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:
Usually 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 :
After 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:
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:
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:
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:
It 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:
Do 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:
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:
Okay, 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:
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:
Of 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:
Actually, 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:
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:
(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:
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:
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:
Not surprisingly, by the time I got out of the stadium, the Metro was closed:
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:
• 9 Balls at this game (2 pictured because I gave 7 away)
• 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.