When a friend of mine said he wasn’t going to use his Dodgers tickets for a mid-week game against the Pirates he offered them to me. I said, “Sure, I’ll take ’em.” He told me he just wanted the blanket–it was Blanket Night. I told him it was his… so I ended up with his $4 Top Deck tickets… and I ended up at Dodger Stadium at 4:30pm on the 15th of September with 97 baseballs snagged on the year.
My first stop was the Top Deck…
But, due to the night’s giveaway, they weren’t allowing anyone to enter early and watch BP from up there. Slightly confused as to what I’d do for the next 40 minutes I headed down…
To the field level… WHA???
It’s blurry, I know… I literally was jogging with my camera when I took this. It felt like I was a cartoon character. I did a double take… there were a few people in street clothes inside this open gate… so, what did I do? I joined them. When I got to the fence where they were standing I saw this:
And I hung out there. I didn’t have much else to do and watching pitchers warm up and hitters take early BP was way more fun than standing around waiting for the gates to open. I put on my Dodgers cap and hung out… and then Ken Howell got my attention. I didn’t ask for anything, I didn’t call out to him, I didn’t hold up my glove. It was on my hand, I’m no fool… but I just wanted to clarify that he initiated the interaction. Once I made eye contact with him he held his arm up. There was a baseball in his hand! He shook it as if to say, “You ready for this?” And I held up my glove. He threw me a perfect strike. Wow! I’d snagged a ball and the stadium wasn’t even open.
I looked at my watch. It was 4:48pm… and no one had asked me to move yet. I asked the people next to me, who’d been speaking to a stadium employee, if they did this often (this meaning standing inside the stadium watching the players before everyone prepare for the game). They told me they did… and that they would be asked to leave at about five ’til five. I said I was thrilled to just hang out there with them. They were really nice. At that point there were employees, players, and the three of us inside the park. It was so quiet that I could hear players talking in the pen and on the field. Eerie but so cool.
At 4:55pm a security guard approached, joked with the couple next to me saying, “What? Nobody’s kicked you guys out yet?” I smiled, tipped my cap, and exited the way I came in. I know how to take cues and the guard was very friendly. I had fifteen minutes to kill so I went to the center field gate where baseballs sometimes get tossed or roll to the few that mingle there… it’s also where Autograph Alley is located. I killed ten minutes there with little activity… then my phone rang as I left center field and headed back toward the gate to enter the Field Level. It was Chris, who’d mentioned he was catching a ride up to the game. I had an extra ticket and told him so, so he agreed to buy it off me. I saw him sprinting toward the line to get in right as we were about to start entering.
We both got our fleece blankets and headed into the seats in Mannywood. No Easter eggs to be found (unlike in the Pavilion sections… ugh) but we were the only two in Pirates gear around. Our chances were good. At one point during the first half hour inside the stadium I put my glove down to get my camera out of my backpack:
See how there’s not a photo there? 🙂 That’s because while my glove was off and my bag was open a Dodger player smacked a ball down the line that hit the dirt in fair territory and bounced over the wall in foul territory–right where I was standing. Like, I didn’t move… it came right to me. It was amazingly lucky that I ended up with it. It hit my bare hands and I bobbled it to my feet… and quickly picked it up. Take a look:
Good thing I’ve got quick hands… DodgersWIN!
At 5:40pm the other side of the stadium… stupid Dodger Stadium rul
es,,, opened and I ran over there to where some Pirates were shagging in right field. I paid close attention to who was out there, knowing the DodgersWIN ball was my 99th of the season… and the next one would put me into triple digits.
It didn’t take long. Garrett Jones, the right fielder for the Pirates that night, fielded a ball about twenty feet from me. I called out to him, held up my glove and he tossed it to me along the front row right near the foul pole. It wasn’t fancy. It was, in fact, a pretty ordinary toss and it was a pretty ordinary ball:
But it was the 100th of 2009 for me and the 128th snagged baseball total for me in my lifetime. So it was special enough to deserve a picture on my blog! 100 baseballs and I got there at my thirty-second game of the year!
The second round of BP for the Pirates ended and I sprinted to the dugout… a few players came into the dugout and, when I held up my glove at the concrete barrier between the normal field seats and the super-primo seats, some guy in a polo shirt threw me the dirtiest, grass-stainiest, most used ball in my collection:
Cool. He was probably a trainer or conditioning coach for the Pirates. I thanked him and started to head back toward the foul pole and as I did that a Pirates player headed into the dugout with a ball in his hand which he threw right to me. It might have been Jason Jaramillo but I’m not sure. Two baseballs, numbers 4 and 5 on the day, in less than a minute. My most successful (and luckiest) day at Dodger Stadium ever!
Check out this view:
At this point I’d like to point out that my sunglasses broke earlier in the afternoon. Tough sun. I had my cap brim low and that was it, but pretty soon a Pirate batting from the left side fouled a ball toward me. I saw it go up, put my glove up to block the sun, moved up the aisle to my left about ten feet, tracked the ball as it fell and caught it cleanly… right in front of a young kid who hadn’t even seen it. His family thanked me. An older couple cheered and said I should be down on the field… that the Pirates needed me on their team. A few people applauded. That one felt good.
As BP ended Chris and I met up. He’d snagged four on his own. I found a kid wearting a glove sitting with his family and asked him if he’d gotten a ball yet. He said he hadn’t so I handed him the ball from the unknown Pirate player. He was thrilled, his family was incredibly happy, they all thanked me, and then I headed off. Chris and I watched Zach Duke warm up on the field:
And then in the bullpen:
Eventually the Pirates stretched:
But I couldn’t get down by the dugout when some players played catch. I grabbed some food and then a seat just past first base.
I had to move a few times but was always in good foul ball territory. The Pirates scored three runs off Randy Wolf in the second inning. That was all they’d do. About halfway through the game I sat in Section 6:
That’s Duke delivering a pitch to Manny.
I was within five feet of a foul ball in the eighth inning… just missed it because I was blocked by some clueless fans. Anyway, the Dodgers chipped away at the 3-0 deficit and tied it in the ninth inning. Extra innings again! I love free baseball. I had been behind the Pirates dugout b
ut when Matt Capps blew the save I moved to right behind the home dugout:
The game ended up going thirteen innings and ended when Andre Ethier hit the first pitch he saw out of the park after the Pirates had taken the lead in the top of the inning. It was a two-run shot that won it, 5-4. An exciting night and a fun evening, even at my least favorite park. The five baseballs (of six) I kept:
It’s hard to complain when you’re lucky, successful, and get to watch some great baseball!