I was back at TD Bank Ballpark for my second game in 4 days and I wasn’t sure how big the crowd would be, because it was a game in the middle of the week. I wasn’t sure how many kids would be there because of school, or how many adults there would be. I was sure that the crowd would be smaller than it would be at games on Saturdays and Sundays. When I got into the stadium, it looked like the average crowd, but it was a much more relaxed atmosphere, probably because there weren’t nearly as many kids.
There were a few pairs of Patriots still throwing, so I decided to go down and see if there was any chance of getting a ball. Someone had just finished a bullpen session, and as they were walking back to the dugout, I asked if there was any chance for a ball, and they didn’t even bother to look my way (probably because they’re such superstars playing in the Atlantic League). After that, there was only one pair of players who were still throwing, and the player who ended up with the ball apparently knew the family next to me, and immediately handed it off to one of the kids.
The Patriots were playing the Sugar Land Skeeters, the team the Roger Clemens “plays” for, although not surprisingly, he did not travel with the team from Texas.
During the game, I decided to do something different for a change, and go sit in the area of the stadium, that has three levels of picnic tables – all three of which were deserted for the entire game.
This is not my photo, but one I found on flickr, taken by someone with the username 66baseball. What you can’t see in the photo is that directly below the first row of tables, there is the visiting teams bullpen. It’s fun to go over there sometimes and just listen to the players conversations. (Not creepy, right?) While I was there, I was tempted to ask one of the pitchers if they thought Clemens was an absolute douche like I do (What guy has highlights in their hair at age 50?), but I decided against it.
I was only there to try to get a ball, and then I would be on my way. That chance came when someone on the Patriots hit a bouncer right to one of the relievers, and since I was the only fan in sight, I was pretty sure that I would get it tossed up if I asked for it. When I did, one of them peeked over their shoulder, and after about 10 seconds, Will Startup got my attention and tossed me a ball, that I’m not so sure was game used because of how dirty and scuffed it was. It probably was used at some point, because it was commemorative.
I then said my thank you’s and went back to our seats, which were close to the stairway that leads out of the stadium, just in case a ball happened to be fouled off into the parking lot. I got my chance when Dominic Ramos fouled one back, and I was the first one out. It was sitting right in the middle of the parking lot, and just like that, I had ball #2.
That would be my last real baseball of the night. The Patriots won the game on a walk off home run by Jeff Nettles. After every win, the Patriots throw victory balls into the crowd (small, squishy balls). I had never gotten one before, so as soon as they won, I positioned myself where I knew a few would be thrown. One of the Patriots threw one right over my head, which then trickled down the steps, and into my waiting hands. They look like this, except they are stamped with the team’s logo and “2012 Patriots win ball” and they don’t have the holder.
And it was time to leave, after a good night at the game.
2 balls at this game
6 minor league balls this year
Before I start this entry, there will only be pictures of the balls that I snagged, because I forgot my camera.
This was my first minor league game in two months and I had been looking forward to it for a few days, mostly because I would be getting 5 free innings of baseball, with the two teams playing two seven inning games. When I got inside the stadium I saw that some Patriots were finishing up the pregame throwing, and after a couple of them finished up, I held up my glove half heartedly (because I was only there to snag game balls) and the ball was thrown to the kid on my right. My Dad had gotten aisle seats in the fourth row next to the Patriots dugout, even though we could have sat anywhere we wanted with even the cheapest available tickets.
In the top of the first inning, when my Dad went to get us some food and water, the Lancaster Barnstormer’s cleanup hitter, Fehlandt Lentini popped up a foul ball about 5 rows behind me. A lady was sitting right where it was going to land, but she had no interest in trying to catch it. By the time the ball began to descend, I had moved about two or three rows back, but I realized that the ball was going to land before I could reach it, so I froze. I was waiting for it to bounce high up in the air or begin to roll down the steps. When it slapped off the concrete, it went high up in the air, and it was going to come down again right where I had been sitting. I drifted down the steps, stuck my glove out, and felt the ball come down in the pocket. I got a small ovation from the even smaller crowd and then took a seat and took a look at the ball.
And it was a commemorative! I had been hearing rumors all throughout the season that the Patriots as well as the rest of the Atlantic League had been using these baseballs to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the League. Earlier this season, I even went out of my way to buy one from the team store, because I wasn’t sure if they would be used during games.
Above the seats along the right field foul line is a whole bunch of games that kids usually play throughout the game. A few foul balls occasionally land up there, and a few more land outside the stadium, which is a beautiful thing because every fan is granted reentry as many times as they need it. Late in the game, there was a foul ball that was hit directly over my head and into the play area. There was a man who was walking with his son in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the ball came down directly on top of his head. The sound the ball made when it bounced off of his skull sounded more like the ball went off a slab of concrete.
I immediately sprinted up the steps to see that someone had already gotten ice and napkins from a nearby concession stand, to try to keep the swelling down and to keep pressure on his head so that it wouldn’t bleed as profusely as it had been five seconds earlier. Long story short: the man was able to walk away with his son to the first aid room to get treatment, and a stretcher was not needed. A few minutes after the man had gotten up, my Dad said that it is a wonder that no one has been killed at this stadium. In the few games that I have been to at TD Bank Ballpark, I have seen some injuries up close. A different incident happened 10 days after this one, a little girl was struck by a foul ball last year, and I was hit by a foul ball last season. But this can only be expected when more fans are sitting closer to the field at minor league games.
I played the staircase that led out of the stadium for about half the game and should have had a few foul balls, but a man and his young son were always the first ones out. It might just be a better idea standing outside of the stadium during games from now on.
Anyway, back to snagging. About an inning after the incident, Fehlandt Lentini once again hit a foul ball towards me, except over the play area and out of the stadium. I had gotten a good read on it. I had noticed that it had struck a few tree branches before I lost sight of it, so I knew that it wasn’t going to be in the parking lot. I was the first one to get out for what seemed like the first time, and I had jusged it correctly. There it was, just waiting for me to pick it up from the base of the tree.
Two foul balls from the same player in one game! Unfortunately, that would be all that I got for the first game of the double header.
By this time, most of the fans had left the stadium after game one and there was literally only about 100 people left, a number which continued to decline throughout the game. I decided that my best chance of getting foul balls with all of these empty seats around me would be by sitting on top of everything, in the last row of a section. This move was about to pay off when the Lancaster leadoff batter hit a foul ball that was coming right for me. I assumed that it was going to make it over my head and go into the play area, but of course, with my luck, I misjudged it, and it hit the seat that I had been sitting in, where it trickled down the steps and was snagged by a man who gave it to his son.
If the two teams had been fouling off pitches that ended up going outside of the stadium like they had been doing the previous game, I would have had about 15 baseballs, but that wasn’t the case. Since nothing was going my way over where my actual seats were, I moved behind the third base dugout and tried to get a couple third out balls, but I soon found out that that would not be happening because there were so many kids waiting for one who were a lot younger than me. No foul balls were coming anywhere near me, and I didn’t have any opportunities until someone on the Barnstormers hit a line drive home run over the left field wall.
Since there aren’t any seats in the outfield, I knew that it was probably just sitting there. So, being the only one that thought there was a chance of getting the ball, I ran over to see a Lancaster’s Mike Johnston walking towards the ball. I quickly asked him if he could please toss it up. He peaked over his shoulder and told me that he would give me the other ball that was in his hand, which was a home run ball that was hit by Yusuf Carter of the Patriots earlier in the game. He didn’t mention Carter, but he did say it was “my team’s home run from earlier.” Carter’s home run was the only one that the Patriots had hit. I guessed that he was going to give the other ball to the guy on his team who had hit it. I’m just hoping that he was telling the truth about the ball. Here is my first home run ball (what should be my third):
For the rest of the game, my Dad and I kind of just wandered around and eventually sat right behind home plate for the last few innings, where we watched it horror as a boy who was about years old literally jumped the bar between the protective screen and the seats, where he was basically just waiting to be smacked by a foul tip. We had no idea where his parents were, or why an usher hadn’t done anything, but when he got down at the end of the inning, we moved back to our original seats. Right in front of those seats is a small compartment at the end of the Patriots dugout where Yusuf Carter always keeps his catchers gear. This meant that I would be able to get the home run ball signed at the end of the game!
When the game ended, Carter came over to his compartment after catching 7 innings. I immediately asked him if he could quickly sign his home run ball. He must have said “In a second,” because after I asked him again, thinking he hadn’t heard me, he told me to “Hold on!” I apologized, and a few seconds later, this was what I was holding:
He didn’t sign on the sweet spot, but oh well. And then it was time to leave.
3 balls at these games
4 minor league balls this year
9/12/12 at TD Bank Ballpark, 9/19/12 at TD Bank Ballpark, and 9/23/12 at Citi Field should all be up soon. I am also planning on going to a Yankees playoff game as my last game of the season.