So after spending a full day’s worth of buses, trains, and being part of discussions surrounding the logistics of dropping a baseball from 1,000 feet in the air:
it was time to go to my first Lowell Spinners game ever with Mike Davison–who is in this next picture. If you don’t already know, the reason I was in Lowell because Zack Hample was going to attempt to catch a baseball dropped from 1,000 in the air. As you can probably tell from the date in the title of this entry, that already happened, so if you want to read Zack’s account of the event, here’s the link to that. Well anyway, while an idea as insane as trying to catch a baseball dropped from a helicopter 1,000 feet above ground could only come from Zack, Mike was the logistical mastermind behind the whole stunt itself and making an insane idea a little more feasible and a lot more safe.
So if you watched the video at the beginning of the entry, you will have seen that I ended the video saying we were off to the Lowell Spinners game. Right after that, Mike and I walked from the parking garage to behind the outfield wall. Here is my view as we made our way such:
With the game starting at 7:05 and the stadium itself not opening until 6:00, we decided we would walk around the stadium on the walkway that is right behind the outfield wall and try to get any baseballs that managed to fly out during BP. While I have been right behind the outfield wall at minor league stadiums before, this one felt weird because the walkway was *right* against the outfield wall. So there was really no shot at snagging a baseball on said walkway. The walkway was actually elevated to be at more or less the base of the outfield wall. (I say more or less because while it is a good ten feet above the foresty stuff that is even further out from the outfield wall, Mike, who is 6’5″ had his eyes at the level of the the outfield ground. More on that in a bit.) Anyway, from the walkway, this was my view of the outfield wall:
We walked back and forth on the walkway a few times before we decided to scour the bushes/foresty part below the walkway to see if any baseballs had already been hit there earlier in BP. I found this:
I’m glad that I don’t keep track of minor league stats because ballhawking for me at minor league stadiums feels like such a casual thing that I could have made a serious case for counting this ball. Oh, and if you’re wondering, the foresty area is between the walkway that goes behind the outfield wall and the Merrimack River; so the river is what you see in the background of that last picture.
After scavenging a little more, we decided to head back up to the walkway level, since we had no clue which hitters were up. My first solution to this was I found an area to look into the field through a fence just foul of the foul pole:
The good news was I could see the hitter perfectly. The bad news was I was completely out of position here to snag any baseballs. The solution we eventually came up with was there were holes at the base of the wall in left-center field, so Mike being more than tall enough to see into the stadium through them, he watched to see if there were any decent lefty hitters in the group. If there weren’t we would go into the foresty area (and yes I realize “foresty” isn’t actually a real word) in left field and hope something would fly over the wall. Nothing did. There was actually another guy down there with his two kids. He said that it was one of, if not THE worst BP he had ever seen. He reiterated several times that baseballs usually start to hit off the walls in bunches, and then baseballs start making their way over the wall and walkway. When there was even one lefty with potential to hit a ball over the wall in the group, though, we headed over to right field because there was actually a grassy area at field level that provided room to run for baseballs. However, my first “real” baseball came when we were headed over to this grass area. We were half-way there when I saw something hit into the foresty area out of the corner of my eye. I knew exactly where it had landed, so I went a couple yards down the hill and picked the ball up. I then looked up at the wall and realized how crazy this baseball had been:
Where the ball had landed meant it had to have traveled through a gap between ads that was less than three feet wide. How about that?
I also managed to snag another hit baseball when we got to the grassy area in right field:
I saw the ball the whole way as it became visible over the top of the wall, and so I ran right behind the spot I thought the ball was going to land–since I figured I had no chance to catch it on the fly through the trees–and fielded it like a ground ball.
I waited for a little while longer, but pretty much right after I got this ball, it was time for Mike and I to head to the gate and get in the stadium. Here was the scene at the main gate from across the street. (Can you find Mike?
He kind of photo-bombed me in that I was just taking a picture of the scene at the gates and he posed for the picture across the street.)
After that, we saw something that Mike insisted I include in this entry, and I can only describe as Minor League Baseball at its finest:
If you are in the majority of people who have no clue what’s going on here, the Spinners arranged to have midget wrestling going on outside the gates. Although I will say that it is not even close to the weirdest promotional stunt Mike has ever witnessed at a baseball game. I don’t think I’ll share that one with you, though.
Although we had been *on* the field earlier in the day, it was still nice to see the concourse once we got into the stadium:
It is definitely on the higher end for minor league stadiums at that level of play:
And do you see the pressbox in the background of the right part of the picture? Well there were a couple cool things to be seen on the portion of the concourse that went behind there. The first of which was the former Lowell Spinners who had made it up to the Major Leagues at one point or another. Recognize any names?
And then there was also a view inside the pressbox from the concourse:
This may not seem particularly exciting, but I love the fact that you can just look in there without having to get a special ticket right behind home plate. (I’m looking at you, MLB stadiums.)
As you can probably tell from these pictures, BP had ended by the time we got into the stadium. So instead of going after baseballs, I nonchalantly got a couple of Spinners players to sign the MiLB baseballs I had snagged outside of the stadium:
Do I have any clue who it was that signed the baseballs? No, none. But you never know, so I thought it would be a good idea to get them just in case.
As for the game, this was the view from my ticketed (complementary) seat:
But instead I headed up to the cross-aisle (concourse), and went back and forth the whole game playing foul balls. As it seems every time I play foul balls anywhere, my best opportunity came in the first inning when I had foul ball tracked, but it was headed straight at a man. I waited for the ball to deflect off of him, but to my surprise, he caught it on the fly in a hand that had a cast over it.
It was a Friday fireworks game, so there were a ton more people than usual and the concourse was much more clogged than it usually is. As a result of this and Brian Scalabrine doing several odd-jobs throughout the course of the game, I didn’t get a foul ball the whole game. But I did have a great view of the Lowell sunset:
And then for the first time in a long time, I actually left the game early. It wasn’t my decision to do so, but I was more than okay with it given the logic behind it. Mike said he should probably head out because we both had to get up the next morning at 5:00, so it was probably a good idea for us to head out and into bed. As we entered the Spinners’ garage, I got a picture of the scoreboard from where we would be entering the next morning:
I was actually staying at the Radisson with Zack and the rest of his friends he was bringing up from New York at the Radisson, so Mike was nice enough to drive me over there despite me being awful with my iPhone’s GPS from never having used it before and getting us lost a couple times. I’d say we got to the hotel at 10:30 where Mike dropped me off and headed out to get some sleep. Zack and his car of people weren’t getting in until after midnight, but we were thankfully able to get the reservation changed over successfully whilst they were on the road so I was able to check in. I tried to stay awake and greet them, but I unintentionally fell asleep while on the computer and woke up at 5:17 the next morning only to prepare my self immediately to hopefully document a person catching a baseball dropped from 1,000 feet for the first time in the history of humanity.
This was another very quick game for me insofar as probably the majority of this game that I documented was via vlog and not pictures:
But it was not for lack of excitement that I under-documented the occasion. I mean look who was here at this game:
So if you’re new here, that would be myself on the right, but the other people (right to left in terms of heads) would be:
1. Ben Weil– Ballhawk and friend from New York who was visiting for a game, and who I’ve gone to plenty of games with in the past.
2. Matt Winters- I don’t exactly know his story, but we’ve met several times at games through him being a ballhawk/friend of both Ben and Zack. I want to say I heard somewhere along the line that he’s from LA, but that would have been last year in New York, and I can barely remember what I had for breakfast yesterday, so I wouldn’t trust my memory on that.
3. Rick Gold– I think I introduced him in the last entry, but if you weren’t around for that, Rick has snagged nearly 2,000 baseballs as well as 46 game home run balls–15 of which came in one season. I think I’d be content with that total for my lifetime.
As we waited for the gates to open up, it appeared as though our toughest obstacle besides each other was going to maybe be the weather. The clouds looked very ominous, and so I actually had to check if the cages were set up for BP. While it did rain throughout BP, they thankfully never stopped hitting. That didn’t stop me from not getting one hit ball all day, though. And while we’re foreshadowing, let me spoil the surprise for you and say that I didn’t get a “legitimate” ball for the duration of Nationals BP. What I mean is that with me not getting a hit ball all day, the only “toss-up” I got during Nationals BP was a overthrow by Ross Ohlendorf where I had stood behind the girl he was throwing the ball to just in case that exact scenario happened. When I got the ball, I then gave it to the girl he had thrown it to. I don’t have a picture of the ball itself, but here’s a diagram of the scenario to help you to better visualize the scenario–where I also felt the need to point out where Ben is standing in the picture:
My second ball came when I got Willie Bloomquist to toss me a ball in the Red Seats:
The great thing about getting toss-ups from position players is they usually shag baseballs before they have to go into hit. So once they go to hit, you can get a ball in the exact same spot from whichever pitcher takes their spot in the outfield. And that’s exactly what happened to me. When Bloomquist went in to hit, I got a ball from Zeke Spruill in the same corner spot of the Red Seats:
A cool ting about this baseball is that when I logged it in mygameballs.com later that night, Spruill did not yet exist in the database. That means that I was the first one on the site to snag a baseball from him, which is always an awesome experience. I’d say I’ve “inaugurated” about five players on the site. And I wish I had more to write about from my time in BP, but that was the third and final ball I would snag during it.
Once the game rolled around I sat in left field and pretty much talked to Ben for the whole game. Well for the portion that he was there for, anyways. In about the third inning he left and said he was going to meet his friend who works for merchandise at Nationals Park, and then didn’t get back to his seat until the 8th inning. Pretty much right after that I headed to the Diamondbacks dugout and got the home plate umpire, Greg Gibson, to toss me a ball:
This was my fourth and final ball of the game. I then met up with Ben and Matt after the game and we headed out of the stadium before going our separate ways. I went on the subway back to my apartment and they went to Ben’s car to head to New York. Again, I wish I had more to write about, but not much more happened.
- 4 Balls at this Game (3 pictured because I gave one away)
- Numbers 574-577 for my “career”:
- 131 Balls in 32 Games= 4.09 Balls Per Game
- 4 Balls x 31,172 Fans=124,688 Competition Factor
- 94 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 164 Balls in 36 Games at Nationals Park= 4.56 Balls Per Game
- 28 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
- 12 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
- Time Spent On Game 3:28-10:02= 6 Hours 34 Minutes
A second day at Nationals Park, but this time with more batting practice:
Normally I go to straight-away left field for pitcher’s BP, (the first group of hitters) but my neighbor Greg Barasch was here for this game, so I gave him left field and I went to the Red Seats. I actually don’t think either of us got a ball during that first group, but I got one in the second group when a Nationals righty hit a ball to my right. A kid in front of me camped right under it, but the ball bounced off his glove, hit a seat, bounced up into the air, and I caught it:
It was almost the exact same as the second ball I had snagged the day before, but the only difference is the kid was prepared and the guy whose hands it bounced through through the day before didn’t have a glove.
My next ball came when I got Ian Krol to toss me a ball (By pretty much being the only one who knew his name):
And as quickly as Krol had tossed me the ball, I gave it away to a kid who had been next to the man in the white shirt, and had been trying to get Gio Gonzalez’s attention from 50 feet away to get him to toss a baseball. (It should be noted that while he did succeed in getting Gonzalez’s attention, he failed to get the ball since Gio was playing catch with a person who was along the right field foul line and we were in center field.)
My third ball of the day came when Craig Stammen fielded a ball near the wall. No one asked for it, but I was pointing at a kid to my right so Stammen could throw him the ball. There was a kid between us, though. I think Stammen thought I was pointing at the kid between us, but I knew he had already gotten a ball–he was actually holding it in his non-glove hand when Stammen released the ball. So when Stammen threw the ball about half-way between myself and this kid, I grabbed the ball:
I then gave the ball to the kid who I had actually been pointing to (in the orange). I really hope Stammen saw me give the ball away, because otherwise he might think I’m the biggest douchebag in history for pointing him towards a toss-up target only to reach in front of him to get the ball. After this, the most interesting thing I saw during Nationals BP was one woman’s cup trick:
Apparently, she had seen Rick Gold using his cup trick last year, and so she figured out a way to make one of her own using a tennis ball container and some sort of putty. And unlike most imitation retrieval devices I’ve seen made by non-ballhawks, it actually worked. She had already reeled in two baseballs by the time I noticed her with it.
When the Rockies started hitting, I once again headed into foul ground, and once again got shutout there. So I headed out to right field after that. There I managed to catch a Todd Helton home run on the fly right about here:
I then gave the ball away to a girl who had not yet gotten a ball. That marked the third straight ball I had snagged that I gave away. That made it 75% of my baseballs I had snagged this game that I gave away.
Carlos Gonzalez hit the next ball I snagged. I had just ran to my left in pursuit of another home run of his when he hit a ball back to my right. I ran at where I saw it landing, and when it finally did touch down, I scooped it while on the run for my fifth ball of the day. That was it for batting practice. I could have maybe had a couple other Rockies home runs, but bounces didn’t go my way and things of that nature, so my sixth and final ball came when I went to the Rockies bullpen in search of a Rockies commemorative baseball and I got Jerry Weinstein to toss me a baseball:
Actually, though, that’s not fair. This baseball took absolutely no skill on my part. I was actually avoiding asking Weinstein for a ball from distance because he had tossed me one the day prior, but he spotted me in my Rockies gear, waved to me, and tossed me the ball.
This was my view once again for the game:
My goal was to get a commemorative baseball from Bo McLaughlin at the bullpen after the game, but unfortunately he ignored me for the second straight day. And no one hit any home runs to left field, but trust me, I would have been ready had they done so:
Believe it or not, I actually had two gloves packed both Rockies games because I knew there were going to be people I knew at the gates, so I didn’t want to play catch with them left handed. It wasn’t until this game that I realized I could wear both gloves during the game. MANY people–upon hearing/realizing that I have both a right-handed and left-handed glove–have suggested to me that I just put a glove on both hands, but the problem with doing this during batting practice is I need a free hand for things such as labeling the baseballs I snag, taking pictures, and taking notes about the baseballs I snag. However, during the game I don’t have to do any of those things. So with the two gloves already in my backpack, I figured, “Why not?” and had them both ready. But for the record, it’s not something I plan to make a habit of.
But anyway, with me not snagging a Rockies commemorative ball, I’ll probably have two more opportunities to snag one when the Rockies visit the Orioles in August. I’m a little nervous, but who doesn’t like a little two-month-long cliffhanger? Oh yeah, everybody. But I guess I also I have no other option besides revisiting Citi Field when the Rockies visit it a few days before that.
- 6 Baseballs at this Game (3 pictured because I gave the other half away)
- 125 Balls in 30 Games= 4.17 Balls Per Game
- 6 Balls x 34,917 Fans=209,502 Competition Factor
- 92 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 158 Balls in 34 Games at Nationals Park= 4.65 Balls Per Game
- 26 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
- 10 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
- 8 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
- 6 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 4 Balls
- Time Spent On Game 2:58-11:47= 8 Hours 49 Minutes
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
A day at Nationals Park and I was back for s’more:
In fact, it was only the second game of what I had planned as four consecutive games at Nationals Park. (Although, as you’ll see in later entries, that wouldn’t end up happening.)
As I entered the gates, I said hi to a fellow ballhawk behind the left field bullpen–not Rick Gold, although he was there too. And this simple hello and momentary eye contact caused us to both to miss a ball Gio Gonzalez. When I got to my regular spot in straight-away left field, though I managed to snag two baseballs Gio hit. Gio, by the way, was going absolutely nuts and must have hit ten baseballs into the seats in his rounds of BP. The first was a ball that was hit to my right. I was the only one within fifty feet of where it was going to land, so I just hoped the ball would stay in the stands and not bounce back onto the field like a couple already had that I would have otherwise snagged. It didn’t, so easily picked the ball up for my first of the day:
The next one was a ball that hit over my head by about five rows. It then trickled down the steps and I beat the previously-mentioned other ballhawk to it. I then gave this ball away to a kid who had not yet gotten a ball at the head of the section:
Then, while I was in the left field seats, I saw a ball hit in the right field seats. None of us ballhawks went for it because we were so far away and all figured someone would get to it way before we could, but when the pitchers finished hitting and I still had not seen anyone pick it up, I ran over there and found it right on the ground:
But this picture is actually staged because when I got there, a man was right in front of me and had walked into the first row to take pictures. He had actually walked right over the ball, so when I walked behind him, got the ball, and saw the look on his face when he realized what had happened, I gave him the ball. I didn’t realize it until I actually finished writing this entry, but that was my 100th ball of the season, which is always a fun milestone since I got to it almost a month earlier in the season than I did last season (7/3/12).
Then I got a toss-up from a person in a warm-up jersey:
I had no clue who he was at the moment, but after seeing Jeff Kobermus come into the game, I’m pretty sure it was him.
That was my last ball for Nationals BP, since I was in right field for most of it and they didn’t hit much out there. And when I was in the Red Seats, I just completely missed a ball that bounced into the restaurant portion of the seats, one that I misjudged and a guy behind me caught as I came up a couple inches short, and then a police officer cost me two baseballs:
You can see he’s holding one of them in his left hand. (The guy who caught the ball I misjudged, by the way, is the one in the gray shirt.) Well the first one he cost me was one that hit into the restaurant. I thought it was simply a race between myself and the guy in the gray shirt, and since I had by far the better jump, I was pretty much sure I had the ball. But then I saw someone running form the top of the stairs to the ball. This person beat me to the ball, and when I looked up I couldn’t believe it because it was a police officer, who is not supposed to keep baseballs; much less try to get them. There was then another one that hit in the restaurant that was underneath a chair. He was at the chair and trying to move it out of the way. As he was doing this, I offered to get the ball and give it to him, but he pulled the chair out of the way and snatched up the ball. This then messed me up for future balls that were headed into the restaurant, because I wasn’t used to having competition from above. I had to alter my routes to balls, and it cost me at least one baseball and just got me completely flustered because I knew that without this cop and my own mistakes, I should have already been in double-digits. I don’t want to say I used this as fuel because that sounds way too cliché and dramatic, but I definitely had to get over being this frustrated in order to keep going in BP and not let these things pile on.
When Mets BP came around, I tried the same strategy as the day before and went down the third base line in foul ground to get a ball from the Mets who were warming up. This time I got Robert Carson to loft me a ball over a couple rows of fans for my fifth on the day:
As I moved onto the next throwing pair, I saw something hilarious. So while Brandon Lyon and LaTroy Hawkins were throwing, some kids were yelling some things at them to try tot get them to throw the ball up. Well I couldn’t hear what he said, but when one kid yelled something, Hawkins caught it from about 100 feet away and yelled back, “Watch your mouth.” After he was done throwing, Hawkins then went over to the kids and had fun with them over whatever they had said:
And by “fun”, I mean in a “I’m going to make this a cool experience for you, but still not break character as a veteran of the MLB” kind of way. So he jokingly kept up that he was scolding them, but made it pretty obvious that he was indeed joking with them. Afterward, he flipped a ball up to one of the kids.
Soon after that, David Wright hit a ball that rattled around in the seats before I picked it up:
The ball actually took off a cup holder, which I thought of putting in my backpack to add to my collection of stadium cup holder at home, but eventually decided against it.
Next, Jim Malone, the Mets’ Strength and Conditioning coach picked up a ball on the warning track, and although I had forgotten his name–I used to know it by heart in 2010 when I would always see him stretching out the pitchers at Citi Field when it still opened 2.5 hours early, but knowing his name became much less important when I no longer got to see the pitchers warming up at Citi Field when the gate opening time switched back to 2 hours prior to the game.–I asked him nicely and he flipped the ball up to me when he saw my Mets gear. I then gave the ball away to a woman who was right next to me:
It was one of those that I really wanted to give away to a kid with a glove, but because I knew that everyone around there had seen me get the Wright ball, I felt as though I should probably do some that was at least seemingly kind-hearted.
It was then nearing the end of Mets BP, so I was almost all the way to the left field foul in order to get a better jump to the dugout when the Mets ended batting practice. An unforeseen benefit of this was that John Buck belted the last pitch of Mets BP over my head. Thankfully, though, I was the only one even near the ball, so I ran over and picked it up. I know it was the last pitch of BP, because as I picked the ball and turned around, I saw that the Mets were already jogging in. So I started running over to the dugout. But as I was headed over there, I realized it wouldn’t look good if I had a baseball in my hand when asking for a ball at the dugout. I don’t know why I didn’t just put it in my pocket, but I ended up handing it to a kid on my way over to the dugout mid-stride. I didn’t realize it at the time–although I had been thinking about it earlier in BP–but this was the 550th ball I had ever snagged at a baseball game.
I actually didn’t get anything at the dugout, but I headed out to right field, where I would sit for the game. Rick Gold also sat out there for the game, so I sat on the staircase closer to the foul pole of the two we usually sit on and he sat one staircase closer to center field. As a result, I was on the staircase with the usher who lets us into the right field seats, and ended up giving him two baseballs that night, which he then distributes to kids in the section.
- 8 Balls at this Game (2 pictured because I gave 6 away)
- 105 Balls in 24 Games= 4.38 Balls Per Game
- 8 Ball x 36,155 Fans=289,240 Competition Factor
- 87 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 143 Balls in 31 Games at Nationals Park= 4.61 Balls Per Game
- 23 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
- 7 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
- 5 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
- 3 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 4-5 Balls
- Time Spent On Game 2:56-11:36= 8 Hours 40 Minutes
After a brief trip to Baltimore, it was back to Washington. And look who was there to greet me:
That, if you don’t know from past entries like this one, is Rick Gold, a fellow ballhawk who lives in New Jersey and works for MLB.com, and as a result goes to games pretty much everywhere, but likes to come visit Washington perhaps more than any other city. What we’re doing in the picture is it was my first day in Washington with my behemoth of a glove that is either 14 or 15 inches. (I forgot which it is exactly and it doesn’t say on the glove itself.) And Rick’s glove is also pretty large at 14″, so we were previewing the battle of the big gloves that was going to take place during the day. I had my glove in front of his in the picture, but I’ll give you a brief preview and say that he put on a show during BP.
His day started off rough with a missed catch on a home run ball during pitcher’s BP. But fortunately he had his cup trick to retrieve the ball from the gap in front of the Red Seats and caught another ball on the fly later that Craig Stammen hit. Meanwhile in the left field seats, I managed to catch a ball off of the bat of Nathan Karns who hit a couple out:
It’s crazy to think that Karns can hit, because the Nationals pitching staff, although their in-game numbers might not necessarily reflect it, are one of the better hitting staffs in the league during BP. They routinely outperform the hitters in terms of home runs for a hitting group.
My next ball came in the Red Seats when Nathan Karns came out to field baseballs. I think I was the only one who knew his name since he had just made two starts at that point, so when I call out to him by name as he approached the wall to retrieve a ball, he tossed me the baseball for my second ball of the day. My third ball came when bench coach, Randy Knorr, fielded a ball by the Red Seats. I asked him by name for a ball and he hooked me up. Right as I got the ball, I asked a group of three kids who had gotten a ball yet. They all said they hadn’t, so I gave the ball to the kid closest to me on the left and told them I would give one of the others a ball if I snagged another ball out there in the Red Seats:
I didn’t so just that one kid got a ball from me. Although I did see another snag a ball in the time I was there afterwards. I left there when I saw the Mets players coming out to throw. The Mets are pretty bad in BP to begin with, so I knew I wouldn’t be missing much in going into foul territory for a couple of rounds. But I get ahead of myself. I forgot to mention how exactly the clinic Rick Gold was putting on unfolded. By the time I headed over into foul ground, he already had eight baseballs. If you don’t know, Rick doesn’t go for toss-ups, so besides the ball he got using his ball retriever, the other seven were hit baseballs. These seven included five balls caught on the fly and balls caught on three consecutive pitches. All were opposite field home runs by Ryan Zimmerman, and it was truly something to see. I watched him chase down and catch the first one, then as I turned to pay attention to Zimmerman again, I saw another ball headed out there, and Rick ran back towards where he had started to catch the second. I then saw him running back to where he caught the first ball and catch the third ball. He literally had two balls in his throwing hand when he caught the last of the three since he didn’t have time to put any in his backpack. He would end the game at ten baseballs with six caught on the fly. I can only imagine what numbers he could have gotten to had he been going for toss-ups as well. Or does he maybe miss some hit baseballs because he was asking for a ball somewhere in there? Does his three consecutive catches in a row? I don’t know, but it was a spectacular performance. The best I’ve ever seen in terms of a ballhawk going off by catching the hit ball.
When the Mets pitchers finished throwing, I got Scott Rice to toss me a ball:
First of all, this ball was a result of the surprising lack of Mets fans that went into foul ground to watch them warm up. But secondly, I was concentrating on another throwing pair, but when Rice and his partner Greg Burke got done throwing, I got into the first row, and as Rice kept walking by me with the ball, I asked him by name if he could toss me the ball. Not surprisingly–as I was the only one to do so, he obliged me for my fourth ball of the game.
My fifth ball of the day came when I headed back out to the Red Seats. When Matt Harvey went to dead center field to retrieve a ball, I went to the corner spot at the front-left of the section and asked him for the ball. He looked up at me and tossed me the ball:
Batting practice would end within five minutes of me getting this ball, so that would be it for me for BP. Towards the end of the game, though, I headed down here as the Mets lead the game 2-1:
I figured the game was over since the Mets had their pretty-reliable closer Bobby Parnell on the mound. But that’s when the Mets showed why they were the Mets and why the Nationals were the Nationals. You see this is the second game I have been to between these two teams where the Mets lead the whole game, but the Nationals went on a roll in the bottom of the ninth that made it look like they were just toying with the Mets. I’ll just tell you what happened. Ryan Zimmerman hit a double to lead off the inning. Zimmerman then advanced on a wild pitch. Adam LaRoche then hit a single to score Zimmerman. At this point I was very unhappy even though the Nationals–who I am a fan of–had tied the game because I really didn’t want extra innings since I was already by the dugout, and that’s where it appeared this game was headed. But again, thank you to the Mets for being the Mets, because Ian Desmond doubled to make it runners on second and third with no outs. (Since Trent Jewett, the third base coach was obviously not going to send LaRoche in that situation.) Roger Bernadina then came up, but with Steve Lombardozzi hitting behind him and the obvious benefits of having a force-out at every base, he was intentionally walked. Lombardozzi then thankfully hit a walk-off sac-fly to end the game.
At the end of the game, I had kids in front of me in the corner spot to the umpire’s tunnel, but home plate umpire Wally Bell actually didn’t give them any baseballs; which is very odd. Just in case, though, I started to say, “Mr. Bell…” And before I could even finish my request, Bell had already tossed me my sixth ball of the night:
It just goes to show, sometimes all it takes is asking and knowing the person’s name.
- 6 Balls at this Game
Numbers 538-543 for my “lifetime”:
- 97 Balls in 23 Games= 4.22 Balls Per Game
- 6 Ball x 31,473 Fans=188,838 Competition Factor
- 86 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 135 Balls in 30 Games at Nationals Park= 4.50 Balls Per Game
- 22 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
- 6 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
- 4 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
- 2 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 4-5 Balls
- Time Spent On Game 2:53-10:38= 7 Hours 45 Minutes