I took a surprise trip to a certain ballpark a little while ago, so I thought I’d start with a Before the Gates Open video:
Note: Steve Carlton is *NOT* dead; I was thinking of Robin Roberts when I said it. They’re both Phillies great pitchers. How am I supposed to differentiate between them?
First off, here is the link to the entry I mentioned in the video: Blast From The Baseball Past. Now, onto the story of why I was even at this game:
See, my neighbor whom you saw in the video, Greg Barasch was discussing has taken a few trips to “the bank” (I actually have no clue if that’s what it’s dubbed; I just threw that in myself), and was discussing another this week. I was in Washington, so my accompaniment of him was dependent on what day of the week he went i.e. I didn’t want to go Monday and have to sacrifice my final two games at Nationals Park for two games in Citi Field. When he announced he was going on Wednesday, though, I jumped at the opportunity.
So…. that’s the story. Let’s get to the snagging.
When I entered the seating area, I was absolutely shocked by the fact that Citizens Bank Park has no hand railings in the seats:
Interestingly enough, I was the first one in the stadium to snag a ball:
When I got in the seating area, Cliff Lee and Kyle Kendrick were talking. When a ball rolled to the wall, Kendrick ran over to grab it. When he did, I asked him for the ball and he tossed it up to me.
Then, a ball got hit towards a gloveless man and his kid. “Shockingly”, the ball bounced off his hands and into the flower bed in front of the section. I didn’t want to step in because the ball was, in fact, RIGHT in front of the man. After a few seconds, though, Greg dropped in and pulled the ball out along with a few weeds.
If you don’t know, fans are confined to left field for the first hour of the gates being open at Citizens Bank Park. Since the Phillies had recently converted to being a minor league team, the only legitimate righty hitter was Carlos Ruiz. He hit a ball pretty much right at me, so I stepped down a stair (to make sure no one could jump in front of me), jumped up, and caught the ball the ball on the fly:
Even with the balls I had caught on the fly in Washington, this was still exhilarating.
After that, I snagged the first ball I probably wouldn’t have snagged had there been hand rails. Michael Martinez hit a ball a section to my right, after hitting in the seats and initially deflecting away from me, I tracked it down and picked it up over here:
I then asked around for a kid in the section with a glove who had not yet gotten a ball. I came to this kid and gave it away to him:
Then came time for the Reds to hit.
I nearly got Johnny Cueto to throw me a ball while he was warming up, but he threw the ball to Greg instead (which put him ahead of me, 4-3. I would never tie him again.) After I got rejected by Cueto, I headed back to the spot where I caught the Ruiz homer. It was closer to center field, so I knew I wouldn’t get that many home runs, but I had more room to run for balls. Then a Reds hitter hit a ball right in the same spot as Ruiz. I did the same exact thing as on the Ruiz ball: step a step down, ready myself and raise my glove/jump slightly at the last second. However, this time, there was someone in front of me contesting for the ball. In addition to this, Jose Arredondo threw up his glove at the ball. It *just* missed the ball, so for at least half a second, I was completely convinced the ball was going to hit me in the face. Instead, this happened:
It was quite a great catch if I do say so myself. I had to deal with the glove of the kid in front of me, the glove of Arrendondo flying in the air, and then the part I didn’t mention: the kid was backing into me, so just as I made the catch, he fell and I had to catch him before he got a face-full of concrete.
Then Brandon Phillips’ group came up. I don’t know if you know this, but despite the measly 13 home runs Phillips had coming into the game, he hits far and plentiful bombs in batting practice. So does at least one other guy in his group. I should’ve probably had four or five of them had I known they would have gone so far into the stands. Instead, I snagged hit by one of those Reds righties and gave it to this kid in the bright orange:
(His dad in the blue had the ball as I took the picture.)
See what I mean? It certainly wasn’t a Yankee Stadium crowd, but there’s no way to get to the section just to my right. I should also mention that it was around this time, I ran into a row, a kid ran right after me, so our feet got tangled, and I fell straight into the ground. I’m usually very good at making it so my legs just graze seats and such, but since my legs couldn’t move at all while I was falling, it smacked right into the metal arm rest. It never showed a bruise, but my leg hurt for a week after that every time I leg past about 35 degrees.
During the gam, this was my view:
See that guy in the row right in front of me in the gray? I’ll get back to him in a minute.
As for the game, the Reds ended up winning the game 3-2 behind a strong pitching performance from Bronson Arroyo. As for my snagging attempts during the game, they had a common theme: Jay Bruce-related heartbreak. EVERY inning, Jay Bruce would warm up with the Reds bullpen catcher. most of said innings, I yelled my lungs out trying to get his attention. There was NO way he didn’t hear me. Even the Phillies fans were helping me; yet I came back to my seat empty-handed every time.
Between-inning toss-ups, though, were the least of my woes. In the top of the eighth inning, Jay Bruce launched a ball to my left. I ran as far as I could to my left, but I could tell it was a. headed to the second deck and b. I couldn’t even get in line with the ball. Then it hit this electronic scoreboard strip:
From there it bounced to my “new” left (I had turned around, since the ball was now behind me.), so I ran/limped as fast as I could after the ball in mid-air. Here is a diagram of the path of the ball after that:
To clarify, the ball bounced off of the guy in the red’s hands and bounced right past me (I was right next to him at this point). I saw the ball, so I just went down to thhe ground as soon as I could expecting it to bounced off the guy just out of the frame with the beer’s chest and fall down. After looking everywhere down there- all of which took place over the course of maybe two seconds- I couldn’t see it. Turns out, it had hit the guy’s head instead and bounced over a place that absolutely infuriated me:
Why? Here’s a hint: I have a red backpack.
That’s right, the ball bounced *right* to the seat I had been sitting in. Had I never run after the ball at all, I would have had my first ever home run ball. Here’s the highlight of the home run if you wish:
You can only see the ball bouncing off the scoreboard, though. Which is good since I would have driven myself insane watching the play had I been able to see what happened,
Remember the guy in gray? he was the one who leaned backwards in his chair and picked up the ball that rolled within inches of my backpack. He said it was really easy; not it an in-your-face manner, but just to let me know, since i had been going for balls all night and was the only one to even react to the Bruce home run as it was hit.
Thankfully, the game didn’t end on a negative note. At the end of the game, I headed over to the Reds/ Phillies bullpen area and got the Reds’ bullpen coach, Juan Lopez to throw me a ball from the other end of the bullpen. It was a pretty good job of aiming the ball from so far away:
After my sixth and final ball of the game, I met up with Greg, who had snagged 9 Balls, behind the Reds dugout. Interestingly, nine is the only number of balls he had ever failed to snag in a game before…or maybe I’m confusing this with another number:
And then we took the drive home to New York together while talking about a range of ballhawk-related subjects:
- 6 Balls at this game (4 pictured because I gave 2 away)
Numbers 387- 392 for my lifetime:
- 49 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 5 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 3 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
- 2 straight Games with at least 4-6 Balls
- Time Spent On Game 11:41- 12:45= 13 Hours 4 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.
As much as it may surprise you, I did go to game before I created Observing Baseball. I know, shocking, isn’t it? Really the purpose of these “Blast From The Baseball Past” entries is to document what happened at certain games before they fade from my memory.
I don’t know since I have yet to think about the other entries, much less write them already, but this entry may be slightly longer than others just because it is the first one and I may have some things to explain. Now that I’ve said that, let m’ get to ‘splainin’:
Up to this point in my life, I had attended games at four stadiums: Old Yankee Stadium, Shea Stadium, Pac Bell Park (as it was called back then), and McAfee Coliseum. I was, and had been for some time, big into baseball and all of its teams. This prompted me to ask my dad if I could get him tickets to a baseball game for the both of us as his birthday present. He agreed and I made plans to buy two tickets for the All-Star game being held at the Old Yankee Stadium that year.
It was obvious, though, that I had not been purchasing tickets for much time prior. You see, I had planned to save $500 since the tickets cost $250 each at face value. However, they could not be bought at face value unless they were bought in conjunction with a plane ticket and hotel stay. Seeing as we lived within a mile of the stadium, this would not be necessary. Stubhub and other ticket-scalping websites would be our only means to acquire the tickets. The problem with this is that on said websites, they prices were substantially greater seeing as the demand for the tickets was greater. Instead of $250 a ticket, the price was around $450 for each. So, I made the decision that instead of splurging for a single game, going on a trip to see games might be a better idea.
My dad grew up in Minnesota, and was much more into Hockey as a child, an attribute which he attributes to a very hard throwing wild pitcher in his Little League. I mean he did go to games with his family to Milwaukee County Stadium and Metropolitan Stadium, but his first real encounter with Baseball on a day-to-day basis was when I came along and grew up really into Baseball. Therefore, although he was pretty well acquainted with Baseball, the idea of travelling to three cities to watch games was a teensy bit foreign to him. The proof of this? His title for the folder where all the planning material for the trip was to go on our computer was entitled: Mateo’s Baseball Adventure.
Anyway, the first stop on our trip was Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. My dad was a very good driver and had an even better sense of direction. However, for some reason, Philadelphia seemed to be the bane of his driving existence up to that point. We made sure to leave early in order to plan for getting lost. So if the recommended time of travel to Philadelphia is 2 hours (I have no clue what the exact time is, but 2-2.5 hours sounds about right to me), we left more than 3 hours before the first pitch. After arriving within I’d say 20 miles of the city of Philly, all the wheels came off the wagon. We were using a Google Maps print-out to guide us, and we knew things were wrong when the exit we had to take was a road that passed over our heads. One mistake lead to another and we ended up getting to Philadelphia through the suburbs, and checking into our hotel later than we would have liked.
Here are three pictures that go with what happened next. We went to the train and left for Citizens Bank Park:
1+2- I was walking to the train station, and there was a sloped part on the right of the sidewalk, so I tried to walk on it without falling off because of its slope. Hasn’t everyone done that? Just me? Oh well.
3. We got in the subway station for the train that went directly to Citizens Bank Park. Here I am waiting for the train to arrive.
After waiting and getting on the train, we had a brief walk to the ballpark. Here is a picture my dad took while we were walking between the train station and Citizens Bank:
When we arrived, it was already the third inning and the Phillies were up 3-2. I remember that we had a SRO (Standing Room Only) ticket. This was our view from the spot where we watched most of the game:
The highlight of this game for me was the fact that Cole Hamels was pitching. Even though he wasn’t at the top of my list of favorite players, he was in a constant battle with Ryan Howard for our attention -Ryan Howard because my dad was fascinated with how big he was- all game. Here is a picture of Cole Hamels batting:
and then when he got a hit, I made sure to take a picture of him standing on first:
Okay, here is the last picture of the entry that I took up coming up. I wanted to be fair to the other team’s pitcher by taking a picture of him as well:
Now this is where it gets interesting. You can tell by the shadows that it is fairly early in the game. However, I went back and looked at the probable pitchers for the day and they were Cole Hamels and Clayton Kershaw. Obviously, this isn’t Clayton Kershaw since he is a left-handed pitcher. Could it be that someone else took Kershaw’s spot in the rotation at the last-minute? It’s possible since he was only a rookie this season. Although there were nine runs, the Phillies didn’t score again until the bottom of the fifth, meaning Kershaw would have exited the game then, but it would be darker than it is in the picture at that time. The other two possibilities are that a. Kershaw worked up his pitch count too high, or b. He got pulled in the first inning. A seems like it could happen given that Kershaw was notorious for being wild early on in his career. B is a slightly less feasible option,but still makes sense, because Kershaw was a volatile rookie that would have been given a shorter leash than a more seasoned player. So what happened? I have since looked at it to solve the mystery, but I’ll let you guys guess here:
I won’t reveal the answer, but if you want to check it out for yourself, all the information you need to search for it is in the title of this entry.
Cole Hamels would not allow another run after we arrived, going 7 innings and only allowing two runs total as the Phillies won the game 9-2. Here is the screenshot from the “Gameday” for this game:
and here are the tickets for the game:
A fun adventure on the first day of “Mateo’s Baseball Adventure”- Part 1.