Tagged: Braves

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:

20120830-171724.jpgIf 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:

20120831-083010.jpgSince 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:

20120831-083450.jpgI was on the board!

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:

20120831-103749.jpgAs 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:

20120831-202719.jpgUnfortunately, 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:

20120901-131345.jpgAs 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:

20120901-160836.jpgStephen 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.

 

STATS:

  • 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:

20120826-125154.jpgUsually 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 :

20120826-130215.jpgAfter 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:

20120826-133446.jpgAnd 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:

20120826-134032.jpgThis 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:

20120826-135300.jpgI 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:

20120826-135543.jpg(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:

20120826-140110.jpgIt 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:

20120826-233310.jpgDo 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:

20120826-234426.jpgThe 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:

20120826-235439.jpgOkay, 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:

20120827-000752.jpgRick 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:

20120827-001251.jpgOf 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:

20120827-113708.jpgActually, 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:

20120827-122407.jpg

20120827-122431.jpg

20120827-122453.jpgIf 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:

20120827-140726.jpg(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:

20120827-141148.jpgThat’s a clown move, bro.

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:

20120827-142114.jpgI 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:

20120827-163549.jpgMany 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:

20120827-170534.jpgThat meant I had to figure out the Washington bus system. Let me just show you a map of the Washington bus map:

20120827-171200.jpgCan 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:

20120827-214331.jpgI can now say that my whole midnight adventure was fun, but at the time it was more like a “what am I doing?” feeling.

STATS:
• 9 Balls at this game (2 pictured because I gave 7 away)

20120827-214532.jpgNumbers 375-381 for my life:

20120827-214629.jpg• 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.

 

STATS:

  • 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

6/19/12 Braves at Yankees: Yankee Stadium

Question: What do you do when you have a baseball awards dinner in the Bronx and a ticket to the Orioles-Mets game?

Answer: You sell the Mets ticket on stubhub and buy a ticket to the Yankee game.

Also, look at the crew who assembled outside the gate:

20120620-132120.jpg

From left to right, that would be:

1. Myself
2.Greg Barasch– Frequent catch partner and fellow ballhawk.
3. Zack Hample– Oh, you know, just your average guy who’s caught more than 6,000 major league baseballs.
4. Matt Latimer– An MLB.com reporter, who was going to cover Zack during B.P. for a story.
5. Ross Finkelstein– Another fellow ballhawk, who I occasionally run into at games. This may be the first time we’ve gone to the same Yankee, though. Whatever, I’m too lazy to look it up.

Also at the gate, was this sign on a barricade:

20120620-135146.jpg
All of us pretty much made fun of all the ridiculous things on there, but after the fact, I thought, “You know what that’s actually not a bad idea to have all the prohibited stuff on a sign. It’s way better than playing that along with a song on a continuous loop 30 minutes before the gates open.” Are you listening, Mets?

Since there were so many of us, we actually spoke about who was going where during batting practice, as to divvy up the sections between us. I opted to go to left field. It would have been a great choice had a) the Yankees hit one ball into those seats during their portion of B.P. or b) Cody Eppley actually acknowledged any one over the age of 5.

Then, when most of the ballhawks came over to right field, here were the views to my left and to my right:

20120620-140945.jpg

20120620-141415.jpg

Yes, there were a bunch of empty seats, but how the people were configured,the furthest I could run for a ball was 10 feet, so the ball would essentially have to be hit *right* at me. As for getting a Brave to toss me a ball, forget about it. There were tons of people in Braves gear and most were in the front row.

The closest I came to getting a ball was one hit directly over my head. I moved as close as I could to the landing spot, turned around and jumped, but it sailed what must have been a few inches into another guy’s glove.

Soon after this, I decided it was better to go back over to left field and deal with the other ballhawks than to deal with that mess of a section.

There it was emptier, but it started off with the same frustration. NOTHING was coming even close to me. Then it evolved into a different kind of frustration. A Braves hitter hit a ground-rule double. I lined myself up with the ball, and it was coming right towards my glove… until a hand in front of me deflected it over my right shoulder. Words cannot described how frustrated/nervous I was at this point. My goal is to get to 100 consecutive games with at least 1 ball. After that, the plan is I go to whatever games I please, regardless of whether I can make batting practice.

Throughout nearly all of Braves B.P., I was thinking about how much longer it would take me of I got shutout this game. I wasn’t as worried as I was in right field, though. Left field was much less congested, and I could actually run around for a ball that was hit. Here are the views to my right and my left:

20120621-001243.jpg

20120621-001323.jpg

I didn’t feel confident, however, in my ability to get a Braves player to throw me a ball. Ironically, this is how my only ball of the day would come.

When I got to left field, I ran into Mark McConville, who had just arrived with, I believe, a few of his co-workers. He obviously didn’t have a ball yet either, so we were both pretty desperate. Actually, on that ball I missed that I mentioned earlier, Mark also almost came up with it, but another fan beat him to the ball.

Anyway, Mark and I had been giving Craig Kimbrel an earful for quite a few minutes. Finally, Kimbrel turned around and lofted a ball right at Mark, but those pesky hands are always up at Yankee Stadium. Even though the ball was very clearly intended for Mark, a hand deflected the ball. The deflection sent the ball right towards my stomach, and almost as if I had Alien Hand Syndrome, I grabbed the ball with my bare hand right before it had a chance to hit the seat in front of me. Here is the ball with Kimbrel and Chad Gaudin in the background:

20120621-004617.jpg

I then (deservedly) got a few lines (delivered jokingly) along the general lines of: “You’re killin’ me, Mateo.” from Mark. As relieved as I was to not get shutout, I felt really bad for him, since I was in a similar situation just moments earlier.

Then batting practice ended, and I spent a few minutes seeing Zack sign a couple of baseballs:

20120621-005123.jpg
as I talked with the reporter, Matt, and gave him all my contact information for… well who knows what it could turn into.

Then I conceded to the fact I that I had to go to the awards dinner I mentioned earlier.

It was my first game ever leaving right after batting practice, and I must say, I thought it would feel weirder than it did to be leaving as everyone else was entering the stadium:

20120621-005712.jpg
I guess I’m already accustomed to the notion from reading it on other ballhawks’ blog entries.

As for the dinner, I received this even though I have never played an inning of baseball for Fordham Prep:

20120621-005915.jpg

    Stats:

;


• 1 Ball at this game

20120621-010349.jpg
Number 269 for my life:

20120621-010424.jpg
• 46 Balls in 11 Games= 4,18 Balls Per Game
• 20 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
• 1 Ball x 41,219 Fans= 41,219 Competition Factor
• 53 Balls in 15 Games at the New Yankee Stadium= 3.53 Balls Per Game
• 15 straight Games at the New Yankee Stadium with at least 1Ball
• Time at Game 4:26-6:17= 1 Hour 51 Minute

Atlanta Braves 2012 Offseason Recap and Preview

The Braves’ story of 2011 should have been their historically great bullpen back three:

Sadly, it was their semi-historically great collapse at the end of the season:

Grade: D

Notable Additions:

Nothing. They really added absolutely nothing notable to their team. They *re-signed* a couple of notable people, but they added nothing that wasn’t already on the team.

Notable Subtractions:

Derek Lowe, Brooks Conrad, Alex Gonzalez, Wes Helms, Scott Linebrink, Julio Lugo, Nate McLouth, and George Sherill.

Why?: I get the fact that I created this category and made its title the rhetorical question that it is, but honestly, I cannot imagine why anyone would ask “Why” I gave the Braves such a bad grade. They added NOTHING! In addition to that, their subtraction list is almost a two-liner. Sure they’re not franchise-makers that are on that list, which is why I didn’t give the Braves an “F”, but it’s enough to say they lost a whole lot more than they brought in, which is the qualification for a “D”.

That silly little self-responsive rant said, the Braves are a young team, whose starters are on the upswing. I mean Jason Heyward can only bounce back from his past season. Any worse and they would just have to replace him with a replacement-level player.Freddie Freeman showed amazing spouts of talent that could make him into a very good 1st Baseman, Tommy Hanson still has to show us what he can do with a full season of work, my favorite Braves player, Julio Teheran, still has to show us what made him their top prospect. I could go on but those are the major names.

What it comes down to for the Braves in the end is that they have the potential to have a VERY good rotation (Jurrjens, Hudson, Hanson, Teheran, and another), they already have the best back end -if not entire bullpen- in the major leagues (O’Flaherty, Venters, and Kimbrel), and they can have an explosive offense if their pieces come together (Jones, Uggla, McCann, Heyward, Freeman, Bourn, and Prado). This team could actually surpass their season win-total from last season this year.

Predicted Record Range: 87-92 wins

Next Up: Los Dodgers de El Pueblo Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciuncula

Re-view of Preview: Atlanta Braves

First off, here, is the entry horribly mangled by the transition to WordPress. It just happens that some pictures in certain entries appear as several in this particular entry appear as they were lost in the transition from Two Apart to WordPress.

 

Predicted Record: 91-96 wins

Actual Record: 89-73

 

This was pretty much right on because most of my prediction revolved around the acquisition of Dan Uggla, who was absolutely wretched compared to expectation this season. I mean, yes, he did have a 33 game hitting streak from the beginnings of July to the beginnings of April, but do you realize that despite that he had a .233 average for the season. This just shows how terrible his first half was that he could get at least 1 hit for 33 games straight and still not have an average above .250.

 

Imagine he actually hit his usual .260-.280. We would have a different World Series champion this year. It wouldn’t necessarily be the Braves, but they were the team the Cardinals beat out to get into the playoffs in the first place. Despite all of this, I still have no idea how the Braves didn’t make the playoffs. After the first game in their penultimate series against the Nationals (which I was at all three games of) the Braves magic number (number of their wins+ Cardinals losses to get into the playoffs) was 2 or 3. The weirder thing: a Nationals fan in the bleachers the second game was telling  a Braves fan that nothing would give him more joy than to keep them from the playoffs, which looked like a fantasy at that point.

 

Anyway, I pretty much nailed the Braves if Dan Uggla would have played up to expectations.

9/25/11 Braves at Nationals: Nationals Park

This was, at the time, what I thought to be my last game of the season. Let me be the first to announce that it was ****NOT**** how I’d imagine my last game would go. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it sure felt like it when I entered the stadium. I met up with Alex Kopp at the Center Field gate and we raced in as soon as the gates opened.

Normally, the Nationals take a while to start hitting but there wasn’t even a cage up:

(this is where you imagine a batting cage not being on the field because I lost all of pictures from the last few games of the season)

I understand that it was a day game but the reason that teams don’t take bp on a day game is usually because they had a night game the day before and they have to sleep in. The previous game, however, was a day game itself so I had really thought there would be bp.

I had already gone up to the second deck in Right Field because I wanted to get a ball from the pitchers but they took ten years to start warming up the the previous day and so people in Left Field had seen me waiting and came up.

Once the Nationals finally came out, the Braves were five minutes from starting their throwing. As a result, I only got in one request and the situation was a pretty unique one. I had been waiting all season to use this refrence but I waited for Tyler Clippard to stop throwing. The reason being, he was on a Nationals pre-game show with Drew Storen where a camera person followed them around for a day (they’re roommates). When Clippard was almost done making eggs for breakfast, he remarked that they were: “as smooth as the other side of the pillow.” Drew Storen then mocked him for it once more in the segment for butchering the idiom, cliche or whatever that type of saying is called. When Clippard finished throwing, I asked him if he could, “Toss it up to me as smooth as the other side of the pillow.” I could just tell that he was paying attention to me when I called, “Tyler!” but he turned away from me when I made the refrence was made. Clippard is usually not the friendliest of players and I thought that I could crack him open up a bit with that but apparently not.

This was enough dealing with the Nationals so when the Braves got on the field, I ran from the upper Right Field stands to the Left Field foul line. There another thing happened to me in that I am 95% sure I got a ball because my numbered balls skip that number and I remember giving the ball away to a kid but have no recollection of the player throweing me the ball. I have no idea how this happened but it just did. Let’s call this ball #2 on the day. To make things even weirder, I know almost exactly where I caught/gave away the ball. Weird, right?

I then stayed in Right Field/ the Red Seats for a few Braves bp groups (by the way, did I mention the Braves took bp once again while the Nationals didn’t). For some it would have been a failure as I got only one ball, but for me it was great. When I was in the Red Seats, Julio Teheran was shagging in Center Field. As I mentioned in the first entry of this weekend, my goal of the weekend was to get a ball from him because he is the first Colombian pitcher in the major leagues and I myself am a Colombian pitcher. My entire focus was on that one thing. If a ball were hit right to me at that moment it probably would have sent me to the hospital. When he shagged a ball in the R-CF gap and was about to toss it into the RF stands, I yell out as loud as I could, “Una pelota para un Colombiano por favor?” (A ball for a Colombian,please?). He then made a 180 to face me and threw me one of the dirties bp balls I have ever seen. I kid you not when I say that I had a minor case of the butterflies. I then went onto say that I was also a pitcher and to get his gesture of approval was something special.

 I then went over to Right Field for the Braves Lefties (Freeman, Heyward…) and that was slightly less crowded and I did marginally better. I truly didn’t care, though. There was at least 1 ball I can think of that I would have had if I were going 100% but my mission was accomplished and I was satisfied if I didn’t get anything else.

I did get another ball but I can’t really provide much detail because all I remember is that I had to run to my right, jump over at least 1 row of seats, and I didn’t catch it on the fly. I don’t know who hit it either. I then gave this ball to an usher in Right Field that I am friends with. I then did my thing during the game of running back and forth but the Nationals weren’t nice enough to hit any Home Runs.

When the game ended, the Nationals told us to stick around and so I did. They then proceeded to do one of the coolest things I have ever seen a team do. September was Fan appreciation month and the Nationals had been giving random goodies out to fans throughout the month but this was their last home game of the season. The whole Nationals team came out of the dugout with a laundry cart like this:

It was about 3’x 6′ and full of all sorts of cheap giveaway stuff (gloves, plastic bats, frisbees, etc). The Nationals went clockwise all the way from the 1st base dugout to the Left Field foul pole and threw stuff into the stands the whole time.  I was a little further back than most people as to have more room to move but this came with its drawbacks because only the heavier items had a chance of getting to me. I had no chance at any T-shirts or things of that nature. I did end up with a bag of butterscotch candy, though:

(this is where you picture one of those pharmacy 2 for $1 bags of butterscotch)

I didn’t get anything else but I was truly impressed by how fan freindly the Nationals were being. It was one of the best displays of it I have ever seen.