Ready for a quick blog entry about a lame day? Good, here goes…
Yankee Stadium opened at 4pm, and for the first half-hour, there was NO action:
Then the sky got dark, and it started drizzling, and the grounds crew began to clear the field. In the photo below, you can see one guy actually rolling the L-screen away:
Just as I was contemplating how to announce my permanent retirement from ballhawking, the sky cleared and the grounds crew rolled the screens back into place.
The Yankees eventually came out and started throwing. Batting practice was still 10 minutes away and the place was packed:
I got completely shut out during the Yankees’ portion of BP.
Then the Mariners came out, so I changed into my Mariners gear and got Jason Vargas to throw me a ball in right field:
I was six rows back when he threw it. It sailed over everyone else’s head and came right to me. It was my 4,100th ball. Yay.
I headed back to left field, caught a homer on the fly, got Garrett Olsen to toss one to me, and then caught another home run ball which I later gave away.
It was impossible to use the glove trick because the stadium was crawling with security guards. I saw one other kid attempt to use the trick, and he was stopped within 10 seconds.
I had some close calls on other homers, but luck simply wasn’t on my side, and to make matters worse, I had to deal with a startlingly hostile fan. I deserve the Nobel Peace Prize for preventing an “incident” from arising. Let’s leave it at that.
I ran into a fellow ballhawk named Alex who’d already been to Yankee Stadium more than a dozen times this season. We had some time to kill so we wandered into the bleachers, and since it was my first time in that area of the stadium, I took a bunch of pics. (At the new stadium, anyone with any ticket can go in or out of the bleachers.)
I started at the back of the bleachers next to the batter’s eye in left-center field…
…and walked down to the front row. This was the view (of the visitors’ bullpen) to the right…
…and this was the view (of Monument Park) to the left:
Ever wonder what’s behind those shiny black windows? There’s a restaurant, and when I pressed my camera against the glass, I was able to get a peek inside:
Here’s the concourse that runs behind the bleachers:
Left field…right field…it’s all connected.
There’s a “cafe” on top of the batter’s eye. Here’s one side of it…
…and here’s the front:
Anyone can go there at anytime, and on the right field side, there’s a nice view of the Yankee bullpen. Here’s Andy Pettitte warming up:
The new Yankee Stadium is a glorious facility. There’s no doubt about that. It’s the team and the employees and the fans that ruin it.
As for the game…yawn. The Yankees won, 4-2, and five of the six runs scored on homers. I’m sorry but that’s just not interesting baseball. I don’t care that Griffey and A-Roid went deep. I was nowhere near either of those longballs so it didn’t matter. At least it was a quick game and I got the hell out fast.
• 4 balls at this game (ball No. 4,100 pictured here on the right)
• 283 balls in 32 games this season = 8.84 balls per game.
• 601 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 475 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball
• 132 consecutive Yankee games with at least one ball
• 4,103 total balls
• 111 donors (It’s not too late to make a pledge. Click here to learn more.)
• $24.34 pledged per ball
• $97.36 raised at this game
• $6,888.22 raised this season for Pitch In For Baseball
My snagging nearly got off to an early start. Check out this pic I took in the subway on my way to Yankee Stadium:
Here’s a close-up:
This may surprise you, but I did NOT make an attempt to snag this ball. It’s probably still there. Go for it. Grand Concourse at 149th Street. No. 4 train platform. Let me know how it goes. Watch out for the rats.
I had to deal with a few human rats in the bleachers, but that goes without saying. Late in batting practice, after I’d changed into my Orioles cap and bright orange Orioles T-shirt, a 40-something-year-old man (who was so fat that he had to leave his Yankees jersey unbuttoned) told me, “You’ll be lucky to make it out of here alive.” He wasn’t giving me a friendly warning. He was issuing a threat, and several other fans joined him in harassing me. I resisted the urge to tell the guy he’d be lucky not to die of a heart attack before the seventh inning stretch.
The rest of BP was great. The stadium had opened at 5pm, and by the time the clock said 5:07, I’d already snagged three balls. The first was tossed by Jose Veras on that little platform in front of the bleachers. (Security was nowhere in sight for the first couple minutes.) The second was a home run by Derek Jeter that landed on the batter’s eye and somehow rolled close enough to the side fence that I was able to reach over from the seats and grab it. The third was a home run by Bobby Abreu that I caught on a fly. I was standing in the aisle, and the ball came RIGHT to me. I didn’t move an inch. All I had to do was reach up two feet over my head. (Of course I first had to judge the distance that the ball would travel and then make a split-second decision whether to stay put or run back.)
The bleachers kept getting more and more crowded, but I wasn’t done. I kept positioning myself differently for every hitter, moving toward right-center for some guys and staying deep and toward the foul pole for others…like Jason Giambi who launched a deep fly ball behind me and to the left. Most of the nearby fans didn’t move until the ball had landed, at which point I was in full stride, and I grabbed it as it quickly started rolling down the steps. FUN!!!
A few minutes later, I found myself standing in the aisle at the front of the section when Wilson Betemit ripped a deep drive in my direction. I quickly determined that the ball was going to travel too far, so I spun around and put my head down and focused on NOT tripping as I bolted up half a dozen steps next to the tunnel. Two seconds later, when I figured the ball was about to land, I turned back toward the field and looked up and got temporarily blinded by the sun but then spotted the ball zooming toward me. It was still a little too high, and it was heading for the middle of the tunnel to my left, so I took one more step and reached as high as I could and lunged over the slanted railing to my glove side at the very last second and made the catch in the tip of my glove over the tunnel. Ohmygod, it was beautiful–easily one of my all-time Top Ten catches–and because I wasn’t yet decked out in Orioles gear, the whole section erupted with cheers and applause.
I used my glove trick to snag two more balls from the gap–one before the Yankees left the field and the other during the Orioles’ portion of BP–and would’ve been able to use it twice more if my friend Greg (aka “gregorybarasch”) hadn’t been there. Of course HE would’ve been able to use his cup trick twice more if not for me, and he also would’ve gotten the Veras ball. We just happened to end up in the same section at the same game so we made the best of it and agreed to share the balls that dropped into the gap.
We sat together during the game and didn’t snag any other balls. Nothing came close. Jeter doubled off the wall about 40 feet to our left, and A-Rod hit a home run that Veras retrieved in the bullpen, about 80 feet to the right. Bleh. The biggest highlight of the game was seeing a fan reach too far for a foul ball, tumble of out of his luxury suite, and briefly get stuck in the netting just below. Final score: Orioles 7, Yankees 6.
After the game, as fans were filing out of the stadium, I took a baseball out of my bag and waited in the concourse. Thirty seconds later, I spotted a deserving recipient: a little kid, not more than seven years old, who was with his dad and still wearing his glove, which appeared to be empty. “Did you catch anything today?” I asked, and when he said no, I handed him the ball. You could say he was pretty excited.
With just a few minutes to spare before security would be kicking everyone out, Greg went to the left field bleachers to look for ticket stubs, and I photographed my six remaining balls:
? 7 balls at this game
? 270 balls in 38 games this season = 7.1 balls per game.
? 534 consecutive games with at least one ball
? 121 consecutive games at Yankee Stadium with at least one ball
? 3,547 total balls
My next game?
Watch With Zack.
By the time Yankee Stadium opened at 5pm, the line outside the bleachers was VERY long:
That’s right…the bleachers. I’d been there for the first time in my life just nine days earlier at the Futures Game, then went back the next day for the Home Run Derby. This was my first regular-season game in the bleachers.
I was the first fan to enter the stadium, and it paid off. See the guy wearing No. 30 in the photo below?
That’s David Robertson, a 23-year-old reliever who’s been pitching extremely well since getting called up last month from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. If you don’t know about him, you should–and now you do. Anyway, I’d never even been able to get his attention from the seats near the foul pole, but on this day, because I was right behind him and had the bleachers to myself for five whole seconds, I convinced him to toss me a ball that had sailed over his head and rolled onto the warning track…and yes, it was a Yankee Stadium commemorative ball. For the last few weeks, I haven’t seen a single ball being used by the Yankees that has NOT had this commemorative logo.
I managed to get one more ball before the Yankees
finished their portion of BP at 5:40pm. It was a home run that landed
in the gap between the bleachers and the outfield wall, and I used my glove trick
to fish it out. The pic below shows this gap, and although it’s kinda
hard to see from this angle, there’s a net hanging from a steel cable
in the middle:
The bleachers had remained pretty empty while the Yankees were on the field. Here’s what the section looked like from the last row…
…and this was the view from the aisle down in front:
Nice, huh? You’d think I would’ve caught about 19 home runs out there, but there was a disappointing lack of longballs. I didn’t count the ones that reached the bleachers, but I’d say there were no more than half a dozen…in eighty minutes. It was lame, and by the time the Twins took the field, the section was packed:
Did you notice the kamikaze pigeon? That was pretty much the only thing that flew anywhere near me during BP, but it almost didn’t matter. Not only did I use my glove trick to pluck three more balls from the gap (the last of which I handed to a nearby kid), but I had a secret weapon:
You know how I own baseball caps of all 30 major league teams? Well, I’ve started buying T-shirts, and this one with “Twins” across the chest helped convince both Carlos Gomez and Dennys Reyes to toss balls my way. Ooh yeah.
Being trapped 400 feet from home plate didn’t leave many options once BP ended, so I ducked back into the concourse and headed around to the LF bleachers. At least there were bullpens over there, and as soon as I reemerged in the seats, I saw a group of kids shouting for a ball that was sitting somewhere down below. I squeezed to the front and peeked over the railing, and sure enough, there WAS a ball sitting in the flowerbed at the base of the stands. Just as I started lowering my glove, two things happened:
1) A groundskeeper hurried over and grabbed the ball and tossed it to a woman who needed three tries to catch it.
2) Half the kids recognized me (from various interviews and articles) as “that guy who collects balls.” They were all really cool. We talked for five minutes. A few of them had caught balls earlier in the day. It was a snagging love-fest, and we all posed for a group photo:
The people sitting in the front row were so annoyed by the fact that we were blocking their view of…nothing…that they wouldn’t move. That’s why you can see the backs of their heads on the lower right.
On my way back to the RF bleachers, I took a photo of something that needs to be shared. Remember during the Home Run Derby when two fans ran out onto the batter’s eye to chase one of Josh Hamilton’s bombs? Remember when one of these fans eluded the cops and raced down what probably appeared to be an empty tunnel? Well, in case ESPN didn’t provide a good view, here’s what it looks like from the other end:
For the first nine outs of the game, I sat in the front row in right-center with the following view to my left:
Wow. Too bad there weren’t any home runs that landed in the bleachers, and too bad I had to move when the rightful/gloveless owner of that seat showed up. I only saw a handful of fans with gloves the whole night. Why? Because the so-called “bleacher creatures” are too busy being obnoxious to do anything else, such as catch a baseball or actually think about what’s taking place on the field; when Dennys Reyes made two consecutive pick-off throws in the bottom of the sixth, the fans’ outrage and obscenity was so severe that you’d have thought he took a dump in Monument Park.
When Denard Span took his position in right field for the Twins, one fan screamed, “HEY, SPAN, YOU SUCK!!! YOU EVEN SUCK ON THE VIDEO GAME!!! YOU’RE NOT EVEN ON THE VIDEO GAME!!! YOUR MOTHER’S A YANKEE FAN!!! Then another fan yelled, “Drink lotsa water, Spanny! Yer gonna be running around all night!”
Later, when the peanut vendor made an appearance and shouted, “Hey, peanuts
here!” another fan yelled, “Don’t crush the nuts! Hey! Sack of nuts
here! Big nuts here! Are they salted or unsalted? He’s got salty nuts!”
When a fan walked by with an “I love NY” T-shirt, another fan shouted, “New York hates you!”
It was like this all night.
At one point, the creatures spotted a fan who was both a) on the phone and b) wearing a button-down shirt and tie. Good looking guy. Young. Not more than twenty-five years old. Casual business attire. No penny loafers or tweed blazer or anything too conservative. Just a nice, relaxed, dressy look. Well, about a hundred fans started chanting in unison: “LOSE THE TIE, LOSE THE TIE…” which was followed by, “OFF THE PHONE, OFF THE PHONE…” When the young man failed to end his call, the fans chanted, “BUY BUY BUY, SELL SELL SELL, BUY BUY BUY, SELL SELL SELL…” Then one of the fans hollered, “At least loosen it!!!” Finally the guy loosened his tie, at which point the whole section chanted, “YOU STILL SUCK, YOU STILL SUCK…”
It was funny at first but got old really fast. Can you imagine sitting through all that trash-talking day after day? One fan had the right idea and listened to his walkman throughout the game. (I’m surprised he didn’t get made fun of for simply having a walkman.)
And oh my God, you should’ve heard what the creatures shouted at the few fans who were dumb enough to wear Mets gear. I can’t even repeat it on this blog.
Overall, it was a fun experience, and I hope to make it back out to the bleachers before the season is through.
Final score: Yankees 8, Twins 2.
? 7 balls at this game
? 260 balls in 36 games this season = 7.2 balls per game.
? 532 consecutive games with at least one ball
? 119 consecutive games at Yankee Stadium with at least one ball
? 3,537 total balls
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the Twins were using a combination of commemorative balls and regular balls. I wish I didn’t have to say this…BUT…please don’t email me and ask for a commemorative ball. I can’t count the number of requests I’ve gotten. It’s really getting out of hand. Sorry if this makes me seem greedy, but I truly love owning every single one of these special balls. I’m not interested in selling any, I’m not going to trade any, and I have no plans to give any of them away. Ever. Not even to my own future kids. I will take these balls to the grave and be buried with them. (Actually, I plan to be cremated, but you get the point.) If you’ve been reading this blog all season, then you know that I’ve started giving away balls at just about every game I attend, but those are regular balls, and I give them out AT the stadium (to kids with gloves who are trying hard to snag on their own). Once I take a ball home, that’s it. It’s not going anywhere. Especially commemorative balls. That’s just how it is. Some collectors keep every single ball. Others give most of their balls away. I fall somewhere in the middle, and I hope that’s okay.
Yesterday, when I arrived at Gate 6, there were already two guys on line, both of whom are regular readers of this blog. One was Nelson (aka “nelsonvarona” for those of you who read the comments), and the other was a guy named Ming (who doesn’t comment…yet). They had not seen my entry about the previous day because I’d only posted it a couple hours earlier, so Ming pulled out his iPhone and accessed the blog and read it on the spot.
THAT, unfortunately, no offense to Ming, was the highlight of my day. The right field seats, as usual, were ridiculously crowded during BP. I had several close calls, but things just weren’t going my way. No lucky bounces. No generous players. Lots of competition. Nothing hit right to me. It was brutal, and after an HOUR, I still hadn’t snagged anything. I was so stressed that Nelson (who caught a commemorative home run ball early on) got stressed just by being near me. I’m telling you, it was not fun.
I wasn’t even the only fan with a ball-retrieving device. Ming had a glove trick and there were three other fans with cup tricks–all within a 100-foot wide section.
Finally, after losing several battles for balls that rolled onto the warning track, I found myself in a direct competition with one other guy with a cup trick. The ball was just a few feet from the edge of the outfield grass, so I had to swing my glove way out and knock the ball closer. The guy was ten feet to my left, so he swung his cup from side to side and really had no chance. Thankfully, I managed to move the ball where I needed it and got it to stick inside my glove. As I was carefully lifting it back up, the guy kept swinging his cup and actually hit my glove. The jerk was trying to knock the ball loose, and when he failed, he had the audacity to ask me for it.
Ahh, yes, Yankee Stadium.
Toward the end of BP, I caught a home run that was hit by a lefty on the Orioles. I was standing in the aisle behind the wall, and the ball was coming right to me. I took a step forward so that I would need to jump for it, therefore preventing anyone else from reaching in front of me. And that’s exactly how it played out. Half a dozen hands reached up, and my glove was a foot in front of them all.
That was it for BP.
I hung out in left field for the first third the game, which was an accomplishment in and of itself. Look how crowded it was:
There were hardly any empty seats, even 450 feet from home plate, and even though A-Rod went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, I still got a game-used ball. Aubrey Huff flied out to left field to end the top of the 3rd inning. Johnny Damon caught it and chucked it into the crowd. Unlike everyone else around me, I was already standing in the aisle before he turned around, predicting that this might happen. The ball came right to me, but I didn’t take any chances by waiting for it to
reach my glove. Just as I did with the BP homer, I took a step forward and jumped. Given the fact that I was at Yankee Stadium, several fans crashed into me and knocked me backward. I was fine, but the woman behind me had her drink splashed all over her face, arms, chest, and lap. The security supervisor came over, saw that I had the ball, assumed that the drink incident was my fault, asked to see my ticket, and kicked me out of the section. (I still snuck back in for A-Rod’s at-bats.)
And that, my friends, was it. Three lousy balls. Seven in two days. At this rate, I’d have to go to Yankee Stadium eight times to equal The Day I had at Nationals Park last month.
? 103 balls in 12 games this season = 8.6 balls per game.
? 508 consecutive games with at least one ball
? 112 consecutive games at Yankee Stadium with at least one ball
? 3,380 total balls