I wasn’t exactly thrilled to go to this game, but in trying to get to 60 games this season, there are such games that I have to just suck up and go to anyway. Why did I not want to be at this game? This guy:
It was Josh Willinghammer bobblehead day, and I while I do like the bobblehead–despite the boring box–I knew a ton of other people would as well, and I was right. Here is the view in the bleachers to my right, right as I entered the stadium:
And here was the view in the bleachers to my left with the friend who joined me from my residence hall that day, Kyle:
I had told Kyle a couple of times of my baseball ventures and so he asked me if he could accompany me to a game whenever I was going to one next. It was like a week-and-a-half before the game, and the Twins were gone for a while, so this was the one we ended up going to. We had left our dorm at around 3:50, and got to the game at about 4:40, and by the time we got there, there was already a line at Gate 3 that went half-way to Gate 6. I won’t include a map, but if you want you can check it out and see what I mean. It would be a normal line size for Yankee Stadium, but for here it was massive.
It soon became clear that everyone was way more concentrated in the left field bleachers. Had I been smart and realized that the weather was relatively warmer, I might have gone up to the second deck and played for Josh Willingham, Adam Jones and players of their ilk to hit baseballs into the second deck. But sadly I didn’t think of it and instead just went over to the right-center field seats and got a ball from Josh Roenicke:
I had called out to Roenicke on a previous ball, but when he looked back at me, he thought the kid next to me had asked him for the ball. But then when I asked him for a ball when another rolled to the wall, he looked up and saw that I was all alone, so he tossed me the ball. I didn’t realize it until I went back and checked my stats, but that was my 100th baseball ever at Target Field, making Target Field only the second stadium I’ve accomplished that at. That was it for me for the Twins portion of BP, because as I said before, it was crowded. Target Field is an okay ballpark when there’s no one around. When it’s crowded, it shows its true ballhawking colors.
When Twins BP ended, I made my way to the Orioles dugout, but nothing was going on:
It was at the time that actual baseball-snagging action started to occur that I got a message from Sean saying that he had just parked and was headed to Gate 34. Since I was not ready to sacrifice snagging opportunities to go give him his ticket, I recruited Kyle to head out there and give him the ticket despite the fact that neither had met the other beforehand.
After Kyle left, I first tried to get a ball from the position players tossing by the dugout:
But all of them tossed their balls onto the field after they were done. I then tried to get a ball from the position players warming-up just past third base, but instead of getting a ball from them, one of the Orioles bullpen catchers, Ronnie Deck (unofficial assist to Avi Miller for the fact that I know his name), saw that the players weren’t tossing me a ball, so he tossed me a ball without me even asking for one:
(Notice the Orioles couple realizing I had gotten a ball and unintentionally photo-bombing me.) I gave this ball away to a kid as I was walking towards the left field foul pole.
In the time that it took Kyle to get out to right field, the position players warmed up completely. By the time Sean and Kyle were making their way back to me, I was almost to the foul pole in foul territory. So as I saw them cutting across the seats towards the dugout where Kyle had left me, I started waving towards them to draw their attention. They were behind me (read: away from the field), so I had to look back to wave to them. It was at this time I heard the crowd make some noise; like as if a ball was rolling on the warning track near the stands that a player might toss up. Right after I heard that, I felt a blow to both my left and right legs at about the knee area. While I was looking away from the field, an Orioles player–probably Manny Machado–had pulled a ball down the line and it managed to strike not one, but both of my legs on the fly. It actually didn’t hurt much at all right after the ball hit me. No, the most painful part of that whole incident was the fact that the ball bounced right off of me to the hands of the guy in front of me. However, it was because of this that I got my second ball of the day. Tommy Hunter had seen the whole thing go down, so when he was done throwing, he came over and signed a ball for me and my “troubles”:
As he gave me the ball and left, I said, “Thanks, Tommy. I appreciate it.” and he kind of smiled. It was the kind of smile that made me think I had gotten his name wrong. I was pretty sure it was Tommy Hunter, so I was confused by why he acted this way. I realized why when I read the writing on the ball. Here was the signature itself:
but here was what he wrote on the ball itself for me:
Hunter had gone to run poles, so by the time I had read the ball and understood it, he was already in center field, but when he made it back to the left field foul pole, I jokingly told him my reason for getting hit while giving him a hard time about putting what he did on the ball.
After that, I headed out to the seats in right field:
And when I looked to my right, I saw a couple of interesting things.
1. There was pretty much the whole Orioles roster in the outfield at one point:
Okay, so maybe that’s a bit of hyperbole, but that’s what, 15 people in the outfield that you can see in that picture alone?
2. The left field seats were absolutely packed because of the bobblehead day:
At most other stadiums that’s a decent-sized crowd, but because of the steepness and overhang in left field, I knew I wouldn’t have a chance at a ball in left field. This was particularly frustrating because it was J.J. Hardy’s group that was hitting, and he hit several baseballs to the spot where I usually play him at any ballpark. It was crowded, but who knows if I don’t have an extra couple of baseballs if I had been in left field for that group.
But with my legs making any movement very painful, I was stuck in right field. Sean and Kyle, who both knew how much of an annoyance it can be to follow me around when I’m running back and forth, seemed pretty content with just staying in right field, though:
They even had time to go get food and get back to find me still in the section that they had left me in. (This is usually not the case if you leave my side for over five minutes.)
Anyway, I wouldn’t get any other baseballs for the rest of batting practice itself, but at the very end of BP, I went down to the Orioles dugout and got their hitting coach, Jim Presley to toss me a ball as the baseballs were being transferred from the ball basket to the ball bag.
After that, I headed out to center field to try to get a ball from the groundscrew member who clears the batter’s eye of baseballs after batting practice, but I just barely missed him, getting there as he was headed off the batter’s eye:
The three of us alternated sitting behind the third base seating moat and the standing room in right field, but I couldn’t get another ball for the rest of the game.
Sean had brought his car to the game, so once we finally got out of the parking garage that Sean had parked in and got through the Minnesota traffic, Sean dropped Kyle and I off at our dorm on the St. Paul campus. Sean and I had just agreed the day prior that we were going to be taking a weekend trip to his home in Chicago so he could visit his mom on Mother’s Day and I could go to a couple of games at U.S. Cellular Field. So when he left us at the dorm just before midnight, it was knowing that we would be seeing each other just a few short hours later on our way to Chicago.
- 4 Baseballs at this game (3 pictured because I gave 1 away)
Numbers 491-494 for my life:
- 48 Balls in 10 Games= 4.80 Balls Per Game
- 4 Balls x 31,360 Fans=125,440 Competition Factor
- 72 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 103 Balls in 24 Games at Target Field= 4.29 Balls Per Game
- 22 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 3:51-11:43= 7 Hours 52 Minutes
After a week off from baseball, it was back to this place:
…for a match-up between my two favorite teams in baseball. (Well, actually I don’t know about that, but I’ll possibly get to that in an offseason entry.)
When I got in, this was my view:
However, the only reason I came to an 85% full Target Field was because the Yankees were a power-hitting left-handed team. Thus, I was going to try again to go exclusively for hit balls, and my view was this for almost all of batting practice:
For a while, I was misjudging balls left and right. That “while” was called batting practice. I don’t know why, but when I’m on the same level as a baseball (i.e. field level), I have no problem judging fly balls. But whenever I’m elevated, I become a complete klutz trying to judge them. Despite this, I managed to snag a ball off the bat of Nick Swisher after in bounced in here:
Do you see the logo? That was an Oriole Park at Camden Yards ball. All of the balls I snagged during batting practice were.
It was about at this time that I saw how empty the section of seats in right field was compared to the standing room:
So I walked down into the section. That’s when I heard a voice behind me say, “Excuse me, you need a ticket for this section.” It was the usher right at the entrance to the section
“What?” I said, “Even for batting practice?”
“Is it just something for the Yankees series or the whole season?”
“The whole season.”
I didn’t want to blow up on him and make at least one new enemy, but that was absolute BS. That had never been a rule, and wouldn’t be in any of the games I would go to afterward. Since the ushers don’t always have the same usher for the same section, it was obvious he was a club-level usher or something like that and misinterpreted something his supervisor told him. Anyway, I had my one ball, so I just bit my tongue and moved on with my life.
I headed over to left field for a few hitters, but that yielded nothing but a look at some crowded bleachers:
Not to mention the searing sunlight those guys are shading their eyes from:
I forgot exactly all of the members of the group, but when a group of mostly lefties came up to hit, I went back to right field. There, I got a Curtis Granderson home run that landed in a beer vendor’s ice:
So yeah, that’ll be a fun fact to tell people: I’ve snagged a ball that was hit into ice.
Then I missed about three different balls out in the standing room. One resulted in some one getting a bloody nose and another almost took my head off because I looked away just as it was hit and didn’t see it until it was about ten feet away from me. After this, though, I managed to catch my first ball on the fly in the standing room ever. I just barely did, as it missed the flagpole by less than a foot before landing in my glove. I gave this ball away to a kid out in the standing room.
Then batting practice was about to end, so I started making my way to the Yankee dugout. When I just about got there, I noticed it was too crowded around the dugout for me to get a ball. Instead of pushing through the autograph seekers, I took this picture that illustrated me not knowing who to root for in this game as the transplanted New Yorker:
This was in left field. While I was there, I noted that even though batting practice had ended, the Yankees forgot to pick up a ball in foul territory, so I headed into foul ground and this was the result:
Yes, I used the glove trick to reel in the ball.
For those of you wondering, this was where the ball had been sitting:
Well, when I reeled it in. I actually had to knock the ball closer to get it into range.
I then went back to sit in my seat in left field when I realized: “This is stupid. I’m trying to get 222 baseballs this season. Why am I limiting myself by not asking for balls today? I mean, yeah, it makes me focus on hit balls, and I may very well benefit from it, but I have a goal to reach.” If you didn’t know, one of my goals at the beginning of the season was to double my career ball total up to that point. Before the season my career ball count was 222, so my goal for this year was to snag that many; or get the career total up to 444.
Anyway, so when Mike Harkey came into the bullpen and picked up a ball that had been hit in there during batting practice, I called out to him and he tossed me the ball:
Obviously, I’m used to getting balls from Mike Harkey tossed to me from much longer distances, but I’ll take that.
As for the game, the two lineups were mostly lefty. And given my seat was in left field, I played home runs in the standing room all day:
Out there, there were a couple things of note: 1. FSN had this camera installed right above the standing room that I had never seen before:
I was at all of the games I could possibly watch from this point on in the season, so does anyone who actually watched a game on the network know how it would possibly be used?
The second thing of note takes some setting up, so bear with me. When I’m out in the standing room, the fact that I have my glove on and stand further back than anyone watching the game often brings people to talk to me. Well to guys eventually did talk to me, and through our conversation I brought up that I give balls away to kids. A few innings after I talked to these guys, another guy showed up and asked me if I was the guy who gave baseballs away to kids in the hospitals. I’m guessing he misinterpreted what the other guys had told him, but we straightened things out. Anyway, he told me his son, Tucker was in the (I believe it is a specially children’s) hospital in Mankato. He asked me if I could possibly be willing to talk to the kids about what I do. During this conversation, what ended up happening is I gave him two baseballs, one with my e-mail address for the hospital to possibly talk to me about the opportunity and the cleanest OPACY ball I had snagged during BP for Tucker:
As for the actual game itself, the Yankees’ lefties were bombing away on Liam Hendricks, but I had nothing to show for it. Although, I did make it into the highlights for two of them.
1. When Curtis Granderson bombed his 40th home run of the season, it was hit so high that even though I was in the standing room when it took off, this is where I was when it landed:
I had run all the way up the stairs to the second level in right field. Link to the full video: here.
2. When Raul Ibañez yanked a ball down the right field line and the cameras cut to showing the standing room, this is where I was:
I was turned around when he hit it, but you can see I’m the first person reacting( in terms of moving) in the standing room. When the ball first showed up on the screen, this is where I and it where (hint: I’m not the one soaring through the night sky):
It felt like I was moving in slow-motion at the time, but looking at the replay, it looks like I was going really fast. Here is where I and the ball where when it bounced:
It then took a series of bounces away from me, and then a group of guys converged on it as I watched helplessly:
If you want to see the full thing, here is the link.
Suffice to say, I wasn’t thrilled with the trend:
Then in the seventh inning, Pedro Florimon came up to bat. As he had been since I got to Minnesota, he had yet to hit his first career home run. Then this happened:
I was in the standing room when it landed, but when I saw that it was indeed a home run, I rushed over to see what the deal was/ if I could miraculously find it while people searched the wrong place. But there was nowhere to stand, and you had a genius who did this:
If you didn’t notice it the first time, this was where I was in that highlight:
If you noticed, the guy put the flowers down just as the camera cut away. That’s because this supervisor came running down the stairs yelling at them to put the flowers down:
And let me clear up that this is isn’t a bad usher; it was just some fans doing something they shouldn’t have been doing. The flowers had been planted the previous day, so no one wanted them to get ruined just a day after they had been planted….even if that’s what eventually happened.
What ended up happening to me is this was my view for the remaining two innings of the game while I prayed no one hit a home run into the standing room:
I wanted to make sure these guys never left my sight:
After the game, this was the scene behind the flower beds:
This was the first flower pot they pulled out to search. When they found nothing there, they pulled out a second pot:
Meanwhile, I was showing the security officers the footage of the home run, so we could try to pinpoint which flower pot held the baseball. Here they are trying to figure it out:
The guy on the right even suggested I should get the ball if they found it to negotiate with Florimon. They main problem in finding it, though, was the camera was at an angle. So even though it was in the middle of the partitions in the metal fence, it was most likely one or two flower pots off that in real life. Unfortunately, the guy on the right would leave before the ball was found, so his suggestion was lost.
Meanwhile, we had become the main spectacle in the stadium:
The game ended at 9:56, and we had been there for a good half-an-hour.
Eventually, I was allowed to search in the flowers as well:
I felt like Charlie from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (or Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory if you want to go by the movie’s title); just hoping for that golden ticket.
Sadly, after almost an hour of searching, it was an employee, and not myself who found the ball- which will probably lead to a life of negative word association with the word “Yahtzee”:
So yeah, that was a slightly anti-climactic ending, but I’m glad I was at least around to see what happened with the ball. For the record, there were a total of four flower pots pulled out to be searched. And if you’re wondering; Yes, they did make a mess in the seats:
At this point, it was 10:54, or almost an hour after the game had ended, and I’m pretty sure I was the last non-employee left in the stadium:
Although, the FSN guys were still in their mini-studio out in the standing room, having just finished with their segment:
Oh, and if that wasn’t late enough, I got lost for an hour and a half on my way back to my dorm when I was supposed to be studying for a test that same morning. (Yes, it was past midnight by the time I eventually got back to my dorm room.)
Numbers 428-432 lifetime (you get logos this time because I don’t like to write on commemorative baseballs if I don’t have to):
- 210 Balls in 50 Games= 4.20 Balls Per Game
- 5 Balls x 33,720 Fans= 168, 600 Competition Factor
- 59 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 9 straight Games with at least 2-3 Balls
- 42 Balls in 11 Games at Target Field= 3.82 Balls Per Game
- 10 straight Games with at least 1-2 Balls at Target Field
- 9 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 4:15- 12:35= 8 Hours 20 Minutes
As I have may have mentioned before, this trip is more-or-less still in my memory. So I know everything that happened, but I don’t remember all the details. When I checked the information on this particular excursion to Philadelphia, my first thought was, “This trip was only TWO days?! We did so many things in Philadelphia, it seemed like we were there for a week. Also, this entry will have no pictures, just information. Bear with me please.
Here’s what I remember; we managed to go to three different museums in Philadelphia. I know that we went to the one with the statue of Rocky at the foot of the stairs, and I also recall going to one with a fun interactive sports floor, which I believe was the top floor. Then we also went to a third museum, but I don’t know which one it was. We also managed to go to a Baseball Field in the city and I threw 80-ish pitches I believe since we didn’t have time for 100. We also went to a diner for lunch. Notice that in this paragraph, I have used the word “also” a lot more than usual. Usually, it is the word “then” that I over use, but that’s because in a normal entry, I’m fairly certain of the sequence of events at the game that I went to, but here I know the simple fact that all of these individual events occurred, but I have noooo idea which came before the other.
I *do* know, however, that after our day exploring Philadelphia, we drove the car out to the stadium. For some reason, it was very difficult to find it. Everyone we asked had a different way of getting there. Given, we did only ask two people, but the location of Citizens Bank Park is also the location of Lincoln Financial Field, the Philadelphia Eagles’ Stadium. Therefore, most people in the town should know how to get there since it is not that far away from downtown and the area houses their two most popular teams.
This was my first time going to a ballpark when it first opened, so we got there extra early. I know that one gate in Citizens Bank Park opens 2.5 hours early nowadays, and I assume it did back then as well. This would be tied for the earliest opening time in the major leagues right now. To show you how little a clue my dad and I had about batting practice, we showed up approximately 3 hours before the first pitch and to the third base gate. Like I said before, we were really early for the gates, but what I didn’t mention is that it is only the CF gate, named “Ashburn Alley” that opened 2.5 hours early, we waited at the third base gate, and when the 2.5 hour mark arrived, we walked away from the gate and eventually found out that we could enter the stadium.
Once inside, I don’t really remember much except my first bp ball. Ryan Howard stepped into the cage. I know, because my dad had been obsessing the day prior about how big he was for a baseball player (not just tall). As an absolutely clueless bp goer, I was in the first row and wondering why none of the balls were coming in my direction, because of course I wasn’t asking for any balls from the players either. Next thing I knew, Howard hit a low fly ball a few feet to my left. I moved over there and reached up, but the ball ricocheted off my glove and into the row behind me. There, my dad picked the ball up and handed it to me. Now I get that this is against what I now consider to be a ball that I snag. That said, I had lower standard back then because I didn’t go to games as often, so if that same scenario happened today, I wouldn’t count that ball in my “collection”, but because I counted it back then, I kept it that way.
For this game, we had worse “seats”, but I was fine with it given the fact that they were seats and not tickets to the standing room. They were more or less in the same direction as the last game, but they were in the upper deck portion of the stadium, as in we had three rows behind us before we reached the last row in the stadium.
Up in those seats, I had my first exposure to the fans that define “Philadelphia Sports”. Manny Ramirez had recently arrived on the Dodgers earlier that month, and the Dodgers were still a .500 team at this point in the season before the phenomenon know as “Mannywood” occurred. For some reason, though, the Phillies fans booed Manny every time he came up to bat. This made absolutely no sense to either my dad or myself since we were used to the “well-educated heckling” of the Yankee Stadium Bleachers. This lead my dad to ask the question, “Why are you booing him, he just got here?” To which a Phillie fan near us responded, “Oh, we boo everyone.” Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Philadelphia sports fans.
Another thing of note that happened while we were there is that Hiroki Kuroda was facing Joe Blanton. Joe Blanton must have been doing pretty well, because the Phillies eventually tied the game, but through almost seven innings, Hiroki Kuroda was no-hitting the Phillies. I remember that Carlos Ruiz broke it up with a single in the seventh inning. I also remember that I thought I had jinxed it by leaving my seat. I wanted to get a Dippin’ Dots ice cream helmet. Just as we left our seat to go on the concourse, we heard a roar from the crowd and knew exactly what happened (is it just me, or does EVERYone that goes to an almost-no-hitter secretly think that they jinxed in one way or another?). I am happy to report, though, that the trip we took was extremely productive. Not only was the ice cream delicious (No, I don’t remember, but how can ice cream be bad?), but I still have the helmet which essentially started my dad and I in collecting the helmets at different stadiums, and I bought my Phillies hat and shirt that I wear to this day every time I go to a game the Phillies are playing in.
Speaking of all of that stuff, here is all the stuff I picked up on this particular day:
Three of the items I referenced in the paragraph above the photo, but what’s this? There is a fourth item? Yes. I didn’t mention it at the beginning of the entry, but the promotion for that day’s game was a back-to-school lunchbox.
In the ninth inning, the score was 2-1 in favor of the Dodgers. I recall that we were in the concourse of the lower level in the top half of the ninth, because we watched Brad Lidge- amidst his season of perfection- pitch and were planning to leave as soon as the game ended. This, however, was delayed because the Phillies managed to score a run in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game up at 2. We stayed until the 10th inning ended. Usually, we are the fans that stay the whole game, but we had to catch a plane at 7:00 that morning to go to Detroit for the second leg of the trip. Considering it was 11:00 and we had a 2-2.5 hour trip ahead of us back to New York, my dad made the executive decision that this would be when we left.We headed out to the parking lot and found our car. Then just as we were about to start moving, fireworks erupted out of Citizens Bank Park. I tuned into the Phillies’ radio station to find out that Pedro Feliz had hit the HR. I was sad that we missed it, but happy that *he* hit it. The reason was that with all the puns that exist with the last name Feliz, the Phillies had chosen to play the “Feliz Navidad” audio whenever he came up (or maybe it was when he got a hit), but they cut it off right after the “Feliz” part, so I felt bad for him for having to put up with such an unimaginative gimmick.
Then on the drive home, I remember my dad told me not to fall asleep, I think to just keep him company and help him to stay awake. I was holding up pretty well half-way through New Jersey, but then I opened my eyes to us pulling up to 6425 Broadway (my apartment building). I had failed him, but at least I was ready to suit up in the morning and head off to Detroit to see Comerica Park.
Here are the two tickets for myself and my dad for this game that cost us a fortune on Stubhub:
I’m kind of ashamed to admit this, but I’m pretty sure I lost the Ryan Howard ball, which is why it isn’t in this shot. I remember we put it in the lunchbox, but I don’t know where it went after that. Also, if you look at the previous game’s entry, I have included the pictures of those tickets as well.