Tagged: Detroit Tigers

My Favorite MLB Teams

While I’ve always kind of known which teams I like and which I don’t–although even those have changed throughout the years–I truly have never ranked the teams 1-30 as to which I like better than others. So that’s what I’m going to do right now. (Disclaimer: This is a list of how I order the teams in the offseason of 2013-14. While most of my decision in where to put a team in the rankings is based off of the franchise itself, some of it is based on who is on the team right now, so these rankings are subject to change over time.)

1. Minnesota Twins-

My story with the Twins is that I grew up a Yankees fan being from New York, but being that I look at things from a GM’s perspective, I thought that being Brian Cashman and having a $200-million payroll would be a pretty boring job creatively since he could essentially buy any player he wanted to. In thinking this, I thought of a team who had success but doing so with a reduced payroll that required teams to build their team in an innovative way on a much smaller budget. Being as it was the mid-2000s, the Twins was a natural choice seeing as they were a constant playoff team with one of the lowest budgets in baseball. Now don’t get me wrong; there’s a different challenge in being the GM of the Yankees: you’re never allowed to take a year off having success to rebuild your core/farm system, but I was entranced by the building of a successful major league team from a solid minor league core.

2. Washington Nationals-

In going to a ton of games at Nationals Park in 2011 I fell in love with the core of players that went 80-81 as well as the people who inhabited it. Ever since then, I have been a really big fan of the players that made up the core of the teams in the next two years. And because of me falling in love with the Nationals Park environment for whatever reason as well as the people who made it such a special place, I became a fan of the franchise as a whole.

3. Tampa Bay Rays-

Much like the Twins, the Rays endeared themselves to me by being a team that built their team intelligently–allowing them to achieve repeated success on a payroll that can’t compare to that of a larger market team.

4. San Francisco Giants-

The Giants is an interesting case because it started as simply a liking of a specific player: Tim Lincecum. However, as I kept up with Lincecum more and more as he began to turn from the Washington kid who could pitch insanely fast for his size to a household name, I grew to have a liking fro the other players on the Giants as well. I think having shared a hotel with the players in Milwaukee and having a mini-conversation with a couple of them as well as having a personal memory of what Brian Wilson was like pre-beard may have contributed to this connection to the team, though.

5. Texas Rangers-

I truly have no idea how the Rangers managed to climb my list so high. I used to not really be a fan of them in their team with the two Rodriguezes, but as they turned towards a team that relied more on pitching *in addition to* the offense the Rangers always seemed to have, I really liked the teams that they constructed around 2009-10.

6. New York Yankees-

While they have fallen down my list and I hate the franchise past the team itself, they still are my childhood team that I can’t help to root for.

7. Philadelphia Phillies-

While it was not the beginning of my fandom of them, this certainly sealed it for me. They’d be higher on the list for me, but Phillies fans.

8. Toronto Blue Jays-

Part of me always sympathized with our neighbors to the north. Even when the Expos were still a team, I liked the Blue Jays a lot and always secretly as a Yankee fan hoped they would surge up and break the norm of the AL East standings for a while in the early 2000s–which was:

1. Yankees

2. Red Sox

3. Blue Jays

4. Orioles

5. Devil Rays

I just really always wanted them to have success, and this translated to a fandom of the team when they played teams that weren’t my top-of-the-line favorite teams.

9. Milwaukee Brewers-

My liking of the Brewers began in around 2008 when CC Sabathia joined the team for half a season and did amazing with being in attendance for what should have been a no-hitter, (I might write about this/do a video for a “Blast From the Baseball Past” entry) but then I just had a fandom for the Fielder and Braun teams. My fandom for the team, though, has lessened the past couple of years for obvious reasons regarding one or more of the aforementioned players.

10. Oakland Athletics-

(See Tampa Rays.)

11. Cincinnati Reds-

I think this is kind of a fusion of many of the various teams I have talked about to this point. So in part it’s like the Rays where I liked that a solid major league team was built from the pooling of major league talent, but it is also a lot like the Giants since I really like Joey Votto as a player.

12. Atlanta Braves-

I think this is Nationals-esque in that I loved Turner Field and its atmosphere. I also liked the core and became much more of a fan because of people I have met that are passionate about the Braves. And I can say that the fact that Julio Teheran plays for them doesn’t hurt them at all.

13. Arizona Diamondbacks-

This is one of the teams that I honestly don’t know why I like more than most teams. I’ve just always liked Diamondbacks teams (after the 2001 season, that is.) Yeah, I don’t know.

14. Seattle Mariners-

This has been mostly the product of running into very nice baseball people who are fans of the Mariners. I’m also a fan of how good of a pitching team they have been despite being offensively anemic the past seasons.

15. Baltimore Orioles-

Similarly to the Mariners, I just know a ton of awesome baseball people that are Orioles fans. In addition to that, their stadium is my favorite in baseball. I would say that really the only reason they’re this far down the list is that some Orioles fans became obnoxious as they began to climb out of the AL East cellar.

16. Detroit Tigers-

I know that I’m supposed to hate the Tigers as a Twins fan, but the fact that we beat them in the game 163 we played them helps and I always admired the teams that had success more than most of the teams I am supposed to dislike.

17. Pittsburgh Pirater-

I can pretty safely say that if I weren’t a ballhawk, this team would be lower on the list, but because of the big ballhawk following in Pittsburgh, I have kept up and liked the Pirates and it was incredibly fun watching them have success for the first time in over two decades last season.

18. Miami Marlins-

Ah the Marlins. Those poor souls. I always had an affinity for them especially teams with the 30+ homer infields of Uggla, Ramirez, Cantu, and Jacobs. That said, Jeffrey Loria has made this a team that I can’t root for over half of the other teams. They remain a team that I’m intrigued by and want to root for, and they would skyrocket up this list if Loria ever sold them and kept them in Miami, but right now they’re just not a team I can really get behind.

19. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim-

I don’t know about this team. I want to like them in many respects, but they lost me when they started spending a bajillion dollars on free agents, trading for Vernon Wells, and then having success with not with their big free agent acquisitions but with the farm talent they had beforehand.

20. Colorado Rockies-

The Rockies are one of those teams I have a preference towards, but still in a kind of “eh” way. I’ve never disliked them really, but I’ve never really had any passion behind my support of them.

21. San Diego Padres-

I used to like them a lot more in the Trevor Hoffman era, but they’ve dropped a bit since then  not necessarily because their lack of success but the players behind these teams. They just haven’t been groups of guys that I’d like to get behind.

22. Cleveland Indians-

Again, never disliked them but never really liked them.

23. Houston Astros-

I actually like the group of people in this team and could see myself liking a lot in the years to come. That said, they have made some pretty bad decisions in the past and it was not a shock that they were as bad of a team as they have been.

24. Kansas City Royals-

I actually like this franchise in terms of their ballpark and look, but then there are the people behind the scenes that ruin this team for me. At the ballpark, I have not heard many positive things about their ushers, and behind the franchise, I disagree on many things with the GM of the team, Dayton Moore. I think that the team could have been competing a long time ago had it not been for his guidance.

25. St. Louis Cardinals-

The main reason for them being this far down the list is the fact that their fans claim incorrectly that they are definitely the “best fans in baseball.” While I don’t think there is a no-doubt group of the best fans in baseball, if my experience with Cardinals fans in baseball has taught me anything, it is that while the Cardinals fan base may be in the top-10, they are definitely not the no-doubt best fans in baseball they claim to be.

26. Chicago White Sox-

I was a fan of the 2005 Astros and 2008 Twins. Enough said.

27. New York Mets-

They’re the Mets. I don’t know how many things I have admired about the Mets the past five years. If it’s any indication, the rendition of “Meet the Mets” that I have adopted begins:

Beat the Mets,

Beat the Mets,

Step right up and,

Sweep the Mets

28. Los Angeles Dodgers-

While I have kind of liked the players on the Dodgers for stretches, their recent acquisition by the Kasten-Johnson group and metamorphosis into baseball’s new Yankees has really turned me off to them. I have disliked them sans Vin Scully for a much longer time than just that, but that’s the most recent thing that provides a rational reason for disliking them.

29. Chicago Cubs-

I have never had any appeal to the Cubs, and I’m not particularly found of how Cubs fans overreact to prospects as well as how in-your-face Cubs fans I have interacted with have been about the most minor successes. Granted, it’s a conditioning that has come with being the fan of a team who last won a World Series when one’s great-grandparents were your age.

30. Boston Red Sox-

This is partially because I grew up a fan of the Yankees, but I also do like their stadium and the atmosphere of it. However, I can’t get over the attitude of their owner John Henry that many fans have adopted without realizing the absurdity of it of that the Yankees have a ridiculous advantage in terms of having a humongous payroll. The reason this argument infuriates me is because for the longest time, there was a gigantic gap in payroll between the Red Sox and the third largest payroll. Thus it was the rich crying poor in order to gain sympathy. The second reason is because the Steinbrenner family is actually a middle-of-the-pack ownership group in terms of wealth. The reason they invest so much money into the team is because they value winning. Therefore, if John Henry truly wanted to win, he could spend the extra money and win. The problem is that if he didn’t win with this extra money invested, he would be losing money. However, George Steinbrenner was taking the same risk when he invested his extra money; it was just that Steinbrenner’s Yankees did win every season and could thus keep spending. So what Henry did by calling out Steinbrenner and the Yankees was criticized him/them for doing what he didn’t have the guts to do with the Red Sox in order to give his fans the winning such a great fan base deserved. However, being the fans that they were, many Red Sox fans backed their owner without truly understanding what was behind these claims.

So those were my favorite teams. I am by no means “right” in any of my judgements. Picking a favorite team–or in my case *teams*–is something of complete subjectivity and can be done for any number of reasons. Also, the next entry is me making a new Observing Baseball Logo. I would actually like to make a clarification. So it’s actually not the logo itself–this:

Just Logo

But it would actually be me remaking the icon itself, which is this:

Icon 5

But besides that, keep voting for your favorite entries. I should mention that I’ll be doing various entries for Twinsfest, but you can vote for the stuff you want to see besides this on the poll below:

9/26/13 Indians at Twins: Target Field

While I was expecting to see him at the game, I’m kind of glad I went to see Tony Voda at Gate 29 when I didn’t see him as I got to Gate 34:

92613 Tony Voda

This is because as I started talking to him when he was waiting for the early batting practice for season ticket holders, the Twins employee who is in charge of the early batting practice came up to the both of us, and I got this:

92613 Batting Practice Pass

I guess he just assumed I was there to get into early batting practice, so he handed me the pass to get in. Just like that I was going to get in for batting practice an hour earlier than normal. Awesome. They actually brought us in the stadium a little earlier than that. Here’s where we were at about 4:15:

92613 In Stadium

And by before 4:30, I had this in hand:

92613 Ball 1

As Ryan Pressly was done and headed to the ball bag with his baseball, I called out to him and he tossed me that baseball. I think that may be the earliest I’ve ever snagged a baseball at Target Field. Since I didn’t want too many Twins pitchers seeing me get a baseball before they spread out to cover the whole outfield, I just sat back and saw Tony get a ball tossed to him by a Twins player. Who? I’ll give you one hint:

92613 Tony Swarzak Jersey

I then got a ball while the Twins pitchers were still throwing, but that’s because it wasn’t intended for me. Shairon Martis identified the girl in this next pitcher as a worthy recipient, but he underthrew her; so I reached out into the flower pots to get the ball and hand it to her:

92613 Girl I gave ball away to

Since I was thinking about getting season tickets when this game happened, I knew going to early BP a lot was a real possibility, so I made my goal to give away half of my baseballs while we were the only people in the stadium. My next ball came not on the left part of the overhang section, but on the right. Since I was the only one to see him field the ball, I was the only one to ask Mike Pelfrey for a ball and got him to toss it to me:

92613 Ball 3

My fourth ball felt pretty good since I got it tossed to me over someone. When Oswaldo Arcia fielded a ball in the outfield, I called out to him by name. When he turned around, I was in about the third row of the section, but there was a guy in the first row almost directly between Oswaldo and myself. So what I did was pointed at my glove and ran back three rows. At this point, the man realized Arcia was looking back at him and thought he was going to toss him the baseball, but that’s when Arcia tossed the ball over his head and right to me:

92613 Ball 4

The guy was so sure that the ball was intended for him–but thankfully not in an angry way–that he talked to me at the end of early batting practice (not knowing that I was the same person who had snagged the ball earlier) and told me that Arcia had tossed him a ball but overthrown him and “another guy got it.” I then gave this ball to what was surprisingly the only kid (and there were like seven kids there) who had not yet gotten a ball.

My next ball was the only hit ball I got while the Twins were hitting. I’m not sure who it was, but I caught the ball on the fly towards the right part of the center section in the overhang. (There are three sections in the overhang even though I sometimes refer to the overhang as a whole as a single section.)

Then when the Indians started to hit and the rest of the stadium opened, Tony left the right field seats and headed over to the left field line. I decided that the group hitting, along with the crowding that would take place if we both went to the same spot were grounds enough for me to stay in the right field seats for a couple more minutes. But it only took a matter of seconds after Tony left to affirm the decision. Michael Brantley hit a ball to my left (I was in the right-most section in the overhang.) so I ran in the row at the back of the section and caught it:

92613 Brantley ball spots

That spot is where you’ll see I put the “1” on. As I caught the ball, an older couple in the second row made a comment about the catch (I can’t remember what it was since I write this over a month after the fact, but I hopped down into the second row to talk to them) Brantley then hit that very pitch even further to to my left, so I ran a few steps over and caught the ball:

92613 Ball 6

I proceeded to talked to them, and ended up giving the wife of the couple what I think was the first of the two Brantley balls, but I couldn’t tell since I had both of them in my possession at the same time, and they might’ve gotten mixed up.

I then talked to the guy who the Arcia ball had gone over the head of, and I told him that since he hadn’t gotten a ball in early BP, I would give him the next baseball I snagged. So when I got Danny Salazarto toss me a ball in the right-center field seats, I went back to the right field seats just ot give the man the ball:

92613 Ball 8

I then headed back to the right-center field seats. There I got Brad Mills to toss me a ball in the corner spot by the batter’s eye after a couple minutes of pestering him semi-frequently:

92613 Ball 9

I gave this ball away to an usher who has always been nice to me. I instructed him to give the ball away to the first kid with a glove to pass him:

92613 Usher Ball

Little did I know, this was my 300th baseball of 2013. This is mildly relevant because it marked the first time I have ever snagged 300 baseballs in a season. This also began a mini “giving away” spree for me as I then did the same thing with to this kid who missed a home run out on the flag court–which, to be fair, I also missed:

92613 Kid ball

But wait, what ball did I give the kid. I mean I guess you assumed that I gave him one of the baseballs I had snagged earlier, but I actually snagged and gave him my tenth ball of the game. I got Scott Kazmir to toss me a ball in the right field seats:

92613 Ball 10

And that would be it for batting practice. My next baseball would come after the game and was thrown to me by Indians reliever Bryan Shaw as he went into the dugout:

92613 Ball 11

I could’ve had my all-time record, but one of the Indians bullpen catchers–both of which are AMAZING for baseballs at the dugout after the game, by the way–Armando Camacarro tossed three baseballs to the guy just to my right as he entered the dugout.

And right after that, I waited for Tony to finish up his snagging things and got a free Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup from an attendant in the Legends Club, or whatever they call it at Target Field. (Pretty much every ballpark I spend any notable amount of time at besides OPaCY has a fancy-schmancy section of gated-community seating right behind home plate; all of which go by different names, so I don’t bother to remember which is which.)

92613 Yay candy

After getting it, I just took in the fact that I was pretty much the only fan left inside a beautiful major league ballpark. (I had been there about twenty minutes after the final out had been recorded at this point.)

92613 Empty Stadium

And then once Tony was done trying to get baseballs from dugout attendants, I finally headed out and got one last picture of Target Field in all of its majesty:

92613 Target Plaza

Four games down in the week, two still left to go.

STATS:

  • 11 Baseballs at this Game (5 pictured because I gave 6 away)

92613 Whoops 1

Numbers 738-748:

92613 Whoops 2

  • 302 Balls in 62 Games= 4.87 Balls Per Game
  • 11 Balls x 24,929 Fans= 274,219 Competition Factor
  • 124 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 29 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
  • 3 straight Games with at least 3-5 Balls
  • 186 Balls in 36 Games at Target Field= 5.17 Balls Per Game
  • 34 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Target Field
  • 14 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Target Field
  • 3 straight Games with at least 3-5 Balls at Target Field
  • Time Spent On Game 3:12-12:14= 9 Hours 2 Minutes

9/25/13 Tigers at Twins: Target Field

As was my tradition toward the end of September, I got to the stadium before batting practice began and stood out by Gate 34 trying to get a long home run ball:

92513 Gate 34

But then I went to Gate 3 about twenty minutes before the gates opened in order to be the first one in line over there:

92513 Gate 3

When I got in, I quickly got Al Alburquerque to toss me a ball by being the only one in the left field seats who knew his name:

92513 Ball 1

(He’s the one to the left of the group of two.)  I then went on to miss a Torii Hunter home run ball. I tracked the ball about forty feet to my right, turned, and jumped for the ball, but it tipped off my glove and bounced to my side where another person got it. I was mad I couldn’t come down with the ball, but then almost the exact same scenario, so I started the exact same way:

92513 Ball 2 Diagram

But when I got to the point where I needed to turn and jump for the ball, I climbed on the bleacher, and thus had a much smaller jump to make and caught the ball. I then gave the ball away to the kid in the red. Usually he’d be too old for me to give him a ball, but he had a cast on his right leg, so I made an exception.

I then headed over to right field for the second group, which included Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez. I first had a a near miss with a Prince Fielder ball. He bombed the ball over my head in the the standing room, so I bolted back and ran to the spot where the ball was headed:

92513 Fielder miss diagram

But the ball took two bounces to a ticket scanner I was the person closest to the ball as the ticket scanner got it, so I stuck around for a second to see if he would give the ball to me; but I left when it became apparent that he was going to keep the ball for himself. For both Martinez and Fielder, this was my view:

92513 Ball 3 view

And so when Martinez hit a ball that bounced off the wall you see in the lower left hand of the picture and bounced into the back row, I ran and picked it up. That would be my third and final ball of batting practice. I then gave the ball away as batting practice ended to a kid who had not tried hard but still had not gotten a ball all of batting practice.

As for the game, I was down in the “moat” of Target Field. And so, I decided to take a look inside of the third base lounge:

92513 3rd base lounge

Considering how many times I had sat in the moat seats, it was kind of sad that the only time I had ever been there was when I was in the Race at Target Field mascot race. And then it was even just for a second since we were using it as a way of getting back to the -1 level concourse. Anyway, as I walked in, the view stayed familiar, since the door which I had exited through was immediately visible in front of me:

92513 Lounge door

But when I turned my head to the right–which was much harder in a giant mosquito costume–I saw what I had previously missed on my last trip to the lounge:

92513 Food place

Besides the overpriced food–which makes sense for the lounge’s usual clientele–it’s a neat place.

I then made it back out to the field for the Tigers infielders warming up. When they were done, I got Ramon Santiago to toss me my then-fourth ball of the game:

92513 Ball 4

During the game I then played third-out balls. After several inning of trying, I was coming to accept the fact that I was never going to get one since I was playing the outfield end of the dugout and Max Scherzer was striking out pretty much every Twins player he got out. In about the fifth or sixth inning, though, he got the last Twin of the inning to pop the ball out to Miguel Cabrera. When Miggy headed to the dugout, I flashed my glove, and when he noticed my Tigers gear, he tossed me the ball:

92513 Ball 5

And then the people who had been watching me go up to the dugout every third out and encouraged me every time offered to take my picture after I go the ball:

92513 Miggy ball

And that was it for snagging, but when the Tigers finally won the game, they had clinched the AL Central. So I got to experience my first ever postseason celebration:

92513 Tigers celebration

It was fun in that I knew the Tigers were making the playoffs even if the Twins managed to sweep them, but it was still kind of not since it was the Tigers celebrating on our field. That said, it *was* my first ever time watching one of these celebrations, so I made sure to stick around for it. And with the amount kind-of-sad faces that stuck around, I’d say that was the general sentiment–except for, you know,all of those weirdo Tigers fans in attendance:

92513 Fans after game

And so ended the Tigers series. Next up would be the Indians, who the Twins could potentially knock out of the playoffs. Three games down in the week, three to go.

STATS:

  • 5 Balls at this Game (1 pictured because I gave 3 away and somehow can’t find the Cabrera ball)

92513 Baseball

Numbers 733-737:

92513 Sweet Spot

  • 291 Balls in 61 Games= 4.77 Balls Per Game
  • 5 Balls x 26,517 Fans= 132,585 Competition Factor
  • 123 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 28 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
  • 2 straight Games with at least 3-5 Balls
  • 175 Balls in 35 Games at Target Field= 5.00 Balls Per Game
  • 33 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Target Field
  • 13 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Target Field
  • 2 straight Games with at least 3-5 Balls at Target Field
  • Time Spent On Game 3:21-11:18= 7 Hours 57 Minutes

9/24/13 Tigers at Twins: Target Field

The day started off well with a trip to Gate 3:

92413 Opening Picture

I like Gate 34, but when it’s not freezing out, Gate 3 has a certain level of serenity to it. That said, I got to Gate 3 only after first taking a trip to Gate 34 for over thirty minutes to try to get a ball bouncing out on the flag court.

After I got in, I got my first two baseballs courtesy of Prince Fielder. The first was a ball that I had tracked, but got into a row too early, and so when I realized the ball was going a good sized distance over my head, all I could do was jump and hope to find the ball in my glove when I came back down. I didn’t. But since there was no one behind me, I just turned around, saw the ball rattling around in the seats, and picked it up:

92413 Ball 1

And when I realized that Prince Fielder was getting warmed up, I moved back a little so I could run back on the flag court if he launched a ball back there. Well he did. So I ran back to the spot where I took this picture from:

92413 Fielder ball scenario

But when I realized the ball was falling short, I stopped and kept my eye on the ball. At that point, the man you see in front of me also realized where the ball was headed. So as he backed up to the spot where the ball was headed, I went forward to that spot. We got there at the same time, but he was in front of me. Because of this, I dipped under his glove and then jumped up as the ball fell down to earth. As I came down, I had no clue who had caught the ball. My guess was that we had both missed it and the ball was bouncing away from us on the flag court. When I looked in my glove, I was both surprised and felt bad for robbing the man so badly. Had I been moving backwards instead of forwards, the man would have caught my glove in his glove. Although he congratulated me on the catch, I still felt I owed someone a favor, so I gave the ball to the kid in the lower right-hand part of the last picture.

And then it was time for some more poaching of sorts. Rick Porcello meant to toss the ball to the kid in this next picture:

92413 Porcello ball diagram

But as you can kid of see by the arrow I’ve drawn, he tossed it short and it hit the railing and bounced in the flower pots. Since I was behind the kid in case of an overthrow, I quickly jumped down the rows and pulled the ball out of the flowers and handed the ball to him. I then snagged two baseballs from a Tigers player I didn’t identify. I do, however, know the kid I gave the second ball of the two to:

92413 Ball 5 kid

See the guy in the leopard print suit and golden glove? Of course you do. But do you remember him from my Opening Day entry? Well, if you read that entry, it should be no surprise that he’s a Tigers fan, which is why he was at this game. Anyway, I talked to him for a while, and it came up that he had promised the kid under the arrow I’ve included a ball. I responded with that I would give him a baseball if I snagged another one first. And I snagged a ball less than thirty seconds later, so I did.

And that was it for BP. So for the game, I headed out to left field and sat in the bleachers there for most of the game:

92413 Left Field Seats

But towards the end of the game, I ran to the dugout area in order to get ready to run down for an umpire ball when the game ended. In that inning or two between me getting there and the game ending, something special happened.  Chris Parmelee hit a foul ball that was going straight over my head. Before it could even reach me, though, I started sprinting back. I then saw the ball land in a row, and so I immediately ran into the row and fell on the ball, much like an offensive lineman on a fumble. Yay!

92413 Parmelee Foul

While I’d have MUCH rather it been a game home run, with this being the last week of the season, I was just glad to have gotten my first game ball of the season period. Unlike last year, it wasn’t so much me being completely incompetent when it comes to game balls; I just didn’t have many opportunities. In 2012 I remember about ten home run situations where I feel I could have had a home run had I done *something* different once the ball was hit; even if I did the correct “textbook” thing. But in 2013, there was definitely less than five of those same scenarios, if not less than four. Anyway, it was really nice to finally get one.

After the game, I headed to the umpire tunnel and got a ball from home plate umpire Brian O’Nora:

92413 Ball 7

And just like that, my day went from an average five-ball game to a pretty good seven-ball game. I then gave one of my baseballs away to a kid on my way out of the stadium. Two games down in the week, four to go.

STATS:

  • 7 Baseballs at this Game (3 pictured because I gave 4 away)

92413 Baseballs

Numbers 726-732:

92413 Sweet Spots

  • 286 Balls in 60 Games= 4.77 Balls Per Game
  • 7 Balls x 25,541 Fans= 178,787 Competition Factor
  • 122 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 27 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
  • 170 Balls in 34 Games at Target Field= 5.00 Balls Per Game
  • 32 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Target Field
  • 12 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Target Field
  • Time Spent On Game 3:32-11:04= 7 Hours 32 Minutes

9/23/13 Tigers at Twins: Target Field

After a rare 10-day break in the month of September from baseball games, I was back at Target for a fun match-up:

92313 Scoreboard

This will be a very short entry because there really isn’t much to tell. I got in at the normal time, and this was my view as I got in:

92313 Field as I got in

But I then got shutout for all of BP. The only baseballs I snagged were after batting practice was over at the bullpen. Nate Dammann tossed me two baseballs. One was actually meant for me, but the other was for me to give to a kid I know who ballhawks with his dad. I may have taken a picture of them before, but to be clear, there are two pairs of ballhawking father-son teams that I know of at Target Field. Anyway, the dad catches pretty much anything near him, and the kid is almost as good with the obvious added benefit of cuteness, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they snagged more baseballs than me at pretty much every game we’ve been to together. Anyway, he needed no help in catching the ball, but Dammann didn’t know that, so I motioned to him as if I could catch the ball for the kid and then give it to him. And as you can tell, that’s exactly what happened.

After that came the game, and since this was the first game in a week I would be going to games six of the seven days, I stood out on the flag court but wrote my own myth as part of my homework for my Greek and Roman Mythology class:

92313 Heraklapala

You probably can’t read, but the myth was about the time Heracles founded the ancient sport of Heraklapala (literally: Heracles–Hercules is his Roman name, while Heracles or Herakles is his Greek name–ball) which then became the modern day baseball. I am pretty proud of it, but the even more interesting thing was how many came up to me for doing homework at a baseball game. All of them, though jokingly, asked me if the game was that boring that I was doing homework. But that semi-questioning of my baseball fandom soon ceased when I explained that the reason I had to do my homework at a baseball game was that I was going to six of the seven games that week being held at Target Field.

And after the game, I went down to the bullpens just in time to see the kid who I gave my second ball away to get the bullpen lineup card. It was pretty awesome:

92313 Lineup card

And with that , a fun day at the ballpark came to an end.

STATS:

  • 2 Balls at this Game (1 pictured because I gave 1 away)

92313 Baseball

Numbers 724-725:

92313 Sweet Spot

  • 279 Balls in 59 Games= 4.73 Balls Per Game
  • 2 Balls x 24,647 Fans= 49,294 Competition Factor
  • 121 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 26 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
  • 163 Balls in 33 Games at Target Field= 4.94 Balls Per Game
  • 31 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Target Field
  • 11 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Target Field
  • Time Spent On Game 3:07-12:23= 9 Hours 16 Minutes

6/1/13 Tigers at Orioles: Camden Yards

Wanna see my view more or less as the gates of Camden Yards opened?

6113 Opening Picture

While Avi and I had gotten to the train station at a time that normally would have gotten us to the gates by the time they opened–and by Avi, I mean Avi Miller, the person in the foreground of the picture–the train was having problems with the signals art a couple stations, so instead of taking 20 minutes or so, the train took over an hour to get to our final destination from the time it pulled into Avi’s stop. Long story short: we got to OPACY over half-an-hour late. Had it been Yankee Stadium, I would have turned around and let Avi, but the way I saw it I still had the power-hitting Tigers’ BP to rely on, and if I didn’t manage to snag a ball then, I could always play the dugouts for third-out balls and the cross-aisle for foul balls in between that, with the security blanket of the umpire tunnel after the game.

When I entered the ballpark, the seating bowl was already opened up and the Tigers were already hitting, so I didn’t even try to go to the left field seats. Actually, correction: I went towards the left field seats right as I entered the stadium, but when I saw the seating bowl had already been opened, I turned around and made a beeline for the center field seats. And by “beeline” I mean slow jog, because I had essentially all of my stuff for my whole trip in my backpack since I planned to go back to Washington directly from the game. There I asked a couple of players for balls such as Luke Putkonen and Don Kelly, but got rejected by both of them. Then a ball got hit almost directly in line with me in the stands. I went down to the first row, but it fell about a foot out of my reach. Thankfully though, since I don’t have a ball-retrieving device made this year, it went back onto the field where Rick Porcello got it:

6113 Porcello in the OF

And apparently he had seen my Tigers gear as I had lunged out to reach for the ball because without me even asking he tossed the ball up to me. I then immediately handed the ball to a kid whose dad had been begging Don Kelly for ball as well. Kelly’s response to all of us was, “I’ll hit a couple out here when it’s my group’s turn to hit.”

After getting the ball form Porcello, I headed out to the flag court in right field. It was packed and I couldn’t get any toss-ups, but I justified it by telling myself, “You got more than enough toss-ups in Minnesota and can go for toss-ups any other day. Today one of the best hitting teams in the league is here, so you might as well go for hit baseballs.” This picture doesn’t do the crowd in the flag court any justice, but it was my view until pretty much the end of batting practice:

6113 View from the flag court

I’ll cut to the chase and say that I didn’t snag anything for the remainder of batting practice, but the star of the show, who I would have had an extra baseball had he not been there, was Alex Kopp. Here he is in this picture with his glove shading his eyes:

6113 Alex in the flag court

He caught three balls on the fly while I was there including one that was right in front of my glove. I believe it was an Andy Dirks home run. I tracked the ball perfectly off the bat, and had my glove in position to make the catch, but all of a sudden I saw two gloves go up in front of mine. They were of Alex and another person. Alex, though, had his glove in the right spot, so he caught the ball, and all I could do was smile because that was his third catch out there. He was just putting on a clinic. I mean the Tigers were going pretty crazy with all of the baseballs they were hitting up there, but it was also insanely packed given the size of the flag court. Every time a ball was hit up there, it was like a mini-stampede erupted. I was actually pretty concerned a little kid was going to get seriously injured out there, because while I check to make sure I have a clear running lane to the ball every five seconds or so, I knew there were people that were just reacting to the ball and keeping their eye on the ball and not where they were going–which is a recipe for disaster; either for the kids of the area or for the person, because there were the flag poles to be run into.

During the Tigers position players’ infield warm-ups, I should have snagged my second ball of the day. What happened was I got Omar Infante’s attention despite being fifteen rows up in the stands by waving my arms, so he tossed the ball to me:

6113 Omar Infante

but he was off with his aim, so the ball sailed above me and to my left. I reached, but I tried to be careful because reaching full-extension would also involve me elbowing the woman standing next to me in the head. So with all of this happening, the ball tipped off the edge of my glove and into the lap of a person behind me. Bleh.

An even more frustrating thing happened during the game. I don’t know how many home runs there were in this game (a lot) but only one made its way out into the flag court. It was the fourth inning, and Victor Martinez was the hitter. I happened to be looking away because a person said something to me in the flag court, but suddenly I heard a roar in the crowd and a ball whizzing towards the foul pole. I then ran towards the ball and played the ricochet I have always failed to do in the home run balls I have botched in the past. Unfortunately the ball bounced back towards the field after landing in the flag court because it hit the beer stand out there. Had it kept going towards Eutaw Street, I’m 95% sure I would have had the ball because I was the only one in the back of the flag court who even saw the ball, much less reacted. Are you a little confused? Here, I drew up a diagram from the perspective of where I started out when the ball was hit. The dotted line is the flight of the ball, and the solid line is the path that I ran:

6113 Diagram

And if you want, here is the link to the video. At the first point you can identify where I am when they cut to the view of the flag court, I am here:

6113 Video 1

You can then pretty easily identify as the person running across the flag court for the ball. It looks like I was going pretty fast from the video, but I remember that I was purposely taking it slow in case the ball did bounce to the back of the flag court, which I expected it to do, because I didn’t want a repeat of the ball that hit me in the head during my first game here in Baltimore or anything of the sort. The next time when you can more clearly see me is after the ball had bounced back to the fence:

6113 Video 2

After this you can see I’m one of three people actively going after the ball. I can also say I probably would have had it had the person who eventually got the ball was a foot taller. It was actually a kid who got the ball. And I say I would have gotten the ball had he been taller because he had to go under one of those rope-type dividers that you see at airport/bus terminal check-in lines. You know what I’m talking about, right? The black poles that connect by rope in order for people in line to zig-zag their way through. Well anyway, the kid didn’t have to duck much to get the ball, but had he been a foot taller, that half-second he would have taken to duck underneath was all I would have needed to get the ball. But oh well. Palante.

I then spent the rest of the game awaiting another home run that never came, all while this great view of the game and all its action:

6113 Flag Court view

(Yay?) At the end of the game I headed down for one last try at an umpire ball this series, and whaddaya know, I got it:

6113 Ball 2

As I got to the umpire tunnel there were actually kids in the corner spots on each side of the dugout, so I had to go a little further up. Home plate umpire, Hunte Wendelstedt(?), gave out a couple of baseballs to the kids at the front of the tunnel and then moved on. Just in case he still had a ball with him, I called out to him, “Mr. Wendelsedt, do you have any extra baseballs?” He was already past me in the tunnel, but upon hearing his name, he turned right around and tossed me the baseball you see above. I then headed to the Tigers dugout, but I didn’t get anything there, so I walked up to Baltimore-Penn Station and took the next Amtrak train back to Washington.

STATS:

  • 2 Baseballs at this Game (1 pictured because I gave the other 1 away)

6113 Baseball

Numbers 536-37 for my “career”:

6113 Sweet Spot

  • 91 Balls in 22 Games= 4.14 Balls Per Game
  • 2 Ball x 38,965 Fans=77,930 Competition Factor
  • 85 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 45 Balls in 11 Games at OPACY= 4.09 Balls Per Game
  • 11 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
  • Time Spent On Game 12:47-10:48= 10 Hours 1 Minute

5/31/13 Tigers at Orioles: Camden Yards

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:

53113 Opening Picture

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:

53113 Room to my left

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:

53113 Ball 1

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:

53113 Eutaw Street

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:

53113 Flag Court people

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.

STATS:

  • 1 Baseball at this Game

53113 Baseball

Number 535 for my “life”:

53113 Sweet Spot

  • 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