This was a pretty run-of-the-mill day at Baltimore. Avi Miller had some work still to do, so he nicely dropped me off at the subway station in his hometown, where I got slightly lost but managed to make it to Oriole Park at Camden Yards in time to get into left field with everyone. I didn’t find any easter eggs because Garrett Meyer scooped up the only one. Coming into this game, both Garrett and I wore Rays gear coming into the left field seats, because we figured the Orioles wouldn’t throw us any baseballs anyways and that it would be better for us for when the Rays came out to throw and hit in case they were to see us changing.
I say this because I ran up to the front row for a ball that I thought I could maybe catch in the front row. Instead the ball hit off the wall over the glove of Rudy Arais. Just in case the ball had hit him on the back when he was jumping for it, I asked, “Are you okay, Rudy?” He then looked back smiled, and said, “Yes.” It was at that point that he started to pick up the ball, and I realized he had not seen my Rays shirt yet because the wall was blocking it, so I blocked it with my glove. And when Rudy turned and threw the ball to me, I made sure to catch it with my bare hand as to not reveal my Rays logo:
Most of the other ballhawks were astounded because I had made of point of wearing Rays gear before the gates opened, and yet I still got a toss-up from the Orioles. My next ball came in I want to say the second group of Orioles hitters. Some righty in that group hit a ball a little bit to my right, so I went over and caught it on the fly for my second ball of the day:
If it was indeed the second group, it was probably hit by either Steve Pearce or Alexi Casilla, but I’m not going to guess just for the sake of having a name attached to the ball, so we’ll just call him a UHR (Unidetified Hitting Righty). My third ball of the day came when I went into foul territory to get a baseball from the pitchers and position players warming up. I didn’t actually get the warm up ball of any player, but Jeremy Hellickson was helping Chris Archer guard the pitchers from hit baseballs. (You’ll often see there’s one person doing this, since the pitchers are parallel to–in this case–the invisible line between second and third base and can’t see a ball coming at them without turning their heads sideways. But from my experience, it’s usually a bullpen catcher who guards them and not another pitcher; just because the pitcher has to warm up himself.) Anyway, a ball came to Hellickson, and so I shouted, “Jeremy can…” and before I could finish my request he turned to me, so I put up my glove and he threw me my third ball of the day:
That was kind of awesome for me personally, because I believe the last time before that Hellickson had tossed me a baseball was when he tossed me my 100th baseball ever back in 2011. So yeah, pretty much no one else but me would have found it that cool, but I thought it was great.
My fourth ball of the day came when I headed out to the right-center field section for the Rays hitters. ( I didn’t go over there because a bunch of lefties were up. I just usually head over there when the non-season ticket holders flood the left field seats.) Chris Archer fielded a ball at the wall, and tossed me my fourth and final ball of the day when he saw my Rays gear and I called out to him by name. I then asked a kid to my left if he had gotten a ball, and when he said he hadn’t, I handed him the ball:
For the game, Grant Edrington, Alex Kopp, and I all sat out on the flag court. There were two home runs, both of which we could have possibly gotten but didn’t. (The first of which I am still mad about since I was eating a strawberry-flavored lemon chill when it happened.) But the coolest thing I would say we did the whole night was walk through the cross-aisle:
And handed Matt Hersl‘s brother a shirt and piece of paper that all of us participants of BallhawkFest 2013 had signed. Despite the fact that this was my first time meeting his brother, it was special from simply my connection to Matt himself. And by far the weirdest thing I experienced that game was on the way back seeing a person about my age not paying attention to the game because he was playing Pokemon on a Gameboy SP:
After that, Garrett, Alex and I headed back to Alex’s place, where we all stayed, I ate some pizza, and was thankfully the only one of the three who didn’t have to wake up before 8:00 in the morning.
- 4 Balls at this Game (3 pictured because I gave 1 away)
Numbers 661-664 of my lifetime:
- 217 Balls in 50 Games= 4.34 Balls Per Game
- 4 Balls x 25,044 Fans=100,176 Competition Factor
- 112 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 17 straight Games with 2 Balls
- 14 straight Games with 3 Balls
- 6 straight Games with 4 Balls
- 89 Balls in 21 Games at OPACY= 4.24 Balls Per Game
- 21 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- 11 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at OPACY
- 9 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at OPACY
- 7 straight Games with at least 4 Balls at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 3:44-11:56= 8 Hours 12 Minutes
My day began at Avi Miller‘s house. See, Avi and his parents were kind enough to put up with me for a couple of days as I needed a place to stay while going to a couple Orioles games. I have to say it was a really nice/fun place to stay. Avi and I had stayed up watching MLB Network–which I had regrettably not watched in forever leading up to that point–and I worked on entries as I watched and we ate pizza that I somehow got talked into letting Avi pay for even thought *he* was the one letting me stay with him. But anyway, the way to get to the ballpark from Avi’s is to drive to the subway station and take that to the ballpark. We could drive the whole way, but given how often Avi goes to games, it doesn’t make any sense, because 1. It costs $8 for him to park by the ballpark. 2. It puts extra wear on the car. And: 3. It costs a lot more in gas to get to the ballpark than the $1.20 for the subway.
But why am I prolonging the introduction to this entry and my account of the time before I got to the ballpark? Well because not much happened in batting practice itself. Once I got int the gates, here was my view of the field:
While I’ve heard it many times via word of mouth, I don’t think I’ve seen it written yet, so I figure I’ll get it out there: OPACY has become a tougher ballpark to ballhawk at. One reason for the ballhawks who used to come there many years ago is the competition. Several years ago (like 2010 and before that) there was virtually no competition during the first half-hour, so if you were in left field courtesy of a season ticket, you essentially had the place to yourself and could clean up for thirty minutes. The second reason is the Orioles don’t really have a team suited for the ballpark. I remember running all over the place when Mark Reynolds and Derrek Lee were on the team, but now really the only player who consistently gets balls into the left field seats is J.J. Hardy, and even he is having a rough year in that regard. You’d almost rather go out onto the flag court for parts of the 30 minutes to try to get a Chris Davis homer. And all of the players/coaches who patrol left field during batting practice are already accustomed to not tossing baseballs up for this first half-hour, so it’s not an automatic thing like it used to be to get on the board with a season ticket. I wasn’t there super consistently before, but from what I heard, it used to almost be easy to get four or five baseballs before the seating bowl opened up to the general public, and that’s before any of the visitor’s BP even took place.
During this BP, though, the Orioles hit definitely less than five baseballs into the stands, and I’m pretty sure that’s including ground-rule doubles. Nothing even came close to me. And what made it so frustrating is that although Alex Kopp, who I showed you guys in the previous game’s entry was there, Tim Anderson wasn’t here for today’s or the next day’s game, so I wanted so badly to take advantage, since I knew it would be a rarity to have an opportunity like this, but then the Orioles let me down. I mean look at how much space I had to run around if a ball got hit into the stands:
Oh, and I don’t think I mentioned it in the last game’s entry, but I was particularly looking forward to Tim being away because he jumped and caught a ball during that BP that almost certainly would have made its way into my glove had he not been there. He made a great play on it, and I horribly misjudged the ball. I still would have made the catch, but he picked the right row to run in and I went two rows deeper.
But back to this game. What made it even more frustrating is that the big, bad Tigers decided to take the day off of hitting because they had just played an 11-inning game in Pittsburgh where they got beat 1-0. I mean to me, getting shutout for 11 innings by the Pirates means you should probably be taking extra hitting, but you know, whatever your methods are, Jim Leyland, I won’t question them. It was as a result of the Tigers not hititng, however, that I probably had one of my more memorable experiences at the ballpark. And by memorable I mean…well, you’ll see.
Since the Tigers weren’t hitting, I went behind the Tigers pitchers warming up to try to get a ball from them. Since I had previously had a good encounter with him at Target Field, I got behind Phil Coke’s throwing partner to hopefully get a ball from Coke when they were done. When they finished catch, and I asked Coke for a ball, he looked and me and started backing away from me. I didn’t know what to make of it until he got into the “set” position of pitching of the stretch and flipped his glove upwards–which is to say he was going to throw me a fastball. I thought he was just going to throw the ball at my glove nice and easy, but no, this was Phil Coke, so he threw the ball full-force. So given the fact that it was Phil Coke not off a mound, it was probably in the high-80s. I wasn’t expecting this at all, so as the ball went way higher than I thought it would, I just managed to tip the ball as it zoomed way past me into the stands. I then ran back and retrieved the ball. I thought that was the end of it, but Coke signaled for me to toss the ball back to him. I tossed it back to him and he readied himself again. This time he crow-hopped into the throw–so the ball was almost definitely in the mid-90s–and I had to jump this time just to tip the ball. The ball then hit off a seat behind me and ricocheted all the way past the cross-aisle:
When I went back and got this ball, I was more than prepared to toss it back to him for another chance to catch it, but as you can somewhat see in the last picture, he had moved onto a new victim in the blue. That’s an OPACY regular by the name of Doug. Coke fired one ball at Doug before he told everyone to clear the area and then proceeded to fire another ball at Doug. Avi described it perfectly in what he said afterwards (I’m somewhat paraphrasing), “In an age where some teams encourage players to not even toss baseballs up into the stands because of liability, that has got to be the most reckless thing I’ve ever seen a player do at the ballpark.” Of course, Avi had probably the best reason to say it because after it deflected off a seat, one of Coke’s throws went less than a foot above Avi’s head. But alas, I had to keep my crown as the only one who got hit in the head with a baseball while I was at OPACY.
But anyway, that was pretty much it for the day. Avi, Alex and I hung out in club level pretty much until the game started. Tonight was Union Night, so OPACY was completely sold-out out. I mean just check out the sight on Eutaw Street before the game began:
So Alex and I sat out in the flag court at one of the picnic tables. And after having to move about seven times because people kept on showing up to their seats for the first three or four innings, Avi came and joined us out there. Here are those two as I was leaving to go get an umpire ball:
And I didn’t. The previous day I was in prefect position for an umpire ball, but an usher moved a couple kids in front of me just before the umpire passed through–like he literally grabbed the two kids and lifted them into the row of seats right in front of me–so I didn’t get a ball that day. I figured this was the usher’s custom, so this game I went to the other side of the tunnel in hopes of being on the corner spot on that side. I was, but unfortunately for my hopes of getting an umpire ball, the Orioles rallied back in the ninth inning, which they had begun trailing, and Chris Dickerson hit a walk-off home run, which I–albeit jokingly–called. This affected me trying to get a ball because the crowd was going absolutely berserk, so when I tried calling whoever the home plate umpire was by name, he couldn’t hear me at all. Heck, I could barely hear myself calling out to him. So he exhausted all of his baseballs on the kids awaiting him before he got to me. All in all it was a pretty boring day to ballhawk besides the Coke incident. I got my one ball there, Alex got his right at the beginning of BP when an usher directed him to a ball that had been hit in the seats before we entered, and I don’t even know if Avi got a ball, since he has a good approach and just relaxes during BP and snags whatever comes his way. He doesn’t really set expectations fro himself, so whatever he does in terms of baseballs and autographs is almost like a nice treat in addition to being at the ballpark. Anyway, I headed out to the flag court where I met up with Avi, where we would prepare ourselves for a game the next day that while much more adventuresome, would be just as frustrating to me.
- 1 Baseball at this Game
Number 535 for my “life”:
- 89 Balls in 21 Games= 4.24 Balls Per Game
- 1 Ball x 46,249 Fans=46,249 Competition Factor
- 84 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 43 Balls in 10 Games at OPACY= 4.30 Balls Per Game
- 10 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 3:23-12:14= 8 Hours 51 Minutes