While I accidentally missed out on the first game of the series, I got to the gates of Nationals Park for the second game of their series with the Pirates, and look who was at the gate awaiting me:
Left to right, that would be:
2. Erik Jabs– The current mygameballs.com season leader with 446 baseballs this, who has also snagged 2,602 baseballs in his lifetime.
3. Rick Gold– A ballhawk/ employee of MLB.com who is slightly behind Erik in both baseball snagging categories I mentioned in his description.
Suffice to say, I was way out of my league, as is the case when most ballhawks are in the same ballpark as I am. For the first fifteen minutes, though, I was holding my own. Actually, I’m pretty sure I snagged three baseballs before either of them had snagged a single baseball.
Like I usually do for pitcher’s BP, I went to straight-away left:
Up to that point, the only pitcher Rick and I had never gotten a ball from that had been up in the majors for any considerable amount of time was Jordan Zimmerman. So when he was up, I relaxed a bit. Sure enough, though, he launched the furthest-hit ball I’ve seen him hit. Naturally, I was taken back by how far the ball was traveling, so I ran back up the steps. However, although the ball was hit hard and high by Zimmerman’s standards, by the time I had run into a row, I realized the ball was falling short, so I wasn’t able to catch the ball on the fly. Instead I watched it drop in front of me and picked it up for my first of the day:
I mean yeah I got the ball, but that misread had me feeling just absolutely awful about how the rest of the day was going to go. The next baseball, though, would have me feeling even worse. After the pitcher’s BP, all of us ballhawks did a musical chairs of sorts with the sections we were inhabiting. Said game of musical chairs ended with me in the Red Seats. There, I saw a ball get hit into the section of field between the Red Seats and right field seats. When I saw a Nationals player going to retrieve it, I ran over to the corner spot of the section. I reacted to him walking over so quickly, in fact, that I neglected to look at if there was anything in my way in the row of seating I was running through. Normally seats in stadiums flip up automatically when someone’s not sitting in them. One of the seats in this row, though, was the exception to that rule. Someone had sat in the seat earlier and it was left down. So as I ran through the row, I was taken out by said seat. The Nationals player was still walking, though; so I immediately got up from a fall that I would have otherwise taken my time in getting up from and asked this player if he could toss me the ball:
He wasn’t wearing his jersey at the time, but with the help of Erik Jabs, we figured out it was Ian Krol, since the only other lefty pitcher on the Nationals roster, I believe at the time, was Fernando Abad.
Us ballhawks then did our game of musical chairs once more, which had me in right field. There I got my third and final ball of the day when Gio Gonzalez overthrew these people and I picked it up to give it to them:
The other two ballhawks then went on to snag a combined 14 baseballs to my none. My only contribution to anyone’s stats from this point on revolved around this:
See, while I used to have a glove trick, it started becoming more trouble than it was worth, so I disassembled, and am thus currently without a retrieval device that is my own. So when I saw a ball go into the gap, I sent out this tweet warning the two other ballhawks:
Neither of them read it, but Erik was the first one to come over, so I pointed both out to him, and he reeled them in with his glove trick as I just stood off to his side and blocked the view of his string from the usher at the top of the section.
There was then another baseball that got dropped or hit in there, so while Erik was in the seats in straight-away left, I waved him over and he fished the ball out of the gap. And that was it. Erik and I went to the bullpen after BP, where he got a grounds crew guy to toss him a ball, and we watched Gerrit Cole warm up. But after that, he left to spend time with his family in Annapolis, and I watched the game in left field as I read this:
I still put my glove on for righties, but I was scheduled to take my driving test three days from this game, so I figured it would be a good time to actually start studying since I hadn’t at all previous to that point. And as bland as it can be for some people, Nationals Park is still a pretty great place to watch a baseball game:
Then again, I think I would talk differently sitting in the 400 level every game.
- 3 baseballs at this game (2 pictured because I gave 1 away)
Numbers 579-581 for my career:
- 135 Balls in 34 Games= 3.97 Balls Per Game
- 3 Balls x 32,976 Fans=98,928 Competition Factor
- 96 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 168 Balls in 38 Games at Nationals Park= 4.42 Balls Per Game
- 30 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
- Time Spent On Game 2:58-11:00= 7 Hours 2 Minutes
A second day at Nationals Park, but this time with more batting practice:
Normally I go to straight-away left field for pitcher’s BP, (the first group of hitters) but my neighbor Greg Barasch was here for this game, so I gave him left field and I went to the Red Seats. I actually don’t think either of us got a ball during that first group, but I got one in the second group when a Nationals righty hit a ball to my right. A kid in front of me camped right under it, but the ball bounced off his glove, hit a seat, bounced up into the air, and I caught it:
It was almost the exact same as the second ball I had snagged the day before, but the only difference is the kid was prepared and the guy whose hands it bounced through through the day before didn’t have a glove.
My next ball came when I got Ian Krol to toss me a ball (By pretty much being the only one who knew his name):
And as quickly as Krol had tossed me the ball, I gave it away to a kid who had been next to the man in the white shirt, and had been trying to get Gio Gonzalez’s attention from 50 feet away to get him to toss a baseball. (It should be noted that while he did succeed in getting Gonzalez’s attention, he failed to get the ball since Gio was playing catch with a person who was along the right field foul line and we were in center field.)
My third ball of the day came when Craig Stammen fielded a ball near the wall. No one asked for it, but I was pointing at a kid to my right so Stammen could throw him the ball. There was a kid between us, though. I think Stammen thought I was pointing at the kid between us, but I knew he had already gotten a ball–he was actually holding it in his non-glove hand when Stammen released the ball. So when Stammen threw the ball about half-way between myself and this kid, I grabbed the ball:
I then gave the ball to the kid who I had actually been pointing to (in the orange). I really hope Stammen saw me give the ball away, because otherwise he might think I’m the biggest douchebag in history for pointing him towards a toss-up target only to reach in front of him to get the ball. After this, the most interesting thing I saw during Nationals BP was one woman’s cup trick:
Apparently, she had seen Rick Gold using his cup trick last year, and so she figured out a way to make one of her own using a tennis ball container and some sort of putty. And unlike most imitation retrieval devices I’ve seen made by non-ballhawks, it actually worked. She had already reeled in two baseballs by the time I noticed her with it.
When the Rockies started hitting, I once again headed into foul ground, and once again got shutout there. So I headed out to right field after that. There I managed to catch a Todd Helton home run on the fly right about here:
I then gave the ball away to a girl who had not yet gotten a ball. That marked the third straight ball I had snagged that I gave away. That made it 75% of my baseballs I had snagged this game that I gave away.
Carlos Gonzalez hit the next ball I snagged. I had just ran to my left in pursuit of another home run of his when he hit a ball back to my right. I ran at where I saw it landing, and when it finally did touch down, I scooped it while on the run for my fifth ball of the day. That was it for batting practice. I could have maybe had a couple other Rockies home runs, but bounces didn’t go my way and things of that nature, so my sixth and final ball came when I went to the Rockies bullpen in search of a Rockies commemorative baseball and I got Jerry Weinstein to toss me a baseball:
Actually, though, that’s not fair. This baseball took absolutely no skill on my part. I was actually avoiding asking Weinstein for a ball from distance because he had tossed me one the day prior, but he spotted me in my Rockies gear, waved to me, and tossed me the ball.
This was my view once again for the game:
My goal was to get a commemorative baseball from Bo McLaughlin at the bullpen after the game, but unfortunately he ignored me for the second straight day. And no one hit any home runs to left field, but trust me, I would have been ready had they done so:
Believe it or not, I actually had two gloves packed both Rockies games because I knew there were going to be people I knew at the gates, so I didn’t want to play catch with them left handed. It wasn’t until this game that I realized I could wear both gloves during the game. MANY people–upon hearing/realizing that I have both a right-handed and left-handed glove–have suggested to me that I just put a glove on both hands, but the problem with doing this during batting practice is I need a free hand for things such as labeling the baseballs I snag, taking pictures, and taking notes about the baseballs I snag. However, during the game I don’t have to do any of those things. So with the two gloves already in my backpack, I figured, “Why not?” and had them both ready. But for the record, it’s not something I plan to make a habit of.
But anyway, with me not snagging a Rockies commemorative ball, I’ll probably have two more opportunities to snag one when the Rockies visit the Orioles in August. I’m a little nervous, but who doesn’t like a little two-month-long cliffhanger? Oh yeah, everybody. But I guess I also I have no other option besides revisiting Citi Field when the Rockies visit it a few days before that.
- 6 Baseballs at this Game (3 pictured because I gave the other half away)
- 125 Balls in 30 Games= 4.17 Balls Per Game
- 6 Balls x 34,917 Fans=209,502 Competition Factor
- 92 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 158 Balls in 34 Games at Nationals Park= 4.65 Balls Per Game
- 26 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
- 10 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
- 8 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
- 6 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 4 Balls
- Time Spent On Game 2:58-11:47= 8 Hours 49 Minutes
A day at Nationals Park and I was back for s’more:
In fact, it was only the second game of what I had planned as four consecutive games at Nationals Park. (Although, as you’ll see in later entries, that wouldn’t end up happening.)
As I entered the gates, I said hi to a fellow ballhawk behind the left field bullpen–not Rick Gold, although he was there too. And this simple hello and momentary eye contact caused us to both to miss a ball Gio Gonzalez. When I got to my regular spot in straight-away left field, though I managed to snag two baseballs Gio hit. Gio, by the way, was going absolutely nuts and must have hit ten baseballs into the seats in his rounds of BP. The first was a ball that was hit to my right. I was the only one within fifty feet of where it was going to land, so I just hoped the ball would stay in the stands and not bounce back onto the field like a couple already had that I would have otherwise snagged. It didn’t, so easily picked the ball up for my first of the day:
The next one was a ball that hit over my head by about five rows. It then trickled down the steps and I beat the previously-mentioned other ballhawk to it. I then gave this ball away to a kid who had not yet gotten a ball at the head of the section:
Then, while I was in the left field seats, I saw a ball hit in the right field seats. None of us ballhawks went for it because we were so far away and all figured someone would get to it way before we could, but when the pitchers finished hitting and I still had not seen anyone pick it up, I ran over there and found it right on the ground:
But this picture is actually staged because when I got there, a man was right in front of me and had walked into the first row to take pictures. He had actually walked right over the ball, so when I walked behind him, got the ball, and saw the look on his face when he realized what had happened, I gave him the ball. I didn’t realize it until I actually finished writing this entry, but that was my 100th ball of the season, which is always a fun milestone since I got to it almost a month earlier in the season than I did last season (7/3/12).
Then I got a toss-up from a person in a warm-up jersey:
I had no clue who he was at the moment, but after seeing Jeff Kobermus come into the game, I’m pretty sure it was him.
That was my last ball for Nationals BP, since I was in right field for most of it and they didn’t hit much out there. And when I was in the Red Seats, I just completely missed a ball that bounced into the restaurant portion of the seats, one that I misjudged and a guy behind me caught as I came up a couple inches short, and then a police officer cost me two baseballs:
You can see he’s holding one of them in his left hand. (The guy who caught the ball I misjudged, by the way, is the one in the gray shirt.) Well the first one he cost me was one that hit into the restaurant. I thought it was simply a race between myself and the guy in the gray shirt, and since I had by far the better jump, I was pretty much sure I had the ball. But then I saw someone running form the top of the stairs to the ball. This person beat me to the ball, and when I looked up I couldn’t believe it because it was a police officer, who is not supposed to keep baseballs; much less try to get them. There was then another one that hit in the restaurant that was underneath a chair. He was at the chair and trying to move it out of the way. As he was doing this, I offered to get the ball and give it to him, but he pulled the chair out of the way and snatched up the ball. This then messed me up for future balls that were headed into the restaurant, because I wasn’t used to having competition from above. I had to alter my routes to balls, and it cost me at least one baseball and just got me completely flustered because I knew that without this cop and my own mistakes, I should have already been in double-digits. I don’t want to say I used this as fuel because that sounds way too cliché and dramatic, but I definitely had to get over being this frustrated in order to keep going in BP and not let these things pile on.
When Mets BP came around, I tried the same strategy as the day before and went down the third base line in foul ground to get a ball from the Mets who were warming up. This time I got Robert Carson to loft me a ball over a couple rows of fans for my fifth on the day:
As I moved onto the next throwing pair, I saw something hilarious. So while Brandon Lyon and LaTroy Hawkins were throwing, some kids were yelling some things at them to try tot get them to throw the ball up. Well I couldn’t hear what he said, but when one kid yelled something, Hawkins caught it from about 100 feet away and yelled back, “Watch your mouth.” After he was done throwing, Hawkins then went over to the kids and had fun with them over whatever they had said:
And by “fun”, I mean in a “I’m going to make this a cool experience for you, but still not break character as a veteran of the MLB” kind of way. So he jokingly kept up that he was scolding them, but made it pretty obvious that he was indeed joking with them. Afterward, he flipped a ball up to one of the kids.
Soon after that, David Wright hit a ball that rattled around in the seats before I picked it up:
The ball actually took off a cup holder, which I thought of putting in my backpack to add to my collection of stadium cup holder at home, but eventually decided against it.
Next, Jim Malone, the Mets’ Strength and Conditioning coach picked up a ball on the warning track, and although I had forgotten his name–I used to know it by heart in 2010 when I would always see him stretching out the pitchers at Citi Field when it still opened 2.5 hours early, but knowing his name became much less important when I no longer got to see the pitchers warming up at Citi Field when the gate opening time switched back to 2 hours prior to the game.–I asked him nicely and he flipped the ball up to me when he saw my Mets gear. I then gave the ball away to a woman who was right next to me:
It was one of those that I really wanted to give away to a kid with a glove, but because I knew that everyone around there had seen me get the Wright ball, I felt as though I should probably do some that was at least seemingly kind-hearted.
It was then nearing the end of Mets BP, so I was almost all the way to the left field foul in order to get a better jump to the dugout when the Mets ended batting practice. An unforeseen benefit of this was that John Buck belted the last pitch of Mets BP over my head. Thankfully, though, I was the only one even near the ball, so I ran over and picked it up. I know it was the last pitch of BP, because as I picked the ball and turned around, I saw that the Mets were already jogging in. So I started running over to the dugout. But as I was headed over there, I realized it wouldn’t look good if I had a baseball in my hand when asking for a ball at the dugout. I don’t know why I didn’t just put it in my pocket, but I ended up handing it to a kid on my way over to the dugout mid-stride. I didn’t realize it at the time–although I had been thinking about it earlier in BP–but this was the 550th ball I had ever snagged at a baseball game.
I actually didn’t get anything at the dugout, but I headed out to right field, where I would sit for the game. Rick Gold also sat out there for the game, so I sat on the staircase closer to the foul pole of the two we usually sit on and he sat one staircase closer to center field. As a result, I was on the staircase with the usher who lets us into the right field seats, and ended up giving him two baseballs that night, which he then distributes to kids in the section.
- 8 Balls at this Game (2 pictured because I gave 6 away)
- 105 Balls in 24 Games= 4.38 Balls Per Game
- 8 Ball x 36,155 Fans=289,240 Competition Factor
- 87 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 143 Balls in 31 Games at Nationals Park= 4.61 Balls Per Game
- 23 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
- 7 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
- 5 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
- 3 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 4-5 Balls
- Time Spent On Game 2:56-11:36= 8 Hours 40 Minutes
On my last trip to Baltimore, I had set my career high for baseballs snagged in a game in the first game and then narrowly escaped getting shutout in the second game via a toss-up at the umpire tunnel after the game. That trip, however, was almost a year ago. And I was more than excited to be back at Oriole Park at Camden Yards for the first time in nearly a year when I approached its gates on this Thursday evening:
But this time I had woken up in Washington D.C. (I guess I had before those two games as well, but you get my point.) and took a 1:20 train to Baltimore. OPACY–because I don’t feel like writing out Oriole Park at Camden Yards every freaking time I mention it–actually lets people go into Eutaw Street and behind the bullpens early, so that’s where I was headed when I took that first picture. You see, Rick Gold had tweeted me right as I was about to sit down at the Hilton across the street that Nathan Karns was throwing in the Nationals bullpen. Up until that point I had completely forgotten that these areas of OPACY were even open, but when I got the tweet, I walked over to the stadium to see the action and possibly get a ball before the gates were even officially open. By the time I got there, though, it was Gio Gonzalez throwing in the Nationals bullpen:
And Rick Adair, the Orioles pitching coach, had an interesting set-up for Kevin Gausman, who was throwing in the Orioles bullpen:
If you can’t tell, it’s a rope. Adair had it set up to have an objective line between high fastballs and low fastballs. I like to think my readers are smart people, so I’ll let you figure out which side of the rope is which.
Anyway, I managed to get my first ball of the day when the Nationals (read: Gio) finished throwing and I got Jhonatan Solano to toss me their warm-up ball for an early spot on the board:
Soon after that (at 3:46) Orioles security came by and told us we had to get back outside of the gate. Had they given us an extra fifteen minutes I may have had a second ball from Gausman (I think that’s how you spell it) and the Orioles bullpen people. Before the gates re-opened, I waited in line with the people who made me think this trip to OPACY wasn’t going to be as easy snagging-wise as I had previously thought. When I got in the gates, the person who I already introduced, Rick Gold, lined up in front of me:
And then two other ballhawks who had joined me at the gate lined up to my left:
Ballhawk #2 is Tim Anderson, who has garnered the attention of the national media several times the past few years with his bajillion home run snags. While we had both been at the same game before, today was really the first time we had talked directly to each other. And that’s mostly on my part–and this goes out to all of you who may run into me at some ballpark somewhere–because I’m just generally awkward if I’m meeting a person I didn’t know for sure was going to be there ahead of time. And not like in the “Oh, that’s different from what I was expecting” kind of awkward; it’s more like the “Is there something seriously wrong with you?” awkward. And as a result of this, I almost never initiate people at the ballpark in conversation to avoid a situation like this. The best way to avoid this is to just let me know if you think you’re going to be at the same game as I am, by checking either my schedule or my Twitter account. I definitely won’t be attending every game on the schedule that I have on there right now, but it’s a good outline to know where I’ll be, and I’ll usually say something on my Twitter if I’m veering off of the scheduled plan or anything like that, so it’s a good place to be kept up-to-date on my baseball happenings.
But anyway, that was a good multi-hundred-word digression. The point is that my competition was going to be tough. So when the Nationals players came out to warm up while the Orioles were switching into a new mostly-righty group, I knew it was time to go for toss-ups. I figured the players would spend the first two rounds or so hitting the ball to the opposite field, so I really wouldn’t be missing much action out in left. In this trip, I got a ball from Denard Span in the weirdest way. I was actually trying to get ball from a different throwing pair when Span ran back to the wall with the ball in his hand, threw it up, and half-heartedly tried to “rob” the same ball he had thrown up, as if it were a home run ball. I don’t know what exactly he was doing, but he missed the ball, and it landed in the seats, so I went over and offered to get it for him, at which point he told me, “Nah, you can just keep it.”
So I think that’s technically a toss-up from Span, right? It certainly was more that than an easter egg considering I got there three seconds after the ball landed in the stands.
When I headed back to the left field stands, I learned that I had definitely made the right decision because there had not been a single ball hit into those stands since I had left. But I would not snag another BP baseball before the flood gates were opened and all fans were allowed into every part of the stadium. If you don’t know, for the first half-hour of the gates being open at OPACY, only season ticket holder–or people with that printed on their ticket–are allowed into the main seating bowl. The rest are confined to right and center field. But when that half-hour is up, everybody pours into the seating bowl. I am fortunate enough to have friends at the ballpark who are nice enough to buy me season tickets that get me in that half-hour early, but here is what the scene looked like right after the rest of the fans were let in:
It was right around this spot that I came the closest to another BP ball. But for the sake of clarity, let me get a diagram up for you:
The solid lines are the path of the ball and the dotted line is how I ran after the ball. So I saw a ball get hit to my left. I could tell exactly where it was headed, so I jumped back a row and ran right towards the spot where the ball was going to land, so I could pick it up if it stuck in that spot. Well the ball bounced off a seat at the end of the row, but instead of sticking or bouncing forward/backwards like a normal baseball, it at 90-degree angle and hit me square on the forehead. I mean someone couldn’t have done it more perfectly if they were aiming for me. I saw the ball hit off the seat, but it became a white blur as it headed directly between my two eyes. Just to show you how perfectly the ball hit me square in the head, it was almost if I had intentionally headed the ball in a soccer-esque manner because the ball flew thirty feet in front of me after hitting my head into the next section over. It didn’t actually hurt that much–other than my ego–but I was starting to wonder if there was something about the Orioles that was bad luck, since I had now sustained an “injury” every time I had seen them play to this point. In three different cities, I may add.
That was it for BP, but I did manage to get a ball from Tyler Moore during the pregame position player warm-ups:
It actually was a thing of beauty that we managed to connect on the toss-up, because there was a security guard right in front of me on the field with his back turned to it, so Moore had to thread the needle and I had to jump to get the ball to me and not hit the guard. As you can tell, he wasn’t in that last picture. I think the fact that he very nearly got hit in the back of the head scared him enough that he moved away from the players playing catch.
As for the game, I spent most of my time out in the flag court:
and enjoying all that is OPACY. I wasn’t the only one out there, though. Because of the fact that the stadium was pretty much sold-out, there were pretty consistently three of us ballhawks out there, and sometimes even more. I mean look at all the backpacks there were at one of the more crowded points:
I have no clue besides my own who they each belonged to, but the four of us that were out there towards the end of the game got a picture together:
Left to right, that would be:
- Rick Gold
- Alex Kopp
- Tim Anderson
Nothing came even close to reaching the flag court, but it was fun talking to those guys for whatever portion of the game they were out there. (Rick was in left field pretty much until the last two innings, and Tim spent around half of the game in the center field seats.)
- 3 Balls at this Game
Numbers 532-534 for my life:
- 88 Balls in 20 Games= 4.40 Balls Per Game
- 3 Balls x 30,665 Fans=91,995 Competition Factor
- 83 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 42 Balls in 9 Games at OPACY= 4.67 Balls Per Game
- 9 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 12:23-11:52= 11 Hours 29 Minutes
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
A semi-long rain delay followed this, so I took advantage and sat in this seat 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.
- 5 Balls at this Game (4 pictured because I gave 1 away)
Numbers 527 to 531 for my “life”:
- 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
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.
What happens when there’s a post-game concert at Nationals Park? I have to get to the ballpark super early to ensure I’ll get a $5 ticket. Even at that inordinately early time, there was still quite a line in front of me; hence my expression in this picture:
Bored out of my mind and losing personal space by the second, I took this picture of one of the silver baseballs lining the garage above the box office:
Eventually, I did get my ticket and headed inside for batting practice. More specifically, I headed to left field for pitcher’s batting practice. When I got there, Stephen Strasburg hit a ball about fifteen rows behind the wall. Fortunately, I was about twenty rows behind the wall, so I ran into the row and made the reaching catch. I don’t think I mentioned this on the blog yet, but prior to the day before’s game, I mentioned it had been over a month since I had caught a ball on the fly via Twitter. Needless to say, that catch felt great. Oh, and here’s the ball from the spot I caught it:
Then, for the second group of Nationals, i.e. Zimmerman, Morse, Werth, and LaRoche, I headed over to the Red Seats. Unfortunately, no one besides Morse was hitting anything even close to the Red Seats. And when Morse hit them in my direction, they were all sailing over my head into the restaurant area behind the Red Seats. (No, not the Red Loft, but he has hit it there before.) My only ball there came when Craig Stammen threw a ball into the crowd over his shoulder. I stepped a foot to my right and caught it. I then gave it away to the red-hatted kid who’s also in this picture: in this picture
I then headed over to right field where almost the exact same thing happened:
Some player I couldn’t see tossed a ball over his head while he was on the warning track, so I saw it and caught the ball right between the two guys in the “Zimmerman” jerseys. I then gave the ball away to the kid in the white “Harper” jersey.
Then later, almost the same thing happened AGAIN. Gio Gonzalez threw a ball up to the second deck in right field, but I could see it was falling short, so I positioned myself under the spot. When it bounced off the electronic scoreboard strip, (you know what I’m talking about, right? The things that most/all stadiums have along the second level seating that they use for advertising and additional animation during the game.) I caught it off the deflection:
I was about to toss *that* ball to the fan for whom it was intended, but Gio tossed a second one up there just as I was getting ready to throw the ball. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was my 150th ball of the season. Hooray for minor milestones and not throwing the balls away!
When the Mets came up to hit, I changed into my ridiculous Mets costume:
Unfortunately, the Mets didn’t toss me anything and the Mets hitters were….well, the Mets hitters. So that was it for me snagging-wise.
As for the game, I stayed out in right field. The game was a surprise pitching duel between Edwin Jackson and Jonathan Niese, with the only runs coming on an Ike Davis two- run home run. That’s just what I wanted, right? A lefty home run. Except he hit it opposite field.
After the game, I stuck around for Third Eye Blind’s post-game concert:
I had and have no idea who they are; I’m not into music that much, I probably have less than 100 songs on my iPhone, which I only really use for passing time. I just felt since I went through a bunch of hassle because of the concert, I might as well stick around a little longer for it. It was one of those “I paid my five dollars for this ticket, so I might as well get my money’s worth.” things.
Oh, and after I caught my first ball, I stubbed my toe on a railing in the left field seats. I was limping the whole game after that, but I didn’t know the extent to which my toe had reacted to the stubbing until I got home. I’ve truly never seen anything like it:
Can you imagine how hard I had to hit my foot on the railing for my toe to bruise that badly *through* the shoe I was wearing?
And now that you have the image of my bruised toe in your head, I’ll end the entry.
• 4 Balls at this game (2 pictured because I gave two away)
Career numbers 369-372:
• 150 Balls in 36 Games= 4.17 Balls Per Game
• 4 Balls x 42,662 Fans= 170,684 Competition Factor
• 45 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
• 110 Balls in 25 Games at Nationals Park= 4.40 Balls Per Game
• 17 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 1 Ball
• Time Spent On Game 2:16-11:42= 9 Hours 26 Minutes
I think the story of the Nationals’ 2011 season could very well be one person:
Michael Morse. Now he might not be that much of a household name, but as a person that went to Nationals Park pretty frequently last season I can say the dude is a monster. Just look at his spray chart,
For that reason he was a bittersweet person to have in the cage during bp. You knew he was going to hit the ball a ways, but deciding whether to play him as a lefty or a righty was a whole other frustrating deal.
Gio Gonzalez, Mike Cameron, Mark DeRosa, Chad Durbin, Edwin Jackson, Brad Lidge, and Ryan Perry.
Laynce Nix, Collin Balester, Todd Coffey, Alex Cora, Jonny Gomes, Livan Hernandez, Tom Milone, and Brad Peacock.
Why?: With this past offseason, it may seem like the Nationals did really well. Maybe it’s just that I’ve been around the Nationals so much, but it seems to me that they lost a bunch of players that, yes, were not starters, but they are just below that cusp. Mind you, a B is still improving the team a bit, but I think most everyone christened their ship to a much improved season because of the additions. For me, they will improve if those that were already in the organization improve, because I am a little bit skeptical about whether Gio Gonzalez can stay healthy after building up such an innings count for the first time.
All that said, it still can be a great season in that the talent on the team surpasses the record they had last year if they can just *solidify* their rotation. I’m not talking about making it a strength of the team, but if they can just not lose games because of their starters, their lineup could win them 85 games. I kid you not, the only offensively deficient spot in that lineup is the Short Stop position with Ian Desmond. The next closest position to being offensively below-average is the Catcher position with Wilson Ramos (aka the guy every Twins fan wishes had never been traded in order to get Matt Capps).
Predicted Record Range: 85-90 wins. I say this tentatively, though. For whatever reason, I have this strange feeling in my gut that SOMEthing will go wrong with the Nationals this year. My first thought was that Gio Gonzalez will be injured, but now I’m starting to think that it might be Strasburg again. Whatever, enough of my crazy feelings, that’s it for this entry except that you need to vote on the poll below.
Next Up: Atlanta Braves, then the NL West
First team in NL West:
Trevor Cahill, Andrew Bailey, Gio Gonzalez, Craig Breslow, David DeJesus, Andy LaRoche, Guillermo Moscoso, Josh Outman, Ryan Sweeney, and Josh Willigham.
Why?: Let’s clear up a few things right away as most of the people reading this haven’t read one of these entries before, 1) I know nothing about prospects unless they are highly touted 2) my lists of “Notable” additions and subtractions are simply done by my name recognition. Feel free to correct me on any of them if you know more about the given team than I do. 3) Most of what comprises the “grade” in these entries is in the impact it has on the team’s 2012 season. The GM could have done a masterful job in getting back a bunch of talent for an aging star, but unless the young players he traded for project to help the team’s record in 2012, the grade will suffer. Generally, a C grade is the team treading water and keeping their team at the same level, a C+ would be a slight improvement, and a C- would be a slight regression.
Now, the reason I gave the A’s a D- is because Billy Beane essentially crippled them for the 2012 season. Their offense was anemic enough without losing Josh Willigham and David De Jesus among other, and he traded away arguably the two best starting pitchers on a very good rotation in Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez. If that wasn’t enough, he also traded away a very talented closer in Andrew Bailey, who was a big part of this team, because when they did win, it was usually in a save situation due to their lack of offense.
I’m not saying the A’s can’t win in a few years, but the situation looks dim for 2012. Also, as I write this, Hideki Matsui is still unsigned. If he comes back, they will still be in an interesting situation, but if he doesn’t, you can add him to the list of Notable Subtractions.
Predicted Record Range: 62-67 wins
Next team: I don’t know, you tell me. The poll shuts off automatically at 2:37 am, but I might close it off at midnight if their is a team with a majority already selected by then.
¿Well, I’m reporting from my country of Colombia and this might take a while, have you ever seen these keyboards? Anyway, fantasy people know what I’m talking about when I say that you will be hearing a whole lot from this guy this year: