July 2012

7/19/12 Mets at Nationals: Nationals Park

I thought I’d start off this entry a little differently. Basically, I want to give you guys an opportunity to have a look at what my day is like before I even enter the gates. I will do such a video for each stadium I visit from here on out (Nationals Park, Yankee Stadium, Citi Field, and Target Field) Anyway, here is the video for Nationals Park:

Once we left the Red Seats in center field, Rick and I both headed over to the right field, only to realize it was Camp Day and those seats would be crowded come game time. While Rick checked a variety of things on his iPhone, I watched Ross Detweiler throw a bullpen session:

20120731-021046.jpg

20120731-021133.jpgIf you didn’t know, most starting pitchers throw at least one bullpen session between starts; some even throw two. Detweiler had started the opening opening game of the series, so I’m guessing he throws two, since he only took a day off from throwing. At the end of his session, Detweiler launched the ball he was throwing with into the seats in foul territory. Both Rick and I saw it and thought it went on our side of the tunnel- indicated by the glass panels- in the next picture:

20120731-022218.jpgKeep that in mind for later on in the entry.

Soon after that, Nationals hitters started hitting. All of which can be seen in the following picture:

20120731-022426.jpgThat’s right, a grand total of two Nationals hitters hit. That was the extent of batting practice. They didn’t even have any players go into the outfield; just the coaches came out to shag the balls. The two players were: a healthy Bryce Harper and a rehabbing Jayson Werth. You would probably guess that the super-prospect would hit more balls into the stands than the old, injured, failed multi-million dollar contract, right? Well I did too. Unfortunately, both of us were wrong and Werth hit many more homers to left as I watched in helpless despair from right. The one ball I had perfectly tracked, a barehanded fan reached right in front of me and deflected the ball away.

Then, right after they stopped hitting, I headed over closer to the foul pole very discreetly, as so Rick wouldn’t notice me:

20120801-014352.jpgNot to get a ball from the pitchers you see warming up, but remember that ball Detweiler threw into the stands earlier? That portion of the stands was about to open in two minutes when I took that last picture, and I wanted to be the first one in them to get the ball.

I was indeed the first person there, but when I got to the spot I thought the ball was, it was vacant. As Rick arrived on the scene, I went up to the top of the section and asked an usher where the ball had gone. He told me it had gone on the other side of the tunnel I mentioned earlier. I went down there, and he guided me as I motioned to where I thought the ball was. This was actually the same usher who gave me my first usher toss-up at Nationals Park ever. If you can find a picture him, you win………bragging rights. (Hint: the easies way to find the entry is through mygameballs.com.)

Thanks to this ushers arsenal of saving gestures, I found the ball right under a seat:

20120801-020113.jpgI then moved back over to the pitchers warming up. I figured Strasburg, since he doesn’t shag balls in the outfield, would probably not recognize me. So, I lined up behind Jim and his throwing partner, Jordan Zimmerman:

20120801-020407.jpgUnfortunately, Zimmerman ended up with the ball, which usually means I am not getting the ball (I had never gotten a ball from him, and he has never been fan-friendly per se). Fortunately, I was the only non-Mets fan, so after he scanned the stands, he threw me the ball:

20120801-021035.jpgI would have LOVED to have gotten the ball from Strasburg, but getting the ball from Zimmerman was a fun victory in a different regard.

Then, to my surprise, the complementary ticket I mentioned in the opening video, was right behind the umpire tunnel. So until the game began, I talked mostly with the two people in the next picture, and a person slightly out of the frame to the right:

20120801-022500.jpgI had been talking to the ushers a little the previous two games when I came down to get umpire balls, but in talking to them this day, both parties (myself and the ushers) learned that the other knew of “Zack”. The “Zack” in question being one with the surname Hample.We then had a discussion about the specifics of baseball collecting and my experience beginning in the hobby.

The guy in the red is Gio Gonzalez’s dad. He actually is the one who brought up the subject (kind of). I guess he saw me by Gio while I was trying to get a ball and said, “Are you a collector?” To which I responded, “Yes ” not knowing who he was. It turns out Gio’s father is an autograph collector and thought I was the same. It was a slightly frustrating process, but when the male usher jumped in with: “Oh. You know Zack?” Gio’s father faded out of the conversation and went to his seat. Sadly, his son would get knocked around by the Mets en route to a 9-5 loss.

During the game, this was my view of the action:

20120801-103602.jpg

For some reason, I have horrible luck with third-out balls (whichever end of the dugout I go to, the ball goes to the other). Well, my luck continued for this game. I didn’t get a single third-out ball.

I’d just like to take a little time out to point out one of the members of the “Nat Pack”, Terrence. I mentioned a couple of entries ago that I believed he was the most energetic team employee I had ever seen at a baseball game (maybe I didn’t phrase it like that, but that’s what I meant). The ushers I had been talking to described this as the hottest game of the year. I don’t know about that, but it was in the 105 degree range. Well Terrence wasn’t slowing up at all. He inhabits the wheelchair section by the third base dugout. One of the things he does is whenever there’s a wave, he runs from one end of the section to the other “pushing” it along. There were more than a couple waves this game. Another example, of which I have photographic evidence, is what Terrence was doing when “Old Time Rock and Roll” started playing:

20120801-234227.jpg

That’s right. He picked up one of the fold-able chairs and started jumping around the section, pretending the chair was a guitar as he strummed it.

After the game, I was already by the umpire tunnel, so I asked the umpire, Chris Conroy for a ball. He gave it to me saying, “Here, because you took the time to look up my name.” Conroy, if my memory serves me right is number 99. I don’t know for certain, but I would bet that means he is one of the newer umpires, so I’m guessing not many people know his name:

STATS:

  • 3 Balls at this game (no picture because I forgot to take it). They were numbers 352-354 for my career

Numbers 352-354:

  • 132 Balls in 29 Games= 4.55 Balls Per Game (14 Balls under 500)
  • 3 Balls x 36,389 Fans (no way were there that many people)= 109,167 Competition Factor
  • 38 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 14 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
  • 2 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
  • 105 Balls at Nationals Park in 23 Games= 4.57 Balls Per Game
  • 16 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 1 Ball
  • 16 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
  • 2 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
  • Time Spent One Game 9:34- 4:07= 6 Hours 33 Minutes
  • This game will have been my 100th ever I have recorded on mygameballs.com. I have gone to more games than that, but I obviously didn’t keep a record of them before mygameballs.com, so this is the only milestone I can celebrate.

7/18/12 Mets at Nationals: Nationals Park

Oh, another frustrating day at Nationals Park. Except this time, I knew it was going to be frustrating before I even entered the gates. Thus, this was me waiting for the gates to open:

Rick Gold, who had been with me at the prior game, alerted me to the fact that Jayson Werth had already taken batting practice, which meant the Nationals as a whole had probably taken batting practice. With the impending thunderstorms, I could see from the gate that the cage wasn’t even up (one of the reasons Nationals Park is better than either of the New York Parks). I also didn’t know it at the time, but this was the 100th ball I had ever snagged at Nationals Park, which also marks the first time I’ve ever snagged 100 balls at any given stadium.

When the gates opened, Rick tried to go to right field to use his retriever on a home run ball that had landed behind the scoreboard. I, meanwhile took advantage of the information Rick had half-knowingly given to me. I went to the Red Seats and found a ball Jayson Werth had hit there earlier:

20120729-075654.jpgFor the record, Rick couldn’t find the ball. It was a mystery to both of us where it had gone, though, since we thought if anyone picked it up, it would be a person cleaning behind the scoreboard, but it was still filthy.

After I got my ball, the Nationals kept everyone under cover, because of the lightning storm passing through. NO one was allowed into the seats that weren’t covered. See for yourself:

20120730-001437.jpgThat last picture was the spot I was when Jon Rauch and his throwing partner warmed up. I had to watch in despair as they finished throwing, because I know I could have easily gotten him to toss me a ball had I been allowed to go down there.

Eventually, the Nationals did let everyone down into the seats. Pretty much everyone rushed to the Mets’ dugout:

20120730-002122.jpgI’m not going to lie; I did too:

20120730-002321.jpgThe only difference is: I wasn’t a zombie about it. I figured I would have a better shot at getting a ball from the Mets, but when Jayson Werth came out to throw with a trainer, I ran over to the other side of the stadium, changed into my Nationals shirt as I went over there, and got this from him:

20120730-002901.jpgWeird way to get two balls from the same player in one day, huh? Also, this was a minor milestone in that it was my 350th ball ever. It’s a pretty obscure milestone, so I’ll leave my elaboration at that.

During the game, this was my view of the action:

20120730-004538.jpgThere were two righties pitching, so I figured I would camp out there. I had a pretty good amount of room to work with, even with Rick in right field too, but I forgot to get a picture of it. Sadly, the only home run in those seats came when I had already gone over to the Mets’ dugout. Rick told me I might have gotten it had I stayed. Oh well, I got this instead from a Mets ball boy:

20120730-005518.jpgSo I ended my day at three baseballs. That’s pretty good for me for a day without batting practice, so I was happy.

STATS:
• 3 Balls at this game

20120730-005801.jpgNumbers 349-351:

20120730-005952.jpg•129 Balls in 28 Games= 4.61 Balls Per Game (12 Balls under 500)
• 3 Bals x 31,660 Fans= 94,980 Competition Factor
• 37 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
• 13 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
• 102 Balls in 22 Games at Nationals Park= 4.64 Balls Per Game
• 15 Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
• 15 Games with at least 2 Balls at Nationals Park
• Time Spent On Game 3:40- 11:22= 7 Hours 42 Minutes (exactly one minute more than I had the previous day)

7/17/12 Mets at Nationals: Nationals Park

After two games at Yankee Stadium, it was off to the magical land of Nationals Park…where the home team doesn’t hit for whatever weird reason:
20120723-020241.jpgObviously, I tried to get a ball from the Nationals warming up:
but given I go to a bunch of Nationals games, I thought it would be in my best interest to maybe not draw as much attention to myself as I could, so the Nationals wouldn’ty recognize me or potentially recognize me at a later game. Therefore, I didn’t get a ball from them.

I waited and waited. Finally, after what felt like hours, the Mets started hitting. You would think that meant I would get a bunch of baseballs, right? Nope. The Mets aren’t exactly the most powerful lineup. They really didn’t hit anything within fourty feet of me. The only ball I got from Mets batting practice was tossed to me by Chris Young in the Red Seats:
That was it. After Young tossed me the ball, I wanted to just catch a few home runs before I started asking the Mets for more balls. I wanted to set up myself for success the next day. I was thinking, “Hey, if I don’t ask that many Mets today for a ball, I can maybe hit double digits tomorrow.” Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, the Mets are power-hitter deficient, so I would end batting practice with one baseball.

With two lefty pitchers- Ross Detweiler and Jonathan Niese- this game, I just sat out in left field pretty much the whole game. I had ushers on both the right field and left field sides who were letting me into their sections, so I made it to right field a few times (or maybe I’m getting this mixed up and I stayed mostly in the right field seats and made it occasionally to the left field seats), but in the dead space between the end of batting practice and the first pitch (usually about 50 minutes from 6:20 to 7:10) I didn’t know this, so I had some time to kill sitting in the left field seats. I filled such time by yelling out the correct answers to people playing trivia games, shown on the jumbotron, since the place they were getting filmed from was only a few feet from me in real life:
If you’re wondering, I got all of the answers right. I can’t remember what the questions were about, but I have also learned a pattern in the correct answers of the Nationals no matter the question being asked.

During the game itself, I saw no action at all. At the end of the game, though, I made my way over to the Mets’ dugout. I asked the umpire for a ball, but got rejected. By the time I got back over to the dugout itself, all of the Mets had entered the dugout from a way-too-drramatic loss. What had happened was: the Nationals had been leading 2-0 pretty much the whole game. Then, in the top of the ninth, Jordan Valdespin hit a three-run home run. It looked like the Mets had just won the game, but the Nationals tied the game in the bottom of the ninth at 3-3. As we headed to extra innings, the Mets scored again, but the Nationals came right back in the bottom of the tenth and scored two runs to win the game 5-4. It was the most back-and -forth game I have ever been to. I ran down the stairs three times to get an umpire ball, since I was convinced the game was over.

Anyway, my last hope was the people coming from the bullpen. When they arrived, I asked bullpen coach, Ricky Bones, for the lineup card. He said no, but reappeared from the dugout right after he went down and tossed me a ball before then proceeding into the clubhouse:
That was it. A long, full day of boringness that I didn’t think was noteworthy enough to include in this entry. That’s why this entry is so short.

STATS:

  • 2 Balls at this game

Numbers 347 and 348 for my “career”:

  • 126 Balls in 27 Games= 4.67 Balls Per Game (9 Balls under 500)
  • 2 Balls x 26, 342 Fans= 52, 684 Competition Factor
  • 36 Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 12 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
  • 99 Balls in 21 Games at Nationals Park= 4.71 Balls Per Game
  • 14 Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
  • 14 Games with at least 2 Balls at Nationals Park
  • Time Spent On Game 3:37- 11:18= 7 Hours 41 Minutes

7/16/12 Blue Jays at Yankees: Yankee Stadium

Finally, it was my “game to survive at Yankee Stadium before I get back to Nationals Park”, and look who joined me for the occasion:
20120718-155025.jpgThat would be me on the left and Ben Weil on the right. In fairly usual “Ben” fashion, he came running down the hill at which Yankee Stadium is at the bottom of and met me at the front of the line with five minutes to spare until the gates opened.

When said gates opened, it didn’t take long until I botched my first ball of the game:
20120718-160119.jpgI was in the lower-right hand comer of the section trying to get a Yankees player to toss me a ball. Just then, a Yankee lefty hit a ball. Off the bat, it looked like it wasn’t even going to make it to the warning track, but it just kept carrying and carrying. Eventually, it hit the railing perpendicular to the fourth row of seating, where it then floated right to Ben, standing in the back row of the section.

My ventures then took me to the left field foul line, where I asked for a ball from, and got rejected by, nearly the whole Blue Jays pitching staff. Okay, so maybe I only asked like two of them, but it was still frustrating. I then headed over to the left field seats… just to see that the right field seats had pretty much cleared up, and were better for snagging than where I now was:
20120719-232923.jpgDo you notice the guy in the lower-left corner of the picture? That would be Rick Gold. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Rick, prior to this game, had been at three of the same games as I had this year at Nationals Park. However, this would be the first time we would attend a Yankee game together since 2010 (before this blog existed and Rick had snagged his 1,000th ball).

In addition to Rick, Ben was standing on the same staircase with me. To be more specific, he was standing right behind me when I took the picture. Eventually, though, things would change so Rick would be in front, Ben in the middle, and me in the back. Then there was a ball hit. Rick, as he usually does, broke after the ball as soon as it was in the air. Ben, meanwhile, knew it was coming right on our staircase, so he did the smart thing and waited as long as he could to make a break on the ball ( as to not give me time and space to get in front of him and use my height advantage). The result of all of this was five gloves went up in the air for the ball- our three and two others- and mine came up with the ball:
20120720-113456.jpgI think the best way to described the way I caught the ball is that my glove was in the position a first base man scoops a ball in, but the glove was above my head. Truthfully, it was a stupid decision. With all of the gloves in the air, the chances of me getting smacked in the face with the ball vastly outweighed the chances of me catching the ball. But, I caught the ball, so chances are I’ll probably make the same mistake again and get hit in he face before I learn my lesson.

After this, I headed over to right field just as they were clearing the seats. Why? Thanks to Ben, I had a ticket for section 104, which meant I could stay there for all of batting practice. Just look at how empty it was once they cleared the seats of all other people:
20120720-121902.jpg
20120720-122152.jpgEven better was the fact that the Blue Jays group of power lefties was up. I got two balls from this group. Both of which I will explain using the next picture:

My first ball was hit by Adam Lind. It hit off the metal strip above the guy yelling (as shown by the arrow), with a hand to his mouth. The second ball I wasn’t sure if I should count. It was hit by Cody Rasmus, and rattled around in the seats. Do you see the guy in the gray shirt and “NYPD” hat? That is Tak, a very friendly guy who is pretty starting to ballhawk this season. He was right on the ball, but didn’t catch it, so when the ball hit the ground, I picked it up. Tak, then just seeing a ball being taken, instinctively grabbed it through his legs. The combination of him being a friend and the awkward position we were now in made me let go of the ball. I initially wasn’t going to count this ball, but Tak talked me into it after batting practice ended. Also after batting practice ended, Tak and I got a picture together:

After we got the picture together, I showed Tak the “Mike Harkey” snagging opportunity that is always available at Yankee Stadium. We headed up to the top of the batter’s eye, where this was our view:

I left Tak in that spot with the advice “Act animated” and moved closer to the bullpen, so we wouldn’t be getting in each other’s way. When Harkey did throw his ball to the batter’s eye, it whizzed right past me. Initially, I was pretty upset. That was, until I saw who caught the ball:

I’m always happy when another ballhawk snags a ball, even at my expense. Even more so when said ballhawk catches 4 balls less than you per game according to his mygameballs.com account (that’s the link I attached to his name when I first introduced Tak in this entry).

As for the game, I was in left field, where this was my view of the game:

20120721-210141.jpgDo you see the right fielder in the picture? That would be Jose Bautista. In the first inning, he turned around with his warm-up ball in hand. I then got up and waved my arms around. He looked at me and tossed the ball, but he missed me and the ball sailed about 15 feet to my right (or at least I think he was aiming for me. I can’t be sure, but as you saw in the picture of myself and Tak, I was wearing a very attention-grabbing Blue Jays shirt.), but I had picked an empty row to sit in:

20120721-225518.jpgso I was able to get right behind the ball as it sailed towards my row. As it neared my glove, though, a twenty-something in front of me reached up and tipped the ball right into my row. He then dove into my row, but I tapped the ball just out his reach and picked the ball up.

As for the game itself, I saw some action, but it was just frustrating. Adam Lind hit a ball I could tell was going to clear the wall, but I also  knew it was going to be in the middle of a packed row, so I went down my staircase just as a formality. Here is a screenshot:

The arrow on the left is where the ball landed and the arrow on the right is me running down the steps. After this, miraculous, but semi-tragic happened: the ball bounced within inches of my glove. Actually, the ball bounced right at my glove, but…well, let me put up another screenshot and then I’ll continue explaining:

You can see me in the attire I was in when I took the picture with Tak earlier. Then in front of me, there’s the kid/guy in the burgundy shirt bending down. As I said, the ball bounced and was headed RIGHT at my glove, but this guy deflected the ball away from me. The guy in the Yankee hat (in the screenshot) then tried to get down for the ball at the same time as me, but even though I take up virtually no space, both of us couldn’t fit through the narrow opening, so we both got stuck and the guy in the burgundy bent down and picked up the ball. If you’re at all counfused by my explanation of this, here’s the video:

 

Anyway, that was pretty much it for things of note for this day. The only other thing was it was now the second game where I had seen a pitcher with an innings total that was the same four digits repeated:

If you don’t know why I’m posting this, the explanation is in my last entry. Just scroll down, or, if you’re reading just this entry, go to the bottom of the page and click the “Previous Entry” thingamajig.

 

STATS:

  • 4 Balls at this game (2 pictured because I only kept two)

Numbers 343-346 for my life:

 

  • 124 Balls in 26 Games= 4.77 Balls Per Game (or 6 Balls under 500)
  • 4 Balls x 42,819 Fans= 171,276 Competition Factor
  • 35 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 11 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
  • 81 Balls in 21 Games at New Yankee Stadium= 3.86 Balls Per Game
  • 21 straight Games at New Yankee Stadium with at least 1 Ball
  • 6 straight Games at New Yankee Stadium with at least 2 Balls
  • Time Spent On Game 3:38-10:44= 7 Hours 6 Minutes

 

 

7/13/12 Angels at Yankees: Yankee Stadium

I had just spent five games in Washington the previous week, so it was time to come back to Janky Stadium (yes, that’s how I meant to spell it) for a couple of games. Can’t you tell how thrilled I am at that prospect?

20120717-113618.jpgIn addition, it was Friday the 13th. Usually, I have really good luck on Friday the 13th. This one, though, wouldn’t go as well.

First of all, I couldn’t find my glove at home, so I brought two surrogates:
1. A glove I bought on Ebay for $12. After two sessions of catch, I understood why it was listed for only $12, even though it was brand-new. The padding in the glove is non-existent, and it rips about as easily as paper. I had only used the glove thrice before this game, and look at the rips it already had:

20120717-114350.jpg

20120717-114414.jpgJust in case this glove completely tore open when I used it, I also brought a second glove. Go ahead, laugh. I deserve it:

20120717-114615.jpgHowever, it wasn’t my weird gloves that was the main sight at the gate. Check out this three-part picture showing the line outside Gate 6:

20120717-115036.jpg

20120717-115059.jpg

20120717-115122.jpgHo-ly pop tarts. That is a HUGE line. Fortunately, I had gotten there pretty early and I was at the front of the line. This also saved friend and ballhawk, Ben Weil, who showed up a minute before the gates opened. He just hopped in line with me.

When I saw what was happening in the next picture,I figured it might have been because of Hat Day:

20120717-123335.jpgwhich brings up this: I must have gone to every Yankees Hat Day for the past two years. I am ALWAYS at Yankee Stadium when it’s Hat Day. I know I’ve already gone to four of them this year. Also, do you see the ticket scanner the guard is leaning against in that last picture. Well I was the first one to use it and even though it dinged when I scanned my ticket, the turnstile got stuck, so I couldn’t pass. Ben had gone through the guard sans turnstile, so he got out to right field before me. Here’s what he got there:

20120717-123741.jpgThanks, Ben. Really appreciate it.

 

Did you notice what was going on behind Ben? Here’s a better look:

20120717-124656.jpgThat’s right: nothing. Less than a minute after I got to the right field seats, the Yankees inexplicably stopped hitting.

So, Ben and I headed over to the third base dugout to see what the Angels would bring us. On the way, though, I noticed something weird. The Yankees had essentially put “For Sale” signs on certain seats. Except the seats in right field were more expensive than those in foul territory:

20120717-130247.jpg

20120717-130309.jpgBen explained to me that there is more of a demand for seats in home run territory, so they cost more. Sure, I don’t know the pricing for many other stadiums, but I’ve never seen this done anywhere else before. It’s clever and intelligent of the Yankees, but I don’t like it.

When we got over to the dugout, we met Zack Hample, who had gone in through a different entrance, since he wanted to start off in the left field seats.

Right after we got there, Zack started playing catch with a coach. Here’s a picture I took of him throwing the ball:

20120717-133659.jpgbut then I started to take a video of it. The entirety of which is on Zack’s account of the game.

After that, this was the most exciting thing going on on the field:

20120717-134859.jpgso the three of us goofed off to kill time.

Here is a picture Zack took of the two of us, where Ben is stepping on a ledge to try to be taller than me:

20120717-135539.jpgWhat do you think? Did he succeed? The brim of his hat is clearly above my head, but is his actual head higher? I’d say we’re the same height in this picture.

After that silliness, all three of us yelled out to both Steve Phillips and Cecil Fielder to try to get their attention. When we yelled out: “Steve Phillips nice hair.” we got no acknowledgement, but when we yelled: ” Hey, Cecil!” Fielder waved at us.

After all three of us got rejected by every player on the Angels pitching staff, it was time to try to catch some hit balls. It wasn’t nearly as easy as I hoped it would be. In my imagination, I was in a nearly-empty section as Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout peppered the seats with one ball after another. In reality, however, there weren’t that many balls hit into the seats, and this is what the seats looked like:

20120717-142002.jpgNot only was this not nearly empty, but it was actually the most packed I had ever seen Yankee Stadium, and it’s YANKEE STADIUM!

Batting Practice was over and I was seriously doubting my ability extend my streak. Yankee Stadium is in the top-5 toughest ballparks to get a ball during the game at. I had a bleacher ticket, so I was pretty well set I was going to get a ball from Mike Harkey or get shut out.

Actually, neither happened. I snuck down to the right field bullpen, because I remembered there were a gazillion balls in there:

20120717-190713.jpgSurely enough, the groundskeeper threw me one of the balls:

20120717-190951.jpgThere would be no shutout at Yankee Stadium.

As for the game, I was in the bleachers and they were absolutely packed:

20120717-191506.jpgI mean the odds of me getting a ball out there, even with the Angels’ duo were pretty slim, but I’d always prefer to have an emptier section for mobility purposes.

While I was in the bleachers, I saw a couple of interesting things go up on the scoreboard. Here’s the first:

20120717-193452.jpgMy first thought was: “Wow, that’s impressive.” My second thought was: “How the heck do you have ‘approximately’ 36 home runs robbed?” If the number were an estimate, I would think it would be rounder, or is the stat inherently inconstant, so they just put this on there as if to say, “we’ve counted 36 for him, but some might not have gone over the wall and others might have, but that’s human error.” If it’s the latter, why don’t they put this on any other stat that is subject to human interpretation, like errors?

Here’s the second:

20120717-195046.jpgHow often do you see a pitcher’s innings as a number repeated four times. I think it’s cool.

How do you know it was a slow day for me snagging? When I do a lot of pictured-based writing. Here’s another paragraph of it:

I meant to just get a picture of the highest I’ve ever seen a Yankee Stadium spout water. Instead, what I got was an optical illusion:

20120717-201439.jpgThe water looks like it’s going into that puddle in the middle of the fountain, right? It’s actually in mid-air and about to fall into the shadow at the bottom of the screen caused by the indent in the metal.

Back to snagging, I tried to get a ball from the Angels’ bullpen people, but as they left, I noticed a ball on the center field side of the bullpen, so I tried to convince a policeman to toss me the ball. He picked it up and then stood in front of the bullpen as such:

20120717-202855.jpgEventually, he turned around and it became apparent he was just joking around in not tossing me the ball right away. Here is a picture Zack took right after the toss:

20120717-203459.jpgIt’s VERY hard to pick out, but Zack identified the ball as the very faint streak going across the officer taking the picture’s uniform. Here’s my picture right after I got the ball:

20120717-203745.jpgIt’s hard to explain, but even though it isn’t the darkest ball I’ve ever gotten, I think it’s the dirtiest ball I’ve ever gotten in term of the amount of actual *dirt* you can see on the ball.

After this game, I actually stayed around a bit after the game ended. I then got to feel the experience of being in a pretty much empty stadium. It was great:

20120717-204341.jpgI then went to this situation’s polar opposite in the New York transit system:

20120717-205529.jpg

STATS:
• 2 Balls at this game

20120717-213748.jpgNumbers 341 and 342 for my “career”:

20120717-213904.jpg• 120 Balls in 25 Games= 4.80 Balls Per Game (or 5 balls under “ballhawk’s 500″)
• 2 Balls x 47,873 Fans= 95,746 Competition Factor
• 34 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
• 10 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
• 77 Balls in 20 Games at the New Yankee Stadium= 3.85 Balls Per Game
• 20 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at New Yankee Stadium
• 5 straight Games at the New Yankee Stadium with at least 2 Balls
• Time Spent On Game 3:32-11:13= 7 Hours 41 Minutes

7/8/12 Rockies at Nationals: Nationals Park

I was back at Nationals Park for my fourth game there in as many days:
If you’re wondering, that’s a look of: “Sure, four games in a row here is nice and all, but am I really doing this?” As I took this picture, the time was approximately 10:00. I saw the schedule and saw a 1:00 game, so I got there half-an-hour before I thought the gates would open (10:30). All I saw when I got to the gates, though, was this:
After looking at the Nationals schedule on my phone, I found out it was actually a 1:35 game. This meant the gates wouldn’t open for another hour. To pass the time, I wrote and published one of my entries, while sitting inside the air-conditioned ticket office.

It was a day game after a 4:00 game, so I thought there might be batting practice, but once I finally DID get in the stadium, this was all the action on the field:
That would be bullpen coach Jim Wright throwing with one of the pitchers. Eventually the pitcher went into the bullpen and so did Wright. When the pitcher finished said session, Wright tossed me a ball out of nowhere. I didn’t even have my glove on when I caught it:
Then everyone exited the bullpen. Everyone except Wright. When he finally did, I had already numbered my ball, so I was worried he would see that, but regardless, I asked Wright if he wanted to play catch. He said he had to go, but that he would play for a couple of minutes. Wright is obviously in the distance, but here’s where each of us were when we threw together:
I was the only one in the seating area at this point, so it was an amazing experience to throw curveballs, among other pitches, to a person on a major league team; albeit not a player, what was seemingly all alone in the stadium (I am 100% sure there were other fans in the stadium, but they were taking shelter from the heat.). Finally, Wright said he had to go, so we stopped playing catch. The reason he “had” to go was the pitchers had come out to stop warming up. Here is Wright with the pitchers:
None of the pitchers had seen me get the ball form Wright, so it would be easy to get a ball from them, but I was nervous about asking them for a ball while Wright was around. After a few minutes, though, Wright headed into the dugout and I got Rex Brothers to toss me a ball by running deep into the section and having him “toss it to me long”:
After this, Rockies and Nationals catch partners alternated coming out. So I ran back and forth trying to get a ball from them. When Brothers and his partner finished up, the Nationals pitchers went through their warm up and were just finishing their throwing session. When they finished, a pair of Rockies had come out and were nearing the end of their throwing. I didn’t get a ball from this, but it was fun doing it. I also wasn’t the only one. After I headed to right field to try to get a ball from the Nationals relievers, I noticed this guy had also come over and had changed gear on his way as well:
I would eventually find out this was Leiming Tang, a Kansas City ballhawk, who was making his rounds of the east coast cities. I believe he had been in Philadelphia the night prior. We would have plenty of time to talk about things as there was no batting practice.

My next ball (number three if you’re keeping track) would come when Wilin Rosario came out to do some catching drills:
20120717-102402.jpg(Notice Leiming was already on the scene. We were both waiting in the shade, but I waited a little longer than he did to stay cool.)He obviously needed a few balls to do the drills, so when he was done, the catching coach, Jerry Weinstein, tossed Leiming and I both a ball:
20120717-102637.jpg My next snag would be at the dugout right before the game. I still don’t know the formal name the Nationals call them, but there were”hype people” on the roof of the dugout with T-Shirts, so I figured I might as well try to snag one. I moved into the emptiest row I could find, but turns out, the shirt came RIGHT to me. All I had to do was lower my glove a little and I caught it:
20120717-103557.jpg It’s actually the shirt I am wearing right as I type this sentence.

As for the game, I spent most of my time out in left field, but I came to the dugout for the end of the game to try to get an umpire ball:
20120717-104202.jpgDid you notice something else about that picture? It was pretty empty at the stadium. In addition to having been high-90s heat, it had started raining. Here’s a look to the seats to my left:
20120717-104525.jpg Leiming had been down by the dugout the whole game and was also going for an umpire ball. Except, unlike me, he was dedicated and prepared for the task:
20120717-104735.jpgLet me remind you it was humid from just having rained, and it was still freakin’ hot, so it wasn’t for the faint of heart to put on an umpire jacket. Not surprisingly, Leiming got a ball and I didn’t.

After pretty much everyone had left our section (lightning and the subsequent thunder had just struck, so it wasn’t that long after the game ended), Leiming and I got an usher to take a picture of us:
20120717-105231.jpgLeiming’s flight back to Kansas City had already been delayed, so we were going to have lunch together at Union Station, but we decided it might not be a good idea given how late the DC trains were running.

So we said our goodbyes, and I headed to Union Station, while he went to the airport to catch his plane to the Home Run Derby.

STATS:
• 3 Balls at this game (pictures taken in my room for freshman orientation in Minnesota)

20120717-110355.jpgNumbers 338-340 for my lifetime:

20120717-110724.jpg• 118 Balls in 24 Games= 4.92 Balls Per Game
• 3 Balls x 25,125 Fans= 75,375 Competition Factor
• 33 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
• 9 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
• 8 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
• 97 Balls in 20 Games at Nationals Park= 4.85 Balls Per Game
• 11 straight Games with 1 Ball at Nationals Park
• 11 straight Games with 2 Balls at Nationals Park
• 9 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
• Time Spent On Game 9:13 AM- 10:26 PM= 13 Hours 13 Minutes [/spooky]

7/7/12 Rockies at Nationals: Nationals Park

On-field photo day, and 100+ degree heat meant one thing: no batting practice:

20120711-084225.jpgFortunately for me, though, even 3.5 hours before game time(which is when the gates opened), players still warm up:

20120711-114717.jpgIn that last picture, Ryan Zimmerman was taking ground balls. It was approximately 10 minutes since the gates had opened, and I had already gotten two balls. I had been watching Zimmerman warm up from the third base side of the field when he threw a ball away, into the stands. I was on the phone with Todd Cook when I saw it. It took me a second, but then I realized no one was over on the first base side, and I could run over and find it. So I ran over, and someone had beat me to the seats, but he walked right past the ball, so here’s what I found:

20120711-115530.jpgYay, but wait, there’s more. It seemed as though there’s a reason Ryan Zimmerman was practicing so early: he can’t aim. Once I picked up the first ball, Zimmerman threw a second ball into the stands, and I had two balls within the first fifteen minutes of the gate being open:

20120711-235245.jpgI could have had three balls at that point, but the guy I mentioned previously had found a ball down the line before I could get there.

I then headed over to Ryan Mattheus and Tom Gorzelanny further down the line (the guy/kid I mentioned in the last paragraph also in the picture):

20120712-000739.jpgThere, another kid came up to me and asked me, “Are you Mateo?” It was Danny, one of the bloggers on the MLBlog, NYBisons. Since I try to avoid asking Nationals for baseballs, so I don’t wear out my sources because I go to so many games, and they will probably recognize me at a certain point, I helped out both Danny and the other guy to get a ball from the two players. When Ryan Mattheus came back, though, he tossed all three of us a ball. Awesome:

20120712-003601.jpgAfter that, no other players were warming up ,so I waited for the field to open and goofed around on it when it did:

However, it wasn’t all fun and games. After I took that picture, I saw something just past the camera that prompted me to take a more somber picture:

During the season, I really can’t keep up with the baseball world that well, so this was where I learned the Twins were still in last place in the AL Central. Booo!

I then took a lap around the field and took pictures of the stands from the perspective of the field, just because that was the awesomest part of this whole experience: seeing where I am normally trapped from the perspective of the field, from which I am usually trying to coax balls out of players. I figured me explaining this would get old after about two pictures, so here are a couple of the pictures I took with a 1-2 sentence caption following it:

A guy had stayed in the right field seats to take pictures of his family members. That’s when it actually dawned to me the implications of being on the field versus being in the stands.

The view of the Red Seats from the warning track.

The spot of both Greg Barasch and the 20th ball he had snagged the previous night’s game. I think you can figure out which is which.

The view of the left field seats from in front of the bullpen.

The seats in third base foul ground. Those are the seats I was most fascinated by when I was on the field, but I don’t know why. I think it is because that is usually the spot closest to the field I can ever get while actively pursuing baseballs (when the opposing pitchers are warming up). When I’m there, I’m so close, but I feel so far away from the field at the same time, so to actually BE on the field on the other side of the fence is a minor victory of sorts.

The main reason I didn’t want to drag out those caption is, because although I have a bunch of pictures of that sort; after I got to the end of the line by the visitors’ dugout, I turned around and took a video of my journey all the way around the field. So, here it is:

After that, I know I’m a loser for doing so, but I headed back to the other side of the field. There just wasn’t ANYTHING to do. I was pretty sure both Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard (the players throwing in the video) would recognize me, and I thought I saw some Rockies players coming out to throw on the other side of the field.

Look who was just done taking a picture as I got to the other side of the field:

I’ll name the individuals in two pictures from now, but all you have to know is these are the Cooks of Cook & Son Bats. Here is the picture Todd has just taken as I took my last picture:

Here they are right after taking the picture:

1. Todd Cook- The Father of the Cook and Son group. Who has already published his entry of this game, which you can check out by clicking…here.

2. Tim Cook- The elder of the two Cook sons. As I took this picture, no one had yet noticed I was there, but shortly after, Tim was the one to spot and identify me.

3. Kellan Cook- The younger of the two Cook Sons.

4. Greg- Not technically a “Cook”, but he was a friend of Todd’s from their town in Pennsylvania, so he accompanied them on their journey to Washington.

After I met up with the Cooks, I watched Jeremy Guthrie play catch:

20120713-132335.jpgWe then all headed to a “cooling station” in center field:

The “cooling” coming from the fact that it was in the shade and there were fans blowing out water. There, I took a few pictures of things I found interesting. First, do you see the door that is open? I took a picture of what is right inside that room:

I don’t know the exact function of everything in there, but it’s interesting, isn’t it?

I had seen this patch of grass, but I finally found out that it is used as extra grass if they need to patch up anything on the field.

There was obviously no batting practice, so the “L Screen” was in this gap in center field. I wish it were on the field, but it was nice to be able to see and touch one.

I also took a picture of the seats in right field, because I’m usually up there asking a groundskeeper down in the gap I was now standing in for a ball. It was another one of those “Oh, how many times I wished I could be down here” moments.

We didn’t spend all of our time in the cooling station though. It *was* On-Field Photo day after all. So I’m now going to go through all of the pictures I took of people while on the field. Just keep in mind I both couldn’t see what I was taking a picture of because of the intense sun, and I was shaking the hand of the person as I was taking their picture, so some of the pictures came out pretty bad:

(right to left) Rick Eckstein and Trent Jewett. Hitting and First Base Coaches.

Jim Lett, bullpen coach.

(left to right) Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman, and Michael Morse. They’re all laughing because as they passed, a Mariners fan yelled out “Michael!” to Morse. When Morse acknowledged him, he then yelled out, “Worst trade ever.” He was of course referring to the fact that Morse had been with the Mariners, but was traded for Ryan Langerhans, who is no longer even with the team. Meanwhile, Morse had hit 31 home runs for the Nationals the previous season along with a .303 average and 95 RBIs.

I don’t know exactly who this is (I may have if i just took the half-second to look at his ID), but if I had to guess I’d say he is some sort of broadcaster for the Nationals.

Randy Knorr, bench coach.

Steve McCatty, pitching coach.

(left to right) Danny Espinosa and Stephen Strasburg

Bryce Harper

Ryan Mattheus, who had tossed me a ball earlier and gave me one of the ice pops you see him holding in this picture:

I brought it up to the Cooks, sitting in the shade, to give to Tim, but apparently, if he eats anything colored red, he gets a little crazy, so I ate it instead.

An occluded Tyler Moore.

Edwin Jackson ft. Mateo Fischer’s fingers.

Mike Gonzalez, guest starring my fingers.

Roger Bernadina

(left to right) Craig Stammen and Jordan Zimmerman.

Ross Detweiler

Jayson Werth

Henry Rodriguez (giving Tim a high-five).

Rick Ankiel. If you look closely, you can the reflection of me shaking his hand in his sunglasses.

Adam LaRoche. He was actually the only player who allowed Tim to squirt him twice with Tim’s squirt bottle he had been carrying around all day. Tim ended up squirting three different Nationals players a total of four times. Tim squirted LaRoche, Stammen, and I believe Rodriguez, but I’m not sure.

Davey Johnson, the Nationals’ manager.

Sean Burnett

Jesus Flores? I really have no clue who it is, but his photo day picture looks the closest of anyone on the Nationals roster.

Ray Knight, whose fame came from winning the World Series with the Mets in 1986, but for some reason is a broadcaster for the Nationals; more specifically, MASN.

After we decided as a group it was time to leave the field, Tim and Todd made a brief stop to take a picture with the person Todd and I both agree is the best “crowd hype person” (I don’t want to call them cheerleaders, since baseball doesn’t have that, but that’s essentially what they’re there for in baseball) in all of baseball, Terrence:

He’s there every day, and I’d say he probably uses the most energy of anyone in the stadium each of those days. Todd said it jokingly, but he may not be as far off as you might think, that he burns 20,000 calories a game.

Now I’d just like to go over a few things of note I found while walking before I get too far away in the events of the day for them to be relevant anymore. First: When we passed the standings on the wall in right field, Tim wanted to try to touch the standings, or something like that. So he reached through the fence. After he did it Kellan did as well, mimicking his older brother, so I turned back and got a picture of it:

That’s when I noticed something very interesting about the video board. From afar, the letters of the standings look white. However, from up close, one can see there is no white at all at work in the board:

Each “pixel” of white is actually three red, green, and blue dots at work together. I guess this makes sense since you hear that TVs are “RGB”s sometimes, but I had never actually seen this phenomenon at work. I’m just curious how you would create a color such as yellow with this set-up, or if you even could.

Second: If you saw the video I embedded earlier in the entry, you may have seen me stop at around the 33 second mark and point my camera towards the dirt, where you saw what looked like a piece of paper on the ground. Well, that piece of paper was a ticket, and when I was on the first base side of the field with the Cooks, I identified exactly which section the ticket was for:

Yep, it was a club level ticket. That meant I could finally access the club level at Nationals Park. Other than being a mildly good spot for foul balls, I really never have a reason to buy a club level ticket, given the cost (this one was $55). This ticket meant I would finally be able to explore up there.

Also while I was on the first base side, all of the Cooks were usually up in the shade, but Tim joined me down on the field when some of the players passed by. On one of those excursions, a Nationals “fan” photographer took a picture of the two of us together:

Sorry for the watermark. It would have cost me $29 to get the picture without it.

Fast-forwarding to when we were exiting the field…We all decided the place to be was the Red Porch’s indoor restaurant. On the way there, though. The Cooks saw the pig at Nationals Park. (Apparently, there’s a sculpture of a pig at EVERY ballpark in the major leagues.) When we went over there, I saw the Danny that I mentioned earlier in the entry. I then got a picture of him with his two baseballs so far (both of which I have mentioned already):

For the record, that is his “Rockies” shirt, and Tim is waiting for me to finish taking the picture so we could head over to the Red Porch.

When we got over there, it was as packed as could be, so we took a seat on some couches outside it. Here is a picture Todd took of me and his two sons:

Eventually, Todd left to get some food. Meanwhile, Tim “killed” me with his squirt bottle approximately 12,735 times. I then got a message on my phone that looked like such:

I had no idea anyone was even throwing, since I couldn’t see the field from our spot. So I raced down to the Red Seats to see how this had happened, but by the time I got down there, Todd had already returned to the couches.

I returned momentarily to have get an explanation from Todd and pick up my things, but I quickly headed off to try to get a ball from the Rockies. On my way, I saw this and had half a mind to see if I could glove trick one of the balls:

I actually didn’t get any baseballs from the Rockies, but I did get two players to sign two of my baseballs (Josh Roenicke and Adam Ottavino). Here is Ottavino signing my ball:

While I was trying to get a ball from the Rockies, Todd got one from Drew Pomeranz. He then went up into the shade with Kellan and took a picture of those who stayed out in the sun:

Myself (Mateo, if you haven’t picked up on that already) and Danny were both trying to get a ball from the last reliever, but Tim was just there pretty much to tag along. If you can see it, Danny was on the phone. The person he was on the phone with was on the phone with was Quinn Imiola, a fellow Buffalo-based ballhawk, who, if you’ve been reading this blog long enough, I met at a minor league game in Myrtle Beach. Neither of us got the ball, but here was the view when the reliever was still throwing:

After that, I parted ways with the Cooks and headed up to the club level. First, I went up to my “ticketed section”:

I entered the section, but it was pretty crowded, so I made the decision I was going to stay in the outfield during the game after I toured the club level. You know the drill. I’m going to post the pictures rapid-fire.

The left field entrance to the club level.

The “tunnel” emanating from the left field entrance. The doors to the suites were on the left hand side of this tunnel.

The tunnel then lead to a (I imagine) usually very open area, but people were crowding it to escape the heat.

A bar area from which there was also a field view.

Opposite the bar was this gigantic window, offering a view of the neighborhood outside of Nationals Park. The window went all the way across the “open area”, which was rather large.

This was just one of the food options in the “open area”.

The first reason I include this picture is that the area is approximately a fourth of the total “open area”, just to give you an idea of how large it was. The second reason is: Do you see the staircase in this picture? That leads up to an all-suite level. I got up there and started exploring, but before I could start taking pictures, an usher/guard type person asked me for my ticket and told me I couldn’t be up there.

During the game, I sat in two main spots. Here is the view from my usual seat in left field:

Pretty much everyone in the lineup was right handed, so I moved between this spot and the spot I have pointed out with the orange arrow. It was a long run in intense heat, so I pretty much only did it between innings when I could take it slowly.

From the spot in foul ground, I got what almost could have been Teddy’s first win in the Geico Presidents Race. Well he’s had a bunch of those, but this one was particularly entertaining, since I was so close to the action. If you don’t know the history, Teddy has NEVER won the presidents race in however many years it has been done. The presidential mascots that run in it are those symbolizing the four presidents on Mount Rushmore.

Teddy came down the stretch way in front of the other three presidents:

but he veered at the sight of the grounds crew waving popsicles in front of him:

Eventually, the other three presidents passed right by him:

…and as they passed the finish line, Teddy fell into the wheelchair section after his beloved popsicles:

I didn’t get anything during the game, but I had fun running around. In addition, I met Alan Schuster in this section during the game. He got there late because he was already on his way to the game when he realized he forgot his tickets at home. He lives in Virginia, so it was a pretty big set-back. Alan, if you don’t know, is the webmaster of  mygameballs.com, the ultimate site for ballhawk statistics. If you haven’t already, go check it out. Also, if you have ever caught a ball at a major league baseball game, make an account. It is super easy and even if you’re not a hardcore ballhawk, it is a great way to keep track of all of the baseballs and autographs you get at games. It’s better than forgetting from whom and how you got them, I’ll tell you that much.

Nearing the end of the game, this was my view:

I then tried to get a ball from whoever the home plate umpire was for that game:

but do you see all of those kids waiting? He gave a ball away to each of them, so he only had one ball left. As he passed me, I called out to the umpire by his last name, but when he looked back, he thought the guy next to me had been the one who called out to him, so he tossed him his final ball instead of me.

I then headed over to the Rockies dugout, and although all of the Rockies players dissed me, I saw a ball come out of the corner of my eye, so I caught it:

The person who threw the ball then reappeared, so I saw it was one of the Rockies ball boys or something along those lines:

Actually, though, I was only one of the people he threw a ball to. He must have thrown 10 balls into the stands. I’ve never seen anything like it from someone who wasn’t on the team.

Of course, even when someone like that throws 10 balls into the crowd, there is usually at least a kid that doesn’t get one. It’s just impossible to have EVERYone get a ball. I thought I didn’t see a kid next to me get a ball, so I asked him if he had gotten a ball at this game. He said he didn’t, so I pulled the ball out of my glove and put it into his. Here he is with it:

I then headed out to the center field plaza, fully expecting to just get on the Metro and leave. However, when I got there, the Cooks (and Greg, but I have filed him under this for the entry for the sake of brevity) were taking their final picture of the day:

So I got to formally say “goodbye” to them before I rode my way back to my apartment in Washington. If you made it to this point in the entry: Congratulations, you have more patience than I do. Not bad for a game I initially wasn’t going to go to, right?

STATS:

  • 4 Balls at this Game (3 pictured because I gave one away)

Numbers 334-337 for my life:

  • 115 Balls in 23 Games= 5 Balls Per Game
  • 4 Balls x 28,032 Fans= 112,128 Competition Factor
  • 32 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 8 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
  • 7 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
  • 7 straight Games with at least 4 Balls
  • 94 Balls at Nationals Park in 19 Games= 4.95 Balls Per Game
  • 10 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
  • 10 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Nationals Park
  • 8 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Nationals Park
  • 6 straight Games with at least 4 Balls at Nationals Park
  • Time Spent On Game 11:38- 7:57= 8 Hours 19 Minutes

7/6/12 Rockies at Nationals: Nationals Park

My third game at Nationals Park in the same week, and look who was at the gates waiting with me:

20120709-002957.jpgLeft to right, that would be:
1. Me.
2. Rick Gold- A ballhawk originally from the Oakland area, but who now operates from New Jersey. As of this game, he had snagged 1,354 balls, which is impressive considering he doesn’t try to get players to toss him baseballs. Of those, 45 have been game home runs.
3. Greg Barasch- In addition to being a friend and fellow ballhawk, Greg also happens to be my next-door neighbor. As of this game, he had snagged a total of 1,216 baseballs.

While we awaited the gates opening, Greg and I played a little catch. Here are a couple of pictures of it, courtesy of Rick:

20120709-154007.jpgThere I’m just winding up. Neither of us threw anywhere close to as hard as we could, since there were other people around us.

20120709-154419.jpgIt’s pretty much the same time in a different throw, from a different angle.

20120709-160303.jpgThis picture was taken on a very awkward looking follow through. From this angle, you can see Greg further down the sidewalk.

Eventually, there were enough people walking by that we just stopped and took the picture you saw at the beginning of the entry.

Once I got in the stadium, I almost immediately got my first ball of the day:

20120709-161823.jpgIt was a ground-rule double that the kid in blue hat and shirt reached up to grab, but in doing so, he only deflected the ball into my glove. Also, if you zoom-in on that last picture, you can see Rick (in red) patrolling the Red Seats, and Greg (in black) working the Nationals players in right field.

I then headed over to the Red Seats, where it was cup trick day. First, here is Rick pulling up a ball with his ball retrieval device:

20120709-201653.jpgNotice the groundskeeper laughing behind the Direct TV satellite dish. Then I got to see Greg pull a ball out of the bullpen (two pictures):

20120709-202110.jpg

20120709-202155.jpgAs Greg reeled in his ball, I headed over to the right field seats for Bryce Harper’s group. I didn’t get anything for Harper or the rest of his group, but Craig Stammen (the guy on the left of the group of three Nationals in the outfield):

20120709-203600.jpgThrew a ball to a kid, but missed him, so I caught the ball and then gave it to the kid (in the orange).

I believe that was it for Nationals B.P. At that point, the ballhawk scoreboard was Greg: 8 Rick: 4 Mateo: 2. It was a pretty frustrating day at that point, because two of the balls Rick snagged would have easily had been mine had he not been there. Even Greg’s dad, who showed up just before the gates opened because he had to park, had more baseballs than me at five. Also, at this point, Greg told me he wanted to get 15 on the day (his record for one game).

Then a bunch of righties came up, so I headed over to the Red Seats, but both Rick Gold and a latecomer, Steve Miller, were there. Steve is in the blue shirt at the back of the section, and Rick is in the red in the front. So after “checking in” on Rick and saying, “Hi” to Steve, I made my way back to right field. It should be noted, Steve writes a Marlins blog, and has already published an entry about the game, which you can check out here. After my “hello”s, I headed back to the right field seats.

There, a ball was hit into the seats right in my row. I ran towards it and grabbed the ball:

20120709-232330.jpgAs I grabbed the ball, the kid in the orange in the row behind me in the picture (looking at the camera with a ball in his hand), grabbed the ball. I had it first, so I could have easily yanked it away from him, but I decided to let go of the ball. For the record, I do count these balls, because if I don’t, I’ve created a scoring system that incentives taking balls away from other people: For my sake, I just have to have possession, and the ball counts. As I see it, I’m giving this ball away to the person by not making things get ugly, and competing with that person.

My next ball was also hit. It bounced off the lady partially occluded by the string dangling from my glove, where it went right into my row, and I picked it up:

20120709-233042.jpgTowards the end of Rockies batting practice, I headed over to third base foul ground. My rationale for this was things had been going SO slowly that I wasn’t missing much by getting a head start to the dugout when Rockies did end their batting practice. The first of the balls I got in foul ground was hit by a Rockies lefty:

20120709-233511.jpgIt bounced off the guy in red in the right part of the picture and landed a couple of rows below him, where I picked it up.

Just as batting practice ended, I was planning to go to the dugout, but someone I can’t describe as anything other than “a random Rockies guy” was holding up a ball, and gesturing as if he were going to toss it into the crowd. I started waving my arms in the air like crazy to try to get him to toss it to me. He didn’t, but he *did* throw it over me. It was the a semi-foot race to the spot the ball landed between myself and the other kids who had seen where the ball landed. I say “semi”, because to them it was simply a foot race, but I knew they were going to beat me to that spot, so I stopped a few rows under the spot, since balls usually roll down a few rows. I then saw the ball rolling down the steps, so I ran over and picked it up, much to the chagrin of the kids who realized what had just happened:

20120710-000449.jpgThe place where I snagged the ball is the section just to the right of the glove, and the guy who threw it was on the field by the right-most part of the picture.

I then sat by the dugout for a few minutes after batting practice to catch up on notes and such. There, I noticed a weird defect on one of the balls:

20120710-002634.jpgI’ve seen plenty of balls with the “practice” stamped upside-down, but this was the first one I’ve seen completely miss the sweet spot of the ball. Also while I was there, I rendezvoused with Steve. The last time we had met at a game, I think we both thought we should have gotten a picture together, so this time we gave my phone/camera to a random fan, but all of the pictures turned out like this:

20120710-003303.jpgSo when I saw Greg’s dad a few seats from us, I asked him to take a picture of us, which came out a lot better (unless you’re into the artsier silhouettes):

20120710-003604.jpgAt the end of batting practice, the full ballhawk scoreboard was as follows:
Greg- 13
Rick- 6
Mateo- 6
Shelly (Greg’s dad)- 6
Steve- 4

35 balls isn’t bad for 5 people at a game.

Here is a picture Rick took of me in the right field seats with the balls I had kept:

20120710-004311.jpgIn reality, I had only kept 4 baseballs, but I had my 80th career ball to play catch with Greg with, so I included that in the picture for “effect”.

I think I stayed in those seats for maybe three innings, but I didn’t like my chances with Stephen Strasburg on the mound. Even if he had just given up two home runs, I believe they were only his fifth and sixth of the year.. So I headed over to the Rockies dugout, where this was my view. *I* didn’t snag anything, but I was able to watch Greg put on a dugout clinic.

By the time I had gotten there, Greg had already snagged a third out ball from Tyler Colvin, and a Will Nieves foul ball, which tied him for his personal record. While the game was still in session, I managed to see him snag a third out ball from Nieves, and then a Jonathan Herrera foul ball.

At the end of the game, I, along with Greg, headed over to the umpire tunnel to try to get a ball from Jim Joyce:

20120710-090338.jpgHe was sitting at 17 balls at that point, so we were going through scenarios in our minds with which he could get twenty baseballs. Unfortunately, all of these involved a ball from Jim Joyce, the home plate umpire, and Joyce didn’t give either of us a ball. The Rockies had won the game, though. So their players and coaches were still coming back to the dugout by the time we moved over there. It was then that both of us got a ball from Glenallen Hill. Then I believe a ball boy tossed Greg another ball (I know SOMEone tossed Greg another ball, but I’m not sure who it was). Joyce had handed a ball to a kid just to the right of Greg, so I thought the second ball he got had been his twentieth ball of the game, so I took a picture of Greg with it:

20120710-091158.jpgWhen in reality, that had been Greg’s nineteenth, which Greg explained to me right after he got the ball. Greg also had a plan to get his twentieth of the game. Earlier in batting practice, there had been a ball that landed in the flowers o the left field bullpen. Greg’s plan was to go over there and either cup trick it, or have someone toss it up to him. I left the dugout soon after him, so I could see him waiting by the bullpen, and I was going to try to get a picture of him, but by the time I got over there, he was gone. I called him to see where he was, and if I could get a picture of him with his baseballs. I learned two things on that phone call: 1. He was in a car already on his way back to New York. (His dad wanted to leave. I don’t blame him; it was nearing 11:00 PM, and it’s a 4-5 hour drive back to New York.) 2. He had gotten a member of the grounds crew to toss him the ball. Oh. My. Goodness. I had just witnessed a “twenty” game!

I headed back to my apartment, and although the Metro was more jam-packed than ever:

20120710-092329.jpgI couldn’t care less. I had a small grin on my face the whole time, and it wasn’t even I that had done anything special.

-Keep reading past the stats to see a few pictures I took of Greg with his baseballs (in a couple of minutes)-

STATS:
• 7 Balls at this game (5 pictured because I gave 2 away)

20120710-092753.jpgNumbers 327-333 for my career:

20120710-093225.jpg• 111 Balls in 22 Games= 5.05 Balls Per Game
• 7 Balls x 28,951 Fans= 202,657Competition Factor
• 31 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
• 7 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
• 6 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
• 6 straight Games with at least 4 Balls
• 90 Balls in 18 Games at Nationals Park= 5 Balls Per Game
• 9 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
• 9 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Nationals Park
• 7 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Nationals Park
• 5 straight Games with at least 4 Balls at Nationals Park
• Time Spent On Game 3:13- 11:17= 8 Hours 4 Minutes

So, as promised, here are the pictures of Greg at his apartment the next week. This first one are the “only” 13 balls he kept broken up into groups. The biggest group is just the “rest” of the baseballs.The top two are his two foul balls (a personal best). The middle two are his 18th and 19th balls of the game. The one to the right of those two is his 20th ball of the game:

20120710-103137.jpgOne of said balls had an interesting mark on it:

20120710-103638.jpgIf you can’t tell, it is the logo of another baseball that probably got there from that other baseball being squished against it.

I then combined the five balls I kept with his, and we re-took the picture:

20120710-144755.jpgFor the record, us five ballhawks ended up combining for 43 baseballs on the day. Not bad, eh?

I then got a picture of Greg with some “balligraphy”:

20120710-145653.jpgThe final picture I took was of Greg with his two foul balls against the background of his baseball “stuff”:

20120710-153108.jpg

7/5/12 Giants at Nationals: Nationals Park

Yay for free tickets!

Boo W.B. Mason trucks:
Let me explain myself a little further. The man holding water in the first picture is friend and ballhawk, Rick Gold. Rick works for mlb.com, so he gets into games for free. Not only that, but he can get an extra ticket. Instead of paying my usual $13, Rick hooked me up with a free ticket. Like I’ve mentioned before, there is an usher in right field who lets me sit there every game, so it doesn’t really matter where my ticketed seat is, just as long as I can get in the gates. My thumbs-down to the W.B. Mason truck is because that was the giveaway. Not the actual, giant truck, but here’s the first picture once I got in the gates:
I actually got two of these since Rick’s bag was stuffed and he didn’t want carry it around with him.

I was in left field for this picture and all of pitchers batting practice, but I didn’t get anything until the third group of hitters in right field. The third group is that which contains Adam LaRoche and Bryce Harper. One ball, LaRoche hit a bit over my head and to my right. I moved right into the exact spot where the ball was going to land, but for some reason, even though it was going straight towards my glove, the ball tipped off it and I picked it off the ground. I know it may sound shallow and stupid, but I was pretty mad with myself for dropping such an easy ball. Sure I still got it, but I also realize that the ball would have probably been someone else’s had I been in New York. Here is the spot where I dropped/snagged the ball:
I then almost caught what would have been a pretty cool ball. I believe it was LaRoche again, but it might have been Harper. Anyways, one of the two lefties hit a ball I could tell was maybe going to barely make it to the seats. I went all the way down the steps, reached out as far as I could and felt the ball hit my glove. I then had my glove pressed against the wall. I couldn’t tell, but people to my side cheered like I had caught it, so I carefully lifted my glove as to not drop a ball if it was in there, but the ball had probably dropped onto the warning track since it wasn’t in my glove as I dragged it up the wall. Here is the spot I almost caught it in:
I was leaning over the raised part of the glass, so I actually would have probably caught the ball had I went over to the railing and reached over that instead.

After that, there wasn’t much action in right field. The most interesting thing that went on was I got to see Rick using his device in the Red Seats:
I don’t have a picture of it, but it’s a cup trick of sorts. Like one you would see in either Atlanta or in San Francisco.

When I say it wasn’t interesting, that doesn’t mean the players weren’t hitting home runs. It just means those home runs weren’t near me. There were a bunch going into the second and third decks in right field. Those seats were closed until 5:30. So at 5:27, I lined up here expecting a big “payday”:
There were so many balls hit up there in fact, I spent my time waiting trying to figure out how I could keep track of what order I snagged the balls in, expecting to need to use four of my backpack’s pockets. When I got up there, though, there was nothing. The ushers had cleared out all the balls they could find in the seats. That’s the only explanation I have. No one I saw found a ball and there were at least 5 hit in the second deck and two in the third deck. Of course, one in the upper deck had been hit far enough to evade the usher’s sweep of the section. The problem was, myself and the two other fans searching the section had not seen where that ball landed, so it was Rick, after batting practice who found it and kindly (read: cruelly) took a picture for me:
Let’s get back to batting practice, though, shall we? Dejected, I walked over to third base foul ground to try to get a ball from the Giants pitchers warming up:
Like the last game I went to, they didn’t even throw a ball into the crowd while I was there. I then headed over to left field to try to catch a home run from the Giants hitters. I failed at doing this, but I got a ball from Santiago Casilla by the bullpen. At least I think that’s who it was. It was a pitcher, and he’s the person that looks most like the person who tossed me the ball on the Giants roster.

I then went over to the Red Seats where I got Shane Loux to toss me ball. Here’s a diagram of it from a picture I took in right field right after I got the Loux ball:
The black arrow shows where Loux had to move to field the ball, and the orangey arrow is the path of the ball. I then asked who hadn’t gotten a ball. A kid raised his hand, but he didn’t have a glove, so I kept on searching. Usually when this happens and I say why I didn’t give him the ball, the parent(s) react negatively. In this case, though; when I said, “Well, where’s your glove?” the father said, “I told you, you need to have your glove on all the time.” After I gave the ball away to another kid, I talked to the father briefly about experiences sitting in the upper deck with a glove on at all times as a kid.

I then moved over to foul ground to try to get a ball from Barry Zito, since I wasn’t having any luck with hit baseballs:
Of course when I got there, batting practice ended with me at three balls on the game.

I started off the game in right field, where this was my view:
20120708-100045.jpgFor those wondering: yes, that is Rick’s head in front of me in that picture.

Tonight’s game was turn back the clock night. That meant both team’s would have their 1924 uniforms on. It would be the New York Giants versus the Washington Senators:
20120708-100602.jpgIt also meant the stadium’s employees dressed up like it were 1924. Take this picture from the end of batting practice. Can you spot the three different employee outfits?
20120708-100817.jpgI didn’t like my chances of getting anything in right field with Matt Cain on the mound, though. My mom grew up in the bay area, so she was raised a Giant fan. Normally she doesn’t go to games much, but with the Giants in town, she and my step-dad decided to go to the game. I used one of their tickets to move over here:
20120708-101339.jpgWhile I was there, I saw the second coolest sky I’ve ever seen at Nationals Park:
20120708-101550.jpgBy the way, did you notice the “1924” scoreboard they had going?

Anyway, the Giants got beat by the “Senators” 5-6 in a thriller. The Giants were winning 5-1 in as late as the seventh, I believe, but once Matt Cain came out, the Nationals came back to make the score 5-4. Then they scored 2 runs in the bottom of the ninth to win the game. The game ended on a tailor-made double play ball that just got botched. After the game, I went to the umpire tunnel, and got Gary Darling to toss me a ball:
20120708-102034.jpg

STATS:
• 4 Balls at this Game (3 pictured because I gave 1 away)
20120708-103745.jpgNumbers 323-326 for my life:
20120708-103827.jpg• 104 Balls in 21 Games= 4.95 Balls Per Game
• 30 straight Games with at least 1Ball
• 6 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
• 5 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
• 5 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
• 83 Balls in 17 Games at Nationals Park= 4.88 Balls Per Game
• 8 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 1 Ball
• 8 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
• 6 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
• 4 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 4 Balls
• Time Spent On Game 3:24- 10:27= 7 Hours 3 Minutes

7/3/12 Giants at Nationals: Nationals Park

It was my first time back in Washington, and I experienced a first in all my games at Nationals Park. It was sold-out. So, I had to wait in line for the $5 tickets that get released right as the gates open:

20120705-143306.jpg
Thankfully, as you can see, I was at the front of the line, so I didn’t have to worry about not being able to get tickets, but not being able to wait AT the gate meant I would have to wait behind a line for the first time in forever at Nationals Park:

20120705-143642.jpg
Now, I don’t *know* that this made me miss out on any balls, but all I can say is I’ve had several times at Nationals Park where I’ve snagged baseballs right off the bat.

When I got into the stadium, I initially went to the left field seats:

20120705-145116.jpg
I muddled there for a few minutes before going over to the Red Seats, where I would get my first ball of the day:

20120705-161532.jpg
Michael Morse hit a ball straight over my head. It then settled in the netting below the seat I have pictured, where I picked it up.

While I was there, I saw a ball fly into the seats in upper right field seats. When those seats opened to fans at 5:00, I ran up and found a baseball in this spot:

20120706-001818.jpg
I didn’t photograph it in that spot because I was too busy trying to find other “Easter Eggs” in those seats. When I went back down to the Red Seats, I gave that ball away to a kid I had promised I would give a ball to if I got another (after I snagged the Morse home run). I could have easily pretended to have not found that ball since the kid never saw me find it, but I like to honor my promises, however minuscule they may seem.

I then headed over to foul territory to try to get a ball from the pitchers warming up, but they didn’t toss a ball to myself or any other fans while I was there. Even if they would have, I was just one of many Giants fans:

20120706-134709.jpg
so I gave up pretty easily and headed over to the right field seats.

There, I got my third ball of the day. Matt Cain threw a ball over his head, and I jumped for it, but came up just short. It then hit this man in the head:

20120706-135121.jpg
and I caught it off the bounce. I then gave the ball to him, since he did take the ball off his head, and you could see the mark the stitches made on his forehead. That would be my last ball of batting practice.

Even though my ticketed seat was in the upper deck, this was my view of the game, by the grace of an usher who lets me sit there:

20120706-135512.jpg
I gave said usher the Morse ball. (He gives away all of the balls I give to him to people in the section, mostly kids.)

I know I don’t usually do this, but here’s a picture of Tim Lincecum delivering a pitch in the first inning:

20120706-135623.jpg
Why? Lincecum is my favorite player in baseball. Also, I was very excited to have seen his 100th strikeout of the year:

20120706-135747.jpg
Unfortunately, as you can see, his ERA was in the 5s, and it went up after this game. I don’t know how many earned runs he gave up (maybe I just don’t want to remember), but it was painful to watch.

In the middle of the sixth inning, it started raining, so the tarp came on the field:

20120706-140102.jpg
I saw this as an opportunity to get into better seats, since the ushers wouldn’t be checking tickets due to everyone and their mother leaving the seats, so I made my way thought the extremely crowded concourse:

20120706-140333.jpg
and to the Nationals dugout. I also figured many people had left, so I picked up tickets in that area. Once I had tickets in that area, I figured “I might as well see if I can get over to the Giants dugout. Worst case scenario: the ushers are checking tickets, and I have to go back to the Nationals dugout..” Sure enough, the ushers still weren’t. Hacking tickets, so I wandered the seats and found tickets for most of the 1 hour 25 minute rain delay. I also sat by the Giants dugout, just in case I could convince any of them to toss me a ball out of the ball bag:

20120706-141006.jpg
That’s actually where I was when the grounds crew finally pulled off the tarp:

20120706-141251.jpg
Truthfully, I don’t know why they delayed the game so long. It was about ten minutes of downpour followed by an hour and fifteen minutes of drizzling.

Anyway, at this point, I had amassed a considerable amount of tickets, so I had fun just running around the stadium, making minute adjustments depending on the hitter and situation. I didn’t get anything, but it was fun trying.

Oh, and here are three pictures showing how empty the stadium was:

20120706-143719.jpg

20120706-143730.jpg

20120706-143739.jpg

At the end of the game, I headed over to the umpire tunnel and got Scott Barry to toss me a ball:

20120706-144156.jpg
It was 11:09 at that point, and the last train left the station at 11:20, so I didn’t even have time to put the ball in my backpack. Right after I snagged the ball, I took off. I literally ran the whole way to the Metro station with a ball in my glove.

When I got to the Metro Station is when I realized the ball was my 100th of the season, so I took another picture of it, in all of its triple digit glory:

20120706-144513.jpg

Sorry for the quality of the picture. I was going through my stats on the platform, so I took a picture right there on the platform. Here is a better picture i took at home the next day:

STATS:
• 4 Balls at this game (1 pictured because I gave 3 away)

20120706-145558.jpg
numbers 319-322 for my career:

20120706-145634.jpg
• 100 Balls in 20 Games= 5 Balls Per Game
• 29 straight Games with at least 1Ball
• 5 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
• 4 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
• 4 straight Games with at least 4 Balls
• 79 Balls in 16 Games at Nationals Park= 4.94 Balls Per Game
• 8 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 1 Ball
• 8 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
• 5 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
• 3 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 4 Balls
• Time Spent On Game 2:34-11:44= 9 Hours 10 Minutes

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