August 2013

8/6/13 Braves at Nationals: Nationals Park

So back from Philadelphia and the madness of BallhawkFest, I took a couple days to rest and write. But after that, it was time to go to the second game of the Braves-Nationals series. First, there was a chance of rain, so I went atop the Nationals parking garage to check if the cages were up:

20130816-144354.jpg
Yay, batting practice! I then headed back down to the center field where I met up with two ballhawks I regret not writing more about the past two seasons:

20130816-144717.jpg
That would be Dave Butler and Art (whose last name I don’t know). They are probably the two most “regular” ballhawks at Nationals. Dave pretty much exclusively goes after hit baseballs while Art almost exclusively goes after Nationals toss-ups. They are both very friendly guys, and if you ever see them at Nationals Park, tell them Mateo says hello. Dave can be pretty easily identified by the fact that he always has his Giants hat on, and Art can 95% of the time be found with his sunglasses, Bluetooth, and blue Nationals hat on in the corner spot by the visitor’s bullpen right as the gates open.
Once we got in, I headed for straight-away left, since both Dave and Rick Gold were battling it out in the Red Seats for pitchers BP.
Ironically, my first ball of the day came in the Red Seats when the two of them left for the Nationals’ second group of hitters. Ross Ohlendorf fielded a ball at the wall, and looked up to toss the ball to someone. And when I raised my glove, he flipped me the ball:

8613 Ross Ohlendorf

And then literally *right* after that, I saw a person coming down the grass hill in center field to clear out all of the baseballs that were sitting there. It was so soon after the first ball that I actually had it in my non-glove hand and had to hide it behind my back to get the man to toss me the ball that was on the hill. and I guess I’m more deceptive than I thought, because:

8613 Ball 2

Do you kind of see the logo of the ball? It was a World Series 2010 commemorative ball. I had heard the Nationals were using this and several other types of commemoratives, but this was the first time I had seen any of them in 2013. So since I had snagged two baseballs within a span of ten seconds, I gave the non-commemorative Ohlendorf ball to a kid at the corner of the section.

After that, a Nationals righty smashed a ball that bounced up to the top of the restaurant, where an employee picked the ball up. At that point everyone else pursuing the ball gave up and went back to the bottom of the section. I didn’t understand, though, since it was employee that supposedly had to give the ball away. So I stuck around, stuck up my glove, and got this:

8613 Ball 3

And you see right; that is a Fenway Park 100th year commemorative baseball. It was amazing, but this would sadly be my last commemorative ball of the day.

I then headed over to right field for the third group of Nationals hitters. There I got Taylor Jordan to toss me a ball by being the only one to call him by name:

8613 Ball 4

I then got my fifth ball of the day when the Braves started hitting. I got Craig Kimbrel to toss me a baseball over the Braves bullpen:

8613 Ball 5

And then it was time to have a cup trick party. Now you’re not exactly supposed to, but you can sometimes get away with using a ball retriever in the gap right below the Red Seats. So this being my first time with a reliable retriever in Nationals Park with me having Tim Anderson‘s cup trick in my bag of tricks, I took advantage of it.

I first saw one ball go into the gap on a hit ball, so I got the cup trick out and pulled the ball out from here in the gap:

8613 Ball 6 Diagram

I then gave it away to a kid whose glove the ball had bounced off of. I then got a second ball from the gap soon after that and gave it to a person right next to me on top of where I snagged the ball in the gap. And then I asked him if he could hold the ball out for a picture:

8613 Ball 7

And by then, people realized what I had, and when a ball landed in the gap, people called me over to retrieve the ball for them. I walked over, but as I did, Justin Upton launched a ball right into the row I was walking in, so I ran through the row and caught the ball through several glove screens:

8613 Ball 8

That was my eighth ball. And then when I retrieved the ball and gave it away to the family who dropped the ball, I had my ninth ball of the day:

8613 Ball 9

If you can see the bars below the ball in the picture, the ball was trapped under one of those, so I had to knock it sideways out from under there to retrieve the ball. At this point I was getting nervous because I had now gotten 3 balls via cup trick. So when a guy told me there was another ball in the gap, I just wanted to get my cup trick out quickly, get the ball, and not get seen. But as soon as I pulled the cup trick out of the gap, I sensed someone behind me. It was a security guard who told me he needed me to give him the trick. It was obviously not mine, so I asked if he had a string-cutting device. And when he said no, I tried untying the string, he eventually just gave up and told me that I’m there often enough that I should just not do it again. That was my tenth ball of the day, by the way.

My record for baseballs in a game was 11, so with 10 and there still being about 15 minutes left in batting practice, I thought I had a pretty good opportunity to break it. And this got even better when I picked up a ball that Luis Avilan had overthrown to a kid. I then gave the ball to the kid:

8613 Ball 11 Diagram

I then had a very good chance to break my record, but Avilan’s inaccuracy came back to bite me, and he overthrew me, so this ball would be my last of the day. No, the only thing I would snag from this point on was a piece of gum thrown to me by David Carpenter after I stayed by the bullpen to watch Julio Teheran ( whose name is properly pronounced “Teh-heh-rahn”) warm up:

8613 Gum

I then sat in left field, because I thought it would be great if my record-breaking 12th ball would have come on a home run:

8613 View from LF

It didn’t.

STATS:

  • 11 Balls at this Game (5 pictured because I gave 6 away)

8613 Baseballs

Numbers 611-621 for my lifetime:

8613 Sweet Spots

  • 175 Balls in 42 Games= 4.17 Balls Per Game
  • 11 Balls x 30,875 Fans=339,625 Competition Factor
  • 104 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 9 straight Games with 2 Balls
  • 6 straight Games with 3 Balls
  • 5 straight Games with 4 Balls
  • 3 straight Games with 5 balls
  • 186 Balls in 41 Games at Nationals Park= 4.54 Balls Per Game
  • 33 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
  • 4 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Nationals Park
  • Time Spent On Game 3:21-11:03= 7 Hours 42 Minutes

8/3/13 BallhawkFest

After our adventure the previous night that got us back to Washington past midnight, Chris Hernandez and I got up to get to Philadelphia for BallhawkFest a little later than we wanted to. And so when we should have been playing softball with all of the other BallhawkFest attendees, this was our view:

8313 In Car

But thankfully, this was where we were when it came time for the luncheon at McFadden’s:

8313 Crhis Running

That would be Chris running behind me alongside the stadium. Thankfully we made the luncheon more or less right after everyone else got there. And the best part was even though we were the last ones to get there, we got our food before anyone else. The luncheon would also result in me getting a Minnesota Twins long-sleeve shirt (thank you, Zack), Cardinals mini home plates, and my 2012 Junior Ballhawk of the Year award certificate.

Then it was time to get to the gates. First a couple of us made the trip over there:

8313 At Gates 1

And then a lot more showed up:

8313 At Gates 2

Although at this point, we knew the tarp was on the field, so it wasn’t looking good for us snagging. One person in the foreground of that last picture was particularly vocal about a certain streak ending. It was the calm before the storm, though. We waited and took pictures, but I killed most of my time by playing catch with Tim Cook in the street alongside the gate.

When the gates opened, everyone went in while my anxieties about this game compounded. Todd Cook had bought a ticket for me the night prior, and because I had to essentially get up and head to BallhawkFest, I never printed it out. Now at a bunch of places, you can just scan your phone as long as it has the barcode on it, but I learned that here at CBP, you can’t. So while everyone else was in the stadium for a good five minutes, I was getting a printout of my StubHub ticket:

8313 Ticket

Which was slightly difficult since the ticket was in Todd’s name and not mine. But eventually, I did get int the stadium with everyone else:

8313 In Stadium

When I got in, only two pairs of Braves pitchers were throwing, but I got neither ball. My best shot was to get one from Julio Teheran, but I don’t think he heard me saying that I was a Colombian. My next closest opportunity to getting a ball was when I got David Carpenter to throw me a ball from 100-200 feet away. Unfortunately, though, the ball fell short and he didn’t come to the warning track to pick it up.

If you go back and take a second look at it, you may see something interesting in that last picture. As we waited, the grounds crew came out with the batting cage and screens. So by the time the Phillies came out to throw, the cage was set up and ready to go:

8313 Phillies throwing

But with the abundance of people wearing Phillies red, it came as not surprise to me that I didn’t get a ball. Despite the fact that I saw there was now going to be batting practice, I was still worried as to how many baseballs I could put on the board. Pretty much everyone else had one or two baseballs at this point, and despite a ton of running and changing shirts that I had done up to this point, which I spared you the details of, I was still at zero baseballs. After I left foul ground, I ran into Ben Weil, and his girlfriend Jen. Ben at this point had two baseballs and was leading the pack. Jen, however, said she was rooting for me. And although I didn’t mean to, I kind of scoffed at that because the way things were going, it felt like I would be lucky to get *a* baseball with all of the competition. Let me explain why. Up to that point, I had been absolutely exhausted by the other ballhawks, because usually during a game with no BP, a ballhawk is the only one smart enough to go to place x. Well during this game, by the time I got to place x, there were 5 other people right on my tail. So after they got there, I had to get creative and think of another place where I could possibly get a ball, but with less competition. The cycle then repeated itself. Turns out, though, Jen had more confidence in me than I did.

Soon after I got into the right field seats, a ball was hit and rolled to the wall. Rick Sporcic was also in the right field seats. And although he was occupied with a baseball further towards center field, I hurried up and got my (read: Tim Anderson’s) cup trick out to pick up the ball, because I had heard he was good with his retriever. By the time I had gotten my ball, though, he was still trying to get his from in front of the wall. My guess is the right field wall is much taller than the left field wall in Pittsburgh, so he wasn’t used to it and his retrieving skills were slowed down as a result. Anyway, I didn’t get a picture since I was in a hurry to get the ball, but here’s a picture that’ll show you where I got the ball:

8313 Ball 1 Diagram

The place I took that picture from also happens to be where I got my second ball of the day. I leaned over the wall to see if a ball I had spotted from right field was cup trick-able, and just as I realized it wasn’t, Joe Savery came over to pick up that and another ball. He tossed the ball I was eying to a kid next to me and the other to me:

8313 Ball 2

I know Ben was right next to me, since he also came over to see if he could cup trick the ball, but I don’t think he got a ball tossed up to him then. I actually don’t know if he got another ball for the rest of BP.

After getting that ball, I headed to straight-away left field to try to get a hit ball. It was a zoo:

8313 LF

I mean forget all of the people in general, just look at the ballhawks who were right behind me:

8313 Ballhawks 1 8313 Ballhawks 2

Had I not misjudged several home runs, I could have been up to 4 or 5 baseballs for the day after my time in right field. But instead I spent the rest of my BP getting punked by the Phillie grounds crew chalk dispenser:

8313 Chalk Dispenser

Most teams use a cart-type thing to apply the chalked foul lines, but the Phillies instead use this thing where they pond to red side part with the mallet that is a mini-bat with a baseball at the end to apply the chalked line. Unfortunately, it looked from left field like there was a baseball sitting on the warning track in foul territory. So I ran all the way over to find out that this could in fact not be snagged.

The closest I came to snagging another baseball was when a ball rolled to the wall in left field, I ran over to where it was, and was about to pull out the cup trick when a Phillies player picked the ball up and threw it into the stands.  Little did I know, but had I been a little quicker to the ball, I could have had the outright lead at the end of BallhawkFest.

How did this happen? Well after BP ended, I went to take a group picture in center field:

8313 Group Picture CF

And then wnet behind the dugout. Since this was *Ballhawk*Fest, I expected there to be at least one other person joining me behind the Braves dugout before the game, but they just never came. So when the Braves came out to throw, I was one of the few people in Braves gear behind the dugout. Using this, I first got Chris Johnson to throw me a ball. His throw was a bit high, so it tipped off the top of my glove, bounced in the row behind me, and I had to run for it to just beat out a man who was also going for it. He was so close to it that I gave him the ball. It was only after I took the picture of him that I realized he already had a baseball (D’oh):

8313 Guy I gave Ball 3

So since I had grabbed the ball before I gave it to him, that was ball number 3 for me on the day. Ball number 4 took no time at all after that. I’m not sure if he had seen me miss the Johnson toss-up, but when Justin Upton came in from throwing with his baseball, I screamed his name, and just like Johnson, he scanned the crowd as if searching for a little kid who deserved it more before settling for tossing the baseball to me:
8313 Ball 4

I say I wonder if he saw the Johnson toss-up tip off of my glove, because I his line of sight when he was tossing with his brother BJ was slightly off of me, but it’s possible that he just tossed me the ball to give me a second chance. Oh well; who knows?

Then once the game started, I moved over one staircase to be on the right staircase for a third-out ball. It was after the top of the first inning that I saw Ben come down into that same section, so I moved down to join him. One out later, Jen joined us. So the plan at the third out was all three of us were going to go down for the third-out ball and odds are one of us would get it. Well it turns out it wasn’t just us, but Quinn Imiola (who you may remember from this entry if you’ve been reading the blog for a couple years, and whose birthday it was that day–as was announced by his dad at the luncheon in a hilarious/purely-“dad” way.) had gotten past the guard at the top of the steps right before the third out and also tried for the third-out ball. As it turned out, with all of those people there, Freddie Freeman lofted the ball right to me. As we returned to our seats, where we all went into the same row, we were apparently suspicious-looking enough with the culmination of all four of us going down for the ball and Quinn going back to a different seat than the one he had gotten out of to go for the third-out ball that the usher who had come down from the top of the steps asked to see all of our tickets. Ben and Jen actually had a ticket (it just wasn’t on that aisle), but Quinn and I didn’t have a ticket for the section at all. So the usher kicked Quinn and myself out of the section completely, telling us that he better not see us back there for the rest of the game, and asked Ben and Jen to go to their actual seats in the middle of the row–which Ben had no interest in doing. So as the rest of the group pondered where they would go, I took the picture of the Freeman ball:
8313 Ball 5

The conversation eventually lead to us wandering towards left field, where the other three would eventually sneak down into, and I would continue onto right field, where I actually had a ticket for:

8313 From Right

After a few innings of being there, I got a tweet from Harrison Tishler (who already published an entry about this game/day that you should check out) asking if he could join me. When I said yes, he and his parents were there within half-an-inning:

8313 Tishlers

It was almost as if I was a ballhawk magnet, because after that, the Cooks arrived as well as Quinn and Alan Schuster, the organizer of the whole event and founder/webmaster of mygameballs.com, the site that’s the reason this event even exists:

8313 Alan and Todd 8313 Tishlers, Quinn, and Tim

And soon after that, Zack Hample, Ben Weil, and Chris Hernandez also came to the same section (although the other staircase). I should mention that this was a slow process, though. The game lasted 12 innings, so all of these arrivals weren’t within a half-inning of each other. The highlight of most of this slow-ish game besides talking to all of these fun and cool people I don’t get to see on a regular basis was taking an unintentionally-artsy picture of the scoreboard:

8313 Scoreboard

It was my initial plan to go to the bullpen after the game, but with so many other ballhawks now converged around it, when the Braves scored a run in the top of the 12th, I headed to the Braves dugout. However, as I exited the right field seats, I got a call from Zack. I thought it was weird right away because he rarely calls me outside of a baseball game; much less *during* a game itself. Turns out he had gotten kicked out of the stadium by security because of the escalation of an incident that he had with them after he had caught John Mayberry Jr.’s home run earlier in the game. I feel like I was a bad friend for what I did, but I figured Zack as “king of ballhawks” would understand as I got Ben to call him and handle the situation as I ran to the dugout. I figure Zack would have done the same thing with me. (Aren’t I so good at justifying my actions to myself?)

Quinn also came down to the dugout after the game, and as I went for the umpire ball–where the umpire ended up talking to a family for about ten minutes after the game, and giving them his last extra baseball, Quinn got Craig Kimbrel to toss him the ball he had recorded the save with. Not a bad birthday present, eh? Here he is in his Braves gear with his parents to the right of the frame:

8313 Quinn and Parents

For the record, I know the names of all of the parents, but I don’t know if they want their names out there. I actually met Quinn’s parents the day I met Quinn in South Carolina. Anyway, we were being told to clear out of the section, so that’s why Quinn is a little blurry.

I then got a text from Ben saying to meet outside the third base gate. When we got there we saw Zack, but the group who had stayed in right field were still not there. Eventually they did get there and Zack got to tell the story of his ejection about fifteen times:

8313 Zack Storytelling

After that, the plan was to get a parting group picture. As we set up for that, I got a panoramic picture of all of the ballhawks mingling:

8313 Panorama Ballhawks

And here was the final group picture:

8313 Final Group Picture

In talking to everyone, it turned out that Jeremy Evens (in yellow), the Cooks, and I had all tied for the lead at 5 baseballs a piece. If you remember the first BallhawkFest in 2011, I was tied with Zack for the lead at I believe 7 baseballs. So I have never gone to a BallhawkFest where I didn’t have a share of the lead. And I probably just jinxed any chance of doing so next year’s BallhawkFest.

I then headed off with the Cooks in their car to the 30th Street Station, but not before taking a look at the Veterans Stadium field in the parking lot and getting one last shot of the stadium:

8313 CBP Last Shot 8313 VS Rubber

And so concluded one of the funner days of my life. While I wish I could have made it for the full experience, I had a blast and will be sure to try my hardest to be there for next season’s festivities, wherever it may be. (Insider’s hint: It may be the closest to home a BallhawkFest has ever been for me.) Thank you to everyone who made and keeps making this event what it is. The reason I constantly recommend it to people is because while it may be a tough event snagging-wise, it is a truly unique phenomenon that is something really special as well.

STATS:

  • 5 Balls at this Game (4 pictured because I gave 1 away. And apparently lost my Phillies hat somewhere along the line as well.)

8313 Baseballs

Numbers 606-610 for my career:

8313 Sweet Spots

  • 164 Balls in 41 Games= 4.00 Balls Per Game
  • 5 Balls x 41,161 Fans=205,805 Competition Factor
  • 103 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 8 straight Games with 2 Balls
  • 5 straight Games with 3 Balls
  • 4 straight Games with 4 Balls
  • 2 straight Games with 5 balls
  • 12 Balls in 3 Games at CBP= 4.00 Balls Per Game
  • 3 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at CBP
  • 2 straight Games with at least 2-5 Balls at CBP
  • Time Spent On Game 10:07-3:25= 17 Hours 18 Minutes

8/2/13 Mariners at Orioles: Camden Yards

So if you didn’t read it before, Chris Hernandez was staying at my apartment. He was planning on going to the Thursday Orioles game and BallhawkFest 2013, but my only condition for him staying with me was that we would go to the Friday Orioles game. Being that Chris is also a ballhawk and baseball fan, who would have had to drive 2.5 to Scranton otherwise, it was only after thorough convincing that he conceded. So, after getting slightly lost with his car’s GPS, we finally arrived here:

8213 Opening Picture

Since we had come in on Chris’ car and had planned to walk around the stadium before we got semi-lost, I brought my “good” camera. And whenever I bring my “good” camera, the result is me taking approximately 100 pictures per minute. Well not really, but the point is in our brief walks by the stadium when I had my camera in hand, I took a ton more pictures than I normally do, and I realize I’m *way* behind on this, but you can eventually see them all when I post them on the Observing Baseball Facebook page. I will try to get all of the picture up as fast as I can (along with YouTube videos) once I’m up-to-date with entries.

Anyway, we walked around the warehouse and got here:

8213 Gate H

Where Avi Miller made fun of me taking pictures with my camera:

8213 Avi being Avi

We were then joined by Rick Gold, decked out in MLB.com apparel:

8213 Rick Arriving

So our group then consisted of everyone mentioned in this entry so far plus Grant Edgrinton, who was also there:

8213 The Crew

And then Alex Kopp would show up after I ran my camera back to Chris’ car. (Which is completely normal for him. He gets off work at 4:30, so he’s rarely at the gate before 4:50, if ever.)

When we finally got in, my first ball was on a JJ Hardy BP home run. Once again, Alex was playing in front of me, but we somehow both misjudged this ball and thought it was going into Alex’s row. But since I was behind him when we both misjudged it, when it hit into the seats three rows above me, I was able to run and pick it up before anyone else got it:

8213 Ball 1

My next ball was just me running for a ball that no one else gave a chance. The dotted line in this next picture shows the path the ball took:
8213 Ball 2 Diagram

Basically Steve Pearce hit a ground-rule double, and while everyone else stayed still, I was running towards where I thought the ball was going to bounce up into the stands, ran after the ball, and trapped it against a seat before anyone else could get to the ball.

I then headed to the seats in RCF for a group of lefty Mariners hitters. And when a ball got hit into the gap in front of the seats out there, I retrieved it for the person who the ball had hit off of and gave it to him. Here he is holding the ball out for the picture:

8213 Ball 3

After that, the guy I’ve pointed out in this next picture (who I believe is Danny Farquhar) threw a ball to a girl behind me. But because he underthrew her, I was able to pick the ball up and hand it to her. That would be it for me in BP snagging-wise. Although it should be noted that a bunch of Mariners put on a show in the flag court, and I almost caught a ball on the fly on Eutaw Street because of it.

After BP, I would go to the bullpens with a bunch of the other ballhawks. And out of that, I got Rick Adair to toss me one of the balls that was in there:
8213 Ball 5

He also tossed one to the guy who was behind me, so had I been smart, I could have caught this ball and then gave it to the guy, but still counted it. But things in the past can’t be changed, and life moves on, so…

During the game, the absolute highlight (and simultaneous lowlight on a selfish personal level) was when Chris Davis came up to bat in the third inning, I lined myself on Eutaw Street to begin with. So when Davis blasted a 1-0 fastball, I had the ball perfectly judged, but for whatever reason, the closer I got to the ball, the more it felt like I was running in quicksand. I kept running towards where the ball was going to land, but just as I approached it, someone’s glove got in my line of sight, and the ball whizzed past my blindly-outstretched glove. Mad could not even begin to describe my thought process as I turned to see the ball having just bounced off of the pavement. This pure anger, though, quickly subsided when I saw Alex Kopp jump up and grab the ball off the bounce. Despite the fact that I had completely messed up my chance, I was genuinely happy enough for him that it completely wiped away my disgust after missing the ball. It was soon after that we knew something was special about this ball. First the Orioles Cut4 reporter showed up (and filmed this video), then an Orioles supervisor showed up:

8213 Big Deal

We then followed said supervisor to the area behind home plate, where we waited and took a bunch of pictures with Alex and the ball:
8213 Pictures of ball

After that, a man whose exact position I’m not sure of showed up and Alex talked with him about what he could get in return for the ball:

8213 Negotiation

And then we headed back to the flag court. Only I was the only one who ran because I realized Henry Urrutia–who has still not hit his first major league home run–was up. I didn’t get to the flag court in time for Urritia, who got out on two pitches, but I did get there in time for the other guys to see me on TV when Ryan Flaherty hit a home run that bounced off of the fencing in front of the flag court. When the rest of them got back 1. They all mentioned they had seen me on the TVs in the concourse, and 2. We took pictures of Alex with the spot the home run had landed:

8213 Alex + Spot

And then, if that weren’t enough, Alex got batting gloves signed by Adam Jones in the seventh inning from a guy who apparently walks around carrying such things:

8213 Batting Gloves

(I got a “Vote Orioles” shirt from him.) After the game, we all went to the area we had gone to before, and were shown down the stairs to the level below the field level that is pretty much just a tunnel below the seats:

8213 Tunnel

And while we waited for Chris Davis, we got to see about 10-15 different players from the two teams in their “natural habitat”, which is to say that they were not in uniform, and in many cases with their families. Take, for example, Nick Markakis with his two kids:

8213 NM With Kids

I didn’t get any pictures when Davis came out, since I was filming with Alex’s camera, but if you want any, check out Chris’ entry when it comes out. I can just tell you my personal experience, which is as follows: Dvis was really nice about the whole thing. He took pictures with all of us, signed about three baseballs (two for Alex and one for Grant), and even though you could kind of tell he didn’t exactly want to be there, he didn’t say it to us directly and allowed us to soak in the moment. Alex also got a hat and signed helmet out of the affair. Here he is after we got out of there with the hat on:

8213 Alex with hat

Alex usually doesn’t ever like to wear hats, so if you see him with one on, it’s the exception and not the rule. We (Alex, I, Chris, and Avi) walked to Alex’s and Chris’ cars, where I got my camera and some other things for Avi out of Chris’ car, and then took a paparazzi-esque shot of Alex’s car as he and Avi. Because after all of the free stuff he had gotten, Alex felt like a celebrity:

8213 Alex Car

(I don’t know why, but I’m surprised Alex still has a New Jersey license plate.) Chris and I then headed back to the stadium with my camera to take his “stadium picture”:

8213 Chris Stadium Picture

Inspired by Zack Hample‘s same idea in the 2011 season, Chris wants to get a picture with himself and a sign like the one you see him holding at all 30 major league stadiums. Except Chris is doing it in several years, and not all in one year. Oh, and for the record, Chris has been to like 13 stadiums; it’s just that OPACY was the fourth stadium he had ever been to, but that was *way* before he had the idea of doing this project.

After seeing this picture, though, Chris decided we should head to Gate H for the picture. And then this is the picture he ultimately decided to go with:

8213 Chris Picture 2

And then we headed back to the car, and then back to Washington, where we would wake up the next morning to go to BallhawkFest 2013…sort of.

STATS:

  • 5 Balls at this Game (3 pictured because I gave 2 away)

8213 Baseballs

Numbers 601-605 for my life:

8213 Sweet Spots

  • 159 Balls in 40 Games= 3.98 Balls Per Game
  • 5 Balls x 25,947 Fans=129,735 Competition Factor
  • 102 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 7 straight Games with 2 Balls
  • 4 straight Games with 3 Balls
  • 3 straight Games with 4 Balls
  • 67 Balls in 17 Games at OPACY= 3.94 Balls Per Game
  • 17 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
  • 7 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at OPACY
  • 5 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at OPACY
  • Time Spent On Game 2:34-12:26= 9 Hours 52 Minutes

8/1/13 Astros at Orioles: Camden Yards

So for the third time in as many days, I was at Oriole Park at Camden Yards (or OPACY for short) to see the Houston Astros take on the hometown Baltimore Orioles. And for the third consecutive day, I was not alone at the gates. Here was the crew:

8113 Opening Picture

Left to right that would be ballhawks/OPACY people:

1. Grant Edrington.

2. Mateo Fischer- As performed by Mateo Fischer.

3. Chris Hernandez- Who came from New York only to get misdirected by people outside OPACY and get to the gates with eight minutes to spare.

4. Rick Gold- I’ve introduced Rick many a time.

5. Alex Kopp- Who had generously let me sleep at his house the past two days.

6. Zevi- Who I believe for the first time I’ve ever been, was going to a game that Avi Miller was not attending.

How did these people scatter once inside? Here are my right, left, and frontal views once we all got inside the stadium:

8113 View 1

8113 View 2 8113 View 3

So in that last picture, you may notice that Alex was in front of me. That’s usually not good news at all, since he is way better at judging fly balls than I am, but in this particular instance it benefited me. Usually the OPACY regulars–and even myself–don’t even try to get the Orioles players and coaches to toss us baseballs, but Alex convinced Miguel Gonzalez to toss him a ball. Unfortunately for Alex, Gonzalez air-mailed him and I picked the ball up for my first of the day:

8113 Ball 1

Gonzalez would be the Oriole in black with the orange glove, who seems on his way to pick up the baseball in the distance. I felt bad for doing that, even though it was natural and he would do (and has done in the past) the same thing to me. But don’t feel too bad, because he would go on to snag seven baseballs on the day and further distance himself from me in the mygameballs.com standings.

My second baseball of the day came when I quickly went into foul territory right at the end of Orioles BP and got Astros catcher, Carlos Corporan, to toss me a baseball. I didn’t get a picture of it, because I thought I had a shot at a quick third baseball, but none of the other Astros who were throwing acknowledged me.

Like my first, my next ball would also come as a result of Alex and Tim Anderson’s cup trick that he had lent me the previous day. When Rick Gold and I simultaneously went from left to right field, he asked me if I wanted the flag court or the seats. Right then I saw a baseball in the gap in front of the seats, so I said, “Seats,” and went into the section. As I got into the section, an usher by the name of Charlie recognized me from earlier and asked me if I had a ball retriever, because his son had dropped a ball into the gap. Since I was headed to there anyway, I gladly obliged and got the ball for his son. I then asked for the baseball back for a second to take this picture of it:

8113 Ball 3

(And no, my thumb isn’t broken. I truly have no clue why it’s bent that way in the picture.) Sadly this would be my last ball of BP. I almost got a ball during the Astros last mostly-lefty group, but it bounced into a trash can, and Grant realized it a half-second before I did and pulled the ball out of a food tray inside the trash can.

While I wasn’t completely dissatisfied in myself like I am during many 3-ball performances, I realized I was sitting at 599 baseballs and kind of wanted to get my 600the baseball before the day was over. At the end of BP, I went to the Astros dugout. There I asked Javier Bracamonte while he was unloading the BP baseballs into ball bags if he could toss me a spare baseball. He motioned that I go to the bullpen for when he arrived there. So I journeyed and met up with Chris, who had still not gotten an Astros 50th anniversary commemorative, which was pretty much the reason he drove down for this game. So waited at the bullpen. Through such things as Jason Castro’s catching drills:

8113 Bullpen 1

And even when Bracamonte got to the bullpen, he kept telling me to wait. Not in a mean way, but more of a “I’m going to hook you up, but I have to do bullpen catcher stuff right now” kind of way. Finally, after a ton of time, he tossed me what was now my third 50th anniversary commemorative baseball:

8113 Ball 4

I kind of felt bad because Chris had still not gotten one of these. If you can see Bracamonte’s blurred face in the background of the last picture, he’s semi-confused because Chris was explaining to him that he wanted Javier to toss him a commemorative baseball, but I think he was misinterpreting it and thought that Chris was asking him for a 2013 Astros commemorative baseball, which the Astros don’t take on the road with them(…yet). In this next picture, I believe Bracamonte is going back to the ball bag to search for a commemorative. (FYI, if you see this Astros in the immediate future in search of the 2012 commemorative baseball, their bullpen bag was comprised of almost exclusively commemorative baseballs.):

8113 Bullpen 2

Eventually, Chris did get his commemorative toss-up from Bracamonte. I would show you the picture, but I took it with Chris’ phone, so I suspect that will be in his blog entry when it’s up.

I stayed in left for the first half-inning of the game, but then headed back to right field, where it finally dawned on me that I had snagged my 600th baseball ever. Since I thought it was a photo-worthy moment, I had Alex take a picture of me with the ball:

8113 600 Picture

And that was it. At the end of the game, both Chris and I headed down to the umpire tunnel:

8113 Umpire Tunnel

(He was taking a picture of his view. Here’s mine at the same time):

8113 My View

But neither of us got a baseball from the umpire since he was out of baseballs by the time he got to us. After everything died down at the dugout, we went to Chris’ car and headed back to my apartment in Washington, where we would stay the next day before coming back to OPACY the next day.

Semi-side-note. I never released it because it became factually inaccurate, but we filmed a video before heading off to OPACY the next day, so here’s that if you want to check it out:

I then filmed a video to kind of substitute the fact that I never released that one a few days ago, so here’s the more recent video for those of you who care:

Okay, and now I’m done with the entry.

STATS:

  • 4 Balls at this Game (3 pictured because I gave 1 away)

8113 Baseballs

Numbers 597-600 for my “career”:

8113 Sweet Spots:logo

  • 154 Balls in 39 Games= 3.95 Balls Per Game
  • 4 Balls x 17,909 Fans=71,636 Competition Factor
  • 101 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 6 straight Games with 2 Balls
  • 3 straight Games with 3 Balls
  • 2 straight Games with 4 Balls
  • 62 Balls in 16 Games at OPACY= 3.88 Balls Per Game
  • 16 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
  • 6 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at OPACY
  • 4 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at OPACY
  • Time Spent On Game 4:18-11:20= 7 Hours 2 Minutes

7/31/13 Astros at Orioles: Camden Yards

After spending the night at Alex Kopp‘s, I was off to my second Orioles-Astros game in as many days. Here’s what the left field seats looked like as I entered them:

73113 Opening Picture

You may notice I numbered some people. Those would be ballhawks/OPACY regulars:

1. Grant Edrington.

2. The previously-mentioned Alex Kopp.

3. Avi Miller.

As for snagging, this Orioles BP was particularly bad, so I didn’t snag my first baseball until I picked up a ball Matt Domiguez overthrew another fan with after playing catch down the 3rd base line. I then immediately gave the ball to the kid Dominguez had intended the ball to go to. Little did I realize it at the time, but that marked the 100th consecutive game I had snagged a baseball at. This was huge for me because I had long said that once I got to 100 consecutive games, I would cease to care about my streak and not avoid games because I thought they would put my streak in jeopardy. So this was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. But I obviously didn’t realize it because I gave the ball away.

I then got Jonathan Villar to actually toss me a ball for my second on the day:

73113 Ball 1

Did you see the logo of the ball? That’s right; it was an Astros 50th anniversary commemorative baseball. If you don’t know what commemorative baseballs are, they’re baseballs that are manufactured to commemorate special occasions. This particular one was made last year to commemorate 2012 being the Astros’ 50th season as a franchise. While many other ballhawks were looking forward to the commemorative baseball the Astros have been using this year to commemorate their first season in the American League, I had never gotten this commemorative baseball in 2012, so I was ecstatic.

 

My next two baseballs require a bit of back story. If you’ve read my Camden Yards entries before, you may have noticed that one very regular ballhawk was missing the past two games: Tim Anderson. For this series with the Astros and the Orioles next series against the Mariners, he was vacationing with his family in Ocean City, Maryland. Because of this and the fact that Alex Kopp had lost his cup trick, Tim gave Alex his cup trick while he was gone. The morning before this game at work, though, Alex made a new cup trick. Since he didn’t need two cup tricks, I asked him if he could lend me Tim’s for the duration of my stay in Baltimore. So with my new toy, when I saw a baseball go into the gap in front of the center field bleachers, I ran over and cup tricked the ball in this spot:

73113 Ball 3 Diagram

As I was pulling the ball up, I was made aware that a kid had dropped the ball into the gap when an Astros player had tossed it to him. So after I pulled the ball up, I gave it to him. Another–way more awesome–thing happened while I was retrieving the ball. As I was pulling up the cup, (and found out that the trick must be dropped and not simply lowered onto the ball) a second ball hit the wall just to my right and settled less than three feet away from my spot. I moved over a little, cup tricked the ball, and found out it was another Astros 50th anniversary commemorative. So thank you, Tim, for lending Alex your cup trick, and thank you, cup trick, for getting me two extra baseballs:

73113 Tim Cup Trick

I then headed out into the flag court for the last or second to last Astros group, because they were mostly lefties. Alex and Grant also joined me out there. And somehow we each managed to semi-rob each other of a ball. Grant got a ball that I was just about to trap with my glove, Alex caught a ball in front of Grant’s glove, and then I got a ball that got ripped out of Alex’s hands:

73113 Ball 5

What happened was Robbie Grossman hit a ball that bounced on Eutaw Street and went on top of the metal awning-type thing you see in the background of that last picture. A guy was camped under it waiting for the ball to drop, but as it did, Alex jumped up and grabbed the ball with his bare, left hand. The guy also reached for it, but what he got was Alex’s hand. So what he ended up doing was pulling Alex’s fingers off of the ball. The ball then dropped to the guy’s feet, where I picked it up before another passerby could. And that was it for BP. I then at the end of BP handed the final ball I had snagged to an usher who lets us sit in the wheelchair seats to the left of the flag court and instructed him to give the ball to the first kid he saw with a glove. Partially because I wanted the usher to see that I cared about giving away baseballs to kids, but also partially because that last lefty Astros group had put on a show, which had me running all over the place and too exhausted/lazy to find a kid myself.

The highlight (or low-light, depending on how you see things) of the game itself also involved Robbie Grossman. Minus Avi, this was how Grant, Alex, and I were stationed for the game:

73113 Flag Court set-up

For a righty, that is. For a lefty, we all stood up and moved to our respective spots. Alex stayed right where he was, Grant moved to the right part of the flag court, and I took the section of the flag court closest to the foul pole. Little did we know, but despite the show he had put on in BP, when he came up in the second inning, Robbie Grossman was at zero career home runs. So as I walked to my spot in the flag court, I saw a baseball flying at a trajectory that would put it over the seats just to the left of the foul pole, and onto Eutaw Street. I knew exactly where the ball was going to land, and bolted after it, but the problem was it was just hit too hard, and I was too out of position. So as it hit off of the warehouse, and rolled rapidly off the awning, none of us ballhawks had a shot at it, and it bounced off of one person’s hands before some person who had just been walking on the street got it. Had it just even slowly rolled off of the awning or taken one more bounce, I think one of us three would have gotten it. Here is where the ball bounced initially:

73113 HR Spot

And here is a picture that shows the landing spot relative to the warehouse:

73113 HR Spot 2

After that, our entertainment (well mostly my entertainment) came from seeing if the Astros could score more runs than millions of dollars they had on their payroll. See, earlier that day, the Astros had made a series of trades that dropped their payroll to $13 million. To give you an idea of how low that is, we calculated that the lowest a team could possibly pay a 25-man roster (so with every player making league minimum) was about $12.5 million. So essentially, besides Erik Bedard and a couple other guys, the Astros were a roster comprised entirely of guys making league minimum. Sadly, though, they only routed the Orioles 11-0 and not 14-0. I mean seriously, when would have been the last time a team scored more runs than millions of dollars they had on their payroll? Anyway, that was it for the game. I didn’t even bother with the umpire tunnel, and instead headed out with Alex immediately after the last out so we could get to his place as quickly as possible.

STATS:

  • 5 Balls at this Game (2 pictured because I gave 3 away)

73113 Baseballs

Numbers 592-596 for my “lifetime”:

73113 Logos

  • 150 Balls in 38 Games= 3.95 Balls Per Game
  • 5 Balls x 25,265 Fans=126,325 Competition Factor
  • 100 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 5 straight games with 2 Balls
  • 2 straight games with 3 Balls
  • 58 Balls in 15 Games at OPACY= 3.87 Balls Per Game
  • 15 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
  • 5 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at OPACY
  • 3 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at OPACY
  • Time Spent On Game 4:05-10:28= 6 Hours 23 Minutes

7/30/13 Astros at Orioles: Camden Yards

After a three-week hiatus, it was time once more to go back to Oriole Park at Camden Yards. And look at the group there as the gates opened:

73013 Opening Group Picture

That would be:

1. Zevi- Whose last name I am still not sure of.

2. Me- As played by Mateo Fischer.

3. Grant Edrington- Whom I was introduced to face-to-face at the gates before this picture was taken.

4. Alex Kopp- A ballhawk who caught Chris Davis’ 100th home run, and may have done something nearly as special involving Davis a couple entries after this one. (Translation: stay tuned to this blog for about three more entries if you want to read about it.

5. Avi Miller- The very hospitable, unofficial king of Camden Yards.

As we ballhawks ran into the left field seats, Alex beat me to one easter egg down the third base line, but I then saw a ball going down the stairs behind him as he was walking back towards me. What I should have done was kept walking calmly past him like nothing was going on, since his back was turned to the ball. What I did instead was start running before I got past him, he saw me running, turned around, ran for the ball, and picked it up.

My first actual baseball came as a product of what I’d like to call hustle, but I think is more just me getting lucky. An Orioles lefty hit a towering foul ball, so being the ballhawk closest to foul territory, when I saw the ball was probably going to bounce off the warning track and into the seats, I bolted over there. I didn’t at all expect to get the ball, since there was a man within ten feet of where the ball landed, but when I saw he couldn’t find the ball, I accelerated and saw the ball in the front row. It had trickled down the stairs and this guy had no clue it had done so. As I saw it and started running, though, there was another man opposite me who was trying to get autographs. He noticed me running, and then saw the ball. When this happened, the ball was between us but slightly closer to him. So it turned into a 20-yard footrace. I beat him to the ball, and made sure to cover the ball with my glove, since I’ve gotten my hand stepped on in similar situations. I then walked back to left field with my first ball of the day:

73013 Ball 1

See if you can identify two of the guys from the opening picture in their left field seat spots:

73013 Ballhawks in LF

Anyway, my next baseball also came in foul ground. (Spoiler alert: all of mine this day did.) I went over there at the beginning of a group of Orioles who were mostly lefties. I figured they might hit a ball or two into foul ground. And I was right. I was paying attention to something else, but when I turned, I saw a ball going to touch down in the seats by me, and I ran over to pick it up:

73013 Ball 2

I sadly did not know pretty much any of the Astros, and they all had their numbered jerseys covered, so I didn’t get any toss-ups from them. the next ball I came even relatively close to was a hit baseball from Dave Clark. If you know who that is, you may say, “But, Mateo, Dave Clark is a coach on the Astros.” Well yes, but the way I almost got a baseball hit by him was he was hitting fungoes off of the right field wall for outfielders to learn the caroms of the ball. Several of these went over the wall, and one I had perfectly tracked and lined up, but someone reached in front of me at the last second and robbed me:

73013 Dave Clark

My next and final baseball that I snagged was in right field foul ground. I was down there to get a toss-up from an Astros coach/trainer-looking person when an Astros righty hit a ball in front of me. I ran down to it, but as soon as it hit a seat, it bounced sideways. I then ran and grabbed it, but a kid who had also been chasing it also grabbed the ball right after I did. He then started pulling on the ball, and as I have done in the past, I let go of the ball and counted it:

73013 Ball 3 Diagram

I’ve said it before in this blog, but I don’t think a situation has arisen thus far this year that has required me explaining it, so I’ll explain my rationale for the newer readers. I don’t like having a scoring system that incentivizes being a not-nice person. That’s why even though some ballhawks don’t count baseballs they give away baseballs (and I completely understand their way of seeing things) I count them, because it allows me to be a nice person despite my scoring system, whereas I might be much less likely to give baseballs away to kids if I didn’t count them in my stats. Additionally, if I grab onto a baseball and another person grabs onto it afterwards, my standard procedure is to let go, let them have the ball, and count it anyway. Because while this person grabbed onto a ball that I already had possession of, it wouldn’t be nice of me/look good if I ripped the ball out of their hands, so I just let it go. I felt okay about the decision in this particular instance until I saw that the ball I had just let go of was a Houston Astros 50th anniversary commemorative baseball. Then I kind of wished I had ripped it out of the kids’ hands and given him one of the baseballs I had snagged earlier in BP.

That was it for snagging, though. I was in the flag court the whole game, and I believe the only homer that was hit in the game went to left field. The highlight of the game by far was watching Jonathan Villar–who we were watching since he had/has 0 career home runs–steal home. I don’t think any of us on the flag court (Grant, Alex, and myself) saw him right away, but it was amazing once we picked him up out of the corner of our eyes and realized what had just happened. Take a look for yourselves:

Oh, and another thing that was amazing that I forgot to mention earlier in the entry was that Chris Carter hit the facing of the second deck in left field. I don’t know exactly how far that is, but it was certainly the farthest hit baseball I’ve seen hit there, and one usher said the only person he had ever seen do that was Jose Canseco–if that puts anything into perspective for you. Main point: Play back for Chris Carter.

STATS:

  • 3 Baseballs at this game (2 pictured because I let 1 slip away voluntarily)

73013 Baseballs

Numbers 589-591 for my “career”:

73013 Sweet Spots

  • 145 Balls in 37 Games= 3.92 Balls Per Game
  • 3 Balls x 24,904 Fans=74,712 Competition Factor
  • 99 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 4 straight games with 2 Balls
  • 53 Balls in 14 Games at OPACY= 3.79 Balls Per Game
  • 14 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
  • 4 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at OPACY
  • 2 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at OPACY
  • Time Spent On Game 1:20-10:20= 9 Hours

7/27/13 Mets at Nationals: Nationals Park

I have been to as many Mets at Nationals games as probably 95% of the baseball-watching population. I have little to no doubt in my mind that it is the match-up I have seen more games than any other in baseball. That said, in terms of excitement, this was in at least the lower 50th percentile. That started with what was happening when I got to the gates:
72713 Opening Picture

I was utterly confused, because I had gotten there 3 hours early. So naturally I tried to scan my ticket and get in, but that’s when I learned that this was a season ticket holder event, and as a result of this, 1. There would be no batting practice, and 2. The gates were only opening 1.5 hours early for the game.

Instead of getting in line and waiting in the sun for 90 minutes, I sat down in the shade and charged my iPhone (because I’m starting to suspect that they are even equipped with a battery). In this time,  I saw the line grow massive outside of the center field gate:

72713 CF Gate 1 72713 CF Gate 2

Now normally I would have freaked out and jumped in line after five people got int it. But instead, I got up from sitting five minutes before the gates were supposed to open and relied on human stupidity to get me to near the front of the line. And I was right!

72713 Third in line

When the stadium opens 2.5 hours early, the only gate that’s open is the center field gate, but then all gates open 1.5 hours before the game starts. While pretty much no one else bothered to check, I figured since all of the stadium staff was already in the stadium for the season ticket holder event and the gates were opening 1.5 hours early, this would be the case. As a result of me being  one of the first in closer to home plate, I was the first person to get to the Nationals pitchers warming up down the right field line:

72713 Nats in RF

And because of this, I got a toss-up from a face I hadn’t seen in a while: Ryan Mattheus. It was nice to see him back from his rehab stint, because if I’m not mistaken, he has tossed me more baseballs than any other person ever. (Actually I now checked, and he is the leader.) Here he added onto his lead by tossing me my seventh baseball ever:

72713 Ball 1

That would be it for snagging until the game itself. I would actually go on to give this baseball away to an usher I know in left field, as I sat out there for the majority of the game. Although, I must clear up something from two sentences ago: I actually snagged my second and final baseball in *between* the game and not during the game itself. The two teams played eight innings, but there was then a rain delay in some part (or right after) of the eighth inning. So what I did since I was down by the dugout at this point in the game, is I got a baseball from home plate umpire Lance Barksdale as he cleared the field for the rain delay. There was then an hour-long rain delay, and then the two teams played the ninth inning. The delay was actually insult to injury, because this was a game that was cruising along until the seventh inning, where it then decided to start taking forever with a bunch of base runners and pitching changes.

But anyway, like I said, this wasn’t a very exciting game. That’s all I have for you. Be sure as always to read the stats. Goodbye.

STATS:

  • 2 Baseballs at this game (1 pictured because I gave the other away)

72713 Baseballs

Numbers 587 and 588:

72713 Sweet Spots

  • 142 Balls in 36 Games= 3.94 Balls Per Game
  • 2 Balls x 37,464 Fans=74,928 Competition Factor
  • 98 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 3 straight games with 2-3 Balls
  • 175 Balls in 40 Games at Nationals Park= 4.38 Balls Per Game
  • 32 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
  • 3 straight Games with at least 2-3 Balls at Nationals Park
  • Time Spent On Game 10:58-8:13= 9 Hours 15 Minutes

7/24/13 Pirates at Nationals: Nationals Park

While the same guys were at the game who were there the previous day, the District of Columbia also had a new ballhawk face this game:

72413 Greg and Mateo

That on the left would be Greg Barasch, an excellent ballhawk from New York who also happens to be my former neighbor. So if the competition the day before wasn’t bad enough, the mygameballs.com leader in Balls Per Game was now being thrown in the mix. However, I will spoil the entry a bit and tell you that I snagged more baseballs  during this game than I did the previous. I probably should have snagged more baseballs than anybody besides Greg, but I have one person to blame for this: myself.

When the gates opened, we actually had another ballhawk you may remember from past entries, Dave Butler. I would mention/link him a lot more, but he still has yet to get a mygameballs.com account. Anyway, he’s there for pretty much every Nationals game, so if you see a man wearing a San Fransisco Giants hat chasing baseballs during BP, that’s probably Dave. He, Erik, and Greg all headed for the Red Seats, so it was a no-brainer for Rick and I to pick the seats in straight-away left for the first group–which happens to be pitcher’s BP:

72413 Ballhawks

During this, I forget which pitcher it was hit a ball just to my left. I tracked the ball, put my glove up, but The ball bounced in and out of the glove and onto the ground, where another fan picked it up. I (not-so-)secretly blame Greg for this, because it was with my lefty glove that the ball bounced out. When I first got the glove in the Winter, I first tested it out with Greg and his dad in Riverside Park. There he told me, “I don’t know. I think you’re going to drop one because of the glove and then go back to your normal one.” Well I hadn’t been to the same game as Greg too often this season, but this being the first time the glove had failed me so far was too coincidental. GREG WAS BEHIND THIS SOMEHOW, I TELL YOU! It was right after that I switched to my right-handed glove. (Well it’s actually technically my mom’s glove, but that’s a story for another blog entry.)

With this glove in hand, I went over to right field for the Zimmerman, Werth, and I believe Bernadina. Anyway, just as Rick told me that Werth can go opposite field, Werth did just that. Rick was in front of me, and the ball appeared to be falling short of me, so I figured my chances of getting the ball were gone. Surprisingly, though, Rick misjudged the ball by running too far to his left, so I now had a window of opportunity that I used to catch the ball on the fly for my first of the day:

72413 Ball 1

My next baseball came when the Pirates started hitting. Normally what I do when the opposing team starts hitting at Nationals Park is go down the third base line and try to get baseballs from the players of said team who are warming up. I didn’t get anything from these players, but as I saw a ball roll into the net that the Nationals have set up for BP to “protect their fans from projectiles leaving the field” (a.k.a. themselves from any possible liability that may come if a fan were to get hit by said projectile.) There was another guy about my age right on top of it, and I told him that I would get the ball for him if he moved out of the way. My plan was to cast the net the Nationals had set up, as if fishing, to reel the ball in close enough where I could pick it up off the ground. As I was doing this, a second baseball rolled to the same spot, so the guy said, “Oh, now we can both have one.” What I should have done was said yes, but offered to pick up both baseball, since I was taller. I mean the reason for me picking up both wouldn’t have actually been because I was taller; it would have been because I could then count both baseball even though I would end up giving one away. Instead, dumb me reeled both in and let him pick up his baseball as  picked up mine:

72413 Ball 2

(For the record, my hand is the one on the left. You can tell that from the green “UMN #GetActive” wristband. I’ve pretty much worn it every day since November, 6, 2012.) I then met up with Erik, who was also trying to get a toss-up form Pirate relievers. As he left the section, he did a brief run-through of the names of the Pirate pitchers. This served me well because my third ball of the day came when I asked Jeff Locke by name for a baseball in the Red Seats. Erik gets the huge assist on that one because Locke was not responding at all to the tons of kids requesting a ball, but when I said his name, Locke’s head shot up and he tossed me the baseball before I could get the rest of the request out:

72413 Ball 3

That was it for BP. My next baseball came after BP at the Pirates bullpen. Both Erik and I ended up there after I alerted him to two baseballs that Bryan Morris had under-thrown into the  gap in front of the Red Seats. Erik was already sitting down behind the bullpen when batting practice ended, so I went over to him and told him to hurry up because I was afraid the groundskeepers were going to get the baseballs out of the gap, since they were already rolling the equipment off the field. When we got there, though, the baseballs were still there, so groundskeepers were no longer the problem. The problem was you’re not exactly allowed to retrieve baseballs out of this gap. So I first tried to shield Erik’s string from the usher, but when the usher–who I know–came down to check tickets, I tried to distract her from the glove trick by talking to her until Erik had reeled up the two baseballs. I’m pretty sure it would have worked ceteris paribus, but there were a ton of kids right in front of the usher begging Erik for the baseballs, so she realized what he was doing. Thankfully, by the time she went over to confront him, he had already pulled in the two baseballs, and got away without punishment by emphasizing the fact that he had given both baseballs away to kids–which he had.

After that, Euclides Rojas tossed me a baseball when Francisco Liriano finished throwing his bullpen session. I’m pretty sure Erik would have gotten the ball, since he told me that Rojas has tossed him about 20 baseballs in 2013, but he had left by that point because he had to leave the next morning from Pittsburgh to go to Miami and see the Pirates there. So as a a product of that, I got this guy:

72413 Ball 4

As for the game, I tried doing the same thing as the previous game and studying for my driving written test, but it was an absolute failure because I was too busy eating two bags of shelled peanuts a nice usher I know that works in the Diamond Club gave me. But don’t worry, I ended up passing. The test-taker needed to get a minimum of 23 questions right, and I got just that. (I had heard somewhere else that it was 24, so I actually thought I had already failed for the last 6 questions and was just finishing the test for fun at that point.)As a result of all of that I got this guy:
72413 Learners Permit

(As I write this I have just driven for my first time in years with my new permit, and I have to say; it was much less terrifying than I thought it would be given that it was my first time with a permit.) At the end of the game, I headed down to the dugout:
72413 Dugout

And there I got my fifth and final ball of the day from home plate umpire Mike Estabrook:

72413 Ball 5

And if you’re wondering, the four of us ballhawks snagged a combined for 23 total baseballs. Greg and Erik snagged 9 and 6, respectively despite both leaving the game early, I snagged 5, and Rick snagged 3, but his stats are always more impressive since he goes for pretty much only hit baseballs.

STATS:

  • 5 Baseballs at this Game (4 pictured because I gave 1 away)

72413 Baseballs

Numbers 582-586 for my life:
72413 Sweet Spots

  • 140 Balls in 35 Games= 4.00 Balls Per Game
  • 5 Balls x 33,636 Fans=168,180 Competition Factor
  • 97 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 173 Balls in 39 Games at Nationals Park= 4.44 Balls Per Game
  • 31 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
  • Time Spent On Game 2:57-11:29= 8 Hours 32 Minutes

7/23/13 Pirates at Nationals: Nationals Park

While I accidentally missed out on the first game of the series, I got to the gates of Nationals Park for the second game of their series with the Pirates, and look who was at the gate awaiting me:

72313 Opening Picture

Left to right, that would be:

1. Myself.

2. Erik Jabs- The current mygameballs.com season leader with 446 baseballs this, who has also snagged 2,602 baseballs in his lifetime.

3. Rick Gold- A ballhawk/ employee of MLB.com who is slightly behind Erik in both baseball snagging categories I mentioned in his description.

Suffice to say, I was way out of my league, as is the case when most ballhawks are in the same ballpark as I am. For the first fifteen minutes, though, I was holding my own. Actually, I’m pretty sure I snagged three baseballs before either of them had snagged a single baseball.

Like I usually do for pitcher’s BP, I went to straight-away left:

72313 LF

Up to that point, the only pitcher Rick and I had never gotten  a ball from that had been up in the majors for any considerable amount of time was Jordan Zimmerman. So when he was up, I relaxed a bit. Sure enough, though, he launched the furthest-hit ball I’ve seen him hit. Naturally, I was taken back by how far the ball was traveling, so I ran back up the steps. However, although the ball was hit hard and high by Zimmerman’s standards, by the time I had run into a row, I realized the ball was falling short, so I wasn’t able to catch the ball on the fly. Instead I watched it drop in front of me and picked it up for my first of the day:

72313 Ball 1

I mean yeah I got the ball, but that misread had me feeling just absolutely awful about how the rest of the day was going to go. The next baseball, though, would have me feeling even worse. After the pitcher’s BP, all of us ballhawks did a musical chairs of sorts with the sections we were inhabiting. Said game of musical chairs ended with me in the Red Seats. There, I saw a ball get hit into the section of field between the Red Seats and right field seats. When I saw a Nationals player going to retrieve it, I ran over to the corner spot of the section. I reacted to him walking over so quickly, in fact, that I neglected to look at if there was anything in my way in the row of seating I was running through. Normally seats in stadiums flip up automatically when someone’s not sitting in them. One of the seats in this row, though, was the exception to that rule. Someone had sat in the seat earlier and it was left down. So as I ran through the row, I was taken out by said seat. The Nationals player was still walking, though; so I immediately got up from a fall that I would have otherwise taken my time in getting up from and asked this player if he could toss me the ball:

72313 Ball 2

He wasn’t wearing his jersey at the time, but with the help of Erik Jabs, we figured out it was Ian Krol, since the only other lefty pitcher on the Nationals roster, I believe at the time, was Fernando Abad.

Us ballhawks then did our game of musical chairs once more, which had me in right field. There I got my third and final ball of the day when Gio Gonzalez overthrew these people and I picked it up to give it to them:

72313 Ball 3 People

The other two ballhawks then went on to snag a combined 14 baseballs to my none. My only contribution to anyone’s stats from this point on revolved around this:

72313 Gap

See, while I used to have a glove trick, it started becoming more trouble than it was worth, so I disassembled, and am thus currently without a retrieval device that is my own. So when I saw a ball go into the gap, I sent out this tweet warning the two other ballhawks:

72313 First Tweet

And then this one when another baseball went into the gap:72313 Second Tweet

Neither of them read it, but Erik was the first one to come over, so I pointed both out to him, and he reeled them in with his glove trick as I just stood off to his side and blocked the view of his string from the usher at the top of the section.

There was then another baseball that got dropped or hit in there, so while Erik was in the seats in straight-away left, I waved him over and he fished the ball out of the gap. And that was it. Erik and I went to the bullpen after BP, where he got a grounds crew guy to toss him a ball, and we watched Gerrit Cole warm up. But after that, he left to spend time with his family in Annapolis, and I watched the game in left field as I read this:

72313 Drivers Manual

I still put my glove on for righties, but I was scheduled to take my driving test three days from this game, so I figured it would be a good time to actually start studying since I hadn’t at all previous to that point. And as bland as it can be for some people, Nationals Park is still a pretty great place to watch a baseball game:

72313 View from LF

Then again, I think I would talk differently sitting in the 400 level every game.

STATS:

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

72313 Baseballs

Numbers 579-581 for my career:

72313 Sweet Spots

  • 135 Balls in 34 Games= 3.97 Balls Per Game
  • 3 Balls x 32,976 Fans=98,928 Competition Factor
  • 96 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 168 Balls in 38 Games at Nationals Park= 4.42 Balls Per Game
  • 30 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
  • Time Spent On Game 2:58-11:00= 7 Hours 2 Minutes

7/20/13 Dodgers at Nationals: Nationals Park

I was supposed to actually go to the game before this, but I got there late enough that the game was no longer worth it to me, so I sold my ticket to a scalper and went home. That game was because of me setting up two bank accounts and the meeting to do so running incredibly late, but this one was good ol’ Washington DC Metro. I left my apartment at 3:16, which for a 4:30 gate opening time is more than enough time, since the commute itself only takes about half-an-hour. But once I took my 13 minute bus ride to the train station, I waited for over 15 minutes for the train, from where I had to take another train, which I waited for in two different metro stations for a total of about half-an-hour. At the end of all of it, I got to Nationals Park at about 5:10, and after running from the metro station to the stadium along with all of the stress of the whole situation, I was absolutely exhausted:

72013 Mateo exhausted

(I didn’t feel at all in the mood to do a second take, since being unintentionally (the intention being on my part; not of others) late to batting practice/ is one of the most sure-fire ways to get me mad.) As I entered the stadium, I made a straight shot for the right field seats just in time to see Todd Cook make a very impressive catch. Here he is right after it:

72013 Todd Cook

(If you don’t know Todd and his sons, Tim and Kellan, they’re the ones on the left-hand side of the frame.) I had actually been a section away from the ball when it was hit wondering where the Cooks were, since I knew they were at the game. Given the fact that I was late and still had no baseballs to that point, I ran after where the ball was headed in case of a deflection. Just then I saw a man come from the right field corner spot and reach behind two people to make a backhand catch. It took me a couple seconds, but I then realized it was Todd. I yelled to try to get his attention, but he was too far away, and my main focus at the time was to get on the board so I could relax. So I got Fernando Abad to toss me a ball from about 75 feet away from the wall, but the ball passed through the sun just before getting to me. Not having sunglasses on at the time, all I could do was put my glove up where I thought the ball was going to go and hope I could time the squeeze of my glove just right. I put my glove in the right place, because I felt the ball hit the palm of my hand, but I closed my glove a fraction of a second too late, because moments later I saw the ball rolling around on the ground and getting picked up by this guy:

72013 Other Guy

With the crowd there for Davey Johnson bobblehead day, I sincerely thought I had just blown my best chance of avoiding a shutout. Anyway, it was right after that Todd Cook saw me and came to say hello:

72013 Todd Cook Everybody

I then spent the next few minutes talking to Tim while simultaneously keeping the corner of my eye on the field for flying baseballs. A couple minutes after that, it was almost time for the rest of the stadium to open. Todd and I had both seen a ball hit in foul territory, so here we are getting ready to rush for it:

72013 Race to the seats

It was just then that for whatever reason the sprinklers went off on the field at this time:

72013 Sprinklers

This worried me because I thought that might be a sign the Dodgers weren’t going to take BP. Turns out it didn’t matter because not only did Todd correctly guess where the ball was and beat me to it, but I didn’t get anything for the rest of BP. The Dodgers were a surprisingly-bad hitting team and their pitchers were being stingy.

After BP, the Cooks and I both went to the bullpen, where I got a picture of Tim with one of his BP balls:

72013 Tim BP Ball

But the Cooks soon left to go exploring/to their actual seats, so that left me watching Zack Grienke first mistakenly go to the center field side of the bullpen looking for an entrance, and then warm up by doing what we pitchers call “shadowing”:

72013 Grienke Shadowing

Shadowing is when a pitcher mimics his pitching motion without actually releasing the ball to completely focus on just practicing and refining his mechanics. Grienke then played long-toss outside of the bullpen and eventually came back into the bullpen to warm up by actually throwing to a catcher:

72013 Grienke and Catcher

When Grienke was done, and Rick Honeycutt was putting the extra baseball in the bullpen bag, I asked him if he could get a baseball that had gone in the flowers at the back of the bullpen for me. Either he didn’t hear what I had said or was just too lazy to get it, he got a ball out of the bag and tossed it to me:

72013 Ball 1

Having avoided a shutout, I decided I was done ballhawing for the day, and texted Todd to see where he and the boys were. I figured that because I really enjoy spending time with the Cooks, and the fact that we don’t go to the same game that often meant my time would be much better served going around with them than trying to get an extra baseball to pad my stats.

So I met them at the picnic area above left field:

72013 Picnic Area

Little did I know it since I had never been there before sunset, but it has an amazing view of Washington. It also has an amazing view of the concourse behind the left field seats, which leads to the center field plaza:

72013 LF Concourse

Pretty neat, huh? The boys used this view to take pictures with their respective cameras:

72013 Boys n Cameras

The reason Tim has his own camera because he used to borrow his dad’s and break it. And Kellan has his own because while Todd didn’t let him use his after past experience with Tim, Kellan borrowed Tim’s camera and broke that. So Kellan’s is actually a vlog camera that can also take pictures, is waterproof, and most importantly, can be dropped from 7′ in the air and not be damaged at all.

We then went to their actual section behind home plate. Todd and I took advantage of the fact that we were in the last row of seats to be able to spit our sunflower seeds away without having to worry about hitting anyone with them….That is until we realized we were right above the upper-level concourse. Tim took advantage to get some shots of the pitcher and hitter from an interesting angle:
72013 Tim Taking Pictures

We then went all over the place during the game, but towards the end of it, we got a lady to take a picture of us. I asked her to take it landscape, but she insisted that Kellan’s head couldn’t fit in the frame:

72013 Group Picture Take 1

(Hmm…I wonder why.) We then bent down, and did a second take:

72013 Take 2

(*sigh* Close enough.) At the end of the game, we headed down to the field-level concourse to try to get down for an umpire ball. When we got down there, a camera man asked Tim if he wanted to film a bit. So here is Tim filming stuff that the cameraman later told us was on the air in the Dodgers’ broadcast of the game:

72013 Tim on Camera

That was awesome. And even more awesome was the fact that Tim got the save ball after Chris Withrow’s first career win. Well…sort of. Kenley Jansen initially did toss Tim the ball, but when he went into the dugout and got told what he had just done, he asked to swap baseballs with Tim for another and Tim gladly obliged. It would have been cool had Tim walked away with that small souvenir, but I am glad the Mr. Withrow got his baseball. I think it’s possible it meant a little something to him as well.

STATS:

  • 1 Ball at this Game :-{

72013 Baseball

Number 578 for my lifetime:

72013 Sweet Spot

  • 132 Balls in 33 Games= 4.00 Balls Per Game
  • 1 Balls x 41,816 Fans=41,816 Competition Factor
  • 95 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 165 Balls in 37 Games at Nationals Park= 4.46 Balls Per Game
  • 29 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
  • Time Spent On Game 3:30-1:24= 9 Hours 54 Minutes
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