After a three-week hiatus, it was time once more to go back to Oriole Park at Camden Yards. And look at the group there as the gates opened:
That would be:
1. Zevi- Whose last name I am still not sure of.
2. Me- As played by Mateo Fischer.
3. Grant Edrington– Whom I was introduced to face-to-face at the gates before this picture was taken.
4. Alex Kopp– A ballhawk who caught Chris Davis’ 100th home run, and may have done something nearly as special involving Davis a couple entries after this one. (Translation: stay tuned to this blog for about three more entries if you want to read about it.
5. Avi Miller– The very hospitable, unofficial king of Camden Yards.
As we ballhawks ran into the left field seats, Alex beat me to one easter egg down the third base line, but I then saw a ball going down the stairs behind him as he was walking back towards me. What I should have done was kept walking calmly past him like nothing was going on, since his back was turned to the ball. What I did instead was start running before I got past him, he saw me running, turned around, ran for the ball, and picked it up.
My first actual baseball came as a product of what I’d like to call hustle, but I think is more just me getting lucky. An Orioles lefty hit a towering foul ball, so being the ballhawk closest to foul territory, when I saw the ball was probably going to bounce off the warning track and into the seats, I bolted over there. I didn’t at all expect to get the ball, since there was a man within ten feet of where the ball landed, but when I saw he couldn’t find the ball, I accelerated and saw the ball in the front row. It had trickled down the stairs and this guy had no clue it had done so. As I saw it and started running, though, there was another man opposite me who was trying to get autographs. He noticed me running, and then saw the ball. When this happened, the ball was between us but slightly closer to him. So it turned into a 20-yard footrace. I beat him to the ball, and made sure to cover the ball with my glove, since I’ve gotten my hand stepped on in similar situations. I then walked back to left field with my first ball of the day:
See if you can identify two of the guys from the opening picture in their left field seat spots:
Anyway, my next baseball also came in foul ground. (Spoiler alert: all of mine this day did.) I went over there at the beginning of a group of Orioles who were mostly lefties. I figured they might hit a ball or two into foul ground. And I was right. I was paying attention to something else, but when I turned, I saw a ball going to touch down in the seats by me, and I ran over to pick it up:
I sadly did not know pretty much any of the Astros, and they all had their numbered jerseys covered, so I didn’t get any toss-ups from them. the next ball I came even relatively close to was a hit baseball from Dave Clark. If you know who that is, you may say, “But, Mateo, Dave Clark is a coach on the Astros.” Well yes, but the way I almost got a baseball hit by him was he was hitting fungoes off of the right field wall for outfielders to learn the caroms of the ball. Several of these went over the wall, and one I had perfectly tracked and lined up, but someone reached in front of me at the last second and robbed me:
My next and final baseball that I snagged was in right field foul ground. I was down there to get a toss-up from an Astros coach/trainer-looking person when an Astros righty hit a ball in front of me. I ran down to it, but as soon as it hit a seat, it bounced sideways. I then ran and grabbed it, but a kid who had also been chasing it also grabbed the ball right after I did. He then started pulling on the ball, and as I have done in the past, I let go of the ball and counted it:
I’ve said it before in this blog, but I don’t think a situation has arisen thus far this year that has required me explaining it, so I’ll explain my rationale for the newer readers. I don’t like having a scoring system that incentivizes being a not-nice person. That’s why even though some ballhawks don’t count baseballs they give away baseballs (and I completely understand their way of seeing things) I count them, because it allows me to be a nice person despite my scoring system, whereas I might be much less likely to give baseballs away to kids if I didn’t count them in my stats. Additionally, if I grab onto a baseball and another person grabs onto it afterwards, my standard procedure is to let go, let them have the ball, and count it anyway. Because while this person grabbed onto a ball that I already had possession of, it wouldn’t be nice of me/look good if I ripped the ball out of their hands, so I just let it go. I felt okay about the decision in this particular instance until I saw that the ball I had just let go of was a Houston Astros 50th anniversary commemorative baseball. Then I kind of wished I had ripped it out of the kids’ hands and given him one of the baseballs I had snagged earlier in BP.
That was it for snagging, though. I was in the flag court the whole game, and I believe the only homer that was hit in the game went to left field. The highlight of the game by far was watching Jonathan Villar–who we were watching since he had/has 0 career home runs–steal home. I don’t think any of us on the flag court (Grant, Alex, and myself) saw him right away, but it was amazing once we picked him up out of the corner of our eyes and realized what had just happened. Take a look for yourselves:
Oh, and another thing that was amazing that I forgot to mention earlier in the entry was that Chris Carter hit the facing of the second deck in left field. I don’t know exactly how far that is, but it was certainly the farthest hit baseball I’ve seen hit there, and one usher said the only person he had ever seen do that was Jose Canseco–if that puts anything into perspective for you. Main point: Play back for Chris Carter.
- 3 Baseballs at this game (2 pictured because I let 1 slip away voluntarily)
Numbers 589-591 for my “career”:
- 145 Balls in 37 Games= 3.92 Balls Per Game
- 3 Balls x 24,904 Fans=74,712 Competition Factor
- 99 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 4 straight games with 2 Balls
- 53 Balls in 14 Games at OPACY= 3.79 Balls Per Game
- 14 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- 4 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at OPACY
- 2 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 1:20-10:20= 9 Hours
Welcome to the entry of quite possibly my worst batting practice performance ever. So I’ll try to keep this entry brief and not make something out of nothing.
When I arrived from Alex Kopp‘s house where I had spent the night, there was already a couple people in line, but thanks to cool people I knew like Tim Anderson and Rick Gold being at the front of the line, I also got to be at the front of the line. As a result of me being essentially the first one in the gates, I found two easter eggs in left field, and actually probably should have gotten three or four, but when I got in, a person cleaning in the seats asked me if I wanted to come and get a ball with him in first base foul ground. I probably should have told him no, but I figured that if I could get an extra baseball out of it, my journey would be worth it.
Well when we got over there, someone had already gotten the baseball and I saw ballhawks pick up two easter eggs in the time that I stopped and talked to this guy that I probably would have otherwise had. But anyway, when I had my two baseballs to start the day, I was thinking about big numbers for this game. I would then go on to not snag a ball fro the rest of batting practice–hence the lack of pictures from this game. It didn’t look like it was going to be that tough a day either. This was the view of the seats in left field when I got back after making the journey for the potential third easter egg, which besides having Alex and Tim in it, didn’t look that bad:
And it wasn’t just me either. Between myself, Alex, Tim, and Rick, we combined for a total of two hit baseballs snagged during BP and no toss-ups. It was just for whatever reason a tough BP. I almost got a ball from Dane De La Rosa, but when he asked me if I had already gotten a ball that day, I replied honestly and said yes. He then kept looking for someone to give the ball to before tossing it back into the ball bucket in center field. I’m thinking I should have replied with a clever response that reflected the fact that I still hadn’t gotten a ball during BP yet, but his question caught me so off-guard that I couldn’t think of anything besides just telling him what he wanted to hear.
After batting practice, I saw a ball inside of where the grounds crew stays during the games, below the right-center field seats, so I camped out there hoping to ask whoever entered there first for the ball. I didn’t take a picture in my time there, but I found out that someone else did while exploring the hashtag “opacy” on Instagram, so here I am waiting right above the spot where the ball was for someone to retrieve it:
I waited there for a solid half-hour as the grounds crew people were just starting to fix up the field post-batting practice when I got there. I watched and got ready every time a groundskeeper crossed in front of me on the warning track, bu none ever actually went inside the gate. Then, a couple people who I didn’t recognize as members of the grounds crew passed by me and into the gate. I was so surprised that they would be entering the area that I didn’t even ask them to go get the ball. What I did do was sit on the edge of my seat and be prepared for when one of them would come back out. When one of the guys came back out, I immediately saw that he had the ball in his hand and asked him before anyone else could get to him. He then tossed it to me for my third and final ball of the day:
I would then give that ball away to an usher at the top of the section and instructed him to give it away to the first kid with a glove he saw. I like to do this because it’s a win-win for myself and the usher. I get to show the usher that I am human and like to see kids go home happy with a baseball, and it lets the usher look like the hero for being the one to give the baseball to the kid and see his/her face light up when he/she gets the ball.
And that was it. I wouldn’t snag another ball for the rest of the game. I would sit out in the flag court pretty much the whole game with Alex and Tim–who managed to get a Mike Trout home run ball tossed up to him–but nothing would be hit up there.
- 3 Baseballs at this Game
Numbers 559-561 for my career:
- 115 Balls in 28 Games= 4.11 Balls Per Game
- 3 Ball x 22,834 Fans=68,502 Competition Factor
- 90 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 50 Balls in 13 Games at OPACY= 3.85 Balls Per Game
- 13 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 4:08-10:39= 6 Hours 31 Minute
Seeing how all I saw was rain in the forecast and didn’t know where I would be staying for the night the morning of this game, I seriously contemplated just not going to this game. And despite the good times that were had as a result of going to this game, the frustration that came out of it kind of still has me wishing I wouldn’t have gone.
When I got to Oriole Park at Camden Yards, this was the scene on the field:
But it actually wasn’t surprising at all. I had come from Washington that morning, and in walking from the train station in Baltimore to OPACY, it felt like I was in a monsoon. I really couldn’t believe how hard it was raining. It was actually raining so hard that some streets had turned into two-foot-deep rivers. It was seriously crazy. Even crazier was that it pretty much completely stopped right when I thought what I was doing by walking to the ballpark through this was insane and entered a 7-Eleven. I was left absolutely drenched, so I assume so too was the field. As I got in, though, there were a few Angels warming up down the left field line, so when I got over there, I asked who I believe was Hank Conger for the ball, and he asked me who my favorite player on the Angels was. I thought it was one of those situations where I was supposed to say it was him, but with my uncertainty at the time that it was Conger at the time, I responded with, “You, of course.” But when he asked, “Trout?” I realized that it was because a bunch of people were coming down from New Jersey to watch Mike Trout play, and that Conger was legitimately asking. So as he tossed me the ball, I gave him my legitimate answer that Ernesto Frieri was my favorite Angel:
You can kind of see Conger behind the Orioles grounds crew, but he was jogging off as he tossed me the ball. I then got Ryan Madson’s autograph and tried to help Avi Miller get Ernesto Frieri to toss us a baseball/take a picture with him and another friend/OPACY regular, Zevi. But in the time that Frieri was throwing, I stood back and tried to get a ball form one of the new Angels throwing pairs:
I think I could have, but C.J. Wilson apparently melts in the rain and ran inside the clubhouse every time it even started drizzling, so his catch session with Ernesto Frieri took forever, and he actually played catch with a couple of kids in the front row. I’ll upload the footage to YouTube if enough of you guys want to see it, but I really don’t feel like doing it otherwise. He also tossed about seven baseballs into the stands during this catch session–which I found really nice. Unfortunately, I was pretty far away from him at most times, so none of them came my way.
Tommy Hanson came out to play catch with Steve Soliz after all of these guys finished their catch sessions. I was waving my arms to get his attention from about fifteen rows deep, since there were a ton of fans in the first two rows. And when Hanson was done throwing, he tossed me the ball from about thirty feet away:
He then motioned for me to toss the ball back to him. I couldn’t tell if he was serious, so I started to pull the ball out of my glove, but this was also my lefty glove. That and the fact that he was quite a ways away at that point made me very hesitant to throw the ball back to him. I was much more likely to hit the back of the head of one of the fans in the front row than I was to get the ball back to Hanson himself. Thankfully, he showed that he was joking and waved me off, so I kept the ball.
And when I say the front rows were packed, I actually do mean they were packed. Here’s a picture I took pretty much right after I got the ball from Hanson when I walked into the outfield:
Seeing that, I’m really surprised I got the ball from Hanson. But the reason I was headed towards the outfield is that I had seen a giant group of people sitting in the outfield ever since the seating bowl opened up to the public and wanted to get a picture of them:
I never confirmed this, but given the fact that they went right to their seats, the high percentage of Angels shirts amongst the group, and the even higher percentage of those shirts that had a 27 on the back of them, I’d say this was a large group of people who made the trip from Melville New Jersey in order to see their hometown hero, Mike Trout play in this series.
Anyway, nothing else happened during the game except for me finding this random Nationals program in the seats:
(Daheck?) This was on my way to the flag court where I would spend the first five innings of the game. But past the point that I saw this program, there was only one word to describe my day: frustration. I was out in the flag court with Alex Kopp, whose house I would be staying at for this trip to Baltimore. In the third inning, we were sitting in the wheelchair section just to the center field side of the flag court, talking about something, when Mike Trout hit a high fly ball to right field. We were slow to react since we were both sitting down talking to each other. In fact, it wasn’t until a little into when the camera cuts to the flag court in the video that you can even see Alex moving, and I was even slower to start moving because I didn’t think the ball was going to be a home run. But then the ball just kept carrying and carrying. Alex went straight at where the ball was landing, but knowing it was my only shot, I headed out onto Eutaw Street in case the ball bounced out there. Turns out I would/should have, but it caught one of the fences between the flag court and Eutaw, so it stopped right there. That was it for my shot. Alex meanwhile, was blocked by a person, so he couldn’t reach down to pick the ball up and a kid got it. It was frustrating because I knew from watching him in previous batting practices that Trout could hit the ball out to the opposite field, but we both weren’t prepared, and had we been in position, it would have been a semi-easy snag for either of us.
But not as easy a snag as the second ball that frustrated me. In the sixth inning, rain started pouring again, so I headed to the area behind home plate to see if I could get a ball from home plate umpire Joe West if the game was delayed:
While I was down there, Josh Hamilton hit a foul ball right over my head that went into the second deck. As soon as it did, a voice in my head told me that I should go and position myself in case there was a rebound off the second level, but the other part of me ignored it and just watched as the ball headed up there and bounced three rows below where I thought I should have been positioning myself. Hamilton then added insult to injury by hitting a home run that same at-bat just ten feet from where I usually stand in the flag court that would have probably been a semi-easy snag for me. And if that wasn’t enough, an usher forced me to get away from the umpire tunnel right as the game was being delayed, so I missed my opportunity to get a ball from the umpire because of him.
I then spent most of the rain delay in the club level with these cool people:
I apologize in advance for the fuzziness of my picture from now on as that’s how the water affected my phone’s camera. But anyway, those people,left to right, are:
1. Tim Anderson.
2. Alex Kopp.
3. Avi Miller.
I stayed there for what I’d say was about an hour, but since he had to get up at 6 o’clock the next morning, Alex really wanted to leave the game. And since I was staying with him, still didn’t know where the house was, and the warning track was looking like a lake, we agreed to leave, and I would come back and exchange an extra ticket he had for a later game to get back in if they resumed play after we left.
Long story short: it was announced pretty much as we got back to Alex’s house that the game would resume at 11:00, I headed to the stadium right as I heard this, I found out the ticket offices where I would have exchanged the ticket to get back in was closed, I also found out that the only way to get in through buying a ticket was to pay $10 cash–which I didn’t have, I wandered outside Camden Yards trying to find a way to get in for probably over two hours because I had left my glove and phone charger with Avi and Tim and needed to get them, I watched from the gate behind the Oriole Park bullpens as the Orioles closed the game out:
I got my glove from Avi, I found out that Tim had gotten four toss-up after the game because of the general lack of people and nice people at the bullpen who hooked him up, and I headed back to Alex’s place which I hoped I could find my way to again even though I was now walking there after midnight. Like I said, frustrating.
- 2 Baseballs at this Game
Numbers 557-558 for my lifetime:
- 112 Balls in 26 Games= 4.31 Balls Per Game
- 2 Ball x 15,541 Fans=31,082 Competition Factor
- 89 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 47 Balls in 12 Games at OPACY= 3.92 Balls Per Game
- 12 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 12:58-12:13= 9 Hours 15 Minute
Wanna see my view more or less as the gates of Camden Yards opened?
While Avi and I had gotten to the train station at a time that normally would have gotten us to the gates by the time they opened–and by Avi, I mean Avi Miller, the person in the foreground of the picture–the train was having problems with the signals art a couple stations, so instead of taking 20 minutes or so, the train took over an hour to get to our final destination from the time it pulled into Avi’s stop. Long story short: we got to OPACY over half-an-hour late. Had it been Yankee Stadium, I would have turned around and let Avi, but the way I saw it I still had the power-hitting Tigers’ BP to rely on, and if I didn’t manage to snag a ball then, I could always play the dugouts for third-out balls and the cross-aisle for foul balls in between that, with the security blanket of the umpire tunnel after the game.
When I entered the ballpark, the seating bowl was already opened up and the Tigers were already hitting, so I didn’t even try to go to the left field seats. Actually, correction: I went towards the left field seats right as I entered the stadium, but when I saw the seating bowl had already been opened, I turned around and made a beeline for the center field seats. And by “beeline” I mean slow jog, because I had essentially all of my stuff for my whole trip in my backpack since I planned to go back to Washington directly from the game. There I asked a couple of players for balls such as Luke Putkonen and Don Kelly, but got rejected by both of them. Then a ball got hit almost directly in line with me in the stands. I went down to the first row, but it fell about a foot out of my reach. Thankfully though, since I don’t have a ball-retrieving device made this year, it went back onto the field where Rick Porcello got it:
And apparently he had seen my Tigers gear as I had lunged out to reach for the ball because without me even asking he tossed the ball up to me. I then immediately handed the ball to a kid whose dad had been begging Don Kelly for ball as well. Kelly’s response to all of us was, “I’ll hit a couple out here when it’s my group’s turn to hit.”
After getting the ball form Porcello, I headed out to the flag court in right field. It was packed and I couldn’t get any toss-ups, but I justified it by telling myself, “You got more than enough toss-ups in Minnesota and can go for toss-ups any other day. Today one of the best hitting teams in the league is here, so you might as well go for hit baseballs.” This picture doesn’t do the crowd in the flag court any justice, but it was my view until pretty much the end of batting practice:
I’ll cut to the chase and say that I didn’t snag anything for the remainder of batting practice, but the star of the show, who I would have had an extra baseball had he not been there, was Alex Kopp. Here he is in this picture with his glove shading his eyes:
He caught three balls on the fly while I was there including one that was right in front of my glove. I believe it was an Andy Dirks home run. I tracked the ball perfectly off the bat, and had my glove in position to make the catch, but all of a sudden I saw two gloves go up in front of mine. They were of Alex and another person. Alex, though, had his glove in the right spot, so he caught the ball, and all I could do was smile because that was his third catch out there. He was just putting on a clinic. I mean the Tigers were going pretty crazy with all of the baseballs they were hitting up there, but it was also insanely packed given the size of the flag court. Every time a ball was hit up there, it was like a mini-stampede erupted. I was actually pretty concerned a little kid was going to get seriously injured out there, because while I check to make sure I have a clear running lane to the ball every five seconds or so, I knew there were people that were just reacting to the ball and keeping their eye on the ball and not where they were going–which is a recipe for disaster; either for the kids of the area or for the person, because there were the flag poles to be run into.
During the Tigers position players’ infield warm-ups, I should have snagged my second ball of the day. What happened was I got Omar Infante’s attention despite being fifteen rows up in the stands by waving my arms, so he tossed the ball to me:
but he was off with his aim, so the ball sailed above me and to my left. I reached, but I tried to be careful because reaching full-extension would also involve me elbowing the woman standing next to me in the head. So with all of this happening, the ball tipped off the edge of my glove and into the lap of a person behind me. Bleh.
An even more frustrating thing happened during the game. I don’t know how many home runs there were in this game (a lot) but only one made its way out into the flag court. It was the fourth inning, and Victor Martinez was the hitter. I happened to be looking away because a person said something to me in the flag court, but suddenly I heard a roar in the crowd and a ball whizzing towards the foul pole. I then ran towards the ball and played the ricochet I have always failed to do in the home run balls I have botched in the past. Unfortunately the ball bounced back towards the field after landing in the flag court because it hit the beer stand out there. Had it kept going towards Eutaw Street, I’m 95% sure I would have had the ball because I was the only one in the back of the flag court who even saw the ball, much less reacted. Are you a little confused? Here, I drew up a diagram from the perspective of where I started out when the ball was hit. The dotted line is the flight of the ball, and the solid line is the path that I ran:
And if you want, here is the link to the video. At the first point you can identify where I am when they cut to the view of the flag court, I am here:
You can then pretty easily identify as the person running across the flag court for the ball. It looks like I was going pretty fast from the video, but I remember that I was purposely taking it slow in case the ball did bounce to the back of the flag court, which I expected it to do, because I didn’t want a repeat of the ball that hit me in the head during my first game here in Baltimore or anything of the sort. The next time when you can more clearly see me is after the ball had bounced back to the fence:
After this you can see I’m one of three people actively going after the ball. I can also say I probably would have had it had the person who eventually got the ball was a foot taller. It was actually a kid who got the ball. And I say I would have gotten the ball had he been taller because he had to go under one of those rope-type dividers that you see at airport/bus terminal check-in lines. You know what I’m talking about, right? The black poles that connect by rope in order for people in line to zig-zag their way through. Well anyway, the kid didn’t have to duck much to get the ball, but had he been a foot taller, that half-second he would have taken to duck underneath was all I would have needed to get the ball. But oh well. Palante.
I then spent the rest of the game awaiting another home run that never came, all while this great view of the game and all its action:
(Yay?) At the end of the game I headed down for one last try at an umpire ball this series, and whaddaya know, I got it:
As I got to the umpire tunnel there were actually kids in the corner spots on each side of the dugout, so I had to go a little further up. Home plate umpire, Hunte Wendelstedt(?), gave out a couple of baseballs to the kids at the front of the tunnel and then moved on. Just in case he still had a ball with him, I called out to him, “Mr. Wendelsedt, do you have any extra baseballs?” He was already past me in the tunnel, but upon hearing his name, he turned right around and tossed me the baseball you see above. I then headed to the Tigers dugout, but I didn’t get anything there, so I walked up to Baltimore-Penn Station and took the next Amtrak train back to Washington.
- 2 Baseballs at this Game (1 pictured because I gave the other 1 away)
Numbers 536-37 for my “career”:
- 91 Balls in 22 Games= 4.14 Balls Per Game
- 2 Ball x 38,965 Fans=77,930 Competition Factor
- 85 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 45 Balls in 11 Games at OPACY= 4.09 Balls Per Game
- 11 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 12:47-10:48= 10 Hours 1 Minute
My day began at Avi Miller‘s house. See, Avi and his parents were kind enough to put up with me for a couple of days as I needed a place to stay while going to a couple Orioles games. I have to say it was a really nice/fun place to stay. Avi and I had stayed up watching MLB Network–which I had regrettably not watched in forever leading up to that point–and I worked on entries as I watched and we ate pizza that I somehow got talked into letting Avi pay for even thought *he* was the one letting me stay with him. But anyway, the way to get to the ballpark from Avi’s is to drive to the subway station and take that to the ballpark. We could drive the whole way, but given how often Avi goes to games, it doesn’t make any sense, because 1. It costs $8 for him to park by the ballpark. 2. It puts extra wear on the car. And: 3. It costs a lot more in gas to get to the ballpark than the $1.20 for the subway.
But why am I prolonging the introduction to this entry and my account of the time before I got to the ballpark? Well because not much happened in batting practice itself. Once I got int the gates, here was my view of the field:
While I’ve heard it many times via word of mouth, I don’t think I’ve seen it written yet, so I figure I’ll get it out there: OPACY has become a tougher ballpark to ballhawk at. One reason for the ballhawks who used to come there many years ago is the competition. Several years ago (like 2010 and before that) there was virtually no competition during the first half-hour, so if you were in left field courtesy of a season ticket, you essentially had the place to yourself and could clean up for thirty minutes. The second reason is the Orioles don’t really have a team suited for the ballpark. I remember running all over the place when Mark Reynolds and Derrek Lee were on the team, but now really the only player who consistently gets balls into the left field seats is J.J. Hardy, and even he is having a rough year in that regard. You’d almost rather go out onto the flag court for parts of the 30 minutes to try to get a Chris Davis homer. And all of the players/coaches who patrol left field during batting practice are already accustomed to not tossing baseballs up for this first half-hour, so it’s not an automatic thing like it used to be to get on the board with a season ticket. I wasn’t there super consistently before, but from what I heard, it used to almost be easy to get four or five baseballs before the seating bowl opened up to the general public, and that’s before any of the visitor’s BP even took place.
During this BP, though, the Orioles hit definitely less than five baseballs into the stands, and I’m pretty sure that’s including ground-rule doubles. Nothing even came close to me. And what made it so frustrating is that although Alex Kopp, who I showed you guys in the previous game’s entry was there, Tim Anderson wasn’t here for today’s or the next day’s game, so I wanted so badly to take advantage, since I knew it would be a rarity to have an opportunity like this, but then the Orioles let me down. I mean look at how much space I had to run around if a ball got hit into the stands:
Oh, and I don’t think I mentioned it in the last game’s entry, but I was particularly looking forward to Tim being away because he jumped and caught a ball during that BP that almost certainly would have made its way into my glove had he not been there. He made a great play on it, and I horribly misjudged the ball. I still would have made the catch, but he picked the right row to run in and I went two rows deeper.
But back to this game. What made it even more frustrating is that the big, bad Tigers decided to take the day off of hitting because they had just played an 11-inning game in Pittsburgh where they got beat 1-0. I mean to me, getting shutout for 11 innings by the Pirates means you should probably be taking extra hitting, but you know, whatever your methods are, Jim Leyland, I won’t question them. It was as a result of the Tigers not hititng, however, that I probably had one of my more memorable experiences at the ballpark. And by memorable I mean…well, you’ll see.
Since the Tigers weren’t hitting, I went behind the Tigers pitchers warming up to try to get a ball from them. Since I had previously had a good encounter with him at Target Field, I got behind Phil Coke’s throwing partner to hopefully get a ball from Coke when they were done. When they finished catch, and I asked Coke for a ball, he looked and me and started backing away from me. I didn’t know what to make of it until he got into the “set” position of pitching of the stretch and flipped his glove upwards–which is to say he was going to throw me a fastball. I thought he was just going to throw the ball at my glove nice and easy, but no, this was Phil Coke, so he threw the ball full-force. So given the fact that it was Phil Coke not off a mound, it was probably in the high-80s. I wasn’t expecting this at all, so as the ball went way higher than I thought it would, I just managed to tip the ball as it zoomed way past me into the stands. I then ran back and retrieved the ball. I thought that was the end of it, but Coke signaled for me to toss the ball back to him. I tossed it back to him and he readied himself again. This time he crow-hopped into the throw–so the ball was almost definitely in the mid-90s–and I had to jump this time just to tip the ball. The ball then hit off a seat behind me and ricocheted all the way past the cross-aisle:
When I went back and got this ball, I was more than prepared to toss it back to him for another chance to catch it, but as you can somewhat see in the last picture, he had moved onto a new victim in the blue. That’s an OPACY regular by the name of Doug. Coke fired one ball at Doug before he told everyone to clear the area and then proceeded to fire another ball at Doug. Avi described it perfectly in what he said afterwards (I’m somewhat paraphrasing), “In an age where some teams encourage players to not even toss baseballs up into the stands because of liability, that has got to be the most reckless thing I’ve ever seen a player do at the ballpark.” Of course, Avi had probably the best reason to say it because after it deflected off a seat, one of Coke’s throws went less than a foot above Avi’s head. But alas, I had to keep my crown as the only one who got hit in the head with a baseball while I was at OPACY.
But anyway, that was pretty much it for the day. Avi, Alex and I hung out in club level pretty much until the game started. Tonight was Union Night, so OPACY was completely sold-out out. I mean just check out the sight on Eutaw Street before the game began:
So Alex and I sat out in the flag court at one of the picnic tables. And after having to move about seven times because people kept on showing up to their seats for the first three or four innings, Avi came and joined us out there. Here are those two as I was leaving to go get an umpire ball:
And I didn’t. The previous day I was in prefect position for an umpire ball, but an usher moved a couple kids in front of me just before the umpire passed through–like he literally grabbed the two kids and lifted them into the row of seats right in front of me–so I didn’t get a ball that day. I figured this was the usher’s custom, so this game I went to the other side of the tunnel in hopes of being on the corner spot on that side. I was, but unfortunately for my hopes of getting an umpire ball, the Orioles rallied back in the ninth inning, which they had begun trailing, and Chris Dickerson hit a walk-off home run, which I–albeit jokingly–called. This affected me trying to get a ball because the crowd was going absolutely berserk, so when I tried calling whoever the home plate umpire was by name, he couldn’t hear me at all. Heck, I could barely hear myself calling out to him. So he exhausted all of his baseballs on the kids awaiting him before he got to me. All in all it was a pretty boring day to ballhawk besides the Coke incident. I got my one ball there, Alex got his right at the beginning of BP when an usher directed him to a ball that had been hit in the seats before we entered, and I don’t even know if Avi got a ball, since he has a good approach and just relaxes during BP and snags whatever comes his way. He doesn’t really set expectations fro himself, so whatever he does in terms of baseballs and autographs is almost like a nice treat in addition to being at the ballpark. Anyway, I headed out to the flag court where I met up with Avi, where we would prepare ourselves for a game the next day that while much more adventuresome, would be just as frustrating to me.
- 1 Baseball at this Game
Number 535 for my “life”:
- 89 Balls in 21 Games= 4.24 Balls Per Game
- 1 Ball x 46,249 Fans=46,249 Competition Factor
- 84 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 43 Balls in 10 Games at OPACY= 4.30 Balls Per Game
- 10 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 3:23-12:14= 8 Hours 51 Minutes
On my last trip to Baltimore, I had set my career high for baseballs snagged in a game in the first game and then narrowly escaped getting shutout in the second game via a toss-up at the umpire tunnel after the game. That trip, however, was almost a year ago. And I was more than excited to be back at Oriole Park at Camden Yards for the first time in nearly a year when I approached its gates on this Thursday evening:
But this time I had woken up in Washington D.C. (I guess I had before those two games as well, but you get my point.) and took a 1:20 train to Baltimore. OPACY–because I don’t feel like writing out Oriole Park at Camden Yards every freaking time I mention it–actually lets people go into Eutaw Street and behind the bullpens early, so that’s where I was headed when I took that first picture. You see, Rick Gold had tweeted me right as I was about to sit down at the Hilton across the street that Nathan Karns was throwing in the Nationals bullpen. Up until that point I had completely forgotten that these areas of OPACY were even open, but when I got the tweet, I walked over to the stadium to see the action and possibly get a ball before the gates were even officially open. By the time I got there, though, it was Gio Gonzalez throwing in the Nationals bullpen:
And Rick Adair, the Orioles pitching coach, had an interesting set-up for Kevin Gausman, who was throwing in the Orioles bullpen:
If you can’t tell, it’s a rope. Adair had it set up to have an objective line between high fastballs and low fastballs. I like to think my readers are smart people, so I’ll let you figure out which side of the rope is which.
Anyway, I managed to get my first ball of the day when the Nationals (read: Gio) finished throwing and I got Jhonatan Solano to toss me their warm-up ball for an early spot on the board:
Soon after that (at 3:46) Orioles security came by and told us we had to get back outside of the gate. Had they given us an extra fifteen minutes I may have had a second ball from Gausman (I think that’s how you spell it) and the Orioles bullpen people. Before the gates re-opened, I waited in line with the people who made me think this trip to OPACY wasn’t going to be as easy snagging-wise as I had previously thought. When I got in the gates, the person who I already introduced, Rick Gold, lined up in front of me:
And then two other ballhawks who had joined me at the gate lined up to my left:
Ballhawk #2 is Tim Anderson, who has garnered the attention of the national media several times the past few years with his bajillion home run snags. While we had both been at the same game before, today was really the first time we had talked directly to each other. And that’s mostly on my part–and this goes out to all of you who may run into me at some ballpark somewhere–because I’m just generally awkward if I’m meeting a person I didn’t know for sure was going to be there ahead of time. And not like in the “Oh, that’s different from what I was expecting” kind of awkward; it’s more like the “Is there something seriously wrong with you?” awkward. And as a result of this, I almost never initiate people at the ballpark in conversation to avoid a situation like this. The best way to avoid this is to just let me know if you think you’re going to be at the same game as I am, by checking either my schedule or my Twitter account. I definitely won’t be attending every game on the schedule that I have on there right now, but it’s a good outline to know where I’ll be, and I’ll usually say something on my Twitter if I’m veering off of the scheduled plan or anything like that, so it’s a good place to be kept up-to-date on my baseball happenings.
But anyway, that was a good multi-hundred-word digression. The point is that my competition was going to be tough. So when the Nationals players came out to warm up while the Orioles were switching into a new mostly-righty group, I knew it was time to go for toss-ups. I figured the players would spend the first two rounds or so hitting the ball to the opposite field, so I really wouldn’t be missing much action out in left. In this trip, I got a ball from Denard Span in the weirdest way. I was actually trying to get ball from a different throwing pair when Span ran back to the wall with the ball in his hand, threw it up, and half-heartedly tried to “rob” the same ball he had thrown up, as if it were a home run ball. I don’t know what exactly he was doing, but he missed the ball, and it landed in the seats, so I went over and offered to get it for him, at which point he told me, “Nah, you can just keep it.”
So I think that’s technically a toss-up from Span, right? It certainly was more that than an easter egg considering I got there three seconds after the ball landed in the stands.
When I headed back to the left field stands, I learned that I had definitely made the right decision because there had not been a single ball hit into those stands since I had left. But I would not snag another BP baseball before the flood gates were opened and all fans were allowed into every part of the stadium. If you don’t know, for the first half-hour of the gates being open at OPACY, only season ticket holder–or people with that printed on their ticket–are allowed into the main seating bowl. The rest are confined to right and center field. But when that half-hour is up, everybody pours into the seating bowl. I am fortunate enough to have friends at the ballpark who are nice enough to buy me season tickets that get me in that half-hour early, but here is what the scene looked like right after the rest of the fans were let in:
It was right around this spot that I came the closest to another BP ball. But for the sake of clarity, let me get a diagram up for you:
The solid lines are the path of the ball and the dotted line is how I ran after the ball. So I saw a ball get hit to my left. I could tell exactly where it was headed, so I jumped back a row and ran right towards the spot where the ball was going to land, so I could pick it up if it stuck in that spot. Well the ball bounced off a seat at the end of the row, but instead of sticking or bouncing forward/backwards like a normal baseball, it at 90-degree angle and hit me square on the forehead. I mean someone couldn’t have done it more perfectly if they were aiming for me. I saw the ball hit off the seat, but it became a white blur as it headed directly between my two eyes. Just to show you how perfectly the ball hit me square in the head, it was almost if I had intentionally headed the ball in a soccer-esque manner because the ball flew thirty feet in front of me after hitting my head into the next section over. It didn’t actually hurt that much–other than my ego–but I was starting to wonder if there was something about the Orioles that was bad luck, since I had now sustained an “injury” every time I had seen them play to this point. In three different cities, I may add.
That was it for BP, but I did manage to get a ball from Tyler Moore during the pregame position player warm-ups:
It actually was a thing of beauty that we managed to connect on the toss-up, because there was a security guard right in front of me on the field with his back turned to it, so Moore had to thread the needle and I had to jump to get the ball to me and not hit the guard. As you can tell, he wasn’t in that last picture. I think the fact that he very nearly got hit in the back of the head scared him enough that he moved away from the players playing catch.
As for the game, I spent most of my time out in the flag court:
and enjoying all that is OPACY. I wasn’t the only one out there, though. Because of the fact that the stadium was pretty much sold-out, there were pretty consistently three of us ballhawks out there, and sometimes even more. I mean look at all the backpacks there were at one of the more crowded points:
I have no clue besides my own who they each belonged to, but the four of us that were out there towards the end of the game got a picture together:
Left to right, that would be:
- Rick Gold
- Alex Kopp
- Tim Anderson
Nothing came even close to reaching the flag court, but it was fun talking to those guys for whatever portion of the game they were out there. (Rick was in left field pretty much until the last two innings, and Tim spent around half of the game in the center field seats.)
- 3 Balls at this Game
Numbers 532-534 for my life:
- 88 Balls in 20 Games= 4.40 Balls Per Game
- 3 Balls x 30,665 Fans=91,995 Competition Factor
- 83 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 42 Balls in 9 Games at OPACY= 4.67 Balls Per Game
- 9 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 12:23-11:52= 11 Hours 29 Minutes