On-field photo day, and 100+ degree heat meant one thing: no batting practice:
In that last picture, Ryan Zimmerman was taking ground balls. It was approximately 10 minutes since the gates had opened, and I had already gotten two balls. I had been watching Zimmerman warm up from the third base side of the field when he threw a ball away, into the stands. I was on the phone with Todd Cook when I saw it. It took me a second, but then I realized no one was over on the first base side, and I could run over and find it. So I ran over, and someone had beat me to the seats, but he walked right past the ball, so here’s what I found:
Yay, but wait, there’s more. It seemed as though there’s a reason Ryan Zimmerman was practicing so early: he can’t aim. Once I picked up the first ball, Zimmerman threw a second ball into the stands, and I had two balls within the first fifteen minutes of the gate being open:
I then headed over to Ryan Mattheus and Tom Gorzelanny further down the line (the guy/kid I mentioned in the last paragraph also in the picture):
There, another kid came up to me and asked me, “Are you Mateo?” It was Danny, one of the bloggers on the MLBlog, NYBisons. Since I try to avoid asking Nationals for baseballs, so I don’t wear out my sources because I go to so many games, and they will probably recognize me at a certain point, I helped out both Danny and the other guy to get a ball from the two players. When Ryan Mattheus came back, though, he tossed all three of us a ball. Awesome:
However, it wasn’t all fun and games. After I took that picture, I saw something just past the camera that prompted me to take a more somber picture:
During the season, I really can’t keep up with the baseball world that well, so this was where I learned the Twins were still in last place in the AL Central. Booo!
I then took a lap around the field and took pictures of the stands from the perspective of the field, just because that was the awesomest part of this whole experience: seeing where I am normally trapped from the perspective of the field, from which I am usually trying to coax balls out of players. I figured me explaining this would get old after about two pictures, so here are a couple of the pictures I took with a 1-2 sentence caption following it:
A guy had stayed in the right field seats to take pictures of his family members. That’s when it actually dawned to me the implications of being on the field versus being in the stands.
The view of the Red Seats from the warning track.
The spot of both Greg Barasch and the 20th ball he had snagged the previous night’s game. I think you can figure out which is which.
The view of the left field seats from in front of the bullpen.
The seats in third base foul ground. Those are the seats I was most fascinated by when I was on the field, but I don’t know why. I think it is because that is usually the spot closest to the field I can ever get while actively pursuing baseballs (when the opposing pitchers are warming up). When I’m there, I’m so close, but I feel so far away from the field at the same time, so to actually BE on the field on the other side of the fence is a minor victory of sorts.
The main reason I didn’t want to drag out those caption is, because although I have a bunch of pictures of that sort; after I got to the end of the line by the visitors’ dugout, I turned around and took a video of my journey all the way around the field. So, here it is:
After that, I know I’m a loser for doing so, but I headed back to the other side of the field. There just wasn’t ANYTHING to do. I was pretty sure both Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard (the players throwing in the video) would recognize me, and I thought I saw some Rockies players coming out to throw on the other side of the field.
Look who was just done taking a picture as I got to the other side of the field:
I’ll name the individuals in two pictures from now, but all you have to know is these are the Cooks of Cook & Son Bats. Here is the picture Todd has just taken as I took my last picture:
Here they are right after taking the picture:
1. Todd Cook- The Father of the Cook and Son group. Who has already published his entry of this game, which you can check out by clicking…here.
2. Tim Cook- The elder of the two Cook sons. As I took this picture, no one had yet noticed I was there, but shortly after, Tim was the one to spot and identify me.
3. Kellan Cook- The younger of the two Cook Sons.
4. Greg- Not technically a “Cook”, but he was a friend of Todd’s from their town in Pennsylvania, so he accompanied them on their journey to Washington.
After I met up with the Cooks, I watched Jeremy Guthrie play catch:
The “cooling” coming from the fact that it was in the shade and there were fans blowing out water. There, I took a few pictures of things I found interesting. First, do you see the door that is open? I took a picture of what is right inside that room:
I don’t know the exact function of everything in there, but it’s interesting, isn’t it?
I had seen this patch of grass, but I finally found out that it is used as extra grass if they need to patch up anything on the field.
There was obviously no batting practice, so the “L Screen” was in this gap in center field. I wish it were on the field, but it was nice to be able to see and touch one.
I also took a picture of the seats in right field, because I’m usually up there asking a groundskeeper down in the gap I was now standing in for a ball. It was another one of those “Oh, how many times I wished I could be down here” moments.
We didn’t spend all of our time in the cooling station though. It *was* On-Field Photo day after all. So I’m now going to go through all of the pictures I took of people while on the field. Just keep in mind I both couldn’t see what I was taking a picture of because of the intense sun, and I was shaking the hand of the person as I was taking their picture, so some of the pictures came out pretty bad:
(right to left) Rick Eckstein and Trent Jewett. Hitting and First Base Coaches.
Jim Lett, bullpen coach.
(left to right) Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman, and Michael Morse. They’re all laughing because as they passed, a Mariners fan yelled out “Michael!” to Morse. When Morse acknowledged him, he then yelled out, “Worst trade ever.” He was of course referring to the fact that Morse had been with the Mariners, but was traded for Ryan Langerhans, who is no longer even with the team. Meanwhile, Morse had hit 31 home runs for the Nationals the previous season along with a .303 average and 95 RBIs.
I don’t know exactly who this is (I may have if i just took the half-second to look at his ID), but if I had to guess I’d say he is some sort of broadcaster for the Nationals.
Randy Knorr, bench coach.
Steve McCatty, pitching coach.
(left to right) Danny Espinosa and Stephen Strasburg
Ryan Mattheus, who had tossed me a ball earlier and gave me one of the ice pops you see him holding in this picture:
I brought it up to the Cooks, sitting in the shade, to give to Tim, but apparently, if he eats anything colored red, he gets a little crazy, so I ate it instead.
An occluded Tyler Moore.
Edwin Jackson ft. Mateo Fischer’s fingers.
Mike Gonzalez, guest starring my fingers.
(left to right) Craig Stammen and Jordan Zimmerman.
Henry Rodriguez (giving Tim a high-five).
Rick Ankiel. If you look closely, you can the reflection of me shaking his hand in his sunglasses.
Adam LaRoche. He was actually the only player who allowed Tim to squirt him twice with Tim’s squirt bottle he had been carrying around all day. Tim ended up squirting three different Nationals players a total of four times. Tim squirted LaRoche, Stammen, and I believe Rodriguez, but I’m not sure.
Davey Johnson, the Nationals’ manager.
Jesus Flores? I really have no clue who it is, but his photo day picture looks the closest of anyone on the Nationals roster.
Ray Knight, whose fame came from winning the World Series with the Mets in 1986, but for some reason is a broadcaster for the Nationals; more specifically, MASN.
After we decided as a group it was time to leave the field, Tim and Todd made a brief stop to take a picture with the person Todd and I both agree is the best “crowd hype person” (I don’t want to call them cheerleaders, since baseball doesn’t have that, but that’s essentially what they’re there for in baseball) in all of baseball, Terrence:
He’s there every day, and I’d say he probably uses the most energy of anyone in the stadium each of those days. Todd said it jokingly, but he may not be as far off as you might think, that he burns 20,000 calories a game.
Now I’d just like to go over a few things of note I found while walking before I get too far away in the events of the day for them to be relevant anymore. First: When we passed the standings on the wall in right field, Tim wanted to try to touch the standings, or something like that. So he reached through the fence. After he did it Kellan did as well, mimicking his older brother, so I turned back and got a picture of it:
That’s when I noticed something very interesting about the video board. From afar, the letters of the standings look white. However, from up close, one can see there is no white at all at work in the board:
Each “pixel” of white is actually three red, green, and blue dots at work together. I guess this makes sense since you hear that TVs are “RGB”s sometimes, but I had never actually seen this phenomenon at work. I’m just curious how you would create a color such as yellow with this set-up, or if you even could.
Second: If you saw the video I embedded earlier in the entry, you may have seen me stop at around the 33 second mark and point my camera towards the dirt, where you saw what looked like a piece of paper on the ground. Well, that piece of paper was a ticket, and when I was on the first base side of the field with the Cooks, I identified exactly which section the ticket was for:
Yep, it was a club level ticket. That meant I could finally access the club level at Nationals Park. Other than being a mildly good spot for foul balls, I really never have a reason to buy a club level ticket, given the cost (this one was $55). This ticket meant I would finally be able to explore up there.
Also while I was on the first base side, all of the Cooks were usually up in the shade, but Tim joined me down on the field when some of the players passed by. On one of those excursions, a Nationals “fan” photographer took a picture of the two of us together:
Sorry for the watermark. It would have cost me $29 to get the picture without it.
Fast-forwarding to when we were exiting the field…We all decided the place to be was the Red Porch’s indoor restaurant. On the way there, though. The Cooks saw the pig at Nationals Park. (Apparently, there’s a sculpture of a pig at EVERY ballpark in the major leagues.) When we went over there, I saw the Danny that I mentioned earlier in the entry. I then got a picture of him with his two baseballs so far (both of which I have mentioned already):
For the record, that is his “Rockies” shirt, and Tim is waiting for me to finish taking the picture so we could head over to the Red Porch.
When we got over there, it was as packed as could be, so we took a seat on some couches outside it. Here is a picture Todd took of me and his two sons:
Eventually, Todd left to get some food. Meanwhile, Tim “killed” me with his squirt bottle approximately 12,735 times. I then got a message on my phone that looked like such:
I had no idea anyone was even throwing, since I couldn’t see the field from our spot. So I raced down to the Red Seats to see how this had happened, but by the time I got down there, Todd had already returned to the couches.
I returned momentarily to have get an explanation from Todd and pick up my things, but I quickly headed off to try to get a ball from the Rockies. On my way, I saw this and had half a mind to see if I could glove trick one of the balls:
I actually didn’t get any baseballs from the Rockies, but I did get two players to sign two of my baseballs (Josh Roenicke and Adam Ottavino). Here is Ottavino signing my ball:
While I was trying to get a ball from the Rockies, Todd got one from Drew Pomeranz. He then went up into the shade with Kellan and took a picture of those who stayed out in the sun:
Myself (Mateo, if you haven’t picked up on that already) and Danny were both trying to get a ball from the last reliever, but Tim was just there pretty much to tag along. If you can see it, Danny was on the phone. The person he was on the phone with was on the phone with was Quinn Imiola, a fellow Buffalo-based ballhawk, who, if you’ve been reading this blog long enough, I met at a minor league game in Myrtle Beach. Neither of us got the ball, but here was the view when the reliever was still throwing:
After that, I parted ways with the Cooks and headed up to the club level. First, I went up to my “ticketed section”:
I entered the section, but it was pretty crowded, so I made the decision I was going to stay in the outfield during the game after I toured the club level. You know the drill. I’m going to post the pictures rapid-fire.
The left field entrance to the club level.
The “tunnel” emanating from the left field entrance. The doors to the suites were on the left hand side of this tunnel.
The tunnel then lead to a (I imagine) usually very open area, but people were crowding it to escape the heat.
A bar area from which there was also a field view.
Opposite the bar was this gigantic window, offering a view of the neighborhood outside of Nationals Park. The window went all the way across the “open area”, which was rather large.
This was just one of the food options in the “open area”.
The first reason I include this picture is that the area is approximately a fourth of the total “open area”, just to give you an idea of how large it was. The second reason is: Do you see the staircase in this picture? That leads up to an all-suite level. I got up there and started exploring, but before I could start taking pictures, an usher/guard type person asked me for my ticket and told me I couldn’t be up there.
During the game, I sat in two main spots. Here is the view from my usual seat in left field:
Pretty much everyone in the lineup was right handed, so I moved between this spot and the spot I have pointed out with the orange arrow. It was a long run in intense heat, so I pretty much only did it between innings when I could take it slowly.
From the spot in foul ground, I got what almost could have been Teddy’s first win in the Geico Presidents Race. Well he’s had a bunch of those, but this one was particularly entertaining, since I was so close to the action. If you don’t know the history, Teddy has NEVER won the presidents race in however many years it has been done. The presidential mascots that run in it are those symbolizing the four presidents on Mount Rushmore.
Teddy came down the stretch way in front of the other three presidents:
but he veered at the sight of the grounds crew waving popsicles in front of him:
Eventually, the other three presidents passed right by him:
…and as they passed the finish line, Teddy fell into the wheelchair section after his beloved popsicles:
I didn’t get anything during the game, but I had fun running around. In addition, I met Alan Schuster in this section during the game. He got there late because he was already on his way to the game when he realized he forgot his tickets at home. He lives in Virginia, so it was a pretty big set-back. Alan, if you don’t know, is the webmaster of mygameballs.com, the ultimate site for ballhawk statistics. If you haven’t already, go check it out. Also, if you have ever caught a ball at a major league baseball game, make an account. It is super easy and even if you’re not a hardcore ballhawk, it is a great way to keep track of all of the baseballs and autographs you get at games. It’s better than forgetting from whom and how you got them, I’ll tell you that much.
Nearing the end of the game, this was my view:
I then tried to get a ball from whoever the home plate umpire was for that game:
but do you see all of those kids waiting? He gave a ball away to each of them, so he only had one ball left. As he passed me, I called out to the umpire by his last name, but when he looked back, he thought the guy next to me had been the one who called out to him, so he tossed him his final ball instead of me.
I then headed over to the Rockies dugout, and although all of the Rockies players dissed me, I saw a ball come out of the corner of my eye, so I caught it:
The person who threw the ball then reappeared, so I saw it was one of the Rockies ball boys or something along those lines:
Actually, though, I was only one of the people he threw a ball to. He must have thrown 10 balls into the stands. I’ve never seen anything like it from someone who wasn’t on the team.
Of course, even when someone like that throws 10 balls into the crowd, there is usually at least a kid that doesn’t get one. It’s just impossible to have EVERYone get a ball. I thought I didn’t see a kid next to me get a ball, so I asked him if he had gotten a ball at this game. He said he didn’t, so I pulled the ball out of my glove and put it into his. Here he is with it:
I then headed out to the center field plaza, fully expecting to just get on the Metro and leave. However, when I got there, the Cooks (and Greg, but I have filed him under this for the entry for the sake of brevity) were taking their final picture of the day:
So I got to formally say “goodbye” to them before I rode my way back to my apartment in Washington. If you made it to this point in the entry: Congratulations, you have more patience than I do. Not bad for a game I initially wasn’t going to go to, right?
- 4 Balls at this Game (3 pictured because I gave one away)
Numbers 334-337 for my life:
- 115 Balls in 23 Games= 5 Balls Per Game
- 4 Balls x 28,032 Fans= 112,128 Competition Factor
- 32 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 8 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 7 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
- 7 straight Games with at least 4 Balls
- 94 Balls at Nationals Park in 19 Games= 4.95 Balls Per Game
- 10 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
- 10 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Nationals Park
- 8 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Nationals Park
- 6 straight Games with at least 4 Balls at Nationals Park
- Time Spent On Game 11:38- 7:57= 8 Hours 19 Minutes
My third game at Nationals Park in the same week, and look who was at the gates waiting with me:
Left to right, that would be:
2. Rick Gold– A ballhawk originally from the Oakland area, but who now operates from New Jersey. As of this game, he had snagged 1,354 balls, which is impressive considering he doesn’t try to get players to toss him baseballs. Of those, 45 have been game home runs.
3. Greg Barasch– In addition to being a friend and fellow ballhawk, Greg also happens to be my next-door neighbor. As of this game, he had snagged a total of 1,216 baseballs.
While we awaited the gates opening, Greg and I played a little catch. Here are a couple of pictures of it, courtesy of Rick:
Eventually, there were enough people walking by that we just stopped and took the picture you saw at the beginning of the entry.
Once I got in the stadium, I almost immediately got my first ball of the day:
It was a ground-rule double that the kid in blue hat and shirt reached up to grab, but in doing so, he only deflected the ball into my glove. Also, if you zoom-in on that last picture, you can see Rick (in red) patrolling the Red Seats, and Greg (in black) working the Nationals players in right field.
I then headed over to the Red Seats, where it was cup trick day. First, here is Rick pulling up a ball with his ball retrieval device:
As Greg reeled in his ball, I headed over to the right field seats for Bryce Harper’s group. I didn’t get anything for Harper or the rest of his group, but Craig Stammen (the guy on the left of the group of three Nationals in the outfield):
I believe that was it for Nationals B.P. At that point, the ballhawk scoreboard was Greg: 8 Rick: 4 Mateo: 2. It was a pretty frustrating day at that point, because two of the balls Rick snagged would have easily had been mine had he not been there. Even Greg’s dad, who showed up just before the gates opened because he had to park, had more baseballs than me at five. Also, at this point, Greg told me he wanted to get 15 on the day (his record for one game).
Then a bunch of righties came up, so I headed over to the Red Seats, but both Rick Gold and a latecomer, Steve Miller, were there. Steve is in the blue shirt at the back of the section, and Rick is in the red in the front. So after “checking in” on Rick and saying, “Hi” to Steve, I made my way back to right field. It should be noted, Steve writes a Marlins blog, and has already published an entry about the game, which you can check out here. After my “hello”s, I headed back to the right field seats.
There, a ball was hit into the seats right in my row. I ran towards it and grabbed the ball:
As I grabbed the ball, the kid in the orange in the row behind me in the picture (looking at the camera with a ball in his hand), grabbed the ball. I had it first, so I could have easily yanked it away from him, but I decided to let go of the ball. For the record, I do count these balls, because if I don’t, I’ve created a scoring system that incentives taking balls away from other people: For my sake, I just have to have possession, and the ball counts. As I see it, I’m giving this ball away to the person by not making things get ugly, and competing with that person.
My next ball was also hit. It bounced off the lady partially occluded by the string dangling from my glove, where it went right into my row, and I picked it up:
Towards the end of Rockies batting practice, I headed over to third base foul ground. My rationale for this was things had been going SO slowly that I wasn’t missing much by getting a head start to the dugout when Rockies did end their batting practice. The first of the balls I got in foul ground was hit by a Rockies lefty:
Just as batting practice ended, I was planning to go to the dugout, but someone I can’t describe as anything other than “a random Rockies guy” was holding up a ball, and gesturing as if he were going to toss it into the crowd. I started waving my arms in the air like crazy to try to get him to toss it to me. He didn’t, but he *did* throw it over me. It was the a semi-foot race to the spot the ball landed between myself and the other kids who had seen where the ball landed. I say “semi”, because to them it was simply a foot race, but I knew they were going to beat me to that spot, so I stopped a few rows under the spot, since balls usually roll down a few rows. I then saw the ball rolling down the steps, so I ran over and picked it up, much to the chagrin of the kids who realized what had just happened:
I then sat by the dugout for a few minutes after batting practice to catch up on notes and such. There, I noticed a weird defect on one of the balls:
I’ve seen plenty of balls with the “practice” stamped upside-down, but this was the first one I’ve seen completely miss the sweet spot of the ball. Also while I was there, I rendezvoused with Steve. The last time we had met at a game, I think we both thought we should have gotten a picture together, so this time we gave my phone/camera to a random fan, but all of the pictures turned out like this:
35 balls isn’t bad for 5 people at a game.
Here is a picture Rick took of me in the right field seats with the balls I had kept:
I think I stayed in those seats for maybe three innings, but I didn’t like my chances with Stephen Strasburg on the mound. Even if he had just given up two home runs, I believe they were only his fifth and sixth of the year.. So I headed over to the Rockies dugout, where this was my view. *I* didn’t snag anything, but I was able to watch Greg put on a dugout clinic.
By the time I had gotten there, Greg had already snagged a third out ball from Tyler Colvin, and a Will Nieves foul ball, which tied him for his personal record. While the game was still in session, I managed to see him snag a third out ball from Nieves, and then a Jonathan Herrera foul ball.
At the end of the game, I, along with Greg, headed over to the umpire tunnel to try to get a ball from Jim Joyce:
He was sitting at 17 balls at that point, so we were going through scenarios in our minds with which he could get twenty baseballs. Unfortunately, all of these involved a ball from Jim Joyce, the home plate umpire, and Joyce didn’t give either of us a ball. The Rockies had won the game, though. So their players and coaches were still coming back to the dugout by the time we moved over there. It was then that both of us got a ball from Glenallen Hill. Then I believe a ball boy tossed Greg another ball (I know SOMEone tossed Greg another ball, but I’m not sure who it was). Joyce had handed a ball to a kid just to the right of Greg, so I thought the second ball he got had been his twentieth ball of the game, so I took a picture of Greg with it:
When in reality, that had been Greg’s nineteenth, which Greg explained to me right after he got the ball. Greg also had a plan to get his twentieth of the game. Earlier in batting practice, there had been a ball that landed in the flowers o the left field bullpen. Greg’s plan was to go over there and either cup trick it, or have someone toss it up to him. I left the dugout soon after him, so I could see him waiting by the bullpen, and I was going to try to get a picture of him, but by the time I got over there, he was gone. I called him to see where he was, and if I could get a picture of him with his baseballs. I learned two things on that phone call: 1. He was in a car already on his way back to New York. (His dad wanted to leave. I don’t blame him; it was nearing 11:00 PM, and it’s a 4-5 hour drive back to New York.) 2. He had gotten a member of the grounds crew to toss him the ball. Oh. My. Goodness. I had just witnessed a “twenty” game!
I headed back to my apartment, and although the Metro was more jam-packed than ever:
-Keep reading past the stats to see a few pictures I took of Greg with his baseballs (in a couple of minutes)-
• 7 Balls at this game (5 pictured because I gave 2 away)
• 111 Balls in 22 Games= 5.05 Balls Per Game
• 7 Balls x 28,951 Fans= 202,657Competition Factor
• 31 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
• 7 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
• 6 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
• 6 straight Games with at least 4 Balls
• 90 Balls in 18 Games at Nationals Park= 5 Balls Per Game
• 9 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
• 9 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Nationals Park
• 7 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Nationals Park
• 5 straight Games with at least 4 Balls at Nationals Park
• Time Spent On Game 3:13- 11:17= 8 Hours 4 Minutes
So, as promised, here are the pictures of Greg at his apartment the next week. This first one are the “only” 13 balls he kept broken up into groups. The biggest group is just the “rest” of the baseballs.The top two are his two foul balls (a personal best). The middle two are his 18th and 19th balls of the game. The one to the right of those two is his 20th ball of the game:
I then combined the five balls I kept with his, and we re-took the picture:
I then got a picture of Greg with some “balligraphy”:
Boo W.B. Mason trucks:
Let me explain myself a little further. The man holding water in the first picture is friend and ballhawk, Rick Gold. Rick works for mlb.com, so he gets into games for free. Not only that, but he can get an extra ticket. Instead of paying my usual $13, Rick hooked me up with a free ticket. Like I’ve mentioned before, there is an usher in right field who lets me sit there every game, so it doesn’t really matter where my ticketed seat is, just as long as I can get in the gates. My thumbs-down to the W.B. Mason truck is because that was the giveaway. Not the actual, giant truck, but here’s the first picture once I got in the gates:
I actually got two of these since Rick’s bag was stuffed and he didn’t want carry it around with him.
I was in left field for this picture and all of pitchers batting practice, but I didn’t get anything until the third group of hitters in right field. The third group is that which contains Adam LaRoche and Bryce Harper. One ball, LaRoche hit a bit over my head and to my right. I moved right into the exact spot where the ball was going to land, but for some reason, even though it was going straight towards my glove, the ball tipped off it and I picked it off the ground. I know it may sound shallow and stupid, but I was pretty mad with myself for dropping such an easy ball. Sure I still got it, but I also realize that the ball would have probably been someone else’s had I been in New York. Here is the spot where I dropped/snagged the ball:
I then almost caught what would have been a pretty cool ball. I believe it was LaRoche again, but it might have been Harper. Anyways, one of the two lefties hit a ball I could tell was maybe going to barely make it to the seats. I went all the way down the steps, reached out as far as I could and felt the ball hit my glove. I then had my glove pressed against the wall. I couldn’t tell, but people to my side cheered like I had caught it, so I carefully lifted my glove as to not drop a ball if it was in there, but the ball had probably dropped onto the warning track since it wasn’t in my glove as I dragged it up the wall. Here is the spot I almost caught it in:
I was leaning over the raised part of the glass, so I actually would have probably caught the ball had I went over to the railing and reached over that instead.
After that, there wasn’t much action in right field. The most interesting thing that went on was I got to see Rick using his device in the Red Seats:
I don’t have a picture of it, but it’s a cup trick of sorts. Like one you would see in either Atlanta or in San Francisco.
When I say it wasn’t interesting, that doesn’t mean the players weren’t hitting home runs. It just means those home runs weren’t near me. There were a bunch going into the second and third decks in right field. Those seats were closed until 5:30. So at 5:27, I lined up here expecting a big “payday”:
There were so many balls hit up there in fact, I spent my time waiting trying to figure out how I could keep track of what order I snagged the balls in, expecting to need to use four of my backpack’s pockets. When I got up there, though, there was nothing. The ushers had cleared out all the balls they could find in the seats. That’s the only explanation I have. No one I saw found a ball and there were at least 5 hit in the second deck and two in the third deck. Of course, one in the upper deck had been hit far enough to evade the usher’s sweep of the section. The problem was, myself and the two other fans searching the section had not seen where that ball landed, so it was Rick, after batting practice who found it and kindly (read: cruelly) took a picture for me:
Let’s get back to batting practice, though, shall we? Dejected, I walked over to third base foul ground to try to get a ball from the Giants pitchers warming up:
Like the last game I went to, they didn’t even throw a ball into the crowd while I was there. I then headed over to left field to try to catch a home run from the Giants hitters. I failed at doing this, but I got a ball from Santiago Casilla by the bullpen. At least I think that’s who it was. It was a pitcher, and he’s the person that looks most like the person who tossed me the ball on the Giants roster.
I then went over to the Red Seats where I got Shane Loux to toss me ball. Here’s a diagram of it from a picture I took in right field right after I got the Loux ball:
The black arrow shows where Loux had to move to field the ball, and the orangey arrow is the path of the ball. I then asked who hadn’t gotten a ball. A kid raised his hand, but he didn’t have a glove, so I kept on searching. Usually when this happens and I say why I didn’t give him the ball, the parent(s) react negatively. In this case, though; when I said, “Well, where’s your glove?” the father said, “I told you, you need to have your glove on all the time.” After I gave the ball away to another kid, I talked to the father briefly about experiences sitting in the upper deck with a glove on at all times as a kid.
I then moved over to foul ground to try to get a ball from Barry Zito, since I wasn’t having any luck with hit baseballs:
Of course when I got there, batting practice ended with me at three balls on the game.
Tonight’s game was turn back the clock night. That meant both team’s would have their 1924 uniforms on. It would be the New York Giants versus the Washington Senators:
It also meant the stadium’s employees dressed up like it were 1924. Take this picture from the end of batting practice. Can you spot the three different employee outfits?
I didn’t like my chances of getting anything in right field with Matt Cain on the mound, though. My mom grew up in the bay area, so she was raised a Giant fan. Normally she doesn’t go to games much, but with the Giants in town, she and my step-dad decided to go to the game. I used one of their tickets to move over here:
While I was there, I saw the second coolest sky I’ve ever seen at Nationals Park:
By the way, did you notice the “1924” scoreboard they had going?
Anyway, the Giants got beat by the “Senators” 5-6 in a thriller. The Giants were winning 5-1 in as late as the seventh, I believe, but once Matt Cain came out, the Nationals came back to make the score 5-4. Then they scored 2 runs in the bottom of the ninth to win the game. The game ended on a tailor-made double play ball that just got botched. After the game, I went to the umpire tunnel, and got Gary Darling to toss me a ball:
• 4 Balls at this Game (3 pictured because I gave 1 away)
Numbers 323-326 for my life:
• 104 Balls in 21 Games= 4.95 Balls Per Game
• 30 straight Games with at least 1Ball
• 6 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
• 5 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
• 5 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
• 83 Balls in 17 Games at Nationals Park= 4.88 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
• 6 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
• 4 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 4 Balls
• Time Spent On Game 3:24- 10:27= 7 Hours 3 Minutes
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
Ah. Another day, another game at Nationals Park. This time with extra 5 Hour Energy:
Once I got inside the gates, I first went over to right field to try to get a ball from the pitchers pictured:
Then I moved over to the left field seats, where this was my view:
I got Drew Storen to toss me my first ball right over the visitors’ bullpen. The ball had bounced off the outside of the bullpen, so check out the marks on it:
After that, I went over to the Red Seats, where this was my view:
You may notice that the pitcher in the middle of the three is Drew Storen. While he was there, I didn’t want to ask any of the pitchers for balls, figuring he would recognize me. When he left, however, I got Craig Stammen to toss me a ball:
(Stammen is the guy to the right of my glove.) After that, a person came up to me and asked, “Hey, what’s your name?” When I responded, he said, “Do you write a blog on Mlblogs?” The mystery person was Steve Miller, a guy who also writes a Marlins-themed Mlblog entitled, Fish Fry. I had actually commented on it a couple of times, and he has a picture of himself on the blog, but for whatever reason, I didn’t recognize him until he introduced himself. This is just one example that if you are at the ballpark and spot myself or another ballhawk you recognize, introduce yourself. We don’t ignore you on purpose. It’s just that with all the interactions/faces that we come across during an average game, it can be hard to keep track of. I know that I personally will never “shoo” anyone away who introduces themselves, and the worst that will happen with most other ballhawks is they’ll ask you if you can talk after batting practice instead. Anyway, I stupidly didn’t get a picture with Steve.
Right after Steve introduced himself, I said, “Man, I wish I could get a hit ball instead of a toss-up, so I can give it away to one of these kids.” pointing to the kids in the first row.
Well, I did get a hit ball to come to me. A Nationals righty hit a high fly ball that I could tell was going to hit the warning track. I aligned myself with the ball and was ready to catch the ball as it bounced over the wall and right right towards my glove. Perfect, right? Well the ball hit off the warning track with such spin that once the ball bounced into my glove, it bounced right out of my glove. It then went into the gap between the two walls I the Red Seats. It was extremely frustrating, but they’ll be more on this ball in a bit.
Okay, now it’s time to make some New York ballhawks jealous. This was the view to my right:
I caught my third ball of the game half way between the kid in the red and the man in the white in the row behind them. I was taking a picture, and just as I took the picture and was putting my phone in my pocket, Adam LaRoche hit a ball to my right. I was still putting it in my pocket, and had to make a back handed catch, leaning over a row of seats. I then gave that ball to the kid in the red hat in the next picture:
Here is the view to my left:
See the man in a blue shirt in the row emanating from the lower left corner of the picture? I got two hit balls right where he is standing in the picture. The first was a ball Roger Bernadina hit that landed in that spot. I then picked it up after running over there from where I took that last picture. I was the heading back to the spot where I took the picture from when Rick Ankiel hit a ball to the same exact spot. I moved back over to the spot and made the catch for which I got some applause.
Sensing that everyone in the section had just seen me get two balls, I asked, “Who hasn’t gotten a ball yet?” Four people raised their hands zero of which were kids with gloves. I didn’t want to be a jerk and crush people’s hopes that I had just gotten up, so I gave the ball away to a girl in the front row.
Soon after this, I was still thinking about if the ball I had dropped into the gap was still there. I figured it was, so I VERY quickly and discreetly went to the center field gap (In a different shirt, hat, and sunglasses, just in case.), and I glove tricked the ball, having learned from my previous- failed- attempt the day prior. After I reeled it up without anyone seeing me, I got out of there as fast as I could and went to left field.
In left field, Fernando Rodney tossed me a ball left handed. Naturally, the ball was off target. I then grabbed the ball and l gave it away to a girl who had been jokingly complaining that her brother had gotten a ball while she hadn’t. I should mention that this ball came after I missed two other toss-ups. One was a similar one from Rodney that I missed all together. The other was from another Rays player I never identified. Both sailed over my head, where I never got them.
The Rays had a VERY abbreviated batting practice. After getting 6 balls in Nationals B.P., I was eyeing double digits. The Rays actually only had one group of hitters, the pitchers. I thought the infielders were dead until I saw them take the field for the game.
Anyway, after batting practice ended, I got Jeremy Hellickson to toss me a ball as he entered the Rays dugout.
For those of you wondering why there is a lack of pictures in the latter part of this entry, my phone, on which I take pictures, was dying, so I didn’t want to use it that much. Finally, when it was essentially dead, I took my last picture of the day, which was my view for the rest of the game:
I would have gone back and forth from the two sides of the outfield, but there were really only righties in the two line-ups that could homer (with the exception of Bryce Harper). I did go over to right field once or twice, but it wasn’t until the later innings I did so. On one of those trips, the usher I know asked me if I could give him two baseballs, so I did. If you are keeping track, that was now SIX of the eight balls I had snagged that I had given away. I will no longer field any “ballhawks are greedy” comments.
After the top of the inning, the Rays bullpen catcher, Scott Cursi, would warm up Desmond Jennings. EVERY inning, I went down to try and get the ball, and every inning ended the same way, me walking back up the stairs in dejection.
The Nationals won the game on the wings of Gio Gonzalez as he bested the Rays’ starter, Matt Moore. The final score was 5-2.
After the game, I went down to see if I could get the lineup card from Stan Boroski, the Rays’ bullpen coach. Not even a reaction when I asked him.
• 8 Balls at this Game (2 pictured because I gave 6 away)
• 62 Balls in 13 Games= 4.77 Balls Per Game
• 22 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
• 2 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
• 2 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
• 2 straight Games with at least 4 Balls
• 2 straight Games with at least 5 Balls
• 2 straight Games with at least 6 Balls
• 2 straight Games with at least 7 Balls
• 2 straight Games with at least 8 Balls
• 8 Balls x 29,551 Fans= 236,408 Competition Factor
• 75 Balls at Nationals Park in 15 Games= 5 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
• 2 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 4 Balls
• 2 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 5 Balls
• 2 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 6 Balls
• 2 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 7 Balls
• 2 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 8 Balls
• Time at Game 4:09-10:27= 6 Hours 18 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: