Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Balls

I submitted a picture of all the baseballs I've snagged at games, and their stories, to Zack Hample's Baseball Snagging blog. Me and my balls are Photo #19 in this post over there. Thanks to my mom for taking the pic--three of those baseballs live at my parents' place so I recently had to tote the four from here to their place to get them all in one place. And thanks to Zack for letting his readers put their pics and stories on his site.

And now, the FULL version of my story of how I caught my six balls. I had wanted to do a post like this here anyway--Zack gave me the perfect excuse. Warning: Long nerdy baseball stuff ahead. Here we go:

I've been trying to catch balls at baseball games since I was a little kid. I've never managed to snag one in a game, but I am proud of the six Major League baseballs I've managed to acquire in batting practice. I should probably have more, since I go to so many games, always there when gates open, but I'm usually busy taking photos during BP.

#1, 8/1/89, Twins at Yankees, Yankee Stadium: I'm 13 years old, and my dad has taken me and two friends to the game. It happens to be glove day, but the three of us leave the free, crappy, plastic gloves with my dad as we stand with our real gloves down the right field line along the fence. Twins outfielder Randy Bush hits a rocket shot right at me. I reach out and snag the liner.

# 2, 6/15/03, Astros at Red Sox, Fenway Park: Incredibly, despite my efforts--all those balls that rolled around the right field corner at Fenway that were just barely out of my reach--I've gone 14 years without a snag. But on this Father's Day, again my dad is up at the seats, while me and one of the same friends that was with me for the Randy Bush ball are along the fence, just past Pesky's Pole. A left-handed Astro hits a hooking liner toward us. It takes one hop and I look it into my bare hands. Somewhere I have a picture of the stitch mark on the meaty part of my left palm below the index finger. I only know the Astro in question had a number starting with 1. I'll never be sure, but I've gone ahead and estimated it must have been Jose Vizcaino.

#3, 5/14/04, Red Sox at Blue Jays, (then) SkyDome: Brian Daubach hits a ball over the right field fence, where I'm standing. The ball hits a seated older woman and lands among the seats, where I grab it. I hear her saying "ow" as I'm about to retrieve it, so as I pick it up a row in front of her, I immediately hold it up for her to take. After BP, I give her a wave as I head to my seat and she mouths a "thank you." As I get to the walkway, the teenage boy she's with runs up behind me and gives me the ball. I ask "are you sure?" but he has quickly run away. Original post (no photo) here.

#4, 9/22/04, Orioles at Red Sox, Fenway Park: I'm along the fence between Canvas Alley and Pesky's Pole during Orioles' BP. David Newhan is the closest guy to me, and the college kids right next to me are all over him for a ball. He ignores them until the very end of BP, when he decides to flip a ball in their direction as he's running off. I reach up and make the grab to their dismay. They were quite obnoxious--I'm glad I beat them out for that one. Original post (no photo) here.

#5, 9/25/07, Athletics at Red Sox, Fenway Park: Since the Newhan ball, I've become big on taking photos for my blog--ball-chasing has taken a back seat. But going to Fenway so much, I know some tricks, and decided I'm going to spend BP going for balls. I plant myself in the right field bleachers while Big Papi's group is hitting. I'm 20 rows up, with not much competition between me and the people waiting up by the bullpen fence. Ortiz slams one into the section to my right. I had to guess which row it landed in, and I sprint down it. Fortunately, before anyone else gets too close, I spot the ball in the row above, and snag it. This David Ortiz batting practice home run ball is definitely on top of my list.

#6, 4/24/08, Angels at Red Sox, Fenway Park: It's Justin Masterson's major league debut. I know I'll be spending a lot of time photographing him as he comes out for pre-game warmups, so I figure I'll go for balls while waiting for him to emerge from the dugout. I'm near Pesky's Pole as Mike Lowell--still on the disabled list but well enough to take some cuts--loops one to the opposite field. It lands somewhat near me, but to my surprise, the two guys in front of me make no attempt to move for it. I bolt for it, jumping rows of seats. One more guy to beat, and he sees the look in my eye and my manic motions and kind of smiles as if to say, You want it more than me, go ahead.

In the picture (on Zack's site) the balls are placed in chronological order from left to right (with 2 and 3 reversed, my mistake) [note, 6/13/2016: I now believe the balls were in correct order, I probably confused myself since my dad's ball was at left in the #1 position] , except for the ball at far left, which is the one ball my dad has caught in his life--an in-game foul ball pitched by the Red Sox' Ray Culp and hit by Frank Baker at Yankee Stadium in 1971. It's cool to see the "Mississippi Mud" on it.

One thing I didn't realize until now is that my team (the Red Sox, or, whoever's playing the Yankees) won every game in which I caught a ball...until the most recent one. So I'm 5 and 1. The Red Sox have also gone at least to the ALCS in every year (and only those years) that I snagged a ball at Fenway, going back to '03.

I also got an NCAA baseball at Nebraska. It was an in-game home run, and Darrin Erstad was on the team at the time. It probably wasn't him who hit it. You know that blooper of the ball hit over a left field fence that breaks the window of a passing car? It was that field! In that spot. Ball went over my head and I ran into some trees and got it. It says "Big 8" on it, which is now the Big 12.

The near-misses:

Dave LaPoint hits a hard line drive right at my dad, and it smacks him in the palm and rolls away. I'm 7 years old and ducking down, though I look to see where the ball went, and never saw it. This was at Shea.

Some older kid at Fenway reaches right in front of me (I was probably 12) to catch a tossed ball and then brags, "I've gotten so many balls that way."

A Pirate player attempts to throw me a ball at Shea, but I'm pretty high up and he doesn't reach me. This was in the post 2000-era.

A few years ago, in the mezzanine at Shea, a foul ball hits off the facing of the upper deck and whizzes past me. If I'd turned the other way, I'd have had it.

In the Wrigley bleachers in the late 90s, a home run comes right at us. Gumby really throws the rest of us off by going for it and missing it. We'd later watch his blunder on ESPN.

At Shea Stadium, around the same time, Gumby screws me again when Trot Nixon throws ME a ball, but Gumby, in his Yankee outfit, gets it instead.

The classic: At Fenway, front row, Jim Rice hits one up over our heads, it hits the facade, bounces back, my Yankee fan friend's dad elbows a baby, gets the ball, has to give it to the baby, and on our way out, the baby's dad gives it back to my friend's dad, who gives it to his Yankee fan son.

The modern classic: At Camden Yards a few years ago, I "predict" where Papi will hit a home run, and am mere feet away from getting the ball when he does it. Full story/video here.

This past season: In BP, Vernon Wells hits a ball 1,000 miles an hour and I, in the Monster Seats, stick out my bare hand, which the ball slams off of and bounces to some other guy.

Also this season: A BP ball lands in the bleachers, and it's all mine...if it doesn't bounce over the fence and down below, which it does. While chasing it, I slam my knee into a seat, and it STILL HURTS. This was from the big comeback game in the '08 ALCS.

And many, many, many, more close calls. So I ended up with 6. So far.

Any ball I've gotten since April '04 was also mentioned here on this blog at the time, too. So if you read it at Zack's, then came here and read these stories, but STILL aren't satisfied, search my monthly archives to see the original tales of getting those balls.

I should also point out that I am against using animal hides for balls, and MLB should change this. But catching a ball that's already been purchased by the league doesn't contribute to the ball-making industry, which is why I'm okay with getting balls.

New ball updates:

7. Fenway, 4/26/09, Papi BP dong to CF, ESPN cameraman flips it to me.

8., 9., 10. (#10 was given away) Fenway, 6/7/09, BP HR ball hit by Michael Young, BP HR ball hit by Marlon Byrd, and another ball Byrd hit, thrown up by another Ranger, which I gave away. All Monster Seats.

11., 12. Fenway, 6/10/09, BP ball by Papi, tossed by Dice-K in CF, BP HR by Papi to CF.

13. Nationals Park, 6/25/09, BP HR by Tek, thrown up by Masterson, RF second deck.


14., 15. Fenway, 7/10/09, two balls in Royals' BP.

16. 7/22/2011, Fenway, BP ball hit by Mariners' Adam Kennedy

17. 9/13/2011, Fenway, BP homer hit by Blue Jay (white, lefty, I think) (My team now 10-3 in games in which I've gotten at least one ball.)

18. 4/20/2012, Fenway. BP homer hit by Yankees' Derek Jeter to Monster Seats on Fenway's 100th birthday (10-4 team record)

19. & 20. 4/30/2012, Fenway. BP homer hit by Red Sox' Cody Ross to Monster Seats. Ball has Fenway 100th anniversary logo.  BP homer hit by unidentified Oakland Athletic to CF. Ball has Camden Yards 20th anniversary logo. (11-4 team record)

21. 5/30/2012, 5:11 p.m., Fenway. BP homer hit by David Ortiz to CF. Ball has Fenway 100th anniversary logo. (12-4 team record)

22. 7/16/2012, Fenway. BP homer hit possibly by Carl Crawford on Youk's return to Fenway as a White Sox. (13-4 team record)

23., 24., & 25. 9/13/2012, Fenway. Toss-up from Ichiro (now a Yankee). Camden Yards ball. BP homer by I think Andruw Jones. BP homer by, again, I think Andruw Jones. (13-5 team record)

Update 5/1/2016 12:41 a.m. Wow, I thought I'd been updating this list but I guess not! Tonight (4/30/16) I got a ball at Fenway in CF hit by some Yankee, not A-Rod or Gardner or Teixeira, I think a lefty, maybe Ellsbury, in my usual CF spot in my usual way: ball goes just over front row, I go right across third row and grab it off ground. Gave it to my friends' unborn baby, as they were at the game separately tonight. Besides this, I got a 2013 postseason ball, and I got a game ball hit by Middlebrooks (rolling up the screen and dropping down, with me sitting there JUST in case that would happen) in 2014. Oh and in the season ticket holder BP after 2013 I got two MLB balls. And I got one in ST this year. Besides all that there hasn't been much activity, mainly since I haven't been able to get to games as much since I've worked in the Newport area six days a week since late 2012. Anyway I'll have to go back and check some game posts for the other balls I got and enter them into this database. Side note: We're gonna be selling our house and I FINALLY got all these balls together in a box!

Update 6/5/2016 11:04 a.m. On 5/24/2016 I got a toss-up from Red Sox left fielder Chris Young, the ball he'd been warming up with before the top of the 2nd. He'd tossed one after the top-1 warm-ups, so I anticipated it and stood up and put my arms in the air. He nailed me from 100 feet away and I made the two-bare-handed catch of this rubbed-up had-been-game-ball. This was the Rockies game I took my Denver friend Amber to. Oh, and we're not selling our house after all.

Update 6/5/2016 2:47 p.m. Okay it's all coming back to me, I remember getting shut out for balls in 2013 UNTIL that playoff game. So I'll go back to posting these in regular list form. Starting now.

26., 27., & 28. 10/14/2013, Fenway. ALCS Game 2, the game where Papi hits the big homer that Torii went head-over-heels on. One of the all-time best moments at Fenway. Got a ball in BP. Then...another. Then... Post-season ball! These last three are talked about here.  (14-5 team record)

29. & 30. 11/12/2013, Fenway, STH BP. Not a game, but official MLB balls gotten at an MLB ballpark. Counts! Story here.

31. & 32. 4/29/2014, Fenway. BP ball and GAME BALL--my first ever! hit by Middlebrooks, rolled up screen and came down, I caught it. See here and here. (There never was a "part 2.")

33. 5/7/2014, Fenway. BP ball. 

34. 2/2016, JetBlue Park practice fields. HR ball, fought for it and won. Practice fields. It's an official MLB ball, I'm counting it. Later had it signed by Dwight Evans.

35. (Given Away) 4/30/2016, Fenway. BP ball, see story in update above.

36. 5/24/2016, Fenway. GAME BALL #2!!! See story in update above. The 36 (essentially) balls (to that point) are all pictured in a tweet here on 6/13/2016.


37. 9/12/2016, Fenway. Got there early, STH early entry, one of the only fans who went to CF as opposed to Monster. I went to the Mike Davison spot, which is even farther toward left these days now that the camera well is gone. Pitching coach Carl Willis is out there with his catcher's mitt. Hard-hit ball goes through his legs and out to the wall, right below me. I politely ask, he tosses it up. After that, since I was the only guy there and he was the only guy in the area down on the field, I wasn't gonna ask him for any others that came to him, and some did. Eventually a kid came over and I helped him get balls, introduced him to the world of Hample, etc. Fun time. A few HRs came into the bleachers, but I didn't get any more. Wow, only three games at Fenway this year so far. But I've gotten a ball at each one.

Bonus sections:

College Baseballs:
1994-ish, U of Nebraska. HR ball, in game. Official Big Eight Baseball.

Minor League Baseballs:
A few at Pawtucket. More later.

Comments:
Great stuff, Jere. My first baseball game ever was special for me, even though it was played in Yankee Stadium. It was in the late 50s (I think), and my parents, my brother and I were sitting on the rightfield line, in the first row (thanks, DAD!). I brought a bat with me and when the pinstriped ones came onto the field, Micky Mantle himself ran right towards us. I yelled out something like, "Hey Mickey, can you sign my bat? Well, he kept on going until all the people sitting near us yelled "Hey Mick, sign the kid's bat!" And ya know what? He came right over, took the bat and Magic Marker from my hands and did just that. I was overwhelmed and everybody stood and clapped. That's my first baseball memory...something I'll never forget. Yes, the writing has faded a little (so have I) but that bat will always make me think of my youth and my Dad...and the Mick.
 
Nice memory. My first game was also at Yankee Stadium....

Also note, this list doesn't include all the autographed balls I've bought online--Gedmans, old Red Sox team balls, etc.
 

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