Less than fifteen hours after saying goodbye to him in the morning, Rick Gold and I met up at the gates of Nationals Park for our 10th and final game together in 2012:
If you haven’t read the entry, Rick and I were on a bus together close to 2 o’clock that same morning. It was one of those times for a sarcastic “Long time no see”, since both of us had woken up pretty soon before that.
Speaking of people sleeping, that’s what the Nationals players were apparently doing, because they didn’t take batting practice:
Eventually, the Nationals pitchers came out to throw, so I headed over there. Here is where a season full of pretty much not asking pitchers for baseballs came in handy (in that they probably would have recognized me if I had). I yelled out to Ryan Mattheus as he finished throwing and he tossed me the ball:
I then just hung around until the Braves started hitting. When Juan Francisco’s group came up first, both Rick and I moved up to the second deck in right field:
I headed down to the lower level for the Braves group of lefties and Dan Uggla. There, two other ballhawks (Rick and a guy whose name I don’t know) took the two best spots in right, so I was forced to just stand in a middle spot and hope I could judge the ball better than them/ jump in front of them. When Jason Heyward hit a ball to my right, the ballhawk I didn’t know ran straight to his right. Meanwhile, I knew the ball was falling short of that. I ran into the row and made the running, backhanded catch:
That would be it for snagging. As for the game, I headed out to left field:
Stephen Strasburg was pitching, so I figured the righty-dominant Nationals would be more likely to go yard. I was right, but it was an inning *before* I got to my seat there. Oh, and there was a rain delay where it absolutely poured. It was my third rain delay in as many days. So it really was no big deal. The most notable part of it was before the delay started, it was raining at least three times harder than it was during the rain delay the game before.
During the rain delay, I got soaked, walked through the seats looking for tickets, got soaked, said goodbye to the ushers in the ballpark, got soaked, tried to get a ball from Alan Butts, got soaked, talked to Eddie Perez. Oh, and did I mention I got soaked? I don’t think I did. It was raining pretty hard. Do you remember when I said it was raining three times harder than the previous game DURING the game? Well during the rain delay, it rained about ten times harder. The rain would step up to “next level”, and then when you thought it couldn’t rain any harder, a burst of even harder rain.
Anyway, for the game, Stephen Strasburg and Paul Maholm managed to survive the rain delay to pitch again afterwards (the rain delay was in the second inning). Maholm went seven innings while Strasburg went six. Unfortunately for Maholm, it’s not how long you last, it’s how many runs you give up. Strasburg allowed just one run while Maholm allowed four.
- 3 Balls at this game (1 pictured because I gave 2 away)
Numbers 384-386 for my “career”:
- 164 Balls in 39 Games= 4.21 Balls Per Game
- 3 Balls x 33,888 Fans= 101,664 Competition Factor
- 48 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 4 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 2 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
- 124 Balls in 28 Games= 4.43 Balls Per Game at Nationals Park
- 20 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 1 Ball
- 4 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
- 2 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
- Time Spent On Game 3:32- 11:22= 7 Hours 50 Minutes
After a series of waiting endlessly for David Wright’s 200th home run, it was time to go back to Nationals Park for my fourth game there in as many days:
Usually I’m not that excited of attending four games in a row at ANY stadium, but I had come to the conclusion that I wouldn’t be getting a ball tossed to me by the Nationals (intentionally, anyway) anytime soon, so I was excited for the arrival of the not-offensively-anemic Braves, who also didn’t know me.
My first ball of the day came when Gio Gonzalez hit a ball to my right. I chased after it, but someone else managed to pick it up before I could get there. He then hit a ball back to where I had previously been standing. Thankfully, no one judged it correctly, and I was able to run right to the spot and gobble it up :
After the pitchers- all of whom are righties- stopped hitting, I headed over to the right field seats for Bryce Harper’s group. I still haven’t seen one of Harper’s legendary batting practices, but I did manage to snag a ball from his bat.
I was on the middle staircase of the right field seats when Harper launched a ball to the section closest to center field. I saw this right away and raced there to scoop up the ball before anyone else could:
The group then changed again and I headed over to the Red Seats for the group of Morse, Zimmerman, and Werth. During that group, I caught three balls on the fly.
The first was an extremely easy catch right smack-dab in the middle of the section where I had been standing:
Speaking of Shea Stadium commemorative balls off the bat of Jayson Werth, that’s what my next (and fifth) ball of the day was. I won’t bore you with another picture of the ball in my glove, but the ball was traveling to my left, so I ran in this row and made the forehand catch over a row of seats:
My next ball came when Ryan Zimmerman hit a high fly ball to my right. I ran as far as I could, reach over the glass that separates the Red Seats and the bullpen, and made the grab:
It felt pretty awesome in that the ball would have fallen into the bullpen had it not been for me; kind of like a home run rob. For those of you keeping score at home, that was my fifth snag of the day; all of which were hit, Shea Stadium commemorative balls.
Soon after that, the Braves started throwing, so even though the Nationals were still hitting, I headed into foul ground to try to get a ball from one of them. After waiting for a while, I finally got a ball from Erik Hinske:
Do you see the coach crossing the field in the left part of the picture? That’s where Hinske was. He tossed the ball to me while I was right behind the wheelchair section. Unfortunately, he tossed it over my head, so it rattled around in the seats before I could secure ball #6 and thank Hinske.
I then headed over to right field for a group stacked with the Braves’ lefties. Ironically, though, my only ball from this group came when Dan Uggla hit an opposite-field home run and I played the ball off a deflection:
The right field seats were getting pretty crowded at this point, so I headed back over to the Red Seats. I didn’t snag a hit ball, but a fan dropped a ball into the gap, so I knew it was time to deploy the Glove Trick. However, as I lowered it down, a member of the groundscrew walked through the gap and inserted the ball in my glove. I had already promised the people next to me I would give the ball away to the kid who it was intended for, so I did when I reeled it up:
Okay, you’ve got three planes at work here. We’ll start closest and move back:
1. The Glove Trick- Complete with rubber band and pen to hold it open.
2. Kid- You can see the kid I gave it away to just past the glove in the red hat. He’s holding the ball between his hand and glove.
3. Groundskeeper- You can see him ducking at the very end of the gap.
Then for the end of batting practice-when Juan Francisco, who hits BOMBS, was hitting- I decided to try my luck and head up to the second deck in right field. I wasn’t the only one up there as fellow ballhawk, Rick Gold, had the same idea:
I then headed down to the lower level in right field where, to my delight, the tarp was being pulled on the field. I may have mentioned this before, but I absolutely love when it starts raining right *after* batting practice ends. There is truly nothing more beautiful:
Of course, the baseball gods had to have their fun with me, so the groundscrew didn’t actually put the tarp on for at least half an hour. They just stood there with the tarp as you see it in the picture. Waiting to make sure the rain was sufficient to put the tarp on the field.
As for the game, the Nationals jumped out to an early 4-1 lead. The Braves then picked away at the lead to tie the game 4-4. What happens when a game is tied after the ninth inning? FREE BASEBALL!!
The game had already been delayed an hour by the rain. So when it came time for extra innings, most of the fans left the stadium. When this happened, I stood up the rest of the game and waited for any ball to come my way:
Actually, since most of the ushers had left, I ran back and forth between right and left field depending on the hitter; just like old times at Nationals Park. If you’re newish to the blog, I used to buy two tickets on either side of the outfield on Nationals Park and would run back and forth during the game depending on whether a righty or a lefty was hitting. I rationalized it by saying that I was spending about the same on two outfield tickets as I would have on one ticket at Citi Field. (Last year, I was. The cheapest ticket at Citi Field was $23. With my student discount, the outfield tickets at Nationals Park were/are $13 each.)
Anyway, check out the emptiness that allowed me to stand up- and not block anyone’s view:
Long story short: nothing reached the seats for the rest of the game. Eventually, the Nationals won on a Dan Uggla bobble. Also during the game, I gave away five, count ’em, FIVE baseballs away to the usher who’s let me sit in the right field seats since last year. Usually he’s pretty reasonable with his requests (usually one or two balls), but apparently there was a family in from Chicago, so in addition to the two I usually give him, he asked for three others. Also, I should mention this isn’t just an usher being greedy. He gives all the balls I give him away to kids, elders, or other people in the section. That said, I gave away two on my own, the usher took five, so of the eight balls I snagged, I only kept the best Shea Stadium ball. That’s right, I gave away SEVEN of my eight baseballs. (Actually, I technically gave away eight. The usher offered me an exchange where he have me one of Rick Gold’s balls for one of my Shea balls, but he then asked for THAT ball to give to someone.
After the game, a security guard threw a bunch of balls at fans in the stands, but he had THE worst aim I’ve ever seen and about five of them bounced back onto the field. I just stood on top of one of the balls and asked each person that passed it if they could toss the ball up to me. Security Guard? “I’m on duty. I have to stand in this exact spot.” Police Officer? “No, I can’t.” Groundscrew? “No, we’re not allowed to.” It was just sitting there on the warning track:
(The other two shadows you see are of an Asian couple who was also waiting for the ball to be tossed up. Eventually, a guy in a dress shirt walked by, so I asked him point blank, “Can you toss me that ball, please?” He bent down, grabbed the ball, and kept walking to the dugout. Here he is on his way over there:
At this point, it was about 12:35, so I figured, ” I don’t have anywhere to be any time soon; I’m going to see if there’s a ball left in the bullpen.” Turns out there was- in the bottom right quadrant of the picture, against the black background:
I was just about to leave, when the security guard came in from the warning track by the Nationals dugout. The bullpen motioned for me to stop, and asked the security guard something. He then picked up the ball and tossed it to me:
Not surprisingly, by the time I got out of the stadium, the Metro was closed:
Once I got out of the stadium, I must have walked back and forth a mile before I finally got to the right bus stop. After taking the bus a stop, I ran into a familiar face in Rick (as in Gold). Turns out, we were both going the same direction. We took the bus until the end of the line. We then got off by Washington’s Archives building. Our next bus wasn’t due for another half hour. We discussed things from the renovation in Oakland’s coliseum to what the heck I was supposed to use an iPad for.
Once we got on the second bus, we ran into someone we both knew. It was the usher I mentioned earlier, Benny. I must say, Benny is one of the more entertaining ushers I have ever seen. Probably the most energetic. He is one of the most meticulous ushers about his duty before the game, but once the game begins, he is a dancer. Anyway, here is my view at 1:45 in the morning on the second bus:
• 9 Balls at this game (2 pictured because I gave 7 away)
• 161 Balls (as many as I had last year in 46 Games) in 38 Games= 4.24 Balls Per Game
• 9 Balls x 21,298 Fans= 191,682 Competition Factor
• 47 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
• 3 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
• 121 Balls in 27 Games at Nationals Park= 4.48 Balls Per Game
• 19 straight Games in Nationals Park with at least 1 Ball
• 3 straight Games in Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
• Time Spent On Game 3:42- 1:52= 10 Hours 10 Minutes
• With my first “9” game, I have now snagged in a game every total from 0 to 11 baseballs at a game.
Question: What do you do when you have a baseball awards dinner in the Bronx and a ticket to the Orioles-Mets game?
Answer: You sell the Mets ticket on stubhub and buy a ticket to the Yankee game.
Also, look at the crew who assembled outside the gate:
From left to right, that would be:
2.Greg Barasch– Frequent catch partner and fellow ballhawk.
3. Zack Hample– Oh, you know, just your average guy who’s caught more than 6,000 major league baseballs.
4. Matt Latimer– An MLB.com reporter, who was going to cover Zack during B.P. for a story.
5. Ross Finkelstein– Another fellow ballhawk, who I occasionally run into at games. This may be the first time we’ve gone to the same Yankee, though. Whatever, I’m too lazy to look it up.
Also at the gate, was this sign on a barricade:
All of us pretty much made fun of all the ridiculous things on there, but after the fact, I thought, “You know what that’s actually not a bad idea to have all the prohibited stuff on a sign. It’s way better than playing that along with a song on a continuous loop 30 minutes before the gates open.” Are you listening, Mets?
Since there were so many of us, we actually spoke about who was going where during batting practice, as to divvy up the sections between us. I opted to go to left field. It would have been a great choice had a) the Yankees hit one ball into those seats during their portion of B.P. or b) Cody Eppley actually acknowledged any one over the age of 5.
Then, when most of the ballhawks came over to right field, here were the views to my left and to my right:
Yes, there were a bunch of empty seats, but how the people were configured,the furthest I could run for a ball was 10 feet, so the ball would essentially have to be hit *right* at me. As for getting a Brave to toss me a ball, forget about it. There were tons of people in Braves gear and most were in the front row.
The closest I came to getting a ball was one hit directly over my head. I moved as close as I could to the landing spot, turned around and jumped, but it sailed what must have been a few inches into another guy’s glove.
Soon after this, I decided it was better to go back over to left field and deal with the other ballhawks than to deal with that mess of a section.
There it was emptier, but it started off with the same frustration. NOTHING was coming even close to me. Then it evolved into a different kind of frustration. A Braves hitter hit a ground-rule double. I lined myself up with the ball, and it was coming right towards my glove… until a hand in front of me deflected it over my right shoulder. Words cannot described how frustrated/nervous I was at this point. My goal is to get to 100 consecutive games with at least 1 ball. After that, the plan is I go to whatever games I please, regardless of whether I can make batting practice.
Throughout nearly all of Braves B.P., I was thinking about how much longer it would take me of I got shutout this game. I wasn’t as worried as I was in right field, though. Left field was much less congested, and I could actually run around for a ball that was hit. Here are the views to my right and my left:
I didn’t feel confident, however, in my ability to get a Braves player to throw me a ball. Ironically, this is how my only ball of the day would come.
When I got to left field, I ran into Mark McConville, who had just arrived with, I believe, a few of his co-workers. He obviously didn’t have a ball yet either, so we were both pretty desperate. Actually, on that ball I missed that I mentioned earlier, Mark also almost came up with it, but another fan beat him to the ball.
Anyway, Mark and I had been giving Craig Kimbrel an earful for quite a few minutes. Finally, Kimbrel turned around and lofted a ball right at Mark, but those pesky hands are always up at Yankee Stadium. Even though the ball was very clearly intended for Mark, a hand deflected the ball. The deflection sent the ball right towards my stomach, and almost as if I had Alien Hand Syndrome, I grabbed the ball with my bare hand right before it had a chance to hit the seat in front of me. Here is the ball with Kimbrel and Chad Gaudin in the background:
I then (deservedly) got a few lines (delivered jokingly) along the general lines of: “You’re killin’ me, Mateo.” from Mark. As relieved as I was to not get shutout, I felt really bad for him, since I was in a similar situation just moments earlier.
Then batting practice ended, and I spent a few minutes seeing Zack sign a couple of baseballs:
Then I conceded to the fact I that I had to go to the awards dinner I mentioned earlier.
It was my first game ever leaving right after batting practice, and I must say, I thought it would feel weirder than it did to be leaving as everyone else was entering the stadium:
As for the dinner, I received this even though I have never played an inning of baseball for Fordham Prep:
• 1 Ball at this game
• 46 Balls in 11 Games= 4,18 Balls Per Game
• 20 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
• 1 Ball x 41,219 Fans= 41,219 Competition Factor
• 53 Balls in 15 Games at the New Yankee Stadium= 3.53 Balls Per Game
• 15 straight Games at the New Yankee Stadium with at least 1Ball
• Time at Game 4:26-6:17= 1 Hour 51 Minute
The Braves’ story of 2011 should have been their historically great bullpen back three:
Sadly, it was their semi-historically great collapse at the end of the season:
Nothing. They really added absolutely nothing notable to their team. They *re-signed* a couple of notable people, but they added nothing that wasn’t already on the team.
Derek Lowe, Brooks Conrad, Alex Gonzalez, Wes Helms, Scott Linebrink, Julio Lugo, Nate McLouth, and George Sherill.
Why?: I get the fact that I created this category and made its title the rhetorical question that it is, but honestly, I cannot imagine why anyone would ask “Why” I gave the Braves such a bad grade. They added NOTHING! In addition to that, their subtraction list is almost a two-liner. Sure they’re not franchise-makers that are on that list, which is why I didn’t give the Braves an “F”, but it’s enough to say they lost a whole lot more than they brought in, which is the qualification for a “D”.
That silly little self-responsive rant said, the Braves are a young team, whose starters are on the upswing. I mean Jason Heyward can only bounce back from his past season. Any worse and they would just have to replace him with a replacement-level player.Freddie Freeman showed amazing spouts of talent that could make him into a very good 1st Baseman, Tommy Hanson still has to show us what he can do with a full season of work, my favorite Braves player, Julio Teheran, still has to show us what made him their top prospect. I could go on but those are the major names.
What it comes down to for the Braves in the end is that they have the potential to have a VERY good rotation (Jurrjens, Hudson, Hanson, Teheran, and another), they already have the best back end -if not entire bullpen- in the major leagues (O’Flaherty, Venters, and Kimbrel), and they can have an explosive offense if their pieces come together (Jones, Uggla, McCann, Heyward, Freeman, Bourn, and Prado). This team could actually surpass their season win-total from last season this year.
Predicted Record Range: 87-92 wins
Next Up: Los Dodgers de El Pueblo Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciuncula