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
Another nice and sunny day at Citi Field, right?:
Suffice to say it wasn’t looking good for batting practice and I was, at this moment, resigned to the fact I wasn’t going to have a full batting practice, if any.
When I got in, there was good news and there was bad news.
Good News: There was batting practice.
Bad News: Season ticket holders were on the field:
This meant I probably wasn’t going to get a toss-up in Left Field during Mets bp and that would mean I would have to get a quick ball hit to me to keep me in rhythm that is so important whenever I am at Citi Field because I move around so much for toss-ups.
Let’s just say this was the highlight of my day to that point:
That would be a picture of the Mets leaving the field. Why was it the highlight? Well, it meant that the section of fans in front of the Left Field stands would be leaving. This meant that I could put on my Marlins gear and be ignored by them instead of the Mets. I had a few close calls on hit balls but I’ll save you the useless information and just tell you about the closest of calls. Here is the diagram that shows what happened:
John Buck of the Marlins hit a Home Run right to my row. I had made sure there was no one I could run into in my row and so I just tracked the ball. I drifted over to where I could catch the ball and I reached up for the ball. Just as I did this, I saw a glove coming up and backwards. You see that man in the white? He jumped backwards nto my row because the ball was highish and he wasn’t going to catch the ball by jumping upwards (the path of the ball is shown by the white streak in the picture) his glove first hit mine and then his body bumped back into me and the ball bounced off of his glove and into the aisle. What then happened then was that he gave me about a tenth degree stare for costing him the ball as I told him I was sorry even though I hadn’t reached forward at all.
I went this way and went that way but just nothing was going my way. I finally went to Center Field for my third time on the day and just every Marlins player was completely ignoring my request I don’t know if it was part of what kids week (this week the Mets were letting in 3 kids 12 and under free for every paying adult) or if it was the general noise of New York but none of the players even tried to throw in my direction. It was 6:15 and I was getting worried about being shutout. Finally, at 6:18, Burke Badenhop threw a ball to a family in front of me:
The ball sailed over both the family and my heads and landed in the row behind me. I grabbed the ball but at the same time a lady came running in that row and grabbed onto my hand. She then started to try and pull the ball from my grasp as she simultaneously rubbed my hand against the coarse cement. I then, pulled my hand out and handed the ball to the girl of that family. The lady then apologized as she was trying to get the ball for them as well. As a result of this scrapping, my hand was pretty scuffed up:
You really see much because this picture was taken an hour later but my skin was peeled and I chipped the nail you can see of my middle finger. I know it probably would have been easy to avoid aggravating it but idiot me kept putting my hand in and taking it out of my pockets because all of my important things were on my right side and so I kept hurting it.
Normally, I would take a seat behind the dugout but decided not to on this. Due to the fact that I had luckily gotten 1 ball during batting practice, I knew 1 or even 2 balls from behind the dugout wasn’t going to help my day. So I set up camp a bit further from Home Plate:
Through the fifth inning, the only thing that came close was a Mike Stanton liner a few sections above. Then, in the bottom of the sixth, Angel Pagan sliced a liner to my left. It was going pretty fast so I went to the spot I thought it would hit down. I turned around three feet before that and just saw/heard the ball whizz two feet past my head and hit in a seat in front of me. There, I picked the ball up from the folded seat. I actually found out that I don’t have any pictures I could have used for diagrams or showing you where I ran.
So, my path was a mini z shape because of the railing. I ran a few feet to my left, went down a few stairs and then continued to my left. So imagine the place where I picked the ball up as the upper left part of the z. Anyway, a good ending to a frustrating day. Too bad this frustration has now extended over two weeks.
Here is a picture that I took of the ball after the game:
I didn’t get anything after the game but I was satisfied that my stategery paid off when it counted.
this ball doesn’t have any because up to this point I haven’t numbered foul balls but they are #s 83-84 for my career:
- 123 balls in 28 games= 4.39 Balls Per Game
- 54 straight games with at least 1 ball
- 19 straight games with at least 2 balls
- 24 straight games at Citi Field with at least 1 ball
- 2 balls*28,862 fans= 57,724 competition factor
- Time at game 4:35- 10:31= 5 hours 56 minutes
It was a sunday day game so you know what that means:
Wait… no. This can’t be right. There are never cages set up on a Sunday day game. I must have looked in the wrong album. Wow!
Yes there was indeed batting practice as Garrett Meyer- recently back from a one game excursion to Philadelphia- so astutely noticed outside the gates. I would also like to thank him for providing me with a ticket. I had bought one but the printer in my Washington residence decided a great day to be unavailable.
As you can tell from that last picture, I was in the upper Right Field seats again. My first ball came when I was about to leave the section, but then a ball rolled almost to the wall. Rick Ankiel picked it up and let me share the dialogue that occured:
“Can you toss me the ball, please?”
I couldn’t hear what he said that well next. So I said, “What?”
“Show me your muscle” he said raising his arm. I then raised my arm like his and he tossed me the ball. I appreciate his effort to be fan-friendly but that was kind of weird and over-the-top.
I then made my journey to left field:
This didn’t go as well as I planned it so I moved over to the Red Porch. After, of course, drooling over the baseballs in the bullpen and really wishing I had back-up rubber bands as I had lost the one on my glove a few minutes earlier:
In Center Field, a person was trying to get a ball by just the darling-est of means: “Hey [Brian Bixler], how much longer do you think you’re going to be with the Nats?” Surprisingly, Bixler did not throw him the ball. On the next ball, I simply gave my standard request for a ball with please at the end and I got the ball. After that though, Bixler told me that it was because I was polite. I guess you can be really sensitive to those things when you have just been called up (Bixler got called up when Jerry Hariston Jr. got traded in between my first and second games here at Nationals Park).
My third ball of the game came when I moved back to Left Field and Jose Martinez fielded a ball towards the right of the bullpen right in front of it. There must have been at least 15 other voices but he surprisingly reacted to my spanish leaning out the place where I had lost my retainer the day before. He then threw a perfect strike to me and I vanished back up to the second deck:
There that same bullpen catcher person that doesn’t show up on the coaches roster threw a ball up to a kid. It went over him right to me and I caught it and handed it to the kid as it was obviously intended for him. This was the kid:
As you can tell,(if you’ve ever gone to Nationals Park) I was heading back over to Left Field. This was because batting practice had ended and I was moving over to the bullpen to get a ball from the pitcher warming up in the bullpen whose name escapes me. After realizing that it was going to take a while for him to finish and hearing that the rest of the park was now open, I ran over to foul ground on the first base side because I had seen all the balls in the Right Field stands picked up by the guards and I knew where a ball was in foul ground. Sure enough my ball waited for me:
This was easy for two reasons 1) half of the fans were racing to find balls in the Right Field stands like pictured in the upper part of the last picture and 2) the other half was racing to get a good spot by the dugouts for Signature Sunday.
Back over to the other side of the ballpark, a couple of pitchers were warming up and I got Mike Pelfrey to throw me a ball:
If you look closely, you can see that same pitcher (whoever he is) was still warming up in the bullpen. I then tried to help the kid in the last picture to get a ball from either Ryota Igarashi or Pedro Beato but sadly neither ended up with the ball and I didn’t have a chance to use my linguistic skillz.
I did however get Ryota Igarashi to sign a ball of mine:
The man himself in behind the circle I drew as the crowd had engulfed him in that picture. It is a very interesting autograph, no? I wonder if all Japanese pitchers sign like that? It makes sense now but it just never occurred to me. As I was going through my baseballs to find a good one to get signed, I saw how scuffed up the ball I found was and took a picture. Here it is with where I found it in the background:
As far as the game was concerned, I once again sat in the Left Field seats where this was my view:
It was definitely a tale of two line-ups as the Nationals possessed a line-ups:
I actually apologize as I initially wrote this part in the last entry thinking it happened last game but it actually happened this game:
Nothing else came my way during the game except for a Scott Hariston Home Run which hit right where the dotted arrows show the flight of the ball:
When it touched down, it hit off a fan’s (pointed out by the solid arrow) hands, fluttered in the air and got caught by that same fan. You could hear the crowd about to boo him but then cheer him when he caught it the second time.
The Hariston Home Run was one of two he hit in the game, providing the Mets with their only runs of the game and forcing the game into extra innings where the Nationals loaded the bases against Bobby Parnell through a series of Mets errors (not the statistical category this included Parnell hitting a batter and such) and getting a walk of hit through the use of the Baltimore chop.
After the game ended, I got one of the bullpen catchers, Eric Langill, to throw me a ball from the bullpen bag. Whoomp here it is:
One of the things that I do like about the Mets is that their bullpen bag is full of rubbed up balls so the pitchers don’t have to make an adjustment when they come into the game. Other teams probably do this too but the Mets are the first team I have noticed doing it.
- 7 balls at this game (6 pictured because I gave 1 away)
- 121 balls in 27 games this season= 4.48 balls per game
- 53 straight games with at least 1 ball
- 22 straight on the road
- 18 straight games with at least 2 balls
- 3 games straight with at least 7 balls
- 6 straight games at Nationals Park with at least 1 ball
- 37 balls in 6 games at Nationals Park = 6.17 balls per game
- 25 balls on this specific excursion = 8.333333 balls per game
- 7 balls* 25,307 fans= 177,149 competition factor
- Time at Game 11:01- 5:45= 6 hours 44 minutes
Jason Werth bobblehead day and this is how things looked as I arrived three hours prior to first pitch:
Right then and there I knew this was going to be primarily an Upper Right Field day because Left Field was just going to be so crowded. The gate that I am pointing out with the Orange was actually one of many. They served the dual purpose of funneling people to the bobbleheads which are out of the picture to the left, but also not letting anyone loop back around for a second bobblehead. I went to this game because I thought that although it would bring many more fans it would drive away many of the ballhawks. I was partially right. When I went up to the Second deck in Right Field there was this guy in the Nationals hat and “Flava” Dave Stevenson:
The arrow shows where the first ball of the day touched down. Some Nationals lefty hit a deep ball there and I could have sprinted and gotten it but I let that guy get it as it was closer to him.
My first ball of the day came through unusual fashion. I myself was reluctant to ask Todd Coffey for a ball considering the odd exchange we had the day before. That however, did not stop dave from asking Coffey for a ball. Coffey then unleashed a throw on Dave that sailed 3 rows over his head just to my left. I wasn’t just going to leave it there. Normally what happens in this situation with another ballhawk is that I take the ball and feel slightly guilty but justify my actions by the fact they have caught plenty of baseballs themselves. This is where the weird part comes in. I normally give the balls back if this situation happens with other kids I usually give the ball to them but don’t with ballhawks because most ballhawks don’t count a ball they didn’t have primary possession of. However, I learned in my last day in Baltimore that Dave counts balls that he didn’t have primary possession. I learned this when a ball bounced off of his hands to Garrett Meyer and when the player who threw it asked Garrett to give it to Dave, Dave received it and counted it as his own ball.
So, I grabbed the ball and relieved the usual guilt I have by then letting Dave have it. This then counted as a ball for both me and Dave. Yes it is a corrupt system but I would like to point out that it was not my end of the system that was broken. To relieve some of the mental strain of those trying to picture this scenario I made a diagram:
The dotted lines are the path of the ball and the solid line is my path to it. The upper two dotted lines are just a way of demonstrating the path the ball took without using curved lines and the lower dotted line is how I let the ball roll to Dave. Although, he did go up a few steps I didn’t want to add another arrow to make the picture even more cluttered.
My second ball was hit by some random Nationals lefty and it landed three rows behind where my first ball landed where I then picked it up. My third ball came from Ryan Mattheus as he fielded it in Right Field. Again, the dotted arrows are the path of the ball and the solid arrows are the movement of the people they originate from:
For the record, I am not half on the field. I was just right on the edge of that glass in case Mattheus missed me short I would have more freedom to reach for the ball. That and the arrows don’t do much justice to depth of field.
At this point, I was just thanking my lucky stars that I wasn’t in Left Field:
So of course I left my Right Field paradise. I moved over to the Red Porch because 1) every pitcher in Right Field and their brother recognized me and 2) the ever nice Livan Hernandez was in Center Field:
I didn’t catch anything and nothing even came close but I did meet yet another ballhawk. His name was Mike. I don’t exactly what his last name was or if he even gave me one. Anyway, he lives in New Jersey and makes it to the games he can. The previous night’s and this night’s games happened to be two of them. We talked briefly at most but he was just one of the weird run-ins on this night with other ballhawks, Dave being another.
I then moved back to Right Field (upper, of course) and after spending a while towards the Center Field side moved almost all the way to the foul pole where I tried to get a ball from Henry Rodriguez. I failed at this but while I was there, Danny Espinosa hit a fly ball right to my right. I looked over to make sure no one was in my way and reached out two feet and caught the ball. I then got many congratulations and “thank you”s. Not for giving the ball away, but what I had not seen was there was a kid behind me that wasn’t paying attention and I had apparently saved him from injury.
I then moved back over to my previous spot where I got congratulated by another ballhawk (possibly…Mike?). I also had another weird run-in. This time with Avi Miller (again I was stupid enough not to get a picture). I talked with him as well as bp continued on. I had essentially given up on toss-ups because the players knew me but when Dave Stevenson called out for a toss-up from Ryan Mattheus I lined up behind him just in case. Let me use this picture I took of my bobblehead seconds before to demonstrate what happened:
Sure enough, the ball flew over Dave’s head again, and I picked it up and tossed it to him in one motion for ball #5 on the day. Minutes later, someone else on the Nationals hit a ball to the right of that same staircase. I moved down a bit, moved over a bit and caught the ball while leaning over the seats in front of me.
I don’t know how soon afterward but pretty soon afterwards, Nationals bp ended. As the Mets ran out, I quickly put on my Mets shirt. This paid off just as quickly as, just as my head went through the top hole of the shirt, I saw Jason Pridie waving a ball in my direction with his non-gloved hand. I hadn’t asked for it or anything but when he did this I started waving my arms and he threw the ball up to me. Weird, but I’ll take it. Here’s a sort-of good diagram of what happened:
Then things slowed waay down. I looked down to see this:
That may not look that crowded but I could tell it was a situation where I wouldn’t have many paths by which to manuever in the seats. By the way, that arrow is pointing to yet another weird run-in, Cliff Eddens. I mean I’ll run into Cliff a couple times at Citi Field here and there but to see him at Nats Park was a complete surprise. Anyway, I stayed up on the second level because this was the crowd up there:
After half-an-hour of nothing, I went down to the lower level and saw it wasn’t THAT bad:
You can see the part I was looking at from up top was pretty bad but the seats a bit further back were really empty. Considering I saw Home Runs hit into those seats, I could have been in double digits if I had gone down sooner. Getting toss-ups, though, was completely out of the question. There were way too many people and the Mets were not even looking back to see the people in the crowd. I then noticed Cliff and went over to say hi. In the middle of our conversation, a ball got hit to our right. Since I was standing to the right off him, I started after it. It was about five feet to my right so I moved over there in a motion that must have looked something like Carlton Fisk’s waving the ball foul (sans arm movement). I then hit my right leg on something which was very painful. I adjusted my right leg in its movement because I figured it was just a post or something like that since I hadn’t checked down the aisle for people or anything else. I then proceeded to hit my left leg on the same object. Those two things slowed me down and the ball went just out of my reach into another man’s glove. I then looked down and found out that the culprit was a bag weighing down the seat and causing it to be more open than the others in that aisle:
After various other failed attempt at balls (one of which I could have gotten but was too polite), I moved back up to the second level and tried for easier attempts at Home Runs. Being frustrated by the Mets’ lack of power I let out a yell to Jonathan Niese if he could “toss a ball up to the second deck”. Just as he turned around, Angel Pagan hit a shot:
I could tell the ball was coming right at me but was dropping short. So, I moved to the side of the glass panel so to be able to reach lower and caught the ball at the bottom of the panel. Once I did this, Niese gave a shake of his head as if to say that he wouldn’t throw a ball up. That was it for batting practice.
During the game I sat in left field and one of my weirdest encounters with a player occurred. I was waiting for the starting pitcher, R.A. Dickey, to come out and throw when I dropped my retainer in the walkway leading to the bullpen:
I was a bit panicked because those are pretty expensive to replace. Given that I was going to ask the first person who walked by to throw it up to me. That person was the Mets catcher, Josh Thole. as he entered the bullpen I knew I would have a short window and told him, “I know you don’t get this often but can you hand me my retainer?” His facial expression didn’t seem too pleased and I didn’t blame him because I wouldn’t want to be doing that if I were a Major Leaguer. I set my sights on the nearest grounds person while Thole looked like he was getting water. I didn’t see anyone within earshot but Thole returned with a towel and picked up the retainer and asked me if there was another on the ground. I told him no and so he tossed up the towel and told me I could keep it. Here is my newest acquisition with Thole in the background:
The Nationals won the game with their only runs (3) coming on a Jason Werth Home Run to Center Field.
- 8 balls at this game (5 pictured because I gave one away to my service supervisor back in NYC in addition to the two I gave to Dave)
- 52 games straight with at least 1 ball
- 21 straight on the road
- 17 straight games with at least 2 balls
- 2 games straight with at least 8 balls
- 5 straight games snagging a ball at Nationals Park
- 8 balls* 35,414 fans= 283,312 competition factor
- Time at game 4:12- 9:41= 5 hours 29 minutes
This was the first game of the series and the only game of the series I had not bought tickets for in advance. As a result, I found out that a college ID gets one half off:
If you can’t see that is a ticket in 141. Those right field tickets usually cost $26 but only cost me $13. I did not have a college ID with me but when I bought my ticket the lady told me, “you have you college ID, right?” She did this simultaneously with a head nod so I went along with it.
I got to the gates far ahead of anyone else so I went into the team store and studied where balls were going into the seats as one of the teams was taking early bp:
Soon after I came out of the store and started waiting again, two familiar faces arrived on the scene:
That would be, left to right.
1. Garrett Meyer– A ballhawk from Kansas who came down for Ballhawk Fest and is still staying in DC currently in a streak of 13 games in 13 days and 19 in 21.
2. Alex Kopp– A ballhawk from New Jersey, currently living in Maryland, and about to put up and absolutely monster day.
On that last note, let me explain why we are all holding baseballs. We were at the Center Field gate when a fork lift came driving our way. While Garrett and I were looking elsewhere and talking, Alex spotted that the operator had a ball in hand. He asked if he was planning to do anything with it and if not if he could have it. The operator then got out of his seat with two balls in hand. Alex had only seen one but that meant another one of us would get a ball. So I did my “alms for the poor” bit with my Nationals hat. When he gave the second ball to Garrett I thought that was it but he then went back to the forklift and dropped another ball out of a cup he had. So I had my ball:
The day of snagging was off. I first ran towards Left Field:
but when I found out the Nationals weren’t hitting I moved up to the second deck in Right Field and tried to get a ball from one of the pitchers warming up. I didn’t do this. Instead I ran over to right center when a ball came to the wall and called out to Livan Hernandez who picked it up. Of course, Livan threw the ball up to me for ball #2. The only bad thing about that was Livan maned Center Field and as a result the Red Porch was a lost cause:
The next piece of action went like this: a Home Run landed in the seats to my right, I eased up and said, “you got it” to Alex Kopp because he was clearly closer to the ball and I didn’t want to be too aggressive, a ball landed to my left because Alex was retrieving the other ball I figured he would let me get this ball. Nope. As I was jogging over to the ball, I saw a blue flash in the row below me and Alex pick up the ball. I just thought this was a funny sequence but count it as a lost opportunity because I would have definitely been able to beat him out for that ball.
I then had another…interesting sequence. I called out to Todd Coffey for a ball. Obviously by my entries, this is my first game at Nationals Park since June. Coffey asked me, “didn’t you get a bunch of balls yesterday?” I told him the truth which was that I was from New York and this was my first game here. He then reluctantly tossed me the ball but then told me that I had to throw back any Home Run balls that landed in the second deck seats in Right Field. Bizarre, no? Whatever, with this request, it was time for me to leave the section.
I then moved back to Left Field. There, I got Ryan Mattheus to toss me a ball to the left of the bullpen. However, I also missed out on two balls. I was playing one section from the bullpen. The first ball I missed, landed behind me a closer to the bullpen. I definitely would have gotten it had it stayed where it bounced but it hit a sort of rubberized strip that the Nationals have in Left Field ( I don’t know why) and bounced into the Center Field concourse. The next ball also bounced behind me and would have been mine but it bounced back towards the field where Alex Kopp caught it. Whoa, first let me go back to the Mattheus ball. That, I realized later, was my 100th ball of the season. This fulfilled one of my goals for the New Year.
I then moved back to the second deck in Right Field… wait, let me explain something. The reason for why I was going into the second deck is because the first deck was closed until 5:30. Ok, we now continue with your regularly scheduled blog entry… and then I got a ball. I don’t know who threw it. It was just one of those balls where I forgot who threw it. Obviously I knew who it was in the moment or he wouldn’t have thrown me the ball but I have since blanked on the name.
The next ball also came in upper Right Field. I called out to John Lannan as he fielded a ball. When he threw the ball back into the infield, a person close to him threw me a ball underhanded. When that missed, he threw another ball very awkwardly as I lunged over the railing and caught the ball. I don’t know exactly who it was. Initially, I thought it was an injured pitcher because of the underhanded and awkward throws but then realized he had a catchers mitt on. Any ideas?:
He is the one on the the right in the wicking shirt. 6 balls through half of bp is pretty good , no? Usually the away team is where I get the most thrown balls because I wear their gear. Well… usually. I waited for a few minutes for the lower Right Field seats to open:
Once I got into those seats, I proceeded to get dissed by every single Mets player and coach that was shagging balls there. Since there were mostly righties hitting, I moved back over to left field. I move around a lot, sue me. Actually, I would rather no one sue me I need that money for baseball games. There in left field a Mets righty pulled a ball foul and I outran whoever else was going after it to pick the ball up. I then gave it to a kid who was chasing behind me:
Alas, t’was a slow bp and the only other ball I got before I made it to my seats was a ball that was getting transferred to the ball bag from those used in bp. I later identified the person who threw it to me as, Ray Ramirez, the head trainer of the Mets. he was near the person transferring the balls from the bp container to the ball bag when one ball rolled away. He heard me asking for a ball and tossed it to me as he entered the dugout.
I then exited the seats around the Mets dugout and ran into a few familiar faces:
However blurry, these are those people:
1. “Flava” Dave Stevenson– A ballhawk from Baltimore who was in town because the Orioles were out of town.
2. Garrett Meyer– A ballhawk from Kansas, who was still in the Washington area and was going to Nationals games as a result. An interesting thing I learned was that this was the fourth of a stretch of 13 straight games for him.
3. Alex Kopp– A ballhawk staying in college park Maryland and having a great day at that point but didn’t yet count how many balls he had caught.
I talked to them for a while but then left to see Chien Ming Wang warm up:
Normally, I would have stayed and chatted for a while but I was a) 2 balls away from double digits and b) didn’t want to miss Chien Ming Wang’s first pitches in a Major League Stadium since he went out with the Yankees. You see, while he was on the Yankees, Wang was my favorite player in all of baseball I also had a rookie named Tim Lincecum in the corner of my eye but at the time he was injured, Wang was my favorite player closely followed by Joe Nathan. When Wang got injured, I slowly drifted towards liking Lincecum who is my current favorite player. That said, it was a true honor to be at Wang’s comeback game.I also really wanted to get a ball from him.
In the end, I couldn’t pronounce my Chinese correctly and Wang walked out to start the game. However, Jim Lett, the bullpen coach, heard my requests and tossed me a ball. This was now my ninth ball of the game and I was one ball from double digits. I thought about going to the dugouts but I figured it was too late and thought of how cool it would be if I caught my first Home Run for my first time in double digits.
I was accompanied a few minutes later by Alex Kopp. Why is this significant and blog worthy? He finally figured out how many balls he had caught and any guesses on a number?Keep in mind he has more than one pocket:
Up to that point, he had snagged 18 Balls!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So basically take everything I had done to that point and double it.
For the game itself, I sat here:
Nothing came even close. I don’t even know if there was a single Home Run hit. As for Wang, it wasn’t pretty. He lasted maybe 5 innings and gave up 6 runs. Although I’m not sure how many were earned, I can say that he didn’t have the same dive in his sinker he used to as a Yankee. It was his first day back so I credit most of the runs to two years of rust. Given that 4 of those runs came in the first inning.
After the game, I was determined to get a ball from the bullpen for #10 on the day. Though it was tough given the fact that Jim Lett had already tossed me a ball. In retrospect, I should have thrown on my t-shirt inside out and put on sunglasses but I didn’t think of that in the moment. Everyone in the bullpen cleared out and I still didn’t have a ball. I was accompanied by Alex who also wanted A ball but also wanted, if by some miracle, to get two balls to reach the very prestigious 20 ball club. He also got denied by all the players. However, we both noticed a ball in the corner of the bullpen that had been dropped by a fan before us:
Alex and I both waited for a solid ten minutes. Grounds crew came, “we can’t throw balls up”, Security came, “we can’t, sorry”, and Police came, “we can’t throw balls up, sorry”. It was extremely frustrating and I had half a mind to use my glove trick with police guards five feet from the ball and ushers ten feet from me. Fortunately, I didn’t have to resort to this as the kid in charge of emptying the water coolers came:
He emptied them and when he walked towards the ballI asked him if he could toss the ball up. No response, he just picked the ball up and flipped it up. Alex was also with me so I also pointed out a ball behind a bouncy screen that had also been left and Alex was given the torture of having 19 balls at the end of the day. Enough about Alex, I haven’t started celebrating about my double digit performance. WOO-HOO! Ok I’m good.
It definitely feels good to start the day at 158 and end at:
- 10 balls at this game (9 pictured because I gave one away but eight actually pictured because I can’t find the Livan ball)
- 51 straight games with at least 1 ball
- 20 straight on the road
- 16 straight games with at least 2 balls
- 1 straight with at least 10
- 4 straight games at Nationals Park with at least 1 ball
- 10 balls* 30,114 fans= 301,140 competition factor another personal record
- Time at game 3:45- 10:21= 6 hours 36 minutes
Remember that I went to the game in May and it got cancelled. Well, it was rescheduled for this day in July and it looked fine:
Not as good as it did the day it got cancelled but not horrible rain-away-batting practice bad.
When I got to the gate I noticed something odd:
Do you see the gates marked by the arrows? I have never seen them before. I know I haven’t been to Citi Field in over a month but it was just weird seeing them. I know the purpose is to corral people even more and it is a good idea but I wonder why they hadn’t done it sooner. Also upon arriving, I wondered if my ticket from the initial game would work:
Initially, I was somber because going to this game reminded of the initial game in which I am now comfortable (with all the hecktivity gone) announcing that the responsibilities I was lifted of were those of taking care of my ailing dad. On that day May, 17, 2011 my father passed away.
What game? I was the first one to the left field bleachers beating all the other ballhawks in attendance (four according to mygamebals.com). I got Mookie Wilson to toss me a ball within the first minute. I first asked him if he could toss me a ball and he told me no but then tossed it up anyway after I said that it was ok and thanked him “anyway”. That is now the second time i have used the “can you toss me a ball please” line and that exact same scenario has occurred. The last time was in Miami. Here is a diagram of where I was and the flight of the ball:
The solid arrow is where I was and the dotted is how he threw me the ball. In retrospect, he was probably about five feet from the ball but whatever, you get the idea.
As the ballhawks arrived, I moved over to the empty center field section and running down the stairs, yelled out to Ryota Igarashi in Japanese for a ball. The next picture shows how the whole thing unfolded:
The names are pretty self-explanatory. The solid line is how far he went to shag the ball. The two dotted lines are what happened afterward. He liked my request so much we played catch for as many throws as it took me to fall into the seats. You see when I throw a baseball I have a longer stride than most people and that produces my right leg (I’m a righty) to come up after the pitch every time I want to get something behind the ball. If you look carefully behind the word “me” you will see there is a railing. Since I was on the right side of the railing, that cuts the aisle in half and made me make the choice of falling off a lot into the seats on my left, smacking my leg into the railing, or throw very slowly. I was going to go with the third but when I lobbed the ball into him and he made the hand gesture saying it was ok I tried to throw my slider but because the aisle was so narrow not only did the ball have no movement as I fell into the seats but I bounced it to him. I think he knew then to stop and called it of. Still, it was a great experience.
I moved over to right field in hopes that those players shagging there would toss me a ball but it didn’t take long to figure out they had seen me play catch with Igarashi. I moved back over to Left for Marlins bp.
But first, I want to show you one of the motifs of Mets bp:
If you can’t see the screen in front of 2nd base is down. Throughout the duration of bp it kept falling down. There wasn’t that much wind. I have had days were it was gusting circa 20 mph and the screen didn’t blow down. I don’t know I guess it’s just the Mets way of life.
As I got to left field and saw the first two batters I knew it was the big group:
Those hitters are (from left to right): Hanley Ramirez, John Buck, Mike Stanton, and Mike Cameron. I think if you take any two of them it is a pretty good time to be in left field but all four of them and you have a super group. I cannot think how good the left field seats in Sun Life Stadium would be this year if it opened 2.5 hours early. That said, I only got one ball from this group. I stayed back because of their power and it paid off when a ball bounced a few rows in front of me and I ran up an aisle an grabbed it off the paved steps:
When I look at it now it was hit pretty far. Guess who hit it. Mike Stanton. Of course that was not the only thing he hit:
In my 20+ games at Citi FieldI have never seen a player hit the Amtrak club. I am surprised that someone had not hit it sooner but not surprised it was Stanton to do it. Before I get too off topic, I want to mention I gave the Stanton ball to a kid who was chasing after me:
I can’t exactly tell if that is him in the stripes as I remember his face more but considering this is the only photo of its ilk…
I then convinced Randy Choate to toss me a ball in left field. After that I moved over to center field and got Brian Sanches (no that is not a typo) to toss me a ball in the corner spot. For those who don’t know, a corner spot is a place in a section where there is no possibility of anyone being in front or to one side of you because you are in the very first row and to the extremity of that specific section. Now the corner spot is not in this picture but it just demonstrates what happened:
Sanches is number 44 in that picture.
I then, as you can probably tell from the previous picture, moved over to right field in hopes of Mike or Mike (Stanton, Dunn) to throw me a a ball. I didn’t want to be recognized by Sanches who was not that far away so I sat down on the steps near the wall. The steps are so steep that I could sit down and still barely see over the wall:
Eventually a lefty hit a ball to the wall. Mike Dunn went to retrieve it but gave it to a kid much smaller than me. However, a second ball came and since I had made my presence know on the first ball he threw me the second ball:
That was it for bp. I stayed in left field for the game. Both center fielders were occasionally throwing their warm up balls into the stands but I didn’t get any as I was always one staircase away. I am pleased to announce however, Observing Baseball is going green:
I have now been using the promotional Earth Day Metrocard since Earth day itself.
- Six balls at this game (five pictured because I gave one away)
- 79 balls in 22 games= 3.59 balls per game
- 47 straight games with at least 1 ball
- 23 straight at Citi Field
- 4 straight games with at least 5 balls
- 6 balls* 32,411 fans=194,466 competition factor
- Time at game 4:36-10:19=5 hours 33 minutes
Because the day before’s game was rained out, I had not gone to a baseball game in 12 days and was in a serious need for some baseball. Then I remembered why the Mets are known as the second most dysfunctional team in baseball.
First, I got to the stadium and the old man was indeed snoring:
Considering they had cancelled the game the previous day while it was still sunny I was not too optimistic this one would be played but stayed because I had already bought my ticket and didn’t want that money to go to waste if they did play. Many of the New York ballhawks (myself included) have been angered by the Mets changing gate opening times from 2.5 hour to 2 hours but I would have taken that today. I was awaiting a 5:10 gate opening time according to the schedule set by the Mets. So I stood out in a storm that was so bad I had to keep turning myself every few seconds to keep the side wind was blowing raindrops onto from getting too cold. As I write this entry June 8th I am still sniffling from the cold I got that day. I didn’t take any pictures just because I wanted to protect my camera as it has already gone through water damage (if any long time readers have noticed the pictures have gotten more misty since a few months ago, this is why). I waited and waited. 5:10 passed and still the gates were closed. At about 5:30, the Mets finally opened the gates:
Then they announced we would not be able to go anywhere besides the giftshop/museum:
Now when I say Dys- you say functional.
They kept us there because they weren’t sure if they were going to play the game or not. I get why they wanted to get us out of the rain but there were maybe twenty people waiting at this point. Would it really take that much to get twenty people out of the seating bowl if the game actually got called?
For those who have never been, the Mets’ museum is linked with the gift shop and is located towards the right side of the Jackie Robinson (when entering). In fact, you can faintly see it on the left side of the last picture underneath the staircase. So, I went in because I never had before. Having now been to the museums at Citi Field and Yankee Stadium, I think that Citi Field does a better aesthetic job but Yankee Stadium had more substance. By this, I mean that Citi had things such as higher ceilings:
and better location (behind the prize jewel section that most people come through for Citi Field vs. on the third level only accessible by one random flight of ramps for Yankee Stadium). What I mean by the greater substance of the Yankees is simply the history of the Mets vs. the history of the Yankees. For example, the Mets had a quarter of the museum dedicated to buy-able artifacts:
The prices on the bottom portion would be for baseballs from different games. Not necessarily historic or anything. No, those cost a lot more than the regulars.
I thought that there was no chance for a game but I wandered and charged my phone for a while until finally there was an announcement. They would in fact be opening the gates for entry. They hadn’t scanned our tickets yet so we had to get out of the stadium only to come back in and get our tickets scanned:
The time at this point was around 6:35ish and as you can see more people had joined in the gift shop and had to get in but when eventually security got settled and let people in.
My view upon entering the bowl:
The tarp was finally being pulled off by the grounds crew.
I set up shop on the left side of the dugout because I wanted to be close to the dugout in case someone came out and started signing autographs but also wanted to be closer to left field in case they came out to throw. As I went down, Livan Hernandez tossed a ball to another ballhawk, Ben Weil. I felt good for Ben for keeping his streak alive but also disappointed I hadn’t spoken my Spanish louder as that might have been my only shot of the night. If that didn’t make me feel bad enough, a volcano of baseballs erupted on the right side of the dugout. I raced over but Mt. Stairs ran out of the baseballs from his bucket/bag:
I kid you not when I say he tossed 5-7 baseballs into the stands in a matter of 5 seconds. As I said, I was on the left side of the dugout so it was not enough time to weave through people to get to the left side of the dugout.
So now 6:50 and still no ball for me. Finally, the position players came out to throw at 6:55:
Most notably the pair you see in this picture, Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond. Ben and his fancy jersey and fitted Nationals hat elsewhere I thought I had a pretty good chance at this ball but I kept in mind that many times before I have suffered because I committed too much to a specific ball so I stayed alert. No one else came out of the dugout so as soon as they finished I waved my arms like crazy to get Desmond’s attention and he threw the ball to me. If I were writing this the day after I would remember the specifics but I know there was something unusual about the throw. Either it went over my head, I had to leap, it bounce, or something. Maybe it was just the fact that it was quite a distance. I don’t remember.
After I got this ball I looked at the pitching match-up, saw two lefties (Jonathan Niese and Tom Gorzelanny), and stupidly thought that I could make it to left field and get a Home Run. The guards usually start checking tickets at 6:20 but the gates didn’t even open until after that so I was hoping. By this time it was 7:00 and as I got out of the seats the National anthem started playing and I knew I was defeated. Throughout the game I wandered the stadium and got rained on. As I saw how little people were at the game:
(and the fact there were no Home Runs in the game), I was kicking myself because as you can see in the picture, I would have gotten as many baseballs as there were players that brought in a third out ball.
Anyway, it kept pouring and the Mets beat the Nationals 3-0 behind a strong performance behind Niese. Although there was something with Niese in what I believe was the seventh inning as he kept throwing balls back to the umpire probably because it was pouring at the time and the balls were extremely wet.
- One ball at this game (#83 on the career)
- 22 Balls in 10 games = 2.2 Balls Per Game ( I am not proud)
- 35 Games Straight with at least one ball (I am proud and amazed)
- 21 straight games at Citi Field with at least 1 ball
- 1 Ball* 24,527 fans (allegedly)= 24,527 competition factor
- Time at Game 4:50-10:10= 5 Hours 20 Minutes