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

4 Comments

Great post, Mateo. I love the relaxed atmosphere of ballhawking in D.C. I’m glad I don’t live in NY. I probably won’t get back up though until the Marlins come in August.
Steve

Steve- Thanks. *I’m* glad I don’t have to go to all of my games in New York. It takes a ton of stress off of me. After the upcoming Mets series, I won’t be back until August as well. I don’t know which series, but my schedule is on mygameballs.com.

Looks like a nice ballpark, glad you had a fun time.
–Mike

Mike- Thanks. I would describe it as a nice stadium, but my only complaint would be it’s a bit bland. For the record, I *did* have a lot of fun, both at this game and the following two I will be writing about.

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