August 2012

8/21/12 Braves at Nationals: Nationals Park

Less than fifteen hours after saying goodbye to him in the morning, Rick Gold and I met up at the gates of Nationals Park for our 10th and final game together in 2012:

20120830-171724.jpgIf you haven’t read the entry, Rick and I were on a bus together close to 2 o’clock that same morning. It was one of those times for a sarcastic “Long time no see”, since both of us had woken up pretty soon before that.

Speaking of people sleeping, that’s what the Nationals players were apparently doing, because they didn’t take batting practice:

20120831-083010.jpgSince it was my last day at Nationals Park for this year, I I used this time to say goodbye to most of the ushers I knew.

Eventually, the Nationals pitchers came out to throw, so I headed over there. Here is where a season full of pretty much not asking pitchers for baseballs came in handy (in that they probably would have recognized me if I had). I yelled out to Ryan Mattheus as he finished throwing and he tossed me the ball:

20120831-083450.jpgI was on the board!

I then just hung around until the Braves started hitting. When Juan Francisco’s group came up first, both Rick and I moved up to the second deck in right field:

20120831-103749.jpgAs I said about Francisco in the last entry, dude hits BOMBS. I mean look how far I look how far away from home plate I was:

20120831-202719.jpgUnfortunately, he took probably less than twenty swings before finishing for the day.

I headed down to the lower level for the Braves group of lefties and Dan Uggla. There, two other ballhawks (Rick and a guy whose name I don’t know) took the two best spots in right, so I was forced to just stand in a middle spot and hope I could judge the ball better than them/ jump in front of them. When Jason Heyward hit a ball to my right, the ballhawk I didn’t know ran straight to his right. Meanwhile, I knew the ball was falling short of that. I ran into the row and made the running, backhanded catch:

20120901-131345.jpgAs soon as I caught it, I searched for a kid and gave it away. I soon there after got Jonny Venters to toss me a ball and gave that too away.

That would be it for snagging. As for the game, I headed out to left field:

20120901-160836.jpgStephen Strasburg was pitching, so I figured the righty-dominant Nationals would be more likely to go yard. I was right, but it was an inning *before* I got to my seat there. Oh, and there was a rain delay where it absolutely poured. It was my third rain delay in as many days. So it really was no big deal. The most notable part of it was before the delay started, it was raining at least three times harder than it was during the rain delay the game before.

During the rain delay, I got soaked, walked through the seats looking for tickets, got soaked, said goodbye to the ushers in the ballpark, got soaked, tried to get a ball from Alan Butts, got soaked, talked to Eddie Perez. Oh, and did I mention I got soaked? I don’t think I did. It was raining pretty hard. Do you remember when I said it was raining three times harder than the previous game DURING the game? Well during the rain delay, it rained about ten times harder. The rain would step up to “next level”, and then when you thought it couldn’t rain any harder, a burst of even harder rain.

 

Anyway, for the game, Stephen Strasburg and Paul Maholm managed to survive the rain delay to pitch again afterwards (the rain delay was in the second inning). Maholm went seven innings while Strasburg went six. Unfortunately for Maholm, it’s not how long you last, it’s how many runs you give up. Strasburg allowed just one run while Maholm allowed four.

 

STATS:

  • 3 Balls at this game (1 pictured because I gave 2 away)

 

Numbers 384-386 for my “career”:

 

  • 164 Balls in 39 Games= 4.21 Balls Per Game
  • 3 Balls x 33,888 Fans= 101,664 Competition Factor
  • 48 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 4 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
  • 2 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
  • 124 Balls in 28 Games= 4.43 Balls Per Game at Nationals Park
  • 20 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 1 Ball
  • 4 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
  • 2 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
  • Time Spent On Game 3:32- 11:22= 7 Hours 50 Minutes

8/20/12 Braves at Nationals: Nationals Park

After a series of waiting endlessly for David Wright’s 200th home run, it was time to go back to Nationals Park for my fourth game there in as many days:

20120826-125154.jpgUsually I’m not that excited of attending four games in a row at ANY stadium, but I had come to the conclusion that I wouldn’t be getting a ball tossed to me by the Nationals (intentionally, anyway) anytime soon, so I was excited for the arrival of the not-offensively-anemic Braves, who also didn’t know me.

My first ball of the day came when Gio Gonzalez hit a ball to my right. I chased after it, but someone else managed to pick it up before I could get there. He then hit a ball back to where I had previously been standing. Thankfully, no one judged it correctly, and I was able to run right to the spot and gobble it up :

20120826-130215.jpgAfter the pitchers- all of whom are righties- stopped hitting, I headed over to the right field seats for Bryce Harper’s group. I still haven’t seen one of Harper’s legendary batting practices, but I did manage to snag a ball from his bat.

I was on the middle staircase of the right field seats when Harper launched a ball to the section closest to center field. I saw this right away and raced there to scoop up the ball before anyone else could:

20120826-133446.jpgAnd yes, both of my first two balls were Shea Stadium commemorative balls.

The group then changed again and I headed over to the Red Seats for the group of Morse, Zimmerman, and Werth. During that group, I caught three balls on the fly.

The first was an extremely easy catch right smack-dab in the middle of the section where I had been standing:

20120826-134032.jpgThis was also a Shea Stadium commemorative, and was off the bat of Jayson Werth.

Speaking of Shea Stadium commemorative balls off the bat of Jayson Werth, that’s what my next (and fifth) ball of the day was. I won’t bore you with another picture of the ball in my glove, but the ball was traveling to my left, so I ran in this row and made the forehand catch over a row of seats:

20120826-135300.jpgI then asked all of the kids in the section with gloves if the hadn’t gotten a ball. When I finally got to the one who didn’t, I gave him the ball:

20120826-135543.jpg(His dad is blocking him, but you can still kind of see him in the white shirt.)

My next ball came when Ryan Zimmerman hit a high fly ball to my right. I ran as far as I could, reach over the glass that separates the Red Seats and the bullpen, and made the grab:

20120826-140110.jpgIt felt pretty awesome in that the ball would have fallen into the bullpen had it not been for me; kind of like a home run rob. For those of you keeping score at home, that was my fifth snag of the day; all of which were hit, Shea Stadium commemorative balls.

Soon after that, the Braves started throwing, so even though the Nationals were still hitting, I headed into foul ground to try to get a ball from one of them. After waiting for a while, I finally got a ball from Erik Hinske:

20120826-233310.jpgDo you see the coach crossing the field in the left part of the picture? That’s where Hinske was. He tossed the ball to me while I was right behind the wheelchair section. Unfortunately, he tossed it over my head, so it rattled around in the seats before I could secure ball #6 and thank Hinske.

I then headed over to right field for a group stacked with the Braves’ lefties. Ironically, though, my only ball from this group came when Dan Uggla hit an opposite-field home run and I played the ball off a deflection:

20120826-234426.jpgThe guy by my glove almost had it, but he botched the play, so I swooped in.

The right field seats were getting pretty crowded at this point, so I headed back over to the Red Seats. I didn’t snag a hit ball, but a fan dropped a ball into the gap, so I knew it was time to deploy the Glove Trick. However, as I lowered it down, a member of the groundscrew walked through the gap and inserted the ball in my glove. I had already promised the people next to me I would give the ball away to the kid who it was intended for, so I did when I reeled it up:

20120826-235439.jpgOkay, you’ve got three planes at work here. We’ll start closest and move back:
1. The Glove Trick- Complete with rubber band and pen to hold it open.
2. Kid- You can see the kid I gave it away to just past the glove in the red hat. He’s holding the ball between his hand and glove.
3. Groundskeeper- You can see him ducking at the very end of the gap.

Then for the end of batting practice-when Juan Francisco, who hits BOMBS, was hitting- I decided to try my luck and head up to the second deck in right field. I wasn’t the only one up there as fellow ballhawk, Rick Gold, had the same idea:

20120827-000752.jpgRick had already snagged a Francisco bomb, but there wasn’t another hit there, so I ended BP at 8 Balls.

I then headed down to the lower level in right field where, to my delight, the tarp was being pulled on the field. I may have mentioned this before, but I absolutely love when it starts raining right *after* batting practice ends. There is truly nothing more beautiful:

20120827-001251.jpgOf course, the baseball gods had to have their fun with me, so the groundscrew didn’t actually put the tarp on for at least half an hour. They just stood there with the tarp as you see it in the picture. Waiting to make sure the rain was sufficient to put the tarp on the field.

As for the game, the Nationals jumped out to an early 4-1 lead. The Braves then picked away at the lead to tie the game 4-4. What happens when a game is tied after the ninth inning? FREE BASEBALL!!

The game had already been delayed an hour by the rain. So when it came time for extra innings, most of the fans left the stadium. When this happened, I stood up the rest of the game and waited for any ball to come my way:

20120827-113708.jpgActually, since most of the ushers had left, I ran back and forth between right and left field depending on the hitter; just like old times at Nationals Park. If you’re newish to the blog, I used to buy two tickets on either side of the outfield on Nationals Park and would run back and forth during the game depending on whether a righty or a lefty was hitting. I rationalized it by saying that I was spending about the same on two outfield tickets as I would have on one ticket at Citi Field. (Last year, I was. The cheapest ticket at Citi Field was $23. With my student discount, the outfield tickets at Nationals Park were/are $13 each.)

Anyway, check out the emptiness that allowed me to stand up- and not block anyone’s view:

20120827-122407.jpg

20120827-122431.jpg

20120827-122453.jpgIf I’ve never mentioned it before I absolutely LOVE when a game feels like batting practice. Even if nothing comes my way, I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else in the world at that moment.

Long story short: nothing reached the seats for the rest of the game. Eventually, the Nationals won on a Dan Uggla bobble. Also during the game, I gave away five, count ‘em, FIVE baseballs away to the usher who’s let me sit in the right field seats since last year. Usually he’s pretty reasonable with his requests (usually one or two balls), but apparently there was a family in from Chicago, so in addition to the two I usually give him, he asked for three others. Also, I should mention this isn’t just an usher being greedy. He gives all the balls I give him away to kids, elders, or other people in the section. That said, I gave away two on my own, the usher took five, so of the eight balls I snagged, I only kept the best Shea Stadium ball. That’s right, I gave away SEVEN of my eight baseballs. (Actually, I technically gave away eight. The usher offered me an exchange where he have me one of Rick Gold’s balls for one of my Shea balls, but he then asked for THAT ball to give to someone.

After the game, a security guard threw a bunch of balls at fans in the stands, but he had THE worst aim I’ve ever seen and about five of them bounced back onto the field. I just stood on top of one of the balls and asked each person that passed it if they could toss the ball up to me. Security Guard? “I’m on duty. I have to stand in this exact spot.” Police Officer? “No, I can’t.” Groundscrew? “No, we’re not allowed to.” It was just sitting there on the warning track:

20120827-140726.jpg(The other two shadows you see are of an Asian couple who was also waiting for the ball to be tossed up. Eventually, a guy in a dress shirt walked by, so I asked him point blank, “Can you toss me that ball, please?” He bent down, grabbed the ball, and kept walking to the dugout. Here he is on his way over there:

20120827-141148.jpgThat’s a clown move, bro.

At this point, it was about 12:35, so I figured, ” I don’t have anywhere to be any time soon; I’m going to see if there’s a ball left in the bullpen.” Turns out there was- in the bottom right quadrant of the picture, against the black background:

20120827-142114.jpgI asked the bullpen attendant in the upper left corner if he could toss me the ball, but he kind of shrugged and said something I couldn’t hear.

I was just about to leave, when the security guard came in from the warning track by the Nationals dugout. The bullpen motioned for me to stop, and asked the security guard something. He then picked up the ball and tossed it to me:

20120827-163549.jpgMany thanks, Mr. Bullpen Attendant. At 12:45 AM, that was the latest I had ever snagged a baseball. Actually, forget snag a baseball; that was the latest I had ever been in a baseball stadium period.

Not surprisingly, by the time I got out of the stadium, the Metro was closed:

20120827-170534.jpgThat meant I had to figure out the Washington bus system. Let me just show you a map of the Washington bus map:

20120827-171200.jpgCan you imagine navigating that for the first time without ever doing it previously?

Once I got out of the stadium, I must have walked back and forth a mile before I finally got to the right bus stop. After taking the bus a stop, I ran into a familiar face in Rick (as in Gold). Turns out, we were both going the same direction. We took the bus until the end of the line. We then got off by Washington’s Archives building. Our next bus wasn’t due for another half hour. We discussed things from the renovation in Oakland’s coliseum to what the heck I was supposed to use an iPad for.

Once we got on the second bus, we ran into someone we both knew. It was the usher I mentioned earlier, Benny. I must say, Benny is one of the more entertaining ushers I have ever seen. Probably the most energetic. He is one of the most meticulous ushers about his duty before the game, but once the game begins, he is a dancer. Anyway, here is my view at 1:45 in the morning on the second bus:

20120827-214331.jpgI can now say that my whole midnight adventure was fun, but at the time it was more like a “what am I doing?” feeling.

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

20120827-214532.jpgNumbers 375-381 for my life:

20120827-214629.jpg• 161 Balls (as many as I had last year in 46 Games) in 38 Games= 4.24 Balls Per Game
• 9 Balls x 21,298 Fans= 191,682 Competition Factor
• 47 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
• 3 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
• 121 Balls in 27 Games at Nationals Park= 4.48 Balls Per Game
• 19 straight Games in Nationals Park with at least 1 Ball
• 3 straight Games in Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
• Time Spent On Game 3:42- 1:52= 10 Hours 10 Minutes
• With my first “9” game, I have now snagged in a game every total from 0 to 11 baseballs at a game.

8/19/12 Mets at Nationals: Nationals Park

Let me just start with this: It was a Sunday game. I knew there would be no batting practice. The only reason I’m attending games like this is to not have to go to a bunch of games in Minnesota to accomplish my goal of going to at least 50 games this season.So I just want to survive these kind of games and get on with my life.

When I first entered the stadium there was absolutely no action on the field, so I headed over to right field to talk with an usher I know pretty well. He told me that before I got to the seats, Ross Detweiler threw a bullpen session and decided to throw the ball into the seats in foul ground. Unfortunately, those seats weren’t open to the public yet. I then saw the Mets warming up on the right field side, so I ran over, put on my ridiculous costume from the day before, and got Ramon Ramirez to toss me a ball like a wide receiver by asking him in Spanish:

20120824-140041.jpg I then headed back to right field. When the rest of the stadium opened, everyone else headed to the dugout to line up for “Signature Sundays”, but I headed right for where I thought the ball I had spotted earlier was. Look what I found there:

20120824-141501.jpgI would/should have had another, though. As I was running through the seats, a guard/usher tried to stop me saying that I couldn’t get to the front of the line by running through the seats. Right as I had to explain that I didn’t care about the Signature Sunday promotion, a Nationals pitcher, probably Stephen Strasburg, threw a ball randomly into the seats. I would have definitely had it had I not been stopped.

So, although I had a decent total for a game without batting practice, my expression in the next picture says it all:

20120824-142021.jpgAfter I found the “Easter Egg”, I lined up for the Signature Sunday thing, and watched in pain as a Mets throwing pair finished their game of catch in left field. What happened to Signature Sunday? It started raining, so the whole thing got cancelled.

I then headed out to right field where this was my view:

20120824-142324.jpgAt that point, I was actually a little happy it was raining. I knew coming into the game that there would be no BP, so rain would only help to drive away people from the stands.

As for the game, Gio Gonzalez had an okay start, allowing 1 run in five and two thirds innings; yet he won his sixteenth game of the season as the Mets’ Jeremy Hefner allowed five runs in an almost similar inning load (5).

The most exciting part of the game though came from this being my view of the game:

20120824-164516.jpgIn I want to say the seventh inning, I heard a collective laughter emanating from behind me; followed by Scott Hairston throw his glove on the field. It was the second time he had done so. He had thrown it on what appeared to be a bird on the field.

Eventually, Andres Torres swooped in and scooped it up:

20120824-184726.jpgYeah, the whole game was delayed for that.

Torres then handed the animal I still wasn’t sure the species of to a security guard who came from the Nationals bullpen with a towel:

20120824-190738.jpgHairston then got heckled for the rest of the game because he acted so afraid of it. Here he is laughing about it himself:

20120824-191033.jpg I had to look at the highlight ( maybe lowlight for Hairston), but I saw that it was actually a praying mantis that had invaded the field of play. See for yourself:

I then headed to a friend’s house for dinner right after David Wright flew out in my direction. It was pretty disappointing since he was THE reason I sat in the outfield for all three games. Actually, though, I stopped to give a ball to the usher I was talking about earlier since he had told me where it was hiding.

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

20120824-211952.jpgNumbers 373-374 for my lifetime:

20120824-212806.jpg• 152 Balls in 37 Games= 4.11 Balls Per Game
• 2 Balls x 33, 764 Fans= 67, 528 Competition Factor (yay mental math!)
• 46 straight Games with at least 1Ball
• 2 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
• 112 Balls in 26 at Nationals Park= 4.31 Balls Per Game
• 18 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 1 Ball
• 2 straight Games at Nationals with at least 2 Balls
• Time Spent On Game 11:03- 6:49= 7 Hours 46 Minutes

8/18/12 Mets at Nationals: Nationals Park

What happens when there’s a post-game concert at Nationals Park? I have to get to the ballpark super early to ensure I’ll get a $5 ticket. Even at that inordinately early time, there was still quite a line in front of me; hence my expression in this picture:

20120821-225037.jpgDon’t let how I took that picture fool you. There weren’t three people in front of me; there were more like fifty. We had those rope things you see at airports to guide lines in a twisty fashion.

Bored out of my mind and losing personal space by the second, I took this picture of one of the silver baseballs lining the garage above the box office:

20120821-225625.jpg Eventually, I did get my ticket and headed inside for batting practice. More specifically, I headed to left field for pitcher’s batting practice. When I got there, Stephen Strasburg hit a ball about fifteen rows behind the wall. Fortunately, I was about twenty rows behind the wall, so I ran into the row and made the reaching catch. I don’t think I mentioned this on the blog yet, but prior to the day before’s game, I mentioned it had been over a month since I had caught a ball on the fly via Twitter. Needless to say, that catch felt great. Oh, and here’s the ball from the spot I caught it:

20120821-231038.jpgThen I looked at the logo. Can you see what it is? Here’s a closer look:

20120821-231241.jpgYeah, forget great; when I saw the logo of the ball, the catch felt absolutely UH-MAY-ZING.

Then, for the second group of Nationals, i.e. Zimmerman, Morse, Werth, and LaRoche, I headed over to the Red Seats. Unfortunately, no one besides Morse was hitting anything even close to the Red Seats. And when Morse hit them in my direction, they were all sailing over my head into the restaurant area behind the Red Seats. (No, not the Red Loft, but he has hit it there before.) My only ball there came when Craig Stammen threw a ball into the crowd over his shoulder. I stepped a foot to my right and caught it. I then gave it away to the red-hatted kid who’s also in this picture: in this picture

20120822-125544.jpgThat was actually a commemorative ball. I believe it was a Shea Stadium one. Although, it’s not the first commemorative I’ve ever given away. That happened earlier this year in Baltimore.

I then headed over to right field where almost the exact same thing happened:

20120822-130210.jpgSome player I couldn’t see tossed a ball over his head while he was on the warning track, so I saw it and caught the ball right between the two guys in the “Zimmerman” jerseys. I then gave the ball away to the kid in the white “Harper” jersey.

Then later, almost the same thing happened AGAIN. Gio Gonzalez threw a ball up to the second deck in right field, but I could see it was falling short, so I positioned myself under the spot. When it bounced off the electronic scoreboard strip, (you know what I’m talking about, right? The things that most/all stadiums have along the second level seating that they use for advertising and additional animation during the game.) I caught it off the deflection:
20120822-132538.jpgI was about to toss *that* ball to the fan for whom it was intended, but Gio tossed a second one up there just as I was getting ready to throw the ball. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was my 150th ball of the season. Hooray for minor milestones and not throwing the balls away!

When the Mets came up to hit, I changed into my ridiculous Mets costume:
20120822-132946.jpgUnfortunately, the Mets didn’t toss me anything and the Mets hitters were….well, the Mets hitters. So that was it for me snagging-wise.

As for the game, I stayed out in right field. The game was a surprise pitching duel between Edwin Jackson and Jonathan Niese, with the only runs coming on an Ike Davis two- run home run. That’s just what I wanted, right? A lefty home run. Except he hit it opposite field.

After the game, I stuck around for Third Eye Blind’s post-game concert:
20120822-134312.jpgI had and have no idea who they are; I’m not into music that much, I probably have less than 100 songs on my iPhone, which I only really use for passing time. I just felt since I went through a bunch of hassle because of the concert, I might as well stick around a little longer for it. It was one of those “I paid my five dollars for this ticket, so I might as well get my money’s worth.” things.

Oh, and after I caught my first ball, I stubbed my toe on a railing in the left field seats. I was limping the whole game after that, but I didn’t know the extent to which my toe had reacted to the stubbing until I got home. I’ve truly never seen anything like it:
20120822-134729.jpgCan you imagine how hard I had to hit my foot on the railing for my toe to bruise that badly *through* the shoe I was wearing?

And now that you have the image of my bruised toe in your head, I’ll end the entry.

STATS:
• 4 Balls at this game (2 pictured because I gave two away)
20120822-140551.jpgCareer numbers 369-372:
20120822-140632.jpg• 150 Balls in 36 Games= 4.17 Balls Per Game
• 4 Balls x 42,662 Fans= 170,684 Competition Factor
• 45 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
• 110 Balls in 25 Games at Nationals Park= 4.40 Balls Per Game
• 17 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 1 Ball
• Time Spent On Game 2:16-11:42= 9 Hours 26 Minutes

8/17/12 Mets at Nationals: Nationals Park

Coming into this game, I was excited:

20120820-204553.jpgWe’ll get into my use of the past tense later, but the reason for my excitement was it was my first game at Nationals Park in a while. I was having my second “August” slump in as many years, and I thought Nationals Park would be the perfect cure.

When I got in, I did what I usually do and headed to the left field seats:

20120821-134840.jpgWhen you enter Nationals Park, the starting pitchers are hitting. That means you can go to either the left field seats, or the Red Seats to try to catch home runs. I choose the left field seats out of comfort, but the Red Seats are pretty good for pitcher’s batting practice since Stephen Strasburg, who’s the best hitting pitcher, hits most of his home runs to the Red Seats. A third option is going to right field and trying to get a ball from the relievers warming up. (You can’t go past the foul line, though. That opens an hour after the main gates open) I don’t use this option because I’m at Nationals Park fairly regularly and the pitchers would recognize me after a few days of doing this.

When the rest of the stadium was about to open, I headed over to the right field seats. I had seen a ball hit in the seats in foul territory, so I wanted to get it. When that part opened, I trailed a kid who was also looking for balls. The only difference was, I knew where the ball was. Unfortunately, he was taking up the whole aisle, so I couldn’t get past him. When we finally arrived at the row where the ball was, I spotted it and started moving closer to it, but the kid then picked up what I was looking at and RAN after the ball. Sadly, had I not been there with him, I probably would have gotten the ball. As I was taking my walk of shame back to the right field seats, a Nationals lefty hooked a ball right in front of me. I ran after and secured the ball quickly:

20120821-140404.jpgThat would be my one and final ball of the day. Long story short: there were no catchable balls, all bounces went away from me, and the Mets fans invaded the front row. That said; did you notice the logo on the ball? Snagging that ball alone made my day. If you couldn’t see it, here’s a close-up:

20120821-145420.jpgWhen I snagged it, my first reaction was utter confusion:

20120821-145640.jpgIt almost immediately jumped to excitement when I realized I had just gotten one of the commemorative balls I had missed before I started ballhawking:

20120821-145754.jpgI don’t think even that picture does my excitement justice.

As for the game, if you couldn’t gather it from the picture of the ball, I was sitting in the right field seats. While I was there, Johan Santana gave up two home runs that I could’ve been within ten feet of. (I determined the latter would be un catchable as soon as it got hit, so I ran to the front of the section in case I could get seen on TV.) The first was a Michael Morse opposite field grand slam that initially looked like it was headed RIGHT at me, but tailed into a crowded row at the front of the section. The second was a Bryce Harper two-run blast. Those would be all the runs the Nationals scored as they won the game 6-4.

I wish I could write more about this game, but frankly, there is no more to write about. It was a “meh” game in many respects.

STATS:
• 1 Ball at this game

20120821-154735.jpgBaseball number 368 (logo shown because I don’t usually mark commemorative balls:

20120821-154831.jpg• 146 Balls in 35 Games= 4.17 Balls Per Game
• 44 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
• 106 Balls in 24 Games at Nationals Park= 4.42 Balls Per Game
• 16 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 1 Ball
•Time Spent On Game 3:38-10:33= 6 Hours 55 Minutes

8/15/12 Rangers at Yankees: Yankee Stadium

What happens when you’re having an incredibly frustrating series and there’s almost a guarantee of rain, but you “have” to get to at least 17 more games in a month-and-a-half? You end up going to games you otherwise wouldn’t have. I knew going in there was not going to be batting practice, but then I saw how big the line was and let out a sigh:

20120819-135236.jpgOy. It’s tough enough to deal with that kind of crowd when there’s ball after ball being hit; never mind when it would be all of us competing for a couple pitchers warm-up balls.

When I entered the ballpark, I was forced to submit to the inevitable truth that there was no batting practice. On a completely unrelated note: Great day for a beach mat giveaway, eh?

20120819-135807.jpgActually, for some practically-thinking people, it was. They used it to separate themselves from their wet seats.

From the time I got into the seating bowl to the time the players started throwing, there was a lull of about half-an-hour, which I filled up by talking to the ballhawks in attendance, Zack Hample and Takyi Chan (I have mentioned him as “Tak” in past entries).

When the players did start throwing, I got a ball. But it wasn’t a player at all who threw it; it was a coach:

20120819-143828.jpgMore specifically, Andy Hawkins, the bullpen coach. He was throwing with the pitching coach Mike Maddux, so when he finished, I waved my arms, said some words, and he tossed me the ball.

Then it was time for this:

20120819-232617.jpgAfter about an hour of delay, this was the view of the field:

20120819-232832.jpgThere was one thing that caught my eye, though. Can you spot it?

20120819-232958.jpgThat’s right; there was a ball on the warning track. One of the Rangers players overthrew the ball while warming up and the ball sat there for almost the entirety of the nearly two hour rain delay.

Do you see the guy taking down the pole in the bullpen? By the time he was done taking down the poles, I was right next to the bullpen. When he was taking down the last pole, I said, “Excuse me, when you’re done…” he glanced at me, but looked away and never came back. Thankfully, another groundskeeper was walking right by the ball. So I got his attention and showed him where the balls was through hand signals. He picked up the ball, and walked over to toss me the ball:

20120820-002110.jpgThat was it for the game snagging-wise. The game itself was really Josh Hamilton vs. The Yankees. Hamilton finally hit his first and second home runs ever at Yankee Stadium. Unfortunately for the Rangers, that’s all they got out of their offense. It was a pretty bad series for an offensive powerhouse like themselves if you ask me.

Anyway, by the time the game finally ended, I was one of the proud few fans leaving at nearly 12:30:

20120820-134330.jpgYeah, that’s what Yankee Stadium’s exiting crowd looks like when it’s NOT crowded. Getting to the train is often one of the worst parts of each trip to a Yankees game.

STATS:
• 2 Balls at this game

20120820-144541.jpgNumbers 366-367:

20120820-144601.jpg• 145 Balls in 34 Games= 4.26 Balls Per Game
• 43 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
• 19 straight Games with at least 2Balls
• 88 Balls in 24 Games at the New Yankee Stadium= 3.67 Balls Per Game
• 24 straight Games at the New Yankee Stadium with at least 1 Ball
• 9 straight Games at the New Yankee Stadium with at least 2 Balls
• Time Spent On Game 3:29-12:45= 9 Hours 16 Minutes

8/14/12 Rangers at Yankees: Yankee Stadium

So… I think I’ll start off the entry with a “Before The Gates Open” video:

If you didn’t get it from my video, this was my view of the field when I first got in:

20120817-132716.jpgI don’t believe any of us ballhawks got a ball out there.

No, my first ball of the day came when the Rangers started throwing. Nelson Cruz tossed a ball to me, but it sailed over my head where Greg Barasch picked the ball up. Went all the way to the ball bucket and picked a ball out of there:

20120817-133911.jpg(Do you see him? He’s the one closest to the bucket with the ball in his hand.) He then launched that ball over my head with relative ease from over 200 feet away. When I ran up the stairs chasing the ball, it bounced back towards the field and over my head where another fan got it. Cruz then got a third ball. This time, I made sure to be up higher on the staircase. He threw the ball, and I saw it was falling short, so I ran down the stairs, cut into the row, and caught the ball. All in all, it was a fun experience. Here’s the ball as Cruz headed off to right field:

20120817-155625.jpgFun.

My next ball came when I headed to the left field seats in fair territory. Ian Kinsler hit a ball that I could tell wasn’t going to reach me on the fly but might reach me after bouncing off someone’s hands. It bounced off some hands, off a seat; it then went behind me, and it then bounced off a glove behind me, where it landed in the row behind me and I picked it up. It was in this general area that I snagged it:

20120818-145954.jpg

After this it was time for Josh Hamilton’s group. All of us four ballhawks who had met at Gate 6 had the same idea: go to right field. For the record, I was the first one out of the left field section, but the other three followed seconds after. So, on our way to right field, we divvied-up the right field seats as to not get in each other’s ways, Zack got the field level seats, and Ben got the bleachers:

20120818-150845.jpgMeanwhile, Greg and I drew the short straws and were relegated to the second deck in right field.

There, I had one mission in mind: Get a ball from Joe Nathan. (He was/is one of my favorite players ever for his role on my beloved Twins.) Here was my view of him:

20120818-155449.jpgAnd this is how I tried to coax him in to throwing me a ball:

20120818-160409.jpgThat would be my Twins shirt, which I bought at the Metrodome, turned around to highlight how much of fan of Nathan’s I was.

Unfortunately, I wasted all of the remaining batting practice up there, but I *was* able to make it down to the dugout just as the players were running off, and I got a ball from a player I can best identify as Mark Lowe:

20120818-201222.jpgHe’s the left of the two players with their heads down.

After batting practice, I met up with a few ballhawks in the left field seats:

20120818-202528.jpgThen my neighbor, Greg Barasch showed up, so we had to take it again:

20120818-203214.jpgThe people- left to right- are:
1. Ben Weil- A ballhawk best known for having the biggest collection of jerseys in the Milky Way. (If you want to see just how big, I put a link to his name for a reason.) However, Ben purposely pulled off his beautiful Rangers jersey to display the shirt you see in the picture.
2. Greg Barasch- Probably the best ballhawk at amassing as many balls in a single game as he can in the country (even if he DOES always go for third-out balls at the games he goes to).
3. Matthew Latimer- A reporter for MLB’s Cut4, who may or may not interview me next season at a Yankee game if there’s a slow news day.
4. Zack Hample- The man, the myth, the sweater (that’s why he’s holding out his two-shaded shirt out).
5. Moi- I’m holding out three fingers because it was the third game in a row Zack and I had been to a game together.
6. Mark McConville- A ballhawk who you saw towards the end of the video. We’ve seen each other at quite a few games considering how many games he’s been to (12).

As for the game, Hiroki Kuroda threw a complete game two-hitter. Also, I personally found this stat amazing:

20120819-103056.jpgAm I the only one? That seems pretty spectacular.

STATS:
• 3 Balls at this Game

20120819-103341.jpgNumbers 363-365 for my lifetime:
20120819-103433.jpg• 143 Balls in 33 Games= 4.33 Balls Per Game
• 3 Balls x 44,533 Fans= 133,599 Competition Factor
• 42 Games with at least 1Ball
• 18 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
• 86 Balls in 23 Games at the New Yankee Stadium= 3.74 Balls Per Game
• 23 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at the New Yankee Stadium
• 8 straight Games at the New Yankee Stadium with at least 2 Balls
• Time Spent On Game 3:58- 10:12= 6 Hours 14 Minutes

8/13/12 Rangers at Yankees: Yankee Stadium

My first day at Yankee Stadium in a while, and it was the day of the ballhawk and crowds. I knew beforehand that the two best per-game ballhawks on mygameballs.com, Greg Barasch and Zack Hample, were going to be at the game, going in through the right field gate. I had no interest in competing with both of them, so I decided to go in through the left field gate instead and thus begins our official ballhawk counter:

That would be Eddie, one of the regulars at Yankee Stadium who I mentioned in an earlier entry as a person I talked to before the game started. When I got to the left field gate, there was a decent sized line, but Eddie has a Yankees Universe membership (actually, several), so he got me in a special line that had maybe five other people in it.

From the left field seats, this was my view:

Ballhawk number two would be Eli Louis, someone I had seen a couple of times last season but never before this season. Ballhawk number three was Eli’s friend who accompanied him to the game and also vied for baseballs.

Something interesting happened with Eli. A Yankee player, I believe David Robertson threw a ball to Eddie, but he sailed the ball over his head and Eli snagged the ball. (Don’t worry, though. Eddie got him to throw another ball and was completely cool about Eli getting the ball.) Well here is Eli with the ball:

Did you notice anything about the ball? Here’s a closer look at it:

I had seen these balls before but I thought they were only for the Yankees’ “Social Media Night” and then the rest were left over. It was now exactly a month after said night, so now I have no idea how this ball got in the batch.

When the Yankees “righty” group came up to bat, some other balhawks joined us who were already there:

4. Tak- A ballhawk who I previously mentioned in this entry.

5. Greg Barasch- The first of two ballhawks whose presence made me decide to go to left field.

6. Zack Hample- The second of two ballhawks whose presence convinced me to start off in left field.

There was a huge lull in action before I got my first ball of the day. My first ball actually came when the Rangers pitchers were warming up. Usually, that’s when I’m building up my total to try and get past five balls:

I had no idea who the player was, but Greg (as in Barasch) later identified him as Robbie Ross. I’ll take his word for it. And for the lovers of the fake jerseys I make, I don’t own a Rangers shirt, so to compensate, I taped this logo to and inside-out Ryan Zimmerman Nationals jersey:

I would have printed it out in color, but my printer was all out of color ink when I tried.

My next close encounter came just minutes later:

A ball was in the air, so I went through an empty row and into the staircase nearest where the ball was going to land. The ball then bounced off of people and landed in the exact empty aisle I had just been in. Frustrating.

Normally, I’m further towards center field. So why was I so much closer to the foul pole? This:

Suffice to say, I wasn’t going to have very good chances of catching ANYTHING over there. When Josh Hamilton’s group came up, I didn’t waste half a second in knowing where I was going to go:

Yep, it was up to the right field bleachers for me. Apparently, Greg and Zack also had the same idea:

Unfortunately for the three of us, the only ball that went up there was one I should have caught:

Some lefty on the Rangers hit a ball to my right, so I ran that way. I tracked the ball the whole way and as I put my glove up to make the catch, the guy underneath the arrow’s arm was blocking my way. I couldn’t reach for the ball. Not surprisingly, the barehanded gentleman dropped the ball and it squirted away from both of us.

That was it for batting practice. Right after the national anthem, I headed up to try and get a ball from Mike Harkey. I wasn’t the only one:

That would be Tak and Eli. Also, it was up here that were “ball snaggers” numbers 7 and 8:

7. Chris Hernandez- A ballhawk who I’ve run into a couple times now. He leaves comments on this blog as ch1088.

8. Chris’ friend who was also somewhat contending for baseballs.

There actually is a ninth, but I didn’t get him on camera. Number nine would be Greg’s dad Shelly. Whenever he goes to games with Greg, he also does the ball snagging thing.

Interestingly enough, none of us got the ball, so that was it until game time. This game was actually the second in a row I had been to that was broadcast by ESPN, as shown by the DIRECTV blimp flying overhead:

Of course, since I was in the bleachers, there was almost no chance I’d get a ball during the game. However, I *did* get a ball after the game from a person I highly suspect to be Andy Hawkins:

20120815-184931.jpg {I didn’t take the picture with Dawkins in the background because he had already tucked himself where I couldn’t see him by the time I pulled my camera out. [Whenever I say camera, I actually mean phone (unless I state otherwise at the beginning of the entry)] So I just took this picture and headed home; instead of waiting for him to come back out from underneath the overhang I couldn’t see him under.}

STATS:
• 2 Balls at this game

20120815-185936.jpg

Numbers 361-362 for my career:

20120815-190437.jpg
•139 Balls in 32 Games= 4.34 Balls Per Game
• 2 Balls x 45,676 Fans= 91,352 Competition Factor
• 41 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
•17 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
• 83 Balls in 22 Games at the New Yankee Stadium
• 22 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at the New Yankee Stadium
• 7 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at the New Yankee Stadium
• Time Spent On Game 4:07-10:38= 6 Hours 31 Minutes

8/12/12 Braves at Mets: Citi Field

I thought I’d start off the entry with a “Before the Gates Open” video:

You just saw me snag my first ball of the day. On my second ball for the day, here’s what happened:

I ranged over a section and lined myself up with the ball. However, the lady in the picture was camped underneath the ball, so I didn’t reach in front of her. Instead, I waited for the ball to clank off her hands, picked it up, and gave it to her for even trying to catch the ball ( I almost didn’t, though because she started whining right as I picked up the ball that it wasn’t fair that I got the ball).

Then things went really dead. Nothing came even close to me. The boringness of this span is reflected by the only picture I took during it:

I don’t even really pay attention to Olney’s work as I don’t really watch baseball on ESPN anymore, but on this day he was “news”.

My next ball was my weirdest and perhaps most controversial of the season. Here is a picture to help visualize what I’m about to explain next:

A ball flew into the row behind the guy in the orange shirt (I was in the row below him). It then trickled down the steps, beneath the seats. It got all the way down to my row, so I grabbed the ball. The guy below the arrow then grabbed the ball as well, so, as I have always does this season, counted the ball and let go of the ball (I do this to avoid a system that may lead to confrontational or otherwise ugly situations for me). Then a weird thing happened. He said something like, “you got the ball first; here you go”. Then instinctually, since I don’t accept balls from other fans, I gave the ball away:

Later, on the recommendation of Zack, who I mentioned in the video, I moved over to the center field section for Juan Francsico’s swings. While I was there, either Francisco or another lefty hit a ball:

I ran up to the rail and leaned as far as I could with the railing at my upper stomach, but my black glove was just floppy enough that the ball hit the pocket but pulled my thumb flap back and the ball dropped and ran all the way to the home run apple. It’s frustrating to know that I would have had the ball with my old glove.

 

Anyway, the game itself was pretty interesting. I always love being at Sunday Night Baseball games. I don’t know why. Probably because I don’t have to get to the ballpark as early as I would have for a 7:00 game and the fact that I know I’m at the only night MLB game in the whole country. Given it was a SNB game, I decided to take a picture of the blimp hovering over my head:

 

As for the game, the Mets shelled the previously stellar Ben Sheets, but, in typical Mets fashion let their bullpen make things interesting. Until the ninth inning, the Mets were leading 6-1, but then the Mets’ relievers managed to walk and allow to score four Braves.

 

STATS:

  • 3 Balls at this game (1 pictured because I gave 2 away)

 

Numbers 358-360 in my life:

 

  • 137 Balls in 31 Games= 4.42 Balls Per Game
  • 3 Balls x 24,891= 74,673 Competition Factor
  • 40 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 16 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
  • 4 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
  • 85 Balls in 32 Games at Citi Field= 2.66 Balls Per Game
  • 32 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Citi Field
  • 4 straight Games at Citi Field with at least 2 Balls
  • 4 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Citi Field
  • Time Spent On Game 4:13- 12:17= 8 Hours 4 Minutes

7/23/12 Nationals at Mets: Citi Field

Look where I was on the one-year anniversary of the first BallhawkFest:

20120802-125606.jpgWhen I got there, though, the day-of-game-tickets windows were closed and I found out there was only one student ticket left. The windows were going to open at 5:00 (ten minutes before the gates), so I either going to get that last ticket or go home. Would I get the last ticket and get to go in, just decide to splurge on a more expensive ticket, or would I get locked out of the stadium and have to wander around and take pictures like this game? While you wonder, I’ll inject this anecdote to build suspense for the answer [insert childish giggle here].

While I was waiting for the windows open, a guy approached me and said “Hi”. This guy was Chris Hernandez, a fairly new ballhawk, who those of you who read the comments may know better as “ch1088″. If you would like to read it, he already posted his entry of this game. The link to which is hiagh. His girlfriend and a friend of hers were with him, so those two held a spot for both of us.

Why did I need a spot in line? I got this at the ticket window:

20120803-163712.jpgSuccess!

The lines were rather long, but instead of being at the back of them, thanks to Chris and his friends, I “only” had this many people in front of me:

20120803-214503.jpgTurns out, even though it was perfectly sunny for half-an-hour before the gates open, it didn’t matter where I was in line, when I raced in, this was what I saw:

20120803-232727.jpgDo you know how car sickness works? Basically, your brain gets confused because your eyes tell you you’re moving, but you yourself aren’t, so you get nauseous -or something along those lines. I don’t really get car sick anymore, instead I get grounds crew sick. Instead I get nauseous when I see sun and feel warmth, but there is a tarp on the field.

Long story short: I got rejected by every one of the Nationals pitchers. Actually, I even got rejected by the position players that came out to throw. I’d estimate that fifteen balls were thrown in the stands by the Nationals. By the way, I’m not complaining, just reporting what happened. There were a ton of balls that left the hands of Nationals and fell into the stands, and I was having some bad luck considering there weren’t that many fans and I was one of the few with Nationals gear.

At this time, I was pretty sure that if I got a ball, it was going to be at the Nationals dugout during the game. Spoiler alert: my streak of bad luck with third-out balls and I didn’t get anything at the dugout the whole game. Anyway, I almost got three balls from Drew Storen when he bounced three slider into the dirt. I would have gotten each of the had it not been for the wheelchair section they all bounced into. All of them were going right in my direction, but all fell short in front of me where other people got them since I couldn’t go into the section. No, I didn’t get a ball from Storen, but when the position players came out to warm-up, you can bet I was waiting for them to finish and toss me a ball:

20120804-002653.jpgActually, though, none of the position players tossed me the ball. See the guy in the Red? My guess is he’s a Strength and Conditioning guy. Anyway, after all of the players had gone into the dugout, he tossed me one of the balls they had left on the field. Here is a diagram of what happened:

The horizontal arrow starts from where the guy was standing and ends where I was standing when he threw the ball. The vertical arrow points to the kid I gave the ball away to right after I caught the ball. It was a perfectly good ball, but I was in essence making a sacrifice to the baseball gods for not shutting me out. Don’t you just love my religion? All of same practices and rationale but no dying is involved. Also, you can see Chris at the far left of the picture. He’s the one standing up in the red. The reason being, he was trying to get a ball from the Nationals dugout. He was constantly coaxing them into throwing him a ball, but got dissed each time.

The game wasn’t particularly interesting during the middle innings, this was all I snagged through six innings:

20120804-135728.jpgIan Desmond was throwing gum into the stands, so I used my Nationals gear to get a piece.

Something else was happening at this time. Can you spot it in this picture? (you can click on the picture to get a closer look):

20120804-143957.jpgIf you spotted it, kudos to you. Here’s a better picture of the wackiness I

20120804-144216.jpgApparently, it was Star Wars night. Whatever that means. I’m actually kind of disappointed. I wonder if that means fans could dress up. It looked like it was only special people that were dressed up.

By the time I saw the Star Wars people in the concourse, it had already been raining for a while. I liked it. When it rains, less people are in the stands. That’s just one example, but you can read a lot more reasons to attend a game where there is rain in my most recent mygameballs.com column, The Rainy Day Gambit.

Then, in the latter innings, it started to pour. Ian Desmond decided to be a little more generous to the fans that stuck around:

20120804-232503.jpgI should note the guard in the background was smiling at the fact I was taking pictures of gum.

Also in the latter innings, the seats were empty enough for me to walk around without getting in anyone’s way, so I did:

20120804-232930.jpgEven though the Mets are a sub-.500 team, the left field seats always seemed to be packed, so take my word for it that it’s pretty empty in that picture, in the spot that’s exposed to rain anyway.

20120804-233156.jpgI just wanted to take a picture right down the line…so there.

20120804-235332.jpgDo you see how empty it was? I mean this kind of emptiness is nothing new to me just because I’m insane and brave ridiculous weather in the name of baseball, but why does it take a rain storm for either New York stadium to be this empty? The game went into extra innings (for the second time in four games between these two teams- all of which I attended), and the combination of that, the Mets giving up six runs in the top of the tenth, and the rain made foul ground ballhawking heaven. It was like batting practice but during the game. What do I mean by that? People were actually standing up with their gloves on:

20120805-000614.jpgI’m not kidding you, if the Nationals sent a righty to pitch instead of Tom Gorzelanny, I might have caught three foul balls. I had a reasonable shot at catching anything hit within four sections of me. I was sitting close to the dugouts, so here’s a better look at how empty it was there:

20120805-001346.jpgAlso, I should probably mention that part of the reason I say I could have gotten maybe three foul balls is I actually *did* get a foul ball in the top of the tenth that landed one and a half sections away:

20120805-002313.jpgI’ll show you how it happened via diagram:

Danny Espinosa fouled a ball off that went pretty high, so I raced from the section to the left of where I took this picture from and just as the ball landed, I was on the first staircase you see in this picture. The ball then bounced off the seat and whizzed right by my ear. It then hit the first “elevated” row and bounced into the row under that. I had changed direction and was the only one within twenty feet of the ball, so I picked it up. Here is the ball with the spot I picked it up in the background:

It was fun, and just like that, I had my first hit “game” ball of the year.

After the game, I headed over to the umpire tunnel, but the folks at MLB.com mistakenly had David Rackley as the home plate umpire in the box score. I had gotten a ball from David Rackley earlier in the year, so I knew it wasn’t him. During the bottom of the tenth, I figured out the umpire was Alan Porter, with the help of Greg Barasch, who was at home watching the game. When the game ended, I headed to the first row of the section and yelled out to Porter before anyone else had access to him and he tossed me the ball:

At the umpire tunnel, I ran into Mark McConville, who you may remember from me mentioning a few times in entries last month. We really hadn’t said hi to each other yet, so we walked out of the stadium after none of the Nationals pitchers (the ones that were left anyway) didn’t toss any balls into the crowd.

STATS:

  • 3 Balls at this game ( I gave one away)

Numbers 355-357 for my lifetime (I’m showing the logos because they were both commemorative):

  • 135 Balls in 30 Games= 4.50 Balls Per Game (16 balls under 500)
  • 3 Balls x 26,735 Fans= 80,205 Competition Factor
  • 39 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 15 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
  • 3 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
  • 82 Balls in 31 Games at Citi Field= 2.65 Balls Per Game
  • 31 straight Games at Citi Field with at least 1 Ball
  • 3 straight Games at Citi Field with at least 2 Balls
  • 3 straight Games at Citi Field with at least 3 Balls
  • Time Spent On Game 3:32- 11:24= 7 Hours 52 Minutes
  • 1 Hit Game Ball this season
  • 5 Pieces of bubblegum snagged and chewed at this game
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