Another day, another day arriving late at U.S. Cellular Field. And again, I have myself to blame for it. First of all, whenever I’m going to the game with other people–in this case Sean and his mom–I get nervous about telling people how early we actually need to be at the game, because I know that my obsession with being the first one in the stadium may seem absurd to some people. So what ends up almost always happening is I take whatever time I would usually leave and shave off 15 minutes, which usually ends with me getting to the gate before it opens but way after I wanted to be there. This isn’t the worst flub I have to blame myself for, though. Since it’s all I’ve ever heard, I always assumed U.S. Cellular, and I was more-or-less correct. Here’s a screenshot directly from the White Sox’ A-to-Z guide:
Well apparently Kids Days are every Sunday game, even when it’s a night game. So when I arrived to the gate 15 minutes before I thought it was scheduled to open instead of my usual 30+ rule, I saw that people were already entering, and this was my view of the field once I got inside:
Oy. Other people’s mistakes I can live with because they’re not preventable. But I don’t know how many baseballs I cost myself in my two games at “the Cell” because two stupid mistakes. While it doesn’t seem like it’s in the upper echelon of ballhawking stadiums, I had still cost myself a ton of time at the best ballpark I would be at for probably my first two months of ballhawking.
As I made my way through the right field bleachers to try to get out from behind the White Sox bullpen, I saw the heads of most of the people I was facing to my left start turning up and to their right. I knew that meant a ball was coming my way. Good news: I had my glove on already despite having just put on my Angels attire. Bad news: I hadn’t even thought of putting on sunglasses. So as I looked up into the sky to see where this baseball was going, I couldn’t pick it up through the sun until it was too late and the ball was on its way down, and thus another fan beat me to it when the ball landed. I got mad at myself for a second about that before realizing that I still had way more batting practice to go and that I could make myself forget about that ball with one quick snag.
The next couple of minutes would be very weird for me because of the people in the bleachers. As I kept going towards right-center field, I saw a person that as I passed, I immediately thought, “I’ve seen his face before. Where have I seen his face before?” We had passed each other going in opposite directions at that point, but it drove me nuts for the next few minutes thinking of where I recognized him from. I would later learn/remember that it was John Witt (a.k.a. The Major League Ballhawk) who had at that point recently snagged his 3,000th ball from a major league stadium (just four days prior). We failed to meet up much during this game, but here’s the link to his account of the game, so go give that some love by reading it. While I was being driven nuts by where I recognized John from, I saw a fan bring out a ball-retreiving device and use it on a ball in the gap that lies in front of the left field wall. He also had a giant-sized glove as well as a regular-sized one, so I knew he must be a ballhawk. Oddly enough, though, I had no clue who he was because I had never seen his face before. I would later learn that he was Dave Davison (a.k.a Ballhawk Dave), who has snagged plenty of baseballs himself. As I moved even further into the section, I saw yet another face I thought I recognized. This time I was pretty sure I knew who it was but couldn’t tell because he had a winter hat on. I would later be confirmed of my suspicion that it was Nick Yohanek (a.k.a. the Happy Youngster) who is yet another ballhawk with 1,000 baseballs snagged.
How did I get all of this information after the fact? Once I parked myself in a spot in left field and completely misjudged a couple Trumbombs (it was an awful day for me judging fly balls), a person came up to me and asked, “Mateo Fischer?” (Or something along those lines.) This face I needed no hesitation in recognizing. It was that of Shawn Bosman (a.k.a. Ballhawk Shawn (side note: I think you need to have at least 1,000 baseballs snagged to merit a nickname)(side note to the side note: He was the one who ran me through who all of the other ballhawks were)(side note to the side note’s side note: I’m an idiot for not getting a picture with these guys when I had the chance, but I figured we would meet up either after BP or after the game, which I did with Shawn, but it would have been nice to get a group picture)(side note to the side note of the side note’s side note: parentheses inside parentheses are fun and all, but I’m going to get back to actually putting pictures up in just a second.)
Shawn and I talked a little in left field, but since I was having a bad day judging fly balls and would have been the worst ballhawk in the section by far regardless, I headed out to right field as soon as possible. There I managed to get Garrett Richards to toss me a ball by whadda ya know, actually calling him by his correct name unlike the other twenty people calling him “Jered”:
That ball would be it for me during batting practice itself. In order for me to get in line earlier, Sean had dropped me off while he and his mom parked the car and went in the stadium. Once batting practice started, I saw them a couple more times, but I wanted to give them their mother-son time on Mother’s Day, so once batting practice ended, I camped out in foul territory waiting for the Angels infielders to warm up. When they did I got a ball from the player who had ironically been the bane of my existence the game prior in Alberto Callaspo. I was the first one to yell his name when he was finished throwing, so he looked up and flipped me the ball:
After I took that picture, a person behind me offered to take a picture of me with the ball. So here’s that:
After that I filled my time until the game by playing with my phone and calling my mom to wish her a happy Mother’s Day in New York. My plan was to stay behind the dugout for the game until I got a Mother’s Day ball, and then go to sit with Sean and his mom in right field for the rest of the game. One problem: I never got a third-out ball the whole game. Albert Pujols got one ground out to end the inning all game and he kept that ball. With the Angels, if the third out of the inning isn’t a ground out to the first baseman or a strike out, the ball ends up in the hands of the third baseman, which in this case was Alberto Callaspo. I was sure he would recognize me from the ball earlier, so I didn’t even try. I just kept waiting for Pujols to get the ball, but he never did. Which brings me to a lesson for all of you people out there: don’t make judgments based on assumptions you make on a topic you know nothing about. Okay, so this was my view for the game:
Do you see the woman looking to her right? Well every inning for most teams, the first baseman throws the infield warm-up ball into some coach who then throws the ball back to him as he leaves the field after the third out. While it’s one of the dumber traditions in baseball in my opinion (Why doesn’t the coach just hand the ball to the first baseman when he enters the dugout?) she absolutely trashed Pujols every single inning just because he wasn’t throwing that ball up.
Anyway, the whole game passed and I still didn’t have a Mother’s Day ball. So in the ninth inning I set myself up to where I could hurry down and get as close as I possibly could to home plate umpire Ed Hicox without jumping on the field or in the seats behind home plate. (Although I was prepared to jump the fence and go in those seats if he didn’t hear me.) My main concern was him hearing me, though. At the point in the game when I got closer to home plate, Chris Sale was throwing a shutout since his no-hitter had gotten broken up a couple innings earlier. I knew that once the game ended the crowd would erupt into applause, so being so far away from the umpire, I was worried he wouldn’t be able to hear me. And I was right. Sort of. See Hicox had to wait for the rest of his umpiring crew, so I yelled at him twice at the top of my lungs, so as to pierce through the roar of the crowd, but he still didn’t hear me. Then on the third time I yelled his name, he turned, spotted me, and after I made my polite request, tossed me a Mother’s Day ball before heading off the field:
And what a beauty it was. While some of the ink smudged off, here are the pictures I took of it when I got back to Minnesota:
I wasn’t the only one who snagged a Mother’s Day Ball, though. Shawn had gotten one before the game from Robin Ventura at the White Sox’ dugout. After the game we both found ourselves at the Angels dugout, so we took a picture of both of us with our Mother’s Day balls:
Shawn’s mom was nice enough to take that picture of us. We were going to try to get a picture of all three of us together, but even as we were taking that last picture, we were being kicked out of the section to prepare the lower level for Kids Run The Bases. So I said goodbye to Shawn and said hello to Sean. (See what I did there?) I met Sean at guest services where we found out that his mom ad indeed not won the 50-50 raffle, before we headed back to Sean’s house and fell asleep before waking up early in the morning to head back to Minnesota.
- 3 Baseballs at this Game
Numbers 496-498 for my “lifetime”:
- 52 Balls in 12 Games= 4.33 Balls Per Game
- 3 Balls x 22,088 Fans= 66,264 Competition Factor
- 74 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 6 Balls in 3 Games at U.S. Cellular Field= 2 Balls Per Game
- 3 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at U.S. Cellular Field
- Time Spent On Game 4:03-10:39= 6 Hours 36 Minutes
Guess who baseball was commemorating during Monday’s game:
Come on, guess. It’s not like it was a league-wide thing.
Yes, it was Jackie Robinson Day in major league baseball a.k.a. a facial recognitionly-challenged ballhawk’s nightmare. Fortunately I can recognize faces and it is names that I have trouble with, so I would still be able to identify players as different even though they would all be wearing number 42.
Let me rewind a little, though. In case you weren’t following this blog last year, I walk to as many Twins games as I can. Really the only time I don’t is if I’m absolutely pressed for time when I leave wherever it is I am going from. Okay, so knowing this, I was about half-way to Target Field when a person I had talked to about going to the game with called me. You see I bought two tickets for most of the games I bought in advance. This was because a bunch of people had told me that they were going to try to make a couple of games with me. Unfortunately, those same people had yet to actually make any of the games, so I had been having to search for other people to go to the games with me. Remember when I wrote about the usher I talked to who had been a part of my sports management group that interviewed Terry Ryan? Yeah? No? Well the person who offered to go to this game with me was in that same interview group. He was still on campus when he called me, so I waited a little while for him here:
before continuing on to Target Field once he met up with me. Unfortunately I forgot to get a picture of the two of us together for this blog, so you’ll just have to picture Matt (that was/is his name). He is actually from Milville, NJ, so once we got in the gates, he had one goal: get down to the dugout and talk to Mike Trout when he was either getting on to the field or exiting it. I on the other hand, headed straight to the seats in left field. There I got on the board very quickly by asking Jerome Williams for a ball:
You can’t really see it from the picture, since I was so far out, but he wears a pink glove, so he was the easiest player to distinguish from behind with all the players having their hoods up. This was pretty quick, but the ball was sadly again not taking off. Struggling with the hit ball is always frustrating. Some times it is just myself misjudging baseballs, but all too many times this season it has been that there just aren’t baseballs getting into the stands.
I did manage to survive this batting practice. Two words are the reason for that: Tom Gregorio. I managed to snag my next three baseballs courtesy of him. You may be wondering: But, Mateo, how could you get three straight baseballs from a person who isn’t a player? Well this particular bullpen catcher managed to throw me three consecutive baseballs. Want to hear something even crazier/explanatory? I gave all three away. Let me explain. On the first ball, Gregorio picked me out of the crowd with my Angels gear on and tossed me a ball. I gave that ball to this kid up here:
Notice his dad taking a picture of the ball. I love it when you can tell how excited when they get a ball. I still prefer to help kids get baseballs about ten times more, though. That’s because I have counted two baseballs ever that were given to me by other fans in my career total, including the first baseball I ever got at a game–since it was before I started “ballhawking” I decided to count them both. That said, they were the two most unfulfilling baseballs I have gotten. While I was happy in the moment that I got both, I have regretted both ever since and I want to try to help kids more by instruction than handing them the baseball myself.
After I gave him the ball, I hoped Gregorio had seen me give the ball away and would toss me another. He didn’t, but he tossed a ball to this kid:
But the ball fell short into the flower bed just to my left (and I was to the left of the kid, so I picked it up and handed it to him). Here’s where the ball was:
I know it’s cheap, but since I got primary possession of the ball first, I counted it. These occurred about two minutes, if even that, apart from each other, but the gap between my third and fourth baseballs was quite large–like twenty or thirty-ish minutes. This one Gregorio also tossed to me unintentionally. Gregorio got a ball close to the wall and then flung the ball randomly into the stands with his glove. It was initially going way over my head, but I moved back a couple of steps on the staircase I was on and jumped up to catch the ball. That ball went to the kid who was standing back down at the bottom of the staircase after I confirmed that he had not yet gotten a ball. More so than me trying to reciprocate and spread Gregorio’s generosity, I wanted to make up for my stinginess in the games prior to that. I mean one of my goals for the beginning of the year was to give away 33% of my baseballs, and as of this game, I was definitely not on that pace.
My fifth ball of the day came when I left the left field section–since I could tell my luck with toss-ups had dried up by that point–and headed over to the section of seats in right-center field. Over there I waited and asked Sean Burnett for a ball when he approached the wall:
I could recognize Burnett right away because I saw him a ton when he was a member of the Nationals. And if you can’t tell from the picture and the players running off the field (Burnett is the one at the head of the “triangle” of players) this was my last ball of BP. Not bad for Target Field and not having had a chance at a hit baseball.
During the game I stayed out in the standing room, not expecting to get anything but hoping today would be the exception to the rule. Sadly that was not the case, but in case anyone in the stadium managed to forget there was more than enough sinage in the stadium to remind people that it was Jackie Robinson Day:
I particularly love the second picture for the simple reason that the text on the screen is so crisp in the picture that it looks like I Photoshopped it in. Anyway, despite Peter Borjous hitting a lead-off home run, the Twins managed to pull off the game. It was freezing once more, though, so enough people left towards the end of the game that I found myself down here towards the end of it:
And as a result of this, I got this from Chris Conroy at the end of the game (Conroy not pictured):
That would be my sixth and final ball of the day.With this baseball, I tied Tony Voda for the lifetime leader for baseballs at Target Field, setting up a head-to-head match-up for the next day between us to for who would hold the title at the end of the day, since we were both going and tied at 79 career baseballs at Target Field.
And then, if you’ll recall, I went almost directly from the game to go watch “42” on Jackie Robinson Day.
- 6 Balls in this game (3 here because I gave 3 away)
Numbers 465-470 for my life:
- 24 Balls in 5 Games= 4.80 Balls Per Game
- 6 Balls x 23,535 Fans= 141,210 Competition Factor
- 67 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 17 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 4 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
- 3 straight Games with at least 4-6 Balls
- 79 Balls in 19 Games at Target Field= 4.11 Balls Per Game
- 18 straight Games with at least 1-2 Balls at Target Field
- 4 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Target Field
- 3 straight Games with at least 4-6 Balls at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 3:30-1:36= 10 Hours 6 Minutes
I was very optimistic coming into this game. I had just done very well in the previous day’s game, and that was with me basically only going for hit balls all game. I assumed no other ballhawks would be in attendance since the ones I had talked to during the previous day’s game said they would not be coming to the game. According to the aforementioned ballhawks, the forecast called for rain, but I was going to the game anyway since my school was taking a trip to the game. More on the field-trippers later. The reality, though, was that bp was dead. Here is a picture that I took once I settled into my spot in RF:
Things looked pretty good. I had the back spot in the section right behind Erik, who had the middle spot. This was the view to my left:
This was the view to my right:
Unfortunately, the Yankees weren’t hitting anything deep and I missed two opportunities, shown in this next picture:
Both times I was close to the field coaxing players to throw me a ball. The numbers that are floating by themselves show where the balls landed, while the numbers by the arrows show where I ended after chasing that specific ball.
1. I was asking Boone Logan or someone for a ball when a lefty launched a ball clear over my head. I ran into the row where I could line up with the ball, but the ball was still several feet over my head despite being hit on a line, and I missed it when I jumped for the ball.
2. Again I saw a ball hit over my head, so I recalled what good ballhawks do and ran to where I thought the ball was going to land. Unfortunately, though, this was hit by a righty to RF and so it didn’t act like a typical fly ball in that it was curving back to where I had been. Had I not put my head down to run for the ball, it probably would have been an easy catch for me.
When the Yankees headed off the field, I realized, “There are two of us ballhawks and we are both in RF. That doesn’t seem right. Why don’t I just go to LF and make it easier for both of us?”
Once I got there, I saw Adam Jones shagging fly balls in CF, so when a ball came close to my section in LCF, I ran as close as I could get to him and called out to him, upon which he tossed me Ball #1 on the day. Here is the ball with Jones on the right side of my glove:
Soon after, I went over to foul territory in order to ask a pitcher for a ball. When Tommy Hunter finished throwing, I waved my arms like a madman, and when he noticed the bright orange brim of my hat, he tossed the ball to me a few rows back.
I then got my third ball in what we ballhawks call a “scramble”. A scramble is when a ball hits in the seats and people converge on the ball to pick it up. A ball hit about four rows behind the wall, and since I was tracking the ball, I managed to pick it up before a man could get to it. I gave this ball away to a kid on the concourse after batting practice.
Soon after, I had to leave the LF seats since they were checking tickets and headed over to RF. I am about to post a picture that has two bp events linked to it:
The first is that it was yet another ball I missed out on. While I was in RF on my first “go around” this game, a righty hit a ball above the right part of the Modell’s sign. I was about to use my glove trick to knock the ball closer to me and reach through the bars to pull the ball out, but another guy decided to climb over the gate. As you may suspect, his action is completely against the Yankee Stadium rule, but he was just told not to do it again. The second ball involving this section hit in basically the same place (this time in my second stay in RF), but a few rows deeper. I had been following the ball the whole way, even though it was clearly over my head, in case there was a ricochet back to me. What do you know, that’s exactly what happened.
This is the perfect example of how ballhawking is a combination of luck and skill. To most observers, I just got lucky, but I put myself in a situation where that could happen. Had I stayed put where I was, because I probably wasn’t going to snag the ball, I would have missed out on this opportunity.
However, I wasn’t done with my missed opportunities. I should have caught a ball whose landing spot is depicted in the picture below:
As you can see, even the people wearing sunglasses were shielding their eyes. A ball was hit to my left and as I was tracking it, the ball passed right in front of the sun and I lost it. It then proceeded to hit right where the red arrow is in the picture. Normally, that would have been an easy catch for me since it touched down in the exact same row I was running in. Instead, I was left covering my head from the ball like everyone else.
That was it for batting practice. My ticketed seat was for the bleachers, but I knew that nothing was going to be hit where I was sitting, and so I headed up to the seats furthest away from Home Plate to be with my classmates. This was the view:
Wouldn’t you know it, I actually came closer to catching a HR in this section than I would have in the bleachers. In the bottom of the first inning, Curtis Granderson absolutely launched a ball. He hit it so hard that the initial trajectory was actually RIGHT at us… before, you know, gravity kicked in. Regardless, the ball managed to land in the Upper Deck. This is a very rare feat in the New Yankee Stadium, because the third deck is actually further back than it was in the Old Yankee Stadium.
While I was up there, the coaches started asking me about how my batting practice went and I ended up giving both of the bus drivers for this event a baseball, including one who was attending a baseball game for the first time.
Two other things of note happened in this game.
1. Let’s play “What’s wrong with this picture?” You have to guess what had just happened for the first time by looking at the following picture. So, what *is* wrong with this picture?:
If you guessed Nick Johnson standing on second, you were correct. I took this picture after Nick Johnson got his first hit of the season, raising his batting average to an incredible .033. At the time, it was ruled an error on left fielder Eduardo Nuñez, but Major League Baseball retrospectively changed the ruling citing he never touched the ball.
2. The Orioles managed to hold on and win the game 7-1, which gave Buck Showalter his 1,000th win as a manager. I knew this because Avi Miller asked me to pick up some ticket stubs for him.
- 4 Balls at this game (1 pictured because I gave 3 away)They are numbers 240-243 for my “career”.
- 21 Baseballs in 5 games= 4.20 Balls Per Game
- 14 straight games with at least 1 baseball
- 5 straight games with at least 3 balls
- 2 straight games with at least 4 balls
- 4 balls x 37, 790 fans= 151,160 Competition Factor
- 35 ball at the New Yankee Stadium in 11 games = 3.18 Balls Per Game
- 11 straight games at the New Yankee Stadium with at least 1 ball
- Time at game 4:27- 10:17= 5 hours 50 minutes