Tagged: Tampa Bay Rays

7/20/09 @ US Cellular Field

Let’s get the 2nd half rolling, shall we…??

 

I had spotted this date on the calendar a few months ago.  The defending A.L. champion Tampa Bay Rays were going to be in Chicago to play the south-siders on a Monday night.

I circled the date.

A good friend of mine, Jamil, was taking the trek with me.

We jumped on a train headed to downtown Chicago and before we knew it, we were in “The Windy City.”

This would be my 4th trip to “the Cell” this season. 
My 2009 U.S. Cellular Field stats:

  • 5/19 = 8 baseballs
  • 6/1   = 1 baseball (rain)
  • 6/2   = 9 baseballs

For all you math majors, that’s a 6 ball average…right on par with my current season average.

 

When we arrived at the ballpark, we immediately went to the ticket windows to purchase our seats (as you may or may not know, select tickets are 1/2 price every Monday night).

“Two 1/2 price bleacher seats, please,” I said confidently.

“All we have are upper reserved,” the ticket rep responded.

Huh?? 

Turns out it was Italian night or something.  All tickets were 1/2 price! 

Great.  Just great.  There goes my batting practice. 

For those planning a trip to see the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field:  you must have a lower level ticket to be able to access the bleachers for Batting Practice.

So, we sat by the home plate entrance and waited for a few ticket sellers/scalpers to show up.
They never came.

5:15 pm rolled around and we had to make a decision.  Either buy upper reserved and HOPE we could access the bleachers
OR
get back on the train, drink some beer and go home.

I decided we would take a chance and buy the upper reserved (total nosebleed).
After the tickets were purchased (for $9.50 each), we jumped in line.

When the gates opened, we went up the ramp and approached the security guard that was checking tickets/granting access to the lower level.

As luck would have it, he recognized me from ESPN and granted me access.
Are you kidding me?!?!

Shortly after the gates opened, the left field bleachers were crowded.
Take a look…

7_20_09 Rays vs White Sox @ US Cellular Field 001.jpg

…it got much worse.

There was another challenge…

7_20_09 Rays vs White Sox @ US Cellular Field 002.jpg

…the sun is brutal at “the Cell.”
See all the people shielding their eyes??

No worries.  I had a secret weapon to beat the crowds and the sun…the glove trick.

I was about to have a glove-trick party. 

The 1st thing I did when I ran into the left field bleachers was to scan the moat that’s positioned between the 1st row of seats and the left field wall.

What did I see??  A lonely baseball lying down there yet to be claimed.

But, wait…there’s more!

I quickly lowered the glove trick and had my 1st ball on the day.

Check this **** out…

7_20_09 Rays vs White Sox @ US Cellular Field 011.jpg

…sweet Mother of God!
An absolute perfect World Baseball Classic ball.

The White Sox are using WBC balls??  Holy hell!!

I was not finished.

A quick peek into the Sox bullpen in left field…

7_20_09 Rays vs White Sox @ US Cellular Field 004.jpg

…oh yeah!

BALL #2 and BALL #3 were waiting for me. 

What was even better?? 
#2 was another WBC ball!

What was even better than that??
#3 was given away to a nearby kid standing with his Dad.

A closer look at the two (2) WBC balls snagged…

7_20_09 Rays vs White Sox @ US Cellular Field 039.jpg

…as you can see, they were perfectly white.  Only marred by the ridiculous “PRACTICE” stamp. 

I hate that stamp.

By the time I had reeled in those three, the Rays had already begun to hit.  I found a spot in the 2nd row where I could stand and actually have enough room to itch my asssss. 
That is where I would make my biggest error on the season.

With Jamil as my witness, I had a Longoria BP homer ricochet off the end of my glove. 
It was a combination of three things I tell you:

  • sun
  • bad footwork
    and
  • white men can’t jump

    ****!!  That sucked.

It was a good thing I still had the secret weapon. 

Before BP was over, I managed to glove-trick three more balls out of the Sox bullpen, bringing my total on the day up to six (6).

BALL #6 was given to an adult.  Yeah, you read that right.  An adult. 
Earlier, the guy had that very same ball bounce off his bare hands only to have it drop into the pen.
At first, I asked him if he had any kids.  He was slow to respond which meant, “no.”

It didn’t matter.  I gave it to him, anyway. 
He had been overly cool about letting me into the aisle above where the baseballs had been lying.  Besides, he and his wife said I was awesome.  What more do you need? 

Toward the end of Batting Practice, I noticed Rays reliever Randy Choate limp-wristed one toward the front row.  It fell short and fell into the moat…
7_20_09 Rays vs White Sox @ US Cellular Field 003.jpg
…oh, darn.

After BP, I went over to the spot where I could recall the ball had landed…
7_20_09 Rays vs White Sox @ US Cellular Field 009.jpg
…there it was.
 
(The above picture was taken by leaning way over the fence and aiming my camera underneath me and the fence.  That ball could not be seen by simply looking st
raight down)

To get it, I would have to swing the glove underneath the platform and knock it back out so it would be directly below me.

Surprisingly efficient, it took me two swings to get it into position.  Another 5 seconds and BALL #7 was mine.

7 balls snagged…all via the glove trick.  Sweet.

Hey Zack…if you’re reading this, what’s your single-game record for glove-tricks??
Just curious.

Jamil posing with 2 of the 5 remaining baseballs7_20_09 Rays vs White Sox @ US Cellular Field 010.jpg
…we were having a good time.

We took a stroll, ending up over at the Rays pen. 
Just in time to see this young stud take his warm-up pitches…
Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 7_20_09 Rays vs White Sox @ US Cellular Field 020.jpgThumbnail image for 7_20_09 Rays vs White Sox @ US Cellular Field 019.jpg
7_20_09 Rays vs White Sox @ US Cellular Field 021.jpg7_20_09 Rays vs White Sox @ US Cellular Field 023.jpg

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…David freakin’ Price.

That guy is a stud.

The stadium was packed, so, we wandered around.
After consuming over $50 in concessions (between the two of us), we ended up behind the plate by the 9th inning.

I was going to try to make it 8 balls on the day.

For those who plan on visiting “The Cell,” the ump entrance/exit is located below…

7_20_09 Rays vs White Sox @ US Cellular Field 032.jpg

…through the gate and up that tunnel.

Home Plate umpire Mike Reilly wanted to keep his balls, though. 

No problem. 

Our night was over.

The five baseballs I took home…

7_20_09 Rays vs White Sox @ US Cellular Field 038.jpg

…which reminds me-I have to set a couple aside for Jamil’s two boys.

One final picture taken on the train-ride home…

7_20_09 Rays vs White Sox @ US Cellular Field 034.jpg

…apparently, we were not the only ones who had a fun day.


2009 BALLHAWKING STATS

  • 7 total balls 7/20/09

7 device


ATTENDANCE:  39,024

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
___________________

241 baseballs (39 games)
6.18 average per game

ONE LAST NOTE:  Through a connection of mine, I’m now off to meet a celebrity who happens to be a big baseball fan.  He got a few backstage passes for my wife and I.

Here’s a few hints…

  • he’s an “IDOL”ized musician 
  • he was raised in Missouri
  • now lives in Tulsa, OK
  • performed at the 2009 Home Run Derby
  • is an avid baseball fan who cheers for the K.C. Royals. 

Any guesses or did I give it away????