Back at Busch Stadium for another round of torture. I felt a little better today. My mind was slightly more clear, which always made a difference. When I cant think straight I get frusterated, and thats when things go south. The weather was supposed to rain all afternoon, and into the early evening. When I got to the stadium it was overcast, windy, and slightly humid from last nights thunderstorms. Miserable conditions. I really thought they would cancel batting practice. I figured when I got to the stadium the tarp would be over the field, and that would that.
If you look close enough you can see the batting cage was on the field, and Cardinals BP was in full force. The rain threatened off, and on. I thought at one point it would let loose, and they would tarp the field. They never did. ( Sorry about the picture. I use my iphone camera ) I panicked though. I witnessed a Cardinal player throw two baseballs into the seats behind home plate. What should I do?! I continued to ask myself that question. I could get some easter eggs, but what is the faster route over there? Still thirty minutes before the gates opened, and I had to make a decision. Go to my regular spot, or try something new. Well, after going to my orginal spot I witnessed four easter eggs being picked up. I kicked myself. So I made it a point to get a little education about the stadium before I left today. I had nine innings to do it in anyway.
Batting practice was in full swing. The sun broke out of the clouds, and it was like a breathe of fresh air. The Cardinals were only on the field for only a few minutes before the Astros started coming out, and warming up. Wilton Lopez took up a position directly in front of me with Gustavo Chacin. Not only did Gustavo Chacin overthrow a ball, but it hit some little girl right in the head. Of course that earned her a free baseball. Id take a baseball to the head for a free ball anyday. It really concerns me that nearly 90% of these little kids that line the baseline walls are without supervision. It kills me to see these kids just standing there unaware that a baseball that travels 120mph or faster could be hit right to them.
I had a great position on the base line. Not one adult was near me. The stadium was barely even full. My first baseball of the day was a grounder that had a little bit of spin to it. So it was curving more to my right. I got a good position on it, and boxed out anyone to my immediate right. I didnt field it cleanly though. It hit off the top of my glove as I went to stick the ball. It rubbed up against the wall, and didnt go far so it was easy to retrieve. After that happened, two more came my way but were too far to my right. They both ricocheted off the wall, and back onto the playing field. I tried to play them on the rebound but thats pure luck to get one like that.
Finally I had some competition show up. Booo! I dont know who the guy was but he was aggressive, and had skill. He was an older gentleman probably in his early 50’s. He positioned nearly on top of me in a strategy to box me out if anything came down the line. Well, he had his chance. A three hopper came scorching down the line, and he got his glove up in front of mine. I caught a sharp elbow to the brim of my hat that caught me off guard, and I ended up taking a step back. Well, I was able to slap his glove with mine which in turn made him miss the catch, and the ball ended up in the stands at my feet. With my hat in my face, and didnt see where the ball went until he started going for it. I kicked my left foot back, made contact with the ball, and a youngster behind me ended up getting it. HA! Thanks for using your elbow, sir! What a jerk. But if he wanted to play dirty thats fine. I can play dirty.
As soon as the kid came up with the ball my competition started in on me.
” I had that!” He hollered.
I ignored him. I kept focused on the batter in the cage.
” You hit my glove! Why did you do that?! I had that one!” He insisted.
I continued to ignore him.
” I would have had that ball, you know. That ball had my name all over it!” He grumbled.
Ignoring. Watching batter in cage.
” Why did you smack my glove?!” Shaking his head in disbelief.
Just then another ball was hit our way. It was a can-`o-corn popup. But it didnt have the distance. During the one-sided conversation an usher had came over to make sure there wasnt going to be a fight over a baseball, and guess who ended up catching the ball two feet from the wall. The usher! Really? These guys stand around all day, and regulate ridiculous rules, kick people out of areas they dont have a ticket for, scold people for running through the concourse, and NEVER give baseballs to adults that ask for them, and now we got an usher catching baseballs during batting practice that a fan SHOULD have caught namely ME! I was furious! And so was my competition! He started complaining the moment the usher caught the ball. He insisted that he should get the ball, but the usher didnt hangout much longer. He made up some excuse that he had to give the ball back to the players, and off he went. What bullcrap.
The next ball was another popup, and it had some curve to it. I knew this one didnt have the distance either, and my competition was all over it. He reached out, boxed me out, and made the scoop. But while he was doing that I made myself visable to Matt Lindstrom. ( if you read my blog from the previous night I asked him for a ball, and he denied me ) I put my hands up, and pretended to throw a ball his way. He nodded, and tossed me a ball. One hopper, right into my glove.
” Thanks Matt!” I shouted, and tipped my hat. HA!
I looked to my competition, and smiled. After that we started talking about ballhawking techniques, different stadiums, security issues, etc etc. Turns out the guy was a decent fellow. He told me the most baseballs hes even gotten at a stadium was three. Nice enough guy. So I forgave him about the elbow, and moved on after batting practice ended. I sat out in the outfield seats for the game, and I watched the game silently. I needed a break. I didnt run down to the dugout after the game or harass any of the umpires for a ball. I just held onto my two prizes from the day, and went home.
I really didnt have my head in the game today. I felt a little sick to my stomach, I was under the weather, and I had a slight headache. The humidity wasnt helping. I thought about selling my tickets, and going home. But I stuck with it. Despite everything that was preventing me from having a good time, the forecast called for rain around the time batting practice kicked off. Well, the rain didnt happen. That was probably the thing that kept me at the stadium.
I arrived early like usual. I had the first spot at the gate. No competition whatsoever. So I wandered around the stadium like I always do, and around 3:30pm Albert Pujols was taking early BP. He hit a few into the stands ( I could hear the balls clank off the bleachers ) but there was no telling where exactly they were hit to or if they even stayed in the seats. Its possible that someone inside the stadium would pick those baseballs up anyway. So I decided not to chase after well hidden easter eggs. Even though lets say those baseballs were in the seats, Id probably get them anyway. But I risked losing my prime spot on the base lines. So I just stuck with the normal plan. Who knows. Maybe tomorrow Ill feel more daring to give up my spot to chase easter eggs.
One of the many Cardinal logos used throughout their lifetime.
With the Hilton Hotel in the background, here are many of the statues that line the front of the stadium. Next Fridays game against the Angels will be a free Bob Gibson replica statue. First 16,000 fans I think.
Despite the call for rain early on at least some people braved the weather forecast, and came anyway. I asked the usher at the front gate what the projected attendance would be today, and she informed me it would be about 37,000. She came really close. It was actually 35,000 people. Not bad for a Tuesday at Busch. I was happy because that meant more baseballs for me.
Once inside the stadium I raced down to my spot. The Cardinals finished up BP, and the Astros came onto the field. I had a sharply hit ground ball that came right at me, and I quickly scooped it up for ball number one. Ball number two was a slow roller that was cut off by an Astros player with his foot. He scooped it up, and tossed it into the infield. Potential ball number three was hit six feet to my right, and I was boxed out by some Cardinal fans. The ball hit off the low wall, and made its way into the infield. Potential ball number four was an overthrow by Wandy Rodriguez. It hit a fan in the arm, and bounced back onto the field. The fan got a baseball for that. ( Do you see how my day is going with the keyword “potential”?) Potential ball number five was hit over my head, bounced off a very large man, and back onto the field. I was close enough to snag it, but I just could get after it.
I moved out here after all of that.
Wilton Lopez was out shagging baseballs with Jason Michaels. The view was so bad, I couldnt track anything. A homerun ball during BP was hit over my head, and if I had realized I had a whole row to myself, I would have caught it. That would have been ball number six. After batting practice I retired to my seats. One friggin` baseball. Oh well. It kept the streak alive.
Pretty good seats, right? Yeah. Lance Berkman carried the ball back to the dugout three times. The first two times he tossed it to a kid after looking right to me. The third time he kept it, and went into the dugout. No other baseballs were tossed into the crowd. Even Matt Lindstrom after saving the game for the Astros held onto his baseball. The bullpen guys denied me a baseball as well. What a night. And to think Im going back on Wednesday when theyre calling for rain again. If they cancel BP my streak will probably end there. What a night.
Game: St Louis Cardinals Vs Houston Astros May 11th 2010 7:15pm
Game Balls: One
My last blog about Cellular field, and their fans was kind of harsh, I suppose. I had a bad experience. You know what they say about first impressions. Well, the WhiteSox were hosting the Kansas City Royals for a three game home stand, and I always have great success with the Royals throwing me baseballs. So I figured I would try my luck with them on the road. Since it was a weekday, and both of these teams were struggling to maintain a decent spot in the division, I figured the crowd would be minimum. I checked Monday nights attendance, and it was somewhere in the low 20,000 range. Perfect.
Finally arriving at U.S Cellular field, I made my way around the stadium. It was such a beautiful day but very windy. I had to pull my baseball cap down over my eyes to keep it from blowing off of my head. Like many games before I was the first fan at the stadium. I feel thats probably the first step in success in getting as many baseballs as possible at a game. Being the first person in line. Also, in the picture above do you notice something with the gates? Yep. That specific gate was open, and no security around. I wandered over for a closer look.
Yes folks. This gate was unlocked, open, and no one around to guard it. I quickly went into daydream mode. I thought about going inside, and having the whole stadium to myself. I dreamt about going down to field level, and claiming all the easter eggs in the seats. I got endless autographs. I got endless baseballs. My bag was filled to the brim, and I could barely zip it up. I had to take it to my car, and unload baseballs into the truck of my car.
” Hello? Hey, hello? HELLO?!” Snapped the man with a WhiteSox shirt on. I quickly snapped back to reality.
” Yes?” I answered.
” You here for the game, or what? You cant enter here.” He said in a sharp tone.
” Oh, I know. Yeah, Im here for the game. Im just killing time.” I answered back, and walked away with a smirk. In the first picture on the left side of it you can see a security camera. Thats probably why the man came out. It was fun dreaming anyway.
I continued my trek around the stadium. What kind of bothers me about this stadium ( like many ) is you cant walk completely around it. Busch Stadium in Saint Louis is the same way. Im not sure why that is. Maybe its because they designed it that way because the old stadium was in the way. But didnt they just upgrade, and renovate New Comiskey Park to U.S Cellular? I mean, you can walk around Cellular Field, but you end up on the main road, and before that you have to cross through the projects. I wasnt up for a long walk anyway. I turned back around, and headed towards home plate entrance. There was a band setting up, and doing sound checks for pre-game festivities. There were a few WhiteSox, and Royals fans lingering around, but not much else was going on. I couldnt believe there were Royals fans in Chicago.
Finally a small crowd started to show up at around 5:00pm. The gates open 90 minutes before game time on weekdays at Cellular Field. Just like Kauffman. The WhiteSox arent winning, and they arent drawing the crowd. So thats why the gates open 90 minutes prior to game time rather than two hours. As I stood in line a small crowd of autograph collectors started to gather at the front next to me. At least eight finally showed up but I knew they werent any competition. These guys show up early like me, but they run down to the dugouts, and reserve those spots to get autographs during batting practice. No threat whatsoever. If they all wanted to get in front of me I wouldnt have a problem because Id beat them down to the field anyway. Ticket ready to go, the gates went up, and we were in.
Okay folks. Its time to learn about a stupid rule U.S Cellular Field has that I was not aware of. In fact, I think this is a brand new rule they just made up. If you have been following my Blogs youll know I was at Cellular Field on April 24th 2010. Well, apparently between April 24th, and May 4th fans can no longer stand in the first row directly behind the visiting teams dugout. I dont know about the WhiteSox dugout because I never went over there. I didnt even look when I was told to either stand in the aisle one row back, or stand behind the front row seats. But its okay to go sit directly next to the dugout to get autographs. Im trying to understand these rules, and Im trying to understand the logic behind them, and Im also trying to understand who is making them, and Im also trying to understand why they are being made, and Im also trying to respect them. But its hard to do all of that. The front row was completely empty. It was just me, and the usher that was standing on top of the dugout. Ridiculous.
So there I was standing in the aisle exactly one row back. I inched forward and stood inline with the front row seats eventually. These rules were stupid so I compromised. I cant remember if the usher left, or I simply blocked him out but eventually I was standing in the front row again with no one bothering me. I called out to a Royals coach that I couldnt recognize, and asked him for a baseball. I was told that the Royals were short baseballs today, and he couldnt throw me one. I thanked him for his time, and I tol dhim I would hit him up once “we” got back to Kansas City. He nodded, and assured me he’d hook me up at the K. I moved on. ( Obviously wearing my Kansas City Royals cap. )
The Royals had a good 45 minutes or so left on the field, and I traveled down the first base line to see if I could snag some foul balls. Within minutes of moving down there a ball was hit my way but out of reach. I stayed on it, and Kyle Davies came over to retrieve it. I asked him if I could have it, and he tossed it to me. Bing! Ball number one. I quickly put it in my bag, and continued to wait on more. It really didnt hit me that I had my first ball of the day until moments later. Its almost as if Im expected to get at least one. Especially after the game at Busch on April 30th 2010. What an utter disaster that game turned out to be. So I felt pretty good about today after snagging that one.
I continued to wander around the baseball field. The nice thing about Cellular Field is you have instant access around the entire field. There arent gates, and railings, and shields, and ushers, and guards to keep you from moving around. So I moved out into the outfield for a while to see if I could catch a home run ball. Well, the Royals were hitting, and they dont have any real power hitters except maybe Billy Butler, Scott Podsednik, and MAYBE Jason Kendall. I played straight away center field, and a few came my way but way too short. Fortunatly, I identified 2009 Cy Young Award Winner Zack Greinke as he came running full speed to the wall while trying to field two baseballs. I asked if he could please toss one of them up to me, and he looked up at me with a smile after stopping himself against the wall. He backtracked off the warning track, and underhanded me one. Bing! What a stand up guy! The Royals werent throwing a lot of baseballs into the crowd so I felt fortunate enough to get these two that I had. I guess they really were short on baseballs or they just didnt like WhiteSox fans.
The Royals had plenty of right handed hitters coming to the dish so I sprinted to the third base line. Minimum competition. Mostly fathers with their kids encouraging them to catch baseballs. I held my ground but nothing really came my way. One ball came screaming passed everyone, and no one had a good position on it so it just rolled to the corner. I contemplated assembling my glove for the glove trick, and as soon as I started to make my way towards the corner to get the ball this guy had already started lowering his ball retrieving device! Within seconds he had the ball! I ran after him to speak with him, and he acted as though I had the plague. I finally caught up with him.
” Excuse me.” I called after him.
” Oh, I thought you were security. I heard a voice, so I started to make a run for it.” He laughed.
” No, I wanted to know if youve seen Zack Hamples ball retrieving device.” I laughed, as I spoke to him.
” The guy on Youtube? Yeah, Ive seen that. Its pretty impressive. Most people see me use this cup so they run up to the concessions stand, get a cup, come down, and it doesnt work because they arent doing it right.” He explained.
” And security hates me. Everytime I use it they come running after me to try, and get my device. Its insanity.” He chuckled.
” I know. Last time I was here I tried to use my ball retrieving device, and security stopped me. I got the ball anyway but still.” I said.
” Yeah. I hear ya. Well, happy hunting. Ill catch you later.” He said as he jogged away. I waved, and started to head back over to the third base line. Then I went back over to the first base line.
I stayed on the first base line for the remainder of batting practice. Which wasnt much longer. After being rejected by Willie Bloomquist in the outfield for a baseball, I had another chance to get another from him. He sent a soft line down the line into foul territory. When the ball landed it died out immediatly. I knew it wasnt going to roll all the way to me. Id have to go get it, and I figured a whole mess of kids were on their way to get it. I had a young couple sitting in the front row directly to my left that were in my way. I stood there for a half a second waiting for one of them to jump up, and get it. Niether of these things happened. I couldnt believe it. No one was going after this ball? It was two feet away from these two people! TWO FEET! It rolled to the wall, and just sat there. I excused myself, moved passed the happy couple, and scooped up the ball.
” Who hit it?” Asked the security guard ten feet away.
” Willie Bloomquist.” I answered back. What an easy grab. It doesnt get any easier than that, folks. I know at Busch Stadium that ball would have been swallowed up by a fan before it even reached the wall. So that was number three on the day. As soon as I got that ball, I wandered down the line towards home plate to call out to Bruce Chen to toss me number four. No dice. Batting practice ended, and I made my way up into the concourse for some food, and drink. I still couldnt believe that no one went for that last ball.
During the game here is where I sat.
Great seats for $35.00. Unfortunatly, I was in the middle of the row, with people on both sides of me. Two foul balls came my way. If I had been sitting on the aisle one of them would have been mine. It landed about five feet from me on the stairs, and rolled underneath the seats. The next foul ball came later in the game, and it came right at security. ( Security were the ball boys ) All I saw was security run out of the way, the ball took a hard bounce up into the seats, and nailed a guy right in the face. The ball hit so hard it put him on the ground, and flew back out onto the field. Scott Podsednik fielded the ball, and tossed it into the stands. The guy that got hit was okay, but was taken by EMS to make sure. And that was it. After the game I chased down to the Royals dugout to try, and get one more ball. No dice.
Worth mentioning. This game was Ozzie Guillens 1,000th as a manager for the White Sox. Congratulations Skipper!
Also for you Ballhawks that are chasing homerun balls here is a list of players that are close to their milestones;
Alex Rodriguez- 585
Andruw Jones- 397
Derek Lee- 297
Alfonso Soriano- 297
Albert Pujols- 373
Game; Chicago WhiteSox Vs Kansas City Royals May 4th 2010 7:05pm
Game Balls; Three
In the above picture on the top shelf are my first ten baseballs Ive snagged from four different stadiums. Busch Stadium, Kauffman Stadium, Great American Ballpark, and Safeco field. I only attended a handful of games last yearbut when I went I never left a game without a baseball from the stadium. The second shelf holds my first 20 autographs from Major League Baseball players. This season I am now up to 72 autographs, and 28 baseballs from five different Major League Stadiums. Some of my current streaks are as follows;
10-game streak of getting at least one ball outside of Busch Stadium.
13-game streak of getting at least one ball during a game.
5-game streak of getting at least one ball in a different stadium I havent been to.
Current average of baseballs at a game- 2.0 Baseballs a game.
Probable Future Games;
May 4th Cellular Field
May 11th Busch Stadium
May 12th Busch Stadium
May 18th Wrigely Field
May 19th Cellular Field
May 22nd Kauffman Stadium
I know Im beating a dead horse by blogging about steroid use in professional sports. I have been thinking about this for a long time, and I wanted to finally blog about it. A lot of people dont care if athletes use steroids. In fact there are quite a few people out there that encourage the athletes to use them so they can witness better performances on the field. Well, I think thats absolutely selfish. Its wrong, and it degrades the sport.
Remember this guy? Sure you do. Thats Mark McGwire. He broke the single home run record that was formly held by Roger Maris. We all remember that day. September 8th 1998. Steve Trachsel on the mound facing McGwire. There it went. Over the left field fence. Number 62. The lucky stadium worker that found it, in my humble opinion, should have made some kind of deal with MLB for finding that baseball. Or kept it. McGwire would finish the season with 70 home runs. Sammy Sosa finished with 66 that season. And we all know that three seasons later, this guy would break that 70 home run mark.
Yup. Barry Bonds shattered that record with 73. A remarkable season for him. Barry Bonds has so many awards to his name its not even funny. Hes played with two teams his entire career ( Pittsburgh/San Francisco )and hes played in 14 all-star games. Quite the player, you’d say. So when exactly did these two players decide to start taking steroids? Well, McGwire in many interviews this last January said he used them when he first got to Oakland. He also put the blame on Jose Canseco. Jose Canseco even wrote a book on the steroid use thats taking place in baseball. Canseco also stated in an interview on the Chelsea Lately show that he wasnt trying to “out” baseball players. He was simply trying to identify a problem in the league, and get other players to back him up on it. Well, it all backfired on you Mr. Canseco.
So in the end with Bonds, and McGwire, was their entire career a total wash? Should all of their statistics have an asteriks by it? Rafael Palmerio tested positive on August 1st 2005 for steroids. He went before a congressional hearing, and denied ever using them. Canseco stated that he personally injected Palmeiro with steroids. Oddly enough, our good friend Rafael is a member of the 500 HR, 3000 Hit club. Palmeiro isnt offically retired. He just hasnt played baseball since 2005. Whats he waiting for? This whole steroid thing to blow over? To make sure his stats will stick before he retires? Who knows.
The following players were connected to steroids, either use or possession, in the Mitchell Report:
Paul Lo Duca
Exavier “Nook” Logan
The following players were cited under “Alleged Internet Purchases of Performance Enhancing Substances By Players in Major League Baseball.”
Gary Matthews Jr.
The following players were linked through BALCO
So what has all this madness done to our beloved American sport? In my opinion it has ruined it. Although, the home run chase back in 1998 probably saved baseball from the horrid 1994 baseball strike, but since then I think its done some serious damage. A lot of these players on the list have come forward, admitted they were wrong, apologized, and moved on. I guess in a sense, I should too. But recently when I got my hands on the Mitchell Report I was heartbroken that a lot of these players that I thought would have nothing to do with steroids had taken them or at least were accused. Their accomplishments arent real to me anymore. Theyve cheated the game. Theyve used performance enhancement drugs to propel themselves to do above and beyond what they normally arent capable of doing. Dont get me wrong. You still have to be an athlete to play this game. You cant just be some shlub off the street, eat some steroids, and magically hit 70 home runs in one season. I think these guys are incredible athelets for being able to do what they do. But Id rather see them hit 70 home runs by working hard, spending extra time in the batting cage, and with the batting coach, and studying each pitcher before they face them. They probably did that…but steroids helped them throw, hit, and run faster.
So because these players can perform beyond their normal capabilities it increases their value as a player. People say ” oh so what. So he took steroids. He can hit 500 foot home runs now. He can hit over 60 in a season.” Sure. Thats great. We all love seeing home runs. But now are beloved favorite player thats sending bombs to the outfield now wants to be paid millions on top of millions because hes doing that. And it doesnt help that guys like Scott Boras are encouraging that. So you ask ” well, whats the problem?” Well, Ill tell you what the problem is. Now simple people like you, me, and the rest of the baseball fans out there cant sit in seats behind home plate. Or we cant sit in seats behind the dugout. Why? Because this guy injecting himself with trash, and hitting a thousand home runs a game is making so much money that they have to raise ticket prices. They have to charge $10.00 for a beer. They have to charge $30.00 for two hotdogs, and a soda. Thats the problem. For a family of four, they have to sit in the cheap seats on the 500 level deck because four tickets at the field view are $70.00 a pop. Get what Im saying?
But I digress. The only think that keeps a crowd from coming to the ballpark is a losing team nowadays. And Im fine with that. I just think its criminal for these players to get paid so much money, and the fan is the one that loses out. Anyone that comes to the stadium shouldnt be limited to where they can sit to watch the game of baseball.
I really debated on typing this blog today. But Its been something on my mind for a long time now. And since its my blog, I suppose I can type just about whatever I want. ( Within reason ). Well, ever since I started this season off by trying to snag as many baseballs at the stadiums as possible, Ive noticed that Ive gained the attention of a lot more fans than usual. I try to be as friendly as possible when I go to games. I try to be courteous, and respect while Im there. I pick up after myself, and Im careful with what I say because I know there are children, elderly, and other fans around me. When I go to baseball games I dont have that sense of feeling that the players, and staff owe me anything. I dont feel obligated towards anything at the ballpark except a good time. I want to have as much fun at the baseball game as possible. I dont whine when I dont get my way, I dont complain when the umpires blow calls, or when my favorite players strike out. I just laugh, and continue seeking fun.
Now this blog entry isnt directed towards the children at the games. Its really kind of directed towards anyone that shares this attitude. Mainly adults. Mainly the adults because I see it more with them than anyone else. Im not sure when this unwritten rule was established or when it became so popular but Im rather kind of tired of it. Honestly, there isnt anything I can do to change it. All I can do is complain about it on my MLB Blog. Im talking about those adults ( most with their own children ) that think that everything at the baseball game is obligated towards the children. It doesnt matter if its autographs, baseballs, being the first to run the bases, the free giveaways, the promotions, or the best seats in the stadium. There are adults that go to these games that think its all for the children. Its not.
I guess I see it more now because everyone at the stadium wants a Major League Baseball. Everyone does. Some are more adament about getting one than others. Some have a very relaxed attitude about it. ” Ill get one if I get one. If not, so what.” But people like me that want as many as I can get at a stadium, and Ill go to great lengths to getting them. Mind you, I’d never push or shove or steal from anyone. But if I can find the best position at the ballpark to get them, Ill hold my ground until its time to move on. I was at Busch last week on Thursday, and I was fortunate enough to snag four grounders that came my way as I perched on the third base line. I had a whining father/son duo behind me that were crying to the baseball players to throw them a ball. It never happened because of their pathetic attempt to get one. But after I snagged my fourth the complaining started to get directed at me. Like I had something to do with their unsuccessfulness at retrieving a baseball. In a way, I guess I did. I had the prime spot for all the baseballs that came down the third base line. But I planned it that way. I was the first person into the stadium. I invested an entire day to this. So shouldnt I be entitled to keep the baseballs I caught? After all I caught them.
If a small child reached out and shagged a ball in front of me, I wouldnt be upset. Kudos to you kid for getting out there before I could. My point is all these young kids around me make absolutely no attempt to get a baseball. They just stand on the base line waving their hands, or shlumped over the wall waiting for a lucky toss. Hey, theyre kids. So what..? That doesnt make me any less of a fan. That doesnt make me any less obligated to try and field a sharply hit ground ball my way, and if I catch it keep it for myself. I dont have to give the ball away because Im an adult, and Im surrounded by little children that can barely see over the wall to even see that ball coming. If I were to give away one ball then the kids around me would look at me like Im some kind of ball boy here to catch, and give away baseballs to them. You want a ball? Get down there and get one. Thats all Im saying. If these adults think that baseball is just for kids, then maybe the father of the child should bring his glove, and get down on the baseline, and start to try and get his own kid a ball. Not rely on some stranger to shag them for their kids. Get real. How many times do you see unsupervised children on the walls with parents up in the aisles drinking beer, and laughing with friends? I see it everytime I go to a game. Yet, Im supposed to give up baseballs that I catch.
In my short lived ballhawking career, I have assisted four children ages five and below with catching a baseball. Where was the mother? Not at the game. Where was the father? Happily sitting in his seat drinking a beer. I feel like saying something. ” Hey buddy, this is your kid. Not mine. Put the booze down, and come help him catch these baseballs.” The last kid I helped catch a baseball he could barely see over the dugout. His father was three rows back encouraging him from afar. He’d tell his little boy to get his glove on, and hold it up. Wave to the players, and ask for a ball. So the players would toss this rowdy bunch of kids a few balls, and luckily for the youngster beside me the ball got loose from the pack, and rolled into the dugout. Finally the ball was tossed again, and the same thing happened. I watched this entire thing unfold. Those kids already had a handful of baseballs tossed to them. So I interjected and told the player to throw the ball to this little kid beside me. I caught the ball, and handed it over. Looking over my shoulder at the father, oblivious as to what was going on. Shame.
Anyway. Enough ranting for one day. My whole point of this blog ( and I may even delete it ) is that those adults out there that bring their kids to the games should probably interact more with them instead of relying on guys like me and other fellow ballhawkers to step in, and make sure these youngsters get a baseball. If I had a son or a daughter, thats exactly what I would be doing. Id be down on the field level teaching my kid the names, and numbers of these players, and teaching my child how to get these baseballs from the players. For those parents/adults out there that participate with their kids at the games I couldnt have more respect for you. One day when your child gets older, and theyre able to come to games on their own they will ballhawk too.
There is a lot to consider when going to a baseball game to ballhawk. One thing to consider if a person wants a successful evening ballhawking is the weather. Rain can take away the most important thing; Batting Practice. I usually check the weather on my iPhone AccuWeather application, and it informed me that there was a severe thunderstorm coming into town around 5pm. The gates opened that evening at 5pm. So by going to this game I was really putting my streak on the line. My streak isnt much. Im only at 13 consecutive games getting a baseball. But a streak is a streak.
It was also St. Louis Cardinals Snuggie Night. The first 20,000 fans 16, and older would get a free Snuggie with Cardinal logos all over it. So it was overcast, and Snuggie night. As I waited in line it would drizzle, and then stop. It did this for about an hour or two. Finally when it was 5:15pm on the dot, the gate security, and ushers were still trying to figure out how to distribute the Snuggies, and they were also waiting on another Ticket Scanner. Meanwhile, the gate to my left was wide open, and people were rushing in. I couldnt believe this! Id be late getting down to the field all because of these Snuggies! The security finally got their act together, and I was in. I chased down to the field and wouldnt you know it….
No batting practice. Of course there wasnt. Carlos Fisher was running on the warning track, and I had a short Q&A with him about who, and when would be coming out to warm up. He informed me that the position players would be out later, but it was going to be awhile. Great. Not one ball in sight. Carlos Fisher didnt have any, and there werent any in any bullpen. Busch was going to finally shut me out. It started to drizzle again, and I had searched the stadium high, and low for a baseball. I finally made my way down to the Reds dugout, and Aaron Harang tossed a baseball to a fan just as I got there. I just shook my head, and beat my fist into my glove. I really didnt even want to come to this game since the prevous game I had snagged four baseballs. But whatever. I was here. I just needed one.
Coach Bryan Price, Ramon Hernandez, and Coach Juan Lopez all came out of the dugout, and headed to the bullpen. If I were going to get a ball it would have to come from one of these guys. So I followed them. Zig zagging my way through aisles, and juking around railings, fans, and stairwells, I finally made it to the bullpen area. I was on the far side of the bullpen when I yelled down to them. I was ignored. So I ran up the stairs, moved down a few sections, and back down to the bullpen. I called out to Hernandez, but he ignored me. I called out to both coaches, and Coach Price looked up to me.
” Coach Price, will you toss a ball up here to me please?” I asked nicely.
” No, I sure cant.” He said. He quickly went back to setting up the bullpen.
” Thanks for your time anyway, Coach.” I moved on to the Cardinals bullpen switching hats on the fly. Once I got there the ushers were thick on the stairs. I excused myself many times trying to weave through them, and fans to get down to the bullpen. Once I got there I was hastily asked if I had a ticket to be down here.
” No, Im actually in section 165. But Im just here to try and get an autograph.” I explained.
” You have to have a ticket to be in this area, sir.” Explained one of the ushers.
” I was just over at the Reds bullpen without a ticket but I have to have a ticket to be here?” I questioned the logic. ( Which there wasnt any. The ushers just wanted to give the fans a hard time)
” Well, I understand that. But the game is soon to start, and if you dont have a ticket to be in this area you cant be here.” The usher persisted. ( Game time; 7:15pm. Current time 6:47pm )
I wasnt in the mood for usher BS. I just shrugged, looked down into the bullpen, and as I climbed the stairs I shouted to any Cardinal pitcher that would pay attention to me. No dice. It was 6:47pm at that specific moment. The game started at 7:15pm. I had 28 minutes to make this happen. I figured the position players would come out, and stretch like they always do before a game on the foul lines. So I ran through the concourse, switched hats on the fly again, and made my way down to the Cincinnati Reds side of the house. 6:58pm. I was chewing on my nails at this point, and people were looking at me funny. While I stood there, I had four people ask if I could take pictures of them. Three people asked if I were out of town, and two people wanted to talk about the Cincinnati Reds. I really didnt care about any of that. I was annoyed at this point.
FINALLY the position players came out of the dugout. All with baseballs. My eyes lit up. Scott Rolen, Brandon Phillips, Jonny Gomes, Ryan Hanigan, Joey Votto, and Lance Nix all started tossing baseballs around, and stretching. 7:11pm. I called out to Jonny Gomes a few times. He ignored me. Jay Bruce then came out, and I politely asked him for the ball once he was done with it. Ignored. 7:12pm. So I started clapping, and screaming to them. Cheering them on. I figured Id try to just make myself noticed, and maybe they’d just toss me a baseball for the heck of it. I called out to Jonny Gomes a few more times, and he finally looked at me. I pointed to one of the balls, and asked if I could have it after he was done. He nodded to me, and I quickly thanked him. If it happened Jonny Gomes would be forever my favorite. 7:13pm. They all started to walk off the field together. Jay Bruce looked at the crowd, and I called his name. He tossed it 10 feet to my right. Jonny Gomes was right behind him, and we made eye contact. C`mon, Jonny! Make my night, buddy. I actually had to buy a $33 dollar Reds baseball hat for this because I couldnt find one on the cheap rack. Flip me that ball.
I’ve never reached for a ball so fast, and clenched that hard after catching it before this night. I thanked Jonny Gomes sincerely. The streak would continue, and I avoided a shutout at Busch. I immediatly exited the stands, and made my way to the Cardinals Team store for some non-humid air conditioned air. My nerves were frazzled, I was cold, and hungry, my feet hurt, and I wanted to leave. I stared at the stack of Major League Baseballs for sale, and I went into deep thought about tonights events. This was a turning point in my short lived ballhawking career. I had some decisions to make. Should I count this baseball towards my streak? Should I only count games that have batting practice included? If I count this ball towards my streak then every game after this I have to count. The fact is, I got a baseball on probably one of the hardest games to get one I have ever been to. Snuggie Night. Gates opened late. No batting practice. Yet, I still managed to get at least ONE baseball so far.
The rest of the evening was rather boring. The Cardinals, and the Reds didnt play very exciting baseball. Phillips made a pretty good play at second early on, and Johnny Cueto made a quality start. But that was about it. By the sixth inning…..
Rain delay. It lasted 2 hours, and thirty two minutes. My first rain delay ever. I was pretty excited. I was most excited about all the season ticket holders that were probably going to leave the baseball game. That means that the first eight rows were going to open up around the diamond. According to the ushers, ( Well at least one of them ) there is an unwritten rule about rain delays. Depending on when the game resumes, the fans that stick around can pretty much sit anywhere. ( Unless of course someone is sitting there or the person that has that seat comes back. ) So everyone started to flood the front rows as the rain let up, and the grounds crew peeled the tarp off the field. I had to pick. We had three innings remaining in this game. Should I sit behind the dugout, and bank on getting some baseballs from the Reds as they exited the field, or should I sit down the third base line and wait on a foul ball? Decisions. For the first time in my life at a baseball game I went against my gut feeling, and sat behind the dugout. What a horrible decision that was. Coach Billy Hatcher gave four baseballs to the crowd. All to children. The Reds as they exited the field tossed two baseballs into the crowd. All to children. Three foul balls were hit down the third base side. All within snagging range if I were to have sat down there. Well..at least I didnt get shutout. I was thinking about going to Progressive Field for a Saturday game. I decided not to go because AccuWeather says Cleveland is supposed to get rain.
But I did get this guys autograph….
Game: St. Louis Cardinals Vs. Cincinnati Reds April 30th 2010 7:15pm
Game Balls: One
Autographs: Mark McGwire, Jay Bruce