Ballhawk and Junior Ballhawk of the Year Ballot

I know that one’s ballot for voting on these awards is usually a private matter, but I think I’m going to go ahead and make my ballot as well as the reasoning behind it so some other voters out there can get at least one other person’s perspective on the voting besides their own. I am by no means the “right” way to vote on the award; simply, my way of voting is *a* way of voting on the award, and I thought it’d be fun to share it.

Also, even though the ballot is restricted to three candidates, I’m going to give my top-5 for each award, since I think there are many more than six total worthy candidates. The name in parentheses is the person’s mygameballs.com username, since you’ll need that to vote for them.

Ballhawk of the Year ballot

1. Greg Barasch (gbarasch)

20120710-091158.jpg

I must admit, I didn’t have Greg in either of my top-2 ballot spots last year, and despite having only 13 more baseballs than last year total, I bumped Greg up to the top spot because he still had an excellent year. Unlike last year, Greg beat every single ballhawk on the site in head-to-head match-ups (which you can check for yourself by clicking here). Not only that, but he averaged almost a whole Ball Per Game (.93 to be specific) higher than anyone else on the site. He also had by far the best rate of double-digit games (1:3) of anyone on the site. The only thing that made me hesitant to put him at the top of my ballot was his lack of game balls, but he dominated his part of ballhawking enough this year to more than make up for that in my opinion. Not to mention, he did all of this going to a majority of his games in New York, both of the stadiums inside of which are tough places to snag baseballs and have a bunch of competition to deal with.

2. Alex Kopp (akopp1)

8213 Alex + Spot

He perhaps didn’t have the average or total baseball count of other candidates, but like Greg, he dominated his own part of the ballhawking top-10. He had more game home run snags than anyone in the top-10 ballhawks. Heck, he almost had as many (8) as the rest of the top-10 combined (10). And also like Greg, I had my reservations about putting Alex so high up, but he also attended 92% of his games at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, which has one of the larger constituencies of ballhawk competition in the country. It was not uncommon for him to have two or three ballhawks up on the flag court competing with him for game home runs. If he had the ballpark to himself, he would easily have double-digit home run numbers. Even as it is, he had a game to game home run ratio (8.25:1) almost three times better than the next best ballhawk in the top-10 (23.25:1). That’s amazing.

3. Zack Hample (zackhample)

Zack H Photo

He got beat out in terms of total baseballs by Erik Jabs 723-710. However, he made up for it in my mind by out-snagging Erik in game home runs (4-0), double digits games (27-23. Despite going to 14 less games), and Balls Per Game average (7.63-6.76). He is probably the most rounded of any of the candidates for the award.

4. Erik Jabs (ErikJ)

Erik Picture

Besides the number two baseball snagger, Erik almost doubled the baseball count of anyone else on the site. That alone would be enough to get him into the top-3 if it weren’t for some great years by other ballhawks. Pretty much the only reason Erik did not make my personal BotY ballot is the lack of strength in the other statistical categories. However, it should be noted that he ballhawks in the ballpark with perhaps THE toughest day-in-day out competition in the country in PNC Park. He also leaves games right after batting practice, so that makes all of his numbers that much more impressive since he doesn’t have time during the games to pad his stats at all. I don’t think the magnitude of his feats should be minimized at all because of the fact that I have him in the four spot.

5. Rick Gold (JQFC)

8213 Rick Arriving

To the outsider, Rick and his 3.23 Balls Per Game paired with his 265 baseballs might seem like a guy who just went to a ton of games in order to get a bunch of baseballs and get into the top-10. Well an outsider wouldn’t know that Rick only goes after hit baseballs. For a ballhawk, averaging anything that nears 3.00 Balls Per Game is a great season, so Rick’s 3.23 isn’t unheard of, but still a phenomenal season. You may be thinking, “Getting three and a quarter hit baseballs in a batting practice isn’t hard to do.” Well the problem with that is this was Rick’s *average* for all of the games he went to. This would be difficult average with regular batting practices, but one has to also keep in mind that this average also includes batting practices that have been rained out–which Rick is particularly prone to since he plans his games out often weeks in advance and doesn’t skip games when he learns the weather isn’t going to be ideal. Well all of those games are automatic zeroes for Rick barring a game home run snag. Speaking of which, Rick might’ve been higher on this list had he had a normal year of his in terms of game home run snags, but he had some tough luck and only snagged three. That is still the third best amongst the top-10 baseball snaggers on the site.

Junior Ballhawk of the Year ballot

1. Grant Edrington (fireant02)

Grant

With 2013 essentially being his rookie year ballhawking, Grant started off his season slowly, but then he picked it up and snagged the most baseballs of any junior ballhawk with 102, outpacing the nearest competitor by almost thirty baseballs. And he also accomplished what almost no other junior ballhawks did by snagging a game home run. He all of which whilst battling the very tough OPACY ballhawk competition.

2. Paul Kom (paaoool123)-

Paul

He snagged an impressive 73 baseballs in 19 games. The majority of which were at the not-very-friendly Target Field.

3. Josh Herbert (PGHawkJosh)

Snagged an impressive 48 baseballs for a junior ballhawk, but even more impressively did so in just eight games to get him the highest Balls Per Game average amongst junior ballhawks.

4. Maddie Landis (angrybird447)

Maddie

Like Grant, this was also essentially her rookie season, so 54 baseballs in 14 games is really impressive.

5. Harrison Tishler (htishler)

Harrison

One of the few “veterans” on the junior circuit, Harrison didn’t make it into the upper echelon in terms of total baseball snagging with his 43 baseballs, but did so in far fewer games this season than his peer, going to only 9 games all season.

If you want to, you can leave your ballot as a comment, but don’t feel like you have to. You may also notice that I made the “RE: Ballhawk of the Year Parts I and II” private, so in order to still have the comments that accumulated there somewhere public, here are pictures of all three sets of comments and my responses:

Chris:

Chris comment and response

Tony:

Tony comment and response

Wayne:

Wayne comment and response

RE: Ballhawk of the Year: Parts I and II

Let me start with this: I don’t mean to offend anyone in writing this article. (This is a response to the title article: “Ballhawk of the Year: Part II.”) Would I have rather not written this article/entry at all and never have to address such a divisive topic being brought up in an even more polarizing fashion? Absolutely. I tried to stay out of this completely  as long as I could, but it has become apparent that while her jar has not yet been opened, the ballhawk’s Pandora has been created. In other words, I would have rather this not come up, but maybe we can actually get something positive out of this whole spectacle.

I will also say this: I am probably less infallible than anyone reading this. Why do I say this? I encourage you to challenge what I say, whether you are reading this on my blog or on mygameballs.com, in the respective comments section below. The only stipulation that  make for leaving comments on my blog–since I don’t control the mygameballs comments–is you be respectful to one another. You can bash me all you want, but please debate each others’ points respectfully or…well, you’ll see what happens. Also on the note of commenting, since both articles are so long, I decided to organize my points in a way that wouldn’t going to completely bore everyone reading this while simultaneously making it easier to comment on specific points. How it goes is I will post Rocco’s point followed by my reaction to said point and rationale fro taking that stance right afterwards in a numbered fashion. So if you are commenting on a point I or Rocco made, just be sure to let the rest of us know which one it is so it’s much easier to find what exactly you’re referring to. This has and will continue to get messy in terms of people citing information and things of that nature, so I just wanted to organize it a bit.

(You don’t have to read this next paragraph if your first name isn’t Rocco and are more than welcome to skip it and dive straight into the response itself.)

Finally, before I get to my actual response to the two articles in question, I would like to say something to the architect of this whole kerfuffle, Rocco Sinisi: Rocco, I have heard many tales of your kindness and hospitality when it comes to travelers visiting GABP. I still do very much look forward to meeting you when our paths cross somewhere along the line. I also know you didn’t mean to incite what you did–or at least I don’t think you did. All of this adds up to say: Don’t think that I am being critical in any way of you as a person in my response to your articles below. Any criticism I express is simply of the ideas you have made public the past 1.5 months or so/how you have compiled your various arguments. All of that out of the way, let’s get to the response itself, shall we?

  1. Point: Zack is a professional ballhawk, and so he’s at an unfair advantage to us people who have to pay for our games.

Response: Eh. Yes but no. While I definitely see where you’re coming from, I would agree more if we were talking about a different ballhawk being the “professional” in question, but Zack went to 80 games last year to this year’s 92, and 131 the year before that without being sponsored. It would be one thing if he were reinvesting the money saved through being sponsored into a ton more games, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. It seems as though there is a money-independent threshold of games that he is willing to go to in a year. And I have a good guess as to why that is: blog entries. Most ballhawks would in fact reinvest the money into a ton more games, but having to write 2,000 words for every game makes you…surprise! Much less willing to go to 160 games a year; despite affordability.

2. Point: What is Ballhawk of the Year?

Response: I do agree with you here. It has always been the case that there is a question of what the award actually means. However, I would also say that as long as MLB doesn’t have a standardized way of choosing a Cy Young or MVP, I don’t think there should be a standardized way to choose Ballhawk (and Junior Ballhawk) of the Year.

Is it a flawed system? Of course. But so would be any standardized way of choosing Ballhawk of the Year. Therefore, I say we just go with our own little way of imperfect perfection and have what Ballhawk of the Year (and the junior derivation thereof) means be up to the discretion of each voter. For me it means the best overall ballhawk; but if someone thinks the awards are whoever snags the most baseballs or game home runs, they should be allowed to do it. Not to mention, any standardization of the awards renders the voting useless. And while that is a possible route to take, I like the fact that these awards are determined by peer-vote.

On a personal level, because of my way of voting when considering all of the statistical categories available on mygameballs.com–as well as calculating a few of my own–Zack has come out on top two out of the three years I have voted on the Ballhawk of the Year award. I can’t speak for others, but that’s the way I have voted for the award, which has nothing to do with personal affiliations.

3. Point: Disqualifications for Ballhawk of the Year

Response: This is gimmicky, but does bring up a good point. For the sake of time, I’m going to agree with you and say that ballhawking is a sport. Well ballhawking is unique from most other sports in that the person decides when they retire, and so it is just as likely for a ballhawk to “retire” at 18 as it is for a ballhawk to retire at 50. And it is not infrequent to see a ballhawk take a multiyear-long hiatus and then come back to ballhawking. What that means is I do like “inducting” ballhawks into a Hall of Fame while still  ballhawking, if we ever choose to have something like a Hall of Fame.

I think here is also the best time to point out that we have a very small sample size of Ballhawks of the Year. There have been only four years in which Ballhawk of the Year has been voted on. Sure Zack has won 75% of them, but Barry Bonds, Randy Johnson, and Greg Maddux won their respective awards 100% of the time over a four-year period. I don’t think anyone was calling for a restructuring of their awards because of them. While I do agree that with the insulation of this “sport” we have the beginning of a problem, trying to implement a solution to the *beginning* of such a problem is a bit preemptive. I say we give it at least a couple more years to give other people a shot at having a breakout year and winning it with statistics alone instead of a “booster seat” win.

4. Point: We need age categories in order to give people with different abilities an even shot

Response: Good reasoning…but no. I like the idea; I really do. A ten-year-old doesn’t have the same snagging ability a thirty-year-old has, who doesn’t have the same snagging ability a seventy-year old has. That said, the categories you’ve made are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too specific. Alex Kopp, Garrett Meyer, and myself were discussing mygameballs statistics one night, and Alex didn’t even think that there was a female ballhawk who had recorded 25 baseballs on the site ever. Determined to find one, I looked through the *whole* career leaderboard for people with at least 25 baseballs. And I did prove him wrong by finding one…but that was it; just one. Granted, this ballhawk had recorded all 37 of her baseballs–at the time–this year, but I think you see the problem in beginning a competition between one person.

I haven’t yet ravaged the 60+  demographic yet, but I assume I’d find almost just as bad a scarcity problem. If we add a Female Ballhawk of the Year, Senior Ballhawk of the Year, or two additional slots for Junior Ballhawk of the Year as you’ve suggested, we’re simply creating an even worse monopolized awards problem. Junior Ballhawk of the Year would be the smaller of monopoly problems since candidates are always losing eligibility, but that’s exactly the reason expanding to three is a bad idea. In two of the three years I’ve voted I’ve had a hard time putting together a list of three worthy candidates for ONE spot, forget about finding nine worthy candidates for three spots.

I think the problem with the other  two awards is pretty self-explanatory, but just in case it isn’t: With so little competition, the same person would win the award every year. And if the thought behind creating the awards is it will get more people to join the site from these respective demographics, I don’t see that happening. People join the site to document their baseball collections because they heard about it somewhere; it is not until a person is in the community that they learn about the award. If there aren’t a bunch of female and senior ballhawks on the site, that’s because the message isn’t getting out to them fast enough, not because there is a lack of fitting awards.

5. Point: “Cult of Zack Hample”

Response: Maybe if this was 2009, but in going to stadiums  and running into a large majority of the prominent ballhawks who have ever run into Zack, I can say that people no longer agree with Zack simply because he is Zack. It used to be that Zack’s blog was one of the very few peepholes into the ballhawking world, but as mygameballs has become more prominent in these recent years, people can take a look at other ballhawks by themselves, and as a result of that, come up with information that isn’t filtered by Zack. This has lead to people not going with Zack because he is the “king of the ballhawks” as some have labeled him. What that means, is if there are people defending him, it’s because they are actually against the points brought against him. There is a clear confusion here between your so-called dogmatic “crucifixion” by the church of Zack Hample and people actually disagreeing with the points you’ve brought forth. Could some people have phrased it a little more professionally? Yes; but comments sections on the internet aren’t exactly renown for their civility.

6. Point: Give other ballhawks some more recognition.

Response: You underestimate how much people browse the site. People know all of the names you have thrown out there. That said, I do agree that the articles during the season were a great resource in discovering more about these lesser-known ballhawks that no longer stands as prominent on the site as it once did. And as such, like yourself, I volunteer to write a percentage of these articles since I’ll be taking a reduced ballhawking role this upcoming season.

7. Point: Ballhawking is a sport.

Response: I agree with you but I don’t at the same time. In regards to this, I have seen people take to both sides, but I’d say I’m right in the middle. Being a sports management, I know that the actual, metaphysical definition of “sport” is a competition between two or more parties. So yes, even chess is a sport by technicality. That said, the modern-day, practical definition is it is an athletic competition. With all that said, I think it is both sport an hobby; it depends wholly on how you view it. So with you, Rocco, ballhawking is a sport, since it seems you are actively competing with the rest of us ballhawks out there. But with someone who is doing it just because collecting baseballs is a fun thing, it is a hobby. There is no reason for ballhawking to have an exclusive category since the duality of its nature reflects the duality of the people who partake in it.

8. Point: “Everybody’s thinking the same way.”

Response: Alan put up an column RIGHT before this one that shows we aren’t all thinking the same way. The column, for those reading this who didn’t read it, was the Top-15 Recent Improvements to MyGameBalls.com. While I only pitched three of the improvements listed on the site last offseason, I had a bunch of ballhawks tell me there should be something similar to the idea I had pitched just that past offseason, It would not surprise me to know that over half of the improvements listed came from member suggestions. This shows that ballhawks are in fact thinking outside of the mold that we have set for us. And I do acknowledge you as one of those ballhawks thinking outside of the box, but by the response you have generated, it appears as though the majority of the community does not agree with the changes you have set forth in suggesting.

Anyways, thank you for plowing through that. I’m going to go ahead and delete my “Update” entry, so here are the two videos I made if you haven’t seen them yet:

Since we are so close to the end of the World Series, my next entry will probably be my 2013 Ballhawk and Junior Ballhawk of the Year ballots, but I could potentially squeeze a game entry in before that.

9/13/13 Rays at Twins: Target Field

Another Friday meant another game with Jonathan. (He’s available in the nights on Fridays.)

91313 Jonathan at Gate

And with Jonathan at the game, that meant I had a photographer with me to use my fancy camera and possibly get action shots. For example, when we got in, I had run closer to the left field foul pole, but then I saw that a ball was headed back the other way:

91313 Looking left

And started running towards Jonathan with my eye on the ball:

91313 Running left

Reached up:

91313 Reaching up

And then finally caught the ball:

91313 Ball 1

I don’t know who hit it, but it was a Twins player. And that would be the only ball I snagged during Twins BP. My next ball came at the dugout as the Rays were warming up. Jose Lobaton and Jose Molina were playing catch, so I knew I had an advantage, because I could yell Jose as loudly as I wanted to and whichever player ended up with the ball would hear me and most likely toss me the ball. Lobaton ended up with the ball, so here I am reaching up for the ball:

91313 Ball 2

I gave this ball away to a kid that was right next to me, but I wasn’t going to stop there. Because it was at the dugout and no other Rays players had seen me get the ball, I moved down the line and got the attention of Matt Joyce. Here you can see me waving my arms and Joyce facing me with the ball in his hands:

91313 Joyce with ball

And then here’s a picture as the ball was on its descent towards me. Can you find it?

91313 Ball 3

I also gave this ball away, but to Jonathan, since I promised it to him for taking pictures instead of asking the players themselves.

I then figured that it was time to head back to the outfield seats. As the righties were taking their initial cuts, I headed out to the right-center seats to get a couple toss-ups from the players out there. Here’s the first one I got from David DeJesus:

91313 Ball 4

And then I got Matt Moore to toss me a ball:

91313 Matt Moore Toss-up

But his aim was a little low, so I ended up having to reach for the ball in the flower pots:

91313 Ball 5

If you’re keeping track, that was my fifth ball of the day.

I then had some fun scaring people and running after baseballs in the standing room:

91313 SRO

But I didn’t actually get any of the balls hit up there. However, my next baseball was in right field. Here I am catching the ball underhanded–in front of my body, so you can’t see it:

91313 Ball 6

And then right afterwards with the ball in my glove:

91313 Mateo with ball 6

The reason I’m looking over to my left in the picture is because I was looking for a kid I could give the ball away to. I found a kid, but Jonathan didn’t get the picture of that. Jonathan did, however, get this picture of the guy who tossed it, so I’m pretty sure it was Cesar Ramos, but it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been wrong:

91313 Ceasr Ramos

I then figure I had exhausted all toss-up opportunities in right field, so although left field was way more crowded, I headed over there since there were a bunch of righties coming up. And if you hadn’t seen before, I think it’s pretty apparent here that it was a orange camouflage hat giveaway:

91313 Hunting Hat

Well I did in fact get a toss-up . This guy tossed me a ball, and I assumed it was Jamey Wright, but again I could very well be wrong:

91313 Wright

He spotted me in my Rays gear and flipped me a ball over about seven rows of fans. That would be my last ball for batting practice; my seventh on the day for those of you keeping score at home.

My next ball came from the bullpen. It was myself, a woman, and a bunch of kids asking Bobby Cuellar for a ball. When he got to the wall, he pointed to someone just to my left, so I said, “Hey, I’ll catch it for them.” As a result, Cuellar tossed me a ball for whom I thought was one of the kids, but was oddly enough for the woman. I thought it was weird, but then I realized that she was the mother of one of the smaller children.

I then spent the rest of the time at the bullpen getting some dandy shots like these two:

91313 Kevin Correia

91313 Chris Archer

And then at game time, we went out to the flag court and alternated between there:

91313 Flag Court View

and the left field seats:

91313 Left Field View

But sadly no homers were to be found.

After the game, we headed to the umpire, and here I am calling out to Hunter Wendelstedt:

91313 Calling Out

And then catching the ball:

91313 Ball 9

And then looking to my side for a kid to give the ball away to:

91313 Kid to give ball 9 to

And then I did find a kid to give it away to:

91313 Giving Ball 9 away to

But his friend had also not gotten a ball, so I gave him the ball I had gotten from Wright.

I then quickly made my way to the end of the dugout, where I saw Scott Cursi and Stan Boroski walking in from the bullpen. And as I saw them, I knew right away my strategy. See I had learned the first day I had seen the Rays in Baltimore that Boroski really appreciates people who know his name. I almost guarantee that you will get a ball from him if you ask him by name and he doesn’t recognize you from getting a previous baseball.

It should come as no surprise to you, then, that I got my tenth and final ball from Boroski I simply asked him for a ball, and he pulled a ball out of his pocket and tossed it to me.

STATS:

  • 10 Balls at this game (4 pictured because I gave 6 away)

91313 Baseballs

Numbers 714-723:

91313 Sweet Spots

  • 277 Balls in 58 Games= 4.78 Balls Per Game
  • 10 Balls x 27,292 Fans= 272,920 Competition Factor
  • 120 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 25 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
  • 22 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
  • 14 straight Games with at least 4 Balls
  • 4 straight Games with at least 5-6 Balls
  • 2 straight Games with at least 7 Balls
  • 161 Balls in 32 Games at Target Field= 5.03 Balls Per Game
  • 30 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Target Field
  • 10 straight Games with at least 2-4 Balls at Target Field
  • 4 straight Games with at least 5-6 Balls at Target Field
  • 2 straight Games with at least 7 Balls at Target Field
  • Time Spent On Game 3:41-11:12= 7 Hours 31 Minutes

9/11/13 Athletics at Twins: Target Field

Yet another game, and it was again time to head to the second game of the Athletics series against the Twins at Target Field:

91113 Opening Picture

But sadly this would be the definition of my day:

9113 Semi-facetious sadness

More or less a conglomeration of semi-facetious sadness. The emotion was being caused here by the fact that my ballhawk friends Tony Voda and Paul Kom were inside early for season ticket holder early BP and I was stuck on the outside for the extent of it. That didn’t change my no-custom, though, of going to Gate 3 to actually get in the stadium:

91113 Gate 3

Once I got in, it took me very little time to get Jarrod Parker to toss me a baseball. I then quickly turned and tossed it to one of the kids in the following picture for a reason I don’t remember:

91113 Kid Ball 1

(As I write this, the game happened over three weeks ago, so excuse me for not remembering which of the three kids in the picture I gave it away to.) I then had a lull in terms of snagging, but it was ended when I made my way to the right field bleachers. There I got Chris Young to toss me a ball by being the only one to call him by name:

91113 Ball 2

I’ll spoil a part of this entry right now: I only got toss-ups this game. That said, I went on a mini-toss-up rampage. First I got A.J. Griffin to toss me a ball over a kid who was in front of me. Because I felt kind of bad for how cruel it must have seemed to see a ball be thrown at him but go over his head, I gave it to him:

91113 Ball 3 Kid

Additionally, I told him Jerry Blevins’–since Blevins had seen me get the ball from Griffin but not me give it away–name and told him to ask him for a ball. My hope was that Blevins would overthrow him and I would get the ball. And that’s what happened…sort of. Blevins did miss the kid, but it was to his side. If you are not familiar with the right field bleachers at Target Field, they kind of jut out from the wall in right. But that’s not what’s important here. Do you see the flower pots that outline the box that is the “jut?” Well Blevins missed the kid to our right, so the ball went in the flower pots tot the right side of the “box” of the right field seats. And it then kind of went up the flowers. I ran over, picked the ball out of the flowers, and handed the ball to the kid for my fourth ball of the day:

91113 Ball 4

I then figured I had exhausted my toss-up opportunities in right, so I headed to the right-center field seats. This was the best thing I could have done. As I got there, Ariel Prieto–a person listed on the A’s roster as simply “coach”–tossed a ball to a kid that landed a little short. As a result, it landed in the flower pots in front of him. As this happened, I told the kid that I would get the ball for him. So as Prieto watched, I pulled the ball out of the flowers and handed it to the boy:

91113 Ball 5 Kid

After he saw me do this, Prieto gave me a thumbs-up, and a very promising gesture: the “I’ll give you the next one” gesture. Only one problem: as Prieto was trying to get a ball, Chip Hale tossed me a ball:

91113 Ball 6

…or so I thought. Even though Prieto saw me get the ball from Hale, he tossed me the second “thank you for giving tha other one away to that kid” ball:

91113 Ball 7

And that was it for the snagging for me on the day. After BP, though, I was on the second deck, and so I gave a ball to a vendor who I had promised one if I got more than a couple. I don’t know which one it was exactly, but here it is:

91113 Ball I gave away

After which, I talked to an usher by that concession stand. And after talking to him for a while and learning that he is an usher for not only the Twins, but Gopher football and basketball games, I also gave him a ball. Basically, if you haven’t been keeping track, out of the seven balls I snagged, I gave away six.

I then headed down to the dugout to reunite with Tony and Paul, both of whom had been doing very well to that point (seven and eight balls snagged respectively) due to their early admission into the ballpark. They had both never snagged double digits, so I just stepped back while an A’s coach that they identified as Casey Chavez cleared the baseballs out of the bullpen. My hope was Chavez would overthrow one, but I was also perfectly content with my seven baseballs I had snagged to that point. Fortunately for Tony and Paul, Chavez didn’t throw any up, and they both got one step closer to their first ever double-digits games. I don’t know where Tony wandered off to, but I did manage to get this picture of Paul just before he left to go to the dugout and secure his first ever ten-ball performance:

91113 Paul after Ball 9

And that’s when the game (read: frustration) commenced. Since I had and would be going to so many games this week, I had to find somewhere to do my reading for my classes. And since I wanted to go for home runs this game, the flag court seemed like the perfect place:

91113 Kinesiology book

(For the record, that is a Kinesiology book, but the highlights aren’t mine. I always get used books whenever possible and make sure that I get the book in the bookstore with the highest amount of highlighted material that doesn’t look completely arbitrarily in case that person actually knew what they were doing in the class and the highlights could actually help me later on.) Well that was my view when the A’s catcher Stephen Vogt came up in the fourth inning. The A’s had already begun a ridiculous inning, but since Vogt had only hit like three home runs the whole season, I figured I might as well keep reading. And then this happened:

For the record, yes, I was the one in the bright green shirt who just barely missed the ball. As I read a part of my book, I heard the roar of the crowd and then looked up into the air. As I saw a white speck that was clearly headed over my head, I sprinted back as fast as I could. I then turned around right before I knew the ball was going to bounce, but it was three feet over my head and a bit to my left. So then, my only hope was it would bounce off the gate and back to me. But as I turned my head to the gate, there was a guy who was randomly right where the ball was bouncing to. My only hope was that he would drop the ball, but he didn’t.

That particular homer upset me, because I picked the ball up when it was almost at its apex. Had I started running as soon as it was hit, I could have had a ten foot head start and almost definitely could have turned around and caught the ball on the fly. I will say this, though: the homer was an absolute blast. I think it’s the furthest I’ve seen a ball hit on the fly during a game in person out there. That home run also capped off a ten-run fourth inning for the A’s which left the game at 13-1 going into the fifth inning.

Which brings up the next disappointment. I’ll say only two thing about this next clip. 1. I was completely prepared for this ball. 2. I don’t think I misplayed it at all, since it was hit at the same angle as the Vogt home run:

And with that, my day of “excitement” ended.

Oh, but wait…it didn’t. The Twins always have *some* group sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” But when there’s no group lined up, they often just ask people in the flag court if they want to be a part of that. Well since I was already out there, I went ahead and joined in the group:

91113 7th inning group

But since it was September 11th, there was a big deal made of the singing of God Bless America. So big, in fact, that my friend Nick Badders saw me on TV all the way from the Bay Area in California:

Meanwhile, here was my view of the singing of it:

91113 God Bless America

After that, I simply sang “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” and then watched the painful rest of the game.

After the game, I headed to the dugout and managed to get a picture of Tony getting his then-eleventh ball of the game from the dugout attendant, Mario:

91113 Tony Ball 11

And then I just had to capture the magical moment where I was essentially the only person left in the stadium:

91113 Empty Stadium

Why was I there so late? Because I had to go over to the other side of the stadium where I had entered at Gate 3 because my cup trick had been stopped at the gate by the security guard who checked my bag, citing: “they don’t like those here:”

91113 Cup Trick

And with that final “snag” of the night (happening a little after 11:00, since the game had gone four hours despite going only nine innings), I headed out to my bus and a much-needed day off from ballhawking.

STATS:

  • 7 Baseballs at this game (1 pictured because I gave the other 6 away)

91113 Baseball

Numbers 707-713:

91113 Sweet Spot

  • 267 Balls in 57 Games= 4.64 Balls Per Game
  • 7 Balls x 24,522 Fans= 171,654 Competition Factor
  • 119 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 24 straight Games with 2 Balls
  • 21 straight Games with 3 Balls
  • 13 straight Games with 4 Balls
  • 3 straight Games with 5-6 Balls
  • 151 Balls in 31 Games at Target Field= 4.87 Balls Per Game
  • 29 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Target Field
  • 9 straight Games with at least 2-4 Balls at Target Field
  • 3 straight Games with at least 5-6 Balls at Target Field
  • Time Spent On Game 3:36-11:57= 8 Hours 21 Minutes

 

9/10/13 Athletics at Twins: Target Field

After going to a anomaly of an April make-up game, it was time to gear up for the Oakland Athletics. When I got to the stadium at a little before 4:30, I first went to Gate 34:

91013 Opening Picture

As is usually the case when I go to Gate 34, I came away with nothing–I’ve actually only ever gotten I think one baseball there; I’ve actually snagged just as many baseballs at Gate 3. Speaking of Gate 3, that’s where I went at about 5:10 in order to be the first in line for when the gates open:

91013 Gate 3

I wanted to start doing this because although I’ve snagged an equal amount of baseballs at both gates, the odds of getting one at Gate 34 are much higher than 3. That said, I like going straight to left field when I get inside, so Gate 3 is the clear option for when the gates open. So when the gates opened, that’s just what I did:

91013 LF Bleachers

Although, can you see the kid all the ay in the corner of the left field seats? Well I got some A’s pitcher to throw me a ball as I was going down the stairs, but because I was turning my backpack around to get something out of it, I wasn’t able to get my glove on properly and dropped the ball. This kid–whose dad and him I actually know and have run into several times–was coming down the stairs right behind me, so when the ball bounced in front of him, he picked it up. I’m friendly with him and his dad, so it was no big deal, but I would have rather snagged the ball myself.

My first ball of the day came in the right-center field seats. I called out to A.J. Griffin to throw me a ball. He did throw it to me, but he threw it over my head by accident. Thankfully, an usher I had just been talking to saw it, and grabbed it before tossing it back to me:

91013 Ball 1

I then remembered that Yoenis Cespedes was in the group, so I headed up to the second deck in left field. Another ballhawk named Mike had the same idea. Well actually he’s usually in the upper deck, but with Cespedes up, he had a better shot of getting a ball up there than usual. Mike actually didn’t think Cespedes would hit a ball up there for the first few rounds. But then one round, he went off. Mike got the first ball:

91013 Mike with ball

And then I got one from Cespedes:

91013 Ball 2

I then went back downstairs after this group was done and went over to right field. There, there was one player with his number showing. So when I looked up who number 54 was, I got Sonny Gray to toss me the ball:

91013 Ball 3

I didn’t know it at the time, but that was the first time anyone on mygameballs.com had gotten a ball from him. I always have way more pride about that than most people…which is to say, I care about it at all. There is something that I just love about being the first one in a community of ball-snaggers to get a ball tossed from a specific person.

I then headed to the center field edge of the right-center field section, and got Tom Milone to throw me a ball. But I realized that there was a fan in an A’s shirt right next to me, so I gave him the ball after I snagged it:

91013 Ball 4 Guy

And he thanked me profusely. I later ran into him, and apparently he lives in Minnesota but he makes it to Target Field pretty much only for the A’s. But anyway, that was my last baseball of BP. Right after BP finished, I tried to make it to behind the A’s dugout to get a ball from the ball bag, but I was too late. However, a good thing that came of me being at the dugout was that I got the ball Sonny Gray tossed me signed by Dan Straily. I then headed to the bullpen(s) afterwards.

When I went to the bullpen after BP, I got the Twins second bullpen catcher, Ben Richardson, to toss me a ball:

91013 Ball 5

That guy isn’t *really* important; he just turned around right when I was taking the picture. This was also the first baseball of his that had been registered into the mygameballs.com system. I was particularly proud of this one since Richardson had been talked about numerous times between us Minnesota ballhawks. I then stayed seated by the bullpen and thought of things I was going to include in my “Things that have happened since the Pirates last had a winning season” video (which you can watch here, if you’d like):

But I then got to see a weird thing when the A’s got to the bullpen. After the starting pitcher ended his warm-ups and the beginning of the game, the A’s lined up at the pitchers mound in the bullpen:

91013 Pitchers on mound

And they then took turns throwing baseballs toward the plate. The goal–as far as I could tell–was to get the ball on one of the home plates, or as close as possible:

91013 Balls at plate

And they then picked up their baseballs and lined up at home plate:

91013 Pitchers at the plate

And they then did the same, but with the targets being the pitching rubbers:

91013 Balls on rubber

They then repeated this a couple times. It was truly bizzare.

The Twins then went ahead and won the game 4-3, and at the end of it, I managed to get a baseball from home plate umpire, CB Buknor for my sixth and final ball of the day:

91013 Ball 6

And so ended the game. As you may have noticed, I once again edited the pictures in my entry. I’ve gotten a mixed reaction as to whether I should keep them, but I also wanted to get the opinion of those of you who have been silent on the matter. So here’s a poll for you guys. If you want to keep the pictures like this , vote yes; if you want the pictures to go back to “normal,” vote no:

STATS:

  • 6 Baseballs at this game (5 pictured because I gave 1 away)

91013 Baseballs

Numbers 701-706 for my lifetime:

91013 Sweet Spots

  • 260 Balls in 56 Games= 4.64 Balls Per Game
  • 6 Balls x 26,017 Fans= 156,102 Competition Factor
  • 118 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 23 straight Games with 2 Balls
  • 20 straight Games with 3 Balls
  • 12 straight Games with 4 Balls
  • 2 straight Games with 5-6 Balls
  • 144 Balls in 30 Games at Target Field= 4.8 Balls Per Game
  • 28 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Target Field
  • 8 straight Games with at least 2-4 Ball at Target Field
  • Time Spent On Game 3:45-11:04= 7 Hours 19 Minutes

9/9/13 Angels at Twins: Target Field

Having ended my previous game at 693 career baseballs, my goal for this game was to maybe get to 700 career baseballs. At the time gates were opening, though, this was my view at about the time gates were opening:

9913 Opening Picture

At this point, I felt as though I maybe wasn’t even going to snag one ball. Let me explain: This game was supposed to take place on April 17. Heck, I was there, if you want to read about it. But the game got rained out before it even began. Anyways, because of it being rescheduled, the game was scheduled to start at 6:10 instead of 7:10. I realized this various times beforehand, but for whatever reason, it didn’t register in my mind that I needed to leave an hour earlier than normal in order to get on time. Well not until half-an-hour before the gates were scheduled to open. Unfortunately, it takes longer than half-an-hour to get to Target Field from my apartment, so when I arrived here, the gates had been open for close to twenty minutes:

9913 Target Plaza

(If you can’t tell, I’m trying out editing my photographs to look a little better before I post them in the entries. It might be a one-entry thing, but it might become a regular thing if you guys like it.) But then one of the luckiest things ever happened. Just as I was running towards Gate 34, I saw all of the ticket scanners reacting to *some*thing I couldn’t see. Just then, I saw a baseball bouncing out of the gate. And since I was the only one out in Target Plaza, I walked over and picked it up for my first ball of the day. I’m guessing it was Josh Hamilton, since he was the only lefty in the group, but who knows. I then stupidly didn’t take a picture of the ball outside of the gate, but instead I was so focused on just getting IN to the stadium that I got my bag checked and headed to the right field seats. But then when there was a righty up, I finally took a picture of the presumed Josh Hamilton ball:

9913 Ball 1

And while I was so frantic about not having an awful day ballhawking due to my stupid mistake, it took me a moment to realize how few people were actually at this game. I mean just take a look at this picture of the left field seats that I took:

9913 View of left

There were what, maybe fifteen people in the left field seats. While I was thankful for having gotten a ball already, I was frustrated by the thought of how many baseballs I could have snagged had I showed up on time. I mean there would have been a serious chance for me to have broken the Target Field record for baseballs in a game.

I got up to three baseballs pretty quickly because of some Angels coach. I don’t know who he was, but I eventually figured out after the fact that it was either Bobby Knoop or Bill Lachemann. My first ball that he threw me came when he turned around and motioned that he was going to throw the ball to a little girl. Since 1. She wasn’t looking, and 2. She was very small and might not catch the ball, I told whoever the coach was that I would catch the ball for her. And so, he tossed it to me and I immediately gave the ball to her. Here she is with some of her siblings. (They’ll come into play later.)

9913 Ball 2 Girl

And then I later asked that same coach if he could spare a ball for me to keep. And I assume since I had helped the girl out earlier, he tossed me my third ball of the day:
9913 Ball 3

I then realized the group had changed from Hamilton’s to a group with Mark Trumbo in it, so I headed out to left field. There I met up with Paul Kom, who had been there the whole time, but I hadn’t seen since he was in left field the whole time. (Side note: Paul actually already wrote an entry about this game on his blog, if you’d like to check that out.) I caught up with him since it was the first time I had seen him since the game the day before the day this game was initially supposed to take place. Shortly after that, I convinced Michael Roth to toss me a baseball by being the first person in the stadium to actually know what his name was:

9913 Ball 4

I then headed back to right field for a group that included Kole Calhoun and Hank Conger. When I was there, Calhoun hit a ball a little to my right. I went over a couple feet, put up my glove, and dropped the ball as it hit my glove. If you noticed, I was using my lefty glove for the first time in a long while. In getting ready for the game, Brandon Nedoma told me he had forgotten his glove at home in Wisconsin. So when I finally realized how late I was, I threw my lefty glove in my backpack. What I didn’t realize at the spur of the moment was that my right-handed glove wasn’t in my glove. I only figured this out on the bus. I initially thought I had taken it out of my backpack when I went to the Mall of America with Ben Weil and his fiancé Jen the day before, but I still haven’t found it as I write this on September 22nd, so I suspect I may have left it at the game I went to the day before this when I decided spur-of-the-moment to leave that game at the national anthem. But anyway, I picked the ball up after I dropped it. I then gave the ball away to the brother of the girl I gave the second ball to:

9913 Ball 5 Boy

(He’s the one in the blue with the glove.) And then they told me that the second brother in that last picture to the right of the first two kids I had given a ball to. So when I got Buddy Boshers:

9913 Boshers

to toss me a ball, I turned and tossed it to the kid.

I then headed to left field and met up with Paul and his friend Matt at the bullpen:

9913 Paul and Matt

I think you can figure out who’s who, but if not, left-to-right it is: Paul, Matt. and myself. And then Paul got a ball at the bullpen (and maybe Matt too?) but I didn’t, so I just had the pleasure of watching the starting pitchers of both teams warming up:

9913 Pitchers

And then I was going to go out to the flag court, but then I saw this crowd in the left field seats at game time:

9913 LF crowd

What ended up happening was I stayed in left field for the whole game because I thought it would be great if I got my 700th ball via game home run. Matt and Paul also stayed with me for most of the game, but not even three minutes after they left to head to the dugout, Josh Hamilton gave me one of the next best things. He hit a double that bounced into the left field bullpen. With Matt and Paul gone, there were only two people in the bleachers who had the situational awareness to go to the bullpen: myself and a person in Angels gear. Now I hadn’t mentioned it yet, but for whatever reason, I had completely forgotten to bring either an Angels shirt or Athletics shirt (which will come into play in my next couple entries). Therefore, it was myself in a neutral blue shirt/University of Minnesota hat and this Angels fan. But as Steve Soliz, the Angels bullpen coach approached the ball, I asked him by name while the Angels fan had no clue what his name was, so Soliz tossed me the ball for my 700th career baseball:

9913 Ground-Rule Double

I’m not sure many better scripts could have been written. Anyways, I met up with Paul and Matt soon after, and we walked out of the stadium together. So I first got a second picture with my prized possession of the night:

9913 700

And then we got a parting picture together:

9913 Friends

What a day.

STATS:

  • 7 Balls at this game (4 pictured because I gave 3 away)

9913 Baseballs

Numbers 694-700 for my “career”:

9913 Sweet Spots

  • 254 Balls in 55 Games= 4.62 Balls Per Game
  • 7 Balls x 21,826 Fans= 152,782 Competition Factor
  • 117 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 22 straight Games with 2 Balls
  • 19 straight Games with 3 Balls
  • 11 straight Games with 4 Balls
  • 138 Balls in 29 Games at Target Field= 4.76 Balls Per Game
  • 27 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Target Field
  • 7 straight Games with at least 2-4 Ball at Target Field
  • Time Spent On Game 4:04-10:33= 6 Hours 29 Minutes

9/7/13 Blue Jays at Twins: Target Field

Well it was time again to go back to Target Field:

9713 Opneing Picture

It was a weird sensation being at the gate. Despite that I hadn’t been at Target Field for months before the previous game, and my previous game before that anywhere was two weeks prior, sitting there, it felt like I had been going to Target Field everyday for months.

Since I again went to Gate 3, I headed straight for the left field seats:

9713 From LF

That said, I got my first ball of the day in the right-center field seats from a a guy I couldn’t identify from the back to ask him for the ball by name, but identified as soon as he turned to throw me the ball as Brian Duensing:

9713 Ball 1

I then saw there was some lefty in the group who was bombing balls. So in preparation for him starting to pull the ball, I headed to the standing room. The first round I was out there, this lefty hit a ball I could tell was falling short of me, but I could also tell it was going to make it to the flag court. There was just one problem: there was a crowd of people where the ball was going to land. So as I was running towards the spot, I yelled out for everyone to watch out. Most everyone cleared out with the exception of one kid. He didn’t know what was going on, so he just stayed in the spot. The ball hit off his shoulder and deflected away from me. As much as I would have liked to have gotten the ball, I didn’t pursue it, but instead just made sure he was okay. Even though he said he was, I pulled the ball I had gotten earlier and gave it to him.

Then, all too soon, this happened:

9713 Empty field

The Twins finished BP way before they normally do. I can’t remember exactly what time, but the Blue Jays had just gotten out to begin their stretching. At that time, it was a no-brainer for me to head over to foul ground and try to get a ball from the Blue Jays warming up. And when he was done throwing before anyone else, there was a no-brainer as to who I should try to get a ball tossed to me from. This man was Munenori Kawasaki (and he is Japanese):

Anyway, as he was jogging after being done with throwing, there was a wall of Blue Jays fans (this game was the highest concentration of Canadians I had seen outside of Canada since when I had gone to Comerica Park back in 2008 with my dad). But I wanted to say I had gotten a ball from Munenori Kawasaki very badly. So what I did was take a couple steps back on the staircase so he could see me over the heads of the other fans, and projected my request for a ball in Japanese to him loud enough so he would definitely hear me. I first yelled, “Munenori!” And when he looked up at me, I put my glove up and subsequently yelled–and this is phonetically; I have no clue how to actually write it out–” Choh-toh, boh-roh nah-gah-teh coo-dah-sai!” He then tossed me the ball dangerously low over the heads of the other fans. When I caught it, he held up his glove again. He wanted to play catch. I tossed him the ball, and then he realized he was due up in the cage, so he tossed me the ball a second time and headed to go hit. Sure I wish I could have played catch with him longer, but it’s cool to know that he would have kept playing catch had he not had somewhere to go at the moment:

9713 Ball 2

That would be the only baseball I kept on the day. I would snag two more baseballs but gave both away. The first came when I headed to right field for the beginning of the Blue Jays hitters. I don’t know who he is exactly, but the Blue Jay in the next picture fielded a ball by the wall, and myself and the Blue Jays fan in the same picture both asked him for the ball, and he tossed it up. I don’t know who it was intended for since we were both wearing Blue Jays stuff, but since I was on the side closer to the player, even if the ball was intended for the other fan, it came right to me; so I gave the ball to the other fan:

9713 Ball 3 Picture

I then realized that Edwin Encarnacion was in that same group, so I headed up to the second deck in left field. And although it was Girl Scout Day, or something along those lines, I managed to avoid all the girl scouts who were there quicker than the other ballhawks up there and got a ball Encarnacion hit almost to dead center in the second deck. It was a shot. Here is the view actually closer to the foul pole than where I picked it up, since I was getting my camera out as I was walking back to my original spot:

9713 Ball 4

But right after I took that picture, one of the chaperones for the girls scouts came and asked if I had gotten the ball. Long story short: I gave the ball to her for her daughter, and that would be my last ball of the game. The rest of BP was one of the weirdest experiences I’ve had a baseball game. I just sat in the upper deck in center field not knowing at all what to do next. I usually have a problem running to a section too quickly, but here I had no clue where I wanted to go.

My snag happened during the softball home run derby that sometimes takes place after BP. The other contestants were righties, so I stayed in left for them:

9713 Softball

But when TC came up, I knew from experience that he was a power-hitting lefty, so I headed up to the upper deck in right-center. And as a result, I got this:

9713 TC Ball

TC had launched a ball that went into the seats above the small standing room in the upper deck in right-center. But then I felt really bored in the minutes leading up to the game:

9713 Grasshopper

And as the player readied themselves for the game, I came to the realization for the first time in a long time at a baseball game: I really didn’t want to be there. There was much work to be done for school since I was going to be only missing the Thursday and Sunday game the next week. And since I had never left a game early yet this year by my own choice, I didn’t fight my instinct, so I left the game to the sound of the national anthem through Gate 34 and went back to “the U” to watch part of Great Gatsby and eat s’mores:

9713 Leaving as others enter

STATS:

  • 4 Baseballs at this Game (1 pictured because I gave 3 away)

9713 Balls

Numbers 690-693 for my career:

9713 Sweet Spots

  • 247 Balls in 54 Games= 4.57 Balls Per Game
  • 4 Balls x 32,882 Fans=131,528 Competition Factor
  • 116 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 21 straight Games with 2 Balls
  • 18 straight Games with 3 Balls
  • 10 straight Games with 4 Balls
  • 131 Balls in 28 Games at Target Field= 4.68 Balls Per Game
  • 26 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Target Field
  • 6 straight Games with at least 2-4 Ball at Target Field
  • Time Spent On Game 2:20-9:35= 7 Hours 15 Minutes

9/6/13 Blue Jays at Twins: Target Field

Oh how good it felt to be back at Target Field. And look who joined me for the game:

9613 Jonathan and Mateo

If you’re semi-new to the blog, that’s me on the right and my friend Jonathan on the left. Jonathan, if you don’t know, accompanied me for the first time ever the game I snagged my first ever game home run. And today, we had my “fancy camera”, so he was going to be my designated photographer.

You also may have noticed that we were standing at Gate 3 instead of my usual Gate 34. I was trying something semi-new. Usually the only reason I ever went to Gate 3 was if I got to Target Field late, but here I just wanted to see how it would be like to be the first person in the left field seats, since this is usually where I bolt to anyways when the gates open.

So when we got in, I headed straight for the middle spot of the left field bleachers, and when he got there, Jonathan took a picture of me there:

9613 Mateo in LF

And he didn’t get my first ball on camera, because he saw the ball falling short of the wall and didn’t bother to have the camera pointed that way. But anyway, it was a ground rule double some Twins hitter (I think Wilkin Ramirez, but am not certain) hit that bounced up, off a guy’s chest, and back to me. There was a second ground rule double later on, but a guy caught it two rows in front of me as it was headed straight towards me.

After I got this ball, the Twins ended BP ridiculously early. I’d say at 5:10. Usually during weekdays, we get a solid 5-10 minutes of Twins BP despite the gates opening at 5:30. As a result, Jonathan and I then headed over to foul territory to get a ball from the Blue Jays:

9613 Mateo in Foul Ground

And I do mean WE. See the guy in the following picture that I’ve put an arrow over was playing catch with Rajai Davis:

9613 Player

Well when he was done throwing, I asked if he could toss me the ball. So as he was running off, he kind of submarined the ball and launched it over my head. And guess who got the ball:

9613 Jonathan ball

I was happy for Jonathan, but I would have rather the player–whoever he was–been on target with his throw.

After that, I rushed out to right field for the Blue Jays first group. Since Jonathan was both in much less of a hurry to get there than I and was carrying the camera bag, I snagged two baseballs before he even got there and then two within a few seconds of him getting there. So here are the spots of the four baseballs labeled by their numbers on the day for me:

9713 Baseballs 2-5

2. Adam Lind hit a ball straight over my head. Except by the time I looked at the ball, it was already halfway towards me, so I wasn’t able to get out my row. All I could do was see it go over my head and wait for it to bounce back into a row where I could pick it up.

3. Some Blue Jays righty hit an opposite-field home run into the flower pots. I was in the right field seats when it landed, but when I saw the people struggling to find/reach for it, I ran over to the flower bed in the right-center field seats, and offered to pick the ball up for them and hand it to them. So when I saw where it was, I leaned way down into the flower pots, picked the ball up, and handed it to the couple who was right above it.

4. There was another Blue Jays lefty homer–maybe Lind again. As it flew toward the corner of the rose bush, I moved over to the side of the section that juts out in right field just in case the ball stopped there. Well it hit the corner and as I got to the wall, it bounced up the side of the wall,  I stopped the ball from bouncing any further with my glove, and picked it up.

5. Right before I got ball 4, Jonathan had arrived on the scene. So after I got it, I went towards him and into the aisle to see if he had gotten a shot of me getting the ball. Right as I turned away from him, I heard a clank to my right.  A ball had hit just in the right-center field seats. This one Jonathan did get a shot of as I jumped the mini-wall separating the two sections and grabbed the ball:

9613 Ball 5 happening

I was nervous I was going to get yelled at for jumping over the wall, so I immediately turned to my left after getting the ball and tossed it to a kid who was fifteen feet away after making sure that he had not yet gotten a ball. But of course Jonathan didn’t get that on camera. (No, but seriously, taking pictures for a ballhawking entry is tough. It’s tough to realize what is going to happen next and what should have a picture taken of it if you’re not familiar with ballhawking. And if one is familiar with ballhawking, that usually means he/she is usually going to be ballhawking his/herself and can’t take pictures.)

After that, a group of mostly Blue Jays righties came up. Since righties usually try to hit opposite-field, I went into the right-center field section and tried to get toss-ups from the players who were shagging baseballs below me. Instead, though, one of those righties (Edwin Encarnacion?) hit an opposite-field home run into the flower bushes, and while the pictures I will show you were from a scenario later on almost exactly the same where I didn’t get the ball, they serve the purpose of visual aids. So when I first saw the ball hit, I ran towards the spot where it was landing:

9613 Mateo Running

And then when the ball went in the flower pots, I leaned down to the side of the woman it landed in front of (same woman as in this following picture, interestingly enough), picked it up:

9613 Mateo Leaning over

And handed her the ball. I then realized that Edwin Encarnacion was starting to hit baseballs into the second deck in left field, so I went up there, since I suspected there would be many more to come. I was right.

Encarnacion and the rest of the people hit about 8 or 9 baseballs up there in their time at the plate. And I should preface the pictures you’re about to see and the fact that I only got 1 of those by saying that being in the seats in the second of Target Field is one of the worst places in fair territory to run for a baseball through the seats. But there was one ball I had tracked:

9613 Mateo Tracking

And I could tell the ball was going to be landing in the row below me, but unlike most places where there is barely a difference in height between rows, here the row in front of me was about two feet below me–despite how it may seem in the picture:

9613 Mateo Reaching

So I couldn’t get down fast enough and dropped the ball. But thankfully, I was able to trap the ball with my glove:

9613 Trapping Ball

And when this group ended, I headed back to the seats in right-center in hopes of a toss-up. Well I didn’t get any player to toss *me* a ball, but when Jeremy Jeffress went to the wall to retrieve a ball:

9613 Jeffress Path

And there were two kids who were asking him by name for the ball, I knew I had no chance competing with them for the ball directly. So instead, I used the ridiculous steepness of Target Field and went in the row behind them. I knew that unless Jeffress went out about twenty feet from the wall, he would have to toss the ball over the kids’ heads to get it to them. So like clockwork, this happened:

9613 Ball 8 Diagram

But of course I then immediately gave the ball to the kid, since I had still caught it over his head. (Well that and the fact that the ball was intended for him.) That was my last ball of batting practice.

Now stuck at 8 baseballs, I went to the bullpen(s) after batting practice with Jonathan:

9613 Jonathan at bullpens

And because there were a ton of baseballs in the Blue Jays bullpen, that’s whose team gear I was in while I was there. But when a familiar-but-unexpected face started tossing them up, I quickly took of my hat, covered my shirt, and got him to toss me one for my ninth on the day:

9613 Ball 9

Can you tell who it is? No? It was TC Bear, the Twins mascot, who tossed it to me. He went through both bullpens and tossed up every single ball that was in both of them.

As for the game, both Jonathan and I headed out to the standing room in right in hopes of a game home run:

9613 View from RF

Of course, though, I knew both teams, minus maybe a select few members from either team, had any chance of putting a ball up there. What I did instead with my time was take a bunch of pictures, since I had my “good” camera at my disposal–like these:

9613 AL West Standings 9613 Minneapolis Skyline 9613 Targetland 9613 THIS IS…137 9613 Twins Logo

And I did take more, but they’ll be in the Facebook gallery that I’ll put up some time after this entry gets up. In the meantime, though, here’s the link to the Facebook Page for this blog if you have a Facebook and want to “like” it.

After the game, both Jonathan and I headed to the dugout for an umpire ball. But since the game ended on a double play, I was caught off guard and had to quickly change the camera lens to the smaller one, gave it to Jonathan, and told him to take a continuous series of pictures if I managed to get the ball from home plate umpire, Mark Wegner. Wegner thankfully waited for the other members of his crew to get to the tunnel, so I was able to get down there in time:

9613 Mateo at Tunnel

And then I asked him for a ball as he approached:

9613 Asking For Umpire Ball

And when Wegner tossed me the ball, I caught it in front of the hand of the man sitting next to me, who snatched at it not realizing that the ball was intended for me:

9613 Ball 10

I then got a more proper picture with my tenth ball of the day as Jonathan and I awaited the bus to get back to campus:

9613 Ball 10 at the Bus Stop

And so concluded only my sixth double-digit game ever, but interestingly enough the fourth this season.

STATS:

  • 10 Balls at this game (6 pictured because I gave 3 away, and I think I lost one when my backpack fell open as I was running through the seats at one point during BP)

9613 Baseballs

Numbers 680-689 for my lifetime:

9613 Sweet Spots

  • 243 Balls in 53 Games= 4.58 Balls Per Game
  • 10 Balls x 27,044 Fans=270,440 Competition Factor
  • 115 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 20 straight Games with 2 Balls
  • 17 straight Games with 3 Balls
  • 9 straight Games with 4 Balls
  • 3 straight games with 5 Balls
  • 127 Balls in 27 Games at Target Field= 4.70 Balls Per Game
  • 25 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Target Field
  • 5 straight Games with at least 2-4 Ball at Target Field
  • Time Spent On Game 3:42-2:00= 10 Hours 18 Minutes

 

8/21/13 Rays at Orioles: Camden Yards

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):

82113 Ball 1

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:

82113 Ball 2

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:

82113 Ball 3

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:

82113 Alex CF

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:

82113 Foul Ground

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:

82113 Ball 4

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:

82113 Fan Cave Disguise

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.

STATS:

  • 5 Balls at this Game (3 pictured because I gave both Boroski balls away)

82113 Baseballs

Numbers 675-679 for my “lifetime”:

82113 Sweet Spots

  • 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

8/20/13 Rays at Orioles: Camden Yards

This game did not start well for me. Because I was writing an entry and it took me longer than I thought, I arrived at the gate at 4:50. And having not yet bought my ticket, I had to do that and wasn’t able to talk to people much before the gates opened. So while we had talked about it the previous day and I thought I was going to be the only one going to right field when the gates opened, Tim Anderson had changed his mind overnight and ran that way ahead of me. There he caught one Chris Davis home run on the fly and got another that bounced a couple of times in the seats. He then headed over to left, but I was more stubborn and waited an extra five minutes before conceding that doing the same was the better option.

Once there, I had a couple more close calls. The first was a ball Alex Kopp caught on the fly, but his elbow then hit me on the way down and dislodged the ball. I then saw it on the ground and reached for it, but a railing was in my way, and so I wasn’t able to reach out all the way. The next was a ball that bounced in on the first row portion of a staircase, bounced up–nearly taking my and Tim’s heads in the process–and then a guy came out of nowhere to barely beat me to the ball.

So with all of those initial missed opportunities, my first ball of the day came from J.J. Hardy:

82013 Ball 1

I ran a section to my right when I saw the ball get hit, but the kid in the Davis jersey–who was two rows in front of me at the time–seemed like he had the ball. But then I saw the ball hit his glove and go past it, so while there was a railing separating me from the ball, I used it as a fulcrum and just leaned so much that my feet were up in the air, and grabbed the ball out of a seat.

Then, when I saw a ball roll to the corner of the outfield wall by the foul pole, I went over there knowing a player would eventually have to pick it. And so when Chris Tillman walked over, I asked him if he could toss me the ball. As he was walking away with the ball, he turned around and intentionally threw the ball again the foul pole (so it would bounce back to him) but then smiled and actually tossed me the ball:

82013 Ball 2

My next two baseballs came as a result of Danny Valencia. We have known Valencia to hit the ball deep. I mean he regularly hits the back of the visiting bullpen at OPACY and spots in the left field almost just as deep. So all of us backed up whenever Valencia was up and moved up for the other hitters in his group. My spot for Valencia happened to be behind and to the left of my spot for the other hitters, so as I realized he was up, I first went up, and then began going left. And just as I entered the row, Valencia bombed a ball, so I I moved a little more left and judged the ball. I figured if the ball was going over my head or falling short, my only chance would be to jump rows. But thankfully I picked the right row and the ball came right to me. As the other ballhawks put it after BP, it seemed as though I had “teleported” to make the catch:

82013 Ball 3

My next ball wen to the right of my Valencia, and I ran for the ball, picked it up after it hit, and gave it to a guy who was running so fast after it that his sunglasses fell off going down for the ball:

82013 Ball 4 Guy

(That’s the guy holding up the ball. If you can see the kid in Rays gear, that’s his son. I learned from him when I went into foul ground to get a toss-up from Rays players that they were from Green Bay, but since the dad was in town for work, it made complete sense for the kid–whose favorite player of all-time is Evan Longoria–to come down with him.)

Speaking of foul territory, that’s where I got my next ball from Desmond Jennings:

82013 Ball 5

(Jennings was in the dugout by the time I could take a picture of the ball, but that’s where he tossed me my fifth ball of the day from.) A cool thing happened after that in that the kid I mentioned to parenthetical groupings ago got a ball from Evan Longoria, and I got to see his face absolutely light up, since–like I mentioned in the aforementioned parenthetical grouping–Longoria was his favorite player who had also signed his jersey for him the previous day. I’d call that a successful 1,500-mile trip.

My next ball came when I went to the right-center field seats. Matt Moore fielded a ball just past the warning track and tossed it to a kid, but tossed it a little too short, and so it landed here:

82013 Ball 6

So I pulled out the cup trick I had made with Greg Barasch during my most recent New York trip (which I may do an entry about after the 8/21/13 entry) and got the ball otu of the gap, which I then gave to the sister of the kid Moore had thrown the ball to.

Moore then tossed the next ball he got to this kid, but this one sailed over the kid’s head. So I ran over, picked up the ball, and gave it to him:

82013 Ball 7 Kid

Having given now two kids in the family baseballs, his parents then thanked me a bunch of time and told me there was a ball I could use my cup trick on in the batter’s eye. I thanked them for giving me the tip but I told them that we’re not allowed to use it over there.

I waited in the next staircase for about three minutes, but then I started up the stairs to go to the flag court. But when I saw a ball roll to the wall at the bottom I headed back down. Matt Moore got the ball, and started scanning the crowd as if he was looking for someone in particular to toss the ball to. And when I got to the bottom of the staircase, I found out that he was indeed: Me! He tossed me the ball and said, “I saw you give that kid the ball earlier.”

82013 Ball 8

I have no clue why he was wearing a catcher’s glove (maybe it had to do with the fact that he’s on the DL) but trust me that it was indeed Moore. And yes, for those of you keeping score at home, that was my third ball that came as a result of a Matt Moore throw. (I think we can excuse him since he is indeed on the DL.) As well as my eighth ball of the day overall. It was after this that I did indeed go up to the flag court.

Now usually, going up to the flag court is a waste of time snagging-wise for me because I am usually the least skilled of the ballhawks up there and end up getting a ball snatched by another ballhawk when I’m mere inches from it. But on this occasion, it was only myself and Alex  up there, so with me having positioning to his left, I was in front of him on a ball that was hit just to the right of the right field foul pole–by who I’m pretty was Luke Scott, since I don’t know anyone else on the rays with a Wolverine-style beard. It hit in the seats right by two people who had no clue what was going on. The girl then slowly got up and turned around to pick up the ball, but just as she was doing that, I was down on the cross-aisle watching the ball bounce down the steps. And just as she looked down and realized what was happening, I reached through the railing and grabbed the ball:

82013 Ball 9 Diagram

But then I realized that this would have almost undoubtedly have been their ball had I not been there, so I reached up through the railing to give her the ball. And it was a great decision because in walking back onto the flag court, three different ushers congratulated me on giving her the ball. If there’s ever an option between being like by ushers and not being liked by them, I’ll choose being liked. While I realize probably as well as anyone that there are different breeds of ushers/”hospitality attendants/”security officers” (yeah, that’s the official title for those people at Yankee Stadium; I asked one of them) this was a great way to take out three birds with one stone. Unfortunately, though, as it looked very feasible for me to break my all-time record, the Rays ended BP about 20 minutes earlier than the visiting team normally does (which would sadly be one-upped the next day’s BP) and so this was my last ball of BP. Alex and I then headed over to the Orioles bullpen where we met up with Grant Edrington.

There I informed Alex that Rick Adair, who reportedly used to dislike him, but has since grown fond of him because he has seen him give away a ton of baseballs to kids, had taken a leave of absence starting with the Rockies series and that Scott McGregor would instead be clearing the baseballs out of the bullpen. There were three baseballs, and just as Alex predicted, one went to a kid at the corner of the bullpen, one went to Grant, and one went to the middle. The latter was meant for me, since it was right to me, but Alex should have definitely robbed me since he was a row above me. But he was too nice to, so I got the ball and gave it to a kid in front of me:

82013 Ball 10 Kid

And with that, I reached double digits for I believe only the fifth time ever and the third time this year. I could’ve maybe played the dugout and tried to beat my record of 11 balls in a game, but in addition to tying my single-game record, my next baseball would also be the 100th of my career at OPACY, so I thought it’d be cool if it came as a game home run.

I didn’t get a baseball for the rest of the game, but later on in the game, a fan recognized Alex from the video where he caught Chris Davis’ 100th career home run, so Alex gave this young fan one of his baseballs:

82013 Alex Giving Away Baseball

Because I guess that’s what nice famous people do to people who recognize. (You can also see in that picture that Tim was completely touched and captured by the moment.)

STATS:

  • 10 Balls at this Game (5 pictured because I gave the other half away)

82013 Baseballs

Numbers 665-674 for my “career”:

82013 Sweet Spots

  • 227 Balls in 51 Games= 4.45 Balls Per Game
  • 10 Balls x 26,158 Fans=261,580 Competition Factor
  • 113 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 18 straight Games with 2 Balls
  • 15 straight Games with 3 Balls
  • 7 straight Games with 4 Balls
  • 99 Balls in 22 Games at OPACY= 4.5 Balls Per Game
  • 22 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
  • 12 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at OPACY
  • 10 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at OPACY
  • 8 straight Games with at least 4 Balls at OPACY
  • Time Spent On Game 4:40-10:54= 6 Hours 14 Minutes
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 430 other followers

%d bloggers like this: