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
So two things happened for me this past Monday, April, 18th. The first was I pulled an all-nighter going Sunday into Monday because I had to give an informative speech about Oriole Park at Camden Yards amongst a couple other assignments. I then planned to take a nap after I got done with classes, but I wanted to eat lunch and prepare for the baseball game I would attend late that night. Then, of course, I would actually go on to actually attend the game. After that, though, I made plans to go see “42” with Sean for Jackie Robinson Day. I initially called him right after the game, but he didn’t respond. Once I was at the Metrodome, I got a phone call back and Sean told me to get off the bus. He then picked me up and within fifteen minutes, we got pulled over for speeding over a bridge. It was now Sean’s second ticket since bringing his car up after spring break; more than he had gotten ever in Illinois. So he wasn’t happy to say the least, but I found it interesting that we were ticketed for going 42 miles per hour in a 30 mile per hour zone on our way to “42”. Eventually, though, we did make it to the movie just as the trailers wrapped up to watch “42” on the most fitting day we could think of:
Let me start with I really did like this movie as a movie. Obviously this movie brings with it the baseball element that I am partial to, but I tried for the sake of this review to distance myself as much as I could from the baseball part of it and tried to just look at it for the movie itself and as one would look at the adaptation of a book. Except in this case the book would be real life and how the events actually played out.
I really don’t have any clue how to order this, so I’ll be going all over the place and just touching on things from the movie as they pop into my mind. Bear with me if it seems like I jump from one thing to another. Actually, you know what; I’ll just bullet/number it so you know when a new idea begins/ends:
- I really like how Chadwick Boseman portrayed Jackie Robinson really well. He didn’t try to go to big with the character. He also did a good job of preserving the humanity of Robinson. The Jackie Robinson that Boseman was a hero not in his own mind, but in those of others, which is more real than putting Robinson on an absolute pedestal like the temptation might be for a movie like this.
- While I liked how Harrison Ford played Branch Rickey and he didn’t do a bad job of it, I feel as though he caricaturized him too much in playing him. There was a lot of scrunching his face and talking with his mouth half-closed. It’s hard to explain, but you’ll see it if you watch the movie.
- They recreated Ebbets Field beautifully, however they did it:
At times I could tell that it was a minor league stadium or wherever that they were filming the scenes, but for the most part, I could have believed that the movie was taking place at Ebbets Field.
- Alan Tudyk did a great job of playing what I think was the closest thing the movie had to a singular antagonist. I say this because this movie really didn’t have a single antagonist. There were really many people in the movie who merely were the antagonist for that portion of the movie until a new antagonist took his place. If it’s possible, I’d say that the concepts of racism and close-mindedness as a whole were the antagonists of the film. Anyway, Tudyk did such a good job of making you hate him as a racist that he stood out from all of the other characters. And then, something I found interesting, is that in the aftermath of the game in which his character, Ben Chapman, verbally abused Robinson, instead of further pushing the caricature of the raging racist when Chapman talks to the press about the things he was saying, he actually sounded calm and reasonable. By his body language and tone of voice, he seems like someone you could agree with. It’s only after you think about what he was actually saying to the press that you realize he is still completely racist. Then, something I found interesting was they had a scene where Chapman was being reprimanded for his actions by his boss (I forgot if it was the general manager or owner) and is being told that he will have to make amends with Robinson for PR purposes. It humanized him in a way that made you *almost* made you sympathize with him. This is again, why there was no true antagonist.
- The movie was overly-dramatic at times. The moment that sticks out in my mind is that the movie plays the music you would normally play during the climax of the movie–like, say, when Roy Hobbs hit his home run and rounded the bases in slow-motion as the lights burst from the baseball hitting them–while Jackie Robinson took a shower. I get that it’s a big deal that he was taking a shower with his teammates, but it’s still a shower; there’s no need to make it *so* dramatic.
- I don’t know if I like or dislike it, but they didn’t go far at all into Robinson’s playing career. I’m not sure how long exactly, but I think they only went about 2-3 years into it.
- The movie didn’t use any of the quotes either Robinson or Rickey have been known for. I like this because it veers the movie away from being seen as a baseball-lovers movie. What the movie did a good job of was emphasizing the fact that it was a human story told through the means of sports and not just a sports story that happened to have human elements.
Anyway, I think that’s all I’ve got for the moment, but I really did enjoy the movie, so if you have the chance, go see it. Even if you’re not a baseball fan, I would definitely recommend it. And as a baseball fan, it served as a reminder of what exactly happened. It’s easy to glaze over the history of the game and think “Oh, Jackie Robinson Day. I know that Robinson broke the color barrier and all. Whatever.” But this movie reminds us what exactly that means and why his number is the only number retired in all of the major leagues and why he also has a day dedicated to him. So super short summary: It’s a good movie; go see it.
After a week off from baseball, it was back to this place:
…for a match-up between my two favorite teams in baseball. (Well, actually I don’t know about that, but I’ll possibly get to that in an offseason entry.)
When I got in, this was my view:
However, the only reason I came to an 85% full Target Field was because the Yankees were a power-hitting left-handed team. Thus, I was going to try again to go exclusively for hit balls, and my view was this for almost all of batting practice:
For a while, I was misjudging balls left and right. That “while” was called batting practice. I don’t know why, but when I’m on the same level as a baseball (i.e. field level), I have no problem judging fly balls. But whenever I’m elevated, I become a complete klutz trying to judge them. Despite this, I managed to snag a ball off the bat of Nick Swisher after in bounced in here:
Do you see the logo? That was an Oriole Park at Camden Yards ball. All of the balls I snagged during batting practice were.
It was about at this time that I saw how empty the section of seats in right field was compared to the standing room:
So I walked down into the section. That’s when I heard a voice behind me say, “Excuse me, you need a ticket for this section.” It was the usher right at the entrance to the section
“What?” I said, “Even for batting practice?”
“Is it just something for the Yankees series or the whole season?”
“The whole season.”
I didn’t want to blow up on him and make at least one new enemy, but that was absolute BS. That had never been a rule, and wouldn’t be in any of the games I would go to afterward. Since the ushers don’t always have the same usher for the same section, it was obvious he was a club-level usher or something like that and misinterpreted something his supervisor told him. Anyway, I had my one ball, so I just bit my tongue and moved on with my life.
I headed over to left field for a few hitters, but that yielded nothing but a look at some crowded bleachers:
Not to mention the searing sunlight those guys are shading their eyes from:
I forgot exactly all of the members of the group, but when a group of mostly lefties came up to hit, I went back to right field. There, I got a Curtis Granderson home run that landed in a beer vendor’s ice:
So yeah, that’ll be a fun fact to tell people: I’ve snagged a ball that was hit into ice.
Then I missed about three different balls out in the standing room. One resulted in some one getting a bloody nose and another almost took my head off because I looked away just as it was hit and didn’t see it until it was about ten feet away from me. After this, though, I managed to catch my first ball on the fly in the standing room ever. I just barely did, as it missed the flagpole by less than a foot before landing in my glove. I gave this ball away to a kid out in the standing room.
Then batting practice was about to end, so I started making my way to the Yankee dugout. When I just about got there, I noticed it was too crowded around the dugout for me to get a ball. Instead of pushing through the autograph seekers, I took this picture that illustrated me not knowing who to root for in this game as the transplanted New Yorker:
This was in left field. While I was there, I noted that even though batting practice had ended, the Yankees forgot to pick up a ball in foul territory, so I headed into foul ground and this was the result:
Yes, I used the glove trick to reel in the ball.
For those of you wondering, this was where the ball had been sitting:
Well, when I reeled it in. I actually had to knock the ball closer to get it into range.
I then went back to sit in my seat in left field when I realized: “This is stupid. I’m trying to get 222 baseballs this season. Why am I limiting myself by not asking for balls today? I mean, yeah, it makes me focus on hit balls, and I may very well benefit from it, but I have a goal to reach.” If you didn’t know, one of my goals at the beginning of the season was to double my career ball total up to that point. Before the season my career ball count was 222, so my goal for this year was to snag that many; or get the career total up to 444.
Anyway, so when Mike Harkey came into the bullpen and picked up a ball that had been hit in there during batting practice, I called out to him and he tossed me the ball:
Obviously, I’m used to getting balls from Mike Harkey tossed to me from much longer distances, but I’ll take that.
As for the game, the two lineups were mostly lefty. And given my seat was in left field, I played home runs in the standing room all day:
Out there, there were a couple things of note: 1. FSN had this camera installed right above the standing room that I had never seen before:
I was at all of the games I could possibly watch from this point on in the season, so does anyone who actually watched a game on the network know how it would possibly be used?
The second thing of note takes some setting up, so bear with me. When I’m out in the standing room, the fact that I have my glove on and stand further back than anyone watching the game often brings people to talk to me. Well to guys eventually did talk to me, and through our conversation I brought up that I give balls away to kids. A few innings after I talked to these guys, another guy showed up and asked me if I was the guy who gave baseballs away to kids in the hospitals. I’m guessing he misinterpreted what the other guys had told him, but we straightened things out. Anyway, he told me his son, Tucker was in the (I believe it is a specially children’s) hospital in Mankato. He asked me if I could possibly be willing to talk to the kids about what I do. During this conversation, what ended up happening is I gave him two baseballs, one with my e-mail address for the hospital to possibly talk to me about the opportunity and the cleanest OPACY ball I had snagged during BP for Tucker:
As for the actual game itself, the Yankees’ lefties were bombing away on Liam Hendricks, but I had nothing to show for it. Although, I did make it into the highlights for two of them.
1. When Curtis Granderson bombed his 40th home run of the season, it was hit so high that even though I was in the standing room when it took off, this is where I was when it landed:
I had run all the way up the stairs to the second level in right field. Link to the full video: here.
2. When Raul Ibañez yanked a ball down the right field line and the cameras cut to showing the standing room, this is where I was:
I was turned around when he hit it, but you can see I’m the first person reacting( in terms of moving) in the standing room. When the ball first showed up on the screen, this is where I and it where (hint: I’m not the one soaring through the night sky):
It felt like I was moving in slow-motion at the time, but looking at the replay, it looks like I was going really fast. Here is where I and the ball where when it bounced:
It then took a series of bounces away from me, and then a group of guys converged on it as I watched helplessly:
If you want to see the full thing, here is the link.
Suffice to say, I wasn’t thrilled with the trend:
Then in the seventh inning, Pedro Florimon came up to bat. As he had been since I got to Minnesota, he had yet to hit his first career home run. Then this happened:
I was in the standing room when it landed, but when I saw that it was indeed a home run, I rushed over to see what the deal was/ if I could miraculously find it while people searched the wrong place. But there was nowhere to stand, and you had a genius who did this:
If you didn’t notice it the first time, this was where I was in that highlight:
If you noticed, the guy put the flowers down just as the camera cut away. That’s because this supervisor came running down the stairs yelling at them to put the flowers down:
And let me clear up that this is isn’t a bad usher; it was just some fans doing something they shouldn’t have been doing. The flowers had been planted the previous day, so no one wanted them to get ruined just a day after they had been planted….even if that’s what eventually happened.
What ended up happening to me is this was my view for the remaining two innings of the game while I prayed no one hit a home run into the standing room:
I wanted to make sure these guys never left my sight:
After the game, this was the scene behind the flower beds:
This was the first flower pot they pulled out to search. When they found nothing there, they pulled out a second pot:
Meanwhile, I was showing the security officers the footage of the home run, so we could try to pinpoint which flower pot held the baseball. Here they are trying to figure it out:
The guy on the right even suggested I should get the ball if they found it to negotiate with Florimon. They main problem in finding it, though, was the camera was at an angle. So even though it was in the middle of the partitions in the metal fence, it was most likely one or two flower pots off that in real life. Unfortunately, the guy on the right would leave before the ball was found, so his suggestion was lost.
Meanwhile, we had become the main spectacle in the stadium:
The game ended at 9:56, and we had been there for a good half-an-hour.
Eventually, I was allowed to search in the flowers as well:
I felt like Charlie from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (or Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory if you want to go by the movie’s title); just hoping for that golden ticket.
Sadly, after almost an hour of searching, it was an employee, and not myself who found the ball- which will probably lead to a life of negative word association with the word “Yahtzee”:
So yeah, that was a slightly anti-climactic ending, but I’m glad I was at least around to see what happened with the ball. For the record, there were a total of four flower pots pulled out to be searched. And if you’re wondering; Yes, they did make a mess in the seats:
At this point, it was 10:54, or almost an hour after the game had ended, and I’m pretty sure I was the last non-employee left in the stadium:
Although, the FSN guys were still in their mini-studio out in the standing room, having just finished with their segment:
Oh, and if that wasn’t late enough, I got lost for an hour and a half on my way back to my dorm when I was supposed to be studying for a test that same morning. (Yes, it was past midnight by the time I eventually got back to my dorm room.)
Numbers 428-432 lifetime (you get logos this time because I don’t like to write on commemorative baseballs if I don’t have to):
- 210 Balls in 50 Games= 4.20 Balls Per Game
- 5 Balls x 33,720 Fans= 168, 600 Competition Factor
- 59 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 9 straight Games with at least 2-3 Balls
- 42 Balls in 11 Games at Target Field= 3.82 Balls Per Game
- 10 straight Games with at least 1-2 Balls at Target Field
- 9 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 4:15- 12:35= 8 Hours 20 Minutes
Guess how I spent Easter. I had my bonnet:
Now I was only here for my one, maybe two balls from the pitchers warming up since there would be no bp, but wait what’s this?:
My first ball came when a ball hit down in the row where there is a gap in the railing:
Avi Miller could have raced me for the ball, but as he said, he’s not up for knocking each other down. Another ball landed there a little while after and I “passed on” Avi’s act of kindness and let another fan get the ball even though it had bounced closer to me after hitting the seats.
My second ball, I believe, came from me running down the row that disappears into the upper-right corner of this next picture:
My third ball, I believe (I know I caught my 2nd and 3rd balls this way, but I don’t know in which order) came from me running across and catching a ball right in front of Matt Hersl. I was right about where Matt is in this picture when I caught the ball:
I then moved over to the flag court for Joe Mauer’s hitting group and sadly the only thing of note that happened was a vendor on Eutaw Street got nailed by a Joe Mauer HR. I don’t want to share the pictures of him, but here they are cleaning his blood off the ground:
Then came an interesting scenario in that a person was trying to glove trick a ball, who was not a Ballhawk I recognized, and had no idea what he was doing. Can you identify why?:
That’s right. He was doing the glove trick without a pen and was wondering why it wasn’t working. So I gave him my pen and as a result he handed me the ball. I then looked around for a person to give the ball to. After about five minutes, I found this little girl (she’s partially hidden by her mother):
Normally, I can’t stand people who wear a team’s gear that isn’t playing in the game, because it’s a big “FU” to the teams playing, but an exception was clearly in order for this fan decked out in pink Nationals gear.
That was it for bp. Once again I was out in the flag court and thought the baseball gods had set me up with the perfect scenario to catch my first game HR with 12 of the 18 hitters hitting from the Left side of the plate, but sadly they were only baiting me and got me, hook, line, and sinker. You see there was a pretty good wind blowing in from RF, so even if a player managed to get the angle of his hit high enough, which is the challenge with getting a RF HR, it would be knocked down by the wind. There were two balls that looked good directly off the bat, but absolutely died, one of which still managed to get Justin Morneau a hit.
To top it off, the Twins nearly escaped a no-hitter with the previously mentioned Morneau hit being the first hit, but still lost the game, completing a less-than-desired start to the season for my Twins. I went to the umpire tunnel to try and get a ball from Bill Welke (I think his name is “Bill”, but a voice in my head is telling me Tim (I only memorize umpire’s last names). Avi told me he only gave away one ball, so I guess I’m not as embittered, not that I was before. This is, of course, if he only had one ball to give away, but I think he did, because I called him out by last name and was wearing this hat:
After the game, I had two hours before my bus was scheduled to leave so I wandered all the places I had been with my dad on our trip to Camden Yards in 2008. So like the Harbor Area, our hotel, and things like that. I am now writing this from said bus and extremely regretful of that wandering since everything is tired. Throughout the whole day I was lugging around this backpack:
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get some sleep as I have to get up at 3:30 AM tomorrow to go to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina…right after I post the stats.
• 4 Balls at this game (3 pictured, because I gave one that I counted away)
• 9 Balls this season in 2 games= 4.5 Balls Per Game
• 11 straight games with at least 1 ball
• 2 straight games with at least 4 balls
• 4 balls*14,738 fans= 58,952 competition factor
• Time at Game 10:58- 4:07= 5 hours 11 minutes
So I *was* going to start this entry with a statement along the lines of “Whoo, it feels good to have baseball back! The truth is, it feels like I never really stopped ballhawking. Either that or I haven’t yet realized that baseball has started up yet. It does feel good to be at a baseball game, but it’s certainly not the same butterflies I had on my first game of last year.
Anyway, here is what happened in at the game itself. After a brief stop at the American Visionary Art Museum, I arrived at the gates of Oriole Park at Camden Yards:
There I met up with Matt Hersl to buy my tickets for these two games: 2 for me at $9 a piece and 2 for this game for my mom and step-dad at $25 a piece. If you’re keeping track, that’s $68 total. I offered Matt $70 since I like to give the people who buy me season tickets SOMEthing for their efforts (I actually should have offered him $80, since he saved me around $10-15 by buying the tickets as a season ticket holder) 99% of other people do what? “Oh thanks” and take the extra two dollars, and that’s if they buy the tickets for you in the first place. What did Matt do? He gave me the $10 bill back, and actually took an $8 hit for buying me a ticket. Not only this, but he was just generally nice to me all day.
After that, we got in line with who I *believe* to be Tim Anderson and Ben Huff. I say “believe”, because we never formally introduced ourselves. We were then were met by Avi Miller, who was a shocker since I was initially going to buy the tickets from him, but he didn’t think he was going to be there for the whole weekend.
So we were all gathered at Eutaw street’s gate H and guess which dolt forgot to take a picture of the group? If you guessed Mateo Fischer, you guessed correctly.
For some reason, even with everyone outside the gates, I arrived at the LF seats before anyone else with Matt maybe three steps behind me, and this was my view:
Orioles was really dead considering Camden Yards is one of the best HR parks in the majors. I probably could have gotten a, if not a few, baseball(s) if I asked the right Orioles, but I held off on it since I wanted to get myself in the groove getting hit balls. I caved into the temptation, though, when the non-season ticket holders were about to be let into the LF seats. I asked Wilson Betemit, Pedro Strop, and Luis Ayala for a baseball and got ignored each time. Finally, a ball bounced off the warning track, and since there was no one around me and it was going over me head, I goofed off and caught it with my back facing the field. Here is the ball:
Almost immediately afterward, I changed into my favorite team’s (Minnesota Twins) gear and stationed myself behind the pitchers that were warming up:
If you see the rightmost throwing pair, the guy closest to me is Glen Perkins. When they finished throwing, however, the far partner spotted me as a Twins fan and lobbed a ball clear over my head. He then immediately went back to talking with Perkins. By the way in which he did it, I thought he didn’t care about giving me a second chance at a ball. However, I wanted to stay and see if I could get a ball from the last throwing pair since I knew the far partner was Jeff Gray and 95% of baseball fans wouldn’t know that. Also, the number of people in the LF seats didn’t hurt in keeping me in foul territory:
Now that may not seem like that many people, but considering there had been maybe ten people, I thought it would be worth it to stay and wait the extra few minutes for Gray to finish up throwing. In this time, the guy who missed me fielded a ball and looked in my direction. I realized what was up and crouched down like a catcher where he then proceeded to lob me a ball with no one around me. Here is the player, whose identity I haven’t the fainest clue of. He is the one on the left:
Avi Miller had just arrived on the scene and although he was ten rows below me (jokingly) claimed that the ball had clearly been intended for him. We then both went over to the Left Field seats, during this journey, I was reminded that the Orioles were using 20th anniversary Oriole Park at Camden Yards balls. I mean I remember reading about them in the offseason, but I had not planned this trip in anyway around those commemorative baseballs, so it was a bonus to say the least. The LF seats were pretty crowded, but as if right on the cue of me finding out the Orioles had been using the commemorative baseballs, I managed to range ten feet to my right and snag one on the fly myself:
I didn’t get that much applause, but about five people congratulated me after the fact. As for the ball itself, to say it was in good shape is a gross understatement, it was perfect beyond perfect. If you didn’t know it had been used, you never would have guessed so. Here is a shot I took after the game:
Since the LF seats were pretty crowded, and I acknowledged that I had gotten really lucky in getting that ball hit to where it was, I moved over to the CF seats. There, I got what would be my last ball of bp. A ball hit the seats a little behind me and bounced into seats closer to me. I then beat out a man to it. Seeing as I had outraced him to the ball and it was my fourth ball of the day, I offered it to him, but he told me to “keep it”.
I did then go out to the flag court, but no balls were hit out there, and even if they were, the sun would have made it near impossible to catch one on the fly:
The arrow shows where the sun was during bp ( I took the picture during the game) and the two lines show the general area where the balls were going in the sky. So even though they weren’t going directly through the sun, if you weren’t leaning against the fence at the front of the section, you would have to be staring into the sun waiting for a ball to be hit.
As you can tell, I was in the Flag Court for the game. There were more Righties than Lefties in the game, but as a continuation of my last three games, I’m just going to be there every game I go to Camden Yards until a HR gets hit there. Once that happens, I will either catch it or whiff and I can go on with my life.
Now usually, I change back into the Home Team’s gear, but I stayed in the Twins gear since that is my favorite team:
Now why did I have that look on my face? It was the fourth inning and the Twins were already losing 6-0 (they would go on to lose 8-2). After the game, I headed down to the Umpire Tunnel, and asked the umpire (whose last name I had been repeating since the first inning to remember), whose first name I don’t remember, but after asking “Mister Nelson” for a ball he tossed me up a perfect example of a rubbed-up Oriole Park Commemorative. Here it is right after I caught it:
and here it is when I took a picture of it at “home” after the game:
For the record, I *do* have game pictures, but wanted to get this entry up before I leave for South Carolina, so I’ll upload those to the Facebook page and notify y’all of it when it is done via the twitter page, but for now at least, that’s all that he wrote.
• 5 Balls at this game
Numbers 223-227 for my “career”:
• 10 straight games with at least 1 ball
• 5 balls*31,532 fans= 157,660 competition factor (little fun fact: the competition factor from my last game at Camden Yards was 31,352, which is almost exactly the attendance of this game).
• Time at Game 4:04-9:57= 5 hours 53 minutes. Given, I did spend some of the time on the front end just waiting inside the Hilton, it was “at the ballpark” since I was waiting for the gates to open.
Just another blistering hot day at Camden Yards:
But due to lack of material from a painfully slow day let me start before that. I started my day at 7:00 that morning as this was the time I set my alarm for to take the train to Baltimore. Thankfully, I could just ignore it because I was getting a ride from Garrett Meyer (thank you), a ballhawk from Kansas City also going to this game and also staying in Washington D.C. Anyway, I took the train to the stop near his place and we were off by 10:20. A pretty quiet ride except for the occasional off-the-top-of-the-head conversation starter. One example would be passing Nationals Park. Another example would be this:
This was a conflicting pair of bumper stickers because they said 1) So many cats: So few recipes 2) I love animals their delicious. Conflicting because I am a vegetarian and animal rights sympathizer and am offended if these were serious but am also a fan of good bumper sticker humor which this was if it is not to be taken seriously. I just decided to give the person the benefit of the doubt and laugh at the bumper stickers.
Eventually we got to the stadium at around 11:10. However, we parked about a mile away at the Ravens’ Stadium and I had to hustle to get to the gates in time (11:35) as I still had to buy my ticket in collaboration with Avi Miller (another thank you to him for getting me in early three days in a row), do some other things that would take me about 5 minutes, and get in line all before the gates opened.
Once I finally got in, I saw this:
No batting practice. I’m not upset or surprised simply reporting. It was a 1:35 game after a 7:10 game so it would have been a miracle on earth if either team were to take bp after a Saturday night full of…err…praying. To be honest, I really didn’t care about pre-game stuff past extending my streak of games with at least 1 ball to 50 straight games. Really the only reason I was at this game in the first place was because I had stayed in the flag court for two games straight with two righty pitchers with nothing coming close and thought that if I stood out there for a third straight game that the results would “regress towards the mean”. This is a fancy way of saying that I was hoping a Home Run would be hit this game out there and so I came for a third game.
After the last picture, I put on my Angels gear and felt a sharp pain in my upper back. I had felt it lightly since I entered the stadium but this was the first instance of a shooting pain. Do I know what the pain is? No, initially it felt like my left shoulder blade but also hurt when I moved only my right arm. Do I know how it happened? No, it was perfectly fine even while I was waiting in line to enter the stadium. The one thing I do now was that it was a pain (pun intended). It nagged me up until I arrived home in New York. I just wanted to inject this in as a factor in my lack of snagging enthusiasm and just let you know about it to reference it later on in the entry.
When I got to the 3rd base foul line, this was my view:
As you can imagine, it was a pretty empty seating area except for us ballhawks. This was however the most I have see for a game with no batting practice. There were about four of us waiting to try and get a ball from an Angels pitcher. Eventually I got my ball when Johan “Ervin” Santana (the one known as Ervin Santana actually changed his name while he was in the minor leagues from Johan in order to not be confused with the Mets’ ace) finished throwing. I asked him in Spanish and he told me “Corre”, which is to say “Run”. I took this as running up the steps while he tossed me a ball like a wide receiver. Evidently, that is what he was looking for as I ran up ten steps, turned around, and found a ball sailing towards me. It probably looked a bit slow and was not as fun as it would have been had my back not been hurting. Another side effect of the back pain was that I really couldn’t pull my arms up in front of my face to cup my mouth and yell at the more distant players for a ball. Also, I couldn’t hold my arms above my head and do my regular jumping-jackish motion to get their attention. As a result, Ervin was one of the latter players to finish and I couldn’t really ask for a ball from the other players because they had seen me get the ball and I didn’t have time to change my outfit to disguise myself.
Anyway, I then headed over to the Orioles bullpen t get a ball but the pitcher finished quickly and didn’t toss the ball to either me or Flava Dave who was also at the bullpen. At which point I idnetified Dan Haren as the late comer to the warm-up party along the third base line:
This turned out to be, besides watching Dan Haren throw a great sinker with almost no effort behind the ball, an unproductive waste of time as his throwing partner ended up with the ball and simply tossed the ball into the ball bag. I am sure that had Haren tossed the ball into the crowd it would have been mine because he actually went out of his way before he started throwing to acknowledge my existence with a wave. That said, many players have done this and from what I gathered from the other ballhawks, Haren is not the nicest fellow.
I then went over to the first base line to try and get an autograph and failed several times as there was a kid before me that was getting baseball cards signed. The players, it seemed, always looked up at him in a “are you serious?” manner and stopped signing after that. Maybe it was just these players but a baseball card from a fan means they are at the game with the sole purpose of getting them signed especially if you are, say Mark Hendrickson. I guess that the players didn’t like the fact they were being used to possibly make a profit and went on because they “really had to __”.
Speaking of Mark Hendrickson, he started throwing with some catcher (definitely was not Matt Wieters) and when he finished throwing, I had gotten the catcher’s attention throughout the their round of catch, so he threw me the ball:
I then moved up behind the cross aisle for some much needed shade:
By the way, can you spot Vernon Wells signing in that last picture? While I was up there I got a good chuckle out of knowing that I wasn’t the only one that was tired before 1:00:
Yeah I stayed there until game time blah, blah, blah. We all know why I was at this game. To catch a Home Run in the flag court:
To my dismay, this was how empty the seats were in Left field:
That along with the fact 12 out of 18 hitters were righties, meant that they were ideal snagging conditions. Suddenly when Mike Trout lifted his first career Home Run, I knew that one of the ballhawks there were going to get it in one shape or form. The only thing was that the ball hit pretty hard so I thought there might be an small chance that the ball would carom off the cross aisle and wall at the top of the section and bounce back towards the field. This did not happen. Instead this random passerby caught the ball:
As happy as I was that one of the ballhawks had caught the ball I still only stayed for moments as I had to get back to right field to not miss any of the lefties hitting:
As usual, nothing came up there. I was going to simply walk to Baltimore Penn station at that point but when Garrett Meyer used my phone to call Ben Weil and told him that “Me and [Mateo] want to see what [Zack] got.” I tagged along and stayed for a little while longer. Ben gave us the instructions on where to be and we arrived on the scene a few minutes later:
I had been in this room a few years earlier but it was still nice to be in A/C and chomping on ice while it was 10,000 degrees outside. Oh and on an interesting note, I had run into the guy on the right with the Orioles necklace credentials holder as we were both coming from the flag court and going to left field after Trout had hit his Home Run. Enroute, I informed him how the guy that had caught it looked like and while we were waiting in this room did the incredibly nice and “oriole” thing by thanking me even though there was already a swarm of police and the guy on the left so it wouldn’t have been hard to identify him.
It was also nice to see Mike Trout come out and greet his friends and family:
I have actually been rooting for him because (useless fact of the day): in the first year that the MLB draft was being televised, Mike Trout came to MLB Network’s Studio 42 with his parents. He was the only one to do so. Not Steven Strasburg, not Zack Wheeler, Mike Trout. Due to his courage I gained respect for him and keep him in the corner of my baseball observing eye. So it was really special to watch him enjoy this moment. It was also fun to see his gigantic self come out of the elevator and hear Garrett’s reaction, “Wow, can you believe he’s my age.” I really hadn’t thought about that but yeah he is only 3 years older than me and he has already hit his first Major League Home Run. After everything died down and we were kicked out of the waiting area, I said my goodbyes and walked what felt like 5 miles, it was only 1.5, because of the searing heat to the train station and waited for my pretty late train.
- 2 balls at this game
- 50 straight games with at least 1 ball. Now all I have to do is double everything I have done in my career and I will have 100 straight games.
- 19 straight games doing so on the road
- 15 straight games with at least 2 balls
- 2 balls*15,676 fans= 31,352 competition factor
- Time at Game 11:20-5:31= 6 hours 11 minutes
My first game at Camden Yards ballhawking and guess where it began:
You may be thinking: “Wait Mateo, isn’t Union Station in Washington D.C.” You would be right to ask that question because it indeed is. I was staying in D.C. to avoid lodging costs.
Long story short, I departed six hours before game time and got there two and a half before it (with a Subway break in between):
Isn’t that a majesty. For the record, that itself is not the park it is the warehouse that sits behind the right field standing room section. You can also see in that picture that the sun is beating down at this moment. Keep that in mind.
I was the third one into the left field seats and as a result I found three Easter Eggs. The first two spots (approximately) are here in this picture:
The third in this one:
The ballhawks out there can probably see who beat me to the seats but here are the two IDs. Man in orange going up the stairs: Matt Hersl. The man in pink: Zack Hample. Between the three of us, I think we found maybe ten Easter Eggs. It was just so hot that the Ushers didn’t check for baseballs. In the background with floppy hat on, you can see “Flava” Dave Stevenson in the background searcing for his own Easter Eggs.
Now let’s use that last picture to show how things were like with upwards of five ballhawks in attendance (not including me). I will use that last picture again to show what happened when a righty hit a ball into the left field stands:
The dotted arrow is the path of the ball and the solid arrows are all our different paths to the ball. Obviously you can’t see me in the picture So my arrow simply points out from the bottom of the picture but all others have arrows coming from them and a second arrow if they changed directions. I think that Matt Hersl was the first to the ball but it was on the ground but in the scrum he had with Flava Dave and another two fans (Zack had pretty much given up on the ball) it rolled out to his right. Whoever was to his right basically had to reach down and pick the ball up before they realized it had moved positions. Who was to his right? ME!! That gave me my fourth ball of the day.
The Angels were then coming out to throw so I veerryy sloowwly back up the staircase to change elsewhere (don’t want the Angels seeing me). Slowly because I knew the Orioles were still hitting and didn’t want to give up a chance at any Home Runs that could have landed in the seats. Sure enough, Mark Reynolds blasted a ball:
I was in the cross aisle and heading out but when the ball landed close to the top of the section I: dropped my backpack, bolted down the steps (an aisle lower than the ball had landed because they tend to trickle down), and ran over to the spot where the ball had landed. I don’t remember if it trickled down or not but I did pick it up and proceeded to change into my Angels gear to the congratulations of an usher. I was in love with Camden Yards already.
The Angels started throwing and I was careful not to go down too early because it has been my experience that if you go before the first throwing pair starts waining you are stuck waiting for people to end at the dismay of all the balls that are getting hit into the outfield. Eventually, I moved down to the foul pole and was going to ask Hisanori Takahashi for his ball but he did not end up with it and moved away. Keep this in mind. Finally Jordan Walden and Bobby… something or other, finished throwing and I asked Jordan for a ball. He threw his ball to another kid but then picked up another ball and threw it to me. I now had 6 on the day and was eyeing my record of 7/double digits because it was very early in Angels bp but then the left field seats got crowded. It was weird. As you can see in the picture above it wasn’t really “crowded” but because of this being the game before ballhawk fest many ballhawks showed up early and thus the gaps between the railings were filing up. Being my usual over-pensive self I moved to the flag court to avoid the ballhawks’ competition. Actually that’s only half true. I also moved out there because it was about 107 degrees (no hyperbole) and I had started to see tinsel like sparkles in the corners of my eyes. Here was my best attempt at a picture of myself during this time:
That picture was once I got back in the concourse. I can only imagine how exhausted I must have looked before that. Combine those factors with the fact that I had banged my thigh into a seat earlier made it time to take a slow walk over to right field. By the way this was my view in the flag court:
Why was I playing back where I couldn’t see the batter? The split second advantage that I would gain by seeing the ball on its way up would be lost in the fact that I would be going backwards instead of forwards. Whatever, it didn’t matter because no balls came up there.
I then went into the center field section and hid myself as best I could from Jordan Walden, who was shagging in right field, because he had already thrown me a ball. I stayed in center for the duration of batting practice and first got Hisanori Takahashi to throw me a ball in left center field because I asked him in Japanese. He was about a microsecond away from tossing the ball in before he heard a familiar language which led him to turning around and tossing the ball up.
My second ball came from a ground rule double hit by Russell Branyan- assist by the rubberized warning track- which bounce up and rattled around in the seats for a bit before I picked it up. There were a couple of those but there was an extreme lack of mobility in the center field section. I ended bp with eight balls but gave the last Branyan ball to a kid in that center field section. I stupidly didn’t get a picture of her or remember what she looked like but she was close by when I got the ball. I might have gotten double digits had the Angels not ended bp at:
6:07? My watch is also 4 minutes ahead so that made it more like 6:02 that they Angels already left the field. Anyway, I stayed out in the flag court for the duration of the game as there were two righty pitchers but no balls came even close due to two offensively challenged line-ups taking the field:
Such is life. I ended the day at eight.
- 8 balls at (7 in this picture because I gave one away)
- 48 straight games with at least 1 ball
- 13 straight with at least 2 balls
- 5 straight with at least 5 balls
- 17 straight games on the road with at least 1 ball
- 8 balls* 24,823 fans= 198,584 competition factor
- Time at game 4:21- 10:01= 5 hours 40 minutes