This game did not start well for me. Because I was writing an entry and it took me longer than I thought, I arrived at the gate at 4:50. And having not yet bought my ticket, I had to do that and wasn’t able to talk to people much before the gates opened. So while we had talked about it the previous day and I thought I was going to be the only one going to right field when the gates opened, Tim Anderson had changed his mind overnight and ran that way ahead of me. There he caught one Chris Davis home run on the fly and got another that bounced a couple of times in the seats. He then headed over to left, but I was more stubborn and waited an extra five minutes before conceding that doing the same was the better option.
Once there, I had a couple more close calls. The first was a ball Alex Kopp caught on the fly, but his elbow then hit me on the way down and dislodged the ball. I then saw it on the ground and reached for it, but a railing was in my way, and so I wasn’t able to reach out all the way. The next was a ball that bounced in on the first row portion of a staircase, bounced up–nearly taking my and Tim’s heads in the process–and then a guy came out of nowhere to barely beat me to the ball.
So with all of those initial missed opportunities, my first ball of the day came from J.J. Hardy:
I ran a section to my right when I saw the ball get hit, but the kid in the Davis jersey–who was two rows in front of me at the time–seemed like he had the ball. But then I saw the ball hit his glove and go past it, so while there was a railing separating me from the ball, I used it as a fulcrum and just leaned so much that my feet were up in the air, and grabbed the ball out of a seat.
Then, when I saw a ball roll to the corner of the outfield wall by the foul pole, I went over there knowing a player would eventually have to pick it. And so when Chris Tillman walked over, I asked him if he could toss me the ball. As he was walking away with the ball, he turned around and intentionally threw the ball again the foul pole (so it would bounce back to him) but then smiled and actually tossed me the ball:
My next two baseballs came as a result of Danny Valencia. We have known Valencia to hit the ball deep. I mean he regularly hits the back of the visiting bullpen at OPACY and spots in the left field almost just as deep. So all of us backed up whenever Valencia was up and moved up for the other hitters in his group. My spot for Valencia happened to be behind and to the left of my spot for the other hitters, so as I realized he was up, I first went up, and then began going left. And just as I entered the row, Valencia bombed a ball, so I I moved a little more left and judged the ball. I figured if the ball was going over my head or falling short, my only chance would be to jump rows. But thankfully I picked the right row and the ball came right to me. As the other ballhawks put it after BP, it seemed as though I had “teleported” to make the catch:
My next ball wen to the right of my Valencia, and I ran for the ball, picked it up after it hit, and gave it to a guy who was running so fast after it that his sunglasses fell off going down for the ball:
(That’s the guy holding up the ball. If you can see the kid in Rays gear, that’s his son. I learned from him when I went into foul ground to get a toss-up from Rays players that they were from Green Bay, but since the dad was in town for work, it made complete sense for the kid–whose favorite player of all-time is Evan Longoria–to come down with him.)
Speaking of foul territory, that’s where I got my next ball from Desmond Jennings:
(Jennings was in the dugout by the time I could take a picture of the ball, but that’s where he tossed me my fifth ball of the day from.) A cool thing happened after that in that the kid I mentioned to parenthetical groupings ago got a ball from Evan Longoria, and I got to see his face absolutely light up, since–like I mentioned in the aforementioned parenthetical grouping–Longoria was his favorite player who had also signed his jersey for him the previous day. I’d call that a successful 1,500-mile trip.
My next ball came when I went to the right-center field seats. Matt Moore fielded a ball just past the warning track and tossed it to a kid, but tossed it a little too short, and so it landed here:
So I pulled out the cup trick I had made with Greg Barasch during my most recent New York trip (which I may do an entry about after the 8/21/13 entry) and got the ball otu of the gap, which I then gave to the sister of the kid Moore had thrown the ball to.
Moore then tossed the next ball he got to this kid, but this one sailed over the kid’s head. So I ran over, picked up the ball, and gave it to him:
Having given now two kids in the family baseballs, his parents then thanked me a bunch of time and told me there was a ball I could use my cup trick on in the batter’s eye. I thanked them for giving me the tip but I told them that we’re not allowed to use it over there.
I waited in the next staircase for about three minutes, but then I started up the stairs to go to the flag court. But when I saw a ball roll to the wall at the bottom I headed back down. Matt Moore got the ball, and started scanning the crowd as if he was looking for someone in particular to toss the ball to. And when I got to the bottom of the staircase, I found out that he was indeed: Me! He tossed me the ball and said, “I saw you give that kid the ball earlier.”
I have no clue why he was wearing a catcher’s glove (maybe it had to do with the fact that he’s on the DL) but trust me that it was indeed Moore. And yes, for those of you keeping score at home, that was my third ball that came as a result of a Matt Moore throw. (I think we can excuse him since he is indeed on the DL.) As well as my eighth ball of the day overall. It was after this that I did indeed go up to the flag court.
Now usually, going up to the flag court is a waste of time snagging-wise for me because I am usually the least skilled of the ballhawks up there and end up getting a ball snatched by another ballhawk when I’m mere inches from it. But on this occasion, it was only myself and Alex up there, so with me having positioning to his left, I was in front of him on a ball that was hit just to the right of the right field foul pole–by who I’m pretty was Luke Scott, since I don’t know anyone else on the rays with a Wolverine-style beard. It hit in the seats right by two people who had no clue what was going on. The girl then slowly got up and turned around to pick up the ball, but just as she was doing that, I was down on the cross-aisle watching the ball bounce down the steps. And just as she looked down and realized what was happening, I reached through the railing and grabbed the ball:
But then I realized that this would have almost undoubtedly have been their ball had I not been there, so I reached up through the railing to give her the ball. And it was a great decision because in walking back onto the flag court, three different ushers congratulated me on giving her the ball. If there’s ever an option between being like by ushers and not being liked by them, I’ll choose being liked. While I realize probably as well as anyone that there are different breeds of ushers/”hospitality attendants/”security officers” (yeah, that’s the official title for those people at Yankee Stadium; I asked one of them) this was a great way to take out three birds with one stone. Unfortunately, though, as it looked very feasible for me to break my all-time record, the Rays ended BP about 20 minutes earlier than the visiting team normally does (which would sadly be one-upped the next day’s BP) and so this was my last ball of BP. Alex and I then headed over to the Orioles bullpen where we met up with Grant Edrington.
There I informed Alex that Rick Adair, who reportedly used to dislike him, but has since grown fond of him because he has seen him give away a ton of baseballs to kids, had taken a leave of absence starting with the Rockies series and that Scott McGregor would instead be clearing the baseballs out of the bullpen. There were three baseballs, and just as Alex predicted, one went to a kid at the corner of the bullpen, one went to Grant, and one went to the middle. The latter was meant for me, since it was right to me, but Alex should have definitely robbed me since he was a row above me. But he was too nice to, so I got the ball and gave it to a kid in front of me:
And with that, I reached double digits for I believe only the fifth time ever and the third time this year. I could’ve maybe played the dugout and tried to beat my record of 11 balls in a game, but in addition to tying my single-game record, my next baseball would also be the 100th of my career at OPACY, so I thought it’d be cool if it came as a game home run.
I didn’t get a baseball for the rest of the game, but later on in the game, a fan recognized Alex from the video where he caught Chris Davis’ 100th career home run, so Alex gave this young fan one of his baseballs:
Because I guess that’s what nice famous people do to people who recognize. (You can also see in that picture that Tim was completely touched and captured by the moment.)
- 10 Balls at this Game (5 pictured because I gave the other half away)
Numbers 665-674 for my “career”:
- 227 Balls in 51 Games= 4.45 Balls Per Game
- 10 Balls x 26,158 Fans=261,580 Competition Factor
- 113 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 18 straight Games with 2 Balls
- 15 straight Games with 3 Balls
- 7 straight Games with 4 Balls
- 99 Balls in 22 Games at OPACY= 4.5 Balls Per Game
- 22 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- 12 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at OPACY
- 10 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at OPACY
- 8 straight Games with at least 4 Balls at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 4:40-10:54= 6 Hours 14 Minutes
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
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
So if you didn’t read it before, Chris Hernandez was staying at my apartment. He was planning on going to the Thursday Orioles game and BallhawkFest 2013, but my only condition for him staying with me was that we would go to the Friday Orioles game. Being that Chris is also a ballhawk and baseball fan, who would have had to drive 2.5 to Scranton otherwise, it was only after thorough convincing that he conceded. So, after getting slightly lost with his car’s GPS, we finally arrived here:
Since we had come in on Chris’ car and had planned to walk around the stadium before we got semi-lost, I brought my “good” camera. And whenever I bring my “good” camera, the result is me taking approximately 100 pictures per minute. Well not really, but the point is in our brief walks by the stadium when I had my camera in hand, I took a ton more pictures than I normally do, and I realize I’m *way* behind on this, but you can eventually see them all when I post them on the Observing Baseball Facebook page. I will try to get all of the picture up as fast as I can (along with YouTube videos) once I’m up-to-date with entries.
Anyway, we walked around the warehouse and got here:
Where Avi Miller made fun of me taking pictures with my camera:
We were then joined by Rick Gold, decked out in MLB.com apparel:
So our group then consisted of everyone mentioned in this entry so far plus Grant Edgrinton, who was also there:
And then Alex Kopp would show up after I ran my camera back to Chris’ car. (Which is completely normal for him. He gets off work at 4:30, so he’s rarely at the gate before 4:50, if ever.)
When we finally got in, my first ball was on a JJ Hardy BP home run. Once again, Alex was playing in front of me, but we somehow both misjudged this ball and thought it was going into Alex’s row. But since I was behind him when we both misjudged it, when it hit into the seats three rows above me, I was able to run and pick it up before anyone else got it:
Basically Steve Pearce hit a ground-rule double, and while everyone else stayed still, I was running towards where I thought the ball was going to bounce up into the stands, ran after the ball, and trapped it against a seat before anyone else could get to the ball.
I then headed to the seats in RCF for a group of lefty Mariners hitters. And when a ball got hit into the gap in front of the seats out there, I retrieved it for the person who the ball had hit off of and gave it to him. Here he is holding the ball out for the picture:
After that, the guy I’ve pointed out in this next picture (who I believe is Danny Farquhar) threw a ball to a girl behind me. But because he underthrew her, I was able to pick the ball up and hand it to her. That would be it for me in BP snagging-wise. Although it should be noted that a bunch of Mariners put on a show in the flag court, and I almost caught a ball on the fly on Eutaw Street because of it.
He also tossed one to the guy who was behind me, so had I been smart, I could have caught this ball and then gave it to the guy, but still counted it. But things in the past can’t be changed, and life moves on, so…
During the game, the absolute highlight (and simultaneous lowlight on a selfish personal level) was when Chris Davis came up to bat in the third inning, I lined myself on Eutaw Street to begin with. So when Davis blasted a 1-0 fastball, I had the ball perfectly judged, but for whatever reason, the closer I got to the ball, the more it felt like I was running in quicksand. I kept running towards where the ball was going to land, but just as I approached it, someone’s glove got in my line of sight, and the ball whizzed past my blindly-outstretched glove. Mad could not even begin to describe my thought process as I turned to see the ball having just bounced off of the pavement. This pure anger, though, quickly subsided when I saw Alex Kopp jump up and grab the ball off the bounce. Despite the fact that I had completely messed up my chance, I was genuinely happy enough for him that it completely wiped away my disgust after missing the ball. It was soon after that we knew something was special about this ball. First the Orioles Cut4 reporter showed up (and filmed this video), then an Orioles supervisor showed up:
After that, a man whose exact position I’m not sure of showed up and Alex talked with him about what he could get in return for the ball:
And then we headed back to the flag court. Only I was the only one who ran because I realized Henry Urrutia–who has still not hit his first major league home run–was up. I didn’t get to the flag court in time for Urritia, who got out on two pitches, but I did get there in time for the other guys to see me on TV when Ryan Flaherty hit a home run that bounced off of the fencing in front of the flag court. When the rest of them got back 1. They all mentioned they had seen me on the TVs in the concourse, and 2. We took pictures of Alex with the spot the home run had landed:
And then, if that weren’t enough, Alex got batting gloves signed by Adam Jones in the seventh inning from a guy who apparently walks around carrying such things:
(I got a “Vote Orioles” shirt from him.) After the game, we all went to the area we had gone to before, and were shown down the stairs to the level below the field level that is pretty much just a tunnel below the seats:
And while we waited for Chris Davis, we got to see about 10-15 different players from the two teams in their “natural habitat”, which is to say that they were not in uniform, and in many cases with their families. Take, for example, Nick Markakis with his two kids:
I didn’t get any pictures when Davis came out, since I was filming with Alex’s camera, but if you want any, check out Chris’ entry when it comes out. I can just tell you my personal experience, which is as follows: Dvis was really nice about the whole thing. He took pictures with all of us, signed about three baseballs (two for Alex and one for Grant), and even though you could kind of tell he didn’t exactly want to be there, he didn’t say it to us directly and allowed us to soak in the moment. Alex also got a hat and signed helmet out of the affair. Here he is after we got out of there with the hat on:
Alex usually doesn’t ever like to wear hats, so if you see him with one on, it’s the exception and not the rule. We (Alex, I, Chris, and Avi) walked to Alex’s and Chris’ cars, where I got my camera and some other things for Avi out of Chris’ car, and then took a paparazzi-esque shot of Alex’s car as he and Avi. Because after all of the free stuff he had gotten, Alex felt like a celebrity:
(I don’t know why, but I’m surprised Alex still has a New Jersey license plate.) Chris and I then headed back to the stadium with my camera to take his “stadium picture”:
Inspired by Zack Hample‘s same idea in the 2011 season, Chris wants to get a picture with himself and a sign like the one you see him holding at all 30 major league stadiums. Except Chris is doing it in several years, and not all in one year. Oh, and for the record, Chris has been to like 13 stadiums; it’s just that OPACY was the fourth stadium he had ever been to, but that was *way* before he had the idea of doing this project.
After seeing this picture, though, Chris decided we should head to Gate H for the picture. And then this is the picture he ultimately decided to go with:
And then we headed back to the car, and then back to Washington, where we would wake up the next morning to go to BallhawkFest 2013…sort of.
- 5 Balls at this Game (3 pictured because I gave 2 away)
Numbers 601-605 for my life:
- 159 Balls in 40 Games= 3.98 Balls Per Game
- 5 Balls x 25,947 Fans=129,735 Competition Factor
- 102 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 7 straight Games with 2 Balls
- 4 straight Games with 3 Balls
- 3 straight Games with 4 Balls
- 67 Balls in 17 Games at OPACY= 3.94 Balls Per Game
- 17 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- 7 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at OPACY
- 5 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 2:34-12:26= 9 Hours 52 Minutes
So for the third time in as many days, I was at Oriole Park at Camden Yards (or OPACY for short) to see the Houston Astros take on the hometown Baltimore Orioles. And for the third consecutive day, I was not alone at the gates. Here was the crew:
Left to right that would be ballhawks/OPACY people:
1. Grant Edrington.
2. Mateo Fischer- As performed by Mateo Fischer.
3. Chris Hernandez– Who came from New York only to get misdirected by people outside OPACY and get to the gates with eight minutes to spare.
4. Rick Gold– I’ve introduced Rick many a time.
5. Alex Kopp– Who had generously let me sleep at his house the past two days.
6. Zevi- Who I believe for the first time I’ve ever been, was going to a game that Avi Miller was not attending.
How did these people scatter once inside? Here are my right, left, and frontal views once we all got inside the stadium:
So in that last picture, you may notice that Alex was in front of me. That’s usually not good news at all, since he is way better at judging fly balls than I am, but in this particular instance it benefited me. Usually the OPACY regulars–and even myself–don’t even try to get the Orioles players and coaches to toss us baseballs, but Alex convinced Miguel Gonzalez to toss him a ball. Unfortunately for Alex, Gonzalez air-mailed him and I picked the ball up for my first of the day:
Gonzalez would be the Oriole in black with the orange glove, who seems on his way to pick up the baseball in the distance. I felt bad for doing that, even though it was natural and he would do (and has done in the past) the same thing to me. But don’t feel too bad, because he would go on to snag seven baseballs on the day and further distance himself from me in the mygameballs.com standings.
My second baseball of the day came when I quickly went into foul territory right at the end of Orioles BP and got Astros catcher, Carlos Corporan, to toss me a baseball. I didn’t get a picture of it, because I thought I had a shot at a quick third baseball, but none of the other Astros who were throwing acknowledged me.
Like my first, my next ball would also come as a result of Alex and Tim Anderson’s cup trick that he had lent me the previous day. When Rick Gold and I simultaneously went from left to right field, he asked me if I wanted the flag court or the seats. Right then I saw a baseball in the gap in front of the seats, so I said, “Seats,” and went into the section. As I got into the section, an usher by the name of Charlie recognized me from earlier and asked me if I had a ball retriever, because his son had dropped a ball into the gap. Since I was headed to there anyway, I gladly obliged and got the ball for his son. I then asked for the baseball back for a second to take this picture of it:
(And no, my thumb isn’t broken. I truly have no clue why it’s bent that way in the picture.) Sadly this would be my last ball of BP. I almost got a ball during the Astros last mostly-lefty group, but it bounced into a trash can, and Grant realized it a half-second before I did and pulled the ball out of a food tray inside the trash can.
While I wasn’t completely dissatisfied in myself like I am during many 3-ball performances, I realized I was sitting at 599 baseballs and kind of wanted to get my 600the baseball before the day was over. At the end of BP, I went to the Astros dugout. There I asked Javier Bracamonte while he was unloading the BP baseballs into ball bags if he could toss me a spare baseball. He motioned that I go to the bullpen for when he arrived there. So I journeyed and met up with Chris, who had still not gotten an Astros 50th anniversary commemorative, which was pretty much the reason he drove down for this game. So waited at the bullpen. Through such things as Jason Castro’s catching drills:
And even when Bracamonte got to the bullpen, he kept telling me to wait. Not in a mean way, but more of a “I’m going to hook you up, but I have to do bullpen catcher stuff right now” kind of way. Finally, after a ton of time, he tossed me what was now my third 50th anniversary commemorative baseball:
I kind of felt bad because Chris had still not gotten one of these. If you can see Bracamonte’s blurred face in the background of the last picture, he’s semi-confused because Chris was explaining to him that he wanted Javier to toss him a commemorative baseball, but I think he was misinterpreting it and thought that Chris was asking him for a 2013 Astros commemorative baseball, which the Astros don’t take on the road with them(…yet). In this next picture, I believe Bracamonte is going back to the ball bag to search for a commemorative. (FYI, if you see this Astros in the immediate future in search of the 2012 commemorative baseball, their bullpen bag was comprised of almost exclusively commemorative baseballs.):
Eventually, Chris did get his commemorative toss-up from Bracamonte. I would show you the picture, but I took it with Chris’ phone, so I suspect that will be in his blog entry when it’s up.
I stayed in left for the first half-inning of the game, but then headed back to right field, where it finally dawned on me that I had snagged my 600th baseball ever. Since I thought it was a photo-worthy moment, I had Alex take a picture of me with the ball:
And that was it. At the end of the game, both Chris and I headed down to the umpire tunnel:
(He was taking a picture of his view. Here’s mine at the same time):
But neither of us got a baseball from the umpire since he was out of baseballs by the time he got to us. After everything died down at the dugout, we went to Chris’ car and headed back to my apartment in Washington, where we would stay the next day before coming back to OPACY the next day.
Semi-side-note. I never released it because it became factually inaccurate, but we filmed a video before heading off to OPACY the next day, so here’s that if you want to check it out:
I then filmed a video to kind of substitute the fact that I never released that one a few days ago, so here’s the more recent video for those of you who care:
Okay, and now I’m done with the entry.
- 4 Balls at this Game (3 pictured because I gave 1 away)
Numbers 597-600 for my “career”:
- 154 Balls in 39 Games= 3.95 Balls Per Game
- 4 Balls x 17,909 Fans=71,636 Competition Factor
- 101 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 6 straight Games with 2 Balls
- 3 straight Games with 3 Balls
- 2 straight Games with 4 Balls
- 62 Balls in 16 Games at OPACY= 3.88 Balls Per Game
- 16 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- 6 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at OPACY
- 4 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 4:18-11:20= 7 Hours 2 Minutes
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 second day at Nationals Park, but this time with more batting practice:
Normally I go to straight-away left field for pitcher’s BP, (the first group of hitters) but my neighbor Greg Barasch was here for this game, so I gave him left field and I went to the Red Seats. I actually don’t think either of us got a ball during that first group, but I got one in the second group when a Nationals righty hit a ball to my right. A kid in front of me camped right under it, but the ball bounced off his glove, hit a seat, bounced up into the air, and I caught it:
It was almost the exact same as the second ball I had snagged the day before, but the only difference is the kid was prepared and the guy whose hands it bounced through through the day before didn’t have a glove.
My next ball came when I got Ian Krol to toss me a ball (By pretty much being the only one who knew his name):
And as quickly as Krol had tossed me the ball, I gave it away to a kid who had been next to the man in the white shirt, and had been trying to get Gio Gonzalez’s attention from 50 feet away to get him to toss a baseball. (It should be noted that while he did succeed in getting Gonzalez’s attention, he failed to get the ball since Gio was playing catch with a person who was along the right field foul line and we were in center field.)
My third ball of the day came when Craig Stammen fielded a ball near the wall. No one asked for it, but I was pointing at a kid to my right so Stammen could throw him the ball. There was a kid between us, though. I think Stammen thought I was pointing at the kid between us, but I knew he had already gotten a ball–he was actually holding it in his non-glove hand when Stammen released the ball. So when Stammen threw the ball about half-way between myself and this kid, I grabbed the ball:
I then gave the ball to the kid who I had actually been pointing to (in the orange). I really hope Stammen saw me give the ball away, because otherwise he might think I’m the biggest douchebag in history for pointing him towards a toss-up target only to reach in front of him to get the ball. After this, the most interesting thing I saw during Nationals BP was one woman’s cup trick:
Apparently, she had seen Rick Gold using his cup trick last year, and so she figured out a way to make one of her own using a tennis ball container and some sort of putty. And unlike most imitation retrieval devices I’ve seen made by non-ballhawks, it actually worked. She had already reeled in two baseballs by the time I noticed her with it.
When the Rockies started hitting, I once again headed into foul ground, and once again got shutout there. So I headed out to right field after that. There I managed to catch a Todd Helton home run on the fly right about here:
I then gave the ball away to a girl who had not yet gotten a ball. That marked the third straight ball I had snagged that I gave away. That made it 75% of my baseballs I had snagged this game that I gave away.
Carlos Gonzalez hit the next ball I snagged. I had just ran to my left in pursuit of another home run of his when he hit a ball back to my right. I ran at where I saw it landing, and when it finally did touch down, I scooped it while on the run for my fifth ball of the day. That was it for batting practice. I could have maybe had a couple other Rockies home runs, but bounces didn’t go my way and things of that nature, so my sixth and final ball came when I went to the Rockies bullpen in search of a Rockies commemorative baseball and I got Jerry Weinstein to toss me a baseball:
Actually, though, that’s not fair. This baseball took absolutely no skill on my part. I was actually avoiding asking Weinstein for a ball from distance because he had tossed me one the day prior, but he spotted me in my Rockies gear, waved to me, and tossed me the ball.
This was my view once again for the game:
My goal was to get a commemorative baseball from Bo McLaughlin at the bullpen after the game, but unfortunately he ignored me for the second straight day. And no one hit any home runs to left field, but trust me, I would have been ready had they done so:
Believe it or not, I actually had two gloves packed both Rockies games because I knew there were going to be people I knew at the gates, so I didn’t want to play catch with them left handed. It wasn’t until this game that I realized I could wear both gloves during the game. MANY people–upon hearing/realizing that I have both a right-handed and left-handed glove–have suggested to me that I just put a glove on both hands, but the problem with doing this during batting practice is I need a free hand for things such as labeling the baseballs I snag, taking pictures, and taking notes about the baseballs I snag. However, during the game I don’t have to do any of those things. So with the two gloves already in my backpack, I figured, “Why not?” and had them both ready. But for the record, it’s not something I plan to make a habit of.
But anyway, with me not snagging a Rockies commemorative ball, I’ll probably have two more opportunities to snag one when the Rockies visit the Orioles in August. I’m a little nervous, but who doesn’t like a little two-month-long cliffhanger? Oh yeah, everybody. But I guess I also I have no other option besides revisiting Citi Field when the Rockies visit it a few days before that.
- 6 Baseballs at this Game (3 pictured because I gave the other half away)
- 125 Balls in 30 Games= 4.17 Balls Per Game
- 6 Balls x 34,917 Fans=209,502 Competition Factor
- 92 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 158 Balls in 34 Games at Nationals Park= 4.65 Balls Per Game
- 26 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
- 10 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
- 8 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
- 6 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 4 Balls
- Time Spent On Game 2:58-11:47= 8 Hours 49 Minutes