I wasn’t exactly thrilled to go to this game, but in trying to get to 60 games this season, there are such games that I have to just suck up and go to anyway. Why did I not want to be at this game? This guy:
It was Josh Willinghammer bobblehead day, and I while I do like the bobblehead–despite the boring box–I knew a ton of other people would as well, and I was right. Here is the view in the bleachers to my right, right as I entered the stadium:
And here was the view in the bleachers to my left with the friend who joined me from my residence hall that day, Kyle:
I had told Kyle a couple of times of my baseball ventures and so he asked me if he could accompany me to a game whenever I was going to one next. It was like a week-and-a-half before the game, and the Twins were gone for a while, so this was the one we ended up going to. We had left our dorm at around 3:50, and got to the game at about 4:40, and by the time we got there, there was already a line at Gate 3 that went half-way to Gate 6. I won’t include a map, but if you want you can check it out and see what I mean. It would be a normal line size for Yankee Stadium, but for here it was massive.
It soon became clear that everyone was way more concentrated in the left field bleachers. Had I been smart and realized that the weather was relatively warmer, I might have gone up to the second deck and played for Josh Willingham, Adam Jones and players of their ilk to hit baseballs into the second deck. But sadly I didn’t think of it and instead just went over to the right-center field seats and got a ball from Josh Roenicke:
I had called out to Roenicke on a previous ball, but when he looked back at me, he thought the kid next to me had asked him for the ball. But then when I asked him for a ball when another rolled to the wall, he looked up and saw that I was all alone, so he tossed me the ball. I didn’t realize it until I went back and checked my stats, but that was my 100th baseball ever at Target Field, making Target Field only the second stadium I’ve accomplished that at. That was it for me for the Twins portion of BP, because as I said before, it was crowded. Target Field is an okay ballpark when there’s no one around. When it’s crowded, it shows its true ballhawking colors.
When Twins BP ended, I made my way to the Orioles dugout, but nothing was going on:
It was at the time that actual baseball-snagging action started to occur that I got a message from Sean saying that he had just parked and was headed to Gate 34. Since I was not ready to sacrifice snagging opportunities to go give him his ticket, I recruited Kyle to head out there and give him the ticket despite the fact that neither had met the other beforehand.
After Kyle left, I first tried to get a ball from the position players tossing by the dugout:
But all of them tossed their balls onto the field after they were done. I then tried to get a ball from the position players warming-up just past third base, but instead of getting a ball from them, one of the Orioles bullpen catchers, Ronnie Deck (unofficial assist to Avi Miller for the fact that I know his name), saw that the players weren’t tossing me a ball, so he tossed me a ball without me even asking for one:
(Notice the Orioles couple realizing I had gotten a ball and unintentionally photo-bombing me.) I gave this ball away to a kid as I was walking towards the left field foul pole.
In the time that it took Kyle to get out to right field, the position players warmed up completely. By the time Sean and Kyle were making their way back to me, I was almost to the foul pole in foul territory. So as I saw them cutting across the seats towards the dugout where Kyle had left me, I started waving towards them to draw their attention. They were behind me (read: away from the field), so I had to look back to wave to them. It was at this time I heard the crowd make some noise; like as if a ball was rolling on the warning track near the stands that a player might toss up. Right after I heard that, I felt a blow to both my left and right legs at about the knee area. While I was looking away from the field, an Orioles player–probably Manny Machado–had pulled a ball down the line and it managed to strike not one, but both of my legs on the fly. It actually didn’t hurt much at all right after the ball hit me. No, the most painful part of that whole incident was the fact that the ball bounced right off of me to the hands of the guy in front of me. However, it was because of this that I got my second ball of the day. Tommy Hunter had seen the whole thing go down, so when he was done throwing, he came over and signed a ball for me and my “troubles”:
As he gave me the ball and left, I said, “Thanks, Tommy. I appreciate it.” and he kind of smiled. It was the kind of smile that made me think I had gotten his name wrong. I was pretty sure it was Tommy Hunter, so I was confused by why he acted this way. I realized why when I read the writing on the ball. Here was the signature itself:
but here was what he wrote on the ball itself for me:
Hunter had gone to run poles, so by the time I had read the ball and understood it, he was already in center field, but when he made it back to the left field foul pole, I jokingly told him my reason for getting hit while giving him a hard time about putting what he did on the ball.
After that, I headed out to the seats in right field:
And when I looked to my right, I saw a couple of interesting things.
1. There was pretty much the whole Orioles roster in the outfield at one point:
Okay, so maybe that’s a bit of hyperbole, but that’s what, 15 people in the outfield that you can see in that picture alone?
2. The left field seats were absolutely packed because of the bobblehead day:
At most other stadiums that’s a decent-sized crowd, but because of the steepness and overhang in left field, I knew I wouldn’t have a chance at a ball in left field. This was particularly frustrating because it was J.J. Hardy’s group that was hitting, and he hit several baseballs to the spot where I usually play him at any ballpark. It was crowded, but who knows if I don’t have an extra couple of baseballs if I had been in left field for that group.
But with my legs making any movement very painful, I was stuck in right field. Sean and Kyle, who both knew how much of an annoyance it can be to follow me around when I’m running back and forth, seemed pretty content with just staying in right field, though:
They even had time to go get food and get back to find me still in the section that they had left me in. (This is usually not the case if you leave my side for over five minutes.)
Anyway, I wouldn’t get any other baseballs for the rest of batting practice itself, but at the very end of BP, I went down to the Orioles dugout and got their hitting coach, Jim Presley to toss me a ball as the baseballs were being transferred from the ball basket to the ball bag.
After that, I headed out to center field to try to get a ball from the groundscrew member who clears the batter’s eye of baseballs after batting practice, but I just barely missed him, getting there as he was headed off the batter’s eye:
The three of us alternated sitting behind the third base seating moat and the standing room in right field, but I couldn’t get another ball for the rest of the game.
Sean had brought his car to the game, so once we finally got out of the parking garage that Sean had parked in and got through the Minnesota traffic, Sean dropped Kyle and I off at our dorm on the St. Paul campus. Sean and I had just agreed the day prior that we were going to be taking a weekend trip to his home in Chicago so he could visit his mom on Mother’s Day and I could go to a couple of games at U.S. Cellular Field. So when he left us at the dorm just before midnight, it was knowing that we would be seeing each other just a few short hours later on our way to Chicago.
- 4 Baseballs at this game (3 pictured because I gave 1 away)
Numbers 491-494 for my life:
- 48 Balls in 10 Games= 4.80 Balls Per Game
- 4 Balls x 31,360 Fans=125,440 Competition Factor
- 72 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 103 Balls in 24 Games at Target Field= 4.29 Balls Per Game
- 22 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 3:51-11:43= 7 Hours 52 Minutes
As I had told a bunch of people who had asked me prior, I was 99% sure I was not going to this game. My high school baseball team had a game planned for Staten Island at 7:00 that night, but our game had been cancelled at 2:00. You may be thinking that I would be bent on attending the game the instant I got the call telling me our game was cancelled. I wasn’t. It was raining most of the day leading up to that point and the thought of going to the Yankee game never crossed my mind, probably because I had so vehemently denied to so many people who I was going to this game.
To give you some context as to my arrival at Yankee Stadium, the gates open at 5:00, which means I usually arrive at the stadium at 4:30, and it takes me approximately 30 minutes to get to Yankee Stadium. Now that I’ve told you all of this, it was not until 4:08 that it hit me I was now available to go to the game. I knew I was already late for my usual arrival time, so I had to make a quick decision as to whether it was worth my time. It was indeed a quick debate, and the winning argument was, “There’s baseball being played and you’re going to stay at home and do work? Go to the game, you idiot! The worst that can happen, you get shutout? You only have a 14 game streak, so it wouldn’t be that tragic if you did.” I bought my ticket and got ready the quickest I ever have for a game, getting out the door by 4:20.
I hopped on the “D” train and was at Gate 6 of Yankee Stadium by 4:50. I thought that another ballhawk would be there, given all that had planned to be there, so I would be able to go with them at the front of the line, but apparently a rainy Yankee Stadium was too scary for everyone but me. Actually, that’s not true, even I was worried that it would start raining any minute:
Although I had checked the forecast and it called for a 30% chance of rain at this time, the clouds were rather ominous which made me rather anxious. A bright spot, though, was that the threat of rain had scared off a bunch of regular fans and the line wasn’t that long; as you can see from the picture. Normally the line ten minutes before the gate opening time would be at least three times the length it was when I got there.
It had been an absolute downpour in the afternoon, so I was skeptical there would be batting practice, and when I got in the stadium, there wasn’t. There was, however, a cage set up:
That meant that either the Yankees had taken bp before we had entered or the Orioles were going to. I asked a camera man nearby if the Yankees had taken bp. When he said, “no” I was ecstatic, because that meant the weather had worked out perfectly so the ballhawks and other fans were driven away, but I would still get batting practice.
That said, the Orioles were still not hitting just yet, so I headed over to foul territory in an attempt to get a ball from one of the position players warming up:
Why do I have an arrow pointing to one of players? That would be Robert Andino. When he finished throwing and started walking to the dugout, I called out and said, “Robert, can you throw me that ball please?” He responded by stopping and saying, “Put down a sign.” I signaled back two fingers, and he made sure he was seeing it right by saying, “Is that curveball?” When I confirmed, he started his motion he had been practicing in his session of catch, pumping his leg once more than normal pitchers do and threw me a ball that spun downwards and into my glove.
I then went over closer to the foul pole to try to get a pitcher to toss me a ball:
However, I didn’t wait for them to finish their game of catch to ask them for a ball. The Orioles had already started hitting, and I saw Kevin Gregg was picking up baseballs on the warning track; so I ran over to where he was walking and asked him by name to throw me a baseball. Here is the result:
I then situated myself in LF since I figured the other pitchers had seen me get the ball and probably wouldn’t toss one of theirs to me.
My next ball came when I saw some righty hit a ball to my right. I ran over to the spot where I thought the ball was going to land and caught it all while pretty much everyone else in the section was frozen still. The following picture displays my route to the ball:
The arrow emanating from the bottom of the picture is my path and the other arrow is the path of the ball. I realize that it is hard to judge depth in a 2D image, but I caught the ball at about stomach height.
This was my third ball of the day, so I immediately looked to give it away:
The boy walking up the stairs was my first candidate since he had a glove on. I asked him if he had gotten a ball already, but surprisingly, he responded “yeah”. His father then added, “But we’ll take another.” I then thought, “Yeaaah, that’s not going to happen.” Right then, the man leaning over the wall towards the right of the picture asked, “Can I have that ball for my daughter?’ Normally I don’t give away balls to older people who don’t have gloves, but I also didn’t want to look like a bad guy for offering a ball to one person and then not giving it to another.
My next ball came off of the bat of Adam Jones. He hit a ball to my left that I could tell right away was going to fall short, but I judged it to be high enough to line up with the ball since it might bounce over the wall off the warning track. That’s exactly what happened, and although I didn’t catch the ball right off the warning track, it hit in a seat close enough to me where I could pick it up. The following picture shows only the path of the ball:
My next ball was almost exactly like ball #3 (the one I caught on the fly) except I believe I was a row deeper or shallower in the seats. This ball was also caught on the fly, and because I was feeling guilty for giving ball #3 away to a person who both asked me for it and didn’t have a glove, I waited until I was on the concourse and made sure to give this ball away to a kid with a glove when I moved over to RF.
Why did I move over to RF, you ask? Right after Adam Jones’ group, security cleared out everyone without a ticket for that section. I managed to get one ball while I was there. Chris Davis had been putting on a show in the batting practice of the first game of the series by repeatedly hitting balls into the second deck, so I was more on my toes than usually and was very vocal to the people surrounding me that he would be hitting balls in our direction. As a result, when he hit a ball to my left, I started moving right after it came off his bat. I then realized it was going into the second deck, so I slowed down. I did not, however, give up on the ball. I positioned myself so I would be ready if the ball caromed off the seats and down into the lower level where I was standing. When this happened, I was right next to where the ball fell to and picked it up. Like I mentioned in the previous game’s entry, ballhawking is both skill and luck in cases like this. That ball could have easily not have fallen to the lower level and another ball could have been hit back to my right that I would have missed because I was waiting for this ball, but I also could have given up on this ball and someone else could have picked it up instead of me. Anyway, here is the view of the second deck from where I picked up the ball:
Right after I grabbed this ball, I saw a kid running behind me for the ball, and I believe he had a glove on, so I gave him the ball.
That was it for batting practice. I headed up to my ticketed seat in the LF bleachers and talked for a while with an usher who I had been talking to the previous two games as well as a fellow ball-snagger, named Tak, that I’ve now seen a few times this season, but never saw before. I’ll just clarify something, I was in the bleachers while both of them were in the lower level seating. I then abruptly left these two, saying, ” I’m going to try to get a ball from the groundskeeper.” I then moved over to the bullpen where the groundskeeper was taking down the netting the Yankees install during bp to protect any relievers pitching in the bullpen. When he saw me, the groundskeeper looked up and held up one finger as to say, “Just give me a minute.” Right after that, I saw Tak approach the bullpen from the lower level also trying to get a ball. When the groundskeeper was done storing the netting and poles that held it up, he picked up a ball in the bullpen and tossed it to me. Here is my view right as he was about to toss me the ball:
I believe Tak also got a ball from him, but I’m not sure.
After that, the relievers filed in and finally the starting pitcher, Jake Arrieta, came into the bullpen and started preparing for the game. As I was waiting for him to finish up throwing, a fan right next to me started calling out to the coach in the bullpen standing next to Arrieta, saying, “Bill. Mr. Castro. Can you throw me that ball.” Upon which I asked him, “Are you asking that guy for the ball?” He then responded, “Yeah, his name is Bill Castro; I looked it up online.” If you don’t know, Bill Castro is the Orioles bullpen coach, so I can understand why this man would think that the coach in the bullpen would be the bullpen coach. However, as I’ll explain in a few seconds, that was incorrect.
Very soon after he said this, Arrieta finished throwing and t was my turn to call out to the coach, so I said, “Rick, can you toss me the ball please?” He then threw me the ball. Why did my request work? Well I’m glad you asked. You see when the starting pitcher goes into the bullpen to warm-up, the pitching coach goes out with him to look at his warm-up pitches. I mean it makes sense, doesn’t it? The starting pitchers are completely under the jurisdiction of the pitching coach, so why would the bullpen coach analyze a starting pitchers warm-up. I knew because of this and my recognition of the Orioles’ coaching staff that the coach in the bullpen was Rick Adair, the Orioles’ pitching coach. Here is the ball with Adair and Arrieta walking in the background:
If you lost track, that was my eighth and final ball of the game.
As for the game, it was a pretty interesting game. The Yankees lost 5-0. Jake Arrieta managed to shut-out the Yankees for five innings and the loss snapped a streak of 15 consecutive wins for Ivan Nova. This is very significant because if he would have won this game, it would have tied him for the Yankees’ franchise record.
- 8 Balls at this game (5 pictured because I gave 3 away)
Numbers 244-251 all time for me:
- 29 Balls in 6 games= 4.83 Balls Per Game
- 15 straight games with at least 1 ball
- 6 straight games with at least 2 balls
- 6 straight games with at least 3 balls
- 3 straight games with at least 4 balls
- 8 balls x 39,360 fans= 314,880 Competition Factor
- 43 balls at the New Yankee Stadium in 12 games= 3.58 balls per game
- 12 straight games at the New Yankee Stadium with at least 1 ball
- 4 straight games at the New Yankee Stadium with at least 2 balls
- 4 straight games at the New Yankee Stadium with at least 3 balls
- 3 straight games at the New Yankee Stadium with at least 4 balls
- Time at game 4:49- 10:19= 5 hours 30 minutes
- I thought this would go well with the stats, but I have gone to 6 games this season, seen 3 series’, have gone to 2 stadiums, all while only seeing three teams play. I thought it was just kind of interesting.
I was very optimistic coming into this game. I had just done very well in the previous day’s game, and that was with me basically only going for hit balls all game. I assumed no other ballhawks would be in attendance since the ones I had talked to during the previous day’s game said they would not be coming to the game. According to the aforementioned ballhawks, the forecast called for rain, but I was going to the game anyway since my school was taking a trip to the game. More on the field-trippers later. The reality, though, was that bp was dead. Here is a picture that I took once I settled into my spot in RF:
Things looked pretty good. I had the back spot in the section right behind Erik, who had the middle spot. This was the view to my left:
This was the view to my right:
Unfortunately, the Yankees weren’t hitting anything deep and I missed two opportunities, shown in this next picture:
Both times I was close to the field coaxing players to throw me a ball. The numbers that are floating by themselves show where the balls landed, while the numbers by the arrows show where I ended after chasing that specific ball.
1. I was asking Boone Logan or someone for a ball when a lefty launched a ball clear over my head. I ran into the row where I could line up with the ball, but the ball was still several feet over my head despite being hit on a line, and I missed it when I jumped for the ball.
2. Again I saw a ball hit over my head, so I recalled what good ballhawks do and ran to where I thought the ball was going to land. Unfortunately, though, this was hit by a righty to RF and so it didn’t act like a typical fly ball in that it was curving back to where I had been. Had I not put my head down to run for the ball, it probably would have been an easy catch for me.
When the Yankees headed off the field, I realized, “There are two of us ballhawks and we are both in RF. That doesn’t seem right. Why don’t I just go to LF and make it easier for both of us?”
Once I got there, I saw Adam Jones shagging fly balls in CF, so when a ball came close to my section in LCF, I ran as close as I could get to him and called out to him, upon which he tossed me Ball #1 on the day. Here is the ball with Jones on the right side of my glove:
Soon after, I went over to foul territory in order to ask a pitcher for a ball. When Tommy Hunter finished throwing, I waved my arms like a madman, and when he noticed the bright orange brim of my hat, he tossed the ball to me a few rows back.
I then got my third ball in what we ballhawks call a “scramble”. A scramble is when a ball hits in the seats and people converge on the ball to pick it up. A ball hit about four rows behind the wall, and since I was tracking the ball, I managed to pick it up before a man could get to it. I gave this ball away to a kid on the concourse after batting practice.
Soon after, I had to leave the LF seats since they were checking tickets and headed over to RF. I am about to post a picture that has two bp events linked to it:
The first is that it was yet another ball I missed out on. While I was in RF on my first “go around” this game, a righty hit a ball above the right part of the Modell’s sign. I was about to use my glove trick to knock the ball closer to me and reach through the bars to pull the ball out, but another guy decided to climb over the gate. As you may suspect, his action is completely against the Yankee Stadium rule, but he was just told not to do it again. The second ball involving this section hit in basically the same place (this time in my second stay in RF), but a few rows deeper. I had been following the ball the whole way, even though it was clearly over my head, in case there was a ricochet back to me. What do you know, that’s exactly what happened.
This is the perfect example of how ballhawking is a combination of luck and skill. To most observers, I just got lucky, but I put myself in a situation where that could happen. Had I stayed put where I was, because I probably wasn’t going to snag the ball, I would have missed out on this opportunity.
However, I wasn’t done with my missed opportunities. I should have caught a ball whose landing spot is depicted in the picture below:
As you can see, even the people wearing sunglasses were shielding their eyes. A ball was hit to my left and as I was tracking it, the ball passed right in front of the sun and I lost it. It then proceeded to hit right where the red arrow is in the picture. Normally, that would have been an easy catch for me since it touched down in the exact same row I was running in. Instead, I was left covering my head from the ball like everyone else.
That was it for batting practice. My ticketed seat was for the bleachers, but I knew that nothing was going to be hit where I was sitting, and so I headed up to the seats furthest away from Home Plate to be with my classmates. This was the view:
Wouldn’t you know it, I actually came closer to catching a HR in this section than I would have in the bleachers. In the bottom of the first inning, Curtis Granderson absolutely launched a ball. He hit it so hard that the initial trajectory was actually RIGHT at us… before, you know, gravity kicked in. Regardless, the ball managed to land in the Upper Deck. This is a very rare feat in the New Yankee Stadium, because the third deck is actually further back than it was in the Old Yankee Stadium.
While I was up there, the coaches started asking me about how my batting practice went and I ended up giving both of the bus drivers for this event a baseball, including one who was attending a baseball game for the first time.
Two other things of note happened in this game.
1. Let’s play “What’s wrong with this picture?” You have to guess what had just happened for the first time by looking at the following picture. So, what *is* wrong with this picture?:
If you guessed Nick Johnson standing on second, you were correct. I took this picture after Nick Johnson got his first hit of the season, raising his batting average to an incredible .033. At the time, it was ruled an error on left fielder Eduardo Nuñez, but Major League Baseball retrospectively changed the ruling citing he never touched the ball.
2. The Orioles managed to hold on and win the game 7-1, which gave Buck Showalter his 1,000th win as a manager. I knew this because Avi Miller asked me to pick up some ticket stubs for him.
- 4 Balls at this game (1 pictured because I gave 3 away)They are numbers 240-243 for my “career”.
- 21 Baseballs in 5 games= 4.20 Balls Per Game
- 14 straight games with at least 1 baseball
- 5 straight games with at least 3 balls
- 2 straight games with at least 4 balls
- 4 balls x 37, 790 fans= 151,160 Competition Factor
- 35 ball at the New Yankee Stadium in 11 games = 3.18 Balls Per Game
- 11 straight games at the New Yankee Stadium with at least 1 ball
- Time at game 4:27- 10:17= 5 hours 50 minutes