There was one goal for me on this day: Get 4 baseballs. It was my third and final game at Yankee Stadium in 2013, and I was sitting at 96 career baseballs at Yankee Stadium. I think I’m only one of five ballhawks to have gotten 100 baseballs at three different stadium–of which I am *BY FAR* the worst of, and I think I would be one of only 3 to have it at four or more stadiums, but I’m not sure. I just wanted to get 100 at Yankee Stadium, and like Citi Field, not ever *have* to come back to it again. And for my journey to 100, Andy Bingham thankfully showed up at the gates and offered to help document my quest for me. And so here he is one he took of Chris Hernandez and I talking at Gate 6:
And then of me getting my ticket scanned:
And then because I was so far ahead of both of them, a picture of Chris running into the the stands:
When I got in there were already people in the right field seats, but somehow all ten or so of them missed an easter egg in the last row, and I made sure to scoop it up:
Chris’ lateness also might have helped him, because he took a while through the seats as well and found an easter egg of his own by the foul pole. And when Andy got to the seats, this was my happy reaction to already having one baseball on the day:
My next ball of the day came when A-Rod, who I coming into this series I completely forgot was still in baseball, hit a ball that didn’t look like it was going to clear the wall near the bullpen, but I kind of jogged in the direction of it just in case. Then, when the did hit the warning track dirt, that jogged turned into a sprint, and I had my second ball of the day:
I then turned and asked the kid in the front row if he wanted the ball. When he said, “Sure” normally I would have just tossed it to him, but Andy told me to go and hand it to him for the picture you are about to see:
And so while I took my spot at the back of the section:
Chris was towards the beginning of what was a pretty boring day for him in terms of hit baseballs:
Not that the rest of my time in the right field seats was particularly productive. I had a couple near misses, but no other baseballs. First there was this baseball that I had judged, but was a going to land two rows behind me:
An then this ball that you can see being picked up by another guy:
Then the group changed and both Chris and I–seen by us both having our backpacks on–were ready to head out to left field:
And in a move of friendly competition, when Chris ran to his left towards a ball that was hit that way, I didn’t even go after the ball and instead bolted to left field in order to secure my spot out there:
My third ball of the day was almost a mirror image of my second in that it was another ground rule double right up against the bullpen that I jogged after but then sprinted for once I realized it was going over:
(The “mirror” part being that it was on the other side of the field.)
That was ball 3 for me, meaning the next one would be 100 for me at Yankee Stadium. So while I went into foul ground when the Angels started throwing, there was a huge chunk of me that hoped I didn’t get a ball down there, because I wanted to get a hit baseball. That said, I’m not good enough to have the luxury of getting a specific baseball the way I want it, so I mostly just wanted to not get shutout the rest of the game.
So when the aforementioned huge chunk of me was pleased by me not getting a baseball in foul ground and I headed back to left field:
It looked like 100 was going to have to be hit. (Side note: Do you notice the man in blue with a glove about four rows below me in that last picture? That’s Erik. He was actually at and commented on the first ever game I wrote about on this blog. Side, side note: If you do click that second link, please excuse my bad writing.)And it was. Mike Trout crushed a ball to my right, and while I knew I wasn’t going to be able to catch the ball on the fly, my hope was if I chased after it, the ball could maybe deflect back to me. It didn’t exactly. Instead it popped up off a seat and I out jumped Erik for the ball that was now literally up in the air:
Yay! Number 100. And from Mike Trout? Perfect. To celebrate, I went back to my bag, put 100 in a special pocket, and gave the second ground-rule double away to a kid in a Teixiera jersey that you can see in this next picture of me talking to a woman for about something I don’t recall:
My next ball was also one I robbed ballhawks friends of. See Chris was over to my left for most of the time we were in left field:
(His expression says everything about how his day was going to that point. He had snagged two baseballs relatively early in BP, but he wasn’t getting much action.) But as the people who didn’t have tickets for left field got kicked out, Chris first talked a little:
But then he went off to my right to get more space:
So when Mark Trumbo hit a baseball about two sections to my right, I figured either Chris or Erik would have it, but when the ball took a bounce off a seat away from both of them, I was able to make up the section-long headstart they got on me and get the ball:
Since they had been so much closer to the ball than I had been when it was hit, when I got it, Chris uttered a sentence–in a friendly way (as you can see from him smiling in that last picture)– that I won’t re-write here on the blog.
My sixth ball of the day came as a result of another Mark Trumbo homer that Chris almost definitely would have gotten had I not been there. Trumbo bombed a ball to the back of the LF seats. I came from the right of the ball, and Chris from the left (if you were looking from the field), and we both jumped and came up short. But the ball hit off the wall, and then hit me. I was in pain from the ball hitting me, but I looked down on the ground, saw the ball, and picked it up:
And then I tried to get a ball from Mike Harkey:
And then for the game I stayed out in left field. For the game, I headed out to my seat in left field and tried for a home run. But then at about the eighth inning, I got someone’s ticket and sat by the dugout. My main goal was to get an umpire ball at the end of the game, but that wasn’t going to stop me from going for a third-out ball. So when Chris Nelson jogged in from the field, I yelled his name and he threw me this:
That was my seventh and final ball of the day.
- 7 Balls at this Game (5 pictured because I gave 2 away)
Numbers 636-642 for my lifetime:
- 196 Balls in 46 Games= 4.26 Balls Per Game
- 7 Balls x 38,379 Fans=268,653 Competition Factor
- 108 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 13 straight Games with 2 Balls
- 10 straight Games with 3 Balls
- 2 straight Games with 4-5 Balls
- 103 Balls in 27 Games at Yankee Stadium= 3.81 Balls Per Game
- 27 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Yankee Stadium
- 14 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Yankee Stadium
- Time Spent On Game 3:30-11:21= 8 Hours 20 Minutes
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