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
On my last trip to Baltimore, I had set my career high for baseballs snagged in a game in the first game and then narrowly escaped getting shutout in the second game via a toss-up at the umpire tunnel after the game. That trip, however, was almost a year ago. And I was more than excited to be back at Oriole Park at Camden Yards for the first time in nearly a year when I approached its gates on this Thursday evening:
But this time I had woken up in Washington D.C. (I guess I had before those two games as well, but you get my point.) and took a 1:20 train to Baltimore. OPACY–because I don’t feel like writing out Oriole Park at Camden Yards every freaking time I mention it–actually lets people go into Eutaw Street and behind the bullpens early, so that’s where I was headed when I took that first picture. You see, Rick Gold had tweeted me right as I was about to sit down at the Hilton across the street that Nathan Karns was throwing in the Nationals bullpen. Up until that point I had completely forgotten that these areas of OPACY were even open, but when I got the tweet, I walked over to the stadium to see the action and possibly get a ball before the gates were even officially open. By the time I got there, though, it was Gio Gonzalez throwing in the Nationals bullpen:
And Rick Adair, the Orioles pitching coach, had an interesting set-up for Kevin Gausman, who was throwing in the Orioles bullpen:
If you can’t tell, it’s a rope. Adair had it set up to have an objective line between high fastballs and low fastballs. I like to think my readers are smart people, so I’ll let you figure out which side of the rope is which.
Anyway, I managed to get my first ball of the day when the Nationals (read: Gio) finished throwing and I got Jhonatan Solano to toss me their warm-up ball for an early spot on the board:
Soon after that (at 3:46) Orioles security came by and told us we had to get back outside of the gate. Had they given us an extra fifteen minutes I may have had a second ball from Gausman (I think that’s how you spell it) and the Orioles bullpen people. Before the gates re-opened, I waited in line with the people who made me think this trip to OPACY wasn’t going to be as easy snagging-wise as I had previously thought. When I got in the gates, the person who I already introduced, Rick Gold, lined up in front of me:
And then two other ballhawks who had joined me at the gate lined up to my left:
Ballhawk #2 is Tim Anderson, who has garnered the attention of the national media several times the past few years with his bajillion home run snags. While we had both been at the same game before, today was really the first time we had talked directly to each other. And that’s mostly on my part–and this goes out to all of you who may run into me at some ballpark somewhere–because I’m just generally awkward if I’m meeting a person I didn’t know for sure was going to be there ahead of time. And not like in the “Oh, that’s different from what I was expecting” kind of awkward; it’s more like the “Is there something seriously wrong with you?” awkward. And as a result of this, I almost never initiate people at the ballpark in conversation to avoid a situation like this. The best way to avoid this is to just let me know if you think you’re going to be at the same game as I am, by checking either my schedule or my Twitter account. I definitely won’t be attending every game on the schedule that I have on there right now, but it’s a good outline to know where I’ll be, and I’ll usually say something on my Twitter if I’m veering off of the scheduled plan or anything like that, so it’s a good place to be kept up-to-date on my baseball happenings.
But anyway, that was a good multi-hundred-word digression. The point is that my competition was going to be tough. So when the Nationals players came out to warm up while the Orioles were switching into a new mostly-righty group, I knew it was time to go for toss-ups. I figured the players would spend the first two rounds or so hitting the ball to the opposite field, so I really wouldn’t be missing much action out in left. In this trip, I got a ball from Denard Span in the weirdest way. I was actually trying to get ball from a different throwing pair when Span ran back to the wall with the ball in his hand, threw it up, and half-heartedly tried to “rob” the same ball he had thrown up, as if it were a home run ball. I don’t know what exactly he was doing, but he missed the ball, and it landed in the seats, so I went over and offered to get it for him, at which point he told me, “Nah, you can just keep it.”
So I think that’s technically a toss-up from Span, right? It certainly was more that than an easter egg considering I got there three seconds after the ball landed in the stands.
When I headed back to the left field stands, I learned that I had definitely made the right decision because there had not been a single ball hit into those stands since I had left. But I would not snag another BP baseball before the flood gates were opened and all fans were allowed into every part of the stadium. If you don’t know, for the first half-hour of the gates being open at OPACY, only season ticket holder–or people with that printed on their ticket–are allowed into the main seating bowl. The rest are confined to right and center field. But when that half-hour is up, everybody pours into the seating bowl. I am fortunate enough to have friends at the ballpark who are nice enough to buy me season tickets that get me in that half-hour early, but here is what the scene looked like right after the rest of the fans were let in:
It was right around this spot that I came the closest to another BP ball. But for the sake of clarity, let me get a diagram up for you:
The solid lines are the path of the ball and the dotted line is how I ran after the ball. So I saw a ball get hit to my left. I could tell exactly where it was headed, so I jumped back a row and ran right towards the spot where the ball was going to land, so I could pick it up if it stuck in that spot. Well the ball bounced off a seat at the end of the row, but instead of sticking or bouncing forward/backwards like a normal baseball, it at 90-degree angle and hit me square on the forehead. I mean someone couldn’t have done it more perfectly if they were aiming for me. I saw the ball hit off the seat, but it became a white blur as it headed directly between my two eyes. Just to show you how perfectly the ball hit me square in the head, it was almost if I had intentionally headed the ball in a soccer-esque manner because the ball flew thirty feet in front of me after hitting my head into the next section over. It didn’t actually hurt that much–other than my ego–but I was starting to wonder if there was something about the Orioles that was bad luck, since I had now sustained an “injury” every time I had seen them play to this point. In three different cities, I may add.
That was it for BP, but I did manage to get a ball from Tyler Moore during the pregame position player warm-ups:
It actually was a thing of beauty that we managed to connect on the toss-up, because there was a security guard right in front of me on the field with his back turned to it, so Moore had to thread the needle and I had to jump to get the ball to me and not hit the guard. As you can tell, he wasn’t in that last picture. I think the fact that he very nearly got hit in the back of the head scared him enough that he moved away from the players playing catch.
As for the game, I spent most of my time out in the flag court:
and enjoying all that is OPACY. I wasn’t the only one out there, though. Because of the fact that the stadium was pretty much sold-out, there were pretty consistently three of us ballhawks out there, and sometimes even more. I mean look at all the backpacks there were at one of the more crowded points:
I have no clue besides my own who they each belonged to, but the four of us that were out there towards the end of the game got a picture together:
Left to right, that would be:
- Rick Gold
- Alex Kopp
- Tim Anderson
Nothing came even close to reaching the flag court, but it was fun talking to those guys for whatever portion of the game they were out there. (Rick was in left field pretty much until the last two innings, and Tim spent around half of the game in the center field seats.)
- 3 Balls at this Game
Numbers 532-534 for my life:
- 88 Balls in 20 Games= 4.40 Balls Per Game
- 3 Balls x 30,665 Fans=91,995 Competition Factor
- 83 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 42 Balls in 9 Games at OPACY= 4.67 Balls Per Game
- 9 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 12:23-11:52= 11 Hours 29 Minutes
Before I started going to games at Target Field at the end of the 2012 season, Nationals Park definitely felt like the closest thing I had to a “home” ballpark. So in not having been there since August 21 of last year, I was almost okay with my first game back being during rivalry week, when I knew there would be a ton of Orioles fans packing the Nationals Park seats. But now coming to the ballpark from a new location where the bus arrives only every half-hour, I made sure to give myself more than enough time to get to the gate and as a result got to the gate way before even I usually get there:
Right as I got in and headed to the left field seats, Gio Gonzalez hit a ball to my left, so I ran after the ball, caught it on the fly:
but in my deceleration, managed to trip on one of the seats and take a tumble. I felt fine, so I got up, but I first noticed that I had some scratches on my legs and then I felt something on my ear. I tapped my cap on my ear and this is what I saw:
I then felt my ear with my hand and even more blood was coming out. I wasn’t the only one who noticed it either. An usher saw my ear bleeding, and so he got another employee to take me up to first-aid, which literally opened just as we got there. I think it’s probably the fastest after the gates have opened that they have ever had to serve a person. Of course they took their time with cleaning up my ear, but all I could think of was all of the opportunities I was missing for snagging baseballs. All I wanted to do was get the blood off, maybe get a band-aid if it was necessary, and get back out into the stands. It was almost a joke to me how seriously they were taking this. I remember that right after examining my ear, the first-aid worker said, “It doesn’t look bad enough for you to need stitches; I think you can stay for the game.” I thought of replying with a super-sarcastic “Wow, thank you. I thought I was going to die any minute now because I cut my ear.” I was just that frustrated because getting on the board early was being completely wasted by the fact that I was being held up forever in first-aid. After they cleaned up my ear and let me go, one of the workers said, “Okay, now no more chasing baseballs.” Again a sarcastic “Okay. Maybe for the ten seconds it takes me to get back into the outfield seats.” popped into my head, but I realized that this was my first game back here at a place I would be the whole summer, and it’s beneficial to me to try to make as many friends and as few enemies in the ballpark as possible.
My second ball of the day came in the Red Seats in center field when I politely asked Craig Stammen if he could toss me a ball:
That would be my last ball of Nationals BP. I didn’t really flub anything, but the excess crowd that was here for this game just went to all of the spots that I would have normally played the Nationals hitters at, so I was forced to pretty much camp out in the Red Seats where there didn’t end up being that much action.
When the Orioles began their batting practice, I headed down the third base line to try to get a ball from the position players and pitchers warming up, and managed to get a ball from who I figured out several days later with the help of Avi Miller was Troy Patton:
I then headed off to left field, where I’d have to say my main challenge wasn’t necessarily the volume of people, but the amount of people wearing bright orange t-shirts:
See I have a black Orioles shirt, so I don’t really stand out. It’s only when I’m the sole Orioles fan talking to a player that it really helps me. Given this, I headed over to right field, where there weren’t quite as many Orioles fans. And it ended up paying off when Jason Hammel tossed me a ball that I almost immediately gave away to a kid next to me with a glove:
Then at about 6:20, I realized batting practice was going to be wrapping up, so I headed to the Orioles dugout to try and get a ball when the Orioles were packing up their baseballs. When I got there, there was only one problem: there were too many people down there by the dugout with their Orioles gear on (It became my goal half-way through that sentence to see how many “there”s I could pack into one sentence), but the rain that had been holding off all batting practice couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. It started pouring just as the Orioles were finishing, and thus driving all the people who had been lining the dugout away, leaving me practically the only one in Orioles gear:
And as a result of this, when the Orioles cleared the field, I was the only one who recognized Rudy Arias, so when I said his name, he almost looked shocked that someone recognized him, and tossed me the ball that he had in his glove for my fifth of the day:
A semi-long rain delay followed this, so I took advantage and sat in this seat at the beginning of the game:
But I didn’t stay there long as I soon joined my mom and a coworker of hers that had made it out to the game–since both of our phones were dead–effectively capping my ball total at five baseballs for the night.
- 5 Balls at this Game (4 pictured because I gave 1 away)
Numbers 527 to 531 for my “life”:
- 85 Balls in 19 Games= 4.47 Balls Per Game
- 5 Balls x 35,664 Fans=178,320 Competition Factor
- 82 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 129 Balls in 29 Games at Nationals Park= 4.45 Balls Per Game
- 21 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
- 5 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
- 3 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
- Time Spent On Game 2:46-12:32= 9 Hours 46 Minutes
I took a surprise trip to a certain ballpark a little while ago, so I thought I’d start with a Before the Gates Open video:
Note: Steve Carlton is *NOT* dead; I was thinking of Robin Roberts when I said it. They’re both Phillies great pitchers. How am I supposed to differentiate between them?
First off, here is the link to the entry I mentioned in the video: Blast From The Baseball Past. Now, onto the story of why I was even at this game:
See, my neighbor whom you saw in the video, Greg Barasch was discussing has taken a few trips to “the bank” (I actually have no clue if that’s what it’s dubbed; I just threw that in myself), and was discussing another this week. I was in Washington, so my accompaniment of him was dependent on what day of the week he went i.e. I didn’t want to go Monday and have to sacrifice my final two games at Nationals Park for two games in Citi Field. When he announced he was going on Wednesday, though, I jumped at the opportunity.
So…. that’s the story. Let’s get to the snagging.
When I entered the seating area, I was absolutely shocked by the fact that Citizens Bank Park has no hand railings in the seats:
Interestingly enough, I was the first one in the stadium to snag a ball:
When I got in the seating area, Cliff Lee and Kyle Kendrick were talking. When a ball rolled to the wall, Kendrick ran over to grab it. When he did, I asked him for the ball and he tossed it up to me.
Then, a ball got hit towards a gloveless man and his kid. “Shockingly”, the ball bounced off his hands and into the flower bed in front of the section. I didn’t want to step in because the ball was, in fact, RIGHT in front of the man. After a few seconds, though, Greg dropped in and pulled the ball out along with a few weeds.
If you don’t know, fans are confined to left field for the first hour of the gates being open at Citizens Bank Park. Since the Phillies had recently converted to being a minor league team, the only legitimate righty hitter was Carlos Ruiz. He hit a ball pretty much right at me, so I stepped down a stair (to make sure no one could jump in front of me), jumped up, and caught the ball the ball on the fly:
Even with the balls I had caught on the fly in Washington, this was still exhilarating.
After that, I snagged the first ball I probably wouldn’t have snagged had there been hand rails. Michael Martinez hit a ball a section to my right, after hitting in the seats and initially deflecting away from me, I tracked it down and picked it up over here:
I then asked around for a kid in the section with a glove who had not yet gotten a ball. I came to this kid and gave it away to him:
Then came time for the Reds to hit.
I nearly got Johnny Cueto to throw me a ball while he was warming up, but he threw the ball to Greg instead (which put him ahead of me, 4-3. I would never tie him again.) After I got rejected by Cueto, I headed back to the spot where I caught the Ruiz homer. It was closer to center field, so I knew I wouldn’t get that many home runs, but I had more room to run for balls. Then a Reds hitter hit a ball right in the same spot as Ruiz. I did the same exact thing as on the Ruiz ball: step a step down, ready myself and raise my glove/jump slightly at the last second. However, this time, there was someone in front of me contesting for the ball. In addition to this, Jose Arredondo threw up his glove at the ball. It *just* missed the ball, so for at least half a second, I was completely convinced the ball was going to hit me in the face. Instead, this happened:
It was quite a great catch if I do say so myself. I had to deal with the glove of the kid in front of me, the glove of Arrendondo flying in the air, and then the part I didn’t mention: the kid was backing into me, so just as I made the catch, he fell and I had to catch him before he got a face-full of concrete.
Then Brandon Phillips’ group came up. I don’t know if you know this, but despite the measly 13 home runs Phillips had coming into the game, he hits far and plentiful bombs in batting practice. So does at least one other guy in his group. I should’ve probably had four or five of them had I known they would have gone so far into the stands. Instead, I snagged hit by one of those Reds righties and gave it to this kid in the bright orange:
(His dad in the blue had the ball as I took the picture.)
See what I mean? It certainly wasn’t a Yankee Stadium crowd, but there’s no way to get to the section just to my right. I should also mention that it was around this time, I ran into a row, a kid ran right after me, so our feet got tangled, and I fell straight into the ground. I’m usually very good at making it so my legs just graze seats and such, but since my legs couldn’t move at all while I was falling, it smacked right into the metal arm rest. It never showed a bruise, but my leg hurt for a week after that every time I leg past about 35 degrees.
During the gam, this was my view:
See that guy in the row right in front of me in the gray? I’ll get back to him in a minute.
As for the game, the Reds ended up winning the game 3-2 behind a strong pitching performance from Bronson Arroyo. As for my snagging attempts during the game, they had a common theme: Jay Bruce-related heartbreak. EVERY inning, Jay Bruce would warm up with the Reds bullpen catcher. most of said innings, I yelled my lungs out trying to get his attention. There was NO way he didn’t hear me. Even the Phillies fans were helping me; yet I came back to my seat empty-handed every time.
Between-inning toss-ups, though, were the least of my woes. In the top of the eighth inning, Jay Bruce launched a ball to my left. I ran as far as I could to my left, but I could tell it was a. headed to the second deck and b. I couldn’t even get in line with the ball. Then it hit this electronic scoreboard strip:
From there it bounced to my “new” left (I had turned around, since the ball was now behind me.), so I ran/limped as fast as I could after the ball in mid-air. Here is a diagram of the path of the ball after that:
To clarify, the ball bounced off of the guy in the red’s hands and bounced right past me (I was right next to him at this point). I saw the ball, so I just went down to thhe ground as soon as I could expecting it to bounced off the guy just out of the frame with the beer’s chest and fall down. After looking everywhere down there- all of which took place over the course of maybe two seconds- I couldn’t see it. Turns out, it had hit the guy’s head instead and bounced over a place that absolutely infuriated me:
Why? Here’s a hint: I have a red backpack.
That’s right, the ball bounced *right* to the seat I had been sitting in. Had I never run after the ball at all, I would have had my first ever home run ball. Here’s the highlight of the home run if you wish:
You can only see the ball bouncing off the scoreboard, though. Which is good since I would have driven myself insane watching the play had I been able to see what happened,
Remember the guy in gray? he was the one who leaned backwards in his chair and picked up the ball that rolled within inches of my backpack. He said it was really easy; not it an in-your-face manner, but just to let me know, since i had been going for balls all night and was the only one to even react to the Bruce home run as it was hit.
Thankfully, the game didn’t end on a negative note. At the end of the game, I headed over to the Reds/ Phillies bullpen area and got the Reds’ bullpen coach, Juan Lopez to throw me a ball from the other end of the bullpen. It was a pretty good job of aiming the ball from so far away:
After my sixth and final ball of the game, I met up with Greg, who had snagged 9 Balls, behind the Reds dugout. Interestingly, nine is the only number of balls he had ever failed to snag in a game before…or maybe I’m confusing this with another number:
And then we took the drive home to New York together while talking about a range of ballhawk-related subjects:
- 6 Balls at this game (4 pictured because I gave 2 away)
Numbers 387- 392 for my lifetime:
- 49 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 5 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 3 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
- 2 straight Games with at least 4-6 Balls
- Time Spent On Game 11:41- 12:45= 13 Hours 4 Minutes
Less than fifteen hours after saying goodbye to him in the morning, Rick Gold and I met up at the gates of Nationals Park for our 10th and final game together in 2012:
If you haven’t read the entry, Rick and I were on a bus together close to 2 o’clock that same morning. It was one of those times for a sarcastic “Long time no see”, since both of us had woken up pretty soon before that.
Speaking of people sleeping, that’s what the Nationals players were apparently doing, because they didn’t take batting practice:
Eventually, the Nationals pitchers came out to throw, so I headed over there. Here is where a season full of pretty much not asking pitchers for baseballs came in handy (in that they probably would have recognized me if I had). I yelled out to Ryan Mattheus as he finished throwing and he tossed me the ball:
I then just hung around until the Braves started hitting. When Juan Francisco’s group came up first, both Rick and I moved up to the second deck in right field:
I headed down to the lower level for the Braves group of lefties and Dan Uggla. There, two other ballhawks (Rick and a guy whose name I don’t know) took the two best spots in right, so I was forced to just stand in a middle spot and hope I could judge the ball better than them/ jump in front of them. When Jason Heyward hit a ball to my right, the ballhawk I didn’t know ran straight to his right. Meanwhile, I knew the ball was falling short of that. I ran into the row and made the running, backhanded catch:
That would be it for snagging. As for the game, I headed out to left field:
Stephen Strasburg was pitching, so I figured the righty-dominant Nationals would be more likely to go yard. I was right, but it was an inning *before* I got to my seat there. Oh, and there was a rain delay where it absolutely poured. It was my third rain delay in as many days. So it really was no big deal. The most notable part of it was before the delay started, it was raining at least three times harder than it was during the rain delay the game before.
During the rain delay, I got soaked, walked through the seats looking for tickets, got soaked, said goodbye to the ushers in the ballpark, got soaked, tried to get a ball from Alan Butts, got soaked, talked to Eddie Perez. Oh, and did I mention I got soaked? I don’t think I did. It was raining pretty hard. Do you remember when I said it was raining three times harder than the previous game DURING the game? Well during the rain delay, it rained about ten times harder. The rain would step up to “next level”, and then when you thought it couldn’t rain any harder, a burst of even harder rain.
Anyway, for the game, Stephen Strasburg and Paul Maholm managed to survive the rain delay to pitch again afterwards (the rain delay was in the second inning). Maholm went seven innings while Strasburg went six. Unfortunately for Maholm, it’s not how long you last, it’s how many runs you give up. Strasburg allowed just one run while Maholm allowed four.
- 3 Balls at this game (1 pictured because I gave 2 away)
Numbers 384-386 for my “career”:
- 164 Balls in 39 Games= 4.21 Balls Per Game
- 3 Balls x 33,888 Fans= 101,664 Competition Factor
- 48 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 4 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 2 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
- 124 Balls in 28 Games= 4.43 Balls Per Game at Nationals Park
- 20 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 1 Ball
- 4 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
- 2 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
- Time Spent On Game 3:32- 11:22= 7 Hours 50 Minutes
After a series of waiting endlessly for David Wright’s 200th home run, it was time to go back to Nationals Park for my fourth game there in as many days:
Usually I’m not that excited of attending four games in a row at ANY stadium, but I had come to the conclusion that I wouldn’t be getting a ball tossed to me by the Nationals (intentionally, anyway) anytime soon, so I was excited for the arrival of the not-offensively-anemic Braves, who also didn’t know me.
My first ball of the day came when Gio Gonzalez hit a ball to my right. I chased after it, but someone else managed to pick it up before I could get there. He then hit a ball back to where I had previously been standing. Thankfully, no one judged it correctly, and I was able to run right to the spot and gobble it up :
After the pitchers- all of whom are righties- stopped hitting, I headed over to the right field seats for Bryce Harper’s group. I still haven’t seen one of Harper’s legendary batting practices, but I did manage to snag a ball from his bat.
I was on the middle staircase of the right field seats when Harper launched a ball to the section closest to center field. I saw this right away and raced there to scoop up the ball before anyone else could:
The group then changed again and I headed over to the Red Seats for the group of Morse, Zimmerman, and Werth. During that group, I caught three balls on the fly.
The first was an extremely easy catch right smack-dab in the middle of the section where I had been standing:
Speaking of Shea Stadium commemorative balls off the bat of Jayson Werth, that’s what my next (and fifth) ball of the day was. I won’t bore you with another picture of the ball in my glove, but the ball was traveling to my left, so I ran in this row and made the forehand catch over a row of seats:
My next ball came when Ryan Zimmerman hit a high fly ball to my right. I ran as far as I could, reach over the glass that separates the Red Seats and the bullpen, and made the grab:
It felt pretty awesome in that the ball would have fallen into the bullpen had it not been for me; kind of like a home run rob. For those of you keeping score at home, that was my fifth snag of the day; all of which were hit, Shea Stadium commemorative balls.
Soon after that, the Braves started throwing, so even though the Nationals were still hitting, I headed into foul ground to try to get a ball from one of them. After waiting for a while, I finally got a ball from Erik Hinske:
Do you see the coach crossing the field in the left part of the picture? That’s where Hinske was. He tossed the ball to me while I was right behind the wheelchair section. Unfortunately, he tossed it over my head, so it rattled around in the seats before I could secure ball #6 and thank Hinske.
I then headed over to right field for a group stacked with the Braves’ lefties. Ironically, though, my only ball from this group came when Dan Uggla hit an opposite-field home run and I played the ball off a deflection:
The right field seats were getting pretty crowded at this point, so I headed back over to the Red Seats. I didn’t snag a hit ball, but a fan dropped a ball into the gap, so I knew it was time to deploy the Glove Trick. However, as I lowered it down, a member of the groundscrew walked through the gap and inserted the ball in my glove. I had already promised the people next to me I would give the ball away to the kid who it was intended for, so I did when I reeled it up:
Okay, you’ve got three planes at work here. We’ll start closest and move back:
1. The Glove Trick- Complete with rubber band and pen to hold it open.
2. Kid- You can see the kid I gave it away to just past the glove in the red hat. He’s holding the ball between his hand and glove.
3. Groundskeeper- You can see him ducking at the very end of the gap.
Then for the end of batting practice-when Juan Francisco, who hits BOMBS, was hitting- I decided to try my luck and head up to the second deck in right field. I wasn’t the only one up there as fellow ballhawk, Rick Gold, had the same idea:
I then headed down to the lower level in right field where, to my delight, the tarp was being pulled on the field. I may have mentioned this before, but I absolutely love when it starts raining right *after* batting practice ends. There is truly nothing more beautiful:
Of course, the baseball gods had to have their fun with me, so the groundscrew didn’t actually put the tarp on for at least half an hour. They just stood there with the tarp as you see it in the picture. Waiting to make sure the rain was sufficient to put the tarp on the field.
As for the game, the Nationals jumped out to an early 4-1 lead. The Braves then picked away at the lead to tie the game 4-4. What happens when a game is tied after the ninth inning? FREE BASEBALL!!
The game had already been delayed an hour by the rain. So when it came time for extra innings, most of the fans left the stadium. When this happened, I stood up the rest of the game and waited for any ball to come my way:
Actually, since most of the ushers had left, I ran back and forth between right and left field depending on the hitter; just like old times at Nationals Park. If you’re newish to the blog, I used to buy two tickets on either side of the outfield on Nationals Park and would run back and forth during the game depending on whether a righty or a lefty was hitting. I rationalized it by saying that I was spending about the same on two outfield tickets as I would have on one ticket at Citi Field. (Last year, I was. The cheapest ticket at Citi Field was $23. With my student discount, the outfield tickets at Nationals Park were/are $13 each.)
Anyway, check out the emptiness that allowed me to stand up- and not block anyone’s view:
Long story short: nothing reached the seats for the rest of the game. Eventually, the Nationals won on a Dan Uggla bobble. Also during the game, I gave away five, count ’em, FIVE baseballs away to the usher who’s let me sit in the right field seats since last year. Usually he’s pretty reasonable with his requests (usually one or two balls), but apparently there was a family in from Chicago, so in addition to the two I usually give him, he asked for three others. Also, I should mention this isn’t just an usher being greedy. He gives all the balls I give him away to kids, elders, or other people in the section. That said, I gave away two on my own, the usher took five, so of the eight balls I snagged, I only kept the best Shea Stadium ball. That’s right, I gave away SEVEN of my eight baseballs. (Actually, I technically gave away eight. The usher offered me an exchange where he have me one of Rick Gold’s balls for one of my Shea balls, but he then asked for THAT ball to give to someone.
After the game, a security guard threw a bunch of balls at fans in the stands, but he had THE worst aim I’ve ever seen and about five of them bounced back onto the field. I just stood on top of one of the balls and asked each person that passed it if they could toss the ball up to me. Security Guard? “I’m on duty. I have to stand in this exact spot.” Police Officer? “No, I can’t.” Groundscrew? “No, we’re not allowed to.” It was just sitting there on the warning track:
(The other two shadows you see are of an Asian couple who was also waiting for the ball to be tossed up. Eventually, a guy in a dress shirt walked by, so I asked him point blank, “Can you toss me that ball, please?” He bent down, grabbed the ball, and kept walking to the dugout. Here he is on his way over there:
At this point, it was about 12:35, so I figured, ” I don’t have anywhere to be any time soon; I’m going to see if there’s a ball left in the bullpen.” Turns out there was- in the bottom right quadrant of the picture, against the black background:
I was just about to leave, when the security guard came in from the warning track by the Nationals dugout. The bullpen motioned for me to stop, and asked the security guard something. He then picked up the ball and tossed it to me:
Not surprisingly, by the time I got out of the stadium, the Metro was closed:
Once I got out of the stadium, I must have walked back and forth a mile before I finally got to the right bus stop. After taking the bus a stop, I ran into a familiar face in Rick (as in Gold). Turns out, we were both going the same direction. We took the bus until the end of the line. We then got off by Washington’s Archives building. Our next bus wasn’t due for another half hour. We discussed things from the renovation in Oakland’s coliseum to what the heck I was supposed to use an iPad for.
Once we got on the second bus, we ran into someone we both knew. It was the usher I mentioned earlier, Benny. I must say, Benny is one of the more entertaining ushers I have ever seen. Probably the most energetic. He is one of the most meticulous ushers about his duty before the game, but once the game begins, he is a dancer. Anyway, here is my view at 1:45 in the morning on the second bus:
• 9 Balls at this game (2 pictured because I gave 7 away)
• 161 Balls (as many as I had last year in 46 Games) in 38 Games= 4.24 Balls Per Game
• 9 Balls x 21,298 Fans= 191,682 Competition Factor
• 47 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
• 3 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
• 121 Balls in 27 Games at Nationals Park= 4.48 Balls Per Game
• 19 straight Games in Nationals Park with at least 1 Ball
• 3 straight Games in Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
• Time Spent On Game 3:42- 1:52= 10 Hours 10 Minutes
• With my first “9” game, I have now snagged in a game every total from 0 to 11 baseballs at a game.
Let me just start with this: It was a Sunday game. I knew there would be no batting practice. The only reason I’m attending games like this is to not have to go to a bunch of games in Minnesota to accomplish my goal of going to at least 50 games this season.So I just want to survive these kind of games and get on with my life.
When I first entered the stadium there was absolutely no action on the field, so I headed over to right field to talk with an usher I know pretty well. He told me that before I got to the seats, Ross Detweiler threw a bullpen session and decided to throw the ball into the seats in foul ground. Unfortunately, those seats weren’t open to the public yet. I then saw the Mets warming up on the right field side, so I ran over, put on my ridiculous costume from the day before, and got Ramon Ramirez to toss me a ball like a wide receiver by asking him in Spanish:
I then headed back to right field. When the rest of the stadium opened, everyone else headed to the dugout to line up for “Signature Sundays”, but I headed right for where I thought the ball I had spotted earlier was. Look what I found there:
I would/should have had another, though. As I was running through the seats, a guard/usher tried to stop me saying that I couldn’t get to the front of the line by running through the seats. Right as I had to explain that I didn’t care about the Signature Sunday promotion, a Nationals pitcher, probably Stephen Strasburg, threw a ball randomly into the seats. I would have definitely had it had I not been stopped.
So, although I had a decent total for a game without batting practice, my expression in the next picture says it all:
After I found the “Easter Egg”, I lined up for the Signature Sunday thing, and watched in pain as a Mets throwing pair finished their game of catch in left field. What happened to Signature Sunday? It started raining, so the whole thing got cancelled.
I then headed out to right field where this was my view:
As for the game, Gio Gonzalez had an okay start, allowing 1 run in five and two thirds innings; yet he won his sixteenth game of the season as the Mets’ Jeremy Hefner allowed five runs in an almost similar inning load (5).
The most exciting part of the game though came from this being my view of the game:
In I want to say the seventh inning, I heard a collective laughter emanating from behind me; followed by Scott Hairston throw his glove on the field. It was the second time he had done so. He had thrown it on what appeared to be a bird on the field.
Eventually, Andres Torres swooped in and scooped it up:
Torres then handed the animal I still wasn’t sure the species of to a security guard who came from the Nationals bullpen with a towel:
I had to look at the highlight ( maybe lowlight for Hairston), but I saw that it was actually a praying mantis that had invaded the field of play. See for yourself:
I then headed to a friend’s house for dinner right after David Wright flew out in my direction. It was pretty disappointing since he was THE reason I sat in the outfield for all three games. Actually, though, I stopped to give a ball to the usher I was talking about earlier since he had told me where it was hiding.
• 2 Balls at this game (1 pictured because I gave 1 away)
• 152 Balls in 37 Games= 4.11 Balls Per Game
• 2 Balls x 33, 764 Fans= 67, 528 Competition Factor (yay mental math!)
• 46 straight Games with at least 1Ball
• 2 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
• 112 Balls in 26 at Nationals Park= 4.31 Balls Per Game
• 18 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 1 Ball
• 2 straight Games at Nationals with at least 2 Balls
• Time Spent On Game 11:03- 6:49= 7 Hours 46 Minutes