It was my first time back in Washington, and I experienced a first in all my games at Nationals Park. It was sold-out. So, I had to wait in line for the $5 tickets that get released right as the gates open:
Thankfully, as you can see, I was at the front of the line, so I didn’t have to worry about not being able to get tickets, but not being able to wait AT the gate meant I would have to wait behind a line for the first time in forever at Nationals Park:
When I got into the stadium, I initially went to the left field seats:
While I was there, I saw a ball fly into the seats in upper right field seats. When those seats opened to fans at 5:00, I ran up and found a baseball in this spot:
I didn’t photograph it in that spot because I was too busy trying to find other “Easter Eggs” in those seats. When I went back down to the Red Seats, I gave that ball away to a kid I had promised I would give a ball to if I got another (after I snagged the Morse home run). I could have easily pretended to have not found that ball since the kid never saw me find it, but I like to honor my promises, however minuscule they may seem.
I then headed over to foul territory to try to get a ball from the pitchers warming up, but they didn’t toss a ball to myself or any other fans while I was there. Even if they would have, I was just one of many Giants fans:
There, I got my third ball of the day. Matt Cain threw a ball over his head, and I jumped for it, but came up just short. It then hit this man in the head:
and I caught it off the bounce. I then gave the ball to him, since he did take the ball off his head, and you could see the mark the stitches made on his forehead. That would be my last ball of batting practice.
Even though my ticketed seat was in the upper deck, this was my view of the game, by the grace of an usher who lets me sit there:
I know I don’t usually do this, but here’s a picture of Tim Lincecum delivering a pitch in the first inning:
In the middle of the sixth inning, it started raining, so the tarp came on the field:
I saw this as an opportunity to get into better seats, since the ushers wouldn’t be checking tickets due to everyone and their mother leaving the seats, so I made my way thought the extremely crowded concourse:
and to the Nationals dugout. I also figured many people had left, so I picked up tickets in that area. Once I had tickets in that area, I figured “I might as well see if I can get over to the Giants dugout. Worst case scenario: the ushers are checking tickets, and I have to go back to the Nationals dugout..” Sure enough, the ushers still weren’t. Hacking tickets, so I wandered the seats and found tickets for most of the 1 hour 25 minute rain delay. I also sat by the Giants dugout, just in case I could convince any of them to toss me a ball out of the ball bag:
Anyway, at this point, I had amassed a considerable amount of tickets, so I had fun just running around the stadium, making minute adjustments depending on the hitter and situation. I didn’t get anything, but it was fun trying.
Oh, and here are three pictures showing how empty the stadium was:
At the end of the game, I headed over to the umpire tunnel and got Scott Barry to toss me a ball:
It was 11:09 at that point, and the last train left the station at 11:20, so I didn’t even have time to put the ball in my backpack. Right after I snagged the ball, I took off. I literally ran the whole way to the Metro station with a ball in my glove.
When I got to the Metro Station is when I realized the ball was my 100th of the season, so I took another picture of it, in all of its triple digit glory:
Sorry for the quality of the picture. I was going through my stats on the platform, so I took a picture right there on the platform. Here is a better picture i took at home the next day:
• 4 Balls at this game (1 pictured because I gave 3 away)
• 100 Balls in 20 Games= 5 Balls Per Game
• 29 straight Games with at least 1Ball
• 5 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
• 4 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
• 4 straight Games with at least 4 Balls
• 79 Balls in 16 Games at Nationals Park= 4.94 Balls Per Game
• 8 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 1 Ball
• 8 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
• 5 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
• 3 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 4 Balls
• Time Spent On Game 2:34-11:44= 9 Hours 10 Minutes
There was only one word to describe this day in Baltimore: crazy.
Everything started out perfectly normal and fine, though. I arrived at Gate H around 50 minutes before the opening time and ate my Subway sandwich:
A crowd then started gathering outside the gate, and I checked my phone to see what time it was. It was 4:25, but the more important thing I saw was that the person with my ticket, Avi Miller, had sent me a message saying he would probably be there by 4:50 because he was having problems with the LightRail. He was right, but it was a nerve-racking experience awaiting him as it got closer and closer to the gate opening time.
After a couple of minutes inside, this was the view to my right:
Yep, one person that could possibly compete with me. What are those numbers? Oh those are just locations of balls I had caught. Yes, that is a nine in the fourth row. Was that my last ball of the day? I’m not telling you; read the rest of the entry and you’ll find out.
See what I mean? Crazy. By the time I took that picture, I had already caught three ball on the fly. The location of which, you can see in the picture. Avi identified the hitter of the first ball as J.J. Hardy. The next two I’m pretty sure were both hit by Mark Reynolds.
Here was the view to my left:
After I caught my third ball of the game, a kid asked me what my name was. I don’t know why he did, but I responded and asked what his name was. It was Michael Myers. He then engaged me in a short conversation, so I offered to give him my next ball of the day. Naturally, he agreed. After a few minutes of inaction, however, he asked me, “can’t you just give me one now.” to which I responded, “Just wait, I’ll give you my next one.” he then asked back, “Well how do you know you’ll get another?” To that I simply said,” I’m pretty sure I’ll get another.” Sure enough, approximately 4 minutes later, Mark Reynolds hit another shot over my head and to my left, where I chased it down and picked it up. You can see part of the “4” where I got the ball in the last picture. I then went back down and gave this ball to him.
You have already seen the “5” spot, but here I took a picture of the ball itself:
After I took this picture, it occured to me that Michael probably wasn’t ever going to get a commemorative ball. Given that every ball I had snagged up to that point was commemorative except the one I gave him, I made an exchange with him so he could have the commemorative ball instead of the standard “Selig” ball (yes, when I made the exchange, I explained what I meant by a “Selig” ball).
You’ve already seen the “6” spot. It was hit by a righty in the second hitting group I saw. I tracked this ball throughout this whole flight and caught it on the fly, where I then proceeded to almost fall down after glancing off an Oriole Park cupholder. I would later or then give this ball away.
I should actually explain something before it gets too late in the entry. The action was coming so fast ( caught a small percentage of the balls that went into the left field seats) that I never had time to write down notes until batting practice ended, so although I know that I caught a ball in the location where I wrote the “6” and then almost fell down, I don’t know if that was necessarily my sixth ball of the day. Some things I *DO* know are: All but one of my balls was hit, all of my balls were snagged in the left field seats, I caught five balls on the fly, and I “gave” away 6 balls. If you want to know why there may be some inaccuracies, I took pictures like this to remind myself of where I had snagged baseballs:
Gee, thanks, Mateo. Which of the five baseballs I snagged in this area is this supposed to remind me of?
Why do I write “gave” in quotations? Ball number seven. A ball was hit way over my head and to my left. So, I ran to about the spot where I thought it would land. It landed a few rows above that, so I raced after it. I grabbed the ball, but another kid grabbed the ball right after that. I know I could have pulled the ball away from him, but I didn’t want to be like that, so I let go. I count this because I *did* have possesion; I just decided not to keep it. Here is the kid:
Yes, I use the term “kid” very loosely. With me it can mean anyone from about 2 to about 18 years old. If we’re going off purely technicalities, though, a kid means a young goat.
Around this time, a man approached me to introduce himself. He said that he had seen me a few times on Zack Hample’s blog. He also mentioned he had been on there a few times. With this little tidbit, he also added, “I’m Helmet Guy.” Then it all made sense. I had seen him a few times at Citi Field in the two prior seasons. He owns, I believe a helmet from all thirty teams. His real name, though is Brendan Sammon. Here he is giving a “thumbs up” after jokingly complaining that all people wanted to “see [was] the helmet” (he was wearing a Nationals hat when he introduced himself, but I asked him if he could put on his helmet for the picture, since, you know, he IS “Helmet Guy”. I’m pretty sure he even had a custom shirt that says that on the back.
I then got my 7th ball in a spot that I didn’t photograph behind me- hence the lack of a “7” spot. It was an absolutely perfect Camden Yards commemorative ball. I gave that to this man in the bright orange shirt:
Why does it look so crowded around him? AfterI got ball number 8, whose spot I have already shown, the left field seats opened up to non-season ticket holders. So this is what the seats looked like to my left and right:
Regardless, I was feeling pretty good about myself having already snagged 8 balls to that point…until Avi came back to me. Right as he got to me, he said, “should I thank you now or later?” Apparently, no one had gone for Nationals toss-ups, so Avi (wearing Orioles gear) got 8 toss-ups from the Nationals pitchers. I was of course wearing bright red Nationals attire. How many of those would I have gotten? Four? Six? All I can say is: crazy.
During Nationals B.P., I got two balls. The first I caught on the fly in the spot you saw labeled “9”. Both this and the next one may have been either Michael Morse or Ryan Zimmerman.
The next ball I picked up off the ground in another place I never took a picture of, but this one was more to my right than the “7” spot I also didn’t photograph. I gave this ball away to a kid on the spot.
Of course, everything was going so crazy, I didn’t know what number I was up to. All I knew was I had given five balls away. I was going to count how many I still had later on to find out my grand total.
I then rendezvoused with Brendan by the bullpens. This time, his son, Patrick, was with him. You see, previously, his son was stuck on Eutaw street, since they bought a ticket from a dealer who had advertised it as a season ticket when it hadn’t been.
While I talked to him, the Nationals’ bullpen coach, Jim Lett, walked into the bullpen. I leaned over the side and asked him for a ball. He looked up, picked a ball off the ground and tossed it to me:
Here’s a better picture:
Oh. My. Goodness. I had set up my schedule, so I would be in position to get as many of the six commemorative baseballs out this season as I could. The only ball, however, that I would have to luck out on was the Fenway Park commemorative, since I wasn’t going to go to Yankees-Red Sox, and I wasn’t going to see a team the Red Sox had just played. How the commemoratives got to this game. I don’t know. I wasn’t about to question it either.
Right after I got my ball, Lett also tossed Patrick his first ball of the game. This was an Oriole Park commemorative. In batting practice, Brendan had caught a Michael Morse BOMB that had made it all the way to the cross-aisle behind the left field seats. This ball was a Fenway commemorative. They actually switched up balls and asked me to take a picture of them, so I figured I’d share it with you. I assume it’s okay since I took the picture of Brendan earlier for myself:
After that, the tarp went on the field, and I met up with Avi, after which, he took me to the Suite Level. Yes, you technically need a ticket, but this was Camden Yards, not Citi Field, so naturally no one checked. Due to this and other amenities, I made a few cracks about how spoiled he and the other regulars here were.
Once the game began, after an hour-long rain delay, I went out to my usual spot in right field, where this was the view:
While I was out there, though, I went through and counted all the baseballs in my backpack. My record for one game had been 10 baseballs, so when I found out I had gotten 11, this was my reaction:
However, since the game had been delayed, and my train back to Washington left at 10:15, I had to leave in the middle of the sixth inning. On my way out, though, I gave away my sixth ball to a kid on Eutaw street.
I then took a picture of said street from outside the stadium:
You think the crazy was done for the day? No, not quite. I left the game at 9:38, but even though Washington is 45 minutes from Baltimore, a series of delays caused me to get back to the apartment at 1:32. Thus, you can expect a new stat at the end of this entry.
• 11 Balls at this game (5 pictured because I gave 6 away)
• 73 Balls in 14 Games= 5.21 Balls Per Game
• 23 straight Games with at least 1Balll
• 3 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
• 3 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
• 3 straight Games with at least 4 Balls
• 3 straight Games with at least 5 Balls
• 3 straight Games with at least 6 Balls
• 3 straight Games with at least 7 Balls
• 3 straight Games with at least 8 Balls
• 11 Balls x 45,891 Fans= 504,801 Competition Factor
• 38 Balls in 7 Games at Camden Yards= 5.43 Balls Per Game
• 7 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Camden Yards
• 4 straight Games at Camden Yards with at least 2 Balls
• 3 straight Games at Camden Yards with at least 3 Balls
• 3 straight Games at Camden Yards with at least 4 Balls
• 2 straight Games at Camden Yards with at least 5 Balls
• Time spent on the game ( This statistic differs from “Time at Game” in that it includes the time spent traveling between my residence and the ballpark for that day) So this day I left my apartment at 1:30 PM. I got back there at 1:32 AM, so the “Time Spent On the Game would be 12 Hours 2 Minutes
It was my first game at Nationals Park this year, and look who I ran into at the Center Field Gate:
That would be fellow ballhawk, Rick Gold; and for the record, I was wearing the University of Miami shirt because I found out Rick was going to this game and he is an alumnus. It was a pretty hot day, so we tried to stay in the shade until security asked whose bags were sitting alone at the gate and we had to stand with them until the gates opened.
When the gates opened, Rick went to the Red Seats in center field and I went to the seats in straight-away left field. Just as I got there, a coach was picking up a ball right at the wall, so I asked him point blank, “Coach, could you possibly toss me that ball, please?” He picked up the ball and tossed it right back in to the bucket in shallow center field. Here is the coach:
Anyone know who he is?
After that, I had three balls hit within ten feet of me. Want to know how many I caught? Zero. Here are the misssed opportunities:
1. This one feels the stupidest of all three because I was THE ONLY ONE IN THE SECTION. All I had to do was catch the ball and I would be fine. Well, I ran into a row two rows above the landing spot of the ball and when I couldn’t reach the ball leaning over a seat, the ball bounced off a seat in front of me and back onto the field.
2. My biggest problem the whole day was that I was going too far back on balls. I kept thinking balls were going to keep travelling when they didn’t. This ball was no exception. I to a spot that was about three rows back from the ball, and watched as a fan tried to barehand the ball, and later picked it up after it scooted away from him. Had I judged the ball well, I could have gone into the row in front of him and caught the ball, or I would have picked up the ball after he dropped it.
3. This time I actually was in a spot to catch the ball. The problem was there was a fan in front of me. He then deflected the ball, which made it go to my left, where it ricocheted off the seat back into his row, where he picked it up. There was no one even close to me other wise, so had the ball just stayed after it deflected off his glove, I would have been able to easily pick it up.
Then I noticed a few balls were going into the bullpen. I then saw this guy, who I tried to glove trick:
First I reeled out my line to knock it closer, then I pulled it up to insert the sharpie and rubber band. (If you don’t what the glove trick is, here’s a link that should explain it. Disclaimer: the link is to Zack Hample’s blog, not mine. That’s because he thought up the idea, not me. I’m simply a vulture.) What happened when I pulled the glove up is the string got tangeled, and the glove therefore couldn’t go as far down. I then spent what seemed like an hour trying to untangel it before relenting and simply letting down more string (I call it string, but it’s actually a fishing line.). I then had the glove over the ball and was pulling up when the ball dropped out of the glove. I tried to make the necessary adjustment, and then dropped the glove down again, but when I did, a security guard started yelling, “Sir, sir.” I looked back, and he motioned for me to get my glove out of the bullpen. I then headed back to over to straight-away left field- the bullpen is behind the left-center field wall- and caught a ball on the fly off of the bat of Mark De Rosa.
I then moved over to right field, where I quickly got Michael Morse to toss me a ball. He was fielding basebaballs where you see him here, but when he ran back to the wall, I called out to him and he threw me the ball.The red arrow is where he moved to field the ball and the black arrow is the path of the ball he threw me:
My next ball was hit by a Nationals lefty. It touched down in the row the woman in blue is right here, I believe, which is also where I picked it up:
Want to see how I could run so far? This was the crowd in the right field seats:
Right about the time I took that picture, I caught a Michael Morse opposite field shot on the fly from about the spot from which I took the picture.
After that, an usher came through saying, ” Does anyone have an extra baseball? I’m going to try to get Bryce Harper to sign a ball.” I wanted to be all cool and catch a ball, and then give it to her saying, “Here you go”, but I eventually relented and pulled one out of my backpack for her.
There I got Wade Davis- who was in the last throwing group- to toss me a ball over the protective netting along the third base line:
As I left the section in right field, an usher who lets me sit there during the game asked me if I could give him a ball. I said, “sure”. He later reported that he had given the ball to a little girl.
After that, I went over to the Red Seats, where this was my view:
There, I got David Price to throw me a ball. He is the one all right by the right edge of the picture, and when he ran over to center field to field a ball, I asked for the ball and he tossed it to me:
After B.P. ended, I went over to the Rays dugout and the guy in dark blue tossed me a ball out of the ball bag. Anyone know who he is?:
As for the game, Stephen Strasburg outpitched Chris Archer, and the Nationals won 3-2.
During the game, I was planning on running back and forth between both sides of the outfield, but instead, I decided to stay put in right field and talk to Rick the whole game. After the game, though, I went to the Rays’ bullpen in left field and got a bullpen attendant- who was picking up the Gatorade cooler- to toss me my eighth and final ball of the night:
• 8 Balls at this game (5 pictured because I gave three away)
• 21straight Games with at least 1 Ball
• 8 Balls x 27,485 Fans= 219,880 Competition Factor
• 67 Balls in 14 Games at Nationals Park= 4.79 Balls Per Game
• 7 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
• 7 straight games with at least 2 Balls at Nationals Park
• 4 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Nationals Park
• Time at Game 4:51- 9:45 = 4 Hours 54 Minutes
I think the story of the Nationals’ 2011 season could very well be one person:
Michael Morse. Now he might not be that much of a household name, but as a person that went to Nationals Park pretty frequently last season I can say the dude is a monster. Just look at his spray chart,
For that reason he was a bittersweet person to have in the cage during bp. You knew he was going to hit the ball a ways, but deciding whether to play him as a lefty or a righty was a whole other frustrating deal.
Gio Gonzalez, Mike Cameron, Mark DeRosa, Chad Durbin, Edwin Jackson, Brad Lidge, and Ryan Perry.
Laynce Nix, Collin Balester, Todd Coffey, Alex Cora, Jonny Gomes, Livan Hernandez, Tom Milone, and Brad Peacock.
Why?: With this past offseason, it may seem like the Nationals did really well. Maybe it’s just that I’ve been around the Nationals so much, but it seems to me that they lost a bunch of players that, yes, were not starters, but they are just below that cusp. Mind you, a B is still improving the team a bit, but I think most everyone christened their ship to a much improved season because of the additions. For me, they will improve if those that were already in the organization improve, because I am a little bit skeptical about whether Gio Gonzalez can stay healthy after building up such an innings count for the first time.
All that said, it still can be a great season in that the talent on the team surpasses the record they had last year if they can just *solidify* their rotation. I’m not talking about making it a strength of the team, but if they can just not lose games because of their starters, their lineup could win them 85 games. I kid you not, the only offensively deficient spot in that lineup is the Short Stop position with Ian Desmond. The next closest position to being offensively below-average is the Catcher position with Wilson Ramos (aka the guy every Twins fan wishes had never been traded in order to get Matt Capps).
Predicted Record Range: 85-90 wins. I say this tentatively, though. For whatever reason, I have this strange feeling in my gut that SOMEthing will go wrong with the Nationals this year. My first thought was that Gio Gonzalez will be injured, but now I’m starting to think that it might be Strasburg again. Whatever, enough of my crazy feelings, that’s it for this entry except that you need to vote on the poll below.
Next Up: Atlanta Braves, then the NL West
First team in NL West:
First of all, here, is the initial entry.
Predicted Record: 70-75 wins
Actual Record: 80-81
I actually thought this would be a stallish year for the Nationals waiting for both Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper to come up. However, the Nationals had a surprisingly strong lineup. Whenever I was in the Outfield for their At-Bats, I was always confident that I could possibly get a ball hit to me within three hitters. Actually, Jayson Werth was one of the weaker parts of the lineup.
Also, I think part of the reason they improved so much was via the simple improvement on defense. Can anyone remember the years the Nationals were REALLY bad? It was almost hilarious some of the error they would make on defense to lose games. Their Pitching still has to improve in the rotation, but the virtual additon of Stephen Strasburg shouldn’t be that bad.
Another thing, the second most important addition I had for the Nationals last offseason didn’t even play for most of the season. I had Adam LaRoche being the second biggest impact player the Nationals acquired behind Jayson Werth. Of course, the Nationals eventual MVP for the year now plays at 1st Base: Michael Morse. However, if you don’t remember, I went to the Nationals’ last three home games this past season (the links are here, here, and here starting with the last game and going backwards. Also, for newer readers, I usually do take a bunch of pictures with the games I got to, but I lost all of the pictures for those three games. A better example of one of my entries for a game can be found: here.) and Michael Morse was being put in the Outfield. Yes it is definitely not his defensive strong suit, but I think this is a sign that they expect to have him in the Outfield next season.
Anyway, the Nationals, I think we can agree, were a surprising team in 2011 and I did not predict they would do this well.
Apparently the ever endearing Mets thought it best to open the gates a mere 2 hours before game time. This put me both at the back of a line of people and will take half an hour away from me every time I go to Citi Field. Why are both New York teams horrible at dealing with fans?
Anyway, the gates opened at 5:10 but I didn’t get until probably 5:20 because of the line delay.
As the gates opened I quickly identified the fans racing up the escalator as ballhawks Zack Hample and Joe Faraguna. Since they were probably going to go right to left field, I figured I should pray that the pitchers were still throwing in right.
They weren’t so I went to center field in hopes of getting a ball from the posse that shags balls there. At first, it seemed like that would never happen. Pedro Beato was cutting everything way in front of the wall (wasn’t that hard considering I was about a thousand feet from home plate). One then finally made its way to the wall. A group of kids was yelling at him and he didn’t turn around. Finally, I accused him of being racist towards Colombians. He laughed and threw me the ball.
On to left field. I got there and literally every feasible landing sector had a ballhawk patrolling it. There must have been half a dozen ballhawks. Let’s see how many I remember. 1+2 the ones listed two paragraphs above. 3. Tony Bracco. 4. Oliver Rowles. 5. Gary Kowal. 6. Ross Finkelstein. It must have been the fact that it was the first 7:10 game of the season but take my word for it there are almost never ballhawks at weekend games (which is why I like them). Just check the day of the week I made this major snag on. I think that was everyone but I can’t be that sure seeing as I didn’t talk to many on account of me moving around so much.
Nevertheless, none of the ballhawks dared to be in the corner of left field amongst a sea of weekend fans. So when Michael Morse hit a homerun behind that sea, I ran through my aisle to the ball. I was late because of a few fan but the ball hit off a seat and stayed in the air for what seemed like minutes before I caught it on that fly (technically it is not on the fly but it didn’t hit the ground so that’s good enough for me. If you haven’t picked up, I stink at tracking fly balls). I then got a toss up from a player I later identified as Chad Gaudin. I gave that one away to a kid who had missed the previous toss-up.
Imagine the two or three fans standing up are the fans that got in my way. The ball went where the two or three fans are and I ran down the stairs with plenty of fans but couldn’t reach out the extra three feet because of the fans and couldn’t run around them because of the railing. This left the ball going into the row of fans where it was dropped and recovered. It was actually a great night for foul balls on this side because of the two lefty pitchers but not that many balls went into my section.
I then missed out on an opportunity for an umpire ball because I was again, seated on the wrong side of the stadium (but it may be good security doesn’t know me, though. I saw the adverse affects this can have with Greg Barasch being essentially banned for the last few games of the season a year ago.)