With how my schedule was looking for the rest of the year, this was almost definitely looking like it would be my last game at Nationals Park in 2013. And so I was glad to start my day by catching a Nationals BP homer on the fly that also turned out to be a 2010 World Series commemorative baseball:
I don’t know who hit it, but I ran through the middle row of the Red Seat and leaned over seats to catch the ball. It was a fun experience. I then soon after headed over to right field, where I got yet another 2010 World Series commemorative. This one was tossed to me by some Nationals trainer who has been with the team for several years and has tossed me a couple baseballs, but I still don’t know exactly what he does. It seems like the Nationals have a couple guys like that where you don’t know exactly what they do. Anyway, he tossed me another golden ball, so I like him:
I don’t have pictures of my next two baseballs because they were both in the middle of a stretch of action in the Red Seats, and I’m a forgetful idiot who apparently can’t take pictures when things calm down, but here’s how I got both of them:
The first ball was a Dan Uggla home run that he tomahawked (See what I did there?) into the Red Seats. The route to the ball from where I was was clogged up with people, so the best I could do was get behind where the ball was going to land. It then evaded a bunch of gloves, hit off a seat, and bounced up into the air, where I snatched it up. I gave this away to a kid at the front of the section. The second ball came when I went to the corner spot in the Red Seats closest to center field. When Jose Costanza went into center field to field a ball that had gone there, I called out to him by name, and he then turned to me and threw the ball that he had just gotten. It was headed right for me, but the guy standing next to me, who had seen me get a few baseballs reached in front of me and caught the baseball. But you know what? I’m not even mad–nor was I in the moment–because I just moved away from this guy on the next ball Costanza fielded and got him to toss me that one. I then made a point of giving that ball away to the kid who was standing right next to the guy who had reached in front of me.
And then after that, I got a bonus, because Rick Gold came into the section. I asked him if he had snagged any of the Target Field commemorative baseballs, because I desperately wanted to trade someone one of my extra World Series 2010 balls for an extra Target Field ball. But somehow, I didn’t even end up giving him anything, and instead, he gave me this for nothing:
Well not really nothing, but really a commemorative to be named later. So if I ever get two or more of a commemorative Rick doesn’t have, I will give him that because he gave me this one. That was very nice of him, and it made me very happy. It almost even made up for the fact that I hadn’t gotten a Target Field ball. (And just to clear things up, I *much* prefer to snag baseballs on my own, but I’m also not above trading commemoratives, because I also don’t go after commemoratives with the vigor that most ballhawks do. I do very much like to get them, but I’ve never asked a player to specifically toss me a commemorative baseball and have never planned a trip because of a commemorative ball. Basically, if a team in a game that I’m going to has a commemorative ball–or several in the case of the Nationals–it’s a bonus to whatever I snag that day.)
The Costanza toss-up would be my last baseball of BP. So afterwards, I went to the Braves bullpen, since there were still a couple baseballs:
And no surprise, the Nationals groundskeepers cleared out the baseballs when they entered the bullpen. Actually, knowing the Nationals groundskeepers (who are some of, if not THE, worst groundskeeper in terms of tossing up baseballs and leaving them on the field for players to toss them up), it was a bigger surprise that they only collected two of the three baseballs and left the ball I’ve labeled “2” for the Braves relievers.
The first person who made his way to the bullpen was Brian McCann. I thought I had a pretty good chance of getting him to toss me a ball, but my only worry was someone was going to beat me to it, because McCann would be pretty easy to recognize and ask by name. I didn’t have to worry about it, though, because he stopped short of the bullpen to do his stretches in the outfield. Then came Eddie Perez. I was particularly worried about him, because I had noticed his two daughters had been sitting on top of the Braves bullpen, so I figured the ball would go to them if he picked it up. Thankfully, he stopped to talk with McCann for ages. Then came Alan Butts. He was perfect because even though I wasn’t trying to get a ball from him then, I was the only one who recognized him the previous day and said hi to him. So when he walked past me to get into the bullpen, I asked him if he could toss me that ball. To that he responded, “In a second.” So after getting a variety of his “bullpen catcher” things ready, he went over and tossed me the ball:
As for the game, I had thought of sitting by the dugout for the longest time, but then I realized that despite Nationals Park being the stadium I’ve spent the most games at, I still don’t have a game home run there, so I sat in left field:
No home runs came out there, but at the end of the game, I made my way to the far end of the Braves bullpen and got Eddie Perez to toss me a ball (since he had been talking to McCann and hadn’t seen me get the ball from Butts):
I then headed over to say goodbye to an usher I’ve talked to throughout this year, and as my parting gift, I gave him the ball I had just gotten from Perez:
His name is Jan Pastor, and he’s a really nice usher who works the aisle right next to the MASN booth in the center field plaza. I believe it is section 102-103, but I may be wrong. Anyway, if you’re ever at Nationals Park when I’m not there, say hi to him for me.
I then headed off to take the train, where I had an experience on the Metro that I’ve never had post-Nationals game. It’s usually as packed as it can be with all of the people leaving the Nationals game, but somehow for a full stop after we left Navy Yard-Ballpark, the stop nearest Nationals Park, I was the only one in my subway car:
I mean I’ve been on a ton of empty subway cars before, but they’ve all been at the ends of lines when there aren’t really many people at the stop, and this was at a major stop during one of its more congested hours. Anyway; weird.
- 6 balls at this game (4 pictured because I gave 3 away, but then added the one Rick gave me to the picture)
Numbers 622-627 for my “lifetime”:
- 181 Balls in 43 Games= 4.21 Balls Per Game
- 6 Balls x 29,114 Fans=174,684 Competition Factor
- 105 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 10 straight Games with 2 Balls
- 7 straight Games with 3 Balls
- 6 straight Games with 4 Balls
- 4 straight Games with 5 Balls
- 2 straight Games with 6 Balls
- 192 Balls in 42 Games at Nationals Park= 4.57 Balls Per Game
- 34 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
- 5 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Nationals Park
- 2 straight Games with at least 3-6 Balls at Nationals Park
- Time Spent On Game 3:27-11:28= 8 Hours 1 Minute
With my last game and my snagging of six baseballs, I was at 95 career baseballs for Citi Field. The goal of me going to five games was to get to 100. Only five baseballs. When I got up in the morning, I was thinking how I could simply knock the goal out in a single game and then not have to attend games the rest of the weekend. Then I checked what the weather was supposed to be at the place I volunteered at most of the past two summers and for every day of this week:
Snagging five balls in this game was going to be a lot harder than I expected. And even worse, notice how I said that I checked the weather while I was at the place I volunteer at. That means I was already out of the apartment I was staying in. See it was nice-ish out when I left, so I decided I would wear shorts. Fifty degrees and raining isn’t exactly shorts weather. That brings me to this picture:
Because I was in shorts still, I figured I would need a poncho of sorts, so I fashioned this out of an extra table lining we had at the previously-mentioned senior center I was volunteering at. I took it and cut a hole in the top for my head and made two slices in the sides for my arms. I don’t know if you can tell from that last picture, but the tables where bags normally get checked were moved from their usual spot right behind where I was standing to way back almost at the turnstile:
It was so the security checking bags would be under the overhang and out of the reach of the rain. It also meant that I would lose almost a minute in getting into the stadium because I couldn’t have the guard check my bag before the gates themselves opened. Normally I would be mad about this, but I figured there wasn’t going to be batting practice, so every second wasn’t as precious as it would normally be.
When I got in the stadium I saw the Mets pitchers warming up in almost by the right field foul pole, so I headed over there and headed down the steps into the seats in foul territory down the first base foul line. As I started down the stairs, I heard an usher stop me. He apologized and told me that he knows fans are usually allowed down into the seating bowl, but since there was no batting practice, he was told not to let people into his section. I don’t doubt his sincerity in believing what he was saying and not making up a rule just because he saw an 18-year-old with a glove that matched the description of what Citi Field security seems to hate, but he was either a) Enforcing an absolutely ridiculous policy, or b) He misinterpreted what his actual instructions were. I saw him turn down several other people after me, but people somehow eventually started coming down into the seats, so I’m guessing it was the latter and someone else clarified the situation for him. Because of this, I had to try to get the players to toss me a ball from the right field seats instead of being behind them, which would have been the easiest toss-up snag ever. Regardless, I got Brandon Lyon to toss me a ball after he was done throwing with LaTroy Hawkins for my first on the day:
And look at all the action that occupied me after the pitchers left the field:
Given the fact that the tarp was on the field and absolutely nothing going on, I headed over to the third base side of things and waited for the Braves to come out and throw:
Right around then Ben Weil came into the stadium. So I chatted with him until the Braves came out to throw. When they did I stationed myself behind Craig Kimbrel and his new throwing partner now that Johnny Venters was injured, and then moved on to Cory Rasmus and his throwing partner, but eventually ended up getting a ball from bullpen coach Eddie Perez instead:
A ball which I would then get signed by Craig Kimbrel as he passed by signing people’s thing-a-ma-do-hickies. And then it was back to tarp-watching:
I believe the game’s start time was only delayed less than half-an-hour by the rain, so once it started Ben and I sat behind the dugout. Ben eventually just left the game around the third inning to go home, but I stayed behind the dugout the whole game. Unfortunately I was on the outfield end of the dugout and the Mets kept striking out to end the inning. At the end of seven innings when he came out, Braves starter Kris Medlen had nine strikeouts. If you didn’t know before, when a strikeout ends the inning, a catcher typically takes the ball to the home plate end of the dugout and tosses it up there. So as a result of all of these strikeouts, I found myself repeatedly on the wrong side of the dugout to get a third out ball.
It had been drizzling pretty consistently throughout the game, but at about the beginning of the eighth inning, it started absolutely pouring. When the Braves scored two runs in the top of the inning, I thought for sure that they were going to win the game on account of the rain, but the umpires let the game go on into the bottom of the eighth inning and the Mets came right back and scored two run of their own. It was after the end of the eighth inning–during which I should have caught a Rick Ankiel foul ball on the fly–that the tarp was finally brought out and the game delayed. When this happened I did the stupidest thing possible: I walked right up the steps and to the concourse. Now I did pick up a ticket for the section to get back in should I need to when play resumed:
But that’s not why it was a stupid decision to walk out of the section right as the game was being delayed. To a ballhawk, a rain delay is the equivalent of the end of the game in terms of snagging opportunities. So what I *should* have done was first go to the umpire tunnel and try to get a ball from the umpires exiting the field, then try to get a ball from players coming from a bullpen, and then maybe try to get a ball from the side of the dugout looking in at any players/coaches who were still mulling around in the dugout. And a great thing about a rain delay in New York is that unlike the end of the game, security won’t kick you out after 30 seconds because there is still the potential for the game to resume. These were all great opportunities I wasted because I was so fixated on getting out of the rain and inside some club (since I had a ticket that got me into pretty much every club in Citi Field):
I did a lot of wandering during the rain delay, but I won’t post all of the pictures here; they’ll be in the album on Facebook that I post for every game. In wandering the concourse and clubs themselves, though, I was wasting yet another golden opportunity. If you’re ever at a game that has gone less than five innings or is tied, search through the seats for as many ticket stubs as you can find, because if the game is postponed to a later date because of the rain, most teams allow you to trade in the value of the ticket for any game later on in the season. So if you have enough tickets in good seating, you could end up not paying for a ticket at that stadium for the rest of the season, and having great seats too. I was actually planning on going down to the field level and doing this at midnight, but it was announced at 11:58 that the game–or the inning that was left, anyway–was being postponed until the next day and would be played at 6:10, right before the game that was regularly scheduled to begin at 7:10. So I left Citi Field at about 12:02 and headed home:
And while it may seem as though my day was all the way through, it was what happened after I left Citi Field that’s what I’ll be telling everyone I know about this game form now on. The following timestamps are estimates since my phone died half-way along this journey:
12:02- I called the person who I was staying with to tell her that it probably wouldn’t be the best idea if I returned to her apartment that night, since it would require me possibly waiting an hour in the Bronx for a bus. I meanwhile texted my friend Greg Barasch, whose apartment I had stayed in that past Tuesday to see if I could stay there again that night, but he was “asleep” so he didn’t respond until many hours later in the afternoon.
12:25- Since the game itself never actually ended, and it was late anyways, there was no express “7” train to get on. Nevertheless, I went to the express track because there was a 7 with its doors closed where the express train usually is. I figured it eventually open its doors and head to Times Square. After watching two trains pass on the regular track, I came to the conclusion that this train was never going to leave the station and finally went to the other side of the platform and caught a train after 20 minutes of waiting.
12:40- The train cruised through the above-ground portion of Queens, but on the first stop underground, our train was stopped for what was announced as “signal difficulties”. Suffice to say I was bored out of my mind/not amused:
1:08- After waiting around for almost half-an-hour on the train, it was announced that because there was an investigation happening at Times Square that our train was being suspended and everyone needed to get off the train:
We were then told to go up to the booth for this station, pick up a pass for an extra subway ride and walk to a station for the “E” train, that would then take us to Times Square.
1:21- The person at the booth had given us wrong directions to the other station, so myself and a group of about five other people spent almost 15 minutes wandering what Ben Weil would tell me the next day was not such a good part of Queens at 1 in the morning.
1:55-Because it was the weekend and so late at night, the trains were running even more infrequently than they do normally on the “E” line, and so even once we figured out our way to the station, we had to wait for a while for the train to arrive in the station. It was in this time that I got teased by the Mets fans in the station for wearing Braves gear.
2:17-Finally the train arrived and it took all of us lost Mets fans to Times Square.
2:37-From Times Square I would transfer to the “2” train making local stops that would take me to the 96th street station before going off in a direction I didn’t want to take it, so I got off at 96th.
3:02- My phone had died at this point, but I still needed to get to 110th street to get to my now-vacant apartment. With the next “1” train that would take me to the 110th street stop being 19 minutes away, I decided to walk the 14 blocks (roughly 3/4 of a mile) despite the fact that it was almost 3 o’clock in the morning. It was a little after 3:00 by the time I got into the apartment. And when I got there, I found out that all of the bed sheets I had left in the closet when I left Monday had been taken out of the apartment, so this was my bed for the night:
It was even more comfortable than it looks. And with me collapsing on this makeshift bed from exhaustion at 3:15, I could finally say that my day of adventure had ended. But I would have to wake up in less than ten hours just to get back to Citi Field and do it all again.
- 2 Baseballs at this game
- 77 Balls in 17 Games= 4.53 Balls Per Game
- 2 Balls x 32,325 Fans= 64,650 Competition Factor
- 79 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 5 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 97 Balls in 36 Games at Citi Field= 2.69 Balls Per Game
- 36 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Citi Field
- 3 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Citi Field
- Time Spent On Game 4:10-3:02= 10 Hours 52 Minutes
It was Sunday, September 30th 2012. It was my last game of the season. Except, when I awoke early Sunday morning, it didn’t feel like it at all. It just felt like another day at the ballpark. Except I semi-changed things up by going to Harmon Killebrew’s gate:
I knew there wouldn’t be batting practice, and my bus drops me off right by Gate 3 when I take it; so I didn’t feel like walking to Gate 34.
When I entered the left field seats, this was my view:
No surprise there.
I went down to the Tigers’ dugout, but there wasn’t anything going on down there:
Eventually, Jeff Kunkel– one of the Tigers’ bullpen catchers– came out to play catch with one of the pitchers:
I don’t remember who the pitchers was, but I do remember that after playing catch they went to the bullpen to throw a bullpen session.
Then there was a long break in action. How long? It was long enough for Kunkel to go to the bullpen, catch the session, and come back out to be the catching partner of the next pitcher who came out:
I don’t know who it was. The face looked most Luke Putkonen, but he didn’t look 6’6″, which Putkonen is listed at. But who knows, MLB players routinely “round up” on their listed heights, so it wouldn’t surprise me if it was Putkonen.
Anyway, at this time, the Twins came out to throw:
I had half a mind to go over there, but I decided against it since my most notable competition on my side of the field was a family who were expecting the Twins to take batting practice and a couple of kids with their parents.
It looks like I made the right decision, because minutes later, I got this from Luis Marte by working some Spanish magic:
One down, four to go to get to my goal of 444 career baseballs. I gave this ball away to the family I mentioned before, since they had engaged me in conversation over day games after night games, the Twins, and a whole bunch of other things.
After Marte, I would get a giant boost in my campaign for four baseballs in a BP-less day. Two words: Phil. Coke:
Yeah he’s one of the nicer players out there, but the reason he was so good in my quest for four baseballs on the day is he was absolutely the most wild I have ever seen a pitcher in a session of catch.
Here was my view of Coke and his throwing partner, the other bullpen catcher, Scott Pickens:
To give you an idea of Coke’s wildness in this particular session, Pickens was at least thirty feet in front of the stands. Now that you have this fact in your mind: Coke threw four balls into the stands by me. The first almost decapitated me because I wasn’t paying attention to Coke at the time. I ducked just in time as the ball whizzed over my head, bounced off a seat two rows behind me, and bounced back onto the field. After that I was sure to pay attention. The next ball actually technically didn’t make it into the stands on the fly. As soon as the ball was half-way between Coke and Pickens, I could tell it was sailing way over Pickens’ head, so I moved into position and caught the ball right at the wall. So even though I was in the stands, I caught the ball itself over the field of play. Without a hesitation, I gave the ball back to Pickens and he told me he would give me the ball when they were done throwing.
The third ball was a HUMONGOUS overthrow that sailed over even my head. It then bounced off of a seat behind me and bounced back towards me. At this point, I acted like a catcher who was blocking a ball in the dirt and just blocked the ball with my chest, deflecting it to the seats to my left. Basically, this was the path of the ball:
After I deflected the ball, I ran after it and just barely scooped it up before anyone else could get to it. I then proceeded to give the ball to the second-closest to the ball who just happened to be a ten-year old boy with a glove. This was technically my second ball of the day since I gave the first overthrow I snagged back to Pickens. I was gave away two consecutive baseballs because I knew I was approaching milestone/goal territory and I wouldn’t want to give away any of the latter balls I snagged in the day.
Then a fourth bounced to almost the exact same location, but this time, there was someone closer to me after the deflection, so he scooped it up. I really didn’t have a chance because I wasn’t paying attention to Coke at the time, Instead, I was talking to the family I gave the Marte ball to, so I didn’t see the ball until I turned around and saw it hit the seats.
When Coke finally finished throwing, he came to sign autographs. Pickens headed straight for the dugout and Coke headed straight for the foul line. This is where he showed his awesomeness. First, there were a bunch of baseballs sitting on the foul line. He picked up a couple of baseballs. The first he threw up to the second level. When the woman who he threw it to didn’t catch it, he jokingly got on her case by flinging his glove on the ground, yelling “COME ON!”, and then using her former softball playing to further his discussion even though she was a hundred feet away. The second ball also went to that woman and she caught it this time. (No glove on, by the way.) He then came over to start signing. While he started signing, he asked me if Pickens had given me the ball. When I said no, he jokingly reprimanded Pickens for not doing so and tossed me a ball:
While he kept signing, we talked for 1-2 minutes about the ball he just tossed me and why I hadn’t snagged the last ball he threw into the crowd. I realize that doesn’t seem like that long time, but it is when you consider it was a major league player I was talking to, it’s pretty special.
Because I had to get four baseballs in a BP-less game, I got a ticket in Target Field’s “moat” to have a shot at a ball during the game, since I figured I would enter the game under four baseballs for the day.I waited there until the position players came out to throw. When they finished throwing, I got Andy Dirks to toss me career baseball number 444:
This effectively eliminated the possibility of me going to a playoff game in 2012 (I didn’t, but I was seriously considering a trip to Detroit.) What it also did was it made it so I wouldn’t have to sit by the dugout for the game. Sure, those seats are nice and all, but I wanted to end my season with a game home run if I could. So instead, I stood out here for most of the game:
How awesome would it be to end my season with a Prince Fielder, Justin Morneau, or Joe Mauer home run. Or even better, an opposite field bomb by Miguel Cabrera to lock-up the triple crown for him. Alas, the only home run any of those players hit was a Prince Fielder home run to left field.
In the middle innings, though, I was kind of tired, so I decided to do something I had always wanted to do at a major league stadium but was always to busy running around to do: I went to Target Field’s Best Buy gaming station to play MLB The Show:
Yeah, for one real baseball inning, I was that guy who pays no attention to the game and just plays video games at a baseball stadium. And you know what, it felt nice to relax a little in frantically trying to get to first fifty games in the season and then reach 444 career baseballs, I hadn’t had much of a break in the action between ballhawking, blogging, and schoolwork. (If you’ve noticed the relaxed pace of entries lately, it’s because I still had some overload left in me. I’ll be ramping the blogging schedule back up in a bit.) So yeah, it was nice:
For the record, I was the Nationals; not the Astros.
When I realized I was never going to score any runs because I had no clue how to hit in the game (yes, it took three innings to realize this), I headed back out to the standing room section just in time:
That would be Mike. He and his friend (not pictured) are– besides myself, Tony Voda, and Paul Kom– the closest thing Target Field has to regular ballhawks. I believe they are both season ticket holders, but they only try to catch baseballs on less than half of the games they go to. Anyway, he was dressed in this get-up to pay homage to Red Solo Cup. If you don’t know about it, don’t worry, I didn’t know about the song until I got to Minnesota. Mike pretty much always has the hat on, but this was the first time I had seen him with the cup costume itself.
This meant I had officially “passed” my goal of 222 baseballs in 2012. Yay?
After which, I simultaneously tried to get the lineup card(s) from Jim Leyland and tried to get a ball from the Tigers relievers coming back from the bullpen:
It wasn’t because of my multitasking, but I failed at both. When I realized there would be no on-field demo by FSN due to Kids Run The Bases, I went around the stadium saying goodbye to all of the ushers I had met in the last month of season and I headed out.
One last thing before I get to the stats portion of the entry: my next entry will be a statistical recap of the season. I have a general idea of how I’m going to go about it alla last year’s review, but let me know in the comments below if you have any ideas for stats you think of or anything you would like to see in review of the season.
- 5 Baseballs at this game (3 pictured because I gave 2 away):
Numbers 441-445 for my career:
- 223 Balls in 53 Games= 4.21 Balls Per Game
- 5 Balls x 32,554 Fans= 162,770 Competition Factor
- 62 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 12 straight Games with at least 2-3 Balls
- 2 straight Games with at least 4 Balls
- 55 Balls in 14 Games= 3.93 Balls Per Game
- 13 straight Games with at least 1-2 Balls at Target Field
- 12 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Target Field
- 2 straight Games with at least 4 Balls at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 11: 44- 4:47= 5 Hours 3 Minutes