8/1/13 Astros at Orioles: Camden Yards

So for the third time in as many days, I was at Oriole Park at Camden Yards (or OPACY for short) to see the Houston Astros take on the hometown Baltimore Orioles. And for the third consecutive day, I was not alone at the gates. Here was the crew:

8113 Opening Picture

Left to right that would be ballhawks/OPACY people:

1. Grant Edrington.

2. Mateo Fischer- As performed by Mateo Fischer.

3. Chris Hernandez- Who came from New York only to get misdirected by people outside OPACY and get to the gates with eight minutes to spare.

4. Rick Gold- I’ve introduced Rick many a time.

5. Alex Kopp- Who had generously let me sleep at his house the past two days.

6. Zevi- Who I believe for the first time I’ve ever been, was going to a game that Avi Miller was not attending.

How did these people scatter once inside? Here are my right, left, and frontal views once we all got inside the stadium:

8113 View 1

8113 View 2 8113 View 3

So in that last picture, you may notice that Alex was in front of me. That’s usually not good news at all, since he is way better at judging fly balls than I am, but in this particular instance it benefited me. Usually the OPACY regulars–and even myself–don’t even try to get the Orioles players and coaches to toss us baseballs, but Alex convinced Miguel Gonzalez to toss him a ball. Unfortunately for Alex, Gonzalez air-mailed him and I picked the ball up for my first of the day:

8113 Ball 1

Gonzalez would be the Oriole in black with the orange glove, who seems on his way to pick up the baseball in the distance. I felt bad for doing that, even though it was natural and he would do (and has done in the past) the same thing to me. But don’t feel too bad, because he would go on to snag seven baseballs on the day and further distance himself from me in the mygameballs.com standings.

My second baseball of the day came when I quickly went into foul territory right at the end of Orioles BP and got Astros catcher, Carlos Corporan, to toss me a baseball. I didn’t get a picture of it, because I thought I had a shot at a quick third baseball, but none of the other Astros who were throwing acknowledged me.

Like my first, my next ball would also come as a result of Alex and Tim Anderson’s cup trick that he had lent me the previous day. When Rick Gold and I simultaneously went from left to right field, he asked me if I wanted the flag court or the seats. Right then I saw a baseball in the gap in front of the seats, so I said, “Seats,” and went into the section. As I got into the section, an usher by the name of Charlie recognized me from earlier and asked me if I had a ball retriever, because his son had dropped a ball into the gap. Since I was headed to there anyway, I gladly obliged and got the ball for his son. I then asked for the baseball back for a second to take this picture of it:

8113 Ball 3

(And no, my thumb isn’t broken. I truly have no clue why it’s bent that way in the picture.) Sadly this would be my last ball of BP. I almost got a ball during the Astros last mostly-lefty group, but it bounced into a trash can, and Grant realized it a half-second before I did and pulled the ball out of a food tray inside the trash can.

While I wasn’t completely dissatisfied in myself like I am during many 3-ball performances, I realized I was sitting at 599 baseballs and kind of wanted to get my 600the baseball before the day was over. At the end of BP, I went to the Astros dugout. There I asked Javier Bracamonte while he was unloading the BP baseballs into ball bags if he could toss me a spare baseball. He motioned that I go to the bullpen for when he arrived there. So I journeyed and met up with Chris, who had still not gotten an Astros 50th anniversary commemorative, which was pretty much the reason he drove down for this game. So waited at the bullpen. Through such things as Jason Castro’s catching drills:

8113 Bullpen 1

And even when Bracamonte got to the bullpen, he kept telling me to wait. Not in a mean way, but more of a “I’m going to hook you up, but I have to do bullpen catcher stuff right now” kind of way. Finally, after a ton of time, he tossed me what was now my third 50th anniversary commemorative baseball:

8113 Ball 4

I kind of felt bad because Chris had still not gotten one of these. If you can see Bracamonte’s blurred face in the background of the last picture, he’s semi-confused because Chris was explaining to him that he wanted Javier to toss him a commemorative baseball, but I think he was misinterpreting it and thought that Chris was asking him for a 2013 Astros commemorative baseball, which the Astros don’t take on the road with them(…yet). In this next picture, I believe Bracamonte is going back to the ball bag to search for a commemorative. (FYI, if you see this Astros in the immediate future in search of the 2012 commemorative baseball, their bullpen bag was comprised of almost exclusively commemorative baseballs.):

8113 Bullpen 2

Eventually, Chris did get his commemorative toss-up from Bracamonte. I would show you the picture, but I took it with Chris’ phone, so I suspect that will be in his blog entry when it’s up.

I stayed in left for the first half-inning of the game, but then headed back to right field, where it finally dawned on me that I had snagged my 600th baseball ever. Since I thought it was a photo-worthy moment, I had Alex take a picture of me with the ball:

8113 600 Picture

And that was it. At the end of the game, both Chris and I headed down to the umpire tunnel:

8113 Umpire Tunnel

(He was taking a picture of his view. Here’s mine at the same time):

8113 My View

But neither of us got a baseball from the umpire since he was out of baseballs by the time he got to us. After everything died down at the dugout, we went to Chris’ car and headed back to my apartment in Washington, where we would stay the next day before coming back to OPACY the next day.

Semi-side-note. I never released it because it became factually inaccurate, but we filmed a video before heading off to OPACY the next day, so here’s that if you want to check it out:

I then filmed a video to kind of substitute the fact that I never released that one a few days ago, so here’s the more recent video for those of you who care:

Okay, and now I’m done with the entry.

STATS:

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

8113 Baseballs

Numbers 597-600 for my “career”:

8113 Sweet Spots:logo

  • 154 Balls in 39 Games= 3.95 Balls Per Game
  • 4 Balls x 17,909 Fans=71,636 Competition Factor
  • 101 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 6 straight Games with 2 Balls
  • 3 straight Games with 3 Balls
  • 2 straight Games with 4 Balls
  • 62 Balls in 16 Games at OPACY= 3.88 Balls Per Game
  • 16 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
  • 6 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at OPACY
  • 4 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at OPACY
  • Time Spent On Game 4:18-11:20= 7 Hours 2 Minutes

7/31/13 Astros at Orioles: Camden Yards

After spending the night at Alex Kopp‘s, I was off to my second Orioles-Astros game in as many days. Here’s what the left field seats looked like as I entered them:

73113 Opening Picture

You may notice I numbered some people. Those would be ballhawks/OPACY regulars:

1. Grant Edrington.

2. The previously-mentioned Alex Kopp.

3. Avi Miller.

As for snagging, this Orioles BP was particularly bad, so I didn’t snag my first baseball until I picked up a ball Matt Domiguez overthrew another fan with after playing catch down the 3rd base line. I then immediately gave the ball to the kid Dominguez had intended the ball to go to. Little did I realize it at the time, but that marked the 100th consecutive game I had snagged a baseball at. This was huge for me because I had long said that once I got to 100 consecutive games, I would cease to care about my streak and not avoid games because I thought they would put my streak in jeopardy. So this was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. But I obviously didn’t realize it because I gave the ball away.

I then got Jonathan Villar to actually toss me a ball for my second on the day:

73113 Ball 1

Did you see the logo of the ball? That’s right; it was an Astros 50th anniversary commemorative baseball. If you don’t know what commemorative baseballs are, they’re baseballs that are manufactured to commemorate special occasions. This particular one was made last year to commemorate 2012 being the Astros’ 50th season as a franchise. While many other ballhawks were looking forward to the commemorative baseball the Astros have been using this year to commemorate their first season in the American League, I had never gotten this commemorative baseball in 2012, so I was ecstatic.

 

My next two baseballs require a bit of back story. If you’ve read my Camden Yards entries before, you may have noticed that one very regular ballhawk was missing the past two games: Tim Anderson. For this series with the Astros and the Orioles next series against the Mariners, he was vacationing with his family in Ocean City, Maryland. Because of this and the fact that Alex Kopp had lost his cup trick, Tim gave Alex his cup trick while he was gone. The morning before this game at work, though, Alex made a new cup trick. Since he didn’t need two cup tricks, I asked him if he could lend me Tim’s for the duration of my stay in Baltimore. So with my new toy, when I saw a baseball go into the gap in front of the center field bleachers, I ran over and cup tricked the ball in this spot:

73113 Ball 3 Diagram

As I was pulling the ball up, I was made aware that a kid had dropped the ball into the gap when an Astros player had tossed it to him. So after I pulled the ball up, I gave it to him. Another–way more awesome–thing happened while I was retrieving the ball. As I was pulling up the cup, (and found out that the trick must be dropped and not simply lowered onto the ball) a second ball hit the wall just to my right and settled less than three feet away from my spot. I moved over a little, cup tricked the ball, and found out it was another Astros 50th anniversary commemorative. So thank you, Tim, for lending Alex your cup trick, and thank you, cup trick, for getting me two extra baseballs:

73113 Tim Cup Trick

I then headed out into the flag court for the last or second to last Astros group, because they were mostly lefties. Alex and Grant also joined me out there. And somehow we each managed to semi-rob each other of a ball. Grant got a ball that I was just about to trap with my glove, Alex caught a ball in front of Grant’s glove, and then I got a ball that got ripped out of Alex’s hands:

73113 Ball 5

What happened was Robbie Grossman hit a ball that bounced on Eutaw Street and went on top of the metal awning-type thing you see in the background of that last picture. A guy was camped under it waiting for the ball to drop, but as it did, Alex jumped up and grabbed the ball with his bare, left hand. The guy also reached for it, but what he got was Alex’s hand. So what he ended up doing was pulling Alex’s fingers off of the ball. The ball then dropped to the guy’s feet, where I picked it up before another passerby could. And that was it for BP. I then at the end of BP handed the final ball I had snagged to an usher who lets us sit in the wheelchair seats to the left of the flag court and instructed him to give the ball to the first kid he saw with a glove. Partially because I wanted the usher to see that I cared about giving away baseballs to kids, but also partially because that last lefty Astros group had put on a show, which had me running all over the place and too exhausted/lazy to find a kid myself.

The highlight (or low-light, depending on how you see things) of the game itself also involved Robbie Grossman. Minus Avi, this was how Grant, Alex, and I were stationed for the game:

73113 Flag Court set-up

For a righty, that is. For a lefty, we all stood up and moved to our respective spots. Alex stayed right where he was, Grant moved to the right part of the flag court, and I took the section of the flag court closest to the foul pole. Little did we know, but despite the show he had put on in BP, when he came up in the second inning, Robbie Grossman was at zero career home runs. So as I walked to my spot in the flag court, I saw a baseball flying at a trajectory that would put it over the seats just to the left of the foul pole, and onto Eutaw Street. I knew exactly where the ball was going to land, and bolted after it, but the problem was it was just hit too hard, and I was too out of position. So as it hit off of the warehouse, and rolled rapidly off the awning, none of us ballhawks had a shot at it, and it bounced off of one person’s hands before some person who had just been walking on the street got it. Had it just even slowly rolled off of the awning or taken one more bounce, I think one of us three would have gotten it. Here is where the ball bounced initially:

73113 HR Spot

And here is a picture that shows the landing spot relative to the warehouse:

73113 HR Spot 2

After that, our entertainment (well mostly my entertainment) came from seeing if the Astros could score more runs than millions of dollars they had on their payroll. See, earlier that day, the Astros had made a series of trades that dropped their payroll to $13 million. To give you an idea of how low that is, we calculated that the lowest a team could possibly pay a 25-man roster (so with every player making league minimum) was about $12.5 million. So essentially, besides Erik Bedard and a couple other guys, the Astros were a roster comprised entirely of guys making league minimum. Sadly, though, they only routed the Orioles 11-0 and not 14-0. I mean seriously, when would have been the last time a team scored more runs than millions of dollars they had on their payroll? Anyway, that was it for the game. I didn’t even bother with the umpire tunnel, and instead headed out with Alex immediately after the last out so we could get to his place as quickly as possible.

STATS:

  • 5 Balls at this Game (2 pictured because I gave 3 away)

73113 Baseballs

Numbers 592-596 for my “lifetime”:

73113 Logos

  • 150 Balls in 38 Games= 3.95 Balls Per Game
  • 5 Balls x 25,265 Fans=126,325 Competition Factor
  • 100 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 5 straight games with 2 Balls
  • 2 straight games with 3 Balls
  • 58 Balls in 15 Games at OPACY= 3.87 Balls Per Game
  • 15 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
  • 5 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at OPACY
  • 3 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at OPACY
  • Time Spent On Game 4:05-10:28= 6 Hours 23 Minutes

7/30/13 Astros at Orioles: Camden Yards

After a three-week hiatus, it was time once more to go back to Oriole Park at Camden Yards. And look at the group there as the gates opened:

73013 Opening Group Picture

That would be:

1. Zevi- Whose last name I am still not sure of.

2. Me- As played by Mateo Fischer.

3. Grant Edrington- Whom I was introduced to face-to-face at the gates before this picture was taken.

4. Alex Kopp- A ballhawk who caught Chris Davis’ 100th home run, and may have done something nearly as special involving Davis a couple entries after this one. (Translation: stay tuned to this blog for about three more entries if you want to read about it.

5. Avi Miller- The very hospitable, unofficial king of Camden Yards.

As we ballhawks ran into the left field seats, Alex beat me to one easter egg down the third base line, but I then saw a ball going down the stairs behind him as he was walking back towards me. What I should have done was kept walking calmly past him like nothing was going on, since his back was turned to the ball. What I did instead was start running before I got past him, he saw me running, turned around, ran for the ball, and picked it up.

My first actual baseball came as a product of what I’d like to call hustle, but I think is more just me getting lucky. An Orioles lefty hit a towering foul ball, so being the ballhawk closest to foul territory, when I saw the ball was probably going to bounce off the warning track and into the seats, I bolted over there. I didn’t at all expect to get the ball, since there was a man within ten feet of where the ball landed, but when I saw he couldn’t find the ball, I accelerated and saw the ball in the front row. It had trickled down the stairs and this guy had no clue it had done so. As I saw it and started running, though, there was another man opposite me who was trying to get autographs. He noticed me running, and then saw the ball. When this happened, the ball was between us but slightly closer to him. So it turned into a 20-yard footrace. I beat him to the ball, and made sure to cover the ball with my glove, since I’ve gotten my hand stepped on in similar situations. I then walked back to left field with my first ball of the day:

73013 Ball 1

See if you can identify two of the guys from the opening picture in their left field seat spots:

73013 Ballhawks in LF

Anyway, my next baseball also came in foul ground. (Spoiler alert: all of mine this day did.) I went over there at the beginning of a group of Orioles who were mostly lefties. I figured they might hit a ball or two into foul ground. And I was right. I was paying attention to something else, but when I turned, I saw a ball going to touch down in the seats by me, and I ran over to pick it up:

73013 Ball 2

I sadly did not know pretty much any of the Astros, and they all had their numbered jerseys covered, so I didn’t get any toss-ups from them. the next ball I came even relatively close to was a hit baseball from Dave Clark. If you know who that is, you may say, “But, Mateo, Dave Clark is a coach on the Astros.” Well yes, but the way I almost got a baseball hit by him was he was hitting fungoes off of the right field wall for outfielders to learn the caroms of the ball. Several of these went over the wall, and one I had perfectly tracked and lined up, but someone reached in front of me at the last second and robbed me:

73013 Dave Clark

My next and final baseball that I snagged was in right field foul ground. I was down there to get a toss-up from an Astros coach/trainer-looking person when an Astros righty hit a ball in front of me. I ran down to it, but as soon as it hit a seat, it bounced sideways. I then ran and grabbed it, but a kid who had also been chasing it also grabbed the ball right after I did. He then started pulling on the ball, and as I have done in the past, I let go of the ball and counted it:

73013 Ball 3 Diagram

I’ve said it before in this blog, but I don’t think a situation has arisen thus far this year that has required me explaining it, so I’ll explain my rationale for the newer readers. I don’t like having a scoring system that incentivizes being a not-nice person. That’s why even though some ballhawks don’t count baseballs they give away baseballs (and I completely understand their way of seeing things) I count them, because it allows me to be a nice person despite my scoring system, whereas I might be much less likely to give baseballs away to kids if I didn’t count them in my stats. Additionally, if I grab onto a baseball and another person grabs onto it afterwards, my standard procedure is to let go, let them have the ball, and count it anyway. Because while this person grabbed onto a ball that I already had possession of, it wouldn’t be nice of me/look good if I ripped the ball out of their hands, so I just let it go. I felt okay about the decision in this particular instance until I saw that the ball I had just let go of was a Houston Astros 50th anniversary commemorative baseball. Then I kind of wished I had ripped it out of the kids’ hands and given him one of the baseballs I had snagged earlier in BP.

That was it for snagging, though. I was in the flag court the whole game, and I believe the only homer that was hit in the game went to left field. The highlight of the game by far was watching Jonathan Villar–who we were watching since he had/has 0 career home runs–steal home. I don’t think any of us on the flag court (Grant, Alex, and myself) saw him right away, but it was amazing once we picked him up out of the corner of our eyes and realized what had just happened. Take a look for yourselves:

Oh, and another thing that was amazing that I forgot to mention earlier in the entry was that Chris Carter hit the facing of the second deck in left field. I don’t know exactly how far that is, but it was certainly the farthest hit baseball I’ve seen hit there, and one usher said the only person he had ever seen do that was Jose Canseco–if that puts anything into perspective for you. Main point: Play back for Chris Carter.

STATS:

  • 3 Baseballs at this game (2 pictured because I let 1 slip away voluntarily)

73013 Baseballs

Numbers 589-591 for my “career”:

73013 Sweet Spots

  • 145 Balls in 37 Games= 3.92 Balls Per Game
  • 3 Balls x 24,904 Fans=74,712 Competition Factor
  • 99 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 4 straight games with 2 Balls
  • 53 Balls in 14 Games at OPACY= 3.79 Balls Per Game
  • 14 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
  • 4 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at OPACY
  • 2 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at OPACY
  • Time Spent On Game 1:20-10:20= 9 Hours

7/27/13 Mets at Nationals: Nationals Park

I have been to as many Mets at Nationals games as probably 95% of the baseball-watching population. I have little to no doubt in my mind that it is the match-up I have seen more games than any other in baseball. That said, in terms of excitement, this was in at least the lower 50th percentile. That started with what was happening when I got to the gates:
72713 Opening Picture

I was utterly confused, because I had gotten there 3 hours early. So naturally I tried to scan my ticket and get in, but that’s when I learned that this was a season ticket holder event, and as a result of this, 1. There would be no batting practice, and 2. The gates were only opening 1.5 hours early for the game.

Instead of getting in line and waiting in the sun for 90 minutes, I sat down in the shade and charged my iPhone (because I’m starting to suspect that they are even equipped with a battery). In this time,  I saw the line grow massive outside of the center field gate:

72713 CF Gate 1 72713 CF Gate 2

Now normally I would have freaked out and jumped in line after five people got int it. But instead, I got up from sitting five minutes before the gates were supposed to open and relied on human stupidity to get me to near the front of the line. And I was right!

72713 Third in line

When the stadium opens 2.5 hours early, the only gate that’s open is the center field gate, but then all gates open 1.5 hours before the game starts. While pretty much no one else bothered to check, I figured since all of the stadium staff was already in the stadium for the season ticket holder event and the gates were opening 1.5 hours early, this would be the case. As a result of me being  one of the first in closer to home plate, I was the first person to get to the Nationals pitchers warming up down the right field line:

72713 Nats in RF

And because of this, I got a toss-up from a face I hadn’t seen in a while: Ryan Mattheus. It was nice to see him back from his rehab stint, because if I’m not mistaken, he has tossed me more baseballs than any other person ever. (Actually I now checked, and he is the leader.) Here he added onto his lead by tossing me my seventh baseball ever:

72713 Ball 1

That would be it for snagging until the game itself. I would actually go on to give this baseball away to an usher I know in left field, as I sat out there for the majority of the game. Although, I must clear up something from two sentences ago: I actually snagged my second and final baseball in *between* the game and not during the game itself. The two teams played eight innings, but there was then a rain delay in some part (or right after) of the eighth inning. So what I did since I was down by the dugout at this point in the game, is I got a baseball from home plate umpire Lance Barksdale as he cleared the field for the rain delay. There was then an hour-long rain delay, and then the two teams played the ninth inning. The delay was actually insult to injury, because this was a game that was cruising along until the seventh inning, where it then decided to start taking forever with a bunch of base runners and pitching changes.

But anyway, like I said, this wasn’t a very exciting game. That’s all I have for you. Be sure as always to read the stats. Goodbye.

STATS:

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

72713 Baseballs

Numbers 587 and 588:

72713 Sweet Spots

  • 142 Balls in 36 Games= 3.94 Balls Per Game
  • 2 Balls x 37,464 Fans=74,928 Competition Factor
  • 98 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 3 straight games with 2-3 Balls
  • 175 Balls in 40 Games at Nationals Park= 4.38 Balls Per Game
  • 32 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
  • 3 straight Games with at least 2-3 Balls at Nationals Park
  • Time Spent On Game 10:58-8:13= 9 Hours 15 Minutes

7/24/13 Pirates at Nationals: Nationals Park

While the same guys were at the game who were there the previous day, the District of Columbia also had a new ballhawk face this game:

72413 Greg and Mateo

That on the left would be Greg Barasch, an excellent ballhawk from New York who also happens to be my former neighbor. So if the competition the day before wasn’t bad enough, the mygameballs.com leader in Balls Per Game was now being thrown in the mix. However, I will spoil the entry a bit and tell you that I snagged more baseballs  during this game than I did the previous. I probably should have snagged more baseballs than anybody besides Greg, but I have one person to blame for this: myself.

When the gates opened, we actually had another ballhawk you may remember from past entries, Dave Butler. I would mention/link him a lot more, but he still has yet to get a mygameballs.com account. Anyway, he’s there for pretty much every Nationals game, so if you see a man wearing a San Fransisco Giants hat chasing baseballs during BP, that’s probably Dave. He, Erik, and Greg all headed for the Red Seats, so it was a no-brainer for Rick and I to pick the seats in straight-away left for the first group–which happens to be pitcher’s BP:

72413 Ballhawks

During this, I forget which pitcher it was hit a ball just to my left. I tracked the ball, put my glove up, but The ball bounced in and out of the glove and onto the ground, where another fan picked it up. I (not-so-)secretly blame Greg for this, because it was with my lefty glove that the ball bounced out. When I first got the glove in the Winter, I first tested it out with Greg and his dad in Riverside Park. There he told me, “I don’t know. I think you’re going to drop one because of the glove and then go back to your normal one.” Well I hadn’t been to the same game as Greg too often this season, but this being the first time the glove had failed me so far was too coincidental. GREG WAS BEHIND THIS SOMEHOW, I TELL YOU! It was right after that I switched to my right-handed glove. (Well it’s actually technically my mom’s glove, but that’s a story for another blog entry.)

With this glove in hand, I went over to right field for the Zimmerman, Werth, and I believe Bernadina. Anyway, just as Rick told me that Werth can go opposite field, Werth did just that. Rick was in front of me, and the ball appeared to be falling short of me, so I figured my chances of getting the ball were gone. Surprisingly, though, Rick misjudged the ball by running too far to his left, so I now had a window of opportunity that I used to catch the ball on the fly for my first of the day:

72413 Ball 1

My next baseball came when the Pirates started hitting. Normally what I do when the opposing team starts hitting at Nationals Park is go down the third base line and try to get baseballs from the players of said team who are warming up. I didn’t get anything from these players, but as I saw a ball roll into the net that the Nationals have set up for BP to “protect their fans from projectiles leaving the field” (a.k.a. themselves from any possible liability that may come if a fan were to get hit by said projectile.) There was another guy about my age right on top of it, and I told him that I would get the ball for him if he moved out of the way. My plan was to cast the net the Nationals had set up, as if fishing, to reel the ball in close enough where I could pick it up off the ground. As I was doing this, a second baseball rolled to the same spot, so the guy said, “Oh, now we can both have one.” What I should have done was said yes, but offered to pick up both baseball, since I was taller. I mean the reason for me picking up both wouldn’t have actually been because I was taller; it would have been because I could then count both baseball even though I would end up giving one away. Instead, dumb me reeled both in and let him pick up his baseball as  picked up mine:

72413 Ball 2

(For the record, my hand is the one on the left. You can tell that from the green “UMN #GetActive” wristband. I’ve pretty much worn it every day since November, 6, 2012.) I then met up with Erik, who was also trying to get a toss-up form Pirate relievers. As he left the section, he did a brief run-through of the names of the Pirate pitchers. This served me well because my third ball of the day came when I asked Jeff Locke by name for a baseball in the Red Seats. Erik gets the huge assist on that one because Locke was not responding at all to the tons of kids requesting a ball, but when I said his name, Locke’s head shot up and he tossed me the baseball before I could get the rest of the request out:

72413 Ball 3

That was it for BP. My next baseball came after BP at the Pirates bullpen. Both Erik and I ended up there after I alerted him to two baseballs that Bryan Morris had under-thrown into the  gap in front of the Red Seats. Erik was already sitting down behind the bullpen when batting practice ended, so I went over to him and told him to hurry up because I was afraid the groundskeepers were going to get the baseballs out of the gap, since they were already rolling the equipment off the field. When we got there, though, the baseballs were still there, so groundskeepers were no longer the problem. The problem was you’re not exactly allowed to retrieve baseballs out of this gap. So I first tried to shield Erik’s string from the usher, but when the usher–who I know–came down to check tickets, I tried to distract her from the glove trick by talking to her until Erik had reeled up the two baseballs. I’m pretty sure it would have worked ceteris paribus, but there were a ton of kids right in front of the usher begging Erik for the baseballs, so she realized what he was doing. Thankfully, by the time she went over to confront him, he had already pulled in the two baseballs, and got away without punishment by emphasizing the fact that he had given both baseballs away to kids–which he had.

After that, Euclides Rojas tossed me a baseball when Francisco Liriano finished throwing his bullpen session. I’m pretty sure Erik would have gotten the ball, since he told me that Rojas has tossed him about 20 baseballs in 2013, but he had left by that point because he had to leave the next morning from Pittsburgh to go to Miami and see the Pirates there. So as a a product of that, I got this guy:

72413 Ball 4

As for the game, I tried doing the same thing as the previous game and studying for my driving written test, but it was an absolute failure because I was too busy eating two bags of shelled peanuts a nice usher I know that works in the Diamond Club gave me. But don’t worry, I ended up passing. The test-taker needed to get a minimum of 23 questions right, and I got just that. (I had heard somewhere else that it was 24, so I actually thought I had already failed for the last 6 questions and was just finishing the test for fun at that point.)As a result of all of that I got this guy:
72413 Learners Permit

(As I write this I have just driven for my first time in years with my new permit, and I have to say; it was much less terrifying than I thought it would be given that it was my first time with a permit.) At the end of the game, I headed down to the dugout:
72413 Dugout

And there I got my fifth and final ball of the day from home plate umpire Mike Estabrook:

72413 Ball 5

And if you’re wondering, the four of us ballhawks snagged a combined for 23 total baseballs. Greg and Erik snagged 9 and 6, respectively despite both leaving the game early, I snagged 5, and Rick snagged 3, but his stats are always more impressive since he goes for pretty much only hit baseballs.

STATS:

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

72413 Baseballs

Numbers 582-586 for my life:
72413 Sweet Spots

  • 140 Balls in 35 Games= 4.00 Balls Per Game
  • 5 Balls x 33,636 Fans=168,180 Competition Factor
  • 97 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 173 Balls in 39 Games at Nationals Park= 4.44 Balls Per Game
  • 31 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
  • Time Spent On Game 2:57-11:29= 8 Hours 32 Minutes

7/23/13 Pirates at Nationals: Nationals Park

While I accidentally missed out on the first game of the series, I got to the gates of Nationals Park for the second game of their series with the Pirates, and look who was at the gate awaiting me:

72313 Opening Picture

Left to right, that would be:

1. Myself.

2. Erik Jabs- The current mygameballs.com season leader with 446 baseballs this, who has also snagged 2,602 baseballs in his lifetime.

3. Rick Gold- A ballhawk/ employee of MLB.com who is slightly behind Erik in both baseball snagging categories I mentioned in his description.

Suffice to say, I was way out of my league, as is the case when most ballhawks are in the same ballpark as I am. For the first fifteen minutes, though, I was holding my own. Actually, I’m pretty sure I snagged three baseballs before either of them had snagged a single baseball.

Like I usually do for pitcher’s BP, I went to straight-away left:

72313 LF

Up to that point, the only pitcher Rick and I had never gotten  a ball from that had been up in the majors for any considerable amount of time was Jordan Zimmerman. So when he was up, I relaxed a bit. Sure enough, though, he launched the furthest-hit ball I’ve seen him hit. Naturally, I was taken back by how far the ball was traveling, so I ran back up the steps. However, although the ball was hit hard and high by Zimmerman’s standards, by the time I had run into a row, I realized the ball was falling short, so I wasn’t able to catch the ball on the fly. Instead I watched it drop in front of me and picked it up for my first of the day:

72313 Ball 1

I mean yeah I got the ball, but that misread had me feeling just absolutely awful about how the rest of the day was going to go. The next baseball, though, would have me feeling even worse. After the pitcher’s BP, all of us ballhawks did a musical chairs of sorts with the sections we were inhabiting. Said game of musical chairs ended with me in the Red Seats. There, I saw a ball get hit into the section of field between the Red Seats and right field seats. When I saw a Nationals player going to retrieve it, I ran over to the corner spot of the section. I reacted to him walking over so quickly, in fact, that I neglected to look at if there was anything in my way in the row of seating I was running through. Normally seats in stadiums flip up automatically when someone’s not sitting in them. One of the seats in this row, though, was the exception to that rule. Someone had sat in the seat earlier and it was left down. So as I ran through the row, I was taken out by said seat. The Nationals player was still walking, though; so I immediately got up from a fall that I would have otherwise taken my time in getting up from and asked this player if he could toss me the ball:

72313 Ball 2

He wasn’t wearing his jersey at the time, but with the help of Erik Jabs, we figured out it was Ian Krol, since the only other lefty pitcher on the Nationals roster, I believe at the time, was Fernando Abad.

Us ballhawks then did our game of musical chairs once more, which had me in right field. There I got my third and final ball of the day when Gio Gonzalez overthrew these people and I picked it up to give it to them:

72313 Ball 3 People

The other two ballhawks then went on to snag a combined 14 baseballs to my none. My only contribution to anyone’s stats from this point on revolved around this:

72313 Gap

See, while I used to have a glove trick, it started becoming more trouble than it was worth, so I disassembled, and am thus currently without a retrieval device that is my own. So when I saw a ball go into the gap, I sent out this tweet warning the two other ballhawks:

72313 First Tweet

And then this one when another baseball went into the gap:72313 Second Tweet

Neither of them read it, but Erik was the first one to come over, so I pointed both out to him, and he reeled them in with his glove trick as I just stood off to his side and blocked the view of his string from the usher at the top of the section.

There was then another baseball that got dropped or hit in there, so while Erik was in the seats in straight-away left, I waved him over and he fished the ball out of the gap. And that was it. Erik and I went to the bullpen after BP, where he got a grounds crew guy to toss him a ball, and we watched Gerrit Cole warm up. But after that, he left to spend time with his family in Annapolis, and I watched the game in left field as I read this:

72313 Drivers Manual

I still put my glove on for righties, but I was scheduled to take my driving test three days from this game, so I figured it would be a good time to actually start studying since I hadn’t at all previous to that point. And as bland as it can be for some people, Nationals Park is still a pretty great place to watch a baseball game:

72313 View from LF

Then again, I think I would talk differently sitting in the 400 level every game.

STATS:

  • 3 baseballs at this game (2 pictured because I gave 1 away)

72313 Baseballs

Numbers 579-581 for my career:

72313 Sweet Spots

  • 135 Balls in 34 Games= 3.97 Balls Per Game
  • 3 Balls x 32,976 Fans=98,928 Competition Factor
  • 96 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 168 Balls in 38 Games at Nationals Park= 4.42 Balls Per Game
  • 30 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
  • Time Spent On Game 2:58-11:00= 7 Hours 2 Minutes

7/20/13 Dodgers at Nationals: Nationals Park

I was supposed to actually go to the game before this, but I got there late enough that the game was no longer worth it to me, so I sold my ticket to a scalper and went home. That game was because of me setting up two bank accounts and the meeting to do so running incredibly late, but this one was good ol’ Washington DC Metro. I left my apartment at 3:16, which for a 4:30 gate opening time is more than enough time, since the commute itself only takes about half-an-hour. But once I took my 13 minute bus ride to the train station, I waited for over 15 minutes for the train, from where I had to take another train, which I waited for in two different metro stations for a total of about half-an-hour. At the end of all of it, I got to Nationals Park at about 5:10, and after running from the metro station to the stadium along with all of the stress of the whole situation, I was absolutely exhausted:

72013 Mateo exhausted

(I didn’t feel at all in the mood to do a second take, since being unintentionally (the intention being on my part; not of others) late to batting practice/ is one of the most sure-fire ways to get me mad.) As I entered the stadium, I made a straight shot for the right field seats just in time to see Todd Cook make a very impressive catch. Here he is right after it:

72013 Todd Cook

(If you don’t know Todd and his sons, Tim and Kellan, they’re the ones on the left-hand side of the frame.) I had actually been a section away from the ball when it was hit wondering where the Cooks were, since I knew they were at the game. Given the fact that I was late and still had no baseballs to that point, I ran after where the ball was headed in case of a deflection. Just then I saw a man come from the right field corner spot and reach behind two people to make a backhand catch. It took me a couple seconds, but I then realized it was Todd. I yelled to try to get his attention, but he was too far away, and my main focus at the time was to get on the board so I could relax. So I got Fernando Abad to toss me a ball from about 75 feet away from the wall, but the ball passed through the sun just before getting to me. Not having sunglasses on at the time, all I could do was put my glove up where I thought the ball was going to go and hope I could time the squeeze of my glove just right. I put my glove in the right place, because I felt the ball hit the palm of my hand, but I closed my glove a fraction of a second too late, because moments later I saw the ball rolling around on the ground and getting picked up by this guy:

72013 Other Guy

With the crowd there for Davey Johnson bobblehead day, I sincerely thought I had just blown my best chance of avoiding a shutout. Anyway, it was right after that Todd Cook saw me and came to say hello:

72013 Todd Cook Everybody

I then spent the next few minutes talking to Tim while simultaneously keeping the corner of my eye on the field for flying baseballs. A couple minutes after that, it was almost time for the rest of the stadium to open. Todd and I had both seen a ball hit in foul territory, so here we are getting ready to rush for it:

72013 Race to the seats

It was just then that for whatever reason the sprinklers went off on the field at this time:

72013 Sprinklers

This worried me because I thought that might be a sign the Dodgers weren’t going to take BP. Turns out it didn’t matter because not only did Todd correctly guess where the ball was and beat me to it, but I didn’t get anything for the rest of BP. The Dodgers were a surprisingly-bad hitting team and their pitchers were being stingy.

After BP, the Cooks and I both went to the bullpen, where I got a picture of Tim with one of his BP balls:

72013 Tim BP Ball

But the Cooks soon left to go exploring/to their actual seats, so that left me watching Zack Grienke first mistakenly go to the center field side of the bullpen looking for an entrance, and then warm up by doing what we pitchers call “shadowing”:

72013 Grienke Shadowing

Shadowing is when a pitcher mimics his pitching motion without actually releasing the ball to completely focus on just practicing and refining his mechanics. Grienke then played long-toss outside of the bullpen and eventually came back into the bullpen to warm up by actually throwing to a catcher:

72013 Grienke and Catcher

When Grienke was done, and Rick Honeycutt was putting the extra baseball in the bullpen bag, I asked him if he could get a baseball that had gone in the flowers at the back of the bullpen for me. Either he didn’t hear what I had said or was just too lazy to get it, he got a ball out of the bag and tossed it to me:

72013 Ball 1

Having avoided a shutout, I decided I was done ballhawing for the day, and texted Todd to see where he and the boys were. I figured that because I really enjoy spending time with the Cooks, and the fact that we don’t go to the same game that often meant my time would be much better served going around with them than trying to get an extra baseball to pad my stats.

So I met them at the picnic area above left field:

72013 Picnic Area

Little did I know it since I had never been there before sunset, but it has an amazing view of Washington. It also has an amazing view of the concourse behind the left field seats, which leads to the center field plaza:

72013 LF Concourse

Pretty neat, huh? The boys used this view to take pictures with their respective cameras:

72013 Boys n Cameras

The reason Tim has his own camera because he used to borrow his dad’s and break it. And Kellan has his own because while Todd didn’t let him use his after past experience with Tim, Kellan borrowed Tim’s camera and broke that. So Kellan’s is actually a vlog camera that can also take pictures, is waterproof, and most importantly, can be dropped from 7′ in the air and not be damaged at all.

We then went to their actual section behind home plate. Todd and I took advantage of the fact that we were in the last row of seats to be able to spit our sunflower seeds away without having to worry about hitting anyone with them….That is until we realized we were right above the upper-level concourse. Tim took advantage to get some shots of the pitcher and hitter from an interesting angle:
72013 Tim Taking Pictures

We then went all over the place during the game, but towards the end of it, we got a lady to take a picture of us. I asked her to take it landscape, but she insisted that Kellan’s head couldn’t fit in the frame:

72013 Group Picture Take 1

(Hmm…I wonder why.) We then bent down, and did a second take:

72013 Take 2

(*sigh* Close enough.) At the end of the game, we headed down to the field-level concourse to try to get down for an umpire ball. When we got down there, a camera man asked Tim if he wanted to film a bit. So here is Tim filming stuff that the cameraman later told us was on the air in the Dodgers’ broadcast of the game:

72013 Tim on Camera

That was awesome. And even more awesome was the fact that Tim got the save ball after Chris Withrow’s first career win. Well…sort of. Kenley Jansen initially did toss Tim the ball, but when he went into the dugout and got told what he had just done, he asked to swap baseballs with Tim for another and Tim gladly obliged. It would have been cool had Tim walked away with that small souvenir, but I am glad the Mr. Withrow got his baseball. I think it’s possible it meant a little something to him as well.

STATS:

  • 1 Ball at this Game :-{

72013 Baseball

Number 578 for my lifetime:

72013 Sweet Spot

  • 132 Balls in 33 Games= 4.00 Balls Per Game
  • 1 Balls x 41,816 Fans=41,816 Competition Factor
  • 95 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 165 Balls in 37 Games at Nationals Park= 4.46 Balls Per Game
  • 29 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
  • Time Spent On Game 3:30-1:24= 9 Hours 54 Minutes

7/14/13 Because Too Many Things Happened to List in a Title

My day started off in Albany, where I had stayed with Chris Hernandez‘ (I never know how the possessive/plural works with names ending in an “s” sound) girlfriend. We then hit the road right after we got up:

71413 On The Road

Chris went directly to Citi Field for the Futures Game (which if you didn’t know, is basically an All-Star Game between the top Minor League prospects in baseball where the teams are divided by US vs. World), but he dropped me off at Greg Barasch‘s place first. I mean it used to be my place, but the reason I was there is I had to drop off all of the things I didn’t need to carry to the Futures Game/did need for the place I was headed off to before the Futures Game that I’ll reveal in a second.

I then headed off to Zack Hample‘s place where I gave him footage off my SD card for an entry he was writing at the time about his helicopter stunt that we had been at the previous day, some of which he ended up putting on his YouTube channel and then embedding in said entry. My goal was to get out of Zack’s place at around 11:20 to get to where I planned to go next, but ended up not getting out of Zack’s until 12:00 because while I was talking with him and his girlfriend Hayley, he told me that they were watching ESPN’s SportsCenter because he had been told that he was going to be in the Top-10. And since SportsCenter always holds that until the end of the show to get you to watch the whole thing, I ended up staying and watching him make the Top-10 and then semi-freak out when they announced that he had caught the ball from 1,200 feet instead of 1,050. (Zack doesn’t like inaccuracies; even if they make what he did seem more awesome.)

Anyway, about a half-hour later, this is where I found myself:

71413 MLB Fan Cave

I had seen on their schedule that the Fan Cave was having tours from 12:00-2:30, so when I realized that my times in New York were going to be very limited this summer, and the fact that I had not yet toured the Fan Cave, I decided it was more important than making batting practice at the Futures Game. So I got in line:

71413 In Line

And waited for a while. Turns out the Dwellers were hosting the FoxSports girls and so we had to wait. Although, I won’t complain since I got a free MLB Fan Cave hat and shirt out of it. Then after a good 20-30 minute wait in the New York heat, we got it:

71413 Inside MLBFC

I point out the tour guide because he’s wearing the shirt that I had gotten for free just minutes earlier. Anyway, the tour was fun. I didn’t take many pictures, but I got a video of it that I’m not sure I’ll ever publish do to the fact that there’s not much in it. But afterwards I waited for April Whitzman to talk with her for a few minutes. I actually knew April from before my visit because she had written a story about me for the Fan Cave blog back in April (Get it? It’s an unintentional pun!) about my experience playing catch with Derek Lowe (Link to her story here).

After that it was off to the Futures Game, and even though I showed up while the game was already underway, it was great to not have to worry about ballhawking. First I got a picture with the Twins mascot, TC:

71413 TC Picture

(Notice the MLB Fan Cave hat.) And then I went to catch up with Ben Weil behind the third base dugout:

71413 View For Game

Not a bad view, eh? Although since I kind of half-paid attention to the game the most notable thing that came until it was over was that Ben got a t-shirt in the t-shirt toss:

71413 Ben T-shirt

Then after the Futures Game, it was time for the Celebrity Softball Game:

71413 CSG

I mean that was whatever, but I stuck around because I had never seen one before. Chris, on the other hand, left, because he had gotten way too little sleep the past two days, and it was starting to catch up with him. After the game, Ben–who is the biggest Mike Piazza fan you will ever meet–was not surprisingly trying to get Piazza to sign a sign his girlfriend Jen, who had shown up at the beginning of the softball game, had made. So the three of us pushing through a crowd of dozens of people to try to get to the umpire tunnel where Piazza was signing. I seriously think the softball game is more about getting signatures before/after it than it is about the game itself. I mean look at the crowd at the dugout half-an-hour after the game had ended:

71413 Crowd

And I mean here’s a panorama that I took right before that (Click to Enlarge):

71413 Panorama

Anyway, that pushing and having a mild attack of claustrophobia paid off because look what Ben got:

71413 Signed Sign

I wish I would have gotten a picture of the back, because it’s like the side of this side but the pictures occupy the whole poster board. After that Jen headed out, but Ben and I hung around and tried to find where he was supposed to go for a thing he volunteered for handing out pins. So we first got a ton of energy drinks that Ben didn’t really want, so he handed to me, but I then got this one last picture of Citi Field before heading off to Greg’s place for the night.

STATS:

  • 9 KickStarts at this Game (7 pictured because I gave 2 away)

71413 KickStarts

Numbers 1-9 for my “career”:

71413 Nutrition Facts

  • 9 KickStarts in 1 Game= 9.00 KPG
  • 1 Straight Game with at least 1-9 KickStarts
  • 9 KickStarts in 1 Game at Citi Field= 9.00 KPG
  • 1 Straight Game with at least 1-9 KickStarts at Citi Field

7/13/13 Jamestown Jammers at Lowell Spinners: LeLacheur Park

After having experienced something so big I had to write an entire 2,000+ word entry about right before this (Link Here), I went back to LeLacheur Park with Chris Hernandez to go to a Lowell Spinners game. So at about 3:40, here’s where we found ourselves for the second time that day:

71313 Opening Picture

The coolest game-related thing actually probably happened the first time we were in the ballpark, though. When I told Chris that the lineup card from the day before had been simply thrown out, he went into the Spinners offices and asked if he could have it. Well…

71313 Chris Lineup Card

Another awesome thing is that right after I took the first picture of the entry, I called Jon Boswell, whose title I believe is the Spinners’ Director of Media Relations. Anyway, since he had given Mike and I complimentary tickets right behind home plate the night before, I asked him if I could have a couple for that night’s game. The game was sold-out, but he was still able to swing us a couple of GA tickets. It didn’t really matter where the tickets were for, since I didn’t plan on sitting in my seat at all anyway as there was a cross-aisle to be played. So if for some reason you’re reading this, Jon: thank you very much.

Since the gates didn’t actually open until 5:00 (for a 6:00 start time), Chris and I went into the jungle behind the outfield wall. While out there, we both heard leaves brushing, so we immediately started looking in the area for a baseball.  Chris went to the spot where the ball landed, but I found the ball several feet behind its landing spot for my first on the day:

71313 Ball 1

I kind of felt bad about it after the fact, since Chris actually count Minor League baseballs and I don’t. But anyway, the rest of BP was essentially a culmination of why I am really not interested in regularly ballhawking Minor League games at all. I mean if you love it and can do it on an everyday basis, then more power to you, but it is just very boring, and even if there is action, the number of baseballs doesn’t really rely on how good you are at tracking baseballs through the air; it’s reliant on how good you are at eventually finding a baseball that was hit out of the stadium. Even though this was a very sucky BP where essentially nothing went over the wall and it was cut short, it felt too easy when I thought about what would happen if a ball did actually get hit out of the stadium.

Anyway, it soon came time to get in line with Chris. Maybe it was the fact that we were essentially getting in line as they opened for a Minor League game and that we had already done a ton of group pictures that day, but I completely spaced out on getting a picture with Chris anywhere in this process. I did, however, get a picture of the inflatable alligator and stadium itself:

71313 Gates

In line, Chris and I agreed that we would take a side of the field and look for easter eggs. Chris said he wanted the right field side of the seats, so I took the left field side. He didn’t find anything, but I went down to the kids’ play area and found this:

71313 Ball 2

I then met up with Chris behind home plate and got one of the two baseballs signed by two Spinners players:

71313 Signed Baseball

We then relaxed behind the third base dugout essentially until game time. Now while its possible that a Minor League just has an incredibly loyal fan base, you may wonder why a Saturday night game was sold-out. That is because this particular game was Star Wars Night at LeLacheur Park. As a result of that, here was the scene on the field right after the (last of seven) ceremonial first pitch(es) was throw, which started on a hilarious note since there was apparently one less ceremonial first pitch baseball than they needed. (Someone from our group earlier in the day may or may not have seen said first pitch baseballs out in the dugout, and may or may not have taken one of them, so I was cracking up the whole delay.) Anyway, here’s the after-first-pitch picture I took:

71313 Lord Vader

Yes, Darth Vader threw out the final “first” pitch. There were a bunch of other cool Star Wars-themed things that happened during the game, but I’ll leave them out, since I could spend a thousand words writing about it. I was in the seats down the third base line with Chris during that picture, but I headed up to the cross-aisle for the first pitch, Chris told me he’d be up there in a bit. And continuing with my trend of first-inning action, I had a foul ball before Chris came up to join me:

71313 Ball 3

I wouldn’t get another chance even at a foul ball until about the seventh inning, when Chris and I decided to leave the stadium to chase them out there instead. Right as we got outside, Chris was telling me something when all I saw was a ball flying out of the corner of my eye. I quickly checked to make sure I wasn’t going to get hit by any cars, and then bolted across the street to get it. Unfortunately I didn’t see another guy–who had been out there the whole game–come out of the corner of my vision. As I slowed up thinking I had no competition for it, he scooped it up.

We then spent the next couple of innings checking the box score of the game on the team website and thinking it wasn’t being updated frequently because we couldn’t believe it was going so slowly. I don’t know what happened, but we legitimately thought the game had to be going into extra innings when it was in all reality it was the eighth inning. We were so convinced that it actually took us going back into the stadium to realize that the Jammers hadn’t made a giant come back, and were actually still about to lose. I headed back out of the stadium when I realized this to try to get a foul ball, but first I took a picture that I thought I’d share for how nice it looks of the press box and behind-home-plate seating:

71313 Pressbox

But anyway, after the game, we headed to Albany, got McDonalds on the way, and stayed at Chris’ girlfriend’s house where I would then stay up to watch the Tim Lincecum no-hitter and we would head out to the Futures Game as well as the Celebrity Softball Game. I actually filmed the last inning of the Lincecum no-hitter, but I never saw the camera I filmed it on after that, and Chris’ girlfriend didn’t find it after that, so that footage is lost.

Zack Hample Baseball Drop

Okay, let me get a couple of things out of the way before I get into the entry itself:

1. This entry will start with my account of Zack Hample’s attempt at catching a baseball dropped from a helicopter 1,000 feet in the air. That link in the last sentence will take you to Zack’s account of the event.

2. Since the documentation of the helicopter stunt itself has been pounded into the dirt. (My friend Chris Hernandez–who was there–also did a write-up of the event on his blog.) I myself did a general highlight video for the event, that I’m pretty proud of and I’ll leave here for you to watch:

Anyways, because of this over-documentation of the event itself, what I’m going to write about mostly in this entry is I’m going to focus on the behind-the-scenes stuff, the things no one really took the time to write about. Because while Zack was the reason we were all there and this was taking place, and the world saw this event as pretty much Zack’s day, there was so much more to it than just that…

————————————————————————————————————————————

Let us begin where the entry from the last day/game left off. After having unintentionally fallen asleep writing a blog entry on my laptop, I awoke at about 5:17 in the morning to the sound of water running and a light coming from the light in my hotel room’s bathroom. It was at that point that I got mad at myself because I realized I had fallen asleep. This anger with myself turned into slight panic as I realized the running water came from the fact that my roommate for the night who I had not yet met, Andrew Gonsalves, had already woken up after getting to the hotel room after midnight and was readying himself to get out of the room for the stunt.

I was disappointed/mad about falling asleep by accident for two main reasons. The first is that when I woke up, my phone was completely uncharged. Zack had written an entry the previous morning saying to follow me on Twitter for updates on the ball drop, and I felt guilty to not live up to this expectation of the people who were checking my account out for this reason. However, this guilt turned into apathy as I left my phone charging in the dugout while I filmed the event. The second reason was that while I had never met Andrew in person, I had read his blog (which is linked to the initial mention of his full, now-clickable, name) for a while and really enjoy. The main reason I enjoy it is that most of the topics he writes feel like they could be things that I would have examined from the exact same angle (were my medium of mass-communication not essentially limited to baseball) but examined/argued and written in a way that is better than anything I could have ever done. So while we did say hello to each other, we didn’t really get to talk since we were both being semi-rushed by Zack in the next room over, Andrew left pretty soon after we introduced ourselves and I was left in the room packing all of my things into my backpack for the day, since we were not going to be coming back to the hotel. I don’t think I ever really did talk to Andrew much the whole day, but oh well; what can you do?

Oh, and when Zack opened the door between our two rooms to tell us to get ready, I also got to meet Zack’s girlfriend Hayley for the first time in person. Although, I had called Zack about 30 hours before that to talk about how everything about me finding a place to sleep was going to happen, but then Zack put Hayley through speaker-phone, so the conversation moved from hotel rooms to the three of us discussing the pros and cons of an iPhone and Galaxy3, so I guess I had kind of sort of gotten to know her more so than, say Andrew, where the conversation was pretty uni-directional.

When the four of us convened in the hotel lobby to checkout, we realized we were missing two of our group members. Those group member were Ben Weil and his girlfriend Jen (both of who, if you have followed this blog in the past, you may know I have met in the past). So after he was done checking out of his room, Zack went ahead and picked up the car. As he arrived in his 5-seater station wagon, we (Andrew, Haley, and I) saw he had picked up Ben and Jen on the way. Now I realized I’ve just been mentioning names and not really counting them up, but if you have been, there were a total of six of us headed to the stadium in a car that seats five people. So what I had offered in either the phone call I mentioned earlier on in an email to Zack is that I go in the trunk. And that’s exactly what I did. Here is a picture Ben took of me right before he closed the trunk door on me:

71313 Trunkin it

Believe it or not, this was my second ride in the trunk of a car. The first one being a ride in an overcrowded car this past school year to a Pizza Hut. This ride was more enjoyable, though, since I was in an open-air trunk where I could still talk to the people in the backseat.

Despite the fact that we were cutting the 6:00 time that had been set for arrival to the ballpark very close, we decided to go to a Dunkin Donuts, where I believe I was the only one in the car who didn’t get anything. There was a pretty long discussion as to exactly what kind of creamer certain people wanted in their coffee and who would pay, so we knew we were going to be a little late to the ballpark. But in approaching the ballpark, Zack took a very close look at the flag poles around Lowell as the car passed them. The lower flags were completely still, but he was troubled by the ones higher up, since they were fluttering ever so slightly.

As we passed the front of the stadium on our way into the parking garage, I saw Mike Davison, but I also saw Chris Hernadez. I knew in advance that he was planning to be there, but it’s always nice to see Chris at events, especially now that I’m out of New York and living in Washington. And he would turn out to save a semi-expensive bus ride, which is always nice.

We proceeded to park in the garage, where we then got out, saw everyone else who was going to be there for the stunt (BIGS representatives I mentioned in the vlog that’s embedded in my last entry, paramedics, ball-dropper, etc.), readied ourselves in our respective ways, Andrew and Zack played catch:

71313 Zack and Andrew Catch

And then Ben and I, who had both offered to play catch with Zack–but Andrew already had his glove on–played catch with each other until we could down the other line:

71313 Ben and Mateo Catch

That specific picture would be Ben having just thrown me a pop-up that I was tracking. (Or maybe it was the other way around? The ball is in just the perfect spot, and our reactions to the ball are pretty much the exact same enough for the picture to be interpreted either way.

We then got in the dugout and watched Zack attempt to catch a baseball from the first of two heights he was scheduled to go at. The ultimate goal was to catch one from over 1,000 feet, but this first warm-up height was to be 550 ft. The warm-up height started to feel anything but once Zack passed about his fifth attempt. Most of us thought he was going to catch the ball from this height pretty easily, but it eventually took him I think eight tries to get it. I say “most of us” because although I have it on tape being explained that the helicopter was at 550 feet right before the first attempt, a bunch of people in the dugout thought Zack had just caught the 1,000 foot ball.

Once the people who understood the situation talked it through with the people who didn’t, everyone got a little worried. The helicopter had looked *really* high in the sky for the first attempt, so to essentially take that and double it seemed like a ludicrous feat. However, once the helicopter ascended to its final height, it didn’t look like double the height at all. In the moment we thought it was because the chopper had moved further away from us in the dugout and closer to the absolute center of the field, but it probably had more to do with the fact that the helicopter was hovering more around 650 ft on the first attempt.

Anyway, I’m going to assume you actually read/watched the material I provided at the beginning, so you know that Zack did indeed catch the ball. Blahbity-blah-blah. Many people have said it before; you don’t need to hear it again from me. What you might not know is that in this picture that I took from Zack’s blog entry:

71313 Ben Railing Jump

is that it was actually one of Ben’s three attempt to jump over the railing. He tried twice to jump the dugout railing right as Zack started walking back in from the outfield. He the cleared the people to his sides out of his way and yelled, “You see?” as he jumped the railing and chased after Zack for an embrace—referring to the fact that he was indeed able to make the jump. As he jump-hugged Zack, his girlfriend Jen said something that I couldn’t hear word-for-word over the sound of the helicopter blades cutting through the air, but was along the lines of, “See? I told you Zack is Ben’s real girlfriend.” It was hilarious because we were all thinking something along those lines as Ben chased after Zack for a hug, but Jen or Hayley were the perfect people to say it out loud.

Then when everyone was around Zack for his interviews with for the BIGS camera as well as the member of SABR who was there to get information as a part of a bigger story on people (mostly players up until Zack) who had tried catching baseballs dropped from crazy-high places, Chris and I had the same idea to go out into the outfield and take a look at the grounds crew fixing up the holes made by the falling baseballs. I filmed it to put in the video you saw at the beginning of the entry, but I also took a couple of pictures of Chris for his entry:

71313 Chris Picture

After that I was completely bored from filming the whole day to that point, so I decided to play catch with essentially everyone who had a glove. First I played catch with Andrew. Here he is tossing me the baseball:

71313 Andrew Throwing Baseball

We played for a considerable time, but when Zack was finally done with all of the stuff he had to do, he, Chris, and I played a three-way cutoff version of catch. Let me explain. So here I am throwing the ball to Zack:

71313 Mateo Throwing Ball

And then here is Zack after having received one of my throws to him and relaying it to Chris:

71313 Zack Relay Throw

So it was essentially Monkey in the Middle, but with us actually throwing to Zack. A fun little anecdote about this is Zack was so looking forward to play catch that while he was supposed to be sending a message or something to ESPN about the event, he actually said, “You know what, ESPN can wait. We can do that later. I need to play some catch first.”

Somewhere in the whole aftermath of the catch itself, we also got a group picture:

71313 Group Picture

I’ll tell a little story about it, but first I’ll label the people left-to-right:

1. Nick- Paramedic number 1.

2. Mike Davison- Previously mentioned, who was nothing but nice to me for my whole stay in Lowell.

3. One of the police officers who was blocking off the walking path behind the outfield wall of the stadium.

4. Matt- Paramedic number 2.

5. Bob- The helicopter pilot.

6. Andrew- My roommate for all of five “awake minutes.”

7. Hayley- Zack’s girlfriend.

8. Ben Weil- I don’t know if I linked his name before, but I did just now.

9. Jen- Ben’s girlfriend who accompanied him to a Taylor Swift concert later that night.

10. Zack Hample- The only reason most of us would ever go to Lowell, MA.

11. Logan- The BIGS Seeds representative who I later gave my SD card to have some of my footage at their disposal for the video they made of the event. (I would like to use this as an excuse for why all of my stuff about the event is so late, but he returned the card to me later that day.)

12. Casper- The person in the helicopter responsible for dropping the baseballs.

13. Chris Hernandez- A very nice person who offered me a last-minute place to stay for the night so that I wouldn’t have to pay for a bus back to New York the next morning.

14. Me- Surprisingly not behind the camera for once on the day.

Anyway, the sort-of-funny thing about the picture is that Logan instructed all of us to clear the path so the BIGS logo would be completely visible, but he ended up–as you can see in the picture–being the one who partially blocked it.

After that we realized that none of us had eaten yet that day, so everyone who had gone in Zack’s car in the morning, Chris, and Mike went to a diner that Zack had eaten at during his first stay in Lowell last year. Here we all are eating what I think is technically considered brunch:

71313 Brunch

We all were willing to pay, but Zack surprised us all and picked up the entire group’s tab himself. After Ben was done with his plate, Ben decided to try to draw a baseball with the ketchup. That turned out well, but he then tried to write the word “PRACTICE” on it before realizing he didn’t have enough space on the ketchup ball. This, however, gave Jen an idea, which she got on right away. Here is a picture of the end product:

71313 Jart

It may look nice from that picture, but trust me when I say that the picture does it very little justice. It looked amazing in person when you thought about the fact that she did it with a ketchup bottle. The potatoes were also not on the plate, she set up everything you see besides the ketchup-ed plate after the fact just for the picture.

But after that we all went our separate ways. Zack’s car headed back with its five people to New York, Mike headed off to his home town in the land of the Patriot, and Chris and I went to a Starbucks to try to write our respective entries/get some sleep in the car before we then went to the Lowell Spinners game that night. (Which, you guessed it, will be the next entry up on here.)

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