5/17/13 at Yankee Stadium

The order of my posts will not be in order for a little while because my hard drive on my computer crashed, and until I can copy my photos over onto a new drive, 9/19/12 at TD Bank Ballpark and 10/11/12 at Yankee Stadium will not be published. If you want to see how I did on September 19th, here.

This would be my first game of 2013, and it was a birthday present from my parents, as my birthday was the following day. My Dad had picked me up two hours early from school so that we could get something to eat on the way, as well as get to the stadium in time for the gates to open. The drive from where I live to Yankee Stadium is about an hour and a half. When we arrived, we took a lap around the stadium, and I saw the spot in front of Gate 4 where the Bluth’s Frozen Banana Stand had been the day before.

spot

When we arrived at Gate 6, because there were no benches open to sit at and we were planning on getting in line very soon, we just stood around by the benches, and gazed at the house that Steinbrenner built.

stadium

We also saw this guy.

'Merica

When the time finally came for the gates to open, I ran inside towards the right field seats and began to look for easter eggs, but I ended up finding nothing. Every Yankee batter was hitting the ball to left field, and whenever there was a ground ball or two hit into right field, Ichiro would get it and toss it to a younger kid in the seats around, he ended up doing this four times. One of the kids ended up getting a ball by saying that it was his birthday. This would have worked for me a few years ago, but the kid factor is just about out of reach now, as I am almost six feet tall.

Also, when I first got into the stadium, one of the younger kids was close behind, and when he got into the seats, he saw a player standing next to Boone Logan, who didn’t have his number out and happened to be black. The kid immediately begins screaming, “CC SABATHIA!!!!! LOOK OVER HERE!!!!” Of course, it wasn’t CC, and as the kid continued this for about a minute, the player (I’m still not sure who it was) put his glove up in order to shut the kid up.

I eventually gave up on right field, which I probably shouldn’t have, and headed over to left field where my seats were.

bp view

The seats began to fill up at about this time, and I began to worry that I would get shut out and my small streak with at least one ball would end, even though it was still very early in BP. The main part of the left field stands, in front of the bleachers were gradually filling up as I watched home run after home run being hit to right field. Because of this, I moved over to the sections next to the foul pole and farther away from the tunnels. After the Yankees had left the field and the Blue Jays had begun their portion of BP, Jose Bautista and the group of hitters that he was with began to hit bombs into the sections around me, many of them going directly above the Syracuse sign on the second deck.

syracuse

I finally got my chance when someone crushed a home run in my direction. It was headed straight at my Dad who was looking at his email on his phone. Several people yelled heads up, and at the last second, he put his hands on his head as the ball sailed through another fans hands. It smacked underneath his seat and ricocheted into the row right above me. I got on my knees and planted my glove over the ball.

glove with ball

A few minutes after I had gotten my ball, someone in the same group of hitters obliterated a ball into the far side of the bleachers towards the foul pole. A girl went over to pick it up, because she was basically the only one in the bleachers, and just as she was walking back to her seat, a line drive homer sailed about two inches above her head, ricocheted off of some of the bleachers in front of her, and bounced directly to the only other fan in the section. Everyone who had been watching let out a collective sigh of relief.

The rest of BP was pretty uneventful, although it was entertaining watching Zack Hample trying to get his first ball, (Sorry Zack!) which he finally did on the second to last pitch of BP. I seem to be a bit of a bad luck charm whenever I go to a game that Zack is also at. On 8/15/12 at Yankee Stadium, Zack also struggled to get on the board because of the horrible rain delay which meant no batting practice, and on 8/31/12 at Yankee Stadium, we both botched our shot at catching Curtis Granderson’s 201st career home run.

I decided to relax and stay in my seat during the game, because I was already on the board. However, my lack of Blue Jays gear probably cost a ball or two, because there were several fans around me, all noticeably older than myself, in Blue Jays gear who ended up getting balls mainly from Alex Andreopoulos, their bullpen catcher. However, my seats were absolutely perfect. I was in the fifth row in section 136, with seats 23 and 24, which for those of you who don’t know are the two seats closest to the visiting team’s bullpen, one of them being an aisle seat. I was able to watch Mark Buehrle warm up up close.

buehrle

It was a very relaxing atmosphere for the majority of the game, with not one home run being hit. This was the view from my seats for the entire game.

view

Also flying in circles around the entire stadium for the majority of the game was a blimp advertising Despicable Me 2.

despicable me 2

Lately, there has been a noticeable drop in attendance for the Yankees, which isn’t that great of news as a Yankees fan, but great news as a ballhawk. I don’t want this to become the Yankee Stadium of the late 80s and early 90s. Even though that is a more recent image, you get the point.

When the game ended, and the Yankees won 5-0 thanks to a fantastic performance by Hiroki Kuroda, I listened to Sinatra and saw everyone walking to their cars and taking up the entire street.

walking back

Here’s a nice panorama taken from my seat during the game.

panorama

STATS:

1 ball at this game

4 consecutive games with a ball

1 ball this season

33 lifetime balls

Here’s the box score:

box score

A few days ago, I was browsing mygameballs.com when I came across an article written by Mateo Fischer talking about the death of Baltimore ballhawk Matt Hersl. I saw that it had happened over a month ago, but this was the first time I was hearing about it. I’ve only been to Baltimore to ballhawk three times, but I distinctly remember seeing Matt on each occasion. At my first ballhawking game ever, on April 6th of last year, I remember seeing Matt being positioned perfectly for each Oriole batter that was in the cage and catching homer after homer after homer on the fly. It blew me away how good some people could be at ballhawking. After batting practice that day, while walking through the concourse, Matt walked up to my Dad and I and asked if I was willing to sell either of the balls that I had gotten that day, more specifically the commemorative one. My guess was that out of all of the balls that he had caught, none of them had the commemorative logo, and he was looking to get one as soon as possible. We politely declined and went our separate ways, not thinking we would see him again, which we didn’t. The trip to Baltimore in August had been unplanned and we were looking forward to seeing if he would be there again. The first of the two games that we were at did not have batting practice, so we did not see him, as I have heard he was always wandering during the games. In the second game, the one thing that sticks out from bating practice was watching him run back and forth whenever a ball was hit, even when he knew he had no chance of getting it. He seemed like the fan that many people would like to be like, and it is a tragedy that he left us so soon and in this way. RIP.

9/23/12 at Citi Field

This was going to be my last game at Citi Field for the season, so I wanted to make every second count if I wanted to get a 50th anniversary ball. Of course, when I ran in and up one of the escalators in the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, I found out that there was no batting practice. However, there were a few Marlins players warming up.

Lucky for me, they were warming up right in front of my seats. After a few minutes, when they were done playing catch, I called out to who I think was Nathan Eovaldi. He looked at me, nodded, and lofted the ball high in the air. I caught it without contention from anyone else, and I saw that it was one of the Marlins commemorative baseballs.

IMG_4106

I was thrilled to already be on the board and did not need to stress myself out anymore, because I had already reached my goal for the day, even though it wasn’t one of the Mets commemorative baseballs.

I took the previous photo from my wonderful seats two rows behind the field, which my Dad was able to get for a fantastic price.

Warmups

There wasn’t much to do before the game, so I sort of ended up wandering aimlessly and seeing what trouble I could cause. Just kidding. But I did want to get behind the Mets dugout, which I figured would be simple because I am a kid. When I got there, I sat down, and to my surprise saw a large amount of gum and candy come flying over the top of the dugout. I managed to grab a few pieces, which I was not able to chew because of my braces. I was able to stay there for about 15 minutes before a security guard came around checking everyone’s ticket. At that point, the Marlins were finishing up their pregame warmups and were signing some autographs. I first got Heath Bell to sign the ball that I had gotten earlier, which was a bit awkward because I did not have a pen with me. Thankfully, someone was kind enough to lend one to me. Josh Johnson then quickly signed for a few fans, and I ended up getting him right next to Heath.

IMG_4108

Later on, a few minutes before the first pitch, Scott Cousins came out of the dugout and began to chat with the people sitting in front of me, who I can only assume were his family or friends. I am hoping to one day get the entire 2012 Marlins roster to sign the ball, but since they practically traded away their entire team, it will be quite the challenge.

My Dad and I basically ended up wandering the ballpark for the majority of the game, attempting to get a foul ball, or something, but to no avail. At one point, I went down and sat right next to the ball boy, hoping to get a ball from him, but soon realized with all of the five year old children around me that I had no chance. While sitting in my actual seat, only one foul ball came anywhere close, and it was about ten rows directly over my head. From what I could see, it was snagged by another ballhawk wearing Marlins gear. This was the view from my seat.

IMG_4099

At the end of the game, my Dad and I returned to our seats in an attempt to get an umpire ball, which would be my last chance at a Mets commemorative for the season. The section that we were sitting in was the one right next to the umpire tunnel, so I thought that my chances were pretty good. I knew that the home plate umpire was Paul Schrieber, but that did not pay off. I had made my way to the umpire tunnel before Ruben Tejada had won the game for the Mets, so I was expecting a baseball. As he walked by, I was ignored, and the two baseballs that he handed out went to two grown men.

I was disappointed to say the least, but I did reach my goal.

Here’s a cool photo of David Wright that I took.

Wrightyo!

Here’s the box score:

Screen Shot 2013-05-16 at 6.04.21 PM

STATS:

1 ball at this game

2 consecutive games with a ball

28 balls this season

31 lifetime balls

9/12/12 at TD Bank Ballpark

I was back at TD Bank Ballpark for my second game in 4 days and I wasn’t sure how big the crowd would be, because it was a game in the middle of the week. I wasn’t sure how many kids would be there because of school, or how many adults there would be. I was sure that the crowd would be smaller than it would be at games on Saturdays and Sundays. When I got into the stadium, it looked like the average crowd, but it was a much more relaxed atmosphere, probably because there weren’t nearly as many kids.

There were a few pairs of Patriots still throwing, so I decided to go down and see if there was any chance of getting a ball. Someone had just finished a bullpen session, and as they were walking back to the dugout, I asked if there was any chance for a ball, and they didn’t even bother to look my way (probably because they’re such superstars playing in the Atlantic League). After that, there was only one pair of players who were still throwing, and the player who ended up with the ball apparently knew the family next to me, and immediately handed it off to one of the kids.

The Patriots were playing the Sugar Land Skeeters, the team the Roger Clemens “plays” for, although not surprisingly, he did not travel with the team from Texas.

During the game, I decided to do something different for a change, and go sit in the area of the stadium, that has three levels of picnic tables – all three of which were deserted for the entire game.

This is not my photo, but one I found on flickr, taken by someone with the username 66baseball. What you can’t see in the photo is that directly below the first row of tables, there is the visiting teams bullpen. It’s fun to go over there sometimes and just listen to the players conversations. (Not creepy, right?) While I was there, I was tempted to ask one of the pitchers if they thought Clemens was an absolute douche like I do (What guy has highlights in their hair at age 50?), but I decided against it.

I was only there to try to get a ball, and then I would be on my way. That chance came when someone on the Patriots hit a bouncer right to one of the relievers, and since I was the only fan in sight, I was pretty sure that I would get it tossed up if I asked for it. When I did, one of them peeked over their shoulder, and after about 10 seconds, Will Startup got my attention and tossed me a ball, that I’m not so sure was game used because of how dirty and scuffed it was. It probably was used at some point, because it was commemorative.

I then said my thank you’s and went back to our seats, which were close to the stairway that leads out of the stadium, just in case a ball happened to be fouled off into the parking lot. I got my chance when Dominic Ramos fouled one back, and I was the first one out. It was sitting right in the middle of the parking lot, and just like that, I had ball #2.

That would be my last real baseball of the night. The Patriots won the game on a walk off home run by Jeff Nettles. After every win, the Patriots throw victory balls into the crowd (small, squishy balls). I had never gotten one before, so as soon as they won, I positioned myself where I knew a few would be thrown. One of the Patriots threw one right over my head, which then trickled down the steps, and into my waiting hands. They look like this, except they are stamped with the team’s logo and “2012 Patriots win ball” and they don’t have the holder.

And it was time to leave, after a good night at the game.

STATS:

2 balls at this game

6 minor league balls this year

9/9/12 at TD Bank Ballpark (Double-header)

Before I start this entry, there will only be pictures of the balls that I snagged, because I forgot my camera.

GAME 1:

This was my first minor league game in two months and I had been looking forward to it for a few days, mostly because I would be getting 5 free innings of baseball, with the two teams playing two seven inning games. When I got inside the stadium I saw that some Patriots were finishing up the pregame throwing, and after a couple of them finished up, I held up my glove half heartedly (because I was only there to snag game balls) and the ball was thrown to the kid on my right. My Dad had gotten aisle seats in the fourth row next to the Patriots dugout, even though we could have sat anywhere we wanted with even the cheapest available tickets.

In the top of the first inning, when my Dad went to get us some food and water, the Lancaster Barnstormer’s cleanup hitter, Fehlandt Lentini popped up a foul ball about 5 rows behind me. A lady was sitting right where it was going to land, but she had no interest in trying to catch it. By the time the ball began to descend, I had moved about two or three rows back, but I realized that the ball was going to land before I could reach it, so I froze. I was waiting for it to bounce high up in the air or begin to roll down the steps. When it slapped off the concrete, it went high up in the air, and it was going to come down again right where I had been sitting. I drifted down the steps, stuck my glove out, and felt the ball come down in the pocket. I got a small ovation from the even smaller crowd and then took a seat and took a look at the ball.

And it was a commemorative! I had been hearing rumors all throughout the season that the Patriots as well as the rest of the Atlantic League had been using these baseballs to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the League. Earlier this season, I even went out of my way to buy one from the team store, because I wasn’t sure if they would be used during games.

Above the seats along the right field foul line is a whole bunch of games that kids usually play throughout the game. A few foul balls occasionally land up there, and a few more land outside the stadium, which is a beautiful thing because every fan is granted reentry as many times as they need it. Late in the game, there was a foul ball that was hit directly over my head and into the play area. There was a man who was walking with his son in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the ball came down directly on top of his head. The sound the ball made when it bounced off of his skull sounded more like the ball went off a slab of concrete.

I immediately sprinted up the steps to see that someone had already gotten ice and napkins from a nearby concession stand, to try to keep the swelling down and to keep pressure on his head so that it wouldn’t bleed as profusely as it had been five seconds earlier. Long story short: the man was able to walk away with his son to the first aid room to get treatment, and a stretcher was not needed. A few minutes after the man had gotten up, my Dad said that it is a wonder that no one has been killed at this stadium. In the few games that I have been to at TD Bank Ballpark, I have seen some injuries up close. A different incident happened 10 days after this one, a little girl was struck by a foul ball last year, and I was hit by a foul ball last season. But this can only be expected when more fans are sitting closer to the field at minor league games.

I played the staircase that led out of the stadium for about half the game and should have had a few foul balls, but a man and his young son were always the first ones out. It might just be a better idea standing outside of the stadium during games from now on.

Anyway, back to snagging. About an inning after the incident, Fehlandt Lentini once again hit a foul ball towards me, except over the play area and out of the stadium. I had gotten a good read on it. I had noticed that it had struck a few tree branches before I lost sight of it, so I knew that it wasn’t going to be in the parking lot. I was the first one to get out for what seemed like the first time, and I had jusged it correctly. There it was, just waiting for me to pick it up from the base of the tree.

Two foul balls from the same player in one game! Unfortunately, that would be all that I got for the first game of the double header.

GAME TWO:

By this time, most of the fans had left the stadium after game one and there was literally only about 100 people left, a number which continued to decline throughout the game. I decided that my best chance of getting foul balls with all of these empty seats around me would be by sitting on top of everything, in the last row of a section. This move was about to pay off when the Lancaster leadoff batter hit a foul ball that was coming right for me. I assumed that it was going to make it over my head and go into the play area, but of course, with my luck, I misjudged it, and it hit the seat that I had been sitting in, where it trickled down the steps and was snagged by a man who gave it to his son.

If the two teams had been fouling off pitches that ended up going outside of the stadium like they had been doing the previous game, I would have had about 15 baseballs, but that wasn’t the case. Since nothing was going my way over where my actual seats were, I moved behind the third base dugout and tried to get a couple third out balls, but I soon found out that that would not be happening because there were so many kids waiting for one who were a lot younger than me. No foul balls were coming anywhere near me, and I didn’t have any opportunities until someone on the Barnstormers hit a line drive home run over the left field wall.

Since there aren’t any seats in the outfield, I knew that it was probably just sitting there. So, being the only one that thought there was a chance of getting the ball, I ran over to see a Lancaster’s Mike Johnston walking towards the ball. I quickly asked him if he could please toss it up. He peaked over his shoulder and told me that he would give me the other ball that was in his hand, which was a home run ball that was hit by Yusuf Carter of the Patriots earlier in the game. He didn’t mention Carter, but he did say it was “my team’s home run from earlier.” Carter’s home run was the only one that the Patriots had hit. I guessed that he was going to give the other ball to the guy on his team who had hit it. I’m just hoping that he was telling the truth about the ball. Here is my first home run ball (what should be my third):

For the rest of the game, my Dad and I kind of just wandered around and eventually sat right behind home plate for the last few innings, where we watched it horror as a boy who was about  years old literally jumped the bar between the protective screen and the seats, where he was basically just waiting to be smacked by a foul tip. We had no idea where his parents were, or why an usher hadn’t done anything, but when he got down at the end of the inning, we moved back to our original seats. Right in front of those seats is a small compartment at the end of the Patriots dugout where Yusuf Carter always keeps his catchers gear. This meant that I would be able to get the home run ball signed at the end of the game!

When the game ended, Carter came over to his compartment after catching 7 innings. I immediately asked him if he could quickly sign his home run ball. He must have said “In a second,” because after I asked him again, thinking he hadn’t heard me, he told me to “Hold on!” I apologized, and a few seconds later, this was what I was holding:

He didn’t sign on the sweet spot, but oh well. And then it was time to leave.

STATS:

3 balls at these games

4 minor league balls this year

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9/12/12 at TD Bank Ballpark, 9/19/12 at TD Bank Ballpark, and 9/23/12 at Citi Field should all be up soon. I am also planning on going to a Yankees playoff game as my last game of the  season.

8/31/12 at Yankee Stadium

My uncle who had invited us to go to Seattle earlier in the summer was visiting for a couple of weeks, so we had decided to visit Yankee Stadium before he left. Late in the drive there, I thought that we had gotten very lost in the streets of the Bronx, but all of a sudden, we saw the giant letters of YANKEE STADIUM towering over everything else. My Dad let my brother and I out, and the two of us walked the rest of the way, while they found a parking space.

We were the only ones in line for about 10 minutes. It was nice having no one behind us for that time, when there is normally a line half a mile long.

I ran into Zack Hample who stationed himself in the other line, and we talked for a few minutes, and then the gates opened. I was one of the first ones in, and there were home runs being hit left and right, unfortunately, they were hit where there was already people, except for one that landed in the bleachers, where no one was yet. (Note to self: Go to the bleachers before anywhere else at Yankee Stadium.) Eventually, a security guard walked over and got it, and since I was the youngest person asking for it, he tossed it down to me.

After that, the right field seats started to fill up, so I ran over to left field, where I tried to get a ball from the Orioles pitchers without any luck, but I did see something strange, one of the Orioles pitchers overthrew a ball that hit a guy who was on the phone on the head, and all of a sudden a glove came into the stands that was apparently trying to stop the ball from going into the seats. Both the ball and glove were given back, with no questions asked.

Anyway, in the actual left field seats, I had been yelling to David Phelps to toss me a ball and at the very end of the Yankees portion of BP, he turned around and threw one to me, which was then intercepted by a very prominent ball snagger, who had already gotten a ball from Phelps, who had seen the whole thing. He pointed to me as if to say that that was who it was supposed to go to, and the ball snagger looked behind him to see me, and then a smaller kid who wasn’t wearing a glove behind me, who he handed the ball to. If it hadn’t been the end of their batting practice, I would’ve gotten a different ball from Phelps, but that wasn’t how the cookie crumbled.

The Orioles didn’t hit anything near me, and since the outfield seats were filled up like the game had already started, I headed up to the right field bleachers. At the end of BP, a security guard walked in to the bullpen and tossed up the baseballs that had been hit there, mostly by Chris Davis. He gave one to me, even though I was wearing Orioles gear. I noticed that there were still baseballs in the other bullpen, so I quickly changed into my Yankees gear, but somehow didn’t get one tossed up to me.

I tried to get a ball from Mike Harkey, but before he made his way into the bullpen, I felt like I was going to pass out, so I went to one of the concession stands on top of the Mohegan Sun Sports bar, and asked if I could have a cup of ice, to which they responded, “We’re not allowed to give out cups.” They eventually gave me a paper cup and filled it with some water, and I felt much better, but in that time, someone had called my Dad, which meant that I basically had to go back to my seat. A cop had already called the paramedics, even though there was absolutely no need, and as my Dad put it, on our way back to the seats, “We were poison up there for the rest of the game.”

As for the game, I had aisle seats in the same section that Zack was sitting in and had a good view of this guy.

After the eighth inning ended, my uncle and I ventured over to the Orioles bullpen to try to get a ball, which happened very quickly. After five minutes, one of the Orioles bullpen catchers saw that I was in Orioles gear and tossed one to me, along with two other fans who had been waiting. The one that I got was rubbed up. When I got back to my seat in the bottom of the ninth inning, Zack was at the top of the staircase, where the top rows were practically empty. We talked a little, and all of a sudden, we heard the sound of the ball hitting Curtis Granderson’s bat, and I turned around to see the ball going a few feet to my left. I was blocked off because my row was filled up. The ball missed Zack’s glove by a few inches and ricocheted off my brother’s back, and into the hands of the fan sitting next to him.

It really annoyed me that I hadn’t been paying attention, but there was nothing that I could do. I was just glad that it hadn’t been a milestone home run for Granderson, but it almost was. It was #201 of his career. In the following picture, you can see me as one of the only fans in Orioles gear, right at the tunnel. Zack was on the ground looking for the ball.

And a few minutes after all that happened, the game was over. I did okay, in terms of snagging. I could’ve done much better.

Here’s the box score:

STATS:

3 balls at this game

1 consecutive game with a ball

27 balls this season

30 lifetime balls

8/15/12 at Yankee Stadium

This wasn’t a normal game for me. I knew that my streak was in serious danger even before I was on my way to the stadium. A few months earlier, the leader of my boy scout troop sent out an email advertising tickets for the Yankees vs Rangers game on August 15th. There was no question in my mind that I was going on this trip, even if it meant that the bus that would be bringing me there would be getting everyone to the Bronx after the gates opened. This was my view on that bus:

Luckily, the charter bus left on time, and when I got to gate 6, the line was just about down to gate 8 (I’m exaggerating a bit). As the gates were about to open, I tried a shady tactic that I will only be able to use for another year or so. I went to the the front of the line, and slipped in right as everyone got their tickets ready. I didn’t see the point in running in, because I knew that there wasn’t going to be any BP, and this was the sight after a few minutes.

I walked around the field level for a few minutes until a few Rangers pitchers came out to throw. I also saw Zack Hample near the pitchers, but he wouldn’t be there for long. Only two baseballs I saw were given away. One was tossed to a kid near me, and the other was thrown into the second deck were Zack had been yelling from. My last chance to get a ball from the Rangers was when Mike Maddux, the pitching coach finished throwing with a pitcher. I called out to him and walked about 10 rows back alongside him so that I wouldn’t go unnoticed. He threw it – but right over my head and into the second deck. I decided to head back and see if anyone had decided to sign. Derek Holland had, and I got him on my ticket.

There was absolutely nothing to do for the remaining minutes before the scheduled game time, so after a little while, I went to the corner spot on top of the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar and hoped that Mike Harkey would throw me  a ball so that I could keep my streak going. After a 1 hour and 45 minute rain delay, Harkey finally came out, but did not throw me a ball. There was one that was relatively close to my Dad but there really wasn’t much of a chance of him getting it. And just like that, I knew my streak was over. I wasn’t really allowed to wander around because I was with a group… and this was the view from where I was sitting.

Yesh. It was nice though, not needing to be ready on every single pitch and having time to eat my food during the actual game. During the game, Josh Hamilton had both RBIs on the night for the Rangers, crushing two absolute bombs, one of which went about halfway into the bleachers in right field. The Yankees ended up winning 3-2, which I wasn’t able to see because there was an 11:00 curfew to be back to the bus.

Here’s the box score:

My next game is the 31st at Yankee Stadium.

8/10/12 at Camden Yards

This was going to be my last game of the year in Baltimore, so I wanted it to be really satisfying in terms of the number of baseballs I was able to collect. Because my Dad and I were so far back in line the day before, we wanted to make sure that we would be at the front the next day. Before anything, we went to get lunch at Potbelly’s, where they serve what is arguably the best chicken salad sub that I have ever had the pleasure of eating. And then we went to the Eutaw Street gate, where we were so early that Eutaw Street was still open for people to walk around. We walked around for a little while and right before they closed, we made sure we were the first ones in line. When the gates opened, I ran in and looked for easter eggs in the right field side of the batters eye.

Even though I was unsuccessful in finding any, I had two oppurtunities within one minute of realizing that there were no baseballs that had not already been found. While I was still looking, a grounds crew member mentioned that there may be a baseball or two more towards straight away right field, since I was the only one in the section, and the gates had only been open for about 30 seconds, I took my time in getting over there, which actually paid off. While I was in the middle of a row, a home run shot over my head, ricocheted off of a seat, went up in the air about a row to my left, where I sprinted over and caught it before it hit the ground. At that point, I’m pretty sure that I was directly in front of the seat where Eddie Murray’s 500th home run landed.

Less than 30 seconds after I caught the first ball, there was another home run that landed a section to my right and a row in from of me. I ran through the open row that was in front of me, and when I was about 10 feet to the ball, I saw that someone else was going for the ball, so I jumped over the row of seats to where the ball was, hit my ankle on the back of a seat and picked it up for ball #2. I then realized that I had forgotten to check both baseballs for markings so that I would know which was which when I put them in my backpack. I turned out that one was an Oriole Park commemorative and the other was a normal ball. A few minutes later, when I went to talk to my Dad, he said that he noticed that the first ball I put in my backpack had a big  grass stain on it. And sure enough, there was a grass stain on the commemorative ball.

That was all that I would get during the Orioles portion of BP. When the Royals came out to hit, I grabbed the corner spot.

…and it wasn’t long until Mike Moustakas launched a ball right at me. I didn’t have to move at all. I put my glove over the railing in front of me and caught it on the fly. I got a small applause from the crowd, which made it even more satisfying. It was a normal MLB ball, but it still felt great. And that was it for BP. There were a few others that I easily should have had, but I wasn’t positioned correctly.

Back to snagging, I had noticed earlier in batting practice that Jarrod Dyson had thrown a ball to a kid in the front row, who ended up dropping it into the gap. So, after BP was over, I went over to check if it was still there, and sure enough it was. I figured that sooner or later, a security guard or groundskeeper would walk over and hand  it over, but after 30 minutes of waiting, with no one else having looked at the ball for 25 minutes, I was just about ready to give up. When all of a sudden, while I was sitting down, my Dad who was a few rows above me pointed out that a grounds crew lady was walking through the path. I quickly asked her if I could please have the ball, and just like that, I had ball #4. All of that waiting had paid off.

As for the game, my Dad and I never went to our ticketed seats the entire night. Instead, we wandered around seeking different snagging opportunities. I could’ve had a game home run very early in the game if I hadn’t chose to move a half inning early. Throughout the first inning I had been standing at the front of the flag court, so when I moved into foul territory in the top of the second, I was really hoping nothing would be hit anywhere close to where I had been standing. When Salvador Perez, a righty stepped up to the plate, I wasn’t very worried because, how often do you see a righty smack one of the right field wall in Baltimore? But he ended up taking one the opposite way that just kept carrying. I’m not sure if I would have had it or not, because it didn’t skip around too much after it cleared the wall. It was picked up by a guy in his 20s, who didn’t throw it back (good for him).

As I was watching the replay of the home run while I was typing the previous paragraph, I realized that around the 17-second mark, you can clearly see my Dad and I even though we weren’t being focused on.

In the top right corner, that’s me in the blue shirt wearing the Orioles hat, sitting above me is my Dad in the white shirt. You can see why I wanted to move there in the first place. I had the entire cross next to me going for three sections, and all of the rows above me were empty. If a foul ball was hit anywhere close to me, I easily would have had it. But for the inning that I was there, luck wasn’t on my side.

It surprised me that for the two games that I attended there was a combined attendance of only 38,503, especially for a team that was contending for the first time in 15 seasons. But for me, that was good news. The ushers were all friendly and let me sit wherever I wanted, except for one, who I will get to later, and I had more snagging opportunities than I had ever had before.

In the bottom of the third inning, I found myself with an aisle seat in the second row behind the Royals dugout ready to pounce on an opportunity for a third out ball from the Royals. With two outs, the Orioles mascot jumped on top of the dugout and started obstructing my view. Normally, I would’ve been completely fine with this, even thrilled, but I didn’t want anything to be in my way when it came to getting a game ball. When Adam Jones was thrown out at second to end the inning, there was no competition… except for the bird. He was a few feet to my left, when Alcides Escobar tosses it up to me, and the bird jokingly tries to intercept the ball, which in that situation was quite startling. I held on to the ball, which would be my last one until after the game.

For the rest of the game, my Dad and I explored the stadium and sat all around the stadium. Soon after I got my fifth ball, I went to sit in the back of a section where no one was sitting, and an usher came down and told me that I needed to go back to my seat. I didn’t really mind, but I was surprised. In a stadium that wasn’t even half full, I wasn’t allowed to sit wherever I wanted like I had been the previous day. It probably had something to do with the fact that I was wearing Royals gear at the time (Oops).

Anyway, after the eighth inning, I was able to make my way down to the other end of the umpire tunnel. After the final out, I was in perfect position to get a ball from umpire Bill Welke. Normally, three balls are given out so I was positive I would get one up until three very small children who were each about four or five years old held out their hands when Mr. Welke came into the tunnel, and he handed each one of them a ball. At first I thought that this would be my last opportunity for a ball, but I soon realized that I was on the Orioles side of the ballpark, and since they had won, I would have a chance of getting a ball at their dugout. I sprinted through the rows until I maneuvered myself between a couple of people and saw that Baltimore first base coach Wayne Kirby was pacing across the dugout, looking for three people to toss a ball up to. He disappeared to my left and soon came back holding only one ball. He looked at me, I held up my glove, and I got #6, a commemorative ball that was practically brand-new.

It was then time to say my goodbyes to the beautiful city of Baltimore. I walked around one more time, looking for ticket stubs, and had my Dad to take my picture in front of the visitors dugout.

Bye Baltimore, I’ll keep dreaming about your cross-aisle.

Here’s the box score:

STATS:

6 balls at this game

6 consecutive game with a ball

24 balls this season

27 lifetime baseballs

Next game: August 15th at Yankee Stadium.

8/9/12 at Camden Yards

Before I get started with the game, look at the view from the hotel that my Dad and I were staying in.

Pretty awesome, to say the least. My Dad and I made our way to the H gate around 4:20, which we soon learned was a bad time to leave on a day with a t-shirt giveaway. This was the line when we got there.

Since my Dad got our bags checked earlier than most of the people in front of us, we were able to make our way to the front of the line while everyone else was getting what they had with them inspected. About 15 minutes before the gate opened, it began to rain lightly. I figured that BP would still be on but when I ran into the stadium, the tarp was on the field.

At that point, it began to rain a bit harder, so I understood why there wasn’t any BP. But this eliminated nearly all of my ball snagging opportunities that I would be able to have if there was BP before the game. The only action that was going on on the field was the Royals pitchers had come out to throw. Since only season ticket holders are allowed to be in foul territory and in left field 30 minutes before everyone else, they were the only ones that were able to get baseballs from the Royals.

I wasn’t too happy about this. It was painful having no real chance to snag a ball for basically the entire pre game.When the rest of the stadium was opened up to everyone else, I was one of the first people into the concourse, and so since I had nothing better to do, I went down near the Orioles dugout and waited for someone to come out and start to sign. I waited and waited for about an hour. There was no action on either side of the field except for when a few Royals came out to sign.

I was really hoping that Manny Machado would come out to sign, because it was his Major League debut, but right when the Orioles came out to stretch, myself, along with many other people were kicked out of the section, probably because it was “too close to game time.” I made my way to my seat to find out that this was my view.

Luckily, there were about 5 open aisle seats right next to me, where I spent most of my time unsuccessfully going for foul balls. There was one missed opportunity that I really should have taken advantage of. In the top of the first inning when the Royals scored four runs, Jeff Francoeur fouled a pitch off over the protective screen which went directly over my head and into the press box where a women retrieved it, and threw it to an elderly man who was the only one who stood up and held out his glove. If I had ran up there in time and jumped up and down, I’m sure I would’ve gotten the ball, but I wasn’t going to let it ruin my day.

Not much else happened during the game. Although, it was very exciting to see Manny Machado make his debut. Every Orioles fan was really pumped up to see the organization’s top prospect.

My Dad was able to get some great photos of him early in the game. In the following photos, he is #13. Here he is taking the field for the first time (on the far right).

When he was walking up to the plate for the first time, he got a standing ovation, which you don’t really see that often.

Towards the end of the game, I decided that my last chance to get a ball would be at the umpire tunnel from Tim Tschida. I was able to easily sneak down to to the fourth row directly behind home plate on either side of the tunnel. When the game was over, I was able to get a ball from Mr. Tschida.

And my adventures for the day came to a close. I was very glad that I was able to keep my short streak going.

Here’s the box score.

STATS:

1 ball at this game

5 consecutive games with a ball

18 balls this season

21 lifetime balls

 

One more game in Baltimore tomorrow.

7/24/12 at Safeco Field

When my Dad and I first got to the stadium, there was only one other fan waiting at the center field gate for when it opened at 4:30, they were the same fan who had the bad luck of wearing an Ichiro jersey the day before. Since the Mariners open two turnstiles for fans at this particular gate, we were still technically the first fans in line.

As you can see, there were a lot of Yankee fans there, just like there had been the previous night. The line continued to grow until 4:30 when I had my ticket scanned and I headed to the corner spot that I had claimed when the stadium had opened the previous night, which is located to the far left in this picture.

There were two players shagging in front of me, and to be perfectly honest, I had no idea who either of them were. About 30 seconds after going into the section it was just me and about three other people. One of them was a season ticket holder, who yelled out to one of the players, “Chone!” I assumed it was Chone Figgins, and about five seconds later, the player, lofted a ball to the man, out of my reach, so I moved behind him in case it went over his head, which it unfortunately did not.

Soon after, when I began to call out to who I thought was Figgins, he turned around and informed me that he was not who I thought he was. The season ticket holder eventually realized that it was Trayvon Robinson, along with Michael Saunders. Since the Mariners were not hitting many anywhere near me, I made sure that when Robinson or Saunders fielded a ball, I would call out to them for it. It eventually paid off when Saunders turned around and threw a ball to me from about 25 feet away.

Right around when I got the ball, the right field stands were about to open, so I went to where they had the barricades set up and maneuvered my way to the front. Earlier in BP, I had seen a couple of balls bounce into the corner spot, so I knew where I was going to sprint to. Right when the security guard pulled open the barricades, I was literally the first one through and I was going up three steps at a time, ready to get my first Easter Egg. But of course, the ushers had taken every baseball out of the seats, so that milestone has to wait for another game.

I ended up staying in the corner spot for the rest of batting practice. A few minutes after I got to the seats, I noticed that there were four baseballs lying in a cluster in the gap between the seats and the wall. A security guard eventually went under the seats and got all four. He pointed to three kids, who all came over to where I was standing so that they could get the ball without incident. After he gave away those three, he still had one ball. I didn’t know it at the time, so when I leaned over the railing to see if he was still hanging out in the batters eye, he looked back up at me and asked if he had given a ball to me. Before I even said no, he tossed the ball up, and just like that, I had my second ball of the day.

During the Yankees portion of BP, the only player who was anywhere close to the corner spot was Boone Logan, who ignored every single person in the section that I was in for their entire portion of BP. I figured that he must’ve given a ball away already and that was his limit. But when everything began to wind down, he tracked a fly ball to the other end of the batters eye and lofted it into the crowd gathered near the bullpens. I’m not sure if I had said something to him, but he had absolutely no interaction with the fans around me at all. I’m not sure if he didn’t like being called Booney, but I don’t think that that was the case because at the very end of BP, I referred to him as Mr. Logan, and of course, there was no response.

My seat was located in left field, in the second row directly behind the scoreboard. This was the view.

A few minutes after making my way over to the seats, I saw that Freddy Garcia had come out to warm up with Chris Stewart. Towards the end of their stretches prior to throwing, I noticed Garcia make a throwing gesture to bullpen catcher Roman Rodriguez, who proceeded to walk over to the ball bag and pick out a baseball. For the next 10 minutes or so, I stood on the edge of the outermost section next to the bullpen so that I would be noticeable. When the two were finally done with their very long toss, Freddy ended up with the ball and lofted it up to me from about 20 feet away.

That ball established my new record at Safeco Field. Throughout the game, I had a great view of the King’s Court, who to say the least were very loud.

And when Alex Rodriguez was hit by a pitch, which I later found out broke his hand, I was fortunate enough to have been recording. (Sorry, A-Rod.)

After the bottom of the eighth, my Dad and I one again made our way to the section near the umpire tunnel. After sneaking into the section once again, after the Mariners put away the Yankees, 4-2, Greg Gibson, the home plate umpire, walked into the tunnel, an there was no competition for me. I held up my glove, and after I saw him give one ball away to the other end of the tunnel, and as he was walking under the tarp, he looked up at the last second and spotted me, and threw this my way.

It also had a clump of dirt on some of the seams. It was my imperfect first umpire ball.

Just before it was time to leave Safeco Field, I got an usher to take a picture of me, with the field in the background.

And then I left, ending the last night of a fantastic trip.

Here’s the box score.

Next stop, Baltimore, on August 9th and 10th.

7/23/12 at Safeco Field

A few months ago, my uncle who lives in Alaska invited my Dad, my brother, and I out to Washington for games on the 23rd and 24th, the first two games of the only series that the Yankees would be playing in Seattle this year. Yeah, it was pretty awesome. It also served as a vacation. We had no idea that this game would be somewhat historical. While my Dad and I were waiting in line at the center field gate, my Dad got an email from a friend giving him the big news.

Nobody around us had found out yet so I began to spread the news. Everyone was surprised. I had no idea that the Yankees had even been in discussions with the Mariners. And here I was, at Safeco Field, where the two teams would be playing, and where Ichiro would play for a different team for the first time in the majors. I felt bad for several fans around us who were wearing Ichiro jerseys, including this guy.

I was really hoping that the Yankees would have the decency not to give Ichiro number 51, out of respect for Bernie Williams, who is my favorite player of all time. When I saw that he was wearing #31, I was relieved.

This was my first west coast game, so I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do when the gate opened. So when my ticket was scanned, I decided to just follow the small crowd that was in front of me, and try to find a good spot. I ended up going to the corner spot next to the batters eye and tried to get a tossup for the first five minutes or so.

When things didn’t go my way, I decided to move into the small tunnel next to the batters eye, where five home runs landed, which were all retrieved by the same security guard. He ended up giving all five baseballs away, not one of them went to me. He told me when I first asked for one that I was too old, and that I should try to get one on my own. That was the first time I had ever heard that one. Luckily for me, one of the two Mariners home runs that they hit into the sections that were open for the first half hour came straight to me. I reacted when in had reached its peak, so there was no telling where it was going to land. It ended up landing about five feet behind me and bouncing off of a concrete wall, and into a small section that for some reason was boarded off.

Myself and a kid who was a couple years younger than me jumped up onto the edge of the concrete to see where the ball landed and to see if we were allowed to jump over. When we saw a man waving us over, we immediately leaped over the metal rails and into the section. While he landed flat on his back, I landed on my feet. I immediately looked for the ball, and noticed it right next to the other kid. He had noticed it as well and tried to stretch his arm so that he could pick it up, but before he could, I grabbed it, and just like that, I had my first ball from Safeco Field. Oh, and it also turns out that we weren’t supposed to be in there at all. As soon as I helped the kid to his feet, an angry security guard came over and yelled at us about how we weren’t supposed to be in there. I apologized and tried to explain that we had been waved over, she wouldn’t hear it. Here’s my prize, which was stamped with PRACTICE on the sweet spot.

I have a tendency to feel bad for the person who doesn’t get the ball when they come so close, but what can you do. After getting out of there, I headed up to the right field seats about five minutes after they had opened. I was hoping that the corner spot would still be open, but two boys and their grandpa had taken it, so I went next to them. When the Yankees started BP, everyone around me was excited to see Ichiro. When he jogged out of the clubhouse, he received a huge ovation, which was very well deserved. It was pretty exciting to see him meeting some of the Yankees for the first time and taking his first cuts in the cage as a Yankee.

Remember those kids from before? Well they were both looking to get baseballs from both teams. A few minutes before Mariners BP ended, Felix Hernandez tossed one of them a ball. When the Mariners jogged off, I wasn’t the only one changing from a Mariners fan into a Yankees fan. Both of them had Yankee jerseys as well as hats with them, along with written out rosters. I had some competition.

I ended up staying in the exact same spot for about 90% of Yankees batting practice because there was just about no space anywhere else in right field, and nothing was being hit to left field, even by righties.

Every single fan could tell when Ichiro got up during batting practice because of the signature stance and swing. Most of the pitches that he connected on went right into the right field corner. A couple landed right near me though. The first was caught by Freddy Garcia and was tossed to one of the two kids on my right. On the second one, I saw my chance, and used it. I called out to Garcia again and got him to throw it in my direction. It was to my right a bit, but since both of the kids next to me had gotten a ball from the Yankees, I assumed it was for me, so when I caught it, there was no complaint. Another prize; a ball hit by Ichiro in his first batting practice as a member of the Yankees.

I’m assuming the black spot is from where Ichiro hit it. I tried to move around in right field after I got this ball, but there really wasn’t anywhere to move to. Apparently everyone wants to see the Yankees play. There also might have been more people at this game because this was New York only series in Seattle for the year. So, a few minutes later, I moved to my seats, and all I can say is wow.

From the angle that the photo was taken, you can’t tell that I was also sitting on an aisle. These seats were about ten times less pricey than the same seats would in New York.

See the really small guy to the left of the guy in the #2 jersey? (You can click on the picture and zoom in if you can’t.) He was interviewing fans for their reactions to the Ichiro trade. Most of the reactions that I ended up hearing from people were “I dunno,” and “Umm,” so when he asked for my opinion, I had all my answers planned out so that there would be a good chance I would appear in the interview, wherever it appeared.

He asked me questions like “How do you feel about the trade?” “Who do you think the trade is going to help?” and since I was wearing a Yankees jersey, “Are you excited about having the chance to see him play more often in person?”

At one point during the interview, I looked at the ID that was dangling on his shirt and saw an MLB logo behind his photo. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch his name, so I have no idea where the interview could have ended up.

It was great to be so close to the action on the field. I was hoping that before the game started, during warmups, someone on the Yankees  would sign some autographs. Since I was able to get into the front row without being asked for my ticket, I waited for someone to come over and sign, but not one Yankee even acknowledged requests from the fans for autographs except for Derek Jeter. After the lady next to me asked Jeter for his autograph for the fifth time, he told the lady that he couldn’t sign, which I think was the nicest way of telling her to stop talking.

It was awfully strange seeing Ichiro jog out to right field in the top of the first inning at the stadium that he had been playing at for the past 11 years.

It doesn’t seem like there are any hard feelings between Ichiro and the Seattle fans. I think that he wants to get a ring before he retires, and at this point in his career, I don’t think there was much of a chance to win one with the Mariners. The Yankees are probably his best bet.

The next day, when I was waiting a the gate for the stadium to open, the guard who refused to give me a ball spotted me and told me that the home run that Alex Rodriguez hit during this game ended up hitting a girl in the face and she had her braces go through her lip. (Insert corny joke about keeping your eye on the ball here.)

Nothing else worth noting really happened during the game. After the eighth inning, I snuck down into the seats behind the Diamond Club and sat next to the umpire tunnel. When the game was over, a kid a few years older than me went in front of me and into the back row of the diamond club. Trying to box him in so that I would have a better angle, we were both told by the security guard there that even though the game was over, we were not allowed to be in that section. I understand that rule during the game, but for the post game? Really? Before home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi walked into the tunnel, we both backed up, and he was still in front of me. When Cuzzi came into the tunnel, he flipped one ball to a kid on the opposite side, and he pulled out a second ball and rolled it into the middle of the tarp that hangs over the tunnel. I assume that it was intended for me because if he wanted to give it to the kid next to me, he could have just flipped it up to him. Unfortunately, he had longer arms than I did, so he was able to reach out farther onto the tarp and snatch it up before I could touch it. The worst part of all was the fact that he didn’t even have a glove. That really grinds my gears.

So I finished the day with two baseballs. I could have done better, but I was satisfied. I didn’t get many photos for this game, but I did the next day.

Here’s the box score.

STATS:

2 balls at this game

3 consecutive games with a ball

3 consecutive games with at least two balls

13 balls this season

16 lifetime balls

More on the Seattle trip soon.

And before I forget, my grandma recorded this game and emailed my dad informing us that she had seen all four of us on TV when Ichiro was on third.

From left to right, in the third row, there is my brother, my uncle, my Dad, and myself. Pretty cool being on TV during a game like that, with the player who everybody came to see being the main focus of the camera.

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