Guess who baseball was commemorating during Monday’s game:
Come on, guess. It’s not like it was a league-wide thing.
Yes, it was Jackie Robinson Day in major league baseball a.k.a. a facial recognitionly-challenged ballhawk’s nightmare. Fortunately I can recognize faces and it is names that I have trouble with, so I would still be able to identify players as different even though they would all be wearing number 42.
Let me rewind a little, though. In case you weren’t following this blog last year, I walk to as many Twins games as I can. Really the only time I don’t is if I’m absolutely pressed for time when I leave wherever it is I am going from. Okay, so knowing this, I was about half-way to Target Field when a person I had talked to about going to the game with called me. You see I bought two tickets for most of the games I bought in advance. This was because a bunch of people had told me that they were going to try to make a couple of games with me. Unfortunately, those same people had yet to actually make any of the games, so I had been having to search for other people to go to the games with me. Remember when I wrote about the usher I talked to who had been a part of my sports management group that interviewed Terry Ryan? Yeah? No? Well the person who offered to go to this game with me was in that same interview group. He was still on campus when he called me, so I waited a little while for him here:
before continuing on to Target Field once he met up with me. Unfortunately I forgot to get a picture of the two of us together for this blog, so you’ll just have to picture Matt (that was/is his name). He is actually from Milville, NJ, so once we got in the gates, he had one goal: get down to the dugout and talk to Mike Trout when he was either getting on to the field or exiting it. I on the other hand, headed straight to the seats in left field. There I got on the board very quickly by asking Jerome Williams for a ball:
You can’t really see it from the picture, since I was so far out, but he wears a pink glove, so he was the easiest player to distinguish from behind with all the players having their hoods up. This was pretty quick, but the ball was sadly again not taking off. Struggling with the hit ball is always frustrating. Some times it is just myself misjudging baseballs, but all too many times this season it has been that there just aren’t baseballs getting into the stands.
I did manage to survive this batting practice. Two words are the reason for that: Tom Gregorio. I managed to snag my next three baseballs courtesy of him. You may be wondering: But, Mateo, how could you get three straight baseballs from a person who isn’t a player? Well this particular bullpen catcher managed to throw me three consecutive baseballs. Want to hear something even crazier/explanatory? I gave all three away. Let me explain. On the first ball, Gregorio picked me out of the crowd with my Angels gear on and tossed me a ball. I gave that ball to this kid up here:
Notice his dad taking a picture of the ball. I love it when you can tell how excited when they get a ball. I still prefer to help kids get baseballs about ten times more, though. That’s because I have counted two baseballs ever that were given to me by other fans in my career total, including the first baseball I ever got at a game–since it was before I started “ballhawking” I decided to count them both. That said, they were the two most unfulfilling baseballs I have gotten. While I was happy in the moment that I got both, I have regretted both ever since and I want to try to help kids more by instruction than handing them the baseball myself.
After I gave him the ball, I hoped Gregorio had seen me give the ball away and would toss me another. He didn’t, but he tossed a ball to this kid:
But the ball fell short into the flower bed just to my left (and I was to the left of the kid, so I picked it up and handed it to him). Here’s where the ball was:
I know it’s cheap, but since I got primary possession of the ball first, I counted it. These occurred about two minutes, if even that, apart from each other, but the gap between my third and fourth baseballs was quite large–like twenty or thirty-ish minutes. This one Gregorio also tossed to me unintentionally. Gregorio got a ball close to the wall and then flung the ball randomly into the stands with his glove. It was initially going way over my head, but I moved back a couple of steps on the staircase I was on and jumped up to catch the ball. That ball went to the kid who was standing back down at the bottom of the staircase after I confirmed that he had not yet gotten a ball. More so than me trying to reciprocate and spread Gregorio’s generosity, I wanted to make up for my stinginess in the games prior to that. I mean one of my goals for the beginning of the year was to give away 33% of my baseballs, and as of this game, I was definitely not on that pace.
My fifth ball of the day came when I left the left field section–since I could tell my luck with toss-ups had dried up by that point–and headed over to the section of seats in right-center field. Over there I waited and asked Sean Burnett for a ball when he approached the wall:
I could recognize Burnett right away because I saw him a ton when he was a member of the Nationals. And if you can’t tell from the picture and the players running off the field (Burnett is the one at the head of the “triangle” of players) this was my last ball of BP. Not bad for Target Field and not having had a chance at a hit baseball.
During the game I stayed out in the standing room, not expecting to get anything but hoping today would be the exception to the rule. Sadly that was not the case, but in case anyone in the stadium managed to forget there was more than enough sinage in the stadium to remind people that it was Jackie Robinson Day:
I particularly love the second picture for the simple reason that the text on the screen is so crisp in the picture that it looks like I Photoshopped it in. Anyway, despite Peter Borjous hitting a lead-off home run, the Twins managed to pull off the game. It was freezing once more, though, so enough people left towards the end of the game that I found myself down here towards the end of it:
And as a result of this, I got this from Chris Conroy at the end of the game (Conroy not pictured):
That would be my sixth and final ball of the day.With this baseball, I tied Tony Voda for the lifetime leader for baseballs at Target Field, setting up a head-to-head match-up for the next day between us to for who would hold the title at the end of the day, since we were both going and tied at 79 career baseballs at Target Field.
And then, if you’ll recall, I went almost directly from the game to go watch “42” on Jackie Robinson Day.
- 6 Balls in this game (3 here because I gave 3 away)
Numbers 465-470 for my life:
- 24 Balls in 5 Games= 4.80 Balls Per Game
- 6 Balls x 23,535 Fans= 141,210 Competition Factor
- 67 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 17 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 4 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
- 3 straight Games with at least 4-6 Balls
- 79 Balls in 19 Games at Target Field= 4.11 Balls Per Game
- 18 straight Games with at least 1-2 Balls at Target Field
- 4 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Target Field
- 3 straight Games with at least 4-6 Balls at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 3:30-1:36= 10 Hours 6 Minutes
Entries with Zack in them: 27
How I met Zack: I don’t know if there was a single time I heard of Zack. The first distinct event I remember, though, was this: I was known–among other things–as the baseball-obsessed kid in my pre-teen years. (Trust me; I have the years worth of baseball books I never read to prove it.) Anyway, as I alluded to in that last sentence in parentheses, this lead everybody and their grandmother to go with baseball-related books when in doubt as gifts. One such book was “Watching Baseball Smarter”. Unlike most of the books that I have been given–which I convinced myself I’d read later as I put them on my bookshelf, only to be left, still unread–it seemed interesting, so I started reading it. While it ended up not being a book I particularly enjoyed, when I saw the author’s picture on the back, I thought, “Hey, that’s that guy who catches baseballs that I’ve heard of a few times.” (Again, because I was “the baseball kid”, a couple of people had told me about Zack before that point, but it was never more than a mention until I realized *he* had written the book.) After I read the book, I went on two road trips with my dad and snagged a combined four baseballs in 18 games. While it’s true that I didn’t get to the gates before they opened, didn’t really ask players at all for baseballs, and didn’t read Zack’s blog, I was kind of feeling, “You know, this whole do-it-yourself snagging thing really isn’t working, so I should learn directly from the expert himself.” So, that next year I saved up the whole year to A. Go to a “Watch With Zack” game, and B. Go on a third baseball road trip with my dad where I would have a clue as to how to snag a baseball. And that Watch With Zack Game was where I met Zack (more specifically, the 79th street subway station). I would write more about the experience, but I’m saving it for the “Blast from the Baseball Past” entry I hope to write on the game eventually. In the meantime, here’s Zack’s entry on the game.
First of all, since this is the first entry of its ilk, let me go through what this series of entries unofficially is. There are many people who I mention or just appear in my ballhawking entries, so these entries are to give you some background into the person and my relation to them. (So why they are even appearing in the entries.) Zack, for the .0000009% of you who don’t know, is the snagger of 6,459 baseballs (as of January, 14, 2013), and as such has appeared in a ton of my ballhawking entries since we are often at the same game in New York.
If you didn’t pick it up in the paragraph where I described how I met Zack, Zack was the one who taught me how to ballhawk. He was the inspiration for me starting to ballhawk and the reason this blog exists in general. Granted I haven’t written any other of these “Character of Observing Baseball” entries yet, but I’d say this is probably the hardest to write since there is so much known about Zack already out there, so most things I would write would be redundant. That, and my encounters with him are numerous enough that I can’t just narrate to you those one or two times I’ve been to the same game as him. My best advice is to click the “26” earlier in the entry and simply read a few of the entries for my experiences at game with him. So, good people, I give you a few links to somewhat get to know Mr. Hample yourself:
And, for fun: 4. Wikipedia Page
Now, just because I think you were too lazy or whatever to click the “26”, here are some of the synopses of the games we have both attended:
1. 4/9/11 Nationals at Mets- Every ballhawk in the New York it seemed came to this game because back then everyone went to Citi Field instead of Yankee Stadium only to find out that the reason they had gone there had been taken away from them by the Mets in that the Mets pushed the gate opening time from two-and-a-half hours before first pitch to two hours before it.
2. 4/14/11 Orioles at Yankees- Zack formally introduced me to Ben Weil forcing my first memory of Ben being the scrapes on his legs from the Yankee Stadium ground.
3. 4/17/11 Rangers at Yankees- I showed up half way through batting practice for this Sunday Night Baseball game only to almost out-snag Zack for the first time ever.
4. 4/21/11 Astros at Mets- I got Zack to sign my copy of “The Baseball and got Nelson Figueroa to sign a ball and take a self-shot with my camera. What did Zack snag? Only the first ever mygameballs.com-recorded Citi Field home run snag, which just so happened to be Mike Nickeas’ first career home run.
5. 7/24/11 Angels at Orioles- Zack caught Mike Trout’s first ever home run, so I got to have a semi-behind-the-scenes look at OPACY and got to see a 19-year-old Trout in person as he met with his family for the first time after hitting his first major league home run.
6. 8/1/11 Marlins at Mets- This time it my turn to snag a game ball. I snagged an Angel Pagan foul ball which Zack, myself, his half-brother, and his half-brother’s son had fun taking pictures of (none of which show up in the entry, but I that was the main interaction during the game).
7. 8/15/12 Rangers at Yankees- There was a bunch of rain , so Zack explained to me the difference between him and Mickey Mantle, helped me snag a ball from a groundskeeper, and provided almost half of the pictures I used in the entry.
8. 8/24/12 Astros at Mets- Since it was my last game before going off to school in Minnesota, I rode back the entire subway journey back with him and Greg Barasch.
9. 8/14/11 Rangers at Yankees- I did a “Before The Gates Open” video in which Zack made a ridiculous cameo–from which the picture up top is a screen cap of.
I think I could write more about the other games, but again, check them out. Mostly because I don’t feel like transcribing the entries all into this one single entry. And if you were wondering…Yes, making it so you can find every game I attended with any given ballhawk through tags is one of my mini-projects under the larger project of re-doing the blog this winter. I already have it so you can see every entry a certain player hit or tossed me a ball, but I realize now that I had no clue what tagging entries actually meant. So if you notice, as of late, I haven’t really been tagging the entries myself; I’ve just been using all fo the tags WordPress suggests for me. That’s because I’m trying to figure out what I actually want my tags to be used for. Once I have a concrete idea and get up the motivation to undertake the project, I’m going to re-do almost all of the tags. That’s yet another reason why I got rid of so many entries from the past. Anyway, if you couldn’t tell, the main part of the entry is over, so this is the part where I tell you to vote for the entry(s) you would like to see next if you haven’t already:
And here are the already-exhausted entry ideas. For those who don’t know, after all of the items on the poll get written, I will put some of the exhausted entries back up and we’ll do this all over until Opening Day (yes I capitalize it; it’s a national holiday) rolls around:
1. Ballhawk Interviews- 33 votes
2. Stadium Profiles- 26 votes
3. Ballhawk Profiles- 33 votes
4. Dissect (a) Baseball(s)- 26 votes
5. Tour Target Field when there’s snow on the ground- 26 votes
6. Weird Observing Baseball Facts and Records- 28 votes
7. New Observing Baseball Icon- 17 votes
8. MLBlogs I Recommend- 33 votes
9. Observing Baseball Trivia- 32 votes
10. My Favorite MLB Players- 28 votes
11. Characters of Observing Baseball- 29 votes
240,670 Words Written so far…
Less than fifteen hours after saying goodbye to him in the morning, Rick Gold and I met up at the gates of Nationals Park for our 10th and final game together in 2012:
If you haven’t read the entry, Rick and I were on a bus together close to 2 o’clock that same morning. It was one of those times for a sarcastic “Long time no see”, since both of us had woken up pretty soon before that.
Speaking of people sleeping, that’s what the Nationals players were apparently doing, because they didn’t take batting practice:
Eventually, the Nationals pitchers came out to throw, so I headed over there. Here is where a season full of pretty much not asking pitchers for baseballs came in handy (in that they probably would have recognized me if I had). I yelled out to Ryan Mattheus as he finished throwing and he tossed me the ball:
I then just hung around until the Braves started hitting. When Juan Francisco’s group came up first, both Rick and I moved up to the second deck in right field:
I headed down to the lower level for the Braves group of lefties and Dan Uggla. There, two other ballhawks (Rick and a guy whose name I don’t know) took the two best spots in right, so I was forced to just stand in a middle spot and hope I could judge the ball better than them/ jump in front of them. When Jason Heyward hit a ball to my right, the ballhawk I didn’t know ran straight to his right. Meanwhile, I knew the ball was falling short of that. I ran into the row and made the running, backhanded catch:
That would be it for snagging. As for the game, I headed out to left field:
Stephen Strasburg was pitching, so I figured the righty-dominant Nationals would be more likely to go yard. I was right, but it was an inning *before* I got to my seat there. Oh, and there was a rain delay where it absolutely poured. It was my third rain delay in as many days. So it really was no big deal. The most notable part of it was before the delay started, it was raining at least three times harder than it was during the rain delay the game before.
During the rain delay, I got soaked, walked through the seats looking for tickets, got soaked, said goodbye to the ushers in the ballpark, got soaked, tried to get a ball from Alan Butts, got soaked, talked to Eddie Perez. Oh, and did I mention I got soaked? I don’t think I did. It was raining pretty hard. Do you remember when I said it was raining three times harder than the previous game DURING the game? Well during the rain delay, it rained about ten times harder. The rain would step up to “next level”, and then when you thought it couldn’t rain any harder, a burst of even harder rain.
Anyway, for the game, Stephen Strasburg and Paul Maholm managed to survive the rain delay to pitch again afterwards (the rain delay was in the second inning). Maholm went seven innings while Strasburg went six. Unfortunately for Maholm, it’s not how long you last, it’s how many runs you give up. Strasburg allowed just one run while Maholm allowed four.
- 3 Balls at this game (1 pictured because I gave 2 away)
Numbers 384-386 for my “career”:
- 164 Balls in 39 Games= 4.21 Balls Per Game
- 3 Balls x 33,888 Fans= 101,664 Competition Factor
- 48 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 4 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 2 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
- 124 Balls in 28 Games= 4.43 Balls Per Game at Nationals Park
- 20 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 1 Ball
- 4 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
- 2 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
- Time Spent On Game 3:32- 11:22= 7 Hours 50 Minutes