6/15/11 Cardinals at Nationals: Nationals Park
Yeah I know I said I was going to write an entry about my game on the third of June but I was away from home so unless you wanted to see pictures like this…
Yes that is the whole image. I was in a rush to upload them to the internet for whatever reason and forgot they needed more time to upload
Anyway, I did indeed go to Washington DC on one of these:
Overpaid for a “Giant” ice cream sandwich:
Arrived two hours late and had to carry my suitcase backpack to the game:
But as Bono would say, “it(was) a beautiful day” and I was excited because this was actually my first time going to a stadium for batting practice knowing what I was doing outside of New York…why are you laughing?
I will now give you a moment to stand in awe of the majesty that is Nationals Park:
Well the sign at least but you have to admit it is a pretty nice sight to see. Or am I just brainwashed from hearing the Mets’ annoying repetitiive music an hour prior to the gates opening every day. It was also nostalgic to have the gates open two and a half hours before game time.
At the gate I had met up with Rick Gold a ballhawk that in his younger days was native to Oakland. This comes into play because he immediately as the gates opened he went to right field. That meant that after getting my bag checked for the bomb that was obviously hiding beneath my clothes I would head to left field.
Just as I headed over there I saw this going on in right field:
If you can’t see, it is the Nationals pitchers warming up on the right field foul line. I have accustomed myself so much to 2 hour opening times that I forgot the home team did this 2 1/2 hours before game time.Anyway, I stayed in left field because of my uber-packed backpack.
Best no decision of the year. A matter of seconds after I decided this a ball flew to my left. It was quite a bit back from my row and there were already people converging at the point it would drop so my hope was the it would land and trickle down the seats.
This picture shows what happened:
The (very light, very small) red arrow is my path to the ball. The ball was clearly going behind where I was going to be able to run to. When it bounced up in the air after hitting a seat I was a foot from it and snatched it out of the air ala Rickey Henderson.
The next ball was a cleaner catch:
This next one was also over my head so I ran up the stairs, turned my shoulder and caught the ball over it. Demonstrated by the much more visible but at the same time poorly done red arrow. That one felt more like a Wide Receiver in football. But wait… it was only 6:39. Batting Practice hadn’t actually started until 6:35 so that meant I had already almost matched my season average in four minutes. Oooh I had a good feeling about this. So good I gave that ball to this young(er) Cardinals fan:
In the picture there is no reaction because he hadn’t actually presented it to his dad yet but you can see his sister looking at it in his hands (don’t worry they were extremely nice about it).
Then a ball flew into the bullpen which put a damper on my spirits. Why? Because this is how many had gone in there:
Four baseballs had already made their way in there which was exactly four more than the number of devices I had ready because of my late bus. Here was my script for the next portion of bp:
Cue: Lefty batters start hitting
For: Exit stage right
So that’s what I did when Roger Bernadina & Co. came up and was there ever room to run:
At Citi field if the seats are ever that empty in bp you are a) on the second deck or b) 400 feet from home plate. I just had three problems all in this picture:
1) Alex Kopp– a ballhawk that lives in New Jersey and caught nine baseballs that day.
2) Rick Gold- Mentioned previously that typically puts up double digits at Nationals Park
3) Cardinals Fans galore- For some reason (and I’ve only gone here for two series) the opposing teams fans out-number the Nationals’ fans and so it is almost easier to get balls from the Nationals than it is from the opposing team.
But when a ball went into foul ground I was further back as you can see from that last picture and since the right field bullpen blocked off the first 5-10 rows and so I had Alex beat and he gave up on getting the ball. In case you were wondering, there were people to my left that could have beaten me had it been a straight up race but no fans were allowed past the foul pole on either side. Now I knew the usher guarding the pole would get the ball but did they go over and wait for him to get the ball. I think not!
Here is a picture of the usher mid-sentence:
It is always nice to see ushers that are actually nice by nature as you can see by this gentleman’s smile but that wasn’t the only thing that was better about Nationals Park. Let me compare it to Citi Field for the moment:
The red line on top is where the overhang would be for Citi Field (left field) and the yellowish line is where Home Run balls would be completely out of the question. For those wondering, the line here at Nationals Park (right field was so far back the picture couldn’t even contain it.
As I returned to my spot, I saw that Jason Motte was having some fun at the fans’ expense by throwing a ball up just where a fan could not reach it so I naturally took this as a challenge to catch the ball but as I leaned out to attempt to catch the ball I noticed Jaime Garcia running to the wall after a ball. I asked him nicely in Spanish and he responded by joining Motte in tossing the ball up and trying to get me to catch it. Fortunately, he was way worse than Motte and tossed it at such an angle so that it was far from me on its way up but the backspin on the ball carried it towards me on the descent.
Let me take this time to show the reason (besides my awesome Spanish skills), that this particular ball found its way into my glove:
First of all, sorry for not looking in the camera. I was distracted by a ball, this was the only shot with both the hat and shirt in it, and my camera screen was broken so I didn’t know either of the first two reasons.
I do not have any cardinals gear. The hat is actually on loan from the Greg Barasch baseball museum. Greg is a very talented and experienced ballhawk from New York that can be found at almost every Mets weekday home game (unfortunately for me) and also happens to be my next door neighbor of about 18 years. Y’all older readers may remember he also lent me a Rangers hat and towel that I used in my playoff game last year. So yeah, it is always nice to have that security blanket and I mean what are the odds that people in the same building much less floor get into the same hobby independently of each other. Oh and the shirt if you can see if actually turned inside out. That is because it is actually a Phillies shirt and I wanted to color coordinate.
Anyway from the start of my ballhawking career, I have not had much luck adjusting to the group of Pujols and Holliday but I figured that I would have a better chance taking on ten people just at batting practice in left than two ballhawks in right. My plan was to lay back here:
Catch anything that came back that far as I had lateral room to run and run up, hope the ball deflected off of someone’s hands and scramble for the ball. The later did happen… sort of.
About five minutes after I got to the section, Pujols hit a Home Run of decent height and length that I realized was going to be one rail gap short of where I was standing. I ran up but a barehanded man was camped under it. Yeah I could have reached in front of him as there was no way he was going to catch a ball going over 100 mph off the bat of Albert Pujols but ballhawks are already seen in enough of a negative light. So I stayed back right behind him, waited for the ricochet, and missed out on the ball as he deflected it to the side of him.
“Look at the mark Albert Pujols left on my hand!” This just goes to show why you bring your glove to the ball game. That group stopped hitting about ten minutes after that and so I went back to right field. However, how could I pass up an opportunity to take a picture of myself on the Stadium big screen.
Here it is:
If you can see I am actually holding the camera to my ear. This is because of two reasons: 1. My screen was/is broken and I had to hear the click to make sure I took the picture and 2. I had my glove on at this moment and needed my head for stability.
Thank goodness I didn’t stay for that long, though because as I was walking down the stairs of the right field stands, an infielder on the cardinals, Daniel Descalso hit a ball to either my right or my left (ok, I know that sounds vague but I know where the ball landed I just don’t remember what staircase I was coming down) fell into the seats and I beat the fan sitting down in the picture demonstrating how empty right field was. That was now five ball on the day and three of them had been hit balls. Last time I checked I was averaging 1.67 thrown balls per game (.67 hit which is a bit amazing to see the stark difference but irrelevant at the point I am trying to make). Discounting the security guard toss-up because that would have never been possible at Citi Field because of their useless railing blocking off foul territory from the outfield I only really had one toss-up for this game. There was a reason for that.
Normally, I have time to go home and print out my rosters for both teams but because of the whole bus situation I had to go on memory. This led to me either making anonymous requests “Excuse me but can you throw me the ball please?” which are far less effective than if they have a name behind them or getting their names wrong altogether. For example, I have since realized that I called Michell Boggs Kyle as I thought he was Kyle McClellan and I called some other person who I could not find Jaime Garcia who obviously came out later and threw me my other toss-up. Well, I wouldn’t get another toss-up for the rest of the day.
It was almost the end of batting practice and I was fine ignoring that it had been a pretty slow bp Home Runs wise because I had just matched my season high. Then came Lance Berkman. At least I think it was him but someone on the Cardinals hit five straight Home Runs to finish off bp all of which landed in this section outlined in red:
Alex was in the perfect spot to catch all of them but because there were five straight and he chased some to his left I had the chance to step into his spot and catch one on the fly. Nothing fancy I just moved a few feet to my left camped under it and caught the ball. That was now my fourth hit ball of the game. Now I don’t think i have gotten extremely better at tracking batted balls but I think that the margin for error is just so low in New York whereas here you can drift more like a real outfielder would do.
In the game I was planning to sit in right field because there were two righty pitchers but when the usher asked me to leave my first idea was to go here:
abut then I thought to myself that there would be Holliday and Pujols (yeah I did find out Holliday was still out from his appendectomy) would be hitting more Home Runs than any lefties that would be put in to face the righty pitchers. So I moved over here:
There were plenty of Home Runs, five if I recall correctly but the closest one was a Jayson Werth Home Run three sections over:
Now the bullpen coach in the bottom right corner picked up three balls and tossed them into the crowd. Not knowing his first name (Derek) because I didn’t have my roster handy I relied on purely having a Cardinals hat (it didn’t work).
I then got to have my first experience of post-Nats game metro crowding:
- 6 Balls at this game (5 in this picture because I gave one away)
numbers 87-92 on the career:
- 31 Balls in 12 games=2.58 balls per game
- 37 games straight with at least 1 ball
- 2 games straight at Nationals Park
- 6 balls*27,130 fans= 162,780 competition factor
- Time at Game 3:55-9:35= 5 hours 40 minutes
I did go the next day so that will be up soon but if you are wondering when I will get up the game before this it will be after I get back home from San Francisco. So June 28th-ish.