I know that one’s ballot for voting on these awards is usually a private matter, but I think I’m going to go ahead and make my ballot as well as the reasoning behind it so some other voters out there can get at least one other person’s perspective on the voting besides their own. I am by no means the “right” way to vote on the award; simply, my way of voting is *a* way of voting on the award, and I thought it’d be fun to share it.
Also, even though the ballot is restricted to three candidates, I’m going to give my top-5 for each award, since I think there are many more than six total worthy candidates. The name in parentheses is the person’s mygameballs.com username, since you’ll need that to vote for them.
Ballhawk of the Year ballot
1. Greg Barasch (gbarasch)
I must admit, I didn’t have Greg in either of my top-2 ballot spots last year, and despite having only 13 more baseballs than last year total, I bumped Greg up to the top spot because he still had an excellent year. Unlike last year, Greg beat every single ballhawk on the site in head-to-head match-ups (which you can check for yourself by clicking here). Not only that, but he averaged almost a whole Ball Per Game (.93 to be specific) higher than anyone else on the site. He also had by far the best rate of double-digit games (1:3) of anyone on the site. The only thing that made me hesitant to put him at the top of my ballot was his lack of game balls, but he dominated his part of ballhawking enough this year to more than make up for that in my opinion. Not to mention, he did all of this going to a majority of his games in New York, both of the stadiums inside of which are tough places to snag baseballs and have a bunch of competition to deal with.
2. Alex Kopp (akopp1)
He perhaps didn’t have the average or total baseball count of other candidates, but like Greg, he dominated his own part of the ballhawking top-10. He had more game home run snags than anyone in the top-10 ballhawks. Heck, he almost had as many (8) as the rest of the top-10 combined (10). And also like Greg, I had my reservations about putting Alex so high up, but he also attended 92% of his games at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, which has one of the larger constituencies of ballhawk competition in the country. It was not uncommon for him to have two or three ballhawks up on the flag court competing with him for game home runs. If he had the ballpark to himself, he would easily have double-digit home run numbers. Even as it is, he had a game to game home run ratio (8.25:1) almost three times better than the next best ballhawk in the top-10 (23.25:1). That’s amazing.
3. Zack Hample (zackhample)
He got beat out in terms of total baseballs by Erik Jabs 723-710. However, he made up for it in my mind by out-snagging Erik in game home runs (4-0), double digits games (27-23. Despite going to 14 less games), and Balls Per Game average (7.63-6.76). He is probably the most rounded of any of the candidates for the award.
4. Erik Jabs (ErikJ)
Besides the number two baseball snagger, Erik almost doubled the baseball count of anyone else on the site. That alone would be enough to get him into the top-3 if it weren’t for some great years by other ballhawks. Pretty much the only reason Erik did not make my personal BotY ballot is the lack of strength in the other statistical categories. However, it should be noted that he ballhawks in the ballpark with perhaps THE toughest day-in-day out competition in the country in PNC Park. He also leaves games right after batting practice, so that makes all of his numbers that much more impressive since he doesn’t have time during the games to pad his stats at all. I don’t think the magnitude of his feats should be minimized at all because of the fact that I have him in the four spot.
5. Rick Gold (JQFC)
To the outsider, Rick and his 3.23 Balls Per Game paired with his 265 baseballs might seem like a guy who just went to a ton of games in order to get a bunch of baseballs and get into the top-10. Well an outsider wouldn’t know that Rick only goes after hit baseballs. For a ballhawk, averaging anything that nears 3.00 Balls Per Game is a great season, so Rick’s 3.23 isn’t unheard of, but still a phenomenal season. You may be thinking, “Getting three and a quarter hit baseballs in a batting practice isn’t hard to do.” Well the problem with that is this was Rick’s *average* for all of the games he went to. This would be difficult average with regular batting practices, but one has to also keep in mind that this average also includes batting practices that have been rained out–which Rick is particularly prone to since he plans his games out often weeks in advance and doesn’t skip games when he learns the weather isn’t going to be ideal. Well all of those games are automatic zeroes for Rick barring a game home run snag. Speaking of which, Rick might’ve been higher on this list had he had a normal year of his in terms of game home run snags, but he had some tough luck and only snagged three. That is still the third best amongst the top-10 baseball snaggers on the site.
Junior Ballhawk of the Year ballot
1. Grant Edrington (fireant02)
With 2013 essentially being his rookie year ballhawking, Grant started off his season slowly, but then he picked it up and snagged the most baseballs of any junior ballhawk with 102, outpacing the nearest competitor by almost thirty baseballs. And he also accomplished what almost no other junior ballhawks did by snagging a game home run. He all of which whilst battling the very tough OPACY ballhawk competition.
2. Paul Kom (paaoool123)-
He snagged an impressive 73 baseballs in 19 games. The majority of which were at the not-very-friendly Target Field.
3. Josh Herbert (PGHawkJosh)
Snagged an impressive 48 baseballs for a junior ballhawk, but even more impressively did so in just eight games to get him the highest Balls Per Game average amongst junior ballhawks.
4. Maddie Landis (angrybird447)
Like Grant, this was also essentially her rookie season, so 54 baseballs in 14 games is really impressive.
5. Harrison Tishler (htishler)
One of the few “veterans” on the junior circuit, Harrison didn’t make it into the upper echelon in terms of total baseball snagging with his 43 baseballs, but did so in far fewer games this season than his peer, going to only 9 games all season.
If you want to, you can leave your ballot as a comment, but don’t feel like you have to. You may also notice that I made the “RE: Ballhawk of the Year Parts I and II” private, so in order to still have the comments that accumulated there somewhere public, here are pictures of all three sets of comments and my responses:
With how my schedule was looking for the rest of the year, this was almost definitely looking like it would be my last game at Nationals Park in 2013. And so I was glad to start my day by catching a Nationals BP homer on the fly that also turned out to be a 2010 World Series commemorative baseball:
I don’t know who hit it, but I ran through the middle row of the Red Seat and leaned over seats to catch the ball. It was a fun experience. I then soon after headed over to right field, where I got yet another 2010 World Series commemorative. This one was tossed to me by some Nationals trainer who has been with the team for several years and has tossed me a couple baseballs, but I still don’t know exactly what he does. It seems like the Nationals have a couple guys like that where you don’t know exactly what they do. Anyway, he tossed me another golden ball, so I like him:
I don’t have pictures of my next two baseballs because they were both in the middle of a stretch of action in the Red Seats, and I’m a forgetful idiot who apparently can’t take pictures when things calm down, but here’s how I got both of them:
The first ball was a Dan Uggla home run that he tomahawked (See what I did there?) into the Red Seats. The route to the ball from where I was was clogged up with people, so the best I could do was get behind where the ball was going to land. It then evaded a bunch of gloves, hit off a seat, and bounced up into the air, where I snatched it up. I gave this away to a kid at the front of the section. The second ball came when I went to the corner spot in the Red Seats closest to center field. When Jose Costanza went into center field to field a ball that had gone there, I called out to him by name, and he then turned to me and threw the ball that he had just gotten. It was headed right for me, but the guy standing next to me, who had seen me get a few baseballs reached in front of me and caught the baseball. But you know what? I’m not even mad–nor was I in the moment–because I just moved away from this guy on the next ball Costanza fielded and got him to toss me that one. I then made a point of giving that ball away to the kid who was standing right next to the guy who had reached in front of me.
And then after that, I got a bonus, because Rick Gold came into the section. I asked him if he had snagged any of the Target Field commemorative baseballs, because I desperately wanted to trade someone one of my extra World Series 2010 balls for an extra Target Field ball. But somehow, I didn’t even end up giving him anything, and instead, he gave me this for nothing:
Well not really nothing, but really a commemorative to be named later. So if I ever get two or more of a commemorative Rick doesn’t have, I will give him that because he gave me this one. That was very nice of him, and it made me very happy. It almost even made up for the fact that I hadn’t gotten a Target Field ball. (And just to clear things up, I *much* prefer to snag baseballs on my own, but I’m also not above trading commemoratives, because I also don’t go after commemoratives with the vigor that most ballhawks do. I do very much like to get them, but I’ve never asked a player to specifically toss me a commemorative baseball and have never planned a trip because of a commemorative ball. Basically, if a team in a game that I’m going to has a commemorative ball–or several in the case of the Nationals–it’s a bonus to whatever I snag that day.)
The Costanza toss-up would be my last baseball of BP. So afterwards, I went to the Braves bullpen, since there were still a couple baseballs:
And no surprise, the Nationals groundskeepers cleared out the baseballs when they entered the bullpen. Actually, knowing the Nationals groundskeepers (who are some of, if not THE, worst groundskeeper in terms of tossing up baseballs and leaving them on the field for players to toss them up), it was a bigger surprise that they only collected two of the three baseballs and left the ball I’ve labeled “2” for the Braves relievers.
The first person who made his way to the bullpen was Brian McCann. I thought I had a pretty good chance of getting him to toss me a ball, but my only worry was someone was going to beat me to it, because McCann would be pretty easy to recognize and ask by name. I didn’t have to worry about it, though, because he stopped short of the bullpen to do his stretches in the outfield. Then came Eddie Perez. I was particularly worried about him, because I had noticed his two daughters had been sitting on top of the Braves bullpen, so I figured the ball would go to them if he picked it up. Thankfully, he stopped to talk with McCann for ages. Then came Alan Butts. He was perfect because even though I wasn’t trying to get a ball from him then, I was the only one who recognized him the previous day and said hi to him. So when he walked past me to get into the bullpen, I asked him if he could toss me that ball. To that he responded, “In a second.” So after getting a variety of his “bullpen catcher” things ready, he went over and tossed me the ball:
As for the game, I had thought of sitting by the dugout for the longest time, but then I realized that despite Nationals Park being the stadium I’ve spent the most games at, I still don’t have a game home run there, so I sat in left field:
No home runs came out there, but at the end of the game, I made my way to the far end of the Braves bullpen and got Eddie Perez to toss me a ball (since he had been talking to McCann and hadn’t seen me get the ball from Butts):
I then headed over to say goodbye to an usher I’ve talked to throughout this year, and as my parting gift, I gave him the ball I had just gotten from Perez:
His name is Jan Pastor, and he’s a really nice usher who works the aisle right next to the MASN booth in the center field plaza. I believe it is section 102-103, but I may be wrong. Anyway, if you’re ever at Nationals Park when I’m not there, say hi to him for me.
I then headed off to take the train, where I had an experience on the Metro that I’ve never had post-Nationals game. It’s usually as packed as it can be with all of the people leaving the Nationals game, but somehow for a full stop after we left Navy Yard-Ballpark, the stop nearest Nationals Park, I was the only one in my subway car:
I mean I’ve been on a ton of empty subway cars before, but they’ve all been at the ends of lines when there aren’t really many people at the stop, and this was at a major stop during one of its more congested hours. Anyway; weird.
- 6 balls at this game (4 pictured because I gave 3 away, but then added the one Rick gave me to the picture)
Numbers 622-627 for my “lifetime”:
- 181 Balls in 43 Games= 4.21 Balls Per Game
- 6 Balls x 29,114 Fans=174,684 Competition Factor
- 105 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 10 straight Games with 2 Balls
- 7 straight Games with 3 Balls
- 6 straight Games with 4 Balls
- 4 straight Games with 5 Balls
- 2 straight Games with 6 Balls
- 192 Balls in 42 Games at Nationals Park= 4.57 Balls Per Game
- 34 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
- 5 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Nationals Park
- 2 straight Games with at least 3-6 Balls at Nationals Park
- Time Spent On Game 3:27-11:28= 8 Hours 1 Minute
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
- 11 Balls at this Game (5 pictured because I gave 6 away)
Numbers 611-621 for my lifetime:
- 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
After our adventure the previous night that got us back to Washington past midnight, Chris Hernandez and I got up to get to Philadelphia for BallhawkFest a little later than we wanted to. And so when we should have been playing softball with all of the other BallhawkFest attendees, this was our view:
But thankfully, this was where we were when it came time for the luncheon at McFadden’s:
That would be Chris running behind me alongside the stadium. Thankfully we made the luncheon more or less right after everyone else got there. And the best part was even though we were the last ones to get there, we got our food before anyone else. The luncheon would also result in me getting a Minnesota Twins long-sleeve shirt (thank you, Zack), Cardinals mini home plates, and my 2012 Junior Ballhawk of the Year award certificate.
Then it was time to get to the gates. First a couple of us made the trip over there:
And then a lot more showed up:
Although at this point, we knew the tarp was on the field, so it wasn’t looking good for us snagging. One person in the foreground of that last picture was particularly vocal about a certain streak ending. It was the calm before the storm, though. We waited and took pictures, but I killed most of my time by playing catch with Tim Cook in the street alongside the gate.
When the gates opened, everyone went in while my anxieties about this game compounded. Todd Cook had bought a ticket for me the night prior, and because I had to essentially get up and head to BallhawkFest, I never printed it out. Now at a bunch of places, you can just scan your phone as long as it has the barcode on it, but I learned that here at CBP, you can’t. So while everyone else was in the stadium for a good five minutes, I was getting a printout of my StubHub ticket:
Which was slightly difficult since the ticket was in Todd’s name and not mine. But eventually, I did get int the stadium with everyone else:
When I got in, only two pairs of Braves pitchers were throwing, but I got neither ball. My best shot was to get one from Julio Teheran, but I don’t think he heard me saying that I was a Colombian. My next closest opportunity to getting a ball was when I got David Carpenter to throw me a ball from 100-200 feet away. Unfortunately, though, the ball fell short and he didn’t come to the warning track to pick it up.
If you go back and take a second look at it, you may see something interesting in that last picture. As we waited, the grounds crew came out with the batting cage and screens. So by the time the Phillies came out to throw, the cage was set up and ready to go:
But with the abundance of people wearing Phillies red, it came as not surprise to me that I didn’t get a ball. Despite the fact that I saw there was now going to be batting practice, I was still worried as to how many baseballs I could put on the board. Pretty much everyone else had one or two baseballs at this point, and despite a ton of running and changing shirts that I had done up to this point, which I spared you the details of, I was still at zero baseballs. After I left foul ground, I ran into Ben Weil, and his girlfriend Jen. Ben at this point had two baseballs and was leading the pack. Jen, however, said she was rooting for me. And although I didn’t mean to, I kind of scoffed at that because the way things were going, it felt like I would be lucky to get *a* baseball with all of the competition. Let me explain why. Up to that point, I had been absolutely exhausted by the other ballhawks, because usually during a game with no BP, a ballhawk is the only one smart enough to go to place x. Well during this game, by the time I got to place x, there were 5 other people right on my tail. So after they got there, I had to get creative and think of another place where I could possibly get a ball, but with less competition. The cycle then repeated itself. Turns out, though, Jen had more confidence in me than I did.
Soon after I got into the right field seats, a ball was hit and rolled to the wall. Rick Sporcic was also in the right field seats. And although he was occupied with a baseball further towards center field, I hurried up and got my (read: Tim Anderson’s) cup trick out to pick up the ball, because I had heard he was good with his retriever. By the time I had gotten my ball, though, he was still trying to get his from in front of the wall. My guess is the right field wall is much taller than the left field wall in Pittsburgh, so he wasn’t used to it and his retrieving skills were slowed down as a result. Anyway, I didn’t get a picture since I was in a hurry to get the ball, but here’s a picture that’ll show you where I got the ball:
The place I took that picture from also happens to be where I got my second ball of the day. I leaned over the wall to see if a ball I had spotted from right field was cup trick-able, and just as I realized it wasn’t, Joe Savery came over to pick up that and another ball. He tossed the ball I was eying to a kid next to me and the other to me:
I know Ben was right next to me, since he also came over to see if he could cup trick the ball, but I don’t think he got a ball tossed up to him then. I actually don’t know if he got another ball for the rest of BP.
After getting that ball, I headed to straight-away left field to try to get a hit ball. It was a zoo:
I mean forget all of the people in general, just look at the ballhawks who were right behind me:
Had I not misjudged several home runs, I could have been up to 4 or 5 baseballs for the day after my time in right field. But instead I spent the rest of my BP getting punked by the Phillie grounds crew chalk dispenser:
Most teams use a cart-type thing to apply the chalked foul lines, but the Phillies instead use this thing where they pond to red side part with the mallet that is a mini-bat with a baseball at the end to apply the chalked line. Unfortunately, it looked from left field like there was a baseball sitting on the warning track in foul territory. So I ran all the way over to find out that this could in fact not be snagged.
The closest I came to snagging another baseball was when a ball rolled to the wall in left field, I ran over to where it was, and was about to pull out the cup trick when a Phillies player picked the ball up and threw it into the stands. Little did I know, but had I been a little quicker to the ball, I could have had the outright lead at the end of BallhawkFest.
How did this happen? Well after BP ended, I went to take a group picture in center field:
And then wnet behind the dugout. Since this was *Ballhawk*Fest, I expected there to be at least one other person joining me behind the Braves dugout before the game, but they just never came. So when the Braves came out to throw, I was one of the few people in Braves gear behind the dugout. Using this, I first got Chris Johnson to throw me a ball. His throw was a bit high, so it tipped off the top of my glove, bounced in the row behind me, and I had to run for it to just beat out a man who was also going for it. He was so close to it that I gave him the ball. It was only after I took the picture of him that I realized he already had a baseball (D’oh):
So since I had grabbed the ball before I gave it to him, that was ball number 3 for me on the day. Ball number 4 took no time at all after that. I’m not sure if he had seen me miss the Johnson toss-up, but when Justin Upton came in from throwing with his baseball, I screamed his name, and just like Johnson, he scanned the crowd as if searching for a little kid who deserved it more before settling for tossing the baseball to me:
I say I wonder if he saw the Johnson toss-up tip off of my glove, because I his line of sight when he was tossing with his brother BJ was slightly off of me, but it’s possible that he just tossed me the ball to give me a second chance. Oh well; who knows?
Then once the game started, I moved over one staircase to be on the right staircase for a third-out ball. It was after the top of the first inning that I saw Ben come down into that same section, so I moved down to join him. One out later, Jen joined us. So the plan at the third out was all three of us were going to go down for the third-out ball and odds are one of us would get it. Well it turns out it wasn’t just us, but Quinn Imiola (who you may remember from this entry if you’ve been reading the blog for a couple years, and whose birthday it was that day–as was announced by his dad at the luncheon in a hilarious/purely-“dad” way.) had gotten past the guard at the top of the steps right before the third out and also tried for the third-out ball. As it turned out, with all of those people there, Freddie Freeman lofted the ball right to me. As we returned to our seats, where we all went into the same row, we were apparently suspicious-looking enough with the culmination of all four of us going down for the ball and Quinn going back to a different seat than the one he had gotten out of to go for the third-out ball that the usher who had come down from the top of the steps asked to see all of our tickets. Ben and Jen actually had a ticket (it just wasn’t on that aisle), but Quinn and I didn’t have a ticket for the section at all. So the usher kicked Quinn and myself out of the section completely, telling us that he better not see us back there for the rest of the game, and asked Ben and Jen to go to their actual seats in the middle of the row–which Ben had no interest in doing. So as the rest of the group pondered where they would go, I took the picture of the Freeman ball:
The conversation eventually lead to us wandering towards left field, where the other three would eventually sneak down into, and I would continue onto right field, where I actually had a ticket for:
After a few innings of being there, I got a tweet from Harrison Tishler (who already published an entry about this game/day that you should check out) asking if he could join me. When I said yes, he and his parents were there within half-an-inning:
It was almost as if I was a ballhawk magnet, because after that, the Cooks arrived as well as Quinn and Alan Schuster, the organizer of the whole event and founder/webmaster of mygameballs.com, the site that’s the reason this event even exists:
And soon after that, Zack Hample, Ben Weil, and Chris Hernandez also came to the same section (although the other staircase). I should mention that this was a slow process, though. The game lasted 12 innings, so all of these arrivals weren’t within a half-inning of each other. The highlight of most of this slow-ish game besides talking to all of these fun and cool people I don’t get to see on a regular basis was taking an unintentionally-artsy picture of the scoreboard:
It was my initial plan to go to the bullpen after the game, but with so many other ballhawks now converged around it, when the Braves scored a run in the top of the 12th, I headed to the Braves dugout. However, as I exited the right field seats, I got a call from Zack. I thought it was weird right away because he rarely calls me outside of a baseball game; much less *during* a game itself. Turns out he had gotten kicked out of the stadium by security because of the escalation of an incident that he had with them after he had caught John Mayberry Jr.’s home run earlier in the game. I feel like I was a bad friend for what I did, but I figured Zack as “king of ballhawks” would understand as I got Ben to call him and handle the situation as I ran to the dugout. I figure Zack would have done the same thing with me. (Aren’t I so good at justifying my actions to myself?)
Quinn also came down to the dugout after the game, and as I went for the umpire ball–where the umpire ended up talking to a family for about ten minutes after the game, and giving them his last extra baseball, Quinn got Craig Kimbrel to toss him the ball he had recorded the save with. Not a bad birthday present, eh? Here he is in his Braves gear with his parents to the right of the frame:
For the record, I know the names of all of the parents, but I don’t know if they want their names out there. I actually met Quinn’s parents the day I met Quinn in South Carolina. Anyway, we were being told to clear out of the section, so that’s why Quinn is a little blurry.
I then got a text from Ben saying to meet outside the third base gate. When we got there we saw Zack, but the group who had stayed in right field were still not there. Eventually they did get there and Zack got to tell the story of his ejection about fifteen times:
After that, the plan was to get a parting group picture. As we set up for that, I got a panoramic picture of all of the ballhawks mingling:
And here was the final group picture:
In talking to everyone, it turned out that Jeremy Evens (in yellow), the Cooks, and I had all tied for the lead at 5 baseballs a piece. If you remember the first BallhawkFest in 2011, I was tied with Zack for the lead at I believe 7 baseballs. So I have never gone to a BallhawkFest where I didn’t have a share of the lead. And I probably just jinxed any chance of doing so next year’s BallhawkFest.
I then headed off with the Cooks in their car to the 30th Street Station, but not before taking a look at the Veterans Stadium field in the parking lot and getting one last shot of the stadium:
And so concluded one of the funner days of my life. While I wish I could have made it for the full experience, I had a blast and will be sure to try my hardest to be there for next season’s festivities, wherever it may be. (Insider’s hint: It may be the closest to home a BallhawkFest has ever been for me.) Thank you to everyone who made and keeps making this event what it is. The reason I constantly recommend it to people is because while it may be a tough event snagging-wise, it is a truly unique phenomenon that is something really special as well.
- 5 Balls at this Game (4 pictured because I gave 1 away. And apparently lost my Phillies hat somewhere along the line as well.)
Numbers 606-610 for my career:
- 164 Balls in 41 Games= 4.00 Balls Per Game
- 5 Balls x 41,161 Fans=205,805 Competition Factor
- 103 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 8 straight Games with 2 Balls
- 5 straight Games with 3 Balls
- 4 straight Games with 4 Balls
- 2 straight Games with 5 balls
- 12 Balls in 3 Games at CBP= 4.00 Balls Per Game
- 3 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at CBP
- 2 straight Games with at least 2-5 Balls at CBP
- Time Spent On Game 10:07-3:25= 17 Hours 18 Minutes
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
So for the third time in as many days, I was at Oriole Park at Camden Yards (or OPACY for short) to see the Houston Astros take on the hometown Baltimore Orioles. And for the third consecutive day, I was not alone at the gates. Here was the crew:
Left to right that would be ballhawks/OPACY people:
1. Grant Edrington.
2. Mateo Fischer- As performed by Mateo Fischer.
3. Chris Hernandez– Who came from New York only to get misdirected by people outside OPACY and get to the gates with eight minutes to spare.
4. Rick Gold– I’ve introduced Rick many a time.
5. Alex Kopp– Who had generously let me sleep at his house the past two days.
6. Zevi- Who I believe for the first time I’ve ever been, was going to a game that Avi Miller was not attending.
How did these people scatter once inside? Here are my right, left, and frontal views once we all got inside the stadium:
So in that last picture, you may notice that Alex was in front of me. That’s usually not good news at all, since he is way better at judging fly balls than I am, but in this particular instance it benefited me. Usually the OPACY regulars–and even myself–don’t even try to get the Orioles players and coaches to toss us baseballs, but Alex convinced Miguel Gonzalez to toss him a ball. Unfortunately for Alex, Gonzalez air-mailed him and I picked the ball up for my first of the day:
Gonzalez would be the Oriole in black with the orange glove, who seems on his way to pick up the baseball in the distance. I felt bad for doing that, even though it was natural and he would do (and has done in the past) the same thing to me. But don’t feel too bad, because he would go on to snag seven baseballs on the day and further distance himself from me in the mygameballs.com standings.
My second baseball of the day came when I quickly went into foul territory right at the end of Orioles BP and got Astros catcher, Carlos Corporan, to toss me a baseball. I didn’t get a picture of it, because I thought I had a shot at a quick third baseball, but none of the other Astros who were throwing acknowledged me.
Like my first, my next ball would also come as a result of Alex and Tim Anderson’s cup trick that he had lent me the previous day. When Rick Gold and I simultaneously went from left to right field, he asked me if I wanted the flag court or the seats. Right then I saw a baseball in the gap in front of the seats, so I said, “Seats,” and went into the section. As I got into the section, an usher by the name of Charlie recognized me from earlier and asked me if I had a ball retriever, because his son had dropped a ball into the gap. Since I was headed to there anyway, I gladly obliged and got the ball for his son. I then asked for the baseball back for a second to take this picture of it:
(And no, my thumb isn’t broken. I truly have no clue why it’s bent that way in the picture.) Sadly this would be my last ball of BP. I almost got a ball during the Astros last mostly-lefty group, but it bounced into a trash can, and Grant realized it a half-second before I did and pulled the ball out of a food tray inside the trash can.
While I wasn’t completely dissatisfied in myself like I am during many 3-ball performances, I realized I was sitting at 599 baseballs and kind of wanted to get my 600the baseball before the day was over. At the end of BP, I went to the Astros dugout. There I asked Javier Bracamonte while he was unloading the BP baseballs into ball bags if he could toss me a spare baseball. He motioned that I go to the bullpen for when he arrived there. So I journeyed and met up with Chris, who had still not gotten an Astros 50th anniversary commemorative, which was pretty much the reason he drove down for this game. So waited at the bullpen. Through such things as Jason Castro’s catching drills:
And even when Bracamonte got to the bullpen, he kept telling me to wait. Not in a mean way, but more of a “I’m going to hook you up, but I have to do bullpen catcher stuff right now” kind of way. Finally, after a ton of time, he tossed me what was now my third 50th anniversary commemorative baseball:
I kind of felt bad because Chris had still not gotten one of these. If you can see Bracamonte’s blurred face in the background of the last picture, he’s semi-confused because Chris was explaining to him that he wanted Javier to toss him a commemorative baseball, but I think he was misinterpreting it and thought that Chris was asking him for a 2013 Astros commemorative baseball, which the Astros don’t take on the road with them(…yet). In this next picture, I believe Bracamonte is going back to the ball bag to search for a commemorative. (FYI, if you see this Astros in the immediate future in search of the 2012 commemorative baseball, their bullpen bag was comprised of almost exclusively commemorative baseballs.):
Eventually, Chris did get his commemorative toss-up from Bracamonte. I would show you the picture, but I took it with Chris’ phone, so I suspect that will be in his blog entry when it’s up.
I stayed in left for the first half-inning of the game, but then headed back to right field, where it finally dawned on me that I had snagged my 600th baseball ever. Since I thought it was a photo-worthy moment, I had Alex take a picture of me with the ball:
And that was it. At the end of the game, both Chris and I headed down to the umpire tunnel:
(He was taking a picture of his view. Here’s mine at the same time):
But neither of us got a baseball from the umpire since he was out of baseballs by the time he got to us. After everything died down at the dugout, we went to Chris’ car and headed back to my apartment in Washington, where we would stay the next day before coming back to OPACY the next day.
Semi-side-note. I never released it because it became factually inaccurate, but we filmed a video before heading off to OPACY the next day, so here’s that if you want to check it out:
I then filmed a video to kind of substitute the fact that I never released that one a few days ago, so here’s the more recent video for those of you who care:
Okay, and now I’m done with the entry.
- 4 Balls at this Game (3 pictured because I gave 1 away)
Numbers 597-600 for my “career”:
- 154 Balls in 39 Games= 3.95 Balls Per Game
- 4 Balls x 17,909 Fans=71,636 Competition Factor
- 101 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 6 straight Games with 2 Balls
- 3 straight Games with 3 Balls
- 2 straight Games with 4 Balls
- 62 Balls in 16 Games at OPACY= 3.88 Balls Per Game
- 16 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- 6 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at OPACY
- 4 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 4:18-11:20= 7 Hours 2 Minutes
While the same guys were at the game who were there the previous day, the District of Columbia also had a new ballhawk face this game:
That on the left would be Greg Barasch, an excellent ballhawk from New York who also happens to be my former neighbor. So if the competition the day before wasn’t bad enough, the mygameballs.com leader in Balls Per Game was now being thrown in the mix. However, I will spoil the entry a bit and tell you that I snagged more baseballs during this game than I did the previous. I probably should have snagged more baseballs than anybody besides Greg, but I have one person to blame for this: myself.
When the gates opened, we actually had another ballhawk you may remember from past entries, Dave Butler. I would mention/link him a lot more, but he still has yet to get a mygameballs.com account. Anyway, he’s there for pretty much every Nationals game, so if you see a man wearing a San Fransisco Giants hat chasing baseballs during BP, that’s probably Dave. He, Erik, and Greg all headed for the Red Seats, so it was a no-brainer for Rick and I to pick the seats in straight-away left for the first group–which happens to be pitcher’s BP:
During this, I forget which pitcher it was hit a ball just to my left. I tracked the ball, put my glove up, but The ball bounced in and out of the glove and onto the ground, where another fan picked it up. I (not-so-)secretly blame Greg for this, because it was with my lefty glove that the ball bounced out. When I first got the glove in the Winter, I first tested it out with Greg and his dad in Riverside Park. There he told me, “I don’t know. I think you’re going to drop one because of the glove and then go back to your normal one.” Well I hadn’t been to the same game as Greg too often this season, but this being the first time the glove had failed me so far was too coincidental. GREG WAS BEHIND THIS SOMEHOW, I TELL YOU! It was right after that I switched to my right-handed glove. (Well it’s actually technically my mom’s glove, but that’s a story for another blog entry.)
With this glove in hand, I went over to right field for the Zimmerman, Werth, and I believe Bernadina. Anyway, just as Rick told me that Werth can go opposite field, Werth did just that. Rick was in front of me, and the ball appeared to be falling short of me, so I figured my chances of getting the ball were gone. Surprisingly, though, Rick misjudged the ball by running too far to his left, so I now had a window of opportunity that I used to catch the ball on the fly for my first of the day:
My next baseball came when the Pirates started hitting. Normally what I do when the opposing team starts hitting at Nationals Park is go down the third base line and try to get baseballs from the players of said team who are warming up. I didn’t get anything from these players, but as I saw a ball roll into the net that the Nationals have set up for BP to “protect their fans from projectiles leaving the field” (a.k.a. themselves from any possible liability that may come if a fan were to get hit by said projectile.) There was another guy about my age right on top of it, and I told him that I would get the ball for him if he moved out of the way. My plan was to cast the net the Nationals had set up, as if fishing, to reel the ball in close enough where I could pick it up off the ground. As I was doing this, a second baseball rolled to the same spot, so the guy said, “Oh, now we can both have one.” What I should have done was said yes, but offered to pick up both baseball, since I was taller. I mean the reason for me picking up both wouldn’t have actually been because I was taller; it would have been because I could then count both baseball even though I would end up giving one away. Instead, dumb me reeled both in and let him pick up his baseball as picked up mine:
(For the record, my hand is the one on the left. You can tell that from the green “UMN #GetActive” wristband. I’ve pretty much worn it every day since November, 6, 2012.) I then met up with Erik, who was also trying to get a toss-up form Pirate relievers. As he left the section, he did a brief run-through of the names of the Pirate pitchers. This served me well because my third ball of the day came when I asked Jeff Locke by name for a baseball in the Red Seats. Erik gets the huge assist on that one because Locke was not responding at all to the tons of kids requesting a ball, but when I said his name, Locke’s head shot up and he tossed me the baseball before I could get the rest of the request out:
That was it for BP. My next baseball came after BP at the Pirates bullpen. Both Erik and I ended up there after I alerted him to two baseballs that Bryan Morris had under-thrown into the gap in front of the Red Seats. Erik was already sitting down behind the bullpen when batting practice ended, so I went over to him and told him to hurry up because I was afraid the groundskeepers were going to get the baseballs out of the gap, since they were already rolling the equipment off the field. When we got there, though, the baseballs were still there, so groundskeepers were no longer the problem. The problem was you’re not exactly allowed to retrieve baseballs out of this gap. So I first tried to shield Erik’s string from the usher, but when the usher–who I know–came down to check tickets, I tried to distract her from the glove trick by talking to her until Erik had reeled up the two baseballs. I’m pretty sure it would have worked ceteris paribus, but there were a ton of kids right in front of the usher begging Erik for the baseballs, so she realized what he was doing. Thankfully, by the time she went over to confront him, he had already pulled in the two baseballs, and got away without punishment by emphasizing the fact that he had given both baseballs away to kids–which he had.
After that, Euclides Rojas tossed me a baseball when Francisco Liriano finished throwing his bullpen session. I’m pretty sure Erik would have gotten the ball, since he told me that Rojas has tossed him about 20 baseballs in 2013, but he had left by that point because he had to leave the next morning from Pittsburgh to go to Miami and see the Pirates there. So as a a product of that, I got this guy:
As for the game, I tried doing the same thing as the previous game and studying for my driving written test, but it was an absolute failure because I was too busy eating two bags of shelled peanuts a nice usher I know that works in the Diamond Club gave me. But don’t worry, I ended up passing. The test-taker needed to get a minimum of 23 questions right, and I got just that. (I had heard somewhere else that it was 24, so I actually thought I had already failed for the last 6 questions and was just finishing the test for fun at that point.)As a result of all of that I got this guy:
(As I write this I have just driven for my first time in years with my new permit, and I have to say; it was much less terrifying than I thought it would be given that it was my first time with a permit.) At the end of the game, I headed down to the dugout:
And there I got my fifth and final ball of the day from home plate umpire Mike Estabrook:
And if you’re wondering, the four of us ballhawks snagged a combined for 23 total baseballs. Greg and Erik snagged 9 and 6, respectively despite both leaving the game early, I snagged 5, and Rick snagged 3, but his stats are always more impressive since he goes for pretty much only hit baseballs.
- 5 Baseballs at this Game (4 pictured because I gave 1 away)
- 140 Balls in 35 Games= 4.00 Balls Per Game
- 5 Balls x 33,636 Fans=168,180 Competition Factor
- 97 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 173 Balls in 39 Games at Nationals Park= 4.44 Balls Per Game
- 31 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
- Time Spent On Game 2:57-11:29= 8 Hours 32 Minutes