Another day, another day arriving late at U.S. Cellular Field. And again, I have myself to blame for it. First of all, whenever I’m going to the game with other people–in this case Sean and his mom–I get nervous about telling people how early we actually need to be at the game, because I know that my obsession with being the first one in the stadium may seem absurd to some people. So what ends up almost always happening is I take whatever time I would usually leave and shave off 15 minutes, which usually ends with me getting to the gate before it opens but way after I wanted to be there. This isn’t the worst flub I have to blame myself for, though. Since it’s all I’ve ever heard, I always assumed U.S. Cellular, and I was more-or-less correct. Here’s a screenshot directly from the White Sox’ A-to-Z guide:
Well apparently Kids Days are every Sunday game, even when it’s a night game. So when I arrived to the gate 15 minutes before I thought it was scheduled to open instead of my usual 30+ rule, I saw that people were already entering, and this was my view of the field once I got inside:
Oy. Other people’s mistakes I can live with because they’re not preventable. But I don’t know how many baseballs I cost myself in my two games at “the Cell” because two stupid mistakes. While it doesn’t seem like it’s in the upper echelon of ballhawking stadiums, I had still cost myself a ton of time at the best ballpark I would be at for probably my first two months of ballhawking.
As I made my way through the right field bleachers to try to get out from behind the White Sox bullpen, I saw the heads of most of the people I was facing to my left start turning up and to their right. I knew that meant a ball was coming my way. Good news: I had my glove on already despite having just put on my Angels attire. Bad news: I hadn’t even thought of putting on sunglasses. So as I looked up into the sky to see where this baseball was going, I couldn’t pick it up through the sun until it was too late and the ball was on its way down, and thus another fan beat me to it when the ball landed. I got mad at myself for a second about that before realizing that I still had way more batting practice to go and that I could make myself forget about that ball with one quick snag.
The next couple of minutes would be very weird for me because of the people in the bleachers. As I kept going towards right-center field, I saw a person that as I passed, I immediately thought, “I’ve seen his face before. Where have I seen his face before?” We had passed each other going in opposite directions at that point, but it drove me nuts for the next few minutes thinking of where I recognized him from. I would later learn/remember that it was John Witt (a.k.a. The Major League Ballhawk) who had at that point recently snagged his 3,000th ball from a major league stadium (just four days prior). We failed to meet up much during this game, but here’s the link to his account of the game, so go give that some love by reading it. While I was being driven nuts by where I recognized John from, I saw a fan bring out a ball-retreiving device and use it on a ball in the gap that lies in front of the left field wall. He also had a giant-sized glove as well as a regular-sized one, so I knew he must be a ballhawk. Oddly enough, though, I had no clue who he was because I had never seen his face before. I would later learn that he was Dave Davison (a.k.a Ballhawk Dave), who has snagged plenty of baseballs himself. As I moved even further into the section, I saw yet another face I thought I recognized. This time I was pretty sure I knew who it was but couldn’t tell because he had a winter hat on. I would later be confirmed of my suspicion that it was Nick Yohanek (a.k.a. the Happy Youngster) who is yet another ballhawk with 1,000 baseballs snagged.
How did I get all of this information after the fact? Once I parked myself in a spot in left field and completely misjudged a couple Trumbombs (it was an awful day for me judging fly balls), a person came up to me and asked, “Mateo Fischer?” (Or something along those lines.) This face I needed no hesitation in recognizing. It was that of Shawn Bosman (a.k.a. Ballhawk Shawn (side note: I think you need to have at least 1,000 baseballs snagged to merit a nickname)(side note to the side note: He was the one who ran me through who all of the other ballhawks were)(side note to the side note’s side note: I’m an idiot for not getting a picture with these guys when I had the chance, but I figured we would meet up either after BP or after the game, which I did with Shawn, but it would have been nice to get a group picture)(side note to the side note of the side note’s side note: parentheses inside parentheses are fun and all, but I’m going to get back to actually putting pictures up in just a second.)
Shawn and I talked a little in left field, but since I was having a bad day judging fly balls and would have been the worst ballhawk in the section by far regardless, I headed out to right field as soon as possible. There I managed to get Garrett Richards to toss me a ball by whadda ya know, actually calling him by his correct name unlike the other twenty people calling him “Jered”:
That ball would be it for me during batting practice itself. In order for me to get in line earlier, Sean had dropped me off while he and his mom parked the car and went in the stadium. Once batting practice started, I saw them a couple more times, but I wanted to give them their mother-son time on Mother’s Day, so once batting practice ended, I camped out in foul territory waiting for the Angels infielders to warm up. When they did I got a ball from the player who had ironically been the bane of my existence the game prior in Alberto Callaspo. I was the first one to yell his name when he was finished throwing, so he looked up and flipped me the ball:
After I took that picture, a person behind me offered to take a picture of me with the ball. So here’s that:
After that I filled my time until the game by playing with my phone and calling my mom to wish her a happy Mother’s Day in New York. My plan was to stay behind the dugout for the game until I got a Mother’s Day ball, and then go to sit with Sean and his mom in right field for the rest of the game. One problem: I never got a third-out ball the whole game. Albert Pujols got one ground out to end the inning all game and he kept that ball. With the Angels, if the third out of the inning isn’t a ground out to the first baseman or a strike out, the ball ends up in the hands of the third baseman, which in this case was Alberto Callaspo. I was sure he would recognize me from the ball earlier, so I didn’t even try. I just kept waiting for Pujols to get the ball, but he never did. Which brings me to a lesson for all of you people out there: don’t make judgments based on assumptions you make on a topic you know nothing about. Okay, so this was my view for the game:
Do you see the woman looking to her right? Well every inning for most teams, the first baseman throws the infield warm-up ball into some coach who then throws the ball back to him as he leaves the field after the third out. While it’s one of the dumber traditions in baseball in my opinion (Why doesn’t the coach just hand the ball to the first baseman when he enters the dugout?) she absolutely trashed Pujols every single inning just because he wasn’t throwing that ball up.
Anyway, the whole game passed and I still didn’t have a Mother’s Day ball. So in the ninth inning I set myself up to where I could hurry down and get as close as I possibly could to home plate umpire Ed Hicox without jumping on the field or in the seats behind home plate. (Although I was prepared to jump the fence and go in those seats if he didn’t hear me.) My main concern was him hearing me, though. At the point in the game when I got closer to home plate, Chris Sale was throwing a shutout since his no-hitter had gotten broken up a couple innings earlier. I knew that once the game ended the crowd would erupt into applause, so being so far away from the umpire, I was worried he wouldn’t be able to hear me. And I was right. Sort of. See Hicox had to wait for the rest of his umpiring crew, so I yelled at him twice at the top of my lungs, so as to pierce through the roar of the crowd, but he still didn’t hear me. Then on the third time I yelled his name, he turned, spotted me, and after I made my polite request, tossed me a Mother’s Day ball before heading off the field:
And what a beauty it was. While some of the ink smudged off, here are the pictures I took of it when I got back to Minnesota:
I wasn’t the only one who snagged a Mother’s Day Ball, though. Shawn had gotten one before the game from Robin Ventura at the White Sox’ dugout. After the game we both found ourselves at the Angels dugout, so we took a picture of both of us with our Mother’s Day balls:
Shawn’s mom was nice enough to take that picture of us. We were going to try to get a picture of all three of us together, but even as we were taking that last picture, we were being kicked out of the section to prepare the lower level for Kids Run The Bases. So I said goodbye to Shawn and said hello to Sean. (See what I did there?) I met Sean at guest services where we found out that his mom ad indeed not won the 50-50 raffle, before we headed back to Sean’s house and fell asleep before waking up early in the morning to head back to Minnesota.
- 3 Baseballs at this Game
Numbers 496-498 for my “lifetime”:
- 52 Balls in 12 Games= 4.33 Balls Per Game
- 3 Balls x 22,088 Fans= 66,264 Competition Factor
- 74 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 6 Balls in 3 Games at U.S. Cellular Field= 2 Balls Per Game
- 3 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at U.S. Cellular Field
- Time Spent On Game 4:03-10:39= 6 Hours 36 Minutes
As you read in the last entry, my friend Sean dropped me off at my dorm at about midnight with the plan to for him to pick me up at 9:00 in the morning and head off to Chicago right away. Well because of a failed prank, I was up until after 1:00, when I finally fell asleep from exhaustion without setting my alarm. Thankfully through some miracle, I woke up at around 8:00 in the morning where I packed the quickest I ever have and met Sean outside where we headed off Chicago-bound.
I believe we only stopped twice on our way to Chicago. Once to eat breakfast at Denny’s–since we had both missed the dining hall breakfast by leaving so early–and once to get gas close around Madison, WI. There was a little mix-up that would define this game for me, though. Actually I guess you could call it two. I thought based the fact that a 9:00 departure time would be fine on my presumption that the White Sox game was starting at 7:00. About half-way through crossing Wisconsin, I thought, “You know what, I should probably make sure the game is starting at 7:00 Central time and not Eastern.” Turns out the game was 7:00 EST. That meant that it was starting at 6:00 our time. And another mistake I had made related to the fact that I thought the game started at 7 was that in my rush to pack everything up, I still hadn’t printed our tickets. That meant we would first have to stop by Sean’s house 40 minutes away from the ballpark before actually heading to the game.
All of this lead up to the first picture I took that day:
Batting practice was already half done and I was still in the car on my way to the game. Or course I didn’t have either my Angels or White Sox rosters printed, so I knew my streak of over 70 consecutive games with at least 1 ball snagged was in serious jeopardy. When I finally got into the stadium and got my way down to the 100 level despite not actually having a ticket for there, there was a little over 15 minutes of batting practice remaining, and this was my view of the field:
I didn’t think it was going to be an easy batting practice to begin with, though. That was because for the second day in a row, it was a bobblehead day. This game’s bobblehead was of Chicago’s beloved Paul Konerko:
That, Twins, is how you package a bobblehead.
A couple minutes in to me having entered the gates, I was sure my shutout would be ending soon:
I still can’t identify him for certain, but whoever the player under the arrow is fielded a ball near the wall by where I was, and when I asked for the ball, he threw the ball in and then looked up at me. Right then I motioned to him as I was saying “Can you throw me the next one?” To this he gave me a thumbs-up. A couple minutes after that, though, batting practice ended and I still sat at zero balls for the day. It was at this point that I made the decision and told Sean that we were going to be spending the game at the dugout:
And in the first inning, I saw a stat from that seat that caught my attention as someone who was born in Colombia:
It wasn’t until a few days prior to this game that even knew Quintana was Colombian, but I guess it’s cool. However, he’s the only one of the top-3 who hasn’t thrown me a baseball. So if you want me to root for you in this race, Jose, it’s your move.
The game for snagging was absolutely brutal. I want to say over half the baseballs ended up in the hands of Alberto Callaspo, who made eye contact with me several times throughout the night, but always ended up looking away and throwing the ball elsewhere despite the fact that I was asking him in Spanish while being decked-out in Angels attire. As miserable as I was with the whole situation that was unfolding, Sean was loving every second of it:
If you’ll remember, he and my friend Tony had made a goal of shutting me out for a game when they joined me a couple games ago. And after I caused them to fail miserably by snagging nine baseballs, I may have been a little in-your-face about it (jokingly of course) about it, so to see me struggling to get even a single baseball without him being responsible for it delighted Sean to no end.
Finally the end of the game approached us, and I formulated my plan to get a ball from home plate umpire, Jeff Nelson. Since the umpire tunnel at U.S. Cellular is directly behind home plate, there were two options. One option was to try to get into the “scout seats” right as the final out of the game was being recorded and hurry down to the tunnel before the umpires made their way back there, which would almost guarantee me a ball. The problem would be if the ushers don’t allow people into those seats even after the game is over, or if I got slowed down by the people exiting the section, I might not even be able to ask Nelson for a ball. My other option was to go to the edge of the home plate netting and yell out to the umpire as he walked off the field to the tunnel. I went the second route. Luckily, the last play of the game was a pop-up to the infield, which pulled Nelson towards the field. This gave me more time to get in position and be ready to yell once he walked my way. So I did and Nelson looked my way and rolled the ball to the wall right in front of me as he walked off the field, and I then leaned way over the wall and picked the ball up to extend my streak with at least 1 ball:
Little did I know it, but Sean was taking his first ever Vine of me at that same exact moment I took that picture that reflected my feeling on the situation perfectly. So here’s the link to that if you want to see it. But anyway, I went back to Sean’s house semi-satisfied with the outcome of the day knowing that my streak would live to see another day. We then headed out at to 7-11 with his younger brother and I want to say watched “For the Love of the Game”. It was either that or “Little Big League”. (Since I haven’t watched most baseball movies, it has been Sean’s goal to get me to watch as many as he can.) We would then get up the next day for another fun day of Chicago baseball, with a Mother’s Day twist.
- 1 Ball at this game
Number 495 for my career:
- 49 Balls in 11 Games= 4.45 Balls Per Game
- 1 Balls x 28,774 Fans=28,774 Competition Factor
- 73 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 3 Balls in 2 Games at U.S. Cellular Field= 1.5 Balls Per Game
- 2 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at U.S. Cellular Field
- Time Spent On Game 9:23-10:47= 13 Hours 24 Minutes
Originally, I was planning to go to three games but because of changes to that plan that I was not made aware of, this would be my first and last game at US Cellular Field this year. I had taken a tour of Northwestern in the morning so this was my view coming off of the el or L (short for elevated train):
In that first picture, you are actually looking at gate 6. I then went over to gate 4 to meet my uncle (not Richard) with the tickets. From there I went to the Stadium club entrance between gates 2 and 3 because Rick Crowe told me he might be there but might also be inside the stadium for a season ticket holder promotion (long and complicated story that I’d rather not explain). He wasn’t there so I assumed that he was in the stadium and went over to gate 2 to see the length of the line because that goes into Right Field. The line was long enough for me to inspect how long it was at gate 1. Apparently, this was the gate they were doing the season ticket holder event thing at and no other people were allowed through. By the time I made my way back to gate 2 the time was 5:20 (10 minutes pre-gate opening) and the line was this long:
The arrow would be where the front of the line was because the line kind of curved to its destination. Now I didn’t know it at this time but what I should have done was go back to gate 6 because that would get me to the Left Field seats and it would be much less crowded than this line. One of the reasons this line was so crowded was because it was also the patio gate. The patio area is a picnic table area that is actually under the Right Field seats. I didn’t know these seats even existed and so most of the people in this line were actually in it for that reason and other gates did not have this extra crowd. In addition, I didn’t know that we were not on the field level of the stadium. So when faced with the decision, I did not go up the ramp but actually followed the people going to the patio area. Here is actually a picture of the people going towards the patio area through this tunnel type thing that most stadiums have but fans are rarely allowed through:
So if I weren’t late enough already with waiting for the fans in front of me, I was made even tardier by the fact that I went the length of the tunnel and back. Eventually, I did make it to the 100 level and the Indians were already taking bp:
I quickly did pick out Rick Crowe:
He is obviously under the red arrow but I would also like to take this opportunity to show the best thing about US Cellular Field: No guard rails on the aisles. This means that any row is accessible. Usually, in a place with railing you will see ballhawks stationed in railing gaps during batting practice. These are one-row-wide gaps between one railing and the next. They do this because it allows them to access both sections of seats on both sides of the aisle. Without the railings, a ballhawk can just pick the spot on the aisle that is least crowded. For example, I would be able to stand in the second row here and not be worried about being limited to going to only one side due to the railing but I could just pick out the emptiest row and stand in the respective aisle. Anyway, in the process of introducing myself to him I actually missed out on two balls that landed more towards Right-Center Field. I was okay with this in the moment and I’m glad I met him at my first chance but I really wished I would have spotted him like two seconds later.
I then noticed two things that made me leave for Left Field: the Left Field seats were bleachers and Chris Perez was shagging in Left Field. The former made me go over there because bleachers are far easier to maneuver through and snag baseballs in because one can be more of an outfielder and adjust to the ball depth wise. Let me explain this a bit better. In a seated section, one has to pick a row to run through within about one row of where the ball is going to land because jumping over seats is a time-consuming process where as bleachers are very easy to jump over and allow a person to start running laterally right away and adjust to the distance of the ball once they get in line with it. The latter made me want to be in Left Field because there are certain guys in the league that give out twenty thousand balls a batting practice and Chris Perez is one of them. This batting practice he tossed up any ball that he fielded within ten feet of the wall. Most players mope around and want to do the least amount of exercise possible in batting practice but he played every ball like he was an outfielder in the seventh game of the World Series and how quickly he got the ball would decide if his team won or not.
Anyway, the latter proved to be a quicker source of a baseball as Perez threw me a ball within the first two minutes I was in Left Field:
I then changed into a different outfit from my standard Indians gear to see if I could get Perez to actually throw me another because as I said he was throwing ball after ball into the crowd. This is what I came up with:
That would be my standard Indians bp hat (bought in Cooperstown), Mets give away sunglasses, and a Red Sox shirt turned inside-out. I didn’t get anything else from Perez as he didn’t field any balls close to me but I did get other players to throw me balls. Unfortunately, I was under-thrown on both occasions. The first is pictured in this diagram:
The guy who threw it to me is under the right-most arrow and the two connected arrows show the arc of the ball. It was headed right in my direction but it was severely under-thrown and landed in the first row where the kid in the White Sox jersey picked it up (and yes I am 95% sure that the ball was intended for me and not the kid as he only looked back to us when I called out to him). I am not completely sure but I think the armless pitcher was Chad Durbin. I do know, however. The person was in fact a player and not a coach that threw the ball as much as it might look like a coach in that last picture. The next ball was closer to straight away Left Field and was almost the same exact scenario except for the fact that the ball was closer to me but I was standing on the bleacher and so it took me longer to get down and that’s when I lost it.
Then next ball I actually did get was a hit ball:
Don’t be fooled, I was not as lucky as it may seem with the crazy series of ricochets show here. Keep in mind that I was tracking this ball so I was moving back and forth with each bounce. I gave this away to a father with what looked to be a one year old. I was planning to spend the game wherever Rick Crowe was sitting but it turns out he only attends the batting practices and no the games so I played Home Run balls out in Right Field.
As for the game, it was a 14 inning affair but I only staid for 12 innings. I would have staid longer but my means for getting back to shelter wanted to go home in the 12th. Speaking of which, here they are:
1. Mike– My uncle that treated us to this game on the field level and currently (in the picture) trying to walk without pain from an injury sustained during the t-shirt toss when an over-exuberant knocked over both he and my mother (should have stayed with me closer to the field). Wait, who’s my mother?
2. Andrea– my mother who wanted to come to this game but yet not stay for the duration of it.
We weren’t the only ones who left early so we had constant updates on the train from other on their smart phones.
- 2 balls at this game (1 pictured because I gave one away)
- 135 balls in 36 games = 3.75 balls per game
- 2 balls * 29,700 fans= 59,400 competition factor
- Time at game 4:59-11:14= 6 hours 15 minutes