On my last trip to Baltimore, I had set my career high for baseballs snagged in a game in the first game and then narrowly escaped getting shutout in the second game via a toss-up at the umpire tunnel after the game. That trip, however, was almost a year ago. And I was more than excited to be back at Oriole Park at Camden Yards for the first time in nearly a year when I approached its gates on this Thursday evening:
But this time I had woken up in Washington D.C. (I guess I had before those two games as well, but you get my point.) and took a 1:20 train to Baltimore. OPACY–because I don’t feel like writing out Oriole Park at Camden Yards every freaking time I mention it–actually lets people go into Eutaw Street and behind the bullpens early, so that’s where I was headed when I took that first picture. You see, Rick Gold had tweeted me right as I was about to sit down at the Hilton across the street that Nathan Karns was throwing in the Nationals bullpen. Up until that point I had completely forgotten that these areas of OPACY were even open, but when I got the tweet, I walked over to the stadium to see the action and possibly get a ball before the gates were even officially open. By the time I got there, though, it was Gio Gonzalez throwing in the Nationals bullpen:
And Rick Adair, the Orioles pitching coach, had an interesting set-up for Kevin Gausman, who was throwing in the Orioles bullpen:
If you can’t tell, it’s a rope. Adair had it set up to have an objective line between high fastballs and low fastballs. I like to think my readers are smart people, so I’ll let you figure out which side of the rope is which.
Anyway, I managed to get my first ball of the day when the Nationals (read: Gio) finished throwing and I got Jhonatan Solano to toss me their warm-up ball for an early spot on the board:
Soon after that (at 3:46) Orioles security came by and told us we had to get back outside of the gate. Had they given us an extra fifteen minutes I may have had a second ball from Gausman (I think that’s how you spell it) and the Orioles bullpen people. Before the gates re-opened, I waited in line with the people who made me think this trip to OPACY wasn’t going to be as easy snagging-wise as I had previously thought. When I got in the gates, the person who I already introduced, Rick Gold, lined up in front of me:
And then two other ballhawks who had joined me at the gate lined up to my left:
Ballhawk #2 is Tim Anderson, who has garnered the attention of the national media several times the past few years with his bajillion home run snags. While we had both been at the same game before, today was really the first time we had talked directly to each other. And that’s mostly on my part–and this goes out to all of you who may run into me at some ballpark somewhere–because I’m just generally awkward if I’m meeting a person I didn’t know for sure was going to be there ahead of time. And not like in the “Oh, that’s different from what I was expecting” kind of awkward; it’s more like the “Is there something seriously wrong with you?” awkward. And as a result of this, I almost never initiate people at the ballpark in conversation to avoid a situation like this. The best way to avoid this is to just let me know if you think you’re going to be at the same game as I am, by checking either my schedule or my Twitter account. I definitely won’t be attending every game on the schedule that I have on there right now, but it’s a good outline to know where I’ll be, and I’ll usually say something on my Twitter if I’m veering off of the scheduled plan or anything like that, so it’s a good place to be kept up-to-date on my baseball happenings.
But anyway, that was a good multi-hundred-word digression. The point is that my competition was going to be tough. So when the Nationals players came out to warm up while the Orioles were switching into a new mostly-righty group, I knew it was time to go for toss-ups. I figured the players would spend the first two rounds or so hitting the ball to the opposite field, so I really wouldn’t be missing much action out in left. In this trip, I got a ball from Denard Span in the weirdest way. I was actually trying to get ball from a different throwing pair when Span ran back to the wall with the ball in his hand, threw it up, and half-heartedly tried to “rob” the same ball he had thrown up, as if it were a home run ball. I don’t know what exactly he was doing, but he missed the ball, and it landed in the seats, so I went over and offered to get it for him, at which point he told me, “Nah, you can just keep it.”
So I think that’s technically a toss-up from Span, right? It certainly was more that than an easter egg considering I got there three seconds after the ball landed in the stands.
When I headed back to the left field stands, I learned that I had definitely made the right decision because there had not been a single ball hit into those stands since I had left. But I would not snag another BP baseball before the flood gates were opened and all fans were allowed into every part of the stadium. If you don’t know, for the first half-hour of the gates being open at OPACY, only season ticket holder–or people with that printed on their ticket–are allowed into the main seating bowl. The rest are confined to right and center field. But when that half-hour is up, everybody pours into the seating bowl. I am fortunate enough to have friends at the ballpark who are nice enough to buy me season tickets that get me in that half-hour early, but here is what the scene looked like right after the rest of the fans were let in:
It was right around this spot that I came the closest to another BP ball. But for the sake of clarity, let me get a diagram up for you:
The solid lines are the path of the ball and the dotted line is how I ran after the ball. So I saw a ball get hit to my left. I could tell exactly where it was headed, so I jumped back a row and ran right towards the spot where the ball was going to land, so I could pick it up if it stuck in that spot. Well the ball bounced off a seat at the end of the row, but instead of sticking or bouncing forward/backwards like a normal baseball, it at 90-degree angle and hit me square on the forehead. I mean someone couldn’t have done it more perfectly if they were aiming for me. I saw the ball hit off the seat, but it became a white blur as it headed directly between my two eyes. Just to show you how perfectly the ball hit me square in the head, it was almost if I had intentionally headed the ball in a soccer-esque manner because the ball flew thirty feet in front of me after hitting my head into the next section over. It didn’t actually hurt that much–other than my ego–but I was starting to wonder if there was something about the Orioles that was bad luck, since I had now sustained an “injury” every time I had seen them play to this point. In three different cities, I may add.
That was it for BP, but I did manage to get a ball from Tyler Moore during the pregame position player warm-ups:
It actually was a thing of beauty that we managed to connect on the toss-up, because there was a security guard right in front of me on the field with his back turned to it, so Moore had to thread the needle and I had to jump to get the ball to me and not hit the guard. As you can tell, he wasn’t in that last picture. I think the fact that he very nearly got hit in the back of the head scared him enough that he moved away from the players playing catch.
As for the game, I spent most of my time out in the flag court:
and enjoying all that is OPACY. I wasn’t the only one out there, though. Because of the fact that the stadium was pretty much sold-out, there were pretty consistently three of us ballhawks out there, and sometimes even more. I mean look at all the backpacks there were at one of the more crowded points:
I have no clue besides my own who they each belonged to, but the four of us that were out there towards the end of the game got a picture together:
Left to right, that would be:
- Rick Gold
- Alex Kopp
- Tim Anderson
Nothing came even close to reaching the flag court, but it was fun talking to those guys for whatever portion of the game they were out there. (Rick was in left field pretty much until the last two innings, and Tim spent around half of the game in the center field seats.)
- 3 Balls at this Game
Numbers 532-534 for my life:
- 88 Balls in 20 Games= 4.40 Balls Per Game
- 3 Balls x 30,665 Fans=91,995 Competition Factor
- 83 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 42 Balls in 9 Games at OPACY= 4.67 Balls Per Game
- 9 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 12:23-11:52= 11 Hours 29 Minutes
Again, it was another day of class before heading off to Target Field. This time, though, I was prepared for the cold it had to throw at me. Sort of, anyway:
I had a good streak of four consecutive games going with at least 6 baseballs, but really I just wanted to get four or more baseballs to keep my average for the season above 5.00 Balls Per Game. I’ll spoil it for you right now and say that sadly wasn’t the case. Once I got in the gates, I quickly got on the board by getting a toss-up from a player I couldn’t identify at all, since none of his face was showing with him having a hat on as well as sunglasses:
There had been a couple of baseballs hit into the bullpen, so he went in there to clean them out. When he did I simply asked him for a ball. My next ball came once I headed to the section of seats in right-center field. Mike Trout fielded a ball close to the wall there and so I shouted out to him. He was about to throw the ball to the bucket in shallow center field, but he turned and tossed me the ball instead:
He’s a nice player. Over the three days I was there, he probably gave out the most baseballs per-minute of any of the Angels players. Oh, and do you notice the condition of the baseball he tossed me? One word: pearl.
My third baseball came when I headed back to left field and got who I believe to be Scott Downs to toss me a baseball. I was on a pretty good roll, since the gates had opened fifteen minutes ago at that point. (A ball every five minutes is a *very* good pace for me. To give you an idea, if I averaged this at a stadium where the gates opened 2.5 hours early for the entirety of batting practice, I would snag almost twenty baseballs.) But just five short minutes later at 5:50, the Angels ended batting practice and headed to the dugout. Wow. A stadium opening 1.5 hours early is hard enough, but I missed as much batting practice as I actually saw. Anyway, I headed to the dugout and braced myself for the snow/rain that was in the forecast. As I did this, the grounds crew began to do the same:
I then waited for about an hour in the rain. As I looked at the crowd that was showing for the game, I was thinking big thoughts of what I could do during the game. I was seriously thinking I could tie my Target Field record of eight baseballs despite only being at three to this point. Then it happened:
Of course. After seeing this, I took a dejected walk of shame to my bus back to St. Paul.
- 3 Balls at this game (2 pictured because I gave 1 away on my way out to a kid for showing up to the game despite it raining)
Numbers 478-480 for my life:
- 34 Balls in 7 Games= 4.86 Balls Per Game (Nooooo! So close!)
- 3 Balls x (an estimated, because the Twins didn’t actually put it up)25,000 Fans= 75,000 Competition Factor
- 69 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 19 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 6 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
- 89 Balls in 21 Games at Target Field= 4.24 Balls Per Game
- 20 straight Games with at least 1-2 Balls at Target Field
- 6 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 3:39-7:35= 3 Hours 54 Minutes
So two things happened for me this past Monday, April, 18th. The first was I pulled an all-nighter going Sunday into Monday because I had to give an informative speech about Oriole Park at Camden Yards amongst a couple other assignments. I then planned to take a nap after I got done with classes, but I wanted to eat lunch and prepare for the baseball game I would attend late that night. Then, of course, I would actually go on to actually attend the game. After that, though, I made plans to go see “42” with Sean for Jackie Robinson Day. I initially called him right after the game, but he didn’t respond. Once I was at the Metrodome, I got a phone call back and Sean told me to get off the bus. He then picked me up and within fifteen minutes, we got pulled over for speeding over a bridge. It was now Sean’s second ticket since bringing his car up after spring break; more than he had gotten ever in Illinois. So he wasn’t happy to say the least, but I found it interesting that we were ticketed for going 42 miles per hour in a 30 mile per hour zone on our way to “42”. Eventually, though, we did make it to the movie just as the trailers wrapped up to watch “42” on the most fitting day we could think of:
Let me start with I really did like this movie as a movie. Obviously this movie brings with it the baseball element that I am partial to, but I tried for the sake of this review to distance myself as much as I could from the baseball part of it and tried to just look at it for the movie itself and as one would look at the adaptation of a book. Except in this case the book would be real life and how the events actually played out.
I really don’t have any clue how to order this, so I’ll be going all over the place and just touching on things from the movie as they pop into my mind. Bear with me if it seems like I jump from one thing to another. Actually, you know what; I’ll just bullet/number it so you know when a new idea begins/ends:
- I really like how Chadwick Boseman portrayed Jackie Robinson really well. He didn’t try to go to big with the character. He also did a good job of preserving the humanity of Robinson. The Jackie Robinson that Boseman was a hero not in his own mind, but in those of others, which is more real than putting Robinson on an absolute pedestal like the temptation might be for a movie like this.
- While I liked how Harrison Ford played Branch Rickey and he didn’t do a bad job of it, I feel as though he caricaturized him too much in playing him. There was a lot of scrunching his face and talking with his mouth half-closed. It’s hard to explain, but you’ll see it if you watch the movie.
- They recreated Ebbets Field beautifully, however they did it:
At times I could tell that it was a minor league stadium or wherever that they were filming the scenes, but for the most part, I could have believed that the movie was taking place at Ebbets Field.
- Alan Tudyk did a great job of playing what I think was the closest thing the movie had to a singular antagonist. I say this because this movie really didn’t have a single antagonist. There were really many people in the movie who merely were the antagonist for that portion of the movie until a new antagonist took his place. If it’s possible, I’d say that the concepts of racism and close-mindedness as a whole were the antagonists of the film. Anyway, Tudyk did such a good job of making you hate him as a racist that he stood out from all of the other characters. And then, something I found interesting, is that in the aftermath of the game in which his character, Ben Chapman, verbally abused Robinson, instead of further pushing the caricature of the raging racist when Chapman talks to the press about the things he was saying, he actually sounded calm and reasonable. By his body language and tone of voice, he seems like someone you could agree with. It’s only after you think about what he was actually saying to the press that you realize he is still completely racist. Then, something I found interesting was they had a scene where Chapman was being reprimanded for his actions by his boss (I forgot if it was the general manager or owner) and is being told that he will have to make amends with Robinson for PR purposes. It humanized him in a way that made you *almost* made you sympathize with him. This is again, why there was no true antagonist.
- The movie was overly-dramatic at times. The moment that sticks out in my mind is that the movie plays the music you would normally play during the climax of the movie–like, say, when Roy Hobbs hit his home run and rounded the bases in slow-motion as the lights burst from the baseball hitting them–while Jackie Robinson took a shower. I get that it’s a big deal that he was taking a shower with his teammates, but it’s still a shower; there’s no need to make it *so* dramatic.
- I don’t know if I like or dislike it, but they didn’t go far at all into Robinson’s playing career. I’m not sure how long exactly, but I think they only went about 2-3 years into it.
- The movie didn’t use any of the quotes either Robinson or Rickey have been known for. I like this because it veers the movie away from being seen as a baseball-lovers movie. What the movie did a good job of was emphasizing the fact that it was a human story told through the means of sports and not just a sports story that happened to have human elements.
Anyway, I think that’s all I’ve got for the moment, but I really did enjoy the movie, so if you have the chance, go see it. Even if you’re not a baseball fan, I would definitely recommend it. And as a baseball fan, it served as a reminder of what exactly happened. It’s easy to glaze over the history of the game and think “Oh, Jackie Robinson Day. I know that Robinson broke the color barrier and all. Whatever.” But this movie reminds us what exactly that means and why his number is the only number retired in all of the major leagues and why he also has a day dedicated to him. So super short summary: It’s a good movie; go see it.