Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Quest for Matsui

An absolutely amazing and true story, its not art but its worth a read!...

The Quest for Matsui

So as you know from my time in Japan I am kind of fond for some Japanese players.  And I never really had been a fan of Matsui even though he might have been one of the best players to play for the Yomiuri Tokyo Giants, my favorite Japanese team.  But I thought I might start following him more.  And this is what transpired over a couple months.

In my days sitting in front of the right field gates at 4:00pm to get into the stadium 1st I meet some cool and very interesting guys.  Two of the main characters in this journey, other than myself, are David and John. 

David, maybe in his late 40’s, is a full season ticket holder who sits in the front row of the outfield by the right field foul poll.  He comes to every game early to snag foul balls and home runs in batting practice and is quite a good “ball hawk” whom is always fully clothed (hat, long sleeve shirt, towel for his neck, ect) and equipped with his Hard Rock Café jean jacket and Mariners hat with a reading light attached to the brim. 

Then there is John, he is one of the biggest guys I’ve ever met.  His probably 6’5” and covered in tattoos (when he was younger he was a pro-wrestler with the stage name ‘Jason X’ from the Friday the 13th Movies).  He is a HUGE Mariners fan and has a front row seat in the field area but gave up sitting there when all the bigwigs who sit around him complained because he managed to snag every foul ball that came into the area.  John like myself is not a giant fan of “just giving balls to kids because it’s the nice thing to do”, bring your glove and work for a ball! Anyway, I’m off track.  So John normally camps out in the outfield where he looks to snag home runs (he’s gotten 3 in the last 2 years; Joe Mauer, Franklin Gutierez, and Jack Cust).

So John and I still ended up going to the Yankees game that night, 9/19/2009, and sat in a Suite.  And in the 4th Inning Matsui crushed an amazing Homerun that hit off the Hit It Here Café.

Here is how it looked in photos:

Matsui is ready at the Plate against Doug Fister.

Matsui smashes the inside pitch!

The ball flying to deep Right Field.

The ball JUST before it smacks the bottom of the windows of the Hit It Here Café.

The crowd cheers/groans at the homerun!

At the time I was amazed by the hit but I was not aware of the part I would play with this home run.  This homerun is special outside of its connection with me.  That homerun broke a Yankees record for Homeruns in a single season by a DH (his 26th of the season).  It was part of Yankees history!  A Part of Baseball history!  People all over the US saw the highlight on ESPN (pic below) and watched Matsui hit the ball and it sail into the crowd… or did it.

Flash forward to 9/30/2009.  David, John and I are in the right field “corner” (the bottom tip of section 112) looking to snag some balls and it was slow as usual.  And John and David start having a conversation about the homeruns they have snagged in games, throwing names back and forth.  They asked me if I had ever gotten a game home run and I said sadly, “no”.  And David responds, “well why don’t you go get Matsui’s homerun then”, and John and I look at him and go “What?”.  He explained that the homer that Matsui hit never landed and he thought it was stuck in the Hit It Here Café.  It was slow so John and I went up to the café to investigate. 

When we got up there we were both shocked… the ball was still there! 

Go back and check the video again to see where the ball hits, here are the main points in pictures!

Here is ball seconds before it hits the window and gets trapped!

Here it is from another view.

And at the end of the video you can see the people calling out that the ball never came down!


Here is an old picture of the Hit It Here Café from a good view for the next part of the story.

Now the season before I went to the Hit It Here Café for my Birthday on 9/7/2008 and Adrian Beltre hit a homerun of Mike Mussina that hit the Hit It Here Café near the break between the inside and outside portion of the café.  It got wedged between the window and the scoreboard in front the window. 

The arrow is pointing to the area where you could stand to reach the area in front of the windows, and the green line shows where the gap is between the scoreboard/billboard and the face of the HIH Café, and purple dot is the level where the “ledge” is made between the face and the scoreboard.

One of the servers went over and used a broom to pull the Beltre ball close enough where he could reach down and grab it, then gave it to two kids (grumble) my mom loved it and actually complimented the staff member. 

This time was different.  There are several small “Eye Beam” type pillars that connect the scoreboard to the face of the Hit it Here Café, they are about every 3 feet down the face of the HIH Cafe, making like a small vertical cove.  Here is a view of the area, you can see the tops of the small “Eye Beams”.

The Beltre homerun landed in the “cove” right by the railing (the red arrow in the picture with the red arrow and the green line) so it was easy to drag to an area where it could be picked up.  The Matsui homer landed in the 3rd cove from the railing, about 9 feet away from the closest point of the railing.  This ball had to be “picked up”, but how!?  The red circle (picture below) is showing the ball, which was really tough to see, kind of explaining why no one had gotten it yet!

So lets move back to 9/30/2009.  John and I knew the ball was there and within the realm of being snagged.  We sat in left field and I spent the entire game staring at the HIH Café and thinking of how to get that ball.  At the end of the game I got an A’s reliever to toss me a ball at the end of the game, I was excited but there was a bigger prize to be had. 

So when I got home I thought, I need to find a way to pick the ball up over the eye beams as well as reach the long distance to the ball.  I got a great idea, a cup.  A tapered cup, would trap the ball with suction.  Drop a baseball in a cup and try to get it out… if its glass you are going to have to break the cup, so I went with plastic. Check out the idea sketch:

I figured attaching the cup to some kind of pole should work great, and my shower rod is an adjustable/extendable rod.  So I extended the rod and attached the cup with packing tape and was all set to practice, as you can see it worked perfectly…

So I lay in bed hardly able to sleep with all the excitement like Christmas morning!  I’m a big believer in karma and I thought, do I really deserve this ball?  When I went to my mail box I got my Sports Illustrated and on the cover was Mariano Rivera.  It was a sign. 

Anyway, I didn’t want to look to strange so I got to Safeco Field the next morning at about 7am, as you can see with it being so bright out its thought to see anyone in the stands, advantage Dan.

I arrived and walked to the end of the 300 level then took the stairs near section 306 to get down to the 200 level where the HIH Café is.  I got in position near the rail and stretched for the ball… damnit.  The pole/my arm weren’t long enough, I had about 8 feet reach and it wasn’t enough.  I left dejected.  I had failed. 

I had to find a way to get more length with my device… but how much did I need?  So I went back over to the HIH Café to check the lengths of the distance from the ball to the rail, and from the top of the hand rail to the bottom of the “cove”.  It was 9 feet away and 4 feet down, so I used the Pythagorean theorem (stop laughing) and saw that I needed to reach about 10.2 feet. 

Later that day, I was at the game with John talking about what I could use to get the extra 2-3 feet I needed.  His idea was to use tent poles a good idea but not solid enough.  For the cup idea to work you needed to “stab” the ball with the cup for the suction to hold the ball in, so I needed a longer ridged pole.  I realized getting a broom handle would work perfect, so I left the game early to go to the store and get a light weight broom.  I found one at Wallgreens, right as I got the broom I got a text from John that he got Jack Cust’s , of the Oakland A’s, homerun off of David Aardsma.

Here was the new idea or attaching the shower pole to the broom handle to the cup.  I was a little worried the tape may not hold so I attached a rope to the end of the device so that if it fell apart I wouldn’t be left scrambling!

It all seemed right, I spent the night playing it out in my mind, here is what it would look like!

I didn’t want to look insane (or more insane) so I didn’t attach the poles together until I got to the HIH Café.  I took the same root as before and when I walked down to the HIH café I set out my poles, rope, tape and scissors and got all set.  I walked over to the rail and it was pretty dark but I knew what I was doing.  So I went for it, I got the device into the cove and stabbed and got the ball, but the extra pole made it heavy so I couldn’t tell if the ball stuck in the cup so I pulled it back to me… no ball.  It was still in the cove.  I took a breath and went again.  I lowered the device and mashed the cup into the ball, the tape crackled… oh no!  I brought the device up and pulled it in, did I get it this time?!  YES I DID!  The ball was snuggly in the cup, I got Matsui’s homerun ball!

I quickly dropped the device on the ground and disassembled it and went straight back to my car to put the poles away.  When I got to the car I could finally take the ball out and look at it and here is the prize!!!


I have a friend whom is a seating host so she gave me a “Home Run Club Member” card to finish it all off!

I have to think that the 14 days needed to get the ball is maybe the biggest gap between a record breaking ball being hit and a person getting there hands on it.  It was a mission that took time, patience, and being a complete nerd, I succeeded on all fronts.  I survived my Quest for Matsui.

The End

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