Back at Busch Stadium for a 12:40pm game. I took a chance going to this game, and I hoped and prayed that the Braves would at least do a little BP before the game. I wasnt really concerned with the Cardinals batting practice because they dont throw any baseballs to the fans anyway. I think it has something to do with upper management telling the players, and coaches not to. Thats the word on the block. At any rate, I still felt like trying. I got to the stadium pretty early. Not as early as I wanted. I had a hard time finding a spot to park. I had to use a parking garage, and I ended up on the ninth tier. It was Thursday at 9:30 in the morning in downtown St. Louis. So I could imagine parking would be limited. Plus the Cardinals were holding some random ticket drawing at 9:30am at the box offices. I heard the tickets were very cheap, and the lines to get these tickets were horrendous.
Once again I was first in line to get inside. There wasnt much competition on my way down to the third base side except for two older gentlemen that were racing down to get the good spot by the Braves dugout to score some autographs. I was much faster, and I was attempting to pass them on the left side of the railing when Gentleman number one decided to cut me off. I stepped right on his heel, and I about went down. I excused myself, and motored on. Of course, he looked at me funny like ” What the hell, buddy!” Hey, man. I wasnt trying to steal your precious spot for autographs that you probably wont get anyway. I was right too because Chipper Jones was the only one to sign, and the guy got shutout by a bunch of youngsters. Ha! Look what I got though…
From this guy….
Ha! Good ol` Chip signed about 100 autographs too, and took lots of pictures with the fans. ( Mostly with the girls that asked him. )
So anyway. After the excitement of Chipper Jones died down some it was time to put in some work. Actually, I have a confession to make. Before Chipper Jones came over to sign autographs, I missed two EASY ground balls my way. I posted up on the third base line, and since the walls at Busch are just about knee high on me it was prime hunting grounds for these baseballs. Lots came my way. Mostly over my head, and into the seats. The first ball that came my way was a hard ground ball, and I had to move to my right, avoid elbowing little kids, and come across my body to field it. No dice. The ball hit me square in the pocket, and somehow managed to squirt out of my glove, and the ball rolled away out of reach. At that point I was panicking a little bit. Since I harassed Tony La Russa all morning for a ball, and he kept telling me that they would hit it to me instead, and then the Cardinals left the field, and it was the Braves BP-ing now, I was sort of worried that the Busch Curse was back on. Well, it gets worse. Another ball was sharply hit my way. I misjudged the bounce, and I closed down on it too soon. The ball glanced off the top of my glove, and down into the corner of left field. My heart sank. Two baseballs in a row that I missed! How could this be happening! GAH!
I stayed focused, I took a deep breathe, and relaxed, and I tried to remember that playing these ground balls while leaning over a fence is harder, and its not like fielding a ball on the field. I cant get my body down in front or use two hands to scoop them up. All those fundementals of baseball that I learned as a child were out the window in this situation. Well, I stood my ground. Every time a ball was hit remotely close I gave it a shot. I had to stretch, and reach for these. And those blasted cupholders bolted to the wall were digging into my legs each time I went for a ball! Well, I think I got lucky because another baseball was hit my way. It was coming in fast and more towards the wall. At first I thought it was going to hit the corner of the wall but it didnt. It missed the corner of the wall by inches, and rolled right into my glove! Bing! FINALLY! Busch was NOT going to shut me out! I wasnt going to have it! In fact, I was so determined, and now officially relaxed that I got my first ball of the day I wanted to tie my record at Kauffman Stadium.
As the crowd started to gather around my little baseball haven I noticed there really wasnt much competition. If any. I had about eight kids to my right that probably wouldnt snag any ground balls because A) they’re kids, and B) I had the reach advantage over them. Plus they were in a really bad spot. They did get about five baseballs tossed to them though. So Id say they made out pretty good. As for me I should be up to three. But I didnt want to dwell on it. There were a few baseballs laying in shallow left, and I knew I had a shot at one of those. Unfortunatly, these three guys weren’t in any hurry to get them to the fans…
From Left to Right; Roger McDowell, Tim Hudson, and Kris Medlen.
Every ball that McDowell got he just batted into the infield. McDowell isnt known for being super nice to fans either. There was a guy maybe a little younger than me ( maybe early twenties ) that asked McDowell for an autograph.
” Excuse me, Mister McDowell? Can you please sign an autograph for me?” The fan asked.
” Yes.” Said McDowell.
They both stared at each other for a few seconds before McDowell blurted out
” Oh, you mean now? No. I will not sign your ball right now. Maybe later.” He said obnoxiously.
The fan just stood there in disgust. I wanted to get in there, and defend the fan. You know, say something like ” Hey, Roger. C’mon. You dont need to act like an a-hole to the guy. He just wants your signature on his ball.” But I didnt want to bring unwanted attention to myself. I only had ONE ball at this point. I needed three more. Saying something like that with Hudson, and Medlen around would probably help make up their minds that they WOULDNT throw me a ball. So I just stayed quiet, and kept watching the batter in the cage like a good fan. In my mind making that decision paid off. Coach Alan Butts came walking over to clean up some of the balls in shallow left, so I called to him. I kept calling to him. I called to him, and I called to him, and I called to him. The eight kids to my right were calling to him as well. If anything, he would see my Braves hat, and hook me up. Alan Butts looked like a guy that would hook up a guy like me instead of some pesky kids decked out in Cardinals gear. Wouldnt you know it, he deliberatly tossed the ball JUST out of reach of those kids, and right to my glove. How about that! Bing! Number two. Things were looking up. Just two more to go!
What happened next was the most ridiculous thing ever to happen to me at a baseball game. The batter in the cage sent a wild chopper down the line. It was a beautiful cut too. This ball was fair the whole way. ( Still during BP ) As the ball started to get closer it started to cut foul. That ball landed about two feet from the kids, and bounced up. With my arm outstretched as far as I could reach I snagged that puppy as it bounced up. It was a beautiful grab! Bing! Number three. Hold on. Almost to the ridiculous part. Since a lot of baseballs were coming my way a lot more people came down to see if they could get their chance for a ball. Well, this father/son duo had showed up about 15 minutes ago, and the father was doing most of the whining for a ball. It was pretty pathetic. The father was demanding a lot, and saying his son really wants a ball. The son was doing a fair share of whining as well. McDowell. Hudson, and Medlen were still standing there but obviously ignoring the loud cries for a baseball by these two.
As the whining continued more and more baseballs were caught by the trio, and sent quickly into the infield. I wanted to tell these two crybabies to put a lid on it or no one would get a ball. And thats probably the honest truth. Baseball players are not obligated to give anyone a ball. In fact, if MLB wanted to save a ton of cash every year they could probably put a limit on how many baseballs are allowed to be tossed to fans by players. I dont really know how it all works but what I do know is whining wont get you a ball. Demanding a ball wont get you one either. Asking nicely, and respectfully will though. Just thought Id share that. So here comes the ridiculous part. After I snagged that chopper down the line, I barely had enough time to get it into my bag when a stray baseball came rolling out of centerfield, passed Medlen, passed Hudson, passed McDowell, and right into my glove! I looked up to see where it came from, and all I saw was McDowells smiling face. I didnt question it. I just looked at the ball and what do you know…
Ive got about three of these kind of baseballs now. Fine by me.
It was fun shagging on the third base line at Busch though. Real fun.
So I was up to four baseballs at this point, and after I nabbed that fourth one the whining from the Father/Son team became too unbareable to stand there another five minutes. After I snagged that fourth one the Father/Son combo started whining at me to give them the ball. They complained that I had five or six baseballs now, and to give someone else a turn. They complained I was hogging the good spot, and I should let kids have a chance to geta balll. They complained that I was too good, and I shouldnt stand there, and take away all the baseballs from the kids. Well, they were half right. I was too good, and I probably shouldve moved on after shagging four baseballs. Was I hogging the good spot? No, not really. Busch has a lot of “good spots” to shag from. First base, and Right Field over the Bullpen are great spots. Did I have the best spot on the third base side? Yes, I sure did. But I wasnt hogging it. Eight kids shared that spot with me. I also wasnt taking all the baseballs away from any kids either. Those eight kids had about five baseballs in their possession between all eight of them. I didnt take any away from anyone. The four I grabbed were hit right to me! What was I supposed to do? Let them pass? I guess thats what the Father/Son duo wants. A handout. Hey, buddy. I got words for you. You want a baseball from a Major League Stadium? Beat me to the stadium is your first step. Once you do that we will go from there. I didnt want to see the Father/Son team get a baseball. I dont think they ever did either. I reluctantly left that spot.
I tried my luck in left field, and Kenshin Kawakami was working that corner. He tossed up two baseballs but none in my general direction. I felt that I would probably leave Busch Stadium with four balls. But its what I wanted. I wanted to tie my record at Kauffman two days prior, and I also wanted to leave Busch feeling victorious. I felt pretty good. Like Ive stated before. Busch isnt the best stadium to shag baseballs in. Its rather tough. You have to be a good sport about it, you have to stay focused, and stand your ground. There are a lot of greedy, baseball hungry fans that will get in your way if you let them. I was able to come away with more baseballs at Busch than I ever have. I was thinking about going to Busch Stadium tomorrow. The crowd will be ridiculously large because its Snuggie night, and its Friday. I havent made up my mind yet if Im going or not. But I will be in Cleveland on Saturday to watch the Indians Vs. Twins game. It will be my first time in Progressive Field so hopefully it will be a good time.
Wish me luck…!
Game: St. Louis Cardinals Vs. Atlanta Braves April 29th 2010 12:40pm
Game Balls: Four
Autographs: Two ( Chipper Jones, Tim Hudson )
Attendance: 39, 561
Kauffman Stadium. One of the most unique, and beautiful stadiums in the Major Leagues. Although, I havent been to every single stadium that ever stood, I still love going to Kauffman. The people are great, the rules are fair, and the players are always willing to throw plenty of baseballs into the stands. Tonights visit to Kauffman was a little….nerve racking for some reason though. Maybe because its always a thought in the back of my mind of getting shutout at the K or not collecting my usual standard of baseballs. Whatever the case was, I really wasnt feeling it tonight.
I arrived at the stadium at around 2pm, and like always I was the first at the gates. Of course, here at Kauffman Stadium they dont open the gates two hours before game time. They only do that on Friday games, and Saturday games. So there I stood at the front gate waiting. Felix Hernandez, Casey Kotchman, Chone Figgins, Adam Moore, and David Aardsma took taxi cabs to the stadium. I watched them walk in but I didnt attempt for any autographs. Chasing autographs for me was kind of on the back burner this year anyway. I only need 30 more to reach 100, and I figured Ill probably have that by the All-Star break if I really focused on it. It was just nice to see some well dressed Mariners.
Side shot of the newly renovated Kauffman Stadium.
5pm finally rolled around. Thirty minutes until they opened the gates. You could hear the music over the loud speakers on the field, you could hear the cracks of the bats on the field, and you could smell the hotdogs, and other various stadium food aroma. I love baseball! The ushers, and security started to unlock the gates, and bring the bag check tables, and boxes out. The ushers chatted amongst themselves, and finally “Leroy” came over to me. He greeted me, and I offered to allow him to search my bag.
” Leroy, how come they dont open the gates two hours prior today? At Busch Stadium they do every game.” I asked.
” Im not sure. I know they open the gates two hours prior on Friday games, and Saturday games though.” He replied.
” Interesting. You’d think they would open them up two hours before game time everyday. It would be a great chance to make extra mo-” And at that point I looked back at the crowd behind me. Zack Greinke was scheduled to pitch tonight. It was Tuesday. It was cold, and windy. There were maybe 15 people in line with me. At that point I looked back to Leroy.
” Its got to have something to do with paying employees more money to open the gates an extra 30 minutes. Considering the fan base turn-out here as opposed to Busch Stadium. ” I said.
Leroy simply nodded silently. Those sad eyes stared at me for a moment. You could tell he was thinking something along the lines of ” Why cant Kansas City have a winning team?”
I could only look to my feet. I shook my head empathetically. I know the feeling. For 21 years I have loved my Seattle Mariners. Year after year I have watched them play some really subpar baseball. But like a loyal fan I support them, and continue to love them. Isnt that what baseball is all about? Winning and losing.
Right field seats. Even with a former Cy Young award winner on the mound tonight they couldnt turn out more than 20,000 fans. ( 14,969 )
So once inside the stadium, I immediatly started to scout out the best place to get my first ball. The Mariners were already on the field so time wasnt on my side. They were off in left field warming up. The Royals still had roughly ten minutes left on the field. Maybe. There were a few Royals cleaning up foul balls that were being hit into the right field corner but that was a long shot to get one of those guys to toss me a ball. I started down the third base line when I spotted a lone baseball sitting out in front of the Royals dugout. I looked around for any players that may come this way, and the Royals hitting coach Bobby McClure was about the only guy that could walk towards me. Sure enough, he did. I started calling to him. ” Hey, Coach! Hey Coach!” Pointed at the ball in any desperate attempt to get his attention. He waved at me, and rubbed his fingers together indicating that I would have to pay for this one. I laughed, and I told him I had to pay for parking, and the only cash I had on me was just for that. Plus, I explained I wanted to get a hotdog or something.
” Well, junior, its Buck Night, so you’ll have to do better than that.” He laughed.
” Im parked in a tow away zone too! So the fees are going to stack against me!” I exclaimed.
McClure eventually picked up the ball, and tossed it my way. Bing!! How about that. Within the first five minutes I got my first ball of the day. That has to be some kind of record. It has to be. I thanked him, and I moved on. I gave left field another thought, and just as I turned to jet up the stairs and head that way, I heard the command ” Pick up!” Yep. The Royals were done. Up the stairs I went, and I quickly traded out hats on the fly.
Now Kauffman is a little more difficult going from base line seats to base line seats. They have this huge restaurant behind home plate, and that also allows Diamond Club members to enter the stadium. Its actually a nice place to sit and eat but a huge inconvenience to me. Not that I am lazy in any fashion, it just takes away from the time it would take me if I could just scamper around the diamond on a cross section or something. I sprinted around the restaurant, and I noticed a father/son duo running that way as well. They were all decked out in M’s gear so I knew I would have to get down there fast, and be aggressive.
The whole Mariners pitching staff was down there warming up. I took up a spot on the railing behind Kanekoa Texeira. I was hoping he wouldnt recognize me from last Saturday at Cellular Field. To be honest with you I dont know how well baseball players memories were. I made quite a scene at Cellular to get a ball, and Texeira was standing by to witness. Maybe I would get one because it was the second time he has seen me at a Mariners game. In any case, I had to try. It wasnt five minutes later that Texeira, and Ryan Rowland-Smith were all done warming up. Texeira immediatly turned around, and tossed me the ball. Bing! Number two!
Ken Griffey Jr was in the cage smashing baseballs into the outfield bleachers. So I headed that way. He launched two into the left field seats as I was passing by but they were out of reach. I continued around towards the Batters Eye, and down to the Party Porch. I learn something new every time I attend a baseball game. The players that are generally shagging fly balls in the outfield are pitchers. Not all of them but the majority of the them are. So a key tip here is to learn the pitching staff of the teams you go to see. Fortunatly for me I already knew all that players names from the Mariners. So as soon as a fly ball was hit over the head of this guy…
I quickly struck up a friendly conversation.
” Mark! How are things going for you in Seattle? You look like youre having a lot of fun!” I yelled to him.
” Seattle is great! Thanks man! How are you?” He replied back to me.
” Im very well, thanks man. Just enjoying the day. Hey, what are the chances of me getting that ball from you?” I asked.
He smiled, and tossed it up to me. Unfortunalty, it bounced off of the top of the wall, and back onto the field.
” Bad toss! My bad!” He apologized, and got it to me this time.
Bing! Mark Lowe you are officially my hero! Now to get my fourth was going to be tricky. Most of the Mariners have been watching me now, so I would have to change it up a bit. I ran into the Centerfield bleachers ( since I had about 40 minutes left ) to see if I could shag a homerun ball. If you would like some tips on how to catch a line drive homerun ball, here you go; They come in hot, and fast! You better get a good read on the ball, and get a good jump on it. You better know your way around the seats, and aware of your surroundings at the moment. Lastly, make an aggressive catch. I failed to follow my own advice. I got tripped up on the stairs, and the ball was deflected by another fan. Fortunatly for me he too got tripped up on the stairs and he got stopped by the stair railing. He scampered towards the ball, and as I got to my feet the ball was within reach, and I grabbed it. Bing! My fourth ball of the afternoon! The other fan moaned, and growned and then let out a laugh as he explained that would have been his third.
I waited in the Centerfield bleachers for another ten minutes, and nothing else came my way. So I headed back down to the third base side. ( At this point I removed by black jacket to reveal my white undershirt I was wearing ) Two baseballs were laying on the grass within in five feet or so of my new position on the railing. All I had to do was be more outgoing than the fans around me, and hope whoever came over wasnt Mark Lowe, or Kanekoa Texeira. I had a shot. There were two of them. A few more Mariners fans perched on the railing with me so now I had a little competition. Fun. Soon enough the railing filled up with young Royals fans as well. My chances of getting one of those balls soon become slim to none. But I still had a shot. Rick Adair was the lucky Mariner to come our way, and I started shouting at him. I wanted that ball! Well, Rick decided that my quick wit, and humorous personality wasnt quick enough, or funny. The kids got the ball.
Back around the Royals dugout I went. ( The Mariners dugout was lined with fans ) If I were going to get my fifth ball here this would be it. The Mariners were busy with batting practice, and there was a small crowd of kids to my left. No one to my right, and nobody behind me. I was set. I started calling out to Eric Brynes, and Ty Van Burkleo everytime a new batter took the cage. No dice. But Rob Johnson was busy tossing a few baseballs to the crowd of kids to my right. I called a few times to him but he ignored me. Finally Rob Johnson tossed another one to the kids, and it got away from them, and rolled on top of the dugout, and dropped down into it. They kids desperatly asked the police officer to get it for them, and he reluctantly did. ( I remember when I asked a police officer last year for a ball on the field, and he told me he would get fired for touching it. Rules have changed this year I guess, or this cop hates his job and wants to get fired. )
The police officer came out of the dugout, and tossed it to the kids again. The ball squirted out of their mits for the second time, and dropped back down into the dugout. Wow. I called to the police officer.
” Hey, if you toss it to me Ill catch it!” I laughed. As did he, and he retrieved the ball for the second time. Before he could toss the ball up I interjected, and pointed to this little three year old that joined me with his father.
” Throw it to this little guy, sir! Those other kids had their chance!” I pleaded. The cop fullfilled my request, and tossed it to the child. I caught the ball for him, and handed it over. The father of the child told the youngster to thank me, and I responded with a thumbs up. As bad as I wanted that ball it wasnt really intended for me. I felt obligated to give it up. Even though I caught it. Even though those eight kids to my right had equal opportunity to catch the ball. Even though the players have tossed three to them already. Even though the players give more baseballs out to kids than adults. Even though. I still gave it to the kid. I thought to myself, ” I should have grabbed that ball, and ran.” At best I would have been boo-ed. I wasnt going to sit in that section. That ball will end up in that kids toybox anyway. Or end up a chew toy for the family dog. Ill tell you where it wont end up. It wont end up in a protective case high up on the wall with a small plaque reading ” Juniors first baseball from Kauffman Stadium”
Oh well. I had four, and the game hadnt even started yet. By the end of the game I still remained at four.
Game: Kansas City Royals Vs Seattle Mariners April 27th 2010 7:15pm
Game Balls: Four
I consider Busch Stadium to be a very hard stadium to get baseballs in. Its not really because there are a ton of people, or the walls are too tall, etc etc. It just seems like none of the players are real friendly towards the older fans. I would bet that 95% of the baseballs that the players give to fans are children. I suppose Im okay with that. I dont know why it bothers me so much. Its all apart of the game, I suppose. I have been shutout once at Busch in the two years Ive been collecting from there, and tonight I wanted to do more than just get ONE baseball. I wanted to get as many as I could, and at any cost.
I was determined. I showed up extra early at the stadium today to ensure I was the first in line. I was so early I caught up with Derek Lowe for an autograph. I also caught up with Dave McKay, Cardinals First Base Coach for an autograph as well. As I headed back up Stan Musial Drive, I noticed Melky Cabrera yapping on his cellphone. I also noticed that he seemed lost. Well, he did come from New York. He also hasnt ever played in the National League either, or been to Busch Stadium. So I picked up my third autograph of the day. Not a bad start. After all of that I heard other fans bragging how they got Mark McGwires autograph down where the players drive in. I, unfortunalty, did not get his autograph. I was too busy standing in line for two and a half hours.
Once I got inside the stadium it was pretty empty. Although, it was raining a little bit, and it was a Monday game. So maybe people would show up later. I was hoping so. I pretty much had the third base side to myself for about thirty minutes.
Here is a picture of the outfield bleachers thirty minutes into batting practice. The two Cardinals on the far right, well, the player on the left is Jaime Garcia. I called out to him probably 25 times for a baseball. No dice. In fact the Cardinals hardly threw any basebalsl to the fans. When batting practice was finally over for the Cardinals, of course, Garcia walked a ball to the third base side, and handed it to a small child. What a guy! It was time to dawn my Braves gear. I switched out hats as quickly, and as sneaky as I could. I did it as the Cardinals were still on the field, and the Braves were still hanging around the dugout.
Tommy Hanson, Eric Hinske, Kenshin Kawakami, Kris Medlen, Eric O’Flaherty, and Takashi Saito all took position in front of where I was standing, and began to play catch. This is what I hate most about batting practice. Do you know how many baseballs Ive witnessed that players miss, and the ball sails into the stands, and hits some innocent fan eating nachos or something? Too many to count. Seriously. This is the toughest part of batting practice. I have to keep my eye on the batter as he’s ripping baseballs towards the outfield, AND I have to watch out for these guys playing catch right in front of me! All the while calling out to them asking for a baseball. For a fan this is pretty difficult! And Ill tell you this. Today just wasnt my day either. I was shutout by the Cardinals during their batting practice, and every ground ball that came my way was just a few feet out of reach! I was so annoyed at this point I wanted to call it quits. Plus it was raining on me. GRRR!!!
So Hansen, and Medlen were the first to terminate their game of catch, and they handed two baseballs to some kids in the stands. Hinske, and O’Flaherty were the next to go, and they didnt toss any baseballs to anyone. Saito, and Kawakami were the last two. If I didnt get a baseball from one of these guys it was over. I wouldnt get any baseballs during batting practice, and that would sure kill any motivation I had left to even TRY. I tried to keep my head in the game though. I thought about the players I met today, and how friendly they were. If anything I would chase down Derek Lowe, and beg and plead for a baseball. Saito flipped his mit down which meant their game of catch was about to end. So I started hounding Kenshin Kawakami for the ball. He was closest to me. Soon, I was surrounded by Cardinal fans asking for the same ball I was. This was not happening! Where did all these people come from??! Finally they were done playing catch, and Kawakami looked down the third base line. I kept calling. I kept adjusting my Braves hat, and I tried to look as friendly and NON-desperate as possible. We made eye contact, and he pointed to me. I stuck my mit out, and he flipped me the ball. Bing! My first ball of the day at Busch Stadium. I felt so much better. Below is the ball. And what do you know…
Its a “Practice” Ball! I dont think Ive ever gotten a ball at Busch that wasnt unique in some way. My very first ball at Busch was an Inaugural ball from Nationals park, and my second was an Inaugural ball from Citi Field, and now a Practice ball! Well, that really made me feel good. So now it was time to find a new spot. I made my way into the center field bleachers where Billy Wagner, and Derek Lowe along with David Ross were giving the fans quite a bit of attention. Billy Wagner was busy signing autographs, and Derek Lowe was busy chatting with some fans near the bullpen. Kris Medlen was the main guy shagging fly balls. So between all of those guys I didnt have a chance to get a ball. Plus, the players in the cage werent putting enough on the ball to even come. I didnt waste much time in the bleachers. I made my way back down to the third base side.
No dice. Batting practice ended, and again I was stuck with just getting ONE baseball from Busch. What a night. I was disappointed with myself. I kept telling myself to get more aggressive. Call to these players more. Nudge elbows with fans, and get in there! All those ground balls charging passed me, I should have made more of an effort! Man alive! I didnt want to leave Busch with only one ball. There had to be a way to get more. Well, my seat was in section 161, Row E, Seat 5. Aisle seat. 20 feet from the Braves dugout. I should get a foul ball or a player should toss one my way.
I sat through seven innings, and only two foul balls came my way. Both way out of reach. Well, it was time for drastic measures. I would have to make my way down around home plate seats, and catch an umpire on the way out. Well, with 35,000 people at this stadium, I didnt know how hard that was going to be. But I wasnt going to give up. I left my seat, and went to scout out the area. Before I could really get a good look I was ran off by an usher. “Okay”, I said to myself. ” Its too early to be going down there. No problem. ” Rule of thumb; Ushers are usually pretty nazi about their aisle until about the last out of the game. Then they walk down to the dugout area, and you can just follow them. And thats exactly what I did. Unfortunatly, the umpires left the field directly behind home plate behind some hidden gate in the fence. I was absolutely crushed when I saw that. Now what? Bullpen players! Surely they’d have a ball! I waited by the dugout, and walked down the front row behind the ushers as they hurried people out of the stadium. The bullpen players neared, and I quickly asked if they had an extra ball I could have. What happened next was so amazing, I nearly missed the ball. Oh, I guess I gave it away. Bing! Ball number two, and THAT my friends finally crushes the curse Ive had on me at Busch Stadium!
Despite 21 years of watching the Mariners play subpar baseball and hardly ever winning in the playoffs, and be one of the three teams that have never made an appearance in the World Series, here I sat in the front row of Cellular Field waving my Mariners colors proudly. What could any Sox fan say to me? The WhiteSox went into this game 6-11 and have only won the World Series three times in their franchise history. Its more than the Mariners, but realistically its not much more. Whatever.
Outside the gates I conversed with a fellow autographer, and ballhawk that lives in Chicago. We traded autograph stories, and complained mostly how Ken Griffey Jr doesnt sign any autographs, and hasnt for the last ten years. Kind of depressing, really. We also traded great autograph opportunity areas around different baseball stadiums. He told me a lot of the autographs he’s gotten were from players sitting in hotel lobby bars! If you can believe that. I told him the two stadiums that I have had the most success at ( Kauffman, and Busch ) and how to get autographs from those places. He was quite impressed, and told me he’d like to go sometime and try his luck.
As soon as the gates were opened, we ran in to make our way towards the field. I always hated ushers, and security that constantly want to check tickets, and find out where we are supposed to sit. I got stopped twice for ticket checks on my way to the field. Unreal. Get a real job!! Anyway. As I approached the field, I scurried down to the first base line where the Mariners were warming up, and stretching. Whoever was in the cage at the time was sending countless baseballs into the corner of right field. Don Wakumatsu, and Adam Moore were working on catching drills, and Moore almost caught a ball to the back of the head! As he retrieved it I asked for it, and he handed it up. Bing! Too easy!
Did you know the walls at Cellular field along the base lines are like two feet high? I was amazed at how low they were. But it made it easier for me to snag grounders.
Here is a picture of Cellular Field on a brisk rainy day in Chicago.
So after snagging my first baseball on my first visit to the stadium within 3 minutes of being there, I thought Id continue my luck in the right field hole. Sure enough ball number two came at me but it was about six or seven feet out from the fence. It actually landed close enough to catch if I were up the line about ten feet. Unfortunaltly, I was blocked by fans. So I waited for another player to come my way, and hopefully he would give me the ball, and not a Sox fan. Well, if you are a fellow BallHawk you would know Zack Hample. Zack Hample has over 4,000 caught MLB baseballs to his name. He also has a glove trick that you can use to effectively pickup balls that are out of reach on the field.
( Theres the link incase youd like to learn how to do it. )
So there I am assembling my glove to pick up this ball on the field. I get everything ready, and I start lowering my glove. People start chanting to me, and laughing, clapping and all of that riff raff. I was having a pretty good time with it until security stepped in. Secuirty can be a pain in the butt, but I understand their purpose. You cant have every fan lowering their gloves onto the field to get baseballs. Anyway. He shut me down but handed me the ball anyway! Bing! Number two! It was a fresh ball too. No markings on it expect where it was hit, and where it landed. Such a treat from security.
My third baseball was a little harder to get. Since I didnt want to wear out my welcome in the right field corner, I figured I’d move around a little bit and see if I could get some players to toss me a ball. Had I known the WhiteSox werent going to participate in batting practice I probably would have stayed on the first base side a little longer. But as I think back on it Im glad I moved over to the third base side when I did. The Mariners shut down BP 15 minutes after I got over there. Garrett Olson, and Kanekoa Texeira were handing business out in left field, and there were a few baseballs laying around. I knew I had a great chance of snagging number three from either one of those guys. I knew their names, and I was the only Mariners fan in the South Side in Cellular Field on the third base side! As Olson came walking backwards to the ball, I knew he knew what I wanted. He was trying to avoid making eye contact with me but I called out to him anyway. ” Garrett! Im the only Mariners fan here today! Show some love, brother! Can I get that ball, please!?” Sure enough. He cracked a smile, and tossed me number three! Bing! Wow! Three baseballs on my first visit to Chicago! My best is at Safeco Field last year in April when I came away with four but I gave one away. So this year Im looking to get at least four to tie, and then five of course to break that old record.
I sat front row as usual and watched the entire game with annoying, obnoxious Sox fans all around me. Ive never been to a stadium filled with mean drunks before. But I guess each city is different. Ill have a hard time going back, but I must visit Wrigley Field, so I was planning a two day game weekend in Chicago in May. Wrigley Field, and then Cellular Field. Cellular is by far the easiest stadium to get baseballs at though. It ranks up there with Kauffman. Its not hard at all.
Game; April 24th 2010 Chicago WhiteSox Vs Seattle Mariners
Busch Stadium has got to be the most entertaining stadiums Ive been to thus far. The air is fresh, and the people are jovial. I really enjoy going to Busch. The tickets are overinflated ( due to the Cardinals winning the World Series in 2006 ) but that doesnt stop me from buying excellent seats and having a good time. Although, the times I do go to Busch stadium I rarely come out of there with a baseball. Ive only really officially watched three games INSIDE the stadium. Last year I spent quite a bit of time hanging outside before where I waited on players to get autographs.
Here is a picture from my actual seat at the stadium.
Like at Kauffman if you want a good chance to snag foul balls or have players toss you a ball youve got to be the first one inside. Which I was. I picked a prime spot down the third base line to shag some baseballs. Batting practice was just getting started when I got down there, and the Mets players were just coming out onto the field to stretch and warmup. I was mostly surrounded by Cardinals fans, but the Mets fans that were there were the ones getting the balls thrown to them. Too bad I didnt have a Mets hat on at the time. I know now! I guess thats actually common sense.
It wasnt long before Jose Reyes got into the cage where he and started blasting line drives towards us. It was my first line drive ball hit directly to me and that ball came in so fast I didnt have any time to react! I didnt come up with it either. The ball charged passed me only to hit a fan directly in the hands but it richoceted back up into the seats. Wow! Well, lucky for me Jose Reyes next hit was a slow grounded that came three feet on my left side. It was an easy snag for me. Bing! Nothing to it. Base lines seem to be a hot spot for baseballs, and Im not so sure I feel comfortable leaving those areas. Especially at Busch. But anyway…
Game: April 18th 2010 7:05 St Louis Cardinals Vs New York Mets
Game Balls; One
So I spent my first game of the season at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. Ive always loved going to this stadium and I will probably to continue to love it as long as the Royals continue to play baseball like a bunch of college students. The ticket prices are fairly reasonable ( Unlike Wrigley Field or Busch Stadium ) and the fan base is calm, and few. On average the stadium fills to about 10,000 to 18,000 depending on weather, the day of the week, and of course the time of the game. I think the Royals just had Zack Greinke BobbleHead night so that may have been their biggest fan turn-out since the season started. ( Above you will find Johnny Damon, and teammates standing on the third base line getting ready for the Nations Anthem to be sang )
I was of course the first person inside the stadium to start my ballhawking experience. Last year I didnt focus too much on collecting MLB baseballs. I focused on autographs. Which I will say I was very successful. I came away with 65 autographs last year. I also left 2009 season with 13 game balls. Not bad for someone that wasnt focusing on that. This year is a brand new year with brand new intentions.
I entered the stadium on the first base side and immediatly chased down to the field where Joakim Soria and Kyle Farnsworth were warming up. I am kicking myself for not asking Farnsworth for the ball after he was done with it. But like I said. This is a brand new year, and I’m pretty new to all of this. As the season progresses I will build more confidence where I will learn that calling out to players for balls wont hurt me or kill me. The worst thing that can happen is I will get ignored. So after the warm up tosses were completed by the Royals batting practice ensued. The Royals were actually launching quite a bit of balls into the seats out in right field. I was pretty comfortable waiting for a foul ball my way. After standing there for 30 minutes, and realizing the Tigers were about to come out on to the field, I made my way to their side.
Sitting on the third base foul line was my potential first gem of the season. I didnt have to wait but ten minutes before Joel Zumaya came over to scoop it up, and toss it in. I asked for it respectively and he tossed it my way. BING! Respect goes along way when asking players for balls. Use your P’s, and Q’s. The Tigers were launching quite a few baseballs into the left field corner, and the players were giving the fans a lot of attention as well. So I figured I may have a chance to get number two. When I got over there Fu-Te Ni, Ryan Perry, Rick Porcello, and Zach Miner were all tossing baseballs to kids. I was lucky enough to recognize Ryan Perry with his designer sunglasses on. I asked him for a ball twice. No dice. On the third attempt, he tossed the ball up but a few feet to my left. I got a finger on itbut I ended up actually blocked it from another fan. It landed back onto the field where the ball was then sent back into the infield.
I headed back to my seats after BP was completed and I waited for the Tigers starting pitcher to come out where he would warm up on the infield. As he did Carlos Guillen came over to signed some autographs. I opted out of having him sign anything I had available. But after the warm up was complete, Carlos Guillen ended up with the ball so I stood up calling to him. He threw it to me but another fan was standing in front of me trying to intercept my ball. I leaned forward to snagged it. Bing! Knowing players names, and identifying them pays off…sometimes. Unfortunalty, no foul balls were hit my way during the game.
Game; April 8th 2010 Kansas City Royals Vs. Detroit Tigers.
Game Balls; Two