After spending the night at Alex Kopp‘s, I was off to my second Orioles-Astros game in as many days. Here’s what the left field seats looked like as I entered them:
You may notice I numbered some people. Those would be ballhawks/OPACY regulars:
1. Grant Edrington.
2. The previously-mentioned Alex Kopp.
3. Avi Miller.
As for snagging, this Orioles BP was particularly bad, so I didn’t snag my first baseball until I picked up a ball Matt Domiguez overthrew another fan with after playing catch down the 3rd base line. I then immediately gave the ball to the kid Dominguez had intended the ball to go to. Little did I realize it at the time, but that marked the 100th consecutive game I had snagged a baseball at. This was huge for me because I had long said that once I got to 100 consecutive games, I would cease to care about my streak and not avoid games because I thought they would put my streak in jeopardy. So this was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. But I obviously didn’t realize it because I gave the ball away.
I then got Jonathan Villar to actually toss me a ball for my second on the day:
Did you see the logo of the ball? That’s right; it was an Astros 50th anniversary commemorative baseball. If you don’t know what commemorative baseballs are, they’re baseballs that are manufactured to commemorate special occasions. This particular one was made last year to commemorate 2012 being the Astros’ 50th season as a franchise. While many other ballhawks were looking forward to the commemorative baseball the Astros have been using this year to commemorate their first season in the American League, I had never gotten this commemorative baseball in 2012, so I was ecstatic.
My next two baseballs require a bit of back story. If you’ve read my Camden Yards entries before, you may have noticed that one very regular ballhawk was missing the past two games: Tim Anderson. For this series with the Astros and the Orioles next series against the Mariners, he was vacationing with his family in Ocean City, Maryland. Because of this and the fact that Alex Kopp had lost his cup trick, Tim gave Alex his cup trick while he was gone. The morning before this game at work, though, Alex made a new cup trick. Since he didn’t need two cup tricks, I asked him if he could lend me Tim’s for the duration of my stay in Baltimore. So with my new toy, when I saw a baseball go into the gap in front of the center field bleachers, I ran over and cup tricked the ball in this spot:
As I was pulling the ball up, I was made aware that a kid had dropped the ball into the gap when an Astros player had tossed it to him. So after I pulled the ball up, I gave it to him. Another–way more awesome–thing happened while I was retrieving the ball. As I was pulling up the cup, (and found out that the trick must be dropped and not simply lowered onto the ball) a second ball hit the wall just to my right and settled less than three feet away from my spot. I moved over a little, cup tricked the ball, and found out it was another Astros 50th anniversary commemorative. So thank you, Tim, for lending Alex your cup trick, and thank you, cup trick, for getting me two extra baseballs:
I then headed out into the flag court for the last or second to last Astros group, because they were mostly lefties. Alex and Grant also joined me out there. And somehow we each managed to semi-rob each other of a ball. Grant got a ball that I was just about to trap with my glove, Alex caught a ball in front of Grant’s glove, and then I got a ball that got ripped out of Alex’s hands:
What happened was Robbie Grossman hit a ball that bounced on Eutaw Street and went on top of the metal awning-type thing you see in the background of that last picture. A guy was camped under it waiting for the ball to drop, but as it did, Alex jumped up and grabbed the ball with his bare, left hand. The guy also reached for it, but what he got was Alex’s hand. So what he ended up doing was pulling Alex’s fingers off of the ball. The ball then dropped to the guy’s feet, where I picked it up before another passerby could. And that was it for BP. I then at the end of BP handed the final ball I had snagged to an usher who lets us sit in the wheelchair seats to the left of the flag court and instructed him to give the ball to the first kid he saw with a glove. Partially because I wanted the usher to see that I cared about giving away baseballs to kids, but also partially because that last lefty Astros group had put on a show, which had me running all over the place and too exhausted/lazy to find a kid myself.
The highlight (or low-light, depending on how you see things) of the game itself also involved Robbie Grossman. Minus Avi, this was how Grant, Alex, and I were stationed for the game:
For a righty, that is. For a lefty, we all stood up and moved to our respective spots. Alex stayed right where he was, Grant moved to the right part of the flag court, and I took the section of the flag court closest to the foul pole. Little did we know, but despite the show he had put on in BP, when he came up in the second inning, Robbie Grossman was at zero career home runs. So as I walked to my spot in the flag court, I saw a baseball flying at a trajectory that would put it over the seats just to the left of the foul pole, and onto Eutaw Street. I knew exactly where the ball was going to land, and bolted after it, but the problem was it was just hit too hard, and I was too out of position. So as it hit off of the warehouse, and rolled rapidly off the awning, none of us ballhawks had a shot at it, and it bounced off of one person’s hands before some person who had just been walking on the street got it. Had it just even slowly rolled off of the awning or taken one more bounce, I think one of us three would have gotten it. Here is where the ball bounced initially:
And here is a picture that shows the landing spot relative to the warehouse:
After that, our entertainment (well mostly my entertainment) came from seeing if the Astros could score more runs than millions of dollars they had on their payroll. See, earlier that day, the Astros had made a series of trades that dropped their payroll to $13 million. To give you an idea of how low that is, we calculated that the lowest a team could possibly pay a 25-man roster (so with every player making league minimum) was about $12.5 million. So essentially, besides Erik Bedard and a couple other guys, the Astros were a roster comprised entirely of guys making league minimum. Sadly, though, they only routed the Orioles 11-0 and not 14-0. I mean seriously, when would have been the last time a team scored more runs than millions of dollars they had on their payroll? Anyway, that was it for the game. I didn’t even bother with the umpire tunnel, and instead headed out with Alex immediately after the last out so we could get to his place as quickly as possible.
- 5 Balls at this Game (2 pictured because I gave 3 away)
Numbers 592-596 for my “lifetime”:
- 150 Balls in 38 Games= 3.95 Balls Per Game
- 5 Balls x 25,265 Fans=126,325 Competition Factor
- 100 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 5 straight games with 2 Balls
- 2 straight games with 3 Balls
- 58 Balls in 15 Games at OPACY= 3.87 Balls Per Game
- 15 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- 5 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at OPACY
- 3 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 4:05-10:28= 6 Hours 23 Minutes
A day at Nationals Park and I was back for s’more:
In fact, it was only the second game of what I had planned as four consecutive games at Nationals Park. (Although, as you’ll see in later entries, that wouldn’t end up happening.)
As I entered the gates, I said hi to a fellow ballhawk behind the left field bullpen–not Rick Gold, although he was there too. And this simple hello and momentary eye contact caused us to both to miss a ball Gio Gonzalez. When I got to my regular spot in straight-away left field, though I managed to snag two baseballs Gio hit. Gio, by the way, was going absolutely nuts and must have hit ten baseballs into the seats in his rounds of BP. The first was a ball that was hit to my right. I was the only one within fifty feet of where it was going to land, so I just hoped the ball would stay in the stands and not bounce back onto the field like a couple already had that I would have otherwise snagged. It didn’t, so easily picked the ball up for my first of the day:
The next one was a ball that hit over my head by about five rows. It then trickled down the steps and I beat the previously-mentioned other ballhawk to it. I then gave this ball away to a kid who had not yet gotten a ball at the head of the section:
Then, while I was in the left field seats, I saw a ball hit in the right field seats. None of us ballhawks went for it because we were so far away and all figured someone would get to it way before we could, but when the pitchers finished hitting and I still had not seen anyone pick it up, I ran over there and found it right on the ground:
But this picture is actually staged because when I got there, a man was right in front of me and had walked into the first row to take pictures. He had actually walked right over the ball, so when I walked behind him, got the ball, and saw the look on his face when he realized what had happened, I gave him the ball. I didn’t realize it until I actually finished writing this entry, but that was my 100th ball of the season, which is always a fun milestone since I got to it almost a month earlier in the season than I did last season (7/3/12).
Then I got a toss-up from a person in a warm-up jersey:
I had no clue who he was at the moment, but after seeing Jeff Kobermus come into the game, I’m pretty sure it was him.
That was my last ball for Nationals BP, since I was in right field for most of it and they didn’t hit much out there. And when I was in the Red Seats, I just completely missed a ball that bounced into the restaurant portion of the seats, one that I misjudged and a guy behind me caught as I came up a couple inches short, and then a police officer cost me two baseballs:
You can see he’s holding one of them in his left hand. (The guy who caught the ball I misjudged, by the way, is the one in the gray shirt.) Well the first one he cost me was one that hit into the restaurant. I thought it was simply a race between myself and the guy in the gray shirt, and since I had by far the better jump, I was pretty much sure I had the ball. But then I saw someone running form the top of the stairs to the ball. This person beat me to the ball, and when I looked up I couldn’t believe it because it was a police officer, who is not supposed to keep baseballs; much less try to get them. There was then another one that hit in the restaurant that was underneath a chair. He was at the chair and trying to move it out of the way. As he was doing this, I offered to get the ball and give it to him, but he pulled the chair out of the way and snatched up the ball. This then messed me up for future balls that were headed into the restaurant, because I wasn’t used to having competition from above. I had to alter my routes to balls, and it cost me at least one baseball and just got me completely flustered because I knew that without this cop and my own mistakes, I should have already been in double-digits. I don’t want to say I used this as fuel because that sounds way too cliché and dramatic, but I definitely had to get over being this frustrated in order to keep going in BP and not let these things pile on.
When Mets BP came around, I tried the same strategy as the day before and went down the third base line in foul ground to get a ball from the Mets who were warming up. This time I got Robert Carson to loft me a ball over a couple rows of fans for my fifth on the day:
As I moved onto the next throwing pair, I saw something hilarious. So while Brandon Lyon and LaTroy Hawkins were throwing, some kids were yelling some things at them to try tot get them to throw the ball up. Well I couldn’t hear what he said, but when one kid yelled something, Hawkins caught it from about 100 feet away and yelled back, “Watch your mouth.” After he was done throwing, Hawkins then went over to the kids and had fun with them over whatever they had said:
And by “fun”, I mean in a “I’m going to make this a cool experience for you, but still not break character as a veteran of the MLB” kind of way. So he jokingly kept up that he was scolding them, but made it pretty obvious that he was indeed joking with them. Afterward, he flipped a ball up to one of the kids.
Soon after that, David Wright hit a ball that rattled around in the seats before I picked it up:
The ball actually took off a cup holder, which I thought of putting in my backpack to add to my collection of stadium cup holder at home, but eventually decided against it.
Next, Jim Malone, the Mets’ Strength and Conditioning coach picked up a ball on the warning track, and although I had forgotten his name–I used to know it by heart in 2010 when I would always see him stretching out the pitchers at Citi Field when it still opened 2.5 hours early, but knowing his name became much less important when I no longer got to see the pitchers warming up at Citi Field when the gate opening time switched back to 2 hours prior to the game.–I asked him nicely and he flipped the ball up to me when he saw my Mets gear. I then gave the ball away to a woman who was right next to me:
It was one of those that I really wanted to give away to a kid with a glove, but because I knew that everyone around there had seen me get the Wright ball, I felt as though I should probably do some that was at least seemingly kind-hearted.
It was then nearing the end of Mets BP, so I was almost all the way to the left field foul in order to get a better jump to the dugout when the Mets ended batting practice. An unforeseen benefit of this was that John Buck belted the last pitch of Mets BP over my head. Thankfully, though, I was the only one even near the ball, so I ran over and picked it up. I know it was the last pitch of BP, because as I picked the ball and turned around, I saw that the Mets were already jogging in. So I started running over to the dugout. But as I was headed over there, I realized it wouldn’t look good if I had a baseball in my hand when asking for a ball at the dugout. I don’t know why I didn’t just put it in my pocket, but I ended up handing it to a kid on my way over to the dugout mid-stride. I didn’t realize it at the time–although I had been thinking about it earlier in BP–but this was the 550th ball I had ever snagged at a baseball game.
I actually didn’t get anything at the dugout, but I headed out to right field, where I would sit for the game. Rick Gold also sat out there for the game, so I sat on the staircase closer to the foul pole of the two we usually sit on and he sat one staircase closer to center field. As a result, I was on the staircase with the usher who lets us into the right field seats, and ended up giving him two baseballs that night, which he then distributes to kids in the section.
- 8 Balls at this Game (2 pictured because I gave 6 away)
- 105 Balls in 24 Games= 4.38 Balls Per Game
- 8 Ball x 36,155 Fans=289,240 Competition Factor
- 87 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 143 Balls in 31 Games at Nationals Park= 4.61 Balls Per Game
- 23 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
- 7 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
- 5 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
- 3 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 4-5 Balls
- Time Spent On Game 2:56-11:36= 8 Hours 40 Minutes
As you read in the last entry, my friend Sean dropped me off at my dorm at about midnight with the plan to for him to pick me up at 9:00 in the morning and head off to Chicago right away. Well because of a failed prank, I was up until after 1:00, when I finally fell asleep from exhaustion without setting my alarm. Thankfully through some miracle, I woke up at around 8:00 in the morning where I packed the quickest I ever have and met Sean outside where we headed off Chicago-bound.
I believe we only stopped twice on our way to Chicago. Once to eat breakfast at Denny’s–since we had both missed the dining hall breakfast by leaving so early–and once to get gas close around Madison, WI. There was a little mix-up that would define this game for me, though. Actually I guess you could call it two. I thought based the fact that a 9:00 departure time would be fine on my presumption that the White Sox game was starting at 7:00. About half-way through crossing Wisconsin, I thought, “You know what, I should probably make sure the game is starting at 7:00 Central time and not Eastern.” Turns out the game was 7:00 EST. That meant that it was starting at 6:00 our time. And another mistake I had made related to the fact that I thought the game started at 7 was that in my rush to pack everything up, I still hadn’t printed our tickets. That meant we would first have to stop by Sean’s house 40 minutes away from the ballpark before actually heading to the game.
All of this lead up to the first picture I took that day:
Batting practice was already half done and I was still in the car on my way to the game. Or course I didn’t have either my Angels or White Sox rosters printed, so I knew my streak of over 70 consecutive games with at least 1 ball snagged was in serious jeopardy. When I finally got into the stadium and got my way down to the 100 level despite not actually having a ticket for there, there was a little over 15 minutes of batting practice remaining, and this was my view of the field:
I didn’t think it was going to be an easy batting practice to begin with, though. That was because for the second day in a row, it was a bobblehead day. This game’s bobblehead was of Chicago’s beloved Paul Konerko:
That, Twins, is how you package a bobblehead.
A couple minutes in to me having entered the gates, I was sure my shutout would be ending soon:
I still can’t identify him for certain, but whoever the player under the arrow is fielded a ball near the wall by where I was, and when I asked for the ball, he threw the ball in and then looked up at me. Right then I motioned to him as I was saying “Can you throw me the next one?” To this he gave me a thumbs-up. A couple minutes after that, though, batting practice ended and I still sat at zero balls for the day. It was at this point that I made the decision and told Sean that we were going to be spending the game at the dugout:
And in the first inning, I saw a stat from that seat that caught my attention as someone who was born in Colombia:
It wasn’t until a few days prior to this game that even knew Quintana was Colombian, but I guess it’s cool. However, he’s the only one of the top-3 who hasn’t thrown me a baseball. So if you want me to root for you in this race, Jose, it’s your move.
The game for snagging was absolutely brutal. I want to say over half the baseballs ended up in the hands of Alberto Callaspo, who made eye contact with me several times throughout the night, but always ended up looking away and throwing the ball elsewhere despite the fact that I was asking him in Spanish while being decked-out in Angels attire. As miserable as I was with the whole situation that was unfolding, Sean was loving every second of it:
If you’ll remember, he and my friend Tony had made a goal of shutting me out for a game when they joined me a couple games ago. And after I caused them to fail miserably by snagging nine baseballs, I may have been a little in-your-face about it (jokingly of course) about it, so to see me struggling to get even a single baseball without him being responsible for it delighted Sean to no end.
Finally the end of the game approached us, and I formulated my plan to get a ball from home plate umpire, Jeff Nelson. Since the umpire tunnel at U.S. Cellular is directly behind home plate, there were two options. One option was to try to get into the “scout seats” right as the final out of the game was being recorded and hurry down to the tunnel before the umpires made their way back there, which would almost guarantee me a ball. The problem would be if the ushers don’t allow people into those seats even after the game is over, or if I got slowed down by the people exiting the section, I might not even be able to ask Nelson for a ball. My other option was to go to the edge of the home plate netting and yell out to the umpire as he walked off the field to the tunnel. I went the second route. Luckily, the last play of the game was a pop-up to the infield, which pulled Nelson towards the field. This gave me more time to get in position and be ready to yell once he walked my way. So I did and Nelson looked my way and rolled the ball to the wall right in front of me as he walked off the field, and I then leaned way over the wall and picked the ball up to extend my streak with at least 1 ball:
Little did I know it, but Sean was taking his first ever Vine of me at that same exact moment I took that picture that reflected my feeling on the situation perfectly. So here’s the link to that if you want to see it. But anyway, I went back to Sean’s house semi-satisfied with the outcome of the day knowing that my streak would live to see another day. We then headed out at to 7-11 with his younger brother and I want to say watched “For the Love of the Game”. It was either that or “Little Big League”. (Since I haven’t watched most baseball movies, it has been Sean’s goal to get me to watch as many as he can.) We would then get up the next day for another fun day of Chicago baseball, with a Mother’s Day twist.
- 1 Ball at this game
Number 495 for my career:
- 49 Balls in 11 Games= 4.45 Balls Per Game
- 1 Balls x 28,774 Fans=28,774 Competition Factor
- 73 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 3 Balls in 2 Games at U.S. Cellular Field= 1.5 Balls Per Game
- 2 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at U.S. Cellular Field
- Time Spent On Game 9:23-10:47= 13 Hours 24 Minutes
I recorded/made this video last week as a little bit of an insight to BallhawkFest 2013. However, I never got the time to write even this short intro for it, so now that I’m about to go to sleep, here is the video for all of you on the blog to see. I’m going to go to sleep and in the morning I’m going to go ahead and start work on the entries from the four consecutive games I have attended these past few days before going to my fifth in the night. Many good stories come from these games, so stay tuned. In the meanwhile, though, here’s the video this entry is dedicated to:
Again, it was another day of class before heading off to Target Field. This time, though, I was prepared for the cold it had to throw at me. Sort of, anyway:
I had a good streak of four consecutive games going with at least 6 baseballs, but really I just wanted to get four or more baseballs to keep my average for the season above 5.00 Balls Per Game. I’ll spoil it for you right now and say that sadly wasn’t the case. Once I got in the gates, I quickly got on the board by getting a toss-up from a player I couldn’t identify at all, since none of his face was showing with him having a hat on as well as sunglasses:
There had been a couple of baseballs hit into the bullpen, so he went in there to clean them out. When he did I simply asked him for a ball. My next ball came once I headed to the section of seats in right-center field. Mike Trout fielded a ball close to the wall there and so I shouted out to him. He was about to throw the ball to the bucket in shallow center field, but he turned and tossed me the ball instead:
He’s a nice player. Over the three days I was there, he probably gave out the most baseballs per-minute of any of the Angels players. Oh, and do you notice the condition of the baseball he tossed me? One word: pearl.
My third baseball came when I headed back to left field and got who I believe to be Scott Downs to toss me a baseball. I was on a pretty good roll, since the gates had opened fifteen minutes ago at that point. (A ball every five minutes is a *very* good pace for me. To give you an idea, if I averaged this at a stadium where the gates opened 2.5 hours early for the entirety of batting practice, I would snag almost twenty baseballs.) But just five short minutes later at 5:50, the Angels ended batting practice and headed to the dugout. Wow. A stadium opening 1.5 hours early is hard enough, but I missed as much batting practice as I actually saw. Anyway, I headed to the dugout and braced myself for the snow/rain that was in the forecast. As I did this, the grounds crew began to do the same:
I then waited for about an hour in the rain. As I looked at the crowd that was showing for the game, I was thinking big thoughts of what I could do during the game. I was seriously thinking I could tie my Target Field record of eight baseballs despite only being at three to this point. Then it happened:
Of course. After seeing this, I took a dejected walk of shame to my bus back to St. Paul.
- 3 Balls at this game (2 pictured because I gave 1 away on my way out to a kid for showing up to the game despite it raining)
Numbers 478-480 for my life:
- 34 Balls in 7 Games= 4.86 Balls Per Game (Nooooo! So close!)
- 3 Balls x (an estimated, because the Twins didn’t actually put it up)25,000 Fans= 75,000 Competition Factor
- 69 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 19 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 6 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
- 89 Balls in 21 Games at Target Field= 4.24 Balls Per Game
- 20 straight Games with at least 1-2 Balls at Target Field
- 6 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 3:39-7:35= 3 Hours 54 Minutes