My day started off in Albany, where I had stayed with Chris Hernandez‘ (I never know how the possessive/plural works with names ending in an “s” sound) girlfriend. We then hit the road right after we got up:
Chris went directly to Citi Field for the Futures Game (which if you didn’t know, is basically an All-Star Game between the top Minor League prospects in baseball where the teams are divided by US vs. World), but he dropped me off at Greg Barasch‘s place first. I mean it used to be my place, but the reason I was there is I had to drop off all of the things I didn’t need to carry to the Futures Game/did need for the place I was headed off to before the Futures Game that I’ll reveal in a second.
I then headed off to Zack Hample‘s place where I gave him footage off my SD card for an entry he was writing at the time about his helicopter stunt that we had been at the previous day, some of which he ended up putting on his YouTube channel and then embedding in said entry. My goal was to get out of Zack’s place at around 11:20 to get to where I planned to go next, but ended up not getting out of Zack’s until 12:00 because while I was talking with him and his girlfriend Hayley, he told me that they were watching ESPN’s SportsCenter because he had been told that he was going to be in the Top-10. And since SportsCenter always holds that until the end of the show to get you to watch the whole thing, I ended up staying and watching him make the Top-10 and then semi-freak out when they announced that he had caught the ball from 1,200 feet instead of 1,050. (Zack doesn’t like inaccuracies; even if they make what he did seem more awesome.)
Anyway, about a half-hour later, this is where I found myself:
I had seen on their schedule that the Fan Cave was having tours from 12:00-2:30, so when I realized that my times in New York were going to be very limited this summer, and the fact that I had not yet toured the Fan Cave, I decided it was more important than making batting practice at the Futures Game. So I got in line:
And waited for a while. Turns out the Dwellers were hosting the FoxSports girls and so we had to wait. Although, I won’t complain since I got a free MLB Fan Cave hat and shirt out of it. Then after a good 20-30 minute wait in the New York heat, we got it:
I point out the tour guide because he’s wearing the shirt that I had gotten for free just minutes earlier. Anyway, the tour was fun. I didn’t take many pictures, but I got a video of it that I’m not sure I’ll ever publish do to the fact that there’s not much in it. But afterwards I waited for April Whitzman to talk with her for a few minutes. I actually knew April from before my visit because she had written a story about me for the Fan Cave blog back in April (Get it? It’s an unintentional pun!) about my experience playing catch with Derek Lowe (Link to her story here).
After that it was off to the Futures Game, and even though I showed up while the game was already underway, it was great to not have to worry about ballhawking. First I got a picture with the Twins mascot, TC:
(Notice the MLB Fan Cave hat.) And then I went to catch up with Ben Weil behind the third base dugout:
Not a bad view, eh? Although since I kind of half-paid attention to the game the most notable thing that came until it was over was that Ben got a t-shirt in the t-shirt toss:
Then after the Futures Game, it was time for the Celebrity Softball Game:
I mean that was whatever, but I stuck around because I had never seen one before. Chris, on the other hand, left, because he had gotten way too little sleep the past two days, and it was starting to catch up with him. After the game, Ben–who is the biggest Mike Piazza fan you will ever meet–was not surprisingly trying to get Piazza to sign a sign his girlfriend Jen, who had shown up at the beginning of the softball game, had made. So the three of us pushing through a crowd of dozens of people to try to get to the umpire tunnel where Piazza was signing. I seriously think the softball game is more about getting signatures before/after it than it is about the game itself. I mean look at the crowd at the dugout half-an-hour after the game had ended:
And I mean here’s a panorama that I took right before that (Click to Enlarge):
Anyway, that pushing and having a mild attack of claustrophobia paid off because look what Ben got:
I wish I would have gotten a picture of the back, because it’s like the side of this side but the pictures occupy the whole poster board. After that Jen headed out, but Ben and I hung around and tried to find where he was supposed to go for a thing he volunteered for handing out pins. So we first got a ton of energy drinks that Ben didn’t really want, so he handed to me, but I then got this one last picture of Citi Field before heading off to Greg’s place for the night.
- 9 KickStarts at this Game (7 pictured because I gave 2 away)
Numbers 1-9 for my “career”:
- 9 KickStarts in 1 Game= 9.00 KPG
- 1 Straight Game with at least 1-9 KickStarts
- 9 KickStarts in 1 Game at Citi Field= 9.00 KPG
- 1 Straight Game with at least 1-9 KickStarts at Citi Field
My day began at Avi Miller‘s house. See, Avi and his parents were kind enough to put up with me for a couple of days as I needed a place to stay while going to a couple Orioles games. I have to say it was a really nice/fun place to stay. Avi and I had stayed up watching MLB Network–which I had regrettably not watched in forever leading up to that point–and I worked on entries as I watched and we ate pizza that I somehow got talked into letting Avi pay for even thought *he* was the one letting me stay with him. But anyway, the way to get to the ballpark from Avi’s is to drive to the subway station and take that to the ballpark. We could drive the whole way, but given how often Avi goes to games, it doesn’t make any sense, because 1. It costs $8 for him to park by the ballpark. 2. It puts extra wear on the car. And: 3. It costs a lot more in gas to get to the ballpark than the $1.20 for the subway.
But why am I prolonging the introduction to this entry and my account of the time before I got to the ballpark? Well because not much happened in batting practice itself. Once I got int the gates, here was my view of the field:
While I’ve heard it many times via word of mouth, I don’t think I’ve seen it written yet, so I figure I’ll get it out there: OPACY has become a tougher ballpark to ballhawk at. One reason for the ballhawks who used to come there many years ago is the competition. Several years ago (like 2010 and before that) there was virtually no competition during the first half-hour, so if you were in left field courtesy of a season ticket, you essentially had the place to yourself and could clean up for thirty minutes. The second reason is the Orioles don’t really have a team suited for the ballpark. I remember running all over the place when Mark Reynolds and Derrek Lee were on the team, but now really the only player who consistently gets balls into the left field seats is J.J. Hardy, and even he is having a rough year in that regard. You’d almost rather go out onto the flag court for parts of the 30 minutes to try to get a Chris Davis homer. And all of the players/coaches who patrol left field during batting practice are already accustomed to not tossing baseballs up for this first half-hour, so it’s not an automatic thing like it used to be to get on the board with a season ticket. I wasn’t there super consistently before, but from what I heard, it used to almost be easy to get four or five baseballs before the seating bowl opened up to the general public, and that’s before any of the visitor’s BP even took place.
During this BP, though, the Orioles hit definitely less than five baseballs into the stands, and I’m pretty sure that’s including ground-rule doubles. Nothing even came close to me. And what made it so frustrating is that although Alex Kopp, who I showed you guys in the previous game’s entry was there, Tim Anderson wasn’t here for today’s or the next day’s game, so I wanted so badly to take advantage, since I knew it would be a rarity to have an opportunity like this, but then the Orioles let me down. I mean look at how much space I had to run around if a ball got hit into the stands:
Oh, and I don’t think I mentioned it in the last game’s entry, but I was particularly looking forward to Tim being away because he jumped and caught a ball during that BP that almost certainly would have made its way into my glove had he not been there. He made a great play on it, and I horribly misjudged the ball. I still would have made the catch, but he picked the right row to run in and I went two rows deeper.
But back to this game. What made it even more frustrating is that the big, bad Tigers decided to take the day off of hitting because they had just played an 11-inning game in Pittsburgh where they got beat 1-0. I mean to me, getting shutout for 11 innings by the Pirates means you should probably be taking extra hitting, but you know, whatever your methods are, Jim Leyland, I won’t question them. It was as a result of the Tigers not hititng, however, that I probably had one of my more memorable experiences at the ballpark. And by memorable I mean…well, you’ll see.
Since the Tigers weren’t hitting, I went behind the Tigers pitchers warming up to try to get a ball from them. Since I had previously had a good encounter with him at Target Field, I got behind Phil Coke’s throwing partner to hopefully get a ball from Coke when they were done. When they finished catch, and I asked Coke for a ball, he looked and me and started backing away from me. I didn’t know what to make of it until he got into the “set” position of pitching of the stretch and flipped his glove upwards–which is to say he was going to throw me a fastball. I thought he was just going to throw the ball at my glove nice and easy, but no, this was Phil Coke, so he threw the ball full-force. So given the fact that it was Phil Coke not off a mound, it was probably in the high-80s. I wasn’t expecting this at all, so as the ball went way higher than I thought it would, I just managed to tip the ball as it zoomed way past me into the stands. I then ran back and retrieved the ball. I thought that was the end of it, but Coke signaled for me to toss the ball back to him. I tossed it back to him and he readied himself again. This time he crow-hopped into the throw–so the ball was almost definitely in the mid-90s–and I had to jump this time just to tip the ball. The ball then hit off a seat behind me and ricocheted all the way past the cross-aisle:
When I went back and got this ball, I was more than prepared to toss it back to him for another chance to catch it, but as you can somewhat see in the last picture, he had moved onto a new victim in the blue. That’s an OPACY regular by the name of Doug. Coke fired one ball at Doug before he told everyone to clear the area and then proceeded to fire another ball at Doug. Avi described it perfectly in what he said afterwards (I’m somewhat paraphrasing), “In an age where some teams encourage players to not even toss baseballs up into the stands because of liability, that has got to be the most reckless thing I’ve ever seen a player do at the ballpark.” Of course, Avi had probably the best reason to say it because after it deflected off a seat, one of Coke’s throws went less than a foot above Avi’s head. But alas, I had to keep my crown as the only one who got hit in the head with a baseball while I was at OPACY.
But anyway, that was pretty much it for the day. Avi, Alex and I hung out in club level pretty much until the game started. Tonight was Union Night, so OPACY was completely sold-out out. I mean just check out the sight on Eutaw Street before the game began:
So Alex and I sat out in the flag court at one of the picnic tables. And after having to move about seven times because people kept on showing up to their seats for the first three or four innings, Avi came and joined us out there. Here are those two as I was leaving to go get an umpire ball:
And I didn’t. The previous day I was in prefect position for an umpire ball, but an usher moved a couple kids in front of me just before the umpire passed through–like he literally grabbed the two kids and lifted them into the row of seats right in front of me–so I didn’t get a ball that day. I figured this was the usher’s custom, so this game I went to the other side of the tunnel in hopes of being on the corner spot on that side. I was, but unfortunately for my hopes of getting an umpire ball, the Orioles rallied back in the ninth inning, which they had begun trailing, and Chris Dickerson hit a walk-off home run, which I–albeit jokingly–called. This affected me trying to get a ball because the crowd was going absolutely berserk, so when I tried calling whoever the home plate umpire was by name, he couldn’t hear me at all. Heck, I could barely hear myself calling out to him. So he exhausted all of his baseballs on the kids awaiting him before he got to me. All in all it was a pretty boring day to ballhawk besides the Coke incident. I got my one ball there, Alex got his right at the beginning of BP when an usher directed him to a ball that had been hit in the seats before we entered, and I don’t even know if Avi got a ball, since he has a good approach and just relaxes during BP and snags whatever comes his way. He doesn’t really set expectations fro himself, so whatever he does in terms of baseballs and autographs is almost like a nice treat in addition to being at the ballpark. Anyway, I headed out to the flag court where I met up with Avi, where we would prepare ourselves for a game the next day that while much more adventuresome, would be just as frustrating to me.
- 1 Baseball at this Game
Number 535 for my “life”:
- 89 Balls in 21 Games= 4.24 Balls Per Game
- 1 Ball x 46,249 Fans=46,249 Competition Factor
- 84 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 43 Balls in 10 Games at OPACY= 4.30 Balls Per Game
- 10 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 3:23-12:14= 8 Hours 51 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