Look where I was on the one-year anniversary of the first BallhawkFest:
When I got there, though, the day-of-game-tickets windows were closed and I found out there was only one student ticket left. The windows were going to open at 5:00 (ten minutes before the gates), so I either going to get that last ticket or go home. Would I get the last ticket and get to go in, just decide to splurge on a more expensive ticket, or would I get locked out of the stadium and have to wander around and take pictures like this game? While you wonder, I’ll inject this anecdote to build suspense for the answer [insert childish giggle here].
While I was waiting for the windows open, a guy approached me and said “Hi”. This guy was Chris Hernandez, a fairly new ballhawk, who those of you who read the comments may know better as “ch1088”. If you would like to read it, he already posted his entry of this game. The link to which is hiagh. His girlfriend and a friend of hers were with him, so those two held a spot for both of us.
Why did I need a spot in line? I got this at the ticket window:
The lines were rather long, but instead of being at the back of them, thanks to Chris and his friends, I “only” had this many people in front of me:
Do you know how car sickness works? Basically, your brain gets confused because your eyes tell you you’re moving, but you yourself aren’t, so you get nauseous -or something along those lines. I don’t really get car sick anymore, instead I get grounds crew sick. Instead I get nauseous when I see sun and feel warmth, but there is a tarp on the field.
Long story short: I got rejected by every one of the Nationals pitchers. Actually, I even got rejected by the position players that came out to throw. I’d estimate that fifteen balls were thrown in the stands by the Nationals. By the way, I’m not complaining, just reporting what happened. There were a ton of balls that left the hands of Nationals and fell into the stands, and I was having some bad luck considering there weren’t that many fans and I was one of the few with Nationals gear.
At this time, I was pretty sure that if I got a ball, it was going to be at the Nationals dugout during the game. Spoiler alert: my streak of bad luck with third-out balls and I didn’t get anything at the dugout the whole game. Anyway, I almost got three balls from Drew Storen when he bounced three slider into the dirt. I would have gotten each of the had it not been for the wheelchair section they all bounced into. All of them were going right in my direction, but all fell short in front of me where other people got them since I couldn’t go into the section. No, I didn’t get a ball from Storen, but when the position players came out to warm-up, you can bet I was waiting for them to finish and toss me a ball:
Actually, though, none of the position players tossed me the ball. See the guy in the Red? My guess is he’s a Strength and Conditioning guy. Anyway, after all of the players had gone into the dugout, he tossed me one of the balls they had left on the field. Here is a diagram of what happened:
The horizontal arrow starts from where the guy was standing and ends where I was standing when he threw the ball. The vertical arrow points to the kid I gave the ball away to right after I caught the ball. It was a perfectly good ball, but I was in essence making a sacrifice to the baseball gods for not shutting me out. Don’t you just love my religion? All of same practices and rationale but no dying is involved. Also, you can see Chris at the far left of the picture. He’s the one standing up in the red. The reason being, he was trying to get a ball from the Nationals dugout. He was constantly coaxing them into throwing him a ball, but got dissed each time.
The game wasn’t particularly interesting during the middle innings, this was all I snagged through six innings:
Something else was happening at this time. Can you spot it in this picture? (you can click on the picture to get a closer look):
By the time I saw the Star Wars people in the concourse, it had already been raining for a while. I liked it. When it rains, less people are in the stands. That’s just one example, but you can read a lot more reasons to attend a game where there is rain in my most recent mygameballs.com column, The Rainy Day Gambit.
Then, in the latter innings, it started to pour. Ian Desmond decided to be a little more generous to the fans that stuck around:
Also in the latter innings, the seats were empty enough for me to walk around without getting in anyone’s way, so I did:
Do you see how empty it was? I mean this kind of emptiness is nothing new to me just because I’m insane and brave ridiculous weather in the name of baseball, but why does it take a rain storm for either New York stadium to be this empty? The game went into extra innings (for the second time in four games between these two teams- all of which I attended), and the combination of that, the Mets giving up six runs in the top of the tenth, and the rain made foul ground ballhawking heaven. It was like batting practice but during the game. What do I mean by that? People were actually standing up with their gloves on:
I’m not kidding you, if the Nationals sent a righty to pitch instead of Tom Gorzelanny, I might have caught three foul balls. I had a reasonable shot at catching anything hit within four sections of me. I was sitting close to the dugouts, so here’s a better look at how empty it was there:
Also, I should probably mention that part of the reason I say I could have gotten maybe three foul balls is I actually *did* get a foul ball in the top of the tenth that landed one and a half sections away:
Danny Espinosa fouled a ball off that went pretty high, so I raced from the section to the left of where I took this picture from and just as the ball landed, I was on the first staircase you see in this picture. The ball then bounced off the seat and whizzed right by my ear. It then hit the first “elevated” row and bounced into the row under that. I had changed direction and was the only one within twenty feet of the ball, so I picked it up. Here is the ball with the spot I picked it up in the background:
It was fun, and just like that, I had my first hit “game” ball of the year.
After the game, I headed over to the umpire tunnel, but the folks at MLB.com mistakenly had David Rackley as the home plate umpire in the box score. I had gotten a ball from David Rackley earlier in the year, so I knew it wasn’t him. During the bottom of the tenth, I figured out the umpire was Alan Porter, with the help of Greg Barasch, who was at home watching the game. When the game ended, I headed to the first row of the section and yelled out to Porter before anyone else had access to him and he tossed me the ball:
At the umpire tunnel, I ran into Mark McConville, who you may remember from me mentioning a few times in entries last month. We really hadn’t said hi to each other yet, so we walked out of the stadium after none of the Nationals pitchers (the ones that were left anyway) didn’t toss any balls into the crowd.
- 3 Balls at this game ( I gave one away)
Numbers 355-357 for my lifetime (I’m showing the logos because they were both commemorative):
- 135 Balls in 30 Games= 4.50 Balls Per Game (16 balls under 500)
- 3 Balls x 26,735 Fans= 80,205 Competition Factor
- 39 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 15 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 3 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
- 82 Balls in 31 Games at Citi Field= 2.65 Balls Per Game
- 31 straight Games at Citi Field with at least 1 Ball
- 3 straight Games at Citi Field with at least 2 Balls
- 3 straight Games at Citi Field with at least 3 Balls
- Time Spent On Game 3:32- 11:24= 7 Hours 52 Minutes
- 1 Hit Game Ball this season
- 5 Pieces of bubblegum snagged and chewed at this game
Jason Werth bobblehead day and this is how things looked as I arrived three hours prior to first pitch:
Right then and there I knew this was going to be primarily an Upper Right Field day because Left Field was just going to be so crowded. The gate that I am pointing out with the Orange was actually one of many. They served the dual purpose of funneling people to the bobbleheads which are out of the picture to the left, but also not letting anyone loop back around for a second bobblehead. I went to this game because I thought that although it would bring many more fans it would drive away many of the ballhawks. I was partially right. When I went up to the Second deck in Right Field there was this guy in the Nationals hat and “Flava” Dave Stevenson:
The arrow shows where the first ball of the day touched down. Some Nationals lefty hit a deep ball there and I could have sprinted and gotten it but I let that guy get it as it was closer to him.
My first ball of the day came through unusual fashion. I myself was reluctant to ask Todd Coffey for a ball considering the odd exchange we had the day before. That however, did not stop dave from asking Coffey for a ball. Coffey then unleashed a throw on Dave that sailed 3 rows over his head just to my left. I wasn’t just going to leave it there. Normally what happens in this situation with another ballhawk is that I take the ball and feel slightly guilty but justify my actions by the fact they have caught plenty of baseballs themselves. This is where the weird part comes in. I normally give the balls back if this situation happens with other kids I usually give the ball to them but don’t with ballhawks because most ballhawks don’t count a ball they didn’t have primary possession of. However, I learned in my last day in Baltimore that Dave counts balls that he didn’t have primary possession. I learned this when a ball bounced off of his hands to Garrett Meyer and when the player who threw it asked Garrett to give it to Dave, Dave received it and counted it as his own ball.
So, I grabbed the ball and relieved the usual guilt I have by then letting Dave have it. This then counted as a ball for both me and Dave. Yes it is a corrupt system but I would like to point out that it was not my end of the system that was broken. To relieve some of the mental strain of those trying to picture this scenario I made a diagram:
The dotted lines are the path of the ball and the solid line is my path to it. The upper two dotted lines are just a way of demonstrating the path the ball took without using curved lines and the lower dotted line is how I let the ball roll to Dave. Although, he did go up a few steps I didn’t want to add another arrow to make the picture even more cluttered.
My second ball was hit by some random Nationals lefty and it landed three rows behind where my first ball landed where I then picked it up. My third ball came from Ryan Mattheus as he fielded it in Right Field. Again, the dotted arrows are the path of the ball and the solid arrows are the movement of the people they originate from:
For the record, I am not half on the field. I was just right on the edge of that glass in case Mattheus missed me short I would have more freedom to reach for the ball. That and the arrows don’t do much justice to depth of field.
At this point, I was just thanking my lucky stars that I wasn’t in Left Field:
So of course I left my Right Field paradise. I moved over to the Red Porch because 1) every pitcher in Right Field and their brother recognized me and 2) the ever nice Livan Hernandez was in Center Field:
I didn’t catch anything and nothing even came close but I did meet yet another ballhawk. His name was Mike. I don’t exactly what his last name was or if he even gave me one. Anyway, he lives in New Jersey and makes it to the games he can. The previous night’s and this night’s games happened to be two of them. We talked briefly at most but he was just one of the weird run-ins on this night with other ballhawks, Dave being another.
I then moved back to Right Field (upper, of course) and after spending a while towards the Center Field side moved almost all the way to the foul pole where I tried to get a ball from Henry Rodriguez. I failed at this but while I was there, Danny Espinosa hit a fly ball right to my right. I looked over to make sure no one was in my way and reached out two feet and caught the ball. I then got many congratulations and “thank you”s. Not for giving the ball away, but what I had not seen was there was a kid behind me that wasn’t paying attention and I had apparently saved him from injury.
I then moved back over to my previous spot where I got congratulated by another ballhawk (possibly…Mike?). I also had another weird run-in. This time with Avi Miller (again I was stupid enough not to get a picture). I talked with him as well as bp continued on. I had essentially given up on toss-ups because the players knew me but when Dave Stevenson called out for a toss-up from Ryan Mattheus I lined up behind him just in case. Let me use this picture I took of my bobblehead seconds before to demonstrate what happened:
Sure enough, the ball flew over Dave’s head again, and I picked it up and tossed it to him in one motion for ball #5 on the day. Minutes later, someone else on the Nationals hit a ball to the right of that same staircase. I moved down a bit, moved over a bit and caught the ball while leaning over the seats in front of me.
I don’t know how soon afterward but pretty soon afterwards, Nationals bp ended. As the Mets ran out, I quickly put on my Mets shirt. This paid off just as quickly as, just as my head went through the top hole of the shirt, I saw Jason Pridie waving a ball in my direction with his non-gloved hand. I hadn’t asked for it or anything but when he did this I started waving my arms and he threw the ball up to me. Weird, but I’ll take it. Here’s a sort-of good diagram of what happened:
Then things slowed waay down. I looked down to see this:
That may not look that crowded but I could tell it was a situation where I wouldn’t have many paths by which to manuever in the seats. By the way, that arrow is pointing to yet another weird run-in, Cliff Eddens. I mean I’ll run into Cliff a couple times at Citi Field here and there but to see him at Nats Park was a complete surprise. Anyway, I stayed up on the second level because this was the crowd up there:
After half-an-hour of nothing, I went down to the lower level and saw it wasn’t THAT bad:
You can see the part I was looking at from up top was pretty bad but the seats a bit further back were really empty. Considering I saw Home Runs hit into those seats, I could have been in double digits if I had gone down sooner. Getting toss-ups, though, was completely out of the question. There were way too many people and the Mets were not even looking back to see the people in the crowd. I then noticed Cliff and went over to say hi. In the middle of our conversation, a ball got hit to our right. Since I was standing to the right off him, I started after it. It was about five feet to my right so I moved over there in a motion that must have looked something like Carlton Fisk’s waving the ball foul (sans arm movement). I then hit my right leg on something which was very painful. I adjusted my right leg in its movement because I figured it was just a post or something like that since I hadn’t checked down the aisle for people or anything else. I then proceeded to hit my left leg on the same object. Those two things slowed me down and the ball went just out of my reach into another man’s glove. I then looked down and found out that the culprit was a bag weighing down the seat and causing it to be more open than the others in that aisle:
After various other failed attempt at balls (one of which I could have gotten but was too polite), I moved back up to the second level and tried for easier attempts at Home Runs. Being frustrated by the Mets’ lack of power I let out a yell to Jonathan Niese if he could “toss a ball up to the second deck”. Just as he turned around, Angel Pagan hit a shot:
I could tell the ball was coming right at me but was dropping short. So, I moved to the side of the glass panel so to be able to reach lower and caught the ball at the bottom of the panel. Once I did this, Niese gave a shake of his head as if to say that he wouldn’t throw a ball up. That was it for batting practice.
During the game I sat in left field and one of my weirdest encounters with a player occurred. I was waiting for the starting pitcher, R.A. Dickey, to come out and throw when I dropped my retainer in the walkway leading to the bullpen:
I was a bit panicked because those are pretty expensive to replace. Given that I was going to ask the first person who walked by to throw it up to me. That person was the Mets catcher, Josh Thole. as he entered the bullpen I knew I would have a short window and told him, “I know you don’t get this often but can you hand me my retainer?” His facial expression didn’t seem too pleased and I didn’t blame him because I wouldn’t want to be doing that if I were a Major Leaguer. I set my sights on the nearest grounds person while Thole looked like he was getting water. I didn’t see anyone within earshot but Thole returned with a towel and picked up the retainer and asked me if there was another on the ground. I told him no and so he tossed up the towel and told me I could keep it. Here is my newest acquisition with Thole in the background:
The Nationals won the game with their only runs (3) coming on a Jason Werth Home Run to Center Field.
- 8 balls at this game (5 pictured because I gave one away to my service supervisor back in NYC in addition to the two I gave to Dave)
- 52 games straight with at least 1 ball
- 21 straight on the road
- 17 straight games with at least 2 balls
- 2 games straight with at least 8 balls
- 5 straight games snagging a ball at Nationals Park
- 8 balls* 35,414 fans= 283,312 competition factor
- Time at game 4:12- 9:41= 5 hours 29 minutes