Since the Brewers had been on the road all week, I was
baseball-starved and in desperate need of some ballhawking action.
After gaining the blessing of my lovely and understanding wife, I found
myself on a train to Chicago at 1pm.
After a 1 1/2 hr. train ride, I was in downtown Chicago. I hoofed it
about 9 blocks to the RedLine subway and jumped on another train that
dropped me off at the front door step of Wrigley Field.
The centerfield scoreboard at Wrigley is purely nostalgic. New stadiums are great, but Wrigley has that old-school flair. See the flags? The wind was blowing hard to the right field corner.
Here’s what I saw…
A rain soaked field with a rain jacket on. There would be no BP on this day.
$24, please. Okay, whatever. Just get me in the stadium.
The lines were starting to lengthen. I’m thinking…wow, 30 degrees and rainy and these fans still line up to see their team.
Until I found out it was a giveaway day. I’m certain the freebie brought many out early as the Cubs were only handing out one to the first 10,000 through the gates.
What were they giving away?
I’m sure it has some value. I decided to keep it because I’m a bit of a pack rat.
The gates to the BPless Wrigley Field opened two hours early. I grabbed my Zambrano statue and headed into the seating area.
BASEBALL #1 came fro
m an unknown Reds pitcher. I wanna say it was MIKE LINCOLN. Not positive. It was his warmup ball.
BASEBALL #2 came about 30 seconds later from EDINSON VOLQUEZ. He was walking back toward the dugout and launched it 30 rows back right to where I was standing. Of course, wearing all Reds gear and waving my arms like I’m trying to put out a fire didn’t hurt.
The players had all retreated to the clubhouse. I had some time to burn, so, I wandered.
Look at that beautiful runway on the lower level to snag foul balls…
Left field bleachers…
Right field bleachers…
Pre-game view from the seat I was SUPPOSED to be sitting in (more on this later)…
SECTION 233 ROW 16 SEAT 12
I wandered some more-ending up in the upper deck. I had to show my ticket about 50 times to get up there! The ushers at Wrigley are Nazis. Just doing their jobs, I guess.
A view of centerfield from the upper deck…
A view to the right from the upper deck…
and a view to the left…
See that overhang?? A ton of baseballs get fouled off and bounce onto that roof. Their final landing spots are the surrounding streets below. Now, that’s old-school.
A look onto Waveland Ave. from the furthest seat from home plate…
Rooftop seats in left field…
The seagulls in Chicago are on a timer. They swoop in every day around 5-6pm. They’re used to day game buffets. They were a tad early on this day…
The only thing more annoying than seeing seagulls everywhere is seeing Cubs fans everywhere.
Right before the game was about to begin, I took a look where I was SUPPOSED to be sitting. It was way up and underneath the overhang. There was no way I was going to sit there for the game. So, I did what any ballhawk would do. I looked down to the dugout seats above the Reds dugout and saw a few empties. So, when the Gestapo wasn’t looking, I snuck down and assumed an empty seat in the 2nd row directly above the Reds dugout. Decked out in all Reds gear, I was definitely in enemy territory. Only a few Reds fans to my left. I struck up conversations with everyone around me and acted like I’d been there before.
Reds infielder ALEX GONZALEZ was warming up with Brandon Phillips directly in front of me. After he was finished throwing, I asked for the baseball. Alex looked at me and faked like he was going to throw it 90 mph at my head. He pulled it back, smiled and then gently tossed it to me for BASEBALL #3.
1st inning…2nd inning…3rd inning…4th inning…5th inning all go by. I’m still sitting in the 2nd row! I think the late Harry Caray said it best, “holy cow!”
In the bottom of the 6th inning, Cubs LF ALFONSO SORIANO was at the plate. He hit a nubber down the 1st base line. It rolled right up to 1st base, struck the base, then rolled into shallow right field. Jay Bruce picked it up and fired it into second where Soriano slid safely for a double.
The ball was thrown out of play to this man…
Cubs 1B coach MATT SINATRO. Mr. Sinatro looked in my direction. I was the only fan who stood up AND had a baseball glove on. He made eye contact with me and tossed the game ball to me for BASEBALL #4. A toss-up for official statistics, but a gamer hit nonetheless.
I had been trying to get a 3rd out ball all game but for whatever reason, Reds 1B Joey Votto would not look to the crowd. He would simply jog off the field and on his way to the dugout, he would toss the 3rd out ball to Billy Hatcher. Billy would then toss him a different one. I’ve noticed this becoming a trend. From what I gather, the players are using the previous innings game ball for the infield warmup ball between innings.
Upon further inspection of the Billy Hatcher toss-up, I could see it was a game ball but it had too many grass and dirt stains to be the 3rd out of that inning. It had been the previous innings 3rd out used for infield practice. Ahah!!
After getting that 5th baseball, I reached into my backpack and dug out the Mike Lincoln toss-up and handed it to a very friendly Cubs fan who actually HAD tickets in those seats. I felt almost obligated to do that because I had sat in those seats all game without a ticket there. Unbeknownst to anyone around me, of course.
2009 BALLHAWKING STATS
- 5 total balls 4/21/09
2009 TOTAL BASEBALLS
4/7/09 = 5 baseballs
4/8/09 = 10 baseballs
4/9/09 = 10 baseballs
4/10/09 = 3 baseballs
4/11/09 = 5 baseballs
4/12/09 = 5 baseballs
4/13/09 = 11 baseballs
4/14/09 = 6 baseballs
4/21/09 = 5 baseballs
60 baseballs (9 games)
6.667 average per game