In 2013 I attended my first ever “true” Opening Day at Target Field. Having experienced that, I can see why MLB would not want to truly start the season in Minnesota for a while. It was below 30 degrees when the gates opened and didn’t get much better throughout the game.
In 2014, I continued my tradition of going to the Twins’ home opener, though when they took on the Oakland Athletics to start the Target Field year. I thought that Gate 34 would be a mess of people, so I headed to the center field gate, Gate 3 (for Harmon Killebrew) instead:
And much to my surprise, I got to see a different Twins legend there:
If you can’t tell who that is, let me zoom in a little for you:
That would be Baseball Hall-of-Famer, Bert Blyleven, who came out to gate 3 to greet fans as they entered the gate. I got to shake his hand and then took these pictures as he moved down the line of fans. Speaking of fans, it was the home opener. That means that there was an atypically-large crowd present. Not as big as I thought it would be, but big enough:
This worried me a little, but I had already come to the conclusion that while it would be a tough game to snag at due to the Opening Day crowd, I would get a couple baseballs from it being the Athletics, since I had gotten I believe seven baseballs the last game they had been at Target Field. I was kind of wrong about it, but we’ll get to that later. For now, here’s the view when I got to the left field bleachers:
And because it was the home opener, the other fans came quickly behind. Here was the bleachers within the first five minutes:
Not much, but I’m used to having only a couple of people to beat out in the left field bleachers in the first five minutes, so I just had a little less room than I normally did to work with. But I made the most of it. Or at least something of it as I caught a ball hit by Josh Willingham a couple of steps from my usual spot in left:
It was around then that my then-roommate, Sean, showed up:
As you can see, he really had by that point been desensitized to me snagging baseballs. I think it might have occurred when he and another friend tried briefly to shut me out for the game–before I was then able to snag nine baseballs that game. While he also doesn’t usually partake in the process of documenting my games, he aided by doing a little video work.
I moved to right field and…well there wasn’t much. Sean did take a video of me sharing my lack of excitement for Nick Punto as a batting practice hitter as well as an update video, but WordPress doesn’t allow me to add videos, so I’ll cut to the chase: The Willigham was the only ball I got.
So Sean and I went to the right field standing room for the national anthem:
Where I also managed to get a t-shirt from the t-shirt gun that TC Bear (the Twins’ awesome mascot, for those who are unaware) shot it from to me:
(Forgive the fuzziness of the foreground objects.)
Then I was able to experience something really nice/sad at the same time. Major League Baseball has a partnership with a charity by the name of Stand Up To Cancer. As a result of this, there will be certain games in which they have plugs for the organization/the cause they look to fight for. Since it was the home opener, they handed out signs at the gates. These signs were for people to write in the name of a person in their life affected by cancer whom they “stand up” for:
As you can’t read on the scoreboard (unless you clicked on the image and zoomed in), this was to take place at the end of the second inning where everyone would stand up and hold their signs up to recognize that almost everyone’s life is affected in one way or another by cancer–with the charity’s objective being to end the disease. Here is a picture of the stadium once this took place, which can give you a little bit of idea as to how it was when it actually happened with all of the signs lifted up:
With Terry Ryan having been diagnosed with squamous-cell carcinoma (a type of cancer) just two months prior in the offseason, many of the signs–particularly of the players–were dedicated to him. Others paid tribute to cancer’s effect on the Twins by writing Harmon Killebrew who had died almost three years earlier. Instead, I wrote the name of someone whose death preceded Harmon’s by just two or three hours:
And after that, there was one other thing I had to do. I had gotten some temporary tattoos, and for those who didn’t click the link I had on his name, Sean is a pretty big White Sox fan. He’s originally from a southern suburb of Chicago, so I forgave him enough to be roommates with him for a year. The opportunity to get him completely “Twins-ed” out was just too tempting. The result was the following:
He wasn’t thrilled to have to deal with the fallout from me inevitably posting the picture on social media his friends would see, but he was semi-cooperative once I started taking a burst of pictures by not ducking out of the frame.
We then got a picture together on the second level of the right field seats:
And that’s where I’ll end the entry. Normally I do a “STATS” section at the end of entries, but I will skip that for all of the games I write about having gone to in 2014 because it is now 2015 as I write this. If you really want some ballhawking statistics about myself (or the majority of all ballawks in the country), go to mygameballs.com. Here is the link to my individual profile from which you can stalk me.
On a Saturday came the final day of my wonderful, baseball and number-filled experience. I still got up as early as the day before to watch the sun rise, but this time I did some schoolwork instead of heading to the earliest panel.
Thus, the first panel of the day that I attended was International Baseball Landscape. It was moderated by Rob Neyer and the panel itself consisted of:
Leonte Landino, ESPN Deportes
Tyrone Brooks, Pittsburgh Pirates
Josh Rawtich, Arizona Diamondbacks
The discussion started with the World Baseball Classic. The panel saying that the goal of the WBC was to teach America about international baseball and to spark interest in other countries. Landino added that comparatively, other countries are way more excited for the WBC than in the US.
The conversation then shifted away from the WBC and moved to player development abroad. Brooks started off with saying that MLB players will start coming from China; Landino saying that Colombia is the next baseball frontier, which I then talked to him about after the panel ended. (For those of you who don’t know, I was born in Colombia, so this was exciting for me.) Another thing that was exciting to me was what Rawtich said next which was: If you can speak Spanish, you are four steps ahead of everyone else in terms of working with a baseball team, since there are so many Latin-American facets. The panel then ended with the state of two Caribbean baseball power houses. With regards to the Dominican Republic, Landino said that a setback nowadays is that players are too old at 17 or 18 years old. Brooks then said that the main problem with Puerto Rico is that with them being included in the MLB draft, they now have to compete with hundreds of US prospects without people looking for them as feverishly as before due to the lack of scouts in PR.
From there, I headed to a presentation: Quantifying the Consistency of Pitchers. The idea being, that consistency is always something that has been regarded as a positive thing for a pitcher, but there has never really been a way of ascribing a number to it. This is all I feel like explaining about that presentation.
After which, it was time for another lunch and panel on prospect analysis and evaluation. Moderated by Barry Bloom, of MLB.com, the panel consisted of a trio of technically-MLB.com people:
Mayo and Callis started off with saying that there has been an explosion of both information and the speed at which it travels, which has led to a different evaluational process with prospects, with Callis elaborating that the most important stat to look at first in that whole process (for both hitters and pitchers) is K/BB ratio.
Pleskoff’s contribution to the group was rattling off some names for the audience to remember going forward: Tim Cooney (who I wrote down as “Tom” in my notes), Jonathan Schoop (whose name I spelled “Scope”), Steven Matz (whose name I spelled “Maetz”), and Kris Bryant (whose name I spelled “Chris”).
While there were other things in this panel, that’s all I’ll include since these entries would be 7,000 words if I transcribed even half of the panels.
Next was the panel Telling Stories in the Age of Sabermetrics. This being put on by the sports website Sports on Earth and featuring its writers as both moderator and panelists. These were (starting withe the moderator): Steve Madden, Emma Span, Mike Trainer, and Howard Megdal.
I believe it was Steve Madden who started the panel by introducing Sports on Earth by saying that it was like Grantland in terms of how people viewed the content but more like the National in terms of getting content out as quickly as possible. He said that, “smart is better than loud,” saying that you need to be accurate and engaging but not intentionally sensational.
Emma Span gave some insight in interviewing players by saying that one should not construct yes-no questions, but the more broad and open-ended one’s questions are, the duller the response, so try to create context with the question that is specific and directed.
Howard Megdal related this to numbers by saying that numbers are very helpful in doing stories and can also be so with interviews. To elaborate, you should find player-specific information so they are engaged, because players can tune out a reporter very quickly. They are craftsmen, so if you take notice of what they are doing, they’re more likely to be engaged, with Span adding: Just because you can’t measure something, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
Span then capped off the panel by offering advice for writers looking to get into sports writing, specifically looking at the type of writers that might be in the audience for this particular panel. She said first that if can explore a niche, go for it but you should be able to write on a variety of topics. Target what you want to write about/see what you need to be able to write for that. She said that you should also just try and write as much as you can, but to err on the side of specificity. “I would stop before you take a job writing for a site about non-phosphorous metals.” Then giving some advice about critiquing things: Break things down into manageable chunks when voicing critiques in a way that doesn’t sound as critical. Megdal added to this idea by saying that one must approach things gingerly when whomever you are talking to is not doing well. When looking at the numbers, look not necessarily how good they are, but where there’s room for improvement.
And with that panel and Vince Gennaro leading the conference wrap-up:
my first ever SABR Analytics Conference. The actual wrap-up ended at 4:30, so I hung around the hotel a bit talking to some of the conference organizers. Then I went to the airport via Phoenix’s Minnesota-esque lightrail line and entertained myself by taking picture like this:
And this (even though it was technically from the airport tram):
My flight wasn’t until midnight, so for the moment I just took in the pretty sunset:
And the Phoenix skyline in said sunset:
After which I waited at my gate to get on a couple of flights that via Atlanta would see me landing in Washington DC at 8:00 AM:
While I’ve always kind of known which teams I like and which I don’t–although even those have changed throughout the years–I truly have never ranked the teams 1-30 as to which I like better than others. So that’s what I’m going to do right now. (Disclaimer: This is a list of how I order the teams in the offseason of 2013-14. While most of my decision in where to put a team in the rankings is based off of the franchise itself, some of it is based on who is on the team right now, so these rankings are subject to change over time.)
1. Minnesota Twins-
My story with the Twins is that I grew up a Yankees fan being from New York, but being that I look at things from a GM’s perspective, I thought that being Brian Cashman and having a $200-million payroll would be a pretty boring job creatively since he could essentially buy any player he wanted to. In thinking this, I thought of a team who had success but doing so with a reduced payroll that required teams to build their team in an innovative way on a much smaller budget. Being as it was the mid-2000s, the Twins was a natural choice seeing as they were a constant playoff team with one of the lowest budgets in baseball. Now don’t get me wrong; there’s a different challenge in being the GM of the Yankees: you’re never allowed to take a year off having success to rebuild your core/farm system, but I was entranced by the building of a successful major league team from a solid minor league core.
2. Washington Nationals-
In going to a ton of games at Nationals Park in 2011 I fell in love with the core of players that went 80-81 as well as the people who inhabited it. Ever since then, I have been a really big fan of the players that made up the core of the teams in the next two years. And because of me falling in love with the Nationals Park environment for whatever reason as well as the people who made it such a special place, I became a fan of the franchise as a whole.
3. Tampa Bay Rays-
Much like the Twins, the Rays endeared themselves to me by being a team that built their team intelligently–allowing them to achieve repeated success on a payroll that can’t compare to that of a larger market team.
4. San Francisco Giants-
The Giants is an interesting case because it started as simply a liking of a specific player: Tim Lincecum. However, as I kept up with Lincecum more and more as he began to turn from the Washington kid who could pitch insanely fast for his size to a household name, I grew to have a liking fro the other players on the Giants as well. I think having shared a hotel with the players in Milwaukee and having a mini-conversation with a couple of them as well as having a personal memory of what Brian Wilson was like pre-beard may have contributed to this connection to the team, though.
5. Texas Rangers-
I truly have no idea how the Rangers managed to climb my list so high. I used to not really be a fan of them in their team with the two Rodriguezes, but as they turned towards a team that relied more on pitching *in addition to* the offense the Rangers always seemed to have, I really liked the teams that they constructed around 2009-10.
6. New York Yankees-
While they have fallen down my list and I hate the franchise past the team itself, they still are my childhood team that I can’t help to root for.
7. Philadelphia Phillies-
While it was not the beginning of my fandom of them, this certainly sealed it for me. They’d be higher on the list for me, but Phillies fans.
8. Toronto Blue Jays-
Part of me always sympathized with our neighbors to the north. Even when the Expos were still a team, I liked the Blue Jays a lot and always secretly as a Yankee fan hoped they would surge up and break the norm of the AL East standings for a while in the early 2000s–which was:
2. Red Sox
3. Blue Jays
5. Devil Rays
I just really always wanted them to have success, and this translated to a fandom of the team when they played teams that weren’t my top-of-the-line favorite teams.
9. Milwaukee Brewers-
My liking of the Brewers began in around 2008 when CC Sabathia joined the team for half a season and did amazing with being in attendance for what should have been a no-hitter, (I might write about this/do a video for a “Blast From the Baseball Past” entry) but then I just had a fandom for the Fielder and Braun teams. My fandom for the team, though, has lessened the past couple of years for obvious reasons regarding one or more of the aforementioned players.
10. Oakland Athletics-
(See Tampa Rays.)
11. Cincinnati Reds-
I think this is kind of a fusion of many of the various teams I have talked about to this point. So in part it’s like the Rays where I liked that a solid major league team was built from the pooling of major league talent, but it is also a lot like the Giants since I really like Joey Votto as a player.
12. Atlanta Braves-
I think this is Nationals-esque in that I loved Turner Field and its atmosphere. I also liked the core and became much more of a fan because of people I have met that are passionate about the Braves. And I can say that the fact that Julio Teheran plays for them doesn’t hurt them at all.
13. Arizona Diamondbacks-
This is one of the teams that I honestly don’t know why I like more than most teams. I’ve just always liked Diamondbacks teams (after the 2001 season, that is.) Yeah, I don’t know.
14. Seattle Mariners-
This has been mostly the product of running into very nice baseball people who are fans of the Mariners. I’m also a fan of how good of a pitching team they have been despite being offensively anemic the past seasons.
15. Baltimore Orioles-
Similarly to the Mariners, I just know a ton of awesome baseball people that are Orioles fans. In addition to that, their stadium is my favorite in baseball. I would say that really the only reason they’re this far down the list is that some Orioles fans became obnoxious as they began to climb out of the AL East cellar.
16. Detroit Tigers-
I know that I’m supposed to hate the Tigers as a Twins fan, but the fact that we beat them in the game 163 we played them helps and I always admired the teams that had success more than most of the teams I am supposed to dislike.
17. Pittsburgh Pirater-
I can pretty safely say that if I weren’t a ballhawk, this team would be lower on the list, but because of the big ballhawk following in Pittsburgh, I have kept up and liked the Pirates and it was incredibly fun watching them have success for the first time in over two decades last season.
18. Miami Marlins-
Ah the Marlins. Those poor souls. I always had an affinity for them especially teams with the 30+ homer infields of Uggla, Ramirez, Cantu, and Jacobs. That said, Jeffrey Loria has made this a team that I can’t root for over half of the other teams. They remain a team that I’m intrigued by and want to root for, and they would skyrocket up this list if Loria ever sold them and kept them in Miami, but right now they’re just not a team I can really get behind.
19. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim-
I don’t know about this team. I want to like them in many respects, but they lost me when they started spending a bajillion dollars on free agents, trading for Vernon Wells, and then having success with not with their big free agent acquisitions but with the farm talent they had beforehand.
20. Colorado Rockies-
The Rockies are one of those teams I have a preference towards, but still in a kind of “eh” way. I’ve never disliked them really, but I’ve never really had any passion behind my support of them.
21. San Diego Padres-
I used to like them a lot more in the Trevor Hoffman era, but they’ve dropped a bit since then not necessarily because their lack of success but the players behind these teams. They just haven’t been groups of guys that I’d like to get behind.
22. Cleveland Indians-
Again, never disliked them but never really liked them.
23. Houston Astros-
I actually like the group of people in this team and could see myself liking a lot in the years to come. That said, they have made some pretty bad decisions in the past and it was not a shock that they were as bad of a team as they have been.
24. Kansas City Royals-
I actually like this franchise in terms of their ballpark and look, but then there are the people behind the scenes that ruin this team for me. At the ballpark, I have not heard many positive things about their ushers, and behind the franchise, I disagree on many things with the GM of the team, Dayton Moore. I think that the team could have been competing a long time ago had it not been for his guidance.
25. St. Louis Cardinals-
The main reason for them being this far down the list is the fact that their fans claim incorrectly that they are definitely the “best fans in baseball.” While I don’t think there is a no-doubt group of the best fans in baseball, if my experience with Cardinals fans in baseball has taught me anything, it is that while the Cardinals fan base may be in the top-10, they are definitely not the no-doubt best fans in baseball they claim to be.
26. Chicago White Sox-
I was a fan of the 2005 Astros and 2008 Twins. Enough said.
27. New York Mets-
They’re the Mets. I don’t know how many things I have admired about the Mets the past five years. If it’s any indication, the rendition of “Meet the Mets” that I have adopted begins:
Beat the Mets,
Beat the Mets,
Step right up and,
Sweep the Mets
28. Los Angeles Dodgers-
While I have kind of liked the players on the Dodgers for stretches, their recent acquisition by the Kasten-Johnson group and metamorphosis into baseball’s new Yankees has really turned me off to them. I have disliked them sans Vin Scully for a much longer time than just that, but that’s the most recent thing that provides a rational reason for disliking them.
29. Chicago Cubs-
I have never had any appeal to the Cubs, and I’m not particularly found of how Cubs fans overreact to prospects as well as how in-your-face Cubs fans I have interacted with have been about the most minor successes. Granted, it’s a conditioning that has come with being the fan of a team who last won a World Series when one’s great-grandparents were your age.
30. Boston Red Sox-
This is partially because I grew up a fan of the Yankees, but I also do like their stadium and the atmosphere of it. However, I can’t get over the attitude of their owner John Henry that many fans have adopted without realizing the absurdity of it of that the Yankees have a ridiculous advantage in terms of having a humongous payroll. The reason this argument infuriates me is because for the longest time, there was a gigantic gap in payroll between the Red Sox and the third largest payroll. Thus it was the rich crying poor in order to gain sympathy. The second reason is because the Steinbrenner family is actually a middle-of-the-pack ownership group in terms of wealth. The reason they invest so much money into the team is because they value winning. Therefore, if John Henry truly wanted to win, he could spend the extra money and win. The problem is that if he didn’t win with this extra money invested, he would be losing money. However, George Steinbrenner was taking the same risk when he invested his extra money; it was just that Steinbrenner’s Yankees did win every season and could thus keep spending. So what Henry did by calling out Steinbrenner and the Yankees was criticized him/them for doing what he didn’t have the guts to do with the Red Sox in order to give his fans the winning such a great fan base deserved. However, being the fans that they were, many Red Sox fans backed their owner without truly understanding what was behind these claims.
So those were my favorite teams. I am by no means “right” in any of my judgements. Picking a favorite team–or in my case *teams*–is something of complete subjectivity and can be done for any number of reasons. Also, the next entry is me making a new Observing Baseball Logo. I would actually like to make a clarification. So it’s actually not the logo itself–this:
But it would actually be me remaking the icon itself, which is this:
But besides that, keep voting for your favorite entries. I should mention that I’ll be doing various entries for Twinsfest, but you can vote for the stuff you want to see besides this on the poll below:
After a brief trip to Baltimore, it was back to Washington. And look who was there to greet me:
That, if you don’t know from past entries like this one, is Rick Gold, a fellow ballhawk who lives in New Jersey and works for MLB.com, and as a result goes to games pretty much everywhere, but likes to come visit Washington perhaps more than any other city. What we’re doing in the picture is it was my first day in Washington with my behemoth of a glove that is either 14 or 15 inches. (I forgot which it is exactly and it doesn’t say on the glove itself.) And Rick’s glove is also pretty large at 14″, so we were previewing the battle of the big gloves that was going to take place during the day. I had my glove in front of his in the picture, but I’ll give you a brief preview and say that he put on a show during BP.
His day started off rough with a missed catch on a home run ball during pitcher’s BP. But fortunately he had his cup trick to retrieve the ball from the gap in front of the Red Seats and caught another ball on the fly later that Craig Stammen hit. Meanwhile in the left field seats, I managed to catch a ball off of the bat of Nathan Karns who hit a couple out:
It’s crazy to think that Karns can hit, because the Nationals pitching staff, although their in-game numbers might not necessarily reflect it, are one of the better hitting staffs in the league during BP. They routinely outperform the hitters in terms of home runs for a hitting group.
My next ball came in the Red Seats when Nathan Karns came out to field baseballs. I think I was the only one who knew his name since he had just made two starts at that point, so when I call out to him by name as he approached the wall to retrieve a ball, he tossed me the baseball for my second ball of the day. My third ball came when bench coach, Randy Knorr, fielded a ball by the Red Seats. I asked him by name for a ball and he hooked me up. Right as I got the ball, I asked a group of three kids who had gotten a ball yet. They all said they hadn’t, so I gave the ball to the kid closest to me on the left and told them I would give one of the others a ball if I snagged another ball out there in the Red Seats:
I didn’t so just that one kid got a ball from me. Although I did see another snag a ball in the time I was there afterwards. I left there when I saw the Mets players coming out to throw. The Mets are pretty bad in BP to begin with, so I knew I wouldn’t be missing much in going into foul territory for a couple of rounds. But I get ahead of myself. I forgot to mention how exactly the clinic Rick Gold was putting on unfolded. By the time I headed over into foul ground, he already had eight baseballs. If you don’t know, Rick doesn’t go for toss-ups, so besides the ball he got using his ball retriever, the other seven were hit baseballs. These seven included five balls caught on the fly and balls caught on three consecutive pitches. All were opposite field home runs by Ryan Zimmerman, and it was truly something to see. I watched him chase down and catch the first one, then as I turned to pay attention to Zimmerman again, I saw another ball headed out there, and Rick ran back towards where he had started to catch the second. I then saw him running back to where he caught the first ball and catch the third ball. He literally had two balls in his throwing hand when he caught the last of the three since he didn’t have time to put any in his backpack. He would end the game at ten baseballs with six caught on the fly. I can only imagine what numbers he could have gotten to had he been going for toss-ups as well. Or does he maybe miss some hit baseballs because he was asking for a ball somewhere in there? Does his three consecutive catches in a row? I don’t know, but it was a spectacular performance. The best I’ve ever seen in terms of a ballhawk going off by catching the hit ball.
When the Mets pitchers finished throwing, I got Scott Rice to toss me a ball:
First of all, this ball was a result of the surprising lack of Mets fans that went into foul ground to watch them warm up. But secondly, I was concentrating on another throwing pair, but when Rice and his partner Greg Burke got done throwing, I got into the first row, and as Rice kept walking by me with the ball, I asked him by name if he could toss me the ball. Not surprisingly–as I was the only one to do so, he obliged me for my fourth ball of the game.
My fifth ball of the day came when I headed back out to the Red Seats. When Matt Harvey went to dead center field to retrieve a ball, I went to the corner spot at the front-left of the section and asked him for the ball. He looked up at me and tossed me the ball:
Batting practice would end within five minutes of me getting this ball, so that would be it for me for BP. Towards the end of the game, though, I headed down here as the Mets lead the game 2-1:
I figured the game was over since the Mets had their pretty-reliable closer Bobby Parnell on the mound. But that’s when the Mets showed why they were the Mets and why the Nationals were the Nationals. You see this is the second game I have been to between these two teams where the Mets lead the whole game, but the Nationals went on a roll in the bottom of the ninth that made it look like they were just toying with the Mets. I’ll just tell you what happened. Ryan Zimmerman hit a double to lead off the inning. Zimmerman then advanced on a wild pitch. Adam LaRoche then hit a single to score Zimmerman. At this point I was very unhappy even though the Nationals–who I am a fan of–had tied the game because I really didn’t want extra innings since I was already by the dugout, and that’s where it appeared this game was headed. But again, thank you to the Mets for being the Mets, because Ian Desmond doubled to make it runners on second and third with no outs. (Since Trent Jewett, the third base coach was obviously not going to send LaRoche in that situation.) Roger Bernadina then came up, but with Steve Lombardozzi hitting behind him and the obvious benefits of having a force-out at every base, he was intentionally walked. Lombardozzi then thankfully hit a walk-off sac-fly to end the game.
At the end of the game, I had kids in front of me in the corner spot to the umpire’s tunnel, but home plate umpire Wally Bell actually didn’t give them any baseballs; which is very odd. Just in case, though, I started to say, “Mr. Bell…” And before I could even finish my request, Bell had already tossed me my sixth ball of the night:
It just goes to show, sometimes all it takes is asking and knowing the person’s name.
- 6 Balls at this Game
Numbers 538-543 for my “lifetime”:
- 97 Balls in 23 Games= 4.22 Balls Per Game
- 6 Ball x 31,473 Fans=188,838 Competition Factor
- 86 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 135 Balls in 30 Games at Nationals Park= 4.50 Balls Per Game
- 22 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
- 6 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
- 4 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
- 2 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 4-5 Balls
- Time Spent On Game 2:53-10:38= 7 Hours 45 Minutes
My day began at Avi Miller‘s house. See, Avi and his parents were kind enough to put up with me for a couple of days as I needed a place to stay while going to a couple Orioles games. I have to say it was a really nice/fun place to stay. Avi and I had stayed up watching MLB Network–which I had regrettably not watched in forever leading up to that point–and I worked on entries as I watched and we ate pizza that I somehow got talked into letting Avi pay for even thought *he* was the one letting me stay with him. But anyway, the way to get to the ballpark from Avi’s is to drive to the subway station and take that to the ballpark. We could drive the whole way, but given how often Avi goes to games, it doesn’t make any sense, because 1. It costs $8 for him to park by the ballpark. 2. It puts extra wear on the car. And: 3. It costs a lot more in gas to get to the ballpark than the $1.20 for the subway.
But why am I prolonging the introduction to this entry and my account of the time before I got to the ballpark? Well because not much happened in batting practice itself. Once I got int the gates, here was my view of the field:
While I’ve heard it many times via word of mouth, I don’t think I’ve seen it written yet, so I figure I’ll get it out there: OPACY has become a tougher ballpark to ballhawk at. One reason for the ballhawks who used to come there many years ago is the competition. Several years ago (like 2010 and before that) there was virtually no competition during the first half-hour, so if you were in left field courtesy of a season ticket, you essentially had the place to yourself and could clean up for thirty minutes. The second reason is the Orioles don’t really have a team suited for the ballpark. I remember running all over the place when Mark Reynolds and Derrek Lee were on the team, but now really the only player who consistently gets balls into the left field seats is J.J. Hardy, and even he is having a rough year in that regard. You’d almost rather go out onto the flag court for parts of the 30 minutes to try to get a Chris Davis homer. And all of the players/coaches who patrol left field during batting practice are already accustomed to not tossing baseballs up for this first half-hour, so it’s not an automatic thing like it used to be to get on the board with a season ticket. I wasn’t there super consistently before, but from what I heard, it used to almost be easy to get four or five baseballs before the seating bowl opened up to the general public, and that’s before any of the visitor’s BP even took place.
During this BP, though, the Orioles hit definitely less than five baseballs into the stands, and I’m pretty sure that’s including ground-rule doubles. Nothing even came close to me. And what made it so frustrating is that although Alex Kopp, who I showed you guys in the previous game’s entry was there, Tim Anderson wasn’t here for today’s or the next day’s game, so I wanted so badly to take advantage, since I knew it would be a rarity to have an opportunity like this, but then the Orioles let me down. I mean look at how much space I had to run around if a ball got hit into the stands:
Oh, and I don’t think I mentioned it in the last game’s entry, but I was particularly looking forward to Tim being away because he jumped and caught a ball during that BP that almost certainly would have made its way into my glove had he not been there. He made a great play on it, and I horribly misjudged the ball. I still would have made the catch, but he picked the right row to run in and I went two rows deeper.
But back to this game. What made it even more frustrating is that the big, bad Tigers decided to take the day off of hitting because they had just played an 11-inning game in Pittsburgh where they got beat 1-0. I mean to me, getting shutout for 11 innings by the Pirates means you should probably be taking extra hitting, but you know, whatever your methods are, Jim Leyland, I won’t question them. It was as a result of the Tigers not hititng, however, that I probably had one of my more memorable experiences at the ballpark. And by memorable I mean…well, you’ll see.
Since the Tigers weren’t hitting, I went behind the Tigers pitchers warming up to try to get a ball from them. Since I had previously had a good encounter with him at Target Field, I got behind Phil Coke’s throwing partner to hopefully get a ball from Coke when they were done. When they finished catch, and I asked Coke for a ball, he looked and me and started backing away from me. I didn’t know what to make of it until he got into the “set” position of pitching of the stretch and flipped his glove upwards–which is to say he was going to throw me a fastball. I thought he was just going to throw the ball at my glove nice and easy, but no, this was Phil Coke, so he threw the ball full-force. So given the fact that it was Phil Coke not off a mound, it was probably in the high-80s. I wasn’t expecting this at all, so as the ball went way higher than I thought it would, I just managed to tip the ball as it zoomed way past me into the stands. I then ran back and retrieved the ball. I thought that was the end of it, but Coke signaled for me to toss the ball back to him. I tossed it back to him and he readied himself again. This time he crow-hopped into the throw–so the ball was almost definitely in the mid-90s–and I had to jump this time just to tip the ball. The ball then hit off a seat behind me and ricocheted all the way past the cross-aisle:
When I went back and got this ball, I was more than prepared to toss it back to him for another chance to catch it, but as you can somewhat see in the last picture, he had moved onto a new victim in the blue. That’s an OPACY regular by the name of Doug. Coke fired one ball at Doug before he told everyone to clear the area and then proceeded to fire another ball at Doug. Avi described it perfectly in what he said afterwards (I’m somewhat paraphrasing), “In an age where some teams encourage players to not even toss baseballs up into the stands because of liability, that has got to be the most reckless thing I’ve ever seen a player do at the ballpark.” Of course, Avi had probably the best reason to say it because after it deflected off a seat, one of Coke’s throws went less than a foot above Avi’s head. But alas, I had to keep my crown as the only one who got hit in the head with a baseball while I was at OPACY.
But anyway, that was pretty much it for the day. Avi, Alex and I hung out in club level pretty much until the game started. Tonight was Union Night, so OPACY was completely sold-out out. I mean just check out the sight on Eutaw Street before the game began:
So Alex and I sat out in the flag court at one of the picnic tables. And after having to move about seven times because people kept on showing up to their seats for the first three or four innings, Avi came and joined us out there. Here are those two as I was leaving to go get an umpire ball:
And I didn’t. The previous day I was in prefect position for an umpire ball, but an usher moved a couple kids in front of me just before the umpire passed through–like he literally grabbed the two kids and lifted them into the row of seats right in front of me–so I didn’t get a ball that day. I figured this was the usher’s custom, so this game I went to the other side of the tunnel in hopes of being on the corner spot on that side. I was, but unfortunately for my hopes of getting an umpire ball, the Orioles rallied back in the ninth inning, which they had begun trailing, and Chris Dickerson hit a walk-off home run, which I–albeit jokingly–called. This affected me trying to get a ball because the crowd was going absolutely berserk, so when I tried calling whoever the home plate umpire was by name, he couldn’t hear me at all. Heck, I could barely hear myself calling out to him. So he exhausted all of his baseballs on the kids awaiting him before he got to me. All in all it was a pretty boring day to ballhawk besides the Coke incident. I got my one ball there, Alex got his right at the beginning of BP when an usher directed him to a ball that had been hit in the seats before we entered, and I don’t even know if Avi got a ball, since he has a good approach and just relaxes during BP and snags whatever comes his way. He doesn’t really set expectations fro himself, so whatever he does in terms of baseballs and autographs is almost like a nice treat in addition to being at the ballpark. Anyway, I headed out to the flag court where I met up with Avi, where we would prepare ourselves for a game the next day that while much more adventuresome, would be just as frustrating to me.
- 1 Baseball at this Game
Number 535 for my “life”:
- 89 Balls in 21 Games= 4.24 Balls Per Game
- 1 Ball x 46,249 Fans=46,249 Competition Factor
- 84 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 43 Balls in 10 Games at OPACY= 4.30 Balls Per Game
- 10 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 3:23-12:14= 8 Hours 51 Minutes
Just to have it on the record who my favorite MLB players are and were as of January, 12, 2013. That, and maybe for you guys to get a better idea of me as a baseball fan:
Vote for who you think the next entry should be about:
And of course, if you haven’t already, vote for what you think the next entry should be after that:
Exhausted entry ideas:
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
239,315 Words Written so far…
Ah weird numbers: my specialty. So, it was completely natural for me to write this entry. What better to do than find arbitrary statistics about my blog and place meaning in them. Just call me the Tim Kurkjian of the MLBlogs world. (Kurkjian still does the “Kurk-gems” segment, right? I’ve pretty much stopped watching Baseball Tonight in favor of MLB Tonight on MLB Network.) Here goes some of the random numbers.
First, let’s start off with the big one: number of words total. Over the course of this blog, I have written 225, 518 words. That’s a lot of words. I am astounded by this number personally. With the number of entries I currently have up, that works out to an average of 823 words per entry. However, you’ve got to keep in mind there are certain kinds of entries that are way under and over this average. For example, none of my “Re-view of the Preview” entries even reached this number. I don’t think any of them even surpassed the 600 word plateau. With the average for the thirty of those being 200-300 words, it brings the average way down. If I had to guess, my average ballhawking entry is probably in the 1,400 word range. My longest entry ever is 3,631 words. You can check that out here. It was when I met up with the Cook family in Washington D.C., so I decided to take up Todd Cook’s style of writing for a day and over-document. It wasn’t my longest entry by a mile, though. The next closest entry in terms of words was my informal tour of Citi Field where I covered a lot of ground in general with a guest by the name of Alex also joining in with me. (And for the record: no, he didn’t accompany me on my mini-tour of Citi Field. He entertained himself in the club level while I ran around the stadium for five minutes.) You can check out that entry if you’d like by clicking these words I have typed in this sentence. That entry was 3,344 words long. The least amount of words I have ever written in an entry is 19 words. The reason for it was because the entry itself was pretty much a video entry, so the 19 words were the introduction the video. Click here for the link to that entry. I believe it was my first video filmed with a high-quality camera. And by high-quality, I mean not a webcam. As for the quality of the video…Eh, I made an unsuccessful attempt at a homemade teleprompter that is very obvious when you watch the video. It’s pretty bad looking bad at it. But hey, cut me some slack; it was my third video ever.
Baseballs given away:
Next fact: The past two years I have snagged 384 baseballs. Of those, I have given 110 of them away. For those who don’t have a calculator, that is 29% of the baseballs I have snagged I have given away. Whenever I talk to people and they ask me the question everyone asks ballhawks: “What do you with all of the baseballs?” I tell them that I give about a third of them away. So that’s pretty accurate, right? In 2011, I gave away 34 of 161 snagged (21%). The most I gave away that year was 4 baseballs in a game. I can’t remember when that was, but to me now, that’s a low “high” number. I think my lack of giving stems from the fact that I was snagging baseballs at a ton of different stadiums for my successful period of ballhawking in July, so I didn’t have to worry about pleasing any ushers for later games. I was planning to give the majority of my baseballs towards the end of the year when I wasn’t as mobile. When this happened, however, I hit an absolute cold streak where I wasn’t snagging more than three baseballs at a game that often at all. As such, I didn’t have that many baseballs to give away. As a result, the middle of the summer remained my peak for giving away baseballs. In 2012, I gave away 76 of 223 baseballs (34%). This was lead by games where I gave away a ton of baseballs. The most I gave out in a game was 7 baseballs ( I snagged 9, I believe that day). However, it was one of three games where I gave away 6 or more baseballs this year.
In my entries I have used a total of 4,545 pictures. That averages out to 16.5 pictures per entry. That’s a lot higher than I would have guessed. Although, I guess the list is top heavy with ballhawking entries bearing the brunt of the load. The most pictures I’ve used in a single entry was the same as the entry where I wrote the most words ever with 80 pictures.
I have snagged 30 commemorative baseballs since I started this blog. I snagged a Citi Field commemorative baseball in 2010, but besides that, all of my commemorative snags have come this past year. My record for snagging commemorative baseballs in one game is 7. This came–I believe–when the Nationals were using nothing but Shea Stadium and Nationals Park commemorative baseballs.
Time Spent On Game:
I have roughly spent 40,882 Minutes on the 85 games I kept track of either the “Time at Game” or “Time Spent On Game” stat for. That’s over 681 Hours I have spent on baseball games. If you don’t know how the stat works, it is the time I spend at the ballpark itself plus the time I spend traveling to and from the ballpark. For the games where I only had the “Time at Game” stat, I added a round amount of hours (usually 2 hours for local games) to the total I had in place to account for transportation time. For those without calculators, the average amount of time I spent on a game was 481 Minutes or just over 8 Hours.
As of late I have been incorporating videos a little more than before, but I have been using videos in my entries for over a year now. As a result, I have uploaded 6074 seconds of video to YouTube for this blog. Why seconds? Because have you ever tried to add up times when they’re in this format: 6:51+ 4:26? No, because it’s annoying as heck. Also, I do have other YouTube videos out there (I’ll get to some of those in the next entry), but these are the videos made for the purpose of incorporating them into a blog entry. If you’re wondering what that seconds mark translates into in the 0:00 format, though–First of all, get a calculator; I’m sick of doing all of the math for you–it is 101 Minutes 14 Seconds. If you divide that by the number of videos, it is an average of 6:20 per video. However, I should include the caveat that the shortest video I have put on YouTube is 6 six seconds, which kind of throws off the average (and can be found in the entry I’m linking to here). Meanwhile, the longest video is 16 Minutes 2 Seconds. That was the entry where I took apart a baseball a couple weeks ago.
That’s all I have for you for now. Surprisingly–even though it doesn’t appear that way–this entry is over 1,000 words. However, if you have any obscure stats you think of and would like for me to include, leave your suggestions down below in the comments, and if it doesn’t take an eternity to calculate like these almost did, I will calculate it and add a section below that last one right above this paragraph.
I realize I have been off schedule lately, but the holiday/finals time threw a wrinkle in my plans. So, to make it up to you, I plan to have published three new entries (in addition to this one) by/on January, 1, 2013. While it is pretty set in stone what those three will be, you can keep voting on which entries I will write after those in this poll down here. I will include all of the already-used ideas below it as well as the rankings of the remaining categories:
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
And here are the standings for the remaining poll items as they stand while I type these words:
T1. Observing Baseball Trivia/MLBlogs I Recommend- 28 votes
3. Ballhawking Gear- 27 votes
T4. My Favorite MLB Players/Characters of Observing Baseball- 25 votes
6. Ask a Statistician- 24 votes
T7. Salute to Up-and-coming Blogs/10 Minutes with 2 GMs- 23 votes
9. Instructional Videos- 22 votes
10. My Favorite MLB Teams- 21 votes
T11. Gate Opening Times of MLB Stadiums/Complementary Tickets!- 20 votes
T13. Blast From The Baseball Past/ Battle of the Retreival Devices- 19 votes
15. Reference Guide to Ballhawk Terms- 18 votes
16. Evaluate and Critique Ballhawk Statistics- 16 votes
T17. New Observing Baseball Icon/Look at MLBlogs Themes- 15 votes
19. Format of the Entries- 12 votes
If you’re confused as to what all of these names mean, here is the link to the entry where I explain nearly all of them. And here is the entry where I explain the other two.
Also, you can vote which of the remaining days you’d like to read an entry on. I don’t know, for example if people are more or less likely to read something on Christmas, so here you can tell me that. Unlike the other poll, though, you can only vote for three days and not as many times as you’d like:
227,100 Words Written so far