So if you didn’t read it before, Chris Hernandez was staying at my apartment. He was planning on going to the Thursday Orioles game and BallhawkFest 2013, but my only condition for him staying with me was that we would go to the Friday Orioles game. Being that Chris is also a ballhawk and baseball fan, who would have had to drive 2.5 to Scranton otherwise, it was only after thorough convincing that he conceded. So, after getting slightly lost with his car’s GPS, we finally arrived here:
Since we had come in on Chris’ car and had planned to walk around the stadium before we got semi-lost, I brought my “good” camera. And whenever I bring my “good” camera, the result is me taking approximately 100 pictures per minute. Well not really, but the point is in our brief walks by the stadium when I had my camera in hand, I took a ton more pictures than I normally do, and I realize I’m *way* behind on this, but you can eventually see them all when I post them on the Observing Baseball Facebook page. I will try to get all of the picture up as fast as I can (along with YouTube videos) once I’m up-to-date with entries.
Anyway, we walked around the warehouse and got here:
Where Avi Miller made fun of me taking pictures with my camera:
We were then joined by Rick Gold, decked out in MLB.com apparel:
So our group then consisted of everyone mentioned in this entry so far plus Grant Edgrinton, who was also there:
And then Alex Kopp would show up after I ran my camera back to Chris’ car. (Which is completely normal for him. He gets off work at 4:30, so he’s rarely at the gate before 4:50, if ever.)
When we finally got in, my first ball was on a JJ Hardy BP home run. Once again, Alex was playing in front of me, but we somehow both misjudged this ball and thought it was going into Alex’s row. But since I was behind him when we both misjudged it, when it hit into the seats three rows above me, I was able to run and pick it up before anyone else got it:
Basically Steve Pearce hit a ground-rule double, and while everyone else stayed still, I was running towards where I thought the ball was going to bounce up into the stands, ran after the ball, and trapped it against a seat before anyone else could get to the ball.
I then headed to the seats in RCF for a group of lefty Mariners hitters. And when a ball got hit into the gap in front of the seats out there, I retrieved it for the person who the ball had hit off of and gave it to him. Here he is holding the ball out for the picture:
After that, the guy I’ve pointed out in this next picture (who I believe is Danny Farquhar) threw a ball to a girl behind me. But because he underthrew her, I was able to pick the ball up and hand it to her. That would be it for me in BP snagging-wise. Although it should be noted that a bunch of Mariners put on a show in the flag court, and I almost caught a ball on the fly on Eutaw Street because of it.
He also tossed one to the guy who was behind me, so had I been smart, I could have caught this ball and then gave it to the guy, but still counted it. But things in the past can’t be changed, and life moves on, so…
During the game, the absolute highlight (and simultaneous lowlight on a selfish personal level) was when Chris Davis came up to bat in the third inning, I lined myself on Eutaw Street to begin with. So when Davis blasted a 1-0 fastball, I had the ball perfectly judged, but for whatever reason, the closer I got to the ball, the more it felt like I was running in quicksand. I kept running towards where the ball was going to land, but just as I approached it, someone’s glove got in my line of sight, and the ball whizzed past my blindly-outstretched glove. Mad could not even begin to describe my thought process as I turned to see the ball having just bounced off of the pavement. This pure anger, though, quickly subsided when I saw Alex Kopp jump up and grab the ball off the bounce. Despite the fact that I had completely messed up my chance, I was genuinely happy enough for him that it completely wiped away my disgust after missing the ball. It was soon after that we knew something was special about this ball. First the Orioles Cut4 reporter showed up (and filmed this video), then an Orioles supervisor showed up:
After that, a man whose exact position I’m not sure of showed up and Alex talked with him about what he could get in return for the ball:
And then we headed back to the flag court. Only I was the only one who ran because I realized Henry Urrutia–who has still not hit his first major league home run–was up. I didn’t get to the flag court in time for Urritia, who got out on two pitches, but I did get there in time for the other guys to see me on TV when Ryan Flaherty hit a home run that bounced off of the fencing in front of the flag court. When the rest of them got back 1. They all mentioned they had seen me on the TVs in the concourse, and 2. We took pictures of Alex with the spot the home run had landed:
And then, if that weren’t enough, Alex got batting gloves signed by Adam Jones in the seventh inning from a guy who apparently walks around carrying such things:
(I got a “Vote Orioles” shirt from him.) After the game, we all went to the area we had gone to before, and were shown down the stairs to the level below the field level that is pretty much just a tunnel below the seats:
And while we waited for Chris Davis, we got to see about 10-15 different players from the two teams in their “natural habitat”, which is to say that they were not in uniform, and in many cases with their families. Take, for example, Nick Markakis with his two kids:
I didn’t get any pictures when Davis came out, since I was filming with Alex’s camera, but if you want any, check out Chris’ entry when it comes out. I can just tell you my personal experience, which is as follows: Dvis was really nice about the whole thing. He took pictures with all of us, signed about three baseballs (two for Alex and one for Grant), and even though you could kind of tell he didn’t exactly want to be there, he didn’t say it to us directly and allowed us to soak in the moment. Alex also got a hat and signed helmet out of the affair. Here he is after we got out of there with the hat on:
Alex usually doesn’t ever like to wear hats, so if you see him with one on, it’s the exception and not the rule. We (Alex, I, Chris, and Avi) walked to Alex’s and Chris’ cars, where I got my camera and some other things for Avi out of Chris’ car, and then took a paparazzi-esque shot of Alex’s car as he and Avi. Because after all of the free stuff he had gotten, Alex felt like a celebrity:
(I don’t know why, but I’m surprised Alex still has a New Jersey license plate.) Chris and I then headed back to the stadium with my camera to take his “stadium picture”:
Inspired by Zack Hample‘s same idea in the 2011 season, Chris wants to get a picture with himself and a sign like the one you see him holding at all 30 major league stadiums. Except Chris is doing it in several years, and not all in one year. Oh, and for the record, Chris has been to like 13 stadiums; it’s just that OPACY was the fourth stadium he had ever been to, but that was *way* before he had the idea of doing this project.
After seeing this picture, though, Chris decided we should head to Gate H for the picture. And then this is the picture he ultimately decided to go with:
And then we headed back to the car, and then back to Washington, where we would wake up the next morning to go to BallhawkFest 2013…sort of.
- 5 Balls at this Game (3 pictured because I gave 2 away)
Numbers 601-605 for my life:
- 159 Balls in 40 Games= 3.98 Balls Per Game
- 5 Balls x 25,947 Fans=129,735 Competition Factor
- 102 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 7 straight Games with 2 Balls
- 4 straight Games with 3 Balls
- 3 straight Games with 4 Balls
- 67 Balls in 17 Games at OPACY= 3.94 Balls Per Game
- 17 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- 7 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at OPACY
- 5 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 2:34-12:26= 9 Hours 52 Minutes
On my last trip to Baltimore, I had set my career high for baseballs snagged in a game in the first game and then narrowly escaped getting shutout in the second game via a toss-up at the umpire tunnel after the game. That trip, however, was almost a year ago. And I was more than excited to be back at Oriole Park at Camden Yards for the first time in nearly a year when I approached its gates on this Thursday evening:
But this time I had woken up in Washington D.C. (I guess I had before those two games as well, but you get my point.) and took a 1:20 train to Baltimore. OPACY–because I don’t feel like writing out Oriole Park at Camden Yards every freaking time I mention it–actually lets people go into Eutaw Street and behind the bullpens early, so that’s where I was headed when I took that first picture. You see, Rick Gold had tweeted me right as I was about to sit down at the Hilton across the street that Nathan Karns was throwing in the Nationals bullpen. Up until that point I had completely forgotten that these areas of OPACY were even open, but when I got the tweet, I walked over to the stadium to see the action and possibly get a ball before the gates were even officially open. By the time I got there, though, it was Gio Gonzalez throwing in the Nationals bullpen:
And Rick Adair, the Orioles pitching coach, had an interesting set-up for Kevin Gausman, who was throwing in the Orioles bullpen:
If you can’t tell, it’s a rope. Adair had it set up to have an objective line between high fastballs and low fastballs. I like to think my readers are smart people, so I’ll let you figure out which side of the rope is which.
Anyway, I managed to get my first ball of the day when the Nationals (read: Gio) finished throwing and I got Jhonatan Solano to toss me their warm-up ball for an early spot on the board:
Soon after that (at 3:46) Orioles security came by and told us we had to get back outside of the gate. Had they given us an extra fifteen minutes I may have had a second ball from Gausman (I think that’s how you spell it) and the Orioles bullpen people. Before the gates re-opened, I waited in line with the people who made me think this trip to OPACY wasn’t going to be as easy snagging-wise as I had previously thought. When I got in the gates, the person who I already introduced, Rick Gold, lined up in front of me:
And then two other ballhawks who had joined me at the gate lined up to my left:
Ballhawk #2 is Tim Anderson, who has garnered the attention of the national media several times the past few years with his bajillion home run snags. While we had both been at the same game before, today was really the first time we had talked directly to each other. And that’s mostly on my part–and this goes out to all of you who may run into me at some ballpark somewhere–because I’m just generally awkward if I’m meeting a person I didn’t know for sure was going to be there ahead of time. And not like in the “Oh, that’s different from what I was expecting” kind of awkward; it’s more like the “Is there something seriously wrong with you?” awkward. And as a result of this, I almost never initiate people at the ballpark in conversation to avoid a situation like this. The best way to avoid this is to just let me know if you think you’re going to be at the same game as I am, by checking either my schedule or my Twitter account. I definitely won’t be attending every game on the schedule that I have on there right now, but it’s a good outline to know where I’ll be, and I’ll usually say something on my Twitter if I’m veering off of the scheduled plan or anything like that, so it’s a good place to be kept up-to-date on my baseball happenings.
But anyway, that was a good multi-hundred-word digression. The point is that my competition was going to be tough. So when the Nationals players came out to warm up while the Orioles were switching into a new mostly-righty group, I knew it was time to go for toss-ups. I figured the players would spend the first two rounds or so hitting the ball to the opposite field, so I really wouldn’t be missing much action out in left. In this trip, I got a ball from Denard Span in the weirdest way. I was actually trying to get ball from a different throwing pair when Span ran back to the wall with the ball in his hand, threw it up, and half-heartedly tried to “rob” the same ball he had thrown up, as if it were a home run ball. I don’t know what exactly he was doing, but he missed the ball, and it landed in the seats, so I went over and offered to get it for him, at which point he told me, “Nah, you can just keep it.”
So I think that’s technically a toss-up from Span, right? It certainly was more that than an easter egg considering I got there three seconds after the ball landed in the stands.
When I headed back to the left field stands, I learned that I had definitely made the right decision because there had not been a single ball hit into those stands since I had left. But I would not snag another BP baseball before the flood gates were opened and all fans were allowed into every part of the stadium. If you don’t know, for the first half-hour of the gates being open at OPACY, only season ticket holder–or people with that printed on their ticket–are allowed into the main seating bowl. The rest are confined to right and center field. But when that half-hour is up, everybody pours into the seating bowl. I am fortunate enough to have friends at the ballpark who are nice enough to buy me season tickets that get me in that half-hour early, but here is what the scene looked like right after the rest of the fans were let in:
It was right around this spot that I came the closest to another BP ball. But for the sake of clarity, let me get a diagram up for you:
The solid lines are the path of the ball and the dotted line is how I ran after the ball. So I saw a ball get hit to my left. I could tell exactly where it was headed, so I jumped back a row and ran right towards the spot where the ball was going to land, so I could pick it up if it stuck in that spot. Well the ball bounced off a seat at the end of the row, but instead of sticking or bouncing forward/backwards like a normal baseball, it at 90-degree angle and hit me square on the forehead. I mean someone couldn’t have done it more perfectly if they were aiming for me. I saw the ball hit off the seat, but it became a white blur as it headed directly between my two eyes. Just to show you how perfectly the ball hit me square in the head, it was almost if I had intentionally headed the ball in a soccer-esque manner because the ball flew thirty feet in front of me after hitting my head into the next section over. It didn’t actually hurt that much–other than my ego–but I was starting to wonder if there was something about the Orioles that was bad luck, since I had now sustained an “injury” every time I had seen them play to this point. In three different cities, I may add.
That was it for BP, but I did manage to get a ball from Tyler Moore during the pregame position player warm-ups:
It actually was a thing of beauty that we managed to connect on the toss-up, because there was a security guard right in front of me on the field with his back turned to it, so Moore had to thread the needle and I had to jump to get the ball to me and not hit the guard. As you can tell, he wasn’t in that last picture. I think the fact that he very nearly got hit in the back of the head scared him enough that he moved away from the players playing catch.
As for the game, I spent most of my time out in the flag court:
and enjoying all that is OPACY. I wasn’t the only one out there, though. Because of the fact that the stadium was pretty much sold-out, there were pretty consistently three of us ballhawks out there, and sometimes even more. I mean look at all the backpacks there were at one of the more crowded points:
I have no clue besides my own who they each belonged to, but the four of us that were out there towards the end of the game got a picture together:
Left to right, that would be:
- Rick Gold
- Alex Kopp
- Tim Anderson
Nothing came even close to reaching the flag court, but it was fun talking to those guys for whatever portion of the game they were out there. (Rick was in left field pretty much until the last two innings, and Tim spent around half of the game in the center field seats.)
- 3 Balls at this Game
Numbers 532-534 for my life:
- 88 Balls in 20 Games= 4.40 Balls Per Game
- 3 Balls x 30,665 Fans=91,995 Competition Factor
- 83 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 42 Balls in 9 Games at OPACY= 4.67 Balls Per Game
- 9 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 12:23-11:52= 11 Hours 29 Minutes
As I had told a bunch of people who had asked me prior, I was 99% sure I was not going to this game. My high school baseball team had a game planned for Staten Island at 7:00 that night, but our game had been cancelled at 2:00. You may be thinking that I would be bent on attending the game the instant I got the call telling me our game was cancelled. I wasn’t. It was raining most of the day leading up to that point and the thought of going to the Yankee game never crossed my mind, probably because I had so vehemently denied to so many people who I was going to this game.
To give you some context as to my arrival at Yankee Stadium, the gates open at 5:00, which means I usually arrive at the stadium at 4:30, and it takes me approximately 30 minutes to get to Yankee Stadium. Now that I’ve told you all of this, it was not until 4:08 that it hit me I was now available to go to the game. I knew I was already late for my usual arrival time, so I had to make a quick decision as to whether it was worth my time. It was indeed a quick debate, and the winning argument was, “There’s baseball being played and you’re going to stay at home and do work? Go to the game, you idiot! The worst that can happen, you get shutout? You only have a 14 game streak, so it wouldn’t be that tragic if you did.” I bought my ticket and got ready the quickest I ever have for a game, getting out the door by 4:20.
I hopped on the “D” train and was at Gate 6 of Yankee Stadium by 4:50. I thought that another ballhawk would be there, given all that had planned to be there, so I would be able to go with them at the front of the line, but apparently a rainy Yankee Stadium was too scary for everyone but me. Actually, that’s not true, even I was worried that it would start raining any minute:
Although I had checked the forecast and it called for a 30% chance of rain at this time, the clouds were rather ominous which made me rather anxious. A bright spot, though, was that the threat of rain had scared off a bunch of regular fans and the line wasn’t that long; as you can see from the picture. Normally the line ten minutes before the gate opening time would be at least three times the length it was when I got there.
It had been an absolute downpour in the afternoon, so I was skeptical there would be batting practice, and when I got in the stadium, there wasn’t. There was, however, a cage set up:
That meant that either the Yankees had taken bp before we had entered or the Orioles were going to. I asked a camera man nearby if the Yankees had taken bp. When he said, “no” I was ecstatic, because that meant the weather had worked out perfectly so the ballhawks and other fans were driven away, but I would still get batting practice.
That said, the Orioles were still not hitting just yet, so I headed over to foul territory in an attempt to get a ball from one of the position players warming up:
Why do I have an arrow pointing to one of players? That would be Robert Andino. When he finished throwing and started walking to the dugout, I called out and said, “Robert, can you throw me that ball please?” He responded by stopping and saying, “Put down a sign.” I signaled back two fingers, and he made sure he was seeing it right by saying, “Is that curveball?” When I confirmed, he started his motion he had been practicing in his session of catch, pumping his leg once more than normal pitchers do and threw me a ball that spun downwards and into my glove.
I then went over closer to the foul pole to try to get a pitcher to toss me a ball:
However, I didn’t wait for them to finish their game of catch to ask them for a ball. The Orioles had already started hitting, and I saw Kevin Gregg was picking up baseballs on the warning track; so I ran over to where he was walking and asked him by name to throw me a baseball. Here is the result:
I then situated myself in LF since I figured the other pitchers had seen me get the ball and probably wouldn’t toss one of theirs to me.
My next ball came when I saw some righty hit a ball to my right. I ran over to the spot where I thought the ball was going to land and caught it all while pretty much everyone else in the section was frozen still. The following picture displays my route to the ball:
The arrow emanating from the bottom of the picture is my path and the other arrow is the path of the ball. I realize that it is hard to judge depth in a 2D image, but I caught the ball at about stomach height.
This was my third ball of the day, so I immediately looked to give it away:
The boy walking up the stairs was my first candidate since he had a glove on. I asked him if he had gotten a ball already, but surprisingly, he responded “yeah”. His father then added, “But we’ll take another.” I then thought, “Yeaaah, that’s not going to happen.” Right then, the man leaning over the wall towards the right of the picture asked, “Can I have that ball for my daughter?’ Normally I don’t give away balls to older people who don’t have gloves, but I also didn’t want to look like a bad guy for offering a ball to one person and then not giving it to another.
My next ball came off of the bat of Adam Jones. He hit a ball to my left that I could tell right away was going to fall short, but I judged it to be high enough to line up with the ball since it might bounce over the wall off the warning track. That’s exactly what happened, and although I didn’t catch the ball right off the warning track, it hit in a seat close enough to me where I could pick it up. The following picture shows only the path of the ball:
My next ball was almost exactly like ball #3 (the one I caught on the fly) except I believe I was a row deeper or shallower in the seats. This ball was also caught on the fly, and because I was feeling guilty for giving ball #3 away to a person who both asked me for it and didn’t have a glove, I waited until I was on the concourse and made sure to give this ball away to a kid with a glove when I moved over to RF.
Why did I move over to RF, you ask? Right after Adam Jones’ group, security cleared out everyone without a ticket for that section. I managed to get one ball while I was there. Chris Davis had been putting on a show in the batting practice of the first game of the series by repeatedly hitting balls into the second deck, so I was more on my toes than usually and was very vocal to the people surrounding me that he would be hitting balls in our direction. As a result, when he hit a ball to my left, I started moving right after it came off his bat. I then realized it was going into the second deck, so I slowed down. I did not, however, give up on the ball. I positioned myself so I would be ready if the ball caromed off the seats and down into the lower level where I was standing. When this happened, I was right next to where the ball fell to and picked it up. Like I mentioned in the previous game’s entry, ballhawking is both skill and luck in cases like this. That ball could have easily not have fallen to the lower level and another ball could have been hit back to my right that I would have missed because I was waiting for this ball, but I also could have given up on this ball and someone else could have picked it up instead of me. Anyway, here is the view of the second deck from where I picked up the ball:
Right after I grabbed this ball, I saw a kid running behind me for the ball, and I believe he had a glove on, so I gave him the ball.
That was it for batting practice. I headed up to my ticketed seat in the LF bleachers and talked for a while with an usher who I had been talking to the previous two games as well as a fellow ball-snagger, named Tak, that I’ve now seen a few times this season, but never saw before. I’ll just clarify something, I was in the bleachers while both of them were in the lower level seating. I then abruptly left these two, saying, ” I’m going to try to get a ball from the groundskeeper.” I then moved over to the bullpen where the groundskeeper was taking down the netting the Yankees install during bp to protect any relievers pitching in the bullpen. When he saw me, the groundskeeper looked up and held up one finger as to say, “Just give me a minute.” Right after that, I saw Tak approach the bullpen from the lower level also trying to get a ball. When the groundskeeper was done storing the netting and poles that held it up, he picked up a ball in the bullpen and tossed it to me. Here is my view right as he was about to toss me the ball:
I believe Tak also got a ball from him, but I’m not sure.
After that, the relievers filed in and finally the starting pitcher, Jake Arrieta, came into the bullpen and started preparing for the game. As I was waiting for him to finish up throwing, a fan right next to me started calling out to the coach in the bullpen standing next to Arrieta, saying, “Bill. Mr. Castro. Can you throw me that ball.” Upon which I asked him, “Are you asking that guy for the ball?” He then responded, “Yeah, his name is Bill Castro; I looked it up online.” If you don’t know, Bill Castro is the Orioles bullpen coach, so I can understand why this man would think that the coach in the bullpen would be the bullpen coach. However, as I’ll explain in a few seconds, that was incorrect.
Very soon after he said this, Arrieta finished throwing and t was my turn to call out to the coach, so I said, “Rick, can you toss me the ball please?” He then threw me the ball. Why did my request work? Well I’m glad you asked. You see when the starting pitcher goes into the bullpen to warm-up, the pitching coach goes out with him to look at his warm-up pitches. I mean it makes sense, doesn’t it? The starting pitchers are completely under the jurisdiction of the pitching coach, so why would the bullpen coach analyze a starting pitchers warm-up. I knew because of this and my recognition of the Orioles’ coaching staff that the coach in the bullpen was Rick Adair, the Orioles’ pitching coach. Here is the ball with Adair and Arrieta walking in the background:
If you lost track, that was my eighth and final ball of the game.
As for the game, it was a pretty interesting game. The Yankees lost 5-0. Jake Arrieta managed to shut-out the Yankees for five innings and the loss snapped a streak of 15 consecutive wins for Ivan Nova. This is very significant because if he would have won this game, it would have tied him for the Yankees’ franchise record.
- 8 Balls at this game (5 pictured because I gave 3 away)
Numbers 244-251 all time for me:
- 29 Balls in 6 games= 4.83 Balls Per Game
- 15 straight games with at least 1 ball
- 6 straight games with at least 2 balls
- 6 straight games with at least 3 balls
- 3 straight games with at least 4 balls
- 8 balls x 39,360 fans= 314,880 Competition Factor
- 43 balls at the New Yankee Stadium in 12 games= 3.58 balls per game
- 12 straight games at the New Yankee Stadium with at least 1 ball
- 4 straight games at the New Yankee Stadium with at least 2 balls
- 4 straight games at the New Yankee Stadium with at least 3 balls
- 3 straight games at the New Yankee Stadium with at least 4 balls
- Time at game 4:49- 10:19= 5 hours 30 minutes
- I thought this would go well with the stats, but I have gone to 6 games this season, seen 3 series’, have gone to 2 stadiums, all while only seeing three teams play. I thought it was just kind of interesting.