When you spend as much time at Major League stadiums as I do, you are bound to have a collection of game used items.
Friends of mine that I have met through the world of baseball have created a new site – Game Used Collector (GUC) – for people to share their collections, post “wanted” ads, as well as to post items that they are trying to sell.
I highly encourage any sports fan to visit their site, make an account, comment and mingle with the people.
But first, take a look at my collection! Please click on any image to enlarge it.
The rules for Oriole Park at Camden Yards used to be weird. Well, a lot of them are still questionable, but at least they have fixed one thing. Up until the 2012 season, season ticket holders — whom are able to go anywhere in the seating bowl a half-hour before regular fans — had to walk from the right field flag pole and around the stadium if they wanted to go to left field. Some days you would run in order to try to beat your competition to left field to pick up the balls that were hit before the gates opened. It was exhausting. So, other times, you would just take a nice enjoyable walk, enjoying baseball.
This was one of those days for me. I was in no rush for whatever reason. Maybe I was late. Maybe I was just tired. Who knows. What I do know is that when I saw a couple players signing autographs for fans that had on-field batting practice privileges behind home plate — players that included Mike Gonzalez, Matt Wieters, Corey Patterson, and Matt Albers — I stopped. I was set on asking for a pair of batting gloves, and it was only a matter of who. I looked at back pockets as I often do at the end of the season when players have memorabilia to give away. I saw Jake Fox, journey, utility man approach the area I was standing on his way to the dugout. Knowing Fox as a fan-friendly player, and seeing his batting gloves in his back pocket, I just asked.
For whatever reason — my guess is because of the leather, not sunlight — the autograph has faded a little.
When you go to as many games as I do, you often forget which game what happened. Honestly, going to 60 home games a year, it remembers like one long game.
I can not provide an exact date on this Josh Bell batting glove, but I can certainly relate the story. Posting-up above the Orioles’ dugout, my best friend and I made a deal that whoever got a pair of batting gloves, we would split them up — one glove for each, bettering our odds.
We targeted many players with no success. As Josh Bell approached, we asked him. So did another fan standing nearby. He mentioned that he only had the two, tossed them up, and went into the dugout. My friend caught the pair and handed me one.
Bell later reappeared out of the dugout and gave a knew pair to the other fan. Because, I mean, what else is Josh Bell going to do with a pair of batting gloves?
My friend and I, at a later date, both were able to get Josh Bell to autograph our gloves.
Obtained: Sunday, October 3rd, 2010
It is a glorious thing when your team finishes the season at home. It’s one of the few glimmering lights of the lack of postseason play for the pre-2012 Baltimore Orioles. It’s glorious for the simple fact that players no longer have a use for things such as jerseys, bats, batting gloves, bats, sweatbands, undershirts, cleats. You name it, they probably do not need it. If you ask nicely, it possibly could be yours.
As the Orioles finished the 2010 season at home against the Tigers, I waited above their dugout for my chance at some game used items. Ty Wigginton placed a bat on the roof of the dugout directly in front of me, and nudged it toward a little kid next to me. I could have grabbed that and left. But I didn’t. Let the kid have his bat.
Instead, I called out to Corey Patterson who, for whatever reason, is one of my favorite Orioles. I asked him for the batting gloves in his back pocket. He nodded, took them out, balled them up, and threw them to me.
Unlike the previous two gloves, I was not able to get these autographed.
Obtained: Wednesday, September 26th, 2012
In the stands during batting practice is a time that often will disgust you; the human race will disgust you. Grown men acting like children will disgust you. A lot of times you just have to eat it. Not much you can do.
Sometimes you can make their wrongs a right.
On September 26th, with a heavy left-handed presence in the Toronto Blue Jays’ batting cage, I switched fields and stood in the right-center bleachers. Shagging fly balls in the right field gap was Omar Vizquel playing his last two weeks of his long career. In typical Vizquel fashion, he is throwing baseballs to as many people as he can.
Repeatedly, Vizquel targeted a kid leaning over the railing of the flag court — the railing
that faces the bleachers where I’m standing, not the field. Vizquel’s throws consistently fall short. He finally was able to get one up to him. As the ball was in the air, a man who was approaching senior citizen status reached in front of the kid and grabbed the ball. Okay, maybe it was an innocent mistake; one of those in-the-moment type things.
The man motioned to Vizquel to thank him. Vizquel motioned back to give the ball to the kid. What the man did next was one of those disgusting things I was talking about. The man held the baseball out to the kid like he was going to give it to him. As the kid reached out for it, the man yanked the ball back and left.
Everyone who saw it booed. What could they do?
I decided to make it right. I dug in my bag for one of the extra batting practice balls that I bring to each games just for reasons like this: for kids. I found one, walked toward the flag court, and called up to the kid and his father. I showed them the ball, motioning that I wanted him to have it. His father refused, but I insisted. I tossed it up to him and the section applauded.
I looked back to the field and saw Vizquel waving to me, thanking me. I continued to walk back to where I was originally standing. I look back to Vizquel who is now motioning me to come to him.
We met at the right-center field wall. He reached into his back pocket and thanked me for giving the kid a ball. He kept telling me it was a great thing what I did. He then tossed his batting gloves to me.
One of the last pairs of batting gloves from Hall of Famer Omar Vizquel is enough to cherish in itself.
Later the next week I reached out to him on Twitter to thank him. This is what ensued:
After realizing he recently passed Babe Ruth on the all-time hit list, I asked him if those were the gloves he used. He responded:
To this day, Omar Vizquel follows me on Twitter. Amazing piece and amazing story! Better yet, an amazing guy Vizquel is.
Obtained: September 14th, 2011
Confession: I catch a lot of home runs. You’ll see more on that later in this post.
This awesome piece of memorabilia stemmed from my home run catching.
On September 14, 2011, with virtually no fans in attendance as the Orioles were mired in their usual September irrelevance, I pounced on a Chris Davis opposite field home run.
Later, I snagged a Matt Wieters home run that was hit directly to my glove. After making the catch and celebrating (making sure the cameras knew it was my second), I was approached by a fan who said someone in the bullpen wants to talk to me.
I approached the opening in the fence that separates the bleachers from the bullpen and saw Jeremy Accardo standing there with a handful of balls. He told me that Wieters would like the ball back — it was his 20th home run in what was his first 20 home run season. Accardo told me he would give me these balls for it.
Instead, I countered. I told him that he can have the ball back for nothing, as long as I can hand it to Wieters myself. Accardo immediately agreed, telling me to wait after the game by the players’ parking lot and that he would have Wieters sign a bat or something for me.
Outside, after the game, waiting about twenty minutes, I see Wieters emerging from the steep ramp that leads under the stadium. He is carrying a brand new black bat. When I see him, I approach.
He said something to the affect of “I hear you have a ball for me,” but certainly not as arrogant as it reads. I responded and handed him the ball. He place the ball in his back pocket and shook my hand.
What he said to me while he was autographing I will never forget.
“So, I hear you caught two tonight.”
How awesome is that!? Matt Wieters, a guy I look up to (literally and figuratively), knows my stats for that night! I am supposed to know his!
We then both posed for a photo with the bat.
Another note to add on the ball: it was the first Major League pitch thrown by Ray’s pitcher Matt Moore.
Also, that night I took a phone call from ESPN who interviewed me for SportsCenter since I caught two home runs. What a night!
Obtained: September 27th, 2011
Us home run catcher are always looking for the opportunity to catch a milestone home run. For many, it’s for the thrill, the hunt if you will. Some do it to hold the balls for ransom making outrageous demands to get a quick payday.
I wrote about catching Lavarnway’s first career home run in a post for The Diamond’s Edge. Here’s an excerpt to sum it all up:
I had jumped so high that I had to do a 180 as I landed. When my feet touched the ground, I was surprised to find that the ball had fell into my glove.
Lavarnway’s first career homerun had sailed directly over my head, hit my friend, who had turned his glove over at the last second because he thought I was going to catch it, in the palm of his glove, and fell right into my chest where I had my glove. It was almost as if I was a wide receiver making a basket catch.
I didn’t celebrate as I usually do. With that homerun, the Red Sox were up 5-1 in the middle of a playoff hunt that I desperately wanted to keep them out of.
I ran back to my seat and, hearing the calls from the Orioles fans to “throw it back,” and seeing their dejected faces as a result of the three run bomb, I made a minor error. I reached into my bag, pulled out a batting practice ball, and threw it onto the field.
Instantly, I realized I messed up. What if he thinks that the ball I threw on the field is the real homerun ball? Not only do I not get any compensation for it, but, more importantly, he has a baseball sitting on his mantle, showing his grandchildren, that is not actually his first Major League homerun.
Seeing me run up to her with the ball in head, the first words out of her mouth were, “is that his first homerun?” She knows the procedure: he wants the ball back.
After a radio call or two, a Camden Yards big shot (meaning he was wearing a suit), came to my section and chatted with me.
I suggest to go read it all for yourself.
In short, I was unable to meet Lavarnway; the Red Sox clubhouse was on lock down as a result of their September slumber. That’s the only thing I wanted: to meet him. I did not push the issue because I felt that he deserved the ball more than I did.
What did I leave with that night? A signed baseball and a signed bat with the inscription: “Thanks for the ball back.”
Adam Jones’ 49th Career Home Run; 18th of 2010
Obtained: September 14th, 2010
The best part about this ball is the fact that I was able to get Jones to autograph it and inscribe “Home Run #49.”
Here is an excerpt from my review of my 2010 ball hawking season of my conversation with Jones when he signed it:
Me: Can you write homerun #49 on there for me?
Jonesy: This isn’t a homerun!
Me: Yes it is!
Jonesy: You caught it!? Good job! Whats the date on it?
Me: UHHHHHHHHH Dammit! I don’t know!
Jonesy: You gotta know! Let’s see who were we playing?
Me: Blue Jays
Jonesy: Oh yeah, hit it off of Jannsen. I don’t know the date either. Here you go.
I still think it’s awesome that, months after the game, he still knew which pitcher he hit it off.
Brandon Inge’s 135th Career Home Run; 12th of 2010
Obtained: October 2nd, 2010
I think it was worth it; better than spending money for it!
I have tried many times to get Inge to sign the ball, but have yet to have any success.
Vladimir Guerrero’s 439th Career Home Run; 3rd of 2011
Obtained: April 20th, 2011
In being the 439th of Guerrero’s career, it put him in 38th all-time, passing Andrew Dawson. It is also one of only 13 home runs hit by Guerrero as a Baltimore Oriole.
I was wary in getting Guerrero, who surprisingly signs autographs often before games, to autograph the home run because he does not usually sweet spot his autographs.
Jay Bruce Ground-Rule Double
Obtained: June 4th, 2011
I spent the most of this game just wandering around the concourse. When I heard Jay Bruce hit a ground-rule double to center field, I went to see for myself. The ball landed in the back of the sod farm in center, up against the batter’s eye, and close enough to the bullpen standing room that I could stand right over top of it.
There was a family standing in front me and they were the closest to the ball. They all wanted to get the ball for the little boy with them. They decided to push me to the front in order to catch it when a groundskeeper throws it up because, I “have the glove.”
I quickly texted my friend who had my bag and told him to get a batting practice ball and bring it to me. I kept the ball in my right hand and waited for the double to be thrown to me.
Finally a groundskeeper game over, and everyone told him to throw it to me. I caught the ball in my glove, and handed the kid the batting practice ball in my right hand. Either the family didn’t notice or they just didn’t care. But I left with a Jay Bruce double and everyone was happy!
Johnny Damon’s 223rd Career Home Run; 8th of 2011
Obtained: June 12th, 2011
This home run from Johnny Damon was the first one I ever caught in right field of Camden Yards. Before the start of the game, I was behind the Orioles dugout trying to get a warm-up ball thrown to me.
Noticing Damon was leading off the game, I decided to take a stop in right field for his at bat before going to my seat in left. It’s spooky how good my hunch was. Damon sent the fifth pitch of the game onto the flag court in front of Eutaw Street. The ball hit the ground, bounced off a brick column that separates Eutaw from the flag court, and went straight into the air. I was able to use my height and athletic vertical to grab the ball.
Few stats about this ball:
- It passed Don Mattingly for 251st on the all time home run list.
- It tied Bobby Doer, Travis Fryman, and Mike Lowell for 251st.
- It was Damon’s 27th career lead-off home run; possibly his last
- It represented the 37th consecutive game Damon reached base; tying the Rays’ club record
- One of only 16 home runs hit by Damon as a Ray
Knowing Damon as one of the nicest guys in baseball, I was confident that I could get this ball autographed and inscribed. Towards the end of 2011, fully expecting Damon to retire, I rushed to get him to sign it. I called out to him as he entered the dugout from the clubhouse before a game at Camden Yards. I could tell by his face that he was in a bad mood, and he was not close enough for me to yell everything I wanted him to inscribe. But, even with a bad mood, he was nice enough to sign the ball for me.
Nolan Reimold’s 23rd Career Home Run; 5th of 2011
Obtained: July 15th, 2011
To be honest with you, there is not any cool stories with this one. The ball was not hit that close to me, but I gave chase anyway. It landed without being caught and fell on the ground. When I got over there, people were still searching for it under their seats. I saw it had landed on a lady’s purse so I snatched it and ran — the ball that is. The people in the seats were mad and told me to “stay in my section,” but I have a Nolan Reimold baseball!
I have been lazy in getting Reimold to sign it, but it should not be too hard with as many games as I go to.
Carlos Quentin’s 121st Career Home Run; 24th of 2011
Obtained: August 9th, 2011
I almost — almost — was able to catch this ball on the fly. I had to go down and to my left in order to track it. Making sure I did not hurt myself on a seat or run into another fan, I lost track of the ball. When I finally got my eyes back on it, all I could do was outstretch my glove-hand. I narrowly missed it, but was able to pick it up out of the seat.
The home run is the last one Quentin ever hit as a White Sock. Roughly two weeks later, he sprained his shoulder, ending his season.
J.J. Hardy’s 102nd Career Home Run; 21st of 2011
Obtained: August 10th, 2011
I actually tracked this ball pretty well and was able to make a good catch on it.
Not much else to mention about this ball (right now) besides that it is one of the home runs that make up Hardy’s first 30 home run season in his career.
Alexei Ramirez’s 67th Career Home Run; 12th of 2011
Obtained: August 11th, 2011
The only thing to note about this ball is that it was the third home run in my streak of catching home runs at consecutive games. Subsequently, this highlight as well as the previous two was shown on ESPN, including being #9 on Top Plays for that night. The catch also led to interviews with ESPN, the Baltimore Sun, MASN, and Orioles.com and articles about me on sites such as Yahoo.
Chris Davis‘ 44th Career Home Run; 5th of 2011
Obtained: September 14th, 2011
Facts about this ball:
- The first of two that I caught on 9/14/11.
- Davis’ 2nd home run as an Oriole
- The 5th of five hit by Davis in 2011
J.J. Hardy’s 113th Career Home Run; 2nd of 2012
Obtained: April 10th, 2012
It only took me four games and a half inning to see my first test of 2012. Behind 0-1 in Wei-Yin Chen’s MLB debut as a result of a Derek Jeter home run, J.J. Hardy sent a shot deep to the seats in left-center field. With the season early and the Yankees in town, Camden Yards had a decent crowd, forcing me to sit roughly twenty rows from the field. Ironically, this worked to my advantage as Hardy’s bomb came directly towards me.
Adam Jones’ 86th Career Home Run; 11th of 2012
Obtained: May 15th, 2012
Also from my 2012 season review:
With the game scoreless in the bottom of the second, Adam Jones sent a rocket to deep left field off CC Sabathia. I drifted down about seven rows, jumped, and robbed a few fans of an opportunity as I reeled in my third home run of the season.
Asdrubal Cabrera’s 54th Career Home Run; 11th of 2012
Obtained: June 29th, 2012
The season review … :
A power zealous left field supervisor had me switching fields for this game. Avoiding any trouble, I spent the game standing on the right field flag court. Half-jokingly, I told my friend accompanying me that I will catch three home runs that game. Asdrubal Cabrera got me a third of the way there in the third inning, crushing a Jake Arrieta pitch. Knowing the ball was going over my head onto Eutaw Street, I focused my attention on making it outside the gates that separates the Flag Court and the famous street. Luckily for me, the ball bounce off Eutaw Street, landed on an overhang of the Warehouse, and fell to the ground in an outdoor seating area of the new Dempsey’s restaurant. Reacting swiftly, I dove on the ball, covering it with my bare hand, earning my 4th home run of the season and 16th of my career.
Matt Wieters’ 53rd Career Home Run; 11th of 2012
Obtained: June 29th, 2012
Wieters put the Orioles ahead in the bottom of the seventh inning with a monster shot to Eutaw Street. Reacting the same as I did for Cabrera’s homer, I was able to get a great jump on it. The ball one-hopped off Eutaw Street and onto the overhang on the Warehouse. I was able to use my height to grab the ball as it fell.
The Cabrera and Wieters balls represent only the second time that two home runs have landed on Eutaw Street in the same game in the history of Camden Yards.
Kevin Youkilis’ 145th Career Home Run; 16th of 2012
Obtained: August 27th, 2012
On the 27th, Youkilis hit a liner over the wall in left field, perfectly within the aisle that I patrol. I tracked the ball perfectly down the steps, but, because it was hit so hard, I only got a glove on it. The ball rolled into a row close to the wall, but I quickly (and honestly, in a panic), dove on it.
Jose Lopez Ground-Rule Double
Obtained: August 30th, 2012
As a result of a combined effort of incompetence by the Baltimore Grand Prix and Maryland Public Transportation, I arrived to this day game a little late. However, my timing was as perfect as it could get. As soon as I walked into my section, without removing my backpack, Jose Lopez sent a ball into the left-center field gap. Bouncing off the rubberized warning track, the ball went over the wall, landing roughly 10 rows from the field. Being a day game during the week, no one was in attendance. Taking no chances I hurried, jumped over a row or two, and picked-up the ball.
The ball was Jose Lopez’ first hit as a White Sock in his first at bat with the team.