So for the third time in as many days, I was at Oriole Park at Camden Yards (or OPACY for short) to see the Houston Astros take on the hometown Baltimore Orioles. And for the third consecutive day, I was not alone at the gates. Here was the crew:
Left to right that would be ballhawks/OPACY people:
1. Grant Edrington.
2. Mateo Fischer- As performed by Mateo Fischer.
3. Chris Hernandez– Who came from New York only to get misdirected by people outside OPACY and get to the gates with eight minutes to spare.
4. Rick Gold– I’ve introduced Rick many a time.
5. Alex Kopp– Who had generously let me sleep at his house the past two days.
6. Zevi- Who I believe for the first time I’ve ever been, was going to a game that Avi Miller was not attending.
How did these people scatter once inside? Here are my right, left, and frontal views once we all got inside the stadium:
So in that last picture, you may notice that Alex was in front of me. That’s usually not good news at all, since he is way better at judging fly balls than I am, but in this particular instance it benefited me. Usually the OPACY regulars–and even myself–don’t even try to get the Orioles players and coaches to toss us baseballs, but Alex convinced Miguel Gonzalez to toss him a ball. Unfortunately for Alex, Gonzalez air-mailed him and I picked the ball up for my first of the day:
Gonzalez would be the Oriole in black with the orange glove, who seems on his way to pick up the baseball in the distance. I felt bad for doing that, even though it was natural and he would do (and has done in the past) the same thing to me. But don’t feel too bad, because he would go on to snag seven baseballs on the day and further distance himself from me in the mygameballs.com standings.
My second baseball of the day came when I quickly went into foul territory right at the end of Orioles BP and got Astros catcher, Carlos Corporan, to toss me a baseball. I didn’t get a picture of it, because I thought I had a shot at a quick third baseball, but none of the other Astros who were throwing acknowledged me.
Like my first, my next ball would also come as a result of Alex and Tim Anderson’s cup trick that he had lent me the previous day. When Rick Gold and I simultaneously went from left to right field, he asked me if I wanted the flag court or the seats. Right then I saw a baseball in the gap in front of the seats, so I said, “Seats,” and went into the section. As I got into the section, an usher by the name of Charlie recognized me from earlier and asked me if I had a ball retriever, because his son had dropped a ball into the gap. Since I was headed to there anyway, I gladly obliged and got the ball for his son. I then asked for the baseball back for a second to take this picture of it:
(And no, my thumb isn’t broken. I truly have no clue why it’s bent that way in the picture.) Sadly this would be my last ball of BP. I almost got a ball during the Astros last mostly-lefty group, but it bounced into a trash can, and Grant realized it a half-second before I did and pulled the ball out of a food tray inside the trash can.
While I wasn’t completely dissatisfied in myself like I am during many 3-ball performances, I realized I was sitting at 599 baseballs and kind of wanted to get my 600the baseball before the day was over. At the end of BP, I went to the Astros dugout. There I asked Javier Bracamonte while he was unloading the BP baseballs into ball bags if he could toss me a spare baseball. He motioned that I go to the bullpen for when he arrived there. So I journeyed and met up with Chris, who had still not gotten an Astros 50th anniversary commemorative, which was pretty much the reason he drove down for this game. So waited at the bullpen. Through such things as Jason Castro’s catching drills:
And even when Bracamonte got to the bullpen, he kept telling me to wait. Not in a mean way, but more of a “I’m going to hook you up, but I have to do bullpen catcher stuff right now” kind of way. Finally, after a ton of time, he tossed me what was now my third 50th anniversary commemorative baseball:
I kind of felt bad because Chris had still not gotten one of these. If you can see Bracamonte’s blurred face in the background of the last picture, he’s semi-confused because Chris was explaining to him that he wanted Javier to toss him a commemorative baseball, but I think he was misinterpreting it and thought that Chris was asking him for a 2013 Astros commemorative baseball, which the Astros don’t take on the road with them(…yet). In this next picture, I believe Bracamonte is going back to the ball bag to search for a commemorative. (FYI, if you see this Astros in the immediate future in search of the 2012 commemorative baseball, their bullpen bag was comprised of almost exclusively commemorative baseballs.):
Eventually, Chris did get his commemorative toss-up from Bracamonte. I would show you the picture, but I took it with Chris’ phone, so I suspect that will be in his blog entry when it’s up.
I stayed in left for the first half-inning of the game, but then headed back to right field, where it finally dawned on me that I had snagged my 600th baseball ever. Since I thought it was a photo-worthy moment, I had Alex take a picture of me with the ball:
And that was it. At the end of the game, both Chris and I headed down to the umpire tunnel:
(He was taking a picture of his view. Here’s mine at the same time):
But neither of us got a baseball from the umpire since he was out of baseballs by the time he got to us. After everything died down at the dugout, we went to Chris’ car and headed back to my apartment in Washington, where we would stay the next day before coming back to OPACY the next day.
Semi-side-note. I never released it because it became factually inaccurate, but we filmed a video before heading off to OPACY the next day, so here’s that if you want to check it out:
I then filmed a video to kind of substitute the fact that I never released that one a few days ago, so here’s the more recent video for those of you who care:
Okay, and now I’m done with the entry.
- 4 Balls at this Game (3 pictured because I gave 1 away)
Numbers 597-600 for my “career”:
- 154 Balls in 39 Games= 3.95 Balls Per Game
- 4 Balls x 17,909 Fans=71,636 Competition Factor
- 101 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 6 straight Games with 2 Balls
- 3 straight Games with 3 Balls
- 2 straight Games with 4 Balls
- 62 Balls in 16 Games at OPACY= 3.88 Balls Per Game
- 16 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- 6 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at OPACY
- 4 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 4:18-11:20= 7 Hours 2 Minutes
After a three-week hiatus, it was time once more to go back to Oriole Park at Camden Yards. And look at the group there as the gates opened:
That would be:
1. Zevi- Whose last name I am still not sure of.
2. Me- As played by Mateo Fischer.
3. Grant Edrington– Whom I was introduced to face-to-face at the gates before this picture was taken.
4. Alex Kopp– A ballhawk who caught Chris Davis’ 100th home run, and may have done something nearly as special involving Davis a couple entries after this one. (Translation: stay tuned to this blog for about three more entries if you want to read about it.
5. Avi Miller– The very hospitable, unofficial king of Camden Yards.
As we ballhawks ran into the left field seats, Alex beat me to one easter egg down the third base line, but I then saw a ball going down the stairs behind him as he was walking back towards me. What I should have done was kept walking calmly past him like nothing was going on, since his back was turned to the ball. What I did instead was start running before I got past him, he saw me running, turned around, ran for the ball, and picked it up.
My first actual baseball came as a product of what I’d like to call hustle, but I think is more just me getting lucky. An Orioles lefty hit a towering foul ball, so being the ballhawk closest to foul territory, when I saw the ball was probably going to bounce off the warning track and into the seats, I bolted over there. I didn’t at all expect to get the ball, since there was a man within ten feet of where the ball landed, but when I saw he couldn’t find the ball, I accelerated and saw the ball in the front row. It had trickled down the stairs and this guy had no clue it had done so. As I saw it and started running, though, there was another man opposite me who was trying to get autographs. He noticed me running, and then saw the ball. When this happened, the ball was between us but slightly closer to him. So it turned into a 20-yard footrace. I beat him to the ball, and made sure to cover the ball with my glove, since I’ve gotten my hand stepped on in similar situations. I then walked back to left field with my first ball of the day:
See if you can identify two of the guys from the opening picture in their left field seat spots:
Anyway, my next baseball also came in foul ground. (Spoiler alert: all of mine this day did.) I went over there at the beginning of a group of Orioles who were mostly lefties. I figured they might hit a ball or two into foul ground. And I was right. I was paying attention to something else, but when I turned, I saw a ball going to touch down in the seats by me, and I ran over to pick it up:
I sadly did not know pretty much any of the Astros, and they all had their numbered jerseys covered, so I didn’t get any toss-ups from them. the next ball I came even relatively close to was a hit baseball from Dave Clark. If you know who that is, you may say, “But, Mateo, Dave Clark is a coach on the Astros.” Well yes, but the way I almost got a baseball hit by him was he was hitting fungoes off of the right field wall for outfielders to learn the caroms of the ball. Several of these went over the wall, and one I had perfectly tracked and lined up, but someone reached in front of me at the last second and robbed me:
My next and final baseball that I snagged was in right field foul ground. I was down there to get a toss-up from an Astros coach/trainer-looking person when an Astros righty hit a ball in front of me. I ran down to it, but as soon as it hit a seat, it bounced sideways. I then ran and grabbed it, but a kid who had also been chasing it also grabbed the ball right after I did. He then started pulling on the ball, and as I have done in the past, I let go of the ball and counted it:
I’ve said it before in this blog, but I don’t think a situation has arisen thus far this year that has required me explaining it, so I’ll explain my rationale for the newer readers. I don’t like having a scoring system that incentivizes being a not-nice person. That’s why even though some ballhawks don’t count baseballs they give away baseballs (and I completely understand their way of seeing things) I count them, because it allows me to be a nice person despite my scoring system, whereas I might be much less likely to give baseballs away to kids if I didn’t count them in my stats. Additionally, if I grab onto a baseball and another person grabs onto it afterwards, my standard procedure is to let go, let them have the ball, and count it anyway. Because while this person grabbed onto a ball that I already had possession of, it wouldn’t be nice of me/look good if I ripped the ball out of their hands, so I just let it go. I felt okay about the decision in this particular instance until I saw that the ball I had just let go of was a Houston Astros 50th anniversary commemorative baseball. Then I kind of wished I had ripped it out of the kids’ hands and given him one of the baseballs I had snagged earlier in BP.
That was it for snagging, though. I was in the flag court the whole game, and I believe the only homer that was hit in the game went to left field. The highlight of the game by far was watching Jonathan Villar–who we were watching since he had/has 0 career home runs–steal home. I don’t think any of us on the flag court (Grant, Alex, and myself) saw him right away, but it was amazing once we picked him up out of the corner of our eyes and realized what had just happened. Take a look for yourselves:
Oh, and another thing that was amazing that I forgot to mention earlier in the entry was that Chris Carter hit the facing of the second deck in left field. I don’t know exactly how far that is, but it was certainly the farthest hit baseball I’ve seen hit there, and one usher said the only person he had ever seen do that was Jose Canseco–if that puts anything into perspective for you. Main point: Play back for Chris Carter.
- 3 Baseballs at this game (2 pictured because I let 1 slip away voluntarily)
Numbers 589-591 for my “career”:
- 145 Balls in 37 Games= 3.92 Balls Per Game
- 3 Balls x 24,904 Fans=74,712 Competition Factor
- 99 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 4 straight games with 2 Balls
- 53 Balls in 14 Games at OPACY= 3.79 Balls Per Game
- 14 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- 4 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at OPACY
- 2 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 1:20-10:20= 9 Hours
Welcome to the entry of quite possibly my worst batting practice performance ever. So I’ll try to keep this entry brief and not make something out of nothing.
When I arrived from Alex Kopp‘s house where I had spent the night, there was already a couple people in line, but thanks to cool people I knew like Tim Anderson and Rick Gold being at the front of the line, I also got to be at the front of the line. As a result of me being essentially the first one in the gates, I found two easter eggs in left field, and actually probably should have gotten three or four, but when I got in, a person cleaning in the seats asked me if I wanted to come and get a ball with him in first base foul ground. I probably should have told him no, but I figured that if I could get an extra baseball out of it, my journey would be worth it.
Well when we got over there, someone had already gotten the baseball and I saw ballhawks pick up two easter eggs in the time that I stopped and talked to this guy that I probably would have otherwise had. But anyway, when I had my two baseballs to start the day, I was thinking about big numbers for this game. I would then go on to not snag a ball fro the rest of batting practice–hence the lack of pictures from this game. It didn’t look like it was going to be that tough a day either. This was the view of the seats in left field when I got back after making the journey for the potential third easter egg, which besides having Alex and Tim in it, didn’t look that bad:
And it wasn’t just me either. Between myself, Alex, Tim, and Rick, we combined for a total of two hit baseballs snagged during BP and no toss-ups. It was just for whatever reason a tough BP. I almost got a ball from Dane De La Rosa, but when he asked me if I had already gotten a ball that day, I replied honestly and said yes. He then kept looking for someone to give the ball to before tossing it back into the ball bucket in center field. I’m thinking I should have replied with a clever response that reflected the fact that I still hadn’t gotten a ball during BP yet, but his question caught me so off-guard that I couldn’t think of anything besides just telling him what he wanted to hear.
After batting practice, I saw a ball inside of where the grounds crew stays during the games, below the right-center field seats, so I camped out there hoping to ask whoever entered there first for the ball. I didn’t take a picture in my time there, but I found out that someone else did while exploring the hashtag “opacy” on Instagram, so here I am waiting right above the spot where the ball was for someone to retrieve it:
I waited there for a solid half-hour as the grounds crew people were just starting to fix up the field post-batting practice when I got there. I watched and got ready every time a groundskeeper crossed in front of me on the warning track, bu none ever actually went inside the gate. Then, a couple people who I didn’t recognize as members of the grounds crew passed by me and into the gate. I was so surprised that they would be entering the area that I didn’t even ask them to go get the ball. What I did do was sit on the edge of my seat and be prepared for when one of them would come back out. When one of the guys came back out, I immediately saw that he had the ball in his hand and asked him before anyone else could get to him. He then tossed it to me for my third and final ball of the day:
I would then give that ball away to an usher at the top of the section and instructed him to give it away to the first kid with a glove he saw. I like to do this because it’s a win-win for myself and the usher. I get to show the usher that I am human and like to see kids go home happy with a baseball, and it lets the usher look like the hero for being the one to give the baseball to the kid and see his/her face light up when he/she gets the ball.
And that was it. I wouldn’t snag another ball for the rest of the game. I would sit out in the flag court pretty much the whole game with Alex and Tim–who managed to get a Mike Trout home run ball tossed up to him–but nothing would be hit up there.
- 3 Baseballs at this Game
Numbers 559-561 for my career:
- 115 Balls in 28 Games= 4.11 Balls Per Game
- 3 Ball x 22,834 Fans=68,502 Competition Factor
- 90 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 50 Balls in 13 Games at OPACY= 3.85 Balls Per Game
- 13 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 4:08-10:39= 6 Hours 31 Minute
Seeing how all I saw was rain in the forecast and didn’t know where I would be staying for the night the morning of this game, I seriously contemplated just not going to this game. And despite the good times that were had as a result of going to this game, the frustration that came out of it kind of still has me wishing I wouldn’t have gone.
When I got to Oriole Park at Camden Yards, this was the scene on the field:
But it actually wasn’t surprising at all. I had come from Washington that morning, and in walking from the train station in Baltimore to OPACY, it felt like I was in a monsoon. I really couldn’t believe how hard it was raining. It was actually raining so hard that some streets had turned into two-foot-deep rivers. It was seriously crazy. Even crazier was that it pretty much completely stopped right when I thought what I was doing by walking to the ballpark through this was insane and entered a 7-Eleven. I was left absolutely drenched, so I assume so too was the field. As I got in, though, there were a few Angels warming up down the left field line, so when I got over there, I asked who I believe was Hank Conger for the ball, and he asked me who my favorite player on the Angels was. I thought it was one of those situations where I was supposed to say it was him, but with my uncertainty at the time that it was Conger at the time, I responded with, “You, of course.” But when he asked, “Trout?” I realized that it was because a bunch of people were coming down from New Jersey to watch Mike Trout play, and that Conger was legitimately asking. So as he tossed me the ball, I gave him my legitimate answer that Ernesto Frieri was my favorite Angel:
You can kind of see Conger behind the Orioles grounds crew, but he was jogging off as he tossed me the ball. I then got Ryan Madson’s autograph and tried to help Avi Miller get Ernesto Frieri to toss us a baseball/take a picture with him and another friend/OPACY regular, Zevi. But in the time that Frieri was throwing, I stood back and tried to get a ball form one of the new Angels throwing pairs:
I think I could have, but C.J. Wilson apparently melts in the rain and ran inside the clubhouse every time it even started drizzling, so his catch session with Ernesto Frieri took forever, and he actually played catch with a couple of kids in the front row. I’ll upload the footage to YouTube if enough of you guys want to see it, but I really don’t feel like doing it otherwise. He also tossed about seven baseballs into the stands during this catch session–which I found really nice. Unfortunately, I was pretty far away from him at most times, so none of them came my way.
Tommy Hanson came out to play catch with Steve Soliz after all of these guys finished their catch sessions. I was waving my arms to get his attention from about fifteen rows deep, since there were a ton of fans in the first two rows. And when Hanson was done throwing, he tossed me the ball from about thirty feet away:
He then motioned for me to toss the ball back to him. I couldn’t tell if he was serious, so I started to pull the ball out of my glove, but this was also my lefty glove. That and the fact that he was quite a ways away at that point made me very hesitant to throw the ball back to him. I was much more likely to hit the back of the head of one of the fans in the front row than I was to get the ball back to Hanson himself. Thankfully, he showed that he was joking and waved me off, so I kept the ball.
And when I say the front rows were packed, I actually do mean they were packed. Here’s a picture I took pretty much right after I got the ball from Hanson when I walked into the outfield:
Seeing that, I’m really surprised I got the ball from Hanson. But the reason I was headed towards the outfield is that I had seen a giant group of people sitting in the outfield ever since the seating bowl opened up to the public and wanted to get a picture of them:
I never confirmed this, but given the fact that they went right to their seats, the high percentage of Angels shirts amongst the group, and the even higher percentage of those shirts that had a 27 on the back of them, I’d say this was a large group of people who made the trip from Melville New Jersey in order to see their hometown hero, Mike Trout play in this series.
Anyway, nothing else happened during the game except for me finding this random Nationals program in the seats:
(Daheck?) This was on my way to the flag court where I would spend the first five innings of the game. But past the point that I saw this program, there was only one word to describe my day: frustration. I was out in the flag court with Alex Kopp, whose house I would be staying at for this trip to Baltimore. In the third inning, we were sitting in the wheelchair section just to the center field side of the flag court, talking about something, when Mike Trout hit a high fly ball to right field. We were slow to react since we were both sitting down talking to each other. In fact, it wasn’t until a little into when the camera cuts to the flag court in the video that you can even see Alex moving, and I was even slower to start moving because I didn’t think the ball was going to be a home run. But then the ball just kept carrying and carrying. Alex went straight at where the ball was landing, but knowing it was my only shot, I headed out onto Eutaw Street in case the ball bounced out there. Turns out I would/should have, but it caught one of the fences between the flag court and Eutaw, so it stopped right there. That was it for my shot. Alex meanwhile, was blocked by a person, so he couldn’t reach down to pick the ball up and a kid got it. It was frustrating because I knew from watching him in previous batting practices that Trout could hit the ball out to the opposite field, but we both weren’t prepared, and had we been in position, it would have been a semi-easy snag for either of us.
But not as easy a snag as the second ball that frustrated me. In the sixth inning, rain started pouring again, so I headed to the area behind home plate to see if I could get a ball from home plate umpire Joe West if the game was delayed:
While I was down there, Josh Hamilton hit a foul ball right over my head that went into the second deck. As soon as it did, a voice in my head told me that I should go and position myself in case there was a rebound off the second level, but the other part of me ignored it and just watched as the ball headed up there and bounced three rows below where I thought I should have been positioning myself. Hamilton then added insult to injury by hitting a home run that same at-bat just ten feet from where I usually stand in the flag court that would have probably been a semi-easy snag for me. And if that wasn’t enough, an usher forced me to get away from the umpire tunnel right as the game was being delayed, so I missed my opportunity to get a ball from the umpire because of him.
I then spent most of the rain delay in the club level with these cool people:
I apologize in advance for the fuzziness of my picture from now on as that’s how the water affected my phone’s camera. But anyway, those people,left to right, are:
1. Tim Anderson.
2. Alex Kopp.
3. Avi Miller.
I stayed there for what I’d say was about an hour, but since he had to get up at 6 o’clock the next morning, Alex really wanted to leave the game. And since I was staying with him, still didn’t know where the house was, and the warning track was looking like a lake, we agreed to leave, and I would come back and exchange an extra ticket he had for a later game to get back in if they resumed play after we left.
Long story short: it was announced pretty much as we got back to Alex’s house that the game would resume at 11:00, I headed to the stadium right as I heard this, I found out the ticket offices where I would have exchanged the ticket to get back in was closed, I also found out that the only way to get in through buying a ticket was to pay $10 cash–which I didn’t have, I wandered outside Camden Yards trying to find a way to get in for probably over two hours because I had left my glove and phone charger with Avi and Tim and needed to get them, I watched from the gate behind the Oriole Park bullpens as the Orioles closed the game out:
I got my glove from Avi, I found out that Tim had gotten four toss-up after the game because of the general lack of people and nice people at the bullpen who hooked him up, and I headed back to Alex’s place which I hoped I could find my way to again even though I was now walking there after midnight. Like I said, frustrating.
- 2 Baseballs at this Game
Numbers 557-558 for my lifetime:
- 112 Balls in 26 Games= 4.31 Balls Per Game
- 2 Ball x 15,541 Fans=31,082 Competition Factor
- 89 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 47 Balls in 12 Games at OPACY= 3.92 Balls Per Game
- 12 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 12:58-12:13= 9 Hours 15 Minute