First of all, here is a Before The Gates Open video detailing my journey to and subsequent time at Citi Field’s Jackie Robinson Rotunda:
Oh, how there are some things that I did not miss at all about New York:
At the top of my baseball portion of this list was probably Citi Field. That said, I planned to attend five games there this week starting with this game. Why would I put myself through this madness? I was at 86 career baseballs snagged at Citi Field and wanted to get to 100 baseballs there so I would never have feel the obligation to go to Citi Field ever again. That way if I ever returned to Citi Field, it would more-or-less be on my own terms and not because I felt obligated to go there. So let’s get right into the entry, shall we?
For the first few groups of BP, I stood out here:
If you can’t tell, the guy in the white shirt and blue hat is Zack Hample. Normally I would like to be on the staircase he is on in that picture, but he took that spot, and to stand behind him is just asking to get robbed. Plus it wouldn’t make sense to bunch up if we had space to spread out. However, the reason I took this picture is Zack somehow managed to rob me from there. More specifically, I managed to absolutely botch a ball. As I explained in a Before The Gates Open video–which I’ll put up on this entry later on next week when I have access to the footage and time to edit it. (I’ll announce when I’ve put it up on Twitter)–this was my first time bringing my 14-or-so-inch lefty glove to a game, so by the time the the gates opened, it was still a little new to me. Anyway, I got Tom Goodwin to toss me a ball, but I somehow had the ball tip off the top of my glove and into the seats behind me. I ran back to where the ball landed, but it wasn’t there. Just then I saw Zack running in my peripheral vision and a ball hit in the seats all at the same time. What had happened was the ball had bounced off a seat and fallen a couple of rows down, where I couldn’t see it but Zack could. He ran over to pick it up and while he was over on my side of the section, a Mets righty hit a ball right next to him, which he also picked up. So had I not completely botched the ball, I probably would have had two quick baseballs. Those would be the only two baseballs I would see anywhere near me in left field. Although, those were Zack’s first two baseballs of the game, and this was the 900th consecutive game in a row that he had snagged a baseball at. So I can kind of say that I was responsible for a 900 games in a row with at least 1 ball.
Center field, though, was another story. I decided at the beginning of a new BP group that I would head over there and try my luck with getting toss-ups. I quickly got Dillon Gee to toss me my first ball of the day:
I then headed back to left field for the beginning of Reds BP. This time on the other side of Zack:
(I realize this picture is during Mets BP, but you get the picture–literally–here.) But when I realized most of the Reds power hitters were lefties and Mat Latos was not going to toss anything up any time soon, I headed back out to the center field.
In center field I moved down to the corner spot at the bottom left of the section (bottom right if you’re looking at it from home plate). And while I was trying to get a ball from whoever the player was ( I remember he was a 6-foot-6 lefty or something like that, but I don’t feel like looking up the actual name of the player.) I heard the people next to me moving around and the player look up in the sky. As it was already on its descent, I looked up and saw the ball everyone was looking at, and saw that it was coming essentially right at me. I then quickly got my glove up, hopped a bit, and caught the ball:
I found out later from the people behind me that it was Jay Bruce who hit the ball. This was nice in that it had a redemptive quality to it for messing up the easy Goodwin catch. It also assured me that there was indeed hope for this giant lefty glove. However, I must say that two annoying things about the glove are when I have to label the baseball, because I still do write right-handed, and when I’m taking a picture of the baseball, because I still feel the need to have the ball on the left side of the frame and that requires that I cross my arms while taking the picture.
Anyway, this ball would be my last of batting practice. Since the Reds good hitters are pretty much–besides Brandon Phillips and Todd Frazier–are left-handed, I headed up to a place I hadn’t been in a while, the Pepsi Porch in right field:
Here’s the view of the field from where I was standing:
And now of the scoreboard:
The reason I took so many pictures from up there that didn’t really have to do with ballhawking is that I didn’t know when the next time I was going to be on the Pepsi Porch was. Maybe never. Like I said, I hadn’t been up there in a long time. And there’s a reason for that. To get up onto the Pepsi Porch, you have to go into foul ground, take and escalator up two or three stories, go across a bridge, go down some steps, and then you’re at the *back* of the section. Simply put: you better have a very good reason to go up there if you’re wasting that much time in just getting there.
After batting practice I headed down to the Reds dugout to try to get a ball from the person packing up the BP balls up, but the funniest thing happened. Instead of heading into the dugout when he pack the baseballs up, he went into the area right behind home plate and dumped the whole bag of baseballs on him:
I don’t know the exact story, but that guy in the stands managed to snag I’d say between 10 and 15 baseballs in the span of a second. It was something pretty ridiculous that I’ve never seen before.
As for the rest of the game, I snagged a ball after the game at the umpire’s tunnel which I then gave away to a Vietnam Veteran I saw with a glove, but that wasn’t the story of the game. All of us ballhawk-type people met up at the dugout after the game, and posed with the prize of the game:
Left to right that would be:
4. Aaron (Who also goes by the nickname Howie)
And sorry for the picture being out of focus. Whoever took the picture didn’t understand that the iPhone needs a second to focus the picture. But anyway, what we are all pointing to is the Marlon Byrd home run Mark had snagged earlier in the game. Mark has snagged one more home run than I have (so two). And both have come when I was in attendance and the ball got pulled to a section in left field. I’d say it is one or two sections from the foul pole. Congratulations, Mark, on that. Both were nice plays. The only negative thing about the home run is that had Mark snagged one more ball in BP, the home run would have been his 100th ball snagged ever. I think he’ll take the home run snag, though. Although, it is a personal observation of mine that one’s 100th ball likes to be the first ball of a game. Myself and a bunch of other ballhawks it seems leave a game stuck on 99 baseballs and can’t get that 100th ball until the next game.
Our family had just moved to Washington–I stayed for an extra week to say goodbye to people in New York–so I headed back on the train with Zack to sleep one last night in a pretty vacant apartment with my step-brother who had a flight that he had to leave for at 3 o’clock in the morning. Suffice to say I didn’t get much sleep in preparation for the game the following day.
- 3 Balls at this Game (2 pictured because I gave 1 away)
- 69 Balls in 15 Games= 4.60 Balls Per Game
- 3 Balls x 23,038 Fans= 69,114 Competition Factor
- 77 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 4 straight Games with at least 2-3 Balls
- 89 Balls in 34 Games at Citi Field= 2.62 Balls Per Game
- 34 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Citi Field
- Time Spent On Game 3:13-12:02= 8 Hours 49 Minutes
Question: What do you do when you have a baseball awards dinner in the Bronx and a ticket to the Orioles-Mets game?
Answer: You sell the Mets ticket on stubhub and buy a ticket to the Yankee game.
Also, look at the crew who assembled outside the gate:
From left to right, that would be:
2.Greg Barasch– Frequent catch partner and fellow ballhawk.
3. Zack Hample– Oh, you know, just your average guy who’s caught more than 6,000 major league baseballs.
4. Matt Latimer– An MLB.com reporter, who was going to cover Zack during B.P. for a story.
5. Ross Finkelstein– Another fellow ballhawk, who I occasionally run into at games. This may be the first time we’ve gone to the same Yankee, though. Whatever, I’m too lazy to look it up.
Also at the gate, was this sign on a barricade:
All of us pretty much made fun of all the ridiculous things on there, but after the fact, I thought, “You know what that’s actually not a bad idea to have all the prohibited stuff on a sign. It’s way better than playing that along with a song on a continuous loop 30 minutes before the gates open.” Are you listening, Mets?
Since there were so many of us, we actually spoke about who was going where during batting practice, as to divvy up the sections between us. I opted to go to left field. It would have been a great choice had a) the Yankees hit one ball into those seats during their portion of B.P. or b) Cody Eppley actually acknowledged any one over the age of 5.
Then, when most of the ballhawks came over to right field, here were the views to my left and to my right:
Yes, there were a bunch of empty seats, but how the people were configured,the furthest I could run for a ball was 10 feet, so the ball would essentially have to be hit *right* at me. As for getting a Brave to toss me a ball, forget about it. There were tons of people in Braves gear and most were in the front row.
The closest I came to getting a ball was one hit directly over my head. I moved as close as I could to the landing spot, turned around and jumped, but it sailed what must have been a few inches into another guy’s glove.
Soon after this, I decided it was better to go back over to left field and deal with the other ballhawks than to deal with that mess of a section.
There it was emptier, but it started off with the same frustration. NOTHING was coming even close to me. Then it evolved into a different kind of frustration. A Braves hitter hit a ground-rule double. I lined myself up with the ball, and it was coming right towards my glove… until a hand in front of me deflected it over my right shoulder. Words cannot described how frustrated/nervous I was at this point. My goal is to get to 100 consecutive games with at least 1 ball. After that, the plan is I go to whatever games I please, regardless of whether I can make batting practice.
Throughout nearly all of Braves B.P., I was thinking about how much longer it would take me of I got shutout this game. I wasn’t as worried as I was in right field, though. Left field was much less congested, and I could actually run around for a ball that was hit. Here are the views to my right and my left:
I didn’t feel confident, however, in my ability to get a Braves player to throw me a ball. Ironically, this is how my only ball of the day would come.
When I got to left field, I ran into Mark McConville, who had just arrived with, I believe, a few of his co-workers. He obviously didn’t have a ball yet either, so we were both pretty desperate. Actually, on that ball I missed that I mentioned earlier, Mark also almost came up with it, but another fan beat him to the ball.
Anyway, Mark and I had been giving Craig Kimbrel an earful for quite a few minutes. Finally, Kimbrel turned around and lofted a ball right at Mark, but those pesky hands are always up at Yankee Stadium. Even though the ball was very clearly intended for Mark, a hand deflected the ball. The deflection sent the ball right towards my stomach, and almost as if I had Alien Hand Syndrome, I grabbed the ball with my bare hand right before it had a chance to hit the seat in front of me. Here is the ball with Kimbrel and Chad Gaudin in the background:
I then (deservedly) got a few lines (delivered jokingly) along the general lines of: “You’re killin’ me, Mateo.” from Mark. As relieved as I was to not get shutout, I felt really bad for him, since I was in a similar situation just moments earlier.
Then batting practice ended, and I spent a few minutes seeing Zack sign a couple of baseballs:
Then I conceded to the fact I that I had to go to the awards dinner I mentioned earlier.
It was my first game ever leaving right after batting practice, and I must say, I thought it would feel weirder than it did to be leaving as everyone else was entering the stadium:
As for the dinner, I received this even though I have never played an inning of baseball for Fordham Prep:
• 1 Ball at this game
• 46 Balls in 11 Games= 4,18 Balls Per Game
• 20 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
• 1 Ball x 41,219 Fans= 41,219 Competition Factor
• 53 Balls in 15 Games at the New Yankee Stadium= 3.53 Balls Per Game
• 15 straight Games at the New Yankee Stadium with at least 1Ball
• Time at Game 4:26-6:17= 1 Hour 51 Minute
Like all those who have seen my 2012 schedule know, I wasn’t supposed to be at this game. Actually, it was the only day from the 5th of June until the 9th of June I *wasn’t* supposed to be at a baseball game, but like those of you who read (watched?) my last entry know, I gave up the opportunities to go to these games in lieu of watching my high school’s baseball team lose (For those who don’t know, I’m the team’s student manager, (I know I haven’t been posting entries very regularly, which is why I’m writing so many “those who…” clauses) and yes, I am still bitter about that fact. (We lost the City Championship game the day after I went to this game I am blogging about (Yay for parenthetical injections!))
Anyway… my crazy ballhawking schedule came as a result of my crazy Fordham Prep (my high school) baseball schedule. On this particular day, I found out we were practicing at 2:00. This was a perfect time to allow me to go to the game since our practices usually last around 2 hours, Yankee Stadium is 15 minutes from my -now former since I graduated- school, and I like to get to the stadium half-an-hour before the gates open at 5:00.
Due to me rushing for practice, though, I forgot to pack a few things. Here are the two things I had to borrow from players on the team before i headed off to the game:
In my rush to get to practice, I forgot:
- A glove- I set it aside, but I think I forgot to put it in my backpack once it came time to leave. The back-up catcher was so nice as to lend me his glove he said he never uses.
- Sunglasses- Since Yankee Stadium has a north-easternly orientation, right field is exposed to the setting sun. Since I usually spend a chunk of my time at Yankee Stadium in the right field seats, I need sunglasses to help me from losing hit balls in the sun. For whatever reason, I completely forgot to bring any. The ace of the team’s pitching staff lent me an extra pair of sunglasses. However, of course the entirety of batting practice occurred in overcast, so I never needed the sunglasses anyway.
- Food- I rushed out of my apartment and never got anything to eat. It’s safe to say I would have been starving by game time. The same pitcher who lent me the sunglasses also lent me $2, and I bought 2 slices of pizza right near our school on Fordham Road. Yes, $1 pizza slices. Due to this fact, I have probably bought over 50 slices of pizza there over the past two years.
This game was probably categorized by the extraordinary amount of ballhawks. As I arrived at Yankee Stadium, I saw Greg Barasch at the gate. Later, Ben Weil joined us in line. There he introduced me/us to two friends of his, both named Matt. They too vied for baseballs during batting practice.
For example, in the opening minutes when there is usually no one in the right field seats, this was the view behind me:
I love the hilarious expressions people make when you catch them off guard. I know, I’m a horrible person, but you probably laughed too, therefore you are too. For the record, Greg is the victim of this picture with the goofy face in the front, and Ben is the one looking off to the side at the top of the staircase.
With the other ballhawks present, I wasn’t able to come close to anything. It got so bad, I decided to move over to left field even though it was mostly left handed hitters up for the Yankees. Long story short, I didn’t get a baseball the entire Yankees batting practice.
My first ball came when the Rays started hitting. I went over into foul ground where the position players were warming up and waved my arms at a Rays player who was finishing up his throwing. I pointed at my Rays attire and he threw me his ball accordingly. I had no clue who this player was, but I made sure to remember his face so I could look him up later on. Before I was able to do this, Greg identified him as Desmond Jennings. I then looked it up on my iPhone, and sure enough, it was him.
I then moved over closer to the foul pole where the pitchers were warming up to try to convince one of them to throw me a ball. Right then, my baseball coach called to let me know a TV network called MSG Varsity needed me to give them stats for the game the next day. Due to this phone call, I had the phone in one hand, the glove in the other, and was trying to convince Matt Moore to throw me a ball all at the same time. I’m pretty sure I yelled out, “Matt!” at one point in the conversation. If all this wasn’t enough, I was also trying to get a picture of Matt Moore while I put our conversation on speaker phone. Here would be that picture with Matt Moore about to throw the ball to me:
My plan was then to go into the outfield seats in left field and catch some hit balls, but the ballhawks I had moved to left field to avoid, had by this time come to right field. The section I was planning to man was thus all congested and I made the decision to go back to right field.
There, I got a ball that was hit after, I’d say, 10 minutes. The ball was hit, deflected off some fan’s glove in front of me, and I then picked it up.
I figured I was going to have to rely on mostly toss-ups, because look who was the player shagging balls in my portion of right field:
That’s right. It was Matt Moore. This meant I didn’t want to ask him or another player for a baseball since he had already personally given me a baseball and would probably recognize me if I asked him a second time, or if he saw me asking another player.
However, two things happened to change my fortunes. The first was Matt Moore shifted over and started patrolling the center field area, and the second is it started raining, which cleared the section up since people ran for shelter. The section prior to the rain was absolutely packed. After the rain, though, it looked like this:
I actually have to give an assist on my next ball to a commenter on Zack Hample’s blog. I don’t know who exactly it was, but somebody suggested to Zack he use the MLB At-Bat app to have the faces of the players at his disposal. I actually thought, “You know what, that is a VERY good idea.” So while I was waiting for the gates to open, I downloaded the app just in case. After Matt Moore left the right field area, some player who didn’t have his number visible came over to the section close to me. I then looked up all the Rays pitchers on my app, and I saw it was Burke Badenhop. I then yelled out, “Burke, can you toss me that ball please?!” He looked up and threw me the ball. I then gave this ball away to a kid I distinctly remember as having red sunglasses on. In fact, he’s in my last “Matt Moore” picture, if you want to get a look at the kid.
Then it really started pouring. As a result, there was virtually nobody left in the section. One fan though, was actually walking up to the front of the section. As he passed me, I noticed he had a Vietnam Veterans hat on like this one I own:
As is my tradition with all Vietnam Veterans, I went up to get his attention and give him a special greeting. Just as I was about to tap him on the shoulder, a Rays lefty hit a ball that appeared to be going over my head. I ran up a few step, got in line with the ball, and caught it. Immediately upon catching it, two things happened:
1. Batting Practice ended- How cool is it that I literally caught the last ball of batting practice?
2. I handed the ball to the veteran, saying, “Welcome Home” – The reason I said, “Welcome Home” is that this is how Vietnam Veterans greet each other (I know this because my father was a Vietnam Veteran (Yes, both are capitalized)). This is because unlike World War II, there was no mass “return of the troops”. In addition to this, not many people were in favor of the war- for good reason. Therefore, Vietnam Vets were never really welcomed home when they came back, in some cases not even by their own families. For the record, I do *not* support war. I am of the school of thought that says, “support the warrior, not the war.” I don’t want to get too far into that, but I just think violence is dumb and counter-productive. Anyway, here is a picture of the vet with the ball occluded by his torso:
After the veteran thanked me, I headed over to left field to see how the other ballhawks had done. On my way over there, I gave away my third baseball to a kid, who was rather sad it was raining, on the concourse. After I finally got to the left field seats, this was my view:
There, as you can see, I’ve pointed out several people. Here’s who they are:
1. One of the “Matt”s I was introduced to at the gate, specifically, Matt Winters, a ballhawk from the greater LA area who was in the area for a bachelor party in Boston.
2. Mark McConville– He is a ballhawk I know from being at several of the same games as him over the past two years. I didn’t mention him earlier because he showed up after the gates had opened. He was another one of the flood of ballhawks at this game as was:
3. Mark’s friend- I never got a name, but he was with Mark at this game and also tried catching some baseballs.
In that last picture, you can see Matt is looking at something outside the tunnel. That would be the bullpen he is looking into. We all were at one point or another. The reason is, because there were three baseballs in there we were all trying to snag. The first was snagged by Greg, who was behind me. The second, was snagged by a kid in the bleachers. Both his and Greg’s ball were tossed up by I believe a police officer, although I’m not entirely sure, because I was in the tunnel busy being sheltered from the rain. Finally I decided to come out of my den and try to snag the last ball. It was actually a bit hidden, because it was in the box where the bullpen phone is. Mark was going to ask the grounds person, but I managed to get his attention by asking him for a ball in Spanish. He looked around and made a gesture as to say “there are no baseballs left”. I then said, “there’s one over there” pointing to the box. He then went over, picked the ball out, and tossed it to me. Here is the ball:
That would be it for the game snagging-wise.
Really that was it for the entire day. The Rays won the game 7-3. It wasn’t really the Price-Sabathia match-up I imagined. Sabathia struck out a bunch of Rays, but wasn’t on top of his game, and Price left in the fifth inning. I assume it was because of his pitch count, because he hadn’t given up a run.
Before I write in the stats for this game, I should let you know that my last game’s entry now has the stats and pictures, so you can check that out if you haven’t already seen the stats from that game. Now, without further adieu, are the stats from THIS game.
- 6 Balls at this Game (3 pictured, because I gave 3 away)
numbers 259-264 for my life:
- 42 Balls in 9 Games this season= 4.67 Balls Per Game
- 18 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 9 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 9 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
- 6 Balls x 39,891 Fans= 239,346 Competition Factor
- 52 Balls in 14 Games at the New Yankee Stadium= 3.71 Balls Per Game
- 14 straight Games at the New Yankee Stadium with at least 1 Ball
- 6 straight Games at the New Yankee Stadium with at least 2 Balls
- 6 straight Games at the New Yankee Stadium with at least 3 Balls
- Time at Game 4:40- 11:17= 6 Hours 37 Minutes