This was now the middle game of (barring playoff baseball) my last weekend of baseball for the year. I figuring that this would be my last shot at a full batting practice because the next game would be a day game. I was actually too optimistic in this prediction. For my seventh stright game at Nationals Park, there was not a full session of bp.
When the gates opened, I ran up to the second deck in Right Field expecting the pitchers to be throwing but once again they were nowhere to be found. The air was free of moisture but still the pitchers were in the clubhouse and the hitters were as well. I understand why they weren’t. I mean the game was a day game after a night game. so after the 9:45 end time of the last game, any wake up time before 10:00 would be simply criminal.
Anyway, the pitchers didn’t come out until about 11:15. This was 45 minutes before the gates opened. I saw the Braves coming out to throw about 15 minutes into the Nationals but wanted to get one ball from the Nationals because I had seen a load of Braves fans the day before. I eventually did get a ball from Ryan Mattheus. If you don’t know, I have lost all of my pictures from the last few games of the season (which explains the lack there of in this entry) this also meant that I no longer have photographic evidence of but I think that this ball was meant for another kid and so I gave it away to that same kid once I recovered the overthrow.
I then ran down to the lower level and went down the first base line seating because like the day before, I had seen a ball go in the seats that the people witing in line did not see. It wasn’t quite in the same wheelchair section but it was very close to the same seats. I then went over to the Braves side of the field along the third baseline and tried to get them to throw me a ball. However, I was aware of any balls of any ball pulled my way. There was in fact a ball pulled my way. It landed about a section to my left and from there it was a race between myself and a Braves fan. I beat him to the ball in the aisle by a margin, but he was flat out running and his momentum made me the middle of a sandwich between him and the railing. I had just picked up the ball and held on but this did knock the air out of me and so I whimpered my way to Left Field where I recovered.
Those seats were too crowded for my taste and so I moved over to the “Red Seats” in R-CF. Just as I got there, Dan Uggla’s hitting group got up and so I was pretty sure I would have a chance at one ball if not a few. Surely enough, there were several balls within ten feet of me and the one of those that landed in the Red Seats ended up in my possession. I then gave it away to the smallest Braves fan in the section. I kind of gave it away to amend all the balls I was going to catch in that section, but sadly this was the last ball for me the whole day.
This was mostly because I then went to RF and the promotion on this day was “Pups in the Park”. People were allowed to bring their dogs to the ballpark as long as they kept them in, you guessed it: Right Field. When I got there, the space behind the actual seats was transplanted turf for the dogs to be “walked”. In the actual seats, there were all types of dogs even in batting practice and some of them weren’t so visible . On three separate occasions, I had to hurdle a dog in the stand en route to a ball. Twice, it cost me catching the ball.
It also affected me in the game because I stayed mostly in Left Field as to not have to deal with maneuvering the dogs behind the Right Field seats. Also, the seats themselves were more packed than usual. Although I would have been upset to lose the opportunity at a Home Run, I was sort of wishing there was a ball hit into the Right Field seat just to see what would happen with all of the dogs.
As for my the Left Field seats, there was nothing hit in my direction and I stayed at four balls for the day. It was a partially fun day, but be sure to check back for my next entry in around three days from now because all I can say is that the Nationals really did go all in on the fan appreciation day.
This day was just another example of why the batting practice gods hate me when I go to Nationals Park ( the Home Run gods like teasing me but that’s a whole other story). There was no batting practice because of rain which made it like the 6th game in a row where I didn’t have full batting practice when I went to Nationals Park (either the Nationals hit and the visiting team didn’t, vice-versa, or neither team hit at all). Today there was no batting period.
When the gates opened, I went up to my usual spot in the Upper Right Field seats thinking that the Nationals would follow their routine of warming up just as the gates opened. Let’s see, the gates opened at 4:30 and the Nationals didn’t start throwing until 5:15. This was 45 minutes after their usual time. I wasn’t expecting this but it actually helped me. In addition to throwing later, they did something else I hadn’t seen them do before: they threw in segmented groups. Let me explain, usually, all the pitchers come out at the same time and finish at the same time, but on this day, the first pair came out at 4:15 and the last pair of pitchers came out at about 4:40.
While I was in the second deck, I saw the Nationals throw two balls into the wheelchair section they have on both sides of the field. This section was pretty wet so they just left the balls there. The rest of the stadium (besides URF and L-CF) opens at 5:30 for a 7:00 game. I stayed in the Upper seats until 5:27 to make sure that I didn’t miss THAT many snagging opportunities but at 5:27 left to get in line when the rest of the stadium opened. I was like 2 seconds behind the people first getting into the rest of the stadium and the other people knew enough to hurry up and look for balls but I had been the only one in the upper seats and thus was the only one who knew where the two balls were.
Now the rotating throwing partners come into play. Had all the players been throwing while I picked up the balls, most of them would have seen me get the balls and probably wouldn’t have thrown me any more. However as it was, I got Sean Burnett to throw me a ball and then changed outfits to get Tom Gorzelanny to throw me a ball.
Right after Gorzelanny threw me the ball, I noticed the Braves were warming up. Whenever I have the choice between trying to get balls from the Home team or the opposing team, 9 times out of 10 i will go with the opposing team because the odds are that there will be less fans with the opposing team’s gear than the home team’s gear. I did go over to the Braves side of the field and had my Braves gear on, but to my surprise, I was one of fifteen others in Braves gear. Fortunately, most of them were there for autographs, but I still didn’t get a ball thrown to me cleanly.
My main goal for this weekend in general was to get Julio Teheran to throw me a ball. This may have contributed to the fact I did get a ball thrown to me. I stayed right behind Julio and his throwing partner and just focused on getting a ball from him while he made his throwing partner look foolish with a variety of breaking pitches.The reasons I so desperately wanted a ball from Teheran is that I was a pitcher when I played organized baseball and am definitely part of the family of pitchers when it comes to my school of thought. The second part of this is that I was born in Colombia and so was Teheran. So the reason for trying to get a ball from him was that he is the first Colombian Pitcher in the major leagues and it would mean the world to get a ball from him because he also has a good chance of succeeding at this level. I threw in the part of me being of the Pitchers school of thought because yeah it would mean a lot for Edgar Renteria or Orlando Cabrera to throw me a ball but to have the first Colombian MLB Pitcher to throw me a ball would be great. Also, sorry if I sounded repetitive back there but it was just kind of an idea in my head and I wanted to get it as refined as I could. In retrospect, it probably just confused you more. Just to add on how much I’ve been paying attention to Teheran and want him to succeed, I went out of my way to see his first start with the Braves a while ago. The reason I focused so much on him in this series and not others is because he got sent down shortly after his first start as he struggled.
Enough of my man-crush on Julio Teheran, I just wanted to get the explanation out of the way because it really was the center of the weekend. I didn’t get anything from any other Pitchers because Teheran was facing me and I was right behind his throwing partner and was afraid that if he saw me get a ball he wouldn’t consider throwing me his. When he and his partner finished, I yelled out to him, ” Una pelota para un Colombiano?” This translates to: “A ball for a Colombian?” Good news: He heard me.
Bad News: He missed with his throw and the guy next to me got the ball. Either that or he thought the guy next to me had called out to him.
I then moved down the line and tried to get a ball from the other Braves pitchers. As I mentioned before, I didn’t get a Pitcher to throw a ball to me. Despite this, I did get a ball. Jonny Venters and his partner were the last throwing pair on the Braves. There was a kid right next to me that was much younger and so I knew I probably wasn’t going to get the ball thrown to me. So, I moved behind the kid and played the mis-throw. Venters did then overthrow the kid, I grabbed it, and handed it to the kid. When Venters finished throwing, he started signing autographs and I got him to sign one of my baseballs from that day. I think he has signed for me before but mygameballs.com’s autograph database is being difficult and I gave away most of my autographed baseballs last year so I have no evidence. A funny thing happened in that Venter actually signed right next to where I had numbered the ball and looked a little funny at the ball. I wonder what went through his head. The obvious thought being that I am selling the autographs and so I number the balls to identify the balls.
For the game, I did my usual ritual of getting a ticket on each side of the outfield and running to Left Field for Righties and Right Field for Lefties. It was and ideal set-up for this ritual as both the teams were batting primarily from a different side of the line-up. That is to say, the Braves line-up was made of primarily Lefties and the Nationals lineup was made up of primarily Righties. This allowed me time to move back and forth between innings instead of At-Bats and also make me not feel like I wasted money on one of the tickets (this would happen if both teams were primarily Righties or Lefties).
It was mainly dead out in Home Run territory but then later in the game THIS happened. Jayson Werth hit a Home Run into the Left Field seats where I was sitting. It was really high and was the same direction as the Chris Young Home Run I had missed out on a few weeks prior. It ended up like five rows right behind where that Home Run had hit.
I was on an aisle seat as usual and here is a screen shot from when the ball was in the air:
The Left arrow is me and the Right is where the ball would hit. At this time, I saw there were no rows that would get me to a place where I could get to catching the ball on the fly without knocking down half-a-dozen people. So I stayed on the aisle and hoped the ball would bounce back towards the field off of the seat.
Here is a screen shot after the ball bounced of the seat and headed right in my direction:
The big arrow is pointing to my red Nationals hat and the little arrow is pointing to the ball coming off the seat and back to me. The ball bounced back right in my direction but I couldn’t see that because the girl in the Strasburg t-shirt’s back was blocking my view. She then deflected the ball and it landed in a seat in the row between us two. From there it was a race between our two hands to the ball and this was the result:
She was closer and reached for the ball faster. I think the Home Run in general felt too casual, it felt like nothing more than a batting practice ball. I feel that if I had been more into the game/aggressive I would have my first Home Run ball. Anyway, the arrow in the top third of the picture is pointing to where I am standing outside of the picture. Looking on sadly.
After the game, I got Eddie Perez to throw me a ball from the bullpen after the game. This made Six balls on the day even without batting practice.
And that was how my partially redemptive weekend in Washington went. In other news, tomorrow is my birthday and the 1 year anniversary of Observing Baseball. I hope to write something but it *is* my birthday and so if I don’t I will write it on Friday.
As an introduction, I accidentally erased all of the pictures on my phone that I took at this game and for the rest of the season. The entries will go on as planned but they will lack pictures.
It was my first game in about three weeks so I was excited. That excitement quickly left me once I saw that the Nationals had foregone batting practice. Usually, only Left Field is open for the first hour of the stadium being open but in this case they had it open. That would have been great if the Nationals were hitting but because they were just throwing it actually brought more competition for the balls.
The one player I had set my sights on was Sean Burnett because I had done some research and saw it was his birthday. Unfortunately, his throwing partner, Tyler Clippard, ended up with the ball and because there were 5 ballhawks at this game in addition to regular fans, all the other balls had been caught by someone else. I asked Clippard if I could have the ball but there were ten year olds in the area and I wasn’t shocked when he threw the ball to them. I then had some time until the Marlins would start hitting and throwing. So, I went over to the Marlins dugout so I wouldn’t have to rush once they actually did come out to throw. I had gotten both Doug Slaten and Drew Storen’s autograph on my two ticket stubs (I bought one and Rick Gold gave me one). When I got over to the Marlins dugout, I just barely missed out on getting Gaby Sanchez to sign my ticket. I did however, get Emilio Bonifacio to sign the same ticket as Slaten. While he was signing, I asked him (in Spanish of course) if he could throw me a ball if I got his attention later on. Here is a picture of the two ticket stubs with the autographs on them:
The top ticket is Bonifacio and Slaten’s ticket while the bottom is Storen’s ticket
Later on, the Marlins pitchers went out to throw by the Left Field foul pole. I followed them out but while I was waiting for them to finish, I saw Bonifacio warming up back at the dugout. So, I hustled back and got there just in time. He had just finished up and was about to throw the ball, to a kid who I have seen a few times at Nationals Park, but hesitated when he saw me in the corner of his eye and threw the ball to me on the outfield end of the dugout, remembering his promise.
When I got back to the outfield, most of the pitchers had finished their throwing so I decided to stay in the Left Field seats for Mike Stanton’s power-packed hitting group. There were a few tough luck balls but the grand daddy of them all was a fly ball that I had judged perfectly and was camped under. Right at the last second, I saw a glove coming in front of mine and it caught the ball. I congratulated the person and was genuinely happy for them because they had brought a glove, but had a few bounces or toss-ups gone my way it could have been a good day considering Strasburg was pitching that night and double the norm showed up to batting practice.
I then moved over to Right Field to try my luck at catching a Logan Morrison Home Run. I actually did catch one in about the third row that I judged semi-perfectly and caught on the fly. I got many congratulations from the people around me but thought at the time that it was just a sign of things to come. Sadly, no other Lefties hit much to Right Field and the Marlins upheld their rep as a stingy team. So, that ended up being my last ball of batting practice and the game. I was in the outfield and could have gone to the bullpen but wanted to save that chance for the next day because I expected to be there (I had to search the District of Columbia for a Citi Bank and that caused me to not go) and wanted to save myself that opportunity for the next day where I planned to get at least five despite the fact that there was not going to be any batting practice, to make up for this below average day.
That was it. All in all it was a decent day to go to the ballpark and I did not regret going.
This was now the third and final game of the redeem-my-horrible-roadtrip series. Since the previous two games had been overall disappointments/failures, this was the game that I was going to break out. That all went down the drain when out came the rain. When I arrived I thought the Nationals were actually going to take batting practice and I had good reason because as the red arrow in this picture shows, the cages were at one time indeed up:
I also noticed but could not take a picture of, the Nationals pitchers warming up ahead of schedule. I didn’t mind it at the time because they knew me and we were going to have batting practice even though it was slightly moist in the air and the constant threat of rain hung over our heads.
That picture was taken 30 minutes before the gate opened. In the meantime, I was waiting in line from a position from where I could not see what was happening. When I arrive to the field I found out the unfortunate truth:
The good news was that, as you can see, the Diamondbacks came out to throw and I wouldn’t have to wait out it the cold dampness in anticipation. I did have some competition out there but I got the weirdest ball by far. I was prepared to wait until the last pair finished and get my one ball but out of nowhere, Jeff Motuzas, the Diamonbacks bullpen catcher, threw me a ball. I believe none of the other ballhawks had gotten a ball yet, neither had I asked for the ball. To top it all off, Motuzas had thrown me a ball after the game the day before and would be more likely to recognize me As I was the last fan he interacted with. Was it because He had seen me at the previous game that he threw me the ball? Did he perhaps want to reward me for coming to another game? If he just forgot about me I don’t think he would have thrown me the ball because the others were calling out to him and wearing D-Backs gear. Weird, see what I mean? Here is the ball he threw me with Motuzas in the background.
Motuzas tossed me this ball in front of all the pitchers out there. This meant that most of the pitchers saw me get the ball. I then changed my get up by: switching my pants ( I had shorts under hiking pants), covering up my Diamondbacks shirt, putting on Mets give away glasses, and keeping my Diamondbacks hat on. Due to the change, I got Daniel Hudson to toss me a ball as he finished up his catch. Here is the ball with Hudson in the background:
By the way, the man looking back is not a ballhawk by most standards but his son was part of the competition I was talking about. This would also be the same kid that mocked me about snagging two balls at US Cellular in the first gameof the series (displeasure #7 if you want to got all the way down to the specific line(a parenthesis in parenthesis, are you allowed to do that? Anyway, the way that entry is set up is that the day was just a list of the things that went wrong for me that day so whenever I introduce one more thing it has the number and a period this specific thing that went wrong is introduced by a 7.)) The kid himself was over in the bullpen getting someone to throw him a ball.
Then the boringness began. It was now around 5:00 and the game wasn’t going to begin for another 2 hours and that meant no snagging opportunities for about an hour. I’ll just list the highlights of my stadium wandering:
1. I was going to go up to the Red Porch and take in a panoramic view of the stadium:
but that was closed:
2. I went to the CF portion of the outfield concourse and went to play area sponsored by Exxon Mobil called the Strike Zone:
the highlight of this was like a batting cage they had set-up:
This wasn’t your stadium-employee-lobs-ball-to-you batting cage. How it worked was you, the hitter, picked a certain pitcher to go against. For example, this hitter is facing Scott Kazmir. A clip plays on the wall of the pitcher winding up and throwing the ball and as the pitcher gets to the position where he would release the ball an actual ball shoots out of the wall where his hand is and comes at you. The hitter can also designate the speed they would like the ball at and the clip still plays in realtime. There is also a similar thing with pitching but it isn’t nearly as much fun. Demonstrated by the only ones playing it were the employees manning it. I only want to show this picture because it gets the ball just as it is about to hit the wall of strips of material that look like shredded paper:
3. When the rest of the stadium opened, (for those who don’t know, only Left Field and the upper deck in Right of Nationals Park are open from when the stadium opens until 5:30 for a 7:00 game) I went over into foul ground to for the Nationals pitchers’ errant throws when they warmed up before the game. Sadly there were no baseballs to be found but I did get an interesting shot of the tarp being rolled off:
Neat, huh? At least I think so. I like how I get the tarp right down the line. Then again, part of the experience was being that close to the unrolled tarp. I know that sounds quirky but for whatever reason it was slightly exciting. Maybe it was just that boring of a day?
4. I wandered the concourse and noticed that throughout the stadium, the Nationals honor random Hall of Famers like:
I guess the Nationals don’t have enough team history that they put these up. Can you imagine the Yankees putting up salutes to historic players from other teams? Didn’t think so. The Nationals do have more than those two but I didn’t want to include all of them in this entry because there were quite a few.
I then just waited for the rest of pre-game until the position players came out and started throwing at which time I set up in the stands and hoped they would throw me a ball:
I don’t remember exactly what happened but I ended up not getting anything from here and going out to another day of what I thought was going to be outfield running but it turns out that I could have just bought a ticket out in Left Field and I would have been just as well off because both teams are primarily running to begin with and the fact that both pitchers were lefties made them even more right heavy. I don’t remember the exact numbers but there were like 3 lefties in the entirety of both lineups excluding the pitchers.
While in Left Field, I had some room around me because the rain drove away everyone except the Nationals fans. So basically it was really empty in Left Field. Here are four pictures that should show how empty it was.
Behind me and to my right:
Angeled towards the field and to the right:
Behind me and to my left:
Angeled towards the field and to the left:
Due to how right handed heavy the lineup was and the fact that I had some room to move, I adjusted slightly for every hitter using a site called hittrackeronline.com. If you want to check it out the link is in the sidebar. Anyway, I looked at where each hitter hit his Home Runs and adjusted based on what I saw. So here is Michael Morse’s Home Run Chart:
Each of the blue dots is a Home Run he has hit this year. So, for Morse I would play further back in the seats because there is almost no pattern as far as the direction of the ball is concerned but the only constant is that he hits the ball far and I wanted to be going in on the ball and not back.
Also as a result of the righty-ness of the lineup , I stayed in Left Field for 80% of the time and my trips to Right Field only served to be a hinderance to me on this day. I consider two Home Runs to be partially lost opportunities because of my trips to Right. Partially because, it wouldn’t have been a sure thing if I had been in my seat in Left but it sure would have been much easier to get them if I had.
The first was a Chris Young Home Run where I was just getting back to my seat and looking to see which row I was in. As a result, I was looking to my right when Young hit the ball and didn’t see the ball once while it was in the air. Zack Hample had also taken up residence in the Left Field seats and since I didn’t want to look up for the ball and possibly miss my opportunity to get to the ball, I just watched him. I thought to myself “he’s going to at least get some glove on the ball so my best shot is that is to sit a few rows behind him and get the deflection.” The whole time I was going down the staircase. He went about four rows under where the ball hit and by default I was two rows under it. I had come from quite a bit up on the staircase so I would have been able to get to the spot had I just looked up to see where the ball was headed. The only variable in that situation would have been if I would be able to judge the ball correctly but I’m pretty sure I would have been within five feet of it and I’m almost certain I would have caught it.
You can see the video by clicking, here. I am in my light red Nationals shirt going down the steps and then into a row going towards the right of your screen. If you keep focus on me, you can see I didn’t look up once and me turn when the ball deflects off the seat.
The second Home Run is kind of a slippery slope argument but here goes. I was in Right Field for Miguel Montero’s At-Bat and was headed back to Left Field I usually go at a decent pace that gets me to the other side of the field within two pitches of the At-Bat starting but it was like the eighth inning or something like that and I was pretty tired and thought to myself: “Why am I running this fast for Paul Goldschmidt? I’ve never heard of him so he can’t have that much power. You know what I’m just going to walk the rest of the way and get there in time for (whoever was behind him in the lineup who I perceived to be a better HR threat).” So I slowed up to a walk and just as I was behind the Red Porch I saw a baseball rolling out onto the concourse and a crowd of kids about half a second behind it. They chased it almost all the way to the gate in Center Field and one of them picked it up. The ball had bounced on the staircase right next to the one I usually go down in Left Field. This means that I would have been right next to the ball when it landed or towards the top of the staircase where I could have turned around and outran the other kids that chased the ball, which was very frustrating. Had I just been where I usually sit in Right Field there is a 50-50 chance I would have caught the ball on the fly. At least there was a nice/weird looking sky:
It may not look *that* special but it was some legitimate freakiness going on because it didn’t seem like light being refracted but the clouds themselves were that color. I guess a better way of explaining it is that the orange color pierced the cloud instead of only being on one side of it like when the sun hits it.
Anyway, the video for the Goldschmidt Home Run can be seen by clicking, here. You can’t see me but you can better visualize what I described two paragraphs ago.
I then moved over to Right Field for the beginning of the final inning. I did this because I knew it was Justin Upton’s birthday and tried to get his final inning warmup ball through that. As he was finishing his throwing, I yelled out as hard as I could: “HAPPY BIRTHDAY JUSTIN.” I know he heard me unless he is partially hearing impaired because he was close enough to the wall but regardless he didn’t even acknowledge me much less throw me his warmup ball. The reason I put the latter as a superior negative to the former is that he has nothing to save the warmup ball from his final inning for. What is he going to do with it? There are no more innings to warmup for. I was also almost the only one in that section and was definitely the only Diamonbacks fan that bothered to look up his birthday if I wasn’t the only Diamonbacks fan in that section period.
I then went back to Left for the ninth itself because there were mostly righties coming up and I was more likely to get a ball from the Diamondbacks than the Nationals bullpen because there were obviously more people in Nationals gear than Diamondbacks gear. When I didn’t get anything, I took the metro to my temporary residence whenever I come to Washington and got myself packed to have the priviledge of taking the bus back to Manhattan the next morning just to go to another baseball game.
This was now the second game of the series that was supposed to redeem my horrible roadtrip and I did get a total that was like triple my average on that trip but the day was an overall failure. I did bring my camera and took pictures with it but later realized that I had taken them without the memory card and I had lost them forever. So, I will just write up my bp and the pictures will come during the game portion of the entry. Here it goes:
I went immediately up to the second deck in Right Field which was absolutely empty. Within five minutes of me getting there three Rick Ankiel Home Runs came up there. I ended up with one. The first hit in the seats to my right and I kind of lolligagged to it because I was the only one in the section but the ball bounced back onto the field. It was semi-catchable but that’s not the worst part. Had I run after that ball I would have been in postion to catch a ball he hit on the very next pitch except further to the right. That one also bounced back onto the field. Ankiel then hit a third ball back to my left and this time it stuck in the seats. I went over and grabbed that ball. Sadly, I quickly forgot that I snagged that ball because I was still moping about the previous two so keep this fact in mind. I didn’t get any toss-ups from the pitchers even though I was the only one because they now recognized me. I mean the same kid in the same Nationals hat and shirt every game really isn’t that hard to spot/recognize but it only occurred to me after the game.
Ankiel & rest of group then finish their session and Ankiel went out to shag in Right Field. I asked him for a bseball and he said some obscure words I couldn’t make out and I asked him to repeat. “Make a muscle.” He said. I then held my cotton clad arm and he tossed me my second ball of the day.
My third ball of the day can be explained in two words: Todd Coffey. Well maybe not but the story goes that Todd Coffey likes to throw a baseball and likes to throw them random distances. When the pitchers finished a drill where they ran routes like a Wide Receiver, Todd Coffey took those seven baseballs and just threw them to random spots in the stands. He threw one to the upper deck, a few in foul territory (later pocketed by ushers), and most of them in the second deck where I was standing. One of those that he threw to the second deck was on the fly:
The bright red arrow is where I caught the ball and the fainter red circle points out a part of the stadium called the Miller Light Scoreboard Walk. It is like a bar section where there are discounted beers before every game and is part of the reason why the Upper Right field seats are so empty. Most people don’t go up there because of baseballs and those who do are more inclined to get turned off by all the people drinking. Anyway, that’s not why I bring it up here, the reason that I bring it up is because most of the balls launched to the second deck went there where it was funny to see a baseball go into a crowd of people that were drinking and see what happened when they realized the fact. Suffice to say, Chaos insumed. I marked that ball #198 because I forgot that I had gotten the Ankiel homer and so I thought my next ball was going to be #199 when in fact it was #200.
#200 came when a Nationals lefty hit a ball to my left and an usher with whom Alex Kopp and Garrett Meyer have had problems with raced me to the ball. I beat her to it but she said she wanted to give it to someone. For the prospect of better ballhawk relationships I gave it to her not realizing that it was infact #200 and asked her who the ball was for she got someone caught off guard. I want to assume that it was because she thought of ballhawks as vile filth that only care about themselves and wouldn’t ask that question but she regained her composure within a second and answered that it was for her niece. She then asked me what I did with all the baseballs I got. I responded that I gave away about 1/3 to kids (Would you say this is about accurate? I actually used to give away more before the blog but since I like to keep enough to make for a good picture at the end of the entry) got about 1/6 signed (again used to do this a lot more last year because I wasn’t as focused on getting the balls themselves), and then kept the rest just in different places in my apartment (this is definitely true I have no idea what is going to happen with baseballs if I catch like 200 in a season. Most of the balls from this year are in unused bags because the filing cabinet I have is filled to the brim.) Soon after this, bp ended and the cages got pulled away. I had a clue why. While talking to a fan yesterday waiting in line for the gates to open, I found out that had the stadium opened on time, the Diamondbacks would not be taking bp in favor of fielding practice.
Sure enough, the Diamonbacks showed up for fielding practice and there were zero snagging opportunities until the Diamondbacks finished and when they did, they didn’t toss anything up to the only Diamonbacks “fan” within a mile of the dugout. I have no problem with fielding practice taking place AFTER bp but I just don’t understand why you have to cancel bp to make this happen. I however, am in no position to criticize, the Diamonbacks had been hitting wretchedly until that point and this series was the start of a run that separated them from the Giants in the NL West and will propbably get them into the playoffs. It just makes no sense to my limited knowledge of baseball. This was actually a first for me in that I bought seats on both sides of the Outfield. If you were following this adventure on the blog’s twitter account, you know that I was absolutely exhausted by the fifth inning. I repeat, THE FIFTH INNING. If I’m not mistaken, the reason I did this was because there were two righties on the hill and the established players on both teams (Justin Upton, Chris Young, Michael Morse, Ryan Zimmerman etc) were pure righties but had plenty of power lefties/switch hitters that almost only came in/hit lefty when there was a righty on the hill (Rick Ankiel, Danny Espinosa, Laynce Nix, Miguel Montero) those names but might be accurate but the point is the line-up was very mixed when it came to righties and lefties. The Diamondbacks were the main cause of my exhaustion as Kirk Gibson thought it would be funny to see me run back and forth all night and stacked his lineup in the Righty-Lefty format. The Nationals almost did the same thing but they had a pocket of righties at the middle of the order because those were the players that belonged at the middle of the order.
I ended up so exhauted that I had to do a bit of guess work and just guess which hitters were more likely to hit a Home Run than the others. Had I actually followed the lineup, there would have been many a time that I started running to one side of the OF and a batter change would cause me to turn around the other way. On average, if I left right as the first batter got out, I got to the other side of the OF by the second pitche of the second batter’s At-Bat.
I didn’t catch anything but came within 20 feet of Laynce NIx’s 9th inning Home Run and got a ball after the game ended from the Diamondbacks’ bullpen catcher, Jeff Motuzas:
I also managed to snag a bag of peanuts from a couple who bought two bags but didn’t have room for the second:
Or as it is known in the dictionary Observing Baseball edition, dinner. I am glad I had something to eat because this self-portrait sums up best how I was feeling a the moment:
Is it okay with everyone if I don’t write up the stats for the rest of the season? It has been uneventful to say the least and I am really more concerned with getting the entries up first than puting up my stats. If it is really important to you to see my stats, the best place to look at them by far is my mygameballs.com profile page which is linked to on the side bar on the right side of the screen and has better statistical categories than any I can think of—–>
I would rather forget this day as quickly as I possibly can. This three game series was supposed to be my redemption for a horrible trip to the mid-west (snagging wise). Just about everything went wrong that could have gone wrong. Let’s go through the list shall we.
1. My bus broke down and I had to switch buses causing a 30 minute delay at the very least.
2. I got to Washington 15 minutes after the earthquake that day and as a result the roads were blocked off and I arrived to Union Station (our final destination) at 3:30 which was 6 hours after we left New York. Due to the earthquake, Union station was closed and I couldn’t take the metro from there. Here is the crowd gathered there:
3. I had to walk about 2 miles with my backpack that was packed like a suitcase, in 90+ degree heat in my long pants and sweatshirt that I had on because the bus is always pretty cold, to the nearest train station and get on that. Though, I can be thankful I didn’t get to Washington like 30 minutes later because this was the traffic:
4. After finally getting on the train itself and riding my initial stops seamlessly and slowly, I ran into a bit of a crowd at my transfer station:
The crowd was like ten people deep all the way across a platform that was about 500 feet wide. So, it took a few trains for the 10th person back to get on a train because only so many people can fit on one train. Given the fact that the trains were running at reduced speeds for workers to make sure the tunnels were structurally sound and every other train was different at this same stop, it wasn’t a surprise that I got to the ballpark an hour and twenty minutes after I left Union Station at 4:50.
5. Due to the delayed metro etc., Nationals Park was understaffed and made us wait until 6:40 to enter the park. For example, here is a guard who usually supervises the whole let-in-the-people-at-4:30-and-make-sure-everything-goes-smooth actually setting up a gate:
6. The gates didn’t open until 6:40 which was 20 minutes before the game was scheduled to start and this is what I felt like:
Oh and want to see all the productive work I was getting accomplished:
I took the picture with some thought process in mind that I as going to explain here but it was along the lines of: “Usually that sign says WELCOME TO NATIONALS PARK but the fact that the gates aren’t open makes the sentence WE COME TO NATINALS PAK” For those who don’t know, the Nationals had a jersey mistake a few years ago where Majestic Athletic actually spelled their name as “Natinals” on the jerseys of Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn. Since then, it has been a running joke in baseball and beyond to call them the Natinals whenever they are trying to be put in a negative/mistake prone light and it as interesting that the bars left this message. I know it’s a bit confusing but it made sense in my head at the time. Oh and the “we” that the modified inscription was referring to was this whole pack of people that came to the ballpark but were still waiting to get in:
7. While I was at the gate waiting for it to open, I got into a discussion about snagging baseballs with a kid who was about 10 and with his dad and got ridiculed by him for only snagging two baseballs at US Cellular in my last game.
8. The final and most painful of the day’s misfortunes was during the game itself. So of course I will take you step by step through how exactly I messed this up. First of all, the video of this situation is here. It would be a video of Sean Burroughs’ first Home Run in five years due to substance abuse problems, which also happened to drive in the only two runs of the game. Now this is no Josh Hamilton story but it would have been nice to catch part of such a nice story and had I, who knows, he might have asked for it back because it meant so much to him.
Anyway, I will show you what to look for in the video.
1. Seconds 3-7 show me running across two sections towards where I thought the ball was headed, the ball hit off the hands of a person to whom the ball was hit, hit off my hand, bounce into a seat in the row in front of me and roll me reach down to grab it. Here I am beginning my run to the ball:
I apologize for the blurriness but this is from the video I linked to and the camera is moving. The arrow on the left is where I was sitting and the arrow to the right is pointing to the blurry reddish figure as I was wearing my D-Backs jersey. This next screen shot shows the moment about a half a second before the ball touched down:
The left arrow would be pointing to me and the right pointing to the guy off whose hands the ball bounced. Here the arrows represent the same things as they did in the last picture but it is while the ball is bouncing off of my hand:
2. Seconds 12-13 show the person in the row behind me holding the ball up:
The left arrow would be the guy with the ball in his seat and the right arrow would be me still looking for the ball. What happened was that the ball fell into the seat and I started looking for the ball in the seat but when it wasn’t there I started looking in the row in front of the seat and so forth when I noticed that everyone was looking behind me. This two seconds or so on the video actually document me looking at their faces and turning back to come to the sad realization that I had completely missed the ball. Let me put you in my head a little further by explaining how confused I was at this moment. I would have understood how the ball ended up in his hands but it had been traveling forwards and the person who was in possession of it was sitting down. I had no idea how this happened until I looked at the tape and saw that….
3. Seconds 48-54 show a replay of what happened in the seats and reveal this:
If you are confused as to what you are looking at I don’t blame you. the right arrow is just to show where I was. You can sort of see my maroon-ish jersey peeking out between the bald guy’s arm but the important thing is the left arrow, which shows the guy who ended up with the ball reaching through my legs to snatch up the ball. What I figured out later was that the ball was indeed wedged in the seat for how brief a moment but when I or the other people converging on the ball hit the seat towards the field the seat created a ramp of sorts for the ball and it shot through my legs just as I was searching for it in the seat.
9. Oh and there was something the camera didn’t pick up: the guy threw the ball back. Why would you go through all that effort to get the ball if you’re just going to throw it back onto the field.
By the way, here is the path I had to take to get to the ball in the first place:
The two connected arrows show the path I ran and the lone arrow points out the guy that ended up with the ball.
I don’t want to say, though, that it was just a day of bad breaks because there were two positives that happened.
1. I did get to see the Nationals top three prospects get honored and have their first taste of stardom:
2. There were people that saw my effort. This group of four:
commented a few times on how far I ran and what an effort I had given and eventually gave me this in the ninth:
Apparently they had gone to the Nats’ team store and bought that for me. It was a very kind gesture and as they say made my day. The end.
It was a sunday day game so you know what that means:
Wait… no. This can’t be right. There are never cages set up on a Sunday day game. I must have looked in the wrong album. Wow!
Yes there was indeed batting practice as Garrett Meyer- recently back from a one game excursion to Philadelphia- so astutely noticed outside the gates. I would also like to thank him for providing me with a ticket. I had bought one but the printer in my Washington residence decided a great day to be unavailable.
As you can tell from that last picture, I was in the upper Right Field seats again. My first ball came when I was about to leave the section, but then a ball rolled almost to the wall. Rick Ankiel picked it up and let me share the dialogue that occured:
“Can you toss me the ball, please?”
I couldn’t hear what he said that well next. So I said, “What?”
“Show me your muscle” he said raising his arm. I then raised my arm like his and he tossed me the ball. I appreciate his effort to be fan-friendly but that was kind of weird and over-the-top.
I then made my journey to left field:
This didn’t go as well as I planned it so I moved over to the Red Porch. After, of course, drooling over the baseballs in the bullpen and really wishing I had back-up rubber bands as I had lost the one on my glove a few minutes earlier:
In Center Field, a person was trying to get a ball by just the darling-est of means: “Hey [Brian Bixler], how much longer do you think you’re going to be with the Nats?” Surprisingly, Bixler did not throw him the ball. On the next ball, I simply gave my standard request for a ball with please at the end and I got the ball. After that though, Bixler told me that it was because I was polite. I guess you can be really sensitive to those things when you have just been called up (Bixler got called up when Jerry Hariston Jr. got traded in between my first and second games here at Nationals Park).
My third ball of the game came when I moved back to Left Field and Jose Martinez fielded a ball towards the right of the bullpen right in front of it. There must have been at least 15 other voices but he surprisingly reacted to my spanish leaning out the place where I had lost my retainer the day before. He then threw a perfect strike to me and I vanished back up to the second deck:
There that same bullpen catcher person that doesn’t show up on the coaches roster threw a ball up to a kid. It went over him right to me and I caught it and handed it to the kid as it was obviously intended for him. This was the kid:
As you can tell,(if you’ve ever gone to Nationals Park) I was heading back over to Left Field. This was because batting practice had ended and I was moving over to the bullpen to get a ball from the pitcher warming up in the bullpen whose name escapes me. After realizing that it was going to take a while for him to finish and hearing that the rest of the park was now open, I ran over to foul ground on the first base side because I had seen all the balls in the Right Field stands picked up by the guards and I knew where a ball was in foul ground. Sure enough my ball waited for me:
This was easy for two reasons 1) half of the fans were racing to find balls in the Right Field stands like pictured in the upper part of the last picture and 2) the other half was racing to get a good spot by the dugouts for Signature Sunday.
Back over to the other side of the ballpark, a couple of pitchers were warming up and I got Mike Pelfrey to throw me a ball:
If you look closely, you can see that same pitcher (whoever he is) was still warming up in the bullpen. I then tried to help the kid in the last picture to get a ball from either Ryota Igarashi or Pedro Beato but sadly neither ended up with the ball and I didn’t have a chance to use my linguistic skillz.
I did however get Ryota Igarashi to sign a ball of mine:
The man himself in behind the circle I drew as the crowd had engulfed him in that picture. It is a very interesting autograph, no? I wonder if all Japanese pitchers sign like that? It makes sense now but it just never occurred to me. As I was going through my baseballs to find a good one to get signed, I saw how scuffed up the ball I found was and took a picture. Here it is with where I found it in the background:
As far as the game was concerned, I once again sat in the Left Field seats where this was my view:
It was definitely a tale of two line-ups as the Nationals possessed a line-ups:
I actually apologize as I initially wrote this part in the last entry thinking it happened last game but it actually happened this game:
Nothing else came my way during the game except for a Scott Hariston Home Run which hit right where the dotted arrows show the flight of the ball:
When it touched down, it hit off a fan’s (pointed out by the solid arrow) hands, fluttered in the air and got caught by that same fan. You could hear the crowd about to boo him but then cheer him when he caught it the second time.
The Hariston Home Run was one of two he hit in the game, providing the Mets with their only runs of the game and forcing the game into extra innings where the Nationals loaded the bases against Bobby Parnell through a series of Mets errors (not the statistical category this included Parnell hitting a batter and such) and getting a walk of hit through the use of the Baltimore chop.
After the game ended, I got one of the bullpen catchers, Eric Langill, to throw me a ball from the bullpen bag. Whoomp here it is:
One of the things that I do like about the Mets is that their bullpen bag is full of rubbed up balls so the pitchers don’t have to make an adjustment when they come into the game. Other teams probably do this too but the Mets are the first team I have noticed doing it.
- 7 balls at this game (6 pictured because I gave 1 away)
- 121 balls in 27 games this season= 4.48 balls per game
- 53 straight games with at least 1 ball
- 22 straight on the road
- 18 straight games with at least 2 balls
- 3 games straight with at least 7 balls
- 6 straight games at Nationals Park with at least 1 ball
- 37 balls in 6 games at Nationals Park = 6.17 balls per game
- 25 balls on this specific excursion = 8.333333 balls per game
- 7 balls* 25,307 fans= 177,149 competition factor
- Time at Game 11:01- 5:45= 6 hours 44 minutes
Jason Werth bobblehead day and this is how things looked as I arrived three hours prior to first pitch:
Right then and there I knew this was going to be primarily an Upper Right Field day because Left Field was just going to be so crowded. The gate that I am pointing out with the Orange was actually one of many. They served the dual purpose of funneling people to the bobbleheads which are out of the picture to the left, but also not letting anyone loop back around for a second bobblehead. I went to this game because I thought that although it would bring many more fans it would drive away many of the ballhawks. I was partially right. When I went up to the Second deck in Right Field there was this guy in the Nationals hat and “Flava” Dave Stevenson:
The arrow shows where the first ball of the day touched down. Some Nationals lefty hit a deep ball there and I could have sprinted and gotten it but I let that guy get it as it was closer to him.
My first ball of the day came through unusual fashion. I myself was reluctant to ask Todd Coffey for a ball considering the odd exchange we had the day before. That however, did not stop dave from asking Coffey for a ball. Coffey then unleashed a throw on Dave that sailed 3 rows over his head just to my left. I wasn’t just going to leave it there. Normally what happens in this situation with another ballhawk is that I take the ball and feel slightly guilty but justify my actions by the fact they have caught plenty of baseballs themselves. This is where the weird part comes in. I normally give the balls back if this situation happens with other kids I usually give the ball to them but don’t with ballhawks because most ballhawks don’t count a ball they didn’t have primary possession of. However, I learned in my last day in Baltimore that Dave counts balls that he didn’t have primary possession. I learned this when a ball bounced off of his hands to Garrett Meyer and when the player who threw it asked Garrett to give it to Dave, Dave received it and counted it as his own ball.
So, I grabbed the ball and relieved the usual guilt I have by then letting Dave have it. This then counted as a ball for both me and Dave. Yes it is a corrupt system but I would like to point out that it was not my end of the system that was broken. To relieve some of the mental strain of those trying to picture this scenario I made a diagram:
The dotted lines are the path of the ball and the solid line is my path to it. The upper two dotted lines are just a way of demonstrating the path the ball took without using curved lines and the lower dotted line is how I let the ball roll to Dave. Although, he did go up a few steps I didn’t want to add another arrow to make the picture even more cluttered.
My second ball was hit by some random Nationals lefty and it landed three rows behind where my first ball landed where I then picked it up. My third ball came from Ryan Mattheus as he fielded it in Right Field. Again, the dotted arrows are the path of the ball and the solid arrows are the movement of the people they originate from:
For the record, I am not half on the field. I was just right on the edge of that glass in case Mattheus missed me short I would have more freedom to reach for the ball. That and the arrows don’t do much justice to depth of field.
At this point, I was just thanking my lucky stars that I wasn’t in Left Field:
So of course I left my Right Field paradise. I moved over to the Red Porch because 1) every pitcher in Right Field and their brother recognized me and 2) the ever nice Livan Hernandez was in Center Field:
I didn’t catch anything and nothing even came close but I did meet yet another ballhawk. His name was Mike. I don’t exactly what his last name was or if he even gave me one. Anyway, he lives in New Jersey and makes it to the games he can. The previous night’s and this night’s games happened to be two of them. We talked briefly at most but he was just one of the weird run-ins on this night with other ballhawks, Dave being another.
I then moved back to Right Field (upper, of course) and after spending a while towards the Center Field side moved almost all the way to the foul pole where I tried to get a ball from Henry Rodriguez. I failed at this but while I was there, Danny Espinosa hit a fly ball right to my right. I looked over to make sure no one was in my way and reached out two feet and caught the ball. I then got many congratulations and “thank you”s. Not for giving the ball away, but what I had not seen was there was a kid behind me that wasn’t paying attention and I had apparently saved him from injury.
I then moved back over to my previous spot where I got congratulated by another ballhawk (possibly…Mike?). I also had another weird run-in. This time with Avi Miller (again I was stupid enough not to get a picture). I talked with him as well as bp continued on. I had essentially given up on toss-ups because the players knew me but when Dave Stevenson called out for a toss-up from Ryan Mattheus I lined up behind him just in case. Let me use this picture I took of my bobblehead seconds before to demonstrate what happened:
Sure enough, the ball flew over Dave’s head again, and I picked it up and tossed it to him in one motion for ball #5 on the day. Minutes later, someone else on the Nationals hit a ball to the right of that same staircase. I moved down a bit, moved over a bit and caught the ball while leaning over the seats in front of me.
I don’t know how soon afterward but pretty soon afterwards, Nationals bp ended. As the Mets ran out, I quickly put on my Mets shirt. This paid off just as quickly as, just as my head went through the top hole of the shirt, I saw Jason Pridie waving a ball in my direction with his non-gloved hand. I hadn’t asked for it or anything but when he did this I started waving my arms and he threw the ball up to me. Weird, but I’ll take it. Here’s a sort-of good diagram of what happened:
Then things slowed waay down. I looked down to see this:
That may not look that crowded but I could tell it was a situation where I wouldn’t have many paths by which to manuever in the seats. By the way, that arrow is pointing to yet another weird run-in, Cliff Eddens. I mean I’ll run into Cliff a couple times at Citi Field here and there but to see him at Nats Park was a complete surprise. Anyway, I stayed up on the second level because this was the crowd up there:
After half-an-hour of nothing, I went down to the lower level and saw it wasn’t THAT bad:
You can see the part I was looking at from up top was pretty bad but the seats a bit further back were really empty. Considering I saw Home Runs hit into those seats, I could have been in double digits if I had gone down sooner. Getting toss-ups, though, was completely out of the question. There were way too many people and the Mets were not even looking back to see the people in the crowd. I then noticed Cliff and went over to say hi. In the middle of our conversation, a ball got hit to our right. Since I was standing to the right off him, I started after it. It was about five feet to my right so I moved over there in a motion that must have looked something like Carlton Fisk’s waving the ball foul (sans arm movement). I then hit my right leg on something which was very painful. I adjusted my right leg in its movement because I figured it was just a post or something like that since I hadn’t checked down the aisle for people or anything else. I then proceeded to hit my left leg on the same object. Those two things slowed me down and the ball went just out of my reach into another man’s glove. I then looked down and found out that the culprit was a bag weighing down the seat and causing it to be more open than the others in that aisle:
After various other failed attempt at balls (one of which I could have gotten but was too polite), I moved back up to the second level and tried for easier attempts at Home Runs. Being frustrated by the Mets’ lack of power I let out a yell to Jonathan Niese if he could “toss a ball up to the second deck”. Just as he turned around, Angel Pagan hit a shot:
I could tell the ball was coming right at me but was dropping short. So, I moved to the side of the glass panel so to be able to reach lower and caught the ball at the bottom of the panel. Once I did this, Niese gave a shake of his head as if to say that he wouldn’t throw a ball up. That was it for batting practice.
During the game I sat in left field and one of my weirdest encounters with a player occurred. I was waiting for the starting pitcher, R.A. Dickey, to come out and throw when I dropped my retainer in the walkway leading to the bullpen:
I was a bit panicked because those are pretty expensive to replace. Given that I was going to ask the first person who walked by to throw it up to me. That person was the Mets catcher, Josh Thole. as he entered the bullpen I knew I would have a short window and told him, “I know you don’t get this often but can you hand me my retainer?” His facial expression didn’t seem too pleased and I didn’t blame him because I wouldn’t want to be doing that if I were a Major Leaguer. I set my sights on the nearest grounds person while Thole looked like he was getting water. I didn’t see anyone within earshot but Thole returned with a towel and picked up the retainer and asked me if there was another on the ground. I told him no and so he tossed up the towel and told me I could keep it. Here is my newest acquisition with Thole in the background:
The Nationals won the game with their only runs (3) coming on a Jason Werth Home Run to Center Field.
- 8 balls at this game (5 pictured because I gave one away to my service supervisor back in NYC in addition to the two I gave to Dave)
- 52 games straight with at least 1 ball
- 21 straight on the road
- 17 straight games with at least 2 balls
- 2 games straight with at least 8 balls
- 5 straight games snagging a ball at Nationals Park
- 8 balls* 35,414 fans= 283,312 competition factor
- Time at game 4:12- 9:41= 5 hours 29 minutes
This was the first game of the series and the only game of the series I had not bought tickets for in advance. As a result, I found out that a college ID gets one half off:
If you can’t see that is a ticket in 141. Those right field tickets usually cost $26 but only cost me $13. I did not have a college ID with me but when I bought my ticket the lady told me, “you have you college ID, right?” She did this simultaneously with a head nod so I went along with it.
I got to the gates far ahead of anyone else so I went into the team store and studied where balls were going into the seats as one of the teams was taking early bp:
Soon after I came out of the store and started waiting again, two familiar faces arrived on the scene:
That would be, left to right.
1. Garrett Meyer– A ballhawk from Kansas who came down for Ballhawk Fest and is still staying in DC currently in a streak of 13 games in 13 days and 19 in 21.
2. Alex Kopp– A ballhawk from New Jersey, currently living in Maryland, and about to put up and absolutely monster day.
On that last note, let me explain why we are all holding baseballs. We were at the Center Field gate when a fork lift came driving our way. While Garrett and I were looking elsewhere and talking, Alex spotted that the operator had a ball in hand. He asked if he was planning to do anything with it and if not if he could have it. The operator then got out of his seat with two balls in hand. Alex had only seen one but that meant another one of us would get a ball. So I did my “alms for the poor” bit with my Nationals hat. When he gave the second ball to Garrett I thought that was it but he then went back to the forklift and dropped another ball out of a cup he had. So I had my ball:
The day of snagging was off. I first ran towards Left Field:
but when I found out the Nationals weren’t hitting I moved up to the second deck in Right Field and tried to get a ball from one of the pitchers warming up. I didn’t do this. Instead I ran over to right center when a ball came to the wall and called out to Livan Hernandez who picked it up. Of course, Livan threw the ball up to me for ball #2. The only bad thing about that was Livan maned Center Field and as a result the Red Porch was a lost cause:
The next piece of action went like this: a Home Run landed in the seats to my right, I eased up and said, “you got it” to Alex Kopp because he was clearly closer to the ball and I didn’t want to be too aggressive, a ball landed to my left because Alex was retrieving the other ball I figured he would let me get this ball. Nope. As I was jogging over to the ball, I saw a blue flash in the row below me and Alex pick up the ball. I just thought this was a funny sequence but count it as a lost opportunity because I would have definitely been able to beat him out for that ball.
I then had another…interesting sequence. I called out to Todd Coffey for a ball. Obviously by my entries, this is my first game at Nationals Park since June. Coffey asked me, “didn’t you get a bunch of balls yesterday?” I told him the truth which was that I was from New York and this was my first game here. He then reluctantly tossed me the ball but then told me that I had to throw back any Home Run balls that landed in the second deck seats in Right Field. Bizarre, no? Whatever, with this request, it was time for me to leave the section.
I then moved back to Left Field. There, I got Ryan Mattheus to toss me a ball to the left of the bullpen. However, I also missed out on two balls. I was playing one section from the bullpen. The first ball I missed, landed behind me a closer to the bullpen. I definitely would have gotten it had it stayed where it bounced but it hit a sort of rubberized strip that the Nationals have in Left Field ( I don’t know why) and bounced into the Center Field concourse. The next ball also bounced behind me and would have been mine but it bounced back towards the field where Alex Kopp caught it. Whoa, first let me go back to the Mattheus ball. That, I realized later, was my 100th ball of the season. This fulfilled one of my goals for the New Year.
I then moved back to the second deck in Right Field… wait, let me explain something. The reason for why I was going into the second deck is because the first deck was closed until 5:30. Ok, we now continue with your regularly scheduled blog entry… and then I got a ball. I don’t know who threw it. It was just one of those balls where I forgot who threw it. Obviously I knew who it was in the moment or he wouldn’t have thrown me the ball but I have since blanked on the name.
The next ball also came in upper Right Field. I called out to John Lannan as he fielded a ball. When he threw the ball back into the infield, a person close to him threw me a ball underhanded. When that missed, he threw another ball very awkwardly as I lunged over the railing and caught the ball. I don’t know exactly who it was. Initially, I thought it was an injured pitcher because of the underhanded and awkward throws but then realized he had a catchers mitt on. Any ideas?:
He is the one on the the right in the wicking shirt. 6 balls through half of bp is pretty good , no? Usually the away team is where I get the most thrown balls because I wear their gear. Well… usually. I waited for a few minutes for the lower Right Field seats to open:
Once I got into those seats, I proceeded to get dissed by every single Mets player and coach that was shagging balls there. Since there were mostly righties hitting, I moved back over to left field. I move around a lot, sue me. Actually, I would rather no one sue me I need that money for baseball games. There in left field a Mets righty pulled a ball foul and I outran whoever else was going after it to pick the ball up. I then gave it to a kid who was chasing behind me:
Alas, t’was a slow bp and the only other ball I got before I made it to my seats was a ball that was getting transferred to the ball bag from those used in bp. I later identified the person who threw it to me as, Ray Ramirez, the head trainer of the Mets. he was near the person transferring the balls from the bp container to the ball bag when one ball rolled away. He heard me asking for a ball and tossed it to me as he entered the dugout.
I then exited the seats around the Mets dugout and ran into a few familiar faces:
However blurry, these are those people:
1. “Flava” Dave Stevenson– A ballhawk from Baltimore who was in town because the Orioles were out of town.
2. Garrett Meyer– A ballhawk from Kansas, who was still in the Washington area and was going to Nationals games as a result. An interesting thing I learned was that this was the fourth of a stretch of 13 straight games for him.
3. Alex Kopp– A ballhawk staying in college park Maryland and having a great day at that point but didn’t yet count how many balls he had caught.
I talked to them for a while but then left to see Chien Ming Wang warm up:
Normally, I would have stayed and chatted for a while but I was a) 2 balls away from double digits and b) didn’t want to miss Chien Ming Wang’s first pitches in a Major League Stadium since he went out with the Yankees. You see, while he was on the Yankees, Wang was my favorite player in all of baseball I also had a rookie named Tim Lincecum in the corner of my eye but at the time he was injured, Wang was my favorite player closely followed by Joe Nathan. When Wang got injured, I slowly drifted towards liking Lincecum who is my current favorite player. That said, it was a true honor to be at Wang’s comeback game.I also really wanted to get a ball from him.
In the end, I couldn’t pronounce my Chinese correctly and Wang walked out to start the game. However, Jim Lett, the bullpen coach, heard my requests and tossed me a ball. This was now my ninth ball of the game and I was one ball from double digits. I thought about going to the dugouts but I figured it was too late and thought of how cool it would be if I caught my first Home Run for my first time in double digits.
I was accompanied a few minutes later by Alex Kopp. Why is this significant and blog worthy? He finally figured out how many balls he had caught and any guesses on a number?Keep in mind he has more than one pocket:
Up to that point, he had snagged 18 Balls!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So basically take everything I had done to that point and double it.
For the game itself, I sat here:
Nothing came even close. I don’t even know if there was a single Home Run hit. As for Wang, it wasn’t pretty. He lasted maybe 5 innings and gave up 6 runs. Although I’m not sure how many were earned, I can say that he didn’t have the same dive in his sinker he used to as a Yankee. It was his first day back so I credit most of the runs to two years of rust. Given that 4 of those runs came in the first inning.
After the game, I was determined to get a ball from the bullpen for #10 on the day. Though it was tough given the fact that Jim Lett had already tossed me a ball. In retrospect, I should have thrown on my t-shirt inside out and put on sunglasses but I didn’t think of that in the moment. Everyone in the bullpen cleared out and I still didn’t have a ball. I was accompanied by Alex who also wanted A ball but also wanted, if by some miracle, to get two balls to reach the very prestigious 20 ball club. He also got denied by all the players. However, we both noticed a ball in the corner of the bullpen that had been dropped by a fan before us:
Alex and I both waited for a solid ten minutes. Grounds crew came, “we can’t throw balls up”, Security came, “we can’t, sorry”, and Police came, “we can’t throw balls up, sorry”. It was extremely frustrating and I had half a mind to use my glove trick with police guards five feet from the ball and ushers ten feet from me. Fortunately, I didn’t have to resort to this as the kid in charge of emptying the water coolers came:
He emptied them and when he walked towards the ballI asked him if he could toss the ball up. No response, he just picked the ball up and flipped it up. Alex was also with me so I also pointed out a ball behind a bouncy screen that had also been left and Alex was given the torture of having 19 balls at the end of the day. Enough about Alex, I haven’t started celebrating about my double digit performance. WOO-HOO! Ok I’m good.
It definitely feels good to start the day at 158 and end at:
- 10 balls at this game (9 pictured because I gave one away but eight actually pictured because I can’t find the Livan ball)
- 51 straight games with at least 1 ball
- 20 straight on the road
- 16 straight games with at least 2 balls
- 1 straight with at least 10
- 4 straight games at Nationals Park with at least 1 ball
- 10 balls* 30,114 fans= 301,140 competition factor another personal record
- Time at game 3:45- 10:21= 6 hours 36 minutes
Let’s start with a more proper picture this time:
Why was I able to do this? I actually had a camera with a non-cracked screen. Before, it would have taken a very understanding picture taker or a very lucky sequence of button pushing along with awareness that the camera was on an automatic timer:
The camera would actually have looked better had I been able to take a picture of it with itself but since I needed to use one of my cracked cameras it showed up with a blue tint much like the pictures of the entry that I have not yet written.
But I digress.
I went to this game with the realization that it probably would rain in spurts so my only hope was that the spurts were before and after bp so as to have the least amount of competition. Can you see the field in the first picture? No? Here is how I did once my arm was out of the way:
If we zoom in even more we can see:
… that either the Nationals or the Cardinals were expecting rain as well because they were taking early bp. Although, it was only 4:10 so I punched out all-star ballots until the gates opened:
After listening to a very sarcastic conversation between the security guard and a father who happened to be a Cardinals fan I was off to left field as the was a blockade put up until 5:30 preventing fans from going to the right field bleachers.
I think it was due to the early bp (that I now suspected the Nationals had taken) but the group consisting of Michael Morse, Ryan Zimmerman, and Jayson Werth ,whom usually hit later on, were the Nats’ first group to hit. The same thing happened to me this day as it had the day before. I caught two balls on the fly (well the day before one hit the seat behind me, but hey it never touched the ground.) within 10-15 minutes. The first was a Mike Morse Home run that I had to run half a section to my left for. The second was a Ryan Zimmerman Home Run that I had to turn my back to and run to my right to catch.
Finally, to complete the trifecta I scrambled for a Jayson Werth Home Run that this fan almost caught and then proceeded to drop:
Notice that he does have a glove on but is SITTING DOWN. This was actually an epidemic at this game as I have never seen so many people going to bp to sit down in my life:
which was good for me because they wouldn’t be competition but they also sat in just the right places so that I had to move way back and hope that this group would blast them. They did. Though unfortunately for me they hit them over even my head:
Michael Morse hit that ball and just to show how much of a bomb that was the railing you see there is at the top of the left field section and the ball even went over the head of the guy in green and he had to run and chase it down.
A little while later I took a picture of the big screen showing the time:
The next picture I took:
Just three minutes later it started to absolutely pour and the dreaded tarp came out. That didn’t stop me from snagging, though. The Cardinals pitchers had started to warm-up and didn’t mind staying in the rain for a little while. Michell Boggs actually started blurting out a country tune that I recognized and knew the name to in the moment but have since forgotten. The rain actually helped me in retrospect because I was the only one (besides a few Cardinals fans with umbrellas crazy enough to stay in the outfield seats, which had a current going through them big enough to support a small family of goldfish.
Anyway, Jason Motte and his partner finished throwing and I was hoping to get his ball but he threw it to another Cardinals fan and headed for the dugout. I didn’t know it a the time but this actually benefited me (see later on in the entry) as Trever Miller tossed me his ball
minutes seconds later:
I’m snaaging in the raain and yes that is an A-Rod glove. I realized that there actually other kids there in the rain with me. One had gotten the Jason Motte ball but I gave my Trever Miller ball to the other after all the pitchers had left and he was still empty handed.
I then wandered around,got excited that the grounds crew was taking the tarp off, took a picture:
and got extremely disappointed when just as I was taking that picture it started to pour again and my next picture was this:
Yes they were pulling the “turtle” off the field which meant that either batting practice was over, batting practice starting up again would be delayed the time it would take them to get the turtle back on the field or I could possibly set a new Nationals park record if they started hitting again. My gut feeling was the third but sadly that did not happen. I set myself up behind the Cardinals dugout:
but then saw this at game time:
That*(the fact there was an enormity of Cardinals fans the night before+the Cardinals players were getting bigger cheers from my section than the Nationals)=I headed over to left field. I did get an autograph from Tony Cruz before exiting, though:
At Nationals Park they give out free programs at the gate so for the first time in who knows how long I took score at an MLB game:
I had a good feeling because as you can see there was not yet a ball hit on the ground and every other hitter was a righty so that probably meant alot of fly balls to left field.
Then I took a picture of a group of 56 kids going by in the aisle as they filled up the section to my right:
I also took the picture because I was sure that Matt Holliday was going to hit a Home Run right on that aisle that would have been an easy catch…blah,blah. Well guess what actually happened. Matt Holliday hit a Home Run two seconds after I put my camera in my pocket that I knew right away was over my head. It’s tough to say but I’m pretty sure I could have at least touched the ball had I been allowed to go into the aisle and position myself in the row it eventually landed in. Instead, I positioned myself in line with the ball, made a pathetic looking jump, the ball landed three rows behind me:
(do you see that girls face? I certainly didn’t I was too busy being mad at myself for jumping for a ball I had absolutely no chance at instead of playing the rebound or the trickle down the seats if it settled and didn’t bounce. Had I she probably would have gotten one of my bp balls) bounced up, and landed right in the hands of a man about ten feet to my right upon which he made a pretty impressive one handed grab.
Although, you don’t have to take my word for it here is the video:
I am the fan in the red shirt. I know you may be thinking :”Thanks, Mateo. You’re the fan in the red shirt at a Cardinals Nationals game. That really narrows it down.” However, if you look for a fan doing what I described myself as doing above it should become evident after a view or two which one I am. Or if that video is too tiny, here is the link.
Anyway, the game went on and I got excited when
Jose Bengie Yadier Molina hit a Home Run in the top of the ninth to tie it up because the group had left a few innings prior and by the prospect of catching a walk-off Home Run. There was indeed a walk-off HR but it went to right field so I had to settle for getting a ball from the dejected Jason Motte after the game as he exited the bullpen:
You see now how it was better I got the ball from Trever Miller because Motte actually picked up all of the spare baseballs before exiting the bullpen and may have recognized me had he been the one to throw me the ball.
So that was it. This was a very productive trip to my step-father’s as I achieved what had taken me the previous five games in two. After I left I recognized a kid from bp on the Metro:
asked him if he had gotten a ball (he hadn’t) and gave him the Miller ball. I know this because that was the only ball missing in the post-game pictures. Just for fun, I actually got a ball from the day before signed so if you want to spot the signature in the post-game picture from last game it should be partially visible in the second of the two baseball/ticket stub pictures.
- 5 balls at this game (four in this picture because I gave one away)
- 36 balls in 13 games= 2.77 balls per game
- 38 straight games with at least 1 ball
- 3 straight at Nationals park
- 5 balls* 19,662 fans= 98,310 competition factor (better than I usually do in New York)
- Time at game 3:49-10:11= 6 hours 22 minutes
- 1 more reason to visit my step-father more often