So I *was* going to start this entry with a statement along the lines of “Whoo, it feels good to have baseball back! The truth is, it feels like I never really stopped ballhawking. Either that or I haven’t yet realized that baseball has started up yet. It does feel good to be at a baseball game, but it’s certainly not the same butterflies I had on my first game of last year.
Anyway, here is what happened in at the game itself. After a brief stop at the American Visionary Art Museum, I arrived at the gates of Oriole Park at Camden Yards:
There I met up with Matt Hersl to buy my tickets for these two games: 2 for me at $9 a piece and 2 for this game for my mom and step-dad at $25 a piece. If you’re keeping track, that’s $68 total. I offered Matt $70 since I like to give the people who buy me season tickets SOMEthing for their efforts (I actually should have offered him $80, since he saved me around $10-15 by buying the tickets as a season ticket holder) 99% of other people do what? “Oh thanks” and take the extra two dollars, and that’s if they buy the tickets for you in the first place. What did Matt do? He gave me the $10 bill back, and actually took an $8 hit for buying me a ticket. Not only this, but he was just generally nice to me all day.
After that, we got in line with who I *believe* to be Tim Anderson and Ben Huff. I say “believe”, because we never formally introduced ourselves. We were then were met by Avi Miller, who was a shocker since I was initially going to buy the tickets from him, but he didn’t think he was going to be there for the whole weekend.
So we were all gathered at Eutaw street’s gate H and guess which dolt forgot to take a picture of the group? If you guessed Mateo Fischer, you guessed correctly.
For some reason, even with everyone outside the gates, I arrived at the LF seats before anyone else with Matt maybe three steps behind me, and this was my view:
Orioles was really dead considering Camden Yards is one of the best HR parks in the majors. I probably could have gotten a, if not a few, baseball(s) if I asked the right Orioles, but I held off on it since I wanted to get myself in the groove getting hit balls. I caved into the temptation, though, when the non-season ticket holders were about to be let into the LF seats. I asked Wilson Betemit, Pedro Strop, and Luis Ayala for a baseball and got ignored each time. Finally, a ball bounced off the warning track, and since there was no one around me and it was going over me head, I goofed off and caught it with my back facing the field. Here is the ball:
Almost immediately afterward, I changed into my favorite team’s (Minnesota Twins) gear and stationed myself behind the pitchers that were warming up:
If you see the rightmost throwing pair, the guy closest to me is Glen Perkins. When they finished throwing, however, the far partner spotted me as a Twins fan and lobbed a ball clear over my head. He then immediately went back to talking with Perkins. By the way in which he did it, I thought he didn’t care about giving me a second chance at a ball. However, I wanted to stay and see if I could get a ball from the last throwing pair since I knew the far partner was Jeff Gray and 95% of baseball fans wouldn’t know that. Also, the number of people in the LF seats didn’t hurt in keeping me in foul territory:
Now that may not seem like that many people, but considering there had been maybe ten people, I thought it would be worth it to stay and wait the extra few minutes for Gray to finish up throwing. In this time, the guy who missed me fielded a ball and looked in my direction. I realized what was up and crouched down like a catcher where he then proceeded to lob me a ball with no one around me. Here is the player, whose identity I haven’t the fainest clue of. He is the one on the left:
Avi Miller had just arrived on the scene and although he was ten rows below me (jokingly) claimed that the ball had clearly been intended for him. We then both went over to the Left Field seats, during this journey, I was reminded that the Orioles were using 20th anniversary Oriole Park at Camden Yards balls. I mean I remember reading about them in the offseason, but I had not planned this trip in anyway around those commemorative baseballs, so it was a bonus to say the least. The LF seats were pretty crowded, but as if right on the cue of me finding out the Orioles had been using the commemorative baseballs, I managed to range ten feet to my right and snag one on the fly myself:
I didn’t get that much applause, but about five people congratulated me after the fact. As for the ball itself, to say it was in good shape is a gross understatement, it was perfect beyond perfect. If you didn’t know it had been used, you never would have guessed so. Here is a shot I took after the game:
Since the LF seats were pretty crowded, and I acknowledged that I had gotten really lucky in getting that ball hit to where it was, I moved over to the CF seats. There, I got what would be my last ball of bp. A ball hit the seats a little behind me and bounced into seats closer to me. I then beat out a man to it. Seeing as I had outraced him to the ball and it was my fourth ball of the day, I offered it to him, but he told me to “keep it”.
I did then go out to the flag court, but no balls were hit out there, and even if they were, the sun would have made it near impossible to catch one on the fly:
The arrow shows where the sun was during bp ( I took the picture during the game) and the two lines show the general area where the balls were going in the sky. So even though they weren’t going directly through the sun, if you weren’t leaning against the fence at the front of the section, you would have to be staring into the sun waiting for a ball to be hit.
As you can tell, I was in the Flag Court for the game. There were more Righties than Lefties in the game, but as a continuation of my last three games, I’m just going to be there every game I go to Camden Yards until a HR gets hit there. Once that happens, I will either catch it or whiff and I can go on with my life.
Now usually, I change back into the Home Team’s gear, but I stayed in the Twins gear since that is my favorite team:
Now why did I have that look on my face? It was the fourth inning and the Twins were already losing 6-0 (they would go on to lose 8-2). After the game, I headed down to the Umpire Tunnel, and asked the umpire (whose last name I had been repeating since the first inning to remember), whose first name I don’t remember, but after asking “Mister Nelson” for a ball he tossed me up a perfect example of a rubbed-up Oriole Park Commemorative. Here it is right after I caught it:
and here it is when I took a picture of it at “home” after the game:
For the record, I *do* have game pictures, but wanted to get this entry up before I leave for South Carolina, so I’ll upload those to the Facebook page and notify y’all of it when it is done via the twitter page, but for now at least, that’s all that he wrote.
• 5 Balls at this game
Numbers 223-227 for my “career”:
• 10 straight games with at least 1 ball
• 5 balls*31,532 fans= 157,660 competition factor (little fun fact: the competition factor from my last game at Camden Yards was 31,352, which is almost exactly the attendance of this game).
• Time at Game 4:04-9:57= 5 hours 53 minutes. Given, I did spend some of the time on the front end just waiting inside the Hilton, it was “at the ballpark” since I was waiting for the gates to open.
When I first heard of the fact that Zack was doing a book on the baseball itself I thought to myself, ” now why is he doing a book about the creation of the baseball. He should sell a second book solely on the topic of snagging baseballs. The other stuff will just come across as fluff to his fan base.” Boy was I wrong. I was hooked in the first few chapters of the predicted “fluff”.
If you notice, my book might be the most worn 1 day old book I at least have ever seen.
Let me show you the anatomy of the book.
Part 1: Baseballs in the news
Ch 1: The Souvenir Craze
Ch 2: Foul Ball Lore
Ch 3: Death By Baseball
Ch 4: Stunts
Ch 5: Foul Balls in Pop Culture
Part Two: Historical and Factual Stuff
Ch 6: The Evolution Of The Baseball
Ch 7: The Rawlings Method
Ch 8: Storage Preparation and Usage
Part Three: How To Snag Major League Baseballs
Ch 9: Before You Enter The Stadium
Ch 10: Batting Practice
Ch 11: How To Get A Player To Throw A Ball To You
Ch 12: The Game Itself
Ch 13: Top 10 Lists and Other Things Of Interest
I must say that every part seems like its own separate book. Each begin at the beginning of time for that respective subject. So will I in encompassing this book.
In the beginning, the world was a dark void where fans could not keep the baseballs they caught. That’s basically how the book starts, by introducing the fact that baseballs were too expensive for teams to replace. Then goes on to explain the fan revolt caused by this fact. Personally I would have had this section elsewhere in the book, but more on the structure later.
We then start to read the effect the value had/has produced many controversies amongst fans because of the greed of fans. Examples range from, Steve Bartman having to be transferred by his company to The Up For Grabs controversy. From there, he shows how the price of baseballs has evolved, showing the 10 most expensive baseballs.
Move on to chapter 2. He again builds the chapter from beginning to end. Starting with the effect of the institution of the “foul balls are strikes” rule and what had happened prior to that. Leading all the way up to Denard Span hitting his own mother with a foul ball in 2009 spring training. This is a chapter of crazy stories that was extremely well researched and was not the summaries of the incidents but the whole story.
Then a more in a ( somewhat) more somber version of the previous chapter ( Hample was not himself somber as he took the role of reporter but the stories were obviously sad) retelling the tales of deaths by the baseball ranging from Ray Chapman to the seagull that almost had Dave Winfield incarcerated for six months in Canada ( Why would he kill a seagull *on purpose*? He’s from Minnesota). This was essentially the same as the last chapter but I get the separation to create the effect of an in memoriam.
The next is the scientific experimentation section of the book with stunts ranging from Myth Busters in baseball to Pakistanis trying to smuggle heroin inside of baseballs ( dang dogs!).This provides practical knowledge and some great fun facts about how things in baseball were proved and some of the crazy things the lull of baseball has made its players attempt. This was again really fun to read and great for retrospective reference ( I love when I can actually use big words and they make some sense together).
Then come the more relevant facts of the book to today. Of the past chapters you might say ” but Mateo, how do they affect the price of tea in China”. They don’t. This chapter might not have an affect on anything in China but it sure does have more to do with the modern world. First Hample undergoes the endlessly critiqueable ( that is a word… right?) job of choosing the most relevant foul balls in movies and TV shows. He analyzes the logistical flaws with each of twelve scenes such as, did the extras reacts in Movies from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off to shows like CSI: NY. Although, the critiques were even more uniform than my team recaps and previews (ok, so maybe they weren’t that uniform). The next section in this chapter was a personal highlight, celebrity ballhawks. I don’t really care about the significance of the ball as much as the human element that it added to the celebrities. The Celebrities ranged from Charlie Sheen to Justin Bieber totaling 9 . The section was done like the others with fun in the section and loads of background information.
Now to the negative. Chapter six starts off Part Two of the book, Historical and Factual Stuff. This is a great reference book on its own but feels like your are reading every single plaque in Cooperstown on a section dedicated to the history of the baseball from 1847 to 2009:
The content which obviously cannot be avoided was about exciting as Irish history. That being: the English kicked them around, things got a little better, then they got kicked around some more, then they lived a little more happily in poverty, then there was black 47. Except in this section, after the initial architecture of the ball it was: hitters were complaining that the ball was dead, then they made livelier balls, then the pitchers complained about that, then they conducted some tests, then not much evidence showed up on the tests, and the last three steps repeated for about 100 years. Did I mention this section lasts for 62 pages? Had I been the author I think I would have merged this with various other sections but that’s just me. My advice to any reader is to read around it in some way shape or form. Either read it before or after the rest of the book and segment it so you don’t have to read it all at once. It definitely accomplishes the goal of being a history of the baseball’s evolution but might be best served as a reference when information is needed, as it might be tough for the more ADD readers ( I normally pay very good attention for long periods of time and still struggled sticking with this section).
The next section was based on the actual construction of the ball and is taken mostly from Hample’s trip to the Rawlings Baseball Factory in Costa Rica. The chapter goes from how to deconstruct a baseball( which is awesome if you ever get the chance to do it. Though I would not use nail clippers but an object similar to an awl to get the stitches off as they were too deep for me to get with the clippers) to the process to what commemorative baseballs are and how they are made. This is a great section, very informative with pictures to explain most things that a person would have questions about.
We are now on chapter 8 of 12 and the last of chapters on the baseball itself. This chapter is about how the balls are kept so that they are in prime playing condition at game time. This starts with the story behind the creation of now commonly used Lena Blackburne mud that helps pitchers grip the baseball.It then goes on to explain how teams started keeping balls in temperature and humidity controlled rooms starting when the Rockies used a humidor to counteract the arid nature of Coors Field.
Now ow ow the moment you have all been waiting for or or (well most of you anyway), How To Snag Major League Baseballs alls alls. Even though the rest of the book was great, this seemed to flow with a little more life than the previous two. First, this part has its own introduction.
The section starts off with chapter nine, the pre-game preparation. This was a great tutorial in what to do before you get in covering all the basics it ranged from how to choose a game to what to do when you arrived at the stadium.
He then goes on to explain the intricacies of the most important snagging time, batting practice. This was a bit more descriptive than the original namesake of part three. For example, when I started going early to batting practice I was hung up on the idea of hitters from both sides of the plate being able to hit the ball to me and so I stood in foul ground. A strategy I learned was almost completely wrong and should only be used on occasion when the situation demands it. You will have no problem if you have gone to batting practice but for the more inexperienced ballhawks there are technical problems such as the failure to mention that most rails block you from moving to a specific side if you are not standing in a place where there is a gap like here:
The next chapter is the toughest to put into practice, getting a player to toss you a ball. This is because the form in which you get different players to toss you a ball can vary so much from player to player. What I do like is that he does not write an aggressive strategy but one more along the lines of “it caint huit” or ” it can’t hurt” for those who don’t speak Brooklyn. He wrote the strategies that will always put you in more favor with the players and don’t have the possiblity of a backfire (although if you change hats right in front of players from either team “it caint heylp”). I guarantee that if you follow these instructions you will get at least one baseball for every two games you go to ( and I say this reluctantly because that is an average of .5 balls per game, meaning that my skill only accounted for 2 balls a game which is pretty sad).
Finally, most casual fans don’t care about bp balls. They don’t mean anything. A game homer(or foul)’s where it’s at. In this chapter Hample goes from what the real odds are for catching a foul ball to how long NYC security guards will kick you out after the game. This section goes into great depth because great depth is required. It is well written but I am surprised he didn’t have any fun with his home runs celebrations given the informal atmosphere of the book:
The last chapter was, at least for me, the best chapter of the whole book. It was a chapter going from the top 10 ballhawks of all time to how to document your collection. I found this chapter to be more informative of the whole book. The interviews with the ballhawks were fantastic because I knew of them but did not know them as a person. For example, I found out that I share a birthday with Minnesota’s best ballhawk, Greg Dryden. I know that the 10 best ballparks section will help me get a few extra baseballs at the respective stadiums.
All in all, like I told the author yesterday, this is one of my favorite books top 5 if not higher. The book was great and I would recommend the book to any mildly interested in baseball.
If you want to buy it, the paperback is $14.95 discounted on Amazon and Ebay though ( I don’t think I have a Canadian following) and is available in most bookstores. Hope you enjoyed and find the review useful.
First, Happy New Years to every one.
Second, I was thinking of my new year’s resolutions and realized that they were all ballhawking related. So, I thought I should share them with anyone who cares. Hey! I heard that thought. You don’t hear me thinking mean thoughts like that about your hopes and aspirations. Then again, you don’t have my powers of super awesome mind reading.
Anywho, here are my goals for the following season in ballhawking. Not necessarily in this order.
1. Go to AT LEAST 40 baseball games.- I went to 20 games last year and started about half way through the season so this should be do-able.
2. Average 4.0 balls per game.- I was hovering around 3.5 in the last two months. So, I think this could be achieved. Note: at this point I am still a pitcher. Ergo, I am absolutely horrid at tracking balls in the air and catching them. For example, my only game ball was a ball that I overran and then scrambled to get. This can obviously be improved by pure experience.
3. Go to 10 stadiums.- I am definitely going to the 3 South-East stadiums. There are 8 stadiums that I can get to otherwise. That is eleven by my count. This definitely depends on how my dad is feeling in the summer (whether or not he is in the mood to schlep me or not) . However, the 3 South- East are a definite as this is the Marlins’ last year in Dolphins… no Land Shark…. whatever that Stadium is called now, and I want to get me a commemorative baseball.
4. Get 100 baseballs.- This is dependent on how many games I go to, but if I go to 40 and keep my pace for last season. I would… finish… just… shy… of 100. Wow, that was deflating.
5. Catch a game homer at Citi field (preferably, before anyone else does it).- It has never been done before by a mygameballs.com member because of the ballhawk’s death valley that is right field and the left field furthest from home plate in the major leagues, but Citi Field ballhawks tend to lie closer to the dugouts and therefore there is no professional competition in left field. However, there is an over hang that prevent a home run from going more than ten rows back. So, I can see why they are by the dugout but, I’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.
6. Get five game-balls total.- Now this one, I’m not too sure of. If I sit in a spot to do it, t’will be a piece of caketh. But if I don’t, then it will be near impossible because only 7 people achieved this feat last year. And that, is why you never start a sentence with a conjunction.
7. Lead the mygameballs.com community in Umpire balls for my first full month of ballhawking.- The only reason this would be difficult is if I am going for Home Runs in Citi Field there is an evil gate that prevents fans from going to the dugout seats (umpire tunnel) from the outfield. Therefore, I would have to get to the dugout seats by getting tickets from exiting fans, a fickle source. Besides that, I have a secret weapon to get umpire balls. This is why I only expect to lead for my first month because I know Citi Field ballhawks will want to know where I got it and then have just as good of a chance to get an umpire ball as I do.
8. Be in the Top 10 for mygameballs.com at some point in the season (preferably after the last game of the world series).- Now if I average 4.0 balls per game. I would only have to go to… 35 games to be in the 2010 top 10. Like I said, many of these (if not all) are dependent on the degree to which the first goal is accomplished.
9. Post entries regularly. This is the hardest goal yet. This goal depends not on whether I know Spanish or can catch a baseball. It is a matter of pure sit-down-and-write-itness. I was previously known as the “if only he applied himself he could do well” kid. This might shine through if I am tired from running around and blogging on back-to-back-to-back-to-back games which will probably happen if I want to go to forty games (considering I will lose most of April, May, and September to Fordham P Baseball).
10. Aaand a Paaartriiidge iiin a peaaar treee.- I like round numbers and nine doesn’t really accomplish this goal. So, I wanted to have a tenth goal but had no actual tenth goal and so this is just to fill up space and satisfy my round number goal and… Why am I still writing?
Anyway, I hope your New year’s resolutions are accomplished as well (unless they make mine even a degree harder ’cause like I said, I don’t feel like applying myself that much more.) and I’ve said it a million times to other people but what ever you never, ever, exaggerate anything, especially your goals.