I thought I’d start off this entry a little differently. Basically, I want to give you guys an opportunity to have a look at what my day is like before I even enter the gates. I will do such a video for each stadium I visit from here on out (Nationals Park, Yankee Stadium, Citi Field, and Target Field) Anyway, here is the video for Nationals Park:
Once we left the Red Seats in center field, Rick and I both headed over to the right field, only to realize it was Camp Day and those seats would be crowded come game time. While Rick checked a variety of things on his iPhone, I watched Ross Detweiler throw a bullpen session:
If you didn’t know, most starting pitchers throw at least one bullpen session between starts; some even throw two. Detweiler had started the opening opening game of the series, so I’m guessing he throws two, since he only took a day off from throwing. At the end of his session, Detweiler launched the ball he was throwing with into the seats in foul territory. Both Rick and I saw it and thought it went on our side of the tunnel- indicated by the glass panels- in the next picture:
Soon after that, Nationals hitters started hitting. All of which can be seen in the following picture:
That’s right, a grand total of two Nationals hitters hit. That was the extent of batting practice. They didn’t even have any players go into the outfield; just the coaches came out to shag the balls. The two players were: a healthy Bryce Harper and a rehabbing Jayson Werth. You would probably guess that the super-prospect would hit more balls into the stands than the old, injured, failed multi-million dollar contract, right? Well I did too. Unfortunately, both of us were wrong and Werth hit many more homers to left as I watched in helpless despair from right. The one ball I had perfectly tracked, a barehanded fan reached right in front of me and deflected the ball away.
Then, right after they stopped hitting, I headed over closer to the foul pole very discreetly, as so Rick wouldn’t notice me:
Not to get a ball from the pitchers you see warming up, but remember that ball Detweiler threw into the stands earlier? That portion of the stands was about to open in two minutes when I took that last picture, and I wanted to be the first one in them to get the ball.
I was indeed the first person there, but when I got to the spot I thought the ball was, it was vacant. As Rick arrived on the scene, I went up to the top of the section and asked an usher where the ball had gone. He told me it had gone on the other side of the tunnel I mentioned earlier. I went down there, and he guided me as I motioned to where I thought the ball was. This was actually the same usher who gave me my first usher toss-up at Nationals Park ever. If you can find a picture him, you win………bragging rights. (Hint: the easies way to find the entry is through mygameballs.com.)
Thanks to this ushers arsenal of saving gestures, I found the ball right under a seat:
I then moved back over to the pitchers warming up. I figured Strasburg, since he doesn’t shag balls in the outfield, would probably not recognize me. So, I lined up behind Jim and his throwing partner, Jordan Zimmerman:
Unfortunately, Zimmerman ended up with the ball, which usually means I am not getting the ball (I had never gotten a ball from him, and he has never been fan-friendly per se). Fortunately, I was the only non-Mets fan, so after he scanned the stands, he threw me the ball:
Then, to my surprise, the complementary ticket I mentioned in the opening video, was right behind the umpire tunnel. So until the game began, I talked mostly with the two people in the next picture, and a person slightly out of the frame to the right:
I had been talking to the ushers a little the previous two games when I came down to get umpire balls, but in talking to them this day, both parties (myself and the ushers) learned that the other knew of “Zack”. The “Zack” in question being one with the surname Hample.We then had a discussion about the specifics of baseball collecting and my experience beginning in the hobby.
The guy in the red is Gio Gonzalez’s dad. He actually is the one who brought up the subject (kind of). I guess he saw me by Gio while I was trying to get a ball and said, “Are you a collector?” To which I responded, “Yes ” not knowing who he was. It turns out Gio’s father is an autograph collector and thought I was the same. It was a slightly frustrating process, but when the male usher jumped in with: “Oh. You know Zack?” Gio’s father faded out of the conversation and went to his seat. Sadly, his son would get knocked around by the Mets en route to a 9-5 loss.
During the game, this was my view of the action:
For some reason, I have horrible luck with third-out balls (whichever end of the dugout I go to, the ball goes to the other). Well, my luck continued for this game. I didn’t get a single third-out ball.
I’d just like to take a little time out to point out one of the members of the “Nat Pack”, Terrence. I mentioned a couple of entries ago that I believed he was the most energetic team employee I had ever seen at a baseball game (maybe I didn’t phrase it like that, but that’s what I meant). The ushers I had been talking to described this as the hottest game of the year. I don’t know about that, but it was in the 105 degree range. Well Terrence wasn’t slowing up at all. He inhabits the wheelchair section by the third base dugout. One of the things he does is whenever there’s a wave, he runs from one end of the section to the other “pushing” it along. There were more than a couple waves this game. Another example, of which I have photographic evidence, is what Terrence was doing when “Old Time Rock and Roll” started playing:
That’s right. He picked up one of the fold-able chairs and started jumping around the section, pretending the chair was a guitar as he strummed it.
After the game, I was already by the umpire tunnel, so I asked the umpire, Chris Conroy for a ball. He gave it to me saying, “Here, because you took the time to look up my name.” Conroy, if my memory serves me right is number 99. I don’t know for certain, but I would bet that means he is one of the newer umpires, so I’m guessing not many people know his name:
- 3 Balls at this game (no picture because I forgot to take it). They were numbers 352-354 for my career
- 132 Balls in 29 Games= 4.55 Balls Per Game (14 Balls under 500)
- 3 Balls x 36,389 Fans (no way were there that many people)= 109,167 Competition Factor
- 38 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 14 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 2 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
- 105 Balls at Nationals Park in 23 Games= 4.57 Balls Per Game
- 16 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 1 Ball
- 16 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
- 2 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
- Time Spent One Game 9:34- 4:07= 6 Hours 33 Minutes
- This game will have been my 100th ever I have recorded on mygameballs.com. I have gone to more games than that, but I obviously didn’t keep a record of them before mygameballs.com, so this is the only milestone I can celebrate.
The day of this game, I found out that the everyone on the team except for those who wanted to go to dinner with parents would be going to the Pelicans game. After arranging for the bus driver (we had been using a Greyhound to get around Myrtle Beach) to take me to the stadium early, I was at the game. It was only sort of early, though. We did aim to get to the stadium the full hour prior to first pitch to be there when the gates open, but got there only about 45 minutes prior since we got lost a couple of times and it isn’t easy to back up a full-length bus.
Long story short, I missed all of bp if there was any. However, there were a couple of players on the field signing, so I got both of them to sign one of my baseballs from the Ripken Experience. If you thought I meant that they were along the warning track signing when I said “on the field”, you are that’s a bit off. When I said “on the field”, I meant literally ON the field. Let me see if this picture will clear things up:
You see? They were actually set up on the field signing for anyone who came up to them, table and all. I have no clue who either are, and it didn’t help that I completely goofed on taking the second player’s picture. Let me explain the circumstances of it before I show the picture. I was taking the picture with my iPhone, and I usually like to keep the brightness on my phone down to save the battery, so I was just pointing the camera at the player and taking the picture. In addition to having a conventional camera, the iPhone also has a camera on the front for self-pictures and video chat. The button that switches between these two cameras is on the touch screen of the phone (you know, the one I couldn’t see). Okay, so I think I’ve explained it enough, here is the picture of the second player:
“Look, Ma, I made it to the minors!”
After that I just wandered around. I had exchanged a few tweets as well as a few comments on this blog with Quinn Imiola, a fellow blogger on the nybisons blog, about possibly meeting up this game. Since I had no idea what he looked like and he knew what I looked like more or less, I just tried to walk around the cross-aisle and make myself visible. Sometimes I got a little bored and went up to talk with the other person that had left on the bus early, a Jesuit Priest from my school by the name of Fr. Sullivan.
When I saw the Pelicans warming up down the right field line, I went over to try to get a ball from them:
While I was down there, though, I had my eye on the ball bag in the bullpen:
Simply because the pitcher that was warming up was taking forever. Finally, after waiting for him to end his throwing session, I went over to the Nationals side of the field, because I figured it would be easier to get a ball from the opposing team due to my fitting attire (I had Nationals gear ready in my backpack).
There I encountered this group of pitchers:
I also saw my competition to my right. A kid was there also decked out in Nationals gear. As I was trying to look through my roster to make sure I knew the players’ names, I saw the player in his red warm-up shirt talking to another in Spanish. He then started walking towards me with a ball in his hands, so I called out to him in Spanish, asking for him to throw me the ball.
He flicked his glove hand up, which if you don’t know is the sign for a fastball. However, he threw it a little low, and since the railing was high at that specific point, I had to reach over so much that I was trying to “snow cone” the ball and it bounced off the tip of my glove and into the bullpen. One of the other bullpen pitchers tossed the ball back to this pitcher after he requested it and I had another shot. This time I moved over to where the railing was about 4-6 inches lower and bent down pretending like I was a catcher. He signaled fastball again and fired a strike right to my glove. Here is the picture of the ball with the pitcher in the background, looking at the camera and starting to give me a thumbs up (you can’t really see that he is giving me a thumbs up, but trust me, he gave me a thumbs up right after I took the picture. It was so soon after that I thought I had it on film):
Any MiLB people read this blog? I have absolutely no idea who it is. He never took off his warm-up the whole game.
Soon after (or before?) I got the ball, my “competition”, aka the kid to my right who was also in Nationals gear, looked at me and said, “Mateo?”. It was Quinn, the person who I referenced at the beginning of the entry! You can read his account of the night here. We spent pretty much the whole game together since we were both in pursuit of foul balls. Here is a picture Quinn’s dad took of us in the during the game:
For those wondering, I don’t have a Rangers shirt, so I tired to at least color coordinate by wearing a blue shirt, so I turned my Cubs shirt inside out as to not show that it was indeed a Cubs shirt.
The game experience itself was mostly categorized under setting up people for them to have their own successes. Before I go into detail on what happened for everyone else during the game, here is the extent of my snagging for the day:
A guy (underneath the red arrow in the picture) just came through the cross-asile with a bucket full of candy and started throwing it into the stands. There were two foul balls hit anywhere near where my spots for standing during at-bats were. The first was a ball that went to my right. I raced after it, but could tell it was going short. It bounced and I can tell you that it was headed right towards my glove, but unfortunately another fan’s pillow blocked the ball and it trickled away where some other fans picked it up. Seriously? Who brings a pillow to a Baseball game?! The next ball was hit and looped perfectly onto the ramp I stood next to all day when righties were up (the ball was hit by a righty). Where was I? Left Field, of course. Since it was the last inning, myself and Quinn decided to go out there and try for a HR ball. I am 95% sure I would have caught that ball on the fly. Like I said, I had been standing within 10 feet of where the ball landed all day.
I would also like to share with you where my ticketed seat was. Here is a picture of my ticket, and I’ll let you guess where it is:
Any guesses where it is? The following picture will show you:
Of course, I didn’t sit there at any point during the game and must have offered the ticket to five people, but they all chose not to take it for one reason or another.
Now that I’ve gone through all that, here is all the other “stuff” that happened during the game:
1. Quinn managed to snag three balls throughout the course of the game. The first, as he told me, came from the same guy that threw me my ball, but it missed Quinn so the catcher tossed him the ball. The next two came from going down to the dugout for third-out balls. I could have competed with him for those, but I was pretty much interested in foul balls, so I let him do his thing down by the dugouts – for those who don’t know, third-out balls are when a team makes the third out, the defensive team usually brings the ball back to the dugout and tosses it to the fans above the dugout. Here is the first of his two dugout balls:
2. I was asked by a Pelicans personnel member to be in a dance-off, but I instead refered them to a Fordham Prep Baseball Player, Alex Porco, and although he didn’t win, he looked like he had fun and the rest of the team that was present certainly had fun with it.
3. I was also asked if I wanted to participate in “Ball Launch”, but refered the people to yet another Fordham Prep player, Michael Goldstock. He enjoyed that, and I believe he got a mini soccer ball from it.
4+5. At the end of the game, I tried to get a ball from the bullpen, so as a result, my some other players stayed back with me as they wanted to see if I’d get a ball. I didn’t. However, two of the players, Paul Pache and Patrick O’Shea, said that they saw the Nationals’ left fielder, and wanted to try to get a ball from him since Patrick had been begging him all day in LF. All the other players, myself included in the bunch, were leaving as this happened, though. We all thought that we were REALLY late for the bus, and were trying to make sure the bus didn’t leave without us. The left fielder came through on giving Pat a ball:
The day, however, was definitely won by Paul as… well, I’ll let the picture speak for itself:
Not only did he get a shirt from the left fielder, but he also managed to get A BAT from him. I don’t care if it was broken, that’s pretty cool. [Just a little note, I thought it was funny that Paul got the bat and Pat got the ball. You know, since Paul rhymes with ball and Pat rhymes with bat]
So even though I myself didn’t do that well snagging wise, it was a good day since so many people were able to come away from the game happy and satisfied. Paul, Pat, and Michael are all my roommates, so I was able to get a picture of all the items collected throughout the day after a really good game (except for the candy. That I ate.):
- Ball that I didn’t mention in the entry that has Splash, the Pelicans’ mascot,’s signature on a ball
- The mini Soccer ball Michael Goldstock acquired.
- The ball I got with the two players’ signatures.
- The awesome bat Paul managed to get.
- A ticket stub that I wanted to use to “complete” the picture.
- The T-Shirt Paul got.
- The ball Pat got from the Nationals’ left fielder.
- The ball I got.
Everyone else who was at the game said it was freezing, but I guess I was too busy having fun to feel the cold. Thus concludes the best Minor League game I have been to so far.