Wanna see my view more or less as the gates of Camden Yards opened?
While Avi and I had gotten to the train station at a time that normally would have gotten us to the gates by the time they opened–and by Avi, I mean Avi Miller, the person in the foreground of the picture–the train was having problems with the signals art a couple stations, so instead of taking 20 minutes or so, the train took over an hour to get to our final destination from the time it pulled into Avi’s stop. Long story short: we got to OPACY over half-an-hour late. Had it been Yankee Stadium, I would have turned around and let Avi, but the way I saw it I still had the power-hitting Tigers’ BP to rely on, and if I didn’t manage to snag a ball then, I could always play the dugouts for third-out balls and the cross-aisle for foul balls in between that, with the security blanket of the umpire tunnel after the game.
When I entered the ballpark, the seating bowl was already opened up and the Tigers were already hitting, so I didn’t even try to go to the left field seats. Actually, correction: I went towards the left field seats right as I entered the stadium, but when I saw the seating bowl had already been opened, I turned around and made a beeline for the center field seats. And by “beeline” I mean slow jog, because I had essentially all of my stuff for my whole trip in my backpack since I planned to go back to Washington directly from the game. There I asked a couple of players for balls such as Luke Putkonen and Don Kelly, but got rejected by both of them. Then a ball got hit almost directly in line with me in the stands. I went down to the first row, but it fell about a foot out of my reach. Thankfully though, since I don’t have a ball-retrieving device made this year, it went back onto the field where Rick Porcello got it:
And apparently he had seen my Tigers gear as I had lunged out to reach for the ball because without me even asking he tossed the ball up to me. I then immediately handed the ball to a kid whose dad had been begging Don Kelly for ball as well. Kelly’s response to all of us was, “I’ll hit a couple out here when it’s my group’s turn to hit.”
After getting the ball form Porcello, I headed out to the flag court in right field. It was packed and I couldn’t get any toss-ups, but I justified it by telling myself, “You got more than enough toss-ups in Minnesota and can go for toss-ups any other day. Today one of the best hitting teams in the league is here, so you might as well go for hit baseballs.” This picture doesn’t do the crowd in the flag court any justice, but it was my view until pretty much the end of batting practice:
I’ll cut to the chase and say that I didn’t snag anything for the remainder of batting practice, but the star of the show, who I would have had an extra baseball had he not been there, was Alex Kopp. Here he is in this picture with his glove shading his eyes:
He caught three balls on the fly while I was there including one that was right in front of my glove. I believe it was an Andy Dirks home run. I tracked the ball perfectly off the bat, and had my glove in position to make the catch, but all of a sudden I saw two gloves go up in front of mine. They were of Alex and another person. Alex, though, had his glove in the right spot, so he caught the ball, and all I could do was smile because that was his third catch out there. He was just putting on a clinic. I mean the Tigers were going pretty crazy with all of the baseballs they were hitting up there, but it was also insanely packed given the size of the flag court. Every time a ball was hit up there, it was like a mini-stampede erupted. I was actually pretty concerned a little kid was going to get seriously injured out there, because while I check to make sure I have a clear running lane to the ball every five seconds or so, I knew there were people that were just reacting to the ball and keeping their eye on the ball and not where they were going–which is a recipe for disaster; either for the kids of the area or for the person, because there were the flag poles to be run into.
During the Tigers position players’ infield warm-ups, I should have snagged my second ball of the day. What happened was I got Omar Infante’s attention despite being fifteen rows up in the stands by waving my arms, so he tossed the ball to me:
but he was off with his aim, so the ball sailed above me and to my left. I reached, but I tried to be careful because reaching full-extension would also involve me elbowing the woman standing next to me in the head. So with all of this happening, the ball tipped off the edge of my glove and into the lap of a person behind me. Bleh.
An even more frustrating thing happened during the game. I don’t know how many home runs there were in this game (a lot) but only one made its way out into the flag court. It was the fourth inning, and Victor Martinez was the hitter. I happened to be looking away because a person said something to me in the flag court, but suddenly I heard a roar in the crowd and a ball whizzing towards the foul pole. I then ran towards the ball and played the ricochet I have always failed to do in the home run balls I have botched in the past. Unfortunately the ball bounced back towards the field after landing in the flag court because it hit the beer stand out there. Had it kept going towards Eutaw Street, I’m 95% sure I would have had the ball because I was the only one in the back of the flag court who even saw the ball, much less reacted. Are you a little confused? Here, I drew up a diagram from the perspective of where I started out when the ball was hit. The dotted line is the flight of the ball, and the solid line is the path that I ran:
And if you want, here is the link to the video. At the first point you can identify where I am when they cut to the view of the flag court, I am here:
You can then pretty easily identify as the person running across the flag court for the ball. It looks like I was going pretty fast from the video, but I remember that I was purposely taking it slow in case the ball did bounce to the back of the flag court, which I expected it to do, because I didn’t want a repeat of the ball that hit me in the head during my first game here in Baltimore or anything of the sort. The next time when you can more clearly see me is after the ball had bounced back to the fence:
After this you can see I’m one of three people actively going after the ball. I can also say I probably would have had it had the person who eventually got the ball was a foot taller. It was actually a kid who got the ball. And I say I would have gotten the ball had he been taller because he had to go under one of those rope-type dividers that you see at airport/bus terminal check-in lines. You know what I’m talking about, right? The black poles that connect by rope in order for people in line to zig-zag their way through. Well anyway, the kid didn’t have to duck much to get the ball, but had he been a foot taller, that half-second he would have taken to duck underneath was all I would have needed to get the ball. But oh well. Palante.
I then spent the rest of the game awaiting another home run that never came, all while this great view of the game and all its action:
(Yay?) At the end of the game I headed down for one last try at an umpire ball this series, and whaddaya know, I got it:
As I got to the umpire tunnel there were actually kids in the corner spots on each side of the dugout, so I had to go a little further up. Home plate umpire, Hunte Wendelstedt(?), gave out a couple of baseballs to the kids at the front of the tunnel and then moved on. Just in case he still had a ball with him, I called out to him, “Mr. Wendelsedt, do you have any extra baseballs?” He was already past me in the tunnel, but upon hearing his name, he turned right around and tossed me the baseball you see above. I then headed to the Tigers dugout, but I didn’t get anything there, so I walked up to Baltimore-Penn Station and took the next Amtrak train back to Washington.
- 2 Baseballs at this Game (1 pictured because I gave the other 1 away)
Numbers 536-37 for my “career”:
- 91 Balls in 22 Games= 4.14 Balls Per Game
- 2 Ball x 38,965 Fans=77,930 Competition Factor
- 85 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 45 Balls in 11 Games at OPACY= 4.09 Balls Per Game
- 11 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 12:47-10:48= 10 Hours 1 Minute
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