While the same guys were at the game who were there the previous day, the District of Columbia also had a new ballhawk face this game:
That on the left would be Greg Barasch, an excellent ballhawk from New York who also happens to be my former neighbor. So if the competition the day before wasn’t bad enough, the mygameballs.com leader in Balls Per Game was now being thrown in the mix. However, I will spoil the entry a bit and tell you that I snagged more baseballs during this game than I did the previous. I probably should have snagged more baseballs than anybody besides Greg, but I have one person to blame for this: myself.
When the gates opened, we actually had another ballhawk you may remember from past entries, Dave Butler. I would mention/link him a lot more, but he still has yet to get a mygameballs.com account. Anyway, he’s there for pretty much every Nationals game, so if you see a man wearing a San Fransisco Giants hat chasing baseballs during BP, that’s probably Dave. He, Erik, and Greg all headed for the Red Seats, so it was a no-brainer for Rick and I to pick the seats in straight-away left for the first group–which happens to be pitcher’s BP:
During this, I forget which pitcher it was hit a ball just to my left. I tracked the ball, put my glove up, but The ball bounced in and out of the glove and onto the ground, where another fan picked it up. I (not-so-)secretly blame Greg for this, because it was with my lefty glove that the ball bounced out. When I first got the glove in the Winter, I first tested it out with Greg and his dad in Riverside Park. There he told me, “I don’t know. I think you’re going to drop one because of the glove and then go back to your normal one.” Well I hadn’t been to the same game as Greg too often this season, but this being the first time the glove had failed me so far was too coincidental. GREG WAS BEHIND THIS SOMEHOW, I TELL YOU! It was right after that I switched to my right-handed glove. (Well it’s actually technically my mom’s glove, but that’s a story for another blog entry.)
With this glove in hand, I went over to right field for the Zimmerman, Werth, and I believe Bernadina. Anyway, just as Rick told me that Werth can go opposite field, Werth did just that. Rick was in front of me, and the ball appeared to be falling short of me, so I figured my chances of getting the ball were gone. Surprisingly, though, Rick misjudged the ball by running too far to his left, so I now had a window of opportunity that I used to catch the ball on the fly for my first of the day:
My next baseball came when the Pirates started hitting. Normally what I do when the opposing team starts hitting at Nationals Park is go down the third base line and try to get baseballs from the players of said team who are warming up. I didn’t get anything from these players, but as I saw a ball roll into the net that the Nationals have set up for BP to “protect their fans from projectiles leaving the field” (a.k.a. themselves from any possible liability that may come if a fan were to get hit by said projectile.) There was another guy about my age right on top of it, and I told him that I would get the ball for him if he moved out of the way. My plan was to cast the net the Nationals had set up, as if fishing, to reel the ball in close enough where I could pick it up off the ground. As I was doing this, a second baseball rolled to the same spot, so the guy said, “Oh, now we can both have one.” What I should have done was said yes, but offered to pick up both baseball, since I was taller. I mean the reason for me picking up both wouldn’t have actually been because I was taller; it would have been because I could then count both baseball even though I would end up giving one away. Instead, dumb me reeled both in and let him pick up his baseball as picked up mine:
(For the record, my hand is the one on the left. You can tell that from the green “UMN #GetActive” wristband. I’ve pretty much worn it every day since November, 6, 2012.) I then met up with Erik, who was also trying to get a toss-up form Pirate relievers. As he left the section, he did a brief run-through of the names of the Pirate pitchers. This served me well because my third ball of the day came when I asked Jeff Locke by name for a baseball in the Red Seats. Erik gets the huge assist on that one because Locke was not responding at all to the tons of kids requesting a ball, but when I said his name, Locke’s head shot up and he tossed me the baseball before I could get the rest of the request out:
That was it for BP. My next baseball came after BP at the Pirates bullpen. Both Erik and I ended up there after I alerted him to two baseballs that Bryan Morris had under-thrown into the gap in front of the Red Seats. Erik was already sitting down behind the bullpen when batting practice ended, so I went over to him and told him to hurry up because I was afraid the groundskeepers were going to get the baseballs out of the gap, since they were already rolling the equipment off the field. When we got there, though, the baseballs were still there, so groundskeepers were no longer the problem. The problem was you’re not exactly allowed to retrieve baseballs out of this gap. So I first tried to shield Erik’s string from the usher, but when the usher–who I know–came down to check tickets, I tried to distract her from the glove trick by talking to her until Erik had reeled up the two baseballs. I’m pretty sure it would have worked ceteris paribus, but there were a ton of kids right in front of the usher begging Erik for the baseballs, so she realized what he was doing. Thankfully, by the time she went over to confront him, he had already pulled in the two baseballs, and got away without punishment by emphasizing the fact that he had given both baseballs away to kids–which he had.
After that, Euclides Rojas tossed me a baseball when Francisco Liriano finished throwing his bullpen session. I’m pretty sure Erik would have gotten the ball, since he told me that Rojas has tossed him about 20 baseballs in 2013, but he had left by that point because he had to leave the next morning from Pittsburgh to go to Miami and see the Pirates there. So as a a product of that, I got this guy:
As for the game, I tried doing the same thing as the previous game and studying for my driving written test, but it was an absolute failure because I was too busy eating two bags of shelled peanuts a nice usher I know that works in the Diamond Club gave me. But don’t worry, I ended up passing. The test-taker needed to get a minimum of 23 questions right, and I got just that. (I had heard somewhere else that it was 24, so I actually thought I had already failed for the last 6 questions and was just finishing the test for fun at that point.)As a result of all of that I got this guy:
(As I write this I have just driven for my first time in years with my new permit, and I have to say; it was much less terrifying than I thought it would be given that it was my first time with a permit.) At the end of the game, I headed down to the dugout:
And there I got my fifth and final ball of the day from home plate umpire Mike Estabrook:
And if you’re wondering, the four of us ballhawks snagged a combined for 23 total baseballs. Greg and Erik snagged 9 and 6, respectively despite both leaving the game early, I snagged 5, and Rick snagged 3, but his stats are always more impressive since he goes for pretty much only hit baseballs.
- 5 Baseballs at this Game (4 pictured because I gave 1 away)
- 140 Balls in 35 Games= 4.00 Balls Per Game
- 5 Balls x 33,636 Fans=168,180 Competition Factor
- 97 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 173 Balls in 39 Games at Nationals Park= 4.44 Balls Per Game
- 31 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
- Time Spent On Game 2:57-11:29= 8 Hours 32 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.
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.
Oh, another frustrating day at Nationals Park. Except this time, I knew it was going to be frustrating before I even entered the gates. Thus, this was me waiting for the gates to open:
Rick Gold, who had been with me at the prior game, alerted me to the fact that Jayson Werth had already taken batting practice, which meant the Nationals as a whole had probably taken batting practice. With the impending thunderstorms, I could see from the gate that the cage wasn’t even up (one of the reasons Nationals Park is better than either of the New York Parks). I also didn’t know it at the time, but this was the 100th ball I had ever snagged at Nationals Park, which also marks the first time I’ve ever snagged 100 balls at any given stadium.
When the gates opened, Rick tried to go to right field to use his retriever on a home run ball that had landed behind the scoreboard. I, meanwhile took advantage of the information Rick had half-knowingly given to me. I went to the Red Seats and found a ball Jayson Werth had hit there earlier:
For the record, Rick couldn’t find the ball. It was a mystery to both of us where it had gone, though, since we thought if anyone picked it up, it would be a person cleaning behind the scoreboard, but it was still filthy.
After I got my ball, the Nationals kept everyone under cover, because of the lightning storm passing through. NO one was allowed into the seats that weren’t covered. See for yourself:
That last picture was the spot I was when Jon Rauch and his throwing partner warmed up. I had to watch in despair as they finished throwing, because I know I could have easily gotten him to toss me a ball had I been allowed to go down there.
Eventually, the Nationals did let everyone down into the seats. Pretty much everyone rushed to the Mets’ dugout:
The only difference is: I wasn’t a zombie about it. I figured I would have a better shot at getting a ball from the Mets, but when Jayson Werth came out to throw with a trainer, I ran over to the other side of the stadium, changed into my Nationals shirt as I went over there, and got this from him:
Weird way to get two balls from the same player in one day, huh? Also, this was a minor milestone in that it was my 350th ball ever. It’s a pretty obscure milestone, so I’ll leave my elaboration at that.
During the game, this was my view of the action:
There were two righties pitching, so I figured I would camp out there. I had a pretty good amount of room to work with, even with Rick in right field too, but I forgot to get a picture of it. Sadly, the only home run in those seats came when I had already gone over to the Mets’ dugout. Rick told me I might have gotten it had I stayed. Oh well, I got this instead from a Mets ball boy:
• 3 Balls at this game
•129 Balls in 28 Games= 4.61 Balls Per Game (12 Balls under 500)
• 3 Bals x 31,660 Fans= 94,980 Competition Factor
• 37 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
• 13 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
• 102 Balls in 22 Games at Nationals Park= 4.64 Balls Per Game
• 15 Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
• 15 Games with at least 2 Balls at Nationals Park
• Time Spent On Game 3:40- 11:22= 7 Hours 42 Minutes (exactly one minute more than I had the previous day)
First of all, here, is the initial entry.
Predicted Record: 70-75 wins
Actual Record: 80-81
I actually thought this would be a stallish year for the Nationals waiting for both Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper to come up. However, the Nationals had a surprisingly strong lineup. Whenever I was in the Outfield for their At-Bats, I was always confident that I could possibly get a ball hit to me within three hitters. Actually, Jayson Werth was one of the weaker parts of the lineup.
Also, I think part of the reason they improved so much was via the simple improvement on defense. Can anyone remember the years the Nationals were REALLY bad? It was almost hilarious some of the error they would make on defense to lose games. Their Pitching still has to improve in the rotation, but the virtual additon of Stephen Strasburg shouldn’t be that bad.
Another thing, the second most important addition I had for the Nationals last offseason didn’t even play for most of the season. I had Adam LaRoche being the second biggest impact player the Nationals acquired behind Jayson Werth. Of course, the Nationals eventual MVP for the year now plays at 1st Base: Michael Morse. However, if you don’t remember, I went to the Nationals’ last three home games this past season (the links are here, here, and here starting with the last game and going backwards. Also, for newer readers, I usually do take a bunch of pictures with the games I got to, but I lost all of the pictures for those three games. A better example of one of my entries for a game can be found: here.) and Michael Morse was being put in the Outfield. Yes it is definitely not his defensive strong suit, but I think this is a sign that they expect to have him in the Outfield next season.
Anyway, the Nationals, I think we can agree, were a surprising team in 2011 and I did not predict they would do this well.