The quest for #1000 drags on…
I entered the day with 998 career baseballs snagged at major league stadiums. Of those 998, 52 have been actual game home run baseballs hit during regular season games. That’s around 5% of my total baseballs snagged being of the game homer variety. I’m proud of that number.
I started ballhawking back in 1998. That summer, my brother Jon and I would make the 2 hr. trip (one-way) to attend games at old Milwaukee County Stadium. We had more fun than the law allowed, that’s for sure.
I’m certain my career numbers would have been much higher if not for the segregated bleacher section at County Stadium. You see, if you purchased a bleacher ticket, you had to stay in the bleachers and could not access the rest of the stadium and vice versa. In the long run, I think it actually *helped* me. It forced me to focus on the baseballs that really *count*…
Do you remember the CUBS SUCK ball? You know the one…the ball I carry with me everywhere I go just in case I happen to catch a visitor’s home run ball. That way, I have a “dummy” ball to throw back onto the field.
More on this later…
I had many thoughts going through my head when I walked up to the ballpark. How would I get #1000? Would it be a great catch off the bat? Would it be an easter egg? Would it be a tossup? Maybe a lucky bounce? None of the above?
One thing was for certain: this would be the day.
I walked up to the hostess at Friday’s Restaurant and said, “a bullpen patio table, please.”
She said, “follow me.”
Like they normally do, they seated me underneath that godawful overhang. I politely asked, “can I get that table?” (pointing to one located in a more advantageous position)
“Sure,” she said.
I had my perch…now they just have to hit me a few baseballs, I thought.
Soon, Brewers stud Ryan Braun took the cage. This was it. I wanted it to be Braun. He’s my favorite player and I could get him to sign the ball. I was two away…he had to hit em’ both.
Just as I was ordering my ice-water w/ a lemon (c’mon, for taste-not flare), Ryan lifted one in my direction. I knew it was not catchable as I had to do the following: dodge a waitress, jump a railing, run about 20 feet and hope for a decent bounce. All of the above went smoothly and #999 was in the books (or, in this case, my bag).
One more, baby.
Hitter after hitter took the cage as I kept replaying the above 3 words in my head.
Everything was hit to a different section than the one I was restricted to (you cannot leave the Friday’s section until the rest of the stadium is open).
The last Brewers hitters were taking the cage. I knew this was my last chance. Brewers rookie Mat Gamel, who happens to be a left-handed hitter, was working on his opposite field approach. Could he hit it 415 feet to me and to the opposite field? Answer…no. But, he could hit it 395 feet and have it come to a rest in the bullpen near the side wall.
Take a look…
…at career ball #1000.
Yeah, it was a little disappointing. But, at least I knew who hit it.
…with the beautiful (sarcasm) sharpie-mark through the sweet spot and two unusual green marks on it.
Time to move on…there was plenty of snagging to do.
The gates to the rest of the stadium opened at 5:30 and I raced up the steps to the left field loge bleachers. There hadn’t been many easter eggs lately, but I was going to keep looking.
Much to my surprise, I found one…
…lying in a small puddle underneath the front row of bleachers.
Baseballs don’t like water…
…as you can see by the stain on the leather.
Speaking of baseballs in water, check out where I found easter egg #2/ball #4…
…that’s disgusting. Even by my ballhawking standards.
Check out how much that ball was submerged…
…in nasty, clogged, rusty, filthy, stinky, pukey, sewer water.
I hesitantly grabbed that baseball out of there and immediately put it in a plastic bag. I sealed the bag and put it in a side compartment of my backpack. I would worry about it later.
As the Astros began to hit, I continued searching for any unclaimed baseballs.
Just as I was about to give up, a stadium employee (cleaning crew) nudged me and asked, “you looking for baseballs?” Just as I was about to respond with a “noshit?!” he said, “there’s one” and pointed. I looked to where he was pointing and didn’t see anything. He pointed again. I looked again and didn’t see anything.
At this point I was concerned about two (2) things:
- was this guy ******* with me?
- was I about to get hit in the back of the ******* head by a batted ball because I was too busy screwing around looking for this fictitious ball?
That’s when I spotted it.
Allow me to explain with a few pictures…
…do you see the ball in the above photo?
No worries…I couldn’t either.
…I had never seen that before.
On with the show…
Ball #6 on the day came on a lucky bounce off the bat of an unknown Astros player. It was hit deep and to my right. I put my head down and started to navigate through the bleachers. When it hit, it took a nice little bounce to me.
Former Brewers slugger Carlos Lee jacked one that I made a nice catch on for Ball #7. When it was hit, I ran up four rows and darted into/across the row. I looked up and found the ball, made a slight adjustment 5 feet to my right and made the easy catch on the fly.
After that, I didn’t have much luck during BP. I was a second or two slow on about 4 other baseballs that I probably should have snagged. Or, at least, could have snagged on another day. I just didn’t feel on top of my game.
When BP was winding down, I checked the Brewers bullpen. There was one glove-trick possibility. After 20 seconds, I reeled it in and tossed it to a nearby kid with his parents.
Since the Brewers pen would render no more, I headed to the visitor’s pen.
The usher that’s normally working in that section by the visitor pen was not working this evening.
You see, there’s one particular guy who has a problem with me using my glove-trick in the visitor’s bullpen. I guess he (who will not be named) has a problem with kids getting baseballs they would normally not be able to get.
It’s simple: if I glove-trick it at Miller Park and there’s a kid present at the time, it’s given away. No questions asked. What’s so wrong with that?
Anyhow, when I arrived, there was one ball to be glove-tricked. I quickly reeled that one up and immediately picked out a little girl to be the recipient.
After I gave that baseball away, a man tapped me on the shoulder and said,
“are you the Happy Youngster?”
Since I don’t wear my yellow shirt during BP, it’s not as obvious.
I said that I was and we began to talk. He told me we had met back at County Stadium and that he was always watching for me on the game telecasts. He re-introduced me to his young boys (now approaching their early-teens) and his wife. After a nice conversation, we said our goodbyes and I was off.
One of the coolest families I have met this year…no doubt.
As game time approached, I took a look to the left field loge bleachers. There were empty patches of seats up there. A lefty was pitching for the Brewers with a ton of righties for the ‘Stros. The choice was easy. I would sit in the left field loge as long as I could.
Here’s where I sat for the 1st inning…
…front row, on the aisle, straight-away left field.
In the bottom of the 1st, the people with those seats arrived.
So, I re-located here…
…8th row, on the aisle, left-center field.
Like true clock-work, Lance Berkman (batting righty) led off the 2nd inning with a home run greeting.
The 53rd game home run ball snagged of my ballhawking career…
…(wearing yellow shirt) running down the aisle.
Getting in position…
…beating the competition…
…securing the ball and re-gaining my footwork.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE VIDEO
(pay special attention to the crowd reaction while Berkman is rounding 3rd base…that’s when the CUBS SUCK ball makes its appearance).
The Berkman home run ball…
…#310 of his soon-to-be Hall of Fame career and #53 of mine.
BTW, if you’re wondering about my throwback…it was fielded by Brewers shortstop J.J. Hardy on the edge of the infield. When I see J.J. next, I’ll ask him about the CUBS SUCK ball.
Stay tuned for that.
After that home run catch, I went back to the family I mentioned above. I pulled two baseballs out of my bag that I had caught earlier and gave them to the two boys. They deserved it for being so cool to me. My theory: it’s so easy to be nasty to people. Why not put forth the extra effort and just be cool? Right? And if you don’t want to be cool, just don’t say anything.
I was so happy I caught that one on the fly that I didn’t care about the rest of the game.
I ended up leaving in the 7th inning because I was so excited to go home and tell/show my wife.
The Brewers went on to win the game 3-2. The Berkman homer ended up being the only one of the game.
The four BP baseballs I took home…
…because 4 were given away.
The sewer ball that I snagged (#4 on the day/career #1002) wasn’t even photographed because it stunk so bad. When I got home, I just tossed it. Damn, that thing stunk.
2009 BALLHAWKING STATS
7 batted baseballs
3 device baseballs
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
5/02/09 = 4 baseballs
5/08/09 = 11 baseballs
5/09/09 = 1 lousy ball
5/12/09 = 14 baseballs
5/13/09 = 12 baseballs
5/19/09 = 8 baseballs
5/22/09 = 3 baseballs
5/23/09 = 2 baseballs
5/26/09 = 3 baseballs
5/29/09 = 6 baseballs
5/30/09 = 5 baseballs
6/01/09 = 1 baseball
6/02/09 = 9 baseballs
6/09/09 = 4 baseballs
6/10/09 = 0 baseballs
6/11/09 = 2 baseballs
6/12/09 = 9 baseballs
6/23/09 = 6 baseballs
6/24/09 = 9 baseballs
6/26/09 = 9 baseballs
6/27/09 = 4 baseballs
6/29/09 = 3 baseballs
6/30/09 = 5 baseballs
7/07/09 = 6 baseballs
7/10/09 = 3 baseballs
7/20/09 = 7 baseballs
7/24/09 = 6 baseballs
7/27/09 = 8 baseballs
7/29/09 = 3 baseballs
8/04/09 = 4 baseballs
8/11/09 = 7 baseballs
8/12/09 = 6 baseballs
8/15/09 = 4 baseballs
8/16/09 = 3 baseballs
8/17/09 = 10 baseballs
8/25/09 = 10 baseballs
8/26/09 = 4 baseballs
8/28/09 = 18 baseballs (new Milwaukee record)
8/29/09 = 2 baseballs
9/04/09 = 5 baseballs
9/06/09 = 5 baseballs
9/08/09 = 8 baseballs
9/16/09 = 4 baseballs
9/18/09 = 10 baseballs
358 baseballs (57 games)
6.28 average per game