Category: Nationals Park

6/20/12 Rays at Nationals: Nationals Park

It was my first game at Nationals Park this year, and look who I ran into at the Center Field Gate:

That would be fellow ballhawk, Rick Gold; and for the record, I was wearing the University of Miami shirt because I found out Rick was going to this game and he is an alumnus. It was a pretty hot day, so we tried to stay in the shade until security asked whose bags were sitting alone at the gate and we had to stand with them until the gates opened.

When the gates opened, Rick went to the Red Seats in center field and I went to the seats in straight-away left field. Just as I got there, a coach was picking up a ball right at the wall, so I asked him point blank, “Coach, could you possibly toss me that ball, please?” He picked up the ball and tossed it right back in to the bucket in shallow center field. Here is the coach:

Anyone know who he is?

After that, I had three balls hit within ten feet of me. Want to know how many I caught? Zero. Here are the misssed opportunities:

1. This one feels the stupidest of all three because I was THE ONLY ONE IN THE SECTION. All I had to do was catch the ball and I would be fine. Well, I ran into a row two rows above the landing spot of the ball and when I couldn’t reach the ball leaning over a seat, the ball bounced off a seat in front of me and back onto the field.

2. My biggest problem the whole day was that I was going too far back on balls. I kept thinking balls were going to keep travelling when they didn’t. This ball was no exception. I to a spot that was about three rows back from the ball, and watched as a fan tried to barehand the ball, and later picked it up after it scooted away from him. Had I judged the ball well, I could have gone into the row in front of him and caught the ball, or I would have picked up the ball after he dropped it.

3. This time I actually was in a spot to catch the ball. The problem was there was a fan in front of me. He then deflected the ball, which made it go to my left, where it ricocheted off the seat back into his row, where he picked it up. There was no one even close to me other wise, so had the ball just stayed after it deflected off his glove, I would have been able to easily pick it up.

Then I noticed a few balls were going into the bullpen. I then saw this guy, who I tried to glove trick:

First I reeled out my line to knock it closer, then I pulled it up to insert the sharpie and rubber band. (If you don’t what the glove trick is, here’s a link that should explain it. Disclaimer: the link is to Zack Hample’s blog, not mine. That’s because he thought up the idea, not me. I’m simply a vulture.) What happened when I pulled the glove up is the string got tangeled, and the glove therefore couldn’t go as far down. I then spent what seemed like an hour trying to untangel it before relenting and simply letting down more string (I call it string, but it’s actually a fishing line.). I then had the glove over the ball and was pulling up when the ball dropped out of the glove. I tried to make the necessary adjustment, and then dropped the glove down again, but when I did, a security guard started yelling, “Sir, sir.” I looked back, and he motioned for me to get my glove out of the bullpen. I then headed back to over to straight-away left field- the bullpen is behind the left-center field wall- and caught a ball on the fly off of the bat of Mark De Rosa.

I then moved over to right field, where I quickly got Michael Morse to toss me a ball. He was fielding basebaballs where you see him here, but when he ran back to the wall, I called out to him and he threw me the ball.The red arrow is where he moved to field the ball and the black arrow is the path of the ball he threw me:

My next ball was hit by a Nationals lefty. It touched down in the row the woman in blue is right here, I believe, which is also where I picked it up:

Want to see how I could run so far? This was the crowd in the right field seats:

Right about the time I took that picture, I caught a Michael Morse opposite field shot on the fly from about the spot from which I took the picture.

After that, an usher came through saying, ” Does anyone have an extra baseball? I’m going to try to get Bryce Harper to sign a ball.” I wanted to be all cool and catch a ball, and then give it to her saying, “Here you go”, but I eventually relented and pulled one out of my backpack for her.

I then headed over to the third base foul ground, where the Rays pitchers were throwing:

There I got Wade Davis- who was in the last throwing group- to toss me a ball over the protective netting along the third base line:

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As I left the section in right field, an usher who lets me sit there during the game asked me if I could give him a ball. I said, “sure”. He later reported that he had given the ball to a little girl.

After that, I went over to the Red Seats, where this was my view:

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There, I got David Price to throw me a ball. He is the one all right by the right edge of the picture, and when he ran over to center field to field a ball, I asked for the ball and he tossed it to me:

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I then gave it away to the kid in blue in the following picture:

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After B.P. ended, I went over to the Rays dugout and the guy in dark blue tossed me a ball out of the ball bag. Anyone know who he is?:

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As for the game, Stephen Strasburg outpitched Chris Archer, and the Nationals won 3-2.

During the game, I was planning on running back and forth between both sides of the outfield, but instead, I decided to stay put in right field and talk to Rick the whole game. After the game, though, I went to the Rays’ bullpen in left field and got a bullpen attendant- who was picking up the Gatorade cooler- to toss me my eighth and final ball of the night:

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STATS:

• 8 Balls at this game (5 pictured because I gave three away)

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Numbers 269-276 for my life:

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• 21straight Games with at least 1 Ball
• 8 Balls x 27,485 Fans= 219,880 Competition Factor
• 67 Balls in 14 Games at Nationals Park= 4.79 Balls Per Game
• 7 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
• 7 straight games with at least 2 Balls at Nationals Park
• 4 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Nationals Park
• Time at Game 4:51- 9:45 = 4 Hours 54 Minutes

9/25/11 Braves at Nationals: Nationals Park

This was, at the time, what I thought to be my last game of the season. Let me be the first to announce that it was ****NOT**** how I’d imagine my last game would go. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it sure felt like it when I entered the stadium. I met up with Alex Kopp at the Center Field gate and we raced in as soon as the gates opened.

Normally, the Nationals take a while to start hitting but there wasn’t even a cage up:

(this is where you imagine a batting cage not being on the field because I lost all of pictures from the last few games of the season)

I understand that it was a day game but the reason that teams don’t take bp on a day game is usually because they had a night game the day before and they have to sleep in. The previous game, however, was a day game itself so I had really thought there would be bp.

I had already gone up to the second deck in Right Field because I wanted to get a ball from the pitchers but they took ten years to start warming up the the previous day and so people in Left Field had seen me waiting and came up.

Once the Nationals finally came out, the Braves were five minutes from starting their throwing. As a result, I only got in one request and the situation was a pretty unique one. I had been waiting all season to use this refrence but I waited for Tyler Clippard to stop throwing. The reason being, he was on a Nationals pre-game show with Drew Storen where a camera person followed them around for a day (they’re roommates). When Clippard was almost done making eggs for breakfast, he remarked that they were: “as smooth as the other side of the pillow.” Drew Storen then mocked him for it once more in the segment for butchering the idiom, cliche or whatever that type of saying is called. When Clippard finished throwing, I asked him if he could, “Toss it up to me as smooth as the other side of the pillow.” I could just tell that he was paying attention to me when I called, “Tyler!” but he turned away from me when I made the refrence was made. Clippard is usually not the friendliest of players and I thought that I could crack him open up a bit with that but apparently not.

This was enough dealing with the Nationals so when the Braves got on the field, I ran from the upper Right Field stands to the Left Field foul line. There another thing happened to me in that I am 95% sure I got a ball because my numbered balls skip that number and I remember giving the ball away to a kid but have no recollection of the player throweing me the ball. I have no idea how this happened but it just did. Let’s call this ball #2 on the day. To make things even weirder, I know almost exactly where I caught/gave away the ball. Weird, right?

I then stayed in Right Field/ the Red Seats for a few Braves bp groups (by the way, did I mention the Braves took bp once again while the Nationals didn’t). For some it would have been a failure as I got only one ball, but for me it was great. When I was in the Red Seats, Julio Teheran was shagging in Center Field. As I mentioned in the first entry of this weekend, my goal of the weekend was to get a ball from him because he is the first Colombian pitcher in the major leagues and I myself am a Colombian pitcher. My entire focus was on that one thing. If a ball were hit right to me at that moment it probably would have sent me to the hospital. When he shagged a ball in the R-CF gap and was about to toss it into the RF stands, I yell out as loud as I could, “Una pelota para un Colombiano por favor?” (A ball for a Colombian,please?). He then made a 180 to face me and threw me one of the dirties bp balls I have ever seen. I kid you not when I say that I had a minor case of the butterflies. I then went onto say that I was also a pitcher and to get his gesture of approval was something special.

 I then went over to Right Field for the Braves Lefties (Freeman, Heyward…) and that was slightly less crowded and I did marginally better. I truly didn’t care, though. There was at least 1 ball I can think of that I would have had if I were going 100% but my mission was accomplished and I was satisfied if I didn’t get anything else.

I did get another ball but I can’t really provide much detail because all I remember is that I had to run to my right, jump over at least 1 row of seats, and I didn’t catch it on the fly. I don’t know who hit it either. I then gave this ball to an usher in Right Field that I am friends with. I then did my thing during the game of running back and forth but the Nationals weren’t nice enough to hit any Home Runs.

When the game ended, the Nationals told us to stick around and so I did. They then proceeded to do one of the coolest things I have ever seen a team do. September was Fan appreciation month and the Nationals had been giving random goodies out to fans throughout the month but this was their last home game of the season. The whole Nationals team came out of the dugout with a laundry cart like this:

It was about 3’x 6′ and full of all sorts of cheap giveaway stuff (gloves, plastic bats, frisbees, etc). The Nationals went clockwise all the way from the 1st base dugout to the Left Field foul pole and threw stuff into the stands the whole time.  I was a little further back than most people as to have more room to move but this came with its drawbacks because only the heavier items had a chance of getting to me. I had no chance at any T-shirts or things of that nature. I did end up with a bag of butterscotch candy, though:

(this is where you picture one of those pharmacy 2 for $1 bags of butterscotch)

I didn’t get anything else but I was truly impressed by how fan freindly the Nationals were being. It was one of the best displays of it I have ever seen.

9/24/11 Braves at Nationals: Nationals Park

This was now the middle game of (barring playoff baseball) my last weekend of baseball for the year. I figuring that this would be my last shot at a full batting practice because the next game would be a day game. I was actually too optimistic in this prediction. For my seventh stright game at Nationals Park, there was not a full session of bp.

When the gates opened, I ran up to the second deck in Right Field expecting the pitchers to be throwing but once again they were nowhere to be found. The air was free of moisture but still the pitchers were in the clubhouse and the hitters were as well. I understand why they weren’t. I mean the game was a day game after a night game. so after the 9:45 end time of the last game, any wake up time before 10:00 would be simply criminal.

Anyway, the pitchers didn’t come out until about 11:15. This was 45 minutes before the gates opened. I saw the Braves coming out to throw about 15 minutes into the Nationals but wanted to get one ball from the Nationals because I had seen a load of Braves fans the day before. I eventually did get a ball from Ryan Mattheus. If you don’t know, I have lost all of my pictures from the last few games of the season (which explains the lack there of in this entry) this also meant that I no longer have photographic evidence of but I think that this ball was meant for another kid and so I gave it away to that same kid once I recovered the overthrow.

I then ran down to the lower level and went down the first base line seating because like the day before, I had seen a ball go in the seats that the people witing in line did not see. It wasn’t quite in the same wheelchair section but it was very close to the same seats. I then went over to the Braves side of the field along the third baseline and tried to get them to throw me a ball. However, I was aware of any balls of any ball pulled my way. There was in fact a ball pulled my way. It landed about a section to my left and from there it was a race between myself and a Braves fan. I beat him to the ball in the aisle by a margin, but he was flat out running and his momentum made me the middle of a sandwich  between him and the railing. I had just picked up the ball and held on but this did knock the air out of me and so I whimpered my way to Left Field where I recovered.

 

Those seats were too crowded for my taste and so I moved over to the “Red Seats” in R-CF. Just as I got there, Dan Uggla’s hitting group got up and so I was pretty sure I would have a chance at one ball if not a few. Surely enough, there were several balls within ten feet of me and the one of those that landed in the Red Seats ended up in my possession. I then gave it away to the smallest Braves fan in the section. I kind of gave it away to amend all the balls I was going to catch in that section, but sadly this was the last ball for me the whole day.

 

This was mostly because I then went to RF and the promotion on this day was “Pups in the Park”. People were allowed to bring their dogs to the ballpark as long as they kept them in, you guessed it: Right Field. When I got there, the space behind the actual seats was transplanted turf for the dogs to be “walked”. In the actual seats, there were all types of dogs even in batting practice and some of them weren’t so visible . On three separate occasions, I had to hurdle a dog in the stand en route to a ball. Twice, it cost me catching the ball.

 

It also affected me in the game because I stayed mostly in Left Field as to not have to deal with maneuvering the dogs behind the Right Field seats. Also, the seats themselves were more packed than usual. Although I would have been upset to lose the opportunity at a Home Run, I was sort of wishing there was a ball hit into the Right Field seat just to see what would happen with all of the dogs.

 

As for my the Left Field seats, there was nothing hit in my direction and I stayed at four balls for the day. It was a partially fun day, but be sure to check back for my next entry in around three days from now because all I can say is that the Nationals really did go all in on the fan appreciation day.

9/23/11 Braves at Nationals: Nationals Park

This day was just another example of why the batting practice gods hate me when I go to Nationals Park ( the Home Run gods like teasing me but that’s a whole other story). There was no batting practice because of rain which made it like the 6th game in a row where I didn’t have full batting practice when I went to Nationals Park (either the Nationals hit and the visiting team didn’t, vice-versa, or neither team hit at all). Today there was no batting period.

When the gates opened, I went up to my usual spot in the Upper Right Field seats thinking that the Nationals would follow their routine of warming up just as the gates opened. Let’s see, the gates opened at 4:30 and the Nationals didn’t start throwing until 5:15. This was 45 minutes after their usual time. I wasn’t expecting this but it actually helped me. In addition to throwing later, they did something else I hadn’t seen them do before: they threw in segmented groups. Let me explain, usually, all the pitchers come out at the same time and finish at the same time, but on this day, the first pair came out at 4:15 and the last pair of pitchers came out at about 4:40.

While I was in the second deck, I saw the Nationals throw two balls into the wheelchair section they have on both sides of the field. This section was pretty wet so they just left the balls there. The rest of the stadium (besides URF and L-CF) opens at 5:30 for a 7:00 game. I stayed in the Upper seats until 5:27 to make sure that I didn’t miss THAT many snagging opportunities but at 5:27 left to get in line when the rest of the stadium opened. I was like 2 seconds behind the people first getting into the rest of the stadium  and the other people knew enough to hurry up and look for balls but I had been the only one in the upper seats and thus was the only one who knew where the two balls were.

Now the rotating throwing partners come into play. Had all the players been throwing while I picked up the balls, most of them would have seen me get the balls and probably wouldn’t have thrown me any more. However as it was, I got Sean Burnett to throw me a ball and then changed outfits to get Tom Gorzelanny to throw me a ball.

Right after Gorzelanny threw me the ball, I noticed the Braves were warming up. Whenever I have the choice between trying to get balls from the Home team or the opposing team, 9 times out of 10 i will go with the opposing team because the odds are that there will be less fans with the opposing team’s gear than the home team’s gear. I did go over to the Braves side of the field and had my Braves gear on, but to my surprise, I was one of fifteen others in Braves gear. Fortunately, most of them were there for autographs, but I still didn’t get a ball thrown to me cleanly.

My main goal for this weekend in general was to get Julio Teheran to throw me a ball. This may have contributed to the fact I did get a ball thrown to me. I stayed right behind Julio and his throwing partner and just focused on getting a ball from him while he made his throwing partner look foolish with a variety of breaking pitches.The reasons I so desperately wanted a ball from Teheran is that I was a pitcher when I played organized baseball and am definitely part of the family of pitchers when it comes to my school of thought. The second part of this is that I was born in Colombia and so was Teheran. So the reason for trying to get a ball from him was that he is the first Colombian Pitcher in the major leagues and it would mean the world to get a ball from him because he also has a good chance of succeeding at this level. I threw in the part of me being of the Pitchers school of thought because yeah it would mean a lot for Edgar Renteria or Orlando Cabrera to throw me a ball but to have the first Colombian MLB Pitcher to throw me a ball would be great. Also, sorry if I sounded repetitive back there but it was just kind of an idea in my head and I wanted to get it as refined as I could. In retrospect, it probably just confused you more. Just to add on how much I’ve been paying attention to Teheran and want him to succeed, I went out of my way to see his first start with the Braves a while ago. The reason I focused so much on him in this series and not others is because he got sent down shortly after his first start as he struggled.

Enough of my man-crush on Julio Teheran, I just wanted to get the explanation out of the way because it really was the center of the weekend. I didn’t get anything from any other Pitchers because Teheran was facing me and I was right behind his throwing partner and was afraid that if he saw me get a ball he wouldn’t consider throwing me his. When he and his partner finished, I yelled out to him, ” Una pelota para un Colombiano?” This translates to: “A ball for a Colombian?” Good news: He heard me.

Bad News: He missed with his throw and the guy next to me got the ball. Either that or he thought the guy next to me had called out to him.

 

I then moved down the line and tried to get a ball from the other Braves pitchers. As I mentioned before, I didn’t get a Pitcher to throw a ball to me. Despite this, I did get a ball. Jonny Venters and his partner were the last throwing pair on the Braves. There was a kid right next to me that was much younger and so I knew I probably wasn’t going to get the ball thrown to me. So, I moved behind the kid and played the mis-throw. Venters did then overthrow the kid, I grabbed it, and handed it to the kid. When Venters finished throwing,  he started signing autographs and I got him to sign one of my baseballs from that day. I think he has signed for me before but mygameballs.com’s autograph database is being difficult and I gave away most of my autographed baseballs last year so I have no evidence. A funny thing happened in that Venter actually signed right next to where I had numbered the ball and looked a little funny at the ball. I wonder what went through his head. The obvious thought being that I am selling the autographs and so I number the balls to identify the balls.

 

For the game, I did my usual ritual of getting a ticket on each side of the outfield and running to Left Field for Righties and Right Field for Lefties. It was and ideal set-up for this ritual as both the teams were batting primarily from a different side of the line-up. That is to say, the Braves line-up was made of primarily Lefties and the Nationals lineup was made up of primarily Righties. This allowed me time to move back and forth between innings instead of At-Bats and also make me not feel like I wasted money on one of the tickets (this would happen if both teams were primarily Righties or Lefties).

 

It was mainly dead out in Home Run territory but then later in the game THIS happened. Jayson Werth hit a Home Run into the Left Field seats where I was sitting. It was really high and was the same direction as the Chris Young Home Run I had missed out on a few weeks prior. It ended up like five rows right behind where that Home Run had hit.

 

I was on an aisle seat as usual and here is a screen shot from when the ball was in the air:

The Left arrow is me and the Right is where the ball would hit. At this time, I saw there were no rows that would get me to a place where I could get to catching the ball on the fly without knocking down half-a-dozen people. So I stayed on the aisle and hoped the ball would bounce back towards the field off of the seat.

 

Here is a screen shot after the ball bounced of the seat and headed right in my direction:

The big arrow is pointing to my red Nationals hat and the little arrow is pointing to the ball coming off the seat and back to me. The ball bounced back right in my direction but I couldn’t see that because the girl in the Strasburg t-shirt’s back was blocking my view. She then deflected the ball and it landed in a seat in the row between us two. From there it was a race between our two hands to the ball and this was the result:

She was closer and reached for the ball faster. I think the Home Run in general felt too casual, it felt like nothing more than a batting practice ball. I feel that if I had been more into the game/aggressive I would have my first Home Run ball. Anyway, the arrow in the top third of the picture is pointing to where I am standing outside of the picture. Looking on sadly.

 

After the game, I got Eddie Perez to throw me a ball from the bullpen after the game. This made Six balls on the day even without batting practice.

 

And that was how my partially redemptive weekend in Washington went. In other news, tomorrow is my birthday and the 1 year anniversary of Observing Baseball. I hope to write something but it *is* my birthday and so if I don’t I will write it on Friday.

9/17/11 Marlins at Nationals: Nationals Park

As an introduction, I accidentally erased all of the pictures on my phone that I took at this game and for the rest of the season. The entries will go on as planned but they will lack pictures.

It was my first game in about three weeks so I was excited. That excitement quickly left me once I saw that the Nationals had foregone batting practice. Usually, only Left Field is open for the first hour of the stadium being open but in this case they had it open. That would have been great if the Nationals were hitting but because they were just throwing it actually brought more competition for the balls.

The one player I had set my sights on was Sean Burnett because I had done some research and saw it was his birthday. Unfortunately, his throwing partner, Tyler Clippard, ended up with the ball and because there were 5 ballhawks at this game in addition to regular fans, all the other balls had been caught by someone else. I asked Clippard if I could have the ball but there were ten year olds in the area and I wasn’t shocked when he threw the ball to them. I then had some time until the Marlins would start hitting and throwing. So, I went over to the Marlins dugout so I wouldn’t have to rush once they actually did come out to throw. I had gotten both Doug Slaten and Drew Storen’s autograph on my two ticket stubs (I bought one and Rick Gold gave me one). When I got over to the Marlins dugout, I just barely missed out on getting Gaby Sanchez to sign my ticket. I did however, get Emilio Bonifacio to sign the same ticket as Slaten. While he was signing, I asked him (in Spanish of course) if he could throw me a ball if I got his attention later on. Here is a picture of the two ticket stubs with the autographs on them:

The top ticket is Bonifacio and Slaten’s ticket while the bottom is Storen’s ticket

Later on, the Marlins pitchers went out to throw by the Left Field foul pole. I followed them out but while I was waiting for them to finish, I saw Bonifacio warming up back at the dugout. So, I hustled back and got there just in time. He had just finished up and was about to throw the ball, to a kid who I have seen a few times at Nationals Park, but hesitated when he saw me in the corner of his eye and threw the ball to me on the outfield end of the dugout, remembering his promise.

When I got back to the outfield, most of the pitchers had finished their throwing so I decided to stay in the Left Field seats for Mike Stanton’s power-packed hitting group. There were a few tough luck balls but the grand daddy of them all was a fly ball that I had judged perfectly and was camped under. Right at the last second, I saw a glove coming in front of mine and it caught the ball. I congratulated the person and was genuinely happy for them because they had brought a glove, but had a few bounces or toss-ups gone my way it could have been a good day considering Strasburg was pitching that night and double the norm showed up to batting practice.

I then moved over to Right Field to try my luck at catching a Logan Morrison Home Run. I actually did catch one in about the third row that I judged semi-perfectly and caught on the fly. I got many congratulations from the people around me but thought at the time that it was just a sign of things to come. Sadly, no other Lefties hit much to Right Field and the Marlins upheld their rep as a stingy team. So, that ended up being my last ball of batting practice and the game. I was in the outfield and could have gone to the bullpen but wanted to save that chance for the next day because I expected to be there (I had to search the District of Columbia for a Citi Bank and that caused me to not go) and wanted to save myself that opportunity for the next day where I planned to get at least five despite the fact that there was not going to be any batting practice, to make up for this below average day.

That was it. All in all it was a decent day to go to the ballpark and I did not regret going.

8/25/11 Diamondbacks at Nationals: Nationals Park

This was now the third and final game of the redeem-my-horrible-roadtrip series. Since the previous two games had been overall disappointments/failures,  this was the game that I was going to break out. That all went down the drain when out came the rain. When I arrived I thought the Nationals were actually going to take batting practice and I had good reason because as the red arrow in this picture shows, the cages were at one time indeed up:

I also noticed but could not take a picture of, the Nationals pitchers warming up ahead of schedule. I didn’t mind it at the time because they knew me and we were going to have batting practice even though it was slightly moist in the air and the constant threat of rain hung over our heads.

That picture was taken 30 minutes before the gate opened. In the meantime, I was waiting in line from a position from where I could not see what was happening. When I arrive to the field I found out the unfortunate truth:

The good news was that, as you can see, the Diamondbacks came out to throw and I wouldn’t have to wait out it the cold dampness in anticipation. I did have some competition out there but I got the weirdest ball by far. I was prepared to wait until the last pair finished and get my one ball but out of nowhere, Jeff Motuzas, the Diamonbacks bullpen catcher, threw me a ball. I believe none of the other ballhawks had gotten a ball yet, neither had I asked for the ball. To top it all off, Motuzas had thrown me a ball after the game the day before and would be more likely to recognize me As I was the last fan he interacted with. Was it because He had seen me at the previous game that he threw me the ball? Did he perhaps want to reward me for coming to another game? If he just forgot about me I don’t think he would have thrown me the ball because the others were calling out to him and wearing D-Backs gear. Weird, see what I mean? Here is the ball he threw me with Motuzas in the background.

Motuzas tossed me this ball in front of all the pitchers out there. This meant that most of the pitchers saw me get the ball. I then changed my get up by: switching my pants ( I had shorts under hiking pants), covering up my Diamondbacks shirt, putting on Mets give away glasses, and keeping my Diamondbacks hat on. Due to the change, I got Daniel Hudson to toss me a ball as he finished up his catch. Here is the ball with Hudson in the background:

By the way, the man looking back is not a ballhawk by most standards but his son was part of the  competition I was talking about. This would also be the same kid that mocked me about snagging two balls at US Cellular in the first gameof the series (displeasure #7 if you want to got all the way down to the specific line(a parenthesis in parenthesis, are you allowed to do that? Anyway, the way that entry is set up is that the day was just a list of the things that went wrong for me that day so whenever I introduce one more thing it has the number and a period this specific thing that went wrong is introduced by a 7.)) The kid himself was over in the bullpen getting someone to throw him a ball.

Then the boringness began. It was now around 5:00 and the game wasn’t going to begin for another 2 hours and that meant no snagging opportunities for about an hour. I’ll just list the highlights of my stadium wandering:

1. I was going to go up to the Red Porch and take in a panoramic view of the stadium:

but that was closed:

2. I went to the CF portion of the outfield concourse and went to play area sponsored by Exxon Mobil called the Strike Zone:

the highlight of this was like a batting cage they had set-up:

This wasn’t your stadium-employee-lobs-ball-to-you batting cage. How it worked was you, the hitter, picked a certain pitcher to go against. For example, this hitter is facing Scott Kazmir. A clip plays on the wall of the pitcher winding up and throwing the ball and as the pitcher gets to the position where he would release the ball an actual ball shoots out of the wall where his hand is and comes at you. The hitter can also designate the speed they would like the ball at and the clip still plays in realtime. There is also a similar thing with pitching but it isn’t nearly as much fun. Demonstrated by the only ones playing it were the employees manning it. I only want to show this picture because it gets the ball just as it is about to hit the wall of strips of material that look like shredded paper:

3. When the rest of the stadium opened, (for those who don’t know, only Left Field and the upper deck in Right of Nationals Park are open from when the stadium opens until 5:30 for a 7:00 game) I went over into foul ground to for the Nationals pitchers’ errant throws when they warmed up before the game. Sadly there were no baseballs to be found but I did get an interesting shot of the tarp being rolled off:

Neat, huh? At least I think so. I like how I get the tarp right down the line. Then again, part of the experience was being that close to the unrolled tarp. I know that sounds quirky but for whatever reason it was slightly exciting. Maybe it was just that boring of a day?

4. I wandered the concourse and noticed that throughout the stadium, the Nationals honor random Hall of Famers like:

And:

I guess the Nationals don’t have enough team history that they put these up. Can you imagine the Yankees putting up salutes to historic players from other teams? Didn’t think so. The Nationals do have more than those two but I didn’t want to include all of them in this entry because there were quite a few.

I then just waited for the rest of pre-game until the position players came out and started throwing at which time I set up in the stands and hoped they would throw me a ball:

I don’t remember exactly what happened but I ended up not getting anything from here and going out to another day of what I thought was going to be outfield running but it turns out that I could have just bought a ticket out in Left Field and I would have been just as well off because both teams are primarily running to begin with and the fact that both pitchers were lefties made them even more right heavy. I don’t remember the exact numbers but there were like 3 lefties in the entirety of both lineups excluding the pitchers.

While in Left Field, I had some room around me because the rain drove away everyone except the Nationals fans. So basically it was really empty in Left Field. Here are four pictures that should show how empty it was.

Behind me and to my right:

Angeled towards the field and to the right:

Behind me and to my left:

 

Angeled towards the field and to the left:

Due to how right handed heavy the lineup was and the fact that I had some room to move, I adjusted slightly for every hitter using a site called hittrackeronline.com. If you want to check it out the link is in the sidebar. Anyway, I looked at where each hitter hit his Home Runs and adjusted based on what I saw. So here is Michael Morse’s Home Run Chart:

Each of the blue dots is a Home Run he has hit this year. So, for Morse I would play further back in the seats because there is almost no pattern as far as the direction of the ball is concerned but the only constant is that he hits the ball far and I wanted to be going in on the ball and not back.

 Also as a  result of the righty-ness of the lineup , I stayed in Left Field for 80% of the time and my trips to Right Field only served to be a hinderance to me on this day. I consider two Home Runs to be partially lost opportunities because of my trips to Right. Partially because, it wouldn’t have been a sure thing if I had been in my seat in Left but it sure would have been much easier to get them if I had.

The first was a Chris Young Home Run where I was just getting back  to my seat and looking to see which row I was in. As a result, I was looking to my right when Young hit the ball and didn’t see the ball once while it was in the air. Zack Hample had also taken up residence in the Left Field seats and since I didn’t want to look up for the ball and possibly miss my opportunity to get to the ball, I just watched him. I thought to myself “he’s going to at least get some glove on the ball so my best shot is that is to sit a few rows behind him and get the deflection.” The whole time I was going down the staircase. He went about four rows under where the ball hit and by default I was two rows under it. I had come from quite a bit up on the staircase so I would have been able to get to the spot had I just looked up to see where the ball was headed. The only variable in that situation would have been if I would be able to judge the ball correctly but I’m pretty sure I would have been within five feet of it and I’m almost certain I would have caught it.

 

You can see the video by clicking, here. I am in my light red Nationals shirt going down the steps and then into a row going towards the right of your screen. If you keep focus on me, you can see I didn’t look up once and me turn when the ball deflects off the seat.

The second Home Run is kind of a slippery slope argument but here goes. I was in Right Field for Miguel Montero’s At-Bat and was headed back to Left Field I usually go at a decent pace that gets me to the other side of the field within two pitches of the At-Bat starting but it was like the eighth inning or something like that and I was pretty tired and thought to myself: “Why am I running this fast for Paul Goldschmidt? I’ve never heard of him so he can’t have that much power. You know what I’m just going to walk the rest of the way and get there in time for (whoever was behind him in the lineup who I perceived to be a better HR threat).” So I slowed up to a walk and just as I was behind the Red Porch I saw a baseball rolling out onto the concourse and a crowd of kids about half a second behind it. They chased it almost all the way to the gate in Center Field and one of them picked it up. The ball had bounced on the staircase right next to the one I usually go down in Left Field. This means that I would have been right next to the ball when it landed or towards the top of the staircase where I could have turned around and outran the other kids that chased the ball, which was very frustrating. Had I just been where I usually sit in Right Field there is a 50-50 chance I would have caught the ball on the fly. At least there was a nice/weird looking sky:

It may not look *that* special but it was some legitimate freakiness going on because it didn’t seem like light being refracted but the clouds themselves were that color. I guess a better way of explaining it is that the orange color pierced the cloud instead of only being on one side of it like when the sun hits it.

Anyway, the video for the Goldschmidt Home Run can be seen by clicking, here. You can’t see me but you can better visualize what I described two paragraphs ago.

I then moved over to Right Field for the beginning of the final inning. I did this because I knew it was Justin Upton’s birthday and tried to get his final inning warmup ball through that. As he was finishing his throwing, I yelled out as hard as I could: “HAPPY BIRTHDAY JUSTIN.” I know he heard me unless he is partially hearing impaired because he was close enough to the wall but regardless he didn’t even acknowledge me much less throw me his warmup ball. The reason I put the latter as a superior  negative to the former is that he has nothing to save the warmup ball from his final inning for. What is he going to do with it? There are no more innings to warmup for. I was also almost the only one in that section and was definitely the only Diamonbacks fan that bothered to look up his birthday if I wasn’t the only Diamonbacks fan in that section period.

I then went back to Left for the ninth itself because there were mostly righties coming up and I was more likely to get a ball from the Diamondbacks than the Nationals bullpen because there were obviously more people in Nationals gear than Diamondbacks gear. When I didn’t get anything, I took the metro to my temporary residence whenever I come to Washington and got myself packed to have the priviledge of taking the bus back to Manhattan the next morning just to go to another baseball game.

8/24/11 Diamonbacks at Nationals: Nationals Park

This was now the second game of  the series that was supposed to redeem my horrible roadtrip and I did get a total that was like triple my average on that trip but the day was an overall failure. I did bring my camera and took pictures with it but later realized that I had taken them without the memory card and I had lost them forever. So, I will just write up my bp and the pictures will come during the game portion of the entry. Here it goes:

I went immediately up to the second deck in Right Field which was absolutely empty. Within five minutes of me getting there three Rick Ankiel Home Runs came up there. I ended up with one. The first hit in the seats to my right and I kind of lolligagged to it because I was the only one in the section but the ball bounced back onto the field. It was semi-catchable but that’s not the worst part. Had I run after that ball I would have been in postion to catch a ball he hit on the very next pitch except further to the right. That one also bounced back onto the field. Ankiel then hit a third ball back to my left and this time it stuck in the seats. I went over and grabbed that ball. Sadly, I quickly forgot that I snagged that ball because I was still moping about the previous two so keep this fact in mind. I didn’t get any toss-ups from the pitchers even though I was the only one because they now recognized me. I mean the same kid in the same Nationals hat and shirt every game really isn’t that hard to spot/recognize but it only occurred to me after the game.

Ankiel & rest of group then finish their session and Ankiel went out to shag in Right Field. I asked him for a bseball and he said some obscure words I couldn’t make out and I asked him to repeat. “Make a muscle.” He said. I then held my cotton clad arm and he tossed me my second ball of the day.

My third ball of the day can be explained in two words: Todd Coffey. Well maybe not but the story goes that Todd Coffey likes to throw a baseball and likes to throw them random distances. When the pitchers finished a drill where they ran routes like a Wide Receiver, Todd Coffey took those seven baseballs and just threw them to random spots in the stands. He threw one to the upper deck, a few in foul territory (later pocketed by ushers), and most of them in the second deck where I was standing. One of those that he threw to the second deck was on the fly:

The bright red arrow is where I caught the ball and the fainter red circle points out a part of the stadium called the Miller Light Scoreboard Walk. It is like a bar section where there are discounted beers before every game and is part of the reason why the Upper Right field seats are so empty. Most people don’t go up there because of baseballs and those who do are more inclined to get turned off by all the people drinking. Anyway, that’s not why I bring it up here, the reason that I bring it up is because most of the balls launched to the second deck went there where it was funny to see a baseball go into a crowd of people that were drinking and see what happened when they realized the fact. Suffice to say, Chaos insumed. I marked that ball #198 because I forgot that I had gotten the Ankiel homer and so I thought my next ball was going to be #199 when in fact it was #200.

#200 came when a Nationals lefty hit a ball to my left and an usher with whom Alex Kopp and Garrett Meyer have had problems with raced me to the ball. I beat her to it  but she said she wanted to give it to someone. For the prospect of better ballhawk relationships I gave it to her not realizing that it was infact #200 and asked her who the ball was for she got someone caught off guard. I want to assume that it was because she thought of ballhawks as vile filth that only care about themselves and wouldn’t ask that question but she regained her composure within a second and answered that it was for her niece. She then asked me what I did with all the baseballs I got. I responded that I gave away about 1/3 to kids (Would you say this is about accurate? I actually used to give away more before the blog but since I like to keep enough to make for a good picture at the end of the entry) got about 1/6 signed (again used to do this a lot more last year because I wasn’t as focused on getting the balls themselves), and then kept the rest just in different places in my apartment (this is definitely true I have no idea what is going to happen with baseballs if I catch like 200 in a season. Most of the balls from this year are in unused bags because the filing cabinet I have is filled to the brim.) Soon after this, bp ended and the cages got pulled away. I had a clue why. While talking to a fan yesterday waiting in line for the gates to open, I found out that had the stadium opened on time, the Diamondbacks would not be taking bp in favor of fielding practice.

Sure enough, the Diamonbacks showed up for fielding practice and there were zero snagging opportunities until the Diamondbacks finished and when they did, they didn’t toss anything up to the only Diamonbacks “fan” within a mile of the dugout. I have no problem with fielding practice taking place AFTER bp but I just don’t understand why you have to cancel bp to make this happen. I however, am in no position to criticize, the Diamonbacks had been hitting wretchedly until that point and this series was the start of a run that separated them from the Giants in the NL West and will propbably get them into the playoffs. It just makes no sense to my limited knowledge of baseball. This was actually a first for me in that I bought seats on both sides of the Outfield. If you were following this adventure on the blog’s twitter account, you know that I was absolutely exhausted by the fifth inning. I repeat, THE FIFTH INNING. If I’m not mistaken, the reason I did this was because there were two righties on the hill and the established players on both teams (Justin Upton, Chris Young, Michael Morse, Ryan Zimmerman etc) were pure righties but had plenty of power lefties/switch hitters that almost only came in/hit lefty when there was a righty on the hill (Rick Ankiel, Danny Espinosa, Laynce Nix, Miguel Montero) those names but might be accurate but the point is the line-up was very mixed when it came to righties and lefties. The Diamondbacks were the  main cause of my exhaustion as Kirk Gibson thought it would be funny to see me run back and forth all night and stacked his lineup in the Righty-Lefty format. The Nationals almost did the same thing but they had a pocket of righties at the middle of the order because those were the players that belonged at the middle of the order.

I ended up so exhauted that I had to do a bit of guess work and just guess which hitters were more likely to hit a Home Run than the others. Had I actually followed the lineup, there would have been many a time that I started running to one side of the OF and a batter change would cause me to turn around the other way. On average, if I left right as the first batter got out, I got to the other side of the OF by the second pitche of the second batter’s At-Bat.

I didn’t catch anything but came within 20 feet of Laynce NIx’s 9th inning Home Run and got a ball after the game ended from the Diamondbacks’ bullpen catcher, Jeff Motuzas:

I also managed to snag a bag of peanuts from a couple who bought two bags but didn’t have room for the second:

Or as it is known in the dictionary Observing Baseball edition, dinner. I am glad I had something to eat because  this self-portrait sums up best how I was feeling a the moment:

Is it okay with everyone if I don’t write up the stats for the rest of the season? It has been uneventful to say the least and I am really more concerned with getting the entries up first than puting up my stats. If it is really important to you to see my stats, the best place to look at them by far is my mygameballs.com profile page which is linked to on the side bar on the right side of the screen and has better statistical categories than any I can think of—–>