Let me start with this: I don’t mean to offend anyone in writing this article. (This is a response to the title article: “Ballhawk of the Year: Part II.”) Would I have rather not written this article/entry at all and never have to address such a divisive topic being brought up in an even more polarizing fashion? Absolutely. I tried to stay out of this completely as long as I could, but it has become apparent that while her jar has not yet been opened, the ballhawk’s Pandora has been created. In other words, I would have rather this not come up, but maybe we can actually get something positive out of this whole spectacle.
I will also say this: I am probably less infallible than anyone reading this. Why do I say this? I encourage you to challenge what I say, whether you are reading this on my blog or on mygameballs.com, in the respective comments section below. The only stipulation that make for leaving comments on my blog–since I don’t control the mygameballs comments–is you be respectful to one another. You can bash me all you want, but please debate each others’ points respectfully or…well, you’ll see what happens. Also on the note of commenting, since both articles are so long, I decided to organize my points in a way that wouldn’t going to completely bore everyone reading this while simultaneously making it easier to comment on specific points. How it goes is I will post Rocco’s point followed by my reaction to said point and rationale fro taking that stance right afterwards in a numbered fashion. So if you are commenting on a point I or Rocco made, just be sure to let the rest of us know which one it is so it’s much easier to find what exactly you’re referring to. This has and will continue to get messy in terms of people citing information and things of that nature, so I just wanted to organize it a bit.
(You don’t have to read this next paragraph if your first name isn’t Rocco and are more than welcome to skip it and dive straight into the response itself.)
Finally, before I get to my actual response to the two articles in question, I would like to say something to the architect of this whole kerfuffle, Rocco Sinisi: Rocco, I have heard many tales of your kindness and hospitality when it comes to travelers visiting GABP. I still do very much look forward to meeting you when our paths cross somewhere along the line. I also know you didn’t mean to incite what you did–or at least I don’t think you did. All of this adds up to say: Don’t think that I am being critical in any way of you as a person in my response to your articles below. Any criticism I express is simply of the ideas you have made public the past 1.5 months or so/how you have compiled your various arguments. All of that out of the way, let’s get to the response itself, shall we?
- Point: Zack is a professional ballhawk, and so he’s at an unfair advantage to us people who have to pay for our games.
Response: Eh. Yes but no. While I definitely see where you’re coming from, I would agree more if we were talking about a different ballhawk being the “professional” in question, but Zack went to 80 games last year to this year’s 92, and 131 the year before that without being sponsored. It would be one thing if he were reinvesting the money saved through being sponsored into a ton more games, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. It seems as though there is a money-independent threshold of games that he is willing to go to in a year. And I have a good guess as to why that is: blog entries. Most ballhawks would in fact reinvest the money into a ton more games, but having to write 2,000 words for every game makes you…surprise! Much less willing to go to 160 games a year; despite affordability.
2. Point: What is Ballhawk of the Year?
Response: I do agree with you here. It has always been the case that there is a question of what the award actually means. However, I would also say that as long as MLB doesn’t have a standardized way of choosing a Cy Young or MVP, I don’t think there should be a standardized way to choose Ballhawk (and Junior Ballhawk) of the Year.
Is it a flawed system? Of course. But so would be any standardized way of choosing Ballhawk of the Year. Therefore, I say we just go with our own little way of imperfect perfection and have what Ballhawk of the Year (and the junior derivation thereof) means be up to the discretion of each voter. For me it means the best overall ballhawk; but if someone thinks the awards are whoever snags the most baseballs or game home runs, they should be allowed to do it. Not to mention, any standardization of the awards renders the voting useless. And while that is a possible route to take, I like the fact that these awards are determined by peer-vote.
On a personal level, because of my way of voting when considering all of the statistical categories available on mygameballs.com–as well as calculating a few of my own–Zack has come out on top two out of the three years I have voted on the Ballhawk of the Year award. I can’t speak for others, but that’s the way I have voted for the award, which has nothing to do with personal affiliations.
3. Point: Disqualifications for Ballhawk of the Year
Response: This is gimmicky, but does bring up a good point. For the sake of time, I’m going to agree with you and say that ballhawking is a sport. Well ballhawking is unique from most other sports in that the person decides when they retire, and so it is just as likely for a ballhawk to “retire” at 18 as it is for a ballhawk to retire at 50. And it is not infrequent to see a ballhawk take a multiyear-long hiatus and then come back to ballhawking. What that means is I do like “inducting” ballhawks into a Hall of Fame while still ballhawking, if we ever choose to have something like a Hall of Fame.
I think here is also the best time to point out that we have a very small sample size of Ballhawks of the Year. There have been only four years in which Ballhawk of the Year has been voted on. Sure Zack has won 75% of them, but Barry Bonds, Randy Johnson, and Greg Maddux won their respective awards 100% of the time over a four-year period. I don’t think anyone was calling for a restructuring of their awards because of them. While I do agree that with the insulation of this “sport” we have the beginning of a problem, trying to implement a solution to the *beginning* of such a problem is a bit preemptive. I say we give it at least a couple more years to give other people a shot at having a breakout year and winning it with statistics alone instead of a “booster seat” win.
4. Point: We need age categories in order to give people with different abilities an even shot
Response: Good reasoning…but no. I like the idea; I really do. A ten-year-old doesn’t have the same snagging ability a thirty-year-old has, who doesn’t have the same snagging ability a seventy-year old has. That said, the categories you’ve made are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too specific. Alex Kopp, Garrett Meyer, and myself were discussing mygameballs statistics one night, and Alex didn’t even think that there was a female ballhawk who had recorded 25 baseballs on the site ever. Determined to find one, I looked through the *whole* career leaderboard for people with at least 25 baseballs. And I did prove him wrong by finding one…but that was it; just one. Granted, this ballhawk had recorded all 37 of her baseballs–at the time–this year, but I think you see the problem in beginning a competition between one person.
I haven’t yet ravaged the 60+ demographic yet, but I assume I’d find almost just as bad a scarcity problem. If we add a Female Ballhawk of the Year, Senior Ballhawk of the Year, or two additional slots for Junior Ballhawk of the Year as you’ve suggested, we’re simply creating an even worse monopolized awards problem. Junior Ballhawk of the Year would be the smaller of monopoly problems since candidates are always losing eligibility, but that’s exactly the reason expanding to three is a bad idea. In two of the three years I’ve voted I’ve had a hard time putting together a list of three worthy candidates for ONE spot, forget about finding nine worthy candidates for three spots.
I think the problem with the other two awards is pretty self-explanatory, but just in case it isn’t: With so little competition, the same person would win the award every year. And if the thought behind creating the awards is it will get more people to join the site from these respective demographics, I don’t see that happening. People join the site to document their baseball collections because they heard about it somewhere; it is not until a person is in the community that they learn about the award. If there aren’t a bunch of female and senior ballhawks on the site, that’s because the message isn’t getting out to them fast enough, not because there is a lack of fitting awards.
5. Point: “Cult of Zack Hample”
Response: Maybe if this was 2009, but in going to stadiums and running into a large majority of the prominent ballhawks who have ever run into Zack, I can say that people no longer agree with Zack simply because he is Zack. It used to be that Zack’s blog was one of the very few peepholes into the ballhawking world, but as mygameballs has become more prominent in these recent years, people can take a look at other ballhawks by themselves, and as a result of that, come up with information that isn’t filtered by Zack. This has lead to people not going with Zack because he is the “king of the ballhawks” as some have labeled him. What that means, is if there are people defending him, it’s because they are actually against the points brought against him. There is a clear confusion here between your so-called dogmatic “crucifixion” by the church of Zack Hample and people actually disagreeing with the points you’ve brought forth. Could some people have phrased it a little more professionally? Yes; but comments sections on the internet aren’t exactly renown for their civility.
6. Point: Give other ballhawks some more recognition.
Response: You underestimate how much people browse the site. People know all of the names you have thrown out there. That said, I do agree that the articles during the season were a great resource in discovering more about these lesser-known ballhawks that no longer stands as prominent on the site as it once did. And as such, like yourself, I volunteer to write a percentage of these articles since I’ll be taking a reduced ballhawking role this upcoming season.
7. Point: Ballhawking is a sport.
Response: I agree with you but I don’t at the same time. In regards to this, I have seen people take to both sides, but I’d say I’m right in the middle. Being a sports management, I know that the actual, metaphysical definition of “sport” is a competition between two or more parties. So yes, even chess is a sport by technicality. That said, the modern-day, practical definition is it is an athletic competition. With all that said, I think it is both sport an hobby; it depends wholly on how you view it. So with you, Rocco, ballhawking is a sport, since it seems you are actively competing with the rest of us ballhawks out there. But with someone who is doing it just because collecting baseballs is a fun thing, it is a hobby. There is no reason for ballhawking to have an exclusive category since the duality of its nature reflects the duality of the people who partake in it.
8. Point: “Everybody’s thinking the same way.”
Response: Alan put up an column RIGHT before this one that shows we aren’t all thinking the same way. The column, for those reading this who didn’t read it, was the Top-15 Recent Improvements to MyGameBalls.com. While I only pitched three of the improvements listed on the site last offseason, I had a bunch of ballhawks tell me there should be something similar to the idea I had pitched just that past offseason, It would not surprise me to know that over half of the improvements listed came from member suggestions. This shows that ballhawks are in fact thinking outside of the mold that we have set for us. And I do acknowledge you as one of those ballhawks thinking outside of the box, but by the response you have generated, it appears as though the majority of the community does not agree with the changes you have set forth in suggesting.
Anyways, thank you for plowing through that. I’m going to go ahead and delete my “Update” entry, so here are the two videos I made if you haven’t seen them yet:
Since we are so close to the end of the World Series, my next entry will probably be my 2013 Ballhawk and Junior Ballhawk of the Year ballots, but I could potentially squeeze a game entry in before that.
After our adventure the previous night that got us back to Washington past midnight, Chris Hernandez and I got up to get to Philadelphia for BallhawkFest a little later than we wanted to. And so when we should have been playing softball with all of the other BallhawkFest attendees, this was our view:
But thankfully, this was where we were when it came time for the luncheon at McFadden’s:
That would be Chris running behind me alongside the stadium. Thankfully we made the luncheon more or less right after everyone else got there. And the best part was even though we were the last ones to get there, we got our food before anyone else. The luncheon would also result in me getting a Minnesota Twins long-sleeve shirt (thank you, Zack), Cardinals mini home plates, and my 2012 Junior Ballhawk of the Year award certificate.
Then it was time to get to the gates. First a couple of us made the trip over there:
And then a lot more showed up:
Although at this point, we knew the tarp was on the field, so it wasn’t looking good for us snagging. One person in the foreground of that last picture was particularly vocal about a certain streak ending. It was the calm before the storm, though. We waited and took pictures, but I killed most of my time by playing catch with Tim Cook in the street alongside the gate.
When the gates opened, everyone went in while my anxieties about this game compounded. Todd Cook had bought a ticket for me the night prior, and because I had to essentially get up and head to BallhawkFest, I never printed it out. Now at a bunch of places, you can just scan your phone as long as it has the barcode on it, but I learned that here at CBP, you can’t. So while everyone else was in the stadium for a good five minutes, I was getting a printout of my StubHub ticket:
Which was slightly difficult since the ticket was in Todd’s name and not mine. But eventually, I did get int the stadium with everyone else:
When I got in, only two pairs of Braves pitchers were throwing, but I got neither ball. My best shot was to get one from Julio Teheran, but I don’t think he heard me saying that I was a Colombian. My next closest opportunity to getting a ball was when I got David Carpenter to throw me a ball from 100-200 feet away. Unfortunately, though, the ball fell short and he didn’t come to the warning track to pick it up.
If you go back and take a second look at it, you may see something interesting in that last picture. As we waited, the grounds crew came out with the batting cage and screens. So by the time the Phillies came out to throw, the cage was set up and ready to go:
But with the abundance of people wearing Phillies red, it came as not surprise to me that I didn’t get a ball. Despite the fact that I saw there was now going to be batting practice, I was still worried as to how many baseballs I could put on the board. Pretty much everyone else had one or two baseballs at this point, and despite a ton of running and changing shirts that I had done up to this point, which I spared you the details of, I was still at zero baseballs. After I left foul ground, I ran into Ben Weil, and his girlfriend Jen. Ben at this point had two baseballs and was leading the pack. Jen, however, said she was rooting for me. And although I didn’t mean to, I kind of scoffed at that because the way things were going, it felt like I would be lucky to get *a* baseball with all of the competition. Let me explain why. Up to that point, I had been absolutely exhausted by the other ballhawks, because usually during a game with no BP, a ballhawk is the only one smart enough to go to place x. Well during this game, by the time I got to place x, there were 5 other people right on my tail. So after they got there, I had to get creative and think of another place where I could possibly get a ball, but with less competition. The cycle then repeated itself. Turns out, though, Jen had more confidence in me than I did.
Soon after I got into the right field seats, a ball was hit and rolled to the wall. Rick Sporcic was also in the right field seats. And although he was occupied with a baseball further towards center field, I hurried up and got my (read: Tim Anderson’s) cup trick out to pick up the ball, because I had heard he was good with his retriever. By the time I had gotten my ball, though, he was still trying to get his from in front of the wall. My guess is the right field wall is much taller than the left field wall in Pittsburgh, so he wasn’t used to it and his retrieving skills were slowed down as a result. Anyway, I didn’t get a picture since I was in a hurry to get the ball, but here’s a picture that’ll show you where I got the ball:
The place I took that picture from also happens to be where I got my second ball of the day. I leaned over the wall to see if a ball I had spotted from right field was cup trick-able, and just as I realized it wasn’t, Joe Savery came over to pick up that and another ball. He tossed the ball I was eying to a kid next to me and the other to me:
I know Ben was right next to me, since he also came over to see if he could cup trick the ball, but I don’t think he got a ball tossed up to him then. I actually don’t know if he got another ball for the rest of BP.
After getting that ball, I headed to straight-away left field to try to get a hit ball. It was a zoo:
I mean forget all of the people in general, just look at the ballhawks who were right behind me:
Had I not misjudged several home runs, I could have been up to 4 or 5 baseballs for the day after my time in right field. But instead I spent the rest of my BP getting punked by the Phillie grounds crew chalk dispenser:
Most teams use a cart-type thing to apply the chalked foul lines, but the Phillies instead use this thing where they pond to red side part with the mallet that is a mini-bat with a baseball at the end to apply the chalked line. Unfortunately, it looked from left field like there was a baseball sitting on the warning track in foul territory. So I ran all the way over to find out that this could in fact not be snagged.
The closest I came to snagging another baseball was when a ball rolled to the wall in left field, I ran over to where it was, and was about to pull out the cup trick when a Phillies player picked the ball up and threw it into the stands. Little did I know, but had I been a little quicker to the ball, I could have had the outright lead at the end of BallhawkFest.
How did this happen? Well after BP ended, I went to take a group picture in center field:
And then wnet behind the dugout. Since this was *Ballhawk*Fest, I expected there to be at least one other person joining me behind the Braves dugout before the game, but they just never came. So when the Braves came out to throw, I was one of the few people in Braves gear behind the dugout. Using this, I first got Chris Johnson to throw me a ball. His throw was a bit high, so it tipped off the top of my glove, bounced in the row behind me, and I had to run for it to just beat out a man who was also going for it. He was so close to it that I gave him the ball. It was only after I took the picture of him that I realized he already had a baseball (D’oh):
So since I had grabbed the ball before I gave it to him, that was ball number 3 for me on the day. Ball number 4 took no time at all after that. I’m not sure if he had seen me miss the Johnson toss-up, but when Justin Upton came in from throwing with his baseball, I screamed his name, and just like Johnson, he scanned the crowd as if searching for a little kid who deserved it more before settling for tossing the baseball to me:
I say I wonder if he saw the Johnson toss-up tip off of my glove, because I his line of sight when he was tossing with his brother BJ was slightly off of me, but it’s possible that he just tossed me the ball to give me a second chance. Oh well; who knows?
Then once the game started, I moved over one staircase to be on the right staircase for a third-out ball. It was after the top of the first inning that I saw Ben come down into that same section, so I moved down to join him. One out later, Jen joined us. So the plan at the third out was all three of us were going to go down for the third-out ball and odds are one of us would get it. Well it turns out it wasn’t just us, but Quinn Imiola (who you may remember from this entry if you’ve been reading the blog for a couple years, and whose birthday it was that day–as was announced by his dad at the luncheon in a hilarious/purely-“dad” way.) had gotten past the guard at the top of the steps right before the third out and also tried for the third-out ball. As it turned out, with all of those people there, Freddie Freeman lofted the ball right to me. As we returned to our seats, where we all went into the same row, we were apparently suspicious-looking enough with the culmination of all four of us going down for the ball and Quinn going back to a different seat than the one he had gotten out of to go for the third-out ball that the usher who had come down from the top of the steps asked to see all of our tickets. Ben and Jen actually had a ticket (it just wasn’t on that aisle), but Quinn and I didn’t have a ticket for the section at all. So the usher kicked Quinn and myself out of the section completely, telling us that he better not see us back there for the rest of the game, and asked Ben and Jen to go to their actual seats in the middle of the row–which Ben had no interest in doing. So as the rest of the group pondered where they would go, I took the picture of the Freeman ball:
The conversation eventually lead to us wandering towards left field, where the other three would eventually sneak down into, and I would continue onto right field, where I actually had a ticket for:
After a few innings of being there, I got a tweet from Harrison Tishler (who already published an entry about this game/day that you should check out) asking if he could join me. When I said yes, he and his parents were there within half-an-inning:
It was almost as if I was a ballhawk magnet, because after that, the Cooks arrived as well as Quinn and Alan Schuster, the organizer of the whole event and founder/webmaster of mygameballs.com, the site that’s the reason this event even exists:
And soon after that, Zack Hample, Ben Weil, and Chris Hernandez also came to the same section (although the other staircase). I should mention that this was a slow process, though. The game lasted 12 innings, so all of these arrivals weren’t within a half-inning of each other. The highlight of most of this slow-ish game besides talking to all of these fun and cool people I don’t get to see on a regular basis was taking an unintentionally-artsy picture of the scoreboard:
It was my initial plan to go to the bullpen after the game, but with so many other ballhawks now converged around it, when the Braves scored a run in the top of the 12th, I headed to the Braves dugout. However, as I exited the right field seats, I got a call from Zack. I thought it was weird right away because he rarely calls me outside of a baseball game; much less *during* a game itself. Turns out he had gotten kicked out of the stadium by security because of the escalation of an incident that he had with them after he had caught John Mayberry Jr.’s home run earlier in the game. I feel like I was a bad friend for what I did, but I figured Zack as “king of ballhawks” would understand as I got Ben to call him and handle the situation as I ran to the dugout. I figure Zack would have done the same thing with me. (Aren’t I so good at justifying my actions to myself?)
Quinn also came down to the dugout after the game, and as I went for the umpire ball–where the umpire ended up talking to a family for about ten minutes after the game, and giving them his last extra baseball, Quinn got Craig Kimbrel to toss him the ball he had recorded the save with. Not a bad birthday present, eh? Here he is in his Braves gear with his parents to the right of the frame:
For the record, I know the names of all of the parents, but I don’t know if they want their names out there. I actually met Quinn’s parents the day I met Quinn in South Carolina. Anyway, we were being told to clear out of the section, so that’s why Quinn is a little blurry.
I then got a text from Ben saying to meet outside the third base gate. When we got there we saw Zack, but the group who had stayed in right field were still not there. Eventually they did get there and Zack got to tell the story of his ejection about fifteen times:
After that, the plan was to get a parting group picture. As we set up for that, I got a panoramic picture of all of the ballhawks mingling:
And here was the final group picture:
In talking to everyone, it turned out that Jeremy Evens (in yellow), the Cooks, and I had all tied for the lead at 5 baseballs a piece. If you remember the first BallhawkFest in 2011, I was tied with Zack for the lead at I believe 7 baseballs. So I have never gone to a BallhawkFest where I didn’t have a share of the lead. And I probably just jinxed any chance of doing so next year’s BallhawkFest.
I then headed off with the Cooks in their car to the 30th Street Station, but not before taking a look at the Veterans Stadium field in the parking lot and getting one last shot of the stadium:
And so concluded one of the funner days of my life. While I wish I could have made it for the full experience, I had a blast and will be sure to try my hardest to be there for next season’s festivities, wherever it may be. (Insider’s hint: It may be the closest to home a BallhawkFest has ever been for me.) Thank you to everyone who made and keeps making this event what it is. The reason I constantly recommend it to people is because while it may be a tough event snagging-wise, it is a truly unique phenomenon that is something really special as well.
- 5 Balls at this Game (4 pictured because I gave 1 away. And apparently lost my Phillies hat somewhere along the line as well.)
Numbers 606-610 for my career:
- 164 Balls in 41 Games= 4.00 Balls Per Game
- 5 Balls x 41,161 Fans=205,805 Competition Factor
- 103 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 8 straight Games with 2 Balls
- 5 straight Games with 3 Balls
- 4 straight Games with 4 Balls
- 2 straight Games with 5 balls
- 12 Balls in 3 Games at CBP= 4.00 Balls Per Game
- 3 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at CBP
- 2 straight Games with at least 2-5 Balls at CBP
- Time Spent On Game 10:07-3:25= 17 Hours 18 Minutes
My day started off in Albany, where I had stayed with Chris Hernandez‘ (I never know how the possessive/plural works with names ending in an “s” sound) girlfriend. We then hit the road right after we got up:
Chris went directly to Citi Field for the Futures Game (which if you didn’t know, is basically an All-Star Game between the top Minor League prospects in baseball where the teams are divided by US vs. World), but he dropped me off at Greg Barasch‘s place first. I mean it used to be my place, but the reason I was there is I had to drop off all of the things I didn’t need to carry to the Futures Game/did need for the place I was headed off to before the Futures Game that I’ll reveal in a second.
I then headed off to Zack Hample‘s place where I gave him footage off my SD card for an entry he was writing at the time about his helicopter stunt that we had been at the previous day, some of which he ended up putting on his YouTube channel and then embedding in said entry. My goal was to get out of Zack’s place at around 11:20 to get to where I planned to go next, but ended up not getting out of Zack’s until 12:00 because while I was talking with him and his girlfriend Hayley, he told me that they were watching ESPN’s SportsCenter because he had been told that he was going to be in the Top-10. And since SportsCenter always holds that until the end of the show to get you to watch the whole thing, I ended up staying and watching him make the Top-10 and then semi-freak out when they announced that he had caught the ball from 1,200 feet instead of 1,050. (Zack doesn’t like inaccuracies; even if they make what he did seem more awesome.)
Anyway, about a half-hour later, this is where I found myself:
I had seen on their schedule that the Fan Cave was having tours from 12:00-2:30, so when I realized that my times in New York were going to be very limited this summer, and the fact that I had not yet toured the Fan Cave, I decided it was more important than making batting practice at the Futures Game. So I got in line:
And waited for a while. Turns out the Dwellers were hosting the FoxSports girls and so we had to wait. Although, I won’t complain since I got a free MLB Fan Cave hat and shirt out of it. Then after a good 20-30 minute wait in the New York heat, we got it:
I point out the tour guide because he’s wearing the shirt that I had gotten for free just minutes earlier. Anyway, the tour was fun. I didn’t take many pictures, but I got a video of it that I’m not sure I’ll ever publish do to the fact that there’s not much in it. But afterwards I waited for April Whitzman to talk with her for a few minutes. I actually knew April from before my visit because she had written a story about me for the Fan Cave blog back in April (Get it? It’s an unintentional pun!) about my experience playing catch with Derek Lowe (Link to her story here).
After that it was off to the Futures Game, and even though I showed up while the game was already underway, it was great to not have to worry about ballhawking. First I got a picture with the Twins mascot, TC:
(Notice the MLB Fan Cave hat.) And then I went to catch up with Ben Weil behind the third base dugout:
Not a bad view, eh? Although since I kind of half-paid attention to the game the most notable thing that came until it was over was that Ben got a t-shirt in the t-shirt toss:
Then after the Futures Game, it was time for the Celebrity Softball Game:
I mean that was whatever, but I stuck around because I had never seen one before. Chris, on the other hand, left, because he had gotten way too little sleep the past two days, and it was starting to catch up with him. After the game, Ben–who is the biggest Mike Piazza fan you will ever meet–was not surprisingly trying to get Piazza to sign a sign his girlfriend Jen, who had shown up at the beginning of the softball game, had made. So the three of us pushing through a crowd of dozens of people to try to get to the umpire tunnel where Piazza was signing. I seriously think the softball game is more about getting signatures before/after it than it is about the game itself. I mean look at the crowd at the dugout half-an-hour after the game had ended:
And I mean here’s a panorama that I took right before that (Click to Enlarge):
Anyway, that pushing and having a mild attack of claustrophobia paid off because look what Ben got:
I wish I would have gotten a picture of the back, because it’s like the side of this side but the pictures occupy the whole poster board. After that Jen headed out, but Ben and I hung around and tried to find where he was supposed to go for a thing he volunteered for handing out pins. So we first got a ton of energy drinks that Ben didn’t really want, so he handed to me, but I then got this one last picture of Citi Field before heading off to Greg’s place for the night.
- 9 KickStarts at this Game (7 pictured because I gave 2 away)
Numbers 1-9 for my “career”:
- 9 KickStarts in 1 Game= 9.00 KPG
- 1 Straight Game with at least 1-9 KickStarts
- 9 KickStarts in 1 Game at Citi Field= 9.00 KPG
- 1 Straight Game with at least 1-9 KickStarts at Citi Field
Okay, let me get a couple of things out of the way before I get into the entry itself:
1. This entry will start with my account of Zack Hample’s attempt at catching a baseball dropped from a helicopter 1,000 feet in the air. That link in the last sentence will take you to Zack’s account of the event.
2. Since the documentation of the helicopter stunt itself has been pounded into the dirt. (My friend Chris Hernandez–who was there–also did a write-up of the event on his blog.) I myself did a general highlight video for the event, that I’m pretty proud of and I’ll leave here for you to watch:
Anyways, because of this over-documentation of the event itself, what I’m going to write about mostly in this entry is I’m going to focus on the behind-the-scenes stuff, the things no one really took the time to write about. Because while Zack was the reason we were all there and this was taking place, and the world saw this event as pretty much Zack’s day, there was so much more to it than just that…
Let us begin where the entry from the last day/game left off. After having unintentionally fallen asleep writing a blog entry on my laptop, I awoke at about 5:17 in the morning to the sound of water running and a light coming from the light in my hotel room’s bathroom. It was at that point that I got mad at myself because I realized I had fallen asleep. This anger with myself turned into slight panic as I realized the running water came from the fact that my roommate for the night who I had not yet met, Andrew Gonsalves, had already woken up after getting to the hotel room after midnight and was readying himself to get out of the room for the stunt.
I was disappointed/mad about falling asleep by accident for two main reasons. The first is that when I woke up, my phone was completely uncharged. Zack had written an entry the previous morning saying to follow me on Twitter for updates on the ball drop, and I felt guilty to not live up to this expectation of the people who were checking my account out for this reason. However, this guilt turned into apathy as I left my phone charging in the dugout while I filmed the event. The second reason was that while I had never met Andrew in person, I had read his blog (which is linked to the initial mention of his full, now-clickable, name) for a while and really enjoy. The main reason I enjoy it is that most of the topics he writes feel like they could be things that I would have examined from the exact same angle (were my medium of mass-communication not essentially limited to baseball) but examined/argued and written in a way that is better than anything I could have ever done. So while we did say hello to each other, we didn’t really get to talk since we were both being semi-rushed by Zack in the next room over, Andrew left pretty soon after we introduced ourselves and I was left in the room packing all of my things into my backpack for the day, since we were not going to be coming back to the hotel. I don’t think I ever really did talk to Andrew much the whole day, but oh well; what can you do?
Oh, and when Zack opened the door between our two rooms to tell us to get ready, I also got to meet Zack’s girlfriend Hayley for the first time in person. Although, I had called Zack about 30 hours before that to talk about how everything about me finding a place to sleep was going to happen, but then Zack put Hayley through speaker-phone, so the conversation moved from hotel rooms to the three of us discussing the pros and cons of an iPhone and Galaxy3, so I guess I had kind of sort of gotten to know her more so than, say Andrew, where the conversation was pretty uni-directional.
When the four of us convened in the hotel lobby to checkout, we realized we were missing two of our group members. Those group member were Ben Weil and his girlfriend Jen (both of who, if you have followed this blog in the past, you may know I have met in the past). So after he was done checking out of his room, Zack went ahead and picked up the car. As he arrived in his 5-seater station wagon, we (Andrew, Haley, and I) saw he had picked up Ben and Jen on the way. Now I realized I’ve just been mentioning names and not really counting them up, but if you have been, there were a total of six of us headed to the stadium in a car that seats five people. So what I had offered in either the phone call I mentioned earlier on in an email to Zack is that I go in the trunk. And that’s exactly what I did. Here is a picture Ben took of me right before he closed the trunk door on me:
Believe it or not, this was my second ride in the trunk of a car. The first one being a ride in an overcrowded car this past school year to a Pizza Hut. This ride was more enjoyable, though, since I was in an open-air trunk where I could still talk to the people in the backseat.
Despite the fact that we were cutting the 6:00 time that had been set for arrival to the ballpark very close, we decided to go to a Dunkin Donuts, where I believe I was the only one in the car who didn’t get anything. There was a pretty long discussion as to exactly what kind of creamer certain people wanted in their coffee and who would pay, so we knew we were going to be a little late to the ballpark. But in approaching the ballpark, Zack took a very close look at the flag poles around Lowell as the car passed them. The lower flags were completely still, but he was troubled by the ones higher up, since they were fluttering ever so slightly.
As we passed the front of the stadium on our way into the parking garage, I saw Mike Davison, but I also saw Chris Hernadez. I knew in advance that he was planning to be there, but it’s always nice to see Chris at events, especially now that I’m out of New York and living in Washington. And he would turn out to save a semi-expensive bus ride, which is always nice.
We proceeded to park in the garage, where we then got out, saw everyone else who was going to be there for the stunt (BIGS representatives I mentioned in the vlog that’s embedded in my last entry, paramedics, ball-dropper, etc.), readied ourselves in our respective ways, Andrew and Zack played catch:
And then Ben and I, who had both offered to play catch with Zack–but Andrew already had his glove on–played catch with each other until we could down the other line:
That specific picture would be Ben having just thrown me a pop-up that I was tracking. (Or maybe it was the other way around? The ball is in just the perfect spot, and our reactions to the ball are pretty much the exact same enough for the picture to be interpreted either way.
We then got in the dugout and watched Zack attempt to catch a baseball from the first of two heights he was scheduled to go at. The ultimate goal was to catch one from over 1,000 feet, but this first warm-up height was to be 550 ft. The warm-up height started to feel anything but once Zack passed about his fifth attempt. Most of us thought he was going to catch the ball from this height pretty easily, but it eventually took him I think eight tries to get it. I say “most of us” because although I have it on tape being explained that the helicopter was at 550 feet right before the first attempt, a bunch of people in the dugout thought Zack had just caught the 1,000 foot ball.
Once the people who understood the situation talked it through with the people who didn’t, everyone got a little worried. The helicopter had looked *really* high in the sky for the first attempt, so to essentially take that and double it seemed like a ludicrous feat. However, once the helicopter ascended to its final height, it didn’t look like double the height at all. In the moment we thought it was because the chopper had moved further away from us in the dugout and closer to the absolute center of the field, but it probably had more to do with the fact that the helicopter was hovering more around 650 ft on the first attempt.
Anyway, I’m going to assume you actually read/watched the material I provided at the beginning, so you know that Zack did indeed catch the ball. Blahbity-blah-blah. Many people have said it before; you don’t need to hear it again from me. What you might not know is that in this picture that I took from Zack’s blog entry:
is that it was actually one of Ben’s three attempt to jump over the railing. He tried twice to jump the dugout railing right as Zack started walking back in from the outfield. He the cleared the people to his sides out of his way and yelled, “You see?” as he jumped the railing and chased after Zack for an embrace—referring to the fact that he was indeed able to make the jump. As he jump-hugged Zack, his girlfriend Jen said something that I couldn’t hear word-for-word over the sound of the helicopter blades cutting through the air, but was along the lines of, “See? I told you Zack is Ben’s real girlfriend.” It was hilarious because we were all thinking something along those lines as Ben chased after Zack for a hug, but Jen or Hayley were the perfect people to say it out loud.
Then when everyone was around Zack for his interviews with for the BIGS camera as well as the member of SABR who was there to get information as a part of a bigger story on people (mostly players up until Zack) who had tried catching baseballs dropped from crazy-high places, Chris and I had the same idea to go out into the outfield and take a look at the grounds crew fixing up the holes made by the falling baseballs. I filmed it to put in the video you saw at the beginning of the entry, but I also took a couple of pictures of Chris for his entry:
After that I was completely bored from filming the whole day to that point, so I decided to play catch with essentially everyone who had a glove. First I played catch with Andrew. Here he is tossing me the baseball:
We played for a considerable time, but when Zack was finally done with all of the stuff he had to do, he, Chris, and I played a three-way cutoff version of catch. Let me explain. So here I am throwing the ball to Zack:
And then here is Zack after having received one of my throws to him and relaying it to Chris:
So it was essentially Monkey in the Middle, but with us actually throwing to Zack. A fun little anecdote about this is Zack was so looking forward to play catch that while he was supposed to be sending a message or something to ESPN about the event, he actually said, “You know what, ESPN can wait. We can do that later. I need to play some catch first.”
Somewhere in the whole aftermath of the catch itself, we also got a group picture:
I’ll tell a little story about it, but first I’ll label the people left-to-right:
1. Nick- Paramedic number 1.
2. Mike Davison- Previously mentioned, who was nothing but nice to me for my whole stay in Lowell.
3. One of the police officers who was blocking off the walking path behind the outfield wall of the stadium.
4. Matt- Paramedic number 2.
5. Bob- The helicopter pilot.
6. Andrew- My roommate for all of five “awake minutes.”
7. Hayley- Zack’s girlfriend.
8. Ben Weil– I don’t know if I linked his name before, but I did just now.
9. Jen- Ben’s girlfriend who accompanied him to a Taylor Swift concert later that night.
10. Zack Hample- The only reason most of us would ever go to Lowell, MA.
11. Logan- The BIGS Seeds representative who I later gave my SD card to have some of my footage at their disposal for the video they made of the event. (I would like to use this as an excuse for why all of my stuff about the event is so late, but he returned the card to me later that day.)
12. Casper- The person in the helicopter responsible for dropping the baseballs.
13. Chris Hernandez- A very nice person who offered me a last-minute place to stay for the night so that I wouldn’t have to pay for a bus back to New York the next morning.
14. Me- Surprisingly not behind the camera for once on the day.
Anyway, the sort-of-funny thing about the picture is that Logan instructed all of us to clear the path so the BIGS logo would be completely visible, but he ended up–as you can see in the picture–being the one who partially blocked it.
After that we realized that none of us had eaten yet that day, so everyone who had gone in Zack’s car in the morning, Chris, and Mike went to a diner that Zack had eaten at during his first stay in Lowell last year. Here we all are eating what I think is technically considered brunch:
We all were willing to pay, but Zack surprised us all and picked up the entire group’s tab himself. After Ben was done with his plate, Ben decided to try to draw a baseball with the ketchup. That turned out well, but he then tried to write the word “PRACTICE” on it before realizing he didn’t have enough space on the ketchup ball. This, however, gave Jen an idea, which she got on right away. Here is a picture of the end product:
It may look nice from that picture, but trust me when I say that the picture does it very little justice. It looked amazing in person when you thought about the fact that she did it with a ketchup bottle. The potatoes were also not on the plate, she set up everything you see besides the ketchup-ed plate after the fact just for the picture.
But after that we all went our separate ways. Zack’s car headed back with its five people to New York, Mike headed off to his home town in the land of the Patriot, and Chris and I went to a Starbucks to try to write our respective entries/get some sleep in the car before we then went to the Lowell Spinners game that night. (Which, you guessed it, will be the next entry up on here.)
So after spending a full day’s worth of buses, trains, and being part of discussions surrounding the logistics of dropping a baseball from 1,000 feet in the air:
it was time to go to my first Lowell Spinners game ever with Mike Davison–who is in this next picture. If you don’t already know, the reason I was in Lowell because Zack Hample was going to attempt to catch a baseball dropped from 1,000 in the air. As you can probably tell from the date in the title of this entry, that already happened, so if you want to read Zack’s account of the event, here’s the link to that. Well anyway, while an idea as insane as trying to catch a baseball dropped from a helicopter 1,000 feet above ground could only come from Zack, Mike was the logistical mastermind behind the whole stunt itself and making an insane idea a little more feasible and a lot more safe.
So if you watched the video at the beginning of the entry, you will have seen that I ended the video saying we were off to the Lowell Spinners game. Right after that, Mike and I walked from the parking garage to behind the outfield wall. Here is my view as we made our way such:
With the game starting at 7:05 and the stadium itself not opening until 6:00, we decided we would walk around the stadium on the walkway that is right behind the outfield wall and try to get any baseballs that managed to fly out during BP. While I have been right behind the outfield wall at minor league stadiums before, this one felt weird because the walkway was *right* against the outfield wall. So there was really no shot at snagging a baseball on said walkway. The walkway was actually elevated to be at more or less the base of the outfield wall. (I say more or less because while it is a good ten feet above the foresty stuff that is even further out from the outfield wall, Mike, who is 6’5″ had his eyes at the level of the the outfield ground. More on that in a bit.) Anyway, from the walkway, this was my view of the outfield wall:
We walked back and forth on the walkway a few times before we decided to scour the bushes/foresty part below the walkway to see if any baseballs had already been hit there earlier in BP. I found this:
I’m glad that I don’t keep track of minor league stats because ballhawking for me at minor league stadiums feels like such a casual thing that I could have made a serious case for counting this ball. Oh, and if you’re wondering, the foresty area is between the walkway that goes behind the outfield wall and the Merrimack River; so the river is what you see in the background of that last picture.
After scavenging a little more, we decided to head back up to the walkway level, since we had no clue which hitters were up. My first solution to this was I found an area to look into the field through a fence just foul of the foul pole:
The good news was I could see the hitter perfectly. The bad news was I was completely out of position here to snag any baseballs. The solution we eventually came up with was there were holes at the base of the wall in left-center field, so Mike being more than tall enough to see into the stadium through them, he watched to see if there were any decent lefty hitters in the group. If there weren’t we would go into the foresty area (and yes I realize “foresty” isn’t actually a real word) in left field and hope something would fly over the wall. Nothing did. There was actually another guy down there with his two kids. He said that it was one of, if not THE worst BP he had ever seen. He reiterated several times that baseballs usually start to hit off the walls in bunches, and then baseballs start making their way over the wall and walkway. When there was even one lefty with potential to hit a ball over the wall in the group, though, we headed over to right field because there was actually a grassy area at field level that provided room to run for baseballs. However, my first “real” baseball came when we were headed over to this grass area. We were half-way there when I saw something hit into the foresty area out of the corner of my eye. I knew exactly where it had landed, so I went a couple yards down the hill and picked the ball up. I then looked up at the wall and realized how crazy this baseball had been:
Where the ball had landed meant it had to have traveled through a gap between ads that was less than three feet wide. How about that?
I also managed to snag another hit baseball when we got to the grassy area in right field:
I saw the ball the whole way as it became visible over the top of the wall, and so I ran right behind the spot I thought the ball was going to land–since I figured I had no chance to catch it on the fly through the trees–and fielded it like a ground ball.
I waited for a little while longer, but pretty much right after I got this ball, it was time for Mike and I to head to the gate and get in the stadium. Here was the scene at the main gate from across the street. (Can you find Mike?
He kind of photo-bombed me in that I was just taking a picture of the scene at the gates and he posed for the picture across the street.)
After that, we saw something that Mike insisted I include in this entry, and I can only describe as Minor League Baseball at its finest:
If you are in the majority of people who have no clue what’s going on here, the Spinners arranged to have midget wrestling going on outside the gates. Although I will say that it is not even close to the weirdest promotional stunt Mike has ever witnessed at a baseball game. I don’t think I’ll share that one with you, though.
Although we had been *on* the field earlier in the day, it was still nice to see the concourse once we got into the stadium:
It is definitely on the higher end for minor league stadiums at that level of play:
And do you see the pressbox in the background of the right part of the picture? Well there were a couple cool things to be seen on the portion of the concourse that went behind there. The first of which was the former Lowell Spinners who had made it up to the Major Leagues at one point or another. Recognize any names?
And then there was also a view inside the pressbox from the concourse:
This may not seem particularly exciting, but I love the fact that you can just look in there without having to get a special ticket right behind home plate. (I’m looking at you, MLB stadiums.)
As you can probably tell from these pictures, BP had ended by the time we got into the stadium. So instead of going after baseballs, I nonchalantly got a couple of Spinners players to sign the MiLB baseballs I had snagged outside of the stadium:
Do I have any clue who it was that signed the baseballs? No, none. But you never know, so I thought it would be a good idea to get them just in case.
As for the game, this was the view from my ticketed (complementary) seat:
But instead I headed up to the cross-aisle (concourse), and went back and forth the whole game playing foul balls. As it seems every time I play foul balls anywhere, my best opportunity came in the first inning when I had foul ball tracked, but it was headed straight at a man. I waited for the ball to deflect off of him, but to my surprise, he caught it on the fly in a hand that had a cast over it.
It was a Friday fireworks game, so there were a ton more people than usual and the concourse was much more clogged than it usually is. As a result of this and Brian Scalabrine doing several odd-jobs throughout the course of the game, I didn’t get a foul ball the whole game. But I did have a great view of the Lowell sunset:
And then for the first time in a long time, I actually left the game early. It wasn’t my decision to do so, but I was more than okay with it given the logic behind it. Mike said he should probably head out because we both had to get up the next morning at 5:00, so it was probably a good idea for us to head out and into bed. As we entered the Spinners’ garage, I got a picture of the scoreboard from where we would be entering the next morning:
I was actually staying at the Radisson with Zack and the rest of his friends he was bringing up from New York at the Radisson, so Mike was nice enough to drive me over there despite me being awful with my iPhone’s GPS from never having used it before and getting us lost a couple times. I’d say we got to the hotel at 10:30 where Mike dropped me off and headed out to get some sleep. Zack and his car of people weren’t getting in until after midnight, but we were thankfully able to get the reservation changed over successfully whilst they were on the road so I was able to check in. I tried to stay awake and greet them, but I unintentionally fell asleep while on the computer and woke up at 5:17 the next morning only to prepare my self immediately to hopefully document a person catching a baseball dropped from 1,000 feet for the first time in the history of humanity.
So this game was actually pretty simple, and I’m ashamed it took me so long to get this entry out, but the thought of writing was what kept me from even getting started on it. Anyway, here is the view of the field as I got it:
But before I get started on the snagging portion of the entry, let me tell you what lead up to this point. Because it was the last day that All-Star ballots were being accepted for prizes at Nationals Park (more on that later), I had to carry over 2,000 All-Star ballots with me to the ballpark that I had filled out the previous day:
As a result of that, I moved much more slowly than I normally do and missed a bus and two trains by less than ten seconds on my way to the ballpark. And as a result of that, I got to the gates less than five minutes before they opened. So instead of having a half-hour long conversation with Zack Hample, Rick Gold, and Zack’s mom–who I met at the gates–/take a picture with them to open up this entry with when I got to the gates, I pretty much had to get to the gates, get my ticket ready to be scanned, and enter. Now I thought I would have to carry my box of 1,500 All-Star ballots for the first hour of batting practice, but a regular of Nationals Park named Art was nice enough to let me leave them with him in the second row of the section closest to the visiting bullpen in left field and watch after them. So although I’m pretty sure you don’t read these, Art, thank you for allowing me to move freely about the ballpark.
Anyway, after getting shutout for the first two groups of Nationals hitters, my first baseball was really a cheapy. So there’s a Nationals usher in right field who is nice and lets me sit in right field even when I don’t have a ticket there. In return I give him baseballs whenever he asks for them to redistribute to kids during the games. Well when he saw me, he told me that he wanted me to catch a ball from Fernando Abad for him. See ushers aren’t technically allowed to get baseballs themselves, but he apparently knew Abad, so he called out to Abad and pointed to me as if to say, “Toss him the ball.” Abad obliged and even though I would give the ball away to this usher after batting practice ended, it was my first ball of the game:
After this group of hitters was done, about 80% of the players/coaches who had been shagging balls in the outfield jogged in, and so I would say there were only 4-5 people in the whole outfield. And because of this, Stephen Strasburg was left manning almost all of right field. I had never gotten him to even acknowledge me, much less toss me a baseball–Strasburg is one of those players who is quick to toss a baseball to a five-year-old–but pretty much doesn’t give you the time of day if your age has two digits–but I just kept asking him nicely for a ball every time he approached the wall. Finally on about the 20th time, he looked up and tossed me a ball. (Probably just to get me to shut up.):
And that would be my second and final ball of the day. I believe I missed a home run during Diamondbacks BP, but besides that they just weren’t hitting them wherever I was positioned, and the front row was packed with kids, so toss-ups were really tough to come by.
The most notable thing that happened between this snag and the end of Diamondbacks BP is that at least 1, if not 2 service men took a round of BP in the last group of Diamondbacks hitters:
As a son of a Vietnam Veteran (but a hater of war because of this fact), I appreciate the gesture by the Diamondbacks/Nationals, but I only wish they would have gotten better hitting servicemen to invite to take BP. These guys (or maybe guy. This took place weeks ago, so it’s not exactly fresh in my memory) I don’t think hit a ball into the outfield on the fly.
When batting practice ended, I headed back to the seats in left field to pick up my box of 1,500 ballots, took them to the table where they can be redeemed:
And from this got a Michael Morse bobblehead:
A Nationals Rally Towel:
And a Nationals Prize Pack:
The prize pack consists of a bobblehead (Ivan Rodriguez), a Nationals t-shirt, a Nationals hat, and a full program. (I feel the need to specify *full* program because the Nationals give away tiny gameday programs every day at the gates for free. I guess that would technically be a program and this things in the prize pack would be a Nationals magazine, but whatever.)
I then spent the first three innings filling out an additional 500 ballots (in addition to the 1,600 I had turned in for the prizes you saw above) and got an Adam Dunn. I should have taken a picture of it, but I didn’t. I guess it was a swing-and-a-miss on my part. *Bad pun that also makes fun of Adam Dunn completed*.
After that, I headed out to right field where this was my view:
If you’re new to this blog or for whatever reason do not know who the man in the A’s hat is, it is the Rick Gold I mentioned earlier in the entry. He has snagged nearly 2,000 baseballs in his life time along with nearly 50 game home run balls. So in addition to him being a much better ballhawk than I, the fact that he had already been in that section for 4 innings by the time I got there made me not want to compete with him directly and possibly cost both of us a ball. The way I was going to play it if a ball did indeed get hit to us is let him get his initial jump and then put my glove on just in case he read the ball incorrectly and I read it correctly. So he would have position, but I would (theoretically) be the mistake prevention back-up. Of course, as is the case when I’m there, nothing got hit within a section of us.
At the end of the game I headed to the dugout, but what came of that was no snagging but rather getting to talk to Zack and his mom (who was celebrating her birthday at the time)/watching Zack get a third-out ball tossed to him from 16 rows up and almost two sections to the right of Martin Prado, who tossed it to him. It was truly amazing how far Prado tossed it to him. I had gone down to the first row to try to get the ball from Prado, but when I couldn’t get his attention and saw his eyes lock on a target way behind me, I knew where the ball was headed. After that, the game ended, we said our goodbyes, and headed our separate ways.
- 2 Balls at this game (1 pictured because I gave the other away)
Numbers 572-573 for my lifetime:
- 127 Balls in 31 Games= 4.10 Balls Per Game
- 2 Balls x 30,287 Fans=60,574 Competition Factor
- 93 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 160 Balls in 35 Games at Nationals Park= 4.57 Balls Per Game
- 27 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
- 11 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
- Time Spent On Game 3:26-11:33= 8 Hours 7 Minutes
After over a week off from games and simply doing other cool stuff, it was back to Nationals Park where I met up with some familiar faces:
Those would be my friends–left to right–Zack Hample and Ben Weil. They drove in from New York pretty much to get a shot at the Rockies baseballs. Well at least Ben did. Zack was almost guaranteed to get a Rockies ball, but he also needed to knock out Nationals Park as he is going to all 30 stadiums as a part of some year-long craziness that BIGS Sunflower Seeds is putting him on.
When it came time for the gates to open, we all rushed inside just to be disappointed:
What I deduced was that the Nationals had an eleven-inning game in Philadelphia the night prior combined with a bus trip back, so they got back to Washington pretty late and Davey Johnson who is notorious for listening to what the players want to do decided not to take batting practice. So Ben and I just hung out in the left field seats. I don’t know what he was potentially waiting for in this next picture, but we sat down after that:
And then talked for 45 minutes or so while we sat and watched more nothingness:
The first action we saw was pretty much an hour after the gates opened when the Rockies simultaneously started hitting and warming up. I could have stayed in the outfield to try to snag a couple home run balls, but I headed here instead:
That’s because some players and coaches (Yorvit Torrealba being the only one in-frame for this picture) were tossing baseballs around at the dugout, but all of them tossed their baseballs into the infield when they were done with them. It was frustrating to me because I figured they would be done before the infielders and outfielders were done warming up in shallow left field, but they actually took longer. And I know this cost me a ball because when he and his throwing partner were done, Jordan Pacheco turned looking for a person to throw his warm-up ball to but then ran into the outfield when he didn’t see anyone. Had I been over there in Nationals gear I probably would have gotten the ball, much less being decked out in purple as I was.
I then headed further down the line where I got Jhoulys (that’s probably wrong) Chacin to toss me a ball. Unfortunately, Chacin tossed it over my head where the ball then deflected at a 90-degree angle. So while I was looking for the ball in the rows below where it had hit, an old man picked the ball up and offered it to me. I told him to keep it, but he insisted I take it. So while I didn’t count it, I walked over to the outfield and gave it to a kid with a glove on my way.
My first actual countable ball came when Nolan Arenado hit a ball to my right in the Red Seats. I ran over, initially thinking the ball was going into the left field bullpen, and caught the ball as a man in a blue shirt–who was tracking the ball the whole time and whose reflection you can kind of see in the next picture–ran into me:
It wasn’t with bad intentions that he ran into me, but to use a basketball analogy since this game was the same day as Game 7 of the NBA Finals, it was an “and-one” situation. He was actually also involved in my next snag. Carlos Gonzalez hit a ball opposite field in that same group, and while it isn’t my custom to reach in front of anyone if I’m not in a row in front of them, this same guy was camped under the ball with no glove, so I went right behind him in case he couldn’t handle the ball on the fly. Surprise alert: He couldn’t. The ball bounced through his hands, hit the seat in front of me, and flew up in the air, where I snatched it up. I then handed it to a kid to my left.
A couple minutes later though, something that has never happened to me ever happened. The kid came back to me and asked me to sign the ball for him:
It was cool and embarrassing at the same time because I have awful handwriting to begin with, so adding in the curvature of the ball made the signature all the more horrendous. Please don’t enlarge the image to see. (And of course now that I said it, about 50 of you are going to click on the picture and enlarge it.)
My next ball was tossed up to me by this guy:
I initially had no clue who he was, but upon retrospection, I’m pretty sure he is the Rockies strength and conditioning coordinator, Brian Jordan. Anyway, he tried to toss me a ball initially by hitting this advertisement thing:
and then having the ball roll down the hill in center field. It may sound ridiculous, but look how close he got:
He then just tossed the next ball he got up to me normally after saying, “I’ll get you a baseball; don’t worry.” So that was nice of him. I then focused my attention on getting a Rockies 20th year commemorative baseball, but it actually cost me a ball as I called out to Jim Wright–who was in the bullpen by one of said baseballs, so I gave up on that pretty quickly. (The way it cost me was I was over by the bullpen and a ball was hit right to where I had been standing beforehand.) But regardless, my next ball wouldn’t come until almost after batting practice was over. Right at the end of batting practice, the Rockies catching coach–a.k.a. the “we have a pretty good hitting catcher prospect but he can’t field at all, so we need a coach just for him” coach–Jerry Weinstein came into the bullpen, so I asked him if he could toss me one of the baseballs that was down there. By the time I had got to him he had already tossed the commemorative up, but he tossed me a regular ball up:
And that was it for the game. I headed to the dugout at the end of batting practice and met up with Zack and Ben there where we found out about a very special food offer at Nationals Park. I then headed out to left field with Ben while Zack went to the dugout for the game itself, where this picture pretty much sums up our first sour innings out in left field:
If it sounds like I’m being uncharacteristically vague, that’s because I am…purposefully. And that’s due to the fact that I included all of these details in my latest vlog, so check that out if you want to fill in the gaps. I actually didn’t include all three of us playing catch before the gates opened, which I should have, but this is something that is going to start happening here. If I cover stuff that happened during or surrounding any given game in the vlog, I won’t write about it here because that just seems redundant. I won’t announce when vlogs come out on here, but if you so desire, you can subscribe to my channel by clicking here or you can follow me on Twitter by clicking over in the sidebar over there —-> to get an update every time I upload a video. Here was the view for Ben and I for pretty much the whole nine innings of the game:
But anyway, both Ben and I tried to get a ball from the bullpen people after the game. He did; I didn’t. So he ended with 5 baseballs along with Zack, who had actually been trailing both of us as BP ended with 3 baseballs, but since he started the game out at the dugout, he snagged two third-out balls and lead both of us until Ben got the ball right at the end of the game.
And that was it. I chatted with Ben for a couple of minutes after the game, but then headed out with my step-dad, who had joined Ben and I in the bleachers at the seventh inning stretch. He had been in the stadium the whole game, but because I didn’t know where I would be sitting before I got to the game and both of our cellphones were getting horrible service, it wasn’t until then that we could know where the other was.
- 4 Balls at this game (3 pictured because I gave the other away)
- 119 Balls in 29 Games= 4.10 Balls Per Game
- 4 Balls x 31,927 Fans=127,708 Competition Factor
- 91 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 152 Balls in 33 Games at Nationals Park= 4.61 Balls Per Game
- 25 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
- 9 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
- 7 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
- 5 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 4 Balls
- Time Spent On Game 3:28-11:03= 7 Hours 31 Minutes
Coming into this Sunday Night Baseball game I knew two things: There would be a ton of ballhawks, and I needed to get two baseballs. The ballhawks thing I knew because a ton of other ballhawks had told me in advance that they were going to be at this game, and the baseball thing was because I was sitting at 98 baseballs snagged at Citi Field, and I need to get to 100 for my own stupid self-satisfaction and so I would never feel obligated to come back to Citi Field for the stadium itself ever again.
A weird thing happened when I got to the gates. First of all, the people waiting in line were in two giant lines, even though I knew there would be 5 or 6 lines opening, but secondly, I didn’t see any ballhawks when I got there to jump in line with. It took me a while to figure the situation out, but when I realized it was the weekend, I figured the other ballhawks had gotten season tickets and were already inside. Eventually I saw Chris Hernandez, and we started our own line. I figured all the ballhawks would already be in left field, so I headed directly for right field instead:
When I got there, I quickly got on the board with a toss-up from Dillon Gee in the right field corner:
Then, being at 99 baseballs for my “career” at Citi Field, I headed to left field and tried to make my 100th an on-the-fly snag:
When I got over there, I found out that Ben Weil, Zack Hample, and Greg Barasch (pictured in the blue)had indeed gotten in early and had snagged over 20 combined baseballs in this time.
I eventually moved to a new spot in left where this was the view in front of me:
The guy in the first picture is Zack, and if you can see the two talking to each other in the second picture, those are Ben and Greg (left to right). The reason they’re talking is a ball had just been hit between them that I believe hit both of them/their gloves before being caught by Ben. It was one of the crazier catches I’ve seen at the ballpark.
After about fifteen minutes of going for only hit baseballs, I gave up and decided to take my 100th Citi Field ball any way it came. That didn’t change the fact that I didn’t get a ball the rest of BP. A fear I had conveyed to Chris right at the beginning of batting practice after I had snagged the first ball.
Despite this, I stuck with my original plan and played foul balls during the game, away from other ballhawk competition:
Surprise, surprise, I didn’t get any action. So as the ninth inning rolled around, I headed to the umpire in search of my ticket to never having to go to Citi Field evah again.
I tried to stay as far away from the security as possible, and try to get the umpire as one-on-one as possible by going on the outfield side of the tunnel. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the best idea, since it prevented me from getting directly to the visiting dugout if I failed to get a ball from the umpire; thus limiting my opportunities for a ball after the game. Thankfully, though, I got my ball from the umpire and didn’t have to live this awful hypothetical scenario:
I figured as a tribute to the baseball gods for allowing me that last baseball, I gave the one I had gotten from Dillon Gee at the beginning of batting practice away to the kid with the glove in the following picture. And his dad thanked me about 25,764 times as a result:
After that, I caught up with the three ballhawks who had gotten in early, as well as Jen, Ben’s girlfriend. As we exited the stadium, Jen was nice enough to take a picture of the four of us ballhawks:
Although I probably should have been the one taking the picture since even Jen—who doesn’t actively ballhawk—outsnagged me 4 balls to 2. But I had one goal on the day: to snag two baseballs, so I left the stadium with the smile you see in the picture. Ben and Jen headed off to the Mets team store while I rode the train with Greg and Zack. Most of which consisted of me getting ridiculed for my all-star selections, since I really haven’t been paying attention to stats and stuff this season. And then I spent the second night of my week staying over at Greg’s, even though he had to get up at about 4:30 in the morning to head off on a Florida-Atlanta trip. And by “get up”, I mean after a half-hour of sleep since we both stayed up until 4:00 since Greg had yet to pack and things for his trip when we got home from the game.
- 2 Baseballs at this Game (1 in this picture because I gave 1 away)
Numbers 525 and 526 for my lifetime:
- 80 Balls in 18 Games= 4.21 Balls Per Game
- 2 Balls x 27,296 Fans= 54,592 Competition Factor
- 81 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 100 Balls (yay!) in 38 Games at Citi Field= 2.63 Balls Per Game (Boo!)
- 38 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Citi Field
- Time Spent On Game 4:06-12:23= 11 Hours 47 Minutes
First of all, here is a Before The Gates Open video detailing my journey to and subsequent time at Citi Field’s Jackie Robinson Rotunda:
Oh, how there are some things that I did not miss at all about New York:
At the top of my baseball portion of this list was probably Citi Field. That said, I planned to attend five games there this week starting with this game. Why would I put myself through this madness? I was at 86 career baseballs snagged at Citi Field and wanted to get to 100 baseballs there so I would never have feel the obligation to go to Citi Field ever again. That way if I ever returned to Citi Field, it would more-or-less be on my own terms and not because I felt obligated to go there. So let’s get right into the entry, shall we?
For the first few groups of BP, I stood out here:
If you can’t tell, the guy in the white shirt and blue hat is Zack Hample. Normally I would like to be on the staircase he is on in that picture, but he took that spot, and to stand behind him is just asking to get robbed. Plus it wouldn’t make sense to bunch up if we had space to spread out. However, the reason I took this picture is Zack somehow managed to rob me from there. More specifically, I managed to absolutely botch a ball. As I explained in a Before The Gates Open video–which I’ll put up on this entry later on next week when I have access to the footage and time to edit it. (I’ll announce when I’ve put it up on Twitter)–this was my first time bringing my 14-or-so-inch lefty glove to a game, so by the time the the gates opened, it was still a little new to me. Anyway, I got Tom Goodwin to toss me a ball, but I somehow had the ball tip off the top of my glove and into the seats behind me. I ran back to where the ball landed, but it wasn’t there. Just then I saw Zack running in my peripheral vision and a ball hit in the seats all at the same time. What had happened was the ball had bounced off a seat and fallen a couple of rows down, where I couldn’t see it but Zack could. He ran over to pick it up and while he was over on my side of the section, a Mets righty hit a ball right next to him, which he also picked up. So had I not completely botched the ball, I probably would have had two quick baseballs. Those would be the only two baseballs I would see anywhere near me in left field. Although, those were Zack’s first two baseballs of the game, and this was the 900th consecutive game in a row that he had snagged a baseball at. So I can kind of say that I was responsible for a 900 games in a row with at least 1 ball.
Center field, though, was another story. I decided at the beginning of a new BP group that I would head over there and try my luck with getting toss-ups. I quickly got Dillon Gee to toss me my first ball of the day:
I then headed back to left field for the beginning of Reds BP. This time on the other side of Zack:
(I realize this picture is during Mets BP, but you get the picture–literally–here.) But when I realized most of the Reds power hitters were lefties and Mat Latos was not going to toss anything up any time soon, I headed back out to the center field.
In center field I moved down to the corner spot at the bottom left of the section (bottom right if you’re looking at it from home plate). And while I was trying to get a ball from whoever the player was ( I remember he was a 6-foot-6 lefty or something like that, but I don’t feel like looking up the actual name of the player.) I heard the people next to me moving around and the player look up in the sky. As it was already on its descent, I looked up and saw the ball everyone was looking at, and saw that it was coming essentially right at me. I then quickly got my glove up, hopped a bit, and caught the ball:
I found out later from the people behind me that it was Jay Bruce who hit the ball. This was nice in that it had a redemptive quality to it for messing up the easy Goodwin catch. It also assured me that there was indeed hope for this giant lefty glove. However, I must say that two annoying things about the glove are when I have to label the baseball, because I still do write right-handed, and when I’m taking a picture of the baseball, because I still feel the need to have the ball on the left side of the frame and that requires that I cross my arms while taking the picture.
Anyway, this ball would be my last of batting practice. Since the Reds good hitters are pretty much–besides Brandon Phillips and Todd Frazier–are left-handed, I headed up to a place I hadn’t been in a while, the Pepsi Porch in right field:
Here’s the view of the field from where I was standing:
And now of the scoreboard:
The reason I took so many pictures from up there that didn’t really have to do with ballhawking is that I didn’t know when the next time I was going to be on the Pepsi Porch was. Maybe never. Like I said, I hadn’t been up there in a long time. And there’s a reason for that. To get up onto the Pepsi Porch, you have to go into foul ground, take and escalator up two or three stories, go across a bridge, go down some steps, and then you’re at the *back* of the section. Simply put: you better have a very good reason to go up there if you’re wasting that much time in just getting there.
After batting practice I headed down to the Reds dugout to try to get a ball from the person packing up the BP balls up, but the funniest thing happened. Instead of heading into the dugout when he pack the baseballs up, he went into the area right behind home plate and dumped the whole bag of baseballs on him:
I don’t know the exact story, but that guy in the stands managed to snag I’d say between 10 and 15 baseballs in the span of a second. It was something pretty ridiculous that I’ve never seen before.
As for the rest of the game, I snagged a ball after the game at the umpire’s tunnel which I then gave away to a Vietnam Veteran I saw with a glove, but that wasn’t the story of the game. All of us ballhawk-type people met up at the dugout after the game, and posed with the prize of the game:
Left to right that would be:
4. Aaron (Who also goes by the nickname Howie)
And sorry for the picture being out of focus. Whoever took the picture didn’t understand that the iPhone needs a second to focus the picture. But anyway, what we are all pointing to is the Marlon Byrd home run Mark had snagged earlier in the game. Mark has snagged one more home run than I have (so two). And both have come when I was in attendance and the ball got pulled to a section in left field. I’d say it is one or two sections from the foul pole. Congratulations, Mark, on that. Both were nice plays. The only negative thing about the home run is that had Mark snagged one more ball in BP, the home run would have been his 100th ball snagged ever. I think he’ll take the home run snag, though. Although, it is a personal observation of mine that one’s 100th ball likes to be the first ball of a game. Myself and a bunch of other ballhawks it seems leave a game stuck on 99 baseballs and can’t get that 100th ball until the next game.
Our family had just moved to Washington–I stayed for an extra week to say goodbye to people in New York–so I headed back on the train with Zack to sleep one last night in a pretty vacant apartment with my step-brother who had a flight that he had to leave for at 3 o’clock in the morning. Suffice to say I didn’t get much sleep in preparation for the game the following day.
- 3 Balls at this Game (2 pictured because I gave 1 away)
- 69 Balls in 15 Games= 4.60 Balls Per Game
- 3 Balls x 23,038 Fans= 69,114 Competition Factor
- 77 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 4 straight Games with at least 2-3 Balls
- 89 Balls in 34 Games at Citi Field= 2.62 Balls Per Game
- 34 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Citi Field
- Time Spent On Game 3:13-12:02= 8 Hours 49 Minutes
A normal person would come back from a weekend trip to Chicago where he had attended baseball games each day of the trip and relax for the rest of the day. I am not a normal person. No; when Sean dropped me off at my dorm from Chicago at 2:30, I immediately started readying myself to go see the White Sox in action for the third straight day. This time against the Twins at Target Field:
I’m holding up four fingers because this was now my fourth game in a row despite the fact that I had traveled about 800 miles by car in those four days. The look is because I had no idea how this was going to pan-out for me. I’m glad to say now that it went well.
The day started off on a great note when a program vendor came down the steps to hand a ball to a kid. I had gotten to know this kid and his dad pretty well over this year since they also try snagging baseballs and I had given the son a couple tips during the Angels series. Anyway, right after she handed him a ball, I noticed she had another ball in her hand. I then asked her if she could give me that ball, which she then did for my first ball of the game before I even entered the gate:
With that snag, I had now snagged as many baseballs outside of Gate 3 as I have outside of Gate 34, which is ironically held as the far-superior gate for snagging baseballs before it opens.
Once I got in, I made a beeline for the left field seats and managed to misplay the only ball that I possibly could have gotten. I actually didn’t end up getting any baseballs until the White Sox started hitting and I headed out to right-center field. There, I got Matt Lindstrom to toss me what was probably the hardest thrown toss-up I’ve ever received despite the fact that he was about twenty feet below me:
Somewhere prior to this game, I messed up my ball count, so I thought that the ball I had gotten outside the gate was my 500th career ball (which I kind of regretted at the time), but after the fact, I realized that this ball Lindstrom had just tossed me was my 500th. Anyway, the point is that even though I got
I then headed back over to left field. The reason was because a new group came up who consisted of White Sox lefties who I didn’t think could hit anything over the wall was coming up, and since groups usually spend the first round or two of BP hitting the ball to the opposite field, I thought I should head over there and play for toss-ups. Ironically, though, my next ball was hit. See I was playing almost all the way down the line by the left field foul pole to try to get Jose Quintana to toss me a ball using our Colombian connection when Dewayne Wise hit a ball that I could tell was going to both fall short and to the right of where I was standing. However I knew that with its trajectory, the ball was headed for the warning track, where it could then hop up over the wall. My first instinct was to catch it directly on the bounce, but I reached as far to my right over a railing and still came up short. The ball then landed in the camera well right by the foul pole. I knew I probably wasn’t allowed there, so I hesitated for a good ten seconds before opening the latch up, quickly grabbing the ball and getting out with my third ball of the day:
I then headed over to right field because I knew that a couple of the White Sox players had seen me get the ball, and got Nate Jones to toss me a ball. I didn’t know his name, so I just went with the generic “Can you toss me the ball, please?” At which point he looked up, saw my White Sox hat, and tossed me the ball:
I turned to my right and gave the ball to the first kid I spotted with a glove on. I then headed back to left field, because I figured I could get a ball from a pitcher who was patrolling left-center field.
Turns out I was right and got a ball from Jesse Crain pretty quickly after I got down there:
That would be it for batting practice itself, but as I was in left field foul ground just as batting practice ended, I ran to the White Sox dugout just as the ball basket was being brought to the dugout. As he was doing so, Mark Salas tossed a ball randomly into the seats behind the dugout, and I managed to be the first one to run and get it:
As you can maybe tell from the picture, the White Sox then took fielding practice. I believe they are one of two teams I have ever seen do it after BP, but I have seen them do it multiple times.
After they went through fielding practice, the coaches returned to the dugout. I had assumed Salas had seen me get the ball, so I didn’t ask him for one of the baseballs he was carrying, but when I made eye contact with him, he tossed me a baseball without me even asking for my seventh on the day:
As for the game, I started out behind the dugout:
But that only lasted two innings when I realized Alexei Ramirez wasn’t going to toss me a baseball and that it would be cool to snag a game home run at Target Field before I headed back to New York. Long story short: I didn’t snag anything during the game and was at 7 baseballs for the day when the game ended. That said, when it ended, I first got a ball from home plate umpire, Manny Gonzalez because I was the only one who even had a clue what his name was at the dugout (he didn’t even toss any of his other baseballs up, but said “Here you go,” when I asked him for a ball by name:
If you wonder why I never have the umpire in the pictures with the balls I snag from them, it’s because by the time I snag the baseball and pull out my phone to take the picture, the umpire has already walked through the tunnel. The same goes with any player/coach headed who tosses me a baseball on his way to the dugout. Such was the case with my next ball. Let me just preface it with a bit of back-story from the game. Aaron Hicks, who was touted as a super-prospect at the beginning of the year but had been doing absolutely dismal up until this game, (And by dismal, I mean that he was hitting below .100 a majority of the season leading up to this game and was still below .150 at the beginning of this game) had the game of his young career. First Mr. Hicks hit a home run into the batter’s eye in center field. He then proceeded to rob Adam Dunn of a home run en route to hitting a second home run. Despite the fact that he had been getting booed constantly by Twins fans–who are not prone at all to booing players–he was called out for the first standing ovation at Target Field since Jim Thome. An ovation, which I can imagine I looked very strange giving since I was wearing a White Sox hat. Why am I telling you all this? (Besides the fact that I can now brag about being at Aaron Hicks’ first truly great game.) It’s because both of Hicks’ home runs made their way into the White Sox bullpen, where I didn’t see either get tossed up into the crowd. My ninth ball of the day came from Addison Reed, a reliever, who had obviously come from the bullpen. He rolled the ball to me over the dugout roof:
And without even considering the possibility that the ball could have been one of Hicks’ home runs, I gave the ball away to a kid on my right:
So yeah. There’s a chance I gave away a home run ball. Granted it wouldn’t have counted in my “stats” as a game home run ball even if I were certain it was the ball, but it would have been so awesome to say that I owned one of Aaron Hicks’ home runs from his first two-home run game. Actually, I take that back, this was Aaron Hick’s first two-hit game ever, so it would have been even cooler. But as is the case with how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, the world may never know.
However, I didn’t stumble onto that possibility until after the game, at this point I was focused on one thing: snag my tenth baseball of the game. Only one person ever (Zack Hample) had snagged over ten baseballs at Target Field ever (12). And with him having snagged half of those before the public was even allowed into the stadium, with a tenth ball, I could say that I had snagged the most baseballs at Target Field ever after the gates of the stadium opened. Well I guess I could already have said that, but there’s something special about going double-digits. I had only ever done it at Nationals Park and Oriole Park at Camden Yards, so doing it at a much tougher stadium would have been an affirmation of sorts after doing terribly over the weekend at U.S. Cellular. There was just one problem: all of the players and coaches had left the field and were already in the clubhouse. That’s where what I most appreciate in Minnesota away from New York comes into play: I would have been kicked out of the section the second the White Sox bullpen people went into the dugout. Actually, there’s a chance I would have been even earlier. Here in Minnesota, you can stay behind the dugout pretty much until the ushers themselves have to leave. In staying there, I managed to see the dugout/clubhouse attendant, Mario, pop his head out of the dugout. He recognized me by this point in the season and obviously was looking for kids to give a baseball to and not me, but given the fact that pretty much all other fans had left the section, I asked him if he had an extra baseball, and he then tossed me my tenth ball of the day:
It felt so good I immediately felt the need to brag about it to someone and told an usher in the section that I have come to know. She knows I snag baseballs regularly, but even she was impressed when I told her how many baseballs I snagged that night. That night I went home happy and full of thoughts of what I could do if I went to a stadium where I wouldn’t have to get 9 baseballs tossed to me to make double-digits.
- 10 Baseballs at this Game:
- 62 Balls in 13 Games= 4.77 Balls Per Game
- 10 Balls x 25,605 Fans= 256,050 Competition Factor
- 75 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 2 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 2 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
- 113 Balls in 25 Games at Target Field= 4.52 Balls Per Game
- 23 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Target Field
- 3 straight Games with at least 2-4 Ball at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 3:26-11:52= 8 Hours 26 Minutes