Tagged: Athletics

3-29-2012 Tokyo Dome

I woke up this morning at around 6am and got my day started right away. I’ve mastered my way around my hotel room (which is about the size of an airplane cockpit) and watched a little Japanese tv before I was ready to venture out for the day. Today was fish market day and I was pretty pumped about that. Oh, here’s a picture of my hotel room. See how small it is?

The door on the right is the bathroom and it’s literally so small that when I bend over to get dressed, I bump my backside on the door. I’m 6’0 225 (the blog minuses 5-10 pounds) and I need a lot of room. Farther into the room you can see the bed on the right. And that’s about all there is to my hotel room. I get my little window for fresh air and that’s about it. It’s no bigger than a prison cell. But it’s cozy so I dig it. And get this. It’s actually a double occupancy room! Two people can sleep here! So I guess that’s what the couch is for. Ha!

My plan for the day was simply this; I’d walk from my hotel, which is in Ueno, to the Tokyo Dome, which is in Tokyo, and then I’d head due south towards the fish market. When I got to the Tokyo Dome and started to head south, I sort of lost my bearings and ended up thinking I was walking in the wrong direction. From my hotel, the fish market it roughly 4-5 kilometers. Not a bad walk. That’s about 3 miles or so. But three miles is three miles and when you’re hoofing it through Japan, and everything looks relatively the same, it’s hard to stay on course and know exactly where you’re headed. I just knew I needed to head south. And after about an hour of walking “south” I gave up and hailed a cab. This cab ride ran me about 2,600 yen which is way more than I anticipated. But I got to the fish market. This was the view as I exited the cab:

I really didn’t do much research on the fish market prior to leaving my hotel room. All I knew were the basic rules, which boils down to not being a jerk in a foreign country. Rule number one stated that you aren’t allowed to touch anything or sample anything unless directed by the vendor. Common sense, I suppose. The second rule was no smoking. But I actually saw a lot of vendors smoking inside their shop. So maybe the rule didn’t apply to them. The third rule was, don’t bring oversized luggage that will block people or traffic. I just had my back pack on so I was good there. The first shop I stopped at offered me some scallops and some of these miniature lobster looking things. I tried both as I didn’t want to be rude and then I asked to take a picture of the shop. Check it out:

I also shelled out 300 Yen for some scallops because when I asked to take a picture, the young lady kind of wasn’t happy about it but let me anyway. On top of that, I tried a bunch of food she had out. I wanted to leave a good impression. I continued my journey through the fish market and I noticed a large crowd of people with cameras and video camcorders creating quite a ruckus half way down the street. My first thought was it may be a baseball player inside eating ramen or something. How cool would that be if I ran into Felix Hernandez or Jason Vargas at the fish market? I took off down the street passing this…

….and when I realized what was happening, I wasn’t very impressed anymore. It’s not that I’m some animal rights activist, it’s just that watching someone slaughter a fish really isn’t that cool for me. But apparently it’s a huge deal at the fish market. Everyone wants to see some yellow fin tuna guts, I guess. Here’s the crowd outside the shop video taping, and taking pictures:

I was able to get a quick picture of the tuna carcass after the crowd dispersed a little bit:

I continued to explore the fish market and I ended up in some huge warehouse I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be inside. I saw other people walking around that looked sort of like tourists. I figured if I wasn’t supposed to be inside I’d get yelled at by some angry warehouse worker. The warehouse looked like things were sort of winding down for the day. The fish market closed early in the afternoon so there wasn’t a whole lot going on when I walked inside it. I did see a squid/octopus looking thing in a bucket that was still alive and I saw a lot of clams, crabs, lobsters, and scallops all in containers full of water and ice. It really was a sight and I sort of regret not taking pictures. I just wasn’t sure if I was allowed to or not. This is what the entrance of the warehouse looked like, though:

I had to meet Zack Hample at the Tokyo Dome at 2pm for game two of the opening series at the Dome, so I decided I’d had enough fun at the fish market and it was time to head into Tokyo to take care of business. I’d eaten some scallops (even bought some) and almost got to see a guy gut a yellow fin tuna. Not too bad on the day.

As I headed out, I wasn’t quite sure which way to walk. I retraced the route that the cab driver took but eventually I was lost. Well, not really lost. Just…sorta lost. You understand. I found a street sign that directed me towards Ueno (which is where my hotel is at) so I just followed the street sign. Initially, it said 4km and after about an hour of walking, it said 3km. I was a little confused that I only traveled one kilometer on foot in an hour? I did manage to take a few photos while I was walking around. Since the fish market is located in Ginza, that’s mainly where I took my photos. There were lots of interesting things going on in Ginza. Since it’s like, a huge shopping area for women, there were some nicely dressed people in that area. I even saw the Ginza Bon Marche!

Here’s another picture of the downtown area:

When I finally gave up on walking, I hailed another cab and all I had to say was “Ichiro!” and the guy knew exactly where I wanted to go! Well, it wasn’t just like that, but I did mention Ichiro was at the Tokyo Dome. He got super excited and started laughing and saying “Go Mariners! Go Mariners!” I couldn’t help to laugh. It was truly a sight to remember. When I realized where I was at, finally, I asked the driver to stop and let me out. He thought I wanted to window down and when I flashed him a 1,000 Yen, he started to understand. I had about a quarter of a mile left to go until I reached the Tokyo Dome and I was super-exhausted (from lack of sleep) and I was so hungry! I wanted to try this burger joint at the Dome because Zack ate a hamburger there yesterday and it looked so delicious!

When I placed my order, I sort of confused the waitress. I ordered one cheeseburger and one hamburger with a glass of water and a glass of coke. She kept asking me if I was changing my order to a cheeseburger from a hamburger. It worked out in the end and this is what they brought out to me…

What? I’m an American! I eat and I eat a lot! I even got a couple of odd stares from people as I devoured both burgers. But let me tell you something. These two hamburgers were the best tasting, most flavourful, most juicy burgers I have ever eaten in my entire life. The meat was so, so fricken good! I can’t even put it into words how good they were. Of course, I had to pay an arm and a leg for them, but it was worth every Yen I shelled out for the meal. If you ever go to Japan, no matter where you go, get to the Tokyo Dome and visit this place! It’s so worth it.

I waited for Zack after my delicious meal for about ten minutes at the train station and then ventured off to find him. I found him at gate 11 and we were already facing a problem. You see, he had my ticket to get into the stadium. Well, actually it was his that he loaned out to me to get in. He wanted the ticket stub back which was fine with me. But his ticket was for gate 25 and my ticket was for gate 22. Gate 22 is behind home plate and gate 25 is near third base. We both wanted to get inside the stadium via left field entrance like yesterday and the security guard was already checking tickets. I think they had so many people trying to get into gates they weren’t supposed to get into that the guards were practicing a little pro-active-ness. Which is fine. It just sucks a little. Zack and I wandered to gate 25 and waited in line there. And when the gates opened up, Zack got in and my playing dumb role like yesterday didn’t fool anyone today. The guard actually escorted me out of line and pointed to gate 22. “Gate 22! You go now!”  he exclaimed. Wow. Okay, gate 22 it is!

Gate 22 was on the other side of the freaking stadium. I laced up my PF Flyers and booked it, I mean, booked it towards gate 22. I was flying, man. I’m telling you. I don’t know what it was, maybe the burgers, but my legs were pumpin`. I arrived at gate 22 with no line at all, they checked my bags, got the body scanner thing done, scanned my ticket, busted through the doors and hauled ass towards left field. I hit the brakes and made a bee line for the first row and started calling out to Brandon McCarthy for a toss-up when I got to left field. I lost maybe five minutes of batting practice at best, but the seats were filling up fast and I wanted to get on the board with at least one baseball as fast as I could. It wasn’t until the last few minutes of the Athletics portion of batting practice did I score my first baseball. I was able to get it via a new technique I made up on my own. It’s called “crow-hawking.” Basically, I let others call out to the players for a baseball and I kind of judge where the baseball might be tossed to from the player, line up behind that group of people and wait for the bobble or the dropped baseball, then I snatch it up! And that’s sort of what happened but with a BP home run ball. The ball caromed off the bleachers and bounced down to the first row of people, it bounced around, and I eventually got my hands on it. Possession! It counts! unfortunately, security was hot on it and as soon as I turned to run away, he was standing there asking for it. I couldn’t even get a picture of the baseball. And that’s why yesterday I really didn’t try for any BP home runs. I want documentation!

I won’t go too much more into detail about batting practice because it was pretty uneventful until about the last 10 minutes. I took up a spot in right center field and yelled my tail off to Steve Delabar when he got a baseball. I yelled and yelled and flailed my arms just like I did when Jesus Montero had a baseball. Steve looked at the baseball and sort of stared at me while I waved my arms. I started to feel like an idiot. But then he launched it my way. And it was dead on! I leaned back, took a deep breath and then saw a mess of baseball gloves closing in on the ball. I did everything short of getting physical to get my glove out in front of the growing pile and made the smooth catch! I gave Steve Delabar a thumbs up and pointed at him after I made the catch and got a few pats on the back from the locals. That was number two. Number three came from George Sherrill in left field and I had to sort of use my crow-hawking technique. Sherrill launched one my way and I wasn’t quite sure it was intended for me or for someone else. But the baseball seemed to have bounced off someone elses glove and the ball actually landed on my wrist not in my glove. I quickly secured the ball with my free hand and placed it back in my mitt. Feeeww!

Here’s the Delabar baseball…

…you can also see Shawn Kelley standing next to him. And here’s my George Sherrill baseball:

Tom Wilhelmsen and Charlie Furbush are on the right side of Sherrill. Anyway. So I bagged three baseballs on the evening, which for me, that’s pretty good, and especially good in a foreign land in a stadium I’ve never been to. Five baseballs total in two games. I really wasn’t interested in any third out baseballs or foul balls or home run balls either. I will say this about the Tokyo Dome security. For the most part, it’s easy to sweet talk your way through them. It’s easy to catch them off guard and sneak past. So if you ever end up going to a Major League game in the Tokyo Dome, remember that. Security is there to ensure safety, enforce the rules, but they’re human beings after all and if you can stay one step ahead of them, you’ll do just fine.

And remember; watch out for batted baseballs:

Here’s Zack and I hanging out after batting practice:

The next morning when I woke up, I started to pack and get my things ready to leave. I thought check-out was at like, 3pm but it was at 11am. Oops! Sorry! Anyway. I walked down for breakfast and when I returned it was like, 10 minutes to eleven. I started to blog about the first game at the Tokyo Dome and then I got a phone call from the front desk instructing me that check out was like, now! Helloo!! Time to leave, right? Well, I had to do one last thing before I left.

When I walked down stairs, I told the young lady at the counter that I had a gift for her. I pulled out one of the baseballs that I caught at the game and left one of my business cards as well. I wrote a nice little note on the back of my business card stating that I had a great time at the hotel and it was a great place to stay. And I truly did enjoy my stay. It was the quietest hotel I’ve ever stayed at in my life. I also told them that Ichiro hit the baseball I had given them. The young lady’s hands were actually shaking when I told her that. Ichiro is huge in Japan, we all know this.  Here’s a picture of them after I donated the baseball to the hotel:

And that pretty much concludes my trip! Unless you want to see pictures from the skyliner train from Ueno to Narita, that’s about all I got to show! I hope you all enjoyed reading about my trip as much as I enjoyed visiting Japan! I’m not too sure where I’ll end up next as far as baseball games, but I am planning on visiting Oakland in April possibly for the Royals series. I think that would be a good start to the 2012 season after this epic trip, you think? Anyway, if you’re in Oakland, drop me a line!

I’m snagging baseballs for puppies again this season for the Seattle Humane Society! If you want to check out my charity information, just click here!

Last season, with the help of all of you, we were able to raise over $250 dollars! This year I’d like to break $300!

Today’s game snagging Highlights: Oakland Athletics Vs. Seattle Mariners- attendance 43,391

Baseballs snagged: three (One BP HR, toss-up from Steve Delabar and George Sherrill)

Total baseballs snagged this season: 5

Total baseballs snagged last season: 135

Total dollars raised for Snagging Baseballs for Puppies this season: $3.70

Total dollars raised for Snagging Baseballs for Puppies last season: $257.00

Total number of donors this season: 4

Total number of donors last season: 7

If you’d like to join my official Snagging Baseballs for Puppies Facebook page, just click here! And if you want to like Collection of Baseball on Facebook, click here!

3-28-2012 Tokyo Dome

Oh, man! Where do I begin!? I still can not believe I made a trip out to Tokyo Japan to watch the Mariners and the Athletics play the 2012 season opener! And while I’m typing this blog entry, I’m still in Japan! Okay, so I guess I should start at the beginning so you can read why I came out to Japan in the first place. Well, for obvious reasons I absolutely love baseball. And I will literally travel to the ends of the earth to watch a baseball game. I’ve been a Seattle Mariners fan since 1989 but I really don’t give a crap who plays. I just want to see some baseball and shag some balls in the bleachers. The reason why I want to shag baseballs is because I have a new charity I’ve managed to put together with the help of the Seattle Humane Society called Snagging Baseballs for Puppies. I’m not going to get into full detail of how my charity got started or why I do it because I have so much to blog about.

So there I am at the Sea-tac airport. I took a quick flight to Los Angeles which eventually I’d take a connecting flight to Narita International Airport outside of Tokyo about 80km. Tokyo has an airport (which would have made this trip way less stressful if I landed there) but its way more expensive and pretty hard to get a flight in. So I had to settle for Narita. Which was fine. Here comes the interesting part. While I was sitting in LAX minding my own business and chowing down on some outrageously overpriced cheese sticks, I realized I had left my baseball tickets to the game in Tokyo at home. I sat there for a moment in complete awe of how stupid I could be. I didn’t bother to search my bags because I knew where I had left them. I didn’t want to panic either because that never accomplished anything. I immediately sent a tweet out to the Mariners on Twitter and asked if anyone had an extra ticket lying around that they could leave at will call or something. I knew it would be a long shot and to be honest, I really wasn’t counting on them to come through like that. I jumped on the phone and called the Mariners ticketing office and explained the crisis. After being put on hold several times, the end result was unless I could come up with some kind of conformation number from whoever I bought the tickets through, there was little they could do. Still not in panic mode. I figured I’d buy a ticket from a someone on the street once I got there or I’d just sight see for several days. On the other hand, I really didn’t want to go to Tokyo Japan unless I was more or less guaranteed a ticket to the game. After sitting around and not really knowing what I was going to do, another person from the Mariners staff called me. She explained that there wasn’t much they could do and I nearly cut her off and told her I understand blah blah. But that little nagging voice in my head told me to let her finish.

It was probably a good thing too because we actually made some headway on the ticket crisis issue. I remembered taking a picture of my ticket and posting it on my blog under this blog entry many months ago when the actual ticket arrived in the mail. She requested that I send that picture to her via email and she’d correspond with me through email until the crisis was resolved. So I reluctantly boarded the plane to Japan and waited patiently for 14 hours to get some kind of confirmation from her. When I got to Japan, of course, my cellphone didn’t work and I had no way to check my email. I had made a couple of friends that I sat by on the plane over, and I piggy backed off of his wi-fi from his phone to my phone. I checked my email and to my surprise this is what the email said…

Thanks. Glad you had the photo. I’m just waiting for confirmation from my guy in Tokyo that he can leave you a ticket for Wednesday’s game. When I get that I’ll email you back. Happy travels. Hope the rest of the trip is uneventful, in a good way.

Wow. Just wow. It’s like the Mariners staff are into some kind of wizardry to get things done for their fans. And just on a side note, when I was going to Cardinals games at Busch Stadium, the staff there treated their fans like absolute crap. It is the complete opposite at Safeco Field. Yeah, sure. I get into the occasional run-in with security, but that’s because I’m having fun. And security doesn’t want anyone having fun.

I immediately email her back and told her how much I appreciate her help and how much I appreciate her handling this situation and then I get this email…

The ticket will be at will call (under Gate 22, near Vicky’s restaurant). Hope that makes sense when you get to the Tokyo Dome have fun.

Holy. Crap. It went from “there isn’t a whole lot we can do…” to THIS! I was literally jumping around my hotel room when I saw this email! Like, how do they do these kinds of things?! I’m thinking the Mariners staff are some kind of mafia. Like, all they had to do was pick up the phone, call some dude in Tokyo Japan and be like, “Hey. I got some guy that bought a ticket and left it at home. I don’t think I need to explain further.” and they’re all, “Oh, of course! Already taken care of!”

Oh, and by the way. Here are some things I learned very quickly about Japan. Well, at least in the area I’m staying in. It’s a town or a city or a province or a neighborhood or whatever they call it, called Ueno. It’s a 10 minute walk to the Tokyo Dome and a short 2-4 kilometers from every other major tourist attraction like the Tsukiji Market, the Sony Building, and the Ginza Brand Street. All worth seeing. Taxi drivers are almost useless. Very few actually can read a map and many have very limited english vocabulary. On top of that, they’re very expensive. Use as a last resort. Also, don’t rely on other Americans to help you out. They’re about as useful as a screen door on a submarine. At least the ones that I encountered. Some guy walked up to me while I had my face stuck in a map and asked me where I was trying to go. I told him the name of my hotel and this was after I had spent ten minutes trying to explain where I needed to go to about 14 different cab drivers. You could imagine how irritated I was at this point. He insisted that Japanese people can understand english. They just can’t speak english. Or they’d rather speak Japanese instead because they’re too embarrassed that their english sucks. Or something like that. Anyway. They guy was a complete jerk, he kept interrupting me when I was trying to explain that his logic was flawed…finally I just stared at him until he told me “good luck” and walked away.

When I got to my hotel room it was about 1am Tokyo time so it was immediately lights out for me. When I woke up the next day it would be about 13 hours before opening day and about nine hours before I’d be at the Tokyo Dome. I spent the good part of the morning dinking around in my hotel room, trying to figure things out like the air conditioner heater thingy in the corner of the room. I got it to turn on but it kept turning off and then back on. It was weird but whatever. Tv was extra yen and breakfast wasn’t free either. So I decided to grab an egg mcmuffin at McDonalds around the corner because there was literally nothing open until about 11am. Yeah, how American of me. Eating at McDonalds in a country that serves squid and octopus and clams and anything else you can think up. And I eat an egg Mcmuffin.  After my breakfast, I ventured out in search of the Tokyo Dome. Side note; the Tokyo Dome will be my 14th stadium at which I snag a Major League baseball, providing I get inside in-time for BP and all that other junk. Here are some random pictures I took of Ueno and Tokyo as I walked towards the Dome:

Here is another random picture of some shrine I passed by…

…and then a random vending machine full of drinks:

These vending machines are everywhere, by the way. As I continued walking towards Tokyo I could start to see the amusement park rides peeking over the tops of some skyscrapers. The Tokyo Dome area is actually called, Tokyo Dome City and it really is a city inside of a city. I was supposed to meet up with Zack Hample at the dome closer to the late afternoon so I had plenty of time to explore the surrounding area. Here’s a picture of the Tokyo Dome City peeking out:

And here is the Tokyo Dome in full view:

This thing is gigantic, to say the least. They call it the “Big Egg” and for good reason. From the air it resembles a giant egg. Naturally, I couldn’t get a picture of it from the sky so you’ll just have to take my word for it. Remember how I said that the Tokyo Dome is like a little city? Well, here is further proof:

This is the shopping district. They have a Starbucks, a bunch of Japanese shops, great places to eat and this:

Yup! Even an Eddie Bauer! I didn’t bother to go inside because, well, I wasn’t too interested in it. What I was interested in was eating some food! I stopped at this place to try what they had on their menu:

I didn’t get anything really off the wall like a plate of squid or live octopus tentacles. I ordered a very delicious plate of chicken and penne pasta in tomato sauce with parmesan cheese. And it was awesome! Here, take a look…

…doesn’t that look fantastic? I’m telling you. It was so good I wanted to order another. It cost about 1,000 yen which is about, what, ten bucks in USD? It was so worth it, though. Also, another side note. Yen goes fast in Japan. Especially Tokyo. It’s very expensive to buy things in this city so it’s best to try to be frugal if you’re going to stay for a long period of time.

I did a little bit more window shopping and then I finally met up with Zack Hample. Zack is known for snagging over 5,000 baseballs over a span of like, twenty years. I expected him to have a good couple of days at the Tokyo Dome because from what I saw in pictures from the Mariners, the Tokyo Dome is virtually pretty much open to run around in. Other than the high walls in the outfield, it seems like a great stadium to ballhawk in. I could be wrong though. I haven’t ever been inside the stadium but my opportunity was right around the corner.

Zack and I did a little catching up inside a restaurant while he got something to eat and then soon after if was back to exploring and taking pictures. Here are a couple random pictures around the  Tokyo Dome:

Here’s one more of a statue of the coach for the Tokyo Giants outside a sports memorabilia store that sold everything regarding Japanese players and Yu Darvish:

Like Ichiro, Yu Darvish is huge in Japan too. For obvious reasons. Alright, so back to the ticket crisis for a moment. When Zack and I parted ways to go get into our respective lines to enter the stadium, I was without a ticket, right? And in that email it said to go to will call which was located under gate 22. I wasn’t quite sure where “under gate 22” was located and with a huge disadvantage with the language barrier, it made things extra tough. I talked to multiple guards and asked them if they spoke english before I engaged in conversation to explain my dilemma. My major response? “Let me see your ticket!” I tried very hard to explain that the Tokyo Dome was in possession of my ticket. But to no avail…until a Japanese/American that spoke fluent english overheard my problem. He became my translator and my new best friend. After about five minutes of going back and forth with the security guard, I was instructed to go see a ticket booth located in the court-yard. When I went over there I had to explain my problem all over again to the ticket booth window girl who didn’t speak english either. Somehow she understood what I was telling and she literally walked me to the area underneath gate 22. It was all making sense now. And to make things even better, she brought me to a guard that spoke english as well. So I explained the whole situation and he explained that they’d have a ticket ready for me….at 6pm. GAH! The Gates opened at 4pm to the Tokyo Dome and I pleaded to the guard that I needed to get in sooner than 6pm. I needed to get inside at 4pm! I could not miss batting practice! The guard kind of just shrugged at me and told me to come back at 6pm. If I did come back at 6pm, would I have to explain the whole situation again to someone else that didn’t speak english? I mean, what was going to happen? Chances are I’d have to go see another ticket booth and explain the whole fiasco again and again, losing valuable time inside. I decided to wait it out.

I walked back to gate 11 where Zack was sitting and explained to him what had happened. Zack was a little more prepared that I was, apparently. He busted out an extra ticket and told me he wanted the ticket stub back in pristine condition. I happily obliged and thanked him. The reason why Zack had two tickets was because like a few stadiums in the United States like Dodger Stadium and Wrigley, you need a ticket to get into the lower seating bowl and the outfield. The Tokyo Dome may have worked the same way. We wouldn’t know anything until we got inside. My plan was this, though; I’d go inside with Zack’s ticket, pass it off to him once inside, attending batting practice, leave at 6pm, go seek out my will call ticket, re-enter, and watch the game. It seemed solid. But I was concerned about thing. What if I couldn’t get back inside? What if when I explained my situation to someone who didn’t speak english, I’d be forever locked outside? I wanted to see at least one baseball game in the Tokyo Dome. And why leave when I’m already inside? My mentality was I’d just cross that bridge when I had to. Not force myself to cross it prematurely. So I stayed inside. I also want to state that my deepest gratitude goes out to the Mariners staff that worked hard to get my ticket to will call. I will never forget this trip.

When the gates opened up, I had a ticket to gate 22. Zack’s ticket was to gate 11. And since we were at gate 11, I wasn’t sure if I’d even gain access to the stadium from this gate. They might make me walk all the way around to gate 22. Here’s two photos of the line. This is in front of us…

…and this is behind us…

…and when the gates opened, we had to have our bags checked and we had to have our persons searched with a metal detector. They required all keys, wallets, cellphones and lighters to be placed either in your personal bag or a clear plastic bag so they could view the contents. It was truly the security from hell. And when I showed the guard my ticket, he started explaining to me that I couldn’t enter here and blah blah and I continued to say things like “I’m sorry, I didn’t know.” and “I won’t do it again, I’ll go in and walk around.” and that seemed to have done the trick! He let me inside and Zack and I were off towards left field!

I wasn’t sure how security would react to two crazy America boys running amuck in the Tokyo Dome snagging baseballs, but I didn’t care! Here we were inside the Tokyo Dome snagging baseballs in Tokyo Japan! And my first baseball game from Johnny Gomes!

unfortunately, it wasn’t one of those fancy commemorative Japan baseballs I’ve been hoping to get and it wasn’t the first baseball of the 2012 season either. Zack had snagged a baseball moments prior to my Johnny Gomes toss-up. So props to Zack for snagging the first baseball of the 2012 Major League Baseball season! And props to me for snagging the second! Zack and I decided to stay out of each others way during BP, and I knew he’d put up strong numbers. My whole goal was to snag at least two baseballs a game and attend 50 games this season. I thought about trying to snag three a game which would give me a total of 150 on the season but I wanted to keep it simple this season. Last year, I snagged a total of 135 baseballs and the year before that I snagged a total of 87. So to snag 150 baseballs this season would be awesome, indeed. And it sure would help my charity. But it’s all good. I want to have fun and not really stress about numbers this year, anyway.

The thing about the Tokyo Dome is this; it’s really easy to catch baseballs here. I mean, really easy. And the security guards that roam the bleachers like this guy…

…has a whistle and every time a baseball comes within his vicinity of the bleachers, he starts blowing on that thing like no tomorrow. And then all his other security guard buddies start doing the same. So even if you don’t see the baseball initially off the bat of the player that hit it, you can bet one is coming your way when the security guard of your section starts blowing his whistle. The downside to all of this is, if you physically catch one of these baseballs that’s hit into the stands, that security guard that was blowing on his whistle will come down and take the baseball away from you and throw it back onto the field. But any player that throws a baseball to you, you get to keep. Make sense? And Zack had to find all of this out the hard way when he caught a baseball and the guard snatched it right from his grip! Zack put up quite a fight about it, too. And I just stood by laughing.

I got a chance to ask Jerry Blevins how spring training went for him and he kind of shook his hand in response at me. “It was alright, I guess. I feel pretty good.” he finally said. Jerry Blevins is one of my favorites just because he’s so nice to fans and so goofy on the field some times.

There were a few things I wanted to accomplish at the Tokyo Dome while I was there. The first thing was to get a toss-up from a player that I’ve never received a toss-up from before. Be it come from the Athletics or the Mariners, I didn’t really care. Another thing I wanted to accomplish was reach my two ball minimum snagging goal. Which at this point I was just one more ball away from accomplishing that. The third thing on my list was to get Felix Hernandez to toss me a baseball. But since he was starting tonight, that wasn’t going to happen. I also wanted to get Shawn Kelley to toss me a baseball as well. I had plenty of opportunity to snag some home run baseballs, but the reason why I really didn’t pursue them that hard was because I didn’t want it to turn out to be a commemorative baseball and then one of those pesky guards takes it away from me. I’d be pissed! So I left the majority of the home run baseballs alone. I figured Major League teams don’t come to Japan very often, and some of these other local fans would probably like to make a few catches. Have at it, I say!

When the Mariners finally came onto the field as the Athletics were finishing up their portion of batting practice, I made my way over to the foul line to watch:

I was pretty excited to see the Mariners for the first time this season. I’m not going to lie. Tom was there, Charlie, Brandon, Coach Navarro (even though he hates me) and Shawn were all lining up to play long toss and warm up. It was a sight to see!

I tried to get one of the Mariners attention to toss me a baseball, but I was out of range. I was too deep in the stands and the Tokyo Dome really isn’t like the US stadiums. The stairs don’t allow for maximum height to see over the row in front of you and there is pesky netting that covers most of foul ground to keep fans that aren’t paying any attention to batted baseballs, safe. I immediately took off and ran the concourse to set up in right center field. I saw Shawn Kelley and a few other players wander out that way, so I followed suit.

Here’s a quick picture I took of Charlie Furbush and Tom Wilhelmson:

I kept track of the time because I had about an hour to catch my second baseball. I wanted to get it done and finally sit down too. My feet were killing me from walking around Tokyo all day. When I finally found my spot out in right center, I called to Shawn and George every time they caught a baseball. At one point, I climbed down to about the third row, made eye contact with Shawn, flapped my glove at him, called his name, and asked politely for the baseball. I was shocked when he didn’t toss it my way. I mean, a white guy in a foreign land asking for a baseball from another white guy? I thought it was the perfect secret weapon. Apparently not. But I was cool with it because I had all season to get a baseball from Shawn Kelley. And eventually it would happen. Maybe not in Tokyo and maybe not even in Seattle.

Over the PA system in the Dome they announced that Mariners batting practice was going to end in about five minutes. I was still without my second baseball at this point. I noticed Zack had scored a baseball from Jesus Montero fairly easily. It was time to switch gears and go after the rookie. I climbed through the rows and found my opportunity. Montero had thrown about five or six baseballs into the crowd at this point, so I thought my chances were pretty slim. I called to Montero like nobodies business! “JEEESSSUUUUSSSS!!!” I yelled. He looked through the crowd and I was jumping up and down in the row waving my arms like a wild man! He gave me one of those quirky little smirks and then reared back his arm to launch the baseball. I wasn’t sure if he was going to air mail me or throw it right to me, so I took a step back in anticipation for a high throw. The ball sailed my way…

…and the ball landed snuggly into my baseball glove! Awesome! I just caught a toss-up from the newly acquired rookie of the Seattle Mariners! I guess that makes things a little bit better about the trade for Pineda to the Yankees.

And that pretty much concluded batting practice. I snagged my two baseballs, and I think Zack snagged like twelve or something like that. It was a pretty successful day here at the Tokyo Dome and now it was time to venture off and find food!

When I hit the concourse, it was so packed it was hard to move around. And Japanese people really don’t have one of those space bubble thingies that Americans have. They’ll get right up on you and have no problem with it. I really didn’t like it much but since I was probably the biggest and most tallest person inside the Tokyo Dome at the time, I really didn’t let it bother me. Plus, Japanese people are very honest people. I always worry about being pick pocketed in large crowds but I heard that crime in Japan is virtually non-existent. Well, whatever. I was hungry. Here are some photos of the food concession stands inside the Dome:

And here’s a picture of Zack trying to get some food:

We ended up ordering a chicken thingy on a stick. I think it was the only safe thing to really eat there. And of course, a cup of water. It came to about 500 yen which is pretty expensive. There were no water fountains inside the Dome so we had to buy water from the concession stands. That sorta sucked. After we ate, Zack and I started to wander the stadium. We found a stair case that we literally talked our way up since it was being blocked by a security guard. And when we got to the top, we continued to go up even though it looked like we weren’t supposed to be up there. And this was the end result:

It was a door that led out to the third deck of the stadium! Haha! Eventually, a security guard came running up to us and told us in hand gestures to come down and find a seat. We didn’t get scolded or yelled at or even ejected from the stadium. I was kind of relieved at the fact that nothing happened. The guard didn’t even ask for our tickets. And since I didn’t technically have one on my person, I could have been in some trouble, I suppose. But it was all in good fun. Here are a few pictures of the Tokyo Dome from that door before the security guard shut us down:

And another:

Pretty awesome, huh..? Yeah, I thought so too.

After that little adventure, the pre-game ceremony was about to start. I took a few pictures of the field as both the Japanese flag and the American flag were brought out onto the field by both respective countries color guard. It was pretty awesome, really.

And finally when the baseball game got under way, Zack and I sort of just wandered the stadium. We sat in various seats and the only time security really hassled us was when we stood for long periods of time. The security inside the Dome is very observant and quick reacting when someone is blocking someone elses view. Which I totally understand having to watch baseball games in America where no one really cares if they’re blocking each others view. It was kind of nice. Here are some more various photos from around the stadium:

And one more:

Felix Hernandez threw a pretty good game and so did Brandon McCarthy. Every time Ichiro came up to bat the flash bulbs would start flashing and everyone would go nuts. And since Ichiro went 5-4 on opening night, that was pretty special for Japan. Ichiro seemed to be back in true form which would make this season pretty awesome if he was able to gain over 200 hits again. Dustin Ackley put one in the seats in the fourth inning but the Athletics answered right back with a run of their own. The game eventually went to extra innings with the Mariners winning 3-1 with the help of another Dustin Ackley RBI and Ichiro bashing a single up the middle to score Ackley from second base. The game was exciting and after the game, no one wanted to leave. I guess it being opening day and all…but I wanted to get the hell out of there and get some sleep! I took one last photo and see if maybe you can recognize who they are. Ready?

And then, of course, this blog wouldn’t be complete without a few pictures me, right?

Here is a picture of me holding up my Gomes and Montero snags:

That pretty much concludes day one in Japan! Well, actually I’ve been in country for about a day and a half. At this point, maybe two days. It’s been really fun with times of frustration. But that’s only because of the language barrier and is definitely expected. Everything I want to see and do is pretty much within walking distance and the food is pretty awesome to try. Tomorrow I plan to wake up early and make it to the fish market. I’m pretty excited about that! So until then…

I’m snagging baseballs for puppies again this season for the Seattle Humane Society! If you want to check out my charity information, just click here!

Last season, with the help of all of you, we were able to raise over $250 dollars! This year I’d like to break $300!

Today’s game snagging Highlights: Oakland Athletics Vs. Seattle Mariners- attendance 44,227 Baseballs snagged: two (toss-up from Johnny Gomes and Jesus Montero )

Total baseballs snagged this season: 2

Total baseballs snagged last season: 135

Total dollars raised for Snagging Baseballs for Puppies this season: $1.48

Total dollars raised for Snagging Baseballs for Puppies last season: $257.00

Total number of donors this season: 4

Total number of donors last season: 7

If you’d like to join my official Snagging Baseballs for Puppies Facebook page, just click here! And if you want to like Collection of Baseball on Facebook, click here!

9-26-2011 Safeco Field

With the 2011 baseball season coming to a close I made arrangements to be able to attend at least the last Mariner home game of the season. Which is on Wednesday. It will probably be a very emotional night for most. Today’s game would start at 7:10pm and of course I got to the stadium early enough to attend batting practice. A small crowd gathered at the gates on this gloomy, rainy day in Seattle.

When I ran inside I immediately checked the centerfield gap and the sod farm behind the centerfield wall. To my surprise there were a few baseballs lying around and one within grasp. I quickly assembled my glove-trick and went after one.

“You need to lower your rubber band and you can’t do that right now.” Said a voice over my shoulder. I could hear other security guards in the centerfield bleachers whistling at me and hollering for me to stop but I didn’t care. I wanted to get on the board with at least one baseball this game…whatever the cost. If I get yelled at, so be it.

“I need to do what?” I responded.

“You have to stop that.” said the security guard again.

And at the moment I was reeling the baseball up. It wasn’t a baseball from Felix Hernandez or anything but it was well worth the trouble and the harassment from security.

I hung around the party deck for a while mainly because the crowd was so thin I wasn’t worried about anyone beating me to the seating bowls to scavenge for any loose baseballs. Steve Delabar was snagging balls in centerfield and when he tossed one up to a couple of girls I knew I’d be glove-tricking my second baseball out of the gap. Not that they’re girls and they can’t catch, it’s just that they weren’t wearing gloves and it’s hard to catch baseballs without a glove. I  retrieved the baseball for them and here is the result:

I wandered the bullpen area looking for more chances to use the glove-trick and I was stopped by one of the Safeco Field seating hosts, Bronson. He made a generous donation of $20 dollars towards Snagging Baseballs for Puppies and had me sign one of his baseballs that he got. I felt honored to be able to put my name on it and if you’ve ever signed a baseball it’s a lot harder than it looks.

Once the upper level opened up I raced down to the third base seating to look for any baseballs that were hit into the rows. I was able to find this one:

After I found the baseball in the above photo I walked over to the railing and called out to Tom Wilhelmsen.

“Hey, Tom. Do you want to play catch for a little bit? I found a baseball!” I said as I held it up and shrugged at him.

“Play catch? Okay, maybe a few throws, bud.” he replied back.

I tossed him the baseball I found, (usually I ask to play catch with the baseball player after they field a baseball to get them to throw it to me) and after I tossed it to him a baseball was hit near him. He sort of flinched a little and threw the baseball back to me and then told me this was probably not a good idea.

I told him I understood, I mean, I didn’t want him to get hit by a baseball. And I really didn’t think about that until after the fact. But nonetheless, I got to play catch with Tom Wilhelmsen for about a half a second and it was a really awesome half of a second too. Here’s a picture of Tom after we got done playing catch:

I walked the entire way around the stadium to the first base side of the stadium. And when I got there this is what I found:

Can you believe that? It was probably 5:20pm and this baseball in the above photo had been sitting there in plain view this whole time! Not only did I find this one but I found this one too…

…and just like that I had five baseballs on the evening! I would have had six but this baseball was incredibly hard to get plus security was standing right by me:

While I was staring down at this baseball and taking pictures the Mariners started to jog off the field. Batting practice for them had ended and I was way out in right field by the fair pole. I wanted to be at the dugout when BP ended so I literally had to sprint through the rows to get there in time. And when I did I got Jaime Navarro to toss me my sixth baseball of the evening. And by the way, this was my competition while I was messing around in the first base seating bowl:

I raced behind home plate, switched hats, took notes and moved down in the front row where the Oakland Athletics were already out stretching and warming up. I was sitting at six baseballs and I really wanted to break my single game record. All I had to do was snag one more baseball. After a few errant throws that nearly hit a couple of fans I met up with Todd Cook and his family. I got word from Twitter that he’d be visiting Safeco Field at the end of the month and it was really awesome to meet up with them. If you want to check out his blog you can by clicking here. Just as I ran over to them to shake Todd’s hand a baseball struck little Tim right in the arm as he was watching the Athletics. It looked like the baseball hit him square in the shoulder but later the medical staff at Safeco Field confirmed that he got hit in the hand and he was okay. Nothing was broke, thank goodness. While they rushed off to see the medics, Dave Valle came out on the upper deck and asked me what happened and where they were going. I made sure to fill him in on all the important details. After waiting around for about five minutes I decided to head up to Guest Services myself and make sure Tim was okay. Ballhawking could wait when their was a fellow ‘Hawker injured.

Fifteen minutes later we all walked out of Guest Services and headed down to the 3rd base seating bowl. Tim wanted to just hangout for a while, and I didn’t blame him. I had been hit by a baseball before and it really does hurt. I couldn’t imagine how much pain Tim was in.

I wandered back down to the bullpen area and just as I got there a couple of baseballs were hit near me. Here’s a picture of one:

I was watching security to make sure they weren’t standing by making sure I didn’t go after it and when they turned their back on me that’s when I made my move. I nearly had to talk my way into the spot in front of the ball because the lady that was blocking me assumed I was going to jump into the bullpen to get the baseball. I reassured her that’s what I wasn’t going to do and when I started to assemble my glove-trick she got the idea. First I had to knock the baseball closer by flinging my glove out passed the baseball and then by dragging my glove backwards over the ball it knocked it onto the concrete part of the ‘Pen. This was the result after I was able to reel it in:

The man in the above photo is Dino. I’m not sure if this was his first Mariners game or not but he’s from Australia. If you look closely at the underside of the baseball it has the Anaheim Angels 50th Anniversary logo on it. Dino was very appreciative of the baseball and I passed out my charity business card to him and the people he was with. We shared a few stories of rescued dogs, took a few more pictures, and parted ways.

When I returned to the party deck one of my friends, Ryanna,  that I attend baseball games with pulled me aside.

“There is a baseball that’s stuck underneath the tarp in the back corner of the Mariners bullpen.” She told me.

I, of course, had to investigate. And sure enough there was a baseball sitting in the corner. It wasn’t just any baseball. It was another Anaheim Angels 50th Anniversary one. But I couldn’t get it with my glove-trick. I had to wait for a grounds crew member. And when one finally arrived I asked him if he’d toss me the baseball. I got the “I’ll lose my job” excuse but luckily he told me he’d tell the bullpen cop about it and hopefully he’d be able to help me. Fortunatly for me, I’ve been really friendly with the bullpen cops and I also know them by name. So it was pretty easy to get the baseball from him. And I gave that one away to another friend of mine, Krista, that attends nearly every Mariners home game. She’s been wanting one of the special Angels ball all season so I felt pretty good about getting it to her. That was my eighth ball of the evening.

After that I engaged in a quick photo-op with the Todd and Tim:

I ran over to the Mariners side of the stadium at around 6:45pm to try to snag one more baseball. But none of the Mariners that were out warming up bothered to bring any baseballs with them. Alex Liddi and Luis Rodriguez played a quick game of catch in front of the Mariners dugout but it was actually a little too crowded for my taste so I ended up leaving and walking back to the party deck in centerfield.

The game itself was very entertaining. Especially when Brandon League came in to pitch in the ninth to try to notch save number 37. Which he did. The Mariners were able to hang on for a 4-2 win and a huge three-run home run by Justin Smoak pretty much sealed it for them too! The last game of the season will be played on Wednesday which I will be attending.

Also, a huge thanks to another good friend of mine, Carla, for donating $25 dollars to my charity. You can click on the link below to get more details or donate yourself. Her donation pushed me over the edge of $200 dollars raised this year. I never thought I’d end up raising so much money, so a huge thanks goes out to her and everyone else that has donated, pledged or done both.

Follow me on Facebook!  Follow me on Twitter!  Check out my Charity!

Game; September 26th 2011 Oakland Athletics vs Seattle Mariners

Gameballs; Eight

Attendance; 17,057

Snagging Baseballs for Puppies has raised; $219.65 this season.

Snagging Baseballs for Relief in Japan has raised; $50.20 this
season

9-21-2011 Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum

I had the day off from work today so guess what I did? I booked a flight to Oakland California and attended an Oakland Athletics baseball game at the Oakland Coliseum. The Coliseum is now re-named to the O.co Coliseum or some stupid name like that. I refuse to call it anything but the Oakland Coliseum. It’s been named that for a million years and I’m not going to call it the “Oh Co Coliseum”! Ridiculous! Here’s a crappy picture of the Coliseum as I rode past it in the shuttle van from my hotel room.

The good thing about this trip is I stayed in a hotel within walking distance to the Coliseum. But I didn’t have to walk. The hotel room also had a shuttle service to and from the Coliseum. So I took advantage of that. I got dropped off at the Coliseum, well the BART station, at around 3:30pm. Had I went to the stadium at noon I would have got to meet Josh Hamilton, and Nomar Garciaparra. I found out from the Ranger fans that were already at the stadium that they got to meet both of those guys, plus get their autographs, AND got pictures with them both!

This is the gate I entered in. I came to this stadium because of the low attendance and I really wanted to break out and have a monster day collecting baseballs. I didn’t expect $2 dollar ticket day. More people showed up for that than I expected. But there were only a handful of people with baseball gloves. Nearly everyone else headed to the dugouts to seek autographs. Something I’m not entirely into anymore. I wasn’t quite used to the stadium because I have only been to two games there. One on April 1st and another one on Apri 2nd where I collected my 100th baseball from Jason Phillips. When I ran into the stadium I immediately headed out to the outfield to find any loose baseballs rolling around in the rows. I took a wrong turn and ended up in the 200th level. I turned around and headed back to the first base seating bowl and found this:

 

Moments later Josh Hamilton drilled one deep to right field. I ran out onto the main concourse while tracking the ball and made the catch just in front of the railing. Had I not made the catch? The baseball would have ended up down here with this one:

There was no possible way I was going to retrieve that baseball. The Coliseum has strict rules on baseball retrieval devices. The security guard that I asked told me that I could be arrested if I were to use one. I didn’t believe they would go that far but I didn’t want to try anything. Home was 800 miles away. And when Josh Hamilton smacked another baseball into home run land I was so tempted to go after it when the kid that was trying to catch it failed to come up with the ball. The ball landed on the staircase out in right field. Here’s a picture of the staircase:

 

And here’s a picture of where the baseball landed:

When baseballs are that close and someone tells me I can’t try to get it, it makes me want to try to get it even more. But with that lingering thought of being arrested over a Major League baseball still fresh in my mind I decided to leave it be. Even though I could have probably snagged it and got away with it…I just didn’t want to risk it. I could have claimed that I was an out of towner and didn’t know the rules, (which is true, sort of) or I could have just gone for it and not worried about anything. I decided to use my better judgement and just leave it alone. That baseball would have been my third baseball.

I didn’t bother with any toss-ups from any Rangers players even though I was wearing my Rangers hat and I could have probably gotten at least two more. While I was watching the Rangers field baseballs in the outfield another line drive home run was hit my way. unfortunately I was standing on the second tier seating area and I wasn’t able to move down fast enough. The baseball smacked off the picnic table and some kid ended up getting the ball. This was my view as batting practice came to an end:

My problem with the Oakland Coliseum is this; the gates opened up at 5:35pm, which meant I wouldn’t get to see the Athletics portion of batting practice. The Rangers ended their portion of batting practice at 6:15pm. Batting practice was over and done with so fast! It felt like as soon as I ran into the stadium batting practice was coming to an end. For me I felt fortunate enough to find a baseball and catch another. The good news is I had awesome seats for the game. I was sitting right behind home plate. What does that mean? Foul balls.

Here’s a picture of the two gems I snagged:

The concourse was absolutely crowded but I was able to grab a hotdog and a free soda for signing up for the drunk driver program thing they had at the Coliseum. I was only allowed to get a small drink and when they meant small they really meant small. They gave me a 4 oz dixie cup jammed full of ice and some soda. I felt ripped off but hey, it was free. The hotdog was like, $5 bucks though.

Here’s a view from my seat:

When I got these tickets I researched the best possible spot that I thought would be ideal for a foul ball. I figured directly behind home plate would be the best spot and when I bought the tickets, which were $26 dollars, I asked for an aisle seat as close to the field as possible. I was put in row seven, seat one. The rows around me were empty.

Every foul ball that would have come my way it would have been an easy snag. But for that to happen foul balls would need to come my way. During THIS particular game when I was sitting in foul ball territory with no one around me not one foul ball came even close enough for me to snag. I was shocked.

As the game went on I pretty much gave up on catching a foul ball while I sat in the perfect seats in the Coliseum. I thoroughly enjoyed the game though. It was well-played and I got to see Josh Hamilton and Ian Kinsler blast some home runs. The Rangers ended up winning the game 3-2 and I went home with only two baseballs.

 

 

O.co. Coliseum…blah.

 

Game; September 21st 2011 Texas Rangers vs Oakland Athletics

Gameballs; Two

Attendance; 19,589

Snagging Baseballs for Puppies has raised; $189.20 this season.

Snagging Baseballs for Relief in Japan has raised; $47.80 this
season

 

 

 

 

5-21-2011 AT&T Park

AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, would be my eighth stadium I’ve visited in my lifetime. But it’s always a little nerve-racking to visit a new stadium because I know very little about the architecture of the stadium, and I’m absolutely clueless of how the inside of the park is set up. So when I got to the park on Saturday morning I planned to get there early enough to allow me some time to explore the entire ballpark and try to get the upper hand on some knowledge before I enter. Todays game was set to start at 4:10pm which meant the gates should open around 2:10pm. To my surprise they opened at 1:55pm. An extra 15 minutes of BP never hurt anyone…

On my way in from my hotel I stopped at Candlestick Park. That’s where the Giants used to play baseball. Now the stadium just belongs to the San Francisco 49ers. Here are some pictures I took of Candlestick Park:

It was kind of awesome to be around that stadium because of all the history that has taken place there. Baseball and football. But the Giants now played in AT&T Park and that’s where I was headed.

It took forever to get to the stadium, by the way. If it weren’t for the road signs that directed my every turn I would have been lost. My GPS crapped out on me about the time I exited the freeway. I’ll have to say; of all the stadiums I’ve been to AT&T Park was the hardest to find. Yeah, its huge and its a stadium. But it’s well hidden. When I arrived I expected to see thousands of people already at the gates. But it was like a ghost town for the most part. So I wandered around looking at the park and surrounding areas. I even visited the team store. The Giants team store is by far the largest I’ve ever seen and they had so much Giants gear it was incredible!

The team store even had three showcase windows full of autographed baseballs. Mainly from Tim Lincecum, Willie Mays, Brian Wilson, and Will Clark. And all of them were over $100 dollars. And all of them were signed in black ink. If you’re an autograph collector you’d know better than to have baseballs signed with black ink. Blue ink is ideal and after you get the baseball signed you spray a light coat of hairspray on the ball to “set” the autograph. The reason why you don’t use black ink to sign on a baseball is because black ink fades. And never, ever use a sharpie to get a baseball signed. The ink just soaks into the cowhide and within a year your autograph will fade way. It doesn’t matter if you place the signed baseball in one of those UV protected ball cubes and store it in your closet. Anyway. Enough of autographs 101.

I took some more pictures of around the stadium. Check `em out.

The last picture is of McCovey Cove. Now you get a history lesson on baseball. Why did they name that area McCovey Cove? McCovey Cove is the unofficial name of a section of San Francisco Bay beyond the right field wall of AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, coined after famed Giants first baseman Willie McCovey. The proper name for the cove is China Basin, which is the mouth of Mission Creek as it meets the bay. The cove is bounded along the north by AT&T Park, with a ferry landing and a breakwater at the northeast end. The southern shore is lined by China Basin Park and McCovey Point. To the east, it opens up to San Francisco Bay , while the west end of the cove is bounded by the Lefty O’Doul Drawbridge. And that brings us to this picture.

This is the O’Doul gate. This is also the gate where I entered the ballpark. As you can see it’s not a gate where you can walk in and go right to the field. It has about a million stairs to climb before you reach the field. And now for a second history lesson in baseball. Why did they name this gate the O’doul gate? Because Francis Joseph “Lefty” O’Doul was a minor league player that played with the San Francisco Seals, and also played professional ball for many teams including the New York Yankees and the New York Giants. He also managed the San Francisco Seals where he was the skipper of the infamous Hall of Famer Joe Dimaggio. O’Doul was a career .349 hitter and left the game with 113 home runs and 542 RBIs. Not only did he get one of the gates at AT&T Park named after him but he also got the drawbridge that people cross over McCovey Cove named after him too.

Today was also 2010 World Series champion hat giveaway day. The first 20,000 fans would receive a hat. I had no interest in getting a hat but I figured I’d snag one on the way in and then give it to a kid that didn’t get one later on in the day. I took this picture to show you just how many stairs I had to climb to get to field level. Take a look.

Since there were 20,000 people trying to get a hat security actually organized the onslaught of people quite well. They made it very clear which turnstiles would be open and they checked bags prior to the gates being opened to save on time. I appreciated that. And at 1:55pm they scanned our tickets, and allowed us to enter AT&T Park. I scampered through the turnstile, grabbed my World Series champion hat, and raced up the stairs. One I got to the top there was an open section that I darted through and I was on field level. BP was in full swing so I immediately started to scavenge for stray baseballs in the rows. I had the entire first base side to myself for about three minutes and I easily found two baseballs in the sections. The rows are slightly tighter here then they are at any other baseball stadium I have been to. So the baseballs were tucked away quite well. Here’s my view once I settled on a spot against the padded wall on the first base side.

AT&T Park kind of has that old school look with the bullpen out in foul territory. Just like at the Oakland Coliseum. (I refuse to call it Overstock.com Coliseum) Here is another pictures with the Giants on the field.

One thing I took notice of is that when the Giants fans calls out to the players for them to throw a baseball into the crowd they’re a little more demanding and they seem to forget to say “thank you” afterwards. I also noticed that people who drive in the San Francisco area are the worst drivers I’ve seen so far. I’ve been to many states and many cities too. But that didn’t stop the Giants from tossing baseballs into the crowd. I think they threw a total of three baseballs. I moved around quite a bit but I stayed close to the first base side. That was the side the Oakland Athletics used so after about 15 minutes of standing around I decided to put on my Athletics hat and I wandered back down to the front row. Just as I did a sharp line drive came right at me. It landed a few rows up and took a bounce right off the seats as I was giving chase, and bounced right to me. I was actually that guy that got the lucky bounce. I thought that was extra awesome even though I got heckled by some Giants fan in the front row. He kept asking for the baseball. I laughed a few times but he kept asking. So I quit laughing and ignored him.

When the Athletics came out to stretch, throw the ball around, and do their thing I noticed a section out in the outfield that was barricaded off and people were standing there. Like, a lot of people. Check out the picture below and look on the right side of the picture where my red arrow is. Eventually, as batting practice continued, that section filled up quite a bit. I’m not sure of the details of how to get there or if it’s just for season ticket holders or what. Even if I knew about that spot I probably wouldn’t have taken the opportunity to stand in there just because it’s such a small spot and not a lot of room to move.

Besides. Lining up behind Jerry Blevins (who just got designated for assignment) and Brad Ziegler was way cooler than standing out in a barricaded area on the field with a bunch of Giants fans. (no offense) Not to mention while I was standing there, texting my Mother, a frozen rope line drive was hit right to me. All I heard was “heads up!” and in that split second that I looked up I stuck my glove up and snagged it. Then I went back to texting. It kind of reminded me of that Evan Longoria commercial where he bare hands that baseball that nearly took out the reporter. If you haven’t seen it you can view it on Youtube.com or something. It’s pretty funny. But fake. But my catch wasn’t fake at all. All this happened within the first 30 minutes of BP. Four baseballs in 30 minutes at AT&T Park. A stadium that I had no idea about, never been to before, and made me really want to come back! I just kept thinking of how run-down the Oakland Coliseum was and couldn’t help to appreciate AT&T Park. I couldn’t imagine being a baseball player and being forced to play in a dump like the Coliseum. It would drive me mad. I bet those guys are always looking forward to road trips to Safeco Field, Target Field or even U.S Cellular Field.

Anyway. Here is a picture from behind home plate.

I took this picture to show just how crowded BP would be in the beginning. AT&T Park has sold out in 18 consecutive games but that doesn’t mean BP would be so crowded that there wouldn’t be a snow balls chance in hell in getting a baseball. That’s what worried me the most. The 40,000 plus people showing up for BP.

I stayed inside the stadium for the first couple of innings and then decided to wander McCovey Cove. There weren’t a whole lot of kayakers in the water and no sign of the Bond’s Navy. But there were some interesting characters to say the least.

And this area is for people who want to stand for nine innings and not pay for a ticket. AT&T Park actually lets people watch baseball for free! I think that is really awesome that MLB allows that. Especially since AT&T Park runs on a “by demand” system for tickets. The cheapest you can get into the park is $12 dollars. But those tickets sell out so fast that most people end up paying $100 dollars for a Standing Room Only ticket. Which that’s absolute crap. And security is a stickler on standing outside the yellow “SRO” area.

In the above picture that’s the “free” area. And in the below picture that’s the view of the “free” area.

It’s actually a very good view. Its better than a lot of “SRO” areas and some seats inside the park. So if you like free baseball and if you like the Giants and if you’re in San Francisco when the Giants are playing and if you really don’t care if you get inside or not… well, this is the place to hangout. It’s right by McCovey Cove. You can’t miss it.

But I like being inside the stadium. Can’t you tell?

I had to get my tickets on Stubhub.com because on the Giants website all that were available were $164.00 tickets. So I bought some $30 dollar “cheap” tickets and ended up at the 300 level. They were actually pretty awesome seats with a more than awesome view.

I finally got to watch Tim Lincecum pitch. He pitched the entire game and shutout the Athletics 3-0. That was his fifth shutout of the season and his 9th career complete game. He pitched around 130 pitches I think. The guy truly is a freak.

I’m also snagging baseballs for charity this year. I have two ongoing projects and down below you can see how much money I’ve raised so far this year. So I wanted to give a shout out and thanks to all that have participated and donated this year. It’s very helpful and I appreciate it. If you want to donate or at least get some addition information, by all means. You can either leave a question/comment on this blog entry or go to this website. http://www.crowdrise.com/SnaggingBaseballsforPuppies/fundraiser/WaynePeck

 

Game; May 21st 2011 Oakland Athletics vs San Francisco Giants

Gameballs; Four

Attendance; 42,152

Snagging Baseballs for Puppies has raised; $32.40 this season.

Snagging Baseballs for Relief in Japan has raised; $14.00 this season

The Baseball

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     I’m probably the last guy on planet earth to have given my two-cents on this book. I mean I read it from front to back within seven hours after it was delivered to my house. Personally I wasn’t as interested in the history of the baseball as I thought I would be. I like Zack Hamples second book Watching Baseball Smarter better. That book is my favorite because it gave you an insight about the game. It gave you answers to all of those zany quirks and all of those ” Why does he do that?” questions.

     The book goes well in-depth of how the baseball was created. Zack even draws out a timeline of the first baseball used in a game. It’s very interesting stuff. The last two-hundred pages or so pretty much tell you how to snag a baseball from a game. If you’ve ever read his first book How to Snag a Baseball at a Major League Stadium then you’ll probably end up skimming through this section like I did. Although there are key tips in this new book that weren’t in his first book. So if you’re a Ballhawk thats just starting out or all you want is just one baseball at a game then I would advise reading this section thoroughly. If you’ve already snagged over 100 baseballs or even 50 then I would say you’re on the right track and you can probably just pick through what you want and leave the rest.

     I’m glad I bought the book. I love reading about baseball in general. Zack has an interesting way with words and his sense of humor isnt over the top. Its a great read and worth every penny.

 

Fans vs Fans    

     Well, another season is about to kick off. Im sure every baseball fan is getting ready for opening day. As I have stated many times I will be in Oakland at their Home Opener against my beloved Seattle Mariners. I really can’t wait and this week is killing me in anticipation. It’s hard to sleep at night knowing that in nearly 72 hours I’ll be at the Oakland-Coliseum trying to snag my 100th baseball. After I read The Baseball by Zack Hample I of course looked through his blog to try to find a blog entry of him at the Coliseum so I could get a leg up on the competition. You know, to find those tips and secrets that not everyone knows.

     Well, to my surprise I found a lot of other blogs bashing Ballhawks. Do I consider myself a Ballhawk? Yes. I do. Its kind of bothersome to read these blogs that are floating out there though. I’ve never seen a physical altercation in the bleachers over a baseball and I’ve never witnessed any fights break out during games because a fan wasn’t sitting in their assigned seats. But one blog really stood out. http://mccarpie.mlblogs.com/archives/2009/10/ugh_ballhawks.html

     Now I know she blogged this in 2009 and I even left a comment. But it’s just irritating that people draw these conclusions about Ballhawks. I have never seen anyone run over a kid. I have never seen anyone push the elderly out of the way. And I have been to plenty of baseball games. But thats not what bothers me the most. Its these self-righteous, holier-than-thou attitudes these people have and claim that every baseball hit into the stands should be given to the nearest five-year old. The Major Leagues has a huge job. They have to please everyone from the ages of 1-99. Thats a huge job. People that go to these game want to be apart of it. Hangout with the players. Walk around the field. Catch a baseball. Some people just want to sit in the cheap seats, eat a hotdog, and drink a beer. Tailgaters want to sit outside, drink beer, eat food until just before game time. Some people show up hours early to attend batting practice and shag home run baseballs. The bottom line is; ITS ALL APART OF THE GAME. 

     Another blog that was pretty explicit was this one  http://www.millerparkdrunk.com/ Im not going to post any of the blogs about him bashing Ballhawks. If you want to read them you can pick through the blog and find them. But anyway. The point I am trying to make about this particular blog is this guy is a tailgater at Miller Park. His thing is to come to baseball games, drink beer, and eat food. Yet he complains and takes shots at guys like The Happy Youngster and Zack Hample for doing their thing at a game. Whats with all this hate? Cant a person just come to the baseball stadium and enjoy their time there?  

     Well, I’m not going to sit here and beat a dead horse. Its just nonsense and I guess that’s apart of life. I’ve had a few situations with fans resulting in name calling and crying kids. Like the time in Kauffman Stadium when I caught three baseballs in one game from Todd Helton. I was heckled by three college students that were obviously intoxicated. And the other time at Busch Stadium when Randy Wolf managed to drill some three year old in the face with a baseball when he air mailed it to me. Baseball will be around a long, long time. Any five year old kid today that doesn’t get a baseball will probably get one ten years from now when he goes to baseball games on his own. Like me.

 

Until next time… 

Busch Stadium 6-19-2010

     Another glorious day at the ballpark! Busch Stadium always has something interesting going on here. Yesterday ( if youve been following along ) I was able to snag a baseball out of the garden using my glove on a string trick. Those who are ballhawking pros knows that, that trick came from Zack Hample. So I want to give credit where credit is due. I dont want to steal another mans trick and claim all the glory. So there you have it.

     Today wasnt as exciting as yesterday though. It was really hot outside and I kind of just wanted to chill out. I did find some fans that had McGwire and Canseco jerseys at the stadium though. That kind of brings back memories of the 80’s and 90’s. The Bash Brothers.

     As laid back as things were today I really didnt do a whole lot. I kind of chilled out in the bleachers and then I spent a lot of my time in the concourse trying to stay cool. You laugh. Im serious. As batting practice came to a close I casually strolled into the lower third base seating area like I had done this a hundred and one times. It was nothing to me anymore. I waited for the National Anthem to end and then I fixed my A’s hat back on my head. I straffed some rows and got into position. Mark Ellis again was playing his usual pre-game warm up game of catch with another player I couldnt regonize. It looked like Dallas Braden though. But I wasnt for sure. Usually pitchers dont warm up like that. But whatever.

     I wasnt sure if Mark Ellis had remembered yesterday but it was still worth a shot. I made sure security wasnt going to rain on my parade and I raised my glove as Mark Ellis was finishing up. He saw me and arched a beautiful toss my way and I nabbed it. It was a lot of fun catching those baseballs.

     After the catch I placed the baseball in my backpack and I headed towards my seat out in the bleachers. I watched the entire game just relaxing. It kind of felt good to just chill out and enjoy the game instead of racing around the stadium like a madman trying to catch baseballs. Dont get me wrong. Thats why I loved coming to the games but today I just wanted to rest.

     Matt Holliday again put a bomb into the seats and I really started pondering if I should start sitting out there for a Holliday home run ball. Chances are if I start sitting out there he will either quit hitting home runs all together or he will start hitting them into the right field seats. Anyway. The Cardinals wont he game 4-3 after Jason Motte having to come in to rescue Ryan Franklin.

     All in all I had a pretty decent time.

Game; June 19th 2010 Oakland Atheltics Vs St Louis Cardinals

Game Balls; One

Autographs; None

Attendance; 43,682