On-field photo day, and 100+ degree heat meant one thing: no batting practice:
In that last picture, Ryan Zimmerman was taking ground balls. It was approximately 10 minutes since the gates had opened, and I had already gotten two balls. I had been watching Zimmerman warm up from the third base side of the field when he threw a ball away, into the stands. I was on the phone with Todd Cook when I saw it. It took me a second, but then I realized no one was over on the first base side, and I could run over and find it. So I ran over, and someone had beat me to the seats, but he walked right past the ball, so here’s what I found:
Yay, but wait, there’s more. It seemed as though there’s a reason Ryan Zimmerman was practicing so early: he can’t aim. Once I picked up the first ball, Zimmerman threw a second ball into the stands, and I had two balls within the first fifteen minutes of the gate being open:
I then headed over to Ryan Mattheus and Tom Gorzelanny further down the line (the guy/kid I mentioned in the last paragraph also in the picture):
There, another kid came up to me and asked me, “Are you Mateo?” It was Danny, one of the bloggers on the MLBlog, NYBisons. Since I try to avoid asking Nationals for baseballs, so I don’t wear out my sources because I go to so many games, and they will probably recognize me at a certain point, I helped out both Danny and the other guy to get a ball from the two players. When Ryan Mattheus came back, though, he tossed all three of us a ball. Awesome:
However, it wasn’t all fun and games. After I took that picture, I saw something just past the camera that prompted me to take a more somber picture:
During the season, I really can’t keep up with the baseball world that well, so this was where I learned the Twins were still in last place in the AL Central. Booo!
I then took a lap around the field and took pictures of the stands from the perspective of the field, just because that was the awesomest part of this whole experience: seeing where I am normally trapped from the perspective of the field, from which I am usually trying to coax balls out of players. I figured me explaining this would get old after about two pictures, so here are a couple of the pictures I took with a 1-2 sentence caption following it:
A guy had stayed in the right field seats to take pictures of his family members. That’s when it actually dawned to me the implications of being on the field versus being in the stands.
The view of the Red Seats from the warning track.
The spot of both Greg Barasch and the 20th ball he had snagged the previous night’s game. I think you can figure out which is which.
The view of the left field seats from in front of the bullpen.
The seats in third base foul ground. Those are the seats I was most fascinated by when I was on the field, but I don’t know why. I think it is because that is usually the spot closest to the field I can ever get while actively pursuing baseballs (when the opposing pitchers are warming up). When I’m there, I’m so close, but I feel so far away from the field at the same time, so to actually BE on the field on the other side of the fence is a minor victory of sorts.
The main reason I didn’t want to drag out those caption is, because although I have a bunch of pictures of that sort; after I got to the end of the line by the visitors’ dugout, I turned around and took a video of my journey all the way around the field. So, here it is:
After that, I know I’m a loser for doing so, but I headed back to the other side of the field. There just wasn’t ANYTHING to do. I was pretty sure both Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard (the players throwing in the video) would recognize me, and I thought I saw some Rockies players coming out to throw on the other side of the field.
Look who was just done taking a picture as I got to the other side of the field:
I’ll name the individuals in two pictures from now, but all you have to know is these are the Cooks of Cook & Son Bats. Here is the picture Todd has just taken as I took my last picture:
Here they are right after taking the picture:
1. Todd Cook- The Father of the Cook and Son group. Who has already published his entry of this game, which you can check out by clicking…here.
2. Tim Cook- The elder of the two Cook sons. As I took this picture, no one had yet noticed I was there, but shortly after, Tim was the one to spot and identify me.
3. Kellan Cook- The younger of the two Cook Sons.
4. Greg- Not technically a “Cook”, but he was a friend of Todd’s from their town in Pennsylvania, so he accompanied them on their journey to Washington.
After I met up with the Cooks, I watched Jeremy Guthrie play catch:
The “cooling” coming from the fact that it was in the shade and there were fans blowing out water. There, I took a few pictures of things I found interesting. First, do you see the door that is open? I took a picture of what is right inside that room:
I don’t know the exact function of everything in there, but it’s interesting, isn’t it?
I had seen this patch of grass, but I finally found out that it is used as extra grass if they need to patch up anything on the field.
There was obviously no batting practice, so the “L Screen” was in this gap in center field. I wish it were on the field, but it was nice to be able to see and touch one.
I also took a picture of the seats in right field, because I’m usually up there asking a groundskeeper down in the gap I was now standing in for a ball. It was another one of those “Oh, how many times I wished I could be down here” moments.
We didn’t spend all of our time in the cooling station though. It *was* On-Field Photo day after all. So I’m now going to go through all of the pictures I took of people while on the field. Just keep in mind I both couldn’t see what I was taking a picture of because of the intense sun, and I was shaking the hand of the person as I was taking their picture, so some of the pictures came out pretty bad:
(right to left) Rick Eckstein and Trent Jewett. Hitting and First Base Coaches.
Jim Lett, bullpen coach.
(left to right) Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman, and Michael Morse. They’re all laughing because as they passed, a Mariners fan yelled out “Michael!” to Morse. When Morse acknowledged him, he then yelled out, “Worst trade ever.” He was of course referring to the fact that Morse had been with the Mariners, but was traded for Ryan Langerhans, who is no longer even with the team. Meanwhile, Morse had hit 31 home runs for the Nationals the previous season along with a .303 average and 95 RBIs.
I don’t know exactly who this is (I may have if i just took the half-second to look at his ID), but if I had to guess I’d say he is some sort of broadcaster for the Nationals.
Randy Knorr, bench coach.
Steve McCatty, pitching coach.
(left to right) Danny Espinosa and Stephen Strasburg
Ryan Mattheus, who had tossed me a ball earlier and gave me one of the ice pops you see him holding in this picture:
I brought it up to the Cooks, sitting in the shade, to give to Tim, but apparently, if he eats anything colored red, he gets a little crazy, so I ate it instead.
An occluded Tyler Moore.
Edwin Jackson ft. Mateo Fischer’s fingers.
Mike Gonzalez, guest starring my fingers.
(left to right) Craig Stammen and Jordan Zimmerman.
Henry Rodriguez (giving Tim a high-five).
Rick Ankiel. If you look closely, you can the reflection of me shaking his hand in his sunglasses.
Adam LaRoche. He was actually the only player who allowed Tim to squirt him twice with Tim’s squirt bottle he had been carrying around all day. Tim ended up squirting three different Nationals players a total of four times. Tim squirted LaRoche, Stammen, and I believe Rodriguez, but I’m not sure.
Davey Johnson, the Nationals’ manager.
Jesus Flores? I really have no clue who it is, but his photo day picture looks the closest of anyone on the Nationals roster.
Ray Knight, whose fame came from winning the World Series with the Mets in 1986, but for some reason is a broadcaster for the Nationals; more specifically, MASN.
After we decided as a group it was time to leave the field, Tim and Todd made a brief stop to take a picture with the person Todd and I both agree is the best “crowd hype person” (I don’t want to call them cheerleaders, since baseball doesn’t have that, but that’s essentially what they’re there for in baseball) in all of baseball, Terrence:
He’s there every day, and I’d say he probably uses the most energy of anyone in the stadium each of those days. Todd said it jokingly, but he may not be as far off as you might think, that he burns 20,000 calories a game.
Now I’d just like to go over a few things of note I found while walking before I get too far away in the events of the day for them to be relevant anymore. First: When we passed the standings on the wall in right field, Tim wanted to try to touch the standings, or something like that. So he reached through the fence. After he did it Kellan did as well, mimicking his older brother, so I turned back and got a picture of it:
That’s when I noticed something very interesting about the video board. From afar, the letters of the standings look white. However, from up close, one can see there is no white at all at work in the board:
Each “pixel” of white is actually three red, green, and blue dots at work together. I guess this makes sense since you hear that TVs are “RGB”s sometimes, but I had never actually seen this phenomenon at work. I’m just curious how you would create a color such as yellow with this set-up, or if you even could.
Second: If you saw the video I embedded earlier in the entry, you may have seen me stop at around the 33 second mark and point my camera towards the dirt, where you saw what looked like a piece of paper on the ground. Well, that piece of paper was a ticket, and when I was on the first base side of the field with the Cooks, I identified exactly which section the ticket was for:
Yep, it was a club level ticket. That meant I could finally access the club level at Nationals Park. Other than being a mildly good spot for foul balls, I really never have a reason to buy a club level ticket, given the cost (this one was $55). This ticket meant I would finally be able to explore up there.
Also while I was on the first base side, all of the Cooks were usually up in the shade, but Tim joined me down on the field when some of the players passed by. On one of those excursions, a Nationals “fan” photographer took a picture of the two of us together:
Sorry for the watermark. It would have cost me $29 to get the picture without it.
Fast-forwarding to when we were exiting the field…We all decided the place to be was the Red Porch’s indoor restaurant. On the way there, though. The Cooks saw the pig at Nationals Park. (Apparently, there’s a sculpture of a pig at EVERY ballpark in the major leagues.) When we went over there, I saw the Danny that I mentioned earlier in the entry. I then got a picture of him with his two baseballs so far (both of which I have mentioned already):
For the record, that is his “Rockies” shirt, and Tim is waiting for me to finish taking the picture so we could head over to the Red Porch.
When we got over there, it was as packed as could be, so we took a seat on some couches outside it. Here is a picture Todd took of me and his two sons:
Eventually, Todd left to get some food. Meanwhile, Tim “killed” me with his squirt bottle approximately 12,735 times. I then got a message on my phone that looked like such:
I had no idea anyone was even throwing, since I couldn’t see the field from our spot. So I raced down to the Red Seats to see how this had happened, but by the time I got down there, Todd had already returned to the couches.
I returned momentarily to have get an explanation from Todd and pick up my things, but I quickly headed off to try to get a ball from the Rockies. On my way, I saw this and had half a mind to see if I could glove trick one of the balls:
I actually didn’t get any baseballs from the Rockies, but I did get two players to sign two of my baseballs (Josh Roenicke and Adam Ottavino). Here is Ottavino signing my ball:
While I was trying to get a ball from the Rockies, Todd got one from Drew Pomeranz. He then went up into the shade with Kellan and took a picture of those who stayed out in the sun:
Myself (Mateo, if you haven’t picked up on that already) and Danny were both trying to get a ball from the last reliever, but Tim was just there pretty much to tag along. If you can see it, Danny was on the phone. The person he was on the phone with was on the phone with was Quinn Imiola, a fellow Buffalo-based ballhawk, who, if you’ve been reading this blog long enough, I met at a minor league game in Myrtle Beach. Neither of us got the ball, but here was the view when the reliever was still throwing:
After that, I parted ways with the Cooks and headed up to the club level. First, I went up to my “ticketed section”:
I entered the section, but it was pretty crowded, so I made the decision I was going to stay in the outfield during the game after I toured the club level. You know the drill. I’m going to post the pictures rapid-fire.
The left field entrance to the club level.
The “tunnel” emanating from the left field entrance. The doors to the suites were on the left hand side of this tunnel.
The tunnel then lead to a (I imagine) usually very open area, but people were crowding it to escape the heat.
A bar area from which there was also a field view.
Opposite the bar was this gigantic window, offering a view of the neighborhood outside of Nationals Park. The window went all the way across the “open area”, which was rather large.
This was just one of the food options in the “open area”.
The first reason I include this picture is that the area is approximately a fourth of the total “open area”, just to give you an idea of how large it was. The second reason is: Do you see the staircase in this picture? That leads up to an all-suite level. I got up there and started exploring, but before I could start taking pictures, an usher/guard type person asked me for my ticket and told me I couldn’t be up there.
During the game, I sat in two main spots. Here is the view from my usual seat in left field:
Pretty much everyone in the lineup was right handed, so I moved between this spot and the spot I have pointed out with the orange arrow. It was a long run in intense heat, so I pretty much only did it between innings when I could take it slowly.
From the spot in foul ground, I got what almost could have been Teddy’s first win in the Geico Presidents Race. Well he’s had a bunch of those, but this one was particularly entertaining, since I was so close to the action. If you don’t know the history, Teddy has NEVER won the presidents race in however many years it has been done. The presidential mascots that run in it are those symbolizing the four presidents on Mount Rushmore.
Teddy came down the stretch way in front of the other three presidents:
but he veered at the sight of the grounds crew waving popsicles in front of him:
Eventually, the other three presidents passed right by him:
…and as they passed the finish line, Teddy fell into the wheelchair section after his beloved popsicles:
I didn’t get anything during the game, but I had fun running around. In addition, I met Alan Schuster in this section during the game. He got there late because he was already on his way to the game when he realized he forgot his tickets at home. He lives in Virginia, so it was a pretty big set-back. Alan, if you don’t know, is the webmaster of mygameballs.com, the ultimate site for ballhawk statistics. If you haven’t already, go check it out. Also, if you have ever caught a ball at a major league baseball game, make an account. It is super easy and even if you’re not a hardcore ballhawk, it is a great way to keep track of all of the baseballs and autographs you get at games. It’s better than forgetting from whom and how you got them, I’ll tell you that much.
Nearing the end of the game, this was my view:
I then tried to get a ball from whoever the home plate umpire was for that game:
but do you see all of those kids waiting? He gave a ball away to each of them, so he only had one ball left. As he passed me, I called out to the umpire by his last name, but when he looked back, he thought the guy next to me had been the one who called out to him, so he tossed him his final ball instead of me.
I then headed over to the Rockies dugout, and although all of the Rockies players dissed me, I saw a ball come out of the corner of my eye, so I caught it:
The person who threw the ball then reappeared, so I saw it was one of the Rockies ball boys or something along those lines:
Actually, though, I was only one of the people he threw a ball to. He must have thrown 10 balls into the stands. I’ve never seen anything like it from someone who wasn’t on the team.
Of course, even when someone like that throws 10 balls into the crowd, there is usually at least a kid that doesn’t get one. It’s just impossible to have EVERYone get a ball. I thought I didn’t see a kid next to me get a ball, so I asked him if he had gotten a ball at this game. He said he didn’t, so I pulled the ball out of my glove and put it into his. Here he is with it:
I then headed out to the center field plaza, fully expecting to just get on the Metro and leave. However, when I got there, the Cooks (and Greg, but I have filed him under this for the entry for the sake of brevity) were taking their final picture of the day:
So I got to formally say “goodbye” to them before I rode my way back to my apartment in Washington. If you made it to this point in the entry: Congratulations, you have more patience than I do. Not bad for a game I initially wasn’t going to go to, right?
- 4 Balls at this Game (3 pictured because I gave one away)
Numbers 334-337 for my life:
- 115 Balls in 23 Games= 5 Balls Per Game
- 4 Balls x 28,032 Fans= 112,128 Competition Factor
- 32 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 8 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 7 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
- 7 straight Games with at least 4 Balls
- 94 Balls at Nationals Park in 19 Games= 4.95 Balls Per Game
- 10 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
- 10 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Nationals Park
- 8 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Nationals Park
- 6 straight Games with at least 4 Balls at Nationals Park
- Time Spent On Game 11:38- 7:57= 8 Hours 19 Minutes
This was now the middle game of (barring playoff baseball) my last weekend of baseball for the year. I figuring that this would be my last shot at a full batting practice because the next game would be a day game. I was actually too optimistic in this prediction. For my seventh stright game at Nationals Park, there was not a full session of bp.
When the gates opened, I ran up to the second deck in Right Field expecting the pitchers to be throwing but once again they were nowhere to be found. The air was free of moisture but still the pitchers were in the clubhouse and the hitters were as well. I understand why they weren’t. I mean the game was a day game after a night game. so after the 9:45 end time of the last game, any wake up time before 10:00 would be simply criminal.
Anyway, the pitchers didn’t come out until about 11:15. This was 45 minutes before the gates opened. I saw the Braves coming out to throw about 15 minutes into the Nationals but wanted to get one ball from the Nationals because I had seen a load of Braves fans the day before. I eventually did get a ball from Ryan Mattheus. If you don’t know, I have lost all of my pictures from the last few games of the season (which explains the lack there of in this entry) this also meant that I no longer have photographic evidence of but I think that this ball was meant for another kid and so I gave it away to that same kid once I recovered the overthrow.
I then ran down to the lower level and went down the first base line seating because like the day before, I had seen a ball go in the seats that the people witing in line did not see. It wasn’t quite in the same wheelchair section but it was very close to the same seats. I then went over to the Braves side of the field along the third baseline and tried to get them to throw me a ball. However, I was aware of any balls of any ball pulled my way. There was in fact a ball pulled my way. It landed about a section to my left and from there it was a race between myself and a Braves fan. I beat him to the ball in the aisle by a margin, but he was flat out running and his momentum made me the middle of a sandwich between him and the railing. I had just picked up the ball and held on but this did knock the air out of me and so I whimpered my way to Left Field where I recovered.
Those seats were too crowded for my taste and so I moved over to the “Red Seats” in R-CF. Just as I got there, Dan Uggla’s hitting group got up and so I was pretty sure I would have a chance at one ball if not a few. Surely enough, there were several balls within ten feet of me and the one of those that landed in the Red Seats ended up in my possession. I then gave it away to the smallest Braves fan in the section. I kind of gave it away to amend all the balls I was going to catch in that section, but sadly this was the last ball for me the whole day.
This was mostly because I then went to RF and the promotion on this day was “Pups in the Park”. People were allowed to bring their dogs to the ballpark as long as they kept them in, you guessed it: Right Field. When I got there, the space behind the actual seats was transplanted turf for the dogs to be “walked”. In the actual seats, there were all types of dogs even in batting practice and some of them weren’t so visible . On three separate occasions, I had to hurdle a dog in the stand en route to a ball. Twice, it cost me catching the ball.
It also affected me in the game because I stayed mostly in Left Field as to not have to deal with maneuvering the dogs behind the Right Field seats. Also, the seats themselves were more packed than usual. Although I would have been upset to lose the opportunity at a Home Run, I was sort of wishing there was a ball hit into the Right Field seat just to see what would happen with all of the dogs.
As for my the Left Field seats, there was nothing hit in my direction and I stayed at four balls for the day. It was a partially fun day, but be sure to check back for my next entry in around three days from now because all I can say is that the Nationals really did go all in on the fan appreciation day.
Jason Werth bobblehead day and this is how things looked as I arrived three hours prior to first pitch:
Right then and there I knew this was going to be primarily an Upper Right Field day because Left Field was just going to be so crowded. The gate that I am pointing out with the Orange was actually one of many. They served the dual purpose of funneling people to the bobbleheads which are out of the picture to the left, but also not letting anyone loop back around for a second bobblehead. I went to this game because I thought that although it would bring many more fans it would drive away many of the ballhawks. I was partially right. When I went up to the Second deck in Right Field there was this guy in the Nationals hat and “Flava” Dave Stevenson:
The arrow shows where the first ball of the day touched down. Some Nationals lefty hit a deep ball there and I could have sprinted and gotten it but I let that guy get it as it was closer to him.
My first ball of the day came through unusual fashion. I myself was reluctant to ask Todd Coffey for a ball considering the odd exchange we had the day before. That however, did not stop dave from asking Coffey for a ball. Coffey then unleashed a throw on Dave that sailed 3 rows over his head just to my left. I wasn’t just going to leave it there. Normally what happens in this situation with another ballhawk is that I take the ball and feel slightly guilty but justify my actions by the fact they have caught plenty of baseballs themselves. This is where the weird part comes in. I normally give the balls back if this situation happens with other kids I usually give the ball to them but don’t with ballhawks because most ballhawks don’t count a ball they didn’t have primary possession of. However, I learned in my last day in Baltimore that Dave counts balls that he didn’t have primary possession. I learned this when a ball bounced off of his hands to Garrett Meyer and when the player who threw it asked Garrett to give it to Dave, Dave received it and counted it as his own ball.
So, I grabbed the ball and relieved the usual guilt I have by then letting Dave have it. This then counted as a ball for both me and Dave. Yes it is a corrupt system but I would like to point out that it was not my end of the system that was broken. To relieve some of the mental strain of those trying to picture this scenario I made a diagram:
The dotted lines are the path of the ball and the solid line is my path to it. The upper two dotted lines are just a way of demonstrating the path the ball took without using curved lines and the lower dotted line is how I let the ball roll to Dave. Although, he did go up a few steps I didn’t want to add another arrow to make the picture even more cluttered.
My second ball was hit by some random Nationals lefty and it landed three rows behind where my first ball landed where I then picked it up. My third ball came from Ryan Mattheus as he fielded it in Right Field. Again, the dotted arrows are the path of the ball and the solid arrows are the movement of the people they originate from:
For the record, I am not half on the field. I was just right on the edge of that glass in case Mattheus missed me short I would have more freedom to reach for the ball. That and the arrows don’t do much justice to depth of field.
At this point, I was just thanking my lucky stars that I wasn’t in Left Field:
So of course I left my Right Field paradise. I moved over to the Red Porch because 1) every pitcher in Right Field and their brother recognized me and 2) the ever nice Livan Hernandez was in Center Field:
I didn’t catch anything and nothing even came close but I did meet yet another ballhawk. His name was Mike. I don’t exactly what his last name was or if he even gave me one. Anyway, he lives in New Jersey and makes it to the games he can. The previous night’s and this night’s games happened to be two of them. We talked briefly at most but he was just one of the weird run-ins on this night with other ballhawks, Dave being another.
I then moved back to Right Field (upper, of course) and after spending a while towards the Center Field side moved almost all the way to the foul pole where I tried to get a ball from Henry Rodriguez. I failed at this but while I was there, Danny Espinosa hit a fly ball right to my right. I looked over to make sure no one was in my way and reached out two feet and caught the ball. I then got many congratulations and “thank you”s. Not for giving the ball away, but what I had not seen was there was a kid behind me that wasn’t paying attention and I had apparently saved him from injury.
I then moved back over to my previous spot where I got congratulated by another ballhawk (possibly…Mike?). I also had another weird run-in. This time with Avi Miller (again I was stupid enough not to get a picture). I talked with him as well as bp continued on. I had essentially given up on toss-ups because the players knew me but when Dave Stevenson called out for a toss-up from Ryan Mattheus I lined up behind him just in case. Let me use this picture I took of my bobblehead seconds before to demonstrate what happened:
Sure enough, the ball flew over Dave’s head again, and I picked it up and tossed it to him in one motion for ball #5 on the day. Minutes later, someone else on the Nationals hit a ball to the right of that same staircase. I moved down a bit, moved over a bit and caught the ball while leaning over the seats in front of me.
I don’t know how soon afterward but pretty soon afterwards, Nationals bp ended. As the Mets ran out, I quickly put on my Mets shirt. This paid off just as quickly as, just as my head went through the top hole of the shirt, I saw Jason Pridie waving a ball in my direction with his non-gloved hand. I hadn’t asked for it or anything but when he did this I started waving my arms and he threw the ball up to me. Weird, but I’ll take it. Here’s a sort-of good diagram of what happened:
Then things slowed waay down. I looked down to see this:
That may not look that crowded but I could tell it was a situation where I wouldn’t have many paths by which to manuever in the seats. By the way, that arrow is pointing to yet another weird run-in, Cliff Eddens. I mean I’ll run into Cliff a couple times at Citi Field here and there but to see him at Nats Park was a complete surprise. Anyway, I stayed up on the second level because this was the crowd up there:
After half-an-hour of nothing, I went down to the lower level and saw it wasn’t THAT bad:
You can see the part I was looking at from up top was pretty bad but the seats a bit further back were really empty. Considering I saw Home Runs hit into those seats, I could have been in double digits if I had gone down sooner. Getting toss-ups, though, was completely out of the question. There were way too many people and the Mets were not even looking back to see the people in the crowd. I then noticed Cliff and went over to say hi. In the middle of our conversation, a ball got hit to our right. Since I was standing to the right off him, I started after it. It was about five feet to my right so I moved over there in a motion that must have looked something like Carlton Fisk’s waving the ball foul (sans arm movement). I then hit my right leg on something which was very painful. I adjusted my right leg in its movement because I figured it was just a post or something like that since I hadn’t checked down the aisle for people or anything else. I then proceeded to hit my left leg on the same object. Those two things slowed me down and the ball went just out of my reach into another man’s glove. I then looked down and found out that the culprit was a bag weighing down the seat and causing it to be more open than the others in that aisle:
After various other failed attempt at balls (one of which I could have gotten but was too polite), I moved back up to the second level and tried for easier attempts at Home Runs. Being frustrated by the Mets’ lack of power I let out a yell to Jonathan Niese if he could “toss a ball up to the second deck”. Just as he turned around, Angel Pagan hit a shot:
I could tell the ball was coming right at me but was dropping short. So, I moved to the side of the glass panel so to be able to reach lower and caught the ball at the bottom of the panel. Once I did this, Niese gave a shake of his head as if to say that he wouldn’t throw a ball up. That was it for batting practice.
During the game I sat in left field and one of my weirdest encounters with a player occurred. I was waiting for the starting pitcher, R.A. Dickey, to come out and throw when I dropped my retainer in the walkway leading to the bullpen:
I was a bit panicked because those are pretty expensive to replace. Given that I was going to ask the first person who walked by to throw it up to me. That person was the Mets catcher, Josh Thole. as he entered the bullpen I knew I would have a short window and told him, “I know you don’t get this often but can you hand me my retainer?” His facial expression didn’t seem too pleased and I didn’t blame him because I wouldn’t want to be doing that if I were a Major Leaguer. I set my sights on the nearest grounds person while Thole looked like he was getting water. I didn’t see anyone within earshot but Thole returned with a towel and picked up the retainer and asked me if there was another on the ground. I told him no and so he tossed up the towel and told me I could keep it. Here is my newest acquisition with Thole in the background:
The Nationals won the game with their only runs (3) coming on a Jason Werth Home Run to Center Field.
- 8 balls at this game (5 pictured because I gave one away to my service supervisor back in NYC in addition to the two I gave to Dave)
- 52 games straight with at least 1 ball
- 21 straight on the road
- 17 straight games with at least 2 balls
- 2 games straight with at least 8 balls
- 5 straight games snagging a ball at Nationals Park
- 8 balls* 35,414 fans= 283,312 competition factor
- Time at game 4:12- 9:41= 5 hours 29 minutes
This was the first game of the series and the only game of the series I had not bought tickets for in advance. As a result, I found out that a college ID gets one half off:
If you can’t see that is a ticket in 141. Those right field tickets usually cost $26 but only cost me $13. I did not have a college ID with me but when I bought my ticket the lady told me, “you have you college ID, right?” She did this simultaneously with a head nod so I went along with it.
I got to the gates far ahead of anyone else so I went into the team store and studied where balls were going into the seats as one of the teams was taking early bp:
Soon after I came out of the store and started waiting again, two familiar faces arrived on the scene:
That would be, left to right.
1. Garrett Meyer– A ballhawk from Kansas who came down for Ballhawk Fest and is still staying in DC currently in a streak of 13 games in 13 days and 19 in 21.
2. Alex Kopp– A ballhawk from New Jersey, currently living in Maryland, and about to put up and absolutely monster day.
On that last note, let me explain why we are all holding baseballs. We were at the Center Field gate when a fork lift came driving our way. While Garrett and I were looking elsewhere and talking, Alex spotted that the operator had a ball in hand. He asked if he was planning to do anything with it and if not if he could have it. The operator then got out of his seat with two balls in hand. Alex had only seen one but that meant another one of us would get a ball. So I did my “alms for the poor” bit with my Nationals hat. When he gave the second ball to Garrett I thought that was it but he then went back to the forklift and dropped another ball out of a cup he had. So I had my ball:
The day of snagging was off. I first ran towards Left Field:
but when I found out the Nationals weren’t hitting I moved up to the second deck in Right Field and tried to get a ball from one of the pitchers warming up. I didn’t do this. Instead I ran over to right center when a ball came to the wall and called out to Livan Hernandez who picked it up. Of course, Livan threw the ball up to me for ball #2. The only bad thing about that was Livan maned Center Field and as a result the Red Porch was a lost cause:
The next piece of action went like this: a Home Run landed in the seats to my right, I eased up and said, “you got it” to Alex Kopp because he was clearly closer to the ball and I didn’t want to be too aggressive, a ball landed to my left because Alex was retrieving the other ball I figured he would let me get this ball. Nope. As I was jogging over to the ball, I saw a blue flash in the row below me and Alex pick up the ball. I just thought this was a funny sequence but count it as a lost opportunity because I would have definitely been able to beat him out for that ball.
I then had another…interesting sequence. I called out to Todd Coffey for a ball. Obviously by my entries, this is my first game at Nationals Park since June. Coffey asked me, “didn’t you get a bunch of balls yesterday?” I told him the truth which was that I was from New York and this was my first game here. He then reluctantly tossed me the ball but then told me that I had to throw back any Home Run balls that landed in the second deck seats in Right Field. Bizarre, no? Whatever, with this request, it was time for me to leave the section.
I then moved back to Left Field. There, I got Ryan Mattheus to toss me a ball to the left of the bullpen. However, I also missed out on two balls. I was playing one section from the bullpen. The first ball I missed, landed behind me a closer to the bullpen. I definitely would have gotten it had it stayed where it bounced but it hit a sort of rubberized strip that the Nationals have in Left Field ( I don’t know why) and bounced into the Center Field concourse. The next ball also bounced behind me and would have been mine but it bounced back towards the field where Alex Kopp caught it. Whoa, first let me go back to the Mattheus ball. That, I realized later, was my 100th ball of the season. This fulfilled one of my goals for the New Year.
I then moved back to the second deck in Right Field… wait, let me explain something. The reason for why I was going into the second deck is because the first deck was closed until 5:30. Ok, we now continue with your regularly scheduled blog entry… and then I got a ball. I don’t know who threw it. It was just one of those balls where I forgot who threw it. Obviously I knew who it was in the moment or he wouldn’t have thrown me the ball but I have since blanked on the name.
The next ball also came in upper Right Field. I called out to John Lannan as he fielded a ball. When he threw the ball back into the infield, a person close to him threw me a ball underhanded. When that missed, he threw another ball very awkwardly as I lunged over the railing and caught the ball. I don’t know exactly who it was. Initially, I thought it was an injured pitcher because of the underhanded and awkward throws but then realized he had a catchers mitt on. Any ideas?:
He is the one on the the right in the wicking shirt. 6 balls through half of bp is pretty good , no? Usually the away team is where I get the most thrown balls because I wear their gear. Well… usually. I waited for a few minutes for the lower Right Field seats to open:
Once I got into those seats, I proceeded to get dissed by every single Mets player and coach that was shagging balls there. Since there were mostly righties hitting, I moved back over to left field. I move around a lot, sue me. Actually, I would rather no one sue me I need that money for baseball games. There in left field a Mets righty pulled a ball foul and I outran whoever else was going after it to pick the ball up. I then gave it to a kid who was chasing behind me:
Alas, t’was a slow bp and the only other ball I got before I made it to my seats was a ball that was getting transferred to the ball bag from those used in bp. I later identified the person who threw it to me as, Ray Ramirez, the head trainer of the Mets. he was near the person transferring the balls from the bp container to the ball bag when one ball rolled away. He heard me asking for a ball and tossed it to me as he entered the dugout.
I then exited the seats around the Mets dugout and ran into a few familiar faces:
However blurry, these are those people:
1. “Flava” Dave Stevenson– A ballhawk from Baltimore who was in town because the Orioles were out of town.
2. Garrett Meyer– A ballhawk from Kansas, who was still in the Washington area and was going to Nationals games as a result. An interesting thing I learned was that this was the fourth of a stretch of 13 straight games for him.
3. Alex Kopp– A ballhawk staying in college park Maryland and having a great day at that point but didn’t yet count how many balls he had caught.
I talked to them for a while but then left to see Chien Ming Wang warm up:
Normally, I would have stayed and chatted for a while but I was a) 2 balls away from double digits and b) didn’t want to miss Chien Ming Wang’s first pitches in a Major League Stadium since he went out with the Yankees. You see, while he was on the Yankees, Wang was my favorite player in all of baseball I also had a rookie named Tim Lincecum in the corner of my eye but at the time he was injured, Wang was my favorite player closely followed by Joe Nathan. When Wang got injured, I slowly drifted towards liking Lincecum who is my current favorite player. That said, it was a true honor to be at Wang’s comeback game.I also really wanted to get a ball from him.
In the end, I couldn’t pronounce my Chinese correctly and Wang walked out to start the game. However, Jim Lett, the bullpen coach, heard my requests and tossed me a ball. This was now my ninth ball of the game and I was one ball from double digits. I thought about going to the dugouts but I figured it was too late and thought of how cool it would be if I caught my first Home Run for my first time in double digits.
I was accompanied a few minutes later by Alex Kopp. Why is this significant and blog worthy? He finally figured out how many balls he had caught and any guesses on a number?Keep in mind he has more than one pocket:
Up to that point, he had snagged 18 Balls!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So basically take everything I had done to that point and double it.
For the game itself, I sat here:
Nothing came even close. I don’t even know if there was a single Home Run hit. As for Wang, it wasn’t pretty. He lasted maybe 5 innings and gave up 6 runs. Although I’m not sure how many were earned, I can say that he didn’t have the same dive in his sinker he used to as a Yankee. It was his first day back so I credit most of the runs to two years of rust. Given that 4 of those runs came in the first inning.
After the game, I was determined to get a ball from the bullpen for #10 on the day. Though it was tough given the fact that Jim Lett had already tossed me a ball. In retrospect, I should have thrown on my t-shirt inside out and put on sunglasses but I didn’t think of that in the moment. Everyone in the bullpen cleared out and I still didn’t have a ball. I was accompanied by Alex who also wanted A ball but also wanted, if by some miracle, to get two balls to reach the very prestigious 20 ball club. He also got denied by all the players. However, we both noticed a ball in the corner of the bullpen that had been dropped by a fan before us:
Alex and I both waited for a solid ten minutes. Grounds crew came, “we can’t throw balls up”, Security came, “we can’t, sorry”, and Police came, “we can’t throw balls up, sorry”. It was extremely frustrating and I had half a mind to use my glove trick with police guards five feet from the ball and ushers ten feet from me. Fortunately, I didn’t have to resort to this as the kid in charge of emptying the water coolers came:
He emptied them and when he walked towards the ballI asked him if he could toss the ball up. No response, he just picked the ball up and flipped it up. Alex was also with me so I also pointed out a ball behind a bouncy screen that had also been left and Alex was given the torture of having 19 balls at the end of the day. Enough about Alex, I haven’t started celebrating about my double digit performance. WOO-HOO! Ok I’m good.
It definitely feels good to start the day at 158 and end at:
- 10 balls at this game (9 pictured because I gave one away but eight actually pictured because I can’t find the Livan ball)
- 51 straight games with at least 1 ball
- 20 straight on the road
- 16 straight games with at least 2 balls
- 1 straight with at least 10
- 4 straight games at Nationals Park with at least 1 ball
- 10 balls* 30,114 fans= 301,140 competition factor another personal record
- Time at game 3:45- 10:21= 6 hours 36 minutes