My Favorite MLB Teams
While I’ve always kind of known which teams I like and which I don’t–although even those have changed throughout the years–I truly have never ranked the teams 1-30 as to which I like better than others. So that’s what I’m going to do right now. (Disclaimer: This is a list of how I order the teams in the offseason of 2013-14. While most of my decision in where to put a team in the rankings is based off of the franchise itself, some of it is based on who is on the team right now, so these rankings are subject to change over time.)
1. Minnesota Twins-
My story with the Twins is that I grew up a Yankees fan being from New York, but being that I look at things from a GM’s perspective, I thought that being Brian Cashman and having a $200-million payroll would be a pretty boring job creatively since he could essentially buy any player he wanted to. In thinking this, I thought of a team who had success but doing so with a reduced payroll that required teams to build their team in an innovative way on a much smaller budget. Being as it was the mid-2000s, the Twins was a natural choice seeing as they were a constant playoff team with one of the lowest budgets in baseball. Now don’t get me wrong; there’s a different challenge in being the GM of the Yankees: you’re never allowed to take a year off having success to rebuild your core/farm system, but I was entranced by the building of a successful major league team from a solid minor league core.
2. Washington Nationals-
In going to a ton of games at Nationals Park in 2011 I fell in love with the core of players that went 80-81 as well as the people who inhabited it. Ever since then, I have been a really big fan of the players that made up the core of the teams in the next two years. And because of me falling in love with the Nationals Park environment for whatever reason as well as the people who made it such a special place, I became a fan of the franchise as a whole.
3. Tampa Bay Rays-
Much like the Twins, the Rays endeared themselves to me by being a team that built their team intelligently–allowing them to achieve repeated success on a payroll that can’t compare to that of a larger market team.
4. San Francisco Giants-
The Giants is an interesting case because it started as simply a liking of a specific player: Tim Lincecum. However, as I kept up with Lincecum more and more as he began to turn from the Washington kid who could pitch insanely fast for his size to a household name, I grew to have a liking fro the other players on the Giants as well. I think having shared a hotel with the players in Milwaukee and having a mini-conversation with a couple of them as well as having a personal memory of what Brian Wilson was like pre-beard may have contributed to this connection to the team, though.
5. Texas Rangers-
I truly have no idea how the Rangers managed to climb my list so high. I used to not really be a fan of them in their team with the two Rodriguezes, but as they turned towards a team that relied more on pitching *in addition to* the offense the Rangers always seemed to have, I really liked the teams that they constructed around 2009-10.
6. New York Yankees-
While they have fallen down my list and I hate the franchise past the team itself, they still are my childhood team that I can’t help to root for.
7. Philadelphia Phillies-
While it was not the beginning of my fandom of them, this certainly sealed it for me. They’d be higher on the list for me, but Phillies fans.
8. Toronto Blue Jays-
Part of me always sympathized with our neighbors to the north. Even when the Expos were still a team, I liked the Blue Jays a lot and always secretly as a Yankee fan hoped they would surge up and break the norm of the AL East standings for a while in the early 2000s–which was:
2. Red Sox
3. Blue Jays
5. Devil Rays
I just really always wanted them to have success, and this translated to a fandom of the team when they played teams that weren’t my top-of-the-line favorite teams.
9. Milwaukee Brewers-
My liking of the Brewers began in around 2008 when CC Sabathia joined the team for half a season and did amazing with being in attendance for what should have been a no-hitter, (I might write about this/do a video for a “Blast From the Baseball Past” entry) but then I just had a fandom for the Fielder and Braun teams. My fandom for the team, though, has lessened the past couple of years for obvious reasons regarding one or more of the aforementioned players.
10. Oakland Athletics-
(See Tampa Rays.)
11. Cincinnati Reds-
I think this is kind of a fusion of many of the various teams I have talked about to this point. So in part it’s like the Rays where I liked that a solid major league team was built from the pooling of major league talent, but it is also a lot like the Giants since I really like Joey Votto as a player.
12. Atlanta Braves-
I think this is Nationals-esque in that I loved Turner Field and its atmosphere. I also liked the core and became much more of a fan because of people I have met that are passionate about the Braves. And I can say that the fact that Julio Teheran plays for them doesn’t hurt them at all.
13. Arizona Diamondbacks-
This is one of the teams that I honestly don’t know why I like more than most teams. I’ve just always liked Diamondbacks teams (after the 2001 season, that is.) Yeah, I don’t know.
14. Seattle Mariners-
This has been mostly the product of running into very nice baseball people who are fans of the Mariners. I’m also a fan of how good of a pitching team they have been despite being offensively anemic the past seasons.
15. Baltimore Orioles-
Similarly to the Mariners, I just know a ton of awesome baseball people that are Orioles fans. In addition to that, their stadium is my favorite in baseball. I would say that really the only reason they’re this far down the list is that some Orioles fans became obnoxious as they began to climb out of the AL East cellar.
16. Detroit Tigers-
I know that I’m supposed to hate the Tigers as a Twins fan, but the fact that we beat them in the game 163 we played them helps and I always admired the teams that had success more than most of the teams I am supposed to dislike.
17. Pittsburgh Pirater-
I can pretty safely say that if I weren’t a ballhawk, this team would be lower on the list, but because of the big ballhawk following in Pittsburgh, I have kept up and liked the Pirates and it was incredibly fun watching them have success for the first time in over two decades last season.
18. Miami Marlins-
Ah the Marlins. Those poor souls. I always had an affinity for them especially teams with the 30+ homer infields of Uggla, Ramirez, Cantu, and Jacobs. That said, Jeffrey Loria has made this a team that I can’t root for over half of the other teams. They remain a team that I’m intrigued by and want to root for, and they would skyrocket up this list if Loria ever sold them and kept them in Miami, but right now they’re just not a team I can really get behind.
19. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim-
I don’t know about this team. I want to like them in many respects, but they lost me when they started spending a bajillion dollars on free agents, trading for Vernon Wells, and then having success with not with their big free agent acquisitions but with the farm talent they had beforehand.
20. Colorado Rockies-
The Rockies are one of those teams I have a preference towards, but still in a kind of “eh” way. I’ve never disliked them really, but I’ve never really had any passion behind my support of them.
21. San Diego Padres-
I used to like them a lot more in the Trevor Hoffman era, but they’ve dropped a bit since then not necessarily because their lack of success but the players behind these teams. They just haven’t been groups of guys that I’d like to get behind.
22. Cleveland Indians-
Again, never disliked them but never really liked them.
23. Houston Astros-
I actually like the group of people in this team and could see myself liking a lot in the years to come. That said, they have made some pretty bad decisions in the past and it was not a shock that they were as bad of a team as they have been.
24. Kansas City Royals-
I actually like this franchise in terms of their ballpark and look, but then there are the people behind the scenes that ruin this team for me. At the ballpark, I have not heard many positive things about their ushers, and behind the franchise, I disagree on many things with the GM of the team, Dayton Moore. I think that the team could have been competing a long time ago had it not been for his guidance.
25. St. Louis Cardinals-
The main reason for them being this far down the list is the fact that their fans claim incorrectly that they are definitely the “best fans in baseball.” While I don’t think there is a no-doubt group of the best fans in baseball, if my experience with Cardinals fans in baseball has taught me anything, it is that while the Cardinals fan base may be in the top-10, they are definitely not the no-doubt best fans in baseball they claim to be.
26. Chicago White Sox-
I was a fan of the 2005 Astros and 2008 Twins. Enough said.
27. New York Mets-
They’re the Mets. I don’t know how many things I have admired about the Mets the past five years. If it’s any indication, the rendition of “Meet the Mets” that I have adopted begins:
Beat the Mets,
Beat the Mets,
Step right up and,
Sweep the Mets
28. Los Angeles Dodgers-
While I have kind of liked the players on the Dodgers for stretches, their recent acquisition by the Kasten-Johnson group and metamorphosis into baseball’s new Yankees has really turned me off to them. I have disliked them sans Vin Scully for a much longer time than just that, but that’s the most recent thing that provides a rational reason for disliking them.
29. Chicago Cubs-
I have never had any appeal to the Cubs, and I’m not particularly found of how Cubs fans overreact to prospects as well as how in-your-face Cubs fans I have interacted with have been about the most minor successes. Granted, it’s a conditioning that has come with being the fan of a team who last won a World Series when one’s great-grandparents were your age.
30. Boston Red Sox-
This is partially because I grew up a fan of the Yankees, but I also do like their stadium and the atmosphere of it. However, I can’t get over the attitude of their owner John Henry that many fans have adopted without realizing the absurdity of it of that the Yankees have a ridiculous advantage in terms of having a humongous payroll. The reason this argument infuriates me is because for the longest time, there was a gigantic gap in payroll between the Red Sox and the third largest payroll. Thus it was the rich crying poor in order to gain sympathy. The second reason is because the Steinbrenner family is actually a middle-of-the-pack ownership group in terms of wealth. The reason they invest so much money into the team is because they value winning. Therefore, if John Henry truly wanted to win, he could spend the extra money and win. The problem is that if he didn’t win with this extra money invested, he would be losing money. However, George Steinbrenner was taking the same risk when he invested his extra money; it was just that Steinbrenner’s Yankees did win every season and could thus keep spending. So what Henry did by calling out Steinbrenner and the Yankees was criticized him/them for doing what he didn’t have the guts to do with the Red Sox in order to give his fans the winning such a great fan base deserved. However, being the fans that they were, many Red Sox fans backed their owner without truly understanding what was behind these claims.
So those were my favorite teams. I am by no means “right” in any of my judgements. Picking a favorite team–or in my case *teams*–is something of complete subjectivity and can be done for any number of reasons. Also, the next entry is me making a new Observing Baseball Logo. I would actually like to make a clarification. So it’s actually not the logo itself–this:
But it would actually be me remaking the icon itself, which is this:
But besides that, keep voting for your favorite entries. I should mention that I’ll be doing various entries for Twinsfest, but you can vote for the stuff you want to see besides this on the poll below:
8/7/13 Braves at Nationals: Nationals Park
With how my schedule was looking for the rest of the year, this was almost definitely looking like it would be my last game at Nationals Park in 2013. And so I was glad to start my day by catching a Nationals BP homer on the fly that also turned out to be a 2010 World Series commemorative baseball:
I don’t know who hit it, but I ran through the middle row of the Red Seat and leaned over seats to catch the ball. It was a fun experience. I then soon after headed over to right field, where I got yet another 2010 World Series commemorative. This one was tossed to me by some Nationals trainer who has been with the team for several years and has tossed me a couple baseballs, but I still don’t know exactly what he does. It seems like the Nationals have a couple guys like that where you don’t know exactly what they do. Anyway, he tossed me another golden ball, so I like him:
I don’t have pictures of my next two baseballs because they were both in the middle of a stretch of action in the Red Seats, and I’m a forgetful idiot who apparently can’t take pictures when things calm down, but here’s how I got both of them:
The first ball was a Dan Uggla home run that he tomahawked (See what I did there?) into the Red Seats. The route to the ball from where I was was clogged up with people, so the best I could do was get behind where the ball was going to land. It then evaded a bunch of gloves, hit off a seat, and bounced up into the air, where I snatched it up. I gave this away to a kid at the front of the section. The second ball came when I went to the corner spot in the Red Seats closest to center field. When Jose Costanza went into center field to field a ball that had gone there, I called out to him by name, and he then turned to me and threw the ball that he had just gotten. It was headed right for me, but the guy standing next to me, who had seen me get a few baseballs reached in front of me and caught the baseball. But you know what? I’m not even mad–nor was I in the moment–because I just moved away from this guy on the next ball Costanza fielded and got him to toss me that one. I then made a point of giving that ball away to the kid who was standing right next to the guy who had reached in front of me.
And then after that, I got a bonus, because Rick Gold came into the section. I asked him if he had snagged any of the Target Field commemorative baseballs, because I desperately wanted to trade someone one of my extra World Series 2010 balls for an extra Target Field ball. But somehow, I didn’t even end up giving him anything, and instead, he gave me this for nothing:
Well not really nothing, but really a commemorative to be named later. So if I ever get two or more of a commemorative Rick doesn’t have, I will give him that because he gave me this one. That was very nice of him, and it made me very happy. It almost even made up for the fact that I hadn’t gotten a Target Field ball. (And just to clear things up, I *much* prefer to snag baseballs on my own, but I’m also not above trading commemoratives, because I also don’t go after commemoratives with the vigor that most ballhawks do. I do very much like to get them, but I’ve never asked a player to specifically toss me a commemorative baseball and have never planned a trip because of a commemorative ball. Basically, if a team in a game that I’m going to has a commemorative ball–or several in the case of the Nationals–it’s a bonus to whatever I snag that day.)
The Costanza toss-up would be my last baseball of BP. So afterwards, I went to the Braves bullpen, since there were still a couple baseballs:
And no surprise, the Nationals groundskeepers cleared out the baseballs when they entered the bullpen. Actually, knowing the Nationals groundskeepers (who are some of, if not THE, worst groundskeeper in terms of tossing up baseballs and leaving them on the field for players to toss them up), it was a bigger surprise that they only collected two of the three baseballs and left the ball I’ve labeled “2” for the Braves relievers.
The first person who made his way to the bullpen was Brian McCann. I thought I had a pretty good chance of getting him to toss me a ball, but my only worry was someone was going to beat me to it, because McCann would be pretty easy to recognize and ask by name. I didn’t have to worry about it, though, because he stopped short of the bullpen to do his stretches in the outfield. Then came Eddie Perez. I was particularly worried about him, because I had noticed his two daughters had been sitting on top of the Braves bullpen, so I figured the ball would go to them if he picked it up. Thankfully, he stopped to talk with McCann for ages. Then came Alan Butts. He was perfect because even though I wasn’t trying to get a ball from him then, I was the only one who recognized him the previous day and said hi to him. So when he walked past me to get into the bullpen, I asked him if he could toss me that ball. To that he responded, “In a second.” So after getting a variety of his “bullpen catcher” things ready, he went over and tossed me the ball:
As for the game, I had thought of sitting by the dugout for the longest time, but then I realized that despite Nationals Park being the stadium I’ve spent the most games at, I still don’t have a game home run there, so I sat in left field:
No home runs came out there, but at the end of the game, I made my way to the far end of the Braves bullpen and got Eddie Perez to toss me a ball (since he had been talking to McCann and hadn’t seen me get the ball from Butts):
I then headed over to say goodbye to an usher I’ve talked to throughout this year, and as my parting gift, I gave him the ball I had just gotten from Perez:
His name is Jan Pastor, and he’s a really nice usher who works the aisle right next to the MASN booth in the center field plaza. I believe it is section 102-103, but I may be wrong. Anyway, if you’re ever at Nationals Park when I’m not there, say hi to him for me.
I then headed off to take the train, where I had an experience on the Metro that I’ve never had post-Nationals game. It’s usually as packed as it can be with all of the people leaving the Nationals game, but somehow for a full stop after we left Navy Yard-Ballpark, the stop nearest Nationals Park, I was the only one in my subway car:
I mean I’ve been on a ton of empty subway cars before, but they’ve all been at the ends of lines when there aren’t really many people at the stop, and this was at a major stop during one of its more congested hours. Anyway; weird.
- 6 balls at this game (4 pictured because I gave 3 away, but then added the one Rick gave me to the picture)
Numbers 622-627 for my “lifetime”:
- 181 Balls in 43 Games= 4.21 Balls Per Game
- 6 Balls x 29,114 Fans=174,684 Competition Factor
- 105 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 10 straight Games with 2 Balls
- 7 straight Games with 3 Balls
- 6 straight Games with 4 Balls
- 4 straight Games with 5 Balls
- 2 straight Games with 6 Balls
- 192 Balls in 42 Games at Nationals Park= 4.57 Balls Per Game
- 34 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
- 5 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Nationals Park
- 2 straight Games with at least 3-6 Balls at Nationals Park
- Time Spent On Game 3:27-11:28= 8 Hours 1 Minute
8/6/13 Braves at Nationals: Nationals Park
So back from Philadelphia and the madness of BallhawkFest, I took a couple days to rest and write. But after that, it was time to go to the second game of the Braves-Nationals series. First, there was a chance of rain, so I went atop the Nationals parking garage to check if the cages were up:
Yay, batting practice! I then headed back down to the center field where I met up with two ballhawks I regret not writing more about the past two seasons:
That would be Dave Butler and Art (whose last name I don’t know). They are probably the two most “regular” ballhawks at Nationals. Dave pretty much exclusively goes after hit baseballs while Art almost exclusively goes after Nationals toss-ups. They are both very friendly guys, and if you ever see them at Nationals Park, tell them Mateo says hello. Dave can be pretty easily identified by the fact that he always has his Giants hat on, and Art can 95% of the time be found with his sunglasses, Bluetooth, and blue Nationals hat on in the corner spot by the visitor’s bullpen right as the gates open.
Once we got in, I headed for straight-away left, since both Dave and Rick Gold were battling it out in the Red Seats for pitchers BP.
Ironically, my first ball of the day came in the Red Seats when the two of them left for the Nationals’ second group of hitters. Ross Ohlendorf fielded a ball at the wall, and looked up to toss the ball to someone. And when I raised my glove, he flipped me the ball:
And then literally *right* after that, I saw a person coming down the grass hill in center field to clear out all of the baseballs that were sitting there. It was so soon after the first ball that I actually had it in my non-glove hand and had to hide it behind my back to get the man to toss me the ball that was on the hill. and I guess I’m more deceptive than I thought, because:
Do you kind of see the logo of the ball? It was a World Series 2010 commemorative ball. I had heard the Nationals were using this and several other types of commemoratives, but this was the first time I had seen any of them in 2013. So since I had snagged two baseballs within a span of ten seconds, I gave the non-commemorative Ohlendorf ball to a kid at the corner of the section.
After that, a Nationals righty smashed a ball that bounced up to the top of the restaurant, where an employee picked the ball up. At that point everyone else pursuing the ball gave up and went back to the bottom of the section. I didn’t understand, though, since it was employee that supposedly had to give the ball away. So I stuck around, stuck up my glove, and got this:
And you see right; that is a Fenway Park 100th year commemorative baseball. It was amazing, but this would sadly be my last commemorative ball of the day.
I then headed over to right field for the third group of Nationals hitters. There I got Taylor Jordan to toss me a ball by being the only one to call him by name:
I then got my fifth ball of the day when the Braves started hitting. I got Craig Kimbrel to toss me a baseball over the Braves bullpen:
And then it was time to have a cup trick party. Now you’re not exactly supposed to, but you can sometimes get away with using a ball retriever in the gap right below the Red Seats. So this being my first time with a reliable retriever in Nationals Park with me having Tim Anderson‘s cup trick in my bag of tricks, I took advantage of it.
I first saw one ball go into the gap on a hit ball, so I got the cup trick out and pulled the ball out from here in the gap:
I then gave it away to a kid whose glove the ball had bounced off of. I then got a second ball from the gap soon after that and gave it to a person right next to me on top of where I snagged the ball in the gap. And then I asked him if he could hold the ball out for a picture:
And by then, people realized what I had, and when a ball landed in the gap, people called me over to retrieve the ball for them. I walked over, but as I did, Justin Upton launched a ball right into the row I was walking in, so I ran through the row and caught the ball through several glove screens:
That was my eighth ball. And then when I retrieved the ball and gave it away to the family who dropped the ball, I had my ninth ball of the day:
If you can see the bars below the ball in the picture, the ball was trapped under one of those, so I had to knock it sideways out from under there to retrieve the ball. At this point I was getting nervous because I had now gotten 3 balls via cup trick. So when a guy told me there was another ball in the gap, I just wanted to get my cup trick out quickly, get the ball, and not get seen. But as soon as I pulled the cup trick out of the gap, I sensed someone behind me. It was a security guard who told me he needed me to give him the trick. It was obviously not mine, so I asked if he had a string-cutting device. And when he said no, I tried untying the string, he eventually just gave up and told me that I’m there often enough that I should just not do it again. That was my tenth ball of the day, by the way.
My record for baseballs in a game was 11, so with 10 and there still being about 15 minutes left in batting practice, I thought I had a pretty good opportunity to break it. And this got even better when I picked up a ball that Luis Avilan had overthrown to a kid. I then gave the ball to the kid:
I then had a very good chance to break my record, but Avilan’s inaccuracy came back to bite me, and he overthrew me, so this ball would be my last of the day. No, the only thing I would snag from this point on was a piece of gum thrown to me by David Carpenter after I stayed by the bullpen to watch Julio Teheran ( whose name is properly pronounced “Teh-heh-rahn”) warm up:
I then sat in left field, because I thought it would be great if my record-breaking 12th ball would have come on a home run:
- 11 Balls at this Game (5 pictured because I gave 6 away)
Numbers 611-621 for my lifetime:
- 175 Balls in 42 Games= 4.17 Balls Per Game
- 11 Balls x 30,875 Fans=339,625 Competition Factor
- 104 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 9 straight Games with 2 Balls
- 6 straight Games with 3 Balls
- 5 straight Games with 4 Balls
- 3 straight Games with 5 balls
- 186 Balls in 41 Games at Nationals Park= 4.54 Balls Per Game
- 33 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
- 4 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Nationals Park
- Time Spent On Game 3:21-11:03= 7 Hours 42 Minutes
After our adventure the previous night that got us back to Washington past midnight, Chris Hernandez and I got up to get to Philadelphia for BallhawkFest a little later than we wanted to. And so when we should have been playing softball with all of the other BallhawkFest attendees, this was our view:
But thankfully, this was where we were when it came time for the luncheon at McFadden’s:
That would be Chris running behind me alongside the stadium. Thankfully we made the luncheon more or less right after everyone else got there. And the best part was even though we were the last ones to get there, we got our food before anyone else. The luncheon would also result in me getting a Minnesota Twins long-sleeve shirt (thank you, Zack), Cardinals mini home plates, and my 2012 Junior Ballhawk of the Year award certificate.
Then it was time to get to the gates. First a couple of us made the trip over there:
And then a lot more showed up:
Although at this point, we knew the tarp was on the field, so it wasn’t looking good for us snagging. One person in the foreground of that last picture was particularly vocal about a certain streak ending. It was the calm before the storm, though. We waited and took pictures, but I killed most of my time by playing catch with Tim Cook in the street alongside the gate.
When the gates opened, everyone went in while my anxieties about this game compounded. Todd Cook had bought a ticket for me the night prior, and because I had to essentially get up and head to BallhawkFest, I never printed it out. Now at a bunch of places, you can just scan your phone as long as it has the barcode on it, but I learned that here at CBP, you can’t. So while everyone else was in the stadium for a good five minutes, I was getting a printout of my StubHub ticket:
Which was slightly difficult since the ticket was in Todd’s name and not mine. But eventually, I did get int the stadium with everyone else:
When I got in, only two pairs of Braves pitchers were throwing, but I got neither ball. My best shot was to get one from Julio Teheran, but I don’t think he heard me saying that I was a Colombian. My next closest opportunity to getting a ball was when I got David Carpenter to throw me a ball from 100-200 feet away. Unfortunately, though, the ball fell short and he didn’t come to the warning track to pick it up.
If you go back and take a second look at it, you may see something interesting in that last picture. As we waited, the grounds crew came out with the batting cage and screens. So by the time the Phillies came out to throw, the cage was set up and ready to go:
But with the abundance of people wearing Phillies red, it came as not surprise to me that I didn’t get a ball. Despite the fact that I saw there was now going to be batting practice, I was still worried as to how many baseballs I could put on the board. Pretty much everyone else had one or two baseballs at this point, and despite a ton of running and changing shirts that I had done up to this point, which I spared you the details of, I was still at zero baseballs. After I left foul ground, I ran into Ben Weil, and his girlfriend Jen. Ben at this point had two baseballs and was leading the pack. Jen, however, said she was rooting for me. And although I didn’t mean to, I kind of scoffed at that because the way things were going, it felt like I would be lucky to get *a* baseball with all of the competition. Let me explain why. Up to that point, I had been absolutely exhausted by the other ballhawks, because usually during a game with no BP, a ballhawk is the only one smart enough to go to place x. Well during this game, by the time I got to place x, there were 5 other people right on my tail. So after they got there, I had to get creative and think of another place where I could possibly get a ball, but with less competition. The cycle then repeated itself. Turns out, though, Jen had more confidence in me than I did.
Soon after I got into the right field seats, a ball was hit and rolled to the wall. Rick Sporcic was also in the right field seats. And although he was occupied with a baseball further towards center field, I hurried up and got my (read: Tim Anderson’s) cup trick out to pick up the ball, because I had heard he was good with his retriever. By the time I had gotten my ball, though, he was still trying to get his from in front of the wall. My guess is the right field wall is much taller than the left field wall in Pittsburgh, so he wasn’t used to it and his retrieving skills were slowed down as a result. Anyway, I didn’t get a picture since I was in a hurry to get the ball, but here’s a picture that’ll show you where I got the ball:
The place I took that picture from also happens to be where I got my second ball of the day. I leaned over the wall to see if a ball I had spotted from right field was cup trick-able, and just as I realized it wasn’t, Joe Savery came over to pick up that and another ball. He tossed the ball I was eying to a kid next to me and the other to me:
I know Ben was right next to me, since he also came over to see if he could cup trick the ball, but I don’t think he got a ball tossed up to him then. I actually don’t know if he got another ball for the rest of BP.
After getting that ball, I headed to straight-away left field to try to get a hit ball. It was a zoo:
I mean forget all of the people in general, just look at the ballhawks who were right behind me:
Had I not misjudged several home runs, I could have been up to 4 or 5 baseballs for the day after my time in right field. But instead I spent the rest of my BP getting punked by the Phillie grounds crew chalk dispenser:
Most teams use a cart-type thing to apply the chalked foul lines, but the Phillies instead use this thing where they pond to red side part with the mallet that is a mini-bat with a baseball at the end to apply the chalked line. Unfortunately, it looked from left field like there was a baseball sitting on the warning track in foul territory. So I ran all the way over to find out that this could in fact not be snagged.
The closest I came to snagging another baseball was when a ball rolled to the wall in left field, I ran over to where it was, and was about to pull out the cup trick when a Phillies player picked the ball up and threw it into the stands. Little did I know, but had I been a little quicker to the ball, I could have had the outright lead at the end of BallhawkFest.
How did this happen? Well after BP ended, I went to take a group picture in center field:
And then wnet behind the dugout. Since this was *Ballhawk*Fest, I expected there to be at least one other person joining me behind the Braves dugout before the game, but they just never came. So when the Braves came out to throw, I was one of the few people in Braves gear behind the dugout. Using this, I first got Chris Johnson to throw me a ball. His throw was a bit high, so it tipped off the top of my glove, bounced in the row behind me, and I had to run for it to just beat out a man who was also going for it. He was so close to it that I gave him the ball. It was only after I took the picture of him that I realized he already had a baseball (D’oh):
So since I had grabbed the ball before I gave it to him, that was ball number 3 for me on the day. Ball number 4 took no time at all after that. I’m not sure if he had seen me miss the Johnson toss-up, but when Justin Upton came in from throwing with his baseball, I screamed his name, and just like Johnson, he scanned the crowd as if searching for a little kid who deserved it more before settling for tossing the baseball to me:
I say I wonder if he saw the Johnson toss-up tip off of my glove, because I his line of sight when he was tossing with his brother BJ was slightly off of me, but it’s possible that he just tossed me the ball to give me a second chance. Oh well; who knows?
Then once the game started, I moved over one staircase to be on the right staircase for a third-out ball. It was after the top of the first inning that I saw Ben come down into that same section, so I moved down to join him. One out later, Jen joined us. So the plan at the third out was all three of us were going to go down for the third-out ball and odds are one of us would get it. Well it turns out it wasn’t just us, but Quinn Imiola (who you may remember from this entry if you’ve been reading the blog for a couple years, and whose birthday it was that day–as was announced by his dad at the luncheon in a hilarious/purely-“dad” way.) had gotten past the guard at the top of the steps right before the third out and also tried for the third-out ball. As it turned out, with all of those people there, Freddie Freeman lofted the ball right to me. As we returned to our seats, where we all went into the same row, we were apparently suspicious-looking enough with the culmination of all four of us going down for the ball and Quinn going back to a different seat than the one he had gotten out of to go for the third-out ball that the usher who had come down from the top of the steps asked to see all of our tickets. Ben and Jen actually had a ticket (it just wasn’t on that aisle), but Quinn and I didn’t have a ticket for the section at all. So the usher kicked Quinn and myself out of the section completely, telling us that he better not see us back there for the rest of the game, and asked Ben and Jen to go to their actual seats in the middle of the row–which Ben had no interest in doing. So as the rest of the group pondered where they would go, I took the picture of the Freeman ball:
The conversation eventually lead to us wandering towards left field, where the other three would eventually sneak down into, and I would continue onto right field, where I actually had a ticket for:
After a few innings of being there, I got a tweet from Harrison Tishler (who already published an entry about this game/day that you should check out) asking if he could join me. When I said yes, he and his parents were there within half-an-inning:
It was almost as if I was a ballhawk magnet, because after that, the Cooks arrived as well as Quinn and Alan Schuster, the organizer of the whole event and founder/webmaster of mygameballs.com, the site that’s the reason this event even exists:
And soon after that, Zack Hample, Ben Weil, and Chris Hernandez also came to the same section (although the other staircase). I should mention that this was a slow process, though. The game lasted 12 innings, so all of these arrivals weren’t within a half-inning of each other. The highlight of most of this slow-ish game besides talking to all of these fun and cool people I don’t get to see on a regular basis was taking an unintentionally-artsy picture of the scoreboard:
It was my initial plan to go to the bullpen after the game, but with so many other ballhawks now converged around it, when the Braves scored a run in the top of the 12th, I headed to the Braves dugout. However, as I exited the right field seats, I got a call from Zack. I thought it was weird right away because he rarely calls me outside of a baseball game; much less *during* a game itself. Turns out he had gotten kicked out of the stadium by security because of the escalation of an incident that he had with them after he had caught John Mayberry Jr.’s home run earlier in the game. I feel like I was a bad friend for what I did, but I figured Zack as “king of ballhawks” would understand as I got Ben to call him and handle the situation as I ran to the dugout. I figure Zack would have done the same thing with me. (Aren’t I so good at justifying my actions to myself?)
Quinn also came down to the dugout after the game, and as I went for the umpire ball–where the umpire ended up talking to a family for about ten minutes after the game, and giving them his last extra baseball, Quinn got Craig Kimbrel to toss him the ball he had recorded the save with. Not a bad birthday present, eh? Here he is in his Braves gear with his parents to the right of the frame:
For the record, I know the names of all of the parents, but I don’t know if they want their names out there. I actually met Quinn’s parents the day I met Quinn in South Carolina. Anyway, we were being told to clear out of the section, so that’s why Quinn is a little blurry.
I then got a text from Ben saying to meet outside the third base gate. When we got there we saw Zack, but the group who had stayed in right field were still not there. Eventually they did get there and Zack got to tell the story of his ejection about fifteen times:
After that, the plan was to get a parting group picture. As we set up for that, I got a panoramic picture of all of the ballhawks mingling:
And here was the final group picture:
In talking to everyone, it turned out that Jeremy Evens (in yellow), the Cooks, and I had all tied for the lead at 5 baseballs a piece. If you remember the first BallhawkFest in 2011, I was tied with Zack for the lead at I believe 7 baseballs. So I have never gone to a BallhawkFest where I didn’t have a share of the lead. And I probably just jinxed any chance of doing so next year’s BallhawkFest.
I then headed off with the Cooks in their car to the 30th Street Station, but not before taking a look at the Veterans Stadium field in the parking lot and getting one last shot of the stadium:
And so concluded one of the funner days of my life. While I wish I could have made it for the full experience, I had a blast and will be sure to try my hardest to be there for next season’s festivities, wherever it may be. (Insider’s hint: It may be the closest to home a BallhawkFest has ever been for me.) Thank you to everyone who made and keeps making this event what it is. The reason I constantly recommend it to people is because while it may be a tough event snagging-wise, it is a truly unique phenomenon that is something really special as well.
- 5 Balls at this Game (4 pictured because I gave 1 away. And apparently lost my Phillies hat somewhere along the line as well.)
Numbers 606-610 for my career:
- 164 Balls in 41 Games= 4.00 Balls Per Game
- 5 Balls x 41,161 Fans=205,805 Competition Factor
- 103 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 8 straight Games with 2 Balls
- 5 straight Games with 3 Balls
- 4 straight Games with 4 Balls
- 2 straight Games with 5 balls
- 12 Balls in 3 Games at CBP= 4.00 Balls Per Game
- 3 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at CBP
- 2 straight Games with at least 2-5 Balls at CBP
- Time Spent On Game 10:07-3:25= 17 Hours 18 Minutes
5/25/13 Braves at Mets: Citi Field
So after the adventure I had gone through the previous game, and the state I awoke in, I feel as though I shouldn’t have been in the mood to go back to Citi Field any time soon, but so I did. I woke up at about 11:00 in the morning, and since the Mets had announced when the game was postponed that the gates would be opening at 4:10 and trains/buses run less regularly on the weekends, I almost immediately headed up to the apartment of a friend I was staying with this week in the Bronx, showered, got changed in to clothes that were more suited for the 50-degree temperatures, took all of the stuff I didn’t need in my backpack out, and headed off to Citi Field.
The way this game would work is the resumption of the previous night’s game would begin at 6:10 and the regularly-scheduled game would start soon after that. People who had tickets could exchange them at the box office for tickets that were that same dollar amount or lower. But since I was hopefully not going to be back at Citi Field after Sunday’s game (this entry you’re reading about is of a Saturday) and I had picked up a collective three ticket stubs the game before, I exchanged them in the following way: Two tickets for this game and one for the Sunday game:
The two tickets for this day’s game were behind the third base dugout and in left field, and the Sunday ticket was for further down the third base foul line. I figured that I would want more flexibility for this day’s game, and the next day’s game I already knew would be full of ballhawks, so I wanted to stay away from behind the dugouts and left field, which are the two most popular spots for ballhawks during the games at Citi Field. Also, it was John Franco bobblehead day, which Ben Weil was coming to specifically for the bobbleheads, so having two tickets to this game would enable him to get an extra bobblehead. (Even if I was stupid and gave him the ticket I already scanned to get in.)
I learned when I got to the stadium, though, that the bad-phrasing Mets had changed the gate opening time from 4:10 to 5:10 somewhere between me sleeping on a fleece and getting to the game, so I now had to wait for another hour, and it would also be another hour that I wouldn’t have inside the stadium I wasn’t worried about my streak because I would have 10+ innings with a dugout seat, but it was just annoying to know that I rushed to the game when I could have been relaxing on an actual bed for that extra hour. The Mets actually then changed that *while* I was waiting at the gate and made the new opening time 4:45. Unfortunately, when I got in, there was still a whole lot of nothing going on:
Since there was nothing of the players going on, I went and saw some other interesting things going on in the stadium:
The groundscrew put the thing that covers the tarp in the stands down the third base line.
Mets employees for whatever reason had a ladder going from the second to the third deck in left field.
The random “lucky seat”s that the Mets have throughout the stadium in section 123 was two seats from my ticketed seat in that section, which was seat 4 in that same row.
I quickly got bored with these things, so I took a peek inside the dugout:
When I didn’t see anything going on in there, I decided to take pictures of the top of the visitor’s dugout:
Like I said, I was bored.
At around 5:15, Ben arrived in the stadium, so I talked to him briefly but then quickly became designated bag carrier as he made several trips in and out of the stadium to get the extra bobbleheads. At the end of his many trips, he had a ton of bobbleheads. I think he said he had gotten ten by the time he was done. I mean here are just a little over half of the bobbleheads:
Normally Ben only gets two of a bobblehead; three if he really likes the player. But in this case, he came across some extra tickets that came without people wanting the bobblehead, so Ben ended up keeping seven of the ten bobbleheads for himself.
When it came time for the first game, here was my view of the action:
See the only kid in the picture on the seat all the way to the right? His name is Harrison, and he approached me during this game and asked me if I went for baseballs often. Through our talking, he remembered that he had actually first talked to me over a year ago at this game (I apologize in advance for the awful writing) and I remembered that he was the one who had taken the picture of me in my poncho outside the rotunda in the entry before this one. It turns out he is an autograph collector who has gotten 1,000+ autographs at games, and usually sits in the seats you see him in, which is how he has seen ballhawks a lot before. I ended up talking with him and some guys who arrived in the second game for the majority of the game.
In the first inning of the game (or the ninth inning, if you will) the Mets struck out to end the inning, and although I was on the outfield end of the dugout, the stands were empty enough for the resumption game that there was an empty row of seats that I managed to get to the home plate end of the dugout through, and so I got Brian McCann to toss me a ball. On my way back to my seat on the outfield end, I saw a kid with Braves gear, so I gave the ball to him.
When the first game ended, I stupidly forgot for a couple seconds that the umpires would be exiting the field, and this hesitation may have cost me a ball as I was out of position at the umpire tunnel and didn’t get a ball from the home plate umpire. The time between the games wasn’t all bad, though. It was in this time that I had pre-arranged a meet-up with fellow MLBlogger, Bryan Mapes of the popular blog, Three Up, Three Down. He was in the club level of Citi Field, but came down to meet me in the concourse of the field level:
Despite having conversed many times over Twitter and our respective blogs, this was the first time we had ever met in person. So there’s that.
I then headed back to my seat where I enjoyed the same view–except darker–for the rest of the night despite not snagging another ball:
And so that was it. The Mets lost both games, which made Bryan, a Braves fan, very happy, but I pretty much just sat, enjoyed the games, and got to cross another thing off my baseball bucket list. Even if I probably never would have thought to put this exact scenario on my bucket list ever.
The Mets even had the firework that were supposed to go off the previous day go off in honor of my 1-ball performance:
I would go back to the Bronx knowing that the next day would be just another day back at the ballpark, but with a lot more batting practice and ballhawks than I had been seeing the past two days. And I would have one mission: snag two baseballs to get to 100 all-time at Citi Field.
- 1 Ball at this game (not pictured because I gave it away
- Number 524 for my “career”
- 78 Balls in 18 Games= 4.33 Balls Per Game
- 1 Ball x 27,622 Fans= 27,622 Competition Factor
- 80 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 98 Balls in 37 Games at Citi Field= 2.69 Balls Per Game
- 37 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Citi Field
- Time Spent On Game 12:02-11:49= 11 Hours 47 Minutes
5/24/13 Braves at Mets: Citi Field
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
Stadium Profiles: Turner Field
Overall Grade: A
Aesthetic Grade: B-
Turner Field really isn’t anything special when it comes to looks. That and it has tons of ads when you look towards the outfield. For me, ads, unless they blend classically with the stadium, are a negative. On the positive side, because it is built in the style it is, it has some oldish charm to the stadium. The scoreboard is beautiful and prominent. The reason I had it on the positive side of a C is it really doesn’t have anything that detracts from the game experience, but it has certain qualities that enhances the visual aspect of it.
Two words: Tomahawk. Chop:
You may have heard of it and know of the rhythm of it. Heck, you may have even heard it on TV during a Braves. However, there is truly nothing like being there when they get going at Turner Field. I mean really getting into it. I was there when there really wasn’t much of a crowd, but even with my experience in those three days, I feel the moral obligation to do the chop along with the Braves fans whenever I see a game of theirs on TV. Besides this, you may or may not know this, but the Braves have the largest geographical fan base of any team in the major leagues:
Okay, I know it looks like the Rangers do in the map, but I think they’re being very generous to the Rangers and the two Florida teams. I think the three teams surrounding the Rangers have a bit more of that territory, and the two Florida teams are still very young. While they may hold the majority of fans in the regions highlighted, everyone over the age of 45 in the region is more likely to be a Braves fan than anything else. Both the Marlins and the Rays have been around for less than 20 years. Anyway, the ultimate point I’m trying to get at is that there are a lot of people who travel to Braves fans. Therefore, the crowd is more likely to be passionate. Who do you think will be cheering louder: the fan just getting to the game as a way of relaxing after work or the person who is taking vacation days just to visit their favorite team’s stadium. I hadn’t even considered the geographical factor until I got to Turner Field and talked to people about where they were from. More so than any other stadium I have visited thus far, there were a ton of people from out of town.
Fan Experience: A
First of all, I consider “Atmosphere” a contributing factor. Secondly, I couldn’t tell that well about the stadium as a whole, which is why I held off on giving this an A+, but the sample of people I encountered in my three days there were definitely nice in the aggregate. It really did feel like a southern hospitality stereotype was coming to fruition. But more than that, it was so refreshing coming from the New York City environment. For example, in New York you can for the most part tell it is the vendor’s job. In Atlanta, the beer vendors have fun with it. There are vendors that use humor in their selling in New York, but their default emotion while saying the jokes is one of emotionlessness; whereas some Atlanta vendors had the demeanor of a stand-up comedian while in the stands.
Turner Field also has a couple other things going for it in the “fan experience” sub-category. First, maybe I’m just blowing this out of proportion because of my familiarity with the Yankees and Mets, but I liked that it didn’t seem like even though they had this vast fan base that they were “too good” to cater to the paying fan. Also, even though I never entered it. Turner Field looks like possibly the best play area of the stadiums I have been to:
Well except for the Nick-loving kids. For the record, the reason it is a Cartoon Network themed play area, it is because the team was owned by Turner Broadcasting Systems, which is a part of Time Warner Cable, owner of Cartoon Network.
Another great thing about Turner Field’s fan experience is they have a pretty neat museum. It isn’t free on it’s own like most museums, but if you go on a tour of Turner Field (before batting practice), a ticket to the museum is included that you can use all day. If you want to check out these along with other pictures I took on the 4th of July game, here is the link to the gallery on Facebook.
This is where you see what a team is made of. In the details of the stadium.The lazy, unimaginative teams fail here and the better ones thrive. As you can see, the Braves are in the later category. If you didn’t know, my trip last year was at the beginning of July (4th of July 2011 was my first game there). Atlanta in July is not exactly the arctic tundra. Therefore the touch the Braves had with installing fans in the center field concourse/plaza that sprayed water was absolutely magnificent.
Even better, an oft overlooked feature: the seats. The Braves –although not spectacular– have (sadly) one of the better seat designs in the major leagues:
Ballhawking During Batting Practice: A+
This is what we in the old country call Glove Trick Heaven. (Side Note: If you try to get a ball via Glove Trick or other retrieval devices in left field, you have to be quick on the draw, because there are probably a couple other people with a device on hand. I would factor this into the equation, but I’m only evaluating the stadium itself.)
Wow. Yet another heavenly sight. This is debatably the best outfield section in the major leagues for snagging baseballs in the major leagues. The seating goes all the way from the foul pole to the batter’s eye. And while there may be another place in the major leagues where this is the case (I can’t think of any), this is the only one where all of the individual section go across in a more or less straight line. The simplicity of it makes it absolutely gorgeous in terms of ballhawking, and the sheer amount of space in the outfield makes it amazing for snagging hit baseballs during batting practice
While center field sections usually aren’t the way to go, this is a pretty viable back-up plan. It may seem like light years away from home plate, but even though the home bullpen acts as a partition between it and the right field seats, the rightmost section in the center field seats is really right-center field when you think about it. It’s just the mentality that makes people think it is further than it actually is, but it doesn’t take a shot to reach that section, which can be a nice place to camp out if the left and right field sections of the outfield are crowded.
This is what it is: a right field section for when lefties are up. I’m not particularly in love with it, though. First of all, the home bullpen takes out a prime section and makes it so players have to pull the ball a bit more than usual to get it into these seats. Then there’s the fact that the seats don’t open until an hour after the gates do, so maybe there’s a negative association there. But finally, the gap in right field is so much smaller than the one in left and center:
It is a maximum of three feet (probably one or two, so really the only balls that go down there are dropped baseballs by fans in the first row.
Ballhawking During the Game: A
While the outfield is a great place to be during the game if it’s not crowded, it’s not very crowd-proof if there are a bunch of people during the game, since Atlanta is 22nd in home runs in 2012. That means if you get moved back like tens rows due to fans, there is a slimer chance for a game home run. However, the place to probably be for the game is the cross-aisle behind home plate (highlighted by the green line I have included:
I personally didn’t stand back there, but it was because I had pretty much an entire section to myself:
For the record, I did catch a foul ball, which to this day remains the only foul ball I have ever technically “caught on the fly” off of the bat of Nate McLouth. If you want to check out the gallery from that July 5th game, I’ve linked this entire sentence to the page. Heck, I might as well give you the July 6th gallery while I’m at it. Here’s that link. I was also with my mom for this whole roadtrip, who wanted me to sit with her, but otherwise I might have gone to the cross-aisle once this section filled up a little.
Special thanks goes out to Todd Cook for allowing me to use many of his panoramic pictures in the entry from his plethora thereof. If you want to check out his gallery of 10,000,000 pictures and more, check out his museum by clicking on the words you just read.
Anyway, that’s that. Keep voting for the entries you would like to see:
If you have already voted and have a different perspective, I have taken the repeat voter restrictions off and they will remain off for 24 hours after the publication if you want to vote again. However, I do please ask you to only vote one additional time.
And although Ballhawk Interviews is the next most voted subject, I still have to ask you guys who you want to see interviewed, so in the meantime, I will do an entry on whatever the second most voted on item is in the poll (hint, hint, for those people voting a second time). Meanwhile, here is a poll to let me know which ballhawk you would want to see me interview:
Disclaimer: As of now, none of the ballhawks have agreed to be interviewed (since I just sent the e-mail five minutes ago), so the person who is interviewed is the highest voted-for person who agrees to be interviewed; not necessarily the most voted-for person period.
Finally, since Ballhawking Gear is one of the entry types that is in second place, keep voting on how you would like to see it:
8/21/12 Braves at Nationals: Nationals Park
Less than fifteen hours after saying goodbye to him in the morning, Rick Gold and I met up at the gates of Nationals Park for our 10th and final game together in 2012:
If you haven’t read the entry, Rick and I were on a bus together close to 2 o’clock that same morning. It was one of those times for a sarcastic “Long time no see”, since both of us had woken up pretty soon before that.
Speaking of people sleeping, that’s what the Nationals players were apparently doing, because they didn’t take batting practice:
Since it was my last day at Nationals Park for this year, I I used this time to say goodbye to most of the ushers I knew.
Eventually, the Nationals pitchers came out to throw, so I headed over there. Here is where a season full of pretty much not asking pitchers for baseballs came in handy (in that they probably would have recognized me if I had). I yelled out to Ryan Mattheus as he finished throwing and he tossed me the ball:
I then just hung around until the Braves started hitting. When Juan Francisco’s group came up first, both Rick and I moved up to the second deck in right field:
As I said about Francisco in the last entry, dude hits BOMBS. I mean look how far I look how far away from home plate I was:
Unfortunately, he took probably less than twenty swings before finishing for the day.
I headed down to the lower level for the Braves group of lefties and Dan Uggla. There, two other ballhawks (Rick and a guy whose name I don’t know) took the two best spots in right, so I was forced to just stand in a middle spot and hope I could judge the ball better than them/ jump in front of them. When Jason Heyward hit a ball to my right, the ballhawk I didn’t know ran straight to his right. Meanwhile, I knew the ball was falling short of that. I ran into the row and made the running, backhanded catch:
As soon as I caught it, I searched for a kid and gave it away. I soon there after got Jonny Venters to toss me a ball and gave that too away.
That would be it for snagging. As for the game, I headed out to left field:
Stephen Strasburg was pitching, so I figured the righty-dominant Nationals would be more likely to go yard. I was right, but it was an inning *before* I got to my seat there. Oh, and there was a rain delay where it absolutely poured. It was my third rain delay in as many days. So it really was no big deal. The most notable part of it was before the delay started, it was raining at least three times harder than it was during the rain delay the game before.
During the rain delay, I got soaked, walked through the seats looking for tickets, got soaked, said goodbye to the ushers in the ballpark, got soaked, tried to get a ball from Alan Butts, got soaked, talked to Eddie Perez. Oh, and did I mention I got soaked? I don’t think I did. It was raining pretty hard. Do you remember when I said it was raining three times harder than the previous game DURING the game? Well during the rain delay, it rained about ten times harder. The rain would step up to “next level”, and then when you thought it couldn’t rain any harder, a burst of even harder rain.
Anyway, for the game, Stephen Strasburg and Paul Maholm managed to survive the rain delay to pitch again afterwards (the rain delay was in the second inning). Maholm went seven innings while Strasburg went six. Unfortunately for Maholm, it’s not how long you last, it’s how many runs you give up. Strasburg allowed just one run while Maholm allowed four.
- 3 Balls at this game (1 pictured because I gave 2 away)
Numbers 384-386 for my “career”:
- 164 Balls in 39 Games= 4.21 Balls Per Game
- 3 Balls x 33,888 Fans= 101,664 Competition Factor
- 48 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 4 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 2 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
- 124 Balls in 28 Games= 4.43 Balls Per Game at Nationals Park
- 20 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 1 Ball
- 4 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
- 2 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
- Time Spent On Game 3:32- 11:22= 7 Hours 50 Minutes
8/20/12 Braves at Nationals: Nationals Park
After a series of waiting endlessly for David Wright’s 200th home run, it was time to go back to Nationals Park for my fourth game there in as many days:
Usually I’m not that excited of attending four games in a row at ANY stadium, but I had come to the conclusion that I wouldn’t be getting a ball tossed to me by the Nationals (intentionally, anyway) anytime soon, so I was excited for the arrival of the not-offensively-anemic Braves, who also didn’t know me.
My first ball of the day came when Gio Gonzalez hit a ball to my right. I chased after it, but someone else managed to pick it up before I could get there. He then hit a ball back to where I had previously been standing. Thankfully, no one judged it correctly, and I was able to run right to the spot and gobble it up :
After the pitchers- all of whom are righties- stopped hitting, I headed over to the right field seats for Bryce Harper’s group. I still haven’t seen one of Harper’s legendary batting practices, but I did manage to snag a ball from his bat.
I was on the middle staircase of the right field seats when Harper launched a ball to the section closest to center field. I saw this right away and raced there to scoop up the ball before anyone else could:
And yes, both of my first two balls were Shea Stadium commemorative balls.
The group then changed again and I headed over to the Red Seats for the group of Morse, Zimmerman, and Werth. During that group, I caught three balls on the fly.
The first was an extremely easy catch right smack-dab in the middle of the section where I had been standing:
This was also a Shea Stadium commemorative, and was off the bat of Jayson Werth.
Speaking of Shea Stadium commemorative balls off the bat of Jayson Werth, that’s what my next (and fifth) ball of the day was. I won’t bore you with another picture of the ball in my glove, but the ball was traveling to my left, so I ran in this row and made the forehand catch over a row of seats:
I then asked all of the kids in the section with gloves if the hadn’t gotten a ball. When I finally got to the one who didn’t, I gave him the ball:
(His dad is blocking him, but you can still kind of see him in the white shirt.)
My next ball came when Ryan Zimmerman hit a high fly ball to my right. I ran as far as I could, reach over the glass that separates the Red Seats and the bullpen, and made the grab:
It felt pretty awesome in that the ball would have fallen into the bullpen had it not been for me; kind of like a home run rob. For those of you keeping score at home, that was my fifth snag of the day; all of which were hit, Shea Stadium commemorative balls.
Soon after that, the Braves started throwing, so even though the Nationals were still hitting, I headed into foul ground to try to get a ball from one of them. After waiting for a while, I finally got a ball from Erik Hinske:
Do you see the coach crossing the field in the left part of the picture? That’s where Hinske was. He tossed the ball to me while I was right behind the wheelchair section. Unfortunately, he tossed it over my head, so it rattled around in the seats before I could secure ball #6 and thank Hinske.
I then headed over to right field for a group stacked with the Braves’ lefties. Ironically, though, my only ball from this group came when Dan Uggla hit an opposite-field home run and I played the ball off a deflection:
The guy by my glove almost had it, but he botched the play, so I swooped in.
The right field seats were getting pretty crowded at this point, so I headed back over to the Red Seats. I didn’t snag a hit ball, but a fan dropped a ball into the gap, so I knew it was time to deploy the Glove Trick. However, as I lowered it down, a member of the groundscrew walked through the gap and inserted the ball in my glove. I had already promised the people next to me I would give the ball away to the kid who it was intended for, so I did when I reeled it up:
Okay, you’ve got three planes at work here. We’ll start closest and move back:
1. The Glove Trick- Complete with rubber band and pen to hold it open.
2. Kid- You can see the kid I gave it away to just past the glove in the red hat. He’s holding the ball between his hand and glove.
3. Groundskeeper- You can see him ducking at the very end of the gap.
Then for the end of batting practice-when Juan Francisco, who hits BOMBS, was hitting- I decided to try my luck and head up to the second deck in right field. I wasn’t the only one up there as fellow ballhawk, Rick Gold, had the same idea:
Rick had already snagged a Francisco bomb, but there wasn’t another hit there, so I ended BP at 8 Balls.
I then headed down to the lower level in right field where, to my delight, the tarp was being pulled on the field. I may have mentioned this before, but I absolutely love when it starts raining right *after* batting practice ends. There is truly nothing more beautiful:
Of course, the baseball gods had to have their fun with me, so the groundscrew didn’t actually put the tarp on for at least half an hour. They just stood there with the tarp as you see it in the picture. Waiting to make sure the rain was sufficient to put the tarp on the field.
As for the game, the Nationals jumped out to an early 4-1 lead. The Braves then picked away at the lead to tie the game 4-4. What happens when a game is tied after the ninth inning? FREE BASEBALL!!
The game had already been delayed an hour by the rain. So when it came time for extra innings, most of the fans left the stadium. When this happened, I stood up the rest of the game and waited for any ball to come my way:
Actually, since most of the ushers had left, I ran back and forth between right and left field depending on the hitter; just like old times at Nationals Park. If you’re newish to the blog, I used to buy two tickets on either side of the outfield on Nationals Park and would run back and forth during the game depending on whether a righty or a lefty was hitting. I rationalized it by saying that I was spending about the same on two outfield tickets as I would have on one ticket at Citi Field. (Last year, I was. The cheapest ticket at Citi Field was $23. With my student discount, the outfield tickets at Nationals Park were/are $13 each.)
Anyway, check out the emptiness that allowed me to stand up- and not block anyone’s view:
If I’ve never mentioned it before I absolutely LOVE when a game feels like batting practice. Even if nothing comes my way, I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else in the world at that moment.
Long story short: nothing reached the seats for the rest of the game. Eventually, the Nationals won on a Dan Uggla bobble. Also during the game, I gave away five, count ’em, FIVE baseballs away to the usher who’s let me sit in the right field seats since last year. Usually he’s pretty reasonable with his requests (usually one or two balls), but apparently there was a family in from Chicago, so in addition to the two I usually give him, he asked for three others. Also, I should mention this isn’t just an usher being greedy. He gives all the balls I give him away to kids, elders, or other people in the section. That said, I gave away two on my own, the usher took five, so of the eight balls I snagged, I only kept the best Shea Stadium ball. That’s right, I gave away SEVEN of my eight baseballs. (Actually, I technically gave away eight. The usher offered me an exchange where he have me one of Rick Gold’s balls for one of my Shea balls, but he then asked for THAT ball to give to someone.
After the game, a security guard threw a bunch of balls at fans in the stands, but he had THE worst aim I’ve ever seen and about five of them bounced back onto the field. I just stood on top of one of the balls and asked each person that passed it if they could toss the ball up to me. Security Guard? “I’m on duty. I have to stand in this exact spot.” Police Officer? “No, I can’t.” Groundscrew? “No, we’re not allowed to.” It was just sitting there on the warning track:
(The other two shadows you see are of an Asian couple who was also waiting for the ball to be tossed up. Eventually, a guy in a dress shirt walked by, so I asked him point blank, “Can you toss me that ball, please?” He bent down, grabbed the ball, and kept walking to the dugout. Here he is on his way over there:
At this point, it was about 12:35, so I figured, ” I don’t have anywhere to be any time soon; I’m going to see if there’s a ball left in the bullpen.” Turns out there was- in the bottom right quadrant of the picture, against the black background:
I asked the bullpen attendant in the upper left corner if he could toss me the ball, but he kind of shrugged and said something I couldn’t hear.
I was just about to leave, when the security guard came in from the warning track by the Nationals dugout. The bullpen motioned for me to stop, and asked the security guard something. He then picked up the ball and tossed it to me:
Many thanks, Mr. Bullpen Attendant. At 12:45 AM, that was the latest I had ever snagged a baseball. Actually, forget snag a baseball; that was the latest I had ever been in a baseball stadium period.
Not surprisingly, by the time I got out of the stadium, the Metro was closed:
That meant I had to figure out the Washington bus system. Let me just show you a map of the Washington bus map:
Can you imagine navigating that for the first time without ever doing it previously?
Once I got out of the stadium, I must have walked back and forth a mile before I finally got to the right bus stop. After taking the bus a stop, I ran into a familiar face in Rick (as in Gold). Turns out, we were both going the same direction. We took the bus until the end of the line. We then got off by Washington’s Archives building. Our next bus wasn’t due for another half hour. We discussed things from the renovation in Oakland’s coliseum to what the heck I was supposed to use an iPad for.
Once we got on the second bus, we ran into someone we both knew. It was the usher I mentioned earlier, Benny. I must say, Benny is one of the more entertaining ushers I have ever seen. Probably the most energetic. He is one of the most meticulous ushers about his duty before the game, but once the game begins, he is a dancer. Anyway, here is my view at 1:45 in the morning on the second bus:
I can now say that my whole midnight adventure was fun, but at the time it was more like a “what am I doing?” feeling.
• 9 Balls at this game (2 pictured because I gave 7 away)
• 161 Balls (as many as I had last year in 46 Games) in 38 Games= 4.24 Balls Per Game
• 9 Balls x 21,298 Fans= 191,682 Competition Factor
• 47 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
• 3 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
• 121 Balls in 27 Games at Nationals Park= 4.48 Balls Per Game
• 19 straight Games in Nationals Park with at least 1 Ball
• 3 straight Games in Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
• Time Spent On Game 3:42- 1:52= 10 Hours 10 Minutes
• With my first “9” game, I have now snagged in a game every total from 0 to 11 baseballs at a game.
8/12/12 Braves at Mets: Citi Field
I thought I’d start off the entry with a “Before the Gates Open” video:
You just saw me snag my first ball of the day. On my second ball for the day, here’s what happened:
I ranged over a section and lined myself up with the ball. However, the lady in the picture was camped underneath the ball, so I didn’t reach in front of her. Instead, I waited for the ball to clank off her hands, picked it up, and gave it to her for even trying to catch the ball ( I almost didn’t, though because she started whining right as I picked up the ball that it wasn’t fair that I got the ball).
Then things went really dead. Nothing came even close to me. The boringness of this span is reflected by the only picture I took during it:
I don’t even really pay attention to Olney’s work as I don’t really watch baseball on ESPN anymore, but on this day he was “news”.
My next ball was my weirdest and perhaps most controversial of the season. Here is a picture to help visualize what I’m about to explain next:
A ball flew into the row behind the guy in the orange shirt (I was in the row below him). It then trickled down the steps, beneath the seats. It got all the way down to my row, so I grabbed the ball. The guy below the arrow then grabbed the ball as well, so, as I have always does this season, counted the ball and let go of the ball (I do this to avoid a system that may lead to confrontational or otherwise ugly situations for me). Then a weird thing happened. He said something like, “you got the ball first; here you go”. Then instinctually, since I don’t accept balls from other fans, I gave the ball away:
Later, on the recommendation of Zack, who I mentioned in the video, I moved over to the center field section for Juan Francsico’s swings. While I was there, either Francisco or another lefty hit a ball:
I ran up to the rail and leaned as far as I could with the railing at my upper stomach, but my black glove was just floppy enough that the ball hit the pocket but pulled my thumb flap back and the ball dropped and ran all the way to the home run apple. It’s frustrating to know that I would have had the ball with my old glove.
Anyway, the game itself was pretty interesting. I always love being at Sunday Night Baseball games. I don’t know why. Probably because I don’t have to get to the ballpark as early as I would have for a 7:00 game and the fact that I know I’m at the only night MLB game in the whole country. Given it was a SNB game, I decided to take a picture of the blimp hovering over my head:
As for the game, the Mets shelled the previously stellar Ben Sheets, but, in typical Mets fashion let their bullpen make things interesting. Until the ninth inning, the Mets were leading 6-1, but then the Mets’ relievers managed to walk and allow to score four Braves.
- 3 Balls at this game (1 pictured because I gave 2 away)
Numbers 358-360 in my life:
- 137 Balls in 31 Games= 4.42 Balls Per Game
- 3 Balls x 24,891= 74,673 Competition Factor
- 40 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 16 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 4 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
- 85 Balls in 32 Games at Citi Field= 2.66 Balls Per Game
- 32 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Citi Field
- 4 straight Games at Citi Field with at least 2 Balls
- 4 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Citi Field
- Time Spent On Game 4:13- 12:17= 8 Hours 4 Minutes