So back from Philadelphia and the madness of BallhawkFest, I took a couple days to rest and write. But after that, it was time to go to the second game of the Braves-Nationals series. First, there was a chance of rain, so I went atop the Nationals parking garage to check if the cages were up:
That would be Dave Butler and Art (whose last name I don’t know). They are probably the two most “regular” ballhawks at Nationals. Dave pretty much exclusively goes after hit baseballs while Art almost exclusively goes after Nationals toss-ups. They are both very friendly guys, and if you ever see them at Nationals Park, tell them Mateo says hello. Dave can be pretty easily identified by the fact that he always has his Giants hat on, and Art can 95% of the time be found with his sunglasses, Bluetooth, and blue Nationals hat on in the corner spot by the visitor’s bullpen right as the gates open.
Once we got in, I headed for straight-away left, since both Dave and Rick Gold were battling it out in the Red Seats for pitchers BP.
Ironically, my first ball of the day came in the Red Seats when the two of them left for the Nationals’ second group of hitters. Ross Ohlendorf fielded a ball at the wall, and looked up to toss the ball to someone. And when I raised my glove, he flipped me the ball:
And then literally *right* after that, I saw a person coming down the grass hill in center field to clear out all of the baseballs that were sitting there. It was so soon after the first ball that I actually had it in my non-glove hand and had to hide it behind my back to get the man to toss me the ball that was on the hill. and I guess I’m more deceptive than I thought, because:
Do you kind of see the logo of the ball? It was a World Series 2010 commemorative ball. I had heard the Nationals were using this and several other types of commemoratives, but this was the first time I had seen any of them in 2013. So since I had snagged two baseballs within a span of ten seconds, I gave the non-commemorative Ohlendorf ball to a kid at the corner of the section.
After that, a Nationals righty smashed a ball that bounced up to the top of the restaurant, where an employee picked the ball up. At that point everyone else pursuing the ball gave up and went back to the bottom of the section. I didn’t understand, though, since it was employee that supposedly had to give the ball away. So I stuck around, stuck up my glove, and got this:
And you see right; that is a Fenway Park 100th year commemorative baseball. It was amazing, but this would sadly be my last commemorative ball of the day.
I then headed over to right field for the third group of Nationals hitters. There I got Taylor Jordan to toss me a ball by being the only one to call him by name:
I then got my fifth ball of the day when the Braves started hitting. I got Craig Kimbrel to toss me a baseball over the Braves bullpen:
And then it was time to have a cup trick party. Now you’re not exactly supposed to, but you can sometimes get away with using a ball retriever in the gap right below the Red Seats. So this being my first time with a reliable retriever in Nationals Park with me having Tim Anderson‘s cup trick in my bag of tricks, I took advantage of it.
I first saw one ball go into the gap on a hit ball, so I got the cup trick out and pulled the ball out from here in the gap:
I then gave it away to a kid whose glove the ball had bounced off of. I then got a second ball from the gap soon after that and gave it to a person right next to me on top of where I snagged the ball in the gap. And then I asked him if he could hold the ball out for a picture:
And by then, people realized what I had, and when a ball landed in the gap, people called me over to retrieve the ball for them. I walked over, but as I did, Justin Upton launched a ball right into the row I was walking in, so I ran through the row and caught the ball through several glove screens:
That was my eighth ball. And then when I retrieved the ball and gave it away to the family who dropped the ball, I had my ninth ball of the day:
If you can see the bars below the ball in the picture, the ball was trapped under one of those, so I had to knock it sideways out from under there to retrieve the ball. At this point I was getting nervous because I had now gotten 3 balls via cup trick. So when a guy told me there was another ball in the gap, I just wanted to get my cup trick out quickly, get the ball, and not get seen. But as soon as I pulled the cup trick out of the gap, I sensed someone behind me. It was a security guard who told me he needed me to give him the trick. It was obviously not mine, so I asked if he had a string-cutting device. And when he said no, I tried untying the string, he eventually just gave up and told me that I’m there often enough that I should just not do it again. That was my tenth ball of the day, by the way.
My record for baseballs in a game was 11, so with 10 and there still being about 15 minutes left in batting practice, I thought I had a pretty good opportunity to break it. And this got even better when I picked up a ball that Luis Avilan had overthrown to a kid. I then gave the ball to the kid:
I then had a very good chance to break my record, but Avilan’s inaccuracy came back to bite me, and he overthrew me, so this ball would be my last of the day. No, the only thing I would snag from this point on was a piece of gum thrown to me by David Carpenter after I stayed by the bullpen to watch Julio Teheran ( whose name is properly pronounced “Teh-heh-rahn”) warm up:
I then sat in left field, because I thought it would be great if my record-breaking 12th ball would have come on a home run:
- 11 Balls at this Game (5 pictured because I gave 6 away)
Numbers 611-621 for my lifetime:
- 175 Balls in 42 Games= 4.17 Balls Per Game
- 11 Balls x 30,875 Fans=339,625 Competition Factor
- 104 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 9 straight Games with 2 Balls
- 6 straight Games with 3 Balls
- 5 straight Games with 4 Balls
- 3 straight Games with 5 balls
- 186 Balls in 41 Games at Nationals Park= 4.54 Balls Per Game
- 33 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
- 4 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Nationals Park
- Time Spent On Game 3:21-11:03= 7 Hours 42 Minutes
Question: What do you do when you have a baseball awards dinner in the Bronx and a ticket to the Orioles-Mets game?
Answer: You sell the Mets ticket on stubhub and buy a ticket to the Yankee game.
Also, look at the crew who assembled outside the gate:
From left to right, that would be:
2.Greg Barasch– Frequent catch partner and fellow ballhawk.
3. Zack Hample– Oh, you know, just your average guy who’s caught more than 6,000 major league baseballs.
4. Matt Latimer– An MLB.com reporter, who was going to cover Zack during B.P. for a story.
5. Ross Finkelstein– Another fellow ballhawk, who I occasionally run into at games. This may be the first time we’ve gone to the same Yankee, though. Whatever, I’m too lazy to look it up.
Also at the gate, was this sign on a barricade:
All of us pretty much made fun of all the ridiculous things on there, but after the fact, I thought, “You know what that’s actually not a bad idea to have all the prohibited stuff on a sign. It’s way better than playing that along with a song on a continuous loop 30 minutes before the gates open.” Are you listening, Mets?
Since there were so many of us, we actually spoke about who was going where during batting practice, as to divvy up the sections between us. I opted to go to left field. It would have been a great choice had a) the Yankees hit one ball into those seats during their portion of B.P. or b) Cody Eppley actually acknowledged any one over the age of 5.
Then, when most of the ballhawks came over to right field, here were the views to my left and to my right:
Yes, there were a bunch of empty seats, but how the people were configured,the furthest I could run for a ball was 10 feet, so the ball would essentially have to be hit *right* at me. As for getting a Brave to toss me a ball, forget about it. There were tons of people in Braves gear and most were in the front row.
The closest I came to getting a ball was one hit directly over my head. I moved as close as I could to the landing spot, turned around and jumped, but it sailed what must have been a few inches into another guy’s glove.
Soon after this, I decided it was better to go back over to left field and deal with the other ballhawks than to deal with that mess of a section.
There it was emptier, but it started off with the same frustration. NOTHING was coming even close to me. Then it evolved into a different kind of frustration. A Braves hitter hit a ground-rule double. I lined myself up with the ball, and it was coming right towards my glove… until a hand in front of me deflected it over my right shoulder. Words cannot described how frustrated/nervous I was at this point. My goal is to get to 100 consecutive games with at least 1 ball. After that, the plan is I go to whatever games I please, regardless of whether I can make batting practice.
Throughout nearly all of Braves B.P., I was thinking about how much longer it would take me of I got shutout this game. I wasn’t as worried as I was in right field, though. Left field was much less congested, and I could actually run around for a ball that was hit. Here are the views to my right and my left:
I didn’t feel confident, however, in my ability to get a Braves player to throw me a ball. Ironically, this is how my only ball of the day would come.
When I got to left field, I ran into Mark McConville, who had just arrived with, I believe, a few of his co-workers. He obviously didn’t have a ball yet either, so we were both pretty desperate. Actually, on that ball I missed that I mentioned earlier, Mark also almost came up with it, but another fan beat him to the ball.
Anyway, Mark and I had been giving Craig Kimbrel an earful for quite a few minutes. Finally, Kimbrel turned around and lofted a ball right at Mark, but those pesky hands are always up at Yankee Stadium. Even though the ball was very clearly intended for Mark, a hand deflected the ball. The deflection sent the ball right towards my stomach, and almost as if I had Alien Hand Syndrome, I grabbed the ball with my bare hand right before it had a chance to hit the seat in front of me. Here is the ball with Kimbrel and Chad Gaudin in the background:
I then (deservedly) got a few lines (delivered jokingly) along the general lines of: “You’re killin’ me, Mateo.” from Mark. As relieved as I was to not get shutout, I felt really bad for him, since I was in a similar situation just moments earlier.
Then batting practice ended, and I spent a few minutes seeing Zack sign a couple of baseballs:
Then I conceded to the fact I that I had to go to the awards dinner I mentioned earlier.
It was my first game ever leaving right after batting practice, and I must say, I thought it would feel weirder than it did to be leaving as everyone else was entering the stadium:
As for the dinner, I received this even though I have never played an inning of baseball for Fordham Prep:
• 1 Ball at this game
• 46 Balls in 11 Games= 4,18 Balls Per Game
• 20 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
• 1 Ball x 41,219 Fans= 41,219 Competition Factor
• 53 Balls in 15 Games at the New Yankee Stadium= 3.53 Balls Per Game
• 15 straight Games at the New Yankee Stadium with at least 1Ball
• Time at Game 4:26-6:17= 1 Hour 51 Minute