Origionally, I was supposed to go to the A’s game this day. It was 1969 Turn-Back-The-Clock day, with a T-Shirt giveaway. The start time was 12:05 and I had just gotten back from vacation the night before, so I wasn’t really wanting to go to the game.
I was sitting on 93 balls combined between MLB and MiLB, so my 7th ball of the day would be a special one. Keep that in mind!
We sold our 2 seats on StubHub and used the money to buy tickets to that night’s Ports game! It was a Drew Granier jersey, the Ports new Friday Alternate one.
The funny thing is that Granier was promoted to AA in Mid-June. Still, cool!
This was going to be a popular game, but I was looking forward to it, as I was sitting on 93 lifetime balls between MLB and MiLB and was hoping to snag #100 today.
My goal was to be in Stockton by 4pm for BP, and my dad and I ended up arriving there at 3:58, so it was perfect timing!
The parking lot was not yet open, so my dad dropped me off, while he went to go wait for the lot to open. I found Vanessa at the front of the line, she had come to this game with Ryan Dalton, who was out behind LF looking for any random balls.
I talked with her for about 20 minutes, as BP got underway around 4:25. I had gotten an official conformation that the gates would be opening at 5:35, rather than 6pm, so I was excited for a potential half hour of BP inside the stadium!
When Ryan and I headed out back, the San Jose Giants were stretching down the LF line.
Meanwhile, the Ports were finishing their catch, having already completed their stretching.
My first ball of the day was curtsey of Addison Russell.
He lined a ball towards the Berm in Right-Center field, and since it was hit hard, it kept rolling past the berm, setting in the bush past the ballpark fence. I had a hunch, so I ran over there, dug through the bushes, and picked it up, coming back to show my dad and Ryan, as I was on the board!
Meanwhile, Ryan chased down a ball, for his first snag on the day.
The next guy in the cage was Bruce Maxwell.
From what I heard from Ryan and Vanessa, Bruce is a class act. Great guy! More on him later on…
Ryan and I were having a good time, as a moment later, he chased down another ball, that was hit towards the Marina, almost in the same spot as the other.
There were 3 rounds of 4 hitters each, and at this point, there was one group left in Ports BP, at this point, it was just past 5pm.
One of the hitters in the final group was Bobby Crocker. Here we go…
He BOMBED at ball down the Left Field line, and I broke off sprinting. Other than me and Ryan, there was one other ballhawk out there, a guy in a Giants hat and orange shirt. He was about 50 feet to my right, so he had a much better shot at the ball.
If you go back 2 pictures, you will see yellow caution tape and logs underneath it.
The ball was hit and we both took off running. It looked like the ball was going to hit the pavement, then roll fast, so he broke past the point of the caution tape. I took a direct line towards where the ball was headed, in hopes to cut it off from the other guy. The ball hit a tree, landing in the circle of dirt around the tree.
As he was much closer, he was almost guaranteed the ball. However, as he was running, he tripped on one of the logs. According to Ryan, as well as my dad, he just ATE IT. They both agreed if he hadn’t done so, I would have had no chance with the ball.
As soon as I picked up the ball, I heard Ryan yell “NICK THIS ONE’S YOU!” I looked up and the ball was coming straight for me. The other guy was still phased from his spill, so he hadn’t caught up with me. I took a few steps forward, in a perfect spot to catch it on the bounce. I got the ball on the bounce,
As soon as I caught the ball, the guy came running up from behind me and gave me a hard slap on the arm, in an attempt to knock the ball out of my glove.
I didn’t let go of either ball and came back to join my dad and Ryan.
That guy didn’t move from this spot for the rest of Ports BP. He was pissed that he had fallen and not gotten either ball.
How pissed was he? A ball landed 10 feet to his right and he didn’t move to go pick it up. Ryan was able to WALK over and grab it for his 3rd ball of the day!
I finished Ports BP with 3 balls, the same as Ryan.
Then came the Giants BP…
Quickly, I got a ball in Giants BP, when Ricky Oropesa lined a ball over the Ports bullpen.
It hit the base to the scoreboard and more or less stopped. Ryan figured there was no way to get it, but I reached under the fence and picked it up for my 4th ball on the day!
Neither of us got any balls up until the points at which the gates opened.
We headed back at 5:20, to join Vanessa, who had stayed in line, saving us all a spot. The gates opened at 5:35, and I headed right for the berm in right-center field.
Soon, a ball was hit back behind the inflatable kids slide in right field. I ran over and picked it up for ball #5.
I then ran over to the RF wall, where Edward Concepcion was picking up a ball. Without having to ask, he tossed it to me for ball #6. I needed 1 more to reach 100 combined balls.
Moments later, Brock Bond launched a ball high, right at me. I moved back to the edge of the berm and secured it in my glove. Ball 100!
I know most people don’t think this is a big deal, it’s “cheap to count them together. Think of it this way. Ichiro is almost at 4000 hit combined between Japan and MLB. That’s still a big deal, right?
About 5 minutes later, I was joined by Ryan, who hadn’t snagged any balls inside. He then walked over to the slide and picked up two balls that were just sitting there. HOW HAD I NOT SEEN THEM. I felt ridiculously stupid, however he had missed one, and I picked it up for #8 on the day!
BP then came to a close, at which point I ran down to the cage, in hopes of snagging a ball that was lying around. I spotted a ball sitting by the Ports dugout and called out to Chris Lofton who picked it up and tossed it to me. It turned out to be an MLB ball! I then put it in my backpack and took one out, giving it to the nearest kid.
At this point, I joined back up with Ryan and Vanessa, as we sat in our seats and talked for roughly half an hour.
We then noticed Bruce Maxwell, the Ports catcher (Whom I had mentioned earlier in the entry), signing autographs down the right field line.
Meanwhile, this guy was busy getting photos and cards signed.
Over on the 3rd base side, the Giants were doing the same.
One interesting thing I noticed was that the Giants had brought a bat boy with them, so there was no need for the usual guy in a Ports uniform to sit in the dugout. My guess is that he is the manger’s son.
As both teams were starting to play catch, I swung over to the Ports team store to get a new hat, as my current one was a size too small and about to cut off the circulation to the rest of my body.
I emerged from the team store, stuck on my *San Jose* Giants hat, and ran down to where they were finishing up with catch, where I failed to get a ball.
Ryan, Vanessa, and I once again reconvened behind the Giants dugout to talk for a little while longer, where we saw something quite amusing take place.. A 3 year-old boy was celebrating his birthday at the game, and the Ports let him throw out the first pitch. He was also going to say play ball before the game got underway, so after the first pitch, he hung out by the Ports dugout.
He made several attempts to run onto the field, being scooped up and carried back to the on-deck circle by people including his mother, Jeremy (The Ports In-Game host), as well as one of the umpires.
It’s the little things that make you smile.
And it was time to play some baseball!
Ryan and I headed out to the parking lot to chase foul balls, as the Ports allow unlimited re-entry privileges.
On the mound for the Ports was James Simmons
In the bottom of the first inning, Bobby Crocker stepped to the plate to lead off the Ports half of the first. He popped a pitch over the roof and the ball settled under a car. I ran over and picked it up! It was my 3rd straight MiLB game with a foul ball!
Meanwhile, on the mound for the Giants was Kelvin Marte
He struggled in the 2nd inning, but came back strong after that.
Will showed up in the first inning, as he was pulling a doubleheader. He went to the A’s game in Oakland, went to an Eric Sogard signing in Dublin, then came to the Ports game.
Anyway… He has a great relationship with Ports manager Webster Garrison, or “Webby.”
Every time Webby would jog over to the 3rd base coach’s box, he points to Will, as Will yells “Webby!”
One thing Vanessa had been mentioning throughout the game was how she loved Ryan Cavan’s mustache. I can understand why!
Oh, and also in the 2nd inning, Antonio Lamas and Dusty Robinson hit back to back home runs!
The Ports had the 3-1 lead after 2 innings, but starting in the 3rd inning, San Jose came charging and never looked back. They scored 1 run in 3rd inning, as well as the 4th inning, then added on 2 in the 5th, and 3 more in the 7th, making it 8-3 at the 7th inning stretch.
I spent the first 6 innings in the parking lot, chasing foul balls, as well as talking with a ballhawk named John, who had just moved from Omaha to Reno. Really cool guy! He’s been to over 40 Minor League stadiums and is going to be starting an MLBlog soon, so keep on the lookout!
I only had the 1 foul ball after the first 6 innings, so I decided to come back inside and go for 3rd out balls and actually enjoy a bit of the game.
Remember that bat boy I talked about earlier? I found it kind of funny that he was wearing a Stockton Ports helmet with the rest of his San Jose uniform.
Seriously though, Ryan Cavan has an amazing mustache!
In the top of the 7th, San Jose tacked on those 3 runs against one of the newer Ports relievers, Schaffer Hall.
He had started the season with the Trenton Thunder of the Eastern League, but after playing a game with the River Cats (And Getting the win, might I add), he was sent down to Stockton, where he started 7 of his first 8 games, and has been in the bullpen since.
Jeff Soptic came in to pitch the 7th inning for the Giants. Not only is his name cool, but he makes fantastic faces on the mound.
In that bottom of the 7th, the Ports scored 3 runs, shortening the Giants lead to 8-5.
In the top of the 8th, I hung out by the Ports dugout, in hopes of snagging a foul ball or 3rd out ball. Eric Sim struck out swinging on a pitch in the dirt to end the inning, and thankfully Bruce Maxwell kept the ball. I called out to him, he recognized me from pre-game, and tossed me the ball.
In the bottom of the 9th, I moved myself down close to the Giants dugout in hopes of getting their lineup card, or a broken bat, as there had been one earlier in the game.
However, there was a scare in the 9th inning. With 1 out, and runners on 1st and 2nd, Myrio Richard was hit in the head with a pitch from Derek Law.
It was scary. How scary? Ryan almost caught the ball. He was sitting in the first row, and the ball nearly landed in his glove, but he appropriately decided it would be inappropriate to make a real attempt for the ball, given what had just happened.
He ended up only being a bit shaken up, so he loaded the bases, brining the winning run to the plate with only 1 out, as Myrio representing the tying run.
After the game, I rushed down to the Giants dugout to try and get the lineup card. I asked the Giants manager, Andy Skeels for it, but he gave me a look like I was an alien, peeled the lineup card off, and put it in his binder. I then asked Lipso Nava, their hitting coach for the broken bat. He asked me why I would want a splintered bat, but before I could respond, he left the dugout.
At this point, I left for the Ports dugout, just hoping that there lineup card would still be there. I asked both Myrio and Bruce for the card, but neither of them was “allowed” to give it to me.
I ended up asking the bat boy, and he peeled it off and gave it to me!
Then, Ryan popped his head out from next to the dugout with what? THE BROKEN BAT!
How cool is that?!?
We then got a group picture, Ryan holding his bat, me holding the lineup card and 4 balls, and Vanessa holding the other 6 baseballs I snagged on the day.
My dad then got a picture of me with the lineup card (Which was typed) and all of my baseballs from the day in my MLB Network drawstring backpack.
Then, Ryan noticed what he thought was a stat sheet, so he called over Jeremy, the Ports in-game host. He peeled it off the wall, and it turned out to be from the last game Ports Ryan had been at, on July 19th!
At that point, we had noticed the Rosin bag sitting on the dugout bench, so Vanessa asked Jeremy if we could hold it.
I got a picture with it.
And so did Vanessa.
And no, I didn’t get to keep it. As much as I would have wanted to, there is a 50% chance it had been on Tim Hudson’s head at some point, and I don’t really want to run that risk. Not only that, but there is a good chance it will spontaneously combust.
But the best reason of all for not keeping it was given to me by Chris Kusiolek (@Oak_AllDay on Twitter)
I asked Jeremy if they really need it that bad, but he said they do, so there goes that….
Anyway… it was a REALLY fun day! I had a great tim ballhawking with Ryan (We snagged 19 balls combined) and it was a lot of fun to hang out with him and Vanessa for the day. Hopefully I’ll be back at Banner Island soon!
- 20th Game of the Year… 6th MiLB Game of the Year
- 11 balls at this game
- 47 MiLB Balls in 6 MiLB Games = 7.83 MiLB Balls Per Game
- 12 Consecutive MiLB Games with at least 1 Ball
- 6 Consecutive MiLB Games with at least 5 Balls
- 62 Lifetime Minor League baseballs
- 104 total balls
Nick Badders is a unofficial reporter for MLB.com. He writes the blog, 7000 Coliseum Way, and you can follow him on Twitter @nickbatters or his blog @7000ColiseumWay. You can also LIKE his blog on Facebook or follow him @nickbatters or his blog @7000ColiseumWay on Instagram. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.