While I’ve always kind of known which teams I like and which I don’t–although even those have changed throughout the years–I truly have never ranked the teams 1-30 as to which I like better than others. So that’s what I’m going to do right now. (Disclaimer: This is a list of how I order the teams in the offseason of 2013-14. While most of my decision in where to put a team in the rankings is based off of the franchise itself, some of it is based on who is on the team right now, so these rankings are subject to change over time.)
1. Minnesota Twins-
My story with the Twins is that I grew up a Yankees fan being from New York, but being that I look at things from a GM’s perspective, I thought that being Brian Cashman and having a $200-million payroll would be a pretty boring job creatively since he could essentially buy any player he wanted to. In thinking this, I thought of a team who had success but doing so with a reduced payroll that required teams to build their team in an innovative way on a much smaller budget. Being as it was the mid-2000s, the Twins was a natural choice seeing as they were a constant playoff team with one of the lowest budgets in baseball. Now don’t get me wrong; there’s a different challenge in being the GM of the Yankees: you’re never allowed to take a year off having success to rebuild your core/farm system, but I was entranced by the building of a successful major league team from a solid minor league core.
2. Washington Nationals-
In going to a ton of games at Nationals Park in 2011 I fell in love with the core of players that went 80-81 as well as the people who inhabited it. Ever since then, I have been a really big fan of the players that made up the core of the teams in the next two years. And because of me falling in love with the Nationals Park environment for whatever reason as well as the people who made it such a special place, I became a fan of the franchise as a whole.
3. Tampa Bay Rays-
Much like the Twins, the Rays endeared themselves to me by being a team that built their team intelligently–allowing them to achieve repeated success on a payroll that can’t compare to that of a larger market team.
4. San Francisco Giants-
The Giants is an interesting case because it started as simply a liking of a specific player: Tim Lincecum. However, as I kept up with Lincecum more and more as he began to turn from the Washington kid who could pitch insanely fast for his size to a household name, I grew to have a liking fro the other players on the Giants as well. I think having shared a hotel with the players in Milwaukee and having a mini-conversation with a couple of them as well as having a personal memory of what Brian Wilson was like pre-beard may have contributed to this connection to the team, though.
5. Texas Rangers-
I truly have no idea how the Rangers managed to climb my list so high. I used to not really be a fan of them in their team with the two Rodriguezes, but as they turned towards a team that relied more on pitching *in addition to* the offense the Rangers always seemed to have, I really liked the teams that they constructed around 2009-10.
6. New York Yankees-
While they have fallen down my list and I hate the franchise past the team itself, they still are my childhood team that I can’t help to root for.
7. Philadelphia Phillies-
While it was not the beginning of my fandom of them, this certainly sealed it for me. They’d be higher on the list for me, but Phillies fans.
8. Toronto Blue Jays-
Part of me always sympathized with our neighbors to the north. Even when the Expos were still a team, I liked the Blue Jays a lot and always secretly as a Yankee fan hoped they would surge up and break the norm of the AL East standings for a while in the early 2000s–which was:
2. Red Sox
3. Blue Jays
5. Devil Rays
I just really always wanted them to have success, and this translated to a fandom of the team when they played teams that weren’t my top-of-the-line favorite teams.
9. Milwaukee Brewers-
My liking of the Brewers began in around 2008 when CC Sabathia joined the team for half a season and did amazing with being in attendance for what should have been a no-hitter, (I might write about this/do a video for a “Blast From the Baseball Past” entry) but then I just had a fandom for the Fielder and Braun teams. My fandom for the team, though, has lessened the past couple of years for obvious reasons regarding one or more of the aforementioned players.
10. Oakland Athletics-
(See Tampa Rays.)
11. Cincinnati Reds-
I think this is kind of a fusion of many of the various teams I have talked about to this point. So in part it’s like the Rays where I liked that a solid major league team was built from the pooling of major league talent, but it is also a lot like the Giants since I really like Joey Votto as a player.
12. Atlanta Braves-
I think this is Nationals-esque in that I loved Turner Field and its atmosphere. I also liked the core and became much more of a fan because of people I have met that are passionate about the Braves. And I can say that the fact that Julio Teheran plays for them doesn’t hurt them at all.
13. Arizona Diamondbacks-
This is one of the teams that I honestly don’t know why I like more than most teams. I’ve just always liked Diamondbacks teams (after the 2001 season, that is.) Yeah, I don’t know.
14. Seattle Mariners-
This has been mostly the product of running into very nice baseball people who are fans of the Mariners. I’m also a fan of how good of a pitching team they have been despite being offensively anemic the past seasons.
15. Baltimore Orioles-
Similarly to the Mariners, I just know a ton of awesome baseball people that are Orioles fans. In addition to that, their stadium is my favorite in baseball. I would say that really the only reason they’re this far down the list is that some Orioles fans became obnoxious as they began to climb out of the AL East cellar.
16. Detroit Tigers-
I know that I’m supposed to hate the Tigers as a Twins fan, but the fact that we beat them in the game 163 we played them helps and I always admired the teams that had success more than most of the teams I am supposed to dislike.
17. Pittsburgh Pirater-
I can pretty safely say that if I weren’t a ballhawk, this team would be lower on the list, but because of the big ballhawk following in Pittsburgh, I have kept up and liked the Pirates and it was incredibly fun watching them have success for the first time in over two decades last season.
18. Miami Marlins-
Ah the Marlins. Those poor souls. I always had an affinity for them especially teams with the 30+ homer infields of Uggla, Ramirez, Cantu, and Jacobs. That said, Jeffrey Loria has made this a team that I can’t root for over half of the other teams. They remain a team that I’m intrigued by and want to root for, and they would skyrocket up this list if Loria ever sold them and kept them in Miami, but right now they’re just not a team I can really get behind.
19. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim-
I don’t know about this team. I want to like them in many respects, but they lost me when they started spending a bajillion dollars on free agents, trading for Vernon Wells, and then having success with not with their big free agent acquisitions but with the farm talent they had beforehand.
20. Colorado Rockies-
The Rockies are one of those teams I have a preference towards, but still in a kind of “eh” way. I’ve never disliked them really, but I’ve never really had any passion behind my support of them.
21. San Diego Padres-
I used to like them a lot more in the Trevor Hoffman era, but they’ve dropped a bit since then not necessarily because their lack of success but the players behind these teams. They just haven’t been groups of guys that I’d like to get behind.
22. Cleveland Indians-
Again, never disliked them but never really liked them.
23. Houston Astros-
I actually like the group of people in this team and could see myself liking a lot in the years to come. That said, they have made some pretty bad decisions in the past and it was not a shock that they were as bad of a team as they have been.
24. Kansas City Royals-
I actually like this franchise in terms of their ballpark and look, but then there are the people behind the scenes that ruin this team for me. At the ballpark, I have not heard many positive things about their ushers, and behind the franchise, I disagree on many things with the GM of the team, Dayton Moore. I think that the team could have been competing a long time ago had it not been for his guidance.
25. St. Louis Cardinals-
The main reason for them being this far down the list is the fact that their fans claim incorrectly that they are definitely the “best fans in baseball.” While I don’t think there is a no-doubt group of the best fans in baseball, if my experience with Cardinals fans in baseball has taught me anything, it is that while the Cardinals fan base may be in the top-10, they are definitely not the no-doubt best fans in baseball they claim to be.
26. Chicago White Sox-
I was a fan of the 2005 Astros and 2008 Twins. Enough said.
27. New York Mets-
They’re the Mets. I don’t know how many things I have admired about the Mets the past five years. If it’s any indication, the rendition of “Meet the Mets” that I have adopted begins:
Beat the Mets,
Beat the Mets,
Step right up and,
Sweep the Mets
28. Los Angeles Dodgers-
While I have kind of liked the players on the Dodgers for stretches, their recent acquisition by the Kasten-Johnson group and metamorphosis into baseball’s new Yankees has really turned me off to them. I have disliked them sans Vin Scully for a much longer time than just that, but that’s the most recent thing that provides a rational reason for disliking them.
29. Chicago Cubs-
I have never had any appeal to the Cubs, and I’m not particularly found of how Cubs fans overreact to prospects as well as how in-your-face Cubs fans I have interacted with have been about the most minor successes. Granted, it’s a conditioning that has come with being the fan of a team who last won a World Series when one’s great-grandparents were your age.
30. Boston Red Sox-
This is partially because I grew up a fan of the Yankees, but I also do like their stadium and the atmosphere of it. However, I can’t get over the attitude of their owner John Henry that many fans have adopted without realizing the absurdity of it of that the Yankees have a ridiculous advantage in terms of having a humongous payroll. The reason this argument infuriates me is because for the longest time, there was a gigantic gap in payroll between the Red Sox and the third largest payroll. Thus it was the rich crying poor in order to gain sympathy. The second reason is because the Steinbrenner family is actually a middle-of-the-pack ownership group in terms of wealth. The reason they invest so much money into the team is because they value winning. Therefore, if John Henry truly wanted to win, he could spend the extra money and win. The problem is that if he didn’t win with this extra money invested, he would be losing money. However, George Steinbrenner was taking the same risk when he invested his extra money; it was just that Steinbrenner’s Yankees did win every season and could thus keep spending. So what Henry did by calling out Steinbrenner and the Yankees was criticized him/them for doing what he didn’t have the guts to do with the Red Sox in order to give his fans the winning such a great fan base deserved. However, being the fans that they were, many Red Sox fans backed their owner without truly understanding what was behind these claims.
So those were my favorite teams. I am by no means “right” in any of my judgements. Picking a favorite team–or in my case *teams*–is something of complete subjectivity and can be done for any number of reasons. Also, the next entry is me making a new Observing Baseball Logo. I would actually like to make a clarification. So it’s actually not the logo itself–this:
But it would actually be me remaking the icon itself, which is this:
But besides that, keep voting for your favorite entries. I should mention that I’ll be doing various entries for Twinsfest, but you can vote for the stuff you want to see besides this on the poll below:
Overall Grade: B+
Aesthetic Grade: B+
I went back and forth between a B+ and a B for this. On the one hand, it is a nice ballpark that I really don’t have much to complain about aesthetically. But on the other hand, it is also a very bland ballpark in terms of its features. There is really nothing that stands out as being amazing; so I couldn’t justify any grade in the “A range” for the ballpark. What eventually led me to going with B+ is that it has enough subtle flairs like the greenery, statues , and center field plaques that it gets some personality and style.
While the Philadelphia sports fans are a passionate bunch, and can get up for their sports teams when they’re doing well–leading to an electric atmosphere at CBP when the Phillies are competitive–they are also known for not displaying their passion in the most friendly ways. So while many athletes say that their least favorite city to travel to is Philadelphia and this can lead to a great home-field advantage for their sports teams, it also means that Phillies fans are not the best people to be around if you’re simply going to a stadium to enjoy a peaceful game at a new ballpark. So by averaging out the electricity that can live inside CBP with the negativity that its fans can bring, I arrived at a B for the overall atmosphere at the ballpark.
Fan Experience: B+
For the sake of fairness, I’m going to take the fans out of the equation for this one. The guest services staff from my experience has been an overall friendly one with only case-by-case rudeness. I haven’t really had that many positive encounters with vendors there, but those are also ever-changing and so that is maybe due to me not having gone to that many games at the ballpark. Plus, vendors don’t really play all that much into the overall fan experience. Overall I’d call the staff at CBP above-average, but where they make up in the “fan experience” department is that CBP is a generally fun place to walk around and explore. In a sense, it kind of feels like a minor league ballpark that got a ton of money to be made into a major league ballpark; this begins and ends with their award-winning mascot: The Phillie Fanatic.
Like I alluded to in the “Aesthetic” grade, it really is the details that save this stadium for me. From the statues all over the place to the “monument park” in center field, to the flower beds in front of the left field wall, the people who thought up Citizens Bank Park really covered all of the bases. While many of them have to do with the overall aesthetics, many bring huge benefits for any ballhawks who may visit Citizens Bank Park.
BP Ballhawking: A+
If you are in a stadium early for batting practice with a decent crowd, there is no better stadium for snagging a BP home run than Citizens Bank Park. In fact, if I had to design a ballpark that was ideal for BP ballhawking, whatever I come up with would not be that far off the design of CBP. First of all, it has a double-decker bullpen, which is in center field. This is ideal because it means that both the left and right field sections can be full, long sections that aren’t cut off by bullpens like they are in so many other stadiums. Long sections are key for BP since they let you run as far as you need to make BP home run snags. Another thing that separates CBP from the rest of the field is the fact that it has no hand railings. What this allows ballhawks to do is run from section to section on any row in the section. Whereas the stadiums with hand rails have only a one-row gap every three-to-four rows, so if you run across the section in the wrong row, that’s as far as you can run for the ball. Left Field at Citizens Bank Park is basically a ballhawk’s dream. Really CBP’s only fault is that the right field seats aren’t open for the first hour that the stadium is open. But once it is, it is only marginally worse than the left field seats, so you can then enjoy two sides of awesome outfield seats.
During-Game Ballhawking: B
Although it is an absolutely awesome stadium for BP, these features that make it a great BP stadium don’t make it all that great a place to ballhawk during the game itself. While the fact that there are no handrails does help during the game, you still have to rely on not that many people showing up to their seats in order to take advantage of the long sections of running room CBP has to offer. The really only truly great spot to ballhawk is behind home plate for foul balls, but entry to that part of the stadium costs you a pretty penny, so it really isn’t available to the common ballhawk. Overall, CBP is maybe a slightly-above-average ballpark to ballhawk at during the game itself. Its biggest advantage during the game is probably how home run-prone the stadium is.
Anyway, that’s all I have to say about Citizens Bank Park. If you would like to check it out, I made a video recently highlighting my experiences in the fall of 2013 via unused vlog footage. It’s a fun video to watch:
But as always, continue to vote on which entries you want to see me write next by using this poll:
Since I can’t design a new logo for the blog until I get back to Minnesota, the next entry will be my favorite MLB teams. However, I may have another baseball-related video project on the way before that. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it may have to do with some recent baseball current events.
After our adventure the previous night that got us back to Washington past midnight, Chris Hernandez and I got up to get to Philadelphia for BallhawkFest a little later than we wanted to. And so when we should have been playing softball with all of the other BallhawkFest attendees, this was our view:
But thankfully, this was where we were when it came time for the luncheon at McFadden’s:
That would be Chris running behind me alongside the stadium. Thankfully we made the luncheon more or less right after everyone else got there. And the best part was even though we were the last ones to get there, we got our food before anyone else. The luncheon would also result in me getting a Minnesota Twins long-sleeve shirt (thank you, Zack), Cardinals mini home plates, and my 2012 Junior Ballhawk of the Year award certificate.
Then it was time to get to the gates. First a couple of us made the trip over there:
And then a lot more showed up:
Although at this point, we knew the tarp was on the field, so it wasn’t looking good for us snagging. One person in the foreground of that last picture was particularly vocal about a certain streak ending. It was the calm before the storm, though. We waited and took pictures, but I killed most of my time by playing catch with Tim Cook in the street alongside the gate.
When the gates opened, everyone went in while my anxieties about this game compounded. Todd Cook had bought a ticket for me the night prior, and because I had to essentially get up and head to BallhawkFest, I never printed it out. Now at a bunch of places, you can just scan your phone as long as it has the barcode on it, but I learned that here at CBP, you can’t. So while everyone else was in the stadium for a good five minutes, I was getting a printout of my StubHub ticket:
Which was slightly difficult since the ticket was in Todd’s name and not mine. But eventually, I did get int the stadium with everyone else:
When I got in, only two pairs of Braves pitchers were throwing, but I got neither ball. My best shot was to get one from Julio Teheran, but I don’t think he heard me saying that I was a Colombian. My next closest opportunity to getting a ball was when I got David Carpenter to throw me a ball from 100-200 feet away. Unfortunately, though, the ball fell short and he didn’t come to the warning track to pick it up.
If you go back and take a second look at it, you may see something interesting in that last picture. As we waited, the grounds crew came out with the batting cage and screens. So by the time the Phillies came out to throw, the cage was set up and ready to go:
But with the abundance of people wearing Phillies red, it came as not surprise to me that I didn’t get a ball. Despite the fact that I saw there was now going to be batting practice, I was still worried as to how many baseballs I could put on the board. Pretty much everyone else had one or two baseballs at this point, and despite a ton of running and changing shirts that I had done up to this point, which I spared you the details of, I was still at zero baseballs. After I left foul ground, I ran into Ben Weil, and his girlfriend Jen. Ben at this point had two baseballs and was leading the pack. Jen, however, said she was rooting for me. And although I didn’t mean to, I kind of scoffed at that because the way things were going, it felt like I would be lucky to get *a* baseball with all of the competition. Let me explain why. Up to that point, I had been absolutely exhausted by the other ballhawks, because usually during a game with no BP, a ballhawk is the only one smart enough to go to place x. Well during this game, by the time I got to place x, there were 5 other people right on my tail. So after they got there, I had to get creative and think of another place where I could possibly get a ball, but with less competition. The cycle then repeated itself. Turns out, though, Jen had more confidence in me than I did.
Soon after I got into the right field seats, a ball was hit and rolled to the wall. Rick Sporcic was also in the right field seats. And although he was occupied with a baseball further towards center field, I hurried up and got my (read: Tim Anderson’s) cup trick out to pick up the ball, because I had heard he was good with his retriever. By the time I had gotten my ball, though, he was still trying to get his from in front of the wall. My guess is the right field wall is much taller than the left field wall in Pittsburgh, so he wasn’t used to it and his retrieving skills were slowed down as a result. Anyway, I didn’t get a picture since I was in a hurry to get the ball, but here’s a picture that’ll show you where I got the ball:
The place I took that picture from also happens to be where I got my second ball of the day. I leaned over the wall to see if a ball I had spotted from right field was cup trick-able, and just as I realized it wasn’t, Joe Savery came over to pick up that and another ball. He tossed the ball I was eying to a kid next to me and the other to me:
I know Ben was right next to me, since he also came over to see if he could cup trick the ball, but I don’t think he got a ball tossed up to him then. I actually don’t know if he got another ball for the rest of BP.
After getting that ball, I headed to straight-away left field to try to get a hit ball. It was a zoo:
I mean forget all of the people in general, just look at the ballhawks who were right behind me:
Had I not misjudged several home runs, I could have been up to 4 or 5 baseballs for the day after my time in right field. But instead I spent the rest of my BP getting punked by the Phillie grounds crew chalk dispenser:
Most teams use a cart-type thing to apply the chalked foul lines, but the Phillies instead use this thing where they pond to red side part with the mallet that is a mini-bat with a baseball at the end to apply the chalked line. Unfortunately, it looked from left field like there was a baseball sitting on the warning track in foul territory. So I ran all the way over to find out that this could in fact not be snagged.
The closest I came to snagging another baseball was when a ball rolled to the wall in left field, I ran over to where it was, and was about to pull out the cup trick when a Phillies player picked the ball up and threw it into the stands. Little did I know, but had I been a little quicker to the ball, I could have had the outright lead at the end of BallhawkFest.
How did this happen? Well after BP ended, I went to take a group picture in center field:
And then wnet behind the dugout. Since this was *Ballhawk*Fest, I expected there to be at least one other person joining me behind the Braves dugout before the game, but they just never came. So when the Braves came out to throw, I was one of the few people in Braves gear behind the dugout. Using this, I first got Chris Johnson to throw me a ball. His throw was a bit high, so it tipped off the top of my glove, bounced in the row behind me, and I had to run for it to just beat out a man who was also going for it. He was so close to it that I gave him the ball. It was only after I took the picture of him that I realized he already had a baseball (D’oh):
So since I had grabbed the ball before I gave it to him, that was ball number 3 for me on the day. Ball number 4 took no time at all after that. I’m not sure if he had seen me miss the Johnson toss-up, but when Justin Upton came in from throwing with his baseball, I screamed his name, and just like Johnson, he scanned the crowd as if searching for a little kid who deserved it more before settling for tossing the baseball to me:
I say I wonder if he saw the Johnson toss-up tip off of my glove, because I his line of sight when he was tossing with his brother BJ was slightly off of me, but it’s possible that he just tossed me the ball to give me a second chance. Oh well; who knows?
Then once the game started, I moved over one staircase to be on the right staircase for a third-out ball. It was after the top of the first inning that I saw Ben come down into that same section, so I moved down to join him. One out later, Jen joined us. So the plan at the third out was all three of us were going to go down for the third-out ball and odds are one of us would get it. Well it turns out it wasn’t just us, but Quinn Imiola (who you may remember from this entry if you’ve been reading the blog for a couple years, and whose birthday it was that day–as was announced by his dad at the luncheon in a hilarious/purely-“dad” way.) had gotten past the guard at the top of the steps right before the third out and also tried for the third-out ball. As it turned out, with all of those people there, Freddie Freeman lofted the ball right to me. As we returned to our seats, where we all went into the same row, we were apparently suspicious-looking enough with the culmination of all four of us going down for the ball and Quinn going back to a different seat than the one he had gotten out of to go for the third-out ball that the usher who had come down from the top of the steps asked to see all of our tickets. Ben and Jen actually had a ticket (it just wasn’t on that aisle), but Quinn and I didn’t have a ticket for the section at all. So the usher kicked Quinn and myself out of the section completely, telling us that he better not see us back there for the rest of the game, and asked Ben and Jen to go to their actual seats in the middle of the row–which Ben had no interest in doing. So as the rest of the group pondered where they would go, I took the picture of the Freeman ball:
The conversation eventually lead to us wandering towards left field, where the other three would eventually sneak down into, and I would continue onto right field, where I actually had a ticket for:
After a few innings of being there, I got a tweet from Harrison Tishler (who already published an entry about this game/day that you should check out) asking if he could join me. When I said yes, he and his parents were there within half-an-inning:
It was almost as if I was a ballhawk magnet, because after that, the Cooks arrived as well as Quinn and Alan Schuster, the organizer of the whole event and founder/webmaster of mygameballs.com, the site that’s the reason this event even exists:
And soon after that, Zack Hample, Ben Weil, and Chris Hernandez also came to the same section (although the other staircase). I should mention that this was a slow process, though. The game lasted 12 innings, so all of these arrivals weren’t within a half-inning of each other. The highlight of most of this slow-ish game besides talking to all of these fun and cool people I don’t get to see on a regular basis was taking an unintentionally-artsy picture of the scoreboard:
It was my initial plan to go to the bullpen after the game, but with so many other ballhawks now converged around it, when the Braves scored a run in the top of the 12th, I headed to the Braves dugout. However, as I exited the right field seats, I got a call from Zack. I thought it was weird right away because he rarely calls me outside of a baseball game; much less *during* a game itself. Turns out he had gotten kicked out of the stadium by security because of the escalation of an incident that he had with them after he had caught John Mayberry Jr.’s home run earlier in the game. I feel like I was a bad friend for what I did, but I figured Zack as “king of ballhawks” would understand as I got Ben to call him and handle the situation as I ran to the dugout. I figure Zack would have done the same thing with me. (Aren’t I so good at justifying my actions to myself?)
Quinn also came down to the dugout after the game, and as I went for the umpire ball–where the umpire ended up talking to a family for about ten minutes after the game, and giving them his last extra baseball, Quinn got Craig Kimbrel to toss him the ball he had recorded the save with. Not a bad birthday present, eh? Here he is in his Braves gear with his parents to the right of the frame:
For the record, I know the names of all of the parents, but I don’t know if they want their names out there. I actually met Quinn’s parents the day I met Quinn in South Carolina. Anyway, we were being told to clear out of the section, so that’s why Quinn is a little blurry.
I then got a text from Ben saying to meet outside the third base gate. When we got there we saw Zack, but the group who had stayed in right field were still not there. Eventually they did get there and Zack got to tell the story of his ejection about fifteen times:
After that, the plan was to get a parting group picture. As we set up for that, I got a panoramic picture of all of the ballhawks mingling:
And here was the final group picture:
In talking to everyone, it turned out that Jeremy Evens (in yellow), the Cooks, and I had all tied for the lead at 5 baseballs a piece. If you remember the first BallhawkFest in 2011, I was tied with Zack for the lead at I believe 7 baseballs. So I have never gone to a BallhawkFest where I didn’t have a share of the lead. And I probably just jinxed any chance of doing so next year’s BallhawkFest.
I then headed off with the Cooks in their car to the 30th Street Station, but not before taking a look at the Veterans Stadium field in the parking lot and getting one last shot of the stadium:
And so concluded one of the funner days of my life. While I wish I could have made it for the full experience, I had a blast and will be sure to try my hardest to be there for next season’s festivities, wherever it may be. (Insider’s hint: It may be the closest to home a BallhawkFest has ever been for me.) Thank you to everyone who made and keeps making this event what it is. The reason I constantly recommend it to people is because while it may be a tough event snagging-wise, it is a truly unique phenomenon that is something really special as well.
- 5 Balls at this Game (4 pictured because I gave 1 away. And apparently lost my Phillies hat somewhere along the line as well.)
Numbers 606-610 for my career:
- 164 Balls in 41 Games= 4.00 Balls Per Game
- 5 Balls x 41,161 Fans=205,805 Competition Factor
- 103 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 8 straight Games with 2 Balls
- 5 straight Games with 3 Balls
- 4 straight Games with 4 Balls
- 2 straight Games with 5 balls
- 12 Balls in 3 Games at CBP= 4.00 Balls Per Game
- 3 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at CBP
- 2 straight Games with at least 2-5 Balls at CBP
- Time Spent On Game 10:07-3:25= 17 Hours 18 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
As I have may have mentioned before, this trip is more-or-less still in my memory. So I know everything that happened, but I don’t remember all the details. When I checked the information on this particular excursion to Philadelphia, my first thought was, “This trip was only TWO days?! We did so many things in Philadelphia, it seemed like we were there for a week. Also, this entry will have no pictures, just information. Bear with me please.
Here’s what I remember; we managed to go to three different museums in Philadelphia. I know that we went to the one with the statue of Rocky at the foot of the stairs, and I also recall going to one with a fun interactive sports floor, which I believe was the top floor. Then we also went to a third museum, but I don’t know which one it was. We also managed to go to a Baseball Field in the city and I threw 80-ish pitches I believe since we didn’t have time for 100. We also went to a diner for lunch. Notice that in this paragraph, I have used the word “also” a lot more than usual. Usually, it is the word “then” that I over use, but that’s because in a normal entry, I’m fairly certain of the sequence of events at the game that I went to, but here I know the simple fact that all of these individual events occurred, but I have noooo idea which came before the other.
I *do* know, however, that after our day exploring Philadelphia, we drove the car out to the stadium. For some reason, it was very difficult to find it. Everyone we asked had a different way of getting there. Given, we did only ask two people, but the location of Citizens Bank Park is also the location of Lincoln Financial Field, the Philadelphia Eagles’ Stadium. Therefore, most people in the town should know how to get there since it is not that far away from downtown and the area houses their two most popular teams.
This was my first time going to a ballpark when it first opened, so we got there extra early. I know that one gate in Citizens Bank Park opens 2.5 hours early nowadays, and I assume it did back then as well. This would be tied for the earliest opening time in the major leagues right now. To show you how little a clue my dad and I had about batting practice, we showed up approximately 3 hours before the first pitch and to the third base gate. Like I said before, we were really early for the gates, but what I didn’t mention is that it is only the CF gate, named “Ashburn Alley” that opened 2.5 hours early, we waited at the third base gate, and when the 2.5 hour mark arrived, we walked away from the gate and eventually found out that we could enter the stadium.
Once inside, I don’t really remember much except my first bp ball. Ryan Howard stepped into the cage. I know, because my dad had been obsessing the day prior about how big he was for a baseball player (not just tall). As an absolutely clueless bp goer, I was in the first row and wondering why none of the balls were coming in my direction, because of course I wasn’t asking for any balls from the players either. Next thing I knew, Howard hit a low fly ball a few feet to my left. I moved over there and reached up, but the ball ricocheted off my glove and into the row behind me. There, my dad picked the ball up and handed it to me. Now I get that this is against what I now consider to be a ball that I snag. That said, I had lower standard back then because I didn’t go to games as often, so if that same scenario happened today, I wouldn’t count that ball in my “collection”, but because I counted it back then, I kept it that way.
For this game, we had worse “seats”, but I was fine with it given the fact that they were seats and not tickets to the standing room. They were more or less in the same direction as the last game, but they were in the upper deck portion of the stadium, as in we had three rows behind us before we reached the last row in the stadium.
Up in those seats, I had my first exposure to the fans that define “Philadelphia Sports”. Manny Ramirez had recently arrived on the Dodgers earlier that month, and the Dodgers were still a .500 team at this point in the season before the phenomenon know as “Mannywood” occurred. For some reason, though, the Phillies fans booed Manny every time he came up to bat. This made absolutely no sense to either my dad or myself since we were used to the “well-educated heckling” of the Yankee Stadium Bleachers. This lead my dad to ask the question, “Why are you booing him, he just got here?” To which a Phillie fan near us responded, “Oh, we boo everyone.” Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Philadelphia sports fans.
Another thing of note that happened while we were there is that Hiroki Kuroda was facing Joe Blanton. Joe Blanton must have been doing pretty well, because the Phillies eventually tied the game, but through almost seven innings, Hiroki Kuroda was no-hitting the Phillies. I remember that Carlos Ruiz broke it up with a single in the seventh inning. I also remember that I thought I had jinxed it by leaving my seat. I wanted to get a Dippin’ Dots ice cream helmet. Just as we left our seat to go on the concourse, we heard a roar from the crowd and knew exactly what happened (is it just me, or does EVERYone that goes to an almost-no-hitter secretly think that they jinxed in one way or another?). I am happy to report, though, that the trip we took was extremely productive. Not only was the ice cream delicious (No, I don’t remember, but how can ice cream be bad?), but I still have the helmet which essentially started my dad and I in collecting the helmets at different stadiums, and I bought my Phillies hat and shirt that I wear to this day every time I go to a game the Phillies are playing in.
Speaking of all of that stuff, here is all the stuff I picked up on this particular day:
Three of the items I referenced in the paragraph above the photo, but what’s this? There is a fourth item? Yes. I didn’t mention it at the beginning of the entry, but the promotion for that day’s game was a back-to-school lunchbox.
In the ninth inning, the score was 2-1 in favor of the Dodgers. I recall that we were in the concourse of the lower level in the top half of the ninth, because we watched Brad Lidge- amidst his season of perfection- pitch and were planning to leave as soon as the game ended. This, however, was delayed because the Phillies managed to score a run in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game up at 2. We stayed until the 10th inning ended. Usually, we are the fans that stay the whole game, but we had to catch a plane at 7:00 that morning to go to Detroit for the second leg of the trip. Considering it was 11:00 and we had a 2-2.5 hour trip ahead of us back to New York, my dad made the executive decision that this would be when we left.We headed out to the parking lot and found our car. Then just as we were about to start moving, fireworks erupted out of Citizens Bank Park. I tuned into the Phillies’ radio station to find out that Pedro Feliz had hit the HR. I was sad that we missed it, but happy that *he* hit it. The reason was that with all the puns that exist with the last name Feliz, the Phillies had chosen to play the “Feliz Navidad” audio whenever he came up (or maybe it was when he got a hit), but they cut it off right after the “Feliz” part, so I felt bad for him for having to put up with such an unimaginative gimmick.
Then on the drive home, I remember my dad told me not to fall asleep, I think to just keep him company and help him to stay awake. I was holding up pretty well half-way through New Jersey, but then I opened my eyes to us pulling up to 6425 Broadway (my apartment building). I had failed him, but at least I was ready to suit up in the morning and head off to Detroit to see Comerica Park.
Here are the two tickets for myself and my dad for this game that cost us a fortune on Stubhub:
I’m kind of ashamed to admit this, but I’m pretty sure I lost the Ryan Howard ball, which is why it isn’t in this shot. I remember we put it in the lunchbox, but I don’t know where it went after that. Also, if you look at the previous game’s entry, I have included the pictures of those tickets as well.
As much as it may surprise you, I did go to game before I created Observing Baseball. I know, shocking, isn’t it? Really the purpose of these “Blast From The Baseball Past” entries is to document what happened at certain games before they fade from my memory.
I don’t know since I have yet to think about the other entries, much less write them already, but this entry may be slightly longer than others just because it is the first one and I may have some things to explain. Now that I’ve said that, let m’ get to ‘splainin’:
Up to this point in my life, I had attended games at four stadiums: Old Yankee Stadium, Shea Stadium, Pac Bell Park (as it was called back then), and McAfee Coliseum. I was, and had been for some time, big into baseball and all of its teams. This prompted me to ask my dad if I could get him tickets to a baseball game for the both of us as his birthday present. He agreed and I made plans to buy two tickets for the All-Star game being held at the Old Yankee Stadium that year.
It was obvious, though, that I had not been purchasing tickets for much time prior. You see, I had planned to save $500 since the tickets cost $250 each at face value. However, they could not be bought at face value unless they were bought in conjunction with a plane ticket and hotel stay. Seeing as we lived within a mile of the stadium, this would not be necessary. Stubhub and other ticket-scalping websites would be our only means to acquire the tickets. The problem with this is that on said websites, they prices were substantially greater seeing as the demand for the tickets was greater. Instead of $250 a ticket, the price was around $450 for each. So, I made the decision that instead of splurging for a single game, going on a trip to see games might be a better idea.
My dad grew up in Minnesota, and was much more into Hockey as a child, an attribute which he attributes to a very hard throwing wild pitcher in his Little League. I mean he did go to games with his family to Milwaukee County Stadium and Metropolitan Stadium, but his first real encounter with Baseball on a day-to-day basis was when I came along and grew up really into Baseball. Therefore, although he was pretty well acquainted with Baseball, the idea of travelling to three cities to watch games was a teensy bit foreign to him. The proof of this? His title for the folder where all the planning material for the trip was to go on our computer was entitled: Mateo’s Baseball Adventure.
Anyway, the first stop on our trip was Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. My dad was a very good driver and had an even better sense of direction. However, for some reason, Philadelphia seemed to be the bane of his driving existence up to that point. We made sure to leave early in order to plan for getting lost. So if the recommended time of travel to Philadelphia is 2 hours (I have no clue what the exact time is, but 2-2.5 hours sounds about right to me), we left more than 3 hours before the first pitch. After arriving within I’d say 20 miles of the city of Philly, all the wheels came off the wagon. We were using a Google Maps print-out to guide us, and we knew things were wrong when the exit we had to take was a road that passed over our heads. One mistake lead to another and we ended up getting to Philadelphia through the suburbs, and checking into our hotel later than we would have liked.
Here are three pictures that go with what happened next. We went to the train and left for Citizens Bank Park:
1+2- I was walking to the train station, and there was a sloped part on the right of the sidewalk, so I tried to walk on it without falling off because of its slope. Hasn’t everyone done that? Just me? Oh well.
3. We got in the subway station for the train that went directly to Citizens Bank Park. Here I am waiting for the train to arrive.
After waiting and getting on the train, we had a brief walk to the ballpark. Here is a picture my dad took while we were walking between the train station and Citizens Bank:
When we arrived, it was already the third inning and the Phillies were up 3-2. I remember that we had a SRO (Standing Room Only) ticket. This was our view from the spot where we watched most of the game:
The highlight of this game for me was the fact that Cole Hamels was pitching. Even though he wasn’t at the top of my list of favorite players, he was in a constant battle with Ryan Howard for our attention -Ryan Howard because my dad was fascinated with how big he was- all game. Here is a picture of Cole Hamels batting:
and then when he got a hit, I made sure to take a picture of him standing on first:
Okay, here is the last picture of the entry that I took up coming up. I wanted to be fair to the other team’s pitcher by taking a picture of him as well:
Now this is where it gets interesting. You can tell by the shadows that it is fairly early in the game. However, I went back and looked at the probable pitchers for the day and they were Cole Hamels and Clayton Kershaw. Obviously, this isn’t Clayton Kershaw since he is a left-handed pitcher. Could it be that someone else took Kershaw’s spot in the rotation at the last-minute? It’s possible since he was only a rookie this season. Although there were nine runs, the Phillies didn’t score again until the bottom of the fifth, meaning Kershaw would have exited the game then, but it would be darker than it is in the picture at that time. The other two possibilities are that a. Kershaw worked up his pitch count too high, or b. He got pulled in the first inning. A seems like it could happen given that Kershaw was notorious for being wild early on in his career. B is a slightly less feasible option,but still makes sense, because Kershaw was a volatile rookie that would have been given a shorter leash than a more seasoned player. So what happened? I have since looked at it to solve the mystery, but I’ll let you guys guess here:
I won’t reveal the answer, but if you want to check it out for yourself, all the information you need to search for it is in the title of this entry.
Cole Hamels would not allow another run after we arrived, going 7 innings and only allowing two runs total as the Phillies won the game 9-2. Here is the screenshot from the “Gameday” for this game:
and here are the tickets for the game:
A fun adventure on the first day of “Mateo’s Baseball Adventure”- Part 1.
I know I haven’t been watching baseball for THAT long compared to most people, but I can’t remember a team ever living up to the hype set in the preseason so quietly as the Phillies did last season. Their roatation was by far the best in the Majors:
Why?: I know that it may seem like a no-brainer to some people that the Phillies got better this offseason. However, once I actually looked at the list of names, they really added no value to their team at all, and you know what? They didn’t have to. This team won 102 games last season and that was WITH a ten game losing streak down the stretch. I distinctly remember tweeting something along the lines of “Whoa, the Phillies have won 97 games and still have 12 games to play?!” (this was amid their ginormous losing streak). So, they could still most likely win the division by just treading water and waiting for Ryan Howard to come back from the DL.
Predicted Record Range: 95-100 wins