Tagged: Baltimore Orioles

5/30/13 Nationals at Orioles: Camden Yards

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:

53013 Opening Picture

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:

53013 Gio throwing

And Rick Adair, the Orioles pitching coach, had an interesting set-up for Kevin Gausman, who was throwing in the Orioles bullpen:

53013 Rope

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:

53013 Ball 1

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:

53013 View in front of me

And then two other ballhawks who had joined me at the gate lined up to my left:

53013 View to my left

Ballhawk #1 is Alex Kopp, who I’ve mentioned in entries before such as this one, this one, and this one.

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.”

53013 Ball 2

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:

53013 Frack-ton of fans

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:

53013 Ball hitting me in the head

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:

53013 Ball 3

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:

53013 Mateo livin la vida thug

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:

53013 Backpacks

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:

53013 Ballhawks of the flag court unite

Left to right, that would be:

  1. Rick Gold
  2. Alex Kopp
  3. Me
  4. 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.)

STATS:

  • 3 Balls at this Game

53013 Baseballs

Numbers 532-534 for my life:

53013 Sweet Spots

  • 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

5/28/13 Orioles at Nationals: Nationals Park

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

52813 Mateo at gate

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

52813 Ball 1

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

52813 Bloody cap

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

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

52813 Ball 2

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

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

52813 Ball 3

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

52813 Orange Tshirts

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

52813 Ball 4 diagram

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

52813 View at the dugout

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

52813 Ball 5

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

52813 View at the beginning of the game

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

STATS:

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

52813 Baseballs

Numbers 527 to 531 for my “life”:

52813 Sweet Spots

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

5/10/13 Orioles at Twins: Target Field

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:

51013 Willingham Bobblehead Box

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:

51013 View bleachers right

And here was the view in the bleachers to my left with the friend who joined me from my residence hall that day, Kyle:

51013 Kyle and people

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:51013 Roenicke Ball

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:

51013 Mateo waiting

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:

51013 PP 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:

51013 Deck the balls with houghs of holly

(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”:

51013 Hunter signing

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:

51013 Hunter Ball 1

but here was what he wrote on the ball itself for me:

51013 Hunter Ball 2

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:

51013 View from RF

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:

51013 Lots of Orioles

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:

51013 Bleachers Packed

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:

51013 Sean and Kyle

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:

51013 Batters eye failure

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.

STATS:

  • 4 Baseballs at this game (3 pictured because I gave 1 away)

51013 Baseballs

Numbers 491-494 for my life:

51013 Sweet Spots

  • 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

Observing Baseball’s Two-Year Anniversary

Sorry it’s two days late– given October 13th was Observing Baseball’s two-year anniversary– (YouTube was giving me problems uploading it, FOUR TIMES) but this is a video tribute-type thing I did for two years of Observing Baseball. Feel free to pause the video to click the links below the video that I allude to in the video itself. The reason I wanted to celebrate this way is because I know a bunch of you have joined on in the past year. Also, sorry for the length. I prioritized having everything in there over making it watchable for people with ADD. Enjoy:

1. One-year anniversary of Observing Baseball

2. Sabermetrics (the explanation)

3. 2011 Baltimore Orioles Offseason Recap and Preview

4. Survey of Adults’ Perception of Baseball

5. Case Study on Morality in Baseball

6. 4/17/11 Rangers at Yankees: Yankee Stadium

7. 6/15/11 Cardinals at Nationals: Nationals Park

8. 7/2/11 Cardinals at Rays: Tropicana Field (100th Ball game)

9. Ballhawk Fest 2011

10. 8/9/11 Red Sox at Twins (First Shutout)

11. 8/23/11 Diamondbacks at Nationals: Nationals Park (Earthquake Game)

12. Re-view of the Preview: Kansas City Royals

13. Collected Baseball knick-knacks

14. Some Statistical Blog Stuff

15. 4/7/12 Twins at Orioles: Camden Yards

16. 4/10/12 Fordham Prep at Elmira: TicketReturn.com Field

17. Blast From The Baseball Past: 8/23/08 Dodgers at Phillies: Citizens Bank Park

18. 6/22/12 Nationals at Orioles: Camden Yards

19. 7/6/12 Rockies at Nationals: Nationals Park

20. 8/20/12 Braves at Nationals: Nationals Park

21. 9/13/12 Royals at Twins: Target Field (Trevor Plouffe home run game)

And one good thing about being two days late on this entry is I get to shoutout all of the cool people who wished me a happy birthday. Here are said cool people:

6/24/12 Nationals at Orioles: Camden Yards

Oh, ’twas a frustrating day at National Park at Camden Yards. First, I missed my train from Washington’s Union Station due to a failure in the DC Metro system. I would say the DC Metro is usually a good transit system, but when it comes to construction and weekend schedules, it’s questionable at best. I had both things going against me.

Once I finally walked to Union Station, I got a ticket on the next train to Baltimore. The problem with this train was it was scheduled to arrive in Baltimore-Penn Station at 11:10. Walking, it is usually half an hour from there to Camden Yards. I was going to have to run down to make the gate time of 11:30. To make matters more uncertain, I texted the person who usually gets tickets for me in Baltimore, Avi Miller, and he somehow didn’t know I was coming. He said he was waiting for people to maybe buy his last two tickets from him. The first thing that came to mind was, ” Ruh-roh.”

Thankfully, I was running down hill and managed to get there at 11:21. When I got there, though, I didn’t see anyone I recognize, most importantly, I didn’t see Avi. As I may have have mentioned in another entry from this week, Avi goes to a LOT of Orioles games, and I don’t really, so I thought he had left the country to escape my ticket-grabbing self.

Then at 11:27, Avi miraculously showed up with a ticket. Yes, my day was indeed saved. I wouldn’t have to wander the streets of Baltimore for the next six hours. There you have it people, Avi Miller keeps kids off the streets and on the ball field. I should have gotten a picture with him there, but I was probably thinking the gates were going to open any minute.

Why do I bore you with all the things going up to the game? Well because once I got in the stadium, there wasn’t anything more exciting going on:

20120624-231745.jpg

The only action on the field for about the first ten minutes was the Friday’s starter, Jason Hammel throwing warming up and throwing a bullpen session (at least I think that’s what it was):

20120625-015647.jpg

I waited around, until suddenly there was movement on the Nationals side of the field. I put on my Nationals gear and headed over there to set up behind these guys:

20120625-115942.jpg
The far right person would be Craig Stammen. After he finished playing catch, the coach with whom he was throwing ended up with the ball and tossed it back with the other two you can see in the lower left part of the picture.

The far left person was Tom Gorzelanny. After he finished playing catch, his throwing partner, Ryan Mattheus, held onto the ball. At this time, all other people were allowed into the seating bowl besides season-ticket holders, so when Mattheus finally did toss the ball up, I had a lot more competition, and lost out as a result.

The next pair to start throwing was Tyler Clippard and Sean Burnett, so I tried to set up deeper, and hope Burnett would end up with the ball since Clippard is underrated as an “unfan-friendly” player:

20120625-123559.jpg
Clippard ended up with the ball and of course ignored a request for the ball.

The next two players to start throwing were Jordan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg. I tried the same tactic, this time hoping Strasburg got the ball. While he is not that generous with toss-ups himself, Zimmerman has a reputation as not tossing balls into the crowd:

20120625-124004.jpg
Of course Zimmerman ended up with the ball, and I still had nothing.

Probably the most frustrating thing about this day, though, was that had I gotten a ball from the first throwing group, I could have gotten about 5 signatures of prolific pitchers. Here you can see Strasburg signing:

20120625-124241.jpg
but he was hardly the only one. If he was a pitcher for the Nationals, he probably signed on this day. Let me list off all the names that signed for fans:
Sean Burnett, Tyler Clippard, Mike Gonzalez, Gio Gonzalez, Tom Gorzelanny, Edwin Jackson, Ryan Mattheus, Stephen Strasburg, and Jordan Zimmerman.  I was waiting to snag a ball to get signed… but that never came.

I was still at zero balls when the game went under way, so I camped out here for the whole game:

20120625-125111.jpg
Even as the Nationals fan that went up every inning after the third out, I got nothing. Of course, I was in the spot perfect for getting a ball from the first baseman Adam LaRoche, and only one inning ended in a ground out.

I should just show an example of Camden Yards fans being nice. The people whose seats I had been sitting in actually let me keep sitting there and themselves sat behind me, “until someone shows up.” That ended up being the whole game. They offered me peanuts and to buy me something to drink. They then lauded my “ambition/ passion” and said they wished their son had as much as I do.

In New York, people who saw me in their seats would have probably just given me a “get outta here”. Well not really that specific phrase, but they would have asked me to move.

Maybe it was because I was simply enjoying going after the third out balls, or talking with these two fans, but unlike other games where I had zero balls during the game, here I wasn’t nervous at all.

As the game winded down, I left my seat to get an “Orange Chill” and to got to the umpire’s tunnel. There I called out to the umpire, David Rackley, and after giving away a few balls to kids at the mouth of the tunnel, he tossed one up to me:

20120625-130230.jpg
You can call me Houdini.

I then headed over to a restaurant whose name I believe was California Tortialla and watched the PSO for Italy- England along with Avi and his friend Zevi, who had also accompanied to the gates and as far as I can tell, throughout the game.  When they had to catch their ride, I headed up the hill to Baltimore-Penn Station with the water and chips they had so graciously provided, where I would catch my bus back to New York.

Bye, bye Camden Yards. Until next time:

20120625-130647.jpg

STATS:

• 1 Ball at this Game

20120625-155254.jpg
number 296 for my career:

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• 74 Balls in 15 Games this season= 4.93 Balls Per Game
• 24 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
• 1 Ball x 41,794 Fans= 41,794 Competition Factor
• 8 straight Games at Camden Yards with at least 1 Ball
• Time Spent On Game 8:30 AM- 11:45 PM= 14 Hours 15 Minutes

6/22/12 Nationals at Orioles: Camden Yards

There was only one word to describe this day in Baltimore: crazy.

Everything started out perfectly normal and fine, though. I arrived at Gate H around 50 minutes before the opening time and ate my Subway sandwich:

A crowd then started gathering outside the gate, and I checked my phone to see what time it was. It was 4:25, but the more important thing I saw was that the person with my ticket, Avi Miller, had sent me a message saying he would probably be there by 4:50 because he was having problems with the LightRail. He was right, but it was a nerve-racking experience awaiting him as it got closer and closer to the gate opening time.

After a couple of minutes inside, this was the view to my right:

Yep, one person that could possibly compete with me. What are those numbers? Oh those are just locations of balls I had caught. Yes, that is a nine in the fourth row. Was that my last ball of the day? I’m not telling you; read the rest of the entry and you’ll find out.

See what I mean? Crazy. By the time I took that picture, I had already caught three ball on the fly. The location of which, you can see in the picture. Avi identified the hitter of the first ball as J.J. Hardy. The next two I’m pretty sure were both hit by Mark Reynolds.

Here was the view to my left:

After I caught my third ball of the game, a kid asked me what my name was. I don’t know why he did, but I responded and asked what his name was. It was Michael Myers. He then engaged me in a short conversation, so I offered to give him my next ball of the day. Naturally, he agreed. After a few minutes of inaction, however, he asked me, “can’t you just give me one now.” to which I responded, “Just wait, I’ll give you my next one.” he then asked back, “Well how do you know you’ll get another?” To that I simply said,” I’m pretty sure I’ll get another.” Sure enough, approximately 4 minutes later, Mark Reynolds hit another shot over my head and to my left, where I chased it down and picked it up. You can see part of the “4” where I got the ball in the last picture. I then went back down and gave this ball to him.

You have already seen the “5” spot, but here I took a picture of the ball itself:

After I took this picture, it occured to me that Michael probably wasn’t ever going to get a commemorative ball. Given that every ball I had snagged up to that point was commemorative except the one I gave him, I made an exchange with him so he could have the commemorative ball instead of the standard “Selig” ball (yes, when I made the exchange, I explained what I meant by a “Selig” ball).

You’ve already seen the “6” spot. It was hit by a righty in the second hitting group I saw. I tracked this ball throughout this whole flight and caught it on the fly, where I then proceeded to almost fall down after glancing off an Oriole Park cupholder. I would later or then give this ball away.

I should actually explain something before it gets too late in the entry. The action was coming so fast ( caught a small percentage of the balls that went into the left field seats) that I never had time to write down notes until batting practice ended, so although I know that I caught a ball in the location where I wrote the “6” and then almost fell down, I don’t know if that was necessarily my sixth ball of the day. Some things I *DO* know are: All but one of my balls was hit, all of my balls were snagged in the left field seats, I caught five balls on the fly, and I “gave” away 6 balls. If you want to know why there may be some inaccuracies, I took pictures like this to remind myself of where I had snagged baseballs:

Gee, thanks, Mateo. Which of the five baseballs I snagged in this area is this supposed to remind me of?

Why do I write “gave” in quotations? Ball number seven. A ball was hit way over my head and to my left. So, I ran to about the spot where I thought it would land. It landed a few rows above that, so I raced after it. I grabbed the ball, but another kid grabbed the ball right after that. I know I could have pulled the ball away from him, but I didn’t want to be like that, so I let go. I count this because I *did* have possesion; I just decided not to keep it. Here is the kid:

Yes, I use the term “kid” very loosely. With me it can mean anyone from about 2 to about 18 years old. If we’re going off purely technicalities, though, a kid means a young goat.

Around this time, a man approached me to introduce himself. He said that he had seen me a few times on Zack Hample’s blog. He also mentioned he had been on there a few times. With this little tidbit, he also added, “I’m Helmet Guy.” Then it all made sense. I had seen him a few times at Citi Field in the two prior seasons. He owns, I believe a helmet from all thirty teams. His real name, though is Brendan Sammon. Here he is giving a “thumbs up” after jokingly complaining that all people wanted to “see [was] the helmet” (he was wearing a Nationals hat when he introduced himself, but I asked him if he could put on his helmet for the picture, since, you know, he IS “Helmet Guy”. I’m pretty sure he even had a custom shirt that says that on the back.

I then got my 7th ball in a spot that I didn’t photograph behind me- hence the lack of a “7” spot. It was an absolutely perfect Camden Yards commemorative ball. I gave that to this man in the bright orange shirt:

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He then gave it to his son.

Why does it look so crowded around him? AfterI got ball number 8, whose spot I have already shown, the left field seats opened up to non-season ticket holders. So this is what the seats looked like to my left and right:

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Regardless, I was feeling pretty good about myself having already snagged 8 balls to that point…until Avi came back to me. Right as he got to me, he said, “should I thank you now or later?” Apparently, no one had gone for Nationals toss-ups, so Avi (wearing Orioles gear) got 8 toss-ups from the Nationals pitchers. I was of course wearing bright red Nationals attire. How many of those would I have gotten? Four? Six? All I can say is: crazy.

During Nationals B.P., I got two balls. The first I caught on the fly in the spot you saw labeled “9”. Both this and the next one may have been either Michael Morse or Ryan Zimmerman.

The next ball I picked up off the ground in another place I never took a picture of, but this one was more to my right than the “7” spot I also didn’t photograph. I gave this ball away to a kid on the spot.

Of course, everything was going so crazy, I didn’t know what number I was up to. All I knew was I had given five balls away. I was going to count how many I still had later on to find out my grand total.

I then rendezvoused with Brendan by the bullpens. This time, his son, Patrick, was with him. You see, previously, his son was stuck on Eutaw street, since they bought a ticket from a dealer who had advertised it as a season ticket when it hadn’t been.

While I talked to him, the Nationals’ bullpen coach, Jim Lett, walked into the bullpen. I leaned over the side and asked him for a ball. He looked up, picked a ball off the ground and tossed it to me:

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Notice anything strange about the ball?

Here’s a better picture:

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Oh. My. Goodness. I had set up my schedule, so I would be in position to get as many of the six commemorative baseballs out this season as I could. The only ball, however, that I would have to luck out on was the Fenway Park commemorative, since I wasn’t going to go to Yankees-Red Sox, and I wasn’t going to see a team the Red Sox had just played. How the commemoratives got to this game. I don’t know. I wasn’t about to question it either.

Right after I got my ball, Lett also tossed Patrick his first ball of the game. This was an Oriole Park commemorative. In batting practice, Brendan had caught a Michael Morse BOMB that had made it all the way to the cross-aisle behind the left field seats. This ball was a Fenway commemorative. They actually switched up balls and asked me to take a picture of them, so I figured I’d share it with you. I assume it’s okay since I took the picture of Brendan earlier for myself:

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After that, the tarp went on the field, and I met up with Avi, after which, he took me to the Suite Level. Yes, you technically need a ticket, but this was Camden Yards, not Citi Field, so naturally no one checked. Due to this and other amenities, I made a few cracks about how spoiled he and the other regulars here were.

Once the game began, after an hour-long rain delay, I went out to my usual spot in right field, where this was the view:

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No, I didn’t actually see ANY of the game.

While I was out there, though, I went through and counted all the baseballs in my backpack. My record for one game had been 10 baseballs, so when I found out I had gotten 11, this was my reaction:

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Not only had I gotten 11 balls, but my 11th had been the commemorative I wasn’t supposed to get.

However, since the game had been delayed, and my train back to Washington left at 10:15, I had to leave in the middle of the sixth inning. On my way out, though, I gave away my sixth ball to a kid on Eutaw street.

I then took a picture of said street from outside the stadium:

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Bye, Camden Yards. See ya later today.

You think the crazy was done for the day? No, not quite. I left the game at 9:38, but even though Washington is 45 minutes from Baltimore, a series of delays caused me to get back to the apartment at 1:32. Thus, you can expect a new stat at the end of this entry.

STATS:

• 11 Balls at this game (5 pictured because I gave 6 away)

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numbers 284-295 for my “career “:

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• 73 Balls in 14 Games= 5.21 Balls Per Game
• 23 straight Games with at least 1Balll
• 3 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
• 3 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
• 3 straight Games with at least 4 Balls
• 3 straight Games with at least 5 Balls
• 3 straight Games with at least 6 Balls
• 3 straight Games with at least 7 Balls
• 3 straight Games with at least 8 Balls
• 11 Balls x 45,891 Fans= 504,801 Competition Factor
• 38 Balls in 7 Games at Camden Yards= 5.43 Balls Per Game
• 7 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Camden Yards
• 4 straight Games at Camden Yards with at least 2 Balls
• 3 straight Games at Camden Yards with at least 3 Balls
• 3 straight Games at Camden Yards with at least 4 Balls
• 2 straight Games at Camden Yards with at least 5 Balls
• Time spent on the game ( This statistic differs from “Time at Game” in that it includes the time spent traveling between my residence and the ballpark for that day) So this day I left my apartment at 1:30 PM. I got back there at 1:32 AM, so the “Time Spent On the Game would be 12 Hours 2 Minutes

5/2/12 Orioles at Yankees: Yankee Stadium

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.

STATS:

  • 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.