8/10/12 at Camden Yards

This was going to be my last game of the year in Baltimore, so I wanted it to be really satisfying in terms of the number of baseballs I was able to collect. Because my Dad and I were so far back in line the day before, we wanted to make sure that we would be at the front the next day. Before anything, we went to get lunch at Potbelly’s, where they serve what is arguably the best chicken salad sub that I have ever had the pleasure of eating. And then we went to the Eutaw Street gate, where we were so early that Eutaw Street was still open for people to walk around. We walked around for a little while and right before they closed, we made sure we were the first ones in line. When the gates opened, I ran in and looked for easter eggs in the right field side of the batters eye.

Even though I was unsuccessful in finding any, I had two oppurtunities within one minute of realizing that there were no baseballs that had not already been found. While I was still looking, a grounds crew member mentioned that there may be a baseball or two more towards straight away right field, since I was the only one in the section, and the gates had only been open for about 30 seconds, I took my time in getting over there, which actually paid off. While I was in the middle of a row, a home run shot over my head, ricocheted off of a seat, went up in the air about a row to my left, where I sprinted over and caught it before it hit the ground. At that point, I’m pretty sure that I was directly in front of the seat where Eddie Murray’s 500th home run landed.

Less than 30 seconds after I caught the first ball, there was another home run that landed a section to my right and a row in from of me. I ran through the open row that was in front of me, and when I was about 10 feet to the ball, I saw that someone else was going for the ball, so I jumped over the row of seats to where the ball was, hit my ankle on the back of a seat and picked it up for ball #2. I then realized that I had forgotten to check both baseballs for markings so that I would know which was which when I put them in my backpack. I turned out that one was an Oriole Park commemorative and the other was a normal ball. A few minutes later, when I went to talk to my Dad, he said that he noticed that the first ball I put in my backpack had a big  grass stain on it. And sure enough, there was a grass stain on the commemorative ball.

That was all that I would get during the Orioles portion of BP. When the Royals came out to hit, I grabbed the corner spot.

…and it wasn’t long until Mike Moustakas launched a ball right at me. I didn’t have to move at all. I put my glove over the railing in front of me and caught it on the fly. I got a small applause from the crowd, which made it even more satisfying. It was a normal MLB ball, but it still felt great. And that was it for BP. There were a few others that I easily should have had, but I wasn’t positioned correctly.

Back to snagging, I had noticed earlier in batting practice that Jarrod Dyson had thrown a ball to a kid in the front row, who ended up dropping it into the gap. So, after BP was over, I went over to check if it was still there, and sure enough it was. I figured that sooner or later, a security guard or groundskeeper would walk over and hand  it over, but after 30 minutes of waiting, with no one else having looked at the ball for 25 minutes, I was just about ready to give up. When all of a sudden, while I was sitting down, my Dad who was a few rows above me pointed out that a grounds crew lady was walking through the path. I quickly asked her if I could please have the ball, and just like that, I had ball #4. All of that waiting had paid off.

As for the game, my Dad and I never went to our ticketed seats the entire night. Instead, we wandered around seeking different snagging opportunities. I could’ve had a game home run very early in the game if I hadn’t chose to move a half inning early. Throughout the first inning I had been standing at the front of the flag court, so when I moved into foul territory in the top of the second, I was really hoping nothing would be hit anywhere close to where I had been standing. When Salvador Perez, a righty stepped up to the plate, I wasn’t very worried because, how often do you see a righty smack one of the right field wall in Baltimore? But he ended up taking one the opposite way that just kept carrying. I’m not sure if I would have had it or not, because it didn’t skip around too much after it cleared the wall. It was picked up by a guy in his 20s, who didn’t throw it back (good for him).

As I was watching the replay of the home run while I was typing the previous paragraph, I realized that around the 17-second mark, you can clearly see my Dad and I even though we weren’t being focused on.

In the top right corner, that’s me in the blue shirt wearing the Orioles hat, sitting above me is my Dad in the white shirt. You can see why I wanted to move there in the first place. I had the entire cross next to me going for three sections, and all of the rows above me were empty. If a foul ball was hit anywhere close to me, I easily would have had it. But for the inning that I was there, luck wasn’t on my side.

It surprised me that for the two games that I attended there was a combined attendance of only 38,503, especially for a team that was contending for the first time in 15 seasons. But for me, that was good news. The ushers were all friendly and let me sit wherever I wanted, except for one, who I will get to later, and I had more snagging opportunities than I had ever had before.

In the bottom of the third inning, I found myself with an aisle seat in the second row behind the Royals dugout ready to pounce on an opportunity for a third out ball from the Royals. With two outs, the Orioles mascot jumped on top of the dugout and started obstructing my view. Normally, I would’ve been completely fine with this, even thrilled, but I didn’t want anything to be in my way when it came to getting a game ball. When Adam Jones was thrown out at second to end the inning, there was no competition… except for the bird. He was a few feet to my left, when Alcides Escobar tosses it up to me, and the bird jokingly tries to intercept the ball, which in that situation was quite startling. I held on to the ball, which would be my last one until after the game.

For the rest of the game, my Dad and I explored the stadium and sat all around the stadium. Soon after I got my fifth ball, I went to sit in the back of a section where no one was sitting, and an usher came down and told me that I needed to go back to my seat. I didn’t really mind, but I was surprised. In a stadium that wasn’t even half full, I wasn’t allowed to sit wherever I wanted like I had been the previous day. It probably had something to do with the fact that I was wearing Royals gear at the time (Oops).

Anyway, after the eighth inning, I was able to make my way down to the other end of the umpire tunnel. After the final out, I was in perfect position to get a ball from umpire Bill Welke. Normally, three balls are given out so I was positive I would get one up until three very small children who were each about four or five years old held out their hands when Mr. Welke came into the tunnel, and he handed each one of them a ball. At first I thought that this would be my last opportunity for a ball, but I soon realized that I was on the Orioles side of the ballpark, and since they had won, I would have a chance of getting a ball at their dugout. I sprinted through the rows until I maneuvered myself between a couple of people and saw that Baltimore first base coach Wayne Kirby was pacing across the dugout, looking for three people to toss a ball up to. He disappeared to my left and soon came back holding only one ball. He looked at me, I held up my glove, and I got #6, a commemorative ball that was practically brand-new.

It was then time to say my goodbyes to the beautiful city of Baltimore. I walked around one more time, looking for ticket stubs, and had my Dad to take my picture in front of the visitors dugout.

Bye Baltimore, I’ll keep dreaming about your cross-aisle.

Here’s the box score:

STATS:

6 balls at this game

6 consecutive game with a ball

24 balls this season

27 lifetime baseballs

Next game: August 15th at Yankee Stadium.

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