Again my day did not get off to a good start. But unlike the previous day, it didn’t get all that much better during batting practice. So when I got to Gate H, I kept expecting other ballhawks to be there as well, but none showed up. Both Tim Anderson and Alex Kopp had apparently gone to Dempsey’s, which is a restaurant inside of the warehouse. Once I realized this and found another season ticket holder to use the card of to buy a discounted ticket from, the gates were opening. So as a result, I was like 3-5 minutes late getting in. This may not seem like much, but for a ballhawk right at the time the gates open, it’s an eternity.
So with all of the better spots in left field taken once I got there, it was a no-brainer for me to go down the left field line when the Rays started throwing for toss-ups. Pretty much the only thing that made me want to stay in left was that my next baseball was going to be my 100th at OPACY, so I would have rather it been a hit baseball on the fly. But like I’ve said before, I’m not nearly good enough to be able to choose how I get a baseball. I’m just happy if I get the ball.
That said, Wil Myers looks as though he could become something in the majors, so irrelevant of it being my 100th OPACY ball, when there was a decision to be made of whether to ask him or Evan Longoria for a ball, I got Myers to toss me my first ball of the day and my 100th at OPACY (Oriole Park at Camden Yards, for those of you who are confused):
And with this, I became I believe only one of three ballhawks who have snagged 100 baseballs at five or more ballparks. So that was pretty cool, and not an indication of me being anywhere near the league of the other two ballhawks I share the distinction with. And an even cooler thing was one of my more favorite players, Ben Zobrist came over to sign right after that, and I got him to sign the 100 baseball.
I then moved down the line and awaited for the pitchers to be done throwing. And when Roberto Hernandez (formerly known as Fausto Carmona) was finished throwing, I waved at him for the ball, but he put up a finger as if to say, “One minute.” He then proceeded to do what is known among pitchers “shadowing”, so I assumed when he was done with that, he would throw me the ball. Turns out I didn’t even need to wait that long, because when a ball got hit in hsi direction, he picked it up and chucked it to me:
I then headed back to left, but quickly thereafter left to go to right-center because the non-season ticket holders were being let into the seating bowl. There, I used something I had noticed one of the previous two days. I had seen a kid ask Rays bullpen coach, Stan Boroski, for a ball by name, and Boroski tossed it to him saying, “You’re one of the only people besides this guy (pointing to Scott Cursi) who knows my name in this stadium.” So I though if I got Boroski’s name right, it would be the easiest toss-up in the world. And it was:
After taking the picture, I gave that ball away to a kid who was standing to my right. That was when Alex showed up in the section and reported to me that he had been having a really good day and was already at 6 baseballs. He would then get his seventh from Alex Cobb. He probably could have gotten to double digits, but the Rays ended batting practice 30-40 minutes before the visiting team normally does. So we sat in the center field seats and talked for a while:
Alex would then get his eighth ball that we had both been eying for about 40 minutes from a groundskeeper about ten minutes before game time. I initially stayed out in right field with him for the game, but when I realized that eight of the Rays nine hitters were righties, I moved to over here where this was my view:
But sadly there were no foul balls within fifteen feet of me. I then headed to the umpire tunnel at the end of the game, but Joe West ran out of baseballs before he got to me.
Thankfully, though, I didn’t just walk back to Alex’s house at that point. Instead I went to the Rays dugout. As the relievers walked in, I saw Joel Peralta had a ball in his rolled up glove, so I asked him for it in Spanish. He completely ignored me, but as he walked into the dugout, I saw a ball bounce towards me on the dugout roof. Apparently Fernando Rodney had heard my request and tossed me a baseball he had with him:
Then I saw that Stan Boroski and Scott Cursi were way behind the relievers, so I quickly changed from my Rays hat to my MLB Fan Cave hat (I already had my MLB Fan Cave shirt on at that point) to disguise myself from Boroski, who had tossed me a ball earlier in the day. And so I again asked Boroski, but this time by last name, and he tossed me my fifth ball of the day. Then I saw a kid next to me with a glove, who had not gotten a ball from Boroski, so I gave him the ball. I was just happy that my disguise had paid off:
And so I headed back to Alex’s place by foot. At the time I thought there might be a possibility I’d be back in Baltimore over the weekend, but with talking to my mom on the car ride back to Washington (she and my step-dad picked me up at Alex’s) I learned that wasn’t really a feasible option given the time and day my flight left. So this would prove to be my last game at OPACY in 2013.
- 5 Balls at this Game (3 pictured because I gave both Boroski balls away)
Numbers 675-679 for my “lifetime”:
- 233 Balls in 52 Games= 4.48 Balls Per Game
- 5 Balls x 28,323 Fans=141,615 Competition Factor
- 114 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 19 straight Games with 2 Balls
- 16 straight Games with 3 Balls
- 8 straight Games with 4 Balls
- 2 straight games with 5 Balls
- 104 Balls in 23 Games at OPACY= 4.5 Balls Per Game
- 23 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- 13 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at OPACY
- 11 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at OPACY
- 9 straight Games with at least 4 Balls at OPACY
- 2 straight games with at least 5 Balls at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 4:33-11:49= 7 Hours 16 Minutes
Wanna see my view more or less as the gates of Camden Yards opened?
While Avi and I had gotten to the train station at a time that normally would have gotten us to the gates by the time they opened–and by Avi, I mean Avi Miller, the person in the foreground of the picture–the train was having problems with the signals art a couple stations, so instead of taking 20 minutes or so, the train took over an hour to get to our final destination from the time it pulled into Avi’s stop. Long story short: we got to OPACY over half-an-hour late. Had it been Yankee Stadium, I would have turned around and let Avi, but the way I saw it I still had the power-hitting Tigers’ BP to rely on, and if I didn’t manage to snag a ball then, I could always play the dugouts for third-out balls and the cross-aisle for foul balls in between that, with the security blanket of the umpire tunnel after the game.
When I entered the ballpark, the seating bowl was already opened up and the Tigers were already hitting, so I didn’t even try to go to the left field seats. Actually, correction: I went towards the left field seats right as I entered the stadium, but when I saw the seating bowl had already been opened, I turned around and made a beeline for the center field seats. And by “beeline” I mean slow jog, because I had essentially all of my stuff for my whole trip in my backpack since I planned to go back to Washington directly from the game. There I asked a couple of players for balls such as Luke Putkonen and Don Kelly, but got rejected by both of them. Then a ball got hit almost directly in line with me in the stands. I went down to the first row, but it fell about a foot out of my reach. Thankfully though, since I don’t have a ball-retrieving device made this year, it went back onto the field where Rick Porcello got it:
And apparently he had seen my Tigers gear as I had lunged out to reach for the ball because without me even asking he tossed the ball up to me. I then immediately handed the ball to a kid whose dad had been begging Don Kelly for ball as well. Kelly’s response to all of us was, “I’ll hit a couple out here when it’s my group’s turn to hit.”
After getting the ball form Porcello, I headed out to the flag court in right field. It was packed and I couldn’t get any toss-ups, but I justified it by telling myself, “You got more than enough toss-ups in Minnesota and can go for toss-ups any other day. Today one of the best hitting teams in the league is here, so you might as well go for hit baseballs.” This picture doesn’t do the crowd in the flag court any justice, but it was my view until pretty much the end of batting practice:
I’ll cut to the chase and say that I didn’t snag anything for the remainder of batting practice, but the star of the show, who I would have had an extra baseball had he not been there, was Alex Kopp. Here he is in this picture with his glove shading his eyes:
He caught three balls on the fly while I was there including one that was right in front of my glove. I believe it was an Andy Dirks home run. I tracked the ball perfectly off the bat, and had my glove in position to make the catch, but all of a sudden I saw two gloves go up in front of mine. They were of Alex and another person. Alex, though, had his glove in the right spot, so he caught the ball, and all I could do was smile because that was his third catch out there. He was just putting on a clinic. I mean the Tigers were going pretty crazy with all of the baseballs they were hitting up there, but it was also insanely packed given the size of the flag court. Every time a ball was hit up there, it was like a mini-stampede erupted. I was actually pretty concerned a little kid was going to get seriously injured out there, because while I check to make sure I have a clear running lane to the ball every five seconds or so, I knew there were people that were just reacting to the ball and keeping their eye on the ball and not where they were going–which is a recipe for disaster; either for the kids of the area or for the person, because there were the flag poles to be run into.
During the Tigers position players’ infield warm-ups, I should have snagged my second ball of the day. What happened was I got Omar Infante’s attention despite being fifteen rows up in the stands by waving my arms, so he tossed the ball to me:
but he was off with his aim, so the ball sailed above me and to my left. I reached, but I tried to be careful because reaching full-extension would also involve me elbowing the woman standing next to me in the head. So with all of this happening, the ball tipped off the edge of my glove and into the lap of a person behind me. Bleh.
An even more frustrating thing happened during the game. I don’t know how many home runs there were in this game (a lot) but only one made its way out into the flag court. It was the fourth inning, and Victor Martinez was the hitter. I happened to be looking away because a person said something to me in the flag court, but suddenly I heard a roar in the crowd and a ball whizzing towards the foul pole. I then ran towards the ball and played the ricochet I have always failed to do in the home run balls I have botched in the past. Unfortunately the ball bounced back towards the field after landing in the flag court because it hit the beer stand out there. Had it kept going towards Eutaw Street, I’m 95% sure I would have had the ball because I was the only one in the back of the flag court who even saw the ball, much less reacted. Are you a little confused? Here, I drew up a diagram from the perspective of where I started out when the ball was hit. The dotted line is the flight of the ball, and the solid line is the path that I ran:
And if you want, here is the link to the video. At the first point you can identify where I am when they cut to the view of the flag court, I am here:
You can then pretty easily identify as the person running across the flag court for the ball. It looks like I was going pretty fast from the video, but I remember that I was purposely taking it slow in case the ball did bounce to the back of the flag court, which I expected it to do, because I didn’t want a repeat of the ball that hit me in the head during my first game here in Baltimore or anything of the sort. The next time when you can more clearly see me is after the ball had bounced back to the fence:
After this you can see I’m one of three people actively going after the ball. I can also say I probably would have had it had the person who eventually got the ball was a foot taller. It was actually a kid who got the ball. And I say I would have gotten the ball had he been taller because he had to go under one of those rope-type dividers that you see at airport/bus terminal check-in lines. You know what I’m talking about, right? The black poles that connect by rope in order for people in line to zig-zag their way through. Well anyway, the kid didn’t have to duck much to get the ball, but had he been a foot taller, that half-second he would have taken to duck underneath was all I would have needed to get the ball. But oh well. Palante.
I then spent the rest of the game awaiting another home run that never came, all while this great view of the game and all its action:
(Yay?) At the end of the game I headed down for one last try at an umpire ball this series, and whaddaya know, I got it:
As I got to the umpire tunnel there were actually kids in the corner spots on each side of the dugout, so I had to go a little further up. Home plate umpire, Hunte Wendelstedt(?), gave out a couple of baseballs to the kids at the front of the tunnel and then moved on. Just in case he still had a ball with him, I called out to him, “Mr. Wendelsedt, do you have any extra baseballs?” He was already past me in the tunnel, but upon hearing his name, he turned right around and tossed me the baseball you see above. I then headed to the Tigers dugout, but I didn’t get anything there, so I walked up to Baltimore-Penn Station and took the next Amtrak train back to Washington.
- 2 Baseballs at this Game (1 pictured because I gave the other 1 away)
Numbers 536-37 for my “career”:
- 91 Balls in 22 Games= 4.14 Balls Per Game
- 2 Ball x 38,965 Fans=77,930 Competition Factor
- 85 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 45 Balls in 11 Games at OPACY= 4.09 Balls Per Game
- 11 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 12:47-10:48= 10 Hours 1 Minute
So after the adventure I had gone through the previous game, and the state I awoke in, I feel as though I shouldn’t have been in the mood to go back to Citi Field any time soon, but so I did. I woke up at about 11:00 in the morning, and since the Mets had announced when the game was postponed that the gates would be opening at 4:10 and trains/buses run less regularly on the weekends, I almost immediately headed up to the apartment of a friend I was staying with this week in the Bronx, showered, got changed in to clothes that were more suited for the 50-degree temperatures, took all of the stuff I didn’t need in my backpack out, and headed off to Citi Field.
The way this game would work is the resumption of the previous night’s game would begin at 6:10 and the regularly-scheduled game would start soon after that. People who had tickets could exchange them at the box office for tickets that were that same dollar amount or lower. But since I was hopefully not going to be back at Citi Field after Sunday’s game (this entry you’re reading about is of a Saturday) and I had picked up a collective three ticket stubs the game before, I exchanged them in the following way: Two tickets for this game and one for the Sunday game:
The two tickets for this day’s game were behind the third base dugout and in left field, and the Sunday ticket was for further down the third base foul line. I figured that I would want more flexibility for this day’s game, and the next day’s game I already knew would be full of ballhawks, so I wanted to stay away from behind the dugouts and left field, which are the two most popular spots for ballhawks during the games at Citi Field. Also, it was John Franco bobblehead day, which Ben Weil was coming to specifically for the bobbleheads, so having two tickets to this game would enable him to get an extra bobblehead. (Even if I was stupid and gave him the ticket I already scanned to get in.)
I learned when I got to the stadium, though, that the bad-phrasing Mets had changed the gate opening time from 4:10 to 5:10 somewhere between me sleeping on a fleece and getting to the game, so I now had to wait for another hour, and it would also be another hour that I wouldn’t have inside the stadium I wasn’t worried about my streak because I would have 10+ innings with a dugout seat, but it was just annoying to know that I rushed to the game when I could have been relaxing on an actual bed for that extra hour. The Mets actually then changed that *while* I was waiting at the gate and made the new opening time 4:45. Unfortunately, when I got in, there was still a whole lot of nothing going on:
Since there was nothing of the players going on, I went and saw some other interesting things going on in the stadium:
The groundscrew put the thing that covers the tarp in the stands down the third base line.
Mets employees for whatever reason had a ladder going from the second to the third deck in left field.
The random “lucky seat”s that the Mets have throughout the stadium in section 123 was two seats from my ticketed seat in that section, which was seat 4 in that same row.
I quickly got bored with these things, so I took a peek inside the dugout:
When I didn’t see anything going on in there, I decided to take pictures of the top of the visitor’s dugout:
Like I said, I was bored.
At around 5:15, Ben arrived in the stadium, so I talked to him briefly but then quickly became designated bag carrier as he made several trips in and out of the stadium to get the extra bobbleheads. At the end of his many trips, he had a ton of bobbleheads. I think he said he had gotten ten by the time he was done. I mean here are just a little over half of the bobbleheads:
Normally Ben only gets two of a bobblehead; three if he really likes the player. But in this case, he came across some extra tickets that came without people wanting the bobblehead, so Ben ended up keeping seven of the ten bobbleheads for himself.
When it came time for the first game, here was my view of the action:
See the only kid in the picture on the seat all the way to the right? His name is Harrison, and he approached me during this game and asked me if I went for baseballs often. Through our talking, he remembered that he had actually first talked to me over a year ago at this game (I apologize in advance for the awful writing) and I remembered that he was the one who had taken the picture of me in my poncho outside the rotunda in the entry before this one. It turns out he is an autograph collector who has gotten 1,000+ autographs at games, and usually sits in the seats you see him in, which is how he has seen ballhawks a lot before. I ended up talking with him and some guys who arrived in the second game for the majority of the game.
In the first inning of the game (or the ninth inning, if you will) the Mets struck out to end the inning, and although I was on the outfield end of the dugout, the stands were empty enough for the resumption game that there was an empty row of seats that I managed to get to the home plate end of the dugout through, and so I got Brian McCann to toss me a ball. On my way back to my seat on the outfield end, I saw a kid with Braves gear, so I gave the ball to him.
When the first game ended, I stupidly forgot for a couple seconds that the umpires would be exiting the field, and this hesitation may have cost me a ball as I was out of position at the umpire tunnel and didn’t get a ball from the home plate umpire. The time between the games wasn’t all bad, though. It was in this time that I had pre-arranged a meet-up with fellow MLBlogger, Bryan Mapes of the popular blog, Three Up, Three Down. He was in the club level of Citi Field, but came down to meet me in the concourse of the field level:
Despite having conversed many times over Twitter and our respective blogs, this was the first time we had ever met in person. So there’s that.
I then headed back to my seat where I enjoyed the same view–except darker–for the rest of the night despite not snagging another ball:
And so that was it. The Mets lost both games, which made Bryan, a Braves fan, very happy, but I pretty much just sat, enjoyed the games, and got to cross another thing off my baseball bucket list. Even if I probably never would have thought to put this exact scenario on my bucket list ever.
The Mets even had the firework that were supposed to go off the previous day go off in honor of my 1-ball performance:
I would go back to the Bronx knowing that the next day would be just another day back at the ballpark, but with a lot more batting practice and ballhawks than I had been seeing the past two days. And I would have one mission: snag two baseballs to get to 100 all-time at Citi Field.
- 1 Ball at this game (not pictured because I gave it away
- Number 524 for my “career”
- 78 Balls in 18 Games= 4.33 Balls Per Game
- 1 Ball x 27,622 Fans= 27,622 Competition Factor
- 80 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 98 Balls in 37 Games at Citi Field= 2.69 Balls Per Game
- 37 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Citi Field
- Time Spent On Game 12:02-11:49= 11 Hours 47 Minutes
Lyle Overbay, Scott Olsen, Matt Diaz, Garrett Atkins, Jose Veras, and Joe Biemel.
Joe Martinez, Brandon Moss, Brian Bass, Delwyn Young, Zach Duke, and Chan Ho Park.
Why?: The best way to describe the offseason is, eh. Not fantastic but not devastating. They lost some faces of the past and solid players but also gained solid players. Although unlike other teams, the Pirates gained and lost the talent in different places. They might have lost
some stability in the outfield but also became stronger in the infield.
Right now they are in the seemingly never ending stage of rebuilding. I warn Pirates fans that for this particular organization this stage will never end until they invest some into the ball club. What the Pirates ownership is doing at the moment is cost cutting and making money off of the league’s revenue sharing. This may be a way to beat the system and make a profit but it does not do them well when it comes to winning.
Predicted Record Range: 60-65 wins. Just put in the last part of my last paragraph of “Why?” here. The Pirates will not win until the ownership stops trying to beat the system.
Up Next: San Francisco Giants
They were doing well until:
From then on out not much winning.
Matt Garza, Carlos Pena, Kerry Wood, Reed Johnson, and Todd Wellemeyer.
Tom Gorzelanny, Xavier Nady, Christopher Archer, and Mason Tobin.
Why?: I understand that the Cubs did give away a lot of prospects for Matt Garza but I don’t exactly remember the quality of those prospects so I will judge the Cubs’ offseason just by the number of prospects and the net talent.
They got: front-of-the-line starter, set-up man, power hitting lefty, outfielder, and solid bullpen pitcher. They lost: middle-of-the-rotation starter, solid hitting righty and a bushel of prospects. To me, this evens out to a B grade but again, I don’t know how good the prospects were so I can’t judge this that well.
Predicted Record Range: 77-82 wins. This is one of those overhyped big market situations… I think. They only reason I can see them improving is if the pitchers previously on the team (mainly silva and Zambrano) stabilize and become more consistent.
Next up: Pittsburgh Pirates
Why?: Really nothing to report here. There won’t be anything to report until the prospects they received in their garage sale come to fruition. They had the most uneventful offseason I have reported so far.
Their rotation is young and can be a good one for years to come headed by Wandy Rodriguez and J.A. Happ. Those two still have room for improvement and will be helped by sharing a staff with, now veteran leader, Brett Myers. This is where I think future success will come from if any exists in the next few years.
Predicted Record Range: 60-65 wins. I don’t know how they will wins besides pitching. This record is a product of my ignorance to their players. If I weren’t two weeks behind I would bother to learn them but now no.
Up Next: Chicago Cubs
Although the result was not what they would have wanted, one good thing came out of the 2010 season for the Brewers:
Zack Greinke, Shawn Marcum, Yuniesky Betancourt, Sean Green, Takashi Saito, and Mark Kotsay.
Dave Bush, Chris Capuano, Todd Coffey, Carlos Villanueva, Brett Lawrie, Alcides Escobar, Jeremy Jeffress, Lorenzo Cain, Gregg Zaun, Doug Davis, and Trevor Hoffman.
Why?: Yeah, sure they got two front-of-the-line pitchers (yes I do consider Shawn Marcum front-of-the-line when he is not in the AL East) but also look at all the players they lost. They lost: 4 starters, 3 relievers, two infielders, an outfielder, a catcher, and one prospect I didn’t bother to look up.
I think their rotation should be fine despite losing those four starters as they are a strong five… but if (read: when) one of their starters goes down in the season this offseason has created a canyon of talent between the 5 starter and next in line.
Their offense should be great as always and might even increase seeing as Prince is in a walk year and might get up a little extra for it. I am not saying he doesn’t try hard but for many stars it enables them to use their family as motivation to do well.
There is also the factor of good pitching affecting the hitting. It will be interesting to see whther this hurts or helps. As far as I can see, it will either help to not feel like they have to score 10 runs a game and they will relax/ hit better or they will relax too much and not score enough.
Predicted Record Range: 85-90 wins. I am not expecting that much of them because they did only win 77 games last year and didn’t imporve that much when you think about it. This is still giving them an improvement of 8-13 wins which is a lot for a team to accomplish (and in retro spect might be a bit much).
Up Next: Chicago Cubs
They thought they were the champs. They fought the Reds strongly:
They took the competition late into the season. Then this happened:
Jim Edmonds, Ryan Theriot, Lance Berkman, Gerald Laird, Miguel Bautista, Ian Snell, and Nick Punto.
Brad Penny, Randy Winn, Pedro Feliz, Brendan Ryan, Aaron Miles, and Jeff Suppan.
Why?: Initially I was going to give them a C- but then I typed in all the notable additions and they are all solid players. I then looked and saw they didn’t have many subtractions worth crying about. They boosted each of the four Cardinal (pun intended) categories of Relief Pitching, Stating Pitching, Infield, and Outfield.
The losses are also solid players but everywhere they replaced the players and then added some more. This entry was supposed to be before Wainwright went out so I won’t count him as a subtraction but looking at these players they did decently in the offseason.
Predicted Record Range: 80-85 wins. The Wainwright isn’t enough alone to lower the wins THAT much so I say with his actual stats gone and the emotional blow it adds, 3-5 wins should be expected off of last year’s win total.
Up Next: Milwaukee Brewers
For so long they had struggled at the bottom of the NL Central with the Brewers and Pirates but last year: