With how my schedule was looking for the rest of the year, this was almost definitely looking like it would be my last game at Nationals Park in 2013. And so I was glad to start my day by catching a Nationals BP homer on the fly that also turned out to be a 2010 World Series commemorative baseball:
I don’t know who hit it, but I ran through the middle row of the Red Seat and leaned over seats to catch the ball. It was a fun experience. I then soon after headed over to right field, where I got yet another 2010 World Series commemorative. This one was tossed to me by some Nationals trainer who has been with the team for several years and has tossed me a couple baseballs, but I still don’t know exactly what he does. It seems like the Nationals have a couple guys like that where you don’t know exactly what they do. Anyway, he tossed me another golden ball, so I like him:
I don’t have pictures of my next two baseballs because they were both in the middle of a stretch of action in the Red Seats, and I’m a forgetful idiot who apparently can’t take pictures when things calm down, but here’s how I got both of them:
The first ball was a Dan Uggla home run that he tomahawked (See what I did there?) into the Red Seats. The route to the ball from where I was was clogged up with people, so the best I could do was get behind where the ball was going to land. It then evaded a bunch of gloves, hit off a seat, and bounced up into the air, where I snatched it up. I gave this away to a kid at the front of the section. The second ball came when I went to the corner spot in the Red Seats closest to center field. When Jose Costanza went into center field to field a ball that had gone there, I called out to him by name, and he then turned to me and threw the ball that he had just gotten. It was headed right for me, but the guy standing next to me, who had seen me get a few baseballs reached in front of me and caught the baseball. But you know what? I’m not even mad–nor was I in the moment–because I just moved away from this guy on the next ball Costanza fielded and got him to toss me that one. I then made a point of giving that ball away to the kid who was standing right next to the guy who had reached in front of me.
And then after that, I got a bonus, because Rick Gold came into the section. I asked him if he had snagged any of the Target Field commemorative baseballs, because I desperately wanted to trade someone one of my extra World Series 2010 balls for an extra Target Field ball. But somehow, I didn’t even end up giving him anything, and instead, he gave me this for nothing:
Well not really nothing, but really a commemorative to be named later. So if I ever get two or more of a commemorative Rick doesn’t have, I will give him that because he gave me this one. That was very nice of him, and it made me very happy. It almost even made up for the fact that I hadn’t gotten a Target Field ball. (And just to clear things up, I *much* prefer to snag baseballs on my own, but I’m also not above trading commemoratives, because I also don’t go after commemoratives with the vigor that most ballhawks do. I do very much like to get them, but I’ve never asked a player to specifically toss me a commemorative baseball and have never planned a trip because of a commemorative ball. Basically, if a team in a game that I’m going to has a commemorative ball–or several in the case of the Nationals–it’s a bonus to whatever I snag that day.)
The Costanza toss-up would be my last baseball of BP. So afterwards, I went to the Braves bullpen, since there were still a couple baseballs:
And no surprise, the Nationals groundskeepers cleared out the baseballs when they entered the bullpen. Actually, knowing the Nationals groundskeepers (who are some of, if not THE, worst groundskeeper in terms of tossing up baseballs and leaving them on the field for players to toss them up), it was a bigger surprise that they only collected two of the three baseballs and left the ball I’ve labeled “2” for the Braves relievers.
The first person who made his way to the bullpen was Brian McCann. I thought I had a pretty good chance of getting him to toss me a ball, but my only worry was someone was going to beat me to it, because McCann would be pretty easy to recognize and ask by name. I didn’t have to worry about it, though, because he stopped short of the bullpen to do his stretches in the outfield. Then came Eddie Perez. I was particularly worried about him, because I had noticed his two daughters had been sitting on top of the Braves bullpen, so I figured the ball would go to them if he picked it up. Thankfully, he stopped to talk with McCann for ages. Then came Alan Butts. He was perfect because even though I wasn’t trying to get a ball from him then, I was the only one who recognized him the previous day and said hi to him. So when he walked past me to get into the bullpen, I asked him if he could toss me that ball. To that he responded, “In a second.” So after getting a variety of his “bullpen catcher” things ready, he went over and tossed me the ball:
As for the game, I had thought of sitting by the dugout for the longest time, but then I realized that despite Nationals Park being the stadium I’ve spent the most games at, I still don’t have a game home run there, so I sat in left field:
No home runs came out there, but at the end of the game, I made my way to the far end of the Braves bullpen and got Eddie Perez to toss me a ball (since he had been talking to McCann and hadn’t seen me get the ball from Butts):
I then headed over to say goodbye to an usher I’ve talked to throughout this year, and as my parting gift, I gave him the ball I had just gotten from Perez:
His name is Jan Pastor, and he’s a really nice usher who works the aisle right next to the MASN booth in the center field plaza. I believe it is section 102-103, but I may be wrong. Anyway, if you’re ever at Nationals Park when I’m not there, say hi to him for me.
I then headed off to take the train, where I had an experience on the Metro that I’ve never had post-Nationals game. It’s usually as packed as it can be with all of the people leaving the Nationals game, but somehow for a full stop after we left Navy Yard-Ballpark, the stop nearest Nationals Park, I was the only one in my subway car:
I mean I’ve been on a ton of empty subway cars before, but they’ve all been at the ends of lines when there aren’t really many people at the stop, and this was at a major stop during one of its more congested hours. Anyway; weird.
- 6 balls at this game (4 pictured because I gave 3 away, but then added the one Rick gave me to the picture)
Numbers 622-627 for my “lifetime”:
- 181 Balls in 43 Games= 4.21 Balls Per Game
- 6 Balls x 29,114 Fans=174,684 Competition Factor
- 105 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 10 straight Games with 2 Balls
- 7 straight Games with 3 Balls
- 6 straight Games with 4 Balls
- 4 straight Games with 5 Balls
- 2 straight Games with 6 Balls
- 192 Balls in 42 Games at Nationals Park= 4.57 Balls Per Game
- 34 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
- 5 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Nationals Park
- 2 straight Games with at least 3-6 Balls at Nationals Park
- Time Spent On Game 3:27-11:28= 8 Hours 1 Minute
So back from Philadelphia and the madness of BallhawkFest, I took a couple days to rest and write. But after that, it was time to go to the second game of the Braves-Nationals series. First, there was a chance of rain, so I went atop the Nationals parking garage to check if the cages were up:
That would be Dave Butler and Art (whose last name I don’t know). They are probably the two most “regular” ballhawks at Nationals. Dave pretty much exclusively goes after hit baseballs while Art almost exclusively goes after Nationals toss-ups. They are both very friendly guys, and if you ever see them at Nationals Park, tell them Mateo says hello. Dave can be pretty easily identified by the fact that he always has his Giants hat on, and Art can 95% of the time be found with his sunglasses, Bluetooth, and blue Nationals hat on in the corner spot by the visitor’s bullpen right as the gates open.
Once we got in, I headed for straight-away left, since both Dave and Rick Gold were battling it out in the Red Seats for pitchers BP.
Ironically, my first ball of the day came in the Red Seats when the two of them left for the Nationals’ second group of hitters. Ross Ohlendorf fielded a ball at the wall, and looked up to toss the ball to someone. And when I raised my glove, he flipped me the ball:
And then literally *right* after that, I saw a person coming down the grass hill in center field to clear out all of the baseballs that were sitting there. It was so soon after the first ball that I actually had it in my non-glove hand and had to hide it behind my back to get the man to toss me the ball that was on the hill. and I guess I’m more deceptive than I thought, because:
Do you kind of see the logo of the ball? It was a World Series 2010 commemorative ball. I had heard the Nationals were using this and several other types of commemoratives, but this was the first time I had seen any of them in 2013. So since I had snagged two baseballs within a span of ten seconds, I gave the non-commemorative Ohlendorf ball to a kid at the corner of the section.
After that, a Nationals righty smashed a ball that bounced up to the top of the restaurant, where an employee picked the ball up. At that point everyone else pursuing the ball gave up and went back to the bottom of the section. I didn’t understand, though, since it was employee that supposedly had to give the ball away. So I stuck around, stuck up my glove, and got this:
And you see right; that is a Fenway Park 100th year commemorative baseball. It was amazing, but this would sadly be my last commemorative ball of the day.
I then headed over to right field for the third group of Nationals hitters. There I got Taylor Jordan to toss me a ball by being the only one to call him by name:
I then got my fifth ball of the day when the Braves started hitting. I got Craig Kimbrel to toss me a baseball over the Braves bullpen:
And then it was time to have a cup trick party. Now you’re not exactly supposed to, but you can sometimes get away with using a ball retriever in the gap right below the Red Seats. So this being my first time with a reliable retriever in Nationals Park with me having Tim Anderson‘s cup trick in my bag of tricks, I took advantage of it.
I first saw one ball go into the gap on a hit ball, so I got the cup trick out and pulled the ball out from here in the gap:
I then gave it away to a kid whose glove the ball had bounced off of. I then got a second ball from the gap soon after that and gave it to a person right next to me on top of where I snagged the ball in the gap. And then I asked him if he could hold the ball out for a picture:
And by then, people realized what I had, and when a ball landed in the gap, people called me over to retrieve the ball for them. I walked over, but as I did, Justin Upton launched a ball right into the row I was walking in, so I ran through the row and caught the ball through several glove screens:
That was my eighth ball. And then when I retrieved the ball and gave it away to the family who dropped the ball, I had my ninth ball of the day:
If you can see the bars below the ball in the picture, the ball was trapped under one of those, so I had to knock it sideways out from under there to retrieve the ball. At this point I was getting nervous because I had now gotten 3 balls via cup trick. So when a guy told me there was another ball in the gap, I just wanted to get my cup trick out quickly, get the ball, and not get seen. But as soon as I pulled the cup trick out of the gap, I sensed someone behind me. It was a security guard who told me he needed me to give him the trick. It was obviously not mine, so I asked if he had a string-cutting device. And when he said no, I tried untying the string, he eventually just gave up and told me that I’m there often enough that I should just not do it again. That was my tenth ball of the day, by the way.
My record for baseballs in a game was 11, so with 10 and there still being about 15 minutes left in batting practice, I thought I had a pretty good opportunity to break it. And this got even better when I picked up a ball that Luis Avilan had overthrown to a kid. I then gave the ball to the kid:
I then had a very good chance to break my record, but Avilan’s inaccuracy came back to bite me, and he overthrew me, so this ball would be my last of the day. No, the only thing I would snag from this point on was a piece of gum thrown to me by David Carpenter after I stayed by the bullpen to watch Julio Teheran ( whose name is properly pronounced “Teh-heh-rahn”) warm up:
I then sat in left field, because I thought it would be great if my record-breaking 12th ball would have come on a home run:
- 11 Balls at this Game (5 pictured because I gave 6 away)
Numbers 611-621 for my lifetime:
- 175 Balls in 42 Games= 4.17 Balls Per Game
- 11 Balls x 30,875 Fans=339,625 Competition Factor
- 104 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 9 straight Games with 2 Balls
- 6 straight Games with 3 Balls
- 5 straight Games with 4 Balls
- 3 straight Games with 5 balls
- 186 Balls in 41 Games at Nationals Park= 4.54 Balls Per Game
- 33 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
- 4 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Nationals Park
- Time Spent On Game 3:21-11:03= 7 Hours 42 Minutes