So I *was* going to start this entry with a statement along the lines of “Whoo, it feels good to have baseball back! The truth is, it feels like I never really stopped ballhawking. Either that or I haven’t yet realized that baseball has started up yet. It does feel good to be at a baseball game, but it’s certainly not the same butterflies I had on my first game of last year.
Anyway, here is what happened in at the game itself. After a brief stop at the American Visionary Art Museum, I arrived at the gates of Oriole Park at Camden Yards:
There I met up with Matt Hersl to buy my tickets for these two games: 2 for me at $9 a piece and 2 for this game for my mom and step-dad at $25 a piece. If you’re keeping track, that’s $68 total. I offered Matt $70 since I like to give the people who buy me season tickets SOMEthing for their efforts (I actually should have offered him $80, since he saved me around $10-15 by buying the tickets as a season ticket holder) 99% of other people do what? “Oh thanks” and take the extra two dollars, and that’s if they buy the tickets for you in the first place. What did Matt do? He gave me the $10 bill back, and actually took an $8 hit for buying me a ticket. Not only this, but he was just generally nice to me all day.
After that, we got in line with who I *believe* to be Tim Anderson and Ben Huff. I say “believe”, because we never formally introduced ourselves. We were then were met by Avi Miller, who was a shocker since I was initially going to buy the tickets from him, but he didn’t think he was going to be there for the whole weekend.
So we were all gathered at Eutaw street’s gate H and guess which dolt forgot to take a picture of the group? If you guessed Mateo Fischer, you guessed correctly.
For some reason, even with everyone outside the gates, I arrived at the LF seats before anyone else with Matt maybe three steps behind me, and this was my view:
Orioles was really dead considering Camden Yards is one of the best HR parks in the majors. I probably could have gotten a, if not a few, baseball(s) if I asked the right Orioles, but I held off on it since I wanted to get myself in the groove getting hit balls. I caved into the temptation, though, when the non-season ticket holders were about to be let into the LF seats. I asked Wilson Betemit, Pedro Strop, and Luis Ayala for a baseball and got ignored each time. Finally, a ball bounced off the warning track, and since there was no one around me and it was going over me head, I goofed off and caught it with my back facing the field. Here is the ball:
Almost immediately afterward, I changed into my favorite team’s (Minnesota Twins) gear and stationed myself behind the pitchers that were warming up:
If you see the rightmost throwing pair, the guy closest to me is Glen Perkins. When they finished throwing, however, the far partner spotted me as a Twins fan and lobbed a ball clear over my head. He then immediately went back to talking with Perkins. By the way in which he did it, I thought he didn’t care about giving me a second chance at a ball. However, I wanted to stay and see if I could get a ball from the last throwing pair since I knew the far partner was Jeff Gray and 95% of baseball fans wouldn’t know that. Also, the number of people in the LF seats didn’t hurt in keeping me in foul territory:
Now that may not seem like that many people, but considering there had been maybe ten people, I thought it would be worth it to stay and wait the extra few minutes for Gray to finish up throwing. In this time, the guy who missed me fielded a ball and looked in my direction. I realized what was up and crouched down like a catcher where he then proceeded to lob me a ball with no one around me. Here is the player, whose identity I haven’t the fainest clue of. He is the one on the left:
Avi Miller had just arrived on the scene and although he was ten rows below me (jokingly) claimed that the ball had clearly been intended for him. We then both went over to the Left Field seats, during this journey, I was reminded that the Orioles were using 20th anniversary Oriole Park at Camden Yards balls. I mean I remember reading about them in the offseason, but I had not planned this trip in anyway around those commemorative baseballs, so it was a bonus to say the least. The LF seats were pretty crowded, but as if right on the cue of me finding out the Orioles had been using the commemorative baseballs, I managed to range ten feet to my right and snag one on the fly myself:
I didn’t get that much applause, but about five people congratulated me after the fact. As for the ball itself, to say it was in good shape is a gross understatement, it was perfect beyond perfect. If you didn’t know it had been used, you never would have guessed so. Here is a shot I took after the game:
Since the LF seats were pretty crowded, and I acknowledged that I had gotten really lucky in getting that ball hit to where it was, I moved over to the CF seats. There, I got what would be my last ball of bp. A ball hit the seats a little behind me and bounced into seats closer to me. I then beat out a man to it. Seeing as I had outraced him to the ball and it was my fourth ball of the day, I offered it to him, but he told me to “keep it”.
I did then go out to the flag court, but no balls were hit out there, and even if they were, the sun would have made it near impossible to catch one on the fly:
The arrow shows where the sun was during bp ( I took the picture during the game) and the two lines show the general area where the balls were going in the sky. So even though they weren’t going directly through the sun, if you weren’t leaning against the fence at the front of the section, you would have to be staring into the sun waiting for a ball to be hit.
As you can tell, I was in the Flag Court for the game. There were more Righties than Lefties in the game, but as a continuation of my last three games, I’m just going to be there every game I go to Camden Yards until a HR gets hit there. Once that happens, I will either catch it or whiff and I can go on with my life.
Now usually, I change back into the Home Team’s gear, but I stayed in the Twins gear since that is my favorite team:
Now why did I have that look on my face? It was the fourth inning and the Twins were already losing 6-0 (they would go on to lose 8-2). After the game, I headed down to the Umpire Tunnel, and asked the umpire (whose last name I had been repeating since the first inning to remember), whose first name I don’t remember, but after asking “Mister Nelson” for a ball he tossed me up a perfect example of a rubbed-up Oriole Park Commemorative. Here it is right after I caught it:
and here it is when I took a picture of it at “home” after the game:
For the record, I *do* have game pictures, but wanted to get this entry up before I leave for South Carolina, so I’ll upload those to the Facebook page and notify y’all of it when it is done via the twitter page, but for now at least, that’s all that he wrote.
• 5 Balls at this game
Numbers 223-227 for my “career”:
• 10 straight games with at least 1 ball
• 5 balls*31,532 fans= 157,660 competition factor (little fun fact: the competition factor from my last game at Camden Yards was 31,352, which is almost exactly the attendance of this game).
• Time at Game 4:04-9:57= 5 hours 53 minutes. Given, I did spend some of the time on the front end just waiting inside the Hilton, it was “at the ballpark” since I was waiting for the gates to open.
Just another blistering hot day at Camden Yards:
But due to lack of material from a painfully slow day let me start before that. I started my day at 7:00 that morning as this was the time I set my alarm for to take the train to Baltimore. Thankfully, I could just ignore it because I was getting a ride from Garrett Meyer (thank you), a ballhawk from Kansas City also going to this game and also staying in Washington D.C. Anyway, I took the train to the stop near his place and we were off by 10:20. A pretty quiet ride except for the occasional off-the-top-of-the-head conversation starter. One example would be passing Nationals Park. Another example would be this:
This was a conflicting pair of bumper stickers because they said 1) So many cats: So few recipes 2) I love animals their delicious. Conflicting because I am a vegetarian and animal rights sympathizer and am offended if these were serious but am also a fan of good bumper sticker humor which this was if it is not to be taken seriously. I just decided to give the person the benefit of the doubt and laugh at the bumper stickers.
Eventually we got to the stadium at around 11:10. However, we parked about a mile away at the Ravens’ Stadium and I had to hustle to get to the gates in time (11:35) as I still had to buy my ticket in collaboration with Avi Miller (another thank you to him for getting me in early three days in a row), do some other things that would take me about 5 minutes, and get in line all before the gates opened.
Once I finally got in, I saw this:
No batting practice. I’m not upset or surprised simply reporting. It was a 1:35 game after a 7:10 game so it would have been a miracle on earth if either team were to take bp after a Saturday night full of…err…praying. To be honest, I really didn’t care about pre-game stuff past extending my streak of games with at least 1 ball to 50 straight games. Really the only reason I was at this game in the first place was because I had stayed in the flag court for two games straight with two righty pitchers with nothing coming close and thought that if I stood out there for a third straight game that the results would “regress towards the mean”. This is a fancy way of saying that I was hoping a Home Run would be hit this game out there and so I came for a third game.
After the last picture, I put on my Angels gear and felt a sharp pain in my upper back. I had felt it lightly since I entered the stadium but this was the first instance of a shooting pain. Do I know what the pain is? No, initially it felt like my left shoulder blade but also hurt when I moved only my right arm. Do I know how it happened? No, it was perfectly fine even while I was waiting in line to enter the stadium. The one thing I do now was that it was a pain (pun intended). It nagged me up until I arrived home in New York. I just wanted to inject this in as a factor in my lack of snagging enthusiasm and just let you know about it to reference it later on in the entry.
When I got to the 3rd base foul line, this was my view:
As you can imagine, it was a pretty empty seating area except for us ballhawks. This was however the most I have see for a game with no batting practice. There were about four of us waiting to try and get a ball from an Angels pitcher. Eventually I got my ball when Johan “Ervin” Santana (the one known as Ervin Santana actually changed his name while he was in the minor leagues from Johan in order to not be confused with the Mets’ ace) finished throwing. I asked him in Spanish and he told me “Corre”, which is to say “Run”. I took this as running up the steps while he tossed me a ball like a wide receiver. Evidently, that is what he was looking for as I ran up ten steps, turned around, and found a ball sailing towards me. It probably looked a bit slow and was not as fun as it would have been had my back not been hurting. Another side effect of the back pain was that I really couldn’t pull my arms up in front of my face to cup my mouth and yell at the more distant players for a ball. Also, I couldn’t hold my arms above my head and do my regular jumping-jackish motion to get their attention. As a result, Ervin was one of the latter players to finish and I couldn’t really ask for a ball from the other players because they had seen me get the ball and I didn’t have time to change my outfit to disguise myself.
Anyway, I then headed over to the Orioles bullpen t get a ball but the pitcher finished quickly and didn’t toss the ball to either me or Flava Dave who was also at the bullpen. At which point I idnetified Dan Haren as the late comer to the warm-up party along the third base line:
This turned out to be, besides watching Dan Haren throw a great sinker with almost no effort behind the ball, an unproductive waste of time as his throwing partner ended up with the ball and simply tossed the ball into the ball bag. I am sure that had Haren tossed the ball into the crowd it would have been mine because he actually went out of his way before he started throwing to acknowledge my existence with a wave. That said, many players have done this and from what I gathered from the other ballhawks, Haren is not the nicest fellow.
I then went over to the first base line to try and get an autograph and failed several times as there was a kid before me that was getting baseball cards signed. The players, it seemed, always looked up at him in a “are you serious?” manner and stopped signing after that. Maybe it was just these players but a baseball card from a fan means they are at the game with the sole purpose of getting them signed especially if you are, say Mark Hendrickson. I guess that the players didn’t like the fact they were being used to possibly make a profit and went on because they “really had to __”.
Speaking of Mark Hendrickson, he started throwing with some catcher (definitely was not Matt Wieters) and when he finished throwing, I had gotten the catcher’s attention throughout the their round of catch, so he threw me the ball:
I then moved up behind the cross aisle for some much needed shade:
By the way, can you spot Vernon Wells signing in that last picture? While I was up there I got a good chuckle out of knowing that I wasn’t the only one that was tired before 1:00:
Yeah I stayed there until game time blah, blah, blah. We all know why I was at this game. To catch a Home Run in the flag court:
To my dismay, this was how empty the seats were in Left field:
That along with the fact 12 out of 18 hitters were righties, meant that they were ideal snagging conditions. Suddenly when Mike Trout lifted his first career Home Run, I knew that one of the ballhawks there were going to get it in one shape or form. The only thing was that the ball hit pretty hard so I thought there might be an small chance that the ball would carom off the cross aisle and wall at the top of the section and bounce back towards the field. This did not happen. Instead this random passerby caught the ball:
As happy as I was that one of the ballhawks had caught the ball I still only stayed for moments as I had to get back to right field to not miss any of the lefties hitting:
As usual, nothing came up there. I was going to simply walk to Baltimore Penn station at that point but when Garrett Meyer used my phone to call Ben Weil and told him that “Me and [Mateo] want to see what [Zack] got.” I tagged along and stayed for a little while longer. Ben gave us the instructions on where to be and we arrived on the scene a few minutes later:
I had been in this room a few years earlier but it was still nice to be in A/C and chomping on ice while it was 10,000 degrees outside. Oh and on an interesting note, I had run into the guy on the right with the Orioles necklace credentials holder as we were both coming from the flag court and going to left field after Trout had hit his Home Run. Enroute, I informed him how the guy that had caught it looked like and while we were waiting in this room did the incredibly nice and “oriole” thing by thanking me even though there was already a swarm of police and the guy on the left so it wouldn’t have been hard to identify him.
It was also nice to see Mike Trout come out and greet his friends and family:
I have actually been rooting for him because (useless fact of the day): in the first year that the MLB draft was being televised, Mike Trout came to MLB Network’s Studio 42 with his parents. He was the only one to do so. Not Steven Strasburg, not Zack Wheeler, Mike Trout. Due to his courage I gained respect for him and keep him in the corner of my baseball observing eye. So it was really special to watch him enjoy this moment. It was also fun to see his gigantic self come out of the elevator and hear Garrett’s reaction, “Wow, can you believe he’s my age.” I really hadn’t thought about that but yeah he is only 3 years older than me and he has already hit his first Major League Home Run. After everything died down and we were kicked out of the waiting area, I said my goodbyes and walked what felt like 5 miles, it was only 1.5, because of the searing heat to the train station and waited for my pretty late train.
- 2 balls at this game
- 50 straight games with at least 1 ball. Now all I have to do is double everything I have done in my career and I will have 100 straight games.
- 19 straight games doing so on the road
- 15 straight games with at least 2 balls
- 2 balls*15,676 fans= 31,352 competition factor
- Time at Game 11:20-5:31= 6 hours 11 minutes
When I first heard of the fact that Zack was doing a book on the baseball itself I thought to myself, ” now why is he doing a book about the creation of the baseball. He should sell a second book solely on the topic of snagging baseballs. The other stuff will just come across as fluff to his fan base.” Boy was I wrong. I was hooked in the first few chapters of the predicted “fluff”.
If you notice, my book might be the most worn 1 day old book I at least have ever seen.
Let me show you the anatomy of the book.
Part 1: Baseballs in the news
Ch 1: The Souvenir Craze
Ch 2: Foul Ball Lore
Ch 3: Death By Baseball
Ch 4: Stunts
Ch 5: Foul Balls in Pop Culture
Part Two: Historical and Factual Stuff
Ch 6: The Evolution Of The Baseball
Ch 7: The Rawlings Method
Ch 8: Storage Preparation and Usage
Part Three: How To Snag Major League Baseballs
Ch 9: Before You Enter The Stadium
Ch 10: Batting Practice
Ch 11: How To Get A Player To Throw A Ball To You
Ch 12: The Game Itself
Ch 13: Top 10 Lists and Other Things Of Interest
I must say that every part seems like its own separate book. Each begin at the beginning of time for that respective subject. So will I in encompassing this book.
In the beginning, the world was a dark void where fans could not keep the baseballs they caught. That’s basically how the book starts, by introducing the fact that baseballs were too expensive for teams to replace. Then goes on to explain the fan revolt caused by this fact. Personally I would have had this section elsewhere in the book, but more on the structure later.
We then start to read the effect the value had/has produced many controversies amongst fans because of the greed of fans. Examples range from, Steve Bartman having to be transferred by his company to The Up For Grabs controversy. From there, he shows how the price of baseballs has evolved, showing the 10 most expensive baseballs.
Move on to chapter 2. He again builds the chapter from beginning to end. Starting with the effect of the institution of the “foul balls are strikes” rule and what had happened prior to that. Leading all the way up to Denard Span hitting his own mother with a foul ball in 2009 spring training. This is a chapter of crazy stories that was extremely well researched and was not the summaries of the incidents but the whole story.
Then a more in a ( somewhat) more somber version of the previous chapter ( Hample was not himself somber as he took the role of reporter but the stories were obviously sad) retelling the tales of deaths by the baseball ranging from Ray Chapman to the seagull that almost had Dave Winfield incarcerated for six months in Canada ( Why would he kill a seagull *on purpose*? He’s from Minnesota). This was essentially the same as the last chapter but I get the separation to create the effect of an in memoriam.
The next is the scientific experimentation section of the book with stunts ranging from Myth Busters in baseball to Pakistanis trying to smuggle heroin inside of baseballs ( dang dogs!).This provides practical knowledge and some great fun facts about how things in baseball were proved and some of the crazy things the lull of baseball has made its players attempt. This was again really fun to read and great for retrospective reference ( I love when I can actually use big words and they make some sense together).
Then come the more relevant facts of the book to today. Of the past chapters you might say ” but Mateo, how do they affect the price of tea in China”. They don’t. This chapter might not have an affect on anything in China but it sure does have more to do with the modern world. First Hample undergoes the endlessly critiqueable ( that is a word… right?) job of choosing the most relevant foul balls in movies and TV shows. He analyzes the logistical flaws with each of twelve scenes such as, did the extras reacts in Movies from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off to shows like CSI: NY. Although, the critiques were even more uniform than my team recaps and previews (ok, so maybe they weren’t that uniform). The next section in this chapter was a personal highlight, celebrity ballhawks. I don’t really care about the significance of the ball as much as the human element that it added to the celebrities. The Celebrities ranged from Charlie Sheen to Justin Bieber totaling 9 . The section was done like the others with fun in the section and loads of background information.
Now to the negative. Chapter six starts off Part Two of the book, Historical and Factual Stuff. This is a great reference book on its own but feels like your are reading every single plaque in Cooperstown on a section dedicated to the history of the baseball from 1847 to 2009:
The content which obviously cannot be avoided was about exciting as Irish history. That being: the English kicked them around, things got a little better, then they got kicked around some more, then they lived a little more happily in poverty, then there was black 47. Except in this section, after the initial architecture of the ball it was: hitters were complaining that the ball was dead, then they made livelier balls, then the pitchers complained about that, then they conducted some tests, then not much evidence showed up on the tests, and the last three steps repeated for about 100 years. Did I mention this section lasts for 62 pages? Had I been the author I think I would have merged this with various other sections but that’s just me. My advice to any reader is to read around it in some way shape or form. Either read it before or after the rest of the book and segment it so you don’t have to read it all at once. It definitely accomplishes the goal of being a history of the baseball’s evolution but might be best served as a reference when information is needed, as it might be tough for the more ADD readers ( I normally pay very good attention for long periods of time and still struggled sticking with this section).
The next section was based on the actual construction of the ball and is taken mostly from Hample’s trip to the Rawlings Baseball Factory in Costa Rica. The chapter goes from how to deconstruct a baseball( which is awesome if you ever get the chance to do it. Though I would not use nail clippers but an object similar to an awl to get the stitches off as they were too deep for me to get with the clippers) to the process to what commemorative baseballs are and how they are made. This is a great section, very informative with pictures to explain most things that a person would have questions about.
We are now on chapter 8 of 12 and the last of chapters on the baseball itself. This chapter is about how the balls are kept so that they are in prime playing condition at game time. This starts with the story behind the creation of now commonly used Lena Blackburne mud that helps pitchers grip the baseball.It then goes on to explain how teams started keeping balls in temperature and humidity controlled rooms starting when the Rockies used a humidor to counteract the arid nature of Coors Field.
Now ow ow the moment you have all been waiting for or or (well most of you anyway), How To Snag Major League Baseballs alls alls. Even though the rest of the book was great, this seemed to flow with a little more life than the previous two. First, this part has its own introduction.
The section starts off with chapter nine, the pre-game preparation. This was a great tutorial in what to do before you get in covering all the basics it ranged from how to choose a game to what to do when you arrived at the stadium.
He then goes on to explain the intricacies of the most important snagging time, batting practice. This was a bit more descriptive than the original namesake of part three. For example, when I started going early to batting practice I was hung up on the idea of hitters from both sides of the plate being able to hit the ball to me and so I stood in foul ground. A strategy I learned was almost completely wrong and should only be used on occasion when the situation demands it. You will have no problem if you have gone to batting practice but for the more inexperienced ballhawks there are technical problems such as the failure to mention that most rails block you from moving to a specific side if you are not standing in a place where there is a gap like here:
The next chapter is the toughest to put into practice, getting a player to toss you a ball. This is because the form in which you get different players to toss you a ball can vary so much from player to player. What I do like is that he does not write an aggressive strategy but one more along the lines of “it caint huit” or ” it can’t hurt” for those who don’t speak Brooklyn. He wrote the strategies that will always put you in more favor with the players and don’t have the possiblity of a backfire (although if you change hats right in front of players from either team “it caint heylp”). I guarantee that if you follow these instructions you will get at least one baseball for every two games you go to ( and I say this reluctantly because that is an average of .5 balls per game, meaning that my skill only accounted for 2 balls a game which is pretty sad).
Finally, most casual fans don’t care about bp balls. They don’t mean anything. A game homer(or foul)’s where it’s at. In this chapter Hample goes from what the real odds are for catching a foul ball to how long NYC security guards will kick you out after the game. This section goes into great depth because great depth is required. It is well written but I am surprised he didn’t have any fun with his home runs celebrations given the informal atmosphere of the book:
The last chapter was, at least for me, the best chapter of the whole book. It was a chapter going from the top 10 ballhawks of all time to how to document your collection. I found this chapter to be more informative of the whole book. The interviews with the ballhawks were fantastic because I knew of them but did not know them as a person. For example, I found out that I share a birthday with Minnesota’s best ballhawk, Greg Dryden. I know that the 10 best ballparks section will help me get a few extra baseballs at the respective stadiums.
All in all, like I told the author yesterday, this is one of my favorite books top 5 if not higher. The book was great and I would recommend the book to any mildly interested in baseball.
If you want to buy it, the paperback is $14.95 discounted on Amazon and Ebay though ( I don’t think I have a Canadian following) and is available in most bookstores. Hope you enjoyed and find the review useful.
¿Well, I’m reporting from my country of Colombia and this might take a while, have you ever seen these keyboards? Anyway, fantasy people know what I’m talking about when I say that you will be hearing a whole lot from this guy this year: