Category: Nationals Park

6/25/13 Diamondbacks at Nationals: Nationals Park

So this game was actually pretty simple, and I’m ashamed it took me so long to get this entry out, but the thought of writing was what kept me from even getting started on it. Anyway, here is the view of the field as I got it:

62513 Opening Picture

But before I get started on the snagging portion of the entry, let me tell you what lead up to this point. Because it was the last day that All-Star ballots were being accepted for prizes at Nationals Park (more on that later), I had to carry over 2,000 All-Star ballots with me to the ballpark that I had filled out the previous day:

As a result of that, I moved much more slowly than I normally do and missed a bus and two trains by less than ten seconds on my way to the ballpark. And as a result of that, I got to the gates less than five minutes before they opened. So instead of having a half-hour long conversation with Zack Hample, Rick Gold, and Zack’s mom–who I met at the gates–/take a picture with them to open  up this entry with when I got to the gates, I pretty much had to get to the gates, get my ticket ready to be scanned, and enter. Now I thought I would have to carry my box of 1,500 All-Star ballots for the first hour of batting practice, but a regular of Nationals Park named Art was nice enough to let me leave them with him in the second row of the section closest to the visiting bullpen in left field and watch after them. So although I’m pretty sure you don’t read these, Art, thank you for allowing me to move freely about the ballpark.

Anyway, after getting shutout for the first two groups of Nationals hitters, my first baseball was really a cheapy. So there’s a Nationals usher in right field who is nice and lets me sit in right field even when I don’t have a ticket there. In return I give him baseballs whenever he asks for them to redistribute to kids during the games. Well when he saw me, he told me that he wanted me to catch a ball from Fernando Abad for him. See ushers aren’t technically allowed to get baseballs themselves, but he apparently knew Abad, so he called out to Abad and pointed to me as if to say, “Toss him the ball.” Abad obliged and even though I would give the ball away to this usher after batting practice ended, it was my first ball of the game:

62513 Abad ball

After this group of hitters was done, about 80% of the players/coaches who had been shagging balls in the outfield jogged in, and so I would say there were only 4-5 people in the whole outfield. And because of this, Stephen Strasburg was left manning almost all of right field. I had never gotten him to even acknowledge me, much less toss me a baseball–Strasburg is one of those players who is quick to toss a baseball to a five-year-old–but pretty much doesn’t give you the time of day if your age has two digits–but I just kept asking him nicely for a ball every time he approached the wall. Finally on about the 20th time, he looked up and tossed me a ball. (Probably just to get me to shut up.):

62513 Strasball

And that would be my second and final ball of the day. I believe I missed a home run during Diamondbacks BP, but besides that they just weren’t hitting them wherever I was positioned, and the front row was packed with kids, so toss-ups were really tough to come by.

The most notable thing that happened between this snag and the end of Diamondbacks BP is that at least 1, if not 2 service men took a round of BP in the last group of Diamondbacks hitters:

62513 Army Hitter

As a son of a Vietnam Veteran (but a hater of war because of this fact), I appreciate the gesture by the Diamondbacks/Nationals, but I only wish they would have gotten better hitting servicemen to invite to take BP. These guys (or maybe guy. This took place weeks ago, so it’s not exactly fresh in my memory) I don’t think hit a ball into the outfield on the fly.

When batting practice ended, I headed back to the seats in left field to pick up my box of 1,500 ballots, took them to the table where they can be redeemed:

62513 Ballot Box

And from this got a Michael Morse bobblehead:

62513 Morse bobblehead

A Nationals Rally Towel:

62513 Rally Towel

And a Nationals Prize Pack:

62513 Nats Prize Pack

The prize pack consists of a bobblehead (Ivan Rodriguez), a Nationals t-shirt, a Nationals hat, and a full program. (I feel the need to specify *full* program because the Nationals give away tiny gameday programs every day at the gates for free. I guess that would technically be a program and this things in the prize pack would be a Nationals magazine, but whatever.)

I then spent the first three innings filling out an additional 500 ballots (in addition to the 1,600 I had turned in for the prizes you saw above) and got an Adam Dunn. I should have taken a picture of it, but I didn’t. I guess it was a swing-and-a-miss on my part. *Bad pun that also makes fun of Adam Dunn completed*.

After that, I headed out to right field where this was my view:

62513 View from right field

And here is the reason I didn’t even have my glove on for most of the game:62513 Rick in the seats

If you’re new to this blog or for whatever reason do not know who the man in the A’s hat is, it is the Rick Gold I mentioned earlier in the entry. He has snagged nearly 2,000 baseballs in his life time along with nearly 50 game home run balls. So in addition to him being a much better ballhawk than I, the fact that he had already been in that section for 4 innings by the time I got there made me not want to compete with him directly and possibly cost both of us a ball. The way I was going to play it if a ball did indeed get hit to us is let him get his initial jump and then put my glove on just in case he read the ball incorrectly and I read it correctly. So he would have position, but I would (theoretically) be the mistake prevention back-up. Of course, as is the case when I’m there, nothing got hit within a section of us.

At the end of the game I headed to the dugout, but what came of that was no snagging but rather getting to talk to Zack and his mom (who was celebrating her birthday at the time)/watching Zack get a third-out ball tossed to him from 16 rows up and almost two sections to the right of Martin Prado, who tossed it to him. It was truly amazing how far Prado tossed it to him. I had gone down to the first row to try to get the ball from Prado, but when I couldn’t get his attention and saw his eyes lock on a target way behind me, I knew where the ball was headed. After that, the game ended, we said our goodbyes, and headed our separate ways.

STATS:

  • 2 Balls at this game (1 pictured because I gave the other away)

62513 Baseballs

Numbers 572-573 for my lifetime:

62513 Sweet Spots

  • 127 Balls in 31 Games= 4.10 Balls Per Game
  • 2 Balls x 30,287 Fans=60,574 Competition Factor
  • 93 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 160 Balls in 35 Games at Nationals Park= 4.57 Balls Per Game
  • 27 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
  • 11 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
  • Time Spent On Game 3:26-11:33= 8 Hours 7 Minutes

6/21/13 Rockies at Nationals: Nationals Park

A second day at Nationals Park, but this time with more batting practice:

62113 Opening Picture

Normally I go to straight-away left field for pitcher’s BP, (the first group of hitters) but my neighbor Greg Barasch was here for this game, so I gave him left field and I went to the Red Seats. I actually don’t think either of us got a ball during that first group, but I got one in the second group when a Nationals righty hit a ball to my right. A kid in front of me camped right under it, but the ball bounced off his glove, hit a seat, bounced up into the air, and I caught it:

62113 Ball 1

It was almost the exact same as the second ball I had snagged the day before, but the only difference is the kid was prepared and the guy whose hands it bounced through through the day before didn’t have a glove.

My next ball came when I got Ian Krol to toss me a ball (By pretty much being the only one who knew his name):

62113 Ball 2 Diagram

And as quickly as Krol had tossed me the ball, I gave it away to a kid who had been next to the man in the white shirt, and had been trying to get Gio Gonzalez’s attention from 50 feet away to get him to toss a baseball. (It should be noted that while he did succeed in getting Gonzalez’s attention, he failed to get the ball since Gio was playing catch with a person who was along the right field foul line and we were in center field.)

My third ball of the day came when Craig Stammen fielded a ball near the wall. No one asked for it, but I was pointing at a kid to my right so Stammen could throw him the ball. There was a kid between us, though. I think Stammen thought I was pointing at the kid between us, but I knew he had already gotten a ball–he was actually holding it in his non-glove hand when Stammen released the ball. So when Stammen threw the ball about half-way between myself and this kid, I grabbed the ball:

62113 Ball 3 diagram

I then gave the ball to the kid who I had actually been pointing to (in the orange). I really hope Stammen saw me give the ball away, because otherwise he might think I’m the biggest douchebag in history for pointing him towards a toss-up target only to reach in front of him to get the ball. After this, the most interesting thing I saw during Nationals BP was one woman’s cup trick:

62113 Improv cup trick

Apparently, she had seen Rick Gold using his cup trick last year, and so she figured out a way to make one of her own using a tennis ball container and some sort of putty. And unlike most imitation retrieval devices I’ve seen made by non-ballhawks, it actually worked. She had already reeled in two baseballs by the time I noticed her with it.

When the Rockies started hitting, I once again headed into foul ground, and once again got shutout there. So I headed out to right field after that. There I managed to catch a Todd Helton home run on the fly right about here:

62113 View for ball 4

I then gave the ball away to a girl who had not yet gotten a ball. That marked the third straight ball I had snagged that I gave away. That made it 75% of my baseballs I had snagged this game that I gave away.

Carlos Gonzalez hit the next ball I snagged. I had just ran to my left in pursuit of another home run of his when he hit a ball back to my right. I ran at where I saw it landing, and when it finally did touch down, I scooped it while on the run for my fifth ball of the day. That was it for batting practice. I could have maybe had a couple other Rockies home runs, but bounces didn’t go my way and things of that nature, so my sixth and final ball came when I went to the Rockies bullpen in search of a Rockies commemorative baseball and I got Jerry Weinstein to toss me a baseball:

62113 Ball 6

Actually, though, that’s not fair. This baseball took absolutely no skill on my part. I was actually avoiding asking Weinstein for a ball from distance because he had tossed me one the day prior, but he spotted me in my Rockies gear, waved to me, and tossed me the ball.

This was my view once again for the game:

62113 View for game

My goal was to get a commemorative baseball from Bo McLaughlin at the bullpen after the game, but unfortunately he ignored me for the second straight day. And no one hit any home runs to left field, but trust me, I would have been ready had they done so:

62113 Two Glovez

Believe it or not, I actually had two gloves packed both Rockies games because I knew there were going to be people I knew at the gates, so I didn’t want to play catch with them left handed. It wasn’t until this game that I realized I could wear both gloves during the game. MANY people–upon hearing/realizing that I have both a right-handed and left-handed glove–have suggested to me that I just put a glove on both hands, but the problem with doing this during batting practice is I need a free hand for things such as labeling the baseballs I snag, taking pictures, and taking notes about the baseballs I snag. However, during the game I don’t have to do any of those things. So with the two gloves already in my backpack, I figured, “Why not?” and had them both ready. But for the record, it’s not something I plan to make a habit of.

But anyway, with me not snagging a Rockies commemorative ball, I’ll probably have two more opportunities to snag one when the Rockies visit the Orioles in August. I’m a little nervous, but who doesn’t like a little two-month-long cliffhanger? Oh yeah, everybody. But I guess I also I have no other option besides revisiting Citi Field when the Rockies visit it a few days before that.

STATS:

  • 6 Baseballs at this Game (3 pictured because I gave the other half away)

62113 Baseballs

Numbers 566-571:

62113 Sweet Spots

  • 125 Balls in 30 Games= 4.17 Balls Per Game
  • 6 Balls x 34,917 Fans=209,502 Competition Factor
  • 92 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 158 Balls in 34 Games at Nationals Park= 4.65 Balls Per Game
  • 26 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
  • 10 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
  • 8 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
  • 6 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 4 Balls
  • Time Spent On Game 2:58-11:47= 8 Hours 49 Minutes

6/20/13 Rockies at Nationals: Nationals Park

After over a week off from games and simply doing other cool stuff, it was back to Nationals Park where I met up with some familiar faces:

62013 Opening Picture

Those would be my friends–left to right–Zack Hample and Ben Weil. They drove in from New York pretty much to get a shot at the Rockies baseballs. Well at least Ben did. Zack was almost guaranteed to get a Rockies ball, but he also needed to knock out Nationals Park as he is going to all 30 stadiums as a part of some year-long craziness that BIGS Sunflower Seeds is putting him on.

When it came time for the gates to open, we all rushed inside just to be disappointed:

62013 No BP

What I deduced was that the Nationals had an eleven-inning game in Philadelphia the night prior combined with a bus trip back, so they got back to Washington pretty late and Davey Johnson who is notorious for listening to what the players want to do decided not to take batting practice. So Ben and I just hung out in the left field seats. I don’t know what he was potentially waiting for in this next picture, but we sat down after that:

62013 Ben on staircase

And then talked for 45 minutes or so while we sat and watched more nothingness:

62013 Still no BP

The first action we saw was pretty much an hour after the gates opened when the Rockies simultaneously started hitting and warming up. I could have stayed in the outfield to try to snag a couple home run balls, but I headed here instead:

62013 At the dugout

That’s because some players and coaches (Yorvit Torrealba being the only one in-frame for this picture) were tossing baseballs around at the dugout, but all of them tossed their baseballs into the infield when they were done with them. It was frustrating to me because I figured they would be done before the infielders and outfielders were done warming up in shallow left field, but they actually took longer. And I know this cost me a ball because when he and his throwing partner were done, Jordan Pacheco turned looking for a person to throw his warm-up ball to but then ran into the outfield when he didn’t see anyone. Had I been over there in Nationals gear I probably would have gotten the ball, much less being decked out in purple as I was.

I then headed further down the line where I got Jhoulys (that’s probably wrong) Chacin to toss me a ball. Unfortunately, Chacin tossed it over my head where the ball then deflected at a 90-degree angle. So while I was looking for the ball in the rows below where it had hit, an old man picked the ball up and offered it to me. I told him to keep it, but he insisted I take it. So while I didn’t count it, I walked over to the outfield and gave it to a kid with a glove on my way.

My first actual countable ball came when Nolan Arenado hit a ball to my right in the Red Seats. I ran over, initially thinking the ball was going into the left field bullpen, and caught the ball as a man in a blue shirt–who was tracking the ball the whole time and whose reflection you can kind of see in the next picture–ran into me:

62013 Ball 1

It wasn’t with bad intentions that he ran into me, but to use a basketball analogy since this game was the same day as Game 7 of the NBA Finals, it was an “and-one” situation. He was actually also involved in my next snag. Carlos Gonzalez hit a ball opposite field in that same group, and while it isn’t my custom to reach in front of anyone if I’m not in a row in front of them, this same guy was camped under the ball with no glove, so I went right behind him in case he couldn’t handle the ball on the fly. Surprise alert: He couldn’t. The ball bounced through his hands, hit the seat in front of me, and flew up in the air, where I snatched it up. I then handed it to a kid to my left.

A couple minutes later though, something that has never happened to me ever happened. The kid came back to me and asked me to sign the ball for him:

62013 Signed Ball

It was cool and embarrassing at the same time because I have awful handwriting to begin with, so adding in the curvature of the ball made the signature all the more horrendous. Please don’t enlarge the image to see. (And of course now that I said it, about 50 of you are going to click on the picture and enlarge it.)

My next ball was tossed up to me by this guy:

62013 Ball 3

I initially had no clue who he was, but upon retrospection, I’m pretty sure he is the Rockies strength and conditioning coordinator, Brian Jordan. Anyway, he tried to toss me a ball initially by hitting this advertisement thing:

62013 Ad thingy

and then having the ball roll down the hill in center field. It may sound ridiculous, but look how close he got:

62013 Ball on grass

He then just tossed the next ball he got up to me normally after saying, “I’ll get you a baseball; don’t worry.” So that was nice of him. I then focused my attention on getting a Rockies 20th year commemorative baseball, but it actually cost me a ball as I called out to Jim Wright–who was in the bullpen by one of said baseballs, so I gave up on that pretty quickly. (The way it cost me was I was over by the bullpen and a ball was hit right to where I had been standing beforehand.) But regardless, my next ball wouldn’t come until almost after batting practice was over. Right at the end of batting practice, the Rockies catching coach–a.k.a. the “we have a pretty good hitting catcher prospect but he can’t field at all, so we need a coach just for him” coach–Jerry Weinstein came into the bullpen, so I asked him if he could toss me one of the baseballs that was down there. By the time I had got to him he had already tossed the commemorative up, but he tossed me a regular ball up:

62013 Ball 4

And that was it for the game. I headed to the dugout at the end of batting practice and met up with Zack and Ben there where we found out about a very special food offer at Nationals Park. I then headed out to left field with Ben while Zack went to the dugout for the game itself, where this picture pretty much sums up our first sour innings out in left field:

62013 Ben, ballots, and bobblehead

If it sounds like I’m being uncharacteristically vague, that’s because I am…purposefully. And that’s due to the fact that I included all of these details in my latest vlog, so check that out if you want to fill in the gaps. I actually didn’t include all three of us playing catch before the gates opened, which I should have, but this is something that is going to start happening here. If I cover stuff that happened during or surrounding any given game in the vlog, I won’t write about it here because that just seems redundant. I won’t announce when vlogs come out on here, but if you so desire, you can subscribe to my channel by clicking here or you can follow me on Twitter by clicking over in the sidebar over there —-> to get an update every time I upload a video. Here was the view for Ben and I for pretty much the whole nine innings of the game:

62013 View from Left

But anyway, both Ben and I tried to get a ball from the bullpen people after the game. He did; I didn’t. So he ended with 5 baseballs along with Zack, who had actually been trailing both of us as BP ended with 3 baseballs, but since he started the game out at the dugout, he snagged two third-out balls and lead both of us until Ben got the ball right at the end of the game.

And that was it. I chatted with Ben for a couple of minutes after the game, but then headed out with my step-dad, who had joined Ben and I in the bleachers at the seventh inning stretch. He had been in the stadium the whole game, but because I didn’t know where I would be sitting before I got to the game and both of our cellphones were getting horrible service, it wasn’t until then that we could know where the other was.

STATS:

  • 4 Balls at this game (3 pictured because I gave the other away)

62013 Baseballs

Numbers 562-565:

62013 Sweet Spots

  • 119 Balls in 29 Games= 4.10 Balls Per Game
  • 4 Balls x 31,927 Fans=127,708 Competition Factor
  • 91 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 152 Balls in 33 Games at Nationals Park= 4.61 Balls Per Game
  • 25 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
  • 9 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
  • 7 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
  • 5 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 4 Balls
  • Time Spent On Game 3:28-11:03= 7 Hours 31 Minutes

6/6/13 Mets at Nationals: Nationals Park

I didn’t know it by how it looked when I left to go to this game, but it would be defined by rain. There wouldn’t be any rain when I got there, but the Nationals still didn’t take any BP:

6613 No BP

So I just sat around and talked to an usher I know in right field and a ballhawk out there until the Mets started hitting. Then David Wright hit a ball that bounced off the warning track. It then hit off a chair in the Red Seats–where I was standing when it came time for the Mets to hit, if you didn’t catch that–and bounced right to my glove. It was one of those times where really the ball caught me. Anyway, here’s my view of the field when the Mets started hitting:

6613 View from the Red Seats

The ball bounced pretty much between the two guys in red.

And then I got Collin McHugh to toss me a ball that I then immediately gave away to a kid to my left:

6613 McHugh

(Not the one who is in the last picture, but more on him later.) The next ball I got actually left me mad. I ran into a row as I tracked a Justin Turner home run and watched as the ball flew over my head. Thankfully there wasn’t anyone behind me and I could go and pick the ball up:

6613 Ball 2

I then caught a Marlon Byrd home run on the fly, which I’m actually pretty proud of; not because I tracked the ball and made a leaping catch or anything like that, but because right as the ball was coming, a kid in the first row threw his glove in the air, which blocked my view of the ball, but I still got it:

6613 Ball 3

And I then gave it to a kid to my left:

6613 Kid I gave ball 4

The arrow closest to the field is the kid I gave the ball away to and the second arrow is the kid who threw his glove in the air. And during that same hitting group, it started pouring. And with that, the Mets ran in and batting practice was over:

6613 Cage going off

So in watching a grand total of two groups of BP–roughly an eighth of a total BP– I had snagged four baseballs, which is frustrating because I can only think of how good the numbers I could have put up could have been if I would have had a full BP.

I rushed to the Mets dugout when they first ended BP, but I was too late to get a ball from them. So as the game looked like it was going to be delayed, I walked up to talk to some ushers I knew from last season behind the Mets dugout. I was just planning on saying hi to them and moving on, but I ended up talking to them for a good hour until the game was officially called. Yep, that’s right. The game was postponed after what I would say was an hour+ rain delay. They probably would have called it sooner, but teams like to wait a while longer than they actually need in order for people to buy more things at the concession stands. But anyway, after watching the first few picks of the MLB draft on the big screen, this flashed up there:

6613 Big board

And at that point I headed through the seats towards the outfield, where I planned to exit. I would have exited through the concourse, but it was a) Packed with people who had retreated up there to get away from the rain, and b) I wanted to see if anyone left their tickets in the stands, so I could possibly have an essentially free ticket to a future game. On my way out, though, I ran into an usher who knows me because he was the one who saw my ear bleeding in my first game back here this season, so talked with him for a couple minutes on what I believed to be was my way out of the stadium. In the  time I was talking with him, though, I saw two Mets players coming out to throw just beyond the tarp, so when I was done talking with the usher, I headed back towards foul ground instead of taking off:

6613 Foul Ground

Okay, so the person throwing closest to me I could tell was Ricky Bones, but I couldn’t tell who the far thrower was, but I figured he was an actual player on the Mets, since two coaches probably wouldn’t come out to throw in the rain. The reason I was so far back is that I could tell the ushers at the top of the staircases were being instructed to keep all the fans at the top of the section. That meant that if I would have a very short window of opportunity at the bottom of the section before an usher would come down and tell me to leave. So as the far player started to inch in, and I could tell the catch session was coming to a close, I ran down to the bottom of the steps. Fifteen seconds into me being down there, the security guard on the field closest to the tarp in that last picture told me to go up. I asked him “I can’t even stay for a couple seconds to get this ball from them?” To which he responded, “No; you gotta go up.”

So I did technically obey his command, but as I sensed the players were done throwing, I first yelled out a request for the ball to Ricky Bones, but the two talked for a couple seconds. So I very slowly backed up the stairs; no doubt angering the security guard who had told me to go up. When the two Mets headed back towards the dugout, the other Mets–who I could now tell was Shawn Marcum–had the ball, so I waved my arms at him from now at least twenty rows deep into the section, and he launched me the ball for now my fifth on the day:

6613 Ball 5

And while I was pretty excited about the ball myself when I got it, I heard a cheer erupt in what I thought was my head when I got the ball, but I turned around to see there  was a full section of fans who had been watching the whole thing play out. It was the second loudest cheer I’ve ever gotten for a ball next to glove tricking a ball from the second deck of Miller Park. And with that, my day of ballhawking ended on five baseballs and I finally headed off home a little earlier than normal still.

STATS:

  • 5 Baseballs at this Game (3 pictured because I gave 2 away)

6613 Baseballs

Numbers 552-556:

6613 Sweet Spots

  • 110 Balls in 25 Games= 4.50 Balls Per Game
  • 5 Ball x 36,000 Fans=180,000 Competition Factor
  • 88 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 148 Balls in 32 Games at Nationals Park= 4.63 Balls Per Game
  • 24 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
  • 8 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
  • 6 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
  • 4 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 4-5 Balls
  • Time Spent On Game 3:18-8:55= 5 Hours 37 Minutes

6/5/13 Mets at Nationals: Nationals Park

A day at Nationals Park and I was back for s’more:

6513 Opening Picture

In fact, it was only the second game of what I had planned as four consecutive games at Nationals Park. (Although, as you’ll see in later entries, that wouldn’t end up happening.)

As I entered the gates, I said hi to a fellow ballhawk behind the left field bullpen–not Rick Gold, although he was there too. And this simple hello and momentary eye contact caused us to both to miss a ball Gio Gonzalez. When I got to my regular spot in straight-away left field, though I managed to snag two baseballs Gio hit. Gio, by the way, was going absolutely nuts and must have hit ten baseballs into the seats in his rounds of BP. The first was a ball that was hit to my right. I was the only one within fifty feet of where it was going to land, so I just hoped the ball would stay in the stands and not bounce back onto the field like a couple already had that I would have otherwise snagged. It didn’t, so easily picked the ball up for my first of the day:

6513 Ball 1

The next one was a ball that hit over my head by about five rows. It then trickled down the steps and I beat the previously-mentioned other ballhawk to it. I then gave this ball away to a kid who had not yet gotten a ball at the head of the section:

6513 Kid I gave ball away to

Then, while I was in the left field seats, I saw a ball hit in the right field seats. None of us ballhawks went for it because we were so far away and all figured someone would get to it way before we could, but when the pitchers finished hitting and I still had not seen anyone pick it up, I ran over there and found it right on the ground:

6513 Ball 3

But this picture is actually staged because when I got there, a man was right in front of me and had walked into the first row to take pictures. He had actually walked right over the ball, so when I walked behind him, got the ball, and saw the look on his face when he realized what had happened, I gave him the ball. I didn’t realize it until I actually finished writing this entry, but that was my 100th ball of the season, which is always a fun milestone since I got to it almost a month earlier in the season than I did last season (7/3/12).

Then I got a toss-up from a person in a warm-up jersey:

6513 Ball 5

I had no clue who he was at the moment, but after seeing Jeff Kobermus come into the game, I’m pretty sure it was him.

That was my last ball for Nationals BP, since I was in right field for most of it and they didn’t hit much out there. And when I was in the Red Seats, I just completely missed a ball that bounced into the restaurant portion of the seats, one that I misjudged and a guy behind me caught as I came up a couple inches short, and then a police officer cost me two baseballs:

6513 Douchey police officer

You can see he’s holding one of them in his left hand. (The guy who caught the ball I misjudged, by the way, is the one in the gray shirt.) Well the first one he cost me was one that hit into the restaurant. I thought it was simply a race between myself and the guy in the gray shirt, and since I had by far the better jump, I was pretty much sure I had the ball. But then I saw someone running form the top of the stairs to the ball. This person beat me to the ball, and when I looked up I couldn’t believe it because it was a police officer, who is not supposed to keep baseballs; much less try to get them. There was then another one that hit in the restaurant that was underneath a chair. He was at the chair and trying to move it out of the way. As he was doing this, I offered to get the ball and give it to him, but he pulled the chair out of the way and snatched up the ball. This then messed me up for future balls that were headed into the restaurant, because I wasn’t used to having competition from above. I had to alter my routes to balls, and it cost me at least one baseball and just got me completely flustered because I knew that without this cop and my own mistakes, I should have already been in double-digits. I don’t want to say I used this as fuel because that sounds way too cliché and dramatic, but I definitely had to get over being this frustrated in order to keep going in BP and not let these things pile on.

When Mets BP came around, I tried the same strategy as the day before and went down the third base line in foul ground to get a ball from the Mets who were warming up. This time I got Robert Carson to loft me a ball over a couple rows of fans for my fifth on the day:

6513 Ball 5

As I moved onto the next throwing pair, I saw something hilarious. So while Brandon Lyon and LaTroy Hawkins were throwing, some kids were yelling some things at them to try tot get them to throw the ball up. Well I couldn’t hear what he said, but when one kid yelled something, Hawkins caught it from about 100 feet away and yelled back, “Watch your mouth.” After he was done throwing, Hawkins then went over to the kids and had fun with them over whatever they had said:

6513 Hawkins exchange

And by “fun”, I mean in a “I’m going to make this a cool experience for you, but still not break character as a veteran of the MLB” kind of way. So he jokingly kept up that he was scolding them, but made it pretty obvious that he was indeed joking with them. Afterward, he flipped a ball up to one of the kids.

Soon after that, David Wright hit a ball that rattled around in the seats before I picked it up:

6513 Ball 6

The ball actually took off a cup holder, which I thought of putting in my backpack to add to my collection of stadium cup holder at home, but eventually decided against it.

Next, Jim Malone, the Mets’ Strength and Conditioning coach picked up a ball on the warning track, and although I had forgotten his name–I used to know it by heart in 2010 when I would always see him stretching out the pitchers at Citi Field when it still opened 2.5 hours early, but knowing his name became much less important when I no longer got to see the pitchers warming up at Citi Field when the gate opening time switched back to 2 hours prior to the game.–I asked him nicely and he flipped the ball up to me when he saw my Mets gear. I then gave the ball away to a woman who was right next to me:

6513 Ball 7

It was one of those that I really wanted to give away to a kid with a glove, but because I knew that everyone around there had seen me get the Wright ball, I felt as though I should probably do some that was at least seemingly kind-hearted.

It was then nearing the end of Mets BP, so I was almost all the way to the left field foul in order to get a better jump to the dugout when the Mets ended batting practice. An unforeseen benefit of this was that John Buck belted the last pitch of Mets BP over my head. Thankfully, though, I was the only one even near the ball, so I ran over and picked it up. I know it was the last pitch of BP, because as I picked the ball and turned around, I saw that the Mets were already jogging in. So I started running over to the dugout. But as I was headed over there, I realized it wouldn’t look good if I had a baseball in my hand when asking for a ball at the dugout. I don’t know why I didn’t just put it in my pocket, but I ended up handing it to a kid on my way over to the dugout mid-stride. I didn’t realize it at the time–although I had been thinking about it earlier in BP–but this was the 550th ball I had ever snagged at a baseball game.

I actually didn’t get anything at the dugout, but I headed out to right field, where I would sit for the game. Rick Gold also sat out there for the game, so I sat on the staircase closer to the foul pole of the two we usually sit on and he sat one staircase closer to center field. As a result, I was on the staircase with the usher who lets us into the right field seats, and ended up giving him two baseballs that night, which he then distributes to kids in the section.

STATS:

  • 8 Balls at this Game (2 pictured because I gave 6 away)

6513 Baseballs

Numbers 544-551:

6513 Sweet Spots

  • 105 Balls in 24 Games= 4.38 Balls Per Game
  • 8 Ball x 36,155 Fans=289,240 Competition Factor
  • 87 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 143 Balls in 31 Games at Nationals Park= 4.61 Balls Per Game
  • 23 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
  • 7 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
  • 5 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
  • 3 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 4-5 Balls
  • Time Spent On Game 2:56-11:36= 8 Hours 40 Minutes

6/4/13 Mets at Nationals: Nationals Park

After a brief trip to Baltimore, it was back to Washington. And look who was there to greet me:

20130609-170257.jpg

That, if you don’t know from past entries like this one, is Rick Gold, a fellow ballhawk who lives in New Jersey and works for MLB.com, and as a result goes to games pretty much everywhere, but likes to come visit Washington perhaps more than any other city. What we’re doing in the picture is it was my first day in Washington with my behemoth of a glove that is either 14 or 15 inches. (I forgot which it is exactly and it doesn’t say on the glove itself.) And Rick’s glove is also pretty large at 14″, so we were previewing the battle of the big gloves that was going to take place during the day. I had my glove in front of his in the picture, but I’ll give you a brief preview and say that he put on a show during BP.

His day started off rough with a missed catch on a home run ball during pitcher’s BP. But fortunately he had his cup trick to retrieve the ball from the gap in front of the Red Seats and caught another ball on the fly later that Craig Stammen hit. Meanwhile in the left field seats, I managed to catch a ball off of the bat of Nathan Karns who hit a couple out:

6413 Ball 1

It’s crazy to think that Karns can hit, because the Nationals pitching staff, although their in-game numbers might not necessarily reflect it, are one of the better hitting staffs in the league during BP. They routinely outperform the hitters in terms of home runs for a hitting group.

My next ball came in the Red Seats when Nathan Karns came out to field baseballs. I think I was the only one who knew his name since he had just made two starts at that point, so when I call out to him by name as he approached the wall to retrieve a ball, he tossed me the baseball for my second ball of the day. My third ball came when bench coach, Randy Knorr, fielded a ball by the Red Seats. I asked him by name for a ball and he hooked me up. Right as I got the ball, I asked a group of three kids who had gotten a ball yet. They all said they hadn’t, so I gave the ball to the kid closest to me on the left and told them I would give one of the others a ball if I snagged another ball out there in the Red Seats:

6413 Ball 3 diagram

I didn’t so just that one kid got a ball from me. Although I did see another snag a ball in the time I was there afterwards. I left there when I saw the Mets players coming out to throw. The Mets are pretty bad in BP to begin with, so I knew I wouldn’t be missing much in going into foul territory for a couple of rounds. But I get ahead of myself. I forgot to mention how exactly the clinic Rick Gold was putting on unfolded. By the time I headed over into foul ground, he already had eight baseballs. If you don’t know, Rick doesn’t go for toss-ups, so besides the ball he got using his ball retriever, the other seven were hit baseballs. These seven included five balls caught on the fly and balls caught on three consecutive pitches. All were opposite field home runs by Ryan Zimmerman, and it was truly something to see. I watched him chase down and catch the first one, then as I turned to pay attention to Zimmerman again, I saw another ball headed out there, and Rick ran back towards where he had started to catch the second. I then saw him running back to where he caught the first ball and catch the third ball. He literally had two balls in his throwing hand when he caught the last of the three since he didn’t have time to put any in his backpack. He would end the game at ten baseballs with six caught on the fly. I can only imagine what numbers he could have gotten to had he been going for toss-ups as well. Or does he maybe miss some hit baseballs because he was asking for a ball somewhere in there? Does his three consecutive catches in a row? I don’t know, but it was a spectacular performance. The best I’ve ever seen in terms of a ballhawk going off by catching the hit ball.

When the Mets pitchers finished throwing, I got Scott Rice to toss me a ball:

6413 Ball 4

First of all, this ball was a result of the surprising lack of Mets fans that went into foul ground to watch them warm up. But secondly, I was concentrating on another throwing pair, but when Rice and his partner Greg Burke got done throwing, I got into the first row, and as Rice kept walking by me with the ball, I asked him by name if he could toss me the ball. Not surprisingly–as I was the only one to do so, he obliged me for my fourth ball of the game.

My fifth ball of the day came when I headed back out to the Red Seats. When Matt Harvey went to dead center field to retrieve a ball, I went to the corner spot at the front-left of the section and asked him for the ball. He looked up at me and tossed me the ball:

6413 Ball 5

Batting practice would end within five minutes of me getting this ball, so that would be it for me for BP. Towards the end of the game, though, I headed down here as the Mets lead the game 2-1:

6413 View at end of game

I figured the game was over since the Mets had their pretty-reliable closer Bobby Parnell on the mound. But that’s when the Mets showed why they were the Mets and why the Nationals were the Nationals. You see this is the second game I have been to between these two teams where the Mets lead the whole game, but the Nationals went on a roll in the bottom of the ninth that made it look like they were just toying with the Mets.  I’ll just tell you what happened. Ryan Zimmerman hit a double to lead off the inning. Zimmerman then advanced on a wild pitch. Adam LaRoche then hit a single to score Zimmerman. At this point I was very unhappy even though the Nationals–who I am a fan of–had tied the game because I really didn’t want extra innings since I was already by the dugout, and that’s where it appeared this game was headed. But again, thank you to the Mets for being the Mets, because Ian Desmond doubled to make it runners on second and third with no outs. (Since Trent Jewett, the third base coach was obviously not going to send LaRoche in that situation.) Roger Bernadina then came up, but with Steve Lombardozzi hitting behind him and the obvious benefits of having a force-out at every base, he was intentionally walked. Lombardozzi then thankfully hit a walk-off sac-fly to end the game.

At the end of the game, I had kids in front of me in the corner spot to the umpire’s tunnel, but home plate umpire Wally Bell actually didn’t give them any baseballs; which is very odd. Just in case, though, I started to say, “Mr. Bell…” And before I could even finish my request, Bell had already tossed me my sixth ball of the night:

6413 Ball 6

It just goes to show, sometimes all it takes is asking and knowing the person’s name.

STATS:

  • 6 Balls at this Game

6413 Baseballs

Numbers 538-543 for my “lifetime”:

6413 Sweet Spots

  • 97 Balls in 23 Games= 4.22 Balls Per Game
  • 6 Ball x 31,473 Fans=188,838 Competition Factor
  • 86 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 135 Balls in 30 Games at Nationals Park= 4.50 Balls Per Game
  • 22 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
  • 6 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
  • 4 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
  • 2 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 4-5 Balls
  • Time Spent On Game 2:53-10:38= 7 Hours 45 Minutes

5/28/13 Orioles at Nationals: Nationals Park

Before I started going to games at Target Field at the end of the 2012 season, Nationals Park definitely felt like the closest thing I had to a “home” ballpark. So in not having been there since August 21 of last year, I was almost okay with my first game back being during rivalry week, when I knew there would be a ton of Orioles fans packing the Nationals Park seats. But now coming to the ballpark from a new location where the bus arrives only every half-hour, I made sure to give myself more than enough time to get to the gate and as a result got to the gate way before even I usually get there:

52813 Mateo at gate

Right as I got in and headed to the left field seats, Gio Gonzalez hit a ball to my left, so I ran after the ball, caught it on the fly:

52813 Ball 1

but in my deceleration, managed to trip on one of the seats and take a tumble. I felt fine, so I got up, but I first noticed that I had some scratches on my legs and then I felt something on my ear. I tapped my cap on my ear and this is what I saw:

52813 Bloody cap

I then felt my ear with my hand and even more blood was coming out. I wasn’t the only one who noticed it either. An usher saw my ear bleeding, and so he got another employee to take me up to first-aid, which literally opened just as we got there. I think it’s probably the fastest after the gates have opened that they have ever had to serve a person. Of course they took their time with cleaning up my ear, but all I could think of was all of the opportunities I was missing for snagging baseballs. All I wanted to do was get the blood off, maybe get a band-aid if it was necessary, and get back out into the stands. It was almost a joke to me how seriously they were taking this. I remember that right after examining my ear, the first-aid worker said, “It doesn’t look bad enough for you to need stitches; I think you can stay for the game.” I thought of replying with a super-sarcastic “Wow, thank you. I thought I was going to die any minute now because I cut my ear.” I was just that frustrated because getting on the board early was being completely wasted by the fact that I was being held up forever in first-aid. After they cleaned up my ear and let me go, one of the workers said, “Okay, now no more chasing baseballs.” Again a sarcastic “Okay. Maybe for the ten seconds it takes me to get back into the outfield seats.” popped into my head, but I realized that this was my first game back here at a place I would be the whole summer, and it’s beneficial to me to try to make as many friends and as few enemies in the ballpark as possible.

My second ball of the day came in the Red Seats in center field when I politely asked Craig Stammen if he could toss me a ball:

52813 Ball 2

That would be my last ball of Nationals BP. I didn’t really flub anything, but the excess crowd that was here for this game just went to all of the spots that I would have normally played the Nationals hitters at, so I was forced to pretty much camp out in the Red Seats where there didn’t end up being that much action.

When the Orioles began their batting practice, I headed down the third base line to try to get a ball from the position players and pitchers warming up, and managed to get a ball from who I figured out several days later with the help of Avi Miller was Troy Patton:

52813 Ball 3

I then headed off to left field, where I’d have to say my main challenge wasn’t necessarily the volume of people, but the amount of people wearing bright orange t-shirts:

52813 Orange Tshirts

See I have a black Orioles shirt, so I don’t really stand out. It’s only when I’m the sole Orioles fan talking to a player that it really helps me. Given this, I headed over to right field, where there weren’t quite as many Orioles fans. And it ended up paying off when Jason Hammel tossed me a ball that I almost immediately gave away to a kid next to me with a glove:

52813 Ball 4 diagram

Then at about 6:20, I realized batting practice was going to be wrapping up, so I headed to the Orioles dugout to try and get a ball when the Orioles were packing up their baseballs. When I got there, there was only one problem: there were too many people down there by the dugout with their Orioles gear on (It became my goal half-way through that sentence to see how many “there”s I could pack into one sentence), but the rain that had been holding off all batting practice couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. It started pouring just as the Orioles were finishing, and thus driving all the people who had been lining the dugout away, leaving me practically the only one in Orioles gear:

52813 View at the dugout

And as a result of this, when the Orioles cleared the field, I was the only one who recognized Rudy Arias, so when I said his name, he almost looked shocked that someone recognized him, and tossed me the ball that he had in his glove for my fifth of the day:

52813 Ball 5

A semi-long rain delay followed this, so I took advantage and sat in this seat at the beginning of the game:

52813 View at the beginning of the game

But I didn’t stay there long as I soon joined my mom and a coworker of hers that had made it out to the game–since both of our phones were dead–effectively capping my ball total at five baseballs for the night.

STATS:

  • 5 Balls at this Game (4 pictured because I gave 1 away)

52813 Baseballs

Numbers 527 to 531 for my “life”:

52813 Sweet Spots

  • 85 Balls in 19 Games= 4.47 Balls Per Game
  • 5 Balls x 35,664 Fans=178,320 Competition Factor
  • 82 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 129 Balls in 29 Games at Nationals Park= 4.45 Balls Per Game
  • 21 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
  • 5 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
  • 3 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
  • Time Spent On Game 2:46-12:32= 9 Hours 46 Minutes