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
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
Less than fifteen hours after saying goodbye to him in the morning, Rick Gold and I met up at the gates of Nationals Park for our 10th and final game together in 2012:
If you haven’t read the entry, Rick and I were on a bus together close to 2 o’clock that same morning. It was one of those times for a sarcastic “Long time no see”, since both of us had woken up pretty soon before that.
Speaking of people sleeping, that’s what the Nationals players were apparently doing, because they didn’t take batting practice:
Eventually, the Nationals pitchers came out to throw, so I headed over there. Here is where a season full of pretty much not asking pitchers for baseballs came in handy (in that they probably would have recognized me if I had). I yelled out to Ryan Mattheus as he finished throwing and he tossed me the ball:
I then just hung around until the Braves started hitting. When Juan Francisco’s group came up first, both Rick and I moved up to the second deck in right field:
I headed down to the lower level for the Braves group of lefties and Dan Uggla. There, two other ballhawks (Rick and a guy whose name I don’t know) took the two best spots in right, so I was forced to just stand in a middle spot and hope I could judge the ball better than them/ jump in front of them. When Jason Heyward hit a ball to my right, the ballhawk I didn’t know ran straight to his right. Meanwhile, I knew the ball was falling short of that. I ran into the row and made the running, backhanded catch:
That would be it for snagging. As for the game, I headed out to left field:
Stephen Strasburg was pitching, so I figured the righty-dominant Nationals would be more likely to go yard. I was right, but it was an inning *before* I got to my seat there. Oh, and there was a rain delay where it absolutely poured. It was my third rain delay in as many days. So it really was no big deal. The most notable part of it was before the delay started, it was raining at least three times harder than it was during the rain delay the game before.
During the rain delay, I got soaked, walked through the seats looking for tickets, got soaked, said goodbye to the ushers in the ballpark, got soaked, tried to get a ball from Alan Butts, got soaked, talked to Eddie Perez. Oh, and did I mention I got soaked? I don’t think I did. It was raining pretty hard. Do you remember when I said it was raining three times harder than the previous game DURING the game? Well during the rain delay, it rained about ten times harder. The rain would step up to “next level”, and then when you thought it couldn’t rain any harder, a burst of even harder rain.
Anyway, for the game, Stephen Strasburg and Paul Maholm managed to survive the rain delay to pitch again afterwards (the rain delay was in the second inning). Maholm went seven innings while Strasburg went six. Unfortunately for Maholm, it’s not how long you last, it’s how many runs you give up. Strasburg allowed just one run while Maholm allowed four.
- 3 Balls at this game (1 pictured because I gave 2 away)
Numbers 384-386 for my “career”:
- 164 Balls in 39 Games= 4.21 Balls Per Game
- 3 Balls x 33,888 Fans= 101,664 Competition Factor
- 48 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 4 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 2 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
- 124 Balls in 28 Games= 4.43 Balls Per Game at Nationals Park
- 20 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 1 Ball
- 4 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
- 2 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
- Time Spent On Game 3:32- 11:22= 7 Hours 50 Minutes
After a series of waiting endlessly for David Wright’s 200th home run, it was time to go back to Nationals Park for my fourth game there in as many days:
Usually I’m not that excited of attending four games in a row at ANY stadium, but I had come to the conclusion that I wouldn’t be getting a ball tossed to me by the Nationals (intentionally, anyway) anytime soon, so I was excited for the arrival of the not-offensively-anemic Braves, who also didn’t know me.
My first ball of the day came when Gio Gonzalez hit a ball to my right. I chased after it, but someone else managed to pick it up before I could get there. He then hit a ball back to where I had previously been standing. Thankfully, no one judged it correctly, and I was able to run right to the spot and gobble it up :
After the pitchers- all of whom are righties- stopped hitting, I headed over to the right field seats for Bryce Harper’s group. I still haven’t seen one of Harper’s legendary batting practices, but I did manage to snag a ball from his bat.
I was on the middle staircase of the right field seats when Harper launched a ball to the section closest to center field. I saw this right away and raced there to scoop up the ball before anyone else could:
The group then changed again and I headed over to the Red Seats for the group of Morse, Zimmerman, and Werth. During that group, I caught three balls on the fly.
The first was an extremely easy catch right smack-dab in the middle of the section where I had been standing:
Speaking of Shea Stadium commemorative balls off the bat of Jayson Werth, that’s what my next (and fifth) ball of the day was. I won’t bore you with another picture of the ball in my glove, but the ball was traveling to my left, so I ran in this row and made the forehand catch over a row of seats:
My next ball came when Ryan Zimmerman hit a high fly ball to my right. I ran as far as I could, reach over the glass that separates the Red Seats and the bullpen, and made the grab:
It felt pretty awesome in that the ball would have fallen into the bullpen had it not been for me; kind of like a home run rob. For those of you keeping score at home, that was my fifth snag of the day; all of which were hit, Shea Stadium commemorative balls.
Soon after that, the Braves started throwing, so even though the Nationals were still hitting, I headed into foul ground to try to get a ball from one of them. After waiting for a while, I finally got a ball from Erik Hinske:
Do you see the coach crossing the field in the left part of the picture? That’s where Hinske was. He tossed the ball to me while I was right behind the wheelchair section. Unfortunately, he tossed it over my head, so it rattled around in the seats before I could secure ball #6 and thank Hinske.
I then headed over to right field for a group stacked with the Braves’ lefties. Ironically, though, my only ball from this group came when Dan Uggla hit an opposite-field home run and I played the ball off a deflection:
The right field seats were getting pretty crowded at this point, so I headed back over to the Red Seats. I didn’t snag a hit ball, but a fan dropped a ball into the gap, so I knew it was time to deploy the Glove Trick. However, as I lowered it down, a member of the groundscrew walked through the gap and inserted the ball in my glove. I had already promised the people next to me I would give the ball away to the kid who it was intended for, so I did when I reeled it up:
Okay, you’ve got three planes at work here. We’ll start closest and move back:
1. The Glove Trick- Complete with rubber band and pen to hold it open.
2. Kid- You can see the kid I gave it away to just past the glove in the red hat. He’s holding the ball between his hand and glove.
3. Groundskeeper- You can see him ducking at the very end of the gap.
Then for the end of batting practice-when Juan Francisco, who hits BOMBS, was hitting- I decided to try my luck and head up to the second deck in right field. I wasn’t the only one up there as fellow ballhawk, Rick Gold, had the same idea:
I then headed down to the lower level in right field where, to my delight, the tarp was being pulled on the field. I may have mentioned this before, but I absolutely love when it starts raining right *after* batting practice ends. There is truly nothing more beautiful:
Of course, the baseball gods had to have their fun with me, so the groundscrew didn’t actually put the tarp on for at least half an hour. They just stood there with the tarp as you see it in the picture. Waiting to make sure the rain was sufficient to put the tarp on the field.
As for the game, the Nationals jumped out to an early 4-1 lead. The Braves then picked away at the lead to tie the game 4-4. What happens when a game is tied after the ninth inning? FREE BASEBALL!!
The game had already been delayed an hour by the rain. So when it came time for extra innings, most of the fans left the stadium. When this happened, I stood up the rest of the game and waited for any ball to come my way:
Actually, since most of the ushers had left, I ran back and forth between right and left field depending on the hitter; just like old times at Nationals Park. If you’re newish to the blog, I used to buy two tickets on either side of the outfield on Nationals Park and would run back and forth during the game depending on whether a righty or a lefty was hitting. I rationalized it by saying that I was spending about the same on two outfield tickets as I would have on one ticket at Citi Field. (Last year, I was. The cheapest ticket at Citi Field was $23. With my student discount, the outfield tickets at Nationals Park were/are $13 each.)
Anyway, check out the emptiness that allowed me to stand up- and not block anyone’s view:
Long story short: nothing reached the seats for the rest of the game. Eventually, the Nationals won on a Dan Uggla bobble. Also during the game, I gave away five, count ‘em, FIVE baseballs away to the usher who’s let me sit in the right field seats since last year. Usually he’s pretty reasonable with his requests (usually one or two balls), but apparently there was a family in from Chicago, so in addition to the two I usually give him, he asked for three others. Also, I should mention this isn’t just an usher being greedy. He gives all the balls I give him away to kids, elders, or other people in the section. That said, I gave away two on my own, the usher took five, so of the eight balls I snagged, I only kept the best Shea Stadium ball. That’s right, I gave away SEVEN of my eight baseballs. (Actually, I technically gave away eight. The usher offered me an exchange where he have me one of Rick Gold’s balls for one of my Shea balls, but he then asked for THAT ball to give to someone.
After the game, a security guard threw a bunch of balls at fans in the stands, but he had THE worst aim I’ve ever seen and about five of them bounced back onto the field. I just stood on top of one of the balls and asked each person that passed it if they could toss the ball up to me. Security Guard? “I’m on duty. I have to stand in this exact spot.” Police Officer? “No, I can’t.” Groundscrew? “No, we’re not allowed to.” It was just sitting there on the warning track:
(The other two shadows you see are of an Asian couple who was also waiting for the ball to be tossed up. Eventually, a guy in a dress shirt walked by, so I asked him point blank, “Can you toss me that ball, please?” He bent down, grabbed the ball, and kept walking to the dugout. Here he is on his way over there:
At this point, it was about 12:35, so I figured, ” I don’t have anywhere to be any time soon; I’m going to see if there’s a ball left in the bullpen.” Turns out there was- in the bottom right quadrant of the picture, against the black background:
I was just about to leave, when the security guard came in from the warning track by the Nationals dugout. The bullpen motioned for me to stop, and asked the security guard something. He then picked up the ball and tossed it to me:
Not surprisingly, by the time I got out of the stadium, the Metro was closed:
Once I got out of the stadium, I must have walked back and forth a mile before I finally got to the right bus stop. After taking the bus a stop, I ran into a familiar face in Rick (as in Gold). Turns out, we were both going the same direction. We took the bus until the end of the line. We then got off by Washington’s Archives building. Our next bus wasn’t due for another half hour. We discussed things from the renovation in Oakland’s coliseum to what the heck I was supposed to use an iPad for.
Once we got on the second bus, we ran into someone we both knew. It was the usher I mentioned earlier, Benny. I must say, Benny is one of the more entertaining ushers I have ever seen. Probably the most energetic. He is one of the most meticulous ushers about his duty before the game, but once the game begins, he is a dancer. Anyway, here is my view at 1:45 in the morning on the second bus:
• 9 Balls at this game (2 pictured because I gave 7 away)
• 161 Balls (as many as I had last year in 46 Games) in 38 Games= 4.24 Balls Per Game
• 9 Balls x 21,298 Fans= 191,682 Competition Factor
• 47 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
• 3 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
• 121 Balls in 27 Games at Nationals Park= 4.48 Balls Per Game
• 19 straight Games in Nationals Park with at least 1 Ball
• 3 straight Games in Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
• Time Spent On Game 3:42- 1:52= 10 Hours 10 Minutes
• With my first “9” game, I have now snagged in a game every total from 0 to 11 baseballs at a game.
What happens when there’s a post-game concert at Nationals Park? I have to get to the ballpark super early to ensure I’ll get a $5 ticket. Even at that inordinately early time, there was still quite a line in front of me; hence my expression in this picture:
Bored out of my mind and losing personal space by the second, I took this picture of one of the silver baseballs lining the garage above the box office:
Eventually, I did get my ticket and headed inside for batting practice. More specifically, I headed to left field for pitcher’s batting practice. When I got there, Stephen Strasburg hit a ball about fifteen rows behind the wall. Fortunately, I was about twenty rows behind the wall, so I ran into the row and made the reaching catch. I don’t think I mentioned this on the blog yet, but prior to the day before’s game, I mentioned it had been over a month since I had caught a ball on the fly via Twitter. Needless to say, that catch felt great. Oh, and here’s the ball from the spot I caught it:
Then, for the second group of Nationals, i.e. Zimmerman, Morse, Werth, and LaRoche, I headed over to the Red Seats. Unfortunately, no one besides Morse was hitting anything even close to the Red Seats. And when Morse hit them in my direction, they were all sailing over my head into the restaurant area behind the Red Seats. (No, not the Red Loft, but he has hit it there before.) My only ball there came when Craig Stammen threw a ball into the crowd over his shoulder. I stepped a foot to my right and caught it. I then gave it away to the red-hatted kid who’s also in this picture: in this picture
I then headed over to right field where almost the exact same thing happened:
Some player I couldn’t see tossed a ball over his head while he was on the warning track, so I saw it and caught the ball right between the two guys in the “Zimmerman” jerseys. I then gave the ball away to the kid in the white “Harper” jersey.
Then later, almost the same thing happened AGAIN. Gio Gonzalez threw a ball up to the second deck in right field, but I could see it was falling short, so I positioned myself under the spot. When it bounced off the electronic scoreboard strip, (you know what I’m talking about, right? The things that most/all stadiums have along the second level seating that they use for advertising and additional animation during the game.) I caught it off the deflection:
I was about to toss *that* ball to the fan for whom it was intended, but Gio tossed a second one up there just as I was getting ready to throw the ball. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was my 150th ball of the season. Hooray for minor milestones and not throwing the balls away!
When the Mets came up to hit, I changed into my ridiculous Mets costume:
Unfortunately, the Mets didn’t toss me anything and the Mets hitters were….well, the Mets hitters. So that was it for me snagging-wise.
As for the game, I stayed out in right field. The game was a surprise pitching duel between Edwin Jackson and Jonathan Niese, with the only runs coming on an Ike Davis two- run home run. That’s just what I wanted, right? A lefty home run. Except he hit it opposite field.
After the game, I stuck around for Third Eye Blind’s post-game concert:
I had and have no idea who they are; I’m not into music that much, I probably have less than 100 songs on my iPhone, which I only really use for passing time. I just felt since I went through a bunch of hassle because of the concert, I might as well stick around a little longer for it. It was one of those “I paid my five dollars for this ticket, so I might as well get my money’s worth.” things.
Oh, and after I caught my first ball, I stubbed my toe on a railing in the left field seats. I was limping the whole game after that, but I didn’t know the extent to which my toe had reacted to the stubbing until I got home. I’ve truly never seen anything like it:
Can you imagine how hard I had to hit my foot on the railing for my toe to bruise that badly *through* the shoe I was wearing?
And now that you have the image of my bruised toe in your head, I’ll end the entry.
• 4 Balls at this game (2 pictured because I gave two away)
Career numbers 369-372:
• 150 Balls in 36 Games= 4.17 Balls Per Game
• 4 Balls x 42,662 Fans= 170,684 Competition Factor
• 45 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
• 110 Balls in 25 Games at Nationals Park= 4.40 Balls Per Game
• 17 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 1 Ball
• Time Spent On Game 2:16-11:42= 9 Hours 26 Minutes
Coming into this game, I was excited:
We’ll get into my use of the past tense later, but the reason for my excitement was it was my first game at Nationals Park in a while. I was having my second “August” slump in as many years, and I thought Nationals Park would be the perfect cure.
When I got in, I did what I usually do and headed to the left field seats:
When you enter Nationals Park, the starting pitchers are hitting. That means you can go to either the left field seats, or the Red Seats to try to catch home runs. I choose the left field seats out of comfort, but the Red Seats are pretty good for pitcher’s batting practice since Stephen Strasburg, who’s the best hitting pitcher, hits most of his home runs to the Red Seats. A third option is going to right field and trying to get a ball from the relievers warming up. (You can’t go past the foul line, though. That opens an hour after the main gates open) I don’t use this option because I’m at Nationals Park fairly regularly and the pitchers would recognize me after a few days of doing this.
When the rest of the stadium was about to open, I headed over to the right field seats. I had seen a ball hit in the seats in foul territory, so I wanted to get it. When that part opened, I trailed a kid who was also looking for balls. The only difference was, I knew where the ball was. Unfortunately, he was taking up the whole aisle, so I couldn’t get past him. When we finally arrived at the row where the ball was, I spotted it and started moving closer to it, but the kid then picked up what I was looking at and RAN after the ball. Sadly, had I not been there with him, I probably would have gotten the ball. As I was taking my walk of shame back to the right field seats, a Nationals lefty hooked a ball right in front of me. I ran after and secured the ball quickly:
That would be my one and final ball of the day. Long story short: there were no catchable balls, all bounces went away from me, and the Mets fans invaded the front row. That said; did you notice the logo on the ball? Snagging that ball alone made my day. If you couldn’t see it, here’s a close-up:
As for the game, if you couldn’t gather it from the picture of the ball, I was sitting in the right field seats. While I was there, Johan Santana gave up two home runs that I could’ve been within ten feet of. (I determined the latter would be un catchable as soon as it got hit, so I ran to the front of the section in case I could get seen on TV.) The first was a Michael Morse opposite field grand slam that initially looked like it was headed RIGHT at me, but tailed into a crowded row at the front of the section. The second was a Bryce Harper two-run blast. Those would be all the runs the Nationals scored as they won the game 6-4.
I wish I could write more about this game, but frankly, there is no more to write about. It was a “meh” game in many respects.
• 1 Ball at this game
• 146 Balls in 35 Games= 4.17 Balls Per Game
• 44 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
• 106 Balls in 24 Games at Nationals Park= 4.42 Balls Per Game
• 16 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 1 Ball
•Time Spent On Game 3:38-10:33= 6 Hours 55 Minutes
I thought I’d start off this entry a little differently. Basically, I want to give you guys an opportunity to have a look at what my day is like before I even enter the gates. I will do such a video for each stadium I visit from here on out (Nationals Park, Yankee Stadium, Citi Field, and Target Field) Anyway, here is the video for Nationals Park:
Once we left the Red Seats in center field, Rick and I both headed over to the right field, only to realize it was Camp Day and those seats would be crowded come game time. While Rick checked a variety of things on his iPhone, I watched Ross Detweiler throw a bullpen session:
If you didn’t know, most starting pitchers throw at least one bullpen session between starts; some even throw two. Detweiler had started the opening opening game of the series, so I’m guessing he throws two, since he only took a day off from throwing. At the end of his session, Detweiler launched the ball he was throwing with into the seats in foul territory. Both Rick and I saw it and thought it went on our side of the tunnel- indicated by the glass panels- in the next picture:
Soon after that, Nationals hitters started hitting. All of which can be seen in the following picture:
That’s right, a grand total of two Nationals hitters hit. That was the extent of batting practice. They didn’t even have any players go into the outfield; just the coaches came out to shag the balls. The two players were: a healthy Bryce Harper and a rehabbing Jayson Werth. You would probably guess that the super-prospect would hit more balls into the stands than the old, injured, failed multi-million dollar contract, right? Well I did too. Unfortunately, both of us were wrong and Werth hit many more homers to left as I watched in helpless despair from right. The one ball I had perfectly tracked, a barehanded fan reached right in front of me and deflected the ball away.
Then, right after they stopped hitting, I headed over closer to the foul pole very discreetly, as so Rick wouldn’t notice me:
Not to get a ball from the pitchers you see warming up, but remember that ball Detweiler threw into the stands earlier? That portion of the stands was about to open in two minutes when I took that last picture, and I wanted to be the first one in them to get the ball.
I was indeed the first person there, but when I got to the spot I thought the ball was, it was vacant. As Rick arrived on the scene, I went up to the top of the section and asked an usher where the ball had gone. He told me it had gone on the other side of the tunnel I mentioned earlier. I went down there, and he guided me as I motioned to where I thought the ball was. This was actually the same usher who gave me my first usher toss-up at Nationals Park ever. If you can find a picture him, you win………bragging rights. (Hint: the easies way to find the entry is through mygameballs.com.)
Thanks to this ushers arsenal of saving gestures, I found the ball right under a seat:
I then moved back over to the pitchers warming up. I figured Strasburg, since he doesn’t shag balls in the outfield, would probably not recognize me. So, I lined up behind Jim and his throwing partner, Jordan Zimmerman:
Unfortunately, Zimmerman ended up with the ball, which usually means I am not getting the ball (I had never gotten a ball from him, and he has never been fan-friendly per se). Fortunately, I was the only non-Mets fan, so after he scanned the stands, he threw me the ball:
Then, to my surprise, the complementary ticket I mentioned in the opening video, was right behind the umpire tunnel. So until the game began, I talked mostly with the two people in the next picture, and a person slightly out of the frame to the right:
I had been talking to the ushers a little the previous two games when I came down to get umpire balls, but in talking to them this day, both parties (myself and the ushers) learned that the other knew of “Zack”. The “Zack” in question being one with the surname Hample.We then had a discussion about the specifics of baseball collecting and my experience beginning in the hobby.
The guy in the red is Gio Gonzalez’s dad. He actually is the one who brought up the subject (kind of). I guess he saw me by Gio while I was trying to get a ball and said, “Are you a collector?” To which I responded, “Yes ” not knowing who he was. It turns out Gio’s father is an autograph collector and thought I was the same. It was a slightly frustrating process, but when the male usher jumped in with: “Oh. You know Zack?” Gio’s father faded out of the conversation and went to his seat. Sadly, his son would get knocked around by the Mets en route to a 9-5 loss.
During the game, this was my view of the action:
For some reason, I have horrible luck with third-out balls (whichever end of the dugout I go to, the ball goes to the other). Well, my luck continued for this game. I didn’t get a single third-out ball.
I’d just like to take a little time out to point out one of the members of the “Nat Pack”, Terrence. I mentioned a couple of entries ago that I believed he was the most energetic team employee I had ever seen at a baseball game (maybe I didn’t phrase it like that, but that’s what I meant). The ushers I had been talking to described this as the hottest game of the year. I don’t know about that, but it was in the 105 degree range. Well Terrence wasn’t slowing up at all. He inhabits the wheelchair section by the third base dugout. One of the things he does is whenever there’s a wave, he runs from one end of the section to the other “pushing” it along. There were more than a couple waves this game. Another example, of which I have photographic evidence, is what Terrence was doing when “Old Time Rock and Roll” started playing:
That’s right. He picked up one of the fold-able chairs and started jumping around the section, pretending the chair was a guitar as he strummed it.
After the game, I was already by the umpire tunnel, so I asked the umpire, Chris Conroy for a ball. He gave it to me saying, “Here, because you took the time to look up my name.” Conroy, if my memory serves me right is number 99. I don’t know for certain, but I would bet that means he is one of the newer umpires, so I’m guessing not many people know his name:
- 3 Balls at this game (no picture because I forgot to take it). They were numbers 352-354 for my career
- 132 Balls in 29 Games= 4.55 Balls Per Game (14 Balls under 500)
- 3 Balls x 36,389 Fans (no way were there that many people)= 109,167 Competition Factor
- 38 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 14 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 2 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
- 105 Balls at Nationals Park in 23 Games= 4.57 Balls Per Game
- 16 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 1 Ball
- 16 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
- 2 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
- Time Spent One Game 9:34- 4:07= 6 Hours 33 Minutes
- This game will have been my 100th ever I have recorded on mygameballs.com. I have gone to more games than that, but I obviously didn’t keep a record of them before mygameballs.com, so this is the only milestone I can celebrate.