As soon as I ran into the stadium I quickly searched the vacant rows of seating for any easter eggs like I always do. After coming up empty a small glimmer of white caught my eye. You cant see it in the picture because I hastly retrieved ball number one of the day but I will gladly point out in the picture where I found the baseball. The baseball was neatly tucked away against the black railing horizontally along the green wall with “336” on it. I just happened to look up there while I was putting my bag down, and I saw it. So I raced over to pick it up. I knew today was going to be a great day.
I played back in the rows for foul balls. I counted at least four that could have been mine if I got a good bounce. But as we all know when you want a good bounce you wont ever get one. Youll only get a good bounce when you least expect it. As the Mariners pitching staff got loose on the field David Aardsma quickly got to work throwing baseballs to kids. He ignored just about every adult to include Mariners fans ( like me ) that were calling to him. I guess he is just one of those players that thinks the kids should get everything. Ryan Rowland-Smith started to approach the wall to talk with some of his friends, and low and behold there was a baseball directly in his path. I lined up with him, and when he got close enough I very nicely asked for the baseball. He smiled, and tossed me my second of the day. What a gentleman.
Here is Ryan chatting with some of his buddies. So as I stood there to listen in on the conversation between Ryan, and his friends I noticed that john Wetteland had a small gathering of children that were respectfully listening to what he had to say. I could barely hear him so I started to move closer. He was explaining the doppler effect. As he finished explaining some kid raised his hand, and John awarded him with a baseball for whatever he had said. Then John said ” I have two baseballs left.” He stood in silence for about 30 seconds so I wandered over there to get a better listen.
John started to ask his question, and I soon realized that he was talking about everything he talked about on Monday! But this time he was handing out baseballs for the right answers! My third baseball was mine. No doubt about it! Johns question was this;
” What rare element was left on earth after the asteroid hit that wiped out all the dinosaurs?”
My hand shot up in an instant! John stared at me for a moment, and then called on me. Did he remember me from Monday? If he did, and I got the answer right would he still toss me a baseball? John was a fair man. He would do the right thing.
” Iridium.” I answered. FOR THE WIN!!
Ball number three was mine! Batting practice was FAR from over. I was on a roll! I thanked John, and resumed my precious spot in the rows of seats in foul territory.
Unfortunatly, I could only snag three during BP. So I headed over to the dugout ( Visitor side ) and waited on the Mariners to come out to warmup.
The National Athem came, and went. The security guards were ushering people that didnt belong out of their sections. Ill have to say this though. Busch Stadium is quite relaxed when it comes to allowing people to wander the stadium. Great American Ballpark wont allow you down behind the dugouts unless you have an actual ticket for that section. Which is really lame. Anyway. Oh, and U.S Cellular has the same stupid rules.
So the Mariners came out to warm up. I locked on to Josh Wilson. Him, and Jose Lopez threw around the ball for about 30 seconds, and then I started to move around in the row. I walked into his line of sight again, and waved my arms to him. He sent a rocket right to my glove. I think the baseball players have fun throwing to fans that arent right up in the front rows. If they arent having fun with it I sure am. I love to catch long distance throws. Was that my fourth baseball on the night? Yes, it sure was! I had all game long to break out, and get my fifth. So I carefully, and patiently waited for the right moment. I knew I had a for sure deal with the umpires. Well, not for sure…but I pretty good chance.
Since this was like my 30th game this season at Busch Stadium I have officially befriended two security guards in the sections that I roam. So it was no porblem to get hooked up with awesome seats for this game. My tactic? I whined a little bit about the ticket I purchased off of Stubhub.com. The first security guard I approached I simply asked if this was an aisle seat. He wasnt quite sure because the seat was actually against the railing. Which technically it WAS an aisle seat. But it wasnt an aisle seat I was happy with. So I told him what I was all about, and I also told him I knew one of the security guards in the section. So they ended up sticking me in wheel chair seating. Which let me tell you. Those seats are the best in the house. Theyre right up on the concourse, and it allows a person such as myself to gain extra advantage on anyone going after a baseball, and it allows me to get a great jump on a ball.
Yeah. Right behind everyone! No one to worry about if I had to jump for a baseball.
Sorry about the picture quality. I was just snapping pictures. Anyway, to my left is the steel railing. One step back, and I can dash down the concourse. Oh I prayed for a foul ball! I prayed for one of those t-shirt thingies to get launched my way! I prayed for rain drops! Something so I could run that concourse to catch something! But alas…nothing came my way. So I went to plan B. Plan B was simply this; run down to the end of the aisle on the third out, and snag a third out baseball from the Mariners coming off the field. Well, it was the seventh inning. I had to act fast.
The third out ball was a pop fly to the short stop. I made my move. I dashed down to the end of the aisle, and I came up empty. I was nearly crushed. But I kept my head up. I moved from where I had been sitting to a new seat. I sat as close to the dugout as possible.
So there I sat. As close as I could. I waited out the top of the eighth. Finally the bottom of the eighth came. The Cardinals grounded out to second base to end the inning so Ryan Langerhans ended up with the baseball. See the kid on the right of the picture? He was my only competition. Ryan Langerhans hooked me up immediatly.
AND THAT CONCLUDED MY FIVE BASEBALL NIGHT BECAUSE I WAS SO EXCITED I FORGOT TO GET NUMBER SIX FROM THE UMPIRE!
Game: Seattle Mariners Vs St Louis Cardinals 6-16-2010 7:15pm
Game Balls: Five
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
In the above picture on the top shelf are my first ten baseballs Ive snagged from four different stadiums. Busch Stadium, Kauffman Stadium, Great American Ballpark, and Safeco field. I only attended a handful of games last yearbut when I went I never left a game without a baseball from the stadium. The second shelf holds my first 20 autographs from Major League Baseball players. This season I am now up to 72 autographs, and 28 baseballs from five different Major League Stadiums. Some of my current streaks are as follows;
10-game streak of getting at least one ball outside of Busch Stadium.
13-game streak of getting at least one ball during a game.
5-game streak of getting at least one ball in a different stadium I havent been to.
Current average of baseballs at a game- 2.0 Baseballs a game.
Probable Future Games;
May 4th Cellular Field
May 11th Busch Stadium
May 12th Busch Stadium
May 18th Wrigely Field
May 19th Cellular Field
May 22nd Kauffman Stadium
Despite 21 years of watching the Mariners play subpar baseball and hardly ever winning in the playoffs, and be one of the three teams that have never made an appearance in the World Series, here I sat in the front row of Cellular Field waving my Mariners colors proudly. What could any Sox fan say to me? The WhiteSox went into this game 6-11 and have only won the World Series three times in their franchise history. Its more than the Mariners, but realistically its not much more. Whatever.
Outside the gates I conversed with a fellow autographer, and ballhawk that lives in Chicago. We traded autograph stories, and complained mostly how Ken Griffey Jr doesnt sign any autographs, and hasnt for the last ten years. Kind of depressing, really. We also traded great autograph opportunity areas around different baseball stadiums. He told me a lot of the autographs he’s gotten were from players sitting in hotel lobby bars! If you can believe that. I told him the two stadiums that I have had the most success at ( Kauffman, and Busch ) and how to get autographs from those places. He was quite impressed, and told me he’d like to go sometime and try his luck.
As soon as the gates were opened, we ran in to make our way towards the field. I always hated ushers, and security that constantly want to check tickets, and find out where we are supposed to sit. I got stopped twice for ticket checks on my way to the field. Unreal. Get a real job!! Anyway. As I approached the field, I scurried down to the first base line where the Mariners were warming up, and stretching. Whoever was in the cage at the time was sending countless baseballs into the corner of right field. Don Wakumatsu, and Adam Moore were working on catching drills, and Moore almost caught a ball to the back of the head! As he retrieved it I asked for it, and he handed it up. Bing! Too easy!
Did you know the walls at Cellular field along the base lines are like two feet high? I was amazed at how low they were. But it made it easier for me to snag grounders.
Here is a picture of Cellular Field on a brisk rainy day in Chicago.
So after snagging my first baseball on my first visit to the stadium within 3 minutes of being there, I thought Id continue my luck in the right field hole. Sure enough ball number two came at me but it was about six or seven feet out from the fence. It actually landed close enough to catch if I were up the line about ten feet. Unfortunaltly, I was blocked by fans. So I waited for another player to come my way, and hopefully he would give me the ball, and not a Sox fan. Well, if you are a fellow BallHawk you would know Zack Hample. Zack Hample has over 4,000 caught MLB baseballs to his name. He also has a glove trick that you can use to effectively pickup balls that are out of reach on the field.
( Theres the link incase youd like to learn how to do it. )
So there I am assembling my glove to pick up this ball on the field. I get everything ready, and I start lowering my glove. People start chanting to me, and laughing, clapping and all of that riff raff. I was having a pretty good time with it until security stepped in. Secuirty can be a pain in the butt, but I understand their purpose. You cant have every fan lowering their gloves onto the field to get baseballs. Anyway. He shut me down but handed me the ball anyway! Bing! Number two! It was a fresh ball too. No markings on it expect where it was hit, and where it landed. Such a treat from security.
My third baseball was a little harder to get. Since I didnt want to wear out my welcome in the right field corner, I figured I’d move around a little bit and see if I could get some players to toss me a ball. Had I known the WhiteSox werent going to participate in batting practice I probably would have stayed on the first base side a little longer. But as I think back on it Im glad I moved over to the third base side when I did. The Mariners shut down BP 15 minutes after I got over there. Garrett Olson, and Kanekoa Texeira were handing business out in left field, and there were a few baseballs laying around. I knew I had a great chance of snagging number three from either one of those guys. I knew their names, and I was the only Mariners fan in the South Side in Cellular Field on the third base side! As Olson came walking backwards to the ball, I knew he knew what I wanted. He was trying to avoid making eye contact with me but I called out to him anyway. ” Garrett! Im the only Mariners fan here today! Show some love, brother! Can I get that ball, please!?” Sure enough. He cracked a smile, and tossed me number three! Bing! Wow! Three baseballs on my first visit to Chicago! My best is at Safeco Field last year in April when I came away with four but I gave one away. So this year Im looking to get at least four to tie, and then five of course to break that old record.
I sat front row as usual and watched the entire game with annoying, obnoxious Sox fans all around me. Ive never been to a stadium filled with mean drunks before. But I guess each city is different. Ill have a hard time going back, but I must visit Wrigley Field, so I was planning a two day game weekend in Chicago in May. Wrigley Field, and then Cellular Field. Cellular is by far the easiest stadium to get baseballs at though. It ranks up there with Kauffman. Its not hard at all.
Game; April 24th 2010 Chicago WhiteSox Vs Seattle Mariners