Again my day did not get off to a good start. But unlike the previous day, it didn’t get all that much better during batting practice. So when I got to Gate H, I kept expecting other ballhawks to be there as well, but none showed up. Both Tim Anderson and Alex Kopp had apparently gone to Dempsey’s, which is a restaurant inside of the warehouse. Once I realized this and found another season ticket holder to use the card of to buy a discounted ticket from, the gates were opening. So as a result, I was like 3-5 minutes late getting in. This may not seem like much, but for a ballhawk right at the time the gates open, it’s an eternity.
So with all of the better spots in left field taken once I got there, it was a no-brainer for me to go down the left field line when the Rays started throwing for toss-ups. Pretty much the only thing that made me want to stay in left was that my next baseball was going to be my 100th at OPACY, so I would have rather it been a hit baseball on the fly. But like I’ve said before, I’m not nearly good enough to be able to choose how I get a baseball. I’m just happy if I get the ball.
That said, Wil Myers looks as though he could become something in the majors, so irrelevant of it being my 100th OPACY ball, when there was a decision to be made of whether to ask him or Evan Longoria for a ball, I got Myers to toss me my first ball of the day and my 100th at OPACY (Oriole Park at Camden Yards, for those of you who are confused):
And with this, I became I believe only one of three ballhawks who have snagged 100 baseballs at five or more ballparks. So that was pretty cool, and not an indication of me being anywhere near the league of the other two ballhawks I share the distinction with. And an even cooler thing was one of my more favorite players, Ben Zobrist came over to sign right after that, and I got him to sign the 100 baseball.
I then moved down the line and awaited for the pitchers to be done throwing. And when Roberto Hernandez (formerly known as Fausto Carmona) was finished throwing, I waved at him for the ball, but he put up a finger as if to say, “One minute.” He then proceeded to do what is known among pitchers “shadowing”, so I assumed when he was done with that, he would throw me the ball. Turns out I didn’t even need to wait that long, because when a ball got hit in hsi direction, he picked it up and chucked it to me:
I then headed back to left, but quickly thereafter left to go to right-center because the non-season ticket holders were being let into the seating bowl. There, I used something I had noticed one of the previous two days. I had seen a kid ask Rays bullpen coach, Stan Boroski, for a ball by name, and Boroski tossed it to him saying, “You’re one of the only people besides this guy (pointing to Scott Cursi) who knows my name in this stadium.” So I though if I got Boroski’s name right, it would be the easiest toss-up in the world. And it was:
After taking the picture, I gave that ball away to a kid who was standing to my right. That was when Alex showed up in the section and reported to me that he had been having a really good day and was already at 6 baseballs. He would then get his seventh from Alex Cobb. He probably could have gotten to double digits, but the Rays ended batting practice 30-40 minutes before the visiting team normally does. So we sat in the center field seats and talked for a while:
Alex would then get his eighth ball that we had both been eying for about 40 minutes from a groundskeeper about ten minutes before game time. I initially stayed out in right field with him for the game, but when I realized that eight of the Rays nine hitters were righties, I moved to over here where this was my view:
But sadly there were no foul balls within fifteen feet of me. I then headed to the umpire tunnel at the end of the game, but Joe West ran out of baseballs before he got to me.
Thankfully, though, I didn’t just walk back to Alex’s house at that point. Instead I went to the Rays dugout. As the relievers walked in, I saw Joel Peralta had a ball in his rolled up glove, so I asked him for it in Spanish. He completely ignored me, but as he walked into the dugout, I saw a ball bounce towards me on the dugout roof. Apparently Fernando Rodney had heard my request and tossed me a baseball he had with him:
Then I saw that Stan Boroski and Scott Cursi were way behind the relievers, so I quickly changed from my Rays hat to my MLB Fan Cave hat (I already had my MLB Fan Cave shirt on at that point) to disguise myself from Boroski, who had tossed me a ball earlier in the day. And so I again asked Boroski, but this time by last name, and he tossed me my fifth ball of the day. Then I saw a kid next to me with a glove, who had not gotten a ball from Boroski, so I gave him the ball. I was just happy that my disguise had paid off:
And so I headed back to Alex’s place by foot. At the time I thought there might be a possibility I’d be back in Baltimore over the weekend, but with talking to my mom on the car ride back to Washington (she and my step-dad picked me up at Alex’s) I learned that wasn’t really a feasible option given the time and day my flight left. So this would prove to be my last game at OPACY in 2013.
- 5 Balls at this Game (3 pictured because I gave both Boroski balls away)
Numbers 675-679 for my “lifetime”:
- 233 Balls in 52 Games= 4.48 Balls Per Game
- 5 Balls x 28,323 Fans=141,615 Competition Factor
- 114 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 19 straight Games with 2 Balls
- 16 straight Games with 3 Balls
- 8 straight Games with 4 Balls
- 2 straight games with 5 Balls
- 104 Balls in 23 Games at OPACY= 4.5 Balls Per Game
- 23 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- 13 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at OPACY
- 11 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at OPACY
- 9 straight Games with at least 4 Balls at OPACY
- 2 straight games with at least 5 Balls at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 4:33-11:49= 7 Hours 16 Minutes
This game did not start well for me. Because I was writing an entry and it took me longer than I thought, I arrived at the gate at 4:50. And having not yet bought my ticket, I had to do that and wasn’t able to talk to people much before the gates opened. So while we had talked about it the previous day and I thought I was going to be the only one going to right field when the gates opened, Tim Anderson had changed his mind overnight and ran that way ahead of me. There he caught one Chris Davis home run on the fly and got another that bounced a couple of times in the seats. He then headed over to left, but I was more stubborn and waited an extra five minutes before conceding that doing the same was the better option.
Once there, I had a couple more close calls. The first was a ball Alex Kopp caught on the fly, but his elbow then hit me on the way down and dislodged the ball. I then saw it on the ground and reached for it, but a railing was in my way, and so I wasn’t able to reach out all the way. The next was a ball that bounced in on the first row portion of a staircase, bounced up–nearly taking my and Tim’s heads in the process–and then a guy came out of nowhere to barely beat me to the ball.
So with all of those initial missed opportunities, my first ball of the day came from J.J. Hardy:
I ran a section to my right when I saw the ball get hit, but the kid in the Davis jersey–who was two rows in front of me at the time–seemed like he had the ball. But then I saw the ball hit his glove and go past it, so while there was a railing separating me from the ball, I used it as a fulcrum and just leaned so much that my feet were up in the air, and grabbed the ball out of a seat.
Then, when I saw a ball roll to the corner of the outfield wall by the foul pole, I went over there knowing a player would eventually have to pick it. And so when Chris Tillman walked over, I asked him if he could toss me the ball. As he was walking away with the ball, he turned around and intentionally threw the ball again the foul pole (so it would bounce back to him) but then smiled and actually tossed me the ball:
My next two baseballs came as a result of Danny Valencia. We have known Valencia to hit the ball deep. I mean he regularly hits the back of the visiting bullpen at OPACY and spots in the left field almost just as deep. So all of us backed up whenever Valencia was up and moved up for the other hitters in his group. My spot for Valencia happened to be behind and to the left of my spot for the other hitters, so as I realized he was up, I first went up, and then began going left. And just as I entered the row, Valencia bombed a ball, so I I moved a little more left and judged the ball. I figured if the ball was going over my head or falling short, my only chance would be to jump rows. But thankfully I picked the right row and the ball came right to me. As the other ballhawks put it after BP, it seemed as though I had “teleported” to make the catch:
My next ball wen to the right of my Valencia, and I ran for the ball, picked it up after it hit, and gave it to a guy who was running so fast after it that his sunglasses fell off going down for the ball:
(That’s the guy holding up the ball. If you can see the kid in Rays gear, that’s his son. I learned from him when I went into foul ground to get a toss-up from Rays players that they were from Green Bay, but since the dad was in town for work, it made complete sense for the kid–whose favorite player of all-time is Evan Longoria–to come down with him.)
Speaking of foul territory, that’s where I got my next ball from Desmond Jennings:
(Jennings was in the dugout by the time I could take a picture of the ball, but that’s where he tossed me my fifth ball of the day from.) A cool thing happened after that in that the kid I mentioned to parenthetical groupings ago got a ball from Evan Longoria, and I got to see his face absolutely light up, since–like I mentioned in the aforementioned parenthetical grouping–Longoria was his favorite player who had also signed his jersey for him the previous day. I’d call that a successful 1,500-mile trip.
My next ball came when I went to the right-center field seats. Matt Moore fielded a ball just past the warning track and tossed it to a kid, but tossed it a little too short, and so it landed here:
So I pulled out the cup trick I had made with Greg Barasch during my most recent New York trip (which I may do an entry about after the 8/21/13 entry) and got the ball otu of the gap, which I then gave to the sister of the kid Moore had thrown the ball to.
Moore then tossed the next ball he got to this kid, but this one sailed over the kid’s head. So I ran over, picked up the ball, and gave it to him:
Having given now two kids in the family baseballs, his parents then thanked me a bunch of time and told me there was a ball I could use my cup trick on in the batter’s eye. I thanked them for giving me the tip but I told them that we’re not allowed to use it over there.
I waited in the next staircase for about three minutes, but then I started up the stairs to go to the flag court. But when I saw a ball roll to the wall at the bottom I headed back down. Matt Moore got the ball, and started scanning the crowd as if he was looking for someone in particular to toss the ball to. And when I got to the bottom of the staircase, I found out that he was indeed: Me! He tossed me the ball and said, “I saw you give that kid the ball earlier.”
I have no clue why he was wearing a catcher’s glove (maybe it had to do with the fact that he’s on the DL) but trust me that it was indeed Moore. And yes, for those of you keeping score at home, that was my third ball that came as a result of a Matt Moore throw. (I think we can excuse him since he is indeed on the DL.) As well as my eighth ball of the day overall. It was after this that I did indeed go up to the flag court.
Now usually, going up to the flag court is a waste of time snagging-wise for me because I am usually the least skilled of the ballhawks up there and end up getting a ball snatched by another ballhawk when I’m mere inches from it. But on this occasion, it was only myself and Alex up there, so with me having positioning to his left, I was in front of him on a ball that was hit just to the right of the right field foul pole–by who I’m pretty was Luke Scott, since I don’t know anyone else on the rays with a Wolverine-style beard. It hit in the seats right by two people who had no clue what was going on. The girl then slowly got up and turned around to pick up the ball, but just as she was doing that, I was down on the cross-aisle watching the ball bounce down the steps. And just as she looked down and realized what was happening, I reached through the railing and grabbed the ball:
But then I realized that this would have almost undoubtedly have been their ball had I not been there, so I reached up through the railing to give her the ball. And it was a great decision because in walking back onto the flag court, three different ushers congratulated me on giving her the ball. If there’s ever an option between being like by ushers and not being liked by them, I’ll choose being liked. While I realize probably as well as anyone that there are different breeds of ushers/”hospitality attendants/”security officers” (yeah, that’s the official title for those people at Yankee Stadium; I asked one of them) this was a great way to take out three birds with one stone. Unfortunately, though, as it looked very feasible for me to break my all-time record, the Rays ended BP about 20 minutes earlier than the visiting team normally does (which would sadly be one-upped the next day’s BP) and so this was my last ball of BP. Alex and I then headed over to the Orioles bullpen where we met up with Grant Edrington.
There I informed Alex that Rick Adair, who reportedly used to dislike him, but has since grown fond of him because he has seen him give away a ton of baseballs to kids, had taken a leave of absence starting with the Rockies series and that Scott McGregor would instead be clearing the baseballs out of the bullpen. There were three baseballs, and just as Alex predicted, one went to a kid at the corner of the bullpen, one went to Grant, and one went to the middle. The latter was meant for me, since it was right to me, but Alex should have definitely robbed me since he was a row above me. But he was too nice to, so I got the ball and gave it to a kid in front of me:
And with that, I reached double digits for I believe only the fifth time ever and the third time this year. I could’ve maybe played the dugout and tried to beat my record of 11 balls in a game, but in addition to tying my single-game record, my next baseball would also be the 100th of my career at OPACY, so I thought it’d be cool if it came as a game home run.
I didn’t get a baseball for the rest of the game, but later on in the game, a fan recognized Alex from the video where he caught Chris Davis’ 100th career home run, so Alex gave this young fan one of his baseballs:
Because I guess that’s what nice famous people do to people who recognize. (You can also see in that picture that Tim was completely touched and captured by the moment.)
- 10 Balls at this Game (5 pictured because I gave the other half away)
Numbers 665-674 for my “career”:
- 227 Balls in 51 Games= 4.45 Balls Per Game
- 10 Balls x 26,158 Fans=261,580 Competition Factor
- 113 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 18 straight Games with 2 Balls
- 15 straight Games with 3 Balls
- 7 straight Games with 4 Balls
- 99 Balls in 22 Games at OPACY= 4.5 Balls Per Game
- 22 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- 12 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at OPACY
- 10 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at OPACY
- 8 straight Games with at least 4 Balls at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 4:40-10:54= 6 Hours 14 Minutes
The Rays were the beneficiaries of (reportedly) the greatest day in baseball last year:
Carlos Peña, Burke Badenhop, Jeff Keppinger, Josh Lueke, Jose Molina, Fernando Rodney, and Luke Scott.
Casey Kotchman, John Jaso, Kelly Shoppach, and Andy Sonnanstine.
Why?: Really every thing they lost, they replaced, and they also added talent. They replaced Casey Kotchman with what I believe to be a better first baseman in Carlos Peña. They downgraded a little by replacing Shoppach with Molina, but also added a very good player in Luke Scott, who I see most likely to be the Casey Kotchman of this year for the Rays in that he will over-perform his contract.
Andy Sonnantine would have been a reliever for the Rays (because of the depth of their rotation), so they over-replaced him with Fernando Rodney, Burke Badenhop, and Josh Lueke. This was a huge bolster for a bullpen depleted from their form two years ago.
I haven’t even gotten to what may be their best move of the offseason. Okay, so it really wasn’t an addition, per say, but signing Matt Moore to a 6- year, $14 million (or something in that range. I’m sure of the money, but not the years), contract was probably a good move, potentially a spectacular. For those who don’t know, Matt Moore is ranked in the same echelon as Stephen Strasburg. This is $2+ million a year for an ace-type pitcher for six year. They then have a secondary part of the deal made up of club-options that make the deal a total of 8 years and $40 million (this I am sure of).
You may or may not remember that Evan Longoria signed a similar contract (6 years 17.5 Million on his seventh day in the league, or something ridiculous like that). Well, doesn’t that look like an incredible deal now? They can’t really lose that much. At worst, they are losing the $16 Million over the first part of the contract if he stinks, or injures himself. Even for the low-budget Rays, that isn’t a huge blow. The upside on this deal is enormous, though.
Predicted Record Range: 92-97 wins