Our luck started about 24 hours before the ALDS Game 3 between the Astros and Red Sox.
I had never been to an MLB playoff game, had nothing going on for Sunday, and had been watching ticket prices on re-seller websites for a few days. The lowest prices were generally in the $80 – $90 range, and for standing room only tickets, rather than seats.
I patiently waited until Saturday, when prices started to fall a bit. Early that afternoon, I saw a pair of tickets go up for sale on SeatGeek for $63/each. And they were for actual seats, not standing room only. So I quickly bought the tickets for Sean and me.
It rained steadily for the 2-hour drive to Boston on Sunday morning. We got to Boston around 11:30 am, with gates scheduled to open shortly after Noon, and the game to start at 2:38pm.
We were early enough that we were able to park on the street about a 7-8 minute walk from Fenway. The rain became more of a mist on the walk.
We were among the first hundred people into the stadium. With the rain, there was no batting practice, a major bummer but expected given the weather. Sean had one chance at a warm-up ball used by the Red Sox catchers in the bullpen, but it went to the only other boy in the area. It was not a 2017 Playoff ball, so it was not a huge loss.
We killed time until first pitch by walking around the stadium, visiting the souvenir shop, getting something to eat and taking pictures.
Our seats were in Section 37, essentially under the scoreboard, one row from the top of the stadium.
You’d like to be a little closer to the action, but as small a stadium as Fenway is, the seats were fine.
In the picture above, do you notice the black image in the roof to the left of the home plate facade, almost directly below the “Optum” sign? Here is a close-up:
It is a policeman/sniper. There were four of them, at least that we could see, keeping an eye on nearby buildings. I am sure this was in response to the recent Las Vegas shootings.
There was a nervous energy in the stadium to start before the air was taken out of the stadium with a 3-run Houston top of the first. It nearly became 6-0 in the second if not for Mookie Betts preventing a 3-run homer with a catch at the right field wall.
The Red Sox got one run in the second, and took the lead for good on a Rafael Devers 2-run blast in the third inning. It brought the Red Sox crowd of 38,000 to back to life.
The Sox blew the game open with six runs in the 7th inning, turning the end of the game into a party.
We were enjoying the game, save for the four knuckleheads to our right. In their early 20s, they were on there way to be drunk when they got to their seats just before the game, each double-fisted.
They talked and acted like most drink 20-year olds do, which was less than ideal. If the game hadn’t been packed, I would’ve looked for two seats elsewhere. But that was not really an option with a full house.
Shortly after they came back with two more beers each three innings later, the guy two seats from me passed out. He stayed that way for about an inning, until two security guards came up and made him come to. They told him that if he continued to appear to be passed out, he would be removed. They then left.
So, his friends made him stand up so he wouldn’t get kicked out. He was clearly incapable of standing , and sure enough, he threw up moments later.
Thankfully and somehow miraculously, he didn’t throw up on anyone. But the stench was awful.
I immediately took Sean and headed down to the concession area to get away from the scene. We stayed down there for an inning. When we went back, the guy had been removed. The vomit had been cleaned up, but we still couldn’t sit in our seats due to the residual stench. We had to sit/stand on the top stair between sections 37 and 38 for the rest of the game. It wasn’t ideal, but so it goes.
Before the game, we had scouted the Astros’ bullpen, but didn’t see a lineup card there. We could see one in the Red Sox bullpen.
I had low expectations. One, it was still packed at the end of the game. Two, I didn’t think they would give away the bullpen lineup card, as MLB teams seem to sell anything that is worth something, and I’m sure the Red Sox could sell the bullpen lineup card from an ALDS victory for a few bucks.
But we gave it a shot, getting into a great spot behind the Red Sox bullpen immediately after the final out. I loudly asked bullpen coach Dana LeVangie given the noise in the stadium, and I thought he nodded yes but I wasn’t sure. Half-a-minute or so later, he emerged from the bullpen dugout and handed the lineup card to me. Someone tried to grab it but luckily I got my hands on it first.
Thank you, Dana! Having the Red Sox bullpen lineup card from our first-ever playoff game, and a Red Sox victory, will always be special.
What a way to wrap up the season!
2017: 35 lineup cards (20 dugout/bullpen; 15 “official batting order”; 1 “today’s lineup” card)
Lifetime: 157 lineup cards (107 dugout/bullpen; 47 “official batting order”; 2 “relief pitcher usage”; and 1 “today’s lineup”)
Leagues: MLB: American League; National League; 2017 ALDS. MiLB: International League (AAA); Pacific Coast League (AAA); Eastern League (AA); Southern League (AA); Carolina League (A); New York-Penn League (A), including 2017 NYPL ASG. Independent Leagues: Atlantic League; Can-Am League; American Association; Frontier League. Colleges: NCAA – America East Conference; NCAA – American Athletic Conference; NCAA – Ivy League; NCAA – Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference; NCAA – Northeast Conference; Cape Cod League; NJCAA – Region XXI; New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL); Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL); Cal Ripken Summer Collegiate League. International: World Baseball Classic (qualifying round, 2016).
Considering we only made it to five games in May, we did very well to get eight lineup cards.
The highlight was the lineup card from the Boston Red Sox bullpen in a May 27 shutout victory over the Seattle Mariners.
In the four previous games at Fenway in which we had tried for a lineup card, we had always tried the visitors bullpen. The only reason we tried the Boston bullpen in this case was because Mariner bullpen coach Mike Hampton had told me before the game that he keeps his bullpen lineup card.
We also got this interesting “Today’s Lineup” card at the same game.
I was happy to add this Long Island Ducks lineup card with 2003 Cy Young Award winner Eric Gagne on it.
The biggest misses of the month? It would have been nice to get Seattle’s bullpen lineup card, but we probably would not have gotten Boston’s in that case, so it’s hard to get upset over that. We had hoped to score a Mariners’ 40th anniversary ball during that game, but never saw any.
I’ll start with the bad news first: Kate and I went to the Mariners at Red Sox game at Fenway yesterday hoping to score a Mariners’ 40th season commemorative baseball. We didn’t get one.
There were reports just a few weeks ago that the Mariners used the commemoratives in BP at Toronto. But earlier this week when Seattle played at the Nationals, none of the ballhawks who posted saw any during BP.
We hoped Seattle would at least have them in their pitchers’ bag. But the half-dozen or so balls we saw come out of the Mariners’ bullpen bag were all ROMLBs, including the ball Kate got after “King Felix” Hernandez finished his bullpen session. So it goes.
Everything else went incredibly well.
One of the neat things about Fenway is that you’ll almost certainly find something you have never seen before if you look closely enough.
Yesterday was no different. While walking through a concourse under the bleachers, I happened to notice a door on it with an 11 x 8.5 removable sign on it in a plastic case next to it. I wish I had thought to take a picture of it, but the door itself said something about only being for authorized personnel such as employees and media. The removable sign next to the door had the schedule for the day, as well as tomorrow’s game. I couldn’t tell if the sign was paper or cardboard because it was inserted into a plastic case.
Long story short, shortly before the game started, we walked back over there and a Red Sox employee came out of the door. I explained that it was Kate’s first Red Sox game at Fenway and if it was OK, we’ve love to have today’s schedule as a souvenir of sorts.
He initially said no, he couldn’t give it to me, so I asked him if there was anyone else I could ask. He said he would check, and went back in the door. After a couple minutes, he emerged with the same version of the schedule that was next to the door.
Here it is, with Fenway in the background:
Very cool, maybe not as cool as a lineup card, but still neat. But what do you call it?
It’s not the first time I have seen one of these. Another ballhawk/blogger has gotten a few at Twins games. He refers to them as Batting Practice Lineup Cards. The Cards he has gotten from the Twins includes the BP hitting groups, so that makes sense to me. But the Red Sox card doesn’t go to that level of detail about BP (for the record, while I like both cards, I like the Twins card better), so I am inclined to call it “Today’s Lineup” card. Whatever the case, it’s cool and we were happy to get one.
The Red Sox jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning and coasted to a 6-0 win. The highlights included Mookie Betts robbing a Mariners player of a home run and Jackie Bradley crushing a two-run homer.
As the game neared it end, we had to decide what we’d try for. Before the game, I had a chance to ask Mariners bullpen coach Mike Hampton for his lineup card after the game. He said that he kept it. So we knew that was out. While we still wanted to try for a Mariners commemorative, we didn’t know if there were any in the bag, and losing the way they were, it was doubtful the Mariners bullpen would be giving away many baseballs.
We thought abut trying for an umpire ball and/or official lineup cards, but it was still so crowded around the dugout area, it was doubtful we could get where we would need to be, and even if we did, there’d likely be several kids with the same idea in mind.
The best option seemed to be to try the Red Sox bullpen for their lineup card. But I have never tried for their card before, nor have I seen it in the bullpen dugout.
Still, it seemed the best bet, even if it might not be a good bet. So we positioned ourselves as close to the Red Sox bullpen as possible for the top of the 9th.
When the game ended, I hustled to the railing behind the Red Sox bullpen dugout. The Red Sox bullpen dugout doesn’t set up nearly as well for seeing into as the visitors bullpen.
I could just about see bullpen Coach Dana LeVangie taking something off the wall, a little ways from where I was, but there was a full line of people along the railing, so I stayed where I was and called out to him. Sure enough, about 15 second later, he appeared out of the bullpen, started walking my way, and handed me his lineup card.
Awesome! It was our first Red Sox lineup card, the fourth MLB team we have gotten one from (Orioles, Rays and Marlins are the others) and seventh overall. We saw in one of the Red Sox souvenir stores that they were selling yesterday’s dugout card for $100. Sure, the MLB dugout cards are much nicer, but I’ll take bullpen one for nothing any day.
2017: 13 lineup cards (5 dugout/bullpen; 7 “official batting order”; 1 “today’s lineup” card)
Lifetime: 134 lineup cards (92 dugout/bullpen; 39 “official batting order”; 2 “relief pitcher usage”; and 1 “today’s lineup”)
We got off to a slower start this year as compared with the previous two years. Sean is still recovering from a concussion he suffered four-plus months ago, and Kate has been busy with her robotics team.
Still, we made the most of the opportunities we had in March/April:
- Getting lineup cards from both teams (Quinnipiac and U Hartford) in the first-ever game played at Dunkin’ Donuts Park)
- Getting the Baltimore bullpen line-up card after a game against the Red Sox at Fenway
- Getting the first of hopefully many Atlantic League 20th Anniversary baseballs at a New Britain Bees’ exhibition game
The lone disappointment was not being able to get a lineup card from a Syracuse Chiefs at Pawtucket Red Sox Game.
May will likely also be a fairly quiet month as Sean continues to recover and Kate wraps up robotics. Hopefully, we’ll be back in the swing of things by June!
It was great to get to my first MLB game of the season, the Orioles versus Red Sox at Fenway Park, but disappointing not to have Sean with me as he continues to recover from a concussion he suffered three-and-a-half months ago.
We had been eyeing this game for a few months knowing that there might be a chance to score a Camden Yards’ 25th Anniversary baseball that the Orioles are using this season. It wouldn’t be easy, though, as the Orioles would likely only have them in their bullpen bag, if they had them at all.
The day got off to a bad start with BP cancelled due to a couple showers.
It’s too bad because the weather got nice again shortly thereafter for the rest of the evening.
In the picture above, you’ll notice two baseballs in center field. They were there when I got in. No players were on the field at that time, so I don’t know how they got there.
Some Orioles pitchers came out and started warming up. Eventually, Vidal Nuño threw me one the balls. It was a regular Manfred ball that appeared to be mud-rubbed and in good shape. Could it have been a gamer at some point? Who knows.
I hung out by the Baltimore bullpen before the game as starter Ubaldo Jimenez warmed up. Hopes of scoring a Camden Yards 25th seemed dashed as the Orioles only seemed to be using Florida Spring Training (FL ST) balls. There were also a lot of kids by the bullpen, so I didn’t get a toss-up anyway.
The game itself was essentially over shortly after it started. Red Sox starter Steven Wright gave up eight runs before being lifted in the second inning. The Sox pulled within four runs, 9-5, in the fifth, but Baltimore tacked on three more runs for the final margin of 12-5.
The decision I had to make was whether to stand by the Orioles or Boston bullpen after the game. The Orioles had a new bullpen coach, Alan Mills. Previous bullpen coach Dom Chiti posted the Baltimore lineup card on the bullpen wall adjacent to section 87, and we got them at both Fenway games we attended last season. But I noticed right away that Mills posted the card on the inside of the bullpen dugout.
Would Mills give the card away, would he leave it for security to give away, or just take it with him?
The other option was to try for Boston’s bullpen lineup card, which we had never done before. As best I can tell, the Red Sox do not post the lineup card anywhere in the bullpen, so I have no idea if they give it away.
I decided to play what I thought were the better odds and go for the Baltimore lineup card. Between the score and the fact that the game was so slow — it took 3:46 — the stands slowly but surely emptied as the game went on, and I was able to get into section 87 and then move to a seat right up against the Baltimore bullpen fence, and almost directly above the Baltimore bullpen bag.
I took a few looks into the bag, and could still only see FL ST balls.
When the game ended, an Orioles reliever — I think it was Zach Britton, who had not pitched — grabbed a couple balls from the bag and handed them to two young boys sitting behind me.
I snuck another look into the bag, and among the FL ST balls, I could see a Camden Yards 25th ball as well as a ball with pink laces that had to be a Mother’s Day ball!
When the bullpen catcher came to grab the bag, I nicely begged for a 25th ball. He ignored me, closed the bag, picked it up and started walking to the Oriole’s dugout.
It was a huge downer as I would’ve loved to score our first 2017 MLB commemorative right there and then.
The good news is that when I asked Mills for the lineup card, he obliged and handed it to me. One out of two ain’t bad!
It wasn’t until I started writing this blog that I realized that Sean and I had gotten our first Baltimore lineup card exactly one year earlier. The lineup sure does look different without “Ortiz” on it any more.
This was our sixth MLB lineup card, all from the visiting teams’ bullpen: three Orioles all from Fenway; two Marlins both from Nats Park; and one Rays also from Fenway.
To walk out of any MLB game with a lineup card is awesome and lessened the sting of not scoring the 25th anniversary ball, which we hopefully will be able to get later this season.
2017: 6 lineup cards (1 dugout/bullpen; 5 “official batting order”)
Lifetime: 127 lineup cards (88 dugout/bullpen; 37 “official batting order”; and 2 “relief pitcher usage”)
Our last month of going to games for the 2016 season ended with a bang.
Not only did we get 10 more lineup cards, but we also got a couple of game-used hats and another ball for our baseball collection.
Kate and I started off the month with a New Britain Bees game, her first ever.
Later that weekend, we went to the final Connecticut Tigers game of the season, against the Tri-City Valley Cats. Sean got a Tigers hat from pitching coach Ace Adams and I got the Tri-City lineup card, which Kate is holding below.
I saw the Orioles play the Red Sox at Fenway Park a week later, and was fortunate to get the Orioles bullpen lineup card.
Sean and I went to the final New Britain Bees game of the season in mid-September. Sean’s goal was to try and get a hat from a New Britain player. He had to ask a few players before Jon Dziomba was nice enough to hook Sean up with his hat.
In September, we were sent a Pensacola Blue Wahoos lineup card, our first lineup card from the Southern League and first lineup card via mail.
Saving the best for last, I went to the first day of the World Baseball Classic qualifier at MCU Park in Brooklyn, NY (home of the Brooklyn Cyclones) with the goal of getting a 2016 WBC qualifier baseball and lineup card.
I got a few baseballs and the Pakistan batting order card that day.
To get one of the dugout lineup cards, I had to contact Major League Baseball, which runs the WBC. It took two-plus weeks, but it was well worth it as I was sent Brazil’s dugout lineup card, signed by manager Barry Larkin.
September turned out to be a great ending to our 2016 season of going to baseball games!
The end of the 2016 baseball season is fast approaching here on the east coast. Some minor leagues are already done, and others are wrapping up. Even the MLB regular season has less than three weeks to go.
Tuesday, I made what has become a traditional late-season pilgrimage to Fenway Park for batting practice and a game. With the weather starting to get cooler and kids back in school, Fenway is usually a little less crazy than it normally is.
But Fenway turned out to be its normal, insane self for the Orioles game Tuesday night. With the Red Sox leading the AL East, the weather perfect and the near conclusion of the Big Papi farewell tour, the place was packed.
I got into the stadium 2.5 hours before the game. The last Red Sox group was taking BP. Nothing came my way, but with no kids around at the time (there were far more kids there than I expected for a September weeknight game, though) I was able to get one of the Red Sox ground crew to toss me up a BP ball that had been hit into the Red Sox bullpen. I would later give that ball away to a boy with a glove who hadn’t gotten a ball.
There was a lull in BP as the Red Sox were done and the Orioles warming-up so I went atop the Green Monster, sat there for a while and took this picture:
I didn’t have any luck during the Orioles portion of BP. I guess with a lefty (Drew Pomeranz) pitching for Boston, virtually all the Baltimore players were batting righty. They cleared out the Green Monster seats shortly after the Orioles started hitting. I tried my hand in CF, RF and even down the RF line a bit, and nothing came anywhere near me. I will say that the Orioles put on quite a show in BP, launching ball after ball over the Green Monster, including roughly 10 that cleared the Green Monster altogether.
I headed toward the Baltimore dugout shortly before the Orioles ended BP, and an equipment manager tossed me a ball for my second and final ball of the day.
As for the game, the O’s jumped on Pomeranz for five runs in the 2nd inning. Boston got as close as 5-3, but Jonathan Schoop’s solo HR in the top of the 9th took the wind out of the Red Sox comeback sails, and Baltimore won 6-3.
The stadium was essentially full, so I bounced around for the first 6+ innings. I decided to try for the Orioles’ bullpen lineup card which had been taped to a wall in the Orioles’ bullpen.
The key was to find a seat as close to the O’s bullpen as possible. Mid-7th inning, I got into a seat near the bullpen, but still a few seats from the bullpen wall. Mid-8th, a couple people left and I got right next to the Baltimore bullpen.
The picture above (it’s Baltimore closer Zach Britton) isn’t great, but the point is that I was sitting right behind the fence. When there was a pitcher warming up on the right bullpen mound, I could literally reach over the fence and touch him, he’s that close.
So the game ends and there’s a swarm of people begging the Baltimore bullpen pitchers and coaches for baseballs. I asked Baltimore bullpen coach Dom Chiti for the lineup card, but he ignored me and left it taped to the wall, below the fence as you see it in the picture above, and slightly to the right of where I was. I patiently waited for the Fenway security guard to come reasonably near and asked him. As soon as I asked him, a couple other people started asking for it, but he gave it to me.
It’s our 5th MLB lineup card, all from visiting team’s bullpens. It’s our second Orioles card — Sean and I got one in April — and third lineup card from a Boston game (I got a Tampa Bay bullpen lineup card late last year).
I was hoping Big Papi would hit a home run like he did when we saw the Sox-O’s play in April, but it didn’t happen. Still, it’s neat to have a lineup card with players like “Ortiz”, “Pedroia”, Machado, Red Sox highly touted prospect “Moncada” and others on it.
Speaking of Big Papi, there was a t-shirt give-away Tuesday night:
Not my style of t-shirt, especially with the “bling”, but that’s OK.
I hope to get to one more MLB game next week along with the World Baseball Classic Qualifier tournament in Brooklyn, which should pretty much end our season.
2016: 54 lineup cards (39 dugout/bullpen; 15 “official batting order”)
Lifetime: 117 lineup cards (86 dugout/bullpen; 29 “official batting order”; and 2 “relief pitcher usage”)