness, my horrendous luck really made me question things. I can think of several instances where I’ve been angry inside major league stadiums, but this game, by far, left me feeling more frustrated than ever.
After the top of the 6th inning, I got a third-out ball from future Hall of Famer Nick Markakis. He had caught a fly ball hit by Jose Lopez to end the frame, and when he tossed it into the crowd, it got bobbled and then started trickling down the steps. During the mad scramble that ensued, I grabbed the ball out of puddle underneath a seat in the front row. I scraped my knuckles in the process. The whole night sucked.
Griffey pinch hit in the top of the ninth…
…and hit a sacrifice fly to right field — right in my direction, but about 75 feet too short.
After the game, I got my seventh ball of the day from home plate umpire Joe West, but I still felt like crap.
Final score: Orioles 5, Mariners 2. At least I notched another win for my Ballhawk Winning Percentage, which now stands at .850 (8.5 wins and 1.5 losses).
• 7 balls at this game (6 pictured on the right because I gave one away)
• 95 balls in 10 games this season = 9.5 balls per game.
• 639 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 190 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball
• 4,453 total balls
• 31 donors (click here and scroll down to see who has pledged)
• $4.95 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $34.65 raised at this game
• $470.25 raised this season for Pitch In For Baseball
It’s hard to call this day “a waste” considering I snagged 10 more balls, but that’s pretty much how I feel.
Once again, I drove from New York City to Philadelphia (this time by myself) to try to catch Ken Griffey Jr.’s 600th career home run–and once again, the aging superstar wasn’t in the
starting lineup. Of course I didn’t find this out until the lineups were announced prior to the first pitch, but I knew something was wrong because Griffey never came out for BP.
Speaking of BP…
I snagged three balls in the first 20 minutes by using my glove trick in left field. I had to lean way out over the flower bed for all three, and if you forget what that looks like, check out my last entry.
A little bit later, while the Phillies were still on the field, I caught two home runs on a fly in a one-minute span. The first might’ve been hit by Pedro Feliz. I’m not sure, and it was fairly routine. I moved down a few steps, cut to my left through the empty third row, and reached up for the easy grab. My second catch,
however, would’ve made every highlight reel in North America if it happened during the game. Pat Burrell launched a deep fly ball that was heading about 10 feet to my left, so I got in line with it by moving into the middle of my row. At first, the ball appeared to have the perfect distance, but as it began to descend I realized that it was going to sail a bit over my head…so I took my eye off the ball for an instant and climbed onto a seat and looked back up and spotted the ball and waited ’til the last second and timed it perfectly and then jumped high in the air. I made the back-handed catch high over my head in the tip of my glove and then (thankfully) landed back on the seat. The whole section erupted with cheers and applause. One kid shouted, “You are the MAN!!!” Everyone high-fived me and kept buzzing about the catch for quite some time, and I have to say it felt pretty good. Sometimes I make fun of people for congratulating me on catches that just aren’t that difficult (some people are so unathletic that they think ANY catch is a great catch), but this one was truly awesome. Sorry for bragging, but seriously, I wish you could’ve seen it. The more I think about it…this might be the best catch I’ve ever made. Obviously I can’t remember them all, but at the very least, it’s in the top three.
The most frustrating moment of BP was when I saw Burrell launch another ball into the last section of the “200 level.” It was frustrating because the seats were empty, and I knew the ball was going to sit there for another hour or two, and I wasn’t allowed to go up there, even though my ticket was in the much better “100 level.” How dumb is that? I hate the fact that stadium security is always so strict about guarding the club/suite level. Why would anyone want to sit there anyway?
The last round of Phillies BP was worthless because every batter was left-handed, and the rest of the stadium wasn’t yet open. There was no reason to be in left field, so I headed around the batter’s eye and waited impatiently behind the barricade in right.
Finally, at 5:35pm, I was allowed to run down the steps, and I quickly used the glove trick to snag my sixth ball of the day off the warning track.
Ball #7 was an Adam Dunn homer that landed in the partially empty seats.
Ball #8 was tossed by the always friendly David Weathers.
Then I spotted a ball lying on the warning track all the way across the stadium near the left field foul pole…so I ran back over, got it with my glove trick, and later gave the ball to a kid as he entered the stadium with his family. I basically just walked up to him and asked if he was hoping to catch a ball.
“Maybe,” he said shyly, perhaps a bit embarrassed that he had a glove and that a stranger was asking him about it.
“Well, here,” I said, holding out the ball. “You want this one?”
The kid must’ve thought it was a trick question because he just stared at me and then eyed the ball suspiciously.
“Thank you so much,” said his father before urging his skeptical son to take it.
“I happened to get a few baseballs today,” I said to the kid. “I have an extra one to spare, and it’s all yours if you want it.”
Finally, he reached out and took the ball and disappeared into the crowd with his family.
If there’s a point to all of this, it’s that I prefer to give baseballs to kids who don’t ask, and I absolutely refuse to give balls away when people (usually ushers and rude fathers) demand it. Earlier in the day, after I’d been using the glove trick, I called out to Jayson Werth and asked for a ball on behalf of a kid who was standing nearby.
“Why don’t you just give him one of yours?!” snapped Werth before firing the ball back toward the infield.
Because, you shmuck, despite the fact that you’re not any better than me at judging fly balls, you ARE a major leaguer which means any kid would appreciate it 100 times more if he got a ball from you.
Anyway, my final ball of the day was a BP homer to straight-away left field that bounced off some guy’s bare hands and landed near me in a half-empty row. And by the way, all five of the balls I got from the Reds had the word “practice” stamped on the sweet spot. In the picture on the left, you can see how I numbered the balls. (The ball on the top left, in case it’s not obvious, or if you’re new to this blog, was the 3,418th ball of my collection…and so on.)
After BP ended, I had that sinking feeling that Griffey wasn’t going to play, and sure enough, after the national anthem was sung (badly by a group of 6th graders), the Reds starting lineup was announced:
No Griffey. Unbelievable.
I decided to stay for the game. Sat on the third base side. Tried to catch foul balls. Came about 10 feet from one. Blah. Griffey pinch hit in the 8th inning and walked on four pitches, and that was a good thing because I was nowhere near the outfield:
The Phillies won, 3-2, and I decided I was done with Citizens Bank Park for at least a few weeks.
? 10 balls at this game
? 81 lifetime games with at least 10 balls
? 19th time snagging 10 or more balls in back-to-back games
? 145 balls in 18 games this season = 8.1 balls per game.
? 514 consecutive games with at least one ball
? 840 lifetime balls outside NYC