Valuable balls

  Alex Rodriguez's 3,000th career hit

Of all the baseballs that I've snagged, this one is the most valuable by far. The "R" stands for "Rodriguez," and the "1" indicates that it was the first specially marked ball of the game that was put into play for his at-bats. Those markings were already there when I grabbed it. The sticker above was placed there a little while later by an MLB authenticator.
  Last Mets home run at Shea Stadium

This is still my favorite ball. It was Carlos Beltran's 263rd career home run, but more importantly, it ended up being the last homer that the Mets ever hit at Shea Stadium. Click here to read my long blog entry about the experience.
  Barry Bonds' 724th career home run

I caught Barry Bonds' 724th career home run on August 16, 2006 at PETCO Park. Click here to read my blog entry and here to watch the footage. (Note: the video clip is 37.4 MB, so you might need to let it load for a minute.)
  Mike Trout's 1st career home run

On 7/24/11 at Camden Yards, I caught Mike Trout's first major league homer and gave it back to him after the game. That's why I don't have a better photograph of it here.
  Mike Nickeas's 1st career home run

Same deal with Mike Nickeas's first career home run. I caught it on 4/21/11 at Citi Field, and when stadium security asked me what I wanted for it, I simply requested to be able to hand it back to Nickeas myself.
  Didi Gregorius's 1st career home run

On 4/18/13 at Yankee Stadium, I snagged this Gregorius homer in the 3rd inning and caught a game-tying solo shot by Francisco Cervelli in the bottom of the 9th.
  Alex Blandino's 1st career home run

May 1, 2018 was a magical night for me at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. I snagged 24 baseballs including THREE home runs during the game including this one from the Reds' rookie. (YouTube video coming soon.)
  Robinson Cano grand slam

Remember when the 2009 Yankees became the first team in history to have five guys hit 25 home runs in a season? Okay, you probably don't, but anyway, this is the ball that made history. It was Cano's 25th and final homer, and it was the first grand slam I ever snagged.
  Carlos Beltran grand slam

This was the first grand slam that I caught on the fly, hit by Beltran on August 8, 2014 at Yankee Stadium. Here's a blog entry about it with a video, some screen shots, and a few photos.
  Starlin Castro grand slam

This was Castro's 1st career granny, hit on August 5, 2016 at Yankee Stadium. Surpringly he didn't want the ball back.
  Tyler Austin walk-off home run

This was Austin's third career home run and his first walk-off, giving the Yankees a 5-4 win over the Rays on September 8, 2016. Security initially told me that he wanted the ball. Then they told me that he didn't. Oh well.
  Carlos Correa home run

Is this ball worthy of being called "valuable"? Yes because he's a future Hall of Famer. This was Correa's 47th career home run -- a two-run shot off Michael Pineda on May 11, 2017, at Yankee Stadium.
  Opening Day at SunTrust Park

Here's the ball that ended the 7th inning of the inaugural game at the Beaves' new stadium. Brandon Phillips lined out to Padres left fielder Travis Jankowski, who tossed it to me on his way back to the dugout.
  Game-used ball from a no-hitter

MLB's first regular-season game in Mexico in 19 years turned out to be no-hitter. This was the ball that ended the first inning -- a Christian Villanueva strikeout against Walker Buehler, tossed to me above the 3rd base dugout by Yasmani Grandal.
  Mariano Rivera's 313th career save

Yankee Stadium. July 8, 2004. Top of the 9th. Two outs. Mariano Rivera induced Rey Sanchez to ground out to 2nd baseman Miguel Cairo for his 30th save of the season and 313th of his career. Cairo threw the ball to 1st baseman Tony Clark. Clark handed it to Rivera. Rivera returned to the dugout and tossed it to me.
  Derek Jeter's 3,262nd career hit

On 8/27/12 at Yankee Stadium, Derek Jeter led off the bottom of the 9th inning with a game-tying home run against the Blue Jays. I was soooo happy when I caught it that there truly aren't words.
  Four studs

Sometimes I prefer to get baseballs thrown to me because of the personal connection that I share with the players. To me, THAT is valuable. These four balls (clockwise from the top left) were thrown by Tom Glavine, Trevor Hoffman, Albert Pujols, and Ichiro Suzuki.
  Heath Bell = my hero

Bell might've been a Quadruple-A reliever for the Mets, but he really was my hero. This is the ball that we used to play catch on 9/29/05 at Shea Stadium. And it got better after that. Click here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here, and you'll see what I mean.
  Bucky Dent

I got to know Bucky in the early 90s when I attended his baseball school in Florida. It was a thrill to get this ball from him at Shea more than a decade later.
  1,000th ball

Personal milestones are valuable too. This is the 1,000th ball that I ever snagged. Braves pitcher Pedro Borbon Jr. threw it to me on June 11, 1996 at Shea Stadium. It helped that I was wearing a Braves cap and asked him for the ball in Spanish.
  2,000th ball

Phillies pitcher Joe Roa tossed it to me on May 24, 2003 at Olympic Stadium. It helped that I was wearing a Phillies cap and asked him for the ball in English.
  3,000th ball

I used my glove trick to pluck this ball off the warning track during batting practice on 5/7/07 at Yankee Stadium.
  4,000th ball

Mets pitcher Livan Hernandez threw it to me during batting practice on 5/18/09 at Dodger Stadium -- totally anticlimactic, but hey, for what it's worth, my 4,001st ball was a BP homer hit by Gary Sheffield that I caught on the fly.
  5,000th ball

This was an Alex Rios BP homer that I caught on the fly on 5/28/11 at Rogers Centre. A friend filmed me catching it. Here's the video on YouTube.
  6,000th ball

I was at Fenway Park, and it rained, and there was no batting practice -- quite a shame considering I'd hired a videographer and was with a reporter from The Boston Globe. Anyway, Nationals pitcher Brad Lidge tossed this ball to me before the game. Here's my blog entry about it.
  7,000th ball

I filmed myself catching this Anthony Rendon BP homer on 8/27/13 at Nationals Park. For some fabulous reason, the Nationals were using various old commemorative balls that day; Rawlings probably had a surplus and sold them cheap.
  8,000th ball

Finally, a gamer for one of my milestones! This was a Gerardo Parra foul ball in the top of the 1st inning on 5/15/15 at Citi Field.
  9,000th ball

Joc Pederson BP homer on 6/13/16 at Chase Field. Here's my blog entry about this game, and here's the YouTube video.
  10,000th ball

This was the ball that ended the 2nd inning on 8/29/17 at Camden Yards. Welington Castillo struck out looking on a 2-2 pitch from Erasmo Ramirez; the ball was then thrown to Mariners 2nd baseman Robinson Cano, who threw it to me as he jogged off the field. Ta-daaa!!
  Cal Ripken Jr.

Ripken is my favorite player of all time. I was never able to catch a game ball off his bat, so this is the next best thing: a foul grounder he hit during BP in the Bronx.
  100th game ball

4/23/07 at Camden Yards. Top of the 7th inning. Runner on 1st. No outs. 1-1 pitch from Brian Burres to Nick Swisher. High foul pop-up behind the plate.
  200th game ball

Not only was this a home run, and not only was my girlfriend with me, and not only was it my birthday, but it was hit on the very first pitch of the game, so I got to sit there all night and feel great about myself. Thank you once again, Anthony Rendon!
  1,000th ball of 2011

A thousand baseballs in one season?! Oh yeah. This was the milestone ball -- a BP homer that I caught on the fly on 9/14/11 at Great American Ball Park. Sadly, I don't know who hit it. All I can tell you is that it was a right-handed white guy on the Cubs.
  Single-game record

9/14/11 at Great American Ball Park was special for two reasons. Not only did I catch my 1,000th ball of the season (pictured above), but I set a single-game record by snagging 36 balls. (Oh, and it was also my birthday.) This was my final ball of the day—a post-game toss-up from home plate umpire Gary Darling.

My record for most balls in a season is 1,157, and this was the final one. It was a batting practice homer by Albert Pujols at Game 4 of the 2011 World Series; the ball landed in the gap behind the left field wall, and I reeled it in with my glove trick.
  50 stadiums

My first ball of the day on 5/21/12 at Marlins Park made it 50 major league stadiums with at least one snag.
  1,000 consecutive games

I've snagged a baseball at *every* major league game I've attended since September 10, 1993. Nearly 21 years later, on 6/24/14 at Citi Field, my first ball of the day made it 1,000 consecutive games with at least one ball.