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
This is the picture for the Diamondbacks’ 2010:
Why?: This is the one team where the quality of the stars lost beats the quantity of the additions gained. The losses of Brandon Webb, Adam LaRoche, and Mark Reynolds are big as all three have played major roles in the Diamondbacks organization. Without LaRoche and Reynolds, the big strength of the team, it’s power, is considerably weakened.
I just don’t think that they will be able to win if they cannot score runs like they used to. Even if they do well in the pitching aspect of the game. I like the fact that they are trying to change the culture of the free swingers. Now if only they can get rid of Chris Young.
I do wonder how they will rebuild, though.
Predicted Record Range: 60-65 wins. Well if they won 65 with LaRoche and Reynolds, then they should win a bit less if not more.
Up Next: Nobody. Wohooo. Finally I’m done. Two weeks into the season isn’t that bad, right?
“So Donny, how’d ya think you’ll do in your first year”
How do You think they did?
Why?: Yet another team that lost and gained many players. Except as you can tell by the grade, they gained some more than they lost. They some power behind the plate and in the outfield but unquestionably improved their rotation replaced all the talent in the outfield and then some and stabilized their bullpen.
There is still much instability in what happens with the McCourt divorce case and how that will affect the team. Wow! Just as I wrote that sentence, a news story flashed on SportsCenter saying that MLB has taken over the operations of the Dodgers. This does have a bit of foreshadowing pointing to forced sale of the team. This to me means, the team is one or two years away from financial and emotional stability.
Until there is more news on this situation i have nothing more to report.
Predicted Record Range: 80-85 wins. I actually have little idea because they have talent to win more but as I said the whole McCourt situation is very enigmatic.
Up Next: Arizona Diamndbacks
This time they were just too far behind to get into the playoffs.
Ty Wigginton, Jose Lopez, Matt Lindstrom, Joe Crede, and Willy Taveras.
Octavio Dotel, Jeff Francis, Miguel Olivo, Manny Delcarmen, Yorvit Torrealba, Joe Beimel, Melvin Mora, and Clint Barmes.
Why?: They are another one of those teams that lost a lot of players but managed to replace them talent wise. One example of the many would be that they lost Melvin Mora but replaced him with Joe Crede.
I have no real concerns or things that I see can elevate this team. One thing of interest will be to see how Chris Ianetta plays out as the starting Catcher now that Yorvit Torrealba is on the Rangers and Mr. Kidney Stone Miguel Olivo has left. The other thing of note is seeing how Ubaldo Jimenez does this year. Was the first half the real him or was it the second half.. I wish I would have paid more attention to why he did poorly in the Second half but personally I think if you can get six inches of movement on a 95-98 MPH fastball you will do well in even the MLB.
Predicted Record Range: 83-88 wins. I think that they got off to a bit of a slow start last year and can win an extra few games if they start quicker out of the gates.
Up Next: Los Angeles Dodgers
For every team that makes the playoffs there are 4.33 teams that don’t. The Padres were the first third of a team to not make the playoffs. Anyone remember how dominant they were in the West through the first part of the season and the team the Giants beat in the last game of the season to get into the playoffs:
Aaron Harang, Cameron Maybin, Dustin Mosely, Jason Bartlett, Orlando Hudson, Brad Hawpe, Gregg Zaun, Chad Qualls, and Jorge Cantu.
Adrian Gonzalez, Chris Young, Matt Stairs, Jerry Hairston Jr., Tony Gwynn Jr., Miguel Tejada, Jon Garland, David Eckstein, Scott Hairston, and Cesar Ramos.
Why?: In this case, it is in fact the loss of one man that brought them down a couple of letter grades on his own. Let me put it this way, WITH him they had the second lowest Batting Average of.246 in the league and he hit .298. With him they had the fifth lowest runs per game and he scored 81 runs and drove in 101. The second closest player in both categories was Chase Headley with 77 runs and 58 RBIs.
I don’t know about last year but the year before last he drove in over 33% of the team’s runs. That is a big percentage in Basketball where there are 5 players that can produce points but even more so in Baseball where there are nine different players.
In addition to that they did lose a variety of starters to the offseason. I also think that they will still have their great bullpen but the starters will not do as well with an offense that might even be worse than that of Seattle last year.
Predicted Record Range: 70-75 Wins. All I have to say is that you can’t win if you don’t score runs.
Up Next: Colorado Rockies
Not much better than winning the World Series:
Though like many champions, the players wanted more money.
Why?: Let us just say that they were a few players away from an F. They lost 3 starters from their World Series team and also overpaid for some of the players they kept. The reason they didn’t get an F was, they let the right players go.
Renteria was overpaid and is still deteriorating (which kills me as he is a fellow countryman of mine). Uribe was also a good player to let go because of his absolute lack of patience. He is underrated as a defender but it is good that the Giants are trying to rid themselves of the culture that put them last in the league in OBP in 2009 and in 19th last year.I also like the fact that they kept Aubrey Huff and Cody Ross. Even if they did overpay for them. The biggest thing all these transactions do is, enter in a new era of offense to win more championships with that outstanding staff
The Pitching will continue to improve. That’s right IMPROVE. The front three I don’t see regressing and Jonathan Sanchez can actually improve by just cutting down on balls. Barry Zito may or may not figure it out (he won’t be in the rotation but the pitcher I want to focus on is, Madison Bumgarner. Remember that last year was essentially his rookie year. The only thing I see getting in his way this year is how much he pitched last year with the unexpected playoff run. Unless this affects them, I actually see the Giants Pitching as well as the Phillies this year.
Predicted Record Range: 89-94 wins. Pitching wins championships but I see them not moving up that much because they lost all that offense (for them it’s a lot).
Up Next: San Diego Padres