On my last trip to Baltimore, I had set my career high for baseballs snagged in a game in the first game and then narrowly escaped getting shutout in the second game via a toss-up at the umpire tunnel after the game. That trip, however, was almost a year ago. And I was more than excited to be back at Oriole Park at Camden Yards for the first time in nearly a year when I approached its gates on this Thursday evening:
But this time I had woken up in Washington D.C. (I guess I had before those two games as well, but you get my point.) and took a 1:20 train to Baltimore. OPACY–because I don’t feel like writing out Oriole Park at Camden Yards every freaking time I mention it–actually lets people go into Eutaw Street and behind the bullpens early, so that’s where I was headed when I took that first picture. You see, Rick Gold had tweeted me right as I was about to sit down at the Hilton across the street that Nathan Karns was throwing in the Nationals bullpen. Up until that point I had completely forgotten that these areas of OPACY were even open, but when I got the tweet, I walked over to the stadium to see the action and possibly get a ball before the gates were even officially open. By the time I got there, though, it was Gio Gonzalez throwing in the Nationals bullpen:
And Rick Adair, the Orioles pitching coach, had an interesting set-up for Kevin Gausman, who was throwing in the Orioles bullpen:
If you can’t tell, it’s a rope. Adair had it set up to have an objective line between high fastballs and low fastballs. I like to think my readers are smart people, so I’ll let you figure out which side of the rope is which.
Anyway, I managed to get my first ball of the day when the Nationals (read: Gio) finished throwing and I got Jhonatan Solano to toss me their warm-up ball for an early spot on the board:
Soon after that (at 3:46) Orioles security came by and told us we had to get back outside of the gate. Had they given us an extra fifteen minutes I may have had a second ball from Gausman (I think that’s how you spell it) and the Orioles bullpen people. Before the gates re-opened, I waited in line with the people who made me think this trip to OPACY wasn’t going to be as easy snagging-wise as I had previously thought. When I got in the gates, the person who I already introduced, Rick Gold, lined up in front of me:
And then two other ballhawks who had joined me at the gate lined up to my left:
Ballhawk #2 is Tim Anderson, who has garnered the attention of the national media several times the past few years with his bajillion home run snags. While we had both been at the same game before, today was really the first time we had talked directly to each other. And that’s mostly on my part–and this goes out to all of you who may run into me at some ballpark somewhere–because I’m just generally awkward if I’m meeting a person I didn’t know for sure was going to be there ahead of time. And not like in the “Oh, that’s different from what I was expecting” kind of awkward; it’s more like the “Is there something seriously wrong with you?” awkward. And as a result of this, I almost never initiate people at the ballpark in conversation to avoid a situation like this. The best way to avoid this is to just let me know if you think you’re going to be at the same game as I am, by checking either my schedule or my Twitter account. I definitely won’t be attending every game on the schedule that I have on there right now, but it’s a good outline to know where I’ll be, and I’ll usually say something on my Twitter if I’m veering off of the scheduled plan or anything like that, so it’s a good place to be kept up-to-date on my baseball happenings.
But anyway, that was a good multi-hundred-word digression. The point is that my competition was going to be tough. So when the Nationals players came out to warm up while the Orioles were switching into a new mostly-righty group, I knew it was time to go for toss-ups. I figured the players would spend the first two rounds or so hitting the ball to the opposite field, so I really wouldn’t be missing much action out in left. In this trip, I got a ball from Denard Span in the weirdest way. I was actually trying to get ball from a different throwing pair when Span ran back to the wall with the ball in his hand, threw it up, and half-heartedly tried to “rob” the same ball he had thrown up, as if it were a home run ball. I don’t know what exactly he was doing, but he missed the ball, and it landed in the seats, so I went over and offered to get it for him, at which point he told me, “Nah, you can just keep it.”
So I think that’s technically a toss-up from Span, right? It certainly was more that than an easter egg considering I got there three seconds after the ball landed in the stands.
When I headed back to the left field stands, I learned that I had definitely made the right decision because there had not been a single ball hit into those stands since I had left. But I would not snag another BP baseball before the flood gates were opened and all fans were allowed into every part of the stadium. If you don’t know, for the first half-hour of the gates being open at OPACY, only season ticket holder–or people with that printed on their ticket–are allowed into the main seating bowl. The rest are confined to right and center field. But when that half-hour is up, everybody pours into the seating bowl. I am fortunate enough to have friends at the ballpark who are nice enough to buy me season tickets that get me in that half-hour early, but here is what the scene looked like right after the rest of the fans were let in:
It was right around this spot that I came the closest to another BP ball. But for the sake of clarity, let me get a diagram up for you:
The solid lines are the path of the ball and the dotted line is how I ran after the ball. So I saw a ball get hit to my left. I could tell exactly where it was headed, so I jumped back a row and ran right towards the spot where the ball was going to land, so I could pick it up if it stuck in that spot. Well the ball bounced off a seat at the end of the row, but instead of sticking or bouncing forward/backwards like a normal baseball, it at 90-degree angle and hit me square on the forehead. I mean someone couldn’t have done it more perfectly if they were aiming for me. I saw the ball hit off the seat, but it became a white blur as it headed directly between my two eyes. Just to show you how perfectly the ball hit me square in the head, it was almost if I had intentionally headed the ball in a soccer-esque manner because the ball flew thirty feet in front of me after hitting my head into the next section over. It didn’t actually hurt that much–other than my ego–but I was starting to wonder if there was something about the Orioles that was bad luck, since I had now sustained an “injury” every time I had seen them play to this point. In three different cities, I may add.
That was it for BP, but I did manage to get a ball from Tyler Moore during the pregame position player warm-ups:
It actually was a thing of beauty that we managed to connect on the toss-up, because there was a security guard right in front of me on the field with his back turned to it, so Moore had to thread the needle and I had to jump to get the ball to me and not hit the guard. As you can tell, he wasn’t in that last picture. I think the fact that he very nearly got hit in the back of the head scared him enough that he moved away from the players playing catch.
As for the game, I spent most of my time out in the flag court:
and enjoying all that is OPACY. I wasn’t the only one out there, though. Because of the fact that the stadium was pretty much sold-out, there were pretty consistently three of us ballhawks out there, and sometimes even more. I mean look at all the backpacks there were at one of the more crowded points:
I have no clue besides my own who they each belonged to, but the four of us that were out there towards the end of the game got a picture together:
Left to right, that would be:
- Rick Gold
- Alex Kopp
- Tim Anderson
Nothing came even close to reaching the flag court, but it was fun talking to those guys for whatever portion of the game they were out there. (Rick was in left field pretty much until the last two innings, and Tim spent around half of the game in the center field seats.)
- 3 Balls at this Game
Numbers 532-534 for my life:
- 88 Balls in 20 Games= 4.40 Balls Per Game
- 3 Balls x 30,665 Fans=91,995 Competition Factor
- 83 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 42 Balls in 9 Games at OPACY= 4.67 Balls Per Game
- 9 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 12:23-11:52= 11 Hours 29 Minutes
Oh, ’twas a frustrating day at National Park at Camden Yards. First, I missed my train from Washington’s Union Station due to a failure in the DC Metro system. I would say the DC Metro is usually a good transit system, but when it comes to construction and weekend schedules, it’s questionable at best. I had both things going against me.
Once I finally walked to Union Station, I got a ticket on the next train to Baltimore. The problem with this train was it was scheduled to arrive in Baltimore-Penn Station at 11:10. Walking, it is usually half an hour from there to Camden Yards. I was going to have to run down to make the gate time of 11:30. To make matters more uncertain, I texted the person who usually gets tickets for me in Baltimore, Avi Miller, and he somehow didn’t know I was coming. He said he was waiting for people to maybe buy his last two tickets from him. The first thing that came to mind was, ” Ruh-roh.”
Thankfully, I was running down hill and managed to get there at 11:21. When I got there, though, I didn’t see anyone I recognize, most importantly, I didn’t see Avi. As I may have have mentioned in another entry from this week, Avi goes to a LOT of Orioles games, and I don’t really, so I thought he had left the country to escape my ticket-grabbing self.
Then at 11:27, Avi miraculously showed up with a ticket. Yes, my day was indeed saved. I wouldn’t have to wander the streets of Baltimore for the next six hours. There you have it people, Avi Miller keeps kids off the streets and on the ball field. I should have gotten a picture with him there, but I was probably thinking the gates were going to open any minute.
Why do I bore you with all the things going up to the game? Well because once I got in the stadium, there wasn’t anything more exciting going on:
The only action on the field for about the first ten minutes was the Friday’s starter, Jason Hammel throwing warming up and throwing a bullpen session (at least I think that’s what it was):
I waited around, until suddenly there was movement on the Nationals side of the field. I put on my Nationals gear and headed over there to set up behind these guys:
The far right person would be Craig Stammen. After he finished playing catch, the coach with whom he was throwing ended up with the ball and tossed it back with the other two you can see in the lower left part of the picture.
The far left person was Tom Gorzelanny. After he finished playing catch, his throwing partner, Ryan Mattheus, held onto the ball. At this time, all other people were allowed into the seating bowl besides season-ticket holders, so when Mattheus finally did toss the ball up, I had a lot more competition, and lost out as a result.
The next pair to start throwing was Tyler Clippard and Sean Burnett, so I tried to set up deeper, and hope Burnett would end up with the ball since Clippard is underrated as an “unfan-friendly” player:
The next two players to start throwing were Jordan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg. I tried the same tactic, this time hoping Strasburg got the ball. While he is not that generous with toss-ups himself, Zimmerman has a reputation as not tossing balls into the crowd:
Probably the most frustrating thing about this day, though, was that had I gotten a ball from the first throwing group, I could have gotten about 5 signatures of prolific pitchers. Here you can see Strasburg signing:
but he was hardly the only one. If he was a pitcher for the Nationals, he probably signed on this day. Let me list off all the names that signed for fans:
Sean Burnett, Tyler Clippard, Mike Gonzalez, Gio Gonzalez, Tom Gorzelanny, Edwin Jackson, Ryan Mattheus, Stephen Strasburg, and Jordan Zimmerman. I was waiting to snag a ball to get signed… but that never came.
I was still at zero balls when the game went under way, so I camped out here for the whole game:
Even as the Nationals fan that went up every inning after the third out, I got nothing. Of course, I was in the spot perfect for getting a ball from the first baseman Adam LaRoche, and only one inning ended in a ground out.
I should just show an example of Camden Yards fans being nice. The people whose seats I had been sitting in actually let me keep sitting there and themselves sat behind me, “until someone shows up.” That ended up being the whole game. They offered me peanuts and to buy me something to drink. They then lauded my “ambition/ passion” and said they wished their son had as much as I do.
In New York, people who saw me in their seats would have probably just given me a “get outta here”. Well not really that specific phrase, but they would have asked me to move.
Maybe it was because I was simply enjoying going after the third out balls, or talking with these two fans, but unlike other games where I had zero balls during the game, here I wasn’t nervous at all.
As the game winded down, I left my seat to get an “Orange Chill” and to got to the umpire’s tunnel. There I called out to the umpire, David Rackley, and after giving away a few balls to kids at the mouth of the tunnel, he tossed one up to me:
I then headed over to a restaurant whose name I believe was California Tortialla and watched the PSO for Italy- England along with Avi and his friend Zevi, who had also accompanied to the gates and as far as I can tell, throughout the game. When they had to catch their ride, I headed up the hill to Baltimore-Penn Station with the water and chips they had so graciously provided, where I would catch my bus back to New York.
Bye, bye Camden Yards. Until next time:
• 1 Ball at this Game
• 74 Balls in 15 Games this season= 4.93 Balls Per Game
• 24 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
• 1 Ball x 41,794 Fans= 41,794 Competition Factor
• 8 straight Games at Camden Yards with at least 1 Ball
• Time Spent On Game 8:30 AM- 11:45 PM= 14 Hours 15 Minutes
There was only one word to describe this day in Baltimore: crazy.
Everything started out perfectly normal and fine, though. I arrived at Gate H around 50 minutes before the opening time and ate my Subway sandwich:
A crowd then started gathering outside the gate, and I checked my phone to see what time it was. It was 4:25, but the more important thing I saw was that the person with my ticket, Avi Miller, had sent me a message saying he would probably be there by 4:50 because he was having problems with the LightRail. He was right, but it was a nerve-racking experience awaiting him as it got closer and closer to the gate opening time.
After a couple of minutes inside, this was the view to my right:
Yep, one person that could possibly compete with me. What are those numbers? Oh those are just locations of balls I had caught. Yes, that is a nine in the fourth row. Was that my last ball of the day? I’m not telling you; read the rest of the entry and you’ll find out.
See what I mean? Crazy. By the time I took that picture, I had already caught three ball on the fly. The location of which, you can see in the picture. Avi identified the hitter of the first ball as J.J. Hardy. The next two I’m pretty sure were both hit by Mark Reynolds.
Here was the view to my left:
After I caught my third ball of the game, a kid asked me what my name was. I don’t know why he did, but I responded and asked what his name was. It was Michael Myers. He then engaged me in a short conversation, so I offered to give him my next ball of the day. Naturally, he agreed. After a few minutes of inaction, however, he asked me, “can’t you just give me one now.” to which I responded, “Just wait, I’ll give you my next one.” he then asked back, “Well how do you know you’ll get another?” To that I simply said,” I’m pretty sure I’ll get another.” Sure enough, approximately 4 minutes later, Mark Reynolds hit another shot over my head and to my left, where I chased it down and picked it up. You can see part of the “4” where I got the ball in the last picture. I then went back down and gave this ball to him.
You have already seen the “5” spot, but here I took a picture of the ball itself:
After I took this picture, it occured to me that Michael probably wasn’t ever going to get a commemorative ball. Given that every ball I had snagged up to that point was commemorative except the one I gave him, I made an exchange with him so he could have the commemorative ball instead of the standard “Selig” ball (yes, when I made the exchange, I explained what I meant by a “Selig” ball).
You’ve already seen the “6” spot. It was hit by a righty in the second hitting group I saw. I tracked this ball throughout this whole flight and caught it on the fly, where I then proceeded to almost fall down after glancing off an Oriole Park cupholder. I would later or then give this ball away.
I should actually explain something before it gets too late in the entry. The action was coming so fast ( caught a small percentage of the balls that went into the left field seats) that I never had time to write down notes until batting practice ended, so although I know that I caught a ball in the location where I wrote the “6” and then almost fell down, I don’t know if that was necessarily my sixth ball of the day. Some things I *DO* know are: All but one of my balls was hit, all of my balls were snagged in the left field seats, I caught five balls on the fly, and I “gave” away 6 balls. If you want to know why there may be some inaccuracies, I took pictures like this to remind myself of where I had snagged baseballs:
Gee, thanks, Mateo. Which of the five baseballs I snagged in this area is this supposed to remind me of?
Why do I write “gave” in quotations? Ball number seven. A ball was hit way over my head and to my left. So, I ran to about the spot where I thought it would land. It landed a few rows above that, so I raced after it. I grabbed the ball, but another kid grabbed the ball right after that. I know I could have pulled the ball away from him, but I didn’t want to be like that, so I let go. I count this because I *did* have possesion; I just decided not to keep it. Here is the kid:
Yes, I use the term “kid” very loosely. With me it can mean anyone from about 2 to about 18 years old. If we’re going off purely technicalities, though, a kid means a young goat.
Around this time, a man approached me to introduce himself. He said that he had seen me a few times on Zack Hample’s blog. He also mentioned he had been on there a few times. With this little tidbit, he also added, “I’m Helmet Guy.” Then it all made sense. I had seen him a few times at Citi Field in the two prior seasons. He owns, I believe a helmet from all thirty teams. His real name, though is Brendan Sammon. Here he is giving a “thumbs up” after jokingly complaining that all people wanted to “see [was] the helmet” (he was wearing a Nationals hat when he introduced himself, but I asked him if he could put on his helmet for the picture, since, you know, he IS “Helmet Guy”. I’m pretty sure he even had a custom shirt that says that on the back.
I then got my 7th ball in a spot that I didn’t photograph behind me- hence the lack of a “7” spot. It was an absolutely perfect Camden Yards commemorative ball. I gave that to this man in the bright orange shirt:
Why does it look so crowded around him? AfterI got ball number 8, whose spot I have already shown, the left field seats opened up to non-season ticket holders. So this is what the seats looked like to my left and right:
Regardless, I was feeling pretty good about myself having already snagged 8 balls to that point…until Avi came back to me. Right as he got to me, he said, “should I thank you now or later?” Apparently, no one had gone for Nationals toss-ups, so Avi (wearing Orioles gear) got 8 toss-ups from the Nationals pitchers. I was of course wearing bright red Nationals attire. How many of those would I have gotten? Four? Six? All I can say is: crazy.
During Nationals B.P., I got two balls. The first I caught on the fly in the spot you saw labeled “9”. Both this and the next one may have been either Michael Morse or Ryan Zimmerman.
The next ball I picked up off the ground in another place I never took a picture of, but this one was more to my right than the “7” spot I also didn’t photograph. I gave this ball away to a kid on the spot.
Of course, everything was going so crazy, I didn’t know what number I was up to. All I knew was I had given five balls away. I was going to count how many I still had later on to find out my grand total.
I then rendezvoused with Brendan by the bullpens. This time, his son, Patrick, was with him. You see, previously, his son was stuck on Eutaw street, since they bought a ticket from a dealer who had advertised it as a season ticket when it hadn’t been.
While I talked to him, the Nationals’ bullpen coach, Jim Lett, walked into the bullpen. I leaned over the side and asked him for a ball. He looked up, picked a ball off the ground and tossed it to me:
Here’s a better picture:
Oh. My. Goodness. I had set up my schedule, so I would be in position to get as many of the six commemorative baseballs out this season as I could. The only ball, however, that I would have to luck out on was the Fenway Park commemorative, since I wasn’t going to go to Yankees-Red Sox, and I wasn’t going to see a team the Red Sox had just played. How the commemoratives got to this game. I don’t know. I wasn’t about to question it either.
Right after I got my ball, Lett also tossed Patrick his first ball of the game. This was an Oriole Park commemorative. In batting practice, Brendan had caught a Michael Morse BOMB that had made it all the way to the cross-aisle behind the left field seats. This ball was a Fenway commemorative. They actually switched up balls and asked me to take a picture of them, so I figured I’d share it with you. I assume it’s okay since I took the picture of Brendan earlier for myself:
After that, the tarp went on the field, and I met up with Avi, after which, he took me to the Suite Level. Yes, you technically need a ticket, but this was Camden Yards, not Citi Field, so naturally no one checked. Due to this and other amenities, I made a few cracks about how spoiled he and the other regulars here were.
Once the game began, after an hour-long rain delay, I went out to my usual spot in right field, where this was the view:
While I was out there, though, I went through and counted all the baseballs in my backpack. My record for one game had been 10 baseballs, so when I found out I had gotten 11, this was my reaction:
However, since the game had been delayed, and my train back to Washington left at 10:15, I had to leave in the middle of the sixth inning. On my way out, though, I gave away my sixth ball to a kid on Eutaw street.
I then took a picture of said street from outside the stadium:
You think the crazy was done for the day? No, not quite. I left the game at 9:38, but even though Washington is 45 minutes from Baltimore, a series of delays caused me to get back to the apartment at 1:32. Thus, you can expect a new stat at the end of this entry.
• 11 Balls at this game (5 pictured because I gave 6 away)
• 73 Balls in 14 Games= 5.21 Balls Per Game
• 23 straight Games with at least 1Balll
• 3 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
• 3 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
• 3 straight Games with at least 4 Balls
• 3 straight Games with at least 5 Balls
• 3 straight Games with at least 6 Balls
• 3 straight Games with at least 7 Balls
• 3 straight Games with at least 8 Balls
• 11 Balls x 45,891 Fans= 504,801 Competition Factor
• 38 Balls in 7 Games at Camden Yards= 5.43 Balls Per Game
• 7 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Camden Yards
• 4 straight Games at Camden Yards with at least 2 Balls
• 3 straight Games at Camden Yards with at least 3 Balls
• 3 straight Games at Camden Yards with at least 4 Balls
• 2 straight Games at Camden Yards with at least 5 Balls
• Time spent on the game ( This statistic differs from “Time at Game” in that it includes the time spent traveling between my residence and the ballpark for that day) So this day I left my apartment at 1:30 PM. I got back there at 1:32 AM, so the “Time Spent On the Game would be 12 Hours 2 Minutes
Guess how I spent Easter. I had my bonnet:
Now I was only here for my one, maybe two balls from the pitchers warming up since there would be no bp, but wait what’s this?:
My first ball came when a ball hit down in the row where there is a gap in the railing:
Avi Miller could have raced me for the ball, but as he said, he’s not up for knocking each other down. Another ball landed there a little while after and I “passed on” Avi’s act of kindness and let another fan get the ball even though it had bounced closer to me after hitting the seats.
My second ball, I believe, came from me running down the row that disappears into the upper-right corner of this next picture:
My third ball, I believe (I know I caught my 2nd and 3rd balls this way, but I don’t know in which order) came from me running across and catching a ball right in front of Matt Hersl. I was right about where Matt is in this picture when I caught the ball:
I then moved over to the flag court for Joe Mauer’s hitting group and sadly the only thing of note that happened was a vendor on Eutaw Street got nailed by a Joe Mauer HR. I don’t want to share the pictures of him, but here they are cleaning his blood off the ground:
Then came an interesting scenario in that a person was trying to glove trick a ball, who was not a Ballhawk I recognized, and had no idea what he was doing. Can you identify why?:
That’s right. He was doing the glove trick without a pen and was wondering why it wasn’t working. So I gave him my pen and as a result he handed me the ball. I then looked around for a person to give the ball to. After about five minutes, I found this little girl (she’s partially hidden by her mother):
Normally, I can’t stand people who wear a team’s gear that isn’t playing in the game, because it’s a big “FU” to the teams playing, but an exception was clearly in order for this fan decked out in pink Nationals gear.
That was it for bp. Once again I was out in the flag court and thought the baseball gods had set me up with the perfect scenario to catch my first game HR with 12 of the 18 hitters hitting from the Left side of the plate, but sadly they were only baiting me and got me, hook, line, and sinker. You see there was a pretty good wind blowing in from RF, so even if a player managed to get the angle of his hit high enough, which is the challenge with getting a RF HR, it would be knocked down by the wind. There were two balls that looked good directly off the bat, but absolutely died, one of which still managed to get Justin Morneau a hit.
To top it off, the Twins nearly escaped a no-hitter with the previously mentioned Morneau hit being the first hit, but still lost the game, completing a less-than-desired start to the season for my Twins. I went to the umpire tunnel to try and get a ball from Bill Welke (I think his name is “Bill”, but a voice in my head is telling me Tim (I only memorize umpire’s last names). Avi told me he only gave away one ball, so I guess I’m not as embittered, not that I was before. This is, of course, if he only had one ball to give away, but I think he did, because I called him out by last name and was wearing this hat:
After the game, I had two hours before my bus was scheduled to leave so I wandered all the places I had been with my dad on our trip to Camden Yards in 2008. So like the Harbor Area, our hotel, and things like that. I am now writing this from said bus and extremely regretful of that wandering since everything is tired. Throughout the whole day I was lugging around this backpack:
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get some sleep as I have to get up at 3:30 AM tomorrow to go to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina…right after I post the stats.
• 4 Balls at this game (3 pictured, because I gave one that I counted away)
• 9 Balls this season in 2 games= 4.5 Balls Per Game
• 11 straight games with at least 1 ball
• 2 straight games with at least 4 balls
• 4 balls*14,738 fans= 58,952 competition factor
• Time at Game 10:58- 4:07= 5 hours 11 minutes
So I *was* going to start this entry with a statement along the lines of “Whoo, it feels good to have baseball back! The truth is, it feels like I never really stopped ballhawking. Either that or I haven’t yet realized that baseball has started up yet. It does feel good to be at a baseball game, but it’s certainly not the same butterflies I had on my first game of last year.
Anyway, here is what happened in at the game itself. After a brief stop at the American Visionary Art Museum, I arrived at the gates of Oriole Park at Camden Yards:
There I met up with Matt Hersl to buy my tickets for these two games: 2 for me at $9 a piece and 2 for this game for my mom and step-dad at $25 a piece. If you’re keeping track, that’s $68 total. I offered Matt $70 since I like to give the people who buy me season tickets SOMEthing for their efforts (I actually should have offered him $80, since he saved me around $10-15 by buying the tickets as a season ticket holder) 99% of other people do what? “Oh thanks” and take the extra two dollars, and that’s if they buy the tickets for you in the first place. What did Matt do? He gave me the $10 bill back, and actually took an $8 hit for buying me a ticket. Not only this, but he was just generally nice to me all day.
After that, we got in line with who I *believe* to be Tim Anderson and Ben Huff. I say “believe”, because we never formally introduced ourselves. We were then were met by Avi Miller, who was a shocker since I was initially going to buy the tickets from him, but he didn’t think he was going to be there for the whole weekend.
So we were all gathered at Eutaw street’s gate H and guess which dolt forgot to take a picture of the group? If you guessed Mateo Fischer, you guessed correctly.
For some reason, even with everyone outside the gates, I arrived at the LF seats before anyone else with Matt maybe three steps behind me, and this was my view:
Orioles was really dead considering Camden Yards is one of the best HR parks in the majors. I probably could have gotten a, if not a few, baseball(s) if I asked the right Orioles, but I held off on it since I wanted to get myself in the groove getting hit balls. I caved into the temptation, though, when the non-season ticket holders were about to be let into the LF seats. I asked Wilson Betemit, Pedro Strop, and Luis Ayala for a baseball and got ignored each time. Finally, a ball bounced off the warning track, and since there was no one around me and it was going over me head, I goofed off and caught it with my back facing the field. Here is the ball:
Almost immediately afterward, I changed into my favorite team’s (Minnesota Twins) gear and stationed myself behind the pitchers that were warming up:
If you see the rightmost throwing pair, the guy closest to me is Glen Perkins. When they finished throwing, however, the far partner spotted me as a Twins fan and lobbed a ball clear over my head. He then immediately went back to talking with Perkins. By the way in which he did it, I thought he didn’t care about giving me a second chance at a ball. However, I wanted to stay and see if I could get a ball from the last throwing pair since I knew the far partner was Jeff Gray and 95% of baseball fans wouldn’t know that. Also, the number of people in the LF seats didn’t hurt in keeping me in foul territory:
Now that may not seem like that many people, but considering there had been maybe ten people, I thought it would be worth it to stay and wait the extra few minutes for Gray to finish up throwing. In this time, the guy who missed me fielded a ball and looked in my direction. I realized what was up and crouched down like a catcher where he then proceeded to lob me a ball with no one around me. Here is the player, whose identity I haven’t the fainest clue of. He is the one on the left:
Avi Miller had just arrived on the scene and although he was ten rows below me (jokingly) claimed that the ball had clearly been intended for him. We then both went over to the Left Field seats, during this journey, I was reminded that the Orioles were using 20th anniversary Oriole Park at Camden Yards balls. I mean I remember reading about them in the offseason, but I had not planned this trip in anyway around those commemorative baseballs, so it was a bonus to say the least. The LF seats were pretty crowded, but as if right on the cue of me finding out the Orioles had been using the commemorative baseballs, I managed to range ten feet to my right and snag one on the fly myself:
I didn’t get that much applause, but about five people congratulated me after the fact. As for the ball itself, to say it was in good shape is a gross understatement, it was perfect beyond perfect. If you didn’t know it had been used, you never would have guessed so. Here is a shot I took after the game:
Since the LF seats were pretty crowded, and I acknowledged that I had gotten really lucky in getting that ball hit to where it was, I moved over to the CF seats. There, I got what would be my last ball of bp. A ball hit the seats a little behind me and bounced into seats closer to me. I then beat out a man to it. Seeing as I had outraced him to the ball and it was my fourth ball of the day, I offered it to him, but he told me to “keep it”.
I did then go out to the flag court, but no balls were hit out there, and even if they were, the sun would have made it near impossible to catch one on the fly:
The arrow shows where the sun was during bp ( I took the picture during the game) and the two lines show the general area where the balls were going in the sky. So even though they weren’t going directly through the sun, if you weren’t leaning against the fence at the front of the section, you would have to be staring into the sun waiting for a ball to be hit.
As you can tell, I was in the Flag Court for the game. There were more Righties than Lefties in the game, but as a continuation of my last three games, I’m just going to be there every game I go to Camden Yards until a HR gets hit there. Once that happens, I will either catch it or whiff and I can go on with my life.
Now usually, I change back into the Home Team’s gear, but I stayed in the Twins gear since that is my favorite team:
Now why did I have that look on my face? It was the fourth inning and the Twins were already losing 6-0 (they would go on to lose 8-2). After the game, I headed down to the Umpire Tunnel, and asked the umpire (whose last name I had been repeating since the first inning to remember), whose first name I don’t remember, but after asking “Mister Nelson” for a ball he tossed me up a perfect example of a rubbed-up Oriole Park Commemorative. Here it is right after I caught it:
and here it is when I took a picture of it at “home” after the game:
For the record, I *do* have game pictures, but wanted to get this entry up before I leave for South Carolina, so I’ll upload those to the Facebook page and notify y’all of it when it is done via the twitter page, but for now at least, that’s all that he wrote.
• 5 Balls at this game
Numbers 223-227 for my “career”:
• 10 straight games with at least 1 ball
• 5 balls*31,532 fans= 157,660 competition factor (little fun fact: the competition factor from my last game at Camden Yards was 31,352, which is almost exactly the attendance of this game).
• Time at Game 4:04-9:57= 5 hours 53 minutes. Given, I did spend some of the time on the front end just waiting inside the Hilton, it was “at the ballpark” since I was waiting for the gates to open.
Just another blistering hot day at Camden Yards:
But due to lack of material from a painfully slow day let me start before that. I started my day at 7:00 that morning as this was the time I set my alarm for to take the train to Baltimore. Thankfully, I could just ignore it because I was getting a ride from Garrett Meyer (thank you), a ballhawk from Kansas City also going to this game and also staying in Washington D.C. Anyway, I took the train to the stop near his place and we were off by 10:20. A pretty quiet ride except for the occasional off-the-top-of-the-head conversation starter. One example would be passing Nationals Park. Another example would be this:
This was a conflicting pair of bumper stickers because they said 1) So many cats: So few recipes 2) I love animals their delicious. Conflicting because I am a vegetarian and animal rights sympathizer and am offended if these were serious but am also a fan of good bumper sticker humor which this was if it is not to be taken seriously. I just decided to give the person the benefit of the doubt and laugh at the bumper stickers.
Eventually we got to the stadium at around 11:10. However, we parked about a mile away at the Ravens’ Stadium and I had to hustle to get to the gates in time (11:35) as I still had to buy my ticket in collaboration with Avi Miller (another thank you to him for getting me in early three days in a row), do some other things that would take me about 5 minutes, and get in line all before the gates opened.
Once I finally got in, I saw this:
No batting practice. I’m not upset or surprised simply reporting. It was a 1:35 game after a 7:10 game so it would have been a miracle on earth if either team were to take bp after a Saturday night full of…err…praying. To be honest, I really didn’t care about pre-game stuff past extending my streak of games with at least 1 ball to 50 straight games. Really the only reason I was at this game in the first place was because I had stayed in the flag court for two games straight with two righty pitchers with nothing coming close and thought that if I stood out there for a third straight game that the results would “regress towards the mean”. This is a fancy way of saying that I was hoping a Home Run would be hit this game out there and so I came for a third game.
After the last picture, I put on my Angels gear and felt a sharp pain in my upper back. I had felt it lightly since I entered the stadium but this was the first instance of a shooting pain. Do I know what the pain is? No, initially it felt like my left shoulder blade but also hurt when I moved only my right arm. Do I know how it happened? No, it was perfectly fine even while I was waiting in line to enter the stadium. The one thing I do now was that it was a pain (pun intended). It nagged me up until I arrived home in New York. I just wanted to inject this in as a factor in my lack of snagging enthusiasm and just let you know about it to reference it later on in the entry.
When I got to the 3rd base foul line, this was my view:
As you can imagine, it was a pretty empty seating area except for us ballhawks. This was however the most I have see for a game with no batting practice. There were about four of us waiting to try and get a ball from an Angels pitcher. Eventually I got my ball when Johan “Ervin” Santana (the one known as Ervin Santana actually changed his name while he was in the minor leagues from Johan in order to not be confused with the Mets’ ace) finished throwing. I asked him in Spanish and he told me “Corre”, which is to say “Run”. I took this as running up the steps while he tossed me a ball like a wide receiver. Evidently, that is what he was looking for as I ran up ten steps, turned around, and found a ball sailing towards me. It probably looked a bit slow and was not as fun as it would have been had my back not been hurting. Another side effect of the back pain was that I really couldn’t pull my arms up in front of my face to cup my mouth and yell at the more distant players for a ball. Also, I couldn’t hold my arms above my head and do my regular jumping-jackish motion to get their attention. As a result, Ervin was one of the latter players to finish and I couldn’t really ask for a ball from the other players because they had seen me get the ball and I didn’t have time to change my outfit to disguise myself.
Anyway, I then headed over to the Orioles bullpen t get a ball but the pitcher finished quickly and didn’t toss the ball to either me or Flava Dave who was also at the bullpen. At which point I idnetified Dan Haren as the late comer to the warm-up party along the third base line:
This turned out to be, besides watching Dan Haren throw a great sinker with almost no effort behind the ball, an unproductive waste of time as his throwing partner ended up with the ball and simply tossed the ball into the ball bag. I am sure that had Haren tossed the ball into the crowd it would have been mine because he actually went out of his way before he started throwing to acknowledge my existence with a wave. That said, many players have done this and from what I gathered from the other ballhawks, Haren is not the nicest fellow.
I then went over to the first base line to try and get an autograph and failed several times as there was a kid before me that was getting baseball cards signed. The players, it seemed, always looked up at him in a “are you serious?” manner and stopped signing after that. Maybe it was just these players but a baseball card from a fan means they are at the game with the sole purpose of getting them signed especially if you are, say Mark Hendrickson. I guess that the players didn’t like the fact they were being used to possibly make a profit and went on because they “really had to __”.
Speaking of Mark Hendrickson, he started throwing with some catcher (definitely was not Matt Wieters) and when he finished throwing, I had gotten the catcher’s attention throughout the their round of catch, so he threw me the ball:
I then moved up behind the cross aisle for some much needed shade:
By the way, can you spot Vernon Wells signing in that last picture? While I was up there I got a good chuckle out of knowing that I wasn’t the only one that was tired before 1:00:
Yeah I stayed there until game time blah, blah, blah. We all know why I was at this game. To catch a Home Run in the flag court:
To my dismay, this was how empty the seats were in Left field:
That along with the fact 12 out of 18 hitters were righties, meant that they were ideal snagging conditions. Suddenly when Mike Trout lifted his first career Home Run, I knew that one of the ballhawks there were going to get it in one shape or form. The only thing was that the ball hit pretty hard so I thought there might be an small chance that the ball would carom off the cross aisle and wall at the top of the section and bounce back towards the field. This did not happen. Instead this random passerby caught the ball:
As happy as I was that one of the ballhawks had caught the ball I still only stayed for moments as I had to get back to right field to not miss any of the lefties hitting:
As usual, nothing came up there. I was going to simply walk to Baltimore Penn station at that point but when Garrett Meyer used my phone to call Ben Weil and told him that “Me and [Mateo] want to see what [Zack] got.” I tagged along and stayed for a little while longer. Ben gave us the instructions on where to be and we arrived on the scene a few minutes later:
I had been in this room a few years earlier but it was still nice to be in A/C and chomping on ice while it was 10,000 degrees outside. Oh and on an interesting note, I had run into the guy on the right with the Orioles necklace credentials holder as we were both coming from the flag court and going to left field after Trout had hit his Home Run. Enroute, I informed him how the guy that had caught it looked like and while we were waiting in this room did the incredibly nice and “oriole” thing by thanking me even though there was already a swarm of police and the guy on the left so it wouldn’t have been hard to identify him.
It was also nice to see Mike Trout come out and greet his friends and family:
I have actually been rooting for him because (useless fact of the day): in the first year that the MLB draft was being televised, Mike Trout came to MLB Network’s Studio 42 with his parents. He was the only one to do so. Not Steven Strasburg, not Zack Wheeler, Mike Trout. Due to his courage I gained respect for him and keep him in the corner of my baseball observing eye. So it was really special to watch him enjoy this moment. It was also fun to see his gigantic self come out of the elevator and hear Garrett’s reaction, “Wow, can you believe he’s my age.” I really hadn’t thought about that but yeah he is only 3 years older than me and he has already hit his first Major League Home Run. After everything died down and we were kicked out of the waiting area, I said my goodbyes and walked what felt like 5 miles, it was only 1.5, because of the searing heat to the train station and waited for my pretty late train.
- 2 balls at this game
- 50 straight games with at least 1 ball. Now all I have to do is double everything I have done in my career and I will have 100 straight games.
- 19 straight games doing so on the road
- 15 straight games with at least 2 balls
- 2 balls*15,676 fans= 31,352 competition factor
- Time at Game 11:20-5:31= 6 hours 11 minutes
Finally the day arrived. I say this after the fact but before it actually arrived I was a little worried about how ballhawk fest would go because I was worried about my streak being broken with so many ballhawks in attendance. Speaking of them, let me introduce to you all the ballhawks in attendance:
1. Garrett Meyer– #5 on the season leaders as of 7/26 and also the furthest traveled of us here coming all the way from Lawrence, Kansas.
2. Alan Schuster– The creator of mygameballs.com and organizer of this whole day long event.
3. Alex Kopp– A student at the University of Maryland who ballhawks really all over the place because he lives in New Jersey.
4. “Flava” Dave Stevenson– A ballhawk native to Baltimore who is very much a regular at Camden Yards.
5. Tim Cook– The second part of the now trio that is Cook & Son Bats’ Blog.
6. Oliver Rowles– Another ballhawk from New York that also usually inhabits the outfields of Citi Field or spring training stadiums when he’s at a game.
7. Zack Hample– Just click his name. If you don’t know him by now that such be sufficient. For the lazy people. He’s caught over 5,200 baseballs and inspired most of those present.
8. Mike Rowles- Oliver’s father and self proclaimed chaperone for the weekend.
9. Ben “…ny Batting Gloves” Weil– Yet another ballhawk from New York that showed up a bit late for softball (this picture was taken after we finished) because of the Lincoln Tunnel, “why are so many people going to New Jersey on a Saturday?”, etc.
10. Todd Cook– The primary unit in the Cook n’ Son trifecta.
-There were various people not int his picture who went to the game itself or were outside my lens.
1. Avi Miller– He just showed up for the game and didn’t show up for any of the pre-game festivities.
2. Jona– Zack’s girl friend who was simply outside of the picture because she too was taking pictures of the pre-group-picture set-up.
3. Jeremy Evans– This was a foreign name to me prior to ballhawk fest. Apparently he is a ballhawk from Pennsylvania who doesn’t have records of any of the balls that he has caught. I got all of this information from his mygameballs profile, I didn’t actually have much time to get to know him. The reason? He showed up at the game after the gates had opened and we were both focused on snagging baseballs.
4. Matt Hersl– He was “too sore” to play softball. He later admitted that he would have played had it not been 110 degrees. That actually was a hyperbole but it was over 100.
Obviously, the ten present and willing to play were not enough for a 9 on 9 softball game. Instead, Alan had devised a sort of Home Run Derby. Here we have Alan explaining the rules:
I don’t remember what the original format was but Alan added the fact that what he had said was merely a draft and anyone could add their own suggestions to it. Here we have everyone collectively having their “wait how are we doing this again?” moment before bombarding Alan with a plethora of suggestions:
This, inevitably changing how we were going to play the game. The rules, it seemed, changed by the half inning until the end of the second inning. This is what we ended up with:
- 7 innings
- 5 players on each team-once Ben showed up in the second in the bottom of the third-. Here is the roster:
- A half inning constituted of every player of the team hitting.
- A person finished their turn when they got one out with both a soft and baseball.
- An out was achieved by any ball that was not hit out of the infield or caught by the opposing team.
- An out could also be achieved if a person failed to swing at a ball within three pitches.
- A ball hit into the outfield uncaught was 1 point
- A ball hit beyond the fence were 5 points
- 7 balls at this game (3 picture because I “gave” four away)
- 49 straight games with at least 1 ball
- 18 straight doing so on the road
- 14 straight games with at least 2 balls
- 6 straight games with at least 5 balls (could I maintain this streak the next day with no batting practice? No one comment on this if you have seen my mygameballs profile)
- 3 straight games with at least 6 balls
- 2 straight games with at least 7 balls (sorry have to get them out of the way while I still have them)
- 7 balls* 20,311 fans= 142,177 competition factor
- Time at game 4:18- 9:46= 5 hours 28 minutes