Tagged: gates

5/28/13 Orioles at Nationals: Nationals Park

Before I started going to games at Target Field at the end of the 2012 season, Nationals Park definitely felt like the closest thing I had to a “home” ballpark. So in not having been there since August 21 of last year, I was almost okay with my first game back being during rivalry week, when I knew there would be a ton of Orioles fans packing the Nationals Park seats. But now coming to the ballpark from a new location where the bus arrives only every half-hour, I made sure to give myself more than enough time to get to the gate and as a result got to the gate way before even I usually get there:

52813 Mateo at gate

Right as I got in and headed to the left field seats, Gio Gonzalez hit a ball to my left, so I ran after the ball, caught it on the fly:

52813 Ball 1

but in my deceleration, managed to trip on one of the seats and take a tumble. I felt fine, so I got up, but I first noticed that I had some scratches on my legs and then I felt something on my ear. I tapped my cap on my ear and this is what I saw:

52813 Bloody cap

I then felt my ear with my hand and even more blood was coming out. I wasn’t the only one who noticed it either. An usher saw my ear bleeding, and so he got another employee to take me up to first-aid, which literally opened just as we got there. I think it’s probably the fastest after the gates have opened that they have ever had to serve a person. Of course they took their time with cleaning up my ear, but all I could think of was all of the opportunities I was missing for snagging baseballs. All I wanted to do was get the blood off, maybe get a band-aid if it was necessary, and get back out into the stands. It was almost a joke to me how seriously they were taking this. I remember that right after examining my ear, the first-aid worker said, “It doesn’t look bad enough for you to need stitches; I think you can stay for the game.” I thought of replying with a super-sarcastic “Wow, thank you. I thought I was going to die any minute now because I cut my ear.” I was just that frustrated because getting on the board early was being completely wasted by the fact that I was being held up forever in first-aid. After they cleaned up my ear and let me go, one of the workers said, “Okay, now no more chasing baseballs.” Again a sarcastic “Okay. Maybe for the ten seconds it takes me to get back into the outfield seats.” popped into my head, but I realized that this was my first game back here at a place I would be the whole summer, and it’s beneficial to me to try to make as many friends and as few enemies in the ballpark as possible.

My second ball of the day came in the Red Seats in center field when I politely asked Craig Stammen if he could toss me a ball:

52813 Ball 2

That would be my last ball of Nationals BP. I didn’t really flub anything, but the excess crowd that was here for this game just went to all of the spots that I would have normally played the Nationals hitters at, so I was forced to pretty much camp out in the Red Seats where there didn’t end up being that much action.

When the Orioles began their batting practice, I headed down the third base line to try to get a ball from the position players and pitchers warming up, and managed to get a ball from who I figured out several days later with the help of Avi Miller was Troy Patton:

52813 Ball 3

I then headed off to left field, where I’d have to say my main challenge wasn’t necessarily the volume of people, but the amount of people wearing bright orange t-shirts:

52813 Orange Tshirts

See I have a black Orioles shirt, so I don’t really stand out. It’s only when I’m the sole Orioles fan talking to a player that it really helps me. Given this, I headed over to right field, where there weren’t quite as many Orioles fans. And it ended up paying off when Jason Hammel tossed me a ball that I almost immediately gave away to a kid next to me with a glove:

52813 Ball 4 diagram

Then at about 6:20, I realized batting practice was going to be wrapping up, so I headed to the Orioles dugout to try and get a ball when the Orioles were packing up their baseballs. When I got there, there was only one problem: there were too many people down there by the dugout with their Orioles gear on (It became my goal half-way through that sentence to see how many “there”s I could pack into one sentence), but the rain that had been holding off all batting practice couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. It started pouring just as the Orioles were finishing, and thus driving all the people who had been lining the dugout away, leaving me practically the only one in Orioles gear:

52813 View at the dugout

And as a result of this, when the Orioles cleared the field, I was the only one who recognized Rudy Arias, so when I said his name, he almost looked shocked that someone recognized him, and tossed me the ball that he had in his glove for my fifth of the day:

52813 Ball 5

A semi-long rain delay followed this, so I took advantage and sat in this seat at the beginning of the game:

52813 View at the beginning of the game

But I didn’t stay there long as I soon joined my mom and a coworker of hers that had made it out to the game–since both of our phones were dead–effectively capping my ball total at five baseballs for the night.

STATS:

  • 5 Balls at this Game (4 pictured because I gave 1 away)

52813 Baseballs

Numbers 527 to 531 for my “life”:

52813 Sweet Spots

  • 85 Balls in 19 Games= 4.47 Balls Per Game
  • 5 Balls x 35,664 Fans=178,320 Competition Factor
  • 82 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 129 Balls in 29 Games at Nationals Park= 4.45 Balls Per Game
  • 21 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
  • 5 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
  • 3 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
  • Time Spent On Game 2:46-12:32= 9 Hours 46 Minutes

5/26/13 Braves at Mets: Citi Field

Coming into this Sunday Night Baseball game I knew two things: There would be a ton of ballhawks, and I needed to get two baseballs. The ballhawks thing I knew because a ton of other ballhawks had told me in advance that they were going to be at this game, and the baseball thing was because I was sitting at 98 baseballs snagged at Citi Field, and I need to get to 100 for my own stupid self-satisfaction and so I would never feel obligated to come back to Citi Field for the stadium itself ever again.

A weird thing happened when I got to the gates. First of all, the people waiting in line were in two giant lines, even though I knew there would be 5 or 6 lines opening, but secondly, I didn’t see any ballhawks when I got there to jump in line with. It took me a while to figure the situation out, but when I realized it was the weekend, I figured the other ballhawks had gotten season tickets and were already inside. Eventually I saw Chris Hernandez, and we started our own line. I figured all the ballhawks would already be in left field, so I headed directly for right field instead:

52613 Opening Picture

When I got there, I quickly got on the board with a toss-up from Dillon Gee in the right field corner:

52613 Ball 1

Then, being at 99 baseballs for my “career” at Citi Field, I headed to left field and tried to make my 100th an on-the-fly snag:

52613 Left Field

When I got over there, I found out that Ben Weil, Zack Hample, and Greg Barasch (pictured in the blue)had indeed gotten in early and had snagged over 20 combined baseballs in this time.
I eventually moved to a new spot in left where this was the view in front of me:

20130605-202004.jpg
And this was the view to my left:

20130605-202107.jpg
The guy in the first picture is Zack, and if you can see the two talking to each other in the second picture, those are Ben and Greg (left to right). The reason they’re talking is a ball had just been hit between them that I believe hit both of them/their gloves before being caught by Ben. It was one of the crazier catches I’ve seen at the ballpark.
After about fifteen minutes of going for only hit baseballs, I gave up and decided to take my 100th Citi Field ball any way it came. That didn’t change the fact that I didn’t get a ball the rest of BP. A fear I had conveyed to Chris right at the beginning of batting practice after I had snagged the first ball.
Despite this, I stuck with my original plan and played foul balls during the game, away from other ballhawk competition:

20130605-210148.jpg
Surprise, surprise, I didn’t get any action. So as the ninth inning rolled around, I headed to the umpire in search of my ticket to never having to go to Citi Field evah again.
I tried to stay as far away from the security as possible, and try to get the umpire as one-on-one as possible by going on the outfield side of the tunnel. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the best idea, since it prevented me from getting directly to the visiting dugout if I failed to get a ball from the umpire; thus limiting my opportunities for a ball after the game. Thankfully, though, I got my ball from the umpire and didn’t have to live this awful hypothetical scenario:

20130605-212350.jpg
I figured as a tribute to the baseball gods for allowing me that last baseball, I gave the one I had gotten from Dillon Gee at the beginning of batting practice away to the kid with the glove in the following picture. And his dad thanked me about 25,764 times as a result:

20130605-212746.jpg
After that, I caught up with the three ballhawks who had gotten in early, as well as Jen, Ben’s girlfriend. As we exited the stadium, Jen was nice enough to take a picture of the four of us ballhawks:

20130605-213213.jpg
Although I probably should have been the one taking the picture since even Jen—who doesn’t actively ballhawk—outsnagged me 4 balls to 2. But I had one goal on the day: to snag two baseballs, so I left the stadium with the smile you see in the picture. Ben and Jen headed off to the Mets team store while I rode the train with Greg and Zack. Most of which consisted of me getting ridiculed for my all-star selections, since I really haven’t been paying attention to stats and stuff this season. And then I spent the second night of my week staying over at Greg’s, even though he had to get up at about 4:30 in the morning to head off on a Florida-Atlanta trip. And by “get up”, I mean after a half-hour of sleep since we both stayed up until 4:00 since Greg had yet to pack and things for his trip when we got home from the game.

STATS:

  • 2 Baseballs at this Game (1 in this picture because I gave 1 away)

52613 Baseball

Numbers 525 and 526 for my lifetime:

52613 Sweet Spot

  • 80 Balls in 18 Games= 4.21 Balls Per Game
  • 2 Balls x 27,296 Fans= 54,592 Competition Factor
  • 81 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 100 Balls (yay!) in 38 Games at Citi Field= 2.63 Balls Per Game (Boo!)
  • 38 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Citi Field
  • Time Spent On Game 4:06-12:23= 11 Hours 47 Minutes

5/25/13 Braves at Mets: Citi Field

So after the adventure I had gone through the previous game, and the state I awoke in, I feel as though I shouldn’t have been in the mood to go back to Citi Field any time soon, but so I did. I woke up at about 11:00 in the morning, and since the Mets had announced when the game was postponed that the gates would be opening at 4:10 and trains/buses run less regularly on the weekends, I almost immediately headed up to the apartment of a friend I was staying with this week in the Bronx, showered, got changed in to clothes that were more suited for the 50-degree temperatures, took all of the stuff I didn’t need in my backpack out, and headed off to Citi Field.

The way this game would work is the resumption of the previous night’s game would begin at 6:10 and the regularly-scheduled game would start soon after that. People who had tickets could exchange them at the box office for tickets that were that same dollar amount or lower. But since I was hopefully not going to be back at Citi Field after Sunday’s game (this entry you’re reading about is of a Saturday) and I had picked up a collective three ticket stubs the game before, I exchanged them in the following way: Two tickets for this game and one for the Sunday game:

52513 Opening Picture

The two tickets for this day’s game were behind the third base dugout and in left field, and the Sunday ticket was for further down the third base foul line. I figured that I would want more flexibility for this day’s game, and the next day’s game I already knew would be full of ballhawks, so I wanted to stay away from behind the dugouts and left field, which are the two most popular spots for ballhawks during the games at Citi Field. Also, it was John Franco bobblehead day, which Ben Weil was coming to specifically for the bobbleheads, so having two tickets to this game would enable him to get an extra bobblehead. (Even if I was stupid and gave him the ticket I already scanned to get in.)

I learned when I got to the stadium, though, that the bad-phrasing Mets had changed the gate opening time from 4:10 to 5:10 somewhere between me sleeping on a fleece and getting to the game, so I now had to wait for another hour, and it would also be another hour that I wouldn’t have inside the stadium I wasn’t worried about my streak because I would have 10+ innings with a dugout seat, but it was just annoying to know that I rushed to the game when I could have been relaxing on an actual bed for that extra hour. The Mets actually then changed that *while* I was waiting at the gate and made the new opening time 4:45. Unfortunately, when I got in, there was still a whole lot of nothing going on:

52513 Nothing going on

Since there was nothing of the players going on, I went and saw some other interesting things going on in the stadium:

1.

52513 Tarp cover thingy

The groundscrew put the thing that covers the tarp in the stands down the third base line.

2.

52513 Ladder

Mets employees for whatever reason had a ladder going from the second to the third deck in left field.

3.

52513 Winning Seat

The random “lucky seat”s that the Mets have throughout the stadium in section 123 was two seats from my ticketed seat in that section, which was seat 4 in that same row.

I quickly got bored with these things, so I took a peek inside the dugout:

52513 View in the dugout

When I didn’t see anything going on in there, I decided to take pictures of the top of the visitor’s dugout:

52513 Dugout 1 52513 Dugout 2

Like I said, I was bored.

At around 5:15, Ben arrived in the stadium, so I talked to him briefly but then quickly became designated bag carrier as he made several trips in and out of the stadium to get the extra bobbleheads. At the end of his many trips, he had a ton of bobbleheads. I think he said he had gotten ten by the time he was done. I mean here are just a little over half of the bobbleheads:

52513 Bobbleheads

Normally Ben only gets two of a bobblehead; three if he really likes the player. But in this case, he came across some extra tickets that came without people wanting the bobblehead, so Ben ended up keeping seven of the ten bobbleheads for himself.

When it came time for the first game, here was my view of the action:

52513 View for the game

See the only kid in the picture on the seat all the way to the right? His name is Harrison, and he approached me during this game and asked me if I went for baseballs often. Through our talking, he remembered that he had actually first talked to me over a year ago at this game (I apologize in advance for the awful writing) and I remembered that he was the one who had taken the picture of me in my poncho outside the rotunda in the entry before this one. It turns out he is an autograph collector who has gotten 1,000+ autographs at games, and usually sits in the seats you see him in, which is how he has seen ballhawks a lot before. I ended up talking with him and some guys who arrived in the second game for the majority of the game.

In the first inning of the game (or the ninth inning, if you will) the Mets struck out to end the inning, and although I was on the outfield end of the dugout, the stands were empty enough for the resumption game that there was an empty row of seats that I managed to get to the home plate end of the dugout through, and so I got Brian McCann to toss me a ball. On my way back to my seat on the outfield end, I saw a kid with Braves gear, so I gave the ball to him.

When the first game ended, I stupidly forgot for a couple seconds that the umpires would be exiting the field, and this hesitation may have cost me a ball as I was out of position at the umpire tunnel and didn’t get a ball from the home plate umpire. The time between the games wasn’t all bad, though. It was in this time that I had pre-arranged a meet-up with fellow MLBlogger, Bryan Mapes of the popular blog, Three Up, Three Down. He was in the club level of Citi Field, but came down to meet me in the concourse of the field level:

52513 Bryan Mapes and Mateo Fischer

Despite having conversed many times over Twitter and our respective blogs, this was the first time we had ever met in person. So there’s that.

I then headed back to my seat where I enjoyed the same view–except darker–for the rest of the night despite not snagging another ball:

52513 Dugout view 1 52513 Dugout view 2

And so that was it. The Mets lost both games, which made Bryan, a Braves fan, very happy, but I pretty much just sat, enjoyed the games, and got to cross another thing off my baseball bucket list. Even if I probably never would have thought to put this exact scenario on my bucket list ever.

The Mets even had the firework that were supposed to go off the previous day go off in honor of my 1-ball performance:

52513 Fireworks

I would go back to the Bronx knowing that the next day would be just another day back at the ballpark, but with a lot more batting practice and ballhawks than I had been seeing the past two days. And I would have one mission: snag two baseballs to get to 100 all-time at Citi Field.

STATS:

  • 1 Ball at this game (not pictured because I gave it away
  • Number 524 for my “career”
  • 78 Balls in 18 Games= 4.33 Balls Per Game
  • 1 Ball x 27,622 Fans= 27,622 Competition Factor
  • 80 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 98 Balls in 37 Games at Citi Field= 2.69 Balls Per Game
  • 37 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Citi Field
  • Time Spent On Game 12:02-11:49= 11 Hours 47 Minutes

5/24/13 Braves at Mets: Citi Field

With my last game and my snagging of six baseballs, I was at 95 career baseballs for Citi Field. The goal of me going to five games was to get to 100. Only five baseballs. When I got up in the morning, I was thinking how I could simply knock the goal out in a single game and then not have to attend games the rest of the weekend. Then I checked what the weather was supposed to be at the place I volunteered at most of the past two summers and for every day of this week:

52413 Weather

Snagging five balls in this game was going to be a lot harder than I expected. And even worse, notice how I said that I checked the weather while I was at the place I volunteer at. That means I was already out of the apartment I was staying in. See it was nice-ish out when I left, so I decided I would wear shorts. Fifty degrees and raining isn’t exactly shorts weather. That brings me to this picture:

52413 Homemade Poncho Time

Because I was in shorts still, I figured I would need a poncho of sorts, so I fashioned this out of an extra table lining we had at the previously-mentioned senior center I was volunteering at. I took it and cut a hole in the top for my head and made two slices in the sides for my arms. I don’t know if you can tell from that last picture, but the tables where bags normally get checked were moved from their usual spot right behind where I was standing to way back almost at the turnstile:

52413 Tables

It was so the security checking bags would be under the overhang and out of the reach of the rain. It also meant that I would lose almost a minute in getting into the stadium because I couldn’t have the guard check my bag before the gates themselves opened. Normally I would be mad about this, but I figured there wasn’t going to be batting practice, so every second wasn’t as precious as it would normally be.

When I got in the stadium I saw the Mets pitchers warming up in almost by the right field foul pole, so I headed over there and headed down the steps into the seats in foul territory down the first base foul line. As I started down the stairs, I heard an usher stop me. He apologized and told me that he knows fans are usually allowed down into the seating bowl, but since there was no batting practice, he was told not to let people into his section. I don’t doubt his sincerity in believing what he was saying and not making up a rule just because he saw an 18-year-old with a glove that matched the description of what Citi Field security seems to hate, but he was either a) Enforcing an absolutely ridiculous policy, or b) He misinterpreted what his actual instructions were. I saw him turn down several other people after me, but people somehow eventually started coming down into the seats, so I’m guessing it was the latter and someone else clarified the situation for him. Because of this, I had to try to get the players to toss me a ball from the right field seats instead of being behind them, which would have been the easiest toss-up snag ever. Regardless, I got Brandon Lyon to toss me a ball after he was done throwing with LaTroy Hawkins for my first on the day:

52413 Ball 1

And look at all the action that occupied me after the pitchers left the field:

52413 Tarp on the field

Given the fact that the tarp was on the field and absolutely nothing going on, I headed over to the third base side of things and waited for the Braves to come out and throw:

52413 Poncho pants

Right around then Ben Weil came into the stadium. So I chatted with him until the Braves came out to throw. When they did I stationed myself behind Craig Kimbrel and his new throwing partner now that Johnny Venters was injured, and then moved on to Cory Rasmus and his throwing partner, but eventually ended up getting a ball from bullpen coach Eddie Perez instead:

52413 Ball 2

A ball which I would then get signed by Craig Kimbrel as he passed by signing people’s thing-a-ma-do-hickies. And then it was back to tarp-watching:

52413 Did someone ask for more tarp?

I believe the game’s start time was only delayed less than half-an-hour by the rain, so once it started Ben and I sat behind the dugout. Ben eventually just left the game around the third inning to go home, but I stayed behind the dugout the whole game. Unfortunately I was on the outfield end of the dugout and the Mets kept striking out to end the inning. At the end of seven innings when he came out, Braves starter Kris Medlen had nine strikeouts. If you didn’t know before, when a strikeout ends the inning, a catcher typically takes the ball to the home plate end of the dugout and tosses it up there. So as a result of all of these strikeouts, I found myself repeatedly on the wrong side of the dugout to get a third out ball.

It had been drizzling pretty consistently throughout the game, but at about the beginning of the eighth inning, it started absolutely pouring. When the Braves scored two runs in the top of the inning, I thought for sure that they were going to win the game on account of the rain, but the umpires let the game go on into the bottom of the eighth inning and the Mets came right back and scored two run of their own. It was after the end of the eighth inning–during which I should have caught a Rick Ankiel foul ball on the fly–that the tarp was finally brought out and the game delayed. When this happened I did the stupidest thing possible: I walked right up the steps and to the concourse. Now I did pick up a ticket for the section to get back in should I need to when play resumed:

52413 Ticket

But that’s not why it was a stupid decision to walk out of the section right as the game was being delayed. To a ballhawk, a rain delay is the equivalent of the end of the game in terms of snagging opportunities. So what I *should* have done was first go to the umpire tunnel and try to get a ball from the umpires exiting the field, then try to get a ball from players coming from a bullpen, and then maybe try to get a ball from the side of the dugout looking in at any players/coaches who were still mulling around in the dugout. And a great thing about a rain delay in New York is that unlike the end of the game, security won’t kick you out after 30 seconds because there is still the potential for the game to resume. These were all great opportunities I wasted because I was so fixated on getting out of the rain and inside some club (since I had a ticket that got me into pretty much every club in Citi Field):

52413 Delta Sky 360 Club

I did a lot of wandering during the rain delay, but I won’t post all of the pictures here; they’ll be in the album on Facebook that I post for every game. In wandering the concourse and clubs themselves, though, I was wasting yet another golden opportunity. If you’re ever at a game that has gone less than five innings or is tied, search through the seats for as many ticket stubs as you can find, because if the game is postponed to a later date because of the rain, most teams allow you to trade in the value of the ticket for any game later on in the season. So if you have enough tickets in good seating, you could end up not paying for a ticket at that stadium for the rest of the season, and having great seats too. I was actually planning on going down to the field level and doing this at midnight, but it was announced at 11:58 that the game–or the inning that was left, anyway–was being postponed until the next day and would be played at 6:10, right before the game that was regularly scheduled to begin at 7:10. So I left Citi Field at about 12:02 and headed home:

52413 Leaving Citi Field

And while it may seem as though my day was all the way through, it was what happened after I left Citi Field that’s what I’ll be telling everyone I know about this game form now on. The following timestamps are estimates since my phone died half-way along this journey:

12:02- I called the person who I was staying with to tell her that it probably wouldn’t be the best idea if I returned to her apartment that night, since it would require me possibly waiting an hour in the Bronx for a bus. I meanwhile texted my friend Greg Barasch, whose apartment I had stayed in that past Tuesday to see if I could stay there again that night, but he was “asleep” so he didn’t respond until many hours later in the afternoon.

12:25- Since the game itself never actually ended, and it was late anyways, there was no express “7” train to get on. Nevertheless, I went to the express track because there was a 7 with its doors closed where the express train usually is. I figured it eventually open its doors and head to Times Square. After watching two trains pass on the regular track, I came to the conclusion that this train was never going to leave the station and finally went to the other side of the platform and caught a train after 20 minutes of waiting.

12:40- The train cruised through the above-ground portion of Queens, but on the first stop underground, our train was stopped for what was announced as “signal difficulties”. Suffice to say I was bored out of my mind/not amused:

52413 Done with transit

1:08- After waiting around for almost half-an-hour on the train, it was announced that because there was an investigation happening at Times Square that our train was being suspended and everyone needed to get off the train:

52413 People getting off train

We were then told to go up to the booth for this station, pick up a pass for an extra subway ride and walk to a station for the “E” train, that would then take us to Times Square.

1:21- The person at the booth had given us wrong directions to the other station, so myself and a group of about five other people spent almost 15 minutes wandering what Ben Weil would tell me the next day was not such a good part of Queens at 1 in the morning.

1:55-Because it was the weekend and so late at night, the trains were running even more infrequently than they do normally on the “E” line, and so even once we figured out our way to the station, we had to wait for a while for the train to arrive in the station. It was in this time that I got teased by the Mets fans in the station for wearing Braves gear.

2:17-Finally the train arrived and it took all of us lost Mets fans to Times Square.

2:37-From Times Square I would transfer to the “2” train making local stops that would take me to the 96th street station before going off in a direction I didn’t want to take it, so I got off at 96th.

3:02- My phone had died at this point, but I still needed to get to 110th street to get to my now-vacant apartment. With the next “1” train that would take me to the 110th street stop being 19 minutes away, I decided to walk the 14 blocks (roughly 3/4 of a mile) despite the fact that it was almost 3 o’clock in the morning. It was a little after 3:00 by the time I got into the apartment. And when I got there, I found out that all of the bed sheets I had left in the closet when I left Monday had been taken out of the apartment, so this was my bed for the night:

52413 Make-shift bed

It was even more comfortable than it looks. And with me collapsing on this makeshift bed from exhaustion at 3:15, I could finally say that my day of adventure had ended. But I would have to wake up in less than ten hours just to get back to Citi Field and do it all again.

STATS:

  • 2 Baseballs at this game

52413 Baseballs

Numbers 522-23:

52413 Sweet Spots

  • 77 Balls in 17 Games= 4.53 Balls Per Game
  • 2 Balls x 32,325 Fans= 64,650 Competition Factor
  • 79 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 5 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
  • 97 Balls in 36 Games at Citi Field= 2.69 Balls Per Game
  • 36 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Citi Field
  • 3 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Citi Field
  • Time Spent On Game 4:10-3:02= 10 Hours 52 Minutes

5/20/13 Reds at Mets: Citi Field

First of all, here is a Before The Gates Open video detailing my journey to and subsequent time at Citi Field’s Jackie Robinson Rotunda:

Click on here to get to the video.

Oh, how there are some things that I did not miss at all about New York:

52013 Packed train

At the top of my baseball portion of this list was probably Citi Field. That said, I planned to attend five games there this week starting with this game. Why would I put myself through this madness? I was at 86 career baseballs snagged at Citi Field and wanted to get to 100 baseballs there so I would never have feel the obligation to go to Citi Field ever again. That way if I ever returned to Citi Field, it would more-or-less be on my own terms and not because I felt obligated to go there. So let’s get right into the entry, shall we?

For the first few groups of BP, I stood out here:

52013 View in LF

If you can’t tell, the guy in the white shirt and blue hat is Zack Hample. Normally I would like to be on the staircase he is on in that picture, but he took that spot, and to stand behind him is just asking to get robbed. Plus it wouldn’t make sense to bunch up if we had space to spread out. However, the reason I took this picture is Zack somehow managed to rob me from there. More specifically, I managed to absolutely botch a ball. As I explained in a Before The Gates Open video–which I’ll put up on this entry later on next week when I have access to the footage and time to edit it. (I’ll announce when I’ve put it up on Twitter)–this was my first time bringing my 14-or-so-inch lefty glove to a game, so by the time the the gates opened, it was still a little new to me. Anyway, I got Tom Goodwin to toss me a ball, but I somehow had the ball tip off the top of my glove and into the seats behind me. I ran back to where the ball landed, but it wasn’t there. Just then I saw Zack running in my peripheral vision and a ball hit in the seats all at the same time. What had happened was the ball had bounced off a seat and fallen a couple of rows down, where I couldn’t see it but Zack could. He ran over to pick it up and while he was over on my side of the section, a Mets righty hit a ball right next to him, which he also picked up. So had I not completely botched the ball, I probably would have had two quick baseballs. Those would be the only two baseballs I would see anywhere near me in left field. Although, those were Zack’s first two baseballs of the game, and this was the 900th consecutive game in a row that he had snagged a baseball at. So I can kind of say that I was responsible for a 900 games in a row with at least 1 ball.

Center field, though, was another story. I decided at the beginning of a new BP group that I would head over there and try my luck with getting toss-ups. I quickly got Dillon Gee to toss me my first ball of the day:

52013 Ball 1

I then headed back to left field for the beginning of Reds BP. This time on the other side of Zack:

52013 Second view in left

(I realize this picture is during Mets BP, but you get the picture–literally–here.) But when I realized most of the Reds power hitters were lefties and Mat Latos was not going to toss anything up any time soon, I headed back out to the center field.

In center field I moved down to the corner spot at the bottom left of the section (bottom right if you’re looking at it from home plate). And while I was trying to get a ball from whoever the player was ( I remember he was a 6-foot-6 lefty or something like that, but I don’t feel like looking up the actual name of the player.) I heard the people next to me moving around and the player look up in the sky. As it was already on its descent, I looked up and saw the ball everyone was looking at, and saw that it was coming essentially right at me. I then quickly got my glove up, hopped a bit, and caught the ball:

52013 Ball 2

I found out later from the people behind me that it was Jay Bruce who hit the ball. This was nice in that it had a redemptive quality to it for messing up the easy Goodwin catch. It also assured me that there was indeed hope for this giant lefty glove. However, I must say that two annoying things about the glove are when I have to label the baseball, because I still do write right-handed, and when I’m taking a picture of the baseball, because I still feel the need to have the ball on the left side of the frame and that requires that I cross my arms while taking the picture.

Anyway, this ball would be my last of batting practice. Since the Reds good hitters are pretty much–besides Brandon Phillips and Todd Frazier–are left-handed, I headed up to a place I hadn’t been in a while, the Pepsi Porch in right field:52013 Back of the Pepsi Porch

Here’s the view of the field from where I was standing:

52013 View from the Pepsi Porch

And now of the scoreboard:

52013 View of the scoreboard from the PP

The reason I took so many pictures from up there that didn’t really have to do with ballhawking is that I didn’t know when the next time I was going to be on the Pepsi Porch was. Maybe never. Like I said, I hadn’t been up there in a long time. And there’s a reason for that. To get up onto the Pepsi Porch, you have to go into foul ground, take and escalator up two or three stories, go across a bridge, go down some steps, and then you’re at the *back* of the section. Simply put: you better have a very good reason to go up there if you’re wasting that much time in just getting there.

After batting practice I headed down to the Reds dugout to try to get a ball from the person packing up the BP balls up, but the funniest thing happened. Instead of heading into the dugout when he pack the baseballs up, he went into the area right behind home plate and dumped the whole bag of baseballs on him:

52013 Guy who has balls

I don’t know the exact story, but that guy in the stands managed to snag I’d say between 10 and 15 baseballs in the span of a second. It was something pretty ridiculous that I’ve never seen before.

As for the rest of the game, I snagged a ball after the game at the umpire’s tunnel which I then gave away to a Vietnam Veteran I saw with a glove, but that wasn’t the story of the game. All of us ballhawk-type people met up at the dugout after the game, and posed with the prize of the game:

52013 Mark home run ball

Left to right that would be:

1. Zack

2. Mark McConville

3. Myself

4. Aaron (Who also goes by the nickname Howie)

And sorry for the picture being out of focus. Whoever took the picture didn’t understand that the iPhone needs a second to focus the picture. But anyway, what we are all pointing to is the Marlon Byrd home run Mark had snagged earlier in the game. Mark has snagged one more home run than I have (so two). And both have come when I was in attendance and the ball got pulled to a section in left field. I’d say it is one or two sections from the foul pole. Congratulations, Mark, on that. Both were nice plays. The only negative thing about the home run is that had Mark snagged one more ball in BP, the home run would have been his 100th ball snagged ever. I think he’ll take the home run snag, though. Although, it is a personal observation of mine that one’s 100th ball likes to be the first ball of a game. Myself and a bunch of other ballhawks it seems leave a game stuck on 99 baseballs and can’t get that 100th ball until the next game.

Our family had just moved to Washington–I stayed for an extra week to say goodbye to people in New York–so I headed back on the train with Zack to sleep one last night in a pretty vacant apartment with my step-brother who had a flight that he had to leave for at 3 o’clock in the morning. Suffice to say I didn’t get much sleep in preparation for the game the following day.

STATS:

  • 3 Balls at this Game (2 pictured because I gave 1 away)

52013 Baseballs

Numbers 513-515:

52013 Sweet Spots

  • 69 Balls in 15 Games= 4.60 Balls Per Game
  • 3 Balls x 23,038 Fans= 69,114 Competition Factor
  • 77 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 4 straight Games with at least 2-3 Balls
  • 89 Balls in 34 Games at Citi Field= 2.62 Balls Per Game
  • 34 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Citi Field
  • Time Spent On Game 3:13-12:02= 8 Hours 49 Minutes

5/14/13 White Sox at Twins: Target Field

First of all, before I get started, I forgot to tell all of you that the BallhawkFest video I did a while ago came with it’s fair share of bloopers, so here’s that video:

It’s unlisted, so you can see it here, but the only other place to see it is I’ll have an annotation for it in the main BallhawkFest video.

Now that we have that out of the way, here’s your semi-regularly-scheduled entry. Well actually, while we’re posting videos up here, I made a Before The Gates Open video for here. Yes, I coming back with this video series in 2013, re-doing all the stadiums I did last year and any new ones I visit this year. (Except for the Cell because those two games I went to the weekend prior to this game were probably the last I’ll be there this season.) But anyway, without further ado, here is the 2013 version of Before The Gates Open- Target Field:
Click here to go to that video, since it’s being stupid and doesn’t want to embed on this page.
After that, Sean and I stood in line and waited for the gates to finally open:
20130530-133202.jpg

Once we got in the gates, it was Sean and not I who snagged the first baseball. See Sean had been in contact with either Hector Santiago or Brian Omogrosso—I can’t remember which— on Twitter and had gotten whoever it was to follow him. He had also asked the player if the player could toss Sean a ball at the game later on. When Sean asked him for a ball, the player recognized him and obliged his request:

20130530-133816.jpg

He then rubbed the fact that he had snagged infinitely more baseballs at this game than I had for the next five to ten minutes. But, being Sean, that was his day of ballhawking as he went and got food soon after that.
While he was gone eating, I was snagging. The first ball I got was in right-center field. When a ball rolled to the wall, I got Matt Thorton to toss me my first ball of the game:20130530-135257.jpg

After I got this ball, I headed to the back of the section I was in and gave the ball to the usher instructing him to give the ball away to the next kid with a glove he saw.

I then headed out to the standing room for one reason: Adam Dunn was hitting. Just as I got there Dunn put a ball right in the middle of the triangle created by Gate 34, the program vendor, and the beer stand in the following picture:20130530-135933.jpg

(Normally I would draw an arrow for you, but I’m writing this entry on my phone.) I chased after this ball, but it bounced outside of the gate, so I couldn’t pursue it any further. After I gave up on the chase, I went back to the flag pole of the American flag. A few pitches later, Dunn launched a ball almost directly at me. I took a couple steps forward before I saw a man in front of me in the wheelchair section reaching up for the ball with his hand. Since I’ve narrowly missed getting clocked by a couple deflections, so I simply put my glove where the ball would go with no deflection and turned my face away from the ball. Thankfully the guy completely whiffed and the ball landed in my glove:

20130530-141316.jpg

Given that I’m one of—if not THE worst ballhawks I’ve seen in the outfield at judging fly balls, this was a nice proud moment for me. Unfortunately it would be my last ball of batting practice. I would head off to left field after that, and had an open row to run:

20130530-142039.jpg

But everything that cleared the wall was going in the first two rows. There was also room deeper in the section:

20130530-142209.jpg

But of course it pretty much takes a line drive to reach back there, so it’s not a great place in general. Fast-forward to after batting practice, Sean and I met up with one of his dorm room floor friends, Mikey in left field. Mikey—like most sane people—got to the game after batting practice given the fact that it was 99 degrees. We then decided that all three of us needed to document our group with each of us taking a different form of social media. Sean took Vine, Mikey took Snapchat, and I picked putting the picture of this blog:

51413 Group picture

When the White Sox coaches came to the bullpen, I headed over there to try to get a ball from them as they cleared the balls that had gone in there during batting practice. Then, I got a ball from the back-up bullpen catcher, whose name I don’t know, tossed me one of the the baseballs in the bullpen:

51413 Ball 3

We then stayed in left field for a couple innings until the seats got crowded. Sean and Mikey then went to seats in third base foul ground, and I headed out to the standing room in right field:

51413 View from Standing room

I don’t need to sit when I have a view like that.  Of course no one hit a ball anywhere near me, but it was a nice game to watch.

At the end of the game I headed down to the umpire tunnel and got a ball from home plate umpire Jordan Baker for my fourth and final ball of the game:

51413 Ball 4

So yeah. Overall a fun day at the ballpark. I would then meet Mikey and Sean, and we would head out of the stadium and back to campus where Sean and I would say goodbye until probably September as I would spend the next two days preparing for my final on Friday, which I would still find a way to not do that well on.

STATS:

  • 4 Baseballs at this Game (3 shown because I gave 1 away)

51413 Baseballs

Numbers 509-512 for my career:

51413 Sweet Spots

  • 66 Balls in 14 Games= 4.71 Balls Per Game
  • 4 Balls x 32,023 Fans(Nice palindromic attendance number)= 128,092 Competition Factor
  • 76 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 3 straight Games with at least 2-3 Balls
  • 117 Balls in 26 Games at Target Field= 4.5 Balls Per Game
  • 24 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Target Field
  • 4 straight Games with at least 2-4 Ball at Target Field
  • Time Spent On Game 3:32-10:47= 7 Hours 15 Minutes

4/26/13 Rangers at Twins: Target Field

A second consecutive day at Target Field and look who decided to join me for the game:

42613 Opening Picture

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:

42613 Ball 2

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:

42613 Shameful Sean

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:

42613 Roomie picture

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:

42613 Sean and Tony in right field

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:

42613 Ball 3

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:

42613 Ball 5

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:

42613 Ball 6

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:

42613 Ball 7

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:

42613 Tony with ball

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:

42613 Derek Holland

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:

42613 Ball 8

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:

42613 Sean and Kid 2

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:

42613 Sean catch

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:

42613 Us peoples in LF

where this was our view of the field:

IMG_0825

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:

42613 Baseballs in RF

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:

42613 Sean and Tony take 1

And then again on the second take:

42613 Sean and Tony take 2

So finally on the third take, Tony went to extreme measures to keep his eyes open:

42613 Sean and Tony take 3

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:

42613 Ball 9

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:

42613 Group picture

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.

STATS:

  • 9 Balls at this game (6 pictured because I gave 3 away)

42613 Baseballs

Numbers 482-490 for my lifetime:

42613 Sweet Spots

  • 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