All-Star Week was finally here. I had been looking forward to this for months. Much preparation had finally come to fruition.
St. Louis…here I come.
My flight left Milwaukee in the evening and I arrived at the St. Louis Airport around 9:30pm.
I was staying at a friend’s house located just outside of St. Louis in the beautiful suburb of Brentwood.
One of the most unbelievable fighting machines ever created.
Both Mike and Justin are veterans of war (it’s great having friends that kick ***).
I woke up early and jumped on the downtown train. I arrived at Busch Stadium around 10:30 am and immediately found a guy selling Standing Room Only tickets. I purchased one (1) at face value ($25) and grabbed a spot in line by the left field gate.
When I ran into the stadium, this player was out shagging BP in right field…
…Pirates former 1st Rd. Pick Brad Lincoln.
I congratulated him on being named to the Futures Squad.
A few minutes later, he returned the favor by flipping me a baseball. When I inspected the ball, I discovered it had a worn Futures Game logo on it. Okay-that’s a start.
A group of lefties were hitting so I stayed in right field.
A big lefty (Brett Wallace, I think) started to jack a few. One was hit hard and coming toward my section. I ran down three rows to the bottom railing and leaned out over the fence to make a sweet grab on the fly.
So, what does one do during a 4 hr. rain delay???
I’m sure the Cardinals made a killing on concessions during this delay.
Heck, I personally contributed over $20 (nachos, hot dog, ice cream cone, etc.).
After another dozen messages over the PA and some more on the scoreboard, things were looking up…
…the scoreboard says, THE FORECAST CALLS FOR THE RAIN TO END WITHIN THE HOUR, AT WHICH TIME WE INTEND TO CONTINUE THE FUTURES GAME.
See all the people huddled underneath the overhangs?
This rain delay actually got me thinking how much I miss rain delays. At Milwaukee County Stadium, rain delays were the best. With Miller Park, that’s one thing I miss.
I just like being at the ballpark, ya’ know?
For the remainder of the game, we were invited to sit with a man and his son on the wall down the right field line in the front row.
Although many people had left, the bleachers were still well populated. So, I gave up my home run quest for the day and took the opportunity to sit down the line.
I forget which inning…a foul ball bounced about 7 feet in front of me on the warning track. I thought I was going to catch it on the fly but it never reached me. After it hit the track, it took a super high bounce into the air and spun about 15 rows behind us.
That was the closest I would get to any ball for the remainder of the evening.
…4 Futures balls.
The Celebrity Softball Game is only cool if you’re playing in it, so, we left after watching 15 minutes of that.
It was already past my bedtime…
HOME RUN DERBY
I arrived at the stadium at 2pm. The gates were set to open at 4pm.
In line ahead of me were two well known ballhawks.
The 1st was Wes from St. Louis (formerly of Chicago). Wes is a great guy who gave me a few pointers about his home park.
The 2nd was Dan from Denver. Dan had his lovely daughter Emily accompanying him.
I assure you, I did not wet myself before, during or after the taking of this photo.
When the gates finally opened, I immediately ran for right field. You see, I had heard a rumor that they were giving out wristbands to the 1st 20 people who asked for one from a particular usher over in right field. This wristband would allow the 20 people the opportunity to stand in a small standing room only area over in the aisle in right field.
This was too good to be true, so I thought. But, I had nothing to lose. If it was just a rumor, I still had my front row ticket above the right field bullpen.
(the above photo was taken after I had already secured my wristband, of course)
BP soon began.
The National League All-Stars hit first. Followed by the American Leaguers.
Each player took about a dozen swings. It was like an assembly line of studs.
One after the next. Unfortunately, BP was sort of anti-climactic (kind of like how this entry will be).
The only player that really put on a show was Josh Hamilton. He was hammering ball after ball into the right field bleachers.
Don’t get me wrong…there were plenty of opportunities, just no room to roam. Plus, everyone had their gloves AND everyone was ball-conscious, if you know what I mean. The ball had to be hit right to you to have any kind of chance.
…an absolute beauty!!
(pictured with a tiny scorecard)
But, I didn’t come to the Home Run Derby to snag BP balls. I came for the real deal.
I was so mentally prepared for this day it’s not even funny. I get so wrapped up in mental preparation you might think I’m even more of a geek than you already do.
FACT: If you visualize success, success will come.
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”
Bring on the Derby.
So, with positioning like that, it would be easy to snag a homer during the Derby, right?
Yeah, I came real close to snagging 2 home runs. If you were watching on ESPN, you probably saw me in the scram for about 6 more.
Let me remind you: close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
The aisle advantage in right field gave me decent lateral movement. Yes.
But, it was just too crowded to make a difference. There were 5 beer vendors at all times walking back and forth directly in front of me or to the sides of me. Throw in a cotton-candy vendor, a few soda vendors and a whole ****-load of people straying from their seats and whaddya have??
A big freakin’ mess. That’s what.
Physically, I did everything I could.
I side-stepped everyone I possibly could.
At one point, I slammed into a guy walking a few full beers back to his seat. I think 1/2 of each beer spilled on the ground.
Hey pal, whaddya expect?? IT”S THE HOME RUN DERBY!!
Oh, btw, Ryan Howard was hitting when genius-boy decided to walk his precious beers back to his seat. I got called a “dick” for my actions. Oh well. Think it through next time.
I’m going to end this post right here because I’m getting fired up.
All in all, it was a great experience being able to run after home runs. It was like a dream come true just having the opportunity.
Next year, the Derby is in Anaheim. Who knows, you just might see me out there.
A few more things…just for the record.
I WAS wearing a Twins hat during the Derby.
I had been wearing the Twins hat during BP because I was trying to get a ball from Joe Nathan. After BP concluded, I left my backpack underneath my seat in the crowded section. Just before the Derby was about to start, I realized I still had on the Twins hat. But, it was too crowded for me to go down to my ticketed seat and retrieve my Brewers hat out of the backpack. So, I just left the Twins hat on!
the pictures of the stadium were all taken the day before the Derby. That’s why the seats look so empty. As you can imagine, I wanted to pack light for the actual Derby. I didn’t want anything holding me back from running free…
I’m strapped for time so this entry will be short and sweet…my flight for St. Louis leaves in 5 hrs. and I still need to pack.
When I ran into the stadium, there were a bunch of the players’ kids shagging BP. After about 2 minutes, a young man (maybe 13-14 yrs. old) tossed me BALL #1 as the players’ and their kids exited the field.
The Dodgers came out and BP homers were few and far between. The stands were packed and the sun made shagging in left field nearly impossible.
So, I headed to right field.
After little to no action over there, I asked BRENT LEACH for a baseball. He turned and I had BALL #2.
I don’t mind…gives the ball a little character.
Can you believe that was it for BP?
Man-Ram hit three BP homers (2 of which went into the left field bullpen).
Everyone thinks their home stadium is tough to ballhawk in…I get that.
But, believe me, Miller Park is tough.
No place to roam.
No place to run.
After BP, I wandered.
I wanted to gain access to this elite little picnic area of the stadium that I had never been to before. It’s all-you-can-eat until 1 hr. after the 1st pitch.
It’s called the AirTran Airways Landing Zone.
It’s located directly on the field behind the rightfielder.
…yeah, baby! Just in time for the 1st pitch.
In the top of the 1st inning, Rafael Furcal lifted a long fly ball in my direction. I thought…was this too good to be true?? It was. The ball was caught right in front of the fence (and directly in front of me) for the out.
After eating 1 cheeseburger, 1 hot dog, 1 bratwurst w/ kraut, 2 cookies, some baked beans and a pulled pork sandwich…I could hardly move.
After the 3rd inning was complete, I left to go find another view of the game.
In the picture above, that’s my glove lying on the seat.
Trevor Hoffman blew the save in the 9th and the Brewers ended up losing in ten innings.
I did get an ump ball from Mark Wegner after the game to make it 3 on the day.
2009 BALLHAWKING STATS
- 3 total balls 7/10/09
3 toss-up 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
234 baseballs (38 games)
6.16 average per game
Now, it’s off to St. Louis.
If you’re watching the Home Run Derby on Monday night, watch for the yellow shirt in the right field bleachers at Busch Stadium.
My seat is located directly behind the right field bullpen in the 1st row on the railing.
I’ll have my trademark yellow “Happy Youngster” shirt on.
Hopefully, one of the big boys will hit me one or ten.