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…

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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.)

7/12/13 Staten Island Yankees at Lowell Spinners: LeLacheur Park

So after spending a full day’s worth of buses, trains, and being part of discussions surrounding the logistics of dropping a baseball from 1,000 feet in the air:

it was time to go to my first Lowell Spinners game ever with Mike Davison–who is in this next picture. If you don’t already know, the reason I was in Lowell because Zack Hample was going to attempt to catch a baseball dropped from 1,000 in the air. As you can probably tell from the date in the title of this entry, that already happened, so if you want to read Zack’s account of the event, here’s the link to that. Well anyway, while an idea as insane as trying to catch a baseball dropped from a helicopter 1,000 feet above ground could only come from Zack, Mike was the logistical mastermind behind the whole stunt itself and making an insane idea a little more feasible and a lot more safe.

So if you watched the video at the beginning of the entry, you will have seen that I ended the video saying we were off to the Lowell Spinners game. Right after that, Mike and I walked from the parking garage to behind the outfield wall. Here is my view as we made our way such:

71213 Opening Picture

With the game starting at 7:05 and the stadium itself not opening until 6:00, we decided we would walk around the stadium on the walkway that is right behind the outfield wall and try to get any baseballs that managed to fly out during BP. While I have been right behind the outfield wall at minor league stadiums before, this one felt weird because the walkway was *right* against the outfield wall. So there was really no shot at snagging a baseball on said walkway. The walkway was actually elevated to be at more or less the base of the outfield wall. (I say  more or less because while it is a good ten feet above the foresty stuff that is even further out from the outfield wall, Mike, who is 6’5″ had his eyes at the level of the the outfield ground. More on that in a bit.) Anyway, from the walkway, this was my view of the outfield wall:

71213 Outfield Wall

We walked back and forth on the walkway a few times before we decided to scour the bushes/foresty part below the walkway to see if any baseballs had already been hit there earlier in BP. I found this:

71213 Ball 1

I’m glad that I don’t keep track of minor league stats because ballhawking for me at minor league stadiums feels like such a casual thing that I could have made a serious case for counting this ball. Oh, and if you’re wondering, the foresty area is between the walkway that goes behind the outfield wall and the Merrimack River; so the river is what you see in the background of that last picture.

After scavenging a little more, we decided to head back up to the walkway level, since we had no clue which hitters were up. My first solution to this was I found an area to look into the field through a fence just foul of the foul pole:

71213 View into the Stadium

The good news was I could see the hitter perfectly. The bad news was I was completely out of position here to snag any baseballs. The solution we eventually came up with was there were holes at the base of the wall in left-center field, so Mike being more than tall enough to see into the stadium through them, he watched to see if there were any decent lefty hitters in the group. If there weren’t we would go into the foresty area (and yes I realize “foresty” isn’t actually a real word) in left field and hope something would fly over the wall. Nothing did. There was actually another guy down there with his two kids. He said that it was one of, if not THE worst BP he had ever seen. He reiterated several times that baseballs usually start to hit off the walls in bunches, and then baseballs start making their way over the wall and walkway. When there was even one lefty with potential to hit a ball over the wall in the group, though, we headed over to right field because there was actually a grassy area at field level that provided room to run for baseballs. However, my first “real” baseball came when we were headed over to this grass area. We were half-way there when I saw something hit into the foresty area out of the corner of my eye. I knew exactly where it had landed, so I went a couple yards down the hill and picked the ball up. I then looked up at the wall and realized how crazy this baseball had been:

71213 Ball 2

Where the ball had landed meant it had to have traveled through a gap between ads that was less than three feet wide. How about that?

I also managed to snag another hit baseball when we got to the grassy area in right field:

71213 Ball 3

I saw the ball the whole way as it became visible over the top of the wall, and so I ran right behind the spot I thought the ball was going to land–since I figured I had no chance to catch it on the fly through the trees–and fielded it like a ground ball.

I waited for a little while longer, but pretty much right after I got this ball, it was time for Mike and I to head to the gate and get in the stadium. Here was the scene at the main gate from across the street. (Can you find Mike?
 He kind of photo-bombed me in that I was just taking a picture of the scene at the gates and he posed for the picture across the street.)

71213 Where's Mike

After that, we saw something that Mike insisted I include in this entry, and I can only describe as Minor League Baseball at its finest:

71213 Midget Wrestling

If you are in the majority of people who have no clue what’s going on here, the Spinners arranged to have midget wrestling going on outside the gates. Although I will say that it is not even close to the weirdest promotional stunt Mike has ever witnessed at a baseball game. I don’t think I’ll share that one with you, though.

Although we had been *on* the field earlier in the day, it was still nice to see the concourse once we got into the stadium:

71213 Mike on concourse

It is definitely on the higher end for minor league stadiums at that level of play:

71213 LeLacheur concourse

And do you see the pressbox in the background of the right part of the picture? Well there were a couple cool things to be seen on the portion of the concourse that went behind there. The first of which was the former Lowell Spinners who had made it up to the Major Leagues at one point or another. Recognize any names?

71213 Former Spinners

And then there was also a view inside the pressbox from the concourse:

71213 Pressbox

This may not seem particularly exciting, but I love the fact that you can just look in there without having to get a special ticket right behind home plate. (I’m looking at you, MLB stadiums.)

As you can probably tell from these pictures, BP had ended by the time we got into the stadium. So instead of going after baseballs, I nonchalantly got a couple of Spinners players to sign the MiLB baseballs I had snagged outside of the stadium:

71213 Signed Baseballs

Do I have any clue who it was that signed the baseballs? No, none. But you never know, so I thought it would be a good idea to get them just in case.

As for the game, this was the view from my ticketed (complementary) seat:

71213 Actual Seat

But instead I headed up to the cross-aisle (concourse), and went back and forth the whole game playing foul balls. As it seems every time I play foul balls anywhere, my best opportunity came in the first inning when I had foul ball tracked, but it was headed straight at a man. I waited for the ball to deflect off of him, but to my surprise, he caught it on the fly in a hand that had a cast over it.

It was a Friday fireworks game, so there were a ton more people than usual and the concourse was much more clogged than it usually is. As a result of this and Brian Scalabrine doing several odd-jobs throughout the course of the game, I didn’t get a foul ball the whole game. But I did have a great view of the Lowell sunset:

71213 Sunset

And then for the first time in a long time, I actually left the game early. It wasn’t my decision to do so, but I was more than okay with it given the logic behind it. Mike said he should probably head out because we both had to get up the next morning at 5:00, so it was probably a good idea for us to head out and into bed. As we entered the Spinners’ garage, I got a picture of the scoreboard from where we would be entering the next morning:

71213 Scoreboard

I was actually staying at the Radisson with Zack and the rest of his friends he was bringing up from New York at the Radisson, so Mike was nice enough to drive me over there despite me being awful with my iPhone’s GPS from never having used it before and getting us lost a couple times. I’d say we got to the hotel at 10:30 where Mike dropped me off and headed out to get some sleep. Zack and his car of people weren’t getting in until after midnight, but we were thankfully able to get the reservation changed over successfully whilst they were on the road so I was able to check in. I tried to stay awake and greet them, but I unintentionally fell asleep while on the computer and woke up at 5:17 the next morning only to prepare my self immediately to hopefully document a person catching a baseball dropped from 1,000 feet for the first time in the history of humanity.

Upcoming Stuff

Hey there! I realize I haven’t put anything up here for well over a week, and that’s mostly because I essentially took the All-Star break off from writing and things of that nature. However, now that there are baseball games being played once more between regularly-operating MLB teams, I’m back at working to make stuff for you guys. While I am moving directly after writing these sentences to actually producing that content, I made a video to let you know what’s coming up. So I’m going to start work on that *right* now, but be on the lookout for all that I mention in the video in the near future; either on here or on my YouTube Channel, as I plan to have at least the first few of those things coming out in the next few days:

6/26/13 Diamondbacks at Nationals: Nationals Park

This was another very quick game for me insofar as probably the majority of this game that I documented was via vlog and not pictures:

But it was not for lack of excitement that I under-documented the occasion. I mean look who was here at this game:

62613 Fun People

So if you’re new here, that would be myself on the right, but the other people (right to left in terms of heads) would be:

1. Ben Weil- Ballhawk and friend from New York who was visiting for a game, and who I’ve gone to plenty of games with in the past.

2. Matt Winters- I don’t exactly know his story, but we’ve met several times at games through him being a ballhawk/friend of both Ben and Zack. I want to say I heard somewhere along the line that he’s from LA, but that would have been last year in New York, and I can barely remember what I had for breakfast yesterday, so I wouldn’t trust my memory on that.

3. Rick Gold- I think I introduced him in the last entry, but if you weren’t around for that, Rick has snagged nearly 2,000 baseballs as well as 46 game home run balls–15 of which came in one season. I think I’d be content with that total for my lifetime.

As we waited for the gates to open up, it appeared as though our toughest obstacle besides each other was going to maybe be the weather. The clouds looked very ominous, and so I actually had to check if the cages were set up for BP. While it did rain throughout BP, they thankfully never stopped hitting. That didn’t stop me from not getting one hit ball all day, though. And while we’re foreshadowing, let me spoil the surprise for you and say that I didn’t get a “legitimate” ball for the duration of Nationals BP. What I mean is that with me not getting a hit ball all day, the only “toss-up” I got during Nationals BP was a overthrow by Ross Ohlendorf where I had stood behind the girl he was throwing the ball to just in case that exact scenario happened. When I got the ball, I then gave it to the girl he had thrown it to. I don’t have a picture of the ball itself, but here’s a diagram of the scenario to help you to better visualize the scenario–where I also felt the need to point out where Ben is standing in the picture:

62613 Ball 1 Diagram

My second ball came when I got Willie Bloomquist to toss me a ball in the Red Seats:

62613 Ball 2

The great thing about getting toss-ups from position players is they usually shag baseballs before they have to go into hit. So once they go to hit, you can get a ball in the exact same spot from whichever pitcher takes their spot in the outfield. And that’s exactly what happened to me. When Bloomquist went in to hit, I got a ball from Zeke Spruill in the same corner spot of the Red Seats:

62613 Ball 3

A cool ting about this baseball is that when I logged it in mygameballs.com later that night, Spruill did not yet exist in the database. That means that I was the first one on the site to snag a baseball from him, which is always an awesome experience. I’d say I’ve “inaugurated” about five players on the site. And I wish I had more to write about from my time in BP, but that was the third and final ball I would snag during it.

Once the game rolled around I sat in left field and pretty much talked to Ben for the whole game. Well for the portion that he was there for, anyways. In about the third inning he left and said he was going to meet his friend who works for merchandise at Nationals Park, and then didn’t get back to his seat until the 8th inning. Pretty much right after that I headed to the Diamondbacks dugout and got the home plate umpire, Greg Gibson, to toss me a ball:

62613 Ball 4

This was my fourth and final ball of the game. I then met up with Ben and Matt after the game and we headed out of the stadium before going our separate ways. I went on the subway back to my apartment and they went to Ben’s car to head to New York. Again, I wish I had more to write about, but not much more happened.

STATS:

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

62613 Baseballs

  • Numbers 574-577 for my “career”:

62613 Sweet Spots

  • 131 Balls in 32 Games= 4.09 Balls Per Game
  • 4 Balls x 31,172 Fans=124,688 Competition Factor
  • 94 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 164 Balls in 36 Games at Nationals Park= 4.56 Balls Per Game
  • 28 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
  • 12 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
  • Time Spent On Game 3:28-10:02= 6 Hours 34 Minutes

6/25/13 Diamondbacks at Nationals: Nationals Park

So this game was actually pretty simple, and I’m ashamed it took me so long to get this entry out, but the thought of writing was what kept me from even getting started on it. Anyway, here is the view of the field as I got it:

62513 Opening Picture

But before I get started on the snagging portion of the entry, let me tell you what lead up to this point. Because it was the last day that All-Star ballots were being accepted for prizes at Nationals Park (more on that later), I had to carry over 2,000 All-Star ballots with me to the ballpark that I had filled out the previous day:

As a result of that, I moved much more slowly than I normally do and missed a bus and two trains by less than ten seconds on my way to the ballpark. And as a result of that, I got to the gates less than five minutes before they opened. So instead of having a half-hour long conversation with Zack Hample, Rick Gold, and Zack’s mom–who I met at the gates–/take a picture with them to open  up this entry with when I got to the gates, I pretty much had to get to the gates, get my ticket ready to be scanned, and enter. Now I thought I would have to carry my box of 1,500 All-Star ballots for the first hour of batting practice, but a regular of Nationals Park named Art was nice enough to let me leave them with him in the second row of the section closest to the visiting bullpen in left field and watch after them. So although I’m pretty sure you don’t read these, Art, thank you for allowing me to move freely about the ballpark.

Anyway, after getting shutout for the first two groups of Nationals hitters, my first baseball was really a cheapy. So there’s a Nationals usher in right field who is nice and lets me sit in right field even when I don’t have a ticket there. In return I give him baseballs whenever he asks for them to redistribute to kids during the games. Well when he saw me, he told me that he wanted me to catch a ball from Fernando Abad for him. See ushers aren’t technically allowed to get baseballs themselves, but he apparently knew Abad, so he called out to Abad and pointed to me as if to say, “Toss him the ball.” Abad obliged and even though I would give the ball away to this usher after batting practice ended, it was my first ball of the game:

62513 Abad ball

After this group of hitters was done, about 80% of the players/coaches who had been shagging balls in the outfield jogged in, and so I would say there were only 4-5 people in the whole outfield. And because of this, Stephen Strasburg was left manning almost all of right field. I had never gotten him to even acknowledge me, much less toss me a baseball–Strasburg is one of those players who is quick to toss a baseball to a five-year-old–but pretty much doesn’t give you the time of day if your age has two digits–but I just kept asking him nicely for a ball every time he approached the wall. Finally on about the 20th time, he looked up and tossed me a ball. (Probably just to get me to shut up.):

62513 Strasball

And that would be my second and final ball of the day. I believe I missed a home run during Diamondbacks BP, but besides that they just weren’t hitting them wherever I was positioned, and the front row was packed with kids, so toss-ups were really tough to come by.

The most notable thing that happened between this snag and the end of Diamondbacks BP is that at least 1, if not 2 service men took a round of BP in the last group of Diamondbacks hitters:

62513 Army Hitter

As a son of a Vietnam Veteran (but a hater of war because of this fact), I appreciate the gesture by the Diamondbacks/Nationals, but I only wish they would have gotten better hitting servicemen to invite to take BP. These guys (or maybe guy. This took place weeks ago, so it’s not exactly fresh in my memory) I don’t think hit a ball into the outfield on the fly.

When batting practice ended, I headed back to the seats in left field to pick up my box of 1,500 ballots, took them to the table where they can be redeemed:

62513 Ballot Box

And from this got a Michael Morse bobblehead:

62513 Morse bobblehead

A Nationals Rally Towel:

62513 Rally Towel

And a Nationals Prize Pack:

62513 Nats Prize Pack

The prize pack consists of a bobblehead (Ivan Rodriguez), a Nationals t-shirt, a Nationals hat, and a full program. (I feel the need to specify *full* program because the Nationals give away tiny gameday programs every day at the gates for free. I guess that would technically be a program and this things in the prize pack would be a Nationals magazine, but whatever.)

I then spent the first three innings filling out an additional 500 ballots (in addition to the 1,600 I had turned in for the prizes you saw above) and got an Adam Dunn. I should have taken a picture of it, but I didn’t. I guess it was a swing-and-a-miss on my part. *Bad pun that also makes fun of Adam Dunn completed*.

After that, I headed out to right field where this was my view:

62513 View from right field

And here is the reason I didn’t even have my glove on for most of the game:62513 Rick in the seats

If you’re new to this blog or for whatever reason do not know who the man in the A’s hat is, it is the Rick Gold I mentioned earlier in the entry. He has snagged nearly 2,000 baseballs in his life time along with nearly 50 game home run balls. So in addition to him being a much better ballhawk than I, the fact that he had already been in that section for 4 innings by the time I got there made me not want to compete with him directly and possibly cost both of us a ball. The way I was going to play it if a ball did indeed get hit to us is let him get his initial jump and then put my glove on just in case he read the ball incorrectly and I read it correctly. So he would have position, but I would (theoretically) be the mistake prevention back-up. Of course, as is the case when I’m there, nothing got hit within a section of us.

At the end of the game I headed to the dugout, but what came of that was no snagging but rather getting to talk to Zack and his mom (who was celebrating her birthday at the time)/watching Zack get a third-out ball tossed to him from 16 rows up and almost two sections to the right of Martin Prado, who tossed it to him. It was truly amazing how far Prado tossed it to him. I had gone down to the first row to try to get the ball from Prado, but when I couldn’t get his attention and saw his eyes lock on a target way behind me, I knew where the ball was headed. After that, the game ended, we said our goodbyes, and headed our separate ways.

STATS:

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

62513 Baseballs

Numbers 572-573 for my lifetime:

62513 Sweet Spots

  • 127 Balls in 31 Games= 4.10 Balls Per Game
  • 2 Balls x 30,287 Fans=60,574 Competition Factor
  • 93 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 160 Balls in 35 Games at Nationals Park= 4.57 Balls Per Game
  • 27 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
  • 11 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
  • Time Spent On Game 3:26-11:33= 8 Hours 7 Minutes

6/21/13 Rockies at Nationals: Nationals Park

A second day at Nationals Park, but this time with more batting practice:

62113 Opening Picture

Normally I go to straight-away left field for pitcher’s BP, (the first group of hitters) but my neighbor Greg Barasch was here for this game, so I gave him left field and I went to the Red Seats. I actually don’t think either of us got a ball during that first group, but I got one in the second group when a Nationals righty hit a ball to my right. A kid in front of me camped right under it, but the ball bounced off his glove, hit a seat, bounced up into the air, and I caught it:

62113 Ball 1

It was almost the exact same as the second ball I had snagged the day before, but the only difference is the kid was prepared and the guy whose hands it bounced through through the day before didn’t have a glove.

My next ball came when I got Ian Krol to toss me a ball (By pretty much being the only one who knew his name):

62113 Ball 2 Diagram

And as quickly as Krol had tossed me the ball, I gave it away to a kid who had been next to the man in the white shirt, and had been trying to get Gio Gonzalez’s attention from 50 feet away to get him to toss a baseball. (It should be noted that while he did succeed in getting Gonzalez’s attention, he failed to get the ball since Gio was playing catch with a person who was along the right field foul line and we were in center field.)

My third ball of the day came when Craig Stammen fielded a ball near the wall. No one asked for it, but I was pointing at a kid to my right so Stammen could throw him the ball. There was a kid between us, though. I think Stammen thought I was pointing at the kid between us, but I knew he had already gotten a ball–he was actually holding it in his non-glove hand when Stammen released the ball. So when Stammen threw the ball about half-way between myself and this kid, I grabbed the ball:

62113 Ball 3 diagram

I then gave the ball to the kid who I had actually been pointing to (in the orange). I really hope Stammen saw me give the ball away, because otherwise he might think I’m the biggest douchebag in history for pointing him towards a toss-up target only to reach in front of him to get the ball. After this, the most interesting thing I saw during Nationals BP was one woman’s cup trick:

62113 Improv cup trick

Apparently, she had seen Rick Gold using his cup trick last year, and so she figured out a way to make one of her own using a tennis ball container and some sort of putty. And unlike most imitation retrieval devices I’ve seen made by non-ballhawks, it actually worked. She had already reeled in two baseballs by the time I noticed her with it.

When the Rockies started hitting, I once again headed into foul ground, and once again got shutout there. So I headed out to right field after that. There I managed to catch a Todd Helton home run on the fly right about here:

62113 View for ball 4

I then gave the ball away to a girl who had not yet gotten a ball. That marked the third straight ball I had snagged that I gave away. That made it 75% of my baseballs I had snagged this game that I gave away.

Carlos Gonzalez hit the next ball I snagged. I had just ran to my left in pursuit of another home run of his when he hit a ball back to my right. I ran at where I saw it landing, and when it finally did touch down, I scooped it while on the run for my fifth ball of the day. That was it for batting practice. I could have maybe had a couple other Rockies home runs, but bounces didn’t go my way and things of that nature, so my sixth and final ball came when I went to the Rockies bullpen in search of a Rockies commemorative baseball and I got Jerry Weinstein to toss me a baseball:

62113 Ball 6

Actually, though, that’s not fair. This baseball took absolutely no skill on my part. I was actually avoiding asking Weinstein for a ball from distance because he had tossed me one the day prior, but he spotted me in my Rockies gear, waved to me, and tossed me the ball.

This was my view once again for the game:

62113 View for game

My goal was to get a commemorative baseball from Bo McLaughlin at the bullpen after the game, but unfortunately he ignored me for the second straight day. And no one hit any home runs to left field, but trust me, I would have been ready had they done so:

62113 Two Glovez

Believe it or not, I actually had two gloves packed both Rockies games because I knew there were going to be people I knew at the gates, so I didn’t want to play catch with them left handed. It wasn’t until this game that I realized I could wear both gloves during the game. MANY people–upon hearing/realizing that I have both a right-handed and left-handed glove–have suggested to me that I just put a glove on both hands, but the problem with doing this during batting practice is I need a free hand for things such as labeling the baseballs I snag, taking pictures, and taking notes about the baseballs I snag. However, during the game I don’t have to do any of those things. So with the two gloves already in my backpack, I figured, “Why not?” and had them both ready. But for the record, it’s not something I plan to make a habit of.

But anyway, with me not snagging a Rockies commemorative ball, I’ll probably have two more opportunities to snag one when the Rockies visit the Orioles in August. I’m a little nervous, but who doesn’t like a little two-month-long cliffhanger? Oh yeah, everybody. But I guess I also I have no other option besides revisiting Citi Field when the Rockies visit it a few days before that.

STATS:

  • 6 Baseballs at this Game (3 pictured because I gave the other half away)

62113 Baseballs

Numbers 566-571:

62113 Sweet Spots

  • 125 Balls in 30 Games= 4.17 Balls Per Game
  • 6 Balls x 34,917 Fans=209,502 Competition Factor
  • 92 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 158 Balls in 34 Games at Nationals Park= 4.65 Balls Per Game
  • 26 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
  • 10 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
  • 8 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
  • 6 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 4 Balls
  • Time Spent On Game 2:58-11:47= 8 Hours 49 Minutes

6/20/13 Rockies at Nationals: Nationals Park

After over a week off from games and simply doing other cool stuff, it was back to Nationals Park where I met up with some familiar faces:

62013 Opening Picture

Those would be my friends–left to right–Zack Hample and Ben Weil. They drove in from New York pretty much to get a shot at the Rockies baseballs. Well at least Ben did. Zack was almost guaranteed to get a Rockies ball, but he also needed to knock out Nationals Park as he is going to all 30 stadiums as a part of some year-long craziness that BIGS Sunflower Seeds is putting him on.

When it came time for the gates to open, we all rushed inside just to be disappointed:

62013 No BP

What I deduced was that the Nationals had an eleven-inning game in Philadelphia the night prior combined with a bus trip back, so they got back to Washington pretty late and Davey Johnson who is notorious for listening to what the players want to do decided not to take batting practice. So Ben and I just hung out in the left field seats. I don’t know what he was potentially waiting for in this next picture, but we sat down after that:

62013 Ben on staircase

And then talked for 45 minutes or so while we sat and watched more nothingness:

62013 Still no BP

The first action we saw was pretty much an hour after the gates opened when the Rockies simultaneously started hitting and warming up. I could have stayed in the outfield to try to snag a couple home run balls, but I headed here instead:

62013 At the dugout

That’s because some players and coaches (Yorvit Torrealba being the only one in-frame for this picture) were tossing baseballs around at the dugout, but all of them tossed their baseballs into the infield when they were done with them. It was frustrating to me because I figured they would be done before the infielders and outfielders were done warming up in shallow left field, but they actually took longer. And I know this cost me a ball because when he and his throwing partner were done, Jordan Pacheco turned looking for a person to throw his warm-up ball to but then ran into the outfield when he didn’t see anyone. Had I been over there in Nationals gear I probably would have gotten the ball, much less being decked out in purple as I was.

I then headed further down the line where I got Jhoulys (that’s probably wrong) Chacin to toss me a ball. Unfortunately, Chacin tossed it over my head where the ball then deflected at a 90-degree angle. So while I was looking for the ball in the rows below where it had hit, an old man picked the ball up and offered it to me. I told him to keep it, but he insisted I take it. So while I didn’t count it, I walked over to the outfield and gave it to a kid with a glove on my way.

My first actual countable ball came when Nolan Arenado hit a ball to my right in the Red Seats. I ran over, initially thinking the ball was going into the left field bullpen, and caught the ball as a man in a blue shirt–who was tracking the ball the whole time and whose reflection you can kind of see in the next picture–ran into me:

62013 Ball 1

It wasn’t with bad intentions that he ran into me, but to use a basketball analogy since this game was the same day as Game 7 of the NBA Finals, it was an “and-one” situation. He was actually also involved in my next snag. Carlos Gonzalez hit a ball opposite field in that same group, and while it isn’t my custom to reach in front of anyone if I’m not in a row in front of them, this same guy was camped under the ball with no glove, so I went right behind him in case he couldn’t handle the ball on the fly. Surprise alert: He couldn’t. The ball bounced through his hands, hit the seat in front of me, and flew up in the air, where I snatched it up. I then handed it to a kid to my left.

A couple minutes later though, something that has never happened to me ever happened. The kid came back to me and asked me to sign the ball for him:

62013 Signed Ball

It was cool and embarrassing at the same time because I have awful handwriting to begin with, so adding in the curvature of the ball made the signature all the more horrendous. Please don’t enlarge the image to see. (And of course now that I said it, about 50 of you are going to click on the picture and enlarge it.)

My next ball was tossed up to me by this guy:

62013 Ball 3

I initially had no clue who he was, but upon retrospection, I’m pretty sure he is the Rockies strength and conditioning coordinator, Brian Jordan. Anyway, he tried to toss me a ball initially by hitting this advertisement thing:

62013 Ad thingy

and then having the ball roll down the hill in center field. It may sound ridiculous, but look how close he got:

62013 Ball on grass

He then just tossed the next ball he got up to me normally after saying, “I’ll get you a baseball; don’t worry.” So that was nice of him. I then focused my attention on getting a Rockies 20th year commemorative baseball, but it actually cost me a ball as I called out to Jim Wright–who was in the bullpen by one of said baseballs, so I gave up on that pretty quickly. (The way it cost me was I was over by the bullpen and a ball was hit right to where I had been standing beforehand.) But regardless, my next ball wouldn’t come until almost after batting practice was over. Right at the end of batting practice, the Rockies catching coach–a.k.a. the “we have a pretty good hitting catcher prospect but he can’t field at all, so we need a coach just for him” coach–Jerry Weinstein came into the bullpen, so I asked him if he could toss me one of the baseballs that was down there. By the time I had got to him he had already tossed the commemorative up, but he tossed me a regular ball up:

62013 Ball 4

And that was it for the game. I headed to the dugout at the end of batting practice and met up with Zack and Ben there where we found out about a very special food offer at Nationals Park. I then headed out to left field with Ben while Zack went to the dugout for the game itself, where this picture pretty much sums up our first sour innings out in left field:

62013 Ben, ballots, and bobblehead

If it sounds like I’m being uncharacteristically vague, that’s because I am…purposefully. And that’s due to the fact that I included all of these details in my latest vlog, so check that out if you want to fill in the gaps. I actually didn’t include all three of us playing catch before the gates opened, which I should have, but this is something that is going to start happening here. If I cover stuff that happened during or surrounding any given game in the vlog, I won’t write about it here because that just seems redundant. I won’t announce when vlogs come out on here, but if you so desire, you can subscribe to my channel by clicking here or you can follow me on Twitter by clicking over in the sidebar over there —-> to get an update every time I upload a video. Here was the view for Ben and I for pretty much the whole nine innings of the game:

62013 View from Left

But anyway, both Ben and I tried to get a ball from the bullpen people after the game. He did; I didn’t. So he ended with 5 baseballs along with Zack, who had actually been trailing both of us as BP ended with 3 baseballs, but since he started the game out at the dugout, he snagged two third-out balls and lead both of us until Ben got the ball right at the end of the game.

And that was it. I chatted with Ben for a couple of minutes after the game, but then headed out with my step-dad, who had joined Ben and I in the bleachers at the seventh inning stretch. He had been in the stadium the whole game, but because I didn’t know where I would be sitting before I got to the game and both of our cellphones were getting horrible service, it wasn’t until then that we could know where the other was.

STATS:

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

62013 Baseballs

Numbers 562-565:

62013 Sweet Spots

  • 119 Balls in 29 Games= 4.10 Balls Per Game
  • 4 Balls x 31,927 Fans=127,708 Competition Factor
  • 91 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 152 Balls in 33 Games at Nationals Park= 4.61 Balls Per Game
  • 25 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
  • 9 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
  • 7 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
  • 5 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 4 Balls
  • Time Spent On Game 3:28-11:03= 7 Hours 31 Minutes

Blast From the Baseball Past: 8/27/08 Indians at Tigers- Comerica Park

So since I haven’t been going to games so far this week, I figured I would do a “Blast From the Baseball Past” entry for you. Here is that video:

Like I said in the video, the next one will be about a game on that same trip where I took my first trip to PNC Park. But while we’re embedding videos (I won’t normally announce all of the videos I upload on YouTube, but I figured I would do it this time since the whole premise of the entry was a video), here are a couple others that I uploaded yesterday.

The first is my YouTube channel’s “trailer”. So what people will see when they click to go to the channel itself. It’s basically to give them a little more information about myself and the channel:

I personally like it the best of the three I uploaded yesterday, but that’s just me.

And the last video I uploaded yesterday was my first of many vlogs about yesterday itself. You can expect those pretty regularly on the channel. I’m excited to do it, so I hope you can check some of them out over the course of the summer:

And so that’s it for now. If you’ll excuse me, I have to head out to a Nationals game right now.

New Videos

Yes, video*s*. Plural. With me beginning a week-long hiatus from baseball games starting with the game in the entry I published right before this one, so too did I end a streak of about 17 consecutive days. Now I didn’t want to just take those days off, so I made a couple of videos. Well more like one-and-a-half videos.

So this first video is just me explaining what I plan to do with my YouTube channel going forward. I feel as though it’s slightly confusing, so if you have any clarifications you need me to make, leave a comment asking me to clarify whatever it is you need clarifying:

So yeah, I’m going to be making videos much more regularly now. I even plan to make videos while I’m in Spain June 27th-July 8th, but I also don’t know what my internet situation will be over there, so I don’t know if I’ll yet be able to get them out on time, but I’ll try my hardest to do so.

This second video has an intro that kind of explains the rest rest of the footage, but again, if I was unclear on anything, ask me in comment form:

So yeah, there’s that. If you want to go ahead and subscribe to the YouTube channel, click on this sentence, as it is linked to the channel. From here on out, I might mention in a ballhawking entry that I uploaded a new video, but I won’t do entries like this solely to announce that I’ve uploaded a video, so if you subscribe you’ll be notified every time I make a new video. My next game is this upcoming Thursday at Nationals Park when the Nationals take on the Rockies, so expect an entry out within a couple of days of that game. I’ll also be going the day after, and I won’t spoil the surprise yet, but some interesting people will be at both the Thursday and Friday games. Also, just to clarify, there will no longer be the “Before The Gates Opens” videos. I’ll leave the ones that are up there on my channel, but I’ll just include the stuff I would have normally put in those videos in my day-to day vlogs. I think that’s all I have to say here, so again, if you need clarification on anything, leave a comment. But besides that, I’ll see you–but not really–when the next entry comes out in a day or two.

6/11/13 Angels at Orioles: Camden Yards

Welcome to the entry of quite possibly my worst batting practice performance ever. So I’ll try to keep this entry brief and not make something out of nothing.

When I arrived from Alex Kopp‘s house where I had spent the night, there was already a couple people in line, but thanks to cool people I knew like Tim Anderson and Rick Gold being at the front of the line, I also got to be at the front of the line. As a result of me being essentially the first one in the gates, I found two easter eggs in left field, and actually probably should have gotten three or four, but when I got in, a person cleaning in the seats asked me if I wanted to come and get a ball with him in first base foul ground. I probably should have told him no, but I figured that if I could get an extra baseball out of it, my journey would be worth it. 

Well when we got over there, someone had already gotten the baseball and I saw ballhawks pick up two easter eggs in the time that I stopped and talked to this guy that I probably would have otherwise had. But anyway, when I had my two baseballs to start the day, I was thinking about big numbers for this game. I would then go on to not snag a ball fro the rest of batting practice–hence the lack of pictures from this game. It didn’t look like it was going to be that tough a day either. This was the view of the seats in left field when I got back after making the journey for the potential third easter egg, which besides having Alex and Tim in it, didn’t look that bad:

61113 View to my left

And it wasn’t just me either. Between myself, Alex, Tim, and Rick, we combined for a total of two hit baseballs snagged during BP and no toss-ups. It was just for whatever reason a tough BP. I almost got a ball from Dane De La Rosa, but when he asked me if I had already gotten a ball that day, I replied honestly and said yes. He then kept looking for someone to give the ball to before tossing it back into the ball bucket in center field. I’m thinking I should have replied with a clever response that reflected the fact that I still hadn’t gotten a ball during BP yet, but his question caught me so off-guard that I couldn’t think of anything besides just telling him what he wanted to hear.

After batting practice, I saw a ball inside of where the grounds crew stays during the games, below the right-center field seats, so I camped out there hoping to ask whoever entered there first for the ball. I didn’t take a picture in my time there, but I found out that someone else did while exploring the hashtag “opacy” on Instagram, so here I am waiting right above the spot where the ball was for someone to retrieve it:

61113 Me waiting for ball

I waited there for a solid half-hour as the grounds crew people were just starting to fix up the field post-batting practice when I got there. I watched and got ready every time a groundskeeper crossed in front of me on the warning track, bu none ever actually went inside the gate. Then, a couple people who I didn’t recognize as members of the grounds crew passed by me and into the gate. I was so surprised that they would be entering the area that I didn’t even ask them to go get the ball. What I did do was sit on the edge of my seat and be prepared for when one of them would come back out. When one of the guys came back out, I immediately saw that he had the ball in his hand and asked him before anyone else could get to him. He then tossed it to me for my third and final ball of the day:

61113 Ball 3

I would then give that ball away to an usher at the top of the section and instructed him to give it away to the first kid with a glove he saw. I like to do this because it’s a win-win for myself and the usher. I get to show the usher that I am human and like to see kids go home happy with a baseball, and it lets the usher look like the hero for being the one to give the baseball to the kid and see his/her face light up when he/she gets the ball.

And that was it. I wouldn’t snag another ball for the rest of the game. I would sit out in the flag court pretty much the whole game with Alex and Tim–who managed to get a Mike Trout home run ball tossed up to him–but nothing would be hit up there.

STATS:

  • 3 Baseballs at this Game

61113 Baseballs

Numbers 559-561 for my career:

61113 Sweet Spots

  • 115 Balls in 28 Games= 4.11 Balls Per Game
  • 3 Ball x 22,834 Fans=68,502 Competition Factor
  • 90 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 50 Balls in 13 Games at OPACY= 3.85 Balls Per Game
  • 13 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
  • Time Spent On Game 4:08-10:39= 6 Hours 31 Minute
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