Guess who baseball was commemorating during Monday’s game:
Come on, guess. It’s not like it was a league-wide thing.
Yes, it was Jackie Robinson Day in major league baseball a.k.a. a facial recognitionly-challenged ballhawk’s nightmare. Fortunately I can recognize faces and it is names that I have trouble with, so I would still be able to identify players as different even though they would all be wearing number 42.
Let me rewind a little, though. In case you weren’t following this blog last year, I walk to as many Twins games as I can. Really the only time I don’t is if I’m absolutely pressed for time when I leave wherever it is I am going from. Okay, so knowing this, I was about half-way to Target Field when a person I had talked to about going to the game with called me. You see I bought two tickets for most of the games I bought in advance. This was because a bunch of people had told me that they were going to try to make a couple of games with me. Unfortunately, those same people had yet to actually make any of the games, so I had been having to search for other people to go to the games with me. Remember when I wrote about the usher I talked to who had been a part of my sports management group that interviewed Terry Ryan? Yeah? No? Well the person who offered to go to this game with me was in that same interview group. He was still on campus when he called me, so I waited a little while for him here:
before continuing on to Target Field once he met up with me. Unfortunately I forgot to get a picture of the two of us together for this blog, so you’ll just have to picture Matt (that was/is his name). He is actually from Milville, NJ, so once we got in the gates, he had one goal: get down to the dugout and talk to Mike Trout when he was either getting on to the field or exiting it. I on the other hand, headed straight to the seats in left field. There I got on the board very quickly by asking Jerome Williams for a ball:
You can’t really see it from the picture, since I was so far out, but he wears a pink glove, so he was the easiest player to distinguish from behind with all the players having their hoods up. This was pretty quick, but the ball was sadly again not taking off. Struggling with the hit ball is always frustrating. Some times it is just myself misjudging baseballs, but all too many times this season it has been that there just aren’t baseballs getting into the stands.
I did manage to survive this batting practice. Two words are the reason for that: Tom Gregorio. I managed to snag my next three baseballs courtesy of him. You may be wondering: But, Mateo, how could you get three straight baseballs from a person who isn’t a player? Well this particular bullpen catcher managed to throw me three consecutive baseballs. Want to hear something even crazier/explanatory? I gave all three away. Let me explain. On the first ball, Gregorio picked me out of the crowd with my Angels gear on and tossed me a ball. I gave that ball to this kid up here:
Notice his dad taking a picture of the ball. I love it when you can tell how excited when they get a ball. I still prefer to help kids get baseballs about ten times more, though. That’s because I have counted two baseballs ever that were given to me by other fans in my career total, including the first baseball I ever got at a game–since it was before I started “ballhawking” I decided to count them both. That said, they were the two most unfulfilling baseballs I have gotten. While I was happy in the moment that I got both, I have regretted both ever since and I want to try to help kids more by instruction than handing them the baseball myself.
After I gave him the ball, I hoped Gregorio had seen me give the ball away and would toss me another. He didn’t, but he tossed a ball to this kid:
But the ball fell short into the flower bed just to my left (and I was to the left of the kid, so I picked it up and handed it to him). Here’s where the ball was:
I know it’s cheap, but since I got primary possession of the ball first, I counted it. These occurred about two minutes, if even that, apart from each other, but the gap between my third and fourth baseballs was quite large–like twenty or thirty-ish minutes. This one Gregorio also tossed to me unintentionally. Gregorio got a ball close to the wall and then flung the ball randomly into the stands with his glove. It was initially going way over my head, but I moved back a couple of steps on the staircase I was on and jumped up to catch the ball. That ball went to the kid who was standing back down at the bottom of the staircase after I confirmed that he had not yet gotten a ball. More so than me trying to reciprocate and spread Gregorio’s generosity, I wanted to make up for my stinginess in the games prior to that. I mean one of my goals for the beginning of the year was to give away 33% of my baseballs, and as of this game, I was definitely not on that pace.
My fifth ball of the day came when I left the left field section–since I could tell my luck with toss-ups had dried up by that point–and headed over to the section of seats in right-center field. Over there I waited and asked Sean Burnett for a ball when he approached the wall:
I could recognize Burnett right away because I saw him a ton when he was a member of the Nationals. And if you can’t tell from the picture and the players running off the field (Burnett is the one at the head of the “triangle” of players) this was my last ball of BP. Not bad for Target Field and not having had a chance at a hit baseball.
During the game I stayed out in the standing room, not expecting to get anything but hoping today would be the exception to the rule. Sadly that was not the case, but in case anyone in the stadium managed to forget there was more than enough sinage in the stadium to remind people that it was Jackie Robinson Day:
I particularly love the second picture for the simple reason that the text on the screen is so crisp in the picture that it looks like I Photoshopped it in. Anyway, despite Peter Borjous hitting a lead-off home run, the Twins managed to pull off the game. It was freezing once more, though, so enough people left towards the end of the game that I found myself down here towards the end of it:
And as a result of this, I got this from Chris Conroy at the end of the game (Conroy not pictured):
That would be my sixth and final ball of the day.With this baseball, I tied Tony Voda for the lifetime leader for baseballs at Target Field, setting up a head-to-head match-up for the next day between us to for who would hold the title at the end of the day, since we were both going and tied at 79 career baseballs at Target Field.
And then, if you’ll recall, I went almost directly from the game to go watch “42” on Jackie Robinson Day.
- 6 Balls in this game (3 here because I gave 3 away)
Numbers 465-470 for my life:
- 24 Balls in 5 Games= 4.80 Balls Per Game
- 6 Balls x 23,535 Fans= 141,210 Competition Factor
- 67 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 17 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 4 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
- 3 straight Games with at least 4-6 Balls
- 79 Balls in 19 Games at Target Field= 4.11 Balls Per Game
- 18 straight Games with at least 1-2 Balls at Target Field
- 4 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Target Field
- 3 straight Games with at least 4-6 Balls at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 3:30-1:36= 10 Hours 6 Minutes
This day was just another example of why the batting practice gods hate me when I go to Nationals Park ( the Home Run gods like teasing me but that’s a whole other story). There was no batting practice because of rain which made it like the 6th game in a row where I didn’t have full batting practice when I went to Nationals Park (either the Nationals hit and the visiting team didn’t, vice-versa, or neither team hit at all). Today there was no batting period.
When the gates opened, I went up to my usual spot in the Upper Right Field seats thinking that the Nationals would follow their routine of warming up just as the gates opened. Let’s see, the gates opened at 4:30 and the Nationals didn’t start throwing until 5:15. This was 45 minutes after their usual time. I wasn’t expecting this but it actually helped me. In addition to throwing later, they did something else I hadn’t seen them do before: they threw in segmented groups. Let me explain, usually, all the pitchers come out at the same time and finish at the same time, but on this day, the first pair came out at 4:15 and the last pair of pitchers came out at about 4:40.
While I was in the second deck, I saw the Nationals throw two balls into the wheelchair section they have on both sides of the field. This section was pretty wet so they just left the balls there. The rest of the stadium (besides URF and L-CF) opens at 5:30 for a 7:00 game. I stayed in the Upper seats until 5:27 to make sure that I didn’t miss THAT many snagging opportunities but at 5:27 left to get in line when the rest of the stadium opened. I was like 2 seconds behind the people first getting into the rest of the stadium and the other people knew enough to hurry up and look for balls but I had been the only one in the upper seats and thus was the only one who knew where the two balls were.
Now the rotating throwing partners come into play. Had all the players been throwing while I picked up the balls, most of them would have seen me get the balls and probably wouldn’t have thrown me any more. However as it was, I got Sean Burnett to throw me a ball and then changed outfits to get Tom Gorzelanny to throw me a ball.
Right after Gorzelanny threw me the ball, I noticed the Braves were warming up. Whenever I have the choice between trying to get balls from the Home team or the opposing team, 9 times out of 10 i will go with the opposing team because the odds are that there will be less fans with the opposing team’s gear than the home team’s gear. I did go over to the Braves side of the field and had my Braves gear on, but to my surprise, I was one of fifteen others in Braves gear. Fortunately, most of them were there for autographs, but I still didn’t get a ball thrown to me cleanly.
My main goal for this weekend in general was to get Julio Teheran to throw me a ball. This may have contributed to the fact I did get a ball thrown to me. I stayed right behind Julio and his throwing partner and just focused on getting a ball from him while he made his throwing partner look foolish with a variety of breaking pitches.The reasons I so desperately wanted a ball from Teheran is that I was a pitcher when I played organized baseball and am definitely part of the family of pitchers when it comes to my school of thought. The second part of this is that I was born in Colombia and so was Teheran. So the reason for trying to get a ball from him was that he is the first Colombian Pitcher in the major leagues and it would mean the world to get a ball from him because he also has a good chance of succeeding at this level. I threw in the part of me being of the Pitchers school of thought because yeah it would mean a lot for Edgar Renteria or Orlando Cabrera to throw me a ball but to have the first Colombian MLB Pitcher to throw me a ball would be great. Also, sorry if I sounded repetitive back there but it was just kind of an idea in my head and I wanted to get it as refined as I could. In retrospect, it probably just confused you more. Just to add on how much I’ve been paying attention to Teheran and want him to succeed, I went out of my way to see his first start with the Braves a while ago. The reason I focused so much on him in this series and not others is because he got sent down shortly after his first start as he struggled.
Enough of my man-crush on Julio Teheran, I just wanted to get the explanation out of the way because it really was the center of the weekend. I didn’t get anything from any other Pitchers because Teheran was facing me and I was right behind his throwing partner and was afraid that if he saw me get a ball he wouldn’t consider throwing me his. When he and his partner finished, I yelled out to him, ” Una pelota para un Colombiano?” This translates to: “A ball for a Colombian?” Good news: He heard me.
Bad News: He missed with his throw and the guy next to me got the ball. Either that or he thought the guy next to me had called out to him.
I then moved down the line and tried to get a ball from the other Braves pitchers. As I mentioned before, I didn’t get a Pitcher to throw a ball to me. Despite this, I did get a ball. Jonny Venters and his partner were the last throwing pair on the Braves. There was a kid right next to me that was much younger and so I knew I probably wasn’t going to get the ball thrown to me. So, I moved behind the kid and played the mis-throw. Venters did then overthrow the kid, I grabbed it, and handed it to the kid. When Venters finished throwing, he started signing autographs and I got him to sign one of my baseballs from that day. I think he has signed for me before but mygameballs.com’s autograph database is being difficult and I gave away most of my autographed baseballs last year so I have no evidence. A funny thing happened in that Venter actually signed right next to where I had numbered the ball and looked a little funny at the ball. I wonder what went through his head. The obvious thought being that I am selling the autographs and so I number the balls to identify the balls.
For the game, I did my usual ritual of getting a ticket on each side of the outfield and running to Left Field for Righties and Right Field for Lefties. It was and ideal set-up for this ritual as both the teams were batting primarily from a different side of the line-up. That is to say, the Braves line-up was made of primarily Lefties and the Nationals lineup was made up of primarily Righties. This allowed me time to move back and forth between innings instead of At-Bats and also make me not feel like I wasted money on one of the tickets (this would happen if both teams were primarily Righties or Lefties).
It was mainly dead out in Home Run territory but then later in the game THIS happened. Jayson Werth hit a Home Run into the Left Field seats where I was sitting. It was really high and was the same direction as the Chris Young Home Run I had missed out on a few weeks prior. It ended up like five rows right behind where that Home Run had hit.
I was on an aisle seat as usual and here is a screen shot from when the ball was in the air:
The Left arrow is me and the Right is where the ball would hit. At this time, I saw there were no rows that would get me to a place where I could get to catching the ball on the fly without knocking down half-a-dozen people. So I stayed on the aisle and hoped the ball would bounce back towards the field off of the seat.
Here is a screen shot after the ball bounced of the seat and headed right in my direction:
The big arrow is pointing to my red Nationals hat and the little arrow is pointing to the ball coming off the seat and back to me. The ball bounced back right in my direction but I couldn’t see that because the girl in the Strasburg t-shirt’s back was blocking my view. She then deflected the ball and it landed in a seat in the row between us two. From there it was a race between our two hands to the ball and this was the result:
She was closer and reached for the ball faster. I think the Home Run in general felt too casual, it felt like nothing more than a batting practice ball. I feel that if I had been more into the game/aggressive I would have my first Home Run ball. Anyway, the arrow in the top third of the picture is pointing to where I am standing outside of the picture. Looking on sadly.
After the game, I got Eddie Perez to throw me a ball from the bullpen after the game. This made Six balls on the day even without batting practice.
And that was how my partially redemptive weekend in Washington went. In other news, tomorrow is my birthday and the 1 year anniversary of Observing Baseball. I hope to write something but it *is* my birthday and so if I don’t I will write it on Friday.