7/29/11 Mets at Nationals: Nationals Park
This was the first game of the series and the only game of the series I had not bought tickets for in advance. As a result, I found out that a college ID gets one half off:
If you can’t see that is a ticket in 141. Those right field tickets usually cost $26 but only cost me $13. I did not have a college ID with me but when I bought my ticket the lady told me, “you have you college ID, right?” She did this simultaneously with a head nod so I went along with it.
I got to the gates far ahead of anyone else so I went into the team store and studied where balls were going into the seats as one of the teams was taking early bp:
Soon after I came out of the store and started waiting again, two familiar faces arrived on the scene:
That would be, left to right.
1. Garrett Meyer– A ballhawk from Kansas who came down for Ballhawk Fest and is still staying in DC currently in a streak of 13 games in 13 days and 19 in 21.
2. Alex Kopp– A ballhawk from New Jersey, currently living in Maryland, and about to put up and absolutely monster day.
On that last note, let me explain why we are all holding baseballs. We were at the Center Field gate when a fork lift came driving our way. While Garrett and I were looking elsewhere and talking, Alex spotted that the operator had a ball in hand. He asked if he was planning to do anything with it and if not if he could have it. The operator then got out of his seat with two balls in hand. Alex had only seen one but that meant another one of us would get a ball. So I did my “alms for the poor” bit with my Nationals hat. When he gave the second ball to Garrett I thought that was it but he then went back to the forklift and dropped another ball out of a cup he had. So I had my ball:
The day of snagging was off. I first ran towards Left Field:
but when I found out the Nationals weren’t hitting I moved up to the second deck in Right Field and tried to get a ball from one of the pitchers warming up. I didn’t do this. Instead I ran over to right center when a ball came to the wall and called out to Livan Hernandez who picked it up. Of course, Livan threw the ball up to me for ball #2. The only bad thing about that was Livan maned Center Field and as a result the Red Porch was a lost cause:
The next piece of action went like this: a Home Run landed in the seats to my right, I eased up and said, “you got it” to Alex Kopp because he was clearly closer to the ball and I didn’t want to be too aggressive, a ball landed to my left because Alex was retrieving the other ball I figured he would let me get this ball. Nope. As I was jogging over to the ball, I saw a blue flash in the row below me and Alex pick up the ball. I just thought this was a funny sequence but count it as a lost opportunity because I would have definitely been able to beat him out for that ball.
I then had another…interesting sequence. I called out to Todd Coffey for a ball. Obviously by my entries, this is my first game at Nationals Park since June. Coffey asked me, “didn’t you get a bunch of balls yesterday?” I told him the truth which was that I was from New York and this was my first game here. He then reluctantly tossed me the ball but then told me that I had to throw back any Home Run balls that landed in the second deck seats in Right Field. Bizarre, no? Whatever, with this request, it was time for me to leave the section.
I then moved back to Left Field. There, I got Ryan Mattheus to toss me a ball to the left of the bullpen. However, I also missed out on two balls. I was playing one section from the bullpen. The first ball I missed, landed behind me a closer to the bullpen. I definitely would have gotten it had it stayed where it bounced but it hit a sort of rubberized strip that the Nationals have in Left Field ( I don’t know why) and bounced into the Center Field concourse. The next ball also bounced behind me and would have been mine but it bounced back towards the field where Alex Kopp caught it. Whoa, first let me go back to the Mattheus ball. That, I realized later, was my 100th ball of the season. This fulfilled one of my goals for the New Year.
I then moved back to the second deck in Right Field… wait, let me explain something. The reason for why I was going into the second deck is because the first deck was closed until 5:30. Ok, we now continue with your regularly scheduled blog entry… and then I got a ball. I don’t know who threw it. It was just one of those balls where I forgot who threw it. Obviously I knew who it was in the moment or he wouldn’t have thrown me the ball but I have since blanked on the name.
The next ball also came in upper Right Field. I called out to John Lannan as he fielded a ball. When he threw the ball back into the infield, a person close to him threw me a ball underhanded. When that missed, he threw another ball very awkwardly as I lunged over the railing and caught the ball. I don’t know exactly who it was. Initially, I thought it was an injured pitcher because of the underhanded and awkward throws but then realized he had a catchers mitt on. Any ideas?:
He is the one on the the right in the wicking shirt. 6 balls through half of bp is pretty good , no? Usually the away team is where I get the most thrown balls because I wear their gear. Well… usually. I waited for a few minutes for the lower Right Field seats to open:
Once I got into those seats, I proceeded to get dissed by every single Mets player and coach that was shagging balls there. Since there were mostly righties hitting, I moved back over to left field. I move around a lot, sue me. Actually, I would rather no one sue me I need that money for baseball games. There in left field a Mets righty pulled a ball foul and I outran whoever else was going after it to pick the ball up. I then gave it to a kid who was chasing behind me:
Alas, t’was a slow bp and the only other ball I got before I made it to my seats was a ball that was getting transferred to the ball bag from those used in bp. I later identified the person who threw it to me as, Ray Ramirez, the head trainer of the Mets. he was near the person transferring the balls from the bp container to the ball bag when one ball rolled away. He heard me asking for a ball and tossed it to me as he entered the dugout.
I then exited the seats around the Mets dugout and ran into a few familiar faces:
However blurry, these are those people:
1. “Flava” Dave Stevenson– A ballhawk from Baltimore who was in town because the Orioles were out of town.
2. Garrett Meyer– A ballhawk from Kansas, who was still in the Washington area and was going to Nationals games as a result. An interesting thing I learned was that this was the fourth of a stretch of 13 straight games for him.
3. Alex Kopp– A ballhawk staying in college park Maryland and having a great day at that point but didn’t yet count how many balls he had caught.
I talked to them for a while but then left to see Chien Ming Wang warm up:
Normally, I would have stayed and chatted for a while but I was a) 2 balls away from double digits and b) didn’t want to miss Chien Ming Wang’s first pitches in a Major League Stadium since he went out with the Yankees. You see, while he was on the Yankees, Wang was my favorite player in all of baseball I also had a rookie named Tim Lincecum in the corner of my eye but at the time he was injured, Wang was my favorite player closely followed by Joe Nathan. When Wang got injured, I slowly drifted towards liking Lincecum who is my current favorite player. That said, it was a true honor to be at Wang’s comeback game.I also really wanted to get a ball from him.
In the end, I couldn’t pronounce my Chinese correctly and Wang walked out to start the game. However, Jim Lett, the bullpen coach, heard my requests and tossed me a ball. This was now my ninth ball of the game and I was one ball from double digits. I thought about going to the dugouts but I figured it was too late and thought of how cool it would be if I caught my first Home Run for my first time in double digits.
I was accompanied a few minutes later by Alex Kopp. Why is this significant and blog worthy? He finally figured out how many balls he had caught and any guesses on a number?Keep in mind he has more than one pocket:
Up to that point, he had snagged 18 Balls!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So basically take everything I had done to that point and double it.
For the game itself, I sat here:
Nothing came even close. I don’t even know if there was a single Home Run hit. As for Wang, it wasn’t pretty. He lasted maybe 5 innings and gave up 6 runs. Although I’m not sure how many were earned, I can say that he didn’t have the same dive in his sinker he used to as a Yankee. It was his first day back so I credit most of the runs to two years of rust. Given that 4 of those runs came in the first inning.
After the game, I was determined to get a ball from the bullpen for #10 on the day. Though it was tough given the fact that Jim Lett had already tossed me a ball. In retrospect, I should have thrown on my t-shirt inside out and put on sunglasses but I didn’t think of that in the moment. Everyone in the bullpen cleared out and I still didn’t have a ball. I was accompanied by Alex who also wanted A ball but also wanted, if by some miracle, to get two balls to reach the very prestigious 20 ball club. He also got denied by all the players. However, we both noticed a ball in the corner of the bullpen that had been dropped by a fan before us:
Alex and I both waited for a solid ten minutes. Grounds crew came, “we can’t throw balls up”, Security came, “we can’t, sorry”, and Police came, “we can’t throw balls up, sorry”. It was extremely frustrating and I had half a mind to use my glove trick with police guards five feet from the ball and ushers ten feet from me. Fortunately, I didn’t have to resort to this as the kid in charge of emptying the water coolers came:
He emptied them and when he walked towards the ballI asked him if he could toss the ball up. No response, he just picked the ball up and flipped it up. Alex was also with me so I also pointed out a ball behind a bouncy screen that had also been left and Alex was given the torture of having 19 balls at the end of the day. Enough about Alex, I haven’t started celebrating about my double digit performance. WOO-HOO! Ok I’m good.
It definitely feels good to start the day at 158 and end at:
- 10 balls at this game (9 pictured because I gave one away but eight actually pictured because I can’t find the Livan ball)
- 51 straight games with at least 1 ball
- 20 straight on the road
- 16 straight games with at least 2 balls
- 1 straight with at least 10
- 4 straight games at Nationals Park with at least 1 ball
- 10 balls* 30,114 fans= 301,140 competition factor another personal record
- Time at game 3:45- 10:21= 6 hours 36 minutes