I wasn’t exactly thrilled to go to this game, but in trying to get to 60 games this season, there are such games that I have to just suck up and go to anyway. Why did I not want to be at this game? This guy:
It was Josh Willinghammer bobblehead day, and I while I do like the bobblehead–despite the boring box–I knew a ton of other people would as well, and I was right. Here is the view in the bleachers to my right, right as I entered the stadium:
And here was the view in the bleachers to my left with the friend who joined me from my residence hall that day, Kyle:
I had told Kyle a couple of times of my baseball ventures and so he asked me if he could accompany me to a game whenever I was going to one next. It was like a week-and-a-half before the game, and the Twins were gone for a while, so this was the one we ended up going to. We had left our dorm at around 3:50, and got to the game at about 4:40, and by the time we got there, there was already a line at Gate 3 that went half-way to Gate 6. I won’t include a map, but if you want you can check it out and see what I mean. It would be a normal line size for Yankee Stadium, but for here it was massive.
It soon became clear that everyone was way more concentrated in the left field bleachers. Had I been smart and realized that the weather was relatively warmer, I might have gone up to the second deck and played for Josh Willingham, Adam Jones and players of their ilk to hit baseballs into the second deck. But sadly I didn’t think of it and instead just went over to the right-center field seats and got a ball from Josh Roenicke:
I had called out to Roenicke on a previous ball, but when he looked back at me, he thought the kid next to me had asked him for the ball. But then when I asked him for a ball when another rolled to the wall, he looked up and saw that I was all alone, so he tossed me the ball. I didn’t realize it until I went back and checked my stats, but that was my 100th baseball ever at Target Field, making Target Field only the second stadium I’ve accomplished that at. That was it for me for the Twins portion of BP, because as I said before, it was crowded. Target Field is an okay ballpark when there’s no one around. When it’s crowded, it shows its true ballhawking colors.
When Twins BP ended, I made my way to the Orioles dugout, but nothing was going on:
It was at the time that actual baseball-snagging action started to occur that I got a message from Sean saying that he had just parked and was headed to Gate 34. Since I was not ready to sacrifice snagging opportunities to go give him his ticket, I recruited Kyle to head out there and give him the ticket despite the fact that neither had met the other beforehand.
After Kyle left, I first tried to get a ball from the position players tossing by the dugout:
But all of them tossed their balls onto the field after they were done. I then tried to get a ball from the position players warming-up just past third base, but instead of getting a ball from them, one of the Orioles bullpen catchers, Ronnie Deck (unofficial assist to Avi Miller for the fact that I know his name), saw that the players weren’t tossing me a ball, so he tossed me a ball without me even asking for one:
(Notice the Orioles couple realizing I had gotten a ball and unintentionally photo-bombing me.) I gave this ball away to a kid as I was walking towards the left field foul pole.
In the time that it took Kyle to get out to right field, the position players warmed up completely. By the time Sean and Kyle were making their way back to me, I was almost to the foul pole in foul territory. So as I saw them cutting across the seats towards the dugout where Kyle had left me, I started waving towards them to draw their attention. They were behind me (read: away from the field), so I had to look back to wave to them. It was at this time I heard the crowd make some noise; like as if a ball was rolling on the warning track near the stands that a player might toss up. Right after I heard that, I felt a blow to both my left and right legs at about the knee area. While I was looking away from the field, an Orioles player–probably Manny Machado–had pulled a ball down the line and it managed to strike not one, but both of my legs on the fly. It actually didn’t hurt much at all right after the ball hit me. No, the most painful part of that whole incident was the fact that the ball bounced right off of me to the hands of the guy in front of me. However, it was because of this that I got my second ball of the day. Tommy Hunter had seen the whole thing go down, so when he was done throwing, he came over and signed a ball for me and my “troubles”:
As he gave me the ball and left, I said, “Thanks, Tommy. I appreciate it.” and he kind of smiled. It was the kind of smile that made me think I had gotten his name wrong. I was pretty sure it was Tommy Hunter, so I was confused by why he acted this way. I realized why when I read the writing on the ball. Here was the signature itself:
but here was what he wrote on the ball itself for me:
Hunter had gone to run poles, so by the time I had read the ball and understood it, he was already in center field, but when he made it back to the left field foul pole, I jokingly told him my reason for getting hit while giving him a hard time about putting what he did on the ball.
After that, I headed out to the seats in right field:
And when I looked to my right, I saw a couple of interesting things.
1. There was pretty much the whole Orioles roster in the outfield at one point:
Okay, so maybe that’s a bit of hyperbole, but that’s what, 15 people in the outfield that you can see in that picture alone?
2. The left field seats were absolutely packed because of the bobblehead day:
At most other stadiums that’s a decent-sized crowd, but because of the steepness and overhang in left field, I knew I wouldn’t have a chance at a ball in left field. This was particularly frustrating because it was J.J. Hardy’s group that was hitting, and he hit several baseballs to the spot where I usually play him at any ballpark. It was crowded, but who knows if I don’t have an extra couple of baseballs if I had been in left field for that group.
But with my legs making any movement very painful, I was stuck in right field. Sean and Kyle, who both knew how much of an annoyance it can be to follow me around when I’m running back and forth, seemed pretty content with just staying in right field, though:
They even had time to go get food and get back to find me still in the section that they had left me in. (This is usually not the case if you leave my side for over five minutes.)
Anyway, I wouldn’t get any other baseballs for the rest of batting practice itself, but at the very end of BP, I went down to the Orioles dugout and got their hitting coach, Jim Presley to toss me a ball as the baseballs were being transferred from the ball basket to the ball bag.
After that, I headed out to center field to try to get a ball from the groundscrew member who clears the batter’s eye of baseballs after batting practice, but I just barely missed him, getting there as he was headed off the batter’s eye:
The three of us alternated sitting behind the third base seating moat and the standing room in right field, but I couldn’t get another ball for the rest of the game.
Sean had brought his car to the game, so once we finally got out of the parking garage that Sean had parked in and got through the Minnesota traffic, Sean dropped Kyle and I off at our dorm on the St. Paul campus. Sean and I had just agreed the day prior that we were going to be taking a weekend trip to his home in Chicago so he could visit his mom on Mother’s Day and I could go to a couple of games at U.S. Cellular Field. So when he left us at the dorm just before midnight, it was knowing that we would be seeing each other just a few short hours later on our way to Chicago.
- 4 Baseballs at this game (3 pictured because I gave 1 away)
Numbers 491-494 for my life:
- 48 Balls in 10 Games= 4.80 Balls Per Game
- 4 Balls x 31,360 Fans=125,440 Competition Factor
- 72 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 103 Balls in 24 Games at Target Field= 4.29 Balls Per Game
- 22 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 3:51-11:43= 7 Hours 52 Minutes
I was very optimistic coming into this game. I had just done very well in the previous day’s game, and that was with me basically only going for hit balls all game. I assumed no other ballhawks would be in attendance since the ones I had talked to during the previous day’s game said they would not be coming to the game. According to the aforementioned ballhawks, the forecast called for rain, but I was going to the game anyway since my school was taking a trip to the game. More on the field-trippers later. The reality, though, was that bp was dead. Here is a picture that I took once I settled into my spot in RF:
Things looked pretty good. I had the back spot in the section right behind Erik, who had the middle spot. This was the view to my left:
This was the view to my right:
Unfortunately, the Yankees weren’t hitting anything deep and I missed two opportunities, shown in this next picture:
Both times I was close to the field coaxing players to throw me a ball. The numbers that are floating by themselves show where the balls landed, while the numbers by the arrows show where I ended after chasing that specific ball.
1. I was asking Boone Logan or someone for a ball when a lefty launched a ball clear over my head. I ran into the row where I could line up with the ball, but the ball was still several feet over my head despite being hit on a line, and I missed it when I jumped for the ball.
2. Again I saw a ball hit over my head, so I recalled what good ballhawks do and ran to where I thought the ball was going to land. Unfortunately, though, this was hit by a righty to RF and so it didn’t act like a typical fly ball in that it was curving back to where I had been. Had I not put my head down to run for the ball, it probably would have been an easy catch for me.
When the Yankees headed off the field, I realized, “There are two of us ballhawks and we are both in RF. That doesn’t seem right. Why don’t I just go to LF and make it easier for both of us?”
Once I got there, I saw Adam Jones shagging fly balls in CF, so when a ball came close to my section in LCF, I ran as close as I could get to him and called out to him, upon which he tossed me Ball #1 on the day. Here is the ball with Jones on the right side of my glove:
Soon after, I went over to foul territory in order to ask a pitcher for a ball. When Tommy Hunter finished throwing, I waved my arms like a madman, and when he noticed the bright orange brim of my hat, he tossed the ball to me a few rows back.
I then got my third ball in what we ballhawks call a “scramble”. A scramble is when a ball hits in the seats and people converge on the ball to pick it up. A ball hit about four rows behind the wall, and since I was tracking the ball, I managed to pick it up before a man could get to it. I gave this ball away to a kid on the concourse after batting practice.
Soon after, I had to leave the LF seats since they were checking tickets and headed over to RF. I am about to post a picture that has two bp events linked to it:
The first is that it was yet another ball I missed out on. While I was in RF on my first “go around” this game, a righty hit a ball above the right part of the Modell’s sign. I was about to use my glove trick to knock the ball closer to me and reach through the bars to pull the ball out, but another guy decided to climb over the gate. As you may suspect, his action is completely against the Yankee Stadium rule, but he was just told not to do it again. The second ball involving this section hit in basically the same place (this time in my second stay in RF), but a few rows deeper. I had been following the ball the whole way, even though it was clearly over my head, in case there was a ricochet back to me. What do you know, that’s exactly what happened.
This is the perfect example of how ballhawking is a combination of luck and skill. To most observers, I just got lucky, but I put myself in a situation where that could happen. Had I stayed put where I was, because I probably wasn’t going to snag the ball, I would have missed out on this opportunity.
However, I wasn’t done with my missed opportunities. I should have caught a ball whose landing spot is depicted in the picture below:
As you can see, even the people wearing sunglasses were shielding their eyes. A ball was hit to my left and as I was tracking it, the ball passed right in front of the sun and I lost it. It then proceeded to hit right where the red arrow is in the picture. Normally, that would have been an easy catch for me since it touched down in the exact same row I was running in. Instead, I was left covering my head from the ball like everyone else.
That was it for batting practice. My ticketed seat was for the bleachers, but I knew that nothing was going to be hit where I was sitting, and so I headed up to the seats furthest away from Home Plate to be with my classmates. This was the view:
Wouldn’t you know it, I actually came closer to catching a HR in this section than I would have in the bleachers. In the bottom of the first inning, Curtis Granderson absolutely launched a ball. He hit it so hard that the initial trajectory was actually RIGHT at us… before, you know, gravity kicked in. Regardless, the ball managed to land in the Upper Deck. This is a very rare feat in the New Yankee Stadium, because the third deck is actually further back than it was in the Old Yankee Stadium.
While I was up there, the coaches started asking me about how my batting practice went and I ended up giving both of the bus drivers for this event a baseball, including one who was attending a baseball game for the first time.
Two other things of note happened in this game.
1. Let’s play “What’s wrong with this picture?” You have to guess what had just happened for the first time by looking at the following picture. So, what *is* wrong with this picture?:
If you guessed Nick Johnson standing on second, you were correct. I took this picture after Nick Johnson got his first hit of the season, raising his batting average to an incredible .033. At the time, it was ruled an error on left fielder Eduardo Nuñez, but Major League Baseball retrospectively changed the ruling citing he never touched the ball.
2. The Orioles managed to hold on and win the game 7-1, which gave Buck Showalter his 1,000th win as a manager. I knew this because Avi Miller asked me to pick up some ticket stubs for him.
- 4 Balls at this game (1 pictured because I gave 3 away)They are numbers 240-243 for my “career”.
- 21 Baseballs in 5 games= 4.20 Balls Per Game
- 14 straight games with at least 1 baseball
- 5 straight games with at least 3 balls
- 2 straight games with at least 4 balls
- 4 balls x 37, 790 fans= 151,160 Competition Factor
- 35 ball at the New Yankee Stadium in 11 games = 3.18 Balls Per Game
- 11 straight games at the New Yankee Stadium with at least 1 ball
- Time at game 4:27- 10:17= 5 hours 50 minutes