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