Again at Yankee Stadium, and look who I ran into:
This would be Greg Barasch, my former neighbor from when I lived in New York. And because he averages eight balls a game despite being in New York, I knew it was going to be a tougher-than-normal day at Yankee Stadium. But then again, I knew that in about a month, I would be at Target Field with very little or no competition most days, so I knew that in the end, being forced to another level just trying to get a couple of baseballs, it would only help me for when I had no competition in terms of being able to fully appreciate it.
And in at least the first few minutes, I was actually doing better than the competition I was facing–which is rare. I first went to the Yankees bullpen, where Hiroki Kuroda was going through the bullpen and tossing the balls that were in there back on the field. But when he was picking up the ball closest to me, I asked him in Japanese for the ball, he laughed, and tossed me the ball over the netting that separates the bullpen from the seats I was in:
And then it was back to my spot with Greg in front of me:
Normally I would think this would be an awful spot…and at the time it was, and I did in the moment–especially when he caught a home run that I would have otherwise gotten–but I then got two Lyle Overbay home runs within a matter of seconds. First over here:
And then with the first ball still in hand, I got the second one–off a bounce off of the Modell’s advertisement–over here:
So I was on the board with three baseballs in a matter of minutes. So when Ichiro’s group came up, I figured I had milked this section for all it was worth and headed into the second deck in right field. But I didn’t get anything; instead I just watched as Greg moved to my spot and snagged two baseballs there.
I then headed over to left field, where this was my spot/view:
And look who I saw out there:
That would be Rick Crowe. He’s a Chicago-based ballhawk who I first met back in 2011 when I was at my first game at US Cellular during my 2011 tour of Midwest colleges. He can usually be found in the seats of US Cellular Field for batting practice, but his practice at least back in 2011 was to lave after BP to go home and have dinner with his family. And while I don’t like people having no reason to leave before the game starts leaving before the game starts, having a family to have to go back to is a valid reason to do so for me.
Anyway, we planned to meet later in at his seat above the batter’s eye before the national anthem, but when I got there, the section I would have had to go to get to his seat was closed for a private event. Oh well; I’m sure I’ll run into him again down the line.
My next ball would come from the spot I took the picture of Rick from. Mark Trumbo blasted a ball into the left field bleachers, but the person who was under the ball ended up bobbling it:
And so the ball went into the tunnel that was behind me, where I picked it up. I then asked a kid who had run behind me if he had gotten a ball, and when he said no, I gave him the ball. That was my last ball for BP.
As for the game, this was my view of it:
And what a painfully slow game it was. I forgot which one it was, but one half-inning took 45 minutes as Mike Scioscia must have made 4 pitching changes. That, and because there was a call Scioscia believed had gone against him, (and despite the fact that I still haven’t seen the replay of it, from what I saw during the game, I agree with him.) Scioscia did something I have never seen a manager do and instead of signaling for the pitcher from the bullpen right away, he made it like a visit to the mound and made the home plate umpire, David Rackley walk out to the mound before he called for the pitcher he was going to bring in. Anyway, due to the painful slowness of the game’s pace, we were almost an hour behind normal game schedule. So when there was a rain delay:
Greg and I both expected not many people to come back to the seats. But when we went back into the seats, it was a truly ludicrous scene. First, the players were warming up while the tarp was being put away, which I’ve never seen:
But then there was also an insanely low amount of people that were present. Greg and I were both shocked how few Yankee fans emerged from what was probably the shortest during-game rain delay I had seen, and maybe Greg had seen. (It had only lasted a little over fifteen minutes.):
I mean, look at this panorama of the seats after the rain delay. (Click to enlarge, silly):
When the game eventually ended after 11:00, Greg and I took advantage of this fact, and yelled in unison at home plate umpire David Rackley. He was headed into the umpire tunnel with his head down, but after our “1,2,3…MR.RACKLEY!” he looked up and tossed us both a baseball. It was quite a beautiful moment of ballhawk teamwork:
And after that, we headed out, and I took a picture of the surprisingly-full Great Hall post-game:
And with that, I headed back to the place I was staying just to come back and do it the next day.
- 5 Balls at this game (4 pictured because I gave 1 away)
Numbers 631-635 for my “career”:
- 189 Balls in 45 Games= 4.20 Balls Per Game
- 5 Balls x 35,013 Fans=175,065 Competition Factor
- 107 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 12 straight Games with 2 Balls
- 9 straight Games with 3 Balls
- 96 Balls in 26 Games at Yankee Stadium= 3.69 Balls Per Game
- 26 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Yankee Stadium
- 13 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Yankee Stadium
- Time Spent On Game 3:24-11:44= 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.
For the Dodgers, it was the year of the star player. First there wa Andre Eithier making noise with his big hitting streak at the beginning of the year:
Then there was Matt Kemp with extraordinary MVP-type season:
Finally, who could forget the amazing season Clayton Kershaw had that won him the Cy Young Award:
(That is actually a picture from a game that I went to, I made sure it was specifically for the guest I had during that game, because he almost called a no-hitter before the game started. So, Chris, as in Cositore, if you are reading this, that picture is for you.) Chris Capuano, Todd Coffey, Mark Ellis, Jerry Hairston Jr., Aaron Harang, Adam Kennedy, and Matt Treanor.
Hiroki Kuroda, Rod Barajas, Casey Blake, Jonathan Broxton, Jamey Carroll, Hong-Chih Kuo,and Vicente Padilla.
Why?: This is a pretty sticky situation to try and decipher. No, not because of the whole “sale of the team” thing, but because the Dodgers rid themselves of two guys that, if they perform up to what the have shown previously, could make this a very bad offseason for them. Those two would be: Jonathan Broxton and Vicente Padilla. Think about it, if those guys get back to how they were not too long ago, the Dodgers would have gotten rid of a front-to-middle of the rotation starter and a bona fide closer.
Even outside of the offseason AND the sale of the team situation, the Dodgers are a mystery. Take Andre Eithier for example, this is a guy that we have seen hit 30 HRs in a season and drive in 100 runs before. If he does this last year, the Dodgers are probably in 2nd place in their division. He is just one example, but this team could easily be a contender in the division if all the players on their team matched what they have shown they can be. I realize that any team would be better if they did so, but it seems to apply to the Dodgers much more so than to any other team (last year the team I ascribed this trait to was the Arizona Diamondbacks).
Predicted Record Range: 81-86 wins
The Yankees season was really a culmination of surprise seasons from players. Including, but not limited to, the guys in this next picture:
Michael Pineda, Russell Branyan, Bill Hall, Hiroki Kuroda, Hideki Okajima, and Dewayne Wise.
Jesus Montero, Andrew Brackman, Bartolo Colon, Hector Noesi, Jorge Posada, and Scott Proctor.
Why?: Ok, I know that everyone wants to know how the Yankees and Mariners could possibly both end up being better. I *do* think that the Mariners got the better talent. However, I think the Yankees did what was best for the team. The Yankees have long been an offensive powerhouse, but they needed cheap pitching. The Yankees may have been able to effectively use Montero, but what we know they needed is to get more pitchers in their rotation. That is what all the Yankees fans were complaining about. I realize that being a GM is mostly about winning and not pleasing people, but when you operate your own network like the Yankees do, it has an elelment of pleasing the crowd to it, because hype surrounding the team going into a season boosts the rating early on in the year.
While this may be a short-term benefit, there is also a long-term one to this trade. As you may or may not have heard, the Yankees are trying to get under the luxury tax threshold within the next two years, as MLB is hiking up the penalties for being over it. The goal being to try and save about $100 million over the three years after that with the raised penalties. Pineda satisfies this goal, because he will cost about $7 million a year for what appears to be a number 2 starter. Starting Pitching usually cost more on the open market than hitting. So the Yankees will be both trading a surplus category for a stregnthening of a weakness and will be getting a pitcher for less than a pitcher of his talent would have cost on the open market. So if they had to sacrifice some talent and take on some risk, so be it. This is my take on it, anyway.
As for the other players, I really don’t feel much like analyzing EVERY one of the players added and subtracted. I mean like “Hiroki Kuroda is better than Bartolo Colon, but is he given the fact that Scott Proctor went to Japan?” Yeah, that stuff, I don’t see as that important when looking at the Yankees’ offseason this year. I just looked at the aggragates and thought it seemed like they a B/B+ job this offseason. The aformentioned, Montero, Pineda trade seemed like a C+/B- trade so I averaged.
Predicted Record Range: 94-99 wins Yeah they did win 100 games last season, but I also think that a bunch of players over performed what they usually do and the Yankees will come back to earth this year.