Today I got a call from Dave Edlund who was on his way to McCovey Cove to chase splash hits. We spoke briefly and I wished him luck as I always do hoping one of the Bonds Navy members would get the one. I then turned on the TV at home to watch the Giants play the Red Sox at 1:05 PM. In the first inning David Ortiz got up to bat and hit a one run blast into McCovey Cove. I was hoping Dave was close by but didn’t see him in the first five seconds as the Splash-Cam zoomed in on the ball as it floated all alone. The TV cameras then focused on Ortiz as he rounded the bases and touched home plate. The TV switched back to the Splash-Cam and there was Dave holding up the homerun. Way to go Dave! I was excited for him and celebrated loudly. I called him on his cell phone and congratulated him.
Then in the second inning JD Drew hit a foul ball into the cove. There was a large group of young adults huddled together on their inflated animals and other craft in the middle of the cove. An alligator broke away from the scrum and made a mad dash for the ball thrashing through the water. The jockey on the gator paddled with his hands while trying not to spill his beer. It was hilarious watching the alligator’s tail wag as it was propelled vigorously across the cove.
Then Dave came racing out of nowhere from the left side of the TV screen cutting off the alligator at the last minute and scooping up the ball with his bare hand. It was a text book perfect maneuver which skilled splash hit chasers practice routinely during BP. I predict that this hilarioius video clip will make it into future Giants’ TV commercials.
As I continued watching the game I realized that Dave would want to get Big Papi to sign his homerun ball but it would be impossible to accomplish from the cove. I called Dave on his cell phone with an idea. What if I jumped into my car and raced the 45 miles from Fairfield with a sign board and marketing pin? He liked the idea and I was off to the races.
I arrived at AT&T Park in the middle of the fifth inning and parked my car near the ballpark. I walked briskly toward the Portwalk to meet up with Dave. As I passed the Dugout Store I stopped to speak with one of the Giants attendant, Michael, at the visiting players entrance/exit. I told him who I was and that I wanted to try to get Ortiz to sign the homerun ball. He explained that the players are screened after the game by TSA as they board the bus for the airport and are not permitted to have any contact with fans. He said the next best thing was to wait in the service tunnel inside the stadium on the field level at the end of the game and try to get David’s attention as they headed for the bus. This would become Plan “B”.
I raced back to tell Dave and to get his permission to buy a ticket. He agreed and I walked across the Third Street bridge looking for a scalper. It was now in the 7th inning and all the scalpers at this location were gone. I approached a homeless looking guy and asked if he knew where to find one. He requested $5 to enlist his services. I agreed and he led me out front to the Willie Mays statue. He quickly found someone who had a field level ticket. It was a $110 ticket behind home plate. I offered $40 and he countered with $50 lamenting that he had to try to recoup some of his loss from the unsold premium ticket. I agreed and we made the exchange. I gave $5 to my guide and headed toward the entrance. He asked for $10 and I reminded him about our agreement. The scalper handed him $5.
I then remembered that I still needed to get the ball from Dave. I streaked back to the Portwalk rail and called out to Martin Wong to go get Dave. Dave was out toward the middle of the cove showing off his prize to people on an anchored boat. He quickly paddled over and put the ball in Joe Dirt’s fishing net to hoist up to me. I grabbed the ball out of the net and headed to the Marina Entrance. When I arrived I was informed that they didn’t have a ticket scanner and I needed to go the Second Street Entrance. I rushed over there to find out that they didn’t have a scanner either. Fortunately as I explained my mission from God, Marcus Hagwood came to my rescue and offered to escort me to the service tunnel entrance for the visiting team. I accepted his gracious offer which was above the call of duty and followed him to the location via the elevator to the Club Level and then down to the Willie Mays Entrance.
I arrived at the service entrance showing off the ball to Boston fans as I traveled along the Club Level. I was disappointed when I arrived to find out that I could not be at the player exit after the game because the staff was directed by the Red Sox manager not to allow any fan contacts. Bummer! Time to execute Plan “C”.
I headed through the doors into the Field Level next which was next to Boston’s dugout. As I was climbing the stairs I stopped two Sox fans who were exiting and spoke to them about my quest. They explained that Ortiz’s wife and kids were sitting in the front row near the dugout. I talked with the seat attendant and found an empty seat in the 5th row behind the dugout as three Giants fans left the game early.
I quickly took out my marking pen and created a sign saying “Big Poppy, please sign your Big Splash Hit for me”. I didn’t know how to spell Ortiz’s nickname so I looked it up on Google before I left home. I got bum advice since it is spelled “Papi” as a Boston fan next to me pointed out.
Unfortunately for me, Ortiz was taken out of the game in the 8th inning and wasn’t on the field in the 9th. I didn’t see him in the dugout in the middle of the last inning and figured he must be in the locker room. I futilely held up the sign anyway desperately hoping to get someone’s attention. No such luck and now it was time for Plan “D”.
The game ended and all the players expect Ortiz went out onto the field to congratulate one another for their win. They streamed into the dugout past my sign but gave it no attention. I was bummed. So close yet so far away.
I hung around after the game as the fans streamed out. I luckily was able to make contact with Otriz’s wife Tiffany as she came up the isle with her son Deangelo and her daughter (I asked a Boston fan for their names). I told Tiffany about the homerun ball in my hand and asked if there was any way that she could get her husband to sign it. She said there wasn’t since she didn’t have contact with him once he was in the locker room. Ortiz’s son asked if he could have the ball. I had to regretfully decline since I was just the courier and not the owner.
I headed back to my car to drive over to met up with Dave at the Bay View Boat Club next to the public boat ramp. I found him in the parking lot next to his car and made contact. I revealed the events of my odyssey and we exchanged stories. Dave was very grateful and refunded the ticket purchase. He said he would wait until the Sox came again to play the A’s in Oakland and try to get a signature then. We said goodbye and I got in my car and left as he headed over to retrieve his kayak.
As I was driving past McCovey Cove on the way past AT&T Park I noticed a group on the shore putting away their inflatable boats. I parked my car at the curb and went over to speak with them. I asked who the “alligator man” was and the revealed himself. The jockey’s name was Mark Hernandez (guy in the top middle of the photo with sunglasses). He explained his side of the story and told how the kayaker (Dave) had accidentally slashed his alligator’s throat with his paddle as he streaked past for the ball. It was a mortal wound to his noble vinyl steed.
I asked if Duane Kuiper’s (Giants TV and radio commentator) son was in the group and Cole Kuiper waved to me. I asked if he still had the Bonds Navy flag I sent home with him for his dad a few years ago and he said it was still at home in their living room. I told him about trying to get Ortiz to sign the ball. We chatted for a while and one of the pretty girls in the group asked me if I would take their picture. I took her camera and they all bunched together. I snapped two pictures with her camera and two with mine. I told them I would post the photo on SplashHit.com. We exchanged parting words and I got in my car and headed home. What an adventure after sitting down to watch the game at home.