My beloved Seattle Mariners finally made it into town for a three game series against the Saint Louis Cardinals for some interleague action. Ken Griffey Jr was offcially retired weeks ago so he wasnt the big draw. The Mariners have never played in the new Busch Stadium so it was a real treat to have them here.
I scurried into the stadium once the gates opened, and quickly ran down to the third base side. ( Yes I kept a watchful eye out for my favorite security guard ) The stadium didnt really fill up to capacity until late in the third inning so batting practice competition was rather light. To my suprise there were quite a bit of Seattle fans. Everyone kept commenting on me being from “Marysville” when I walked by Seattle fans. I knew where Marysville was but I had no affiliation to that city. I really didnt figure it out until someone walked up to me, and asked me if I was from Marysville, and then they caught themselves, and commented on my shirt. I forgot I had a MARYVILLE Fire and Rescue shirt on. MARYVILLE ILLINOIS. I laughed a little, and explained I was raised in a town nearby Marysville, Washington.
After standing around for five or ten minutes a foul ball came directly my way but out of reach. It bounced off the railing, and right into the flower garden by the foul pole. I went over to investigate but it was too far down to get it. Not even the famous glove trick was going to pull it out of there. It was wedged underneath part of the foul pole screen, and behind a plant. It took a security guard to get it, and he graciously gave it to a fan that wasnt an eight year old. I was surprised.
Before I knew it David Aardsma was tossing the same fan that got the last one out of the flower garden another ball! She caught it, and quickly handed it over to me! She was wearing a Mariners shirt, and she told me since she already got the last one she wanted to give this one to me because I too were a Mariners fan. I thought that was awesome.
Ryan Rowland-Smith came over to sign some autographs, and I commented on him giving his jersey to Todd Cook. Ryan was very chatty, and very nice to speak with.
After Ryan signed a bunch, and jogged to the dugout the real fun began. John Wetteland. We all know how talkative this man can be. If youve ever read some of Zack Hamples blogs or actually experienced this on your own at a baseball game youll know exactly what Im talking about. If you havent…Ill post the link to a short video I recorded of him talking to the fans. I recorded five minutes worth of video, but he talked to us for nearly 45 minutes. Its amazing how much information that man has to spread. Hes very intelligent, and its worth listening to him. The only reason I stuck around to listen to him was because I already had a baseball, and the Mariners didnt take BP. Thats probably why John talked to us as long as he did.
Here is John Wetteland, and David Aardsma helping Brandon League ( not in the picture ) with his pitching mechanics.
Here is another picture of Wetteland talking with Ryan Rowland-Smith.
John Wetteland approached the wall because a fan kept calling out to him about how great he was in the 1996 World Series.
John Wetteland going on about geography. Someone brought up the subject, and John jumped all over it.
More indepth lecture by Wetteland….
Fans would ask John for an autograph, and he would ask the hardest most off the wall questions to them. If they got it right, he would sign the ball, and give it back. ( He signed, and gave it back regardless ) He made it tough to get an autograph, and most people didnt have the patience, and simply walked off. I stuck it out because I thought it was an excellent one on one with one of baseballs greatest pitchers.
John explaining part of his question after signing a baseball. After signing a ball he normally held onto the baseball for an additional five or ten minutes. His questions were long, and drawn out. A lot of people had no idea what he was talking about. But if you really thought about it all its actually pretty easy stuff that a lot of people learned in highschool but never really paid any attention to it.
And now the link to the video of John Wetteland.
( How do you embed the actual video into the blog? Anyone have any idea? )
So after being entertained by John Wetteland for nearly an hour it was time to get back to work. I sought out my second ball over by the third base dugout. Josh Wilson, and Jose Lopez were playing a quick game of catch, and I capitalized on that opportunity. I was about 15 rows up from the dugout, and as I watched Josh look for someone to throw the ball to I frantically waved my gloved hand, and walked into his line of sight. The baseball arched skyward, and I was worried that someone was going to nab it before I could. But nobody had any idea a baseball was even being thrown my way. I didnt call to him or anything. I caught the ball over some older ladies in the row in front of me, and they all kind of jumped, and looked back at me with a smile.
“Glad you caught that because we werent going to.” One of them said to me.
” No problem, ladies. Enjoy the game.” I said, and walked up the stairs.
I stayed down in the section, and caught an aisle seat when the game kicked off. It was the first game of the series so I wasnt sure of the Mariners tendancies when it came to the third out baseballs. If the first basemen got it where does he normall walk, in front of the mound, behind the mound, where does he enter the dugout, the middle, the far right, the left…it was all a mystery. When the time came I would be ready though.
The third out came with a long fly ball to the left field. Milton Bradley would end up with it. Its always a gamble with the outfielders. Some of them like Marcus Thames would always throw the third out ball into the left field seats. Every player is different. Milton Bradley likes to give the ball to kids or someone down the third base line. So I pulled up some real estate right by the Mariners dugout, and waited for Bradley to make his way passed me. As he did he totally ignored me. I took a step back, lowered my glove in defeat, and about headed back to my seat when he pretended to throw the ball to a bunch of kids behind the dugout decked out in Cardinals gear, and then he looked to me as he took the first few steps into the dugout, and flipped the ball behind his back right to me. I caught the ball by surprise, and thanked him. I didnt try for anymore third out baseballs after that. I generally dont because the competition turns into about a hundred eight year olds fighting for a good spot by the dugout everytime the inning ends. Even though most of the time the players dont have a baseball kids still race down there to get one.
I thought this was going to be my night for another five baseball game. But sadly I couldnt even get a fourth one during the game. Colby Rasmus hit a deep drive in the third into the left field seats as I was heading over there. Ludwick hit one into the Cardinals bullpen. Even Ichiro got some good wood on the ball leading off the first! But I was not in any position to nab any of those. Towards the end of the game I made my way down to where the umpires leave the field.
As soon as the game ended I got down to my usual spot, and the umpire was quick to leave the field. He turned around and literally unloaded his pouch of baseballs into these kids baseball gloves that were standing there. I couldnt believe it. He didnt save any for anyone else. I was thoroughly bummed. The experience with John Wetteland made it all worth it though.
Game: Seattle Mariners VS St Louis Cardinals June 14th 2010 6:15pm.
Game Balls: Three
Unfortunatly this blog entry will be without pictures. When I synced them off of my iphone, somehow I must have clicked DELETE ALL OF THEM. Well, my last blog entry when I tried to upload pictures a different way they came out way distorted. So no pictures.
Typical evening game at Kauffman. Although it was a Saturday so the crowd was a little larger than normal. Maybe 18,000? Who knows. All I know was it was COOOLLDDD and MISSERABLEEE!! I hate games like these too. But running around got the blood pumping, and got my spirits up. I wasnt as aggressive going after baseballs as I was last night though. The game was delayed by an hour due to rain, and the crowd kind of set the town. It was military appreciation day. So a lot of the attention from the players went to those guys. Most of them wore their uniforms, and brought their children. So really my chances of getting a ball was dwindling by the moment when I saw all the guys in uniform with little kids.
I pulled my WhiteSox cap down tightly, and prepared to enter. BATTING PRACTICE WAS CANCELED!?!?!? Oh boy. This was bad. Luckily Garcia was out throwing the ball around. So I raced over to the third base side calling to him to throw me a ball. I was desperate at this point. I had to really fight now. He threw it to a kid. BLAST! I then spotted two baseballs sitting out in the rain on the edge of the grass in deep centerfield. I darted out there. Switching caps on the fly. I didnt know who was going to get these baseballs. But when they did I would be ready. I sat on them for 52 minutes, and finally a grounds crew member came over, and scooped them up. If you ask for one they say they cant throw them to anyone. But thats a lie. Ive seen them throw them to kids in every stadium Ive been to.
Now what? Well, the baseball players usually warm up right before the game. That was my only shot. I ran back to the third base side, and I switched caps. Id have to try to get a ball from a White Sox. It was my only chance. The game started at 7:05pm. When no player came out of the dugout to throw the ball around by 6:55pm, I knew the game was delayed. It was. One hour later Mark Teahen, Gordon Beckman, and Alexei Ramirez came out, and started running, throwing the ball around, and stretching. Two baseballs, a thousand kids, a thousand military men, and women, and ME. Mark Teahen, and Beckman were the first to get done. Beckham gave the ball to Teahen, and he wandered over to the stands. He signed it, and handed it to a soldier with his kid. Great. One ball left, and Ramirez had it. He was throwing with the strength, and conditioning trainer. So Ramirez would end up with the ball. And he did. I called to him.
” Alexei-SMACK!” The ball smacked right into the heal of my glove. Some lady next to me was caught off guard, and stared at me wide-eyed.
I smiled, and headed up into the concourse for some food, and shelter from the cold, and rain, and some guy stopped me.
” Hey, that guy..he threw a ball to you.” An older gentleman said to me in passing.
” Alexei Ramirez. Yeah, he did.” I nodded, and smiled.
” How did you get him to do that?” He asked.
” I asked him for the ball. Its pretty simple.” I said.
” He saw your Chicago hat. Thats why he threw it to you.” Said the man.
” Yeah, the probably has something to do with it.” I said in return.
” So you have more than just that ball in your backpack then. You probably got a bunch.” He continued.
” No, not today. I only have this one. Yesterday I was able to get four though.” I shrugged.
” FOUR?! You mean to tell me you got four baseballs yesterday, youre here again today, and you got ANOTHER one?” He looked at me shocked, and in disbelief.
” Yes sir. Thats what Im telling you.” I nodded, and shifted my weight onto my other leg as I stood on the stairs.
” What do you do with all these baseballs you get? How many baseballs do you have altogether?” He asked.
“Well, this one that I caught just now is my 40th. Its my 28th Ive gotten this season.” I answered back.
” Fourty!!?? How many games do you go to? You must go to a lot to get all these baseballs!” Wide-eyed now the man shifted in his seat seemingly astonished.
” This would be my eleventh or twelveth game this season. And no. Im not from Chicago.” I chuckled.
He smiled warmly at me, padded me on the arm, and dismissed me. After I jetted up the stairs I could barely hear the old man chuckle, and tell his wife how impressive those numbers were. If only this guy knew Zack Hample.
Game: Kansas City Royals Vs Chicago WhiteSox May 15th 2010 7:05pm.
Game Balls: One
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