Wanna see my view more or less as the gates of Camden Yards opened?
While Avi and I had gotten to the train station at a time that normally would have gotten us to the gates by the time they opened–and by Avi, I mean Avi Miller, the person in the foreground of the picture–the train was having problems with the signals art a couple stations, so instead of taking 20 minutes or so, the train took over an hour to get to our final destination from the time it pulled into Avi’s stop. Long story short: we got to OPACY over half-an-hour late. Had it been Yankee Stadium, I would have turned around and let Avi, but the way I saw it I still had the power-hitting Tigers’ BP to rely on, and if I didn’t manage to snag a ball then, I could always play the dugouts for third-out balls and the cross-aisle for foul balls in between that, with the security blanket of the umpire tunnel after the game.
When I entered the ballpark, the seating bowl was already opened up and the Tigers were already hitting, so I didn’t even try to go to the left field seats. Actually, correction: I went towards the left field seats right as I entered the stadium, but when I saw the seating bowl had already been opened, I turned around and made a beeline for the center field seats. And by “beeline” I mean slow jog, because I had essentially all of my stuff for my whole trip in my backpack since I planned to go back to Washington directly from the game. There I asked a couple of players for balls such as Luke Putkonen and Don Kelly, but got rejected by both of them. Then a ball got hit almost directly in line with me in the stands. I went down to the first row, but it fell about a foot out of my reach. Thankfully though, since I don’t have a ball-retrieving device made this year, it went back onto the field where Rick Porcello got it:
And apparently he had seen my Tigers gear as I had lunged out to reach for the ball because without me even asking he tossed the ball up to me. I then immediately handed the ball to a kid whose dad had been begging Don Kelly for ball as well. Kelly’s response to all of us was, “I’ll hit a couple out here when it’s my group’s turn to hit.”
After getting the ball form Porcello, I headed out to the flag court in right field. It was packed and I couldn’t get any toss-ups, but I justified it by telling myself, “You got more than enough toss-ups in Minnesota and can go for toss-ups any other day. Today one of the best hitting teams in the league is here, so you might as well go for hit baseballs.” This picture doesn’t do the crowd in the flag court any justice, but it was my view until pretty much the end of batting practice:
I’ll cut to the chase and say that I didn’t snag anything for the remainder of batting practice, but the star of the show, who I would have had an extra baseball had he not been there, was Alex Kopp. Here he is in this picture with his glove shading his eyes:
He caught three balls on the fly while I was there including one that was right in front of my glove. I believe it was an Andy Dirks home run. I tracked the ball perfectly off the bat, and had my glove in position to make the catch, but all of a sudden I saw two gloves go up in front of mine. They were of Alex and another person. Alex, though, had his glove in the right spot, so he caught the ball, and all I could do was smile because that was his third catch out there. He was just putting on a clinic. I mean the Tigers were going pretty crazy with all of the baseballs they were hitting up there, but it was also insanely packed given the size of the flag court. Every time a ball was hit up there, it was like a mini-stampede erupted. I was actually pretty concerned a little kid was going to get seriously injured out there, because while I check to make sure I have a clear running lane to the ball every five seconds or so, I knew there were people that were just reacting to the ball and keeping their eye on the ball and not where they were going–which is a recipe for disaster; either for the kids of the area or for the person, because there were the flag poles to be run into.
During the Tigers position players’ infield warm-ups, I should have snagged my second ball of the day. What happened was I got Omar Infante’s attention despite being fifteen rows up in the stands by waving my arms, so he tossed the ball to me:
but he was off with his aim, so the ball sailed above me and to my left. I reached, but I tried to be careful because reaching full-extension would also involve me elbowing the woman standing next to me in the head. So with all of this happening, the ball tipped off the edge of my glove and into the lap of a person behind me. Bleh.
An even more frustrating thing happened during the game. I don’t know how many home runs there were in this game (a lot) but only one made its way out into the flag court. It was the fourth inning, and Victor Martinez was the hitter. I happened to be looking away because a person said something to me in the flag court, but suddenly I heard a roar in the crowd and a ball whizzing towards the foul pole. I then ran towards the ball and played the ricochet I have always failed to do in the home run balls I have botched in the past. Unfortunately the ball bounced back towards the field after landing in the flag court because it hit the beer stand out there. Had it kept going towards Eutaw Street, I’m 95% sure I would have had the ball because I was the only one in the back of the flag court who even saw the ball, much less reacted. Are you a little confused? Here, I drew up a diagram from the perspective of where I started out when the ball was hit. The dotted line is the flight of the ball, and the solid line is the path that I ran:
And if you want, here is the link to the video. At the first point you can identify where I am when they cut to the view of the flag court, I am here:
You can then pretty easily identify as the person running across the flag court for the ball. It looks like I was going pretty fast from the video, but I remember that I was purposely taking it slow in case the ball did bounce to the back of the flag court, which I expected it to do, because I didn’t want a repeat of the ball that hit me in the head during my first game here in Baltimore or anything of the sort. The next time when you can more clearly see me is after the ball had bounced back to the fence:
After this you can see I’m one of three people actively going after the ball. I can also say I probably would have had it had the person who eventually got the ball was a foot taller. It was actually a kid who got the ball. And I say I would have gotten the ball had he been taller because he had to go under one of those rope-type dividers that you see at airport/bus terminal check-in lines. You know what I’m talking about, right? The black poles that connect by rope in order for people in line to zig-zag their way through. Well anyway, the kid didn’t have to duck much to get the ball, but had he been a foot taller, that half-second he would have taken to duck underneath was all I would have needed to get the ball. But oh well. Palante.
I then spent the rest of the game awaiting another home run that never came, all while this great view of the game and all its action:
(Yay?) At the end of the game I headed down for one last try at an umpire ball this series, and whaddaya know, I got it:
As I got to the umpire tunnel there were actually kids in the corner spots on each side of the dugout, so I had to go a little further up. Home plate umpire, Hunte Wendelstedt(?), gave out a couple of baseballs to the kids at the front of the tunnel and then moved on. Just in case he still had a ball with him, I called out to him, “Mr. Wendelsedt, do you have any extra baseballs?” He was already past me in the tunnel, but upon hearing his name, he turned right around and tossed me the baseball you see above. I then headed to the Tigers dugout, but I didn’t get anything there, so I walked up to Baltimore-Penn Station and took the next Amtrak train back to Washington.
- 2 Baseballs at this Game (1 pictured because I gave the other 1 away)
Numbers 536-37 for my “career”:
- 91 Balls in 22 Games= 4.14 Balls Per Game
- 2 Ball x 38,965 Fans=77,930 Competition Factor
- 85 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 45 Balls in 11 Games at OPACY= 4.09 Balls Per Game
- 11 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 12:47-10:48= 10 Hours 1 Minute
A normal person would come back from a weekend trip to Chicago where he had attended baseball games each day of the trip and relax for the rest of the day. I am not a normal person. No; when Sean dropped me off at my dorm from Chicago at 2:30, I immediately started readying myself to go see the White Sox in action for the third straight day. This time against the Twins at Target Field:
I’m holding up four fingers because this was now my fourth game in a row despite the fact that I had traveled about 800 miles by car in those four days. The look is because I had no idea how this was going to pan-out for me. I’m glad to say now that it went well.
The day started off on a great note when a program vendor came down the steps to hand a ball to a kid. I had gotten to know this kid and his dad pretty well over this year since they also try snagging baseballs and I had given the son a couple tips during the Angels series. Anyway, right after she handed him a ball, I noticed she had another ball in her hand. I then asked her if she could give me that ball, which she then did for my first ball of the game before I even entered the gate:
With that snag, I had now snagged as many baseballs outside of Gate 3 as I have outside of Gate 34, which is ironically held as the far-superior gate for snagging baseballs before it opens.
Once I got in, I made a beeline for the left field seats and managed to misplay the only ball that I possibly could have gotten. I actually didn’t end up getting any baseballs until the White Sox started hitting and I headed out to right-center field. There, I got Matt Lindstrom to toss me what was probably the hardest thrown toss-up I’ve ever received despite the fact that he was about twenty feet below me:
Somewhere prior to this game, I messed up my ball count, so I thought that the ball I had gotten outside the gate was my 500th career ball (which I kind of regretted at the time), but after the fact, I realized that this ball Lindstrom had just tossed me was my 500th. Anyway, the point is that even though I got
I then headed back over to left field. The reason was because a new group came up who consisted of White Sox lefties who I didn’t think could hit anything over the wall was coming up, and since groups usually spend the first round or two of BP hitting the ball to the opposite field, I thought I should head over there and play for toss-ups. Ironically, though, my next ball was hit. See I was playing almost all the way down the line by the left field foul pole to try to get Jose Quintana to toss me a ball using our Colombian connection when Dewayne Wise hit a ball that I could tell was going to both fall short and to the right of where I was standing. However I knew that with its trajectory, the ball was headed for the warning track, where it could then hop up over the wall. My first instinct was to catch it directly on the bounce, but I reached as far to my right over a railing and still came up short. The ball then landed in the camera well right by the foul pole. I knew I probably wasn’t allowed there, so I hesitated for a good ten seconds before opening the latch up, quickly grabbing the ball and getting out with my third ball of the day:
I then headed over to right field because I knew that a couple of the White Sox players had seen me get the ball, and got Nate Jones to toss me a ball. I didn’t know his name, so I just went with the generic “Can you toss me the ball, please?” At which point he looked up, saw my White Sox hat, and tossed me the ball:
I turned to my right and gave the ball to the first kid I spotted with a glove on. I then headed back to left field, because I figured I could get a ball from a pitcher who was patrolling left-center field.
Turns out I was right and got a ball from Jesse Crain pretty quickly after I got down there:
That would be it for batting practice itself, but as I was in left field foul ground just as batting practice ended, I ran to the White Sox dugout just as the ball basket was being brought to the dugout. As he was doing so, Mark Salas tossed a ball randomly into the seats behind the dugout, and I managed to be the first one to run and get it:
As you can maybe tell from the picture, the White Sox then took fielding practice. I believe they are one of two teams I have ever seen do it after BP, but I have seen them do it multiple times.
After they went through fielding practice, the coaches returned to the dugout. I had assumed Salas had seen me get the ball, so I didn’t ask him for one of the baseballs he was carrying, but when I made eye contact with him, he tossed me a baseball without me even asking for my seventh on the day:
As for the game, I started out behind the dugout:
But that only lasted two innings when I realized Alexei Ramirez wasn’t going to toss me a baseball and that it would be cool to snag a game home run at Target Field before I headed back to New York. Long story short: I didn’t snag anything during the game and was at 7 baseballs for the day when the game ended. That said, when it ended, I first got a ball from home plate umpire, Manny Gonzalez because I was the only one who even had a clue what his name was at the dugout (he didn’t even toss any of his other baseballs up, but said “Here you go,” when I asked him for a ball by name:
If you wonder why I never have the umpire in the pictures with the balls I snag from them, it’s because by the time I snag the baseball and pull out my phone to take the picture, the umpire has already walked through the tunnel. The same goes with any player/coach headed who tosses me a baseball on his way to the dugout. Such was the case with my next ball. Let me just preface it with a bit of back-story from the game. Aaron Hicks, who was touted as a super-prospect at the beginning of the year but had been doing absolutely dismal up until this game, (And by dismal, I mean that he was hitting below .100 a majority of the season leading up to this game and was still below .150 at the beginning of this game) had the game of his young career. First Mr. Hicks hit a home run into the batter’s eye in center field. He then proceeded to rob Adam Dunn of a home run en route to hitting a second home run. Despite the fact that he had been getting booed constantly by Twins fans–who are not prone at all to booing players–he was called out for the first standing ovation at Target Field since Jim Thome. An ovation, which I can imagine I looked very strange giving since I was wearing a White Sox hat. Why am I telling you all this? (Besides the fact that I can now brag about being at Aaron Hicks’ first truly great game.) It’s because both of Hicks’ home runs made their way into the White Sox bullpen, where I didn’t see either get tossed up into the crowd. My ninth ball of the day came from Addison Reed, a reliever, who had obviously come from the bullpen. He rolled the ball to me over the dugout roof:
And without even considering the possibility that the ball could have been one of Hicks’ home runs, I gave the ball away to a kid on my right:
So yeah. There’s a chance I gave away a home run ball. Granted it wouldn’t have counted in my “stats” as a game home run ball even if I were certain it was the ball, but it would have been so awesome to say that I owned one of Aaron Hicks’ home runs from his first two-home run game. Actually, I take that back, this was Aaron Hick’s first two-hit game ever, so it would have been even cooler. But as is the case with how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, the world may never know.
However, I didn’t stumble onto that possibility until after the game, at this point I was focused on one thing: snag my tenth baseball of the game. Only one person ever (Zack Hample) had snagged over ten baseballs at Target Field ever (12). And with him having snagged half of those before the public was even allowed into the stadium, with a tenth ball, I could say that I had snagged the most baseballs at Target Field ever after the gates of the stadium opened. Well I guess I could already have said that, but there’s something special about going double-digits. I had only ever done it at Nationals Park and Oriole Park at Camden Yards, so doing it at a much tougher stadium would have been an affirmation of sorts after doing terribly over the weekend at U.S. Cellular. There was just one problem: all of the players and coaches had left the field and were already in the clubhouse. That’s where what I most appreciate in Minnesota away from New York comes into play: I would have been kicked out of the section the second the White Sox bullpen people went into the dugout. Actually, there’s a chance I would have been even earlier. Here in Minnesota, you can stay behind the dugout pretty much until the ushers themselves have to leave. In staying there, I managed to see the dugout/clubhouse attendant, Mario, pop his head out of the dugout. He recognized me by this point in the season and obviously was looking for kids to give a baseball to and not me, but given the fact that pretty much all other fans had left the section, I asked him if he had an extra baseball, and he then tossed me my tenth ball of the day:
It felt so good I immediately felt the need to brag about it to someone and told an usher in the section that I have come to know. She knows I snag baseballs regularly, but even she was impressed when I told her how many baseballs I snagged that night. That night I went home happy and full of thoughts of what I could do if I went to a stadium where I wouldn’t have to get 9 baseballs tossed to me to make double-digits.
- 10 Baseballs at this Game:
- 62 Balls in 13 Games= 4.77 Balls Per Game
- 10 Balls x 25,605 Fans= 256,050 Competition Factor
- 75 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 2 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 2 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
- 113 Balls in 25 Games at Target Field= 4.52 Balls Per Game
- 23 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Target Field
- 3 straight Games with at least 2-4 Ball at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 3:26-11:52= 8 Hours 26 Minutes