By now you realize that I love an excuse to head down to San Diego and visit PETCO Park. This time my excuse was that my wife had to work all day on a Saturday (and I actually had almost the whole day off) and the Marlins would be visiting the Padres–perhaps with some of their inaugural season at Marlins Park baseballs in tow.
I headed down the 5 freeway and got to the park at 3:00pm for a 5:35pm start. The Park at the Park was open so I showed the staff my ticket, received my free Padres T-shirt, and jogged in. When I finally saw the field from the bleachers just beyond the beach I was not pleased with what I saw.
The only activity was a random Marlin throwing over by the foul line… hundreds of feet away. It turned out that since the game the night before went 12 innings, the Marlins decided not to take BP on the field… which meant the Padres would be taking the visitors’ BP slot. Which meant that the only action on the field for the first 40 minutes I was there was a few Marlins pitchers throwing off in a corner… and that was as close as I could get. Bummer. And that player “closest” to me was Sandy Rosario. I called out to him… a long shot… but he didn’t even look my way.
I went over to the Team Store to see if the cutout was accessible and to my shock and horror, it had been (as of this season) turned into a luxury suite. Good for the folks that get to eat a buffet dinner and sit their… bad for a nobody like me who was trying to snag a baseball.
I ended up waiting for the rest of the stadium to open. At 3:30pm I ran up the steps and darted down toward where the Marlin pitchers had been throwing. But they were gone! Just two coaches were left and when I asked them for a baseball (and they ignored me) I ran to the other side of the stadium because I saw a few Padres emerge from the dugout. The cage was up so I knew they’d start hitting soon. First though, they would throw.
I got shot down by the first pair of Padres I asked, but the second pair paid attention. And after Nick Hundley threw, then signed a few autographs, I got him to toss me his warmup ball before he headed down the dugout steps.
The ball from Hundley commemorated a very special day that I didn’t even think would ever happen when I caught my first baseball at a game seven years ago. As he tossed the ball to me and I caught it… I had officially snagged at least one baseball in each of my last 100 games attended.
After that I watched as baseball after baseball was NOT hit to the seats–anywhere. I think there were maybe three home runs during the 30 minutes of Padre BP that I saw. It had started out as a pretty frustrating day. The guys who were using commemorative baseballs had barely been on the field and the guys who decided to hit weren’t putting anything anywhere near the fans.Jeff Suppan acted like he was going to toss me a ball out in right field–but never did. And the Padres ran off the field with me still stuck on one baseball.
Eventually, I went over to my seat. And taped to it I found a sign that basically said, “Hey–come get a prize from us–you’ll just have to let us try to get you to buy season tickets. Thanks! -The Padres.”
Well, I had twenty minutes to kill before any players would take the field for pregame throwing so I went–found the ticket representative, told them I didn’t want season tickets, and got my prize. Know what it was? It was a Padres hat–what do you think of that? I got a shirt and a hat–a whole Padre ensemble, just for being at a game on Cinco de Mayo.
Now, if I could just snag another ball…
At about 5:20 a few Marlins started warming up down the third base line.Among them was Hanley Ramirez (just out of frame to the left in the above photo). I tried to figure out if he had a commemorative ball in his hand.Try as I might, I couldn’t snag another ball. But I did snag something pretty sweet, an autograph from Han-Ram on a 2007 Upper Deck card!
Yep, just hours before the game I picked up a seat from StubHub for thirty bucks. Not too shabby, huh? And my seat, not just useful for the view, paid dividends early on. See, when Gaby Sanchez took the throw from starter Mark Buehrle when Chase Headley hit a soft grounder back to the mound, I stood up in my seat and yelled, “Hey, Gaby–right here!” I waved my glove and he lofted the ball to me.Easy as that. Everyone around me was pretty astonished. And I just sat back down and went back to watching the game. It was a great game.
It’s crazy–when you actually have a fantastic seat you’re not tempted to move from it. Instead… if you’re me… you take pictures. Like Clayton Richard delivering pitches:And Mark Buerhle doing the same…Two lefties battling it out. And here’s Giancarlo Stanton getting ready to bat:
I mean, I could hear Ozzie Guillen talking to his players as they returned to the dugout. I could tell when a pitch was outside without looking–I head the ump calling, “That’s outside.” I mean, look, I could see all the gunk on Han–Ram’s helmet:
And the groovy patch the Marlins players and coaches are wearing on their uniforms this year.And when hunger overcame me… I ran to get a pretzel and a beverage and ran back to my seat… I didn’t want to miss anything. Like Chase Headley getting the sign from his third base coach:
Buerhle was mowing down the Padres. He’d end up giving up just one run on five hits and pitching his first complete game since 2010. And Giancarlo (formerly Mike) Stanton CRUSHED a solo homer in the ninth which made the score 4-1. And I took a couple of nifty action shots as he rounded third and then got back to the dugout:
Feel free to click to make them larger. I hope you all recognize how much that high five picture makes me laugh. Like, Stanton is trying to make it seem like he’s jumping because Emilio Bonifacio needs to jump just to high five him… but Stanton’s totally on the ground. But Bonifacio is jumping as high as he can. Ha!
OK, no one else… fine.
Like I said, the Stanton shot made it 4-1. That’s where it would stay. Man, Buehrle’s good–and quick.
I’d been speaking to a couple of families around me in the seats throughout the game. One father and son duo was great. I chatted with them both about how I knew what to do in order to get a ball… and advised the boy about the umpire tunnel. In case you couldn’t tell… it was immediately to my left from my seat. Here’s a good view of it:
I recommended that the little guy position himself near there, call out the umpire’s name (“Gary,” in this case), and hope there was a ball or two to be given… and in the ninth inning we made our move. He to the ump tunnel and me to the dugout. Here was my view just before the final out of the game:See the staircase on the left? I planned to run down it to an opening right at the dugout. The usher (who was strict, even in the ninth) wouldn’t let me go past him until I clearly told him I wasn’t going to compete with the little kids for an ump ball… I told him instead I was planning to go straight to the dugout. He finally let me through. As soon as Buerhle finished off his complete game I got myself in position at the dugout–but didn’t snag a darn thing. I was stuck on two baseballs for the whole day. My poor showing didn’t hamper my giving spirit though, and I flipped the Hundley ball the the young fan at the umpire tunnel after I noticed the umps all ignored him.
As it turns out, the Long Haul Bombers would be holding a softball mashing tournament round. So, as soon as the Marlins were all in the dugout I bolted for right field… and I took up a spot here:
It’s right near where I caught one of these softballs the year before. Sadly though, even though I ran from right to left and back a couple of times… I couldn’t snag another ball. As I left the stadium, Michelle called me to say she was getting off of work–so I booked it to the car and made the drive up the 5 to Orange County. A free hat, a free shirt, a great seat, two baseballs, and an autograph… not a bad haul.