Remember that Nolan Ryan statue giveaway that I complained about in my previous entry? Well, I ended up using it to my advantage. I brought the statue with me to this game…
…and gave it to one of the season ticket holders. In exchange, he brought me into the stadium as his guest when the special “season ticket holders” entrance opened two and a half hours early. I was pumped! The rain had held off. I was gonna have a huge head start on the competition. Double digits would finally be mine. I could FEEL it.
But then I ran inside and saw this:
The cage was set up for batting practice, but the Rangers weren’t hitting. I don’t think I need to describe how frustrating that was.
I used the downtime to photograph the amazingly wide tunnel on the right field foul line:
Here’s another look at it from the seats:
Just before the gates had opened, I met a guy named Dan (aka “drosenda” in the comments) who’s been reading this blog since 2005. He and I ended up hanging out for most of the first hour, and he kindly alerted me when a certain Rangers player began signing autographs along the foul line in shallow right field. I ran over and got the player to sign my ticket. (Note the price.) Can you identify the signature? Apparently this guy hardly ever signs. Here, check it out:
I got another autograph soon after on my ticket from May 1st:
That ticket had gotten soaked on May 2nd, but you can hardly tell, right? (Note the price.) Can you identify this autograph?
(The reason why this one was signed in black is that I lost my blue sharpie on 4/24/09 at U.S. Cellular Field, and I haven’t yet had a chance to buy a new one; I’ve been at the mercy of other people’s markers, which often suck.)
The pitchers had already begun playing catch at this point, and when they finished several minutes later, I got Eddie Guardado to toss me a ball near the foul pole where the wall slants up really high.
The White Sox finally took the field. The following photo might suggest that they were defending themselves against a swarm of killer gnats…
…but in fact they were just stretching.
Batting practice got underway about an hour after the stadium opened…
…and it ended 25 minutes early! It was a snagging nightmare. The seats were crowded. There were kids everywhere. The White Sox weren’t hitting or throwing much into the stands. And I had to deal with a real jerk. There was a guy (who was about the same age and size as me) who thought it would be a good idea to block/grab me as I tried to run past him up the steps to get in position for a long home run. But that’s not all. When I told him to get his ******* hands off me, he accused me of running into him. It was one of the worst BP’s of my life. I only managed to get one ball. Gavin Floyd tossed it to me in left-center field. Meh.
The highlight for me was simply watching the kids run out onto the batter’s eye for balls:
That was the one spot that had a decent amount of action, so I was tempted to head over there and claim a spot along the side railing. What kept me from doing that, however, was the fact that I would’ve been twice as old as everyone else. There wasn’t an official “kids only” rule, but that’s how it felt. Also, I noticed that whenever a ball landed there, the kids would dive and slip and pile on top of each other. It was an injury (and a grass stain) waiting to happen. I didn’t want any part of it.
Before BP started, I had gotten a photo with Dan (pictured below in the “W” cap), and after BP ended, I got a photo with another blog reader named Frank (aka “texas4”) who had brought his copy of my book for me to sign:
It was time to do one final round of wandering. I started by taking a photo of another unique tunnel on the field level…
…and then headed up to the upper deck. Check out this huge open-air concourse:
I need to show one more photo of the concourse so you can see how wide it was in one spot. I took the following shot with my back against a closed concession stand. You can see a Six Flags roller coaster poking up in the distance:
Once again…outstanding design. Why doesn’t every stadium have a concourse this wide? If you’re going to try to cram roughly 50,000 people into one building, especially in Texas where people tend to be rather large, you might as well give them room to walk around.
Here’s a photo from the edge of the upper deck all the way out in left field:
Here’s my panorama attempt:
Here’s a look from the very top corner of the upper deck in right field:
In many stadiums, when the upper deck is empty, security does not allow fans to wander all over the place, but here in Awesome Arlington, the only reason why security stopped me was to ask where I was from. (Screw New York. God Bless Texas.)
Rangers Ballpark, as great as it is, DOES have a few ugly signs of disrepair:
This surprised me because the stadium is only 15 years old, and really, how hard can it be to fix something like that? Get a little concrete mix. (Or some gray Play-Doh.) I’m pretty sure the upper deck didn’t start falling apart last month, so the question is: why wasn’t it fixed during the off-season?
Here’s a part of the stadium that needs no fixing:
It’s like the Great Hall at the new Yankee Stadium–minus the ego.
Back in the seating bowl, this was the scene shortly before the game started:
(Gotta love Carlos Quentin practicing his swing. Has anyone ever had a positive interaction with him? From what I saw, he ignored everyone for three straight days.)
When the players finished throwing, I got Jayson Nix to toss me the ball. That was No. 3 on the day for me–still lousy but at least respectable, given the circumstances.
During the game I sat in center field, right next to the batter’s eye as I had done the previous two nights. This was my view:
At this stadium, there’s a promotion (I’m still not sure exactly how it works) where if the Rangers score a certain number of runs in a certain inning (or something like that), every fan wins a free taco. Well, it happened last night, and when the usher walked down the stairs and handed me a coupon, this was my reaction:
Okay, so it happens to be incredibly easy to catch a foul ball at Rangers Ballpark (there’s a great cross-aisle in the second deck, just in front of the press box…just like Miller Park), but so what? This type of fraudulent marketing is not only uncalled for, but it’s downright insulting to ballhawks across North America. I think we should all boycott Taco Bueno.
As for my ridiculous shirt, there might have been a time when I actually thought it looked good, but now I only wear it to make it easier for people to spot me on TV…and hey, it worked! Check it out:
It happened in the bottom of the 8th inning (and thanks, BTW, to everyone who sent me screen shots). Nelson Cruz launched a deep fly ball in my direction, so I got up, scooted down the steps, weaved around a couple fans (without running into them, thank you), and made it to the corner spot at the bottom just as the ball was approaching. I knew it was going to fall short. I knew I didn’t have a chance. Certain camera angles might have made it look like I missed it by six inches, but in fact it was at least four feet away from my outstretched glove. The only reason why I even bothered reaching for it is that I figured I was on TV, and I wanted to look more like a participant than a spectator. But yeah…no chance in the world to catch it. If the ball had been hit a few feet father, I would’ve caught it on the fly, and if it had just gone a few inches father, it probably would’ve landed in the gap and I would’ve been able to retrieve it with my glove trick. But instead, the ball hit the very top edge of the outfield wall and bounced back onto the field.
An inning before the near miss, I got my fourth ball of the day from White Sox center fielder Brent Lillibridge (not to be confused with Derek Lilliquist). It was his between-inning warm-up ball. I didn’t expect a visiting team’s player to toss one into the crowd, but when he looked up toward my section, I suspected that he was gonna let it fly, so I ran down to the front row and waved my arms. I quickly looked around to see if there were any White Sox fans. Maybe he was planning to aim for someone specific? Nope…just a sea of Rangers gear…so when he tossed it a bit over my head and five feet to my right, I didn’t feel guilty about moving back to the second row and making a controlled lunge for it at the last second. Other people had reached for it too. It WAS just intended for the crowd in general, so I went for it and made the catch.
“Give it to the kid!” yelled someone in the third row.
“Yeah! Give it to the kid!” yelled another fan sitting nearby.
What kid? The kid who wasn’t wearing a glove and hadn’t even stood up to make an attempt to catch the ball?
There was another kid I was thinking about–a little boy who looked to be about seven years old–who’d been sitting between me and his dad in the 9th row. They were both wearing gloves, and his dad had been teaching him about baseball throughout the game. It was such a sweet scene, so when I got back to my seat, I held out the ball for the kid and said, “Here, I think you should have this. I got a few others today.”
The kid’s face LIT UP, and his jaw dropped in such an exaggerated way that he could’ve been a cartoon character.
“What do you say?” prompted his father.
“Thank you,” mumbled the kid without taking his eyes off the ball. Turns out it was the first ball he’d ever gotten, so I pointed out a few things about the logo and explained the “practice” stamp on the sweet spot. That was definitely one of the highlights of my day.
Another highlight? Seeing a vendor eating ice cream while selling ice cream:
The game itself was fine. Nothing special. The Rangers won, 5-1, and as soon as the final out was recorded, I threw on my White Sox cap and rushed over to the bullpen and got coach Juan Nieves to throw me a ball. But he missed. Of course. He flung it carelessly and it sailed ten feet to my left. Thankfully he had another ball and was nice enough to under-hand it right to me.
As the last member of the Sox was packing up, I noticed that there was a lineup card taped to the wall:
I started to ask the guy for it, but he hurried out of the bullpen before I had a chance to finish my request.
There were still a few fans milling about. Three groundskeepers entered the bullpen and began working on the mound. I walked down to the front row and asked them if they could give me the lineup card. They ignored me. An old usher walked over and told me it was time to leave. I explained why I was still there, so he encouraged me to ask them again, but insisted (very politely) that I’d have to leave after that.
“Excuse me, guys–” I began.
“Can’t do it,” one of them snapped without looking up.
I headed up the steps with the usher…who then walked off and left me there. There were a few other employees walking around, but none of them approached me, so I took off my Waldo shirt (I had the plain white t-shirt on underneath) and put on my Rangers cap. I figured that’d make me blend in more. The groundskeepers kept working on the mound, so I took a seat in the last row and watched them. There was nothing else to do. My flight back to NYC was still 17 hours away, so as long as I wasn’t getting kicked out, there was no reason to leave. I was hoping that the three guys would eventually finish up with the mound and then disappear…and that perhaps a different member of the grounds crew would wander into the ‘pen. Sure enough, about 15 minutes later, the three guys covered the mound and took off. The bullpen was empty. This is what it looked like from where I was sitting:
I couldn’t believe that I was allowed to just sit there, but this wasn’t New York, so anything was possible.
Five minutes later, the sprinklers came on…
…and five minutes after that, a few other groundskeepers exited the bullpen in right-center and started walking along the warning track toward my side of the field. This was my chance! I waited at the back of the section until they got closer, then rushed down the steps and caught their attention at the bottom.
“Excuse me,” I began, “I believe there’s a lineup card taped to the wall in the bullpen, and if you guys aren’t planning to save it, it would mean a lot to me if I could possibly have it.”
They looked at each other like I was crazy, then flagged down another groundskeeper (who must’ve been their boss) and explained what I wanted and asked if it was okay.
“I don’t give two *****,” said the guy who then walked briskly into the bullpen, headed over to the lineup card, yanked it off the wall (which made me cringe, but thankfully it didn’t tear), and handed it to me.
It was barely filled out, but that’s to be expected from a bullpen lineup card. All that mattered was that it was official. It had a nice big “Sox” logo on the upper right. It had “5/3 @ Texas” written on the upper left in blue marker, and the Rangers’ lineup had been written in as well, along with a few bench players’ names at the bottom.
Moments after I got it, a couple other fans conveniently wandered down into the section, and I got them to take the following photo. I think you can tell how happy I was:
So yes, even though I lost more than an hour of batting practice, and even though I had a frustrating near miss during the game, it ended up being a great day. I can’t wait to go back to this ballpark. Hugs and kisses to Texas.
• 128 balls in 17 games this season = 7.5 balls per game.
• 586 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 156 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball
• 3,948 total balls
• 15 lifetime lineup cards (click here for the complete collection, including the full-sized version of the one pictured here)
• 103 donors (click here and scroll down for the complete list)
• $20.38 pledged per ball
• $101.90 raised at this game
• $2,608.64 raised this season for Pitch In For Baseball
I’m so optimistic.
I knew there was rain in the forecast, and I could see how gray the sky was, but I was still hoping there’d be batting practice.
I took a cab from my motel to the ballpark at around 2:45pm and started wandering around with my camera:
It’s a beautiful stadium, inside and out. Easy to get to. Nice area. Not too desolate. Not too crazy. Just perfect, really.
As I approached the first base entrance, I saw the Dallas Cowboys’ new stadium way off in the distance:
I don’t know anything about football. I don’t care about football. But I *am* intrigued by stadiums in general, and I figured there’d be some people reading this blog entry who’d enjoy getting a look at this impressive new facility, and I had lots of time to spare, so I decided to take a little stroll and get a few closeups.
This is as close as I got:
(I’m telling you…all domed stadiums look like spaceships. In fact, I think they secretly ARE spaceships. When aliens finally get around to invading/destroying our planet, they will use our domes as escape vessels. And they’re gonna start with Olympic Stadium. Just you wait-n-see.)
The sky got darker. I felt a raindrop. It seemed like a good idea to head back toward the Rangers’ ballpark.
The following photo shows how deep into the parking lot I had walked; the red arrow is pointing to a tree under which I foolishly took cover for the next few minutes:
By the time I reached that tree, it had started raining. Not too hard. Probably not even hard enough to have delayed a baseball game, had one been taking place at that moment. It was just an annoying rain, and I didn’t feel like walking around in it, and the tree was providing excellent shelter. So I stayed there.
Then it started raining a little harder, and I started getting ever-so-slightly wetter. I thought about running across the street and looking for a dryer spot inside (or along the outer edge of) the stadium, but there wasn’t an obvious place to go.
Then it started raining a little harder. Crap. And a little harder. Double crap. My sneakers and shorts and baseball cap were all getting wet, but I decided to stay under the tree, hoping that the rain would let up…and *then* I would make a run for it. Then it started raining harder. Then there was thunder. Then it started raining EVEN harder. My feet were now soaked, and the wind picked up. My backpack was getting drenched. I covered my camera with my wet shirt. Then there was lightning, followed immediately by the loudest crack of thunder I had ever heard. Holy hell. Then there was a gust of wind that blew a huge/portable construction sign 50 feet down the street RIGHT in front of me. I held onto the tree, afraid that I might get blown away from it, and then remembered that standing under a tree when there’s lightning isn’t the best idea. And…then the sky opened up. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen rain that hard, let alone been caught
out in it. I had no choice but to dash across the street (while trying not to get hit by cars or blown over the by the wind or slip on the pavement) and race alongside the edge of the stadium until I reached an alcove with some ticket windows. I was so wet and uncomfortable…it was as if I’d been standing in a cold shower fully clothed. I started going through a mental checklist of all the items in my backpack and thinking about what might’ve gotten ruined by the rain. My wallet was soaked. My contact cards were mush. Oh man…my rosters. They were toast. The paper was so soggy that it started to tear as I gently unfolded it, and as you can see in the photo on the right, the ink had bled all over the place.
It was 3:15pm. The stadium wasn’t going to open for another 75 minutes, and even then, there obviously wasn’t going to be batting practice. What the hell was I supposed to do? Just keeping hanging out and be cold and wet for the next seven hours?
As a general rule, I spend my money carefully and avoid all unnecessary costs, not just when I’m traveling, but in life. This, however, qualified as an emergency. I didn’t want to get pneumonia and die, so I called a cab, went back to my motel, cranked up the heater in my room all the way, put my shoes on it (as well as my soaked “Homer” shirt which I said I’d be wearing in my previous entry), changed my socks and underwear, replaced my wet cargo shorts with dry (Ahh, dry!!!) cargo pants, and entertained myself with FARK.com for most of the next hour.
I called another cab, and when I got back to the ballpark at 4:30pm, there was a HUGE line of fans, waiting (in the rain) to get in. Why? Because there was some Nolan Ryan statue giveaway. Oh my Lord. Well, it didn’t even matter. It was still raining. I knew there wasn’t going to be anything happening on the field…and it was then, while I was standing in line, that I heard about the building collapse at the Cowboys’ training facility just 15 (or so) miles away in Irving, TX. Scary stuff.
The stadium seemed eerily calm when I headed inside, and of course the field was covered:
I thought about wandering up to the upper deck and taking photos, but then an announcement was made over the stadium’s PA system. It said that there was a severe thunderstorm in the area with powerful wind (really?!) and dangerous hail (Christ!). The announcement continued. All fans were told to stay on the field level concourse.
I quickly headed to the weird/interesting/quirky concourse at the back of the seats and took the following photo…
…and then headed down and took this one:
For the record, the arches in the outer wall of the New Yankee Stadium’s Great Hall are not unique. Arlington had ’em 15 years earlier.
As I made my way around toward the left field side, I met up with a man named Brian (who was there with his 10-year-old daughter Sarah) who’s been reading this blog for a while and leaving comments as “bmpowell74.”
We ended up wandering around together for more than an hour, during which I signed his copy of Watching Baseball Smarter and took dozens of photos of the stadium.
Check out this amazing cross-aisle at the back of the left field seats:
It’s kinda far from home plate, but balls DO land there.
The rain had stopped briefly (as you can see in the photo above) but then it started pouring again.
We took cover under the narrow overhang of the center field offices…
…and then headed to the second deck behind the right field foul pole. The following photo really shows how much rain had fallen:
Brian led me up to the club level. Check out the stream of water pouring off the roof:
Here’s what it looked like through one of the tunnels. You can see the rain streaking behind the seat on the left:
Now…for all you people out there who called Shea Stadium home…remember how nasty the field level tunnels used to get when it rained? You know how there was always a huge scummy puddle at the bottom because the drains were small and clogged and poorly placed? (I actually miss that.) Behold the stupendous tunnel drainage at Rangers Ballpark:
This stadium is awesome. I know that sounds silly when I’m talking about something as specific as this, but seriously, it’s an outstanding facility.
Look at this classy (yet understated, unlike the new Yankee Stadium) club level:
I mean, c’mon. That is just outstanding.
We headed downstairs and I took some more photos along the way. I love this next one, which shows all the beams and railings and platforms and open-air concourses:
The rain finally stopped and two White Sox pitchers (John Danks and Scott Linebrink) came out and started playing catch along the left field foul line. When they finished, they tossed the ball to a little kid in White Sox gear–hard to argue or compete with that. It was around 6:30pm at that point, and I still didn’t have a ball. I wasn’t worried about being shut out because at the very least, I figured I’d be able to play the dugouts during the game and get a third-out ball…but I didn’t WANT to play the dugouts. I wanted to hang out next to the batter’s eye and go for a home run. I could’ve padded my stats and stayed near home plate all night, but this is a special ballpark and I wanted to do something spectacular.
After the start of the game was pushed back to 7:45pm, Octavio Dotel and Bartolo Colon began playing catch. I went down to the front row, lined myself up with them, and waited patiently. The following photo, taken by Brian, shows me standing there with some White Sox gear of my
By the way, that “HAMILTON” jersey in the photo above just reminded me that in one of the team stores out in center field, there’s a ball signed by Hamilton (on the sweet spot) that’s “selling” for $249. Shame on the Rangers’ ownership. They get their one and only demerit for that.
Dotel airmailed Colon several times. It might’ve been because the ball was slick, or maybe it was just due to the fact that he’s not THAT good, but regardless, on one of these occasions, the errant throw sailed so far above Colon that I was able to reach over the railing and catch it. Ha-HAAAAA!!! No shutout!!!
Colon and Dotel had brought an extra ball out with them, but Colon had airmailed Dotel a few minutes earlier, and the ball rolled all the way to the warning track in center field. Dotel didn’t bother retrieving it, so I had essentially caught their only ball. Colon looked up at me and waved his glove as if to say, “Throw it to me.”
“Are you gonna give it back when you’re done?” I asked.
I had no idea if he spoke enough English to understand me (he probably does–he’s been in the major leagues for a while) but he nodded, and I figured he wasn’t going to screw me over, so I tossed the ball to him (as a mediocre knuckleball) and watched contentedly as the two pitchers finished playing catch with it.
At one point, their throwing was interrupted by a procession of flag-toting Boy Scouts:
I found this to be rather amusing, and I loved the fact that Colon was holding MY ball with his multi-million dollar right hand. (If you look very closely at the photo above, you can see the other ball sitting on the field just to the left of the yellow “STANLEY” ad…right above the blueish flag, third from the right.)
It was such a slow day that THIS is the best action shot I can provide. It’s a photo of me taking a photo. Wow…
Colon eventually tossed me the ball, and then (after changing out of my White Sox costume) I got a photo with Brian:
The game started and I found a seat in the third row next to the batter’s eye…
…and then there were a bunch of rain delays. Four different delays? I don’t know. I lost count. The game itself lasted 2 hours and 37 minutes, and all the delays lasted a combined 2 hours and 27 minutes. It was a looooooong night. There wasn’t any action on the batter’s eye, but the delays did allow me to snag a couple extra balls.
At one point, I saw a glove with four balls sitting on a ledge in the White Sox bullpen…
…so I waited there for about 10 minutes until bullpen coach Juan Nieves came out.
“Any chance you could spare a baseball, please?”
He looked up at me, saw all the White Sox stuff, picked out the dirtiest ball (dirty because it had been rubbed up for a game), and tossed it up.
A bit later on, after the longest of the delays, the Sox ran and stretched and threw in shallow left field, as if they were warming up at the start of a normal game. Chris Getz (who has failed in the first two games of this series to hit his first career home run to me) tossed me a ball after he finished throwing, and that was that.
I was forced to snag Wiffle Balls from the mini-field in deep center:
That’s when you KNOW you’ve reached an all-time low as a ballhawk.
The stadium was pretty empty when the grounds crew removed the tarp for the final time…
…and I considered playing for foul balls behind the plate, but the thought of a home run landing on that batter’s eye drew me back to the bleachers.
In the final inning, there was a foul ball that flew back and hit the facade of the second deck and dropped RIGHT down to the exact spot where I would’ve been sitting (which didn’t have another fan within 20 feet), so that hurt, especially when nothing came my way in center field, but I still feel like I made the right decision. After two decades of chasing insignificant foul balls, I’m trying to be more home-run conscious, at least when I’m at a stadium that’s set up in such a way to increase the odds.
I have one more game here tonight. It’s gonna be on ESPN at 8pm ET, so you have NO excuse not to watch it and look for me. I’ll be sitting next to the batter’s eye in the ninth row (over the right edge of the Samsung ad in the photo above), and I’ll be wearing my ridiculous Waldo shirt, possibly over my gray hoodie if it’s cold. (Oy. The fashion police are going to arrest me.) Even if there’s a just a harmless fly ball hit in my direction, I’ll stand up so you can see me.
• 3 balls at this game
• 123 balls in 16 games this season = 7.7 balls per game.
• 585 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 155 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball
• 3,943 total balls
• 103 donors (click here and scroll down for the complete list)
• $20.38 pledged per ball
• $61.14 raised at this game
• $2,506.74 raised this season for Pitch In For Baseball
The last time I’d attended a game in Anaheim, the home team was known as the “California Angels” and the No. 1 song in America was “Waterfalls” by TLC.
Yeah, it was good to be back…
I made the trip from San Diego with my friend Brandon and his friend Sean. We arrived half an hour before the parking lot opened, so they offered to deal with the car while I walked in and wandered around the stadium with my camera. In the four-part pic below, starting on the top left and going clockwise, you can see a) the entrance to the parking lot, b) what it looked like as I started walking toward the stadium, c) the home plate gate from afar, and d) the rich vegetation on the way to right field:
Here’s another four-part pic which shows a) the right field gate, b) a peek through the gate, c) the Angels’ offices, and d) something random and weird that was connected to one side of the stadium.
When I made it back to the home plate gate, Brandon (wearing the shades) and Sean were there…
…and for the record, Brandon’s only an inch taller than me. It’s just the angle. But anyway, we were among the first fans to get on line (or “in line” as they preferred), and there was a pretty decent crowd by the time the stadium opened:
Thankfully, most of the fans went to the Angels’ side (on the 3rd base side) while others hung out near the foul poles. I bolted to the seats in straight-away right field and got off to a good start. In the four-part pic below, I’m a) trying to avoid the guy wearing the white shirt because he clearly knew what he was doing, b) enjoying the fact that I still pretty much had the section to myself, c) holding up my first ball of the day–a home run by Mark Teixeira that landed in the seats–while wearing a ridiculous-and-yet-somehow-almost-cool pair of MySpace sunglasses that Brandon had given to me and d) about to catch my second ball, which was thrown by Joe Saunders. (Brandon, by the way, works as a videographer for both MySpace and the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. Someday he’s gonna make a video of me snagging baseballs, but for now it’s all about the still photography.)
Here are four more pics in which I’m a) changing into my Rangers costume, b) jumping and catching a ball thrown by Josh Hamilton, c) climbing over seats in an unsuccessful attempt to snag a tape-measure blast, and d) using two hands (because I thought I was about to get jostled by the fans behind me) in preparation for a home run that I ended up catching on the fly. I have no idea who hit it.
That home run was actually my sixth ball of the day. My fourth was tossed by Kameron Loe (after a rude fan tried to prevent him from giving it to me by saying that I’d just been wearing an Angels hat), and the fifth was a home run that was dropped by a gloveless man and rolled down a couple steps right to me.
Brandon and Sean had both brought their gloves, but Sean didn’t snag a thing. Any guesses why?
Brandon, meanwhile, managed to catch a home run that sailed 10 feet over my head, and he made quite a nice play on it. The ball was sinking fast as it approached him so he gracefully reached over a row of seats and made a knee-high, back-handed grab–all this while holding his fancy camera in his right hand. Here he is with the ball:
My seventh ball of the day was thrown by Joaquin Benoit. It fell a bit short of the front row, and I nearly bobbled it back onto the field when several other fans (rightfully) tried to reach in front of me and snatch it.
This brings us to the dreaded eight-ball.
I was standing about a dozen rows back when a left-handed batter tattooed a ball over my head. It landed in an empty row and skipped up high in the air back toward me. At first I thought I was going to have an easy catch, but then as the ball continued its mini-arc in my direction, I realized it was drifting a little too far toward the field. I turned sideways so that my glove hand was closer to the field. (My back was now facing the RF foul pole.) The ball was sailing back over my head, but still appeared to be staying within my reach, so I braced myself and began leaning out for it. I reached farther…and farther…and the ball was coming closer…just a little bit farther…I knew I could reach it…and as I reached out an extra few inches at the last second and made the catch, I lost my balance and toppled over sideways onto the row of seats below.
I held onto the ball–that’s the good news–but unfortunately I slammed the left side of my rib cage against an armrest. My whole left side was instantly throbbing after that, and as soon as I was helped up, a pair of ushers rushed down the steps and asked if I was okay.
“I’ll be okay,” I said, fully aware that I’d be feeling the pain for days, if not weeks.
“Do you want some ice?” one of them asked.
“I’d need a whole body suit of ice,” I said, and since there were still more balls to be snagged, I declined their offer to take me to the first-aid room.
I was in serious pain, though. It hurt when I breathed. It hurt when I sat down. It hurt when I ran. And it killed when I laughed. It still hurts. A lot. Even right now, five days after the fact, as I’m sitting here writing this, it still hurts. Worse than ever. I feel it every time I take a breath. I feel it every time I move…or don’t move. It’s bad. I don’t know how to describe the pain other than saying it’s like I have the most intense cramp of my life. It sucks. And it was all my fault. But hey, maybe it was worth it because the ball, I later discovered, was the 1,000th I’d ever snagged outside of New York City.
As batting practice was coming to a close, I ran (ouch) to the the Rangers’ dugout and got a ball tossed to me by “special assignment coach” Johnny Narron. (Apparently transferring the BP balls from the basket to the bag is a special assignment.) Little did I know that Brandon had followed me and was taking photos from the concourse. Here I am getting the ball…
…and here I am wincing in pain as I headed up the steps:
In the photo above, the guy on my right wearing the black pants and blue shirt is an expert autograph collector named Sammy Wu (who you might remember from 8/6/08 at Shea Stadium). Check out the autograph he’d gotten earlier in the day:
I also got an autograph, but it wasn’t THAT impressive. Milton Bradley signed my ticket. Here it is:
I desperately wanted to reach double digits. I was one ball away, and I got my chance when Brandon Boggs and Chris Davis started playing catch in very shallow right field:
Davis ended up with the ball, tucked it into his glove, and walked over to a small group of women in the front row about 50 feet toward the foul pole. I kept pace with him by walking through the seats, and we both arrived at the same time.
“Chris,” I said almost apologetically, “is there any chance that you could possible spare that ball? Please?”
He looked up and gave a subtle nod, so I stood and waited while he signed a few autographs and posed for a photograph with his female fans. He finished 30 seconds later, took a few steps away from the wall, and flipped me the ball. SWEET!!! Double digits for the third game in a row! I celebrated by giving away one of my BP balls to a nearby kid.
I knew I wasn’t going to snag too many more after that. This was my only game in Los Angeles of Anaheim, so I was prepared to sacrifice a few innings (and therefore a few potential balls) in order to wander all over the stadium and take photos. I wanted to be in the upper deck before it got dark. That was a must. But since the game started at 6:05pm (an hour earlier than usual), I had an inning to spare and spent it in the seats behind the Rangers’ dugout. Hank Blalock was playing first base. I’d always liked him. I was glad to have a chance to get to add him to my list, and it seemed like I was in the perfect spot to get a third-out ball from him as he came off the field. This was my view:
Mark Teixeira ended the first inning by flying out to left fielder Marlon Byrd, who jogged in and tossed the ball one section to my right.
I called Brandon. He and Sean were sitting in their assigned seats (who DOES that?) along the right field foul line. Brandon wanted to wander with me. Sean wanted to sit and watch the game. I told Brandon I was going to stay behind the dugout for one more inning, and that no matter what happened I’d head over and find him after that.
Vladimir Guerrero led off the bottom of the second with a groundout to first base, and Torii Hunter followed with a single through the left side of the infield. Juan Rivera came up next and bounced into a 1-6-4-3 double play; pitcher Scott Feldman deflected the ball to shortstop Michael Young who flipped it to Ramon Vazquez who stepped on second and fired the ball to Blalock. Before Blalock even caught the ball, I was crouching at the bottom of the stairs. As he jogged off the field, I stood up and started shouting, and since it was still early in the game, I had no competition. Blalock had no choice but to throw the ball to me, and I reached out for the easy catch.
I met up with Brandon, took a few notes on a piece of scrap paper about how I snagged that ball, and then labeled the ball itself:
Finally, the in-game wandering and photo-taking was underway.
In the four-part pic below, you can see a) an usher guarding the tunnel that leads from the lowest concourse to the field level seats, b) the upper deck concourse, c) the view from the corner of the upper deck in right field, and d) the right field seats and “Budweiser Patio.”
Before we headed toward home plate, Brandon made me pose for a photo:
Then he got a real action shot–of me hitting a beach ball:
Brandon and I headed to the left field corner of the upper deck…
…and the wandering continued. In the four-part pic below, you’re looking at a) the field from the corner of the upper deck, b) the view from the ramps as we headed down to the field level, c) the same view as the first pic except from the field level, and d) the horribly-positioned bullpens:
The bullpens are horribly positioned in terms of snagging (because they waste home run real estate in straight-away left field) but they’re great in terms of spying on the players. There are a few rows of seats that wrap around the center-field end of the visitors’ bullpen. I went down there, and this is what I saw:
See the player sitting on the right? That’s Frank Francisco. Can you tell what he was doing? He was entertaining himself (and annoying the fans) by flicking pumpkin seeds over the fence and into the stands. When he finally saw me taking pictures, he flicked a whole bunch at me (one at a time), including two which I ate after they made it through the fence. Soooo funny. I even got to chat with him a little bit.
Then, realizing it was the sixth inning and that the Angels were winning, 4-3, I made my way toward the seats behind their dugout. That’s when Brandon peeled off and caught up with Sean so I was on my own as I a) walked behind the rock form-A-tion in center field, b) passed through the bar in deep right-center, c) snuck a quick peek at the seats behind first base, and d) headed through a desolate concourse toward the first-aid room.
I was in serious pain, so I got some ice and Ibuprofen and was, for the time being, back in business.
I met up with Sammy behind the dugout, and we watched as Francisco Rodriguez mowed down the Rangers for his 53rd save.
• 11 balls at this game
• 396 balls in 53 games this season = 7.5 balls per game.
• 549 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 135 consecutive games outside NYC with at least one ball
• 88 lifetime games with at least 10 balls
• 33 lifetime games outside NYC with at least 10 balls
• 19 different stadiums with at least one game with 10 or more balls
• 5 lifetime trips to the First Aid room
• 3,673 total balls
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
I’ve been to Yankee Stadium nearly 200 times. Yesterday, for the very first time, I went to the upper deck for batting practice. Risky move? Perhaps. But look what I saw when I made it down to the front row:
As you can see, there was a ball sitting in a puddle, and let me tell you, it was NASTY. This wasn’t your typical fresh-water puddle from a nice spring shower. This was like…I don’t know…West Nile Virus-inducing garbage water.
The upper deck provided some interesting views, although I couldn’t see where half the balls were landing unless I was standing in the front row. In any case, I got a good look at the fans down below…
…and of the bleachers…
…and I got my friend Dania (rhymes with “mania”) to take a photo of the back of my head:
I had mentioned The Head in my last entry and said I’d try to get a pic of it at the stadium, so here you go.
As for Dania, this was the second game of her life and her first at Yankee Stadium. She guarded my drawstring backpack (which I smuggled back inside–oh the horror) while I tried to catch the few home runs that were hit into the upper deck. The previous day, the Yankees and Rangers must’ve combined to hit 20 balls up there, but yesterday, there were only five. Yes, I counted, and I’m proud to say that I batted .400.
Before the Yankees finished hitting, I snagged a brand new commemorative ball that flew 10 feet over my head and conveniently bounced down into my empty row. Then, toward the end
of BP, I made a leaping catch for a homer that might’ve been hit by Chris Davis. I don’t know and it doesn’t matter. My next ball, however, HAD to come from a source that I could identify because it was going to be No. 3,500. Unfortunately (though not surprisingly) the upper deck was pretty crowded by this point, and I didn’t snag another ball.
During the game, I experienced another Yankee Stadium first: Monument Park. I’d never been there because it’s only open to the (ticket-buying) public until 45 minutes before game time, and I was never willing to sacrifice a sizable chunk of BP in order to check it out. Anyway, did you know that there are actually a few dozen seats out there? Nothing fancy. Just folding chairs. The whole area is reserved for handicapped seating, but I was able to get a couple tickets out there from a friend, and of course I went nuts with my camera. This was my view of the field:
This was the view to my left:
Yeah, netting. Not exactly ideal for catching an A-Rod homer, which is why I only stayed there for an inning, but let’s continue with the photo tour…
This was the view to my right…
…and let’s not forget the scenery directly behind me. This is one of my favorite pics:
The Yankee relievers walked right past me on their way to the bullpen. The player on the right is Dan Giese, and I think the guy on the left is David Robertson. See the pink bag he’s carrying? It’s one of the oldest pranks…not even a prank…just something silly that rookies are forced to do. At least Robertson (assuming that’s who it is) was given a pink Yankee bag. I once saw a rookie who’d been forced to walk across the field (in a fairly crowded stadium) with a Rainbow Brite backpack. Yikes.
This was the view from the center-field end of Monument Park:
Too bad I wasn’t there eight innings later when Mariano Rivera entered the game.
Here’s a general view of the area behind the left field wall…
…and here’s a little Gehrig/Ruth action for ya:
The Rangers managed to score a run off Rivera and take a 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth inning. After the third out, I snuck down to their dugout and actually hoped that the Yankees would tie it up. Not only do I love Rivera and feel pain in my heart whenever he struggles, but I was hoping for extra innings so there’d be more chances for my milestone ball to be a gamer.
Rangers reliever C.J. Wilson walked Wilson Betemit on four pitches to start the bottom of the ninth, and just when there was hope, Melky Cabrera bounced into a 6-4-3 double play. Johnny Damon followed with a ground out to first base, and that was it.
I was hoping that No. 3,500 would get tossed by Mister Wilson–THAT would’ve been cool to get a game-used/game-ending ball with a commemorative logo–but he tucked the ball deep in his glove and marched into the dugout with his head down. As the last few players were disappearing from sight, a random hand appeared from below the dugout roof and rolled a ball at me. I grabbed it without thinking and then it occurred to me: I just got my 3,500th ball and had no idea who provided it. The man on my left immediately started protesting and claiming that the ball was meant for him.
“Sorry,” I said as I stuck it in my pocket.
“No…REALLY,” he insisted. “That ball was from Josh Hamilton. He said he was going to hook me up.”
“I don’t know that,” I said and shrugged him off.
“The ball is SIGNED!” the guy yelled. “Look at the ball! If it’s signed by Josh Hamilton, then it’s MINE!”
I pulled the ball out of my bag, noticed the commemorative logo, and then turned it around to see the sweet spot…and sure enough, it was signed.
I handed it back to the guy and apologized, not that I’d really done anything wrong. Hamilton should’ve poked his head out and pointed to him, and then there wouldn’t have been any confusion, but whatever. He got his ball, and in a way I was glad it played out like that. Normally, when I catch a ball and give it away, I still count it as part of my collection, but in this case, it turned out that the ball had already belonged to this other fan, so I couldn’t count it. It was just a situation in which I was returning someone’s property, so as far as my stats are concerned, it’s like it never happened and the NEXT ball I get will be No. 3,500.
? 3 balls at this game
? 222 balls in 30 games this season = 7.4 balls per game.
? 526 consecutive games with at least one ball
? 115 consecutive games at Yankee Stadium with at least one ball
? 3,499 total balls
Sorry for not answering comments on my last entry. I read them all (someone should post a “Leave Omar Alone!!!” video on YouTube) and I’ll answer them at some point, possibly this weekend, but right now I just don’t have time. I also have a LOT of emails pouring into my inbox (which is a good thing except when people ask me for commemorative balls), so if you’re waiting for a response, please be patient. Things are just crazy right now…
I arrived at the stadium at 4pm, walked up to the ticket window, and asked what the cheapest available seat was.
Way up in the upper deck.
I stepped out of line and thought about it…took a little stroll…counted my money…made a phone call…hated my life at that moment…and walked back to the adjacent window where I was told that the cheapest seat was seventy bucks.
“Are you serious?!” I said. “Three minutes ago, the guy at the next window told me I could get one for forty-eight!”
“Oh, let me check on that,” said the new guy without making eye contact. Then, after five seconds of perfunctory keyboard-tapping, he mumbled, “Yeah, I could sell you one for forty-eight.”
(Nice work, Yankees. Good job. Way to go. Must be fun to be so popular that you can cheat your fans and lie to them about the cheapest available tickets and make them overspend. Tell them the cheap ones are sold out even when they’re not. Say the game is a “sellout” even when the attendance is 2,000 below capacity. Penalize the real fans who show up early by waiting until game time to release the cheapest seats. And then charge $8.50 for a beer. You guys sure know how to run a business.)
Just as I was about to hand over the money, a man and woman walked up next to me and said they had a few extra tickets they were trying to get rid of and would sell one for $25.
These people looked presentable. They were friendly and articulate. They’d just flown in from Utah (or so they said). They gave me a whole story about how they’d bought four print-at-home “tickets” and then upgraded to better seats at the last second and were now trying to sell the cheap ones to get their money back. Was this a scam? I had no idea, but I decided it’d be better to get ripped off for $25 by people unaffiliated with the Yankees than to knowingly GIVE the Yankees $48. Therefore, I bought one of these so-called “tickets” and got in line at Gate 6. The only thing that made it a “ticket” was the bar code which was going to get scanned at the gate. How did I know that these people hadn’t xeroxed this “ticket” 20 times and sold them to other suckers like me? I didn’t. But it turned out that the “ticket” was legit.
At the very instant that I got it scanned, one of the security guards started shouting. At first I hoped that she wasn’t shouting at me, and when it became apparent that she was, I pretended not to hear her.
Long story short: Drawstring backpacks are no longer allowed inside Yankee Stadium.
After security pulled me away from the turnstile (followed immediately by another “are-you-serious” moment), I was faced with a choice. I could either check my back across the street in the bowling alley…or throw it out.
I was so ********** at that point that I nearly went home. I was contemplating making THIS the final time that I ever set foot NEAR Yankee Stadium, let alone inside of it, but I surrendered to security. I just really wanted to be at a baseball game.
I told the guards (yes, plural) who surrounded me that I would throw out my bag, and they escorted me to the nearby dumpster. (Keep in mind that while this was happening, hundreds of fans were filing past me and heading into the stadium for batting practice.) I started taking out all my stuff, and I really had no idea how I was going to manage. In addition to my glove and hats, I had my camera, cell phone, keys, wallet, rosters, water bottle, rubber bands and Sharpies (for the glove trick), ball-point pens, and a book (“Three Nights in August” which is pretty good). It was crazy. And then, by some miracle, all the guards dispersed and turned their evil attention elsewhere. I quickly rolled up the bag and stuffed it into my pocket and entered the stadium. No one said a word. Once I reached the right field seats (which were already crowded), I took out my bag and put all my stuff back in it and began the painful process of trying to snag. Again, no one said a word…that is, about the bag…but when I tried to use the glove trick soon after, the on-field security guard ran over and yelled at me and said I wasn’t allowed. WHAAAAAT?!?! Was I in some alternate universe where the snagging gods hated me? Well, yes, and it’s called Yankee Stadium, but beyond that basic fact, I learned that there were new rules in effect in preparation for the All-Star festivities. Un-effing-believable.
The Yankees were on the field for the first half-hour, and I didn’t get a thing (which is a shame considering they were using both Shea AND Yankee commemorative balls). Shocker. Look how crowded it was out in the right field seats:
There wasn’t any room to maneuver in foul territory either:
And did you notice those obnoxious nets halfway down the foul line. Yankee Stadium is ball-snagging hell. (And yet I’ll still guarantee at least one ball for all Watch With Zack games there.)
I tried shouting at the players anyway whenever a ball rolled to the wall nearby, and at one point I heard a fan behind me yell, “HEADS UP!!!”
I looked up and saw a ball flying right at me. Home run? Line drive. Who’d hit it? Didn’t matter. I reached out and made a one-handed catch, and my streak was saved. Ten minutes later, I got a player (whom I later identified as Warner Madrigal) to toss me a ball, and I immediately handed it to the kid on my left. Guess what he did. He put away his glove and left the right field seats with his family and didn’t even try to snag another ball–and THAT is why I don’t like to give away balls during batting practice. I can’t really blame the kid. He got his ball, so why did he need to keep trying for another? But it’s the fact that he WAS trying that made me want to give him the ball in the first place.
The ball from Madrigal was my last of the day. I couldn’t get down to the dugouts for pre-game throwing. I couldn’t get down to the Rangers’ dugout after the game. Security was insane. But at least I was able to hang out in left field during the game. Derek Jeter was sitting on 199 career home runs, so I was hoping he’d turn on one and launch it in my general vicinity. I had plenty of room to run, but of course nothing came my way. Look at the nice wide aisle to my right:
After every pitch, I kept looking to the side to make sure that my path was clear. Unfortunately, my view changed slightly in a not-so-great way:
Here, let me show you a close-up in case you missed it:
Normally I wouldn’t publicly humiliate someone whose crack was hanging out (okay, that’s not exactly true), but this guy deserved it. He was about 7-foot-4 and kept standing up and blocking everyone’s view. And when people yelled at him and told him to sit down, he yelled back and told them to stand up, even though he was the ONLY person standing.
The highlight of the game (other than seeing A-Rod hit a monstrous home run to left-center) was getting the back of my head filmed for the Jumbotron by a roving cameraman. What’s the deal, you ask? Last summer I got my girlfriend to shave a hand into the back of my head (just because), and I recently had it done again. Perhaps I’ll get a pic of it today if I head back to The Stadium…
? 2 balls at this game
? 219 balls in 29 games this season = 7.6 balls per game.
? 525 consecutive games with at least one ball
? 114 consecutive games at Yankee Stadium with at least one ball
? 3,496 total balls
…and by the way, everyone always disses Shea Stadium for being a dump (which it is), but for the record, I’d like to point out that Yankee Stadium isn’t exactly Buckingham Palace: