7/7/12 at Citizens Bank Park

The drive to Philadelphia was shorter than I expected. But it was somewhat eventful, as we passed workers outside of a Shop Rite. At first, I thought that it was a workers strike, but I now realize that the store was closed due to a power outage because of what the sign in the picture says (Duh).

Funny stuff. Anyway, this was going to be my first time at Citizens Bank Park, and I was also excited because Zack Hample (yes, that Zack Hample) was going to be there. Rather than just going with my Dad to this game, my Mom and my brother tagged along. I knew what the outside of the stadium looked like, since I had passed it on my way to Baltimore and Washington DC earlier this year. It looked like a somewhat fan-friendly ballpark. I knew that all of the major sports teams in Philadelphia played at the same location, but I did not realize that the stadiums shared parking lots, which my Dad found very convenient. While we were waiting to get into parking lot K, I took some photos of the parts of the stadium that I could see.

So as we get to the left field gate, I saw that there was already quite a line that had formed. And who was at the front? That’s right, Zack. I saw that he was already talking to a group of people, so I waited until I got into the stadium until I could finally meet him.

I also got him to sign my copy of The Baseball. By that point, Zack had already gotten two balls. Anyway, this was the result for the book.

It was hot. Way too hot. In fact, I was at risk of passing out after about 15 minutes in the stadium. All I was seeing was a bright light and vague outlines of the people around me. Luckily, I was able to locate my Dad before it was too late and get hydrated. Soon after, right field opened, which also had the section in center field where I was sitting in it, section 101, so I decided to head down and see what my view would be like and oh my goodness.

Yeah. A view of both bullpens, 2nd row, absolutely perfect. Since I was basically the only one in the entire section at that point, I was able to claim the corner spot, Row 1, Seat 1. It wasn’t long until I got my first ball of the day. I saw a Braves pitcher go right in front of me, and I had to hope for it to be someone I knew, because I didn’t have a cheat sheet or anything like that. Luckily, it was Mike Minor, who tossed the first ball he got my way. I could have just let the ball smack the seats, there was barely anyone there. But choosing the easy way out, I made a basket catch, ball #1, easy.

It would be a little while until I would get another pearl. Although I had several opportunities, including one instance where the ball literally just bounced to the left of me and back onto the field, where I could have just moved over a little and grabbed the ball, I never took advantage of them. I was staying ing the same spot for all batters, I was not going to give up my corner spot. So when Freddie Freeman got up, it was no different. Like many other Braves players, Freeman was crushing the ball. On one of those, he smacked one directly over my head. The ball struck a metal pole, as well as these flowers.

And then ricocheted directly to me, but a bit to my right. I bent a bit over the bars, reached up, and hoped for the best. When I opened my glove, I was hoping to see a baseball. Here’s what I saw.

As you can see on the ball, there are pink marks, which I am guessing are from when the ball crushed the flowers. That was probably the best catch that I have ever made. After that, I did not get anymore balls for the rest of BP. But my day in terms of baseballs was only halfway through.

I was surprised to learn that while the ball was in midair, my Dad was taking several photos of me with his phone. (Perfect timing, right?) Unfortunately, he did not get one of me catching the ball, but still.

Before the game, there was a one hour rain delay, which gave me a chance to wander around with my brother, although I did not take any pictures of the concourses around me.

After the delay, Phillies starter Joe Blanton wandered out to warm up. The ball that he had been using before he went into the bullpen was left on the outfield grass because of his laziness. On the day that he was starting, he could not get the ball into the seats for a boy a few years younger than me after two tries. After that, he just gave up. Eventually, when a security guard came out to get the ball, he gave it to a different kid. Anyway, Blanton began his bullpen session. I recorded him for about a minute, and then stopped because I wanted to try to get another ball. When he wanted to use a new ball, he gave the used one to the bullpen coach, Mick Billmeyer, who tossed it up to me, ball #11.

I was thrilled with how the day had turned out so far. Even before the game had started, I had already tied my single game record.

When the game began, I was filled with anticipation for what was to come, whether it be about getting baseballs or seeing something spectacular happen during the game. That is why I always take a photo of the first pitch of the game from my perspective. Here is Blanton’s pitch going by Michael Bourn.

I had been falsely informed about where I was going to be sitting, by the Internet. I had been planning on having the right center field corner spot as my ticketed seat, but instead of the rows of seats starting with seat 1, they started with seat 15, which was my ticketed seat. Luckily for me, my Dad had purchased seats 14 and 15 in the first row, and seats 3 and 4 in the second row, which were exactly the same as the corner spot, except for the fact that they were in the second row. So I was perfectly content.

For the first half inning, no one showed up in those seats, so I was overjoyed. But soon after my hopes got up, three obnoxious middle aged men showed up and proceeded to take their seats. When the first man came over to take the corner spot and immediately began to shout at the players in the Phillies bullpen, I knew that the night would be interesting.

At one point, Phillies reliever Antonio Bastardo went through a bullpen door for some reason, and while he was gone, the man in the corner spot yelled down something along along the lines of, “Where’s Bastardo? Did he catch the bus to Lehigh?” And when Bastardo came back out, he was not too happy. I assume he was referring to the Phillies’ triple A affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.

This video speaks more than the photo. He came very close to being thrown out several times.

Jonathan Papelbon soon made an appearance in the bullpen, which is not the only reason I am bringing him up.

This was the first time that I was ever seeing him in person, and knowing that he is such a hot head, I was hoping that he would do something memorable.

I was in luck.

In the top of the seventh inning, a fan in a yellow shirt jumped out of the seats along the right field foul line and sprinted right to the Phillies bullpen. I had no idea what was going on at first, I just saw all of the Braves relievers hop off of the bench and yell “Here we go!” He then tried to hop over the fence and do God knows what. Before that idiot could do a thing, Papelbon jumped from his seat in the pen and put the guy in a sleeper hold until Shane Victorino as well as security came over to help. This marked the second time that I have seen a fan run onto the playing field this year. The first time was on April 6th in Baltimore on Opening Day. This is what happened there. Here’s the sequence of photos that I took while this was all going on, which I’m convinced are some of the best out there because it all happened so quickly.

I was in the absolute perfect spot. Before I even knew it, I had scooted down into the front row between two of the bozos and began to take photos as fast as I could. While I was getting down to that spot I heard rushed steps and realized that they were Papelbon’s. From what I have heard, I did not think that players were supposed to go anywhere near a fan on the field, but I guess this was an exception because of the circumstances. But I mean, if a fan is not under the influence at that point, what could they possibly be thinking, something like that can only end badly.

In the photos above, you can see that Victorino had already come in to help and Mick Billmeyer is trying to restrain Papelbon so he doesn’t kill the guy. Right now, that moment is up there as one of the most interesting moments that I have witnessed at a Major League game.

Not much else happened for the rest of the game. Blanton ended up getting the loss and the Braves won 6-3. After the game, I noticed that the Braves pitchers were tossing many baseballs to the fans watching from above the bullpen. Even though they had lost, I was hoping that someone from the Phillies would do the same thing. Well, who I think was Kyle Kendrick had two balls in his hand and immediately tossed one up to a woman a few rows behind me. She dropped it back into the bullpen and ended up getting the other baseball. Before I even had a chance to ask, he looked up at me and said, “Here ya go” and tossed me a beautiful rubbed up baseball with one blemish.

I’m not sure what the mark could possibly be from. If anyone has any idea, it would be a great help if you could leave a comment telling me. And that was it. Since it was 11:00 and it was a two hour drive back home, we wanted to get back to the car as soon as possible. I had set my new single game record for baseballs and had also gotten some great photos in the meantime.

Here’s the box score.

STATS:

4 balls at this game

9 balls this season

5 games this season

1.80 balls per game

Next stop, Seattle. (Maybe a Yankee game on Tuesday.)

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4 comments

  1. Zack Hample

    John-
    It was great meeting you. Thanks for bringing your copy of the book. Congrats on the balls you snagged (including that awesome catch on the home run ricochet). Also . . . these are awesome photos of the crazy fun on the field. Nice job.

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