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:
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
What can I say? The Cardinals were World Series champions with one of the best runs for a team. Ever.
Offseason Grade: D
Carlos Beltran, and J.C. Romero.
Albert Pujols, Octavio Dotel, Ryan Franklin, Gerald Laird, Cory Patterson, and Nick Punto.
Why?: The most exciting things to pay attention to this offseason concerning the Cardinals were the loss of Pujols and the addition of Beltran. Looking at just these two, the Cardinals didn’t do that poorly this offseason. However, if you look at all of the names on the list, the Cardinals actually have had some bullpen trouble. I personally don’t think that either Dotel or Franklin can be compensated for by J.C. Romero, much less the loss of both of them. Also, Arthur Rhodes is on the market and common wisdom dictates that he will probably not be coming back
As far as the other “notable subtractions”, it really just takes away from the depth of the team. Now, if a Catcher, Outfielder, or Infielder goes down, the player called upon to replace his spot will be a lesser quality replacement than it otherwise would have been. Also, there are less possible pinch-hitters to be called upon to hit for the Pitcher. Of course, the depth of the team matters less this year than it would have last year as Mike Matheny is the manager and not Tony LaRussa.
There really weren’t that many moves made on the part of the Cardinals. That’s why there isn’t that much to talk about. So this is it, I guess.
Predicted Record Range: 80-85 wins.
First off, here, is the link to the initial entry.
Predicted Record: 80-85 wins
Actual Record: 90-72
I actually wrote this entry a little after Adam Wainwright went down to Tommy John Surgery. So, had I written the entry in early March, I probably would have been almost right on. Even though I made a small deal about him going down in the entry, I was slightly doubting my decision to do so. Just the previous season, Wainwright was one of the top 5 pitchers in the National League, if not all of baseball. I think the reason is that I didn’t react as much as I should have, is that the Cardinals had what I perceived to be a really good rotation other than Wainwright.
I think the obvious answer, for those who pay closer attention to Baseball, as to why the Cardinals did succeed like they did was Lance Berkman. They got a player they thought to be on a downward slope and ended up with a near MVP candidate. He wasn’t the NL Comeback Player of the Year for nothing. Personally, the Cardinals were one of the two top road teams I saw in 2011, if not the top road teams I saw, and Lance Berkman was the guy to hit a ball to me in Right Field of whatever stadium I was in.
All this said, the Cardinals were very lucky to make it into the playoffs. They were a below average team in the first half of the season, and had the Braves won two of their last 5, they wouldn’t have had the chance to make it into the playoffs. Also, although I congratulate them for winning and appreciate what a World Series they gave us, the Cardinals winning the World Series yet again with the lowest win total in the NL just goes to show why it is meaningless to win as many games as possible during the season when even the worst team can win the playoffs (World Series). Basically, that’s it.
First game at what they call the Trop:
No there is no typo in the title. I did not go to the game the day before because my step-brother’s USF tour among other things caused me to miss what would have been all but 20 minutes of batting practice.
I knew this game was going to be chock full o’ Cardinals fans as I saw this on my plane in:
Yes that is a Cardinal head. A visor with plumage on top. He was one of at least five Cardinals fans but the only one that could be spotted from his seat. Anyway, not good considering the Cardinals would be on the field far longer than the Rays.
But to the game…
Actually no let me first express my love of domed stadiums.
I was the first one into the stadium and it was truly magical. My NEW photographer (it was my mom this time as I fired Pipe promptly after I saw the pictures from last game) was pretty close to a heat stroke from standing out in the Tampa heat for half an hour so she took the local route to the seats stopping at the water fountain. So, I didn’t have any pictures from this time but let me tell you that (at least for me) was great. I like domed stadiums to begin with because they are like their own little world of baseball but then to be the first fan to arrive in the seats is something surreal that I would highly recommend doing sometime. Though, I have only gone to Tropicana and the Metrodome (i have gone to miller Park but the roof was open every game) so it might just be the white roof and all the light that it reflected but for me it was great.
Okay, this time I mean it back to the game…
I was the first one to arrive in the Left Field Bleachers for a good five minutes. Within the first two I got Jeremy Hellickson to toss me a ball. Yeah, Number 100,WOO/phew!:
I celebrate in this way because half of batting practice at Nationals Park, I expected to get it in San Francisco after all the praise I had heard, didn’t go to any games in New York in the week between, and didn’t go to the game yesterday.
I could have just stopped there and called it a day and I would have been a clam as the stadium was filling up but it was still pretty empty at the time, there were still balls to be snagged, and the Cardinal pitchers were starting to warm-up.
Quickly after that picture was taken, I ran into the tunnel to my right went into foul ground through the concourse and emerged a Cardinals fan (no picture). I then slid behind the pitchers warming up as I was going to ask them for a ball after they finished. Turned out I didn’t need to wait as whoever Mitchell Boggs was throwing with air mailed their ball into the beach bar along the left field foul line. A security guard picked up the ball and was about to throw it back to Boggs but he had picked up a different ball. Here is the path of the ball:
The path is the white streak. The ball actually bounced off of the foul pole a bit but the security guard was in the actual beach bar.
I then moved back further to straight away left field. Before I could make it all the way Kelly Shoppach pulled a ball pretty well down the left field line and this is not a picture of the exact tunnel but for purpose of demonstration it should do:
The arrow is the spot where I caught ball. I was walking to the right, saw the ball coming, ran to the back of the tunnel, and jumped to make the catch. Pretty simple and I got some applause for saving a couple sitting a few rows behind me that were enjoying some nachos.
As we neared the end of Rays bp several lefties were coming up, the left field seats were really crowding up. So I went over to right field. I probably should have tried to get get another ball from the Cardinals pitchers but I live with my decision because I got the Shoppach homer in the process . I didn’t get anything for the rest of Rays bp but was sooo glad I didn’t stay in left field:
That may not seem like it is that crowded but if you look carefully the tunnels that I mentioned before are actually in the seats so they impede lateral movement in rows say 3-10 ad since the first few rows are usually crowded in any stadium that means that the best way to catch a Home Run is to stay back behind the tunnels which means that you have to be on your toes in case a ball is hit into the outfield that could possibly could be a toss-up because one must maneuver the fans on either side of the tunnel to get within ear shot. In the picture above it shows that the seat were even crowded behind the tunnels making the conditions miserable.
After the Rays stopped hitting, the Cardinals took a good 5-7 minutes to get hitting. In that time, Jason Motte was throwing a ball against a wall about twenty feet and I was really tempted to ask him to play catch but didn’t because he had Mitchell Boggs right next to him. Oh well, I got him to throw me a ball a few minutes later.
As for the seats, no that crowded as this was a picture of the first three rows:
The two bona fide stars of bp were Matt Holiday and Lance Berkman. There was one round where Holiday did not hit one ball below the top of the tunnels hitting one as far as this:
The people up there I am sure were not expecting anything to come close and as a result were taken by surprise. Thankfully no one was hurt but that ball must have gone 500 feet or close to it because although it is not dead center it is also 30+ ft above the field. I was in left field while this power show was going on but sadly didn’t get anything because of the crowded seats. Berkman, on the other hand, was a little less impressive but hit them to the less crowded right field seats. He was routinely pulling bombs to straight away right but the on I caught was in right center right about where the red arrow is:
It might have been on the other side of the aisle but it definitely was once again a jumping catch that saved this time another couple that were in the process of finding their seats for the game. (I am not trying to get people to ballhawk but for safety reasons. I f you are going to bp actually pay attention and/or BRING A GLOVE.)
That was it for bp. I took another picture of myself with #100 with the tiny Tropicana sign in the background:
During the game, I first tried to stand in a tunnel that led to the cross aisle that spans the length of the distance between the foul poles (not in the outfield). I was then told by an usher he had to keep those tunnels clear and I had to leave. Fair enough. I left and found an unguarded section further down the line:
My family (see previous entry) was once again in attendance and I sat with them while moaning in disbelief at the lack of foul balls in our area despite the surplus of lefties in the line-ups. As for the 50s themed promotion:
I guess it is inexpensive because the team already plays music and so all that costs money is buying the new uniforms for the team (the Rays wore the uniform of the Tampa Smokers, which were the team in the area in the 1950s), mascot, and mascot assistants but i would still say it wasn’t worth the effort because I saw maybe 10 people dressed up for the occasion and as you can tell I was all over the place.
Anyway, the Rays won 5-1 with all of their runs coming in the 6th inning as they chased Kyle McClellan out of the game but on a more historical note, Johnny Damon passed Ted Williams on the all-time hits list in the first inning at 2,655:
For those at home who have heard the legend of Ted Williams and think that number is low it is because in addition to hitting well Williams had great eyes and walked a lot. He also took five years off from baseball to join the army in WWII because he was still in his prime when he left we can safely assume he would be in the 3,500 range had he stayed.
Good day for #100.
- 5 Balls at this game
(#100-104) on the career
- 43 Balls in 15 games= 2.87 balls per game (yeah remember when it was 2.2)
- 40 games straight with at least 1 ball (woohoo)
- 10 straight games outside of New York
- 5 balls* 23,897 fans (20,00 of which were Cardinals fans)= 119,485
- Time at game 4:23-10:17=5 hours 54 minutes
Yeah I know I said I was going to write an entry about my game on the third of June but I was away from home so unless you wanted to see pictures like this…
Yes that is the whole image. I was in a rush to upload them to the internet for whatever reason and forgot they needed more time to upload
Anyway, I did indeed go to Washington DC on one of these:
Overpaid for a “Giant” ice cream sandwich:
Arrived two hours late and had to carry my suitcase backpack to the game:
But as Bono would say, “it(was) a beautiful day” and I was excited because this was actually my first time going to a stadium for batting practice knowing what I was doing outside of New York…why are you laughing?
I will now give you a moment to stand in awe of the majesty that is Nationals Park:
Well the sign at least but you have to admit it is a pretty nice sight to see. Or am I just brainwashed from hearing the Mets’ annoying repetitiive music an hour prior to the gates opening every day. It was also nostalgic to have the gates open two and a half hours before game time.
At the gate I had met up with Rick Gold a ballhawk that in his younger days was native to Oakland. This comes into play because he immediately as the gates opened he went to right field. That meant that after getting my bag checked for the bomb that was obviously hiding beneath my clothes I would head to left field.
Just as I headed over there I saw this going on in right field:
If you can’t see, it is the Nationals pitchers warming up on the right field foul line. I have accustomed myself so much to 2 hour opening times that I forgot the home team did this 2 1/2 hours before game time.Anyway, I stayed in left field because of my uber-packed backpack.
Best no decision of the year. A matter of seconds after I decided this a ball flew to my left. It was quite a bit back from my row and there were already people converging at the point it would drop so my hope was the it would land and trickle down the seats.
This picture shows what happened:
The (very light, very small) red arrow is my path to the ball. The ball was clearly going behind where I was going to be able to run to. When it bounced up in the air after hitting a seat I was a foot from it and snatched it out of the air ala Rickey Henderson.
The next ball was a cleaner catch:
This next one was also over my head so I ran up the stairs, turned my shoulder and caught the ball over it. Demonstrated by the much more visible but at the same time poorly done red arrow. That one felt more like a Wide Receiver in football. But wait… it was only 6:39. Batting Practice hadn’t actually started until 6:35 so that meant I had already almost matched my season average in four minutes. Oooh I had a good feeling about this. So good I gave that ball to this young(er) Cardinals fan:
In the picture there is no reaction because he hadn’t actually presented it to his dad yet but you can see his sister looking at it in his hands (don’t worry they were extremely nice about it).
Then a ball flew into the bullpen which put a damper on my spirits. Why? Because this is how many had gone in there:
Four baseballs had already made their way in there which was exactly four more than the number of devices I had ready because of my late bus. Here was my script for the next portion of bp:
Cue: Lefty batters start hitting
For: Exit stage right
So that’s what I did when Roger Bernadina & Co. came up and was there ever room to run:
At Citi field if the seats are ever that empty in bp you are a) on the second deck or b) 400 feet from home plate. I just had three problems all in this picture:
1) Alex Kopp– a ballhawk that lives in New Jersey and caught nine baseballs that day.
2) Rick Gold- Mentioned previously that typically puts up double digits at Nationals Park
3) Cardinals Fans galore- For some reason (and I’ve only gone here for two series) the opposing teams fans out-number the Nationals’ fans and so it is almost easier to get balls from the Nationals than it is from the opposing team.
But when a ball went into foul ground I was further back as you can see from that last picture and since the right field bullpen blocked off the first 5-10 rows and so I had Alex beat and he gave up on getting the ball. In case you were wondering, there were people to my left that could have beaten me had it been a straight up race but no fans were allowed past the foul pole on either side. Now I knew the usher guarding the pole would get the ball but did they go over and wait for him to get the ball. I think not!
Here is a picture of the usher mid-sentence:
It is always nice to see ushers that are actually nice by nature as you can see by this gentleman’s smile but that wasn’t the only thing that was better about Nationals Park. Let me compare it to Citi Field for the moment:
The red line on top is where the overhang would be for Citi Field (left field) and the yellowish line is where Home Run balls would be completely out of the question. For those wondering, the line here at Nationals Park (right field was so far back the picture couldn’t even contain it.
As I returned to my spot, I saw that Jason Motte was having some fun at the fans’ expense by throwing a ball up just where a fan could not reach it so I naturally took this as a challenge to catch the ball but as I leaned out to attempt to catch the ball I noticed Jaime Garcia running to the wall after a ball. I asked him nicely in Spanish and he responded by joining Motte in tossing the ball up and trying to get me to catch it. Fortunately, he was way worse than Motte and tossed it at such an angle so that it was far from me on its way up but the backspin on the ball carried it towards me on the descent.
Let me take this time to show the reason (besides my awesome Spanish skills), that this particular ball found its way into my glove:
First of all, sorry for not looking in the camera. I was distracted by a ball, this was the only shot with both the hat and shirt in it, and my camera screen was broken so I didn’t know either of the first two reasons.
I do not have any cardinals gear. The hat is actually on loan from the Greg Barasch baseball museum. Greg is a very talented and experienced ballhawk from New York that can be found at almost every Mets weekday home game (unfortunately for me) and also happens to be my next door neighbor of about 18 years. Y’all older readers may remember he also lent me a Rangers hat and towel that I used in my playoff game last year. So yeah, it is always nice to have that security blanket and I mean what are the odds that people in the same building much less floor get into the same hobby independently of each other. Oh and the shirt if you can see if actually turned inside out. That is because it is actually a Phillies shirt and I wanted to color coordinate.
Anyway from the start of my ballhawking career, I have not had much luck adjusting to the group of Pujols and Holliday but I figured that I would have a better chance taking on ten people just at batting practice in left than two ballhawks in right. My plan was to lay back here:
Catch anything that came back that far as I had lateral room to run and run up, hope the ball deflected off of someone’s hands and scramble for the ball. The later did happen… sort of.
About five minutes after I got to the section, Pujols hit a Home Run of decent height and length that I realized was going to be one rail gap short of where I was standing. I ran up but a barehanded man was camped under it. Yeah I could have reached in front of him as there was no way he was going to catch a ball going over 100 mph off the bat of Albert Pujols but ballhawks are already seen in enough of a negative light. So I stayed back right behind him, waited for the ricochet, and missed out on the ball as he deflected it to the side of him.
“Look at the mark Albert Pujols left on my hand!” This just goes to show why you bring your glove to the ball game. That group stopped hitting about ten minutes after that and so I went back to right field. However, how could I pass up an opportunity to take a picture of myself on the Stadium big screen.
Here it is:
If you can see I am actually holding the camera to my ear. This is because of two reasons: 1. My screen was/is broken and I had to hear the click to make sure I took the picture and 2. I had my glove on at this moment and needed my head for stability.
Thank goodness I didn’t stay for that long, though because as I was walking down the stairs of the right field stands, an infielder on the cardinals, Daniel Descalso hit a ball to either my right or my left (ok, I know that sounds vague but I know where the ball landed I just don’t remember what staircase I was coming down) fell into the seats and I beat the fan sitting down in the picture demonstrating how empty right field was. That was now five ball on the day and three of them had been hit balls. Last time I checked I was averaging 1.67 thrown balls per game (.67 hit which is a bit amazing to see the stark difference but irrelevant at the point I am trying to make). Discounting the security guard toss-up because that would have never been possible at Citi Field because of their useless railing blocking off foul territory from the outfield I only really had one toss-up for this game. There was a reason for that.
Normally, I have time to go home and print out my rosters for both teams but because of the whole bus situation I had to go on memory. This led to me either making anonymous requests “Excuse me but can you throw me the ball please?” which are far less effective than if they have a name behind them or getting their names wrong altogether. For example, I have since realized that I called Michell Boggs Kyle as I thought he was Kyle McClellan and I called some other person who I could not find Jaime Garcia who obviously came out later and threw me my other toss-up. Well, I wouldn’t get another toss-up for the rest of the day.
It was almost the end of batting practice and I was fine ignoring that it had been a pretty slow bp Home Runs wise because I had just matched my season high. Then came Lance Berkman. At least I think it was him but someone on the Cardinals hit five straight Home Runs to finish off bp all of which landed in this section outlined in red:
Alex was in the perfect spot to catch all of them but because there were five straight and he chased some to his left I had the chance to step into his spot and catch one on the fly. Nothing fancy I just moved a few feet to my left camped under it and caught the ball. That was now my fourth hit ball of the game. Now I don’t think i have gotten extremely better at tracking batted balls but I think that the margin for error is just so low in New York whereas here you can drift more like a real outfielder would do.
In the game I was planning to sit in right field because there were two righty pitchers but when the usher asked me to leave my first idea was to go here:
abut then I thought to myself that there would be Holliday and Pujols (yeah I did find out Holliday was still out from his appendectomy) would be hitting more Home Runs than any lefties that would be put in to face the righty pitchers. So I moved over here:
There were plenty of Home Runs, five if I recall correctly but the closest one was a Jayson Werth Home Run three sections over:
Now the bullpen coach in the bottom right corner picked up three balls and tossed them into the crowd. Not knowing his first name (Derek) because I didn’t have my roster handy I relied on purely having a Cardinals hat (it didn’t work).
I then got to have my first experience of post-Nats game metro crowding:
- 6 Balls at this game (5 in this picture because I gave one away)
numbers 87-92 on the career:
- 31 Balls in 12 games=2.58 balls per game
- 37 games straight with at least 1 ball
- 2 games straight at Nationals Park
- 6 balls*27,130 fans= 162,780 competition factor
- Time at Game 3:55-9:35= 5 hours 40 minutes
I did go the next day so that will be up soon but if you are wondering when I will get up the game before this it will be after I get back home from San Francisco. So June 28th-ish.
They thought they were the champs. They fought the Reds strongly:
They took the competition late into the season. Then this happened:
Jim Edmonds, Ryan Theriot, Lance Berkman, Gerald Laird, Miguel Bautista, Ian Snell, and Nick Punto.
Brad Penny, Randy Winn, Pedro Feliz, Brendan Ryan, Aaron Miles, and Jeff Suppan.
Why?: Initially I was going to give them a C- but then I typed in all the notable additions and they are all solid players. I then looked and saw they didn’t have many subtractions worth crying about. They boosted each of the four Cardinal (pun intended) categories of Relief Pitching, Stating Pitching, Infield, and Outfield.
The losses are also solid players but everywhere they replaced the players and then added some more. This entry was supposed to be before Wainwright went out so I won’t count him as a subtraction but looking at these players they did decently in the offseason.
Predicted Record Range: 80-85 wins. The Wainwright isn’t enough alone to lower the wins THAT much so I say with his actual stats gone and the emotional blow it adds, 3-5 wins should be expected off of last year’s win total.
Up Next: Milwaukee Brewers