Welcome to the entry of quite possibly my worst batting practice performance ever. So I’ll try to keep this entry brief and not make something out of nothing.
When I arrived from Alex Kopp‘s house where I had spent the night, there was already a couple people in line, but thanks to cool people I knew like Tim Anderson and Rick Gold being at the front of the line, I also got to be at the front of the line. As a result of me being essentially the first one in the gates, I found two easter eggs in left field, and actually probably should have gotten three or four, but when I got in, a person cleaning in the seats asked me if I wanted to come and get a ball with him in first base foul ground. I probably should have told him no, but I figured that if I could get an extra baseball out of it, my journey would be worth it.
Well when we got over there, someone had already gotten the baseball and I saw ballhawks pick up two easter eggs in the time that I stopped and talked to this guy that I probably would have otherwise had. But anyway, when I had my two baseballs to start the day, I was thinking about big numbers for this game. I would then go on to not snag a ball fro the rest of batting practice–hence the lack of pictures from this game. It didn’t look like it was going to be that tough a day either. This was the view of the seats in left field when I got back after making the journey for the potential third easter egg, which besides having Alex and Tim in it, didn’t look that bad:
And it wasn’t just me either. Between myself, Alex, Tim, and Rick, we combined for a total of two hit baseballs snagged during BP and no toss-ups. It was just for whatever reason a tough BP. I almost got a ball from Dane De La Rosa, but when he asked me if I had already gotten a ball that day, I replied honestly and said yes. He then kept looking for someone to give the ball to before tossing it back into the ball bucket in center field. I’m thinking I should have replied with a clever response that reflected the fact that I still hadn’t gotten a ball during BP yet, but his question caught me so off-guard that I couldn’t think of anything besides just telling him what he wanted to hear.
After batting practice, I saw a ball inside of where the grounds crew stays during the games, below the right-center field seats, so I camped out there hoping to ask whoever entered there first for the ball. I didn’t take a picture in my time there, but I found out that someone else did while exploring the hashtag “opacy” on Instagram, so here I am waiting right above the spot where the ball was for someone to retrieve it:
I waited there for a solid half-hour as the grounds crew people were just starting to fix up the field post-batting practice when I got there. I watched and got ready every time a groundskeeper crossed in front of me on the warning track, bu none ever actually went inside the gate. Then, a couple people who I didn’t recognize as members of the grounds crew passed by me and into the gate. I was so surprised that they would be entering the area that I didn’t even ask them to go get the ball. What I did do was sit on the edge of my seat and be prepared for when one of them would come back out. When one of the guys came back out, I immediately saw that he had the ball in his hand and asked him before anyone else could get to him. He then tossed it to me for my third and final ball of the day:
I would then give that ball away to an usher at the top of the section and instructed him to give it away to the first kid with a glove he saw. I like to do this because it’s a win-win for myself and the usher. I get to show the usher that I am human and like to see kids go home happy with a baseball, and it lets the usher look like the hero for being the one to give the baseball to the kid and see his/her face light up when he/she gets the ball.
And that was it. I wouldn’t snag another ball for the rest of the game. I would sit out in the flag court pretty much the whole game with Alex and Tim–who managed to get a Mike Trout home run ball tossed up to him–but nothing would be hit up there.
- 3 Baseballs at this Game
Numbers 559-561 for my career:
- 115 Balls in 28 Games= 4.11 Balls Per Game
- 3 Ball x 22,834 Fans=68,502 Competition Factor
- 90 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 50 Balls in 13 Games at OPACY= 3.85 Balls Per Game
- 13 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 4:08-10:39= 6 Hours 31 Minute
I didn’t know it by how it looked when I left to go to this game, but it would be defined by rain. There wouldn’t be any rain when I got there, but the Nationals still didn’t take any BP:
So I just sat around and talked to an usher I know in right field and a ballhawk out there until the Mets started hitting. Then David Wright hit a ball that bounced off the warning track. It then hit off a chair in the Red Seats–where I was standing when it came time for the Mets to hit, if you didn’t catch that–and bounced right to my glove. It was one of those times where really the ball caught me. Anyway, here’s my view of the field when the Mets started hitting:
The ball bounced pretty much between the two guys in red.
And then I got Collin McHugh to toss me a ball that I then immediately gave away to a kid to my left:
(Not the one who is in the last picture, but more on him later.) The next ball I got actually left me mad. I ran into a row as I tracked a Justin Turner home run and watched as the ball flew over my head. Thankfully there wasn’t anyone behind me and I could go and pick the ball up:
I then caught a Marlon Byrd home run on the fly, which I’m actually pretty proud of; not because I tracked the ball and made a leaping catch or anything like that, but because right as the ball was coming, a kid in the first row threw his glove in the air, which blocked my view of the ball, but I still got it:
And I then gave it to a kid to my left:
The arrow closest to the field is the kid I gave the ball away to and the second arrow is the kid who threw his glove in the air. And during that same hitting group, it started pouring. And with that, the Mets ran in and batting practice was over:
So in watching a grand total of two groups of BP–roughly an eighth of a total BP– I had snagged four baseballs, which is frustrating because I can only think of how good the numbers I could have put up could have been if I would have had a full BP.
I rushed to the Mets dugout when they first ended BP, but I was too late to get a ball from them. So as the game looked like it was going to be delayed, I walked up to talk to some ushers I knew from last season behind the Mets dugout. I was just planning on saying hi to them and moving on, but I ended up talking to them for a good hour until the game was officially called. Yep, that’s right. The game was postponed after what I would say was an hour+ rain delay. They probably would have called it sooner, but teams like to wait a while longer than they actually need in order for people to buy more things at the concession stands. But anyway, after watching the first few picks of the MLB draft on the big screen, this flashed up there:
And at that point I headed through the seats towards the outfield, where I planned to exit. I would have exited through the concourse, but it was a) Packed with people who had retreated up there to get away from the rain, and b) I wanted to see if anyone left their tickets in the stands, so I could possibly have an essentially free ticket to a future game. On my way out, though, I ran into an usher who knows me because he was the one who saw my ear bleeding in my first game back here this season, so talked with him for a couple minutes on what I believed to be was my way out of the stadium. In the time I was talking with him, though, I saw two Mets players coming out to throw just beyond the tarp, so when I was done talking with the usher, I headed back towards foul ground instead of taking off:
Okay, so the person throwing closest to me I could tell was Ricky Bones, but I couldn’t tell who the far thrower was, but I figured he was an actual player on the Mets, since two coaches probably wouldn’t come out to throw in the rain. The reason I was so far back is that I could tell the ushers at the top of the staircases were being instructed to keep all the fans at the top of the section. That meant that if I would have a very short window of opportunity at the bottom of the section before an usher would come down and tell me to leave. So as the far player started to inch in, and I could tell the catch session was coming to a close, I ran down to the bottom of the steps. Fifteen seconds into me being down there, the security guard on the field closest to the tarp in that last picture told me to go up. I asked him “I can’t even stay for a couple seconds to get this ball from them?” To which he responded, “No; you gotta go up.”
So I did technically obey his command, but as I sensed the players were done throwing, I first yelled out a request for the ball to Ricky Bones, but the two talked for a couple seconds. So I very slowly backed up the stairs; no doubt angering the security guard who had told me to go up. When the two Mets headed back towards the dugout, the other Mets–who I could now tell was Shawn Marcum–had the ball, so I waved my arms at him from now at least twenty rows deep into the section, and he launched me the ball for now my fifth on the day:
And while I was pretty excited about the ball myself when I got it, I heard a cheer erupt in what I thought was my head when I got the ball, but I turned around to see there was a full section of fans who had been watching the whole thing play out. It was the second loudest cheer I’ve ever gotten for a ball next to glove tricking a ball from the second deck of Miller Park. And with that, my day of ballhawking ended on five baseballs and I finally headed off home a little earlier than normal still.
- 5 Baseballs at this Game (3 pictured because I gave 2 away)
- 110 Balls in 25 Games= 4.50 Balls Per Game
- 5 Ball x 36,000 Fans=180,000 Competition Factor
- 88 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 148 Balls in 32 Games at Nationals Park= 4.63 Balls Per Game
- 24 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
- 8 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
- 6 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
- 4 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 4-5 Balls
- Time Spent On Game 3:18-8:55= 5 Hours 37 Minutes
My day began at Avi Miller‘s house. See, Avi and his parents were kind enough to put up with me for a couple of days as I needed a place to stay while going to a couple Orioles games. I have to say it was a really nice/fun place to stay. Avi and I had stayed up watching MLB Network–which I had regrettably not watched in forever leading up to that point–and I worked on entries as I watched and we ate pizza that I somehow got talked into letting Avi pay for even thought *he* was the one letting me stay with him. But anyway, the way to get to the ballpark from Avi’s is to drive to the subway station and take that to the ballpark. We could drive the whole way, but given how often Avi goes to games, it doesn’t make any sense, because 1. It costs $8 for him to park by the ballpark. 2. It puts extra wear on the car. And: 3. It costs a lot more in gas to get to the ballpark than the $1.20 for the subway.
But why am I prolonging the introduction to this entry and my account of the time before I got to the ballpark? Well because not much happened in batting practice itself. Once I got int the gates, here was my view of the field:
While I’ve heard it many times via word of mouth, I don’t think I’ve seen it written yet, so I figure I’ll get it out there: OPACY has become a tougher ballpark to ballhawk at. One reason for the ballhawks who used to come there many years ago is the competition. Several years ago (like 2010 and before that) there was virtually no competition during the first half-hour, so if you were in left field courtesy of a season ticket, you essentially had the place to yourself and could clean up for thirty minutes. The second reason is the Orioles don’t really have a team suited for the ballpark. I remember running all over the place when Mark Reynolds and Derrek Lee were on the team, but now really the only player who consistently gets balls into the left field seats is J.J. Hardy, and even he is having a rough year in that regard. You’d almost rather go out onto the flag court for parts of the 30 minutes to try to get a Chris Davis homer. And all of the players/coaches who patrol left field during batting practice are already accustomed to not tossing baseballs up for this first half-hour, so it’s not an automatic thing like it used to be to get on the board with a season ticket. I wasn’t there super consistently before, but from what I heard, it used to almost be easy to get four or five baseballs before the seating bowl opened up to the general public, and that’s before any of the visitor’s BP even took place.
During this BP, though, the Orioles hit definitely less than five baseballs into the stands, and I’m pretty sure that’s including ground-rule doubles. Nothing even came close to me. And what made it so frustrating is that although Alex Kopp, who I showed you guys in the previous game’s entry was there, Tim Anderson wasn’t here for today’s or the next day’s game, so I wanted so badly to take advantage, since I knew it would be a rarity to have an opportunity like this, but then the Orioles let me down. I mean look at how much space I had to run around if a ball got hit into the stands:
Oh, and I don’t think I mentioned it in the last game’s entry, but I was particularly looking forward to Tim being away because he jumped and caught a ball during that BP that almost certainly would have made its way into my glove had he not been there. He made a great play on it, and I horribly misjudged the ball. I still would have made the catch, but he picked the right row to run in and I went two rows deeper.
But back to this game. What made it even more frustrating is that the big, bad Tigers decided to take the day off of hitting because they had just played an 11-inning game in Pittsburgh where they got beat 1-0. I mean to me, getting shutout for 11 innings by the Pirates means you should probably be taking extra hitting, but you know, whatever your methods are, Jim Leyland, I won’t question them. It was as a result of the Tigers not hititng, however, that I probably had one of my more memorable experiences at the ballpark. And by memorable I mean…well, you’ll see.
Since the Tigers weren’t hitting, I went behind the Tigers pitchers warming up to try to get a ball from them. Since I had previously had a good encounter with him at Target Field, I got behind Phil Coke’s throwing partner to hopefully get a ball from Coke when they were done. When they finished catch, and I asked Coke for a ball, he looked and me and started backing away from me. I didn’t know what to make of it until he got into the “set” position of pitching of the stretch and flipped his glove upwards–which is to say he was going to throw me a fastball. I thought he was just going to throw the ball at my glove nice and easy, but no, this was Phil Coke, so he threw the ball full-force. So given the fact that it was Phil Coke not off a mound, it was probably in the high-80s. I wasn’t expecting this at all, so as the ball went way higher than I thought it would, I just managed to tip the ball as it zoomed way past me into the stands. I then ran back and retrieved the ball. I thought that was the end of it, but Coke signaled for me to toss the ball back to him. I tossed it back to him and he readied himself again. This time he crow-hopped into the throw–so the ball was almost definitely in the mid-90s–and I had to jump this time just to tip the ball. The ball then hit off a seat behind me and ricocheted all the way past the cross-aisle:
When I went back and got this ball, I was more than prepared to toss it back to him for another chance to catch it, but as you can somewhat see in the last picture, he had moved onto a new victim in the blue. That’s an OPACY regular by the name of Doug. Coke fired one ball at Doug before he told everyone to clear the area and then proceeded to fire another ball at Doug. Avi described it perfectly in what he said afterwards (I’m somewhat paraphrasing), “In an age where some teams encourage players to not even toss baseballs up into the stands because of liability, that has got to be the most reckless thing I’ve ever seen a player do at the ballpark.” Of course, Avi had probably the best reason to say it because after it deflected off a seat, one of Coke’s throws went less than a foot above Avi’s head. But alas, I had to keep my crown as the only one who got hit in the head with a baseball while I was at OPACY.
But anyway, that was pretty much it for the day. Avi, Alex and I hung out in club level pretty much until the game started. Tonight was Union Night, so OPACY was completely sold-out out. I mean just check out the sight on Eutaw Street before the game began:
So Alex and I sat out in the flag court at one of the picnic tables. And after having to move about seven times because people kept on showing up to their seats for the first three or four innings, Avi came and joined us out there. Here are those two as I was leaving to go get an umpire ball:
And I didn’t. The previous day I was in prefect position for an umpire ball, but an usher moved a couple kids in front of me just before the umpire passed through–like he literally grabbed the two kids and lifted them into the row of seats right in front of me–so I didn’t get a ball that day. I figured this was the usher’s custom, so this game I went to the other side of the tunnel in hopes of being on the corner spot on that side. I was, but unfortunately for my hopes of getting an umpire ball, the Orioles rallied back in the ninth inning, which they had begun trailing, and Chris Dickerson hit a walk-off home run, which I–albeit jokingly–called. This affected me trying to get a ball because the crowd was going absolutely berserk, so when I tried calling whoever the home plate umpire was by name, he couldn’t hear me at all. Heck, I could barely hear myself calling out to him. So he exhausted all of his baseballs on the kids awaiting him before he got to me. All in all it was a pretty boring day to ballhawk besides the Coke incident. I got my one ball there, Alex got his right at the beginning of BP when an usher directed him to a ball that had been hit in the seats before we entered, and I don’t even know if Avi got a ball, since he has a good approach and just relaxes during BP and snags whatever comes his way. He doesn’t really set expectations fro himself, so whatever he does in terms of baseballs and autographs is almost like a nice treat in addition to being at the ballpark. Anyway, I headed out to the flag court where I met up with Avi, where we would prepare ourselves for a game the next day that while much more adventuresome, would be just as frustrating to me.
- 1 Baseball at this Game
Number 535 for my “life”:
- 89 Balls in 21 Games= 4.24 Balls Per Game
- 1 Ball x 46,249 Fans=46,249 Competition Factor
- 84 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 43 Balls in 10 Games at OPACY= 4.30 Balls Per Game
- 10 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 3:23-12:14= 8 Hours 51 Minutes
With my last game and my snagging of six baseballs, I was at 95 career baseballs for Citi Field. The goal of me going to five games was to get to 100. Only five baseballs. When I got up in the morning, I was thinking how I could simply knock the goal out in a single game and then not have to attend games the rest of the weekend. Then I checked what the weather was supposed to be at the place I volunteered at most of the past two summers and for every day of this week:
Snagging five balls in this game was going to be a lot harder than I expected. And even worse, notice how I said that I checked the weather while I was at the place I volunteer at. That means I was already out of the apartment I was staying in. See it was nice-ish out when I left, so I decided I would wear shorts. Fifty degrees and raining isn’t exactly shorts weather. That brings me to this picture:
Because I was in shorts still, I figured I would need a poncho of sorts, so I fashioned this out of an extra table lining we had at the previously-mentioned senior center I was volunteering at. I took it and cut a hole in the top for my head and made two slices in the sides for my arms. I don’t know if you can tell from that last picture, but the tables where bags normally get checked were moved from their usual spot right behind where I was standing to way back almost at the turnstile:
It was so the security checking bags would be under the overhang and out of the reach of the rain. It also meant that I would lose almost a minute in getting into the stadium because I couldn’t have the guard check my bag before the gates themselves opened. Normally I would be mad about this, but I figured there wasn’t going to be batting practice, so every second wasn’t as precious as it would normally be.
When I got in the stadium I saw the Mets pitchers warming up in almost by the right field foul pole, so I headed over there and headed down the steps into the seats in foul territory down the first base foul line. As I started down the stairs, I heard an usher stop me. He apologized and told me that he knows fans are usually allowed down into the seating bowl, but since there was no batting practice, he was told not to let people into his section. I don’t doubt his sincerity in believing what he was saying and not making up a rule just because he saw an 18-year-old with a glove that matched the description of what Citi Field security seems to hate, but he was either a) Enforcing an absolutely ridiculous policy, or b) He misinterpreted what his actual instructions were. I saw him turn down several other people after me, but people somehow eventually started coming down into the seats, so I’m guessing it was the latter and someone else clarified the situation for him. Because of this, I had to try to get the players to toss me a ball from the right field seats instead of being behind them, which would have been the easiest toss-up snag ever. Regardless, I got Brandon Lyon to toss me a ball after he was done throwing with LaTroy Hawkins for my first on the day:
And look at all the action that occupied me after the pitchers left the field:
Given the fact that the tarp was on the field and absolutely nothing going on, I headed over to the third base side of things and waited for the Braves to come out and throw:
Right around then Ben Weil came into the stadium. So I chatted with him until the Braves came out to throw. When they did I stationed myself behind Craig Kimbrel and his new throwing partner now that Johnny Venters was injured, and then moved on to Cory Rasmus and his throwing partner, but eventually ended up getting a ball from bullpen coach Eddie Perez instead:
A ball which I would then get signed by Craig Kimbrel as he passed by signing people’s thing-a-ma-do-hickies. And then it was back to tarp-watching:
I believe the game’s start time was only delayed less than half-an-hour by the rain, so once it started Ben and I sat behind the dugout. Ben eventually just left the game around the third inning to go home, but I stayed behind the dugout the whole game. Unfortunately I was on the outfield end of the dugout and the Mets kept striking out to end the inning. At the end of seven innings when he came out, Braves starter Kris Medlen had nine strikeouts. If you didn’t know before, when a strikeout ends the inning, a catcher typically takes the ball to the home plate end of the dugout and tosses it up there. So as a result of all of these strikeouts, I found myself repeatedly on the wrong side of the dugout to get a third out ball.
It had been drizzling pretty consistently throughout the game, but at about the beginning of the eighth inning, it started absolutely pouring. When the Braves scored two runs in the top of the inning, I thought for sure that they were going to win the game on account of the rain, but the umpires let the game go on into the bottom of the eighth inning and the Mets came right back and scored two run of their own. It was after the end of the eighth inning–during which I should have caught a Rick Ankiel foul ball on the fly–that the tarp was finally brought out and the game delayed. When this happened I did the stupidest thing possible: I walked right up the steps and to the concourse. Now I did pick up a ticket for the section to get back in should I need to when play resumed:
But that’s not why it was a stupid decision to walk out of the section right as the game was being delayed. To a ballhawk, a rain delay is the equivalent of the end of the game in terms of snagging opportunities. So what I *should* have done was first go to the umpire tunnel and try to get a ball from the umpires exiting the field, then try to get a ball from players coming from a bullpen, and then maybe try to get a ball from the side of the dugout looking in at any players/coaches who were still mulling around in the dugout. And a great thing about a rain delay in New York is that unlike the end of the game, security won’t kick you out after 30 seconds because there is still the potential for the game to resume. These were all great opportunities I wasted because I was so fixated on getting out of the rain and inside some club (since I had a ticket that got me into pretty much every club in Citi Field):
I did a lot of wandering during the rain delay, but I won’t post all of the pictures here; they’ll be in the album on Facebook that I post for every game. In wandering the concourse and clubs themselves, though, I was wasting yet another golden opportunity. If you’re ever at a game that has gone less than five innings or is tied, search through the seats for as many ticket stubs as you can find, because if the game is postponed to a later date because of the rain, most teams allow you to trade in the value of the ticket for any game later on in the season. So if you have enough tickets in good seating, you could end up not paying for a ticket at that stadium for the rest of the season, and having great seats too. I was actually planning on going down to the field level and doing this at midnight, but it was announced at 11:58 that the game–or the inning that was left, anyway–was being postponed until the next day and would be played at 6:10, right before the game that was regularly scheduled to begin at 7:10. So I left Citi Field at about 12:02 and headed home:
And while it may seem as though my day was all the way through, it was what happened after I left Citi Field that’s what I’ll be telling everyone I know about this game form now on. The following timestamps are estimates since my phone died half-way along this journey:
12:02- I called the person who I was staying with to tell her that it probably wouldn’t be the best idea if I returned to her apartment that night, since it would require me possibly waiting an hour in the Bronx for a bus. I meanwhile texted my friend Greg Barasch, whose apartment I had stayed in that past Tuesday to see if I could stay there again that night, but he was “asleep” so he didn’t respond until many hours later in the afternoon.
12:25- Since the game itself never actually ended, and it was late anyways, there was no express “7” train to get on. Nevertheless, I went to the express track because there was a 7 with its doors closed where the express train usually is. I figured it eventually open its doors and head to Times Square. After watching two trains pass on the regular track, I came to the conclusion that this train was never going to leave the station and finally went to the other side of the platform and caught a train after 20 minutes of waiting.
12:40- The train cruised through the above-ground portion of Queens, but on the first stop underground, our train was stopped for what was announced as “signal difficulties”. Suffice to say I was bored out of my mind/not amused:
1:08- After waiting around for almost half-an-hour on the train, it was announced that because there was an investigation happening at Times Square that our train was being suspended and everyone needed to get off the train:
We were then told to go up to the booth for this station, pick up a pass for an extra subway ride and walk to a station for the “E” train, that would then take us to Times Square.
1:21- The person at the booth had given us wrong directions to the other station, so myself and a group of about five other people spent almost 15 minutes wandering what Ben Weil would tell me the next day was not such a good part of Queens at 1 in the morning.
1:55-Because it was the weekend and so late at night, the trains were running even more infrequently than they do normally on the “E” line, and so even once we figured out our way to the station, we had to wait for a while for the train to arrive in the station. It was in this time that I got teased by the Mets fans in the station for wearing Braves gear.
2:17-Finally the train arrived and it took all of us lost Mets fans to Times Square.
2:37-From Times Square I would transfer to the “2” train making local stops that would take me to the 96th street station before going off in a direction I didn’t want to take it, so I got off at 96th.
3:02- My phone had died at this point, but I still needed to get to 110th street to get to my now-vacant apartment. With the next “1” train that would take me to the 110th street stop being 19 minutes away, I decided to walk the 14 blocks (roughly 3/4 of a mile) despite the fact that it was almost 3 o’clock in the morning. It was a little after 3:00 by the time I got into the apartment. And when I got there, I found out that all of the bed sheets I had left in the closet when I left Monday had been taken out of the apartment, so this was my bed for the night:
It was even more comfortable than it looks. And with me collapsing on this makeshift bed from exhaustion at 3:15, I could finally say that my day of adventure had ended. But I would have to wake up in less than ten hours just to get back to Citi Field and do it all again.
- 2 Baseballs at this game
- 77 Balls in 17 Games= 4.53 Balls Per Game
- 2 Balls x 32,325 Fans= 64,650 Competition Factor
- 79 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 5 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 97 Balls in 36 Games at Citi Field= 2.69 Balls Per Game
- 36 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Citi Field
- 3 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Citi Field
- Time Spent On Game 4:10-3:02= 10 Hours 52 Minutes
As you read in the last entry, my friend Sean dropped me off at my dorm at about midnight with the plan to for him to pick me up at 9:00 in the morning and head off to Chicago right away. Well because of a failed prank, I was up until after 1:00, when I finally fell asleep from exhaustion without setting my alarm. Thankfully through some miracle, I woke up at around 8:00 in the morning where I packed the quickest I ever have and met Sean outside where we headed off Chicago-bound.
I believe we only stopped twice on our way to Chicago. Once to eat breakfast at Denny’s–since we had both missed the dining hall breakfast by leaving so early–and once to get gas close around Madison, WI. There was a little mix-up that would define this game for me, though. Actually I guess you could call it two. I thought based the fact that a 9:00 departure time would be fine on my presumption that the White Sox game was starting at 7:00. About half-way through crossing Wisconsin, I thought, “You know what, I should probably make sure the game is starting at 7:00 Central time and not Eastern.” Turns out the game was 7:00 EST. That meant that it was starting at 6:00 our time. And another mistake I had made related to the fact that I thought the game started at 7 was that in my rush to pack everything up, I still hadn’t printed our tickets. That meant we would first have to stop by Sean’s house 40 minutes away from the ballpark before actually heading to the game.
All of this lead up to the first picture I took that day:
Batting practice was already half done and I was still in the car on my way to the game. Or course I didn’t have either my Angels or White Sox rosters printed, so I knew my streak of over 70 consecutive games with at least 1 ball snagged was in serious jeopardy. When I finally got into the stadium and got my way down to the 100 level despite not actually having a ticket for there, there was a little over 15 minutes of batting practice remaining, and this was my view of the field:
I didn’t think it was going to be an easy batting practice to begin with, though. That was because for the second day in a row, it was a bobblehead day. This game’s bobblehead was of Chicago’s beloved Paul Konerko:
That, Twins, is how you package a bobblehead.
A couple minutes in to me having entered the gates, I was sure my shutout would be ending soon:
I still can’t identify him for certain, but whoever the player under the arrow is fielded a ball near the wall by where I was, and when I asked for the ball, he threw the ball in and then looked up at me. Right then I motioned to him as I was saying “Can you throw me the next one?” To this he gave me a thumbs-up. A couple minutes after that, though, batting practice ended and I still sat at zero balls for the day. It was at this point that I made the decision and told Sean that we were going to be spending the game at the dugout:
And in the first inning, I saw a stat from that seat that caught my attention as someone who was born in Colombia:
It wasn’t until a few days prior to this game that even knew Quintana was Colombian, but I guess it’s cool. However, he’s the only one of the top-3 who hasn’t thrown me a baseball. So if you want me to root for you in this race, Jose, it’s your move.
The game for snagging was absolutely brutal. I want to say over half the baseballs ended up in the hands of Alberto Callaspo, who made eye contact with me several times throughout the night, but always ended up looking away and throwing the ball elsewhere despite the fact that I was asking him in Spanish while being decked-out in Angels attire. As miserable as I was with the whole situation that was unfolding, Sean was loving every second of it:
If you’ll remember, he and my friend Tony had made a goal of shutting me out for a game when they joined me a couple games ago. And after I caused them to fail miserably by snagging nine baseballs, I may have been a little in-your-face about it (jokingly of course) about it, so to see me struggling to get even a single baseball without him being responsible for it delighted Sean to no end.
Finally the end of the game approached us, and I formulated my plan to get a ball from home plate umpire, Jeff Nelson. Since the umpire tunnel at U.S. Cellular is directly behind home plate, there were two options. One option was to try to get into the “scout seats” right as the final out of the game was being recorded and hurry down to the tunnel before the umpires made their way back there, which would almost guarantee me a ball. The problem would be if the ushers don’t allow people into those seats even after the game is over, or if I got slowed down by the people exiting the section, I might not even be able to ask Nelson for a ball. My other option was to go to the edge of the home plate netting and yell out to the umpire as he walked off the field to the tunnel. I went the second route. Luckily, the last play of the game was a pop-up to the infield, which pulled Nelson towards the field. This gave me more time to get in position and be ready to yell once he walked my way. So I did and Nelson looked my way and rolled the ball to the wall right in front of me as he walked off the field, and I then leaned way over the wall and picked the ball up to extend my streak with at least 1 ball:
Little did I know it, but Sean was taking his first ever Vine of me at that same exact moment I took that picture that reflected my feeling on the situation perfectly. So here’s the link to that if you want to see it. But anyway, I went back to Sean’s house semi-satisfied with the outcome of the day knowing that my streak would live to see another day. We then headed out at to 7-11 with his younger brother and I want to say watched “For the Love of the Game”. It was either that or “Little Big League”. (Since I haven’t watched most baseball movies, it has been Sean’s goal to get me to watch as many as he can.) We would then get up the next day for another fun day of Chicago baseball, with a Mother’s Day twist.
- 1 Ball at this game
Number 495 for my career:
- 49 Balls in 11 Games= 4.45 Balls Per Game
- 1 Balls x 28,774 Fans=28,774 Competition Factor
- 73 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 3 Balls in 2 Games at U.S. Cellular Field= 1.5 Balls Per Game
- 2 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at U.S. Cellular Field
- Time Spent On Game 9:23-10:47= 13 Hours 24 Minutes
After a week off from baseball, due to the game I was initially going to attend on Tuesday against the Marlins being postponed, it was back to Target Field:
Ah yes. The Texas Rangers. Historically a team that could always get enough runs to win, and relied on their pitching to not get knocked around. Sadly, though, I didn’t get to see their bombers this game, because, well, they didn’t show up:
I thought it was really weird that there was no batting practice until I realized that they had played the last night’s game in Ananheim. As overlooked as it may be by most baseball fans, that’s a long ways to travel overnight, especially when the time change is working against you. And also, as my friend Jonathan pointed out, they had beaten the Angels 11-3, so in a sense, they got their batting practice in. Why did he say this to me? Because he joined me for this game. Here is a picture of him waiting in line for the gates to open:
I really should do a better job of warning people when I’m about to take a picture of them. But progressing away from my digression, the reason that you can see so many people at the gates (who had sizable lines behind them) is 1. This was the first game that it was over 40 degrees for the majority of said game, and it was even warmer for BP because the sun was still out. And 2. The Twins, in partnership with 96.3 K-Twin were giving out a Glen Perkins fishing lure as a promotion:
I ended up giving it away to a lady on the bus ride back, who had just missed out on it and wanted to give one to her nephew, but I guess it was a cool promotion? My experience with fishing is the catch-it-and-throw-it-back of summer camp, so………moving on to the snagging; when I got in, the pitchers for the Rangers were indeed throwing, so I moved behind them:
When I got there, though, the awesomeness that is Derek Lowe took over. Jonathan took the next few pictures/video.
Here he is throwing me what I believe is a curveball. He spun a bunch of them to me as well as over-emphasizing the speeds of the “fast”balls he was tossing me from thirty feet out:
He did so with such gems as: “Woo! What was that?! Twenty miles an hour?” Here I am throwing him what I believe is a change-up:
For the sake of completeness, here are the rest of the pictures that Jonathan took:
And here is the video of us two throwing:
Finally, after TEN MINUTES of playing catch with me and then playing and additional session of catch with Yu Darvish that you saw earlier, Lowe tossed me the ball:
He’s now much higher on my favorite players list.
After that, I almost got Yu Darvish to sign the ball:
but he had to go to a pitcher’s meeting right before he got to me.
Then there was a lull because absolutely nothing was going on on the field, but one of the awesomest things that has ever happened to me at a baseball game happened. A Twins worker headed up to both myself and Jonathan and handed us each one of these flyers:
We were both going to be in the Race at Target Field. She actually said she had spotted us sitting by the dugout from the upper deck. What are the odds? So since there really wasn’t anything of note that happened between this point and the race, let’s get right to it, shall we?
In the bottom of the second inning, Jonathan and I headed out to the New Era Store in left field:
From there, a different Twins employee took us through the elevator typically designated for the club and suite levels to the basement (or -2) level concourse:
Sorry the picture is a bit blurry; we were walking and I didn’t want to stop to take pictures.
Anyway, I had to leave my phone in my backpack, so my detailing to you of what happened next will be all text. I didn’t know if I was supposed to be taking pictures, so I didn’t want to find out that I didn’t. We first arrived at a room that opened similar to a garage door. In there, among other things, were the mascot costumes and a broken Best Buy video game station, similar to that which I played on in my last game of last season. In there, we got completely suited up as the mascots. Jonathan and I actually ended up picking our mascots last, so I had Skeeta, leaving Jonathan stuck with Wanda:
Skeeta (as in a shortening of the word “mosquito”)/myself is on the left while Wanda/Jonathan is on the right. After getting suited-up, we moved to an alcove of sorts right underneath the left field seats, where we got the rules and logistics explained to us. Then it was a little bit of waiting, and finally we got to go out onto the field. We got to exit to our (characters’) names being introduced and to the applause of the crowd. After the introduction, we lined up and waited for the countdown to “go”. I was really nervous about getting an unfair start, so I hesitated a bit on the start, but I got the lead after ten feet or less and then never gave it up for the rest of the race. It was *really* awkward running in the mascot costumes, because the heads bobble up and down as you run, so I was actually going what felt like very slowly to me. It also caused me to be off-balance on turning, so I almost broke one of the main rules that were explained to me. In turning the corner by the foul pole, I almost ran onto the grass, but I managed to balance my head long enough for me to jump over the corner of the grass and take a really sharp turn down the last stretch of the race, which ended at the outfield end of the dugout. Again, I was running what felt to be VERY slowly, so I couldn’t believe that I was in the lead. Finally, though, I crossed the finish line as still no one had passed me. If you want to watch the video of the race, here it is:
Exciting to say the least. After the race finished, though. I thought we were going to the tunnel the umpires exit through. It wasn’t until the camera man was telling me to get off the field back from where I came from. I then grabbed the trophy and got off the field just as the first hitter of the inning was being introduced. In getting in through the door we were supposed to exit, though, we all had to duck, and Babe had to also turn sideways. That’s another thing: during the race, we were told not to hold our heads. I is so tempting given how wobbly they are, but apparently Target doesn’t like how awkward it makes the mascots look as they are running.
When we got back to the garage-type room, I got the organizer to take another picture of me celebrating:
Jonathan then headed up to the standing room and spent the game basically rephrasing how to say, “Did that just happen?” And with that, ended what probably what will be my favorite Twins loss/1-ball game ever.
- 1 Ball at this game
- 35 Balls in 8 Games= 4.38 Balls Per Game
- 1 Balls x 25,459 Fans=25,459 Competition Factor
- 70 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 90 Balls in 22 Games at Target Field= 4.09 Balls Per Game
- 20 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 4:05-11:22= 7 Hours 17 Minutes
Again, it was another day of class before heading off to Target Field. This time, though, I was prepared for the cold it had to throw at me. Sort of, anyway:
I had a good streak of four consecutive games going with at least 6 baseballs, but really I just wanted to get four or more baseballs to keep my average for the season above 5.00 Balls Per Game. I’ll spoil it for you right now and say that sadly wasn’t the case. Once I got in the gates, I quickly got on the board by getting a toss-up from a player I couldn’t identify at all, since none of his face was showing with him having a hat on as well as sunglasses:
There had been a couple of baseballs hit into the bullpen, so he went in there to clean them out. When he did I simply asked him for a ball. My next ball came once I headed to the section of seats in right-center field. Mike Trout fielded a ball close to the wall there and so I shouted out to him. He was about to throw the ball to the bucket in shallow center field, but he turned and tossed me the ball instead:
He’s a nice player. Over the three days I was there, he probably gave out the most baseballs per-minute of any of the Angels players. Oh, and do you notice the condition of the baseball he tossed me? One word: pearl.
My third baseball came when I headed back to left field and got who I believe to be Scott Downs to toss me a baseball. I was on a pretty good roll, since the gates had opened fifteen minutes ago at that point. (A ball every five minutes is a *very* good pace for me. To give you an idea, if I averaged this at a stadium where the gates opened 2.5 hours early for the entirety of batting practice, I would snag almost twenty baseballs.) But just five short minutes later at 5:50, the Angels ended batting practice and headed to the dugout. Wow. A stadium opening 1.5 hours early is hard enough, but I missed as much batting practice as I actually saw. Anyway, I headed to the dugout and braced myself for the snow/rain that was in the forecast. As I did this, the grounds crew began to do the same:
I then waited for about an hour in the rain. As I looked at the crowd that was showing for the game, I was thinking big thoughts of what I could do during the game. I was seriously thinking I could tie my Target Field record of eight baseballs despite only being at three to this point. Then it happened:
Of course. After seeing this, I took a dejected walk of shame to my bus back to St. Paul.
- 3 Balls at this game (2 pictured because I gave 1 away on my way out to a kid for showing up to the game despite it raining)
Numbers 478-480 for my life:
- 34 Balls in 7 Games= 4.86 Balls Per Game (Nooooo! So close!)
- 3 Balls x (an estimated, because the Twins didn’t actually put it up)25,000 Fans= 75,000 Competition Factor
- 69 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 19 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 6 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
- 89 Balls in 21 Games at Target Field= 4.24 Balls Per Game
- 20 straight Games with at least 1-2 Balls at Target Field
- 6 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 3:39-7:35= 3 Hours 54 Minutes