When I arrived at Miller Park on this day, I decided to give myself a bit of a stadium tour. The gates weren’t open yet, but I thought what the heck, right? If someone would ask what I was doing, I would just play dumb and act respectful. It’s not like I’m harming anything…just looking, thank you.
When the gates finally opened, I was perched in the left field loge bleacher section. Brewers seldom used 3B CASEY MCGEHEE cranked one near me and I tracked it down on the bounce.
Remember the CUBS SUCK!! ball I mentioned a week earlier??
Well, the CUBS SUCK ball was reaching the end of the line. I just couldn’t decide how to properly retire it.
Should I throw it into Lake Michigan for good luck?
Should I drive down to Wrigley Field and launch it onto the field from Waveland Ave.?
Should I burn it in a sacrificial offering to the Brewers Gods??
Maybe I should bury it, I thought?!?
None of these final resting places gave me any satisfaction. So, what did I do with it, you ask??
I tossed it onto the field at Miller Park…right to the ballboy collecting the baseballs during Batting Practice. I watched him as he scooped it up and tossed it into the bucket with the rest of the baseballs.
YES!! A proper place for the CUBS SUCK ball. Imagine the look on the player’s face who grabs that one out of the bucket for use! Haha!!
A few big lefties were coming up for the Brewers, so, I moved to right field.
When I arrived in right field, this guy was shagging BP (like he always does) right below me…
…Brewers bullpen catcher MARCUS HANEL (#55).
He was giving me some light-hearted crap about when I was going to change my uniform. You see, Marcus knows I’m the biggest fan the Brewers have…but, he had seen me changing into my Pirates gear a few days earlier and gave me crap about it. I just told him I had to do whatever means necessary to get a few baseballs.
I responded by telling him I probably spend 10% of my annual income on baseball alone. I told him, “now, that’s a real fan!” I think this hit home with him. A minute later, I heard a voice yell, “Happy!” I looked down and it was Marcus Hanel! He had a baseball waiting for me.
Marcus knows I’m the biggest ballhawk around. He’s even made comments to my daughter about how many baseballs she must have. He was going to give me a ball??
After he tossed it up, I said, “you’re a good man, 55!” He waved and ran off the field.
Marcus Hanel really IS a good guy. A hometown boy (born and raised in Racine, WI-just south of Milwaukee) who landed his dream job. He’s very active with his charity…called KOOS FOR KIDS. Check it out!
Before the Brewers portion of BP was completed, big lefty BRAD NELSON jacked a towering bomb in my direction. I ran about 20 feet to my left and snagged it on the fly.
That was it for the Brewers BP.
The D’Backs were beginning to take the field, so, I made the switch. The previous day had been really rough for toss-ups from these guys. They wouldn’t look to the crowd at all and it didn’t seem to matter to most of them if you had D’Backs gear on or not.
So, naturally, I feared my season numbers would slip a little.
D’Backs reliever CHAD QUALLS was out in left field shagging baseballs. I went down to the front row and called him by full name. He looked up at me and I told him he rocked. He gave me a friendly wave…no baseball. Ok, the seed was planted. If one came out to him, he would certainly toss it up, right?? Not so fast.
He DID toss one baseball into the crowd. But, he made me work for it AND he made me wait for it, too. Twenty minutes after I yelled his name, he turned around with a ball and was scanning the crowd. Presumably, for a D’Backs fan. I saw this and bolted down to the front row. I held my glove farther out than anyone else over the front railing. I yelled out his full name a 2nd time and we made eye contact. With a look of approval, he lobbed it up to me. It almost fell short…but it didn’t.
I moved back to right field (I can’t sit still AND it’s good exercise) and saw D’Backs coach CHIP HALE shagging BP balls. I got his attention and he nodded his head in approval when he saw my D’Backs gear. He yelled up to me, “I dig the old logo!” (I was wearing the not-so-old-school purple D’Backs shirt). I then asked for a baseball. He nodded. Other people began to ask him for a baseball. He turned to them and shook his head. He then pointed across his chest at the D’Backs written on his jersey and gave a thumbs up. He then pointed at them (wearing Brewers jerseys) and gave them a thumbs down. He would reward the D’Backs guys. After tossing a ball to the lower deck to BALLHAWK SHAWN, he tossed the next one up to me.
BP ended without any other hit balls or toss-ups. Huh?? The D’Backs have so many power hitters…that was a weak showing. And as far as toss-ups…what gives?? You would think they have to pay for each ball they toss into the stands or something. Whatever.
I had some time, so, I took some pics of the stadium…
…the left field loge bleachers and Friday’s Front Row Sports Grill patio deck.
See Bernie’s famous home run slide in the picture??
…looking along the wall down the left field line. A lot of balls carom off that jut in the
wall when hit down the line.
…all four (4) decks of Miller Park. The field level (100’s), the loge level (200’s), the club level (300’s) and the terrace level (400’s).
When I was wandering around down by the visitor’s dugout, I saw a D’Backs pitcher signing autographs. I saw it was the previous night’s pitcher Max Scherzer. He had pitched great the night before and looked like something special. So, I pulled a game ball out of my bag and tossed it to him.
and the signed baseball…
For the game, I was strongly considering sitting up in the 2nd level below the press boxes directly behind home plate.
48 live in-game home run balls snagged but only 1 actual live foul ball snagged in my career. I was 1-dimensional. I needed to prove something to myself.
So, I traded my ticket in for a more expensive seat in the 200 level behind home plate. I was going to play for a foul ball. That was my mission on this day. To snag a live foul ball.
Here’s where I stood for the game…
The “X’s” mark the spots. The captions say, “right-handed hitters” on the left X. On the right X, the caption says, “left-handed hitters.”
Before the game started, I said hello to a few friends…
…former big league catcher and current Brewers TV play-by-play man Bill “Rock” Schroeder.
Bill gave me my nickname…”The Happy Youngster” back in May of 1999.
If you don’t know the story, click here.
To the right of “Rock” in the neighboring visiting team TV booth was another Brewers alum…
…former Brewers TV color analyst and current D’Backs TV color-man-Daron Sutton (on the right-pictured with Mark Grace).
Daron recognized me and said hello. When asked if he remembered me, he said, “of course I remember you…the Happy Youngster!! You’re the one who made the play in Spring Training!”
Very cool. Thanks for noticing.
The game began and I waited out my foul ball opportunity behind home plate.
When Brewers 3B Bill Hall was at the plate, I moved to this spot…
…left-center field, on the aisle.
You see, if you’re following the MILESTONE TRACKER on my website, you would already know that Billy Hall is sitting on 99 career game home runs.
Career #100 will, eventually, be mine I tell you!!
In the bottom of the 6th inning, with 1 man out and PRINCE FIELDER at the plate, my mission was about to be completed.
With a 1-1 count, Prince fouled one back to me. It spun off his bat, struck the facing of the ribbon board and fell straight down to me where I claimed it on one bounce with my bare right hand. YES! I had my live foul ball.
Gotta set your goals!!
Here’s where the Fielder ball struck the ribbon board…
…and fell straight down to me.
Here’s a picture of the Fielder foul ball…
That big, nasty, totally awesome black mark is where Prince’s black bat struck the ball and left a sweet, black pai
nt transfer onto the ball!! Cool stuff.
I’m a nerd, I know.
D’Backs starting pitcher Jon Garland proved to be too much for the BrewCrew as they fell 5-2.
When the last out was being recorded, I was sitting in the 4th row near the Umpire well. As Home Plate umpire CB Bucknor was exiting the field, I politely got his attention and he under-hand tossed BASEBALL #7 to me.
Here’s a picture of the umpire well…
…located on the home plate side-next to the visitor’s dugout. Very unique.
Here’s a picture of the CB Bucknor game ball…
…beautifully rubbed for game action. I love getting ump balls. I bring along 1 to every game just in case someone is signing autographs in my vicinity.
The man-CB Bucknor himself…
The Happy Youngster himself…
…by the D’Backs dugout. In my right hand, I’m holding the Prince Fielder game foul ball.
In my left hand, I’m holding my glove containing the remaining 6 baseballs I snagged on this day. Due to an extremely grumpy Miller Park usher (aren’t they all??), I had to rush the photo and failed to display the baseballs for all to see.
You’ll have to take my word for it.
2009 BALLHAWKING STATS
- 7 total balls 5/01/09
3 batted balls
(1 in-game foul ball)
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
4/27/09 = 15 baseballs
4/28/09 = 9 baseballs
4/30/09 = 4 baseballs
5/01/09 = 7 baseballs
95 baseballs (13 games)
7.31 average per game