Overall Grade: A
Aesthetic Grade: B-
Turner Field really isn’t anything special when it comes to looks. That and it has tons of ads when you look towards the outfield. For me, ads, unless they blend classically with the stadium, are a negative. On the positive side, because it is built in the style it is, it has some oldish charm to the stadium. The scoreboard is beautiful and prominent. The reason I had it on the positive side of a C is it really doesn’t have anything that detracts from the game experience, but it has certain qualities that enhances the visual aspect of it.
Two words: Tomahawk. Chop:
You may have heard of it and know of the rhythm of it. Heck, you may have even heard it on TV during a Braves. However, there is truly nothing like being there when they get going at Turner Field. I mean really getting into it. I was there when there really wasn’t much of a crowd, but even with my experience in those three days, I feel the moral obligation to do the chop along with the Braves fans whenever I see a game of theirs on TV. Besides this, you may or may not know this, but the Braves have the largest geographical fan base of any team in the major leagues:
Okay, I know it looks like the Rangers do in the map, but I think they’re being very generous to the Rangers and the two Florida teams. I think the three teams surrounding the Rangers have a bit more of that territory, and the two Florida teams are still very young. While they may hold the majority of fans in the regions highlighted, everyone over the age of 45 in the region is more likely to be a Braves fan than anything else. Both the Marlins and the Rays have been around for less than 20 years. Anyway, the ultimate point I’m trying to get at is that there are a lot of people who travel to Braves fans. Therefore, the crowd is more likely to be passionate. Who do you think will be cheering louder: the fan just getting to the game as a way of relaxing after work or the person who is taking vacation days just to visit their favorite team’s stadium. I hadn’t even considered the geographical factor until I got to Turner Field and talked to people about where they were from. More so than any other stadium I have visited thus far, there were a ton of people from out of town.
Fan Experience: A
First of all, I consider “Atmosphere” a contributing factor. Secondly, I couldn’t tell that well about the stadium as a whole, which is why I held off on giving this an A+, but the sample of people I encountered in my three days there were definitely nice in the aggregate. It really did feel like a southern hospitality stereotype was coming to fruition. But more than that, it was so refreshing coming from the New York City environment. For example, in New York you can for the most part tell it is the vendor’s job. In Atlanta, the beer vendors have fun with it. There are vendors that use humor in their selling in New York, but their default emotion while saying the jokes is one of emotionlessness; whereas some Atlanta vendors had the demeanor of a stand-up comedian while in the stands.
Turner Field also has a couple other things going for it in the “fan experience” sub-category. First, maybe I’m just blowing this out of proportion because of my familiarity with the Yankees and Mets, but I liked that it didn’t seem like even though they had this vast fan base that they were “too good” to cater to the paying fan. Also, even though I never entered it. Turner Field looks like possibly the best play area of the stadiums I have been to:
Well except for the Nick-loving kids. For the record, the reason it is a Cartoon Network themed play area, it is because the team was owned by Turner Broadcasting Systems, which is a part of Time Warner Cable, owner of Cartoon Network.
Another great thing about Turner Field’s fan experience is they have a pretty neat museum. It isn’t free on it’s own like most museums, but if you go on a tour of Turner Field (before batting practice), a ticket to the museum is included that you can use all day. If you want to check out these along with other pictures I took on the 4th of July game, here is the link to the gallery on Facebook.
This is where you see what a team is made of. In the details of the stadium.The lazy, unimaginative teams fail here and the better ones thrive. As you can see, the Braves are in the later category. If you didn’t know, my trip last year was at the beginning of July (4th of July 2011 was my first game there). Atlanta in July is not exactly the arctic tundra. Therefore the touch the Braves had with installing fans in the center field concourse/plaza that sprayed water was absolutely magnificent.
Even better, an oft overlooked feature: the seats. The Braves –although not spectacular– have (sadly) one of the better seat designs in the major leagues:
Ballhawking During Batting Practice: A+
This is what we in the old country call Glove Trick Heaven. (Side Note: If you try to get a ball via Glove Trick or other retrieval devices in left field, you have to be quick on the draw, because there are probably a couple other people with a device on hand. I would factor this into the equation, but I’m only evaluating the stadium itself.)
Wow. Yet another heavenly sight. This is debatably the best outfield section in the major leagues for snagging baseballs in the major leagues. The seating goes all the way from the foul pole to the batter’s eye. And while there may be another place in the major leagues where this is the case (I can’t think of any), this is the only one where all of the individual section go across in a more or less straight line. The simplicity of it makes it absolutely gorgeous in terms of ballhawking, and the sheer amount of space in the outfield makes it amazing for snagging hit baseballs during batting practice
While center field sections usually aren’t the way to go, this is a pretty viable back-up plan. It may seem like light years away from home plate, but even though the home bullpen acts as a partition between it and the right field seats, the rightmost section in the center field seats is really right-center field when you think about it. It’s just the mentality that makes people think it is further than it actually is, but it doesn’t take a shot to reach that section, which can be a nice place to camp out if the left and right field sections of the outfield are crowded.
This is what it is: a right field section for when lefties are up. I’m not particularly in love with it, though. First of all, the home bullpen takes out a prime section and makes it so players have to pull the ball a bit more than usual to get it into these seats. Then there’s the fact that the seats don’t open until an hour after the gates do, so maybe there’s a negative association there. But finally, the gap in right field is so much smaller than the one in left and center:
It is a maximum of three feet (probably one or two, so really the only balls that go down there are dropped baseballs by fans in the first row.
Ballhawking During the Game: A
While the outfield is a great place to be during the game if it’s not crowded, it’s not very crowd-proof if there are a bunch of people during the game, since Atlanta is 22nd in home runs in 2012. That means if you get moved back like tens rows due to fans, there is a slimer chance for a game home run. However, the place to probably be for the game is the cross-aisle behind home plate (highlighted by the green line I have included:
I personally didn’t stand back there, but it was because I had pretty much an entire section to myself:
For the record, I did catch a foul ball, which to this day remains the only foul ball I have ever technically “caught on the fly” off of the bat of Nate McLouth. If you want to check out the gallery from that July 5th game, I’ve linked this entire sentence to the page. Heck, I might as well give you the July 6th gallery while I’m at it. Here’s that link. I was also with my mom for this whole roadtrip, who wanted me to sit with her, but otherwise I might have gone to the cross-aisle once this section filled up a little.
Special thanks goes out to Todd Cook for allowing me to use many of his panoramic pictures in the entry from his plethora thereof. If you want to check out his gallery of 10,000,000 pictures and more, check out his museum by clicking on the words you just read.
Anyway, that’s that. Keep voting for the entries you would like to see:
If you have already voted and have a different perspective, I have taken the repeat voter restrictions off and they will remain off for 24 hours after the publication if you want to vote again. However, I do please ask you to only vote one additional time.
And although Ballhawk Interviews is the next most voted subject, I still have to ask you guys who you want to see interviewed, so in the meantime, I will do an entry on whatever the second most voted on item is in the poll (hint, hint, for those people voting a second time). Meanwhile, here is a poll to let me know which ballhawk you would want to see me interview:
Disclaimer: As of now, none of the ballhawks have agreed to be interviewed (since I just sent the e-mail five minutes ago), so the person who is interviewed is the highest voted-for person who agrees to be interviewed; not necessarily the most voted-for person period.
Finally, since Ballhawking Gear is one of the entry types that is in second place, keep voting on how you would like to see it:
Apparently it’s Award Season in the MLB community. Yeah, well I’m going to completely disregard that. I have interest in it, don’t get me wrong, but if you want to read about the awards, my friend Matt Huddleston is doing comprehensive coverage of all of the awards on his blog, The Unbiased MLB Fan. No, here at Observing Baseball we are completely self-absorbed in the awards converge, covering only awards that the staff (read: me, Mateo Fischer) win.
So yes, I won mygameballs.com’s Junior Ballhawk of the Year:
The subtitle phrases it perfectly when it says I am honored. If you are a ballhawk with any normalcy to your life’s schedule, there are many times when it may not seem worth it to keep ballhawking. Then there’s the fact that I had to do something half-way decent to be considered for the award. Then, after that, when you consider that this is a peer-voted award, it adds a whole new level of honored to the mix. To people outside of the ballhawk community (and maybe even to people inside it) this may not seem like much, but it feels pretty great to me right now. Getting back to the urge to quit that 95% of ballhawks get, there are very many things that make you want to quit, but at some point or another, unless you do in fact quit, there is something keeping you from quitting. This, although not directly, is an indication of what tips the scale back for me.
Now I’m not going to sit here and say that it was my goal to win any award at the beginning of this year, as indicated by its absence in the goals I *did* set for this year. (Psst. Link to that here.) In fact, I wasn’t even considering that when I wrote the goals. I didn’t even know I was going to be eligible for it at the end of the season. For those who don’t know, my birthday is in October, before the award voting began, but apparently, the cutoff date was in July That said, when I did eventually win the award, it meant something to me as I have described above. It is what it is: a really cool thing that came along through the course of doing my ballhawking thing throughout the season.
Anyway, thank you to Alan Schuster for just creating mygameballs.com and the people who voted for me. I don’t want this to sound like an Oscar acceptance speech or anything; I just want an entry on the blog documenting the fact that I won the award. This is a sort of awkward entry for me. On the one hand, I didn’t not want to write an entry and make it seem like I’m better than the award or anything, because it does mean something to me, but at the same time, I know it doesn’t mean that much to a lot of people.
Also, congratulations to all of the other ballhawks who received votes for Junior Ballhawk of the Year:
Keep your eyes glued to mygameballs.com for the next few days as the announcement for Ballhawk of the Year should be up, which is a much greater feat than this. Could it possibly be that Greg Barasch takes it and we be the first and possibly the last next-door neighbor combination to sweep the awards?
And I know this entry was both late and unrelated to the poll I’m conducting this offseason, but I felt it was necessary and I had a bunch of things that got in the way of entry writing this week. New entry up on Monday. Meanwhile, keep voting on the assortment of polls I have provided below if you have not already done so (P. S. Thanks to everyone who has voted, the main poll is over 20 votes as of me writing this):
If you have no clue what some of the entries in the first poll are, here’s the link to the entry where I explain them.
Update: So Greg didn’t win and the results proved to me that Ballhawk of the Year is just a popularity contest with a splash of actual stats looking. Anyway, congratulations to Zack, but a cool thing about that being announced is that there was a new addition made to the “award winners” page on mygameballs.com:
Have you read my last entry yet? If you haven’t, **HERE** is the link. (Yes, I am aware of the typos in the video; I was since before I published the video, but they are already embedded into the video, so I can’t change them.)
This entry is to add to items onto the end of that poll that I thought of the day after I published the video and entry.
1. Ten Minutes with Two Future GMs- (It’s a working title, okay?) This would be myself and myself and my friend Sean. You may remember him from my 9/12/12 Game. Yes? No? Here’s his picture for those too lazy to click the link:
I know this doesn’t sound like the pitch of the century, but it would be us two baseball-crazed individuals talking about the offseason happenings. Sean is one of those people who is ridiculously knowledgeable about the offseason, so if it counts for anything, *I* really like this idea. And yes, I already ran the idea past Sean, so we’re good in that regard.
2. Complimentary Tickets!-I recently got a complimentary ticket to a certain event for taking pictures last year, and I was wondering if you readers would like to read my blabbing about this stat/sports-geek event for 500-1,000 words.
Anyway, here is the updated poll with these two new items on it:
Also, as of this entry, “Stadium Profiles” is the top choice for type of entry. So, I made a couple of polls for which stadium you readers would most like to read/watch about:
3. Dissecting a Baseball – Except I should clarify I would be dissecting multiple types of baseballs, not just MLB ones.
Be sure to vote as soon as you can because I want to start publishing regular entries this Monday, so I’ll write about what it is that has the most votes at the end of today
If you want to know the context for this entry, here’s last year’s version. I go over stats from the past season of ballhawking. It’s fun for my stat-geek mind. If you’re into stats, it might be fun for you too, but it’s really to have a record of everything. Feel free to leave a comment below suggesting any other stats you’d like to see in the entry.
Here are the overall numbers:
Baseballs (B): 223 (12th on mygameballs.com)
Games (G): 53 (12th on mygameballs.com)
Balls Per Game (BPG): 4.21 (24th on mygameballs.com. Ouch.)
Game Balls (GB): 3 (23rd on mygameballs.com)
Hit Balls (HB): 94
Hit Balls Per Game (HPG): 1.77
Balls Caught On The Fly (COF): 41
Balls Caught On Fly Per Game (CPG): 0.77
Thrown Balls (TB): 119
Thrown Balls Per Game (TPG): 2.25
Easter Eggs (EE): 7 (which is actually less than last year)
Easter Eggs Per Game (EPG): 0.13
Glove Trick Balls (GT): 3
Glove Trick Balls Per Game (GPG): 0.06
Balls During The Game: 5 (less than last year)
Balls After The Game: 16
Average Competition Factor (ACF): 143,718 (16th on mygameballs.com)
High: 11 (14th on mygameballs.com
Overall Snag Tracker:
Stats Broken Down By Month:
Balls broken down by Stadium:
New Yankee Stadium-
Snag Trackers for Yankee Stadium in 2012:
Snag Trackers for just the hit balls:
And for just the thrown baseballs:
Snag Trackers for Nationals Park:
Snag Trackers for just the hit balls:
And just for the thrown balls:
Snag Trackers for just hit balls:
And just for thrown balls:
Oriole Park at Camden Yards-
Just the hit balls:
And just the thrown balls:
High: 4 (so sad, but so Citi Field at the same time)
Just the hit balls:
And just the thrown baseballs:
Citizens Bank Park:
**EDIT/NOTE**: In looking at the image above, I realized I put this into my records incorrectly. I snagged 6 baseballs during this game, as you can see from the entry. That means I actually snagged 224 baseballs this season. I’m dumb for doing that, but I’m just going to leave everything as it is. If you want to see how that extra baseball affects my stats, click the link over there ——> in the sidebar for “my mygameballs.com account”. I got all of these stats from there and the site has more information stored than I could ever write about, so you should check it out anyway and sign-up if you have ever snagged a ball at a baseball game. And to those of you on mygameballs.com, make sure you not only vote for president and all that stuff, but make sure you vote for Ballhawk of the Year and Junior Ballhawk of the Year. Voting is now open for the two awards on your account’s page. Back to the rest of the entry…
In this version because I only attended one game there this season and I didn’t want to do all of the stats stuff for just one game.
As for my New Year’s Resolutions, they’re not really resolutions; they’re goals, but whatever. We’ll see how many of them I managed to reach:
1. Go to 50 games- Yes, I went to 53.
2. Average 4.5 Balls Per Game- No, I averaged 4.21.
3. Go to 8 Stadiums- No, I went to 6, but I could have gone to 8 easily without school getting in the way (both high school and college).
4. Double my career total- Yes, I did it on the last game of the season.
5. Catch one Game Home Run. Period- Yes, Trevor Plouffe’s game-tying home run to be specific.
6. Catch 5 Game Balls total- No, I only got started catching game balls at the end of July and only managed to snag 3. I’ll take game balls in back-to-back games over this goal, though.
7. Be in the mygameballs.com Top 10- No, I was in 12th. You were right, Alex.
8. Go to 10 games at Nationals Park before June’s end- I don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote this goal, but no, I didn’t.
9. Average 5.0 Balls Per Game at Nationals Park- No, I averaged almost half-a-ball under this mark.
10. Average 3.5 Balls Per Game at Citi Field- No, I didn’t anticipate Citi Field becoming a worse ballpark due to their additions.
11. Average 2.5 BPG at Yankee Stadium- Yes, I actually blew this out of the water with a 4.06 average.
12. Improve on my HB/TB ratio- Yes, from 0.51:1 in 2011 to 0.79:1 in 2012.
13. Go to Camden Yards 3 times- Yes, I went 4 times in 2012.
14. Enjoy the summer of Baseball- I would say I did. Some times I wasn’t having fun, but overall, the whole summer was a pure blast.
15. Post Entries Regularly- Compared to 2011, I definitely posted my entries a lot more quickly when discounting these past few entries at the end of the season that have taken me forever to get up.
If you made it this far: thank you. You are too kind. (And you probably have a longer attention span than I do. Even if I did write this whole entry pretty much in one night.) I will be trying very hard to get a video up Friday explaining my winter blogging plans. I’m very excited the potentiality for awesomeness the stuff I have planned for the winter, so make sure you check the blog sometime during this next weekend November 9-11. If it isn’t up then, that means I decided to post the video November 12th. Anyway, the winter blogging plans are dependent on reader input, so make sure to read and vote on what you want to read. But anyway, I feel like I’m just confusing you. More explanation will come Friday…or Monday. It depends on when the video comes out. I haven’t even fully scripted the video. If you were wondering, I am planning to get on a regular entry-posting schedule; or at least attempt one. That’ll be in the video too, so like I said, watch out for a video coming soon.
It was Sunday, September 30th 2012. It was my last game of the season. Except, when I awoke early Sunday morning, it didn’t feel like it at all. It just felt like another day at the ballpark. Except I semi-changed things up by going to Harmon Killebrew’s gate:
I knew there wouldn’t be batting practice, and my bus drops me off right by Gate 3 when I take it; so I didn’t feel like walking to Gate 34.
When I entered the left field seats, this was my view:
No surprise there.
I went down to the Tigers’ dugout, but there wasn’t anything going on down there:
Eventually, Jeff Kunkel– one of the Tigers’ bullpen catchers– came out to play catch with one of the pitchers:
I don’t remember who the pitchers was, but I do remember that after playing catch they went to the bullpen to throw a bullpen session.
Then there was a long break in action. How long? It was long enough for Kunkel to go to the bullpen, catch the session, and come back out to be the catching partner of the next pitcher who came out:
I don’t know who it was. The face looked most Luke Putkonen, but he didn’t look 6’6″, which Putkonen is listed at. But who knows, MLB players routinely “round up” on their listed heights, so it wouldn’t surprise me if it was Putkonen.
Anyway, at this time, the Twins came out to throw:
I had half a mind to go over there, but I decided against it since my most notable competition on my side of the field was a family who were expecting the Twins to take batting practice and a couple of kids with their parents.
It looks like I made the right decision, because minutes later, I got this from Luis Marte by working some Spanish magic:
One down, four to go to get to my goal of 444 career baseballs. I gave this ball away to the family I mentioned before, since they had engaged me in conversation over day games after night games, the Twins, and a whole bunch of other things.
After Marte, I would get a giant boost in my campaign for four baseballs in a BP-less day. Two words: Phil. Coke:
Yeah he’s one of the nicer players out there, but the reason he was so good in my quest for four baseballs on the day is he was absolutely the most wild I have ever seen a pitcher in a session of catch.
Here was my view of Coke and his throwing partner, the other bullpen catcher, Scott Pickens:
To give you an idea of Coke’s wildness in this particular session, Pickens was at least thirty feet in front of the stands. Now that you have this fact in your mind: Coke threw four balls into the stands by me. The first almost decapitated me because I wasn’t paying attention to Coke at the time. I ducked just in time as the ball whizzed over my head, bounced off a seat two rows behind me, and bounced back onto the field. After that I was sure to pay attention. The next ball actually technically didn’t make it into the stands on the fly. As soon as the ball was half-way between Coke and Pickens, I could tell it was sailing way over Pickens’ head, so I moved into position and caught the ball right at the wall. So even though I was in the stands, I caught the ball itself over the field of play. Without a hesitation, I gave the ball back to Pickens and he told me he would give me the ball when they were done throwing.
The third ball was a HUMONGOUS overthrow that sailed over even my head. It then bounced off of a seat behind me and bounced back towards me. At this point, I acted like a catcher who was blocking a ball in the dirt and just blocked the ball with my chest, deflecting it to the seats to my left. Basically, this was the path of the ball:
After I deflected the ball, I ran after it and just barely scooped it up before anyone else could get to it. I then proceeded to give the ball to the second-closest to the ball who just happened to be a ten-year old boy with a glove. This was technically my second ball of the day since I gave the first overthrow I snagged back to Pickens. I was gave away two consecutive baseballs because I knew I was approaching milestone/goal territory and I wouldn’t want to give away any of the latter balls I snagged in the day.
Then a fourth bounced to almost the exact same location, but this time, there was someone closer to me after the deflection, so he scooped it up. I really didn’t have a chance because I wasn’t paying attention to Coke at the time, Instead, I was talking to the family I gave the Marte ball to, so I didn’t see the ball until I turned around and saw it hit the seats.
When Coke finally finished throwing, he came to sign autographs. Pickens headed straight for the dugout and Coke headed straight for the foul line. This is where he showed his awesomeness. First, there were a bunch of baseballs sitting on the foul line. He picked up a couple of baseballs. The first he threw up to the second level. When the woman who he threw it to didn’t catch it, he jokingly got on her case by flinging his glove on the ground, yelling “COME ON!”, and then using her former softball playing to further his discussion even though she was a hundred feet away. The second ball also went to that woman and she caught it this time. (No glove on, by the way.) He then came over to start signing. While he started signing, he asked me if Pickens had given me the ball. When I said no, he jokingly reprimanded Pickens for not doing so and tossed me a ball:
While he kept signing, we talked for 1-2 minutes about the ball he just tossed me and why I hadn’t snagged the last ball he threw into the crowd. I realize that doesn’t seem like that long time, but it is when you consider it was a major league player I was talking to, it’s pretty special.
Because I had to get four baseballs in a BP-less game, I got a ticket in Target Field’s “moat” to have a shot at a ball during the game, since I figured I would enter the game under four baseballs for the day.I waited there until the position players came out to throw. When they finished throwing, I got Andy Dirks to toss me career baseball number 444:
This effectively eliminated the possibility of me going to a playoff game in 2012 (I didn’t, but I was seriously considering a trip to Detroit.) What it also did was it made it so I wouldn’t have to sit by the dugout for the game. Sure, those seats are nice and all, but I wanted to end my season with a game home run if I could. So instead, I stood out here for most of the game:
How awesome would it be to end my season with a Prince Fielder, Justin Morneau, or Joe Mauer home run. Or even better, an opposite field bomb by Miguel Cabrera to lock-up the triple crown for him. Alas, the only home run any of those players hit was a Prince Fielder home run to left field.
In the middle innings, though, I was kind of tired, so I decided to do something I had always wanted to do at a major league stadium but was always to busy running around to do: I went to Target Field’s Best Buy gaming station to play MLB The Show:
Yeah, for one real baseball inning, I was that guy who pays no attention to the game and just plays video games at a baseball stadium. And you know what, it felt nice to relax a little in frantically trying to get to first fifty games in the season and then reach 444 career baseballs, I hadn’t had much of a break in the action between ballhawking, blogging, and schoolwork. (If you’ve noticed the relaxed pace of entries lately, it’s because I still had some overload left in me. I’ll be ramping the blogging schedule back up in a bit.) So yeah, it was nice:
For the record, I was the Nationals; not the Astros.
When I realized I was never going to score any runs because I had no clue how to hit in the game (yes, it took three innings to realize this), I headed back out to the standing room section just in time:
That would be Mike. He and his friend (not pictured) are– besides myself, Tony Voda, and Paul Kom– the closest thing Target Field has to regular ballhawks. I believe they are both season ticket holders, but they only try to catch baseballs on less than half of the games they go to. Anyway, he was dressed in this get-up to pay homage to Red Solo Cup. If you don’t know about it, don’t worry, I didn’t know about the song until I got to Minnesota. Mike pretty much always has the hat on, but this was the first time I had seen him with the cup costume itself.
This meant I had officially “passed” my goal of 222 baseballs in 2012. Yay?
After which, I simultaneously tried to get the lineup card(s) from Jim Leyland and tried to get a ball from the Tigers relievers coming back from the bullpen:
It wasn’t because of my multitasking, but I failed at both. When I realized there would be no on-field demo by FSN due to Kids Run The Bases, I went around the stadium saying goodbye to all of the ushers I had met in the last month of season and I headed out.
One last thing before I get to the stats portion of the entry: my next entry will be a statistical recap of the season. I have a general idea of how I’m going to go about it alla last year’s review, but let me know in the comments below if you have any ideas for stats you think of or anything you would like to see in review of the season.
- 5 Baseballs at this game (3 pictured because I gave 2 away):
Numbers 441-445 for my career:
- 223 Balls in 53 Games= 4.21 Balls Per Game
- 5 Balls x 32,554 Fans= 162,770 Competition Factor
- 62 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 12 straight Games with at least 2-3 Balls
- 2 straight Games with at least 4 Balls
- 55 Balls in 14 Games= 3.93 Balls Per Game
- 13 straight Games with at least 1-2 Balls at Target Field
- 12 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Target Field
- 2 straight Games with at least 4 Balls at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 11: 44- 4:47= 5 Hours 3 Minutes