I was back at Nationals Park for my fourth game there in as many days:
If you’re wondering, that’s a look of: “Sure, four games in a row here is nice and all, but am I really doing this?” As I took this picture, the time was approximately 10:00. I saw the schedule and saw a 1:00 game, so I got there half-an-hour before I thought the gates would open (10:30). All I saw when I got to the gates, though, was this:
After looking at the Nationals schedule on my phone, I found out it was actually a 1:35 game. This meant the gates wouldn’t open for another hour. To pass the time, I wrote and published one of my entries, while sitting inside the air-conditioned ticket office.
It was a day game after a 4:00 game, so I thought there might be batting practice, but once I finally DID get in the stadium, this was all the action on the field:
That would be bullpen coach Jim Wright throwing with one of the pitchers. Eventually the pitcher went into the bullpen and so did Wright. When the pitcher finished said session, Wright tossed me a ball out of nowhere. I didn’t even have my glove on when I caught it:
Then everyone exited the bullpen. Everyone except Wright. When he finally did, I had already numbered my ball, so I was worried he would see that, but regardless, I asked Wright if he wanted to play catch. He said he had to go, but that he would play for a couple of minutes. Wright is obviously in the distance, but here’s where each of us were when we threw together:
I was the only one in the seating area at this point, so it was an amazing experience to throw curveballs, among other pitches, to a person on a major league team; albeit not a player, what was seemingly all alone in the stadium (I am 100% sure there were other fans in the stadium, but they were taking shelter from the heat.). Finally, Wright said he had to go, so we stopped playing catch. The reason he “had” to go was the pitchers had come out to stop warming up. Here is Wright with the pitchers:
None of the pitchers had seen me get the ball form Wright, so it would be easy to get a ball from them, but I was nervous about asking them for a ball while Wright was around. After a few minutes, though, Wright headed into the dugout and I got Rex Brothers to toss me a ball by running deep into the section and having him “toss it to me long”:
After this, Rockies and Nationals catch partners alternated coming out. So I ran back and forth trying to get a ball from them. When Brothers and his partner finished up, the Nationals pitchers went through their warm up and were just finishing their throwing session. When they finished, a pair of Rockies had come out and were nearing the end of their throwing. I didn’t get a ball from this, but it was fun doing it. I also wasn’t the only one. After I headed to right field to try to get a ball from the Nationals relievers, I noticed this guy had also come over and had changed gear on his way as well:
I would eventually find out this was Leiming Tang, a Kansas City ballhawk, who was making his rounds of the east coast cities. I believe he had been in Philadelphia the night prior. We would have plenty of time to talk about things as there was no batting practice.
My next ball (number three if you’re keeping track) would come when Wilin Rosario came out to do some catching drills:
(Notice Leiming was already on the scene. We were both waiting in the shade, but I waited a little longer than he did to stay cool.)He obviously needed a few balls to do the drills, so when he was done, the catching coach, Jerry Weinstein, tossed Leiming and I both a ball:
My next snag would be at the dugout right before the game. I still don’t know the formal name the Nationals call them, but there were”hype people” on the roof of the dugout with T-Shirts, so I figured I might as well try to snag one. I moved into the emptiest row I could find, but turns out, the shirt came RIGHT to me. All I had to do was lower my glove a little and I caught it:
It’s actually the shirt I am wearing right as I type this sentence.
As for the game, I spent most of my time out in left field, but I came to the dugout for the end of the game to try to get an umpire ball:
Did you notice something else about that picture? It was pretty empty at the stadium. In addition to having been high-90s heat, it had started raining. Here’s a look to the seats to my left:
Leiming had been down by the dugout the whole game and was also going for an umpire ball. Except, unlike me, he was dedicated and prepared for the task:
Let me remind you it was humid from just having rained, and it was still freakin’ hot, so it wasn’t for the faint of heart to put on an umpire jacket. Not surprisingly, Leiming got a ball and I didn’t.
After pretty much everyone had left our section (lightning and the subsequent thunder had just struck, so it wasn’t that long after the game ended), Leiming and I got an usher to take a picture of us:
Leiming’s flight back to Kansas City had already been delayed, so we were going to have lunch together at Union Station, but we decided it might not be a good idea given how late the DC trains were running.
So we said our goodbyes, and I headed to Union Station, while he went to the airport to catch his plane to the Home Run Derby.
• 3 Balls at this game (pictures taken in my room for freshman orientation in Minnesota)
• 118 Balls in 24 Games= 4.92 Balls Per Game
• 3 Balls x 25,125 Fans= 75,375 Competition Factor
• 33 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
• 9 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
• 8 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
• 97 Balls in 20 Games at Nationals Park= 4.85 Balls Per Game
• 11 straight Games with 1 Ball at Nationals Park
• 11 straight Games with 2 Balls at Nationals Park
• 9 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
• Time Spent On Game 9:13 AM- 10:26 PM= 13 Hours 13 Minutes [/spooky]
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.