On my last trip to Baltimore, I had set my career high for baseballs snagged in a game in the first game and then narrowly escaped getting shutout in the second game via a toss-up at the umpire tunnel after the game. That trip, however, was almost a year ago. And I was more than excited to be back at Oriole Park at Camden Yards for the first time in nearly a year when I approached its gates on this Thursday evening:
But this time I had woken up in Washington D.C. (I guess I had before those two games as well, but you get my point.) and took a 1:20 train to Baltimore. OPACY–because I don’t feel like writing out Oriole Park at Camden Yards every freaking time I mention it–actually lets people go into Eutaw Street and behind the bullpens early, so that’s where I was headed when I took that first picture. You see, Rick Gold had tweeted me right as I was about to sit down at the Hilton across the street that Nathan Karns was throwing in the Nationals bullpen. Up until that point I had completely forgotten that these areas of OPACY were even open, but when I got the tweet, I walked over to the stadium to see the action and possibly get a ball before the gates were even officially open. By the time I got there, though, it was Gio Gonzalez throwing in the Nationals bullpen:
And Rick Adair, the Orioles pitching coach, had an interesting set-up for Kevin Gausman, who was throwing in the Orioles bullpen:
If you can’t tell, it’s a rope. Adair had it set up to have an objective line between high fastballs and low fastballs. I like to think my readers are smart people, so I’ll let you figure out which side of the rope is which.
Anyway, I managed to get my first ball of the day when the Nationals (read: Gio) finished throwing and I got Jhonatan Solano to toss me their warm-up ball for an early spot on the board:
Soon after that (at 3:46) Orioles security came by and told us we had to get back outside of the gate. Had they given us an extra fifteen minutes I may have had a second ball from Gausman (I think that’s how you spell it) and the Orioles bullpen people. Before the gates re-opened, I waited in line with the people who made me think this trip to OPACY wasn’t going to be as easy snagging-wise as I had previously thought. When I got in the gates, the person who I already introduced, Rick Gold, lined up in front of me:
And then two other ballhawks who had joined me at the gate lined up to my left:
Ballhawk #2 is Tim Anderson, who has garnered the attention of the national media several times the past few years with his bajillion home run snags. While we had both been at the same game before, today was really the first time we had talked directly to each other. And that’s mostly on my part–and this goes out to all of you who may run into me at some ballpark somewhere–because I’m just generally awkward if I’m meeting a person I didn’t know for sure was going to be there ahead of time. And not like in the “Oh, that’s different from what I was expecting” kind of awkward; it’s more like the “Is there something seriously wrong with you?” awkward. And as a result of this, I almost never initiate people at the ballpark in conversation to avoid a situation like this. The best way to avoid this is to just let me know if you think you’re going to be at the same game as I am, by checking either my schedule or my Twitter account. I definitely won’t be attending every game on the schedule that I have on there right now, but it’s a good outline to know where I’ll be, and I’ll usually say something on my Twitter if I’m veering off of the scheduled plan or anything like that, so it’s a good place to be kept up-to-date on my baseball happenings.
But anyway, that was a good multi-hundred-word digression. The point is that my competition was going to be tough. So when the Nationals players came out to warm up while the Orioles were switching into a new mostly-righty group, I knew it was time to go for toss-ups. I figured the players would spend the first two rounds or so hitting the ball to the opposite field, so I really wouldn’t be missing much action out in left. In this trip, I got a ball from Denard Span in the weirdest way. I was actually trying to get ball from a different throwing pair when Span ran back to the wall with the ball in his hand, threw it up, and half-heartedly tried to “rob” the same ball he had thrown up, as if it were a home run ball. I don’t know what exactly he was doing, but he missed the ball, and it landed in the seats, so I went over and offered to get it for him, at which point he told me, “Nah, you can just keep it.”
So I think that’s technically a toss-up from Span, right? It certainly was more that than an easter egg considering I got there three seconds after the ball landed in the stands.
When I headed back to the left field stands, I learned that I had definitely made the right decision because there had not been a single ball hit into those stands since I had left. But I would not snag another BP baseball before the flood gates were opened and all fans were allowed into every part of the stadium. If you don’t know, for the first half-hour of the gates being open at OPACY, only season ticket holder–or people with that printed on their ticket–are allowed into the main seating bowl. The rest are confined to right and center field. But when that half-hour is up, everybody pours into the seating bowl. I am fortunate enough to have friends at the ballpark who are nice enough to buy me season tickets that get me in that half-hour early, but here is what the scene looked like right after the rest of the fans were let in:
It was right around this spot that I came the closest to another BP ball. But for the sake of clarity, let me get a diagram up for you:
The solid lines are the path of the ball and the dotted line is how I ran after the ball. So I saw a ball get hit to my left. I could tell exactly where it was headed, so I jumped back a row and ran right towards the spot where the ball was going to land, so I could pick it up if it stuck in that spot. Well the ball bounced off a seat at the end of the row, but instead of sticking or bouncing forward/backwards like a normal baseball, it at 90-degree angle and hit me square on the forehead. I mean someone couldn’t have done it more perfectly if they were aiming for me. I saw the ball hit off the seat, but it became a white blur as it headed directly between my two eyes. Just to show you how perfectly the ball hit me square in the head, it was almost if I had intentionally headed the ball in a soccer-esque manner because the ball flew thirty feet in front of me after hitting my head into the next section over. It didn’t actually hurt that much–other than my ego–but I was starting to wonder if there was something about the Orioles that was bad luck, since I had now sustained an “injury” every time I had seen them play to this point. In three different cities, I may add.
That was it for BP, but I did manage to get a ball from Tyler Moore during the pregame position player warm-ups:
It actually was a thing of beauty that we managed to connect on the toss-up, because there was a security guard right in front of me on the field with his back turned to it, so Moore had to thread the needle and I had to jump to get the ball to me and not hit the guard. As you can tell, he wasn’t in that last picture. I think the fact that he very nearly got hit in the back of the head scared him enough that he moved away from the players playing catch.
As for the game, I spent most of my time out in the flag court:
and enjoying all that is OPACY. I wasn’t the only one out there, though. Because of the fact that the stadium was pretty much sold-out, there were pretty consistently three of us ballhawks out there, and sometimes even more. I mean look at all the backpacks there were at one of the more crowded points:
I have no clue besides my own who they each belonged to, but the four of us that were out there towards the end of the game got a picture together:
Left to right, that would be:
- Rick Gold
- Alex Kopp
- Tim Anderson
Nothing came even close to reaching the flag court, but it was fun talking to those guys for whatever portion of the game they were out there. (Rick was in left field pretty much until the last two innings, and Tim spent around half of the game in the center field seats.)
- 3 Balls at this Game
Numbers 532-534 for my life:
- 88 Balls in 20 Games= 4.40 Balls Per Game
- 3 Balls x 30,665 Fans=91,995 Competition Factor
- 83 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 42 Balls in 9 Games at OPACY= 4.67 Balls Per Game
- 9 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 12:23-11:52= 11 Hours 29 Minutes
Again it was back to Target Field for the fourth time in five weekdays and the sixth time in a week. The funny thing is, I really didn’t feel worn out by going to all of these games along with classes at all.
Once I got in, my initial plan was to run directly to the left field, but since Denard Span and Ben Revere were the first two hitters, I thought, “What the hey, I can run over to left field in a couple pitches if Josh Willingham comes up.” In waiting to head over to left field, I managed to snag a Ben Revere home run:
I then went to left field, and much to my dismay, Revere and Span put on a show (for them) while Willingham failed to hit a ball to the field level bleachers.
After this, I headed to the White Sox’s dugout, where too was Tony Voda:
Tony is the guy in the white shirt, by the way. I didn’t get anything by the dugout, but that was because I got impatient and headed back out to left field when I saw the White Sox were hitting mostly righties for the first group. Once again, I didn’t get anything there, but I did get pretty close to balls that ended up bouncing back towards the field after they hit in the bleachers. I just wasn’t judging the ball well, and since it wasn’t staying in place when it touched down, it was costing me.
Eventually, I ran into the seats in right-center field to try and get a ball there. While I was there, my friend Sean—who you may remember from two entries ago. As you may also remember, he’s a huge White Sox fan, so he was able to identify all of the White Sox in the outfield for me. But when he identified a guy in the outfield for me as Francisco Liriano, my first was, “No, that’s him?” Just because his haircut looked ever so slightly different from when he was with the Twins. Anyway, long story short, I asked Liriano for a ball, and he tossed it to me. Unfortunately, his throw was way short, so it took a second try to get it up to me:
I didn’t know it at the time, but this was a very special ball for me, because it marked the first ever time I had snagged 200 Balls in a season, as it was my 200th ball of 2012.
It was then that I headed over to the standing room section in right field. There were several balls hit there by Adam Dunn, but I just failed to judge any of them well enough to catch one. The highlight (or lowlight if you’re FSN/the Twins) was that Dunn hit a ball into Fox Sports North’s TV set-up in the standing room and the ball hit the TV there, breaking the screen:
The guy in the blue is the security supervisor for right field. If you ever go through Gate 34 at Target Field, you’ll see him.
After the group containing Adam Dunn and A.J. Pierzynski, I headed BACK to left field. The only problem was there wasn’t a way to have more than ten feet of mobility in the front few rows:
And if I wanted to go to left-center field to play for toss-ups, there were three problems all kind of shown in this picture:
1. There were a ton of kids crowding the front row.
2. Tony was playing the corner spot all the way in left-center field.
3. It wasn’t the White Sox, but rather their kids who were shagging balls in the outfield. Usually, the kids tend to throw way less baseballs into the crowd than their dads do, so that cut down on the opportunities.
The White Sox actually ended batting practice a little early. Why? They took fielding practice afterwards:
While this is an anomaly nowadays, I’ve seen it a couple of times. It’s still a strange surprise.
Anyway, while I probably would have gotten that in the extra BP time, I did manage to get a ball during this. The fielders went off in waves, so when A. J. Pierzynski came off the field, I called out to him as he was approaching the dugout. Unfortunately, he was right in the process of throwing the ball he had to a kid just as he made eye contact with me. I thought when he disappeared into the dugout that it was the end of that, but second later, a ball was rolled right across the dugout roof to me:
I’m assuming it was Pierzynski, but it could have been someone he told to toss me a ball. All I saw was a hand and a ball.
During the game I sat over where my view was this for the game:
What s that arrow you ask? In the third inning, Justing Morneau hit a foul ball waaaay over my head, which followed the path of the arrow I have drawn (okay so it’s not technically an arrow since there’s no head but trust me, I actually used the “arrow” tool; I just drew the head off the page). Anyway, as is always my custom, I turned around in case there was a deflection. What happened was the ball bounced off of the facing of the upper deck and bounced RIGHT to me. I didn’t even have to move an inch:
Oh my goodness. It was a bit surreal to me. I’ve never snagged two game balls in the same month, and here I had snagged a home run and a foul ball in consecutive games. Wow.
Unfortunately, that was it for the game, but I really didn’t care. I mean seriously, I can never be disappointed by a game in which I snag a game ball…unless of course I miss another game ball.
Oh, and I forgot to mention the giveaway that had attracted an excess of fans to Target Field this game. Yeah, since the Twins had just lost 6-0, I’m pretty sure I was the only one reppin’ my team this late after the game had ended:
(Special thanks to Tony for taking that picture of me).
- 4 Balls at this game (3 pictured because I gave 1 away)
Numbers 421-424 for my “lifetime”:
- 202 Balls in 48 Games= 4.21 Balls Per Game
- 57 straight Games with at least 1 Ball (My highest streak of this sort ever. The next highest streak was ironically broken in my first ever visit to Target Field.)
- 7 straight Games with at least 2-3 Balls
- 6 straight Games with at least 4 Balls
- 34 Balls in 9 Games at Target Field= 3.78 Balls Per Game
- 8 straight Games with at least 1-2 Balls at Target Field
- 7 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Target Field
- 6 straight Games with at least 4 Balls at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 3:41-11:14= 7 Hours 27 Minutes
It was back to Target Field again. Once again, I had a guest to accompany me to this game:
This time, it was my friend who lives two doors down from me, Jonathan Mueller. If you’re wondering, (probably not) I had my “professional camera”, so I gave it to a lady waiting outside the gates to take a picture of the two of us. If you’re new to the blog, I’m on the left and Jonathan is on the right.
Pretty much as we got in, I semi-rushed to the right field seats (I say “semi” because in New York, it’s a straight-up race to the seats. Here in Minnesota, people take their time, so the only reason to run is if you’re going from the left field gate to right field or vice-versa.), and I quickly got Jeff Francoeur(That’s right, right?) to toss me a ball:
I can tell he’s a cool guy, I would have liked to have met him better when he was on the Mets, but his departure coincided with my introduction to ballhawking.
Anyway, I then headed over to left field to try to get a ball over there. First, I asked Jeremy Guthrie for a ball, but he saw my make-shift Royals t-shirt, and just laughed and threw the ball back. It looked a lot like this shirt but with a bigger logo. If you’re wondering why I had to tape a logo to a blue shirt, it was because my actual Royals shirt was still en route. It wasn’t until two days later that I actually got the shirt in the mail. Suffice to say, it wasn’t an impressive job on the part of USPS considering I had ordered it a week prior to these two games:
Sorry for the repeat graphic for those of you who follow me on twitter. (If not, you can over there in the sidebar —->;)
It was at that point that I put my MLB Fan Cave t-shirt back on. Also, in left field, I saw these guys:
I just took the picture because Kelvin Herrera is the guy who tossed me a ball the day prior and Alcides Escobar was the guy who prevented me all day from tying a no-BP record of six balls in a game the previous game. After I figured I wasn’t going to snag any more baseballs from the Royals via toss-up, I headed back two right field. This was disappointing, because given the fact it was the Royals, I was eyeing big numbers when I first got to the left field seats.
There I snagged two balls from the bat of unidentified Royals within a span of a few seconds. The second of which I immediately gave away to a kid. That might sound good, but there were about four hit in a row–all of which I lost in the sun and allowed to hit the seats. These two were just the ones I managed to pick up. It was an interesting situation 1. I didn’t have time to put on sunglasses since they were all consecutive. 2. It wasn’t the sun itself, I guess it was just the brightness of the sky. I saw the baseballs traveling through the air perfectly one second, and poof, it disappeared from my sight. Like I said: weird. 3. On the first, I was running to my left, and I was going to jump up and stop once I caught the ball. However, once I lost the ball mid-jump, my concern wasn’t stopping; it was just not getting my skull hit by a ball. Anyway, because of this, I kind of bumped into a guy. Right after which, I made sure to apologize for bumping into him. Just for that, he gave me a dirty look and told me, “You gotta be more careful.” Sorry, sir, for caring about my mental health.
These two baseballs would be it for batting practice, but I headed back to left field later in batting practice where I managed to do this to my leg on the edge of a bleacher:
Anyway, given all of the circumstances, this was my (blurred) reaction to “only” snagging three balls during batting practice:
I did score a few other items, though:
The shoelaces were to promote cancer awareness and the other scrubby thing was a company’s promotion within the ballpark itself.
During the game itself, I had two main views. This one:
And when a string of lefties came up, this:
Over here, I got stopped by a woman who asked me where I got my MLB Fan Cave shirt. I learned from talking to her that it was because *she* had been one of the nine cave dwellers at the beginning before getting eliminated- as six of the nine have been- since then. Her name would be Lindsay Guentzel, and she gave both myself and Jonathan one of the bajillion baseball cards the Fan Cave had given her upon her departure:
So that was a fun thing. I believe that was around the seventh inning. At that point, the Twins were losing 3-1. In the bottom of the eighth, the Twins managed to score a run off a bases-loaded walk. After which, Justin Morneau struck-out with the bases loaded to end the inning.
The bottom of the ninth rolled around and the Twins were down by a run, so I changed my get-up to fit the situation and took my glove off to take this picture:
Right as I lowered my phone, I saw this happen:
Let’s just say I had a pretty good view of the home run. Here’s the picture of the stands when the cameras first turned to the crowd. I’m in the green circle just having lowered my phone to see a ball flying through the air:
Here I am getting out of my seat, and going down a row, with the arrow pointing to where I was going. I was doing this all while simultaneously making an attempt to put my glove on my left hand:
I judged the ball as perfectly as I have ever judged a ball. Here I am with the ball entering my glove:
Unfortunately, I only had the glove half on, so I couldn’t squeeze it at all and the best I could do was pull the ball towards me as to not have it skip away from me before I could grab it on the ground. Meanwhile, Jonathan was raising his arms in celebration in the green rectangle:
And you just read the account of my first ever home run. Better yet, it tied the home run. As a Twins fan, there was nothing better short of catching a walk-off Joe Mauer home run. Wow. I still can’t believe it.
Here I am right after I snagged it:
I was so excited about it I even took a second while I was chasing a second home run of the game in the standing room:
Yep, a home run snag…….Minnesota Style:
Well, I didn’t get a second home run, but what I saw from the standing room was good enough for me:
That would be the Twins team celebrating around Denard Span after he had the walk-off hit to win the game in the bottom of the 10th:
He was especially celebrated because it was his first game back from a DL stint.
I then stuck around after the game by Anthony Lapanta and Tom Kelly:
While I was out there, a lot of people passed me since I was right by gate 34, the main gate into and out of Target Field. One of those people was the woman who took the opening picture that you saw. She came up to me while I had my camera pressed to my eye and said: “Did you catch the Plouffe home run?”
“Yeah, you saw that?” I said
“I was saying to my husband: ‘ I took a picture of those guys before the game.’ Congratulations!”
But why was I out there? I wanted to get a better look at my home run snag when they showed it on the Jumbotron. (Is that one of those things where the brand has become synonymous with the individual product? You know, like Kleenex.)
Actually, I got a better look at it than when I went home to see the replay:
That would be me in the process of dropping the ball with Jonathan about to celebrate. If you enlarge the picture, you can see my phone in my right hand. And the second picture:
That would be me going down for the baseball and seeing it behind me through my legs before I turned around and grabbed it with my glove since my open hand was occupied with my phone. What made the home run *even* better was it was the first game home run ball snagged in the outfield at Target Field on mygameballs.com. It was just recently that I started calling Target Field because of the University of Minnesota, so it’s nice to be the first one on mygameballs to record a hit game home run snag, and do something I could never in any of my other stadiums.
- 4 Balls at this game (3 pictured because I gave one away)
Numbers 417-420 for my career:
- 198 Balls in 47 Games= 4.21 Balls Per Game
- 4 Balls x 28,669 Fans= 114, 676 Competition Factor
- 56 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 6 straight Games with at least 2-3 Balls
- 5 straight Games with at least 4 Balls
- 30 Balls in 8 Games at Target Field= 3.75 Balls Per Game
- 7 straight Games with at least 1-2 Balls at Target Field
- 6 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Target Field
- 5 straight Games with at least 4 Balls at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 3:31- 11:36= 8 Hours 5 Minutes