It was my second of what would be five games this week, and my highest ball total of any of them. As many or more than any three of the other four games combined. So let’s get started. Here was my view of the field for most of the game:
To the left is a ballhawk named Dylan, and to the right is my–well I guess at this point former–next-door neighbor, Greg Barasch. Where I was standing usually wouldn’t be a good spot to stand at all, but this was the view of the spot staircase to my right:
That wasn’t more congested at the moment, but I knew that that staircase is the first one to get clogged up with people and that I was best securing my spot on this staircase. I could have gone to the front spot of the staircase to my left:
But Ben Weil–in the orange shirt–was in that spot., and playing behind that spot is essentially worthless because it’s already a shot just to get it there. My first ball of the day, though came from about the spot where the person is leaning over the railing in that last picture. A ball got hit onto the party deck and so I headed over there and asked the employee down there if he could toss me the ball, which he did:
Next up for me was heading out to right field. There I managed to get Collin McHugh to toss me a ball by actually asking nicely:
As opposed to everyone else who was just shouting, “HERE!!!”
So since I had gotten baseballs from both left and right field, I headed out to center field to keep the symmetry. In center I got Greg Burke to toss me a ball that almost made me fall into the gap in front of the wall:
He then congratulated me on making the catch, and I headed back to my spot in left field. By this time Dylan had roamed closer to Ben. So when Greg moved out of his spot to maybe try to get a toss-up by the staircase to our right, it was a no-brainer to move up to his spot if only momentarily. A moment was all I needed. As he got to the other staircase, a Reds righty we later figured out was Zack Cozart hit a ball to the section right between us two. I tracked the ball all the way off the bat an had it lined up perfectly. The only question was—since Greg had gone in the row below me and was also running at the ball—was if Greg could catch up to the ball before it landed in my glove. It was close. Let me put I this way: I didn’t even know I had the ball until I looked in my glove. That’s because Greg and another person blocked my view of the field right as the ball entered my glove. I want to say that Greg and the other person collided, but all was good in the end. I just know that way too many people congratulated me for what was not really an amazing catch.
A good amount of time passed between this and my next snag, which was a toss-up from a player I believe was Sam Le Cure:
Ben thought it was Bill Bray until I told him that Bill Bray wasn’t on the Reds roster anymore. There was one guy in right field who I thought also might be LeCure, though, so I don’t know for sure. That said, I’m pretty sure the guy I got the ball from was LeCure, and the ball was my first of the day. Speaking of that guy, here he is:
The reason I show him is he was getting so bombarded by requests from kids asking for a baseball–while he was almost 100 feet from them–that he actually had to tell them to calm down with requests. Here are the kids below me, who–and I’m not using hyperbole here–were yelling every time he got the ball, even when he had to run towards the outfield to get the ball:
I figured he wasn’t going to toss a ball in my general direction any time soon, so I headed to the second deck in left field once Brandon Phillips’ group came up to hit. I would have gone to the lower level, but it looked packed and I knew Phillips had the potential to hit several up there:
Unfortunately he hit a couple deepish into the lower level, but none got up to me. That would be it fro BP. (Get it? It has dual meaning in that case.) After batting practice there were no kids with gloves that I hadn’t already seen get a ball, but I wanted to give a ball away, so I gave a ball away to two ushers instructing them to give the ball away to the next kid *with a glove* that passed through into their section/by them.
For the game I stayed in left field:
I spent most of the game talking to Dylan and a man by the name of Brian who I just engaged me early on in the game and spent the rest of the game just talking in general. Both of us agreed that our game together was one of the reasons going to the ballpark is such a special experience. You can just go, enjoy a game, and spend the game talking to a stranger about a common interest that is baseball. It was a light in a game at quite possibly my least favorite ballpark that I have been to in the major leagues.
For the end of the game I headed down to the umpire tunnel (abiding by the rules of the stadium, I may add. I did indeed have a ticket for the section the umpire tunnel is in.) to try to get a ball from home plate umpire Ron Kulpa, and I did by yelling out to him before he could get off the field. See at Citi Field, there’s a wheelchair section to the umpire’s right when he walks into the tunnel, so if a kid is in that section, the umpire is almost always going to give him a ball there. This can be good because it stops the umpire for long enough for him to hear a ballhawk calling him by his actual name, but if there is a string of kids that gathers around him at this point, the umpire ball is pretty much lost, so the best way to get a ball from the umpire at Citi Field, if you have the room to do so, is to call out to the umpire before he gets off the field itself, and then if he can’t hear you keep following him with the same request until the corner spot of the tunnel. Unfortunately there is usually someone in the corner spot for the tunnel if you abandon it, and even if there isn’t the security people at the umpire tunnel especially have some sort of enmity towards ballhawks, so they have told myself and others that we aren’t allowed alongside the tunnel’s glass railing, but when other people do the same, they’re allowed. The most important thing about umpire balls, though, is the sooner you can get it before other people can talk to him, the better. It also helps to be standing alone. You don’t want to be amongst a crowd of kids if you’re not a kid yourself, because while the umpire might hear you, he might toss the ball to a kid next to you anyway if he doesn’t deem you “fit” to get a ball over the kid. Anyway, that has been today’s lesson on Citi Field umpire balls.
After that I didn’t get a ball from the Reds bullpen people, and I met up with Ben and Greg at the dugout. The three of us walked to the subway together and were going to take it together, but Ben realized he had to take the local and we the express. He normally drives to the games, but as he was pulling out of his driveway or wherever he parks, he realized he had a flat tire, so he got in a cab and got to the gate less than ten minutes before it opened. On a semi-related note, batting practice had tired him out, so he was going to leave in about the third inning, but he got stuck for four plus innings filling out all-star ballots, so he figured he would stay for the umpire ball. Regardless, where I’m going with this is that Ben had to take the train and it was a different train than ours, so he said goodbye and walked away from us:
As he was walking away, he turned back to wave a second joke goodbye, and as he was doing this, a friend of his snuck-up from behind him and tackled/hugged him. I’m sorry the lead up was so long for not that good of a story, and I realize this is the end of the entry so you just want to be done reading, so here’s the picture I thought it was kind of cool that I got:
I then boarded my train with Greg and spent the night at his place. Most of said night was spent getting barked at by one of his dogs that thought I was an intruder and an obscene amount of surfing mygameballs.com looking up ours and other people’s games/commenting on them (If that doesn’t automatically hyperlink, you can either copy and paste, or the website is this blog’s sidebar over to the right.)
- 6 Balls at this Game (4 pictured because I gave 2 away)
- 75 Balls in 16 Games= 4.69 Balls Per Game
- 6 Balls x 23,183 Fans= 139,098 Competition Factor
- 78 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 5 straight Games with at least 2-3 Balls
- 95 Balls in 35 Games at Citi Field= 2.71 Balls Per Game
- 35 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Citi Field
- 2 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Citi Field
- Time Spent On Game 3:37-11:00= 7 Hours 23 Minutes
After a series of waiting endlessly for David Wright’s 200th home run, it was time to go back to Nationals Park for my fourth game there in as many days:
Usually I’m not that excited of attending four games in a row at ANY stadium, but I had come to the conclusion that I wouldn’t be getting a ball tossed to me by the Nationals (intentionally, anyway) anytime soon, so I was excited for the arrival of the not-offensively-anemic Braves, who also didn’t know me.
My first ball of the day came when Gio Gonzalez hit a ball to my right. I chased after it, but someone else managed to pick it up before I could get there. He then hit a ball back to where I had previously been standing. Thankfully, no one judged it correctly, and I was able to run right to the spot and gobble it up :
After the pitchers- all of whom are righties- stopped hitting, I headed over to the right field seats for Bryce Harper’s group. I still haven’t seen one of Harper’s legendary batting practices, but I did manage to snag a ball from his bat.
I was on the middle staircase of the right field seats when Harper launched a ball to the section closest to center field. I saw this right away and raced there to scoop up the ball before anyone else could:
The group then changed again and I headed over to the Red Seats for the group of Morse, Zimmerman, and Werth. During that group, I caught three balls on the fly.
The first was an extremely easy catch right smack-dab in the middle of the section where I had been standing:
Speaking of Shea Stadium commemorative balls off the bat of Jayson Werth, that’s what my next (and fifth) ball of the day was. I won’t bore you with another picture of the ball in my glove, but the ball was traveling to my left, so I ran in this row and made the forehand catch over a row of seats:
My next ball came when Ryan Zimmerman hit a high fly ball to my right. I ran as far as I could, reach over the glass that separates the Red Seats and the bullpen, and made the grab:
It felt pretty awesome in that the ball would have fallen into the bullpen had it not been for me; kind of like a home run rob. For those of you keeping score at home, that was my fifth snag of the day; all of which were hit, Shea Stadium commemorative balls.
Soon after that, the Braves started throwing, so even though the Nationals were still hitting, I headed into foul ground to try to get a ball from one of them. After waiting for a while, I finally got a ball from Erik Hinske:
Do you see the coach crossing the field in the left part of the picture? That’s where Hinske was. He tossed the ball to me while I was right behind the wheelchair section. Unfortunately, he tossed it over my head, so it rattled around in the seats before I could secure ball #6 and thank Hinske.
I then headed over to right field for a group stacked with the Braves’ lefties. Ironically, though, my only ball from this group came when Dan Uggla hit an opposite-field home run and I played the ball off a deflection:
The right field seats were getting pretty crowded at this point, so I headed back over to the Red Seats. I didn’t snag a hit ball, but a fan dropped a ball into the gap, so I knew it was time to deploy the Glove Trick. However, as I lowered it down, a member of the groundscrew walked through the gap and inserted the ball in my glove. I had already promised the people next to me I would give the ball away to the kid who it was intended for, so I did when I reeled it up:
Okay, you’ve got three planes at work here. We’ll start closest and move back:
1. The Glove Trick- Complete with rubber band and pen to hold it open.
2. Kid- You can see the kid I gave it away to just past the glove in the red hat. He’s holding the ball between his hand and glove.
3. Groundskeeper- You can see him ducking at the very end of the gap.
Then for the end of batting practice-when Juan Francisco, who hits BOMBS, was hitting- I decided to try my luck and head up to the second deck in right field. I wasn’t the only one up there as fellow ballhawk, Rick Gold, had the same idea:
I then headed down to the lower level in right field where, to my delight, the tarp was being pulled on the field. I may have mentioned this before, but I absolutely love when it starts raining right *after* batting practice ends. There is truly nothing more beautiful:
Of course, the baseball gods had to have their fun with me, so the groundscrew didn’t actually put the tarp on for at least half an hour. They just stood there with the tarp as you see it in the picture. Waiting to make sure the rain was sufficient to put the tarp on the field.
As for the game, the Nationals jumped out to an early 4-1 lead. The Braves then picked away at the lead to tie the game 4-4. What happens when a game is tied after the ninth inning? FREE BASEBALL!!
The game had already been delayed an hour by the rain. So when it came time for extra innings, most of the fans left the stadium. When this happened, I stood up the rest of the game and waited for any ball to come my way:
Actually, since most of the ushers had left, I ran back and forth between right and left field depending on the hitter; just like old times at Nationals Park. If you’re newish to the blog, I used to buy two tickets on either side of the outfield on Nationals Park and would run back and forth during the game depending on whether a righty or a lefty was hitting. I rationalized it by saying that I was spending about the same on two outfield tickets as I would have on one ticket at Citi Field. (Last year, I was. The cheapest ticket at Citi Field was $23. With my student discount, the outfield tickets at Nationals Park were/are $13 each.)
Anyway, check out the emptiness that allowed me to stand up- and not block anyone’s view:
Long story short: nothing reached the seats for the rest of the game. Eventually, the Nationals won on a Dan Uggla bobble. Also during the game, I gave away five, count ’em, FIVE baseballs away to the usher who’s let me sit in the right field seats since last year. Usually he’s pretty reasonable with his requests (usually one or two balls), but apparently there was a family in from Chicago, so in addition to the two I usually give him, he asked for three others. Also, I should mention this isn’t just an usher being greedy. He gives all the balls I give him away to kids, elders, or other people in the section. That said, I gave away two on my own, the usher took five, so of the eight balls I snagged, I only kept the best Shea Stadium ball. That’s right, I gave away SEVEN of my eight baseballs. (Actually, I technically gave away eight. The usher offered me an exchange where he have me one of Rick Gold’s balls for one of my Shea balls, but he then asked for THAT ball to give to someone.
After the game, a security guard threw a bunch of balls at fans in the stands, but he had THE worst aim I’ve ever seen and about five of them bounced back onto the field. I just stood on top of one of the balls and asked each person that passed it if they could toss the ball up to me. Security Guard? “I’m on duty. I have to stand in this exact spot.” Police Officer? “No, I can’t.” Groundscrew? “No, we’re not allowed to.” It was just sitting there on the warning track:
(The other two shadows you see are of an Asian couple who was also waiting for the ball to be tossed up. Eventually, a guy in a dress shirt walked by, so I asked him point blank, “Can you toss me that ball, please?” He bent down, grabbed the ball, and kept walking to the dugout. Here he is on his way over there:
At this point, it was about 12:35, so I figured, ” I don’t have anywhere to be any time soon; I’m going to see if there’s a ball left in the bullpen.” Turns out there was- in the bottom right quadrant of the picture, against the black background:
I was just about to leave, when the security guard came in from the warning track by the Nationals dugout. The bullpen motioned for me to stop, and asked the security guard something. He then picked up the ball and tossed it to me:
Not surprisingly, by the time I got out of the stadium, the Metro was closed:
Once I got out of the stadium, I must have walked back and forth a mile before I finally got to the right bus stop. After taking the bus a stop, I ran into a familiar face in Rick (as in Gold). Turns out, we were both going the same direction. We took the bus until the end of the line. We then got off by Washington’s Archives building. Our next bus wasn’t due for another half hour. We discussed things from the renovation in Oakland’s coliseum to what the heck I was supposed to use an iPad for.
Once we got on the second bus, we ran into someone we both knew. It was the usher I mentioned earlier, Benny. I must say, Benny is one of the more entertaining ushers I have ever seen. Probably the most energetic. He is one of the most meticulous ushers about his duty before the game, but once the game begins, he is a dancer. Anyway, here is my view at 1:45 in the morning on the second bus:
• 9 Balls at this game (2 pictured because I gave 7 away)
• 161 Balls (as many as I had last year in 46 Games) in 38 Games= 4.24 Balls Per Game
• 9 Balls x 21,298 Fans= 191,682 Competition Factor
• 47 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
• 3 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
• 121 Balls in 27 Games at Nationals Park= 4.48 Balls Per Game
• 19 straight Games in Nationals Park with at least 1 Ball
• 3 straight Games in Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
• Time Spent On Game 3:42- 1:52= 10 Hours 10 Minutes
• With my first “9” game, I have now snagged in a game every total from 0 to 11 baseballs at a game.
I was back at Nationals Park for my fourth game there in as many days:
If you’re wondering, that’s a look of: “Sure, four games in a row here is nice and all, but am I really doing this?” As I took this picture, the time was approximately 10:00. I saw the schedule and saw a 1:00 game, so I got there half-an-hour before I thought the gates would open (10:30). All I saw when I got to the gates, though, was this:
After looking at the Nationals schedule on my phone, I found out it was actually a 1:35 game. This meant the gates wouldn’t open for another hour. To pass the time, I wrote and published one of my entries, while sitting inside the air-conditioned ticket office.
It was a day game after a 4:00 game, so I thought there might be batting practice, but once I finally DID get in the stadium, this was all the action on the field:
That would be bullpen coach Jim Wright throwing with one of the pitchers. Eventually the pitcher went into the bullpen and so did Wright. When the pitcher finished said session, Wright tossed me a ball out of nowhere. I didn’t even have my glove on when I caught it:
Then everyone exited the bullpen. Everyone except Wright. When he finally did, I had already numbered my ball, so I was worried he would see that, but regardless, I asked Wright if he wanted to play catch. He said he had to go, but that he would play for a couple of minutes. Wright is obviously in the distance, but here’s where each of us were when we threw together:
I was the only one in the seating area at this point, so it was an amazing experience to throw curveballs, among other pitches, to a person on a major league team; albeit not a player, what was seemingly all alone in the stadium (I am 100% sure there were other fans in the stadium, but they were taking shelter from the heat.). Finally, Wright said he had to go, so we stopped playing catch. The reason he “had” to go was the pitchers had come out to stop warming up. Here is Wright with the pitchers:
None of the pitchers had seen me get the ball form Wright, so it would be easy to get a ball from them, but I was nervous about asking them for a ball while Wright was around. After a few minutes, though, Wright headed into the dugout and I got Rex Brothers to toss me a ball by running deep into the section and having him “toss it to me long”:
After this, Rockies and Nationals catch partners alternated coming out. So I ran back and forth trying to get a ball from them. When Brothers and his partner finished up, the Nationals pitchers went through their warm up and were just finishing their throwing session. When they finished, a pair of Rockies had come out and were nearing the end of their throwing. I didn’t get a ball from this, but it was fun doing it. I also wasn’t the only one. After I headed to right field to try to get a ball from the Nationals relievers, I noticed this guy had also come over and had changed gear on his way as well:
I would eventually find out this was Leiming Tang, a Kansas City ballhawk, who was making his rounds of the east coast cities. I believe he had been in Philadelphia the night prior. We would have plenty of time to talk about things as there was no batting practice.
My next ball (number three if you’re keeping track) would come when Wilin Rosario came out to do some catching drills:
(Notice Leiming was already on the scene. We were both waiting in the shade, but I waited a little longer than he did to stay cool.)He obviously needed a few balls to do the drills, so when he was done, the catching coach, Jerry Weinstein, tossed Leiming and I both a ball:
My next snag would be at the dugout right before the game. I still don’t know the formal name the Nationals call them, but there were”hype people” on the roof of the dugout with T-Shirts, so I figured I might as well try to snag one. I moved into the emptiest row I could find, but turns out, the shirt came RIGHT to me. All I had to do was lower my glove a little and I caught it:
It’s actually the shirt I am wearing right as I type this sentence.
As for the game, I spent most of my time out in left field, but I came to the dugout for the end of the game to try to get an umpire ball:
Did you notice something else about that picture? It was pretty empty at the stadium. In addition to having been high-90s heat, it had started raining. Here’s a look to the seats to my left:
Leiming had been down by the dugout the whole game and was also going for an umpire ball. Except, unlike me, he was dedicated and prepared for the task:
Let me remind you it was humid from just having rained, and it was still freakin’ hot, so it wasn’t for the faint of heart to put on an umpire jacket. Not surprisingly, Leiming got a ball and I didn’t.
After pretty much everyone had left our section (lightning and the subsequent thunder had just struck, so it wasn’t that long after the game ended), Leiming and I got an usher to take a picture of us:
Leiming’s flight back to Kansas City had already been delayed, so we were going to have lunch together at Union Station, but we decided it might not be a good idea given how late the DC trains were running.
So we said our goodbyes, and I headed to Union Station, while he went to the airport to catch his plane to the Home Run Derby.
• 3 Balls at this game (pictures taken in my room for freshman orientation in Minnesota)
• 118 Balls in 24 Games= 4.92 Balls Per Game
• 3 Balls x 25,125 Fans= 75,375 Competition Factor
• 33 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
• 9 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
• 8 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
• 97 Balls in 20 Games at Nationals Park= 4.85 Balls Per Game
• 11 straight Games with 1 Ball at Nationals Park
• 11 straight Games with 2 Balls at Nationals Park
• 9 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
• Time Spent On Game 9:13 AM- 10:26 PM= 13 Hours 13 Minutes [/spooky]