Tagged: pitchers

8/21/13 Rays at Orioles: Camden Yards

Again my day did not get off to a good start. But unlike the previous day, it didn’t get all that much better during batting practice. So when I got to Gate H, I kept expecting other ballhawks to be there as well, but none showed up. Both Tim Anderson and Alex Kopp had apparently gone to Dempsey’s, which is a restaurant inside of the warehouse. Once I realized this and found another season ticket holder to use the card of to buy a discounted ticket from, the gates were opening. So as a result, I was like 3-5 minutes late getting in. This may not seem like much, but for a ballhawk right at the time the gates open, it’s an eternity.

So with all of the better spots in left field taken once I got there, it was a no-brainer for me to go down the left field line when the Rays started throwing for toss-ups. Pretty much the only thing that made me want to stay in left was that my next baseball was going to be my 100th at OPACY, so I would have rather it been a hit baseball on the fly. But like I’ve said before, I’m not nearly good enough to be able to choose how I get a baseball. I’m just happy if I get the ball.

That said, Wil Myers looks as though he could become something in the majors, so irrelevant of it being my 100th OPACY ball, when there was a decision to be made of whether to ask him or Evan Longoria for a ball, I got Myers to toss me my first ball of the day and my 100th at OPACY (Oriole Park at Camden Yards, for those of you who are confused):

82113 Ball 1

And with this, I became I believe only one of three ballhawks who have snagged 100 baseballs at five or more ballparks. So that was pretty cool, and not an indication of me being anywhere near the league of the other two ballhawks I share the distinction with. And an even cooler thing was one of my more favorite players, Ben Zobrist came over to sign right after that, and I got him to sign the 100 baseball.

I then moved down the line and awaited for the pitchers to be done throwing. And when Roberto Hernandez (formerly known as Fausto Carmona) was finished throwing, I waved at him for the ball, but he put up a finger as if to say, “One minute.” He then proceeded to do what is known among pitchers “shadowing”, so I assumed when he was done with that, he would throw me the ball. Turns out I didn’t even need to wait that long, because when a ball got hit in hsi direction, he picked it up and chucked it to me:

82113 Ball 2

I then headed back to left, but quickly thereafter left to go to right-center because the non-season ticket holders were being let into the seating bowl. There, I used something I had noticed one of the previous two days. I had seen a kid ask Rays bullpen coach, Stan Boroski, for a ball by name, and Boroski tossed it to him saying, “You’re one of the only people besides this guy (pointing to Scott Cursi) who knows my name in this stadium.” So I though if I got Boroski’s name right, it would be the easiest toss-up in the world. And it was:

82113 Ball 3

After taking the picture, I gave that ball away to a kid who was standing to my right. That was when Alex showed up in the section and reported to me that he had been having a really good day and was already at 6 baseballs. He would then get his seventh from Alex Cobb. He probably could have gotten to double digits, but the Rays ended batting practice 30-40 minutes before the visiting team normally does. So we sat in the center field seats and talked for a while:

82113 Alex CF

Alex would then get his eighth ball that we had both been eying for about 40 minutes from a groundskeeper about ten minutes before game time. I initially stayed out in right field with him for the game, but when I realized that eight of the Rays nine hitters were righties, I moved to over here where this was my view:

82113 Foul Ground

But sadly there were no foul balls within fifteen feet of me. I then headed to the umpire tunnel at the end of the game, but Joe West ran out of baseballs before he got to me.

Thankfully, though, I didn’t just walk back to Alex’s house at that point. Instead I went to the Rays dugout. As the relievers walked in, I saw Joel Peralta had a ball in his rolled up glove, so I asked him for it in Spanish. He completely ignored me, but as he walked into the dugout, I saw a ball bounce towards me on the dugout roof. Apparently Fernando Rodney had heard my request and tossed me a baseball he had with him:

82113 Ball 4

Then I saw that Stan Boroski and Scott Cursi were way behind the relievers, so I quickly changed from my Rays hat to my MLB Fan Cave hat (I already had my MLB Fan Cave shirt on at that point) to disguise myself from Boroski, who had tossed me a ball earlier in the day. And so I again asked Boroski, but this time by last name, and he tossed me my fifth ball of the day. Then I saw a kid next to me with a glove, who had not gotten a ball from Boroski, so I gave him the ball. I was just happy that my disguise had paid off:

82113 Fan Cave Disguise

And so I headed back to Alex’s place by foot. At the time I thought there might be a possibility I’d be back in Baltimore over the weekend, but with talking to my mom on the car ride back to Washington (she and my step-dad picked me up at Alex’s) I learned that wasn’t really a feasible option given the time and day my flight left. So this would prove to be my last game at OPACY in 2013.

STATS:

  • 5 Balls at this Game (3 pictured because I gave both Boroski balls away)

82113 Baseballs

Numbers 675-679 for my “lifetime”:

82113 Sweet Spots

  • 233 Balls in 52 Games= 4.48 Balls Per Game
  • 5 Balls x 28,323 Fans=141,615 Competition Factor
  • 114 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 19 straight Games with 2 Balls
  • 16 straight Games with 3 Balls
  • 8 straight Games with 4 Balls
  • 2 straight games with 5 Balls
  • 104 Balls in 23 Games at OPACY= 4.5 Balls Per Game
  • 23 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
  • 13 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at OPACY
  • 11 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at OPACY
  • 9 straight Games with at least 4 Balls at OPACY
  • 2 straight games with  at least 5 Balls at OPACY
  • Time Spent On Game 4:33-11:49= 7 Hours 16 Minutes

8/19/13 Rays at Orioles: Camden Yards

This was a pretty run-of-the-mill day at Baltimore. Avi Miller had some work still to do, so he nicely dropped me off at the subway station in his hometown, where I got slightly lost  but managed to make it to Oriole Park at Camden Yards in time to get into left field with everyone. I didn’t find any easter eggs because Garrett Meyer scooped up the only one. Coming into this game, both Garrett and I wore Rays gear coming into the left field seats, because we figured the Orioles wouldn’t throw us any baseballs anyways and that it would be better for us for when the Rays came out to throw and hit in case they were to see us changing.

I say this because I ran up to the front row for a ball that I thought I could maybe catch in the front row. Instead the ball hit off the wall over the glove of Rudy Arais. Just in case the ball had hit him on the back when he was jumping for it, I asked, “Are you okay, Rudy?” He then looked back smiled, and said, “Yes.” It was at that point that he started to pick up the ball, and I realized he had not seen my Rays shirt yet because the wall was blocking it, so I blocked it with my glove. And when Rudy turned and threw the ball to me, I made sure to catch it with my bare hand as to not reveal my Rays logo:

81913 Ball 1

Most of the other ballhawks were astounded because I had made of point of wearing Rays gear before the gates opened, and yet I still got a toss-up from the Orioles. My next ball came in I want to say the second group of Orioles hitters. Some righty in that group hit a ball a little bit to my right, so I went over and caught it on the fly for my second ball of the day:

81913 Ball 2

If it was indeed the second group, it was probably hit by either Steve Pearce or Alexi Casilla, but I’m not going to guess just for the sake of having a name attached to the ball, so we’ll just call him a UHR (Unidetified Hitting Righty). My third ball of the day came when I went into foul territory to get a baseball from the pitchers and position players warming up. I didn’t actually get the warm up ball of any player, but Jeremy Hellickson was helping Chris Archer guard the pitchers from hit baseballs. (You’ll often see there’s one person doing this, since the pitchers are parallel to–in this case–the invisible line between second and third base and can’t see a ball coming at them without turning their heads sideways. But from my experience, it’s usually a bullpen catcher who guards them and not another pitcher; just because the pitcher has to warm up himself.) Anyway, a ball came to Hellickson, and so I shouted, “Jeremy can…” and before I could finish my request he turned to me, so I put up my glove and he threw me my third ball of the day:
81913 Ball 3

That was kind of awesome for me personally, because I believe the last time before that Hellickson had tossed me a baseball was when he tossed me my 100th baseball ever back in 2011. So yeah, pretty much no one else but me would have found it that cool, but I thought it was great.

My fourth ball of the day came when I headed out to the right-center field section for the Rays hitters. ( I didn’t go over there because a bunch of lefties were up. I just usually head over there when the non-season ticket holders flood the left field seats.) Chris Archer fielded a ball at the wall, and tossed me my fourth and final ball of the day when he saw my Rays gear and I called out to him by name. I then asked a kid to my left if he had gotten a ball, and when he said he hadn’t, I handed him the ball:

81913 Ball 4 Happening

For the game, Grant Edrington, Alex Kopp, and I all sat out on the flag court. There were two home runs, both of which we could have possibly gotten but didn’t. (The first of which I am still mad about since I was eating a strawberry-flavored lemon chill when it happened.) But the coolest thing I would say we did the whole night was walk through the cross-aisle:

81913 Through Cross-aisle

And handed Matt Hersl‘s brother a shirt and piece of paper that all of us participants of BallhawkFest 2013 had signed. Despite the fact that this was my first time meeting his brother, it was special from simply my connection to Matt himself. And by far the weirdest thing I experienced that game was on the way back seeing a person about my age not paying attention to the game because he was playing Pokemon on a Gameboy SP:

81913 Gameboy

After that, Garrett, Alex and I headed back to Alex’s place, where we all stayed, I ate some pizza, and was thankfully the only one of the three who didn’t have to wake up before 8:00 in the morning.

STATS:

  • 4 Balls at this Game (3 pictured because I gave 1 away)

81913 Baseballs

Numbers 661-664 of my lifetime:

81913 Sweet Spots

  • 217 Balls in 50 Games= 4.34 Balls Per Game
  • 4 Balls x 25,044 Fans=100,176 Competition Factor
  • 112 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 17 straight Games with 2 Balls
  • 14 straight Games with 3 Balls
  • 6 straight Games with 4 Balls
  • 89 Balls in 21 Games at OPACY= 4.24 Balls Per Game
  • 21 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
  • 11 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at OPACY
  • 9 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at OPACY
  • 7 straight Games with at least 4 Balls at OPACY
  • Time Spent On Game 3:44-11:56= 8 Hours 12 Minutes

8/18/13 Rockies at Orioles: Camden Yards

With getting up at around 10:00, and heading off to Oriole Park at Camden Yards, my day of adventure with Avi Miller began:

81813 Opening Picture

(I’ll spare you the story, but trust me when I say that picture took way too long to get taken right.) There were two things I knew coming into this game:

1. There was not going to be any BP.

2. We were going to leave the game about half way through it.

Now given these two things, I thought my totals for this game were going to be way below normal. And this view as I got in only served to further my suspicions:81813 View of Field

If you can’t tell, that would be several pitchers along with Chris Davis dressed like an Olympic sprinter (idea credit goes to Avi on that one). But thankfully, with the help of Avi, I was able to get Josh Stintson to throw me a ball for my first on the day:

81813 Ball 1

He was in only one of two throwing pairs for the Orioles at the beginning of warm-ups, so when I saw the Rockies coming out, I got my purple on and headed to that side of the stands. At the beginning of the Rockies pitchers throwing, I noticed Matt Belisle was throwing without a partner against the outfield wall:

81813 Belisle vs Wall

So since the rest of the pitcher weren’t going to be done throwing for a while–since they had *just* started. He was hesitant at first, but then he tossed me the ball and we played catch. But at about the fourth throw (like eighth overall), he abruptly stopped throwing and started asking me questions about myself that eventually lead to him saying he liked the Baltimore area. And then he just walked away at the end of our conversation. It was kind of bizarre, but despite the fact that Belisle kept the ball, that was my second ball of the day.

My third came when Tyler Chatwood was done throwing, he tossed me his warm up ball:

81813 Ball 3

Then the same happened with my fourth baseball and Rex Brothers:

81813 Ball 4

I then gave this ball away to a kid who I asked if he had gotten a ball. Then a more noteworthy snag came when Rafael Betancourt picked up three baseballs. I figured he had seen me get at least one of the previous two baseballs, but after handing the first two to kids, he tossed me the third ball. I then headed up the stairs and asked a kid if he had gotten a ball, but he said he had bought one in the store, so I kept the ball Betancourt. It was then that Grant Edrington–who had shown up a little late–came up to me and asked, “So he tossed you the commemorative?” Up to this point, I hadn’t even looked at the baseball, but sure enough when I did, I saw the ball was indeed a Rockies commemorative ball:

81813 Ball 5

Since I may have yet given up the baseball had Grant not arrived on the scene combined with the fact that he had never gotten one of these baseballs, I gave Grant the commemorative in exchange for him giving me a future commemorative if he ever snags one that I don’t get. Anyway, that was my fifth ball of the day and last one before the position players came out to throw. It was then that I got Nolan Arenado (who was already in the dugout by the time I took the next picture) to toss me a baseball:

81813 Ball 6

I was at 6 baseballs, and could have stayed at the dugout to break my record for most baseballs snagged without batting practice, but instead I headed out to the flag court with Grant. But then at the beginning of the 6th inning, Avi showed up to pick me up:

81813 Avi and Grant

And then we were of to Bowie (pronounced like buoy) for the Bay Sox game:

81813 Next Destination

Well the game itself wasn’t going to start until 6:05. We were headed off so early to make sure we were going to be one of the first 1,000 fans for Manny Machado garden gnome night. Now I would never do something like this on my own, but when Avi pitched it to me, I was completely fine with it because I had not been to a minor league game since this, and I was more than okay with seeing some extra baseball. So for a 5:00 gate opening time, we showed up at around 4:05. Were we being a little overcautious to make sure we had enough time? Probably. But not as overcautious as you’d think. I went to get food once we parked, and when I was walking back to the line at around 4:25, this was the gigantic crowd of cars I saw in the parking lot from a distance:

81813 Cars

And as I approached the gate, I realized just the extent of the madness over these garden gnomes:

81813 Crowd 1

Actually, that was not even the half of it. I had to go to the front of the line to capture the full madness:

81813 Crowd 2

See those extra  people to the right of the right of the frame? That is actually a continuation of the line. It was so long there actually had to be a bend to it so it wouldn’t go out onto the main road. But anyway, at 5:00, it was time to enter:

81813 Ticket

So we entered, got out gnomes, and came back out to put our excess “stuff” that we didn’t need for the game back in the car. Here is Avi taking a picture of his gnome:

81813 Avi Picture-taking

And here is what his camera was seeing (more or less):

81813 Gnome

After that, we entered Prince George’s Stadium for good:

81813 Field

We stayed, threw some toilet seats for a Zach Britton bobblehead, and then headed back to Avi’s house after a fun day at the ballparks.

(Major League) STATS:

  • 6 Balls at this game (3 pictured because I gave the other 3 away)

81813 Baseballs

Numbers 655-660 for my career:

81813 Sweet Spots

  • 213 Balls in 49 Games= 4.35 Balls Per Game
  • 6 Balls x 22,238 Fans=133,428 Competition Factor
  • 111 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 16 straight Games with 2 Balls
  • 13 straight Games with 3 Balls
  • 5 straight Games with 4-5 Balls
  • 85 Balls in 20 Games at OPACY= 4.25 Balls Per Game
  • 20 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
  • 10 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at OPACY
  • 8 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at OPACY
  • 6 straight Games with at least 4 Balls at OPACY
  • 4 straight Games with at least 5 Balls at OPACY
  • Time Spent On Game 10:41-9:44= 11 Hours 3 Minutes

8/17/13 Rockies at Orioles: Camden Yards

At this game there were a bunch of ballhawks at the gates, but none of them wanted to take a picture, so here is a list of the people who were there:

1. Garrett Meyer.

2. Tim Anderson.

3. Grant Edrinton.

4. Avi Miller.

My first ball came courtesy of person number three. As Grant ran through a row of seats looking for easter eggs, he reached for a ball, pushed the opening of the bottom of the seat out, and the ball fell out the bottom. Since there was another ball right by him, he let that one go, and so I picked the ball he made drop down up:

81713 Ball 1

And then the Orioles ended their BP very early, so we were just sitting in the left field seats. In this time, I was the only one who went to the Rockies bullpen. So when the Rockies bullpen catcher Pat Burgess made his way to the bullpen, I called him over and said, “Can I ask you a question? Do you guys have any of the commemorative baseballs with you?” Like I’ve said in the past, I don’t usually go out of my way to see if there are any commemorative baseballs, but there were a couple other ballhawks who were trying to get them, so I figured I’d ask. And also, when he said no, I didn’t feel bad at all. But then Burgess went through the bullpen bag to get baseballs for the pitchers to warm up with. And about a minute after I had asked him, I saw Burgess waving at me from the corner of my eye. So I turned and he said, “Sorry, this is the only one we have left in the bag.” and tossed me a perfect Rockies commemorative for my second ball of the day:

81713 Ball 2

On the outside I just said, “Thanks.” But on the inside I was thinking, “Sorry? You just gave me the last commemorative ball in your bullpen bag; why are you sorry?”

My next ball came when the Rockies started hitting. usually the front row in left field is packed with people once the opposing team has started to hit, but because the Orioles ended so early, there was still some room to ask for toss-ups. I took advantage of it by asking Jeff Francis to toss me a ball. But there had been a dad who was holding hs kid up also trying to get Francis to toss him a ball, so I gave the ball away to the kid:

81713 Ball 3 daigram

I point the dad out because he would come into play later. I wouldn’t snag a ball for another couple Rockies groups, but when I went out to the flag court, he, Avi, and Grant were all out there. He first came up to me and offered me the ball back because his son had gotten another one, but I told him he could keep it. He then insisted I keep the ball, so I told him he could just give it away to another kid. He then gave it to me and told me that I could give it away to another kid and have the satisfaction of it. So I got it from him, walked down into the seats besides the flag court, and gave it away to another small kid with a glove.

I tell this story to show that this man was not out there will malicious intent. That said, on the first ball in the flag court, all four of us converged under the ball, but I was camped under the ball. Just as I reached up for the ball, I felt something forcing my glove down. I tried to push past it and keep my glove up, but the ball had tipped off my glove, where Grant then got it on the ground. Obviously I was watching the ball and not what was behind me, but first the dad said sorry after the ball, and then AVi told me what he had seen happened. Apparently I was indeed right under the ball, but the dad had “jumped on [my] back” as the ball was coming in. On the next ball out there, I once again was tracking it, until I realized the ball was slicing back to my left. Long story short, the ball went way past my outstretched glove and back to Avi who had been behind me for most of the ball. But when I turned back to see who had gotten it, what I saw was the dad running away in celebration while Avi was on the ground. Apparently the guy had knocked Avi down on the play and caught it on the fly. All three of us agreed that it’s fun to compete for baseballs, but you also can’t go around knocking people over to get them.

Anyway, the flag court was looking like an increasingly tougher area to snag a baseball, so right before the end of BP, I went down to the Rockies dugout. I then got a ball from bench coach Tom Runnells as the BP baseballs were being transferred from the bucket to the ball bag. Then, since I had not yet marked this ball, when Charlie Culberson started signing at the dugout, I got him to sign that ball:

81713 Ball 4 Signed

And right before I left, there was a kid who had been asking every single Rockies player/coach for a ball, so I asked him if he had gotten a ball yet. And when he said no, I pulled out the easter egg I had gotten because of Grant and gave it to him.

For the game, I spent my time out in the flag court with Tim and Grant. We had one major shot at a homer that we weren’t ready for, but the way the ball bounced, I think we pretty unanimously agreed that we couldn’t have snagged it anyways. So really the most major thing is that when and usher asked Tim if had a couple of baseballs, Tim gave him one, but then asked me if I had an extra baseball. So because I don’t *really* value autographs that much, I gave him the usher the ball Charlie Culberson had signed instead of the Rockies commemorative. I realize I could have just said I didn’t have any baseballs left to give away, but this shows how much I really value autographs. I mean the way I always explain it to people is I’ll get them if they’re convenient and not much else is happening, but I really won’t go out of my way to get them. After the game, I headed down to the umpire tunnel:

81713 Umpire Tunnel

And then got a ball form home plate umpire Chris Conroy:

81713 Ball 5

I tried the Rockies dugout afterwards, but didn’t even ask Pat Burgess for a ball since I figured he would recognize me from our longer-than-normal interaction earlier. And so the Conroy ball was my fifth and final of the day.

STATS:

  • 5 Balls at this Game (2 Pictured because I gave 3 away)

81713 Baseballs

Numbers 650-654 for my “career”:

81713 Sweet Spot

  • 208 Balls in 48 Games= 4.33 Balls Per Game
  • 5 Balls x 31,089 Fans=155,445 Competition Factor
  • 110 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 15 straight Games with 2 Balls
  • 12 straight Games with 3 Balls
  • 4 straight Games with 4-5 Balls
  • 79 Balls in 19 Games at OPACY= 4.16 Balls Per Game
  • 19 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
  • 9 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at OPACY
  • 7 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at OPACY
  • 5 straight Games with at least 4 Balls at OPACY
  • 3 straight Games with at least 5 Balls at OPACY
  • Time Spent On Game 1:28-11:17= 9 Hours 49 Minutes

8/6/13 Braves at Nationals: Nationals Park

So back from Philadelphia and the madness of BallhawkFest, I took a couple days to rest and write. But after that, it was time to go to the second game of the Braves-Nationals series. First, there was a chance of rain, so I went atop the Nationals parking garage to check if the cages were up:

20130816-144354.jpg
Yay, batting practice! I then headed back down to the center field where I met up with two ballhawks I regret not writing more about the past two seasons:

20130816-144717.jpg
That would be Dave Butler and Art (whose last name I don’t know). They are probably the two most “regular” ballhawks at Nationals. Dave pretty much exclusively goes after hit baseballs while Art almost exclusively goes after Nationals toss-ups. They are both very friendly guys, and if you ever see them at Nationals Park, tell them Mateo says hello. Dave can be pretty easily identified by the fact that he always has his Giants hat on, and Art can 95% of the time be found with his sunglasses, Bluetooth, and blue Nationals hat on in the corner spot by the visitor’s bullpen right as the gates open.
Once we got in, I headed for straight-away left, since both Dave and Rick Gold were battling it out in the Red Seats for pitchers BP.
Ironically, my first ball of the day came in the Red Seats when the two of them left for the Nationals’ second group of hitters. Ross Ohlendorf fielded a ball at the wall, and looked up to toss the ball to someone. And when I raised my glove, he flipped me the ball:

8613 Ross Ohlendorf

And then literally *right* after that, I saw a person coming down the grass hill in center field to clear out all of the baseballs that were sitting there. It was so soon after the first ball that I actually had it in my non-glove hand and had to hide it behind my back to get the man to toss me the ball that was on the hill. and I guess I’m more deceptive than I thought, because:

8613 Ball 2

Do you kind of see the logo of the ball? It was a World Series 2010 commemorative ball. I had heard the Nationals were using this and several other types of commemoratives, but this was the first time I had seen any of them in 2013. So since I had snagged two baseballs within a span of ten seconds, I gave the non-commemorative Ohlendorf ball to a kid at the corner of the section.

After that, a Nationals righty smashed a ball that bounced up to the top of the restaurant, where an employee picked the ball up. At that point everyone else pursuing the ball gave up and went back to the bottom of the section. I didn’t understand, though, since it was employee that supposedly had to give the ball away. So I stuck around, stuck up my glove, and got this:

8613 Ball 3

And you see right; that is a Fenway Park 100th year commemorative baseball. It was amazing, but this would sadly be my last commemorative ball of the day.

I then headed over to right field for the third group of Nationals hitters. There I got Taylor Jordan to toss me a ball by being the only one to call him by name:

8613 Ball 4

I then got my fifth ball of the day when the Braves started hitting. I got Craig Kimbrel to toss me a baseball over the Braves bullpen:

8613 Ball 5

And then it was time to have a cup trick party. Now you’re not exactly supposed to, but you can sometimes get away with using a ball retriever in the gap right below the Red Seats. So this being my first time with a reliable retriever in Nationals Park with me having Tim Anderson‘s cup trick in my bag of tricks, I took advantage of it.

I first saw one ball go into the gap on a hit ball, so I got the cup trick out and pulled the ball out from here in the gap:

8613 Ball 6 Diagram

I then gave it away to a kid whose glove the ball had bounced off of. I then got a second ball from the gap soon after that and gave it to a person right next to me on top of where I snagged the ball in the gap. And then I asked him if he could hold the ball out for a picture:

8613 Ball 7

And by then, people realized what I had, and when a ball landed in the gap, people called me over to retrieve the ball for them. I walked over, but as I did, Justin Upton launched a ball right into the row I was walking in, so I ran through the row and caught the ball through several glove screens:

8613 Ball 8

That was my eighth ball. And then when I retrieved the ball and gave it away to the family who dropped the ball, I had my ninth ball of the day:

8613 Ball 9

If you can see the bars below the ball in the picture, the ball was trapped under one of those, so I had to knock it sideways out from under there to retrieve the ball. At this point I was getting nervous because I had now gotten 3 balls via cup trick. So when a guy told me there was another ball in the gap, I just wanted to get my cup trick out quickly, get the ball, and not get seen. But as soon as I pulled the cup trick out of the gap, I sensed someone behind me. It was a security guard who told me he needed me to give him the trick. It was obviously not mine, so I asked if he had a string-cutting device. And when he said no, I tried untying the string, he eventually just gave up and told me that I’m there often enough that I should just not do it again. That was my tenth ball of the day, by the way.

My record for baseballs in a game was 11, so with 10 and there still being about 15 minutes left in batting practice, I thought I had a pretty good opportunity to break it. And this got even better when I picked up a ball that Luis Avilan had overthrown to a kid. I then gave the ball to the kid:

8613 Ball 11 Diagram

I then had a very good chance to break my record, but Avilan’s inaccuracy came back to bite me, and he overthrew me, so this ball would be my last of the day. No, the only thing I would snag from this point on was a piece of gum thrown to me by David Carpenter after I stayed by the bullpen to watch Julio Teheran ( whose name is properly pronounced “Teh-heh-rahn”) warm up:

8613 Gum

I then sat in left field, because I thought it would be great if my record-breaking 12th ball would have come on a home run:

8613 View from LF

It didn’t.

STATS:

  • 11 Balls at this Game (5 pictured because I gave 6 away)

8613 Baseballs

Numbers 611-621 for my lifetime:

8613 Sweet Spots

  • 175 Balls in 42 Games= 4.17 Balls Per Game
  • 11 Balls x 30,875 Fans=339,625 Competition Factor
  • 104 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 9 straight Games with 2 Balls
  • 6 straight Games with 3 Balls
  • 5 straight Games with 4 Balls
  • 3 straight Games with 5 balls
  • 186 Balls in 41 Games at Nationals Park= 4.54 Balls Per Game
  • 33 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
  • 4 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Nationals Park
  • Time Spent On Game 3:21-11:03= 7 Hours 42 Minutes

6/5/13 Mets at Nationals: Nationals Park

A day at Nationals Park and I was back for s’more:

6513 Opening Picture

In fact, it was only the second game of what I had planned as four consecutive games at Nationals Park. (Although, as you’ll see in later entries, that wouldn’t end up happening.)

As I entered the gates, I said hi to a fellow ballhawk behind the left field bullpen–not Rick Gold, although he was there too. And this simple hello and momentary eye contact caused us to both to miss a ball Gio Gonzalez. When I got to my regular spot in straight-away left field, though I managed to snag two baseballs Gio hit. Gio, by the way, was going absolutely nuts and must have hit ten baseballs into the seats in his rounds of BP. The first was a ball that was hit to my right. I was the only one within fifty feet of where it was going to land, so I just hoped the ball would stay in the stands and not bounce back onto the field like a couple already had that I would have otherwise snagged. It didn’t, so easily picked the ball up for my first of the day:

6513 Ball 1

The next one was a ball that hit over my head by about five rows. It then trickled down the steps and I beat the previously-mentioned other ballhawk to it. I then gave this ball away to a kid who had not yet gotten a ball at the head of the section:

6513 Kid I gave ball away to

Then, while I was in the left field seats, I saw a ball hit in the right field seats. None of us ballhawks went for it because we were so far away and all figured someone would get to it way before we could, but when the pitchers finished hitting and I still had not seen anyone pick it up, I ran over there and found it right on the ground:

6513 Ball 3

But this picture is actually staged because when I got there, a man was right in front of me and had walked into the first row to take pictures. He had actually walked right over the ball, so when I walked behind him, got the ball, and saw the look on his face when he realized what had happened, I gave him the ball. I didn’t realize it until I actually finished writing this entry, but that was my 100th ball of the season, which is always a fun milestone since I got to it almost a month earlier in the season than I did last season (7/3/12).

Then I got a toss-up from a person in a warm-up jersey:

6513 Ball 5

I had no clue who he was at the moment, but after seeing Jeff Kobermus come into the game, I’m pretty sure it was him.

That was my last ball for Nationals BP, since I was in right field for most of it and they didn’t hit much out there. And when I was in the Red Seats, I just completely missed a ball that bounced into the restaurant portion of the seats, one that I misjudged and a guy behind me caught as I came up a couple inches short, and then a police officer cost me two baseballs:

6513 Douchey police officer

You can see he’s holding one of them in his left hand. (The guy who caught the ball I misjudged, by the way, is the one in the gray shirt.) Well the first one he cost me was one that hit into the restaurant. I thought it was simply a race between myself and the guy in the gray shirt, and since I had by far the better jump, I was pretty much sure I had the ball. But then I saw someone running form the top of the stairs to the ball. This person beat me to the ball, and when I looked up I couldn’t believe it because it was a police officer, who is not supposed to keep baseballs; much less try to get them. There was then another one that hit in the restaurant that was underneath a chair. He was at the chair and trying to move it out of the way. As he was doing this, I offered to get the ball and give it to him, but he pulled the chair out of the way and snatched up the ball. This then messed me up for future balls that were headed into the restaurant, because I wasn’t used to having competition from above. I had to alter my routes to balls, and it cost me at least one baseball and just got me completely flustered because I knew that without this cop and my own mistakes, I should have already been in double-digits. I don’t want to say I used this as fuel because that sounds way too cliché and dramatic, but I definitely had to get over being this frustrated in order to keep going in BP and not let these things pile on.

When Mets BP came around, I tried the same strategy as the day before and went down the third base line in foul ground to get a ball from the Mets who were warming up. This time I got Robert Carson to loft me a ball over a couple rows of fans for my fifth on the day:

6513 Ball 5

As I moved onto the next throwing pair, I saw something hilarious. So while Brandon Lyon and LaTroy Hawkins were throwing, some kids were yelling some things at them to try tot get them to throw the ball up. Well I couldn’t hear what he said, but when one kid yelled something, Hawkins caught it from about 100 feet away and yelled back, “Watch your mouth.” After he was done throwing, Hawkins then went over to the kids and had fun with them over whatever they had said:

6513 Hawkins exchange

And by “fun”, I mean in a “I’m going to make this a cool experience for you, but still not break character as a veteran of the MLB” kind of way. So he jokingly kept up that he was scolding them, but made it pretty obvious that he was indeed joking with them. Afterward, he flipped a ball up to one of the kids.

Soon after that, David Wright hit a ball that rattled around in the seats before I picked it up:

6513 Ball 6

The ball actually took off a cup holder, which I thought of putting in my backpack to add to my collection of stadium cup holder at home, but eventually decided against it.

Next, Jim Malone, the Mets’ Strength and Conditioning coach picked up a ball on the warning track, and although I had forgotten his name–I used to know it by heart in 2010 when I would always see him stretching out the pitchers at Citi Field when it still opened 2.5 hours early, but knowing his name became much less important when I no longer got to see the pitchers warming up at Citi Field when the gate opening time switched back to 2 hours prior to the game.–I asked him nicely and he flipped the ball up to me when he saw my Mets gear. I then gave the ball away to a woman who was right next to me:

6513 Ball 7

It was one of those that I really wanted to give away to a kid with a glove, but because I knew that everyone around there had seen me get the Wright ball, I felt as though I should probably do some that was at least seemingly kind-hearted.

It was then nearing the end of Mets BP, so I was almost all the way to the left field foul in order to get a better jump to the dugout when the Mets ended batting practice. An unforeseen benefit of this was that John Buck belted the last pitch of Mets BP over my head. Thankfully, though, I was the only one even near the ball, so I ran over and picked it up. I know it was the last pitch of BP, because as I picked the ball and turned around, I saw that the Mets were already jogging in. So I started running over to the dugout. But as I was headed over there, I realized it wouldn’t look good if I had a baseball in my hand when asking for a ball at the dugout. I don’t know why I didn’t just put it in my pocket, but I ended up handing it to a kid on my way over to the dugout mid-stride. I didn’t realize it at the time–although I had been thinking about it earlier in BP–but this was the 550th ball I had ever snagged at a baseball game.

I actually didn’t get anything at the dugout, but I headed out to right field, where I would sit for the game. Rick Gold also sat out there for the game, so I sat on the staircase closer to the foul pole of the two we usually sit on and he sat one staircase closer to center field. As a result, I was on the staircase with the usher who lets us into the right field seats, and ended up giving him two baseballs that night, which he then distributes to kids in the section.

STATS:

  • 8 Balls at this Game (2 pictured because I gave 6 away)

6513 Baseballs

Numbers 544-551:

6513 Sweet Spots

  • 105 Balls in 24 Games= 4.38 Balls Per Game
  • 8 Ball x 36,155 Fans=289,240 Competition Factor
  • 87 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 143 Balls in 31 Games at Nationals Park= 4.61 Balls Per Game
  • 23 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
  • 7 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
  • 5 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
  • 3 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 4-5 Balls
  • Time Spent On Game 2:56-11:36= 8 Hours 40 Minutes

5/24/13 Braves at Mets: Citi Field

With my last game and my snagging of six baseballs, I was at 95 career baseballs for Citi Field. The goal of me going to five games was to get to 100. Only five baseballs. When I got up in the morning, I was thinking how I could simply knock the goal out in a single game and then not have to attend games the rest of the weekend. Then I checked what the weather was supposed to be at the place I volunteered at most of the past two summers and for every day of this week:

52413 Weather

Snagging five balls in this game was going to be a lot harder than I expected. And even worse, notice how I said that I checked the weather while I was at the place I volunteer at. That means I was already out of the apartment I was staying in. See it was nice-ish out when I left, so I decided I would wear shorts. Fifty degrees and raining isn’t exactly shorts weather. That brings me to this picture:

52413 Homemade Poncho Time

Because I was in shorts still, I figured I would need a poncho of sorts, so I fashioned this out of an extra table lining we had at the previously-mentioned senior center I was volunteering at. I took it and cut a hole in the top for my head and made two slices in the sides for my arms. I don’t know if you can tell from that last picture, but the tables where bags normally get checked were moved from their usual spot right behind where I was standing to way back almost at the turnstile:

52413 Tables

It was so the security checking bags would be under the overhang and out of the reach of the rain. It also meant that I would lose almost a minute in getting into the stadium because I couldn’t have the guard check my bag before the gates themselves opened. Normally I would be mad about this, but I figured there wasn’t going to be batting practice, so every second wasn’t as precious as it would normally be.

When I got in the stadium I saw the Mets pitchers warming up in almost by the right field foul pole, so I headed over there and headed down the steps into the seats in foul territory down the first base foul line. As I started down the stairs, I heard an usher stop me. He apologized and told me that he knows fans are usually allowed down into the seating bowl, but since there was no batting practice, he was told not to let people into his section. I don’t doubt his sincerity in believing what he was saying and not making up a rule just because he saw an 18-year-old with a glove that matched the description of what Citi Field security seems to hate, but he was either a) Enforcing an absolutely ridiculous policy, or b) He misinterpreted what his actual instructions were. I saw him turn down several other people after me, but people somehow eventually started coming down into the seats, so I’m guessing it was the latter and someone else clarified the situation for him. Because of this, I had to try to get the players to toss me a ball from the right field seats instead of being behind them, which would have been the easiest toss-up snag ever. Regardless, I got Brandon Lyon to toss me a ball after he was done throwing with LaTroy Hawkins for my first on the day:

52413 Ball 1

And look at all the action that occupied me after the pitchers left the field:

52413 Tarp on the field

Given the fact that the tarp was on the field and absolutely nothing going on, I headed over to the third base side of things and waited for the Braves to come out and throw:

52413 Poncho pants

Right around then Ben Weil came into the stadium. So I chatted with him until the Braves came out to throw. When they did I stationed myself behind Craig Kimbrel and his new throwing partner now that Johnny Venters was injured, and then moved on to Cory Rasmus and his throwing partner, but eventually ended up getting a ball from bullpen coach Eddie Perez instead:

52413 Ball 2

A ball which I would then get signed by Craig Kimbrel as he passed by signing people’s thing-a-ma-do-hickies. And then it was back to tarp-watching:

52413 Did someone ask for more tarp?

I believe the game’s start time was only delayed less than half-an-hour by the rain, so once it started Ben and I sat behind the dugout. Ben eventually just left the game around the third inning to go home, but I stayed behind the dugout the whole game. Unfortunately I was on the outfield end of the dugout and the Mets kept striking out to end the inning. At the end of seven innings when he came out, Braves starter Kris Medlen had nine strikeouts. If you didn’t know before, when a strikeout ends the inning, a catcher typically takes the ball to the home plate end of the dugout and tosses it up there. So as a result of all of these strikeouts, I found myself repeatedly on the wrong side of the dugout to get a third out ball.

It had been drizzling pretty consistently throughout the game, but at about the beginning of the eighth inning, it started absolutely pouring. When the Braves scored two runs in the top of the inning, I thought for sure that they were going to win the game on account of the rain, but the umpires let the game go on into the bottom of the eighth inning and the Mets came right back and scored two run of their own. It was after the end of the eighth inning–during which I should have caught a Rick Ankiel foul ball on the fly–that the tarp was finally brought out and the game delayed. When this happened I did the stupidest thing possible: I walked right up the steps and to the concourse. Now I did pick up a ticket for the section to get back in should I need to when play resumed:

52413 Ticket

But that’s not why it was a stupid decision to walk out of the section right as the game was being delayed. To a ballhawk, a rain delay is the equivalent of the end of the game in terms of snagging opportunities. So what I *should* have done was first go to the umpire tunnel and try to get a ball from the umpires exiting the field, then try to get a ball from players coming from a bullpen, and then maybe try to get a ball from the side of the dugout looking in at any players/coaches who were still mulling around in the dugout. And a great thing about a rain delay in New York is that unlike the end of the game, security won’t kick you out after 30 seconds because there is still the potential for the game to resume. These were all great opportunities I wasted because I was so fixated on getting out of the rain and inside some club (since I had a ticket that got me into pretty much every club in Citi Field):

52413 Delta Sky 360 Club

I did a lot of wandering during the rain delay, but I won’t post all of the pictures here; they’ll be in the album on Facebook that I post for every game. In wandering the concourse and clubs themselves, though, I was wasting yet another golden opportunity. If you’re ever at a game that has gone less than five innings or is tied, search through the seats for as many ticket stubs as you can find, because if the game is postponed to a later date because of the rain, most teams allow you to trade in the value of the ticket for any game later on in the season. So if you have enough tickets in good seating, you could end up not paying for a ticket at that stadium for the rest of the season, and having great seats too. I was actually planning on going down to the field level and doing this at midnight, but it was announced at 11:58 that the game–or the inning that was left, anyway–was being postponed until the next day and would be played at 6:10, right before the game that was regularly scheduled to begin at 7:10. So I left Citi Field at about 12:02 and headed home:

52413 Leaving Citi Field

And while it may seem as though my day was all the way through, it was what happened after I left Citi Field that’s what I’ll be telling everyone I know about this game form now on. The following timestamps are estimates since my phone died half-way along this journey:

12:02- I called the person who I was staying with to tell her that it probably wouldn’t be the best idea if I returned to her apartment that night, since it would require me possibly waiting an hour in the Bronx for a bus. I meanwhile texted my friend Greg Barasch, whose apartment I had stayed in that past Tuesday to see if I could stay there again that night, but he was “asleep” so he didn’t respond until many hours later in the afternoon.

12:25- Since the game itself never actually ended, and it was late anyways, there was no express “7” train to get on. Nevertheless, I went to the express track because there was a 7 with its doors closed where the express train usually is. I figured it eventually open its doors and head to Times Square. After watching two trains pass on the regular track, I came to the conclusion that this train was never going to leave the station and finally went to the other side of the platform and caught a train after 20 minutes of waiting.

12:40- The train cruised through the above-ground portion of Queens, but on the first stop underground, our train was stopped for what was announced as “signal difficulties”. Suffice to say I was bored out of my mind/not amused:

52413 Done with transit

1:08- After waiting around for almost half-an-hour on the train, it was announced that because there was an investigation happening at Times Square that our train was being suspended and everyone needed to get off the train:

52413 People getting off train

We were then told to go up to the booth for this station, pick up a pass for an extra subway ride and walk to a station for the “E” train, that would then take us to Times Square.

1:21- The person at the booth had given us wrong directions to the other station, so myself and a group of about five other people spent almost 15 minutes wandering what Ben Weil would tell me the next day was not such a good part of Queens at 1 in the morning.

1:55-Because it was the weekend and so late at night, the trains were running even more infrequently than they do normally on the “E” line, and so even once we figured out our way to the station, we had to wait for a while for the train to arrive in the station. It was in this time that I got teased by the Mets fans in the station for wearing Braves gear.

2:17-Finally the train arrived and it took all of us lost Mets fans to Times Square.

2:37-From Times Square I would transfer to the “2” train making local stops that would take me to the 96th street station before going off in a direction I didn’t want to take it, so I got off at 96th.

3:02- My phone had died at this point, but I still needed to get to 110th street to get to my now-vacant apartment. With the next “1” train that would take me to the 110th street stop being 19 minutes away, I decided to walk the 14 blocks (roughly 3/4 of a mile) despite the fact that it was almost 3 o’clock in the morning. It was a little after 3:00 by the time I got into the apartment. And when I got there, I found out that all of the bed sheets I had left in the closet when I left Monday had been taken out of the apartment, so this was my bed for the night:

52413 Make-shift bed

It was even more comfortable than it looks. And with me collapsing on this makeshift bed from exhaustion at 3:15, I could finally say that my day of adventure had ended. But I would have to wake up in less than ten hours just to get back to Citi Field and do it all again.

STATS:

  • 2 Baseballs at this game

52413 Baseballs

Numbers 522-23:

52413 Sweet Spots

  • 77 Balls in 17 Games= 4.53 Balls Per Game
  • 2 Balls x 32,325 Fans= 64,650 Competition Factor
  • 79 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 5 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
  • 97 Balls in 36 Games at Citi Field= 2.69 Balls Per Game
  • 36 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Citi Field
  • 3 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Citi Field
  • Time Spent On Game 4:10-3:02= 10 Hours 52 Minutes