I thought I’d start off this entry a little differently. Basically, I want to give you guys an opportunity to have a look at what my day is like before I even enter the gates. I will do such a video for each stadium I visit from here on out (Nationals Park, Yankee Stadium, Citi Field, and Target Field) Anyway, here is the video for Nationals Park:
Once we left the Red Seats in center field, Rick and I both headed over to the right field, only to realize it was Camp Day and those seats would be crowded come game time. While Rick checked a variety of things on his iPhone, I watched Ross Detweiler throw a bullpen session:
If you didn’t know, most starting pitchers throw at least one bullpen session between starts; some even throw two. Detweiler had started the opening opening game of the series, so I’m guessing he throws two, since he only took a day off from throwing. At the end of his session, Detweiler launched the ball he was throwing with into the seats in foul territory. Both Rick and I saw it and thought it went on our side of the tunnel- indicated by the glass panels- in the next picture:
Soon after that, Nationals hitters started hitting. All of which can be seen in the following picture:
That’s right, a grand total of two Nationals hitters hit. That was the extent of batting practice. They didn’t even have any players go into the outfield; just the coaches came out to shag the balls. The two players were: a healthy Bryce Harper and a rehabbing Jayson Werth. You would probably guess that the super-prospect would hit more balls into the stands than the old, injured, failed multi-million dollar contract, right? Well I did too. Unfortunately, both of us were wrong and Werth hit many more homers to left as I watched in helpless despair from right. The one ball I had perfectly tracked, a barehanded fan reached right in front of me and deflected the ball away.
Then, right after they stopped hitting, I headed over closer to the foul pole very discreetly, as so Rick wouldn’t notice me:
Not to get a ball from the pitchers you see warming up, but remember that ball Detweiler threw into the stands earlier? That portion of the stands was about to open in two minutes when I took that last picture, and I wanted to be the first one in them to get the ball.
I was indeed the first person there, but when I got to the spot I thought the ball was, it was vacant. As Rick arrived on the scene, I went up to the top of the section and asked an usher where the ball had gone. He told me it had gone on the other side of the tunnel I mentioned earlier. I went down there, and he guided me as I motioned to where I thought the ball was. This was actually the same usher who gave me my first usher toss-up at Nationals Park ever. If you can find a picture him, you win………bragging rights. (Hint: the easies way to find the entry is through mygameballs.com.)
Thanks to this ushers arsenal of saving gestures, I found the ball right under a seat:
I then moved back over to the pitchers warming up. I figured Strasburg, since he doesn’t shag balls in the outfield, would probably not recognize me. So, I lined up behind Jim and his throwing partner, Jordan Zimmerman:
Unfortunately, Zimmerman ended up with the ball, which usually means I am not getting the ball (I had never gotten a ball from him, and he has never been fan-friendly per se). Fortunately, I was the only non-Mets fan, so after he scanned the stands, he threw me the ball:
Then, to my surprise, the complementary ticket I mentioned in the opening video, was right behind the umpire tunnel. So until the game began, I talked mostly with the two people in the next picture, and a person slightly out of the frame to the right:
I had been talking to the ushers a little the previous two games when I came down to get umpire balls, but in talking to them this day, both parties (myself and the ushers) learned that the other knew of “Zack”. The “Zack” in question being one with the surname Hample.We then had a discussion about the specifics of baseball collecting and my experience beginning in the hobby.
The guy in the red is Gio Gonzalez’s dad. He actually is the one who brought up the subject (kind of). I guess he saw me by Gio while I was trying to get a ball and said, “Are you a collector?” To which I responded, “Yes ” not knowing who he was. It turns out Gio’s father is an autograph collector and thought I was the same. It was a slightly frustrating process, but when the male usher jumped in with: “Oh. You know Zack?” Gio’s father faded out of the conversation and went to his seat. Sadly, his son would get knocked around by the Mets en route to a 9-5 loss.
During the game, this was my view of the action:
For some reason, I have horrible luck with third-out balls (whichever end of the dugout I go to, the ball goes to the other). Well, my luck continued for this game. I didn’t get a single third-out ball.
I’d just like to take a little time out to point out one of the members of the “Nat Pack”, Terrence. I mentioned a couple of entries ago that I believed he was the most energetic team employee I had ever seen at a baseball game (maybe I didn’t phrase it like that, but that’s what I meant). The ushers I had been talking to described this as the hottest game of the year. I don’t know about that, but it was in the 105 degree range. Well Terrence wasn’t slowing up at all. He inhabits the wheelchair section by the third base dugout. One of the things he does is whenever there’s a wave, he runs from one end of the section to the other “pushing” it along. There were more than a couple waves this game. Another example, of which I have photographic evidence, is what Terrence was doing when “Old Time Rock and Roll” started playing:
That’s right. He picked up one of the fold-able chairs and started jumping around the section, pretending the chair was a guitar as he strummed it.
After the game, I was already by the umpire tunnel, so I asked the umpire, Chris Conroy for a ball. He gave it to me saying, “Here, because you took the time to look up my name.” Conroy, if my memory serves me right is number 99. I don’t know for certain, but I would bet that means he is one of the newer umpires, so I’m guessing not many people know his name:
- 3 Balls at this game (no picture because I forgot to take it). They were numbers 352-354 for my career
- 132 Balls in 29 Games= 4.55 Balls Per Game (14 Balls under 500)
- 3 Balls x 36,389 Fans (no way were there that many people)= 109,167 Competition Factor
- 38 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 14 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 2 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
- 105 Balls at Nationals Park in 23 Games= 4.57 Balls Per Game
- 16 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 1 Ball
- 16 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
- 2 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
- Time Spent One Game 9:34- 4:07= 6 Hours 33 Minutes
- This game will have been my 100th ever I have recorded on mygameballs.com. I have gone to more games than that, but I obviously didn’t keep a record of them before mygameballs.com, so this is the only milestone I can celebrate.
The image of the year and perhaps the decade for the Nationals. Though they hope not.
Jayson Werth, Matt Stairs, Rick Ankiel, Chad Gaudin, Adam LaRoche, Jerry Hairston Jr., Tom Gorzelanny, Todd Coffey, and Alex Cora.
Adam Dunn, Lastings Milledge, Josh Willingham, Scott Olsen, Miguel Bautista, and Willy Taveras.
Why?: Now I know that the Jayson Werth deal was excessive and I would not have done it. To put it in perspective, they could have gotten Adam Dunn and a fourty million dollar pitcher or Adam Dunn and two twenty million dollar pitchers. I factored this into the grade, which is why the grade is not a B+ instead of a B.
What I saw though, was a team that is MUCH improved on defense (Adam Laroche, Rick Ankiel, and Alex Cora). Remeber that in the last few years this has been a problem. They also *improved* their lineup despite the loss of Dunn’s power bat with the signings of Adam Laroche (25 HRs a year) and Werth (who knows in the National’s line-up). They also got some bullpen and rotational stability with Gorzelanny, Coffey, and Gaudin acquired.
Predicted Record Range: 70-75 wins. Out of the Cellar baby!! I think that this number can actually be higher because of the stability they have now that they are a bit older and will be more consitent instead of many players that should be in AAA botching plays and pitching on hot and cold streaks.
Up Next: Cinncinati Reds
Normally I provide a picture at the beginning of an entry to describe the team’s last season. The Mets are no exception:
Chris Young, Chris Capuano, Boof Bonser, Chin-lung Hu, and Scott Harriston.
Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, Pedro Feliciano, Hisanori Takahashi, Sean Green, Henry Blanco, John Maine, and Fernando Tatis.
Why?: Had I done this entry when I planned, I would have given them a C. With the subtractions of Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo they actually did not hurt their chances of winning this year by that much. It also set them up for the future rather well not having to worry about the contracts of those two.
The only thing that it could be interpretted negatively as is, as a declaration of defeat by the Mets (that would be Mets fans that say this). Yes, it is a declaration of defeat, but come on, did Mets fans really expect them to get to the playoffs this year (some do).
Maybe this is just my talk radio trained ear overreacting to Mets fans expecting their team to do well. I wish them well for all the Mets fans in New York (Although, a worse team does mean more empty seats) but I just don’t see it this year… at all.
Predicted Record Range: 65-70 wins maybe they go on more extended versions of the tears last year because of injured players coming back but I also see two players in contract years that could act as trade bait. This number is assuming either Calos Beltran or Jose Reyes gets traded mid-season. If not, see this number go up maybe even by double digits.
Up Next: Washington Nationals
To try and hide this entry (as to not get hate mail from Mets fans) quickly I will try and get the Nationals Recap and Preview up ASAP.
For those who know the Marlins, you know that they build up their team every few years to do well and break it apart the next year:
At least they lost to the eventual champions.
I think it’s safe to say the first year of the Roy Halladay Era in Philadelphia went well for the Phillies. The playoffs under their standards but still pretty good.
Cliff Lee, Delwyn Young, Brandon Moss, and Brian Bass.
Jayson Werth, Nate Robertson, Greg Dobbs, Jamie Moyer, and Chad Durbin.
Why?: They got Cliff Lee and this might have varying responses. Some may say higher than an A some may say lower. The reason I gave the Phillies an A is because Lee was the only difference maker they signed but that one player caused a HUGE spike in Phillie mentions and stock sale.
Did they gain enough in net player Werth (heh, how’d that get in there?) to deserve an A? No. Did they also go overboard the set budget and break their own rule about signing pitchers? Yes. However, the whole Lee situation has done them infinite wonders as far as publicity is concerned and therefore ticket sales (which is why I won’t go to Philadelphia that much this year). So, I did factor in what it did for them as a business as well as what it did for them as a team.
I also learned to never underestimate a Young, as demonstrated by both Dimitri and Delmon (did these people have names not in D?). So, the signing of young Delwyn did not hurt my grade.
Not much else happened besides the Cliff Lee signing but as those of you reading since December know and as those of you who haven’t can see here, I thought highly of how this signing was set up in the previous years.
Predicted Record Range: 94-99 This may seem a bit low considering how much I have lauded them in this entry but their line-up has pacified considerably with the loss of Utley and worth(so that’s where it went). Do I think that they will win the World Series if/when Utley comes back full force? Yes, but until then they will struggle in streaks to put runs up. I actually have the NL East being a race if not the Braves winning it.