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