After a brief trip to Baltimore, it was back to Washington. And look who was there to greet me:
That, if you don’t know from past entries like this one, is Rick Gold, a fellow ballhawk who lives in New Jersey and works for MLB.com, and as a result goes to games pretty much everywhere, but likes to come visit Washington perhaps more than any other city. What we’re doing in the picture is it was my first day in Washington with my behemoth of a glove that is either 14 or 15 inches. (I forgot which it is exactly and it doesn’t say on the glove itself.) And Rick’s glove is also pretty large at 14″, so we were previewing the battle of the big gloves that was going to take place during the day. I had my glove in front of his in the picture, but I’ll give you a brief preview and say that he put on a show during BP.
His day started off rough with a missed catch on a home run ball during pitcher’s BP. But fortunately he had his cup trick to retrieve the ball from the gap in front of the Red Seats and caught another ball on the fly later that Craig Stammen hit. Meanwhile in the left field seats, I managed to catch a ball off of the bat of Nathan Karns who hit a couple out:
It’s crazy to think that Karns can hit, because the Nationals pitching staff, although their in-game numbers might not necessarily reflect it, are one of the better hitting staffs in the league during BP. They routinely outperform the hitters in terms of home runs for a hitting group.
My next ball came in the Red Seats when Nathan Karns came out to field baseballs. I think I was the only one who knew his name since he had just made two starts at that point, so when I call out to him by name as he approached the wall to retrieve a ball, he tossed me the baseball for my second ball of the day. My third ball came when bench coach, Randy Knorr, fielded a ball by the Red Seats. I asked him by name for a ball and he hooked me up. Right as I got the ball, I asked a group of three kids who had gotten a ball yet. They all said they hadn’t, so I gave the ball to the kid closest to me on the left and told them I would give one of the others a ball if I snagged another ball out there in the Red Seats:
I didn’t so just that one kid got a ball from me. Although I did see another snag a ball in the time I was there afterwards. I left there when I saw the Mets players coming out to throw. The Mets are pretty bad in BP to begin with, so I knew I wouldn’t be missing much in going into foul territory for a couple of rounds. But I get ahead of myself. I forgot to mention how exactly the clinic Rick Gold was putting on unfolded. By the time I headed over into foul ground, he already had eight baseballs. If you don’t know, Rick doesn’t go for toss-ups, so besides the ball he got using his ball retriever, the other seven were hit baseballs. These seven included five balls caught on the fly and balls caught on three consecutive pitches. All were opposite field home runs by Ryan Zimmerman, and it was truly something to see. I watched him chase down and catch the first one, then as I turned to pay attention to Zimmerman again, I saw another ball headed out there, and Rick ran back towards where he had started to catch the second. I then saw him running back to where he caught the first ball and catch the third ball. He literally had two balls in his throwing hand when he caught the last of the three since he didn’t have time to put any in his backpack. He would end the game at ten baseballs with six caught on the fly. I can only imagine what numbers he could have gotten to had he been going for toss-ups as well. Or does he maybe miss some hit baseballs because he was asking for a ball somewhere in there? Does his three consecutive catches in a row? I don’t know, but it was a spectacular performance. The best I’ve ever seen in terms of a ballhawk going off by catching the hit ball.
When the Mets pitchers finished throwing, I got Scott Rice to toss me a ball:
First of all, this ball was a result of the surprising lack of Mets fans that went into foul ground to watch them warm up. But secondly, I was concentrating on another throwing pair, but when Rice and his partner Greg Burke got done throwing, I got into the first row, and as Rice kept walking by me with the ball, I asked him by name if he could toss me the ball. Not surprisingly–as I was the only one to do so, he obliged me for my fourth ball of the game.
My fifth ball of the day came when I headed back out to the Red Seats. When Matt Harvey went to dead center field to retrieve a ball, I went to the corner spot at the front-left of the section and asked him for the ball. He looked up at me and tossed me the ball:
Batting practice would end within five minutes of me getting this ball, so that would be it for me for BP. Towards the end of the game, though, I headed down here as the Mets lead the game 2-1:
I figured the game was over since the Mets had their pretty-reliable closer Bobby Parnell on the mound. But that’s when the Mets showed why they were the Mets and why the Nationals were the Nationals. You see this is the second game I have been to between these two teams where the Mets lead the whole game, but the Nationals went on a roll in the bottom of the ninth that made it look like they were just toying with the Mets. I’ll just tell you what happened. Ryan Zimmerman hit a double to lead off the inning. Zimmerman then advanced on a wild pitch. Adam LaRoche then hit a single to score Zimmerman. At this point I was very unhappy even though the Nationals–who I am a fan of–had tied the game because I really didn’t want extra innings since I was already by the dugout, and that’s where it appeared this game was headed. But again, thank you to the Mets for being the Mets, because Ian Desmond doubled to make it runners on second and third with no outs. (Since Trent Jewett, the third base coach was obviously not going to send LaRoche in that situation.) Roger Bernadina then came up, but with Steve Lombardozzi hitting behind him and the obvious benefits of having a force-out at every base, he was intentionally walked. Lombardozzi then thankfully hit a walk-off sac-fly to end the game.
At the end of the game, I had kids in front of me in the corner spot to the umpire’s tunnel, but home plate umpire Wally Bell actually didn’t give them any baseballs; which is very odd. Just in case, though, I started to say, “Mr. Bell…” And before I could even finish my request, Bell had already tossed me my sixth ball of the night:
It just goes to show, sometimes all it takes is asking and knowing the person’s name.
- 6 Balls at this Game
Numbers 538-543 for my “lifetime”:
- 97 Balls in 23 Games= 4.22 Balls Per Game
- 6 Ball x 31,473 Fans=188,838 Competition Factor
- 86 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 135 Balls in 30 Games at Nationals Park= 4.50 Balls Per Game
- 22 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
- 6 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
- 4 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
- 2 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 4-5 Balls
- Time Spent On Game 2:53-10:38= 7 Hours 45 Minutes
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
A second consecutive day at Target Field and look who decided to join me for the game:
You may recognize the person on the left as Sean Bigness, who has sometimes left comments, and has been in several entries in the past. The person on the right–looking like he wants to be somewhere else at the moment the picture was taken–I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned on here, but it’s my friend Tony who lives in the same dorm as I do. Like Sean, he was supposed to attend a game during the Twins’ opening series with me before something came up for him. But with Tony having finished a 20-page paper the day before and Sean being done with whatever it is Sean does, we had a three-person baseball party set-up. You may notice that the picture I used to introduce the two was taken during the game. That’s because in trying to coordinate all three of us to go to the game together, we arrived late for my standards and didn’t have time to take a group picture outside the gates before they opened. In getting to the game it was revealed to me that the goal of the other two members of the group was to shut me out this game. Thankfully, they absolutely failed at their goal.
As we got in the gates, Sean got way too much joy from the fact that my ticket scanner wasn’t working and that he got in through the gates first. (I still beat him to the left field seats even though we entered the center field gate, Gate 3. That he wasn’t too happy about.) Pretty much as we got to the seats, a ball got hit to right, and I managed to get through Sean trying to box me out for the ball, but sadly it slowed me down enough where two guys closer to the ball closed in on the ball, and one picked it up. Right after that, I made the adjustment and stood in the row under him. Josh Willingham–who hit the first ball–hit another ball to almost the same exact spot. I outran Sean to the gap in the railing, got in front of him in his row, and then beat the other two guys to the ball for my first of the day. I’m pretty sure I got a picture of the ball, but I think I deleted it.
After that, I told Sean and Tony–who had now failed at their goal–that I was headed out to right field. I meant this when I said it to them, but in going to right field, I saw whoever the hitter was at that point hit a ball to the wall in right-center field, so since I was right behind that section of seating, I went down to the first row and asked who I believe was Ryan Pressly for a ball, and he tossed it up to me:
for my second ball of the day. Both Tony and Sean were somewhere between confused and astounded when I met them back on the concourse (since they had still been catching up to me at that point and hadn’t seen any of the events that lead up to the Pressly ball).
We then completed the journey to right field where it was Sean who first got a player to toss him a ball in Jared Burton. Fortunately for me, I don’t think Sean was actually expecting Burton to toss him up the ball because of the fact that he was wearing a White Sox hat, so he actually literally dropped the ball. It went into the flower bed, where I picked it up and handed it to Sean. This may be cheap, but I got possession of the ball before I handed it to Sean, so it counts for me. Here is Sean hanging his head in shame after I gave him the ball:
Sean then insisted Tony take a “roommate” picture (Sean will be my roommate for the next school year), so I got to pile on the fact that Sean didn’t catch the ball with our respective poses:
I tried for the rest of Twins BP (which lasted less than ten minutes after that point) for Jared Burton to toss me a ball, but he either saw me get the Pressly ball or had reached his quota for giving away baseballs, because I know he heard my requests in which I actually called him by name (unlike Sean did) and yet he didn’t toss me a ball.
For that last part of Twins batting practice, this was the view to my right:
While they had both given up on simply preventing me from snagging baseballs, they both wanted to snag at least one of their own. Sean was trying the first-row-and-hope-the-ball-just-barely-clears-the-wall strategy, and Tony was just trying to be able to see the ball with the sun in his eyes. While I was in the front row asking Jared Burton for one of the times I did, a ball flew over my head and instinctively Sean put his arm out to try to prevent me from getting out of the row. The ball then bounced off of the raised wheelchair section at the top of the section and back on to the field.
As the Rangers took over batting practice, I headed over to foul territory down the left field foul line to try to get a ball from the pitchers who were starting to warm up. When I got there, I noticed a ball on the warning track, so I asked the police officer on the field if I could get the ball to give to a kid. He picked up the ball and tossed it to me. Here is the ball right before I walked and gave it to a kid two sections away, since there were none in my section with gloves:
When I resumed trying to get a ball another interesting thing happened. I was looking towards the Rangers pitchers as I was in the first row closest to field and then I just saw in the periphery of my vision that people were moving around frantically as if a ball were headed towards up, so I turned my head just as a Rangers pitcher screamed, “Heads up!” and I saw an Ian Kinsler line drive absolutely screaming towards me but cutting to my right. There were people to my right, but they got out of the way of the ball, so I leaned over the row and caught the ball:
It was very similar to how my neighbor, Greg Barasch caught a foul ball while he was in Marlins Park last season:
Except I was further away, so I had more overall time to react to the ball. But you could argue that he had more time since I wasn’t paying attention to the ball until it was about half-way to me. Whatever. He got a Marlins Park commemorative game ball. He wins. I find it particularly interesting about that snag that I can make the more difficult catches this season so far, but it’s the easier hit-ball snags that have been giving me the most trouble.
After this catch, I figured getting a ball from the pitchers would be unlikely since most of them had seen me catch the ball, so I moved from foul territory to the outfield seating. As I got there, most of the pitchers had ended their throwing and were running “poles”–which if you don’t know, is just baseball jargon for running laps from foul pole to foul pole. One of these pitchers was Joe Nathan. When a ball got hit all the way to the wall, Nathan picked it up mid-stride and kept running, but as he did so, he scanned the crowd, saw me in “Rangers” gear. I put it in quotations because while I did have a Rangers hat on, I still have not bought a Rangers shirt, so it was simply a red shirt with a black-and-white Rangers logo printed on that I had made for the previous game but ended up not using because there was no batting practice. Once he saw me, he flipped the ball up for my sixth on the day:
This one was extra-special, though, because he is one of my favorite players ever from when he was the Twins closer, and I’ve been trying to get a ball from him for a couple of years now. With snagging a ball from him, only Tim Lincecum and Joe Mauer remain as active players from my “Favorite MLB Players” entry who I still haven’t snagged a ball from. I then headed out to the section in right-center field. There I got Tanner Sheppers to toss me a ball almost identically to Nathan. The only difference was that I was about 25 feet up from Sheppers, so considering he was basically shoveling the ball to me while he was running, he overshot me and the ball flew over my head and into the concourse. Thankfully no one back there was paying attention, so I managed to run into said concourse and pick the ball up:
It was soon after this, when I had shifted to pure right field, that Sean and Tony found me. I learned that they had gotten several food items between the two of them. They learned that I had absolutely cleaned up (for my standards, anyway) in their absence. It didn’t take long after they got back for a ball to get to the seats in the right-center field seats to my right. I thought it was going to hit and land in the seats, so I entered them and went lower than the ball to await the bounce back towards the field, but the ball’s trajectory was perfect enough that it just barely went under the overhang of the second deck and found its way to the concourse. Normally I would be mad, but look who ended up snagging it:
The ball bounced off the concrete on the concourse, the back metal mesh, and Tony snagged it while it was still mid-air. While it wasn’t his first snag ever, it was pretty impressive how quickly he reacted after the ball touched down.
After that I was entertained briefly by the fact that Derek Holland was trying to get the attention of a family in the third deck in foul ground in order to launch a ball to them. Here he is looking up to them:
Unfortunately they never looked down to the field since they were too busy paying attention to their food, so after about five to ten minutes of trying to get their attention, Holland gave up and tossed the ball to someone at field level.
I got my eighth ball of the day by asking Jason Frasor for a ball while he shagged it at the wall in right-center field while I was in the right field seats:
I then gave this ball away to a girl I had seen been trying to get a ball for a while at that point. I actually first denied her sister the ball, though, because I hadn’t seen her glove, so I said, “Sorry, I don’t give baseballs away to people who don’t have gloves.” It was at that point that I felt bad for denying her the ball. I told her I would give her the next ball I snagged, but Sean stepped in and gave her the ball that I had given him earlier on in the day. Here he is celebrating the fact that he gave the ball away behind the back of the girl he gave it away to:
Nice job, Sean.
I’ll spoil it for you right now and say that I didn’t snag another ball for the rest of batting practice. I search of this next non-exsitent snag, I moved over to the left field. It was actually Sean who managed to snag a ball there. Here’s how it happened:
Sean and Tony were still catching up to me at this point, so they were just entering the section at this point. As they were descending the staircase closest to the bullpen, a Ranger righty hit a ball into the row that they were crossing, so Sean walked into the row, and reached across his body to make the easy catch.
That was it for batting practice, but we stayed in left field for the start of the game:
where this was our view of the field:
My reason for this (other than to have an excuse to insert pictures from my “good” camera into the entry) was that I wanted to get a ball from the bullpen warm-ups so I would only have to get one ball after the game to finally crack double digits at Target Field. I didn’t, so I was going to have a tough task in front of me to get two baseballs after/during the game as we headed out to the standing room in the second inning.
In the standing room, we finally got the “good” camera out for some pictures since we weren’t running all over the place. The first picture we were going to take was me with the baseballs I had snagged that day and kept:
Plus the Derek Lowe ball from the previous day, since I hadn’t taken it out yet. Five of the six baseballs were from this game. (Nice try, by the way, Sean, but even though I don’t have Photoshop anymore, iPhoto can still get rid of “blemishes” in pictures.)
I then tried to take another picture of Sean and Tony, but this was the first take where Tony closed his eyes because of the flash:
And then again on the second take:
So finally on the third take, Tony went to extreme measures to keep his eyes open:
The only thing really interesting that happened from that point on was while Sean and I were playing catch in the stadium…Actually, there are three interesting things that happened; us playing catch inside Target Field was the first, but the other two surrounded it. Those two things were: 1. While we were playing catch, two police officers were walking towards us. Both Sean and I thought they were coming to tell us to stop playing catch, but what they instead did, because we were playing catch right above Gate 3, they made snowballs and tossed them down at the police officers who were manning the gate. It’s moments like this that make me appreciate NOT being in New York. Some people might think myself and other New York ballhawks are kidding when we say stuff like this, but I’m only partially kidding when I say that I probably would have come close to ejection if I did something similar in either New York stadium. Instead, these police officers actually turned it into something even more fun. They even pointed the fingers at us when the police officers they threw the snowballs at looked up at them. 2. While we were playing catch, I stopped Sean because I heard a familiar sound. It was the mascots being introduced for the Race at Target Field. I used to pretty much just ignore the race, but now I think I’m never going to miss it from now on. Anyway, as Sean and I watched, Skeeta (the mascot I ran as the previous day) pulled off her fourth victory in a row. I just thought it was cool at the moment, but I later learned that it is a record number of consecutive victories for one mascot, so it felt extra special to be a part of that, even if it is a record that probably won’t last forever. Skeeta almost extended the record to five consecutive wins, but started celebrating a little too early and got caught by Babe right at the finish line.
I’ll fast-forward the game for you and reveal that the Twins lost 4-3. At the end of the game, we worked our way to the dugout and I got a ball from home plate umpire Ted Barrett:
That would be ball number nine on the day for me. I made several attempts towards a ball number ten, but all fell short. Maybe my next game, so I can reach 100 career baseballs at Target Field as well as 500 total career baseballs in the same game? Who can know these things?
Anyway, we ended our day at the ballpark with a group picture–myself still pouting about not having cracked double digits at Target Field:
With that we headed back to campus where Tony and I went to have pizza before heading back to St. Paul, and Sean had fun monitoring drunk people while sober.
- 9 Balls at this game (6 pictured because I gave 3 away)
Numbers 482-490 for my lifetime:
- 44 Balls in 9 Games= 4.89 Balls Per Game
- 9 Balls x 27,404 Fans=246,636 Competition Factor
- 71 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 99 Balls in 23 Games at Target Field= 4.30 Balls Per Game
- 21 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 4:07-11:13= 7 Hours 6 Minutes