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