Tagged: Zack Hample

5/26/13 Braves at Mets: Citi Field

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:

52613 Opening Picture

When I got there, I quickly got on the board with a toss-up from Dillon Gee in the right field corner:

52613 Ball 1

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:

52613 Left Field

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:

20130605-202004.jpg
And this was the view to my left:

20130605-202107.jpg
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:

20130605-210148.jpg
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:

20130605-212350.jpg
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:

20130605-212746.jpg
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:

20130605-213213.jpg
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.

STATS:

  • 2 Baseballs at this Game (1 in this picture because I gave 1 away)

52613 Baseball

Numbers 525 and 526 for my lifetime:

52613 Sweet Spot

  • 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

5/20/13 Reds at Mets: Citi Field

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:

Click on here to get to the video.

Oh, how there are some things that I did not miss at all about New York:

52013 Packed train

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:

52013 View in LF

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:

52013 Ball 1

I then headed back to left field for the beginning of Reds BP. This time on the other side of Zack:

52013 Second view in left

(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:

52013 Ball 2

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:52013 Back of the Pepsi Porch

Here’s the view of the field from where I was standing:

52013 View from the Pepsi Porch

And now of the scoreboard:

52013 View of the scoreboard from the PP

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:

52013 Guy who has balls

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:

52013 Mark home run ball

Left to right that would be:

1. Zack

2. Mark McConville

3. Myself

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.

STATS:

  • 3 Balls at this Game (2 pictured because I gave 1 away)

52013 Baseballs

Numbers 513-515:

52013 Sweet Spots

  • 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

5/13/13 White Sox at Twins: Target Field

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:

51313 Opening Picture

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:

51313 Ball1

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:

51313 Ball 2

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:

51313 Ball 3

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:

51313 Ball 4

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:

51313 Ball 5

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:

51313 Ball 6

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:

51313 Ball 7

As for the game, I started out behind the dugout:

51313 View behind 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:

51313 Ball 8

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:

51313 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:

51313 Kid I gave ball away to

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:

51313 Ball !0, Baby!

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.

STATS:

  • 10 Baseballs at this Game:

51313 Baseballs

Numbers 499-508:

51313 Sweet Spots

  • 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

Characters of Observing Baseball: Zack Hample

Zack Hample COB

Entries with Zack in them: 27

How I met Zack: I don’t know if there was a single time I heard of Zack. The first distinct event I remember, though, was this: I was known–among other things–as the baseball-obsessed kid in my pre-teen years. (Trust me; I have the years worth of baseball books I never read to prove it.) Anyway, as I alluded to in that last sentence in parentheses, this lead everybody and their grandmother to go with baseball-related books when in doubt as gifts. One such book was “Watching Baseball Smarter”. Unlike most of the books that I have been given–which I convinced myself I’d read later as I put them on my bookshelf, only to be left, still unread–it seemed interesting, so I started reading it. While it ended up not being a book I particularly enjoyed, when I saw the author’s picture on the back, I thought, “Hey, that’s that guy who catches baseballs that I’ve heard of a few times.” (Again, because I was “the baseball kid”, a couple of people had told me about Zack before that point, but it was never more than a mention until I realized *he* had written the book.) After I read the book, I went on two road trips with my dad and snagged a combined four baseballs in 18 games. While it’s true that I didn’t get to the gates before they opened, didn’t really ask players at all for baseballs, and didn’t read Zack’s blog, I was kind of feeling, “You know, this whole do-it-yourself snagging thing really isn’t working, so I should learn directly from the expert himself.” So, that next year I saved up the whole year to A. Go to a “Watch With Zack” game, and B. Go on a third baseball road trip with my dad where I would have a clue as to how to snag a baseball. And that Watch With Zack Game was where I met Zack (more specifically, the 79th street subway station). I would write more about the experience, but I’m saving it for the “Blast from the Baseball Past” entry I hope to write on the game eventually. In the meantime, here’s Zack’s entry on the game.

First of all, since this is the first entry of its ilk, let me go through what this series of entries unofficially is. There are many people who I mention or just appear in my ballhawking entries, so these entries are to give you some background into the person and my relation to them. (So why they are even appearing in the entries.) Zack, for the .0000009% of you who don’t know, is the snagger of 6,459 baseballs (as of January, 14, 2013), and as such has appeared in a ton of my ballhawking entries since we are often at the same game in New York.

If you didn’t pick it up in the paragraph where I described how I met Zack, Zack was the one who taught me how to ballhawk. He was the inspiration for me starting to ballhawk and the reason this blog exists in general. Granted I haven’t written any other of these “Character of Observing Baseball” entries yet, but I’d say this is probably the hardest to write since there is so much known about Zack already out there, so most things I would write would be redundant. That, and my encounters with him are numerous enough that I can’t just narrate to you those one or two times I’ve been to the same game as him. My best advice is to click the “26” earlier in the entry and simply read a few of the entries for my experiences at game with him. So, good people, I give you a few links to somewhat get to know Mr. Hample yourself:

1. Blog

2. Website

3. Twitter

And, for fun: 4. Wikipedia Page

Now, just because I think you were too lazy or whatever to click the “26”, here are some of the synopses of the games we have both attended:

1. 4/9/11 Nationals at Mets- Every ballhawk in the New York it seemed came to this game because back then everyone went to Citi Field instead of Yankee Stadium only to find out that the reason they had gone there had been taken away from them by the Mets in that the Mets pushed the gate opening time from two-and-a-half hours before first pitch to two hours before it.

2. 4/14/11 Orioles at Yankees- Zack formally introduced me to Ben Weil forcing my first memory of Ben being the scrapes on his legs from the Yankee Stadium ground.

3. 4/17/11 Rangers at Yankees- I showed up half way through batting practice for this Sunday Night Baseball game only to almost out-snag Zack for the first time ever.

4. 4/21/11 Astros at Mets- I got Zack to sign my copy of “The Baseball and got Nelson Figueroa to sign a ball and take a self-shot with my camera. What did Zack snag? Only the first ever mygameballs.com-recorded Citi Field home run snag, which just so happened to be Mike Nickeas’ first career home run.

5. 7/24/11 Angels at Orioles- Zack caught Mike Trout’s first ever home run, so I got to have a semi-behind-the-scenes look at OPACY and got to see a 19-year-old Trout in person as he met with his family for the first time after hitting his first major league home run.

6. 8/1/11 Marlins at Mets- This time it my turn to snag a game ball. I snagged an Angel Pagan foul ball which Zack, myself, his half-brother, and his half-brother’s son had fun taking pictures of (none of which show up in the entry, but I that was the main interaction during the game).

7. 8/15/12 Rangers at Yankees- There was a bunch of rain , so Zack explained to me the difference between him and Mickey Mantle, helped me snag a ball from a groundskeeper, and provided almost half of the pictures I used in the entry.

8. 8/24/12 Astros at Mets- Since it was my last game before going off to school in Minnesota, I rode back the entire subway journey back with him and Greg Barasch.

9. 8/14/11 Rangers at Yankees- I did a “Before The Gates Open” video in which Zack made a ridiculous cameo–from which the picture up top is a screen cap of.

I think I could write more about the other games, but again, check them out. Mostly because I don’t feel like transcribing the entries all into this one single entry. And if you were wondering…Yes, making it so you can find every game I attended with any given ballhawk through tags is one of my mini-projects under the larger project of re-doing the blog this winter. I already have it so you can see every entry a certain player hit or tossed me a ball, but I realize now that I had no clue what tagging entries actually meant. So if you notice, as of late, I haven’t really been tagging the entries myself; I’ve just been using all fo the tags WordPress suggests for me. That’s because I’m trying to figure out what I actually want my tags to be used for. Once I have a concrete idea and get up the motivation to undertake the project, I’m going to re-do almost all of the tags. That’s yet another reason why I got rid of so many entries from the past. Anyway, if you couldn’t tell, the main part of the entry is over, so this is the part where I tell you to vote for the entry(s) you would like to see next if you haven’t already:

And here are the already-exhausted entry ideas. For those who don’t know, after all of the items on the poll get written, I will put some of the exhausted entries back up and we’ll do this all over until Opening Day (yes I capitalize it; it’s a national holiday) rolls around:

1. Ballhawk Interviews- 33 votes

2. Stadium Profiles- 26 votes

3. Ballhawk Profiles- 33 votes

4. Dissect (a) Baseball(s)- 26 votes

5. Tour Target Field when there’s snow on the ground- 26 votes

6. Weird Observing Baseball Facts and Records- 28 votes

7. New Observing Baseball Icon- 17 votes

8. MLBlogs I Recommend- 33 votes

9. Observing Baseball Trivia- 32 votes

10. My Favorite MLB Players- 28 votes

11. Characters of Observing Baseball- 29 votes

Not proofread.

240,670 Words Written so far…

8/24/12 Astros at Mets: Citi Field

‘Twas the week before college, and action was dead. So I went to dear Citi. What’s wrong with my head?

I travelled with my neighbor, Greg Barasch, on the subway to the game. There began the motif of this game: fun people, bad baseball.

When we got to the gates, he went ahead and bought a student ticket for himself and Zack Hample. Meanwhile, I met a kid by the name of Michael who told me he had read this blog. I stupidly didn’t get a picture of all four of us before the gates opened, but I wanted to include Michael in the entry somehow, so….yeah. After that I got some free pudding the outside the Jackie Robinson Rotunda.

After I got in the gates, it didn’t take me long to miss my first ball of the day:

I had gone down to the first row to ask Josh Edgin for  a ball. Just as I was leaning down, to cup my hands and yell at him, I saw a ball get hit to my right. Just to my right was the guy in blue in the last picture. I figured he would still be trying to get the ball from Edgin, so I hopped into the row behind him and got right to the spot I thought the ball was going. As I was tracking the ball, I saw him and his glove starting to reach up. He missed the ball, but deflected oh so slightly so that the ball that previously would have gone into the pocket of my glove hit the side of my glove and bounced two rows behind me. Greg had an eye out for this ball, so when it landed in the seats, he was already running for the ball and grabbed it.

When the gates opened, Greg and I took the left field seats and Zack took the seats in upper right field. That meant until Zack showed up in the section, I had this view of the “action” (if you can call Mets-Astros BP action):

Meanwhile, Zack had moved from right field to center field and got Dave Raceniello to toss him a ball:

That meant I was the only one not on the board yet.

I figured I would just go ask for a toss-up in center field:

There, I got my first look at the Mets’ All-Star game logo:

I don’t know what I think of the logo, but I can tell you with 90% certainty that unless I miraculously don’t have to pay for my ticket, I’m not going to the All-Star Game at Citi Field.  I definitely don’t want to pay an extra-expensive ticket just to go to an extra-packed Citi Field. That and I kind of want my first All-Star Game to be at Target Field. Sure it’s a pretty bad stadium for snagging balls, but at least through two games, it actually feels like home in the same way that Nationals Park sort of does. I don’t know why, but I can only maybe say this for Yankee Stadium and definitely can’t for Citi Field.

Anyway, I don’t think you’re here to hear me talk about future plans. You’re here for the snagging (or lack thereof):

While I was in the center field seating, a ball got hit to Brandon Barnes (an Astros outfielder). I didn’t know his name, so I just gave him a generic request and he loft the ball to me as is shown by the arrow. It was a pretty good throw.

Then began the “nothingness”. First of all, if you don’t know, the Astros are a team of a bunch of guys who have maybe been in the major leagues for a year. On top of that, almost all of them had their warm-up jerseys on. Basically, they were indistinguishable from each other, so I had no clue who was who. The next thing is I made the mistake of standing behind this guy:

In standing behind Zack, I was banking on the fact that balls would be hit over his head enough that I could judge them well enough to make a jumping catch. That didn’t happen. Instead, Zack went on to catch three balls on the fly that I most definitely would have had if he weren’t there, but you can read about all that and more in his account of the game: 8/24/12 at Citi Field. By the way, I’ll do this for anyone, not just him. If you are a ballhawk who has a blog, and you go to the same game as me, just let me know and I will always feature it regardless of whether it comes out before or after my entry (as long as I remember to do it and it’s PG).

As for the game, I stayed out in left field because, as was the case with the previous, oh I don’t know, six Mets games, David Wright was sitting on 199 career home runs. Oh, and he hit it this game, but it was quite possibly the cheapest home run in the history of Citi Field:

Had it been either a foot lower or a foot further to the right, it wouldn’t have been a home run. To make matters even more frustrating, it was tossed up by the uniformed Astros right fielder to a fan who didn’t even catch it on the fly, yet got whisked away by security. You know what though, I’m happy for the fan. I’m just frustrated that I didn’t get it. In my ideal world, everyone in the stadium would get David Wright’s 200th home run, but obviously that’s not possible. The home run was so close it actually had to be reviewed by the umpires. When the umpires came back out and waved him through, I was honestly contemplating leaving the game right there.

Even though Greg had called me during the game to tell me the Astros didn’t have ANY commemorative baseballs (pretty much my only reason for scheduling this game), I had made the plan to go to the bullpens after the game, so I did:

There, I yelled out to the Astros bullpen catcher Javier Bracamonte for a ball, but he said something back in Spanish, shrugged, and walked away. On the bright side, this was my 50th game in a row with at least 1 Ball.

I then hopped over to the area behind the visitors dugout, because Zack and Greg were waiting for me. After much confusion, due to the post-game Merengue concert, we finally saw each other and headed to the Jackie Robinson Rotunda where I took pictures like this:

and this:

The reason we were in the Jackie Robinson Rotunda is Zack (shown by the left arrow) wanted to make sure a glove he had lost a few days earlier hadn’t shown up in the Mets’ Lost and Found. While we were there, we asked the guy designated by the second arrow to take a picture of all three of us since I would be leaving for Minnesota in two days:

First, the reason I am pointing at their two baseballs with a face like that is they both got balls at the end of the game and I didn’t. Second, the reason I took a bunch of pictures of the rotunda is that may very well have been my last game at Citi Field. If you’ve noticed, I go to a lot of Nationals games. Well that’s because my step-dad lives there. If you’ve ever noticed it, married couples don’t usually lives cities apart….so, there is a chance that by the time I get back from Minnesota next summer, I will be returning to Washington D.C. and not New York.

If that is the case, it’s been a blast being a part of the New York ballhawking scene for these couple of years. I have befriended so many people throughout the process (including a neighbor I had never talked to before) that it’s amazing. Although I may not have been in love with the stadiums, it was the people in the stands that I had the pleasure of conversing and competing with that made the experience even tolerable. Sure, I’ll also miss being in quite possibly the best city in the world, but this is a baseball blog, so I thank everyone out there that made that aspect of New York life so special. (If I indeed am moving. If I’m not moving, then keep making it special. Pretty please?)

Speaking of special people, after we left the rotunda, Zack, myself, and Greg all rode back on the train together, talking about things from nail biting to corner spots.

STATS:

  • 1 Ball at this game (I completely forgot to take a picture before I left for Minnesota)
  • It was number 392 of my life.
  • 170 Balls in 41 Games= 4.15 Balls Per Game
  • 1 Ball x 25,513 Fans= C’mon can’t *you* do that math?
  • 50 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 86 Balls at Citi Field in 33 Games= 2.61 Balls Per Game
  • 33 straight Games at Citi Field with at least 1 Ball (It’s a wonder how I haven’t been shutout there.)
  • Time Spent On Game 3:45- 10:56= 7 Hours 11 Minutes

8/15/12 Rangers at Yankees: Yankee Stadium

What happens when you’re having an incredibly frustrating series and there’s almost a guarantee of rain, but you “have” to get to at least 17 more games in a month-and-a-half? You end up going to games you otherwise wouldn’t have. I knew going in there was not going to be batting practice, but then I saw how big the line was and let out a sigh:

20120819-135236.jpgOy. It’s tough enough to deal with that kind of crowd when there’s ball after ball being hit; never mind when it would be all of us competing for a couple pitchers warm-up balls.

When I entered the ballpark, I was forced to submit to the inevitable truth that there was no batting practice. On a completely unrelated note: Great day for a beach mat giveaway, eh?

20120819-135807.jpgActually, for some practically-thinking people, it was. They used it to separate themselves from their wet seats.

From the time I got into the seating bowl to the time the players started throwing, there was a lull of about half-an-hour, which I filled up by talking to the ballhawks in attendance, Zack Hample and Takyi Chan (I have mentioned him as “Tak” in past entries).

When the players did start throwing, I got a ball. But it wasn’t a player at all who threw it; it was a coach:

20120819-143828.jpgMore specifically, Andy Hawkins, the bullpen coach. He was throwing with the pitching coach Mike Maddux, so when he finished, I waved my arms, said some words, and he tossed me the ball.

Then it was time for this:

20120819-232617.jpgAfter about an hour of delay, this was the view of the field:

20120819-232832.jpgThere was one thing that caught my eye, though. Can you spot it?

20120819-232958.jpgThat’s right; there was a ball on the warning track. One of the Rangers players overthrew the ball while warming up and the ball sat there for almost the entirety of the nearly two hour rain delay.

Do you see the guy taking down the pole in the bullpen? By the time he was done taking down the poles, I was right next to the bullpen. When he was taking down the last pole, I said, “Excuse me, when you’re done…” he glanced at me, but looked away and never came back. Thankfully, another groundskeeper was walking right by the ball. So I got his attention and showed him where the balls was through hand signals. He picked up the ball, and walked over to toss me the ball:

20120820-002110.jpgThat was it for the game snagging-wise. The game itself was really Josh Hamilton vs. The Yankees. Hamilton finally hit his first and second home runs ever at Yankee Stadium. Unfortunately for the Rangers, that’s all they got out of their offense. It was a pretty bad series for an offensive powerhouse like themselves if you ask me.

Anyway, by the time the game finally ended, I was one of the proud few fans leaving at nearly 12:30:

20120820-134330.jpgYeah, that’s what Yankee Stadium’s exiting crowd looks like when it’s NOT crowded. Getting to the train is often one of the worst parts of each trip to a Yankees game.

STATS:
• 2 Balls at this game

20120820-144541.jpgNumbers 366-367:

20120820-144601.jpg• 145 Balls in 34 Games= 4.26 Balls Per Game
• 43 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
• 19 straight Games with at least 2Balls
• 88 Balls in 24 Games at the New Yankee Stadium= 3.67 Balls Per Game
• 24 straight Games at the New Yankee Stadium with at least 1 Ball
• 9 straight Games at the New Yankee Stadium with at least 2 Balls
• Time Spent On Game 3:29-12:45= 9 Hours 16 Minutes

8/14/12 Rangers at Yankees: Yankee Stadium

So… I think I’ll start off the entry with a “Before The Gates Open” video:

If you didn’t get it from my video, this was my view of the field when I first got in:

20120817-132716.jpgI don’t believe any of us ballhawks got a ball out there.

No, my first ball of the day came when the Rangers started throwing. Nelson Cruz tossed a ball to me, but it sailed over my head where Greg Barasch picked the ball up. Went all the way to the ball bucket and picked a ball out of there:

20120817-133911.jpg(Do you see him? He’s the one closest to the bucket with the ball in his hand.) He then launched that ball over my head with relative ease from over 200 feet away. When I ran up the stairs chasing the ball, it bounced back towards the field and over my head where another fan got it. Cruz then got a third ball. This time, I made sure to be up higher on the staircase. He threw the ball, and I saw it was falling short, so I ran down the stairs, cut into the row, and caught the ball. All in all, it was a fun experience. Here’s the ball as Cruz headed off to right field:

20120817-155625.jpgFun.

My next ball came when I headed to the left field seats in fair territory. Ian Kinsler hit a ball that I could tell wasn’t going to reach me on the fly but might reach me after bouncing off someone’s hands. It bounced off some hands, off a seat; it then went behind me, and it then bounced off a glove behind me, where it landed in the row behind me and I picked it up. It was in this general area that I snagged it:

20120818-145954.jpg

After this it was time for Josh Hamilton’s group. All of us four ballhawks who had met at Gate 6 had the same idea: go to right field. For the record, I was the first one out of the left field section, but the other three followed seconds after. So, on our way to right field, we divvied-up the right field seats as to not get in each other’s ways, Zack got the field level seats, and Ben got the bleachers:

20120818-150845.jpgMeanwhile, Greg and I drew the short straws and were relegated to the second deck in right field.

There, I had one mission in mind: Get a ball from Joe Nathan. (He was/is one of my favorite players ever for his role on my beloved Twins.) Here was my view of him:

20120818-155449.jpgAnd this is how I tried to coax him in to throwing me a ball:

20120818-160409.jpgThat would be my Twins shirt, which I bought at the Metrodome, turned around to highlight how much of fan of Nathan’s I was.

Unfortunately, I wasted all of the remaining batting practice up there, but I *was* able to make it down to the dugout just as the players were running off, and I got a ball from a player I can best identify as Mark Lowe:

20120818-201222.jpgHe’s the left of the two players with their heads down.

After batting practice, I met up with a few ballhawks in the left field seats:

20120818-202528.jpgThen my neighbor, Greg Barasch showed up, so we had to take it again:

20120818-203214.jpgThe people- left to right- are:
1. Ben Weil– A ballhawk best known for having the biggest collection of jerseys in the Milky Way. (If you want to see just how big, I put a link to his name for a reason.) However, Ben purposely pulled off his beautiful Rangers jersey to display the shirt you see in the picture.
2. Greg Barasch– Probably the best ballhawk at amassing as many balls in a single game as he can in the country (even if he DOES always go for third-out balls at the games he goes to).
3. Matthew Latimer– A reporter for MLB’s Cut4, who may or may not interview me next season at a Yankee game if there’s a slow news day.
4. Zack Hample– The man, the myth, the sweater (that’s why he’s holding out his two-shaded shirt out).
5. Moi- I’m holding out three fingers because it was the third game in a row Zack and I had been to a game together.
6. Mark McConville– A ballhawk who you saw towards the end of the video. We’ve seen each other at quite a few games considering how many games he’s been to (12).

As for the game, Hiroki Kuroda threw a complete game two-hitter. Also, I personally found this stat amazing:

20120819-103056.jpgAm I the only one? That seems pretty spectacular.

STATS:
• 3 Balls at this Game

20120819-103341.jpgNumbers 363-365 for my lifetime:
20120819-103433.jpg• 143 Balls in 33 Games= 4.33 Balls Per Game
• 3 Balls x 44,533 Fans= 133,599 Competition Factor
• 42 Games with at least 1Ball
• 18 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
• 86 Balls in 23 Games at the New Yankee Stadium= 3.74 Balls Per Game
• 23 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at the New Yankee Stadium
• 8 straight Games at the New Yankee Stadium with at least 2 Balls
• Time Spent On Game 3:58- 10:12= 6 Hours 14 Minutes