After over a week off from games and simply doing other cool stuff, it was back to Nationals Park where I met up with some familiar faces:
Those would be my friends–left to right–Zack Hample and Ben Weil. They drove in from New York pretty much to get a shot at the Rockies baseballs. Well at least Ben did. Zack was almost guaranteed to get a Rockies ball, but he also needed to knock out Nationals Park as he is going to all 30 stadiums as a part of some year-long craziness that BIGS Sunflower Seeds is putting him on.
When it came time for the gates to open, we all rushed inside just to be disappointed:
What I deduced was that the Nationals had an eleven-inning game in Philadelphia the night prior combined with a bus trip back, so they got back to Washington pretty late and Davey Johnson who is notorious for listening to what the players want to do decided not to take batting practice. So Ben and I just hung out in the left field seats. I don’t know what he was potentially waiting for in this next picture, but we sat down after that:
And then talked for 45 minutes or so while we sat and watched more nothingness:
The first action we saw was pretty much an hour after the gates opened when the Rockies simultaneously started hitting and warming up. I could have stayed in the outfield to try to snag a couple home run balls, but I headed here instead:
That’s because some players and coaches (Yorvit Torrealba being the only one in-frame for this picture) were tossing baseballs around at the dugout, but all of them tossed their baseballs into the infield when they were done with them. It was frustrating to me because I figured they would be done before the infielders and outfielders were done warming up in shallow left field, but they actually took longer. And I know this cost me a ball because when he and his throwing partner were done, Jordan Pacheco turned looking for a person to throw his warm-up ball to but then ran into the outfield when he didn’t see anyone. Had I been over there in Nationals gear I probably would have gotten the ball, much less being decked out in purple as I was.
I then headed further down the line where I got Jhoulys (that’s probably wrong) Chacin to toss me a ball. Unfortunately, Chacin tossed it over my head where the ball then deflected at a 90-degree angle. So while I was looking for the ball in the rows below where it had hit, an old man picked the ball up and offered it to me. I told him to keep it, but he insisted I take it. So while I didn’t count it, I walked over to the outfield and gave it to a kid with a glove on my way.
My first actual countable ball came when Nolan Arenado hit a ball to my right in the Red Seats. I ran over, initially thinking the ball was going into the left field bullpen, and caught the ball as a man in a blue shirt–who was tracking the ball the whole time and whose reflection you can kind of see in the next picture–ran into me:
It wasn’t with bad intentions that he ran into me, but to use a basketball analogy since this game was the same day as Game 7 of the NBA Finals, it was an “and-one” situation. He was actually also involved in my next snag. Carlos Gonzalez hit a ball opposite field in that same group, and while it isn’t my custom to reach in front of anyone if I’m not in a row in front of them, this same guy was camped under the ball with no glove, so I went right behind him in case he couldn’t handle the ball on the fly. Surprise alert: He couldn’t. The ball bounced through his hands, hit the seat in front of me, and flew up in the air, where I snatched it up. I then handed it to a kid to my left.
A couple minutes later though, something that has never happened to me ever happened. The kid came back to me and asked me to sign the ball for him:
It was cool and embarrassing at the same time because I have awful handwriting to begin with, so adding in the curvature of the ball made the signature all the more horrendous. Please don’t enlarge the image to see. (And of course now that I said it, about 50 of you are going to click on the picture and enlarge it.)
My next ball was tossed up to me by this guy:
I initially had no clue who he was, but upon retrospection, I’m pretty sure he is the Rockies strength and conditioning coordinator, Brian Jordan. Anyway, he tried to toss me a ball initially by hitting this advertisement thing:
and then having the ball roll down the hill in center field. It may sound ridiculous, but look how close he got:
He then just tossed the next ball he got up to me normally after saying, “I’ll get you a baseball; don’t worry.” So that was nice of him. I then focused my attention on getting a Rockies 20th year commemorative baseball, but it actually cost me a ball as I called out to Jim Wright–who was in the bullpen by one of said baseballs, so I gave up on that pretty quickly. (The way it cost me was I was over by the bullpen and a ball was hit right to where I had been standing beforehand.) But regardless, my next ball wouldn’t come until almost after batting practice was over. Right at the end of batting practice, the Rockies catching coach–a.k.a. the “we have a pretty good hitting catcher prospect but he can’t field at all, so we need a coach just for him” coach–Jerry Weinstein came into the bullpen, so I asked him if he could toss me one of the baseballs that was down there. By the time I had got to him he had already tossed the commemorative up, but he tossed me a regular ball up:
And that was it for the game. I headed to the dugout at the end of batting practice and met up with Zack and Ben there where we found out about a very special food offer at Nationals Park. I then headed out to left field with Ben while Zack went to the dugout for the game itself, where this picture pretty much sums up our first sour innings out in left field:
If it sounds like I’m being uncharacteristically vague, that’s because I am…purposefully. And that’s due to the fact that I included all of these details in my latest vlog, so check that out if you want to fill in the gaps. I actually didn’t include all three of us playing catch before the gates opened, which I should have, but this is something that is going to start happening here. If I cover stuff that happened during or surrounding any given game in the vlog, I won’t write about it here because that just seems redundant. I won’t announce when vlogs come out on here, but if you so desire, you can subscribe to my channel by clicking here or you can follow me on Twitter by clicking over in the sidebar over there —-> to get an update every time I upload a video. Here was the view for Ben and I for pretty much the whole nine innings of the game:
But anyway, both Ben and I tried to get a ball from the bullpen people after the game. He did; I didn’t. So he ended with 5 baseballs along with Zack, who had actually been trailing both of us as BP ended with 3 baseballs, but since he started the game out at the dugout, he snagged two third-out balls and lead both of us until Ben got the ball right at the end of the game.
And that was it. I chatted with Ben for a couple of minutes after the game, but then headed out with my step-dad, who had joined Ben and I in the bleachers at the seventh inning stretch. He had been in the stadium the whole game, but because I didn’t know where I would be sitting before I got to the game and both of our cellphones were getting horrible service, it wasn’t until then that we could know where the other was.
- 4 Balls at this game (3 pictured because I gave the other away)
- 119 Balls in 29 Games= 4.10 Balls Per Game
- 4 Balls x 31,927 Fans=127,708 Competition Factor
- 91 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 152 Balls in 33 Games at Nationals Park= 4.61 Balls Per Game
- 25 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
- 9 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
- 7 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
- 5 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 4 Balls
- Time Spent On Game 3:28-11:03= 7 Hours 31 Minutes
Welcome to the entry of quite possibly my worst batting practice performance ever. So I’ll try to keep this entry brief and not make something out of nothing.
When I arrived from Alex Kopp‘s house where I had spent the night, there was already a couple people in line, but thanks to cool people I knew like Tim Anderson and Rick Gold being at the front of the line, I also got to be at the front of the line. As a result of me being essentially the first one in the gates, I found two easter eggs in left field, and actually probably should have gotten three or four, but when I got in, a person cleaning in the seats asked me if I wanted to come and get a ball with him in first base foul ground. I probably should have told him no, but I figured that if I could get an extra baseball out of it, my journey would be worth it.
Well when we got over there, someone had already gotten the baseball and I saw ballhawks pick up two easter eggs in the time that I stopped and talked to this guy that I probably would have otherwise had. But anyway, when I had my two baseballs to start the day, I was thinking about big numbers for this game. I would then go on to not snag a ball fro the rest of batting practice–hence the lack of pictures from this game. It didn’t look like it was going to be that tough a day either. This was the view of the seats in left field when I got back after making the journey for the potential third easter egg, which besides having Alex and Tim in it, didn’t look that bad:
And it wasn’t just me either. Between myself, Alex, Tim, and Rick, we combined for a total of two hit baseballs snagged during BP and no toss-ups. It was just for whatever reason a tough BP. I almost got a ball from Dane De La Rosa, but when he asked me if I had already gotten a ball that day, I replied honestly and said yes. He then kept looking for someone to give the ball to before tossing it back into the ball bucket in center field. I’m thinking I should have replied with a clever response that reflected the fact that I still hadn’t gotten a ball during BP yet, but his question caught me so off-guard that I couldn’t think of anything besides just telling him what he wanted to hear.
After batting practice, I saw a ball inside of where the grounds crew stays during the games, below the right-center field seats, so I camped out there hoping to ask whoever entered there first for the ball. I didn’t take a picture in my time there, but I found out that someone else did while exploring the hashtag “opacy” on Instagram, so here I am waiting right above the spot where the ball was for someone to retrieve it:
I waited there for a solid half-hour as the grounds crew people were just starting to fix up the field post-batting practice when I got there. I watched and got ready every time a groundskeeper crossed in front of me on the warning track, bu none ever actually went inside the gate. Then, a couple people who I didn’t recognize as members of the grounds crew passed by me and into the gate. I was so surprised that they would be entering the area that I didn’t even ask them to go get the ball. What I did do was sit on the edge of my seat and be prepared for when one of them would come back out. When one of the guys came back out, I immediately saw that he had the ball in his hand and asked him before anyone else could get to him. He then tossed it to me for my third and final ball of the day:
I would then give that ball away to an usher at the top of the section and instructed him to give it away to the first kid with a glove he saw. I like to do this because it’s a win-win for myself and the usher. I get to show the usher that I am human and like to see kids go home happy with a baseball, and it lets the usher look like the hero for being the one to give the baseball to the kid and see his/her face light up when he/she gets the ball.
And that was it. I wouldn’t snag another ball for the rest of the game. I would sit out in the flag court pretty much the whole game with Alex and Tim–who managed to get a Mike Trout home run ball tossed up to him–but nothing would be hit up there.
- 3 Baseballs at this Game
Numbers 559-561 for my career:
- 115 Balls in 28 Games= 4.11 Balls Per Game
- 3 Ball x 22,834 Fans=68,502 Competition Factor
- 90 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 50 Balls in 13 Games at OPACY= 3.85 Balls Per Game
- 13 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 4:08-10:39= 6 Hours 31 Minute
Seeing how all I saw was rain in the forecast and didn’t know where I would be staying for the night the morning of this game, I seriously contemplated just not going to this game. And despite the good times that were had as a result of going to this game, the frustration that came out of it kind of still has me wishing I wouldn’t have gone.
When I got to Oriole Park at Camden Yards, this was the scene on the field:
But it actually wasn’t surprising at all. I had come from Washington that morning, and in walking from the train station in Baltimore to OPACY, it felt like I was in a monsoon. I really couldn’t believe how hard it was raining. It was actually raining so hard that some streets had turned into two-foot-deep rivers. It was seriously crazy. Even crazier was that it pretty much completely stopped right when I thought what I was doing by walking to the ballpark through this was insane and entered a 7-Eleven. I was left absolutely drenched, so I assume so too was the field. As I got in, though, there were a few Angels warming up down the left field line, so when I got over there, I asked who I believe was Hank Conger for the ball, and he asked me who my favorite player on the Angels was. I thought it was one of those situations where I was supposed to say it was him, but with my uncertainty at the time that it was Conger at the time, I responded with, “You, of course.” But when he asked, “Trout?” I realized that it was because a bunch of people were coming down from New Jersey to watch Mike Trout play, and that Conger was legitimately asking. So as he tossed me the ball, I gave him my legitimate answer that Ernesto Frieri was my favorite Angel:
You can kind of see Conger behind the Orioles grounds crew, but he was jogging off as he tossed me the ball. I then got Ryan Madson’s autograph and tried to help Avi Miller get Ernesto Frieri to toss us a baseball/take a picture with him and another friend/OPACY regular, Zevi. But in the time that Frieri was throwing, I stood back and tried to get a ball form one of the new Angels throwing pairs:
I think I could have, but C.J. Wilson apparently melts in the rain and ran inside the clubhouse every time it even started drizzling, so his catch session with Ernesto Frieri took forever, and he actually played catch with a couple of kids in the front row. I’ll upload the footage to YouTube if enough of you guys want to see it, but I really don’t feel like doing it otherwise. He also tossed about seven baseballs into the stands during this catch session–which I found really nice. Unfortunately, I was pretty far away from him at most times, so none of them came my way.
Tommy Hanson came out to play catch with Steve Soliz after all of these guys finished their catch sessions. I was waving my arms to get his attention from about fifteen rows deep, since there were a ton of fans in the first two rows. And when Hanson was done throwing, he tossed me the ball from about thirty feet away:
He then motioned for me to toss the ball back to him. I couldn’t tell if he was serious, so I started to pull the ball out of my glove, but this was also my lefty glove. That and the fact that he was quite a ways away at that point made me very hesitant to throw the ball back to him. I was much more likely to hit the back of the head of one of the fans in the front row than I was to get the ball back to Hanson himself. Thankfully, he showed that he was joking and waved me off, so I kept the ball.
And when I say the front rows were packed, I actually do mean they were packed. Here’s a picture I took pretty much right after I got the ball from Hanson when I walked into the outfield:
Seeing that, I’m really surprised I got the ball from Hanson. But the reason I was headed towards the outfield is that I had seen a giant group of people sitting in the outfield ever since the seating bowl opened up to the public and wanted to get a picture of them:
I never confirmed this, but given the fact that they went right to their seats, the high percentage of Angels shirts amongst the group, and the even higher percentage of those shirts that had a 27 on the back of them, I’d say this was a large group of people who made the trip from Melville New Jersey in order to see their hometown hero, Mike Trout play in this series.
Anyway, nothing else happened during the game except for me finding this random Nationals program in the seats:
(Daheck?) This was on my way to the flag court where I would spend the first five innings of the game. But past the point that I saw this program, there was only one word to describe my day: frustration. I was out in the flag court with Alex Kopp, whose house I would be staying at for this trip to Baltimore. In the third inning, we were sitting in the wheelchair section just to the center field side of the flag court, talking about something, when Mike Trout hit a high fly ball to right field. We were slow to react since we were both sitting down talking to each other. In fact, it wasn’t until a little into when the camera cuts to the flag court in the video that you can even see Alex moving, and I was even slower to start moving because I didn’t think the ball was going to be a home run. But then the ball just kept carrying and carrying. Alex went straight at where the ball was landing, but knowing it was my only shot, I headed out onto Eutaw Street in case the ball bounced out there. Turns out I would/should have, but it caught one of the fences between the flag court and Eutaw, so it stopped right there. That was it for my shot. Alex meanwhile, was blocked by a person, so he couldn’t reach down to pick the ball up and a kid got it. It was frustrating because I knew from watching him in previous batting practices that Trout could hit the ball out to the opposite field, but we both weren’t prepared, and had we been in position, it would have been a semi-easy snag for either of us.
But not as easy a snag as the second ball that frustrated me. In the sixth inning, rain started pouring again, so I headed to the area behind home plate to see if I could get a ball from home plate umpire Joe West if the game was delayed:
While I was down there, Josh Hamilton hit a foul ball right over my head that went into the second deck. As soon as it did, a voice in my head told me that I should go and position myself in case there was a rebound off the second level, but the other part of me ignored it and just watched as the ball headed up there and bounced three rows below where I thought I should have been positioning myself. Hamilton then added insult to injury by hitting a home run that same at-bat just ten feet from where I usually stand in the flag court that would have probably been a semi-easy snag for me. And if that wasn’t enough, an usher forced me to get away from the umpire tunnel right as the game was being delayed, so I missed my opportunity to get a ball from the umpire because of him.
I then spent most of the rain delay in the club level with these cool people:
I apologize in advance for the fuzziness of my picture from now on as that’s how the water affected my phone’s camera. But anyway, those people,left to right, are:
1. Tim Anderson.
2. Alex Kopp.
3. Avi Miller.
I stayed there for what I’d say was about an hour, but since he had to get up at 6 o’clock the next morning, Alex really wanted to leave the game. And since I was staying with him, still didn’t know where the house was, and the warning track was looking like a lake, we agreed to leave, and I would come back and exchange an extra ticket he had for a later game to get back in if they resumed play after we left.
Long story short: it was announced pretty much as we got back to Alex’s house that the game would resume at 11:00, I headed to the stadium right as I heard this, I found out the ticket offices where I would have exchanged the ticket to get back in was closed, I also found out that the only way to get in through buying a ticket was to pay $10 cash–which I didn’t have, I wandered outside Camden Yards trying to find a way to get in for probably over two hours because I had left my glove and phone charger with Avi and Tim and needed to get them, I watched from the gate behind the Oriole Park bullpens as the Orioles closed the game out:
I got my glove from Avi, I found out that Tim had gotten four toss-up after the game because of the general lack of people and nice people at the bullpen who hooked him up, and I headed back to Alex’s place which I hoped I could find my way to again even though I was now walking there after midnight. Like I said, frustrating.
- 2 Baseballs at this Game
Numbers 557-558 for my lifetime:
- 112 Balls in 26 Games= 4.31 Balls Per Game
- 2 Ball x 15,541 Fans=31,082 Competition Factor
- 89 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 47 Balls in 12 Games at OPACY= 3.92 Balls Per Game
- 12 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 12:58-12:13= 9 Hours 15 Minute
I didn’t know it by how it looked when I left to go to this game, but it would be defined by rain. There wouldn’t be any rain when I got there, but the Nationals still didn’t take any BP:
So I just sat around and talked to an usher I know in right field and a ballhawk out there until the Mets started hitting. Then David Wright hit a ball that bounced off the warning track. It then hit off a chair in the Red Seats–where I was standing when it came time for the Mets to hit, if you didn’t catch that–and bounced right to my glove. It was one of those times where really the ball caught me. Anyway, here’s my view of the field when the Mets started hitting:
The ball bounced pretty much between the two guys in red.
And then I got Collin McHugh to toss me a ball that I then immediately gave away to a kid to my left:
(Not the one who is in the last picture, but more on him later.) The next ball I got actually left me mad. I ran into a row as I tracked a Justin Turner home run and watched as the ball flew over my head. Thankfully there wasn’t anyone behind me and I could go and pick the ball up:
I then caught a Marlon Byrd home run on the fly, which I’m actually pretty proud of; not because I tracked the ball and made a leaping catch or anything like that, but because right as the ball was coming, a kid in the first row threw his glove in the air, which blocked my view of the ball, but I still got it:
And I then gave it to a kid to my left:
The arrow closest to the field is the kid I gave the ball away to and the second arrow is the kid who threw his glove in the air. And during that same hitting group, it started pouring. And with that, the Mets ran in and batting practice was over:
So in watching a grand total of two groups of BP–roughly an eighth of a total BP– I had snagged four baseballs, which is frustrating because I can only think of how good the numbers I could have put up could have been if I would have had a full BP.
I rushed to the Mets dugout when they first ended BP, but I was too late to get a ball from them. So as the game looked like it was going to be delayed, I walked up to talk to some ushers I knew from last season behind the Mets dugout. I was just planning on saying hi to them and moving on, but I ended up talking to them for a good hour until the game was officially called. Yep, that’s right. The game was postponed after what I would say was an hour+ rain delay. They probably would have called it sooner, but teams like to wait a while longer than they actually need in order for people to buy more things at the concession stands. But anyway, after watching the first few picks of the MLB draft on the big screen, this flashed up there:
And at that point I headed through the seats towards the outfield, where I planned to exit. I would have exited through the concourse, but it was a) Packed with people who had retreated up there to get away from the rain, and b) I wanted to see if anyone left their tickets in the stands, so I could possibly have an essentially free ticket to a future game. On my way out, though, I ran into an usher who knows me because he was the one who saw my ear bleeding in my first game back here this season, so talked with him for a couple minutes on what I believed to be was my way out of the stadium. In the time I was talking with him, though, I saw two Mets players coming out to throw just beyond the tarp, so when I was done talking with the usher, I headed back towards foul ground instead of taking off:
Okay, so the person throwing closest to me I could tell was Ricky Bones, but I couldn’t tell who the far thrower was, but I figured he was an actual player on the Mets, since two coaches probably wouldn’t come out to throw in the rain. The reason I was so far back is that I could tell the ushers at the top of the staircases were being instructed to keep all the fans at the top of the section. That meant that if I would have a very short window of opportunity at the bottom of the section before an usher would come down and tell me to leave. So as the far player started to inch in, and I could tell the catch session was coming to a close, I ran down to the bottom of the steps. Fifteen seconds into me being down there, the security guard on the field closest to the tarp in that last picture told me to go up. I asked him “I can’t even stay for a couple seconds to get this ball from them?” To which he responded, “No; you gotta go up.”
So I did technically obey his command, but as I sensed the players were done throwing, I first yelled out a request for the ball to Ricky Bones, but the two talked for a couple seconds. So I very slowly backed up the stairs; no doubt angering the security guard who had told me to go up. When the two Mets headed back towards the dugout, the other Mets–who I could now tell was Shawn Marcum–had the ball, so I waved my arms at him from now at least twenty rows deep into the section, and he launched me the ball for now my fifth on the day:
And while I was pretty excited about the ball myself when I got it, I heard a cheer erupt in what I thought was my head when I got the ball, but I turned around to see there was a full section of fans who had been watching the whole thing play out. It was the second loudest cheer I’ve ever gotten for a ball next to glove tricking a ball from the second deck of Miller Park. And with that, my day of ballhawking ended on five baseballs and I finally headed off home a little earlier than normal still.
- 5 Baseballs at this Game (3 pictured because I gave 2 away)
- 110 Balls in 25 Games= 4.50 Balls Per Game
- 5 Ball x 36,000 Fans=180,000 Competition Factor
- 88 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 148 Balls in 32 Games at Nationals Park= 4.63 Balls Per Game
- 24 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
- 8 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
- 6 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
- 4 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 4-5 Balls
- Time Spent On Game 3:18-8:55= 5 Hours 37 Minutes
A day at Nationals Park and I was back for s’more:
In fact, it was only the second game of what I had planned as four consecutive games at Nationals Park. (Although, as you’ll see in later entries, that wouldn’t end up happening.)
As I entered the gates, I said hi to a fellow ballhawk behind the left field bullpen–not Rick Gold, although he was there too. And this simple hello and momentary eye contact caused us to both to miss a ball Gio Gonzalez. When I got to my regular spot in straight-away left field, though I managed to snag two baseballs Gio hit. Gio, by the way, was going absolutely nuts and must have hit ten baseballs into the seats in his rounds of BP. The first was a ball that was hit to my right. I was the only one within fifty feet of where it was going to land, so I just hoped the ball would stay in the stands and not bounce back onto the field like a couple already had that I would have otherwise snagged. It didn’t, so easily picked the ball up for my first of the day:
The next one was a ball that hit over my head by about five rows. It then trickled down the steps and I beat the previously-mentioned other ballhawk to it. I then gave this ball away to a kid who had not yet gotten a ball at the head of the section:
Then, while I was in the left field seats, I saw a ball hit in the right field seats. None of us ballhawks went for it because we were so far away and all figured someone would get to it way before we could, but when the pitchers finished hitting and I still had not seen anyone pick it up, I ran over there and found it right on the ground:
But this picture is actually staged because when I got there, a man was right in front of me and had walked into the first row to take pictures. He had actually walked right over the ball, so when I walked behind him, got the ball, and saw the look on his face when he realized what had happened, I gave him the ball. I didn’t realize it until I actually finished writing this entry, but that was my 100th ball of the season, which is always a fun milestone since I got to it almost a month earlier in the season than I did last season (7/3/12).
Then I got a toss-up from a person in a warm-up jersey:
I had no clue who he was at the moment, but after seeing Jeff Kobermus come into the game, I’m pretty sure it was him.
That was my last ball for Nationals BP, since I was in right field for most of it and they didn’t hit much out there. And when I was in the Red Seats, I just completely missed a ball that bounced into the restaurant portion of the seats, one that I misjudged and a guy behind me caught as I came up a couple inches short, and then a police officer cost me two baseballs:
You can see he’s holding one of them in his left hand. (The guy who caught the ball I misjudged, by the way, is the one in the gray shirt.) Well the first one he cost me was one that hit into the restaurant. I thought it was simply a race between myself and the guy in the gray shirt, and since I had by far the better jump, I was pretty much sure I had the ball. But then I saw someone running form the top of the stairs to the ball. This person beat me to the ball, and when I looked up I couldn’t believe it because it was a police officer, who is not supposed to keep baseballs; much less try to get them. There was then another one that hit in the restaurant that was underneath a chair. He was at the chair and trying to move it out of the way. As he was doing this, I offered to get the ball and give it to him, but he pulled the chair out of the way and snatched up the ball. This then messed me up for future balls that were headed into the restaurant, because I wasn’t used to having competition from above. I had to alter my routes to balls, and it cost me at least one baseball and just got me completely flustered because I knew that without this cop and my own mistakes, I should have already been in double-digits. I don’t want to say I used this as fuel because that sounds way too cliché and dramatic, but I definitely had to get over being this frustrated in order to keep going in BP and not let these things pile on.
When Mets BP came around, I tried the same strategy as the day before and went down the third base line in foul ground to get a ball from the Mets who were warming up. This time I got Robert Carson to loft me a ball over a couple rows of fans for my fifth on the day:
As I moved onto the next throwing pair, I saw something hilarious. So while Brandon Lyon and LaTroy Hawkins were throwing, some kids were yelling some things at them to try tot get them to throw the ball up. Well I couldn’t hear what he said, but when one kid yelled something, Hawkins caught it from about 100 feet away and yelled back, “Watch your mouth.” After he was done throwing, Hawkins then went over to the kids and had fun with them over whatever they had said:
And by “fun”, I mean in a “I’m going to make this a cool experience for you, but still not break character as a veteran of the MLB” kind of way. So he jokingly kept up that he was scolding them, but made it pretty obvious that he was indeed joking with them. Afterward, he flipped a ball up to one of the kids.
Soon after that, David Wright hit a ball that rattled around in the seats before I picked it up:
The ball actually took off a cup holder, which I thought of putting in my backpack to add to my collection of stadium cup holder at home, but eventually decided against it.
Next, Jim Malone, the Mets’ Strength and Conditioning coach picked up a ball on the warning track, and although I had forgotten his name–I used to know it by heart in 2010 when I would always see him stretching out the pitchers at Citi Field when it still opened 2.5 hours early, but knowing his name became much less important when I no longer got to see the pitchers warming up at Citi Field when the gate opening time switched back to 2 hours prior to the game.–I asked him nicely and he flipped the ball up to me when he saw my Mets gear. I then gave the ball away to a woman who was right next to me:
It was one of those that I really wanted to give away to a kid with a glove, but because I knew that everyone around there had seen me get the Wright ball, I felt as though I should probably do some that was at least seemingly kind-hearted.
It was then nearing the end of Mets BP, so I was almost all the way to the left field foul in order to get a better jump to the dugout when the Mets ended batting practice. An unforeseen benefit of this was that John Buck belted the last pitch of Mets BP over my head. Thankfully, though, I was the only one even near the ball, so I ran over and picked it up. I know it was the last pitch of BP, because as I picked the ball and turned around, I saw that the Mets were already jogging in. So I started running over to the dugout. But as I was headed over there, I realized it wouldn’t look good if I had a baseball in my hand when asking for a ball at the dugout. I don’t know why I didn’t just put it in my pocket, but I ended up handing it to a kid on my way over to the dugout mid-stride. I didn’t realize it at the time–although I had been thinking about it earlier in BP–but this was the 550th ball I had ever snagged at a baseball game.
I actually didn’t get anything at the dugout, but I headed out to right field, where I would sit for the game. Rick Gold also sat out there for the game, so I sat on the staircase closer to the foul pole of the two we usually sit on and he sat one staircase closer to center field. As a result, I was on the staircase with the usher who lets us into the right field seats, and ended up giving him two baseballs that night, which he then distributes to kids in the section.
- 8 Balls at this Game (2 pictured because I gave 6 away)
- 105 Balls in 24 Games= 4.38 Balls Per Game
- 8 Ball x 36,155 Fans=289,240 Competition Factor
- 87 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 143 Balls in 31 Games at Nationals Park= 4.61 Balls Per Game
- 23 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
- 7 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
- 5 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
- 3 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 4-5 Balls
- Time Spent On Game 2:56-11:36= 8 Hours 40 Minutes
After a brief trip to Baltimore, it was back to Washington. And look who was there to greet me:
That, if you don’t know from past entries like this one, is Rick Gold, a fellow ballhawk who lives in New Jersey and works for MLB.com, and as a result goes to games pretty much everywhere, but likes to come visit Washington perhaps more than any other city. What we’re doing in the picture is it was my first day in Washington with my behemoth of a glove that is either 14 or 15 inches. (I forgot which it is exactly and it doesn’t say on the glove itself.) And Rick’s glove is also pretty large at 14″, so we were previewing the battle of the big gloves that was going to take place during the day. I had my glove in front of his in the picture, but I’ll give you a brief preview and say that he put on a show during BP.
His day started off rough with a missed catch on a home run ball during pitcher’s BP. But fortunately he had his cup trick to retrieve the ball from the gap in front of the Red Seats and caught another ball on the fly later that Craig Stammen hit. Meanwhile in the left field seats, I managed to catch a ball off of the bat of Nathan Karns who hit a couple out:
It’s crazy to think that Karns can hit, because the Nationals pitching staff, although their in-game numbers might not necessarily reflect it, are one of the better hitting staffs in the league during BP. They routinely outperform the hitters in terms of home runs for a hitting group.
My next ball came in the Red Seats when Nathan Karns came out to field baseballs. I think I was the only one who knew his name since he had just made two starts at that point, so when I call out to him by name as he approached the wall to retrieve a ball, he tossed me the baseball for my second ball of the day. My third ball came when bench coach, Randy Knorr, fielded a ball by the Red Seats. I asked him by name for a ball and he hooked me up. Right as I got the ball, I asked a group of three kids who had gotten a ball yet. They all said they hadn’t, so I gave the ball to the kid closest to me on the left and told them I would give one of the others a ball if I snagged another ball out there in the Red Seats:
I didn’t so just that one kid got a ball from me. Although I did see another snag a ball in the time I was there afterwards. I left there when I saw the Mets players coming out to throw. The Mets are pretty bad in BP to begin with, so I knew I wouldn’t be missing much in going into foul territory for a couple of rounds. But I get ahead of myself. I forgot to mention how exactly the clinic Rick Gold was putting on unfolded. By the time I headed over into foul ground, he already had eight baseballs. If you don’t know, Rick doesn’t go for toss-ups, so besides the ball he got using his ball retriever, the other seven were hit baseballs. These seven included five balls caught on the fly and balls caught on three consecutive pitches. All were opposite field home runs by Ryan Zimmerman, and it was truly something to see. I watched him chase down and catch the first one, then as I turned to pay attention to Zimmerman again, I saw another ball headed out there, and Rick ran back towards where he had started to catch the second. I then saw him running back to where he caught the first ball and catch the third ball. He literally had two balls in his throwing hand when he caught the last of the three since he didn’t have time to put any in his backpack. He would end the game at ten baseballs with six caught on the fly. I can only imagine what numbers he could have gotten to had he been going for toss-ups as well. Or does he maybe miss some hit baseballs because he was asking for a ball somewhere in there? Does his three consecutive catches in a row? I don’t know, but it was a spectacular performance. The best I’ve ever seen in terms of a ballhawk going off by catching the hit ball.
When the Mets pitchers finished throwing, I got Scott Rice to toss me a ball:
First of all, this ball was a result of the surprising lack of Mets fans that went into foul ground to watch them warm up. But secondly, I was concentrating on another throwing pair, but when Rice and his partner Greg Burke got done throwing, I got into the first row, and as Rice kept walking by me with the ball, I asked him by name if he could toss me the ball. Not surprisingly–as I was the only one to do so, he obliged me for my fourth ball of the game.
My fifth ball of the day came when I headed back out to the Red Seats. When Matt Harvey went to dead center field to retrieve a ball, I went to the corner spot at the front-left of the section and asked him for the ball. He looked up at me and tossed me the ball:
Batting practice would end within five minutes of me getting this ball, so that would be it for me for BP. Towards the end of the game, though, I headed down here as the Mets lead the game 2-1:
I figured the game was over since the Mets had their pretty-reliable closer Bobby Parnell on the mound. But that’s when the Mets showed why they were the Mets and why the Nationals were the Nationals. You see this is the second game I have been to between these two teams where the Mets lead the whole game, but the Nationals went on a roll in the bottom of the ninth that made it look like they were just toying with the Mets. I’ll just tell you what happened. Ryan Zimmerman hit a double to lead off the inning. Zimmerman then advanced on a wild pitch. Adam LaRoche then hit a single to score Zimmerman. At this point I was very unhappy even though the Nationals–who I am a fan of–had tied the game because I really didn’t want extra innings since I was already by the dugout, and that’s where it appeared this game was headed. But again, thank you to the Mets for being the Mets, because Ian Desmond doubled to make it runners on second and third with no outs. (Since Trent Jewett, the third base coach was obviously not going to send LaRoche in that situation.) Roger Bernadina then came up, but with Steve Lombardozzi hitting behind him and the obvious benefits of having a force-out at every base, he was intentionally walked. Lombardozzi then thankfully hit a walk-off sac-fly to end the game.
At the end of the game, I had kids in front of me in the corner spot to the umpire’s tunnel, but home plate umpire Wally Bell actually didn’t give them any baseballs; which is very odd. Just in case, though, I started to say, “Mr. Bell…” And before I could even finish my request, Bell had already tossed me my sixth ball of the night:
It just goes to show, sometimes all it takes is asking and knowing the person’s name.
- 6 Balls at this Game
Numbers 538-543 for my “lifetime”:
- 97 Balls in 23 Games= 4.22 Balls Per Game
- 6 Ball x 31,473 Fans=188,838 Competition Factor
- 86 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 135 Balls in 30 Games at Nationals Park= 4.50 Balls Per Game
- 22 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
- 6 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
- 4 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
- 2 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 4-5 Balls
- Time Spent On Game 2:53-10:38= 7 Hours 45 Minutes
Wanna see my view more or less as the gates of Camden Yards opened?
While Avi and I had gotten to the train station at a time that normally would have gotten us to the gates by the time they opened–and by Avi, I mean Avi Miller, the person in the foreground of the picture–the train was having problems with the signals art a couple stations, so instead of taking 20 minutes or so, the train took over an hour to get to our final destination from the time it pulled into Avi’s stop. Long story short: we got to OPACY over half-an-hour late. Had it been Yankee Stadium, I would have turned around and let Avi, but the way I saw it I still had the power-hitting Tigers’ BP to rely on, and if I didn’t manage to snag a ball then, I could always play the dugouts for third-out balls and the cross-aisle for foul balls in between that, with the security blanket of the umpire tunnel after the game.
When I entered the ballpark, the seating bowl was already opened up and the Tigers were already hitting, so I didn’t even try to go to the left field seats. Actually, correction: I went towards the left field seats right as I entered the stadium, but when I saw the seating bowl had already been opened, I turned around and made a beeline for the center field seats. And by “beeline” I mean slow jog, because I had essentially all of my stuff for my whole trip in my backpack since I planned to go back to Washington directly from the game. There I asked a couple of players for balls such as Luke Putkonen and Don Kelly, but got rejected by both of them. Then a ball got hit almost directly in line with me in the stands. I went down to the first row, but it fell about a foot out of my reach. Thankfully though, since I don’t have a ball-retrieving device made this year, it went back onto the field where Rick Porcello got it:
And apparently he had seen my Tigers gear as I had lunged out to reach for the ball because without me even asking he tossed the ball up to me. I then immediately handed the ball to a kid whose dad had been begging Don Kelly for ball as well. Kelly’s response to all of us was, “I’ll hit a couple out here when it’s my group’s turn to hit.”
After getting the ball form Porcello, I headed out to the flag court in right field. It was packed and I couldn’t get any toss-ups, but I justified it by telling myself, “You got more than enough toss-ups in Minnesota and can go for toss-ups any other day. Today one of the best hitting teams in the league is here, so you might as well go for hit baseballs.” This picture doesn’t do the crowd in the flag court any justice, but it was my view until pretty much the end of batting practice:
I’ll cut to the chase and say that I didn’t snag anything for the remainder of batting practice, but the star of the show, who I would have had an extra baseball had he not been there, was Alex Kopp. Here he is in this picture with his glove shading his eyes:
He caught three balls on the fly while I was there including one that was right in front of my glove. I believe it was an Andy Dirks home run. I tracked the ball perfectly off the bat, and had my glove in position to make the catch, but all of a sudden I saw two gloves go up in front of mine. They were of Alex and another person. Alex, though, had his glove in the right spot, so he caught the ball, and all I could do was smile because that was his third catch out there. He was just putting on a clinic. I mean the Tigers were going pretty crazy with all of the baseballs they were hitting up there, but it was also insanely packed given the size of the flag court. Every time a ball was hit up there, it was like a mini-stampede erupted. I was actually pretty concerned a little kid was going to get seriously injured out there, because while I check to make sure I have a clear running lane to the ball every five seconds or so, I knew there were people that were just reacting to the ball and keeping their eye on the ball and not where they were going–which is a recipe for disaster; either for the kids of the area or for the person, because there were the flag poles to be run into.
During the Tigers position players’ infield warm-ups, I should have snagged my second ball of the day. What happened was I got Omar Infante’s attention despite being fifteen rows up in the stands by waving my arms, so he tossed the ball to me:
but he was off with his aim, so the ball sailed above me and to my left. I reached, but I tried to be careful because reaching full-extension would also involve me elbowing the woman standing next to me in the head. So with all of this happening, the ball tipped off the edge of my glove and into the lap of a person behind me. Bleh.
An even more frustrating thing happened during the game. I don’t know how many home runs there were in this game (a lot) but only one made its way out into the flag court. It was the fourth inning, and Victor Martinez was the hitter. I happened to be looking away because a person said something to me in the flag court, but suddenly I heard a roar in the crowd and a ball whizzing towards the foul pole. I then ran towards the ball and played the ricochet I have always failed to do in the home run balls I have botched in the past. Unfortunately the ball bounced back towards the field after landing in the flag court because it hit the beer stand out there. Had it kept going towards Eutaw Street, I’m 95% sure I would have had the ball because I was the only one in the back of the flag court who even saw the ball, much less reacted. Are you a little confused? Here, I drew up a diagram from the perspective of where I started out when the ball was hit. The dotted line is the flight of the ball, and the solid line is the path that I ran:
And if you want, here is the link to the video. At the first point you can identify where I am when they cut to the view of the flag court, I am here:
You can then pretty easily identify as the person running across the flag court for the ball. It looks like I was going pretty fast from the video, but I remember that I was purposely taking it slow in case the ball did bounce to the back of the flag court, which I expected it to do, because I didn’t want a repeat of the ball that hit me in the head during my first game here in Baltimore or anything of the sort. The next time when you can more clearly see me is after the ball had bounced back to the fence:
After this you can see I’m one of three people actively going after the ball. I can also say I probably would have had it had the person who eventually got the ball was a foot taller. It was actually a kid who got the ball. And I say I would have gotten the ball had he been taller because he had to go under one of those rope-type dividers that you see at airport/bus terminal check-in lines. You know what I’m talking about, right? The black poles that connect by rope in order for people in line to zig-zag their way through. Well anyway, the kid didn’t have to duck much to get the ball, but had he been a foot taller, that half-second he would have taken to duck underneath was all I would have needed to get the ball. But oh well. Palante.
I then spent the rest of the game awaiting another home run that never came, all while this great view of the game and all its action:
(Yay?) At the end of the game I headed down for one last try at an umpire ball this series, and whaddaya know, I got it:
As I got to the umpire tunnel there were actually kids in the corner spots on each side of the dugout, so I had to go a little further up. Home plate umpire, Hunte Wendelstedt(?), gave out a couple of baseballs to the kids at the front of the tunnel and then moved on. Just in case he still had a ball with him, I called out to him, “Mr. Wendelsedt, do you have any extra baseballs?” He was already past me in the tunnel, but upon hearing his name, he turned right around and tossed me the baseball you see above. I then headed to the Tigers dugout, but I didn’t get anything there, so I walked up to Baltimore-Penn Station and took the next Amtrak train back to Washington.
- 2 Baseballs at this Game (1 pictured because I gave the other 1 away)
Numbers 536-37 for my “career”:
- 91 Balls in 22 Games= 4.14 Balls Per Game
- 2 Ball x 38,965 Fans=77,930 Competition Factor
- 85 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 45 Balls in 11 Games at OPACY= 4.09 Balls Per Game
- 11 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 12:47-10:48= 10 Hours 1 Minute
My day began at Avi Miller‘s house. See, Avi and his parents were kind enough to put up with me for a couple of days as I needed a place to stay while going to a couple Orioles games. I have to say it was a really nice/fun place to stay. Avi and I had stayed up watching MLB Network–which I had regrettably not watched in forever leading up to that point–and I worked on entries as I watched and we ate pizza that I somehow got talked into letting Avi pay for even thought *he* was the one letting me stay with him. But anyway, the way to get to the ballpark from Avi’s is to drive to the subway station and take that to the ballpark. We could drive the whole way, but given how often Avi goes to games, it doesn’t make any sense, because 1. It costs $8 for him to park by the ballpark. 2. It puts extra wear on the car. And: 3. It costs a lot more in gas to get to the ballpark than the $1.20 for the subway.
But why am I prolonging the introduction to this entry and my account of the time before I got to the ballpark? Well because not much happened in batting practice itself. Once I got int the gates, here was my view of the field:
While I’ve heard it many times via word of mouth, I don’t think I’ve seen it written yet, so I figure I’ll get it out there: OPACY has become a tougher ballpark to ballhawk at. One reason for the ballhawks who used to come there many years ago is the competition. Several years ago (like 2010 and before that) there was virtually no competition during the first half-hour, so if you were in left field courtesy of a season ticket, you essentially had the place to yourself and could clean up for thirty minutes. The second reason is the Orioles don’t really have a team suited for the ballpark. I remember running all over the place when Mark Reynolds and Derrek Lee were on the team, but now really the only player who consistently gets balls into the left field seats is J.J. Hardy, and even he is having a rough year in that regard. You’d almost rather go out onto the flag court for parts of the 30 minutes to try to get a Chris Davis homer. And all of the players/coaches who patrol left field during batting practice are already accustomed to not tossing baseballs up for this first half-hour, so it’s not an automatic thing like it used to be to get on the board with a season ticket. I wasn’t there super consistently before, but from what I heard, it used to almost be easy to get four or five baseballs before the seating bowl opened up to the general public, and that’s before any of the visitor’s BP even took place.
During this BP, though, the Orioles hit definitely less than five baseballs into the stands, and I’m pretty sure that’s including ground-rule doubles. Nothing even came close to me. And what made it so frustrating is that although Alex Kopp, who I showed you guys in the previous game’s entry was there, Tim Anderson wasn’t here for today’s or the next day’s game, so I wanted so badly to take advantage, since I knew it would be a rarity to have an opportunity like this, but then the Orioles let me down. I mean look at how much space I had to run around if a ball got hit into the stands:
Oh, and I don’t think I mentioned it in the last game’s entry, but I was particularly looking forward to Tim being away because he jumped and caught a ball during that BP that almost certainly would have made its way into my glove had he not been there. He made a great play on it, and I horribly misjudged the ball. I still would have made the catch, but he picked the right row to run in and I went two rows deeper.
But back to this game. What made it even more frustrating is that the big, bad Tigers decided to take the day off of hitting because they had just played an 11-inning game in Pittsburgh where they got beat 1-0. I mean to me, getting shutout for 11 innings by the Pirates means you should probably be taking extra hitting, but you know, whatever your methods are, Jim Leyland, I won’t question them. It was as a result of the Tigers not hititng, however, that I probably had one of my more memorable experiences at the ballpark. And by memorable I mean…well, you’ll see.
Since the Tigers weren’t hitting, I went behind the Tigers pitchers warming up to try to get a ball from them. Since I had previously had a good encounter with him at Target Field, I got behind Phil Coke’s throwing partner to hopefully get a ball from Coke when they were done. When they finished catch, and I asked Coke for a ball, he looked and me and started backing away from me. I didn’t know what to make of it until he got into the “set” position of pitching of the stretch and flipped his glove upwards–which is to say he was going to throw me a fastball. I thought he was just going to throw the ball at my glove nice and easy, but no, this was Phil Coke, so he threw the ball full-force. So given the fact that it was Phil Coke not off a mound, it was probably in the high-80s. I wasn’t expecting this at all, so as the ball went way higher than I thought it would, I just managed to tip the ball as it zoomed way past me into the stands. I then ran back and retrieved the ball. I thought that was the end of it, but Coke signaled for me to toss the ball back to him. I tossed it back to him and he readied himself again. This time he crow-hopped into the throw–so the ball was almost definitely in the mid-90s–and I had to jump this time just to tip the ball. The ball then hit off a seat behind me and ricocheted all the way past the cross-aisle:
When I went back and got this ball, I was more than prepared to toss it back to him for another chance to catch it, but as you can somewhat see in the last picture, he had moved onto a new victim in the blue. That’s an OPACY regular by the name of Doug. Coke fired one ball at Doug before he told everyone to clear the area and then proceeded to fire another ball at Doug. Avi described it perfectly in what he said afterwards (I’m somewhat paraphrasing), “In an age where some teams encourage players to not even toss baseballs up into the stands because of liability, that has got to be the most reckless thing I’ve ever seen a player do at the ballpark.” Of course, Avi had probably the best reason to say it because after it deflected off a seat, one of Coke’s throws went less than a foot above Avi’s head. But alas, I had to keep my crown as the only one who got hit in the head with a baseball while I was at OPACY.
But anyway, that was pretty much it for the day. Avi, Alex and I hung out in club level pretty much until the game started. Tonight was Union Night, so OPACY was completely sold-out out. I mean just check out the sight on Eutaw Street before the game began:
So Alex and I sat out in the flag court at one of the picnic tables. And after having to move about seven times because people kept on showing up to their seats for the first three or four innings, Avi came and joined us out there. Here are those two as I was leaving to go get an umpire ball:
And I didn’t. The previous day I was in prefect position for an umpire ball, but an usher moved a couple kids in front of me just before the umpire passed through–like he literally grabbed the two kids and lifted them into the row of seats right in front of me–so I didn’t get a ball that day. I figured this was the usher’s custom, so this game I went to the other side of the tunnel in hopes of being on the corner spot on that side. I was, but unfortunately for my hopes of getting an umpire ball, the Orioles rallied back in the ninth inning, which they had begun trailing, and Chris Dickerson hit a walk-off home run, which I–albeit jokingly–called. This affected me trying to get a ball because the crowd was going absolutely berserk, so when I tried calling whoever the home plate umpire was by name, he couldn’t hear me at all. Heck, I could barely hear myself calling out to him. So he exhausted all of his baseballs on the kids awaiting him before he got to me. All in all it was a pretty boring day to ballhawk besides the Coke incident. I got my one ball there, Alex got his right at the beginning of BP when an usher directed him to a ball that had been hit in the seats before we entered, and I don’t even know if Avi got a ball, since he has a good approach and just relaxes during BP and snags whatever comes his way. He doesn’t really set expectations fro himself, so whatever he does in terms of baseballs and autographs is almost like a nice treat in addition to being at the ballpark. Anyway, I headed out to the flag court where I met up with Avi, where we would prepare ourselves for a game the next day that while much more adventuresome, would be just as frustrating to me.
- 1 Baseball at this Game
Number 535 for my “life”:
- 89 Balls in 21 Games= 4.24 Balls Per Game
- 1 Ball x 46,249 Fans=46,249 Competition Factor
- 84 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 43 Balls in 10 Games at OPACY= 4.30 Balls Per Game
- 10 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 3:23-12:14= 8 Hours 51 Minutes
On my last trip to Baltimore, I had set my career high for baseballs snagged in a game in the first game and then narrowly escaped getting shutout in the second game via a toss-up at the umpire tunnel after the game. That trip, however, was almost a year ago. And I was more than excited to be back at Oriole Park at Camden Yards for the first time in nearly a year when I approached its gates on this Thursday evening:
But this time I had woken up in Washington D.C. (I guess I had before those two games as well, but you get my point.) and took a 1:20 train to Baltimore. OPACY–because I don’t feel like writing out Oriole Park at Camden Yards every freaking time I mention it–actually lets people go into Eutaw Street and behind the bullpens early, so that’s where I was headed when I took that first picture. You see, Rick Gold had tweeted me right as I was about to sit down at the Hilton across the street that Nathan Karns was throwing in the Nationals bullpen. Up until that point I had completely forgotten that these areas of OPACY were even open, but when I got the tweet, I walked over to the stadium to see the action and possibly get a ball before the gates were even officially open. By the time I got there, though, it was Gio Gonzalez throwing in the Nationals bullpen:
And Rick Adair, the Orioles pitching coach, had an interesting set-up for Kevin Gausman, who was throwing in the Orioles bullpen:
If you can’t tell, it’s a rope. Adair had it set up to have an objective line between high fastballs and low fastballs. I like to think my readers are smart people, so I’ll let you figure out which side of the rope is which.
Anyway, I managed to get my first ball of the day when the Nationals (read: Gio) finished throwing and I got Jhonatan Solano to toss me their warm-up ball for an early spot on the board:
Soon after that (at 3:46) Orioles security came by and told us we had to get back outside of the gate. Had they given us an extra fifteen minutes I may have had a second ball from Gausman (I think that’s how you spell it) and the Orioles bullpen people. Before the gates re-opened, I waited in line with the people who made me think this trip to OPACY wasn’t going to be as easy snagging-wise as I had previously thought. When I got in the gates, the person who I already introduced, Rick Gold, lined up in front of me:
And then two other ballhawks who had joined me at the gate lined up to my left:
Ballhawk #2 is Tim Anderson, who has garnered the attention of the national media several times the past few years with his bajillion home run snags. While we had both been at the same game before, today was really the first time we had talked directly to each other. And that’s mostly on my part–and this goes out to all of you who may run into me at some ballpark somewhere–because I’m just generally awkward if I’m meeting a person I didn’t know for sure was going to be there ahead of time. And not like in the “Oh, that’s different from what I was expecting” kind of awkward; it’s more like the “Is there something seriously wrong with you?” awkward. And as a result of this, I almost never initiate people at the ballpark in conversation to avoid a situation like this. The best way to avoid this is to just let me know if you think you’re going to be at the same game as I am, by checking either my schedule or my Twitter account. I definitely won’t be attending every game on the schedule that I have on there right now, but it’s a good outline to know where I’ll be, and I’ll usually say something on my Twitter if I’m veering off of the scheduled plan or anything like that, so it’s a good place to be kept up-to-date on my baseball happenings.
But anyway, that was a good multi-hundred-word digression. The point is that my competition was going to be tough. So when the Nationals players came out to warm up while the Orioles were switching into a new mostly-righty group, I knew it was time to go for toss-ups. I figured the players would spend the first two rounds or so hitting the ball to the opposite field, so I really wouldn’t be missing much action out in left. In this trip, I got a ball from Denard Span in the weirdest way. I was actually trying to get ball from a different throwing pair when Span ran back to the wall with the ball in his hand, threw it up, and half-heartedly tried to “rob” the same ball he had thrown up, as if it were a home run ball. I don’t know what exactly he was doing, but he missed the ball, and it landed in the seats, so I went over and offered to get it for him, at which point he told me, “Nah, you can just keep it.”
So I think that’s technically a toss-up from Span, right? It certainly was more that than an easter egg considering I got there three seconds after the ball landed in the stands.
When I headed back to the left field stands, I learned that I had definitely made the right decision because there had not been a single ball hit into those stands since I had left. But I would not snag another BP baseball before the flood gates were opened and all fans were allowed into every part of the stadium. If you don’t know, for the first half-hour of the gates being open at OPACY, only season ticket holder–or people with that printed on their ticket–are allowed into the main seating bowl. The rest are confined to right and center field. But when that half-hour is up, everybody pours into the seating bowl. I am fortunate enough to have friends at the ballpark who are nice enough to buy me season tickets that get me in that half-hour early, but here is what the scene looked like right after the rest of the fans were let in:
It was right around this spot that I came the closest to another BP ball. But for the sake of clarity, let me get a diagram up for you:
The solid lines are the path of the ball and the dotted line is how I ran after the ball. So I saw a ball get hit to my left. I could tell exactly where it was headed, so I jumped back a row and ran right towards the spot where the ball was going to land, so I could pick it up if it stuck in that spot. Well the ball bounced off a seat at the end of the row, but instead of sticking or bouncing forward/backwards like a normal baseball, it at 90-degree angle and hit me square on the forehead. I mean someone couldn’t have done it more perfectly if they were aiming for me. I saw the ball hit off the seat, but it became a white blur as it headed directly between my two eyes. Just to show you how perfectly the ball hit me square in the head, it was almost if I had intentionally headed the ball in a soccer-esque manner because the ball flew thirty feet in front of me after hitting my head into the next section over. It didn’t actually hurt that much–other than my ego–but I was starting to wonder if there was something about the Orioles that was bad luck, since I had now sustained an “injury” every time I had seen them play to this point. In three different cities, I may add.
That was it for BP, but I did manage to get a ball from Tyler Moore during the pregame position player warm-ups:
It actually was a thing of beauty that we managed to connect on the toss-up, because there was a security guard right in front of me on the field with his back turned to it, so Moore had to thread the needle and I had to jump to get the ball to me and not hit the guard. As you can tell, he wasn’t in that last picture. I think the fact that he very nearly got hit in the back of the head scared him enough that he moved away from the players playing catch.
As for the game, I spent most of my time out in the flag court:
and enjoying all that is OPACY. I wasn’t the only one out there, though. Because of the fact that the stadium was pretty much sold-out, there were pretty consistently three of us ballhawks out there, and sometimes even more. I mean look at all the backpacks there were at one of the more crowded points:
I have no clue besides my own who they each belonged to, but the four of us that were out there towards the end of the game got a picture together:
Left to right, that would be:
- Rick Gold
- Alex Kopp
- Tim Anderson
Nothing came even close to reaching the flag court, but it was fun talking to those guys for whatever portion of the game they were out there. (Rick was in left field pretty much until the last two innings, and Tim spent around half of the game in the center field seats.)
- 3 Balls at this Game
Numbers 532-534 for my life:
- 88 Balls in 20 Games= 4.40 Balls Per Game
- 3 Balls x 30,665 Fans=91,995 Competition Factor
- 83 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 42 Balls in 9 Games at OPACY= 4.67 Balls Per Game
- 9 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 12:23-11:52= 11 Hours 29 Minutes
Before I started going to games at Target Field at the end of the 2012 season, Nationals Park definitely felt like the closest thing I had to a “home” ballpark. So in not having been there since August 21 of last year, I was almost okay with my first game back being during rivalry week, when I knew there would be a ton of Orioles fans packing the Nationals Park seats. But now coming to the ballpark from a new location where the bus arrives only every half-hour, I made sure to give myself more than enough time to get to the gate and as a result got to the gate way before even I usually get there:
Right as I got in and headed to the left field seats, Gio Gonzalez hit a ball to my left, so I ran after the ball, caught it on the fly:
but in my deceleration, managed to trip on one of the seats and take a tumble. I felt fine, so I got up, but I first noticed that I had some scratches on my legs and then I felt something on my ear. I tapped my cap on my ear and this is what I saw:
I then felt my ear with my hand and even more blood was coming out. I wasn’t the only one who noticed it either. An usher saw my ear bleeding, and so he got another employee to take me up to first-aid, which literally opened just as we got there. I think it’s probably the fastest after the gates have opened that they have ever had to serve a person. Of course they took their time with cleaning up my ear, but all I could think of was all of the opportunities I was missing for snagging baseballs. All I wanted to do was get the blood off, maybe get a band-aid if it was necessary, and get back out into the stands. It was almost a joke to me how seriously they were taking this. I remember that right after examining my ear, the first-aid worker said, “It doesn’t look bad enough for you to need stitches; I think you can stay for the game.” I thought of replying with a super-sarcastic “Wow, thank you. I thought I was going to die any minute now because I cut my ear.” I was just that frustrated because getting on the board early was being completely wasted by the fact that I was being held up forever in first-aid. After they cleaned up my ear and let me go, one of the workers said, “Okay, now no more chasing baseballs.” Again a sarcastic “Okay. Maybe for the ten seconds it takes me to get back into the outfield seats.” popped into my head, but I realized that this was my first game back here at a place I would be the whole summer, and it’s beneficial to me to try to make as many friends and as few enemies in the ballpark as possible.
My second ball of the day came in the Red Seats in center field when I politely asked Craig Stammen if he could toss me a ball:
That would be my last ball of Nationals BP. I didn’t really flub anything, but the excess crowd that was here for this game just went to all of the spots that I would have normally played the Nationals hitters at, so I was forced to pretty much camp out in the Red Seats where there didn’t end up being that much action.
When the Orioles began their batting practice, I headed down the third base line to try to get a ball from the position players and pitchers warming up, and managed to get a ball from who I figured out several days later with the help of Avi Miller was Troy Patton:
I then headed off to left field, where I’d have to say my main challenge wasn’t necessarily the volume of people, but the amount of people wearing bright orange t-shirts:
See I have a black Orioles shirt, so I don’t really stand out. It’s only when I’m the sole Orioles fan talking to a player that it really helps me. Given this, I headed over to right field, where there weren’t quite as many Orioles fans. And it ended up paying off when Jason Hammel tossed me a ball that I almost immediately gave away to a kid next to me with a glove:
Then at about 6:20, I realized batting practice was going to be wrapping up, so I headed to the Orioles dugout to try and get a ball when the Orioles were packing up their baseballs. When I got there, there was only one problem: there were too many people down there by the dugout with their Orioles gear on (It became my goal half-way through that sentence to see how many “there”s I could pack into one sentence), but the rain that had been holding off all batting practice couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. It started pouring just as the Orioles were finishing, and thus driving all the people who had been lining the dugout away, leaving me practically the only one in Orioles gear:
And as a result of this, when the Orioles cleared the field, I was the only one who recognized Rudy Arias, so when I said his name, he almost looked shocked that someone recognized him, and tossed me the ball that he had in his glove for my fifth of the day:
A semi-long rain delay followed this, so I took advantage and sat in this seat at the beginning of the game:
But I didn’t stay there long as I soon joined my mom and a coworker of hers that had made it out to the game–since both of our phones were dead–effectively capping my ball total at five baseballs for the night.
- 5 Balls at this Game (4 pictured because I gave 1 away)
Numbers 527 to 531 for my “life”:
- 85 Balls in 19 Games= 4.47 Balls Per Game
- 5 Balls x 35,664 Fans=178,320 Competition Factor
- 82 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 129 Balls in 29 Games at Nationals Park= 4.45 Balls Per Game
- 21 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
- 5 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
- 3 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
- Time Spent On Game 2:46-12:32= 9 Hours 46 Minutes