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
What are all these people showing up early for?:
I mean seriously, I hate to break it to those fans out there but the Mets are currently 20 games out of first place. The first place team has the best record in baseball but 20 games is never good. At least I was the first one in line. That fact gave me this emptiness close to a minute after I arrived to Left Field:
Within a few minutes, I got Manny Acosta to throw me a ball:
I stayed in Left Field for a good hour and only got one ball, a Home Run on the fly hit by John Buck. Then, once the seats got this crowded:
I moved over to Right Field where this was my view:
In that last picture, number 40 would be Michael Dunn. A few minutes after I took that picture he recognized a Marlins “fan” and threw me a ball perfectly between the other grabby hands in my section:
Sadly, this would be my last ball of the day as I was over-thinking, over-moving, and not coming up with much for all my work. One reason was this:
I mean not just the obvious obstacle the crowd would provide in catching balls but also I was playing conservatively on toss-ups and trying to use the strategy that got me into double digits at Nationals Park (not a particular strategy but rather strategy in general). This works in the sparsely inhabited seats of the Upper Right Field of Nationals Park but is a bit harder when competing with a crowd of others. This is not so much a commentary of this game but all the games I have been to this point (August 15th). I have to just take toss-ups when I can get them and not worry about other pitchers seeing me.
Anyway, I sat over in this area for the game:
Not my usual spot but I did have a guest on this day and joined him by his ticketed seat and sacrificed the foul ball opportunities/ third out opportunities. What else can I say? The most “exciting” thing was Hanley Ramirez spraining his shoulder a few feet away:
I went to the umpire’s tunnel after the game but Bill (?) Welke ran out of baseballs when he got to me after giving a pair of balls away twice and telling me he was out. I’m fine with that I’m just telling what happened.
- 3 balls at this game
- 126 balls in 29 games= 4.34 Balls Per Game
- 55 straight games with at least 1 ball
- 20 straight with at least 2 balls
- 25 straight games with at least 1 at Citi Field
- 3 balls*33,297 fans= 99,891 competition factor
- Time at game 4:38-10:38= 6 hours on the dot
The Blue Jays lose possibly the best pitcher in the league and what do they do:
Oh, nothing much. Just hit the most home runs of any team in the major leagues.
Frank Fancisco, Rajai Davis, Carlos Villanueva, Sean Henn, Corey Patterson, Octavio Dotel, Chad Cordero, Jon Rauch, and Juan Rivera.
Vernon Wells, Jeremy Accardo, Kevin Gregg, Scott Downs, John Buck, Shawn Marcum, and Lyle Overbay.
Why?: I know that they lost three really good bullpen guys, but look. They also gained four former closers. I know that they lost two middle of the line-up hitters but got a bonafide lead off hitter and whatever you consider Juan Rivera and Corey Patterson to be.
The only thing that suffered in the offseason was the rotation. Not only because of what you might think in Marucm leaving for Milwaukee but also John Buck leaving. With Buck leaving the pretty consistent Blue Jay rotation has had three catchers in three years (or more?) and it is tough. I would make the analogy to Quarter Backs in football playing in different systems every year. It is tough to have to keep adjusting. Just when you get comfortable pitching to a certain catcher he leaves town.
Will the Blue Jays continue to hit home runs? I have no idea. All I know is that even though there were more homeruns, there was also a way lower team AVG. Takee Aaron HIll for example, normally he hits around 15 HRs and bats .280 but last year he hit 24 HRs (or something like that) and had an AVG of around the Mendoza line.
One thing I would tell people is to watch out for Blue Jay prospects in the future. With the new GM, Alex Anthopoulos, the Blue Jays invested a whole lot into scouting, which may pay dividends down the road.
Predicted Record Range: 77-82 wins I see them declining a bit even though they have people like Kyle Drabek coming up because I don’t think they can keep the home run production up in 2011.