I went to Toronto with Chris and Billy about a week and a half ago to see the Blue Jays play the Phillies. We entered the ballpark just after the gates opened and, tired already from a full day of walking, quickly found our seats.
It was my job to purchase the tickets for this leg of our trip, a responsibility that always makes me more than a little nervous. This fear derives directly from a bad experience on our first trip back in 2009, when I bought the cheapest seats that Citi Field had to offer, a couple rows from the top of the stadium on the 500 level, only to learn that Chris has a severe, paralyzing fear of heights*.
*Silver lining: at least I knew this before we visited the Rogers Centre. Billy and I made the long, long, long climb to the top of the stadium late in the game, and good lord is it high. For me, it wasn’t the height that was bothersome so much as the oxygen deprivation. A Jays fan gave me some grief about my Red Sox t-shirt on the way up, and all I could do was smile and pat him on the shoulder. Verbal responses were not an option.
Bottom line: if our tickets had been up there, we could’ve saved about $20 per person, but Chris would not have sat with us.
In this case, I did a pretty decent job: Section 204, Row 1, seats all the way at the end. The batter’s eye was directly to our right, so there were no seats next to us, and the angle of the wall meant there were no seats directly behind us, which in turn meant that I had a place to set my camera down when I wasn’t using it.
We were also almost directly above the field during Philadelphia’s batting practice, which meant that we were almost directly above the several members of the Phillies pitching staff who were shagging balls in the outfield.
The two most active shaggers were Roy Halladay and Kyle Kendrick. Halladay caught up with the occasional fly ball or slow roller that could be reached fairly easily, slinging them back to the bucket with an almost underhand motion. He also caught a fair amount of heckling from a group of fans above us. I can’t remember what exactly was said, but it all seemed to be reasonably good-natured. Either way, unsurprisingly, Halladay didn’t care nearly as much about fielding the barbs that came from above. He didn’t turn around once.
Kendrick, though…Kendrick had the tough job. Not only did he end up running down a fair number of the balls that were hit to right field (at least until Hunter Pence finished up in the cage and came out to shag a few), he had to deal with Billy.
You could almost see the wheels turning in Billy’s head as soon as we sat down. “We’re pretty close to the field…there are players down there, throwing the occasional ball to a fan…that guy has a name on the back of his jersey…I’m gonna yell at him.”
Poor Kyle Kendrick had not been prescient enough to wear a jacket over his jersey, the only player besides Halladay to remain so easily identifiable, so every time he gathered in another ball, Billy would stand up, lean over the railing, and yell, “HEY, KENDRICK!” Sometimes Kendrick would toss the ball to another fan, sometimes back to the bucket. Billy would be sad, lean back toward his seat, and wait for the next opportunity*.
*It was during one of these times that Chris almost convinced Billy that Kendrick’s first name was Howie.
Finally, it happened. Kendrick picked up a ball, turned, looked at Billy…and tossed the ball to someone else. Then he made a gesture with his glove, one that Chris later referred to as, “I got you,” (as in, “I’ll get one up there to you soon.”) but nothing more ever came of it. Kendrick probably fielded another 10-15 balls before the end of batting practice, throwing a couple to fans and sending the rest in the direction of the bucket, but none to Billy.
Maybe it was because Billy was wearing a Montreal Expos hat*. Maybe it was because he was sitting in between two guys wearing Red Sox and Patriots hats. Maybe it was because he never said please (I told him he should try saying please, to see what would happen, but he refused). Whatever the reason, Billy never got his ball, and Kyle Kendrick gained me as a fan just for messing with him like that.
*He was quite proud of this hat, which he purchased at Lids just before the trip. Imagine mine and Chris’s delight when we stopped at a liquor store called Treasure Island in Southfield, Michigan, just outside Detroit, the next night and found almost the exact same hat for just under $20. We thought about buying it, but decided that having some fun at Billy’s expense wasn’t worth quite that much.