There was one goal for me on this day: Get 4 baseballs. It was my third and final game at Yankee Stadium in 2013, and I was sitting at 96 career baseballs at Yankee Stadium. I think I’m only one of five ballhawks to have gotten 100 baseballs at three different stadium–of which I am *BY FAR* the worst of, and I think I would be one of only 3 to have it at four or more stadiums, but I’m not sure. I just wanted to get 100 at Yankee Stadium, and like Citi Field, not ever *have* to come back to it again. And for my journey to 100, Andy Bingham thankfully showed up at the gates and offered to help document my quest for me. And so here he is one he took of Chris Hernandez and I talking at Gate 6:
And then of me getting my ticket scanned:
And then because I was so far ahead of both of them, a picture of Chris running into the the stands:
When I got in there were already people in the right field seats, but somehow all ten or so of them missed an easter egg in the last row, and I made sure to scoop it up:
Chris’ lateness also might have helped him, because he took a while through the seats as well and found an easter egg of his own by the foul pole. And when Andy got to the seats, this was my happy reaction to already having one baseball on the day:
My next ball of the day came when A-Rod, who I coming into this series I completely forgot was still in baseball, hit a ball that didn’t look like it was going to clear the wall near the bullpen, but I kind of jogged in the direction of it just in case. Then, when the did hit the warning track dirt, that jogged turned into a sprint, and I had my second ball of the day:
I then turned and asked the kid in the front row if he wanted the ball. When he said, “Sure” normally I would have just tossed it to him, but Andy told me to go and hand it to him for the picture you are about to see:
And so while I took my spot at the back of the section:
Chris was towards the beginning of what was a pretty boring day for him in terms of hit baseballs:
Not that the rest of my time in the right field seats was particularly productive. I had a couple near misses, but no other baseballs. First there was this baseball that I had judged, but was a going to land two rows behind me:
An then this ball that you can see being picked up by another guy:
Then the group changed and both Chris and I–seen by us both having our backpacks on–were ready to head out to left field:
And in a move of friendly competition, when Chris ran to his left towards a ball that was hit that way, I didn’t even go after the ball and instead bolted to left field in order to secure my spot out there:
My third ball of the day was almost a mirror image of my second in that it was another ground rule double right up against the bullpen that I jogged after but then sprinted for once I realized it was going over:
(The “mirror” part being that it was on the other side of the field.)
That was ball 3 for me, meaning the next one would be 100 for me at Yankee Stadium. So while I went into foul ground when the Angels started throwing, there was a huge chunk of me that hoped I didn’t get a ball down there, because I wanted to get a hit baseball. That said, I’m not good enough to have the luxury of getting a specific baseball the way I want it, so I mostly just wanted to not get shutout the rest of the game.
So when the aforementioned huge chunk of me was pleased by me not getting a baseball in foul ground and I headed back to left field:
It looked like 100 was going to have to be hit. (Side note: Do you notice the man in blue with a glove about four rows below me in that last picture? That’s Erik. He was actually at and commented on the first ever game I wrote about on this blog. Side, side note: If you do click that second link, please excuse my bad writing.)And it was. Mike Trout crushed a ball to my right, and while I knew I wasn’t going to be able to catch the ball on the fly, my hope was if I chased after it, the ball could maybe deflect back to me. It didn’t exactly. Instead it popped up off a seat and I out jumped Erik for the ball that was now literally up in the air:
Yay! Number 100. And from Mike Trout? Perfect. To celebrate, I went back to my bag, put 100 in a special pocket, and gave the second ground-rule double away to a kid in a Teixiera jersey that you can see in this next picture of me talking to a woman for about something I don’t recall:
My next ball was also one I robbed ballhawks friends of. See Chris was over to my left for most of the time we were in left field:
(His expression says everything about how his day was going to that point. He had snagged two baseballs relatively early in BP, but he wasn’t getting much action.) But as the people who didn’t have tickets for left field got kicked out, Chris first talked a little:
But then he went off to my right to get more space:
So when Mark Trumbo hit a baseball about two sections to my right, I figured either Chris or Erik would have it, but when the ball took a bounce off a seat away from both of them, I was able to make up the section-long headstart they got on me and get the ball:
Since they had been so much closer to the ball than I had been when it was hit, when I got it, Chris uttered a sentence–in a friendly way (as you can see from him smiling in that last picture)– that I won’t re-write here on the blog.
My sixth ball of the day came as a result of another Mark Trumbo homer that Chris almost definitely would have gotten had I not been there. Trumbo bombed a ball to the back of the LF seats. I came from the right of the ball, and Chris from the left (if you were looking from the field), and we both jumped and came up short. But the ball hit off the wall, and then hit me. I was in pain from the ball hitting me, but I looked down on the ground, saw the ball, and picked it up:
And then I tried to get a ball from Mike Harkey:
And then for the game I stayed out in left field. For the game, I headed out to my seat in left field and tried for a home run. But then at about the eighth inning, I got someone’s ticket and sat by the dugout. My main goal was to get an umpire ball at the end of the game, but that wasn’t going to stop me from going for a third-out ball. So when Chris Nelson jogged in from the field, I yelled his name and he threw me this:
That was my seventh and final ball of the day.
- 7 Balls at this Game (5 pictured because I gave 2 away)
Numbers 636-642 for my lifetime:
- 196 Balls in 46 Games= 4.26 Balls Per Game
- 7 Balls x 38,379 Fans=268,653 Competition Factor
- 108 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 13 straight Games with 2 Balls
- 10 straight Games with 3 Balls
- 2 straight Games with 4-5 Balls
- 103 Balls in 27 Games at Yankee Stadium= 3.81 Balls Per Game
- 27 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Yankee Stadium
- 14 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Yankee Stadium
- Time Spent On Game 3:30-11:21= 8 Hours 20 Minutes
Again at Yankee Stadium, and look who I ran into:
This would be Greg Barasch, my former neighbor from when I lived in New York. And because he averages eight balls a game despite being in New York, I knew it was going to be a tougher-than-normal day at Yankee Stadium. But then again, I knew that in about a month, I would be at Target Field with very little or no competition most days, so I knew that in the end, being forced to another level just trying to get a couple of baseballs, it would only help me for when I had no competition in terms of being able to fully appreciate it.
And in at least the first few minutes, I was actually doing better than the competition I was facing–which is rare. I first went to the Yankees bullpen, where Hiroki Kuroda was going through the bullpen and tossing the balls that were in there back on the field. But when he was picking up the ball closest to me, I asked him in Japanese for the ball, he laughed, and tossed me the ball over the netting that separates the bullpen from the seats I was in:
And then it was back to my spot with Greg in front of me:
Normally I would think this would be an awful spot…and at the time it was, and I did in the moment–especially when he caught a home run that I would have otherwise gotten–but I then got two Lyle Overbay home runs within a matter of seconds. First over here:
And then with the first ball still in hand, I got the second one–off a bounce off of the Modell’s advertisement–over here:
So I was on the board with three baseballs in a matter of minutes. So when Ichiro’s group came up, I figured I had milked this section for all it was worth and headed into the second deck in right field. But I didn’t get anything; instead I just watched as Greg moved to my spot and snagged two baseballs there.
I then headed over to left field, where this was my spot/view:
And look who I saw out there:
That would be Rick Crowe. He’s a Chicago-based ballhawk who I first met back in 2011 when I was at my first game at US Cellular during my 2011 tour of Midwest colleges. He can usually be found in the seats of US Cellular Field for batting practice, but his practice at least back in 2011 was to lave after BP to go home and have dinner with his family. And while I don’t like people having no reason to leave before the game starts leaving before the game starts, having a family to have to go back to is a valid reason to do so for me.
Anyway, we planned to meet later in at his seat above the batter’s eye before the national anthem, but when I got there, the section I would have had to go to get to his seat was closed for a private event. Oh well; I’m sure I’ll run into him again down the line.
My next ball would come from the spot I took the picture of Rick from. Mark Trumbo blasted a ball into the left field bleachers, but the person who was under the ball ended up bobbling it:
And so the ball went into the tunnel that was behind me, where I picked it up. I then asked a kid who had run behind me if he had gotten a ball, and when he said no, I gave him the ball. That was my last ball for BP.
As for the game, this was my view of it:
And what a painfully slow game it was. I forgot which one it was, but one half-inning took 45 minutes as Mike Scioscia must have made 4 pitching changes. That, and because there was a call Scioscia believed had gone against him, (and despite the fact that I still haven’t seen the replay of it, from what I saw during the game, I agree with him.) Scioscia did something I have never seen a manager do and instead of signaling for the pitcher from the bullpen right away, he made it like a visit to the mound and made the home plate umpire, David Rackley walk out to the mound before he called for the pitcher he was going to bring in. Anyway, due to the painful slowness of the game’s pace, we were almost an hour behind normal game schedule. So when there was a rain delay:
Greg and I both expected not many people to come back to the seats. But when we went back into the seats, it was a truly ludicrous scene. First, the players were warming up while the tarp was being put away, which I’ve never seen:
But then there was also an insanely low amount of people that were present. Greg and I were both shocked how few Yankee fans emerged from what was probably the shortest during-game rain delay I had seen, and maybe Greg had seen. (It had only lasted a little over fifteen minutes.):
I mean, look at this panorama of the seats after the rain delay. (Click to enlarge, silly):
When the game eventually ended after 11:00, Greg and I took advantage of this fact, and yelled in unison at home plate umpire David Rackley. He was headed into the umpire tunnel with his head down, but after our “1,2,3…MR.RACKLEY!” he looked up and tossed us both a baseball. It was quite a beautiful moment of ballhawk teamwork:
And after that, we headed out, and I took a picture of the surprisingly-full Great Hall post-game:
And with that, I headed back to the place I was staying just to come back and do it the next day.
- 5 Balls at this game (4 pictured because I gave 1 away)
Numbers 631-635 for my “career”:
- 189 Balls in 45 Games= 4.20 Balls Per Game
- 5 Balls x 35,013 Fans=175,065 Competition Factor
- 107 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 12 straight Games with 2 Balls
- 9 straight Games with 3 Balls
- 96 Balls in 26 Games at Yankee Stadium= 3.69 Balls Per Game
- 26 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Yankee Stadium
- 13 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Yankee Stadium
- Time Spent On Game 3:24-11:44= 8 Hours 20 Minutes
After taking an almost year-long hiatus (the last time I was here before this game was 8/15/12), I was back at Yankee Stadium for a three game series against the Angels:
And for the first time ever at Yankee Stadium, I had a person to take pictures of/for me during BP. It wasn’t intentional, though. As I waited in line as the first person in line, a man started waiting in line next to me. And after about a minute, he asked, “Are you one of Zack’s boys? I assumed so because you’re here standing in line so early.” It turns out this was Andy Bingham. (Who also has an picture-based MLBlog that you should check out. The link to it is on his name.) Anyway, he told me he has taken pictures of Zack Hample in the past for his blog, so he offered to do the same for me and this blog entry that you’re about to read.
However, right as I got in, I was glad that Andy wasn’t around to take pictures, because some Yankee hit a home run as I was checking for easter eggs, and so I turned towards the field, and then I jumped for the ball, but it tipped off of my glove, hit a seat behind me, and bounced back to the front row of the section, where one of the only other two kids in the section picked it up. A ball then got hit into the bleachers. Everyone else on the field level went back toards the field and snagging looking for future home runs, but I stuck around the bleachers, waited for the usher up there to retrieve it, and asked him for the ball:
But then I headed over to left for the second group of Yankees that I saw hit. Within seconds of me getting there, some Yankees righty hit a ball to my left. So I drifted over to the spot where the ball was headed, and caught the ball on the fly:
It was so soon after I got there that Andy, who was trailing me in the tunnel didn’t get there until I had put the ball back away in my backpack. Although, I pulled it back out for him to take a picture when he got there:
I will have to say that the catch stung a little. That was because earlier in the day, before I even got to the stadium, I had run down a foresty hill to get to the train that took me to the stadium. And since everything on said hill wasn’t exactly stable, I fell down and cut my hand on a rock. So when I told Andy about it, he took a picture of my hand slit:
So yeah, while I was excited to catch the ball, I would have maybe passed up catching ten baseballs on the fly that day. Thankfully, it would be last hit ball of the day. I then headed over into foul ground to try to get a ball from the Angels players who were throwing:
And interestingly enough, I ran into some fans I had seen the week prior at Nationals Park in the Red Seats:
It’s funny because we had talked for a while; myself, Dave Butler, and the father of the family, so to see him/them at a game in a different state within the span of a week was funny. But as far as the snagging down the line was concerned, there was none. I tried to get players’ attention:
but to no avail. And I’m not complaining; that’s just how it is some games, and this happened to be one of those games. It was then that Andy had to meet some Yankees representative for something or other. So that would be the last I saw of him that game.
Meanwhile, I saw that Josh Hamilton was crushing baseballs into the bleachers in right field, so I went up there:
But by that time, the only home run he hit into the bleachers was actually one that went way over my head. I didn’t take a picture (I should have), but if you’ve ever been to or seen Yankee Stadium, the ball almost cleared the bleachers and went into the concourse/walkway behind them.
My next ball came up in the bleachers, though, when a player I later identified as Nick Mardone fielded a ball in front of the Yankee bullpen and saw my Angels gear, he lofted a ball over the screen in front of the bullpen to me:
Well he actually lofted the ball over me, but I managed to scurry over and get it before anyone else could. That would be my third and final ball of BP. After BP I went to the ticket my “guest” for the game treated me to. And by “guest” I mean I told my former religious studies teacher I was in town and asked him if he wanted to catch a game while I was there. He then said yes and bought me a ticket for section 130. If you’ve never been to Yankee Stadium, this was the view from our seats:
I didn’t take a picture of him because I am always nervous about people being okay with their pictures being taken. I almost never initiate a picture of a person I’m meeting for the first time, so if you ever meet me, let me know if you want me to take a picture of/with you for this blog, because I probably won’t otherwise. I also saw Ricardo Marquez in the stands, but we didn’t talk much because I was hosting my guest, and I really wasn’t going to abandon him to talk to even a former MLB Fan Cave Dweller.Besides that, it was just a beautiful day at Yankee Stadium:
And a fun day too. (By the way, Trout’s New Jersey following can be seen in the left field bleachers. They’re the sea of red you can see out there.)
- 3 Balls at this Game:
- 184 Balls in 44 Games= 4.18 Balls Per Game
- 3 Balls x 37,146 Fans=111,438 Competition Factor
- 106 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 11 straight Games with 2 Balls
- 8 straight Games with 3 Balls
- 91 Balls in 25 Games at Yankee Stadium= 3.64 Balls Per Game
- 25 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Yankee Stadium
- 12 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Yankee Stadium
- Time Spent On Game 3:13-10:56= 7 Hours 43 Minutes
With how my schedule was looking for the rest of the year, this was almost definitely looking like it would be my last game at Nationals Park in 2013. And so I was glad to start my day by catching a Nationals BP homer on the fly that also turned out to be a 2010 World Series commemorative baseball:
I don’t know who hit it, but I ran through the middle row of the Red Seat and leaned over seats to catch the ball. It was a fun experience. I then soon after headed over to right field, where I got yet another 2010 World Series commemorative. This one was tossed to me by some Nationals trainer who has been with the team for several years and has tossed me a couple baseballs, but I still don’t know exactly what he does. It seems like the Nationals have a couple guys like that where you don’t know exactly what they do. Anyway, he tossed me another golden ball, so I like him:
I don’t have pictures of my next two baseballs because they were both in the middle of a stretch of action in the Red Seats, and I’m a forgetful idiot who apparently can’t take pictures when things calm down, but here’s how I got both of them:
The first ball was a Dan Uggla home run that he tomahawked (See what I did there?) into the Red Seats. The route to the ball from where I was was clogged up with people, so the best I could do was get behind where the ball was going to land. It then evaded a bunch of gloves, hit off a seat, and bounced up into the air, where I snatched it up. I gave this away to a kid at the front of the section. The second ball came when I went to the corner spot in the Red Seats closest to center field. When Jose Costanza went into center field to field a ball that had gone there, I called out to him by name, and he then turned to me and threw the ball that he had just gotten. It was headed right for me, but the guy standing next to me, who had seen me get a few baseballs reached in front of me and caught the baseball. But you know what? I’m not even mad–nor was I in the moment–because I just moved away from this guy on the next ball Costanza fielded and got him to toss me that one. I then made a point of giving that ball away to the kid who was standing right next to the guy who had reached in front of me.
And then after that, I got a bonus, because Rick Gold came into the section. I asked him if he had snagged any of the Target Field commemorative baseballs, because I desperately wanted to trade someone one of my extra World Series 2010 balls for an extra Target Field ball. But somehow, I didn’t even end up giving him anything, and instead, he gave me this for nothing:
Well not really nothing, but really a commemorative to be named later. So if I ever get two or more of a commemorative Rick doesn’t have, I will give him that because he gave me this one. That was very nice of him, and it made me very happy. It almost even made up for the fact that I hadn’t gotten a Target Field ball. (And just to clear things up, I *much* prefer to snag baseballs on my own, but I’m also not above trading commemoratives, because I also don’t go after commemoratives with the vigor that most ballhawks do. I do very much like to get them, but I’ve never asked a player to specifically toss me a commemorative baseball and have never planned a trip because of a commemorative ball. Basically, if a team in a game that I’m going to has a commemorative ball–or several in the case of the Nationals–it’s a bonus to whatever I snag that day.)
The Costanza toss-up would be my last baseball of BP. So afterwards, I went to the Braves bullpen, since there were still a couple baseballs:
And no surprise, the Nationals groundskeepers cleared out the baseballs when they entered the bullpen. Actually, knowing the Nationals groundskeepers (who are some of, if not THE, worst groundskeeper in terms of tossing up baseballs and leaving them on the field for players to toss them up), it was a bigger surprise that they only collected two of the three baseballs and left the ball I’ve labeled “2” for the Braves relievers.
The first person who made his way to the bullpen was Brian McCann. I thought I had a pretty good chance of getting him to toss me a ball, but my only worry was someone was going to beat me to it, because McCann would be pretty easy to recognize and ask by name. I didn’t have to worry about it, though, because he stopped short of the bullpen to do his stretches in the outfield. Then came Eddie Perez. I was particularly worried about him, because I had noticed his two daughters had been sitting on top of the Braves bullpen, so I figured the ball would go to them if he picked it up. Thankfully, he stopped to talk with McCann for ages. Then came Alan Butts. He was perfect because even though I wasn’t trying to get a ball from him then, I was the only one who recognized him the previous day and said hi to him. So when he walked past me to get into the bullpen, I asked him if he could toss me that ball. To that he responded, “In a second.” So after getting a variety of his “bullpen catcher” things ready, he went over and tossed me the ball:
As for the game, I had thought of sitting by the dugout for the longest time, but then I realized that despite Nationals Park being the stadium I’ve spent the most games at, I still don’t have a game home run there, so I sat in left field:
No home runs came out there, but at the end of the game, I made my way to the far end of the Braves bullpen and got Eddie Perez to toss me a ball (since he had been talking to McCann and hadn’t seen me get the ball from Butts):
I then headed over to say goodbye to an usher I’ve talked to throughout this year, and as my parting gift, I gave him the ball I had just gotten from Perez:
His name is Jan Pastor, and he’s a really nice usher who works the aisle right next to the MASN booth in the center field plaza. I believe it is section 102-103, but I may be wrong. Anyway, if you’re ever at Nationals Park when I’m not there, say hi to him for me.
I then headed off to take the train, where I had an experience on the Metro that I’ve never had post-Nationals game. It’s usually as packed as it can be with all of the people leaving the Nationals game, but somehow for a full stop after we left Navy Yard-Ballpark, the stop nearest Nationals Park, I was the only one in my subway car:
I mean I’ve been on a ton of empty subway cars before, but they’ve all been at the ends of lines when there aren’t really many people at the stop, and this was at a major stop during one of its more congested hours. Anyway; weird.
- 6 balls at this game (4 pictured because I gave 3 away, but then added the one Rick gave me to the picture)
Numbers 622-627 for my “lifetime”:
- 181 Balls in 43 Games= 4.21 Balls Per Game
- 6 Balls x 29,114 Fans=174,684 Competition Factor
- 105 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 10 straight Games with 2 Balls
- 7 straight Games with 3 Balls
- 6 straight Games with 4 Balls
- 4 straight Games with 5 Balls
- 2 straight Games with 6 Balls
- 192 Balls in 42 Games at Nationals Park= 4.57 Balls Per Game
- 34 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
- 5 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Nationals Park
- 2 straight Games with at least 3-6 Balls at Nationals Park
- Time Spent On Game 3:27-11:28= 8 Hours 1 Minute
So back from Philadelphia and the madness of BallhawkFest, I took a couple days to rest and write. But after that, it was time to go to the second game of the Braves-Nationals series. First, there was a chance of rain, so I went atop the Nationals parking garage to check if the cages were up:
That would be Dave Butler and Art (whose last name I don’t know). They are probably the two most “regular” ballhawks at Nationals. Dave pretty much exclusively goes after hit baseballs while Art almost exclusively goes after Nationals toss-ups. They are both very friendly guys, and if you ever see them at Nationals Park, tell them Mateo says hello. Dave can be pretty easily identified by the fact that he always has his Giants hat on, and Art can 95% of the time be found with his sunglasses, Bluetooth, and blue Nationals hat on in the corner spot by the visitor’s bullpen right as the gates open.
Once we got in, I headed for straight-away left, since both Dave and Rick Gold were battling it out in the Red Seats for pitchers BP.
Ironically, my first ball of the day came in the Red Seats when the two of them left for the Nationals’ second group of hitters. Ross Ohlendorf fielded a ball at the wall, and looked up to toss the ball to someone. And when I raised my glove, he flipped me the ball:
And then literally *right* after that, I saw a person coming down the grass hill in center field to clear out all of the baseballs that were sitting there. It was so soon after the first ball that I actually had it in my non-glove hand and had to hide it behind my back to get the man to toss me the ball that was on the hill. and I guess I’m more deceptive than I thought, because:
Do you kind of see the logo of the ball? It was a World Series 2010 commemorative ball. I had heard the Nationals were using this and several other types of commemoratives, but this was the first time I had seen any of them in 2013. So since I had snagged two baseballs within a span of ten seconds, I gave the non-commemorative Ohlendorf ball to a kid at the corner of the section.
After that, a Nationals righty smashed a ball that bounced up to the top of the restaurant, where an employee picked the ball up. At that point everyone else pursuing the ball gave up and went back to the bottom of the section. I didn’t understand, though, since it was employee that supposedly had to give the ball away. So I stuck around, stuck up my glove, and got this:
And you see right; that is a Fenway Park 100th year commemorative baseball. It was amazing, but this would sadly be my last commemorative ball of the day.
I then headed over to right field for the third group of Nationals hitters. There I got Taylor Jordan to toss me a ball by being the only one to call him by name:
I then got my fifth ball of the day when the Braves started hitting. I got Craig Kimbrel to toss me a baseball over the Braves bullpen:
And then it was time to have a cup trick party. Now you’re not exactly supposed to, but you can sometimes get away with using a ball retriever in the gap right below the Red Seats. So this being my first time with a reliable retriever in Nationals Park with me having Tim Anderson‘s cup trick in my bag of tricks, I took advantage of it.
I first saw one ball go into the gap on a hit ball, so I got the cup trick out and pulled the ball out from here in the gap:
I then gave it away to a kid whose glove the ball had bounced off of. I then got a second ball from the gap soon after that and gave it to a person right next to me on top of where I snagged the ball in the gap. And then I asked him if he could hold the ball out for a picture:
And by then, people realized what I had, and when a ball landed in the gap, people called me over to retrieve the ball for them. I walked over, but as I did, Justin Upton launched a ball right into the row I was walking in, so I ran through the row and caught the ball through several glove screens:
That was my eighth ball. And then when I retrieved the ball and gave it away to the family who dropped the ball, I had my ninth ball of the day:
If you can see the bars below the ball in the picture, the ball was trapped under one of those, so I had to knock it sideways out from under there to retrieve the ball. At this point I was getting nervous because I had now gotten 3 balls via cup trick. So when a guy told me there was another ball in the gap, I just wanted to get my cup trick out quickly, get the ball, and not get seen. But as soon as I pulled the cup trick out of the gap, I sensed someone behind me. It was a security guard who told me he needed me to give him the trick. It was obviously not mine, so I asked if he had a string-cutting device. And when he said no, I tried untying the string, he eventually just gave up and told me that I’m there often enough that I should just not do it again. That was my tenth ball of the day, by the way.
My record for baseballs in a game was 11, so with 10 and there still being about 15 minutes left in batting practice, I thought I had a pretty good opportunity to break it. And this got even better when I picked up a ball that Luis Avilan had overthrown to a kid. I then gave the ball to the kid:
I then had a very good chance to break my record, but Avilan’s inaccuracy came back to bite me, and he overthrew me, so this ball would be my last of the day. No, the only thing I would snag from this point on was a piece of gum thrown to me by David Carpenter after I stayed by the bullpen to watch Julio Teheran ( whose name is properly pronounced “Teh-heh-rahn”) warm up:
I then sat in left field, because I thought it would be great if my record-breaking 12th ball would have come on a home run:
- 11 Balls at this Game (5 pictured because I gave 6 away)
Numbers 611-621 for my lifetime:
- 175 Balls in 42 Games= 4.17 Balls Per Game
- 11 Balls x 30,875 Fans=339,625 Competition Factor
- 104 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 9 straight Games with 2 Balls
- 6 straight Games with 3 Balls
- 5 straight Games with 4 Balls
- 3 straight Games with 5 balls
- 186 Balls in 41 Games at Nationals Park= 4.54 Balls Per Game
- 33 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
- 4 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Nationals Park
- Time Spent On Game 3:21-11:03= 7 Hours 42 Minutes
After our adventure the previous night that got us back to Washington past midnight, Chris Hernandez and I got up to get to Philadelphia for BallhawkFest a little later than we wanted to. And so when we should have been playing softball with all of the other BallhawkFest attendees, this was our view:
But thankfully, this was where we were when it came time for the luncheon at McFadden’s:
That would be Chris running behind me alongside the stadium. Thankfully we made the luncheon more or less right after everyone else got there. And the best part was even though we were the last ones to get there, we got our food before anyone else. The luncheon would also result in me getting a Minnesota Twins long-sleeve shirt (thank you, Zack), Cardinals mini home plates, and my 2012 Junior Ballhawk of the Year award certificate.
Then it was time to get to the gates. First a couple of us made the trip over there:
And then a lot more showed up:
Although at this point, we knew the tarp was on the field, so it wasn’t looking good for us snagging. One person in the foreground of that last picture was particularly vocal about a certain streak ending. It was the calm before the storm, though. We waited and took pictures, but I killed most of my time by playing catch with Tim Cook in the street alongside the gate.
When the gates opened, everyone went in while my anxieties about this game compounded. Todd Cook had bought a ticket for me the night prior, and because I had to essentially get up and head to BallhawkFest, I never printed it out. Now at a bunch of places, you can just scan your phone as long as it has the barcode on it, but I learned that here at CBP, you can’t. So while everyone else was in the stadium for a good five minutes, I was getting a printout of my StubHub ticket:
Which was slightly difficult since the ticket was in Todd’s name and not mine. But eventually, I did get int the stadium with everyone else:
When I got in, only two pairs of Braves pitchers were throwing, but I got neither ball. My best shot was to get one from Julio Teheran, but I don’t think he heard me saying that I was a Colombian. My next closest opportunity to getting a ball was when I got David Carpenter to throw me a ball from 100-200 feet away. Unfortunately, though, the ball fell short and he didn’t come to the warning track to pick it up.
If you go back and take a second look at it, you may see something interesting in that last picture. As we waited, the grounds crew came out with the batting cage and screens. So by the time the Phillies came out to throw, the cage was set up and ready to go:
But with the abundance of people wearing Phillies red, it came as not surprise to me that I didn’t get a ball. Despite the fact that I saw there was now going to be batting practice, I was still worried as to how many baseballs I could put on the board. Pretty much everyone else had one or two baseballs at this point, and despite a ton of running and changing shirts that I had done up to this point, which I spared you the details of, I was still at zero baseballs. After I left foul ground, I ran into Ben Weil, and his girlfriend Jen. Ben at this point had two baseballs and was leading the pack. Jen, however, said she was rooting for me. And although I didn’t mean to, I kind of scoffed at that because the way things were going, it felt like I would be lucky to get *a* baseball with all of the competition. Let me explain why. Up to that point, I had been absolutely exhausted by the other ballhawks, because usually during a game with no BP, a ballhawk is the only one smart enough to go to place x. Well during this game, by the time I got to place x, there were 5 other people right on my tail. So after they got there, I had to get creative and think of another place where I could possibly get a ball, but with less competition. The cycle then repeated itself. Turns out, though, Jen had more confidence in me than I did.
Soon after I got into the right field seats, a ball was hit and rolled to the wall. Rick Sporcic was also in the right field seats. And although he was occupied with a baseball further towards center field, I hurried up and got my (read: Tim Anderson’s) cup trick out to pick up the ball, because I had heard he was good with his retriever. By the time I had gotten my ball, though, he was still trying to get his from in front of the wall. My guess is the right field wall is much taller than the left field wall in Pittsburgh, so he wasn’t used to it and his retrieving skills were slowed down as a result. Anyway, I didn’t get a picture since I was in a hurry to get the ball, but here’s a picture that’ll show you where I got the ball:
The place I took that picture from also happens to be where I got my second ball of the day. I leaned over the wall to see if a ball I had spotted from right field was cup trick-able, and just as I realized it wasn’t, Joe Savery came over to pick up that and another ball. He tossed the ball I was eying to a kid next to me and the other to me:
I know Ben was right next to me, since he also came over to see if he could cup trick the ball, but I don’t think he got a ball tossed up to him then. I actually don’t know if he got another ball for the rest of BP.
After getting that ball, I headed to straight-away left field to try to get a hit ball. It was a zoo:
I mean forget all of the people in general, just look at the ballhawks who were right behind me:
Had I not misjudged several home runs, I could have been up to 4 or 5 baseballs for the day after my time in right field. But instead I spent the rest of my BP getting punked by the Phillie grounds crew chalk dispenser:
Most teams use a cart-type thing to apply the chalked foul lines, but the Phillies instead use this thing where they pond to red side part with the mallet that is a mini-bat with a baseball at the end to apply the chalked line. Unfortunately, it looked from left field like there was a baseball sitting on the warning track in foul territory. So I ran all the way over to find out that this could in fact not be snagged.
The closest I came to snagging another baseball was when a ball rolled to the wall in left field, I ran over to where it was, and was about to pull out the cup trick when a Phillies player picked the ball up and threw it into the stands. Little did I know, but had I been a little quicker to the ball, I could have had the outright lead at the end of BallhawkFest.
How did this happen? Well after BP ended, I went to take a group picture in center field:
And then wnet behind the dugout. Since this was *Ballhawk*Fest, I expected there to be at least one other person joining me behind the Braves dugout before the game, but they just never came. So when the Braves came out to throw, I was one of the few people in Braves gear behind the dugout. Using this, I first got Chris Johnson to throw me a ball. His throw was a bit high, so it tipped off the top of my glove, bounced in the row behind me, and I had to run for it to just beat out a man who was also going for it. He was so close to it that I gave him the ball. It was only after I took the picture of him that I realized he already had a baseball (D’oh):
So since I had grabbed the ball before I gave it to him, that was ball number 3 for me on the day. Ball number 4 took no time at all after that. I’m not sure if he had seen me miss the Johnson toss-up, but when Justin Upton came in from throwing with his baseball, I screamed his name, and just like Johnson, he scanned the crowd as if searching for a little kid who deserved it more before settling for tossing the baseball to me:
I say I wonder if he saw the Johnson toss-up tip off of my glove, because I his line of sight when he was tossing with his brother BJ was slightly off of me, but it’s possible that he just tossed me the ball to give me a second chance. Oh well; who knows?
Then once the game started, I moved over one staircase to be on the right staircase for a third-out ball. It was after the top of the first inning that I saw Ben come down into that same section, so I moved down to join him. One out later, Jen joined us. So the plan at the third out was all three of us were going to go down for the third-out ball and odds are one of us would get it. Well it turns out it wasn’t just us, but Quinn Imiola (who you may remember from this entry if you’ve been reading the blog for a couple years, and whose birthday it was that day–as was announced by his dad at the luncheon in a hilarious/purely-“dad” way.) had gotten past the guard at the top of the steps right before the third out and also tried for the third-out ball. As it turned out, with all of those people there, Freddie Freeman lofted the ball right to me. As we returned to our seats, where we all went into the same row, we were apparently suspicious-looking enough with the culmination of all four of us going down for the ball and Quinn going back to a different seat than the one he had gotten out of to go for the third-out ball that the usher who had come down from the top of the steps asked to see all of our tickets. Ben and Jen actually had a ticket (it just wasn’t on that aisle), but Quinn and I didn’t have a ticket for the section at all. So the usher kicked Quinn and myself out of the section completely, telling us that he better not see us back there for the rest of the game, and asked Ben and Jen to go to their actual seats in the middle of the row–which Ben had no interest in doing. So as the rest of the group pondered where they would go, I took the picture of the Freeman ball:
The conversation eventually lead to us wandering towards left field, where the other three would eventually sneak down into, and I would continue onto right field, where I actually had a ticket for:
After a few innings of being there, I got a tweet from Harrison Tishler (who already published an entry about this game/day that you should check out) asking if he could join me. When I said yes, he and his parents were there within half-an-inning:
It was almost as if I was a ballhawk magnet, because after that, the Cooks arrived as well as Quinn and Alan Schuster, the organizer of the whole event and founder/webmaster of mygameballs.com, the site that’s the reason this event even exists:
And soon after that, Zack Hample, Ben Weil, and Chris Hernandez also came to the same section (although the other staircase). I should mention that this was a slow process, though. The game lasted 12 innings, so all of these arrivals weren’t within a half-inning of each other. The highlight of most of this slow-ish game besides talking to all of these fun and cool people I don’t get to see on a regular basis was taking an unintentionally-artsy picture of the scoreboard:
It was my initial plan to go to the bullpen after the game, but with so many other ballhawks now converged around it, when the Braves scored a run in the top of the 12th, I headed to the Braves dugout. However, as I exited the right field seats, I got a call from Zack. I thought it was weird right away because he rarely calls me outside of a baseball game; much less *during* a game itself. Turns out he had gotten kicked out of the stadium by security because of the escalation of an incident that he had with them after he had caught John Mayberry Jr.’s home run earlier in the game. I feel like I was a bad friend for what I did, but I figured Zack as “king of ballhawks” would understand as I got Ben to call him and handle the situation as I ran to the dugout. I figure Zack would have done the same thing with me. (Aren’t I so good at justifying my actions to myself?)
Quinn also came down to the dugout after the game, and as I went for the umpire ball–where the umpire ended up talking to a family for about ten minutes after the game, and giving them his last extra baseball, Quinn got Craig Kimbrel to toss him the ball he had recorded the save with. Not a bad birthday present, eh? Here he is in his Braves gear with his parents to the right of the frame:
For the record, I know the names of all of the parents, but I don’t know if they want their names out there. I actually met Quinn’s parents the day I met Quinn in South Carolina. Anyway, we were being told to clear out of the section, so that’s why Quinn is a little blurry.
I then got a text from Ben saying to meet outside the third base gate. When we got there we saw Zack, but the group who had stayed in right field were still not there. Eventually they did get there and Zack got to tell the story of his ejection about fifteen times:
After that, the plan was to get a parting group picture. As we set up for that, I got a panoramic picture of all of the ballhawks mingling:
And here was the final group picture:
In talking to everyone, it turned out that Jeremy Evens (in yellow), the Cooks, and I had all tied for the lead at 5 baseballs a piece. If you remember the first BallhawkFest in 2011, I was tied with Zack for the lead at I believe 7 baseballs. So I have never gone to a BallhawkFest where I didn’t have a share of the lead. And I probably just jinxed any chance of doing so next year’s BallhawkFest.
I then headed off with the Cooks in their car to the 30th Street Station, but not before taking a look at the Veterans Stadium field in the parking lot and getting one last shot of the stadium:
And so concluded one of the funner days of my life. While I wish I could have made it for the full experience, I had a blast and will be sure to try my hardest to be there for next season’s festivities, wherever it may be. (Insider’s hint: It may be the closest to home a BallhawkFest has ever been for me.) Thank you to everyone who made and keeps making this event what it is. The reason I constantly recommend it to people is because while it may be a tough event snagging-wise, it is a truly unique phenomenon that is something really special as well.
- 5 Balls at this Game (4 pictured because I gave 1 away. And apparently lost my Phillies hat somewhere along the line as well.)
Numbers 606-610 for my career:
- 164 Balls in 41 Games= 4.00 Balls Per Game
- 5 Balls x 41,161 Fans=205,805 Competition Factor
- 103 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 8 straight Games with 2 Balls
- 5 straight Games with 3 Balls
- 4 straight Games with 4 Balls
- 2 straight Games with 5 balls
- 12 Balls in 3 Games at CBP= 4.00 Balls Per Game
- 3 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at CBP
- 2 straight Games with at least 2-5 Balls at CBP
- Time Spent On Game 10:07-3:25= 17 Hours 18 Minutes
So if you didn’t read it before, Chris Hernandez was staying at my apartment. He was planning on going to the Thursday Orioles game and BallhawkFest 2013, but my only condition for him staying with me was that we would go to the Friday Orioles game. Being that Chris is also a ballhawk and baseball fan, who would have had to drive 2.5 to Scranton otherwise, it was only after thorough convincing that he conceded. So, after getting slightly lost with his car’s GPS, we finally arrived here:
Since we had come in on Chris’ car and had planned to walk around the stadium before we got semi-lost, I brought my “good” camera. And whenever I bring my “good” camera, the result is me taking approximately 100 pictures per minute. Well not really, but the point is in our brief walks by the stadium when I had my camera in hand, I took a ton more pictures than I normally do, and I realize I’m *way* behind on this, but you can eventually see them all when I post them on the Observing Baseball Facebook page. I will try to get all of the picture up as fast as I can (along with YouTube videos) once I’m up-to-date with entries.
Anyway, we walked around the warehouse and got here:
Where Avi Miller made fun of me taking pictures with my camera:
We were then joined by Rick Gold, decked out in MLB.com apparel:
So our group then consisted of everyone mentioned in this entry so far plus Grant Edgrinton, who was also there:
And then Alex Kopp would show up after I ran my camera back to Chris’ car. (Which is completely normal for him. He gets off work at 4:30, so he’s rarely at the gate before 4:50, if ever.)
When we finally got in, my first ball was on a JJ Hardy BP home run. Once again, Alex was playing in front of me, but we somehow both misjudged this ball and thought it was going into Alex’s row. But since I was behind him when we both misjudged it, when it hit into the seats three rows above me, I was able to run and pick it up before anyone else got it:
Basically Steve Pearce hit a ground-rule double, and while everyone else stayed still, I was running towards where I thought the ball was going to bounce up into the stands, ran after the ball, and trapped it against a seat before anyone else could get to the ball.
I then headed to the seats in RCF for a group of lefty Mariners hitters. And when a ball got hit into the gap in front of the seats out there, I retrieved it for the person who the ball had hit off of and gave it to him. Here he is holding the ball out for the picture:
After that, the guy I’ve pointed out in this next picture (who I believe is Danny Farquhar) threw a ball to a girl behind me. But because he underthrew her, I was able to pick the ball up and hand it to her. That would be it for me in BP snagging-wise. Although it should be noted that a bunch of Mariners put on a show in the flag court, and I almost caught a ball on the fly on Eutaw Street because of it.
He also tossed one to the guy who was behind me, so had I been smart, I could have caught this ball and then gave it to the guy, but still counted it. But things in the past can’t be changed, and life moves on, so…
During the game, the absolute highlight (and simultaneous lowlight on a selfish personal level) was when Chris Davis came up to bat in the third inning, I lined myself on Eutaw Street to begin with. So when Davis blasted a 1-0 fastball, I had the ball perfectly judged, but for whatever reason, the closer I got to the ball, the more it felt like I was running in quicksand. I kept running towards where the ball was going to land, but just as I approached it, someone’s glove got in my line of sight, and the ball whizzed past my blindly-outstretched glove. Mad could not even begin to describe my thought process as I turned to see the ball having just bounced off of the pavement. This pure anger, though, quickly subsided when I saw Alex Kopp jump up and grab the ball off the bounce. Despite the fact that I had completely messed up my chance, I was genuinely happy enough for him that it completely wiped away my disgust after missing the ball. It was soon after that we knew something was special about this ball. First the Orioles Cut4 reporter showed up (and filmed this video), then an Orioles supervisor showed up:
After that, a man whose exact position I’m not sure of showed up and Alex talked with him about what he could get in return for the ball:
And then we headed back to the flag court. Only I was the only one who ran because I realized Henry Urrutia–who has still not hit his first major league home run–was up. I didn’t get to the flag court in time for Urritia, who got out on two pitches, but I did get there in time for the other guys to see me on TV when Ryan Flaherty hit a home run that bounced off of the fencing in front of the flag court. When the rest of them got back 1. They all mentioned they had seen me on the TVs in the concourse, and 2. We took pictures of Alex with the spot the home run had landed:
And then, if that weren’t enough, Alex got batting gloves signed by Adam Jones in the seventh inning from a guy who apparently walks around carrying such things:
(I got a “Vote Orioles” shirt from him.) After the game, we all went to the area we had gone to before, and were shown down the stairs to the level below the field level that is pretty much just a tunnel below the seats:
And while we waited for Chris Davis, we got to see about 10-15 different players from the two teams in their “natural habitat”, which is to say that they were not in uniform, and in many cases with their families. Take, for example, Nick Markakis with his two kids:
I didn’t get any pictures when Davis came out, since I was filming with Alex’s camera, but if you want any, check out Chris’ entry when it comes out. I can just tell you my personal experience, which is as follows: Dvis was really nice about the whole thing. He took pictures with all of us, signed about three baseballs (two for Alex and one for Grant), and even though you could kind of tell he didn’t exactly want to be there, he didn’t say it to us directly and allowed us to soak in the moment. Alex also got a hat and signed helmet out of the affair. Here he is after we got out of there with the hat on:
Alex usually doesn’t ever like to wear hats, so if you see him with one on, it’s the exception and not the rule. We (Alex, I, Chris, and Avi) walked to Alex’s and Chris’ cars, where I got my camera and some other things for Avi out of Chris’ car, and then took a paparazzi-esque shot of Alex’s car as he and Avi. Because after all of the free stuff he had gotten, Alex felt like a celebrity:
(I don’t know why, but I’m surprised Alex still has a New Jersey license plate.) Chris and I then headed back to the stadium with my camera to take his “stadium picture”:
Inspired by Zack Hample‘s same idea in the 2011 season, Chris wants to get a picture with himself and a sign like the one you see him holding at all 30 major league stadiums. Except Chris is doing it in several years, and not all in one year. Oh, and for the record, Chris has been to like 13 stadiums; it’s just that OPACY was the fourth stadium he had ever been to, but that was *way* before he had the idea of doing this project.
After seeing this picture, though, Chris decided we should head to Gate H for the picture. And then this is the picture he ultimately decided to go with:
And then we headed back to the car, and then back to Washington, where we would wake up the next morning to go to BallhawkFest 2013…sort of.
- 5 Balls at this Game (3 pictured because I gave 2 away)
Numbers 601-605 for my life:
- 159 Balls in 40 Games= 3.98 Balls Per Game
- 5 Balls x 25,947 Fans=129,735 Competition Factor
- 102 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 7 straight Games with 2 Balls
- 4 straight Games with 3 Balls
- 3 straight Games with 4 Balls
- 67 Balls in 17 Games at OPACY= 3.94 Balls Per Game
- 17 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- 7 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at OPACY
- 5 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 2:34-12:26= 9 Hours 52 Minutes