Over the past few games, I’ve been struggling to find the time to blog. Midterm exams, work, homework, the games themselves… Yeah, I’ve been busy. Plus, nothing really overtly exciting happened, until now! I’ll start by saying that I didn’t have my camera person, my girlfriend Brooke, with me today. So, there won’t be too many pictures taken at Miller Park. I’ll take a few with my laptop camera, but they’ll be low resolution.
This is going to be a long, wall of text entry. Feel free to skip around to the interesting parts!
So, to begin the ballhawking day, I had an interesting tweet waiting for me from a local Brewers fanatic, “Superfan Pete”. He’s starting his own Brewers MLBlog (superfanpete.mlblogs.com), and wanted to do a “ride-along” with Milwaukee’s Ballhawk for his blog. I was actually pretty excited for this, but Pete had to cancel at the last minute. No problem with me, we’ll do it soon!
Upon arriving at Miller Park, I was “running late”, as my usual ticket taker would say. I was in math class until 3, and arrived around 4. Typically, I’ll show up around 2:30. I entered the stadium and headed right for Friday’s Front Row Grill.
Friday’s and I have been at odds with each other for quite some time. Their early 20-something waiters think I’m a huge nerd for ballhawking. Their wannabe-thug security guards think I’m a hooligan. Their waiters who are assigned to my usual table think I’m a great tipper. Our relationship is whatever. I’m not going away, and neither are they. The day prior, one of Friday’s subcontracted security guards clocked in a little bit early and felt like throwing his “power” around, which lead to a rather awkward series of events that day, and today as well.
I was outside and (at the time) hadn’t ordered a meal yet. The time was roughly 3:15pm, and there wasn’t a soul in the restaurant, or stadium for that matter. Yovani Gallardo was taking early BP, and I was posted up on the “home run porch”. Long story short, the security guard approached me and asked, “AYE YO, YOU JUS HANGIN’?”
“Uh, yeah. I’m waiting for someone, and then we’re going to eat.”
“HUH-UH. NO YOU AINT. Management hate you. Dey don’t want you huur no mo’. Can’t stand huuuuuur (He really, really put some emphasis on the “here”). Don’t come back again!” and he proceeded to follow me out of the restaurant, letting me know I’m not welcome in Friday’s ever again. While waiting for the gates to open near Friday’s, I was continually confronted by the security guard, even though we were plenty far enough away from the restaurant.
“Hey dog, you STILL can’t come in.” 10 minutes later… “AYE. STILL AINT WELCOME” again, 10 minutes later, “Hey man, fo reeeal. You can’t never come in again”.
So, that was yesterday, and I’d had an entire day to sit on my thoughts and decide what to do today. You guessed it; I didn’t give an (expletive) and went right inside. Conveniently, the weatherproof doors leading outside were closed and locked. I couldn’t get out there, but, neither could anyone else. It’s a wash, I guess.
Regardless, the same security guard showed up, and placed himself about 10 feet behind me, and proceeded to follow me throughout the restaurant for close to 45 minutes. He’d mumble something about “no more” and perk up whenever I’d turn around and look at him. Later, I’d learn through his own admission, he took the liberty to, for all intents and purposes, pronounce himself my personal security detail, to hassle me as much as possible and make sure I don’t get another baseball for the rest of the year. The guy even followed me into the bathroom, and waited for me to finish, my… business. Creep much?
So the day’s Friday’s experience was exhaustingly awkward, but as soon as I left, things got better. While inside Friday’s, I had a nice view of the 3rd base foul line and it’s seats. I noticed a ball sitting in the stands and took note of where it was. One of the friendlier ushers was keeping watch over the final gate before the seating bowl, and I explained to him “[X] rows down, [X] seats over, at the very bottom of the section, there’s a ball.” However, I didn’t tell him I wanted it.
When he retrieved it, he had shown me the 2 other baseballs he found down there. I struck a deal with him: if he shares one with me, I’d give it away as soon as I caught another. I could deal with that. Long story short, I gave the ball away very soon after.
Batting practice was surely boring. While hanging out near the Astros’ dugout, a batted ball ricocheted off the L-screen and settled near the tarp. I leaned over and scooped it up, and promptly gave it away to a family with a cute little girl behind me.
Soon after that, I headed out to right field, where I met up with another legendary Ballhawk, Nick “Happy Youngster” Yohanek. We shot the breeze, watched countless BP balls fall short of our gloves and joked about the good old days. Right around when the second group of hitters took over the cage, Astros bullpen catcher and all around great guy, “Stretch” Suba meandered into the bullpen, only mere feet to my left.
I greeted him and he made good on my prior day’s request, with this BEAUTY:
That’s right, a Houston Astros’ 50th anniversary commemorative baseball.
Mere minutes later, Astros’ reliever Rhiner Cruz hooked me up with some Gatorade! It was warm but de-lish!
Finally, there was a ball stuck out in center field on the concourse. It was in a really peculiar area, and I had to use the glove trick to knock it free. I’d prefer not to talk about it, actually. I’ll just say that it was in a rather sensitive area.
Batting practice ended with 4 baseballs, 1 commemorative and 1 Gatorade. Not too shabby, eh? Well, things would be getting better soon, 2nd inning-soon!
In the top of the 2nd inning, 5 foot 5 inch Jose Altuve stepped up to the plate against Randy Wolf. Altuve’s resume consisted of only 1 conventional home run, and 1 inside-the-park home run, which was the first of his career. Batting right handed, Altuve jacked a 90MPH Randy Wolf first pitch fastball to deep right center field. The pitch could have split the plate in half.
The oppo-taco moon shot landed just short of my section. I positioned myself perfectly, but knew as soon as the ball left the bat that it didn’t quite have enough juice. In the picture below, you’ll see two Xs and two arrows. One arrow is pointing to myself, in all black Astros attire. The other arrow shows where the ball was thrown to after it landed. One X denotes the initial landing spot of the home run, and the other shows where it caromed to:
The ball took a goofy bounce and ended up caroming rather far to my right, where Njyer “T-Plush” Morgan retrieved it and tossed it into the crowd. The afore mentioned Ballhawk Nick Yohanek and I were the only fans really in contention for the ball. It was tossed right between us and clanked off a gloveless fan’s hands. It trickled down to the ground, where I promptly fell upon it, securing Jose Altuve’s 3rd career home run, and my 15th career home run.
There wasn’t anything too flashy about it. It got tossed up, I snagged it, and everyone congratulated me.
Now comes the awkward part…
Moments after I secured the ball, Miller Park Event Services rushed 3 security guards to my side.
“Give us that ball back. We’ll give you this one instead [Off duty deputy holds out ball clearly out of the Astros bullpen].”
Shaking my head convincingly, laughing slightly, “Uhh…. NO.”
I know the drill. They’re not getting it back that easy.
“Give it back. You can have this one.”
“It’s his first career home run. He’d like it back.”
“I want to talk to an authenticator before I do anything. If he gets this ball back, I’m going to hand it to him myself,” I said. Begrudgingly, security immediately walked off, almost as if they thought I was bluffing. They kept on walking, and claimed they would return.
One of the season ticket holders, and all around good guy, Joe, was very near when this all was happening. Joe’s an attorney, and definitely knows his baseball. Half humorously, yet with a slight stroke of seriousness, he pulled out his business card.
Handing it to me, he said “Here, Shawn. You’ve got representation in this matter.” I was floored. I’m sure he was just being the typical humorous, easy going Joe, but it was pretty cool.
Happy Youngster pulled me aside, also. Having gone through this already, he gave me every tip and trick in the book. He was also a Milwaukee County Sheriff.
(To recap, I had my legal representation and a Sheriffs’ deputy at my side, and most importantly, my mother! I was ready for anything, haha!)
Over the next inning or so, Nick, myself and a few of my Twitter followers began to research Altuve’s career. The home run was indeed actually his 3rd career home run, and only his 2nd conventional style home run. The security guards later returned to apologize and clear up the matter.
I had my “requests” all written up and was prepared to give the ball back to Jose after the game, but all for naught. I would have asked for, at the minimum:
-A replacement ball, signed by Jose and inscribed: “Dear Shawn, Thanks for catching my 1st career home run. –Jose Altuve 27” (standard in these negotiations)
-A game used bat, with obvious game usage (again, standard in these negotiations)
-Finally, some batting gloves, a fielding glove or a pair of sunglasses.
I don’t think that’s too much to ask for, do you? Regardless, nothing came of it anyways.
Check back to my Twitter feed tomorrow for more detailed pictures, accounts and more!