"My decoy ball," Ellison explained, pointing out a rival up on the sidewalk, a guy with a net attached to a long pole. If a ball hits the water, Ellison sometimes will throw his ball. "He has to guess which is the right one," Ellison said.
The guy knows the trick but still has to guess right.
There is honor among the Cove regulars, though. If the guy snags the ball with his net, "We won't take it out of his net," Ellison said. "We're friends."
Ellison has a yellow tackle box that he puts in the back of the kayak, ready to store baseballs there as he paddles around for all of batting practice and the entire game. He got a home run from the bat of Atlanta's Rick Ankiel during the NL division series.
"I sold it for $600 on eBay," said Ellison, who lives in Clearfield, Calif., about an hour northwest of San Francisco, and works for a computer company.
Near the end of Phillies batting practice, 13 kayaks were in the Cove. Ellison had his position. Three kayaks were to his right, nine were to his left, when a ball off the bat of Domonic Brown skied above AT&T Park's version of Ashburn Alley.
On the sidewalk just above the Cove, volunteers stood ready to take in the giant-size American flag for the pregame ceremony. Brown's shot missed a frizzy-haired woman's head by inches - she never saw the ball until it splashed in the Cove, right in front of Ellison's position.
Ellison saw it all the way, he said later, getting to it before anyone could react. He pumped a fist as he put the ball in the tackle box.
"That was the only one hit out here during batting practice," he said.
He's had bigger moments, though. During the Bonds heyday, the Cove would be like a traffic jam of boats. But all the newbies didn't have Ellison's expertise, a sense of where to be, which helped him get the 660th home run of Bonds' career, a huge milestone since it tied Bonds with Willie Mays for third place on the all-time list.
"It landed 10 feet in front of me," Ellison said. "Two strokes and I had it."
The next day, he got No. 661.
"I had to go in the water for that one," Ellison said.
The 660th he gave back to Bonds, he said, in return for two custom Giants jerseys with the number 660 on them, two bats signed by both Bonds and Mays, a game-worn Bonds jersey, and "all the tickets I want. . . . I just have to call the Giants and they get me in."
No. 661 he didn't give back, Ellison said. He sold the ball for $17,000, he said, and bought the sleek dry suit he was wearing Tuesday afternoon.
By game time, it was a lot more crowded out there. One guy had a black helmet and a mask, a nice Darth Vadar look. Another guy stood on a surfboard. A speedboat had buzzed the scene just before the game, creating a wake. There were political signs large (Justice 4 Oscar Grant) and small (Jerry Brown for governor).
Behind the kayaks were two-dozen pleasure boats and at least 15 sailboats. The lone visible Philles presence there was provided by Dan Ceravolo, wearing an Utley jersey, in a double kayak with his 9-year-old son, Danny, in a red jacket. They just moved out from Collingswood, N.J., six weeks ago, Ceravolo said, and have their own L.L. Bean kayak.
"People have been ridiculing us, threatening to capsize us," the older Ceravolo said after the second inning. "All in fun, though."
Officially, 55 balls have gone into the Cove, balls hit during the games. There is a scoreboard in right field keeping count - SPLASH HITS.
When Ellison snagged some publicity with that Bonds milestone ball, he said some people thought he was a different Larry Ellison, the founder and CEO of Oracle.
"He was out here one game in his $30 million yacht, but I was here," Ellison said.
This Larry's boat? "$250 at Sam's Club," he said.
He used to watch games on a Tablet he brought, but the 10-second delay on most telecasts didn't help him. Now, he listens to the radio. He knew he was far more likely to catch a Phillies ball, with all the lefthanded batters. The Giants started only one lefty against Cole Hamels. While Edgar Renteria batted for the Giants, Ellison took the opportunity to eat some roasted peanuts. For Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, he stared at the sky the whole time. But he's a Giants fan. When Jimmy Rollins popped up to end the second, Ellison clapped from his kayak.
Phillies fans might not be dismayed to learn that right after the inning, Ellison reached back to his yellow tackle box to make a cell-phone call. The tackle box wasn't closed tight, and, as Ellison grabbed it, the cell phone and the Brown ball flew out and into the Cove. A guy in another kayak scooped up the ball and tossed it over to Ellison.
"The cell phone sank," Ellison said a few minutes later. But he also pointed out that it could have been worse. His car keys also had flown out of the tackle box.
"Luckily, they landed in the kayak," he said, pointing to a spot next to the decoy ball.
He didn't look too frustrated. He just grabbed some more roasted peanuts and went back to work, staring at the sky.
Contact staff writer Mike Jensen at 215-854-4489 or email@example.com.