My day began at Avi Miller‘s house. See, Avi and his parents were kind enough to put up with me for a couple of days as I needed a place to stay while going to a couple Orioles games. I have to say it was a really nice/fun place to stay. Avi and I had stayed up watching MLB Network–which I had regrettably not watched in forever leading up to that point–and I worked on entries as I watched and we ate pizza that I somehow got talked into letting Avi pay for even thought *he* was the one letting me stay with him. But anyway, the way to get to the ballpark from Avi’s is to drive to the subway station and take that to the ballpark. We could drive the whole way, but given how often Avi goes to games, it doesn’t make any sense, because 1. It costs $8 for him to park by the ballpark. 2. It puts extra wear on the car. And: 3. It costs a lot more in gas to get to the ballpark than the $1.20 for the subway.
But why am I prolonging the introduction to this entry and my account of the time before I got to the ballpark? Well because not much happened in batting practice itself. Once I got int the gates, here was my view of the field:
While I’ve heard it many times via word of mouth, I don’t think I’ve seen it written yet, so I figure I’ll get it out there: OPACY has become a tougher ballpark to ballhawk at. One reason for the ballhawks who used to come there many years ago is the competition. Several years ago (like 2010 and before that) there was virtually no competition during the first half-hour, so if you were in left field courtesy of a season ticket, you essentially had the place to yourself and could clean up for thirty minutes. The second reason is the Orioles don’t really have a team suited for the ballpark. I remember running all over the place when Mark Reynolds and Derrek Lee were on the team, but now really the only player who consistently gets balls into the left field seats is J.J. Hardy, and even he is having a rough year in that regard. You’d almost rather go out onto the flag court for parts of the 30 minutes to try to get a Chris Davis homer. And all of the players/coaches who patrol left field during batting practice are already accustomed to not tossing baseballs up for this first half-hour, so it’s not an automatic thing like it used to be to get on the board with a season ticket. I wasn’t there super consistently before, but from what I heard, it used to almost be easy to get four or five baseballs before the seating bowl opened up to the general public, and that’s before any of the visitor’s BP even took place.
During this BP, though, the Orioles hit definitely less than five baseballs into the stands, and I’m pretty sure that’s including ground-rule doubles. Nothing even came close to me. And what made it so frustrating is that although Alex Kopp, who I showed you guys in the previous game’s entry was there, Tim Anderson wasn’t here for today’s or the next day’s game, so I wanted so badly to take advantage, since I knew it would be a rarity to have an opportunity like this, but then the Orioles let me down. I mean look at how much space I had to run around if a ball got hit into the stands:
Oh, and I don’t think I mentioned it in the last game’s entry, but I was particularly looking forward to Tim being away because he jumped and caught a ball during that BP that almost certainly would have made its way into my glove had he not been there. He made a great play on it, and I horribly misjudged the ball. I still would have made the catch, but he picked the right row to run in and I went two rows deeper.
But back to this game. What made it even more frustrating is that the big, bad Tigers decided to take the day off of hitting because they had just played an 11-inning game in Pittsburgh where they got beat 1-0. I mean to me, getting shutout for 11 innings by the Pirates means you should probably be taking extra hitting, but you know, whatever your methods are, Jim Leyland, I won’t question them. It was as a result of the Tigers not hititng, however, that I probably had one of my more memorable experiences at the ballpark. And by memorable I mean…well, you’ll see.
Since the Tigers weren’t hitting, I went behind the Tigers pitchers warming up to try to get a ball from them. Since I had previously had a good encounter with him at Target Field, I got behind Phil Coke’s throwing partner to hopefully get a ball from Coke when they were done. When they finished catch, and I asked Coke for a ball, he looked and me and started backing away from me. I didn’t know what to make of it until he got into the “set” position of pitching of the stretch and flipped his glove upwards–which is to say he was going to throw me a fastball. I thought he was just going to throw the ball at my glove nice and easy, but no, this was Phil Coke, so he threw the ball full-force. So given the fact that it was Phil Coke not off a mound, it was probably in the high-80s. I wasn’t expecting this at all, so as the ball went way higher than I thought it would, I just managed to tip the ball as it zoomed way past me into the stands. I then ran back and retrieved the ball. I thought that was the end of it, but Coke signaled for me to toss the ball back to him. I tossed it back to him and he readied himself again. This time he crow-hopped into the throw–so the ball was almost definitely in the mid-90s–and I had to jump this time just to tip the ball. The ball then hit off a seat behind me and ricocheted all the way past the cross-aisle:
When I went back and got this ball, I was more than prepared to toss it back to him for another chance to catch it, but as you can somewhat see in the last picture, he had moved onto a new victim in the blue. That’s an OPACY regular by the name of Doug. Coke fired one ball at Doug before he told everyone to clear the area and then proceeded to fire another ball at Doug. Avi described it perfectly in what he said afterwards (I’m somewhat paraphrasing), “In an age where some teams encourage players to not even toss baseballs up into the stands because of liability, that has got to be the most reckless thing I’ve ever seen a player do at the ballpark.” Of course, Avi had probably the best reason to say it because after it deflected off a seat, one of Coke’s throws went less than a foot above Avi’s head. But alas, I had to keep my crown as the only one who got hit in the head with a baseball while I was at OPACY.
But anyway, that was pretty much it for the day. Avi, Alex and I hung out in club level pretty much until the game started. Tonight was Union Night, so OPACY was completely sold-out out. I mean just check out the sight on Eutaw Street before the game began:
So Alex and I sat out in the flag court at one of the picnic tables. And after having to move about seven times because people kept on showing up to their seats for the first three or four innings, Avi came and joined us out there. Here are those two as I was leaving to go get an umpire ball:
And I didn’t. The previous day I was in prefect position for an umpire ball, but an usher moved a couple kids in front of me just before the umpire passed through–like he literally grabbed the two kids and lifted them into the row of seats right in front of me–so I didn’t get a ball that day. I figured this was the usher’s custom, so this game I went to the other side of the tunnel in hopes of being on the corner spot on that side. I was, but unfortunately for my hopes of getting an umpire ball, the Orioles rallied back in the ninth inning, which they had begun trailing, and Chris Dickerson hit a walk-off home run, which I–albeit jokingly–called. This affected me trying to get a ball because the crowd was going absolutely berserk, so when I tried calling whoever the home plate umpire was by name, he couldn’t hear me at all. Heck, I could barely hear myself calling out to him. So he exhausted all of his baseballs on the kids awaiting him before he got to me. All in all it was a pretty boring day to ballhawk besides the Coke incident. I got my one ball there, Alex got his right at the beginning of BP when an usher directed him to a ball that had been hit in the seats before we entered, and I don’t even know if Avi got a ball, since he has a good approach and just relaxes during BP and snags whatever comes his way. He doesn’t really set expectations fro himself, so whatever he does in terms of baseballs and autographs is almost like a nice treat in addition to being at the ballpark. Anyway, I headed out to the flag court where I met up with Avi, where we would prepare ourselves for a game the next day that while much more adventuresome, would be just as frustrating to me.
- 1 Baseball at this Game
Number 535 for my “life”:
- 89 Balls in 21 Games= 4.24 Balls Per Game
- 1 Ball x 46,249 Fans=46,249 Competition Factor
- 84 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 43 Balls in 10 Games at OPACY= 4.30 Balls Per Game
- 10 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 3:23-12:14= 8 Hours 51 Minutes
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Yes, it truly was a tale of two seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2011:
Casey McGehee, Rod Barajas, Clint Barmes, Erik Bedard, Ryota Igarashi (because he’s the only Major Leaguer I’ve played catch with), Nate McLouth, and Doug Slaten.
Paul Maholm, Joe Biemel, Ronny Cedeño, Ryan Doumit, Nelson Figueroa, Ross Ohlendorf, Chris Snyder, and Jose Veras.
Why?: The Pirates have had the most transactions of any team I have done a recap for (the total number of names is probably double that of the list of notable transactions. That said, they also don’t have the big names going back and forth so its kind of hard to account how much all of these little gains and losses will affect the team in the aggregate. Some of these additions might not even give the Pirates an extra win. I mean will Doug Slaten have much of an impact of the Pirates? Probably not. I’m not that sure of how these things will pan out in most predictions, much less so many of them.
Anywho, they did make some higher impact changes. Paul Maholm was a big part of their rotation that has left, and the acquisitions of Erik Bedard and Casey McGehee are sure to help the team have their first winning season of the last 20.
However, this grade could possibly and probably should be lower. The reason the grade isn’t where it most likely would be had I done this recap in a month is because two Pirates (Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick) are still on the free agent market and I have to leave the possibility open that they will return to the Pirates-even if they probably won’t. If both of those are on the “Notable Subtractions” list, my grade for the team is probably a half a grade lower, if not more.
Predicted Record Range: 79-84 wins. The NL Central is depleted, but this number will go down if Lee and/or Ludwick don’t re-sign.
Finally the day arrived. I say this after the fact but before it actually arrived I was a little worried about how ballhawk fest would go because I was worried about my streak being broken with so many ballhawks in attendance. Speaking of them, let me introduce to you all the ballhawks in attendance:
1. Garrett Meyer– #5 on the season leaders as of 7/26 and also the furthest traveled of us here coming all the way from Lawrence, Kansas.
2. Alan Schuster– The creator of mygameballs.com and organizer of this whole day long event.
3. Alex Kopp– A student at the University of Maryland who ballhawks really all over the place because he lives in New Jersey.
4. “Flava” Dave Stevenson– A ballhawk native to Baltimore who is very much a regular at Camden Yards.
5. Tim Cook– The second part of the now trio that is Cook & Son Bats’ Blog.
6. Oliver Rowles– Another ballhawk from New York that also usually inhabits the outfields of Citi Field or spring training stadiums when he’s at a game.
7. Zack Hample– Just click his name. If you don’t know him by now that such be sufficient. For the lazy people. He’s caught over 5,200 baseballs and inspired most of those present.
8. Mike Rowles- Oliver’s father and self proclaimed chaperone for the weekend.
9. Ben “…ny Batting Gloves” Weil– Yet another ballhawk from New York that showed up a bit late for softball (this picture was taken after we finished) because of the Lincoln Tunnel, “why are so many people going to New Jersey on a Saturday?”, etc.
10. Todd Cook– The primary unit in the Cook n’ Son trifecta.
-There were various people not int his picture who went to the game itself or were outside my lens.
1. Avi Miller– He just showed up for the game and didn’t show up for any of the pre-game festivities.
2. Jona– Zack’s girl friend who was simply outside of the picture because she too was taking pictures of the pre-group-picture set-up.
3. Jeremy Evans– This was a foreign name to me prior to ballhawk fest. Apparently he is a ballhawk from Pennsylvania who doesn’t have records of any of the balls that he has caught. I got all of this information from his mygameballs profile, I didn’t actually have much time to get to know him. The reason? He showed up at the game after the gates had opened and we were both focused on snagging baseballs.
4. Matt Hersl– He was “too sore” to play softball. He later admitted that he would have played had it not been 110 degrees. That actually was a hyperbole but it was over 100.
Obviously, the ten present and willing to play were not enough for a 9 on 9 softball game. Instead, Alan had devised a sort of Home Run Derby. Here we have Alan explaining the rules:
I don’t remember what the original format was but Alan added the fact that what he had said was merely a draft and anyone could add their own suggestions to it. Here we have everyone collectively having their “wait how are we doing this again?” moment before bombarding Alan with a plethora of suggestions:
This, inevitably changing how we were going to play the game. The rules, it seemed, changed by the half inning until the end of the second inning. This is what we ended up with:
- 7 innings
- 5 players on each team-once Ben showed up in the second in the bottom of the third-. Here is the roster:
- A half inning constituted of every player of the team hitting.
- A person finished their turn when they got one out with both a soft and baseball.
- An out was achieved by any ball that was not hit out of the infield or caught by the opposing team.
- An out could also be achieved if a person failed to swing at a ball within three pitches.
- A ball hit into the outfield uncaught was 1 point
- A ball hit beyond the fence were 5 points
- 7 balls at this game (3 picture because I “gave” four away)
- 49 straight games with at least 1 ball
- 18 straight doing so on the road
- 14 straight games with at least 2 balls
- 6 straight games with at least 5 balls (could I maintain this streak the next day with no batting practice? No one comment on this if you have seen my mygameballs profile)
- 3 straight games with at least 6 balls
- 2 straight games with at least 7 balls (sorry have to get them out of the way while I still have them)
- 7 balls* 20,311 fans= 142,177 competition factor
- Time at game 4:18- 9:46= 5 hours 28 minutes
At least they lost to the eventual champions.
Baltimore Orioles 2010: