Tagged: Phillies

The Final Game at Sun Life Stadium – 9/28/11

I decided to take a trip to Sun Life Stadium (aka Pro Player Stadium, Pro Player Park, Joe Robbie Stadium, Dolphin Stadium, Land Shark Stadium) for the final series in this park. After I incorrectly booked my flights and got them changed, I needed to reschedule them AGAIN! Due to conflicts in my schedule, multiple flight rearrangements, and a special thanks to a friend, I finally had my trip to Florida in place. Except now, I was going to be stopping in Atlanta for one game on Tuesday to meet up with my friend Zack Hample, and would finally go to Miami on Wednesday, to see the Marlins final game in their “delightful” ballpark (football stadium). I had also been informed Mike Piazza would be at the Marlins closing ceremonies, so I was even more excited to go than before!

As a brief recap of Atlanta, in my first game there in which I attempted to get a ball (since 2009), I managed to snag 4 baseballs. My first was a homer by a Braves player that landed in the LF seats. My second was a Dan Uggla homer I chased down in the LF seats. My third ball was a toss-up from Phillies bullpen catcher(???) Ali Modami. And my fourth and final ball was a homer I caught on the fly in RF. I also managed to stupidly run into a seat, because I was paying attention, causing me to break my camera, and make the lighter in my pocket explode, and get lighter fluid all over me. Not an enjoyable feeling. I was truly scared thinking I’d burst into flames. The day had started out so good, that I was thinking I’d get 6-8 balls, but I lost about 45 minutes of BP freaking out, and I really never got back on my game.

At this game, I wore a Braves home Tim Hudson jersey, and a Phillies home cool base Roy Halladay jersey. I lent Zack a Phillies home Jim Thome jersey:

In the Top photo, you can see Zack in my Jim Thome jersey, and me just behind him in the #34 Phillies jersey. In the photo below, you can again see Zack in the Thome jersey, and me in the Tim Hudson, with my bookbag on.

Here’s two more photos from this game I really like:

And:

Now, on to Florida:

I arrived in Fort Lauderdale around 11:30am on Wednesday. I immediately picked up my rental car, and headed straight to the stadium. I got to the stadium around 1:10pm. Naturally, I was the first person on line. I was about the only person around until 1:40pm. There wound up being maybe 15-20 people there when the gates opened. I went running into the stadium as the gates opened at 2pm, which was earlier than they normally do for a 4:10pm game (normally gates open only 90 minutes before first pitch).

As I ran in, I quickly glance at the stand selling programs, and notice a commemorative ball, and assume it’s a “just for fans” ball, one that they are just selling. I get upstairs and see that the cages aren’t out on the field, and the teams aren’t taking BP. Disappointed, I wander over to the Marlins dugout and someone tells me that they are using the commemorative balls in the game. I ask how they know and they say because they asked an employee. I practically dismiss this person’s claim, and wander over to the Nationals bullpen, where there are a few pitchers warming up.

At this game, for the Marlins I would be wearing a home Mike Piazza jersey, since he is my favorite player ever, and would of course be there. Also, NO ONE owns this jersey. There may be like 5 in the world. For the Nationals, I opted not to bring a jersey, and instead wore a red Zach Day t-shirt. I chose this shirt, because I had worn it to a Mets vs. Nats game 2 weeks earlier, and had the 14 Nationals pitchers who were warming up, and a coach, notice me, and stare at me, to which I responded questioningly “What’s up guys?” One of the pitchers responded “Who the f**k is on you shirt?!?” I told them, and they began to question me about who he was. NONE OF THEM knew him, or had ever heard of him, the coach included. It was a funny scene, and got me 3 baseballs on that day.

On this day, I got my first ball from Nationals pitcher Collin Balester. As I begin to walk away, another fan sees me get the ball, and asks if it’s a commemorative ball. I say no, and he begins to tell me that they will be using commemorative balls in the game. He informs me he asked an equipment manager. At this point, I start to believe the rumors, and head back to the Marlins dugout. After about 20 minutes of not seeing anyone with any insight to this matter, I head back over to the Nationals bullpen, and get another ball tossed to me, this time from Tyler Clippard, after he completes his warm-ups.

I now figured if there really are commemorative balls being used, well, the Nationals certainly wouldn’t be warming up with them, so I headed over to foul territory in right field, where a few Marlins pitchers were warming up. I thought maybe they would be using them. After about 15 minutes of being ignored by the Marlins pitchers, I went downstairs to the booth where I originally saw the commemorative balls being sold. Turned out, this was the ONLY booth in the entire stadium selling them. How ridiculous is that?!? Just goes to show what it’s like in Florida.

When I arrived at the booth, I noticed a sign:

The sign actually says “Ball Used by the Florida Marlins in Their Last Game at Sun Life Stadium!”

So it was true, the Marlins WERE in fact using these balls in the game. Unbelievable. NO ONE knew about it. I made a few phone calls, and ultimately heard back from my contacts, who contacted their contacts at MLB and at Rawlings, that these commemorative balls would be used in the game, and they were a late addition to MLB’s lineup of commemorative balls for the season.

These balls seemed to be flying off the shelves (well, shelf, as there was only the ONE booth), so I bought one, just in case I didn’t get one. I figured my chances of getting one were VERY slim, so I wanted to ensure I had one.

There were no other ballhawks at this game. No one tends to go to Florida, especially not on a Wednesday, in September. So I knew I had to get one. And believe me, I desperately wanted one.

When I went back upstairs, it was about 20 minutes before the start of the game, and I saw a few Nationals warming up in LF, so I threw on my bright red Nats t-shirt, and quickly got Brian Bixler’s attention as he was heading to the dugout. He noticed me, and even pointed right at me. He was about 60 feet away, and threw me a perfect strike. That would be my third ball of the day.

I now had to get on my game. I normally don’t run around during games. I tend to sit behind the visiting team’s dugout, and stay there for the whole game. But on this day, I knew I needed to maximize my opportunities to get a 3rd out ball. I figured this would be my best shot at a commemorative ball.

Since there are ushers that prevent you from getting any closer than the 8th row, and you needed a special ticket to get down in the first 7 rows, I knew I needed some special assistance. Normally, I wouldn’t worry, but on this day, the seats behind the dugouts were actually filled up. I basically fooled the guy behind the Marlins dugout into letting me be there, and sitting on the aisle by confusing him, and making him think I was there the whole time. I attempted to get a third out ball from the Marlins after the top of the first, but there were tons of kids, and people, so I knew being at the Marlins dugout was going to be a struggle all day, and may prove to be useless.

I now headed over to the Nationals dugout. I tend to always play the 3rd base end of the visiting dugout, as opposed to the home plate end, but with Stephen Strasburg pitching, I expected there to be a fair share of strikeouts. Sure enough, in the bottom of the first, he struck out Greg Dobbs to end the inning, and I looked around and noticed I was the ONLY one asking for the ball, and better yet, the ONLY one in a Nationals jersey. I could feel it. Ivan (Pudge) Rodriguez was heading back to the dugout with the ball and he was going to notice me. But then, he stopped. He yelled to some kid, who wasn’t even paying attention, and threw the ball at him, around the screen behind home plate. He missed, completely, and the ball wound up sitting on the field, at the backstop. A ballboy went to retrieve it, and shatter my hopes.

The second and third innings were more of the same at the Marlins dugout, basically no chance in hell. Too many people. Over at the Nationals dugout, Roger Bernadina recorded the 3rd out to end the second inning, and tossed it into the crowd in LF.

In the bottom of the 3rd inning at the Nationals dugout, Omar Infante grounded out 5-3, to end the 3rd, and 1st baseman Chris Marrero wound up with the ball. I knew I had a decent shot with him, because 2 weeks earlier at a Mets game, he unsuccessfully attempted to toss me a third out ball. I was again sitting on the home plate end of the dugout, and knew I’d have to work a little harder than normal to get Marrero’s attention. He headed towards the dugout, and fortunately for me, he strayed towards my end. He received the infield warm-up ball from Trent Jewett, and had the third out ball in his bare hand. He noticed me, and lofted the ball in my direction. I was standing in the front row, and realized at the last second this ball was high. Really high. But all I knew was I needed THIS ball. THIS was my chance, and I could NOT screw it up. So I lept, leaning backwards, and bless my glove, and every inch of my height plus my vertical, that I was able to snow-cone the ball with my glove.

And there it was. I had a Marlins final game commemorative ball. And here it is:

 

And a view of the logo:

No, it’s not pretty, but I own one. And then, as my friend Greg Barasch pointed out, I was the ONLY person in the world of ballhawks to get one of these balls. The ONLY one!!! What a rare commodity! No other ballhawk can say they own a Marlins final game commemorative ball. Sure, there are other people with this ball (though not many), but none that it means as much to as it means to me. I could now relax.

I went up to the club level in an attempt to snag the final HR at this stadium. I put my money on Mike Stanton, but he left me high and dry. No one actually homered in this game. I tried for an umpire ball after the game, but they went to a different entrance than they usually go to. So that would be it for me. I got four balls at this game, including a Marlins Final Game Commemorative ball.

After the game, there were post-game ceremonies, honoring former Marlins. I managed to get a t-shirt tossed to me by Alex Fernandez, and then by Preston Wilson. Also, Antonio Alfonseca and his 6 fingers on each hand were there. I have pictures to share, but I currently have no way to upload them, so they shall follow later.

What a game!

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The past month of my life

Well, anyone that knows me, and sees me on any sort of a regular basis, knows I have not been anywhere in sight lately, as I’ve spent most of my time out of New York.  I spent the weekend of May 15th-18th in Chicago, for a friend’s birthday and a Cubs game, then flew to Kansas City, getting to the airport 21 minutes before my flight was scheduled to leave thanks to the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority).  DO NOT trust Chicago Public Transit system.  It SUCKS!  Wrigley Field, is wonderful though.  It was May 16th, the Cubs had a 4-0 lead going into the top of the 9th on this beautiful Saturday.  Kevin Gregg comes in to blow it.  4 run lead in the 9th.  He gave it away.  He got some help from….wait for it….Aaron Heilman! SHOCKING!  The Cubs are good though, so they did ultimately win in the Bottom of the 9th.

Then, I went to Kansas City, and just walked into Kauffman Stadium (my 2nd to last MLB stadium, though I don’t actually count this game), in the Bottom of the 8th in a game vs. the Orioles on Saturday night.  2 stadiums in one day or 5 hours.  Impressive, eh? Beautiful stadium.  They did $250 million worth of renovations this past offseason.  What a great ballpark.  And the city of Kansas City was very nice as well.  They have a downtown called the power and light district.  It’s apparently a new area designed in KC.  VERY nice, lots of fun. I was impressed by how much I really enjoyed Kansas City.  If it wasn’t in the middle of nowhere, I could live there.

Next day, Sunday, I was scheduled to fly home, after the Royals 1pm game.  Got to the ballpark early for batting practice, around 10:40am.  It was a lot of fun hanging out on the Pepsi Porch, that is in left field in Kansas City.  I wandered around the park, trying to chase down a ball, quite unsuccessfully.  Ultimately, at the end of BP, just as two Orioles pitchers were finishing warming up, I screamed to them to ask for the ball, and they tossed it to me.  The seats I got for the game were pretty damn sick.  1st row on the field, just to the outfield side of the 3rd base dugout.  Around 3:20pm, I get an email and a phone call from delta telling me my flight was canceled and the next available flight was 6:55am TUESDAY!!!! WTF!?!?!  So I of course make some calls, FLIP OUT,pagination:widow-orphan;
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I’m on the phone screaming, telling the guy to tell me every
available flight out of Kansas City.  He’s both confused by what I’m saying, and
refusing.  He says I need a destination
and I basically start naming every city in America
that comes to my head where I know someone. 
Los Angeles, Atlanta,
Boston, Rochester,
Buffalo, Ft.
Lauderdale, Chicago,
etc.  No joke.  I named like 15 different cities before I
just got so frustrated I hung up without saying anything more.  Apparently there was not a single available
delta flight leaving Kansas City
before Tuesday.  UGH!!  Ultimately, I made the most of my
Monday.  I took a tour of the ballpark
and drove to Nebraska, just to go
there.

 

The following weekend was a trip upstate for Jared and Sonia’s
engagement party, which included a detour to Cleveland
for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Orlando Magic and the
Cleveland Cavaliers.  For those who don’t
remember, this was the game in which LeBron hit a 3 to win the game at the buzzer.  Cleveland
fans SUCK!  Being surrounded by 20,000+
******** sucks. I hate Cleveland
fans.  Browns fans I’ve always called the
worst fans in sports, but Cavs fans prove it is all Cleveland
fans.  It must suck not having won
anything since 1964, and only appearing in 4 championship games since then.

 

The following weekend, May 29th, began my journey
to upstate New York, and California,
which was ultimately altered.  It began
with a weekend in the poconos.  Monday,
was a Coldplay concert at Darien Lake
(Buffalo area), and Tuesday, I flew
to San Diego.  I was finally going to go to every single
Major League Baseball stadium.  And on June 2nd, 2009, I completed
one of my first life’s goals. 

 

Petco Park
is a gorgeous stadium.  Very nice, yet
very simple.  I really enjoyed it.  I also attended the game on June 3rd,
with a whole group of people.  Got a ball
in the 5th inning.  The 3rd
out baseball, from LF Will Venable.

 

June 4th was a trip up to Los
Angeles for the Dodgers.  Got a ball at this game from J.C. Romero
during batting practice.  This also
happened to be Game 1 of the NBA Finals, between the Orlando Magic and the Los
Angeles Lakers.  Now, I had planned my
trip to southern California in
April, and it never even crossed my mind that my favorite team, the Orlando
Magic, could be playing in the NBA Finals, and against the L.A. Lakers, giving
me the opportunity to go to a game! Unfortunately I could not obtain tickets to
Game 1, although the Magic lost by 25, so I guess it was for the better.

 

June 5th and 6th were spent in
Vegas.  LOVE Vegas.  June 7th was Game 2 of the NBA
Finals, and this game I went to.  The
Magic lost, of course, because Courtney Lee missed a layup at the end of
regulation.  June 9th was
another trip to Dodger Stadium, though I spent most of this game watching Game
3 of the NBA Finals on a tv in the stadium, surrounded by Lakers fans.  The Magic won. 
It was glorious.  The only reason
I went to this game was because I got free tickets.  And I did attend batting practice and got 2
balls.  1 from a random Dodgers coach and
1 from Padres closer Heath Bell , who I found, sitting on the left field wall
with the fans.  He greeted me warmly with
a handshake, as I was wearing a Padres jersey.

Heath Bell.jpg

He is one helluva great
athlete.  Really loves and enjoys the
game.  He hung out with the fans for a
good 15-20 minutes, until batting practice ended.

 

After some flight rearranging, I flew to Orlando
the next day, so I could go to game 4 of the Finals on June 11th.  The Magic lost again in heartbreaking
fashion.  I can’t go watch this team
play.  3 games, 3 heartbreaking
losses.  UGH!  June 12th, I made a trip to Tampa
Bay to see the Tampa Bay Rays play the Washington Nationals.  It’s a nicer stadium than I first thought
when I made my only other trip to Tampa
last September.  I really liked it.  Got 2 balls at this game – 1 from Grant
Balfour, and a 3rd out ball, which basically fell in my lap and was
pure luck from Nationals catcher Josh Bard. I stopped at the hard rock casino
on the way home.  Bad decision.

 

I returned to Tropicana Field the next day for a Ludacris
concert. VERY disappointing.  He sang
everything, without cursing!!! It’s Ludacris, how is he not gonna
curse?!?!?  He basically just said random
words without rhythm for 50 minutes. 
This is the second piss poor ludacris concert I have seen now.  The 2 worst concerts of my life, after the
first time I saw him was one of the best. 
I will never ever pay to see him again.

 

I returned to upstate NY on Sunday, and went to Cleveland
on Monday, June 15th, for a

rick_vaughn.jpg

Cleveland Indians vs. Milwaukee Brewers game.  It was Rick Vaughn bobblehead night!!!!  I missed BP for the game unfortunately, as I
got to the stadium around 6:40pm.  But I did get my Rick Vaughn bobble!!! For
those who don’t know, Rick “the wild thing” Vaughn is from the 1989 movie Major
League.  One of the best movies ever, not
just baseball movies.

 

Well that is the quick summary of my past month, in the
sports world.  I’ll be updating again
soon, maybe with an interesting story, maybe with something more in detail, who
knows what.  I was just trying to get my
life caught up.

And for anyone that’s keeping track, basically me, I’ve been to 9 MLB stadiums so far this season: New York Mets (Citi Field), New York Yankees (Yankee Stadium), Boston Red Sox (Fenway Park), Chicago Cubs (Wrigley Field), Kansas City Royals (Kauffman Stadium), San Diego Padres (Petco Park), Los Angeles Dodgers (Dodger Stadium), Tampa Bay Rays (Tropicana Field), and Cleveland Indians (Progressive Field)