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!