8/25/11 Diamondbacks at Nationals: Nationals Park
This was now the third and final game of the redeem-my-horrible-roadtrip series. Since the previous two games had been overall disappointments/failures, this was the game that I was going to break out. That all went down the drain when out came the rain. When I arrived I thought the Nationals were actually going to take batting practice and I had good reason because as the red arrow in this picture shows, the cages were at one time indeed up:
I also noticed but could not take a picture of, the Nationals pitchers warming up ahead of schedule. I didn’t mind it at the time because they knew me and we were going to have batting practice even though it was slightly moist in the air and the constant threat of rain hung over our heads.
That picture was taken 30 minutes before the gate opened. In the meantime, I was waiting in line from a position from where I could not see what was happening. When I arrive to the field I found out the unfortunate truth:
The good news was that, as you can see, the Diamondbacks came out to throw and I wouldn’t have to wait out it the cold dampness in anticipation. I did have some competition out there but I got the weirdest ball by far. I was prepared to wait until the last pair finished and get my one ball but out of nowhere, Jeff Motuzas, the Diamonbacks bullpen catcher, threw me a ball. I believe none of the other ballhawks had gotten a ball yet, neither had I asked for the ball. To top it all off, Motuzas had thrown me a ball after the game the day before and would be more likely to recognize me As I was the last fan he interacted with. Was it because He had seen me at the previous game that he threw me the ball? Did he perhaps want to reward me for coming to another game? If he just forgot about me I don’t think he would have thrown me the ball because the others were calling out to him and wearing D-Backs gear. Weird, see what I mean? Here is the ball he threw me with Motuzas in the background.
Motuzas tossed me this ball in front of all the pitchers out there. This meant that most of the pitchers saw me get the ball. I then changed my get up by: switching my pants ( I had shorts under hiking pants), covering up my Diamondbacks shirt, putting on Mets give away glasses, and keeping my Diamondbacks hat on. Due to the change, I got Daniel Hudson to toss me a ball as he finished up his catch. Here is the ball with Hudson in the background:
By the way, the man looking back is not a ballhawk by most standards but his son was part of the competition I was talking about. This would also be the same kid that mocked me about snagging two balls at US Cellular in the first gameof the series (displeasure #7 if you want to got all the way down to the specific line(a parenthesis in parenthesis, are you allowed to do that? Anyway, the way that entry is set up is that the day was just a list of the things that went wrong for me that day so whenever I introduce one more thing it has the number and a period this specific thing that went wrong is introduced by a 7.)) The kid himself was over in the bullpen getting someone to throw him a ball.
Then the boringness began. It was now around 5:00 and the game wasn’t going to begin for another 2 hours and that meant no snagging opportunities for about an hour. I’ll just list the highlights of my stadium wandering:
1. I was going to go up to the Red Porch and take in a panoramic view of the stadium:
but that was closed:
2. I went to the CF portion of the outfield concourse and went to play area sponsored by Exxon Mobil called the Strike Zone:
the highlight of this was like a batting cage they had set-up:
This wasn’t your stadium-employee-lobs-ball-to-you batting cage. How it worked was you, the hitter, picked a certain pitcher to go against. For example, this hitter is facing Scott Kazmir. A clip plays on the wall of the pitcher winding up and throwing the ball and as the pitcher gets to the position where he would release the ball an actual ball shoots out of the wall where his hand is and comes at you. The hitter can also designate the speed they would like the ball at and the clip still plays in realtime. There is also a similar thing with pitching but it isn’t nearly as much fun. Demonstrated by the only ones playing it were the employees manning it. I only want to show this picture because it gets the ball just as it is about to hit the wall of strips of material that look like shredded paper:
3. When the rest of the stadium opened, (for those who don’t know, only Left Field and the upper deck in Right of Nationals Park are open from when the stadium opens until 5:30 for a 7:00 game) I went over into foul ground to for the Nationals pitchers’ errant throws when they warmed up before the game. Sadly there were no baseballs to be found but I did get an interesting shot of the tarp being rolled off:
Neat, huh? At least I think so. I like how I get the tarp right down the line. Then again, part of the experience was being that close to the unrolled tarp. I know that sounds quirky but for whatever reason it was slightly exciting. Maybe it was just that boring of a day?
4. I wandered the concourse and noticed that throughout the stadium, the Nationals honor random Hall of Famers like:
I guess the Nationals don’t have enough team history that they put these up. Can you imagine the Yankees putting up salutes to historic players from other teams? Didn’t think so. The Nationals do have more than those two but I didn’t want to include all of them in this entry because there were quite a few.
I then just waited for the rest of pre-game until the position players came out and started throwing at which time I set up in the stands and hoped they would throw me a ball:
I don’t remember exactly what happened but I ended up not getting anything from here and going out to another day of what I thought was going to be outfield running but it turns out that I could have just bought a ticket out in Left Field and I would have been just as well off because both teams are primarily running to begin with and the fact that both pitchers were lefties made them even more right heavy. I don’t remember the exact numbers but there were like 3 lefties in the entirety of both lineups excluding the pitchers.
While in Left Field, I had some room around me because the rain drove away everyone except the Nationals fans. So basically it was really empty in Left Field. Here are four pictures that should show how empty it was.
Behind me and to my right:
Angeled towards the field and to the right:
Behind me and to my left:
Angeled towards the field and to the left:
Due to how right handed heavy the lineup was and the fact that I had some room to move, I adjusted slightly for every hitter using a site called hittrackeronline.com. If you want to check it out the link is in the sidebar. Anyway, I looked at where each hitter hit his Home Runs and adjusted based on what I saw. So here is Michael Morse’s Home Run Chart:
Each of the blue dots is a Home Run he has hit this year. So, for Morse I would play further back in the seats because there is almost no pattern as far as the direction of the ball is concerned but the only constant is that he hits the ball far and I wanted to be going in on the ball and not back.
Also as a result of the righty-ness of the lineup , I stayed in Left Field for 80% of the time and my trips to Right Field only served to be a hinderance to me on this day. I consider two Home Runs to be partially lost opportunities because of my trips to Right. Partially because, it wouldn’t have been a sure thing if I had been in my seat in Left but it sure would have been much easier to get them if I had.
The first was a Chris Young Home Run where I was just getting back to my seat and looking to see which row I was in. As a result, I was looking to my right when Young hit the ball and didn’t see the ball once while it was in the air. Zack Hample had also taken up residence in the Left Field seats and since I didn’t want to look up for the ball and possibly miss my opportunity to get to the ball, I just watched him. I thought to myself “he’s going to at least get some glove on the ball so my best shot is that is to sit a few rows behind him and get the deflection.” The whole time I was going down the staircase. He went about four rows under where the ball hit and by default I was two rows under it. I had come from quite a bit up on the staircase so I would have been able to get to the spot had I just looked up to see where the ball was headed. The only variable in that situation would have been if I would be able to judge the ball correctly but I’m pretty sure I would have been within five feet of it and I’m almost certain I would have caught it.
You can see the video by clicking, here. I am in my light red Nationals shirt going down the steps and then into a row going towards the right of your screen. If you keep focus on me, you can see I didn’t look up once and me turn when the ball deflects off the seat.
The second Home Run is kind of a slippery slope argument but here goes. I was in Right Field for Miguel Montero’s At-Bat and was headed back to Left Field I usually go at a decent pace that gets me to the other side of the field within two pitches of the At-Bat starting but it was like the eighth inning or something like that and I was pretty tired and thought to myself: “Why am I running this fast for Paul Goldschmidt? I’ve never heard of him so he can’t have that much power. You know what I’m just going to walk the rest of the way and get there in time for (whoever was behind him in the lineup who I perceived to be a better HR threat).” So I slowed up to a walk and just as I was behind the Red Porch I saw a baseball rolling out onto the concourse and a crowd of kids about half a second behind it. They chased it almost all the way to the gate in Center Field and one of them picked it up. The ball had bounced on the staircase right next to the one I usually go down in Left Field. This means that I would have been right next to the ball when it landed or towards the top of the staircase where I could have turned around and outran the other kids that chased the ball, which was very frustrating. Had I just been where I usually sit in Right Field there is a 50-50 chance I would have caught the ball on the fly. At least there was a nice/weird looking sky:
It may not look *that* special but it was some legitimate freakiness going on because it didn’t seem like light being refracted but the clouds themselves were that color. I guess a better way of explaining it is that the orange color pierced the cloud instead of only being on one side of it like when the sun hits it.
Anyway, the video for the Goldschmidt Home Run can be seen by clicking, here. You can’t see me but you can better visualize what I described two paragraphs ago.
I then moved over to Right Field for the beginning of the final inning. I did this because I knew it was Justin Upton’s birthday and tried to get his final inning warmup ball through that. As he was finishing his throwing, I yelled out as hard as I could: “HAPPY BIRTHDAY JUSTIN.” I know he heard me unless he is partially hearing impaired because he was close enough to the wall but regardless he didn’t even acknowledge me much less throw me his warmup ball. The reason I put the latter as a superior negative to the former is that he has nothing to save the warmup ball from his final inning for. What is he going to do with it? There are no more innings to warmup for. I was also almost the only one in that section and was definitely the only Diamonbacks fan that bothered to look up his birthday if I wasn’t the only Diamonbacks fan in that section period.
I then went back to Left for the ninth itself because there were mostly righties coming up and I was more likely to get a ball from the Diamondbacks than the Nationals bullpen because there were obviously more people in Nationals gear than Diamondbacks gear. When I didn’t get anything, I took the metro to my temporary residence whenever I come to Washington and got myself packed to have the priviledge of taking the bus back to Manhattan the next morning just to go to another baseball game.