Every fan who goes to a baseball game hopes to leave with a souvenir ball. The experience of getting one is priceless. For an average Texas League game, the Drillers use about 100 balls. Some leave the stadium foul, many are thrown to fans at the end of an inning and a lucky few could even catch a home run. We broke down the best bets to leave ONEOK Field with a souvenir ball, the way the balls get from the clubhouse to your hands and which players to watch out for if you’re looking to snag one after the final out.
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For your best chance at leaving ONEOK Field with a souvenir of your own, it is wise to choose one of these seven places around the field. You have a good chance of finding a ball without even buying a ticket most balls leave the stadium and land directly behind home plate or on Elgin Avenue. In parentheses is the cost of a seat in the section, provided alongside the percentage of balls that landed in that section during a Drillers homestand from June 25 to 30.
1. Behind stadium: 11.16 percent:This area, obviously, is not somewhere fans can watch a game, but the numbers say that’s where majority of foul balls go. This is a result of the structure of ONEOK Field, which is centered and close to the playing field. The suites and press box are not very high, either. It doesn’t take much for a ball to be elevated high enough to leave the field.
Balls that make it behind the stadium are often picked up by concession workers. The concession workers will give the balls to kids around the park who look sad because their parents won’t buy them cotton candy or soda. Other balls stay on the roof and are picked up by various workers.
Dugout Premium: $12: 6.87 percent:Much of the same can be said about this section that was said about Section 104. Section 114 sits on the dugout with players and coaches giving out balls on a regular basis. Fans, especially kids, flock to the area for a better chance of getting a ball. If a batter gets a hold of a pitch, he’ll likely pull it in or near this section. Also, hard hit foul balls down the foul line are usually tossed there by the left fielder or ball boy. As an added bonus, the section is near a patio that gets a few very hard hit foul balls, so chasing one isn’t out of the question. This section gets bumped up the list because it is closest to foul balls that reach the walking area in the left field corner, which had seven foul balls reach there.
Circle the bases: home run balls
Home runs:The Budweiser Terrace, which sits behind the left field wall,was the most popular spot for home runs. Not a surprise since the top hitters on the team are right handed and would pull the ball to left field.
What happens to a baseball before it leaves the field
Before a ball makes it out of the park and into the stands or onto Elgin Avenue it needs to make it into the stadium. Drillers management carefully plans how many balls the team will need during the season.
Packaged: The Tulsa Drillers receive baseballs by the pallet load from Rawlings, the team’s official baseball supplier. The pallet is wrapped and contains 20 cases. There are 10 dozen balls in each case. The balls are boxed by the dozen and wrapped individually. The Drillers get about four pallets a year. That’s about 9,600 baseballs a year.
Storage: The boxed balls are taken off the pallet and the boxes are stored in the equipment room. It’s the same room that holds jerseys, pants, hats, helmets and other equipment.
Game day: The bat boy will take about 96 balls from the equipment room to the umpire’s dressing room. The umpires then will use rubbing mud to get the shininess and slickness off each ball. This gives the pitcher better control of the ball. Occasionally, the bat boys will perform this step.
Bags: After the umpires are done getting the balls ready to be used, the bat boys put the balls in a bag. Each bat boy has two bags near him. One is filled with game balls for when the umpire needs more. The other contains game used balls no longer fit for play. There is no way to measure exactly how many balls are used per game, but the 96 prepared before a game offers an average estimate.
Leftovers: Once a ball is deemed not fit for play, it is never reused in a game. Most balls are placed in a contraption that helps get rid of some scuff marks by rotating the balls and rubbing them against erasers. Those balls will be used for batting practice, fielding practice and pitching sessions.
A fan’s best friend: players who hit the most foul balls
There was a correlation between the top foul ball hitters and the top hitters on the team. Good hitters typically foul off a lot of pitches until they get the pitch they want, frustrating the pitcher.
11: RF Tyler Massey , 2B Taylor Featherston, 1B/C Ryan Casteel
Massey, Featherston and Casteel tied for second highest number of foul balls hit (although they are tied for the lead among active Drillers). Featherston is batting .270 with 12 home runs and Massey has 6 homers. Casteel is second on the team in average, hitting .282 with 12 home runs. Casteel and Featherston are tied for the team lead in homers.
8: RF Jared Simon, RF David Kandilas
Simon is another power hitter and is the only Driller not named Casteel or Featherston to have a double digit home run total. David Kandilas was demoted to the High Class A California League after hitting .177 in 17 games for the Drillers.
5: 3B Joey Wong, SS Trevor Story
Yes, a pair of infielders. Story was a fresh call up during the homestand and fouled off pitches as part of the process of adjusting to playing at a higher level. Wong is fourth on the team in doubles despite playing in less than 70 games this season.
Populous, the architectural firm that designed the stadium, did a number of foul ball studies and used computer programs to analyze the studies. It did not anticipate an issue with foul balls making it to I 244, but when the field opened, there were several instances of foul balls making it onto the highway.
More foul ball and projector studies were done and they came up with some new information. The net and supporting poles cost about $90,000, which was covered by the allotted design contingency budget.
Manhattan Construction made the design for the net, which was installed in 2011. Reed Woods, Tulsa Stadium Trust project manager for the downtown ballpark, estimates the Drillers may have played 12 games before people realized the need for the net. The stadium was open for about 6 months when the net was installed, he said.