Results tagged ‘ angels ’

My Favorite MLB Teams

While I’ve always kind of known which teams I like and which I don’t–although even those have changed throughout the years–I truly have never ranked the teams 1-30 as to which I like better than others. So that’s what I’m going to do right now. (Disclaimer: This is a list of how I order the teams in the offseason of 2013-14. While most of my decision in where to put a team in the rankings is based off of the franchise itself, some of it is based on who is on the team right now, so these rankings are subject to change over time.)

1. Minnesota Twins-

My story with the Twins is that I grew up a Yankees fan being from New York, but being that I look at things from a GM’s perspective, I thought that being Brian Cashman and having a $200-million payroll would be a pretty boring job creatively since he could essentially buy any player he wanted to. In thinking this, I thought of a team who had success but doing so with a reduced payroll that required teams to build their team in an innovative way on a much smaller budget. Being as it was the mid-2000s, the Twins was a natural choice seeing as they were a constant playoff team with one of the lowest budgets in baseball. Now don’t get me wrong; there’s a different challenge in being the GM of the Yankees: you’re never allowed to take a year off having success to rebuild your core/farm system, but I was entranced by the building of a successful major league team from a solid minor league core.

2. Washington Nationals-

In going to a ton of games at Nationals Park in 2011 I fell in love with the core of players that went 80-81 as well as the people who inhabited it. Ever since then, I have been a really big fan of the players that made up the core of the teams in the next two years. And because of me falling in love with the Nationals Park environment for whatever reason as well as the people who made it such a special place, I became a fan of the franchise as a whole.

3. Tampa Bay Rays-

Much like the Twins, the Rays endeared themselves to me by being a team that built their team intelligently–allowing them to achieve repeated success on a payroll that can’t compare to that of a larger market team.

4. San Francisco Giants-

The Giants is an interesting case because it started as simply a liking of a specific player: Tim Lincecum. However, as I kept up with Lincecum more and more as he began to turn from the Washington kid who could pitch insanely fast for his size to a household name, I grew to have a liking fro the other players on the Giants as well. I think having shared a hotel with the players in Milwaukee and having a mini-conversation with a couple of them as well as having a personal memory of what Brian Wilson was like pre-beard may have contributed to this connection to the team, though.

5. Texas Rangers-

I truly have no idea how the Rangers managed to climb my list so high. I used to not really be a fan of them in their team with the two Rodriguezes, but as they turned towards a team that relied more on pitching *in addition to* the offense the Rangers always seemed to have, I really liked the teams that they constructed around 2009-10.

6. New York Yankees-

While they have fallen down my list and I hate the franchise past the team itself, they still are my childhood team that I can’t help to root for.

7. Philadelphia Phillies-

While it was not the beginning of my fandom of them, this certainly sealed it for me. They’d be higher on the list for me, but Phillies fans.

8. Toronto Blue Jays-

Part of me always sympathized with our neighbors to the north. Even when the Expos were still a team, I liked the Blue Jays a lot and always secretly as a Yankee fan hoped they would surge up and break the norm of the AL East standings for a while in the early 2000s–which was:

1. Yankees

2. Red Sox

3. Blue Jays

4. Orioles

5. Devil Rays

I just really always wanted them to have success, and this translated to a fandom of the team when they played teams that weren’t my top-of-the-line favorite teams.

9. Milwaukee Brewers-

My liking of the Brewers began in around 2008 when CC Sabathia joined the team for half a season and did amazing with being in attendance for what should have been a no-hitter, (I might write about this/do a video for a “Blast From the Baseball Past” entry) but then I just had a fandom for the Fielder and Braun teams. My fandom for the team, though, has lessened the past couple of years for obvious reasons regarding one or more of the aforementioned players.

10. Oakland Athletics-

(See Tampa Rays.)

11. Cincinnati Reds-

I think this is kind of a fusion of many of the various teams I have talked about to this point. So in part it’s like the Rays where I liked that a solid major league team was built from the pooling of major league talent, but it is also a lot like the Giants since I really like Joey Votto as a player.

12. Atlanta Braves-

I think this is Nationals-esque in that I loved Turner Field and its atmosphere. I also liked the core and became much more of a fan because of people I have met that are passionate about the Braves. And I can say that the fact that Julio Teheran plays for them doesn’t hurt them at all.

13. Arizona Diamondbacks-

This is one of the teams that I honestly don’t know why I like more than most teams. I’ve just always liked Diamondbacks teams (after the 2001 season, that is.) Yeah, I don’t know.

14. Seattle Mariners-

This has been mostly the product of running into very nice baseball people who are fans of the Mariners. I’m also a fan of how good of a pitching team they have been despite being offensively anemic the past seasons.

15. Baltimore Orioles-

Similarly to the Mariners, I just know a ton of awesome baseball people that are Orioles fans. In addition to that, their stadium is my favorite in baseball. I would say that really the only reason they’re this far down the list is that some Orioles fans became obnoxious as they began to climb out of the AL East cellar.

16. Detroit Tigers-

I know that I’m supposed to hate the Tigers as a Twins fan, but the fact that we beat them in the game 163 we played them helps and I always admired the teams that had success more than most of the teams I am supposed to dislike.

17. Pittsburgh Pirater-

I can pretty safely say that if I weren’t a ballhawk, this team would be lower on the list, but because of the big ballhawk following in Pittsburgh, I have kept up and liked the Pirates and it was incredibly fun watching them have success for the first time in over two decades last season.

18. Miami Marlins-

Ah the Marlins. Those poor souls. I always had an affinity for them especially teams with the 30+ homer infields of Uggla, Ramirez, Cantu, and Jacobs. That said, Jeffrey Loria has made this a team that I can’t root for over half of the other teams. They remain a team that I’m intrigued by and want to root for, and they would skyrocket up this list if Loria ever sold them and kept them in Miami, but right now they’re just not a team I can really get behind.

19. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim-

I don’t know about this team. I want to like them in many respects, but they lost me when they started spending a bajillion dollars on free agents, trading for Vernon Wells, and then having success with not with their big free agent acquisitions but with the farm talent they had beforehand.

20. Colorado Rockies-

The Rockies are one of those teams I have a preference towards, but still in a kind of “eh” way. I’ve never disliked them really, but I’ve never really had any passion behind my support of them.

21. San Diego Padres-

I used to like them a lot more in the Trevor Hoffman era, but they’ve dropped a bit since then  not necessarily because their lack of success but the players behind these teams. They just haven’t been groups of guys that I’d like to get behind.

22. Cleveland Indians-

Again, never disliked them but never really liked them.

23. Houston Astros-

I actually like the group of people in this team and could see myself liking a lot in the years to come. That said, they have made some pretty bad decisions in the past and it was not a shock that they were as bad of a team as they have been.

24. Kansas City Royals-

I actually like this franchise in terms of their ballpark and look, but then there are the people behind the scenes that ruin this team for me. At the ballpark, I have not heard many positive things about their ushers, and behind the franchise, I disagree on many things with the GM of the team, Dayton Moore. I think that the team could have been competing a long time ago had it not been for his guidance.

25. St. Louis Cardinals-

The main reason for them being this far down the list is the fact that their fans claim incorrectly that they are definitely the “best fans in baseball.” While I don’t think there is a no-doubt group of the best fans in baseball, if my experience with Cardinals fans in baseball has taught me anything, it is that while the Cardinals fan base may be in the top-10, they are definitely not the no-doubt best fans in baseball they claim to be.

26. Chicago White Sox-

I was a fan of the 2005 Astros and 2008 Twins. Enough said.

27. New York Mets-

They’re the Mets. I don’t know how many things I have admired about the Mets the past five years. If it’s any indication, the rendition of “Meet the Mets” that I have adopted begins:

Beat the Mets,

Beat the Mets,

Step right up and,

Sweep the Mets

28. Los Angeles Dodgers-

While I have kind of liked the players on the Dodgers for stretches, their recent acquisition by the Kasten-Johnson group and metamorphosis into baseball’s new Yankees has really turned me off to them. I have disliked them sans Vin Scully for a much longer time than just that, but that’s the most recent thing that provides a rational reason for disliking them.

29. Chicago Cubs-

I have never had any appeal to the Cubs, and I’m not particularly found of how Cubs fans overreact to prospects as well as how in-your-face Cubs fans I have interacted with have been about the most minor successes. Granted, it’s a conditioning that has come with being the fan of a team who last won a World Series when one’s great-grandparents were your age.

30. Boston Red Sox-

This is partially because I grew up a fan of the Yankees, but I also do like their stadium and the atmosphere of it. However, I can’t get over the attitude of their owner John Henry that many fans have adopted without realizing the absurdity of it of that the Yankees have a ridiculous advantage in terms of having a humongous payroll. The reason this argument infuriates me is because for the longest time, there was a gigantic gap in payroll between the Red Sox and the third largest payroll. Thus it was the rich crying poor in order to gain sympathy. The second reason is because the Steinbrenner family is actually a middle-of-the-pack ownership group in terms of wealth. The reason they invest so much money into the team is because they value winning. Therefore, if John Henry truly wanted to win, he could spend the extra money and win. The problem is that if he didn’t win with this extra money invested, he would be losing money. However, George Steinbrenner was taking the same risk when he invested his extra money; it was just that Steinbrenner’s Yankees did win every season and could thus keep spending. So what Henry did by calling out Steinbrenner and the Yankees was criticized him/them for doing what he didn’t have the guts to do with the Red Sox in order to give his fans the winning such a great fan base deserved. However, being the fans that they were, many Red Sox fans backed their owner without truly understanding what was behind these claims.

So those were my favorite teams. I am by no means “right” in any of my judgements. Picking a favorite team–or in my case *teams*–is something of complete subjectivity and can be done for any number of reasons. Also, the next entry is me making a new Observing Baseball Logo. I would actually like to make a clarification. So it’s actually not the logo itself–this:

Just Logo

But it would actually be me remaking the icon itself, which is this:

Icon 5

But besides that, keep voting for your favorite entries. I should mention that I’ll be doing various entries for Twinsfest, but you can vote for the stuff you want to see besides this on the poll below:

9/9/13 Angels at Twins: Target Field

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

9913 Opening Picture

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

9913 Target Plaza

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

9913 Ball 1

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

9913 View of left

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

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

9913 Ball 2 Girl

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

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

9913 Ball 4

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

9913 Ball 5 Boy

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

9913 Boshers

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

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

9913 Paul and Matt

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

9913 Pitchers

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

9913 LF crowd

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

9913 Ground-Rule Double

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

9913 700

And then we got a parting picture together:

9913 Friends

What a day.

STATS:

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

9913 Baseballs

Numbers 694-700 for my “career”:

9913 Sweet Spots

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

8/14/13 Angels at Yankees: Yankee Stadium

There was one goal for me on this day: Get 4 baseballs. It was my third and final game at Yankee Stadium in 2013, and I was sitting at 96 career baseballs at Yankee Stadium. I think I’m only one of five ballhawks to have gotten 100 baseballs at three different stadium–of which I am *BY FAR* the worst of, and I think I would be one of only 3 to have it at four or more stadiums, but I’m not sure. I just wanted to get 100 at Yankee Stadium, and like Citi Field, not ever *have* to come back to it again. And for my journey to 100, Andy Bingham thankfully showed up at the gates and offered to help document my quest for me. And so here he is one he took of Chris Hernandez and I talking at Gate 6:

81413 Opening Picture

And then of me getting my ticket scanned:

81413 Ticket Scan

And then because I was so far ahead of both of them, a picture of Chris running into the the stands:

81413 Chris Running

When I got in there were already people in the right field seats, but somehow all ten or so of them missed an easter egg in the last row, and I made sure to scoop it up:

81413 Ball 1

Chris’ lateness also might have helped him, because he took a while through the seats as well and found an easter egg of his own by the foul pole. And when Andy got to the seats, this was my happy reaction to already having one baseball on the day:

81413 One

My next ball of the day came when A-Rod, who I coming into this series I completely forgot was still in baseball, hit a ball that didn’t look like it was going to clear the wall near the bullpen, but I kind of jogged in the direction of it just in case. Then, when the did hit the warning track dirt, that jogged turned into a sprint, and I had my second ball of the day:

81413 Ball 2

I then turned and asked the kid in the front row if he wanted the ball. When he said, “Sure” normally I would have just tossed it to him, but Andy told me to go and hand it to him for the picture you are about to see:

81413 Ball 2 Give away

And so while I took my spot at the back of the section:

81413 Back of the section

Chris was towards the beginning of what was a pretty boring day for him in terms of hit baseballs:

81413 Chris Sun

Not that the rest of my time in the right field seats was particularly productive. I had a couple near misses, but no other baseballs. First there was this baseball that I had judged, but was a going to land two rows behind me:

81413 Miss 1

An then this ball that you can see being picked up by another guy:

81413 Miss 2

Then the group changed and both Chris and I–seen by us both having our backpacks on–were ready to head out to left field:

81413 Mateo and Chris

And in a move of friendly competition, when Chris ran to his left towards a ball that was hit that way, I didn’t even go after the ball and instead bolted to left field in order to secure my spot out there:

81413 LF

My third ball of the day was almost a mirror image of my second in that it was another ground rule double right up against the bullpen that I jogged after but then sprinted for once I realized it was going over:

81413 Getting Ball 3

(The “mirror” part being that it was on the other side of the field.)

81413 Ball 3

That was ball 3 for me, meaning the next one would be 100 for me at Yankee Stadium. So while I went into foul ground when the Angels started throwing, there was a huge chunk of me that hoped I didn’t get a ball down there, because I wanted to get a hit baseball. That said, I’m not good enough to have the luxury of getting a specific baseball the way I want it, so I mostly just wanted to not get shutout the rest of the game.

So when the aforementioned huge chunk of me was pleased by me not getting a baseball in foul ground and I headed back to left field:

81413 To the left

It looked like 100 was going to have to be hit. (Side note: Do you notice the man in blue with a glove about four rows below me in that last picture? That’s Erik. He was actually at and commented on the first ever game I wrote about on this blog. Side, side note: If you do click that second link, please excuse my bad writing.)And it was. Mike Trout crushed a ball to my right, and while I knew I wasn’t going to be able to catch the ball on the fly, my hope was if I chased after it, the ball could maybe deflect back to me. It didn’t exactly. Instead it popped up off a seat and I out jumped Erik for the ball that was now literally up in the air:

81413 Ball 4 Happening

Yay! Number 100. And from Mike Trout? Perfect. To celebrate, I went back to my bag, put 100 in a special pocket, and gave the second ground-rule double away to a kid in a Teixiera jersey that you can see in this next picture of me talking to a woman for about something I don’t recall:

81413 Kid of Ball 3

My next ball was also one I robbed ballhawks friends of. See Chris was over to my left for most of the time we were in left field:

81413 Chris to my left

(His expression says everything about how his day was going to that point. He had snagged two baseballs relatively early in BP, but he wasn’t getting much action.) But as the people who didn’t have tickets for left field got kicked out, Chris first talked a little:

81413 Chris and Mateo

But then he went  off to my right to get more space:

81413 Chirs on right

So when Mark Trumbo hit a baseball about two sections to my right, I figured either Chris or Erik would have it, but when the ball took a bounce off a seat away from both of them, I was able to make up the section-long headstart they got on me and get the ball:

81413 Ball 5

Since they had been so much closer to the ball than I had been when it was hit, when I got it, Chris uttered a sentence–in a friendly way (as you can see from him smiling in that last picture)– that I won’t re-write here on the blog.

My sixth ball of the day came as a result of another Mark Trumbo homer that Chris almost definitely would have gotten had I not been there. Trumbo bombed a ball to the back of the LF seats. I came from the right of the ball, and Chris from the left (if you were looking from the field), and we both jumped and came up short. But the ball hit off the wall, and then hit me. I was in pain from the ball hitting me, but I looked down on the ground, saw the ball, and picked it up:

81413 Ball 6

And then I tried to get a ball from Mike Harkey:

81413 Harkey Ball

And then for the game I stayed out in left field. For the game, I headed out to my seat in left field and tried for a home run. But then at about the eighth inning, I got someone’s ticket and sat by the dugout. My main goal was to get an umpire ball at the end of the game, but that wasn’t going to stop me from going for a third-out ball. So when Chris Nelson jogged in from the field, I yelled his name and he threw me this:

81413 Ball 7

That was my seventh and final ball of the day.

STATS:

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

81413 Baseballs

Numbers 636-642 for my lifetime:

81413 Sweet Spots

  • 196 Balls in 46 Games= 4.26 Balls Per Game
  • 7 Balls x 38,379 Fans=268,653 Competition Factor
  • 108 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 13 straight Games with 2 Balls
  • 10 straight Games with 3 Balls
  • 2 straight Games with 4-5 Balls
  • 103 Balls in 27 Games at Yankee Stadium= 3.81 Balls Per Game
  • 27 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Yankee Stadium
  • 14 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Yankee Stadium
  • Time Spent On Game 3:30-11:21= 8 Hours 20 Minutes

8/13/13 Angels at Yankees: Yankee Stadium

Again at Yankee Stadium, and look who I ran into:

81313 Opening Picture

This would be Greg Barasch, my former neighbor from when I lived in New York. And because he averages eight balls a game despite being in New York, I knew it was going to be a tougher-than-normal day at Yankee Stadium. But then again, I knew that in about a month, I would be at Target Field with very little or no competition most days, so I knew that in the end, being forced to another level just trying to get a couple of baseballs, it would only help me for when I had no competition in terms of being able to fully appreciate it.

And in at least the first few minutes, I was actually doing better than the competition I was facing–which is rare. I first went to the Yankees bullpen, where Hiroki Kuroda was going through the bullpen and tossing the balls that were in there back on the field. But when he was picking up the ball closest to me, I asked him in Japanese for the ball, he laughed, and tossed me the ball over the netting that separates the bullpen from the seats I was in:

81313 Ball 1

And then it was back to my spot with Greg in front of me:

81313 Greg In Front

Normally I would think this would be an awful spot…and at the time it was, and I did in the moment–especially when he caught a home run that I would have otherwise gotten–but I then got two Lyle Overbay home runs within a matter of seconds. First over here:

81313 Ball 2 Diagram

And then with the first ball still in hand, I got the second one–off a bounce off of the Modell’s advertisement–over here:

81313 Ball 3 Diagram

So I was on the board with three baseballs in a matter of minutes. So when Ichiro’s group came up, I figured I had milked this section for all it was worth and headed into the second deck in right field. But I didn’t get anything; instead I just watched as Greg moved to my spot and snagged two baseballs there.

I then headed over to left field, where this was my spot/view:

81313 View from LF

And look who I saw out there:

81313 Rick Crowe

That would be Rick Crowe. He’s a Chicago-based ballhawk who I first met back in 2011 when I was at my first game at US Cellular during my 2011 tour of Midwest colleges. He can usually be found in the seats of US Cellular Field for batting practice, but his practice at least back in 2011 was to lave after BP to go home and have dinner with his family. And while I don’t like people having no reason to leave before the game starts leaving before the game starts, having a family to have to go back to is a valid reason to do so for me.

Anyway, we planned to meet later in at his seat above the batter’s eye before the national anthem, but when I got there, the section I would have had to go to get to his seat was closed for a private event. Oh well; I’m sure I’ll run into him again down the line.

My next ball would come from the spot I took the picture of Rick from. Mark Trumbo blasted a ball into the left field bleachers, but the person who was under the ball ended up bobbling it:

81313 Ball 4 Diagram

And so the ball went into the tunnel that was behind me, where I picked it up. I then asked a kid who had run behind me if he had gotten a ball, and when he said no, I gave him the ball. That was my last ball for BP.

As for the game, this was my view of it:

81313 View of Game

And what a painfully slow game it was. I forgot which one it was, but one half-inning took 45 minutes as Mike Scioscia must have made 4 pitching changes. That, and because there was a call Scioscia believed had gone against him, (and despite the fact that I still haven’t seen the replay of it, from what I saw during the game, I agree with him.) Scioscia did something I have never seen a manager do and instead of signaling for the pitcher from the bullpen right away, he made it like a visit to the mound and made the home plate umpire, David Rackley walk out to the mound before he called for the pitcher he was going to bring in. Anyway, due to the painful slowness of the game’s pace, we were almost an hour behind normal game schedule. So when there was a rain delay:

81313 Rain Delay

Greg and I both expected not many  people to come back to the seats. But when we went back into the seats, it was a truly ludicrous scene. First, the players were warming up while the tarp was being put away, which I’ve never seen:

81313 Players and Tarp

But then there was also an insanely low amount of people that were present. Greg and I were both shocked how few Yankee fans emerged from what was probably the shortest during-game rain delay I had seen, and maybe Greg had seen. (It had only lasted a little over fifteen minutes.):

81313 Where da People

I mean, look at this panorama of the seats after the rain delay. (Click to enlarge, silly):

81313 Panorama

When the game eventually ended after 11:00, Greg and I took advantage of this fact, and yelled in unison at home plate umpire David Rackley. He was headed into the umpire tunnel with his head down, but after our “1,2,3…MR.RACKLEY!” he looked up and tossed us both a baseball. It was quite a beautiful moment of ballhawk teamwork:

81313 Umpire Balls

And after that, we headed out, and I took a picture of the surprisingly-full Great Hall post-game:

81313 Great Hall

And with that, I headed back to the place I was staying just to come back and do it the next day.

STATS:

  • 5 Balls at this game (4 pictured because I gave 1 away)

81313 Baseballs

Numbers 631-635 for my “career”:

81313 Sweet Spots

  • 189 Balls in 45 Games= 4.20 Balls Per Game
  • 5 Balls x 35,013 Fans=175,065 Competition Factor
  • 107 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 12 straight Games with 2 Balls
  • 9 straight Games with 3 Balls
  • 96 Balls in 26 Games at Yankee Stadium= 3.69 Balls Per Game
  • 26 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Yankee Stadium
  • 13 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Yankee Stadium
  • Time Spent On Game 3:24-11:44= 8 Hours 20 Minutes

8/12/13 Angels at Yankees: Yankee Stadium

After taking an almost year-long hiatus (the last time I was here before this game was 8/15/12), I was back at Yankee Stadium for a three game series against the Angels:

81213 Opening Picture

And for the first time ever at Yankee Stadium, I had a person to take pictures of/for me during BP. It wasn’t intentional, though. As I waited in line as the first person in line, a man started waiting in line next to me. And after about a minute, he asked, “Are you one of Zack’s boys? I assumed so because you’re here standing in line so early.” It turns out this was Andy Bingham. (Who also has an picture-based MLBlog that you should check out. The link to it is on his name.) Anyway, he told me he has taken pictures of Zack Hample in the past for his blog, so he offered to do the same for me and this blog entry that you’re about to read.

However, right as I got in, I was glad that Andy wasn’t around to take pictures, because some Yankee hit a home run as I was checking for easter eggs, and so I turned towards the field, and then I jumped for the ball, but it tipped off of my glove, hit a seat behind me, and bounced back to the front row of the section, where one of the only other two kids in the section picked it up. A ball then got hit into the bleachers. Everyone else on the field level went back toards the field and snagging looking for future home runs, but I stuck around the bleachers, waited for the usher up there to retrieve it, and asked him for the ball:

81213 Ball 1

I then tried to get a couple Yankees to toss me the baseballs that had gone into the bullpen:
81213 Bullpen Scavenging

But then I headed over to left for the second group of Yankees that I saw hit. Within seconds of me getting there, some Yankees righty hit a ball to my left. So I drifted over to the spot where the ball was headed, and caught the ball on the fly:

81213 Ball 2

It was so soon after I got there that Andy, who was trailing me in the tunnel didn’t get there until I had put the ball back away in my backpack. Although, I pulled it back out for him to take a picture when he got there:

81213 Ball 2 Andy

I will have to say that the catch stung a little. That was because earlier in the day, before I even got to the stadium, I had run down a foresty hill to get to the  train that took me to the stadium. And since everything on said hill wasn’t exactly stable, I fell down and cut my hand on a rock. So when I told Andy about it, he took a picture of my hand slit:

81213 Hand Cut

So yeah, while I was excited to catch the ball, I would have maybe passed up catching ten baseballs on the fly that day. Thankfully, it would be last hit ball of the day. I then headed over into foul ground to try to get a ball from the Angels players who were throwing:

81213 Foul Ground

And interestingly enough, I ran into some fans I had seen the week prior at Nationals Park in the Red Seats:

81213 Other Fans

It’s funny because we had talked for a while; myself, Dave Butler, and the father of the family, so to see him/them at a game in a different state within the span of a week was funny. But as far as the snagging down the line was concerned, there was none. I tried to get players’ attention:

81213 Getting Players attention

but to no avail. And I’m not complaining; that’s just how it is some games, and this happened to be one of those games. It was then that Andy had to meet some Yankees representative for something or other. So that would be the last I saw of him that game.

Meanwhile, I saw that Josh Hamilton was crushing baseballs into the bleachers in right field, so I went up there:

81213 From Bleachers

But by that time, the only home run he hit into the bleachers was actually one that went way over my head. I didn’t take a picture (I should have), but if you’ve ever been to or seen Yankee Stadium, the ball almost cleared the bleachers and went into the concourse/walkway behind them.

My next ball came up in the bleachers, though, when a player I later identified as Nick Mardone fielded a ball in front of the Yankee bullpen and saw my Angels gear, he lofted a ball over the screen in front of the bullpen to me:

81213 Ball 3

Well he actually lofted the ball over me, but I managed to scurry over and get it before anyone else could. That would be my third and final ball of BP. After BP I went to the ticket my “guest” for the game treated me to. And by “guest” I mean I told my former religious studies teacher I was in town and asked him if he wanted to catch a game while I was there. He then said yes and bought me a ticket for section 130. If you’ve never been to Yankee Stadium, this was the view from our seats:

81213 View From Seats

I didn’t take a picture of him because I am always nervous about people being okay with their pictures being taken. I almost never initiate a picture of a person I’m meeting for the first time, so if you ever meet me, let me know if you want me to take a picture of/with you for this blog, because I probably won’t otherwise. I also saw Ricardo Marquez in the stands, but we didn’t talk much because I was hosting my guest, and I really wasn’t going to abandon him to talk to even a former MLB Fan Cave Dweller.Besides that, it was just a beautiful day at Yankee Stadium:

81213 Beatiful Day

And a fun day too. (By the way, Trout’s New Jersey following can be seen in the left field bleachers. They’re the sea of red you can see out there.)

STATS:

  • 3 Balls at this Game:

81213 Baseballs

Numbers 628-630 for my life:
81213 Sweet Spots

  • 184 Balls in 44 Games= 4.18 Balls Per Game
  • 3 Balls x 37,146 Fans=111,438 Competition Factor
  • 106 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 11 straight Games with 2 Balls
  • 8 straight Games with 3 Balls
  • 91 Balls in 25 Games at Yankee Stadium= 3.64 Balls Per Game
  • 25 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Yankee Stadium
  • 12 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Yankee Stadium
  • Time Spent On Game 3:13-10:56= 7 Hours 43 Minutes

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

6/10/13 Angels at Orioles: Camden Yards

Seeing how all I saw was rain in the forecast and didn’t know where I would be staying for the night the morning of this game, I seriously contemplated just not going to this game. And despite the good times that were had as a result of going to this game, the frustration that came out of it kind of still has me wishing I wouldn’t have gone.

When I got to Oriole Park at Camden Yards, this was the scene on the field:

61013 It's a tarp

But it actually wasn’t surprising at all. I had come from Washington that morning, and in walking from the train station in Baltimore to OPACY, it felt like I was in a monsoon. I really couldn’t believe how hard it was raining. It was actually raining so hard that some streets had turned into two-foot-deep rivers. It was seriously crazy. Even crazier was that it pretty much completely stopped right when I thought what I was doing by walking to the ballpark through this was insane and entered a 7-Eleven. I was left absolutely drenched, so I assume so too was the field. As I got in, though, there were a few Angels warming up  down the left field line, so when I got over there, I asked who I believe was Hank Conger for the ball, and he asked me who my favorite player on the Angels was. I thought it was one of those situations where I was supposed to say it was him, but with my uncertainty at the time that it was Conger at the time, I responded with, “You, of course.” But when he asked, “Trout?” I realized that it was because a bunch of people were coming down from New Jersey to watch Mike Trout play, and that Conger was legitimately asking. So as he tossed me the ball, I gave him my legitimate answer that Ernesto Frieri was my favorite Angel:

61013 Ball 1

You can kind of see Conger behind the Orioles grounds crew, but he was jogging off as he tossed me the ball. I then got Ryan Madson’s autograph and tried to help Avi Miller get Ernesto Frieri to toss us a baseball/take a picture with him and another friend/OPACY regular, Zevi. But in the time that Frieri was throwing, I stood back and tried to get a ball form one of the new Angels throwing pairs:

61013 New pairs

I think I could have, but C.J. Wilson apparently melts in the rain and ran inside the clubhouse every time it even started drizzling, so his catch session with Ernesto Frieri took forever, and he actually played catch with a couple of kids in the front row. I’ll upload the footage to YouTube if enough of you guys want to see it, but I really don’t feel like doing it otherwise. He also tossed about seven baseballs into the stands during this catch session–which I found really nice. Unfortunately, I was pretty far away from him at most times, so none of them came my way.

Tommy Hanson came out to play catch with Steve Soliz after all of these guys finished their catch sessions. I was waving my arms to get his attention from about fifteen rows deep, since there were a ton of fans in the first two rows. And when Hanson was done throwing, he tossed me the ball from about thirty feet away:

61013 Ball 2

He then motioned for me to toss the ball back to him. I couldn’t tell if he was serious, so I started to pull the ball out of my glove, but this was also my lefty glove. That and the fact that he was quite a ways away at that point made me very hesitant to throw the ball back to him. I was much more likely to hit the back of the head of one of the fans in the front row than I was to get the ball back to Hanson himself. Thankfully, he showed that he was joking and waved me off, so I kept the ball.

And when I say the front rows were packed, I actually do mean they were packed. Here’s a picture I took pretty much right after I got the ball from Hanson when I walked into the outfield:

61013 Crowd

Seeing that, I’m really surprised I got the ball from Hanson. But the reason I was headed towards the outfield is that  I had seen a giant group of people sitting in the outfield ever since the seating bowl opened up to the public and wanted to get a picture of them:

61013 Trout People

I never confirmed this, but given the fact that they went right to their seats, the high percentage of Angels shirts amongst the group, and the even higher percentage of those shirts that had a 27 on the back of them, I’d say this was a large group of people who made the trip from Melville New Jersey in order to see their hometown hero, Mike Trout play in this series.

Anyway, nothing else happened during the game except for me finding this random Nationals program in the seats:

61013 Front and Center

(Daheck?) This was on my way to the flag court where I would spend the first five innings of the game. But past the point that I saw this program, there was only one word to describe my day: frustration. I was out in the flag court with Alex Kopp, whose house I would be staying at for this trip to Baltimore. In the third inning, we were sitting in the wheelchair section just to the center field side of the flag court, talking about something, when Mike Trout hit a high fly ball to right field. We were slow to react since we were both sitting down talking to each other. In fact, it wasn’t until a little into when the camera cuts to the flag court in the video that you can even see Alex moving, and I was even slower to start moving because I didn’t think the ball was going to be a home run. But then the ball just kept carrying and carrying. Alex went straight at where the ball was landing, but knowing it was my only shot, I headed out onto Eutaw Street in case the ball bounced out there. Turns out I would/should have, but it caught one of the fences between the flag court and Eutaw, so it stopped right there. That was it for my shot. Alex meanwhile, was blocked by a person, so he couldn’t reach down to pick the ball up and a kid got it. It was frustrating because I knew from watching him in previous batting practices that Trout could hit the ball out to the opposite field, but we both weren’t prepared, and had we been in position, it would have been a semi-easy snag for either of us.

But not as easy a snag as the second ball that frustrated me. In the sixth inning, rain started pouring again, so I headed to the area behind home plate to see if I could get a ball from home plate umpire Joe West if the game was delayed:

61013 Home Plate area

While I was down there, Josh Hamilton hit a foul ball right over my head that went into the second deck. As soon as it did, a voice in my head told me that I should go and position myself in case there was a rebound off the second level, but the other part of me ignored it and just watched as the ball headed up there and bounced three rows below where I thought I should have been positioning myself. Hamilton then added insult to injury by hitting a home run that same at-bat just ten feet from where I usually stand in the flag court that would have probably been a semi-easy snag for me. And if that wasn’t enough, an usher forced me to get away from the umpire tunnel right as the game was being delayed, so I missed my opportunity to get a ball from the umpire because of him.

I then spent most of the rain delay in the club level with these cool people:

61013 Club Level People

I apologize in advance for the fuzziness of my picture from now on as that’s how the water affected my phone’s camera. But anyway, those people,left to right, are:

1. Tim Anderson.

2. Alex Kopp.

3. Avi Miller.

4. Zevi.

5. Donna (aka “Stretch Lady”).

I stayed there for what I’d say was about an hour, but since he had to get up at 6 o’clock the next morning, Alex really wanted to leave the game. And since I was staying with him, still didn’t know where the house was, and the warning track was looking like a lake, we agreed to leave, and I would come back and exchange an extra ticket he had for a later game to get back in if they resumed play after we left.

Long story short: it was announced pretty much as we got back to Alex’s house that the game would resume at 11:00, I headed to the stadium right as I heard this, I found out the ticket offices where I would have exchanged the ticket to get back in was closed, I also found out that the only way to get in through buying a ticket was to pay $10 cash–which I didn’t have, I wandered outside Camden Yards trying to find a way to get in for probably over two hours because I had left my glove and phone charger with Avi and Tim and needed to get them, I watched from the gate behind the Oriole Park bullpens as the Orioles closed the game out:

61013 View at the end of the game

I got my glove from Avi, I found out that Tim had gotten four toss-up after the game because of the general lack of people and nice people at the bullpen who hooked him up, and I headed back to Alex’s place which I hoped I could find my way to again even though I was now walking there after midnight. Like I said, frustrating.

STATS:

  • 2 Baseballs at this Game

61013 Baseballs

Numbers 557-558 for my lifetime:

61013 Sweet Spots

  • 112 Balls in 26 Games= 4.31 Balls Per Game
  • 2 Ball x 15,541 Fans=31,082 Competition Factor
  • 89 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 47 Balls in 12 Games at OPACY= 3.92 Balls Per Game
  • 12 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
  • Time Spent On Game 12:58-12:13= 9 Hours 15 Minute

5/13/13 White Sox at Twins: Target Field

A normal person would come back from a weekend trip to Chicago where he had attended baseball games each day of the trip and relax for the rest of the day. I am not a normal person. No; when Sean dropped me off at my dorm from Chicago at 2:30, I immediately started readying myself to go see the White Sox in action for the third straight day. This time against the Twins at Target Field:

51313 Opening Picture

I’m holding up four fingers because this was now my fourth game in a row despite the fact that I had traveled about 800 miles by car in those four days. The look is because I had no idea how this was going to pan-out for me. I’m glad to say now that it went well.

The day started off on a great note when a program vendor came down the steps to hand a ball to a kid. I had gotten to know this kid and his dad pretty well over this year since they also try snagging baseballs and I had given the son a couple tips during the Angels series. Anyway, right after she handed him a ball, I noticed she had another ball in her hand. I then asked her if she could give me that ball, which she then did for my first ball of the game before I even entered the gate:

51313 Ball1

With that snag, I had now snagged as many baseballs outside of Gate 3 as I have outside of Gate 34, which is ironically held as the far-superior gate for snagging baseballs before it opens.

Once I got in, I made a beeline for the left field seats and managed to misplay the only ball that I possibly could have gotten. I actually didn’t end up getting any baseballs until the White Sox started hitting and I headed out to right-center field. There, I got Matt Lindstrom to toss me what was probably the hardest thrown toss-up I’ve ever received despite the fact that he was about twenty feet below me:

51313 Ball 2

Somewhere prior to this game, I messed up my ball count, so I thought that the ball I had gotten outside the gate was my 500th career ball (which I kind of regretted at the time), but after the fact, I realized that this ball Lindstrom had just tossed me was my 500th. Anyway, the point is that even though I got

I then headed back over to left field. The reason was because a new group came up who consisted of White Sox lefties who I didn’t think could hit anything over the wall was coming up, and since groups usually spend the first round or two of BP hitting the ball to the opposite field, I thought I should head over there and play for toss-ups. Ironically, though, my next ball was hit. See I was playing almost all the way down the line by the left field foul pole to try to get Jose Quintana to toss me a ball using our Colombian connection when Dewayne Wise hit a ball that I could tell was going to both fall short and to the right of where I was standing. However I knew that with its trajectory, the ball was headed for the warning track, where it could then hop up over the wall. My first instinct was to catch it directly on the bounce, but I reached as far to my right over a railing and still came up short. The ball then landed in the camera well right by the foul pole. I knew I probably wasn’t allowed there, so I hesitated for a good ten seconds before opening the latch up, quickly grabbing the ball and getting out with my third ball of the day:

51313 Ball 3

I then headed over to right field because I knew that a couple of the White Sox players had seen me get the ball, and got Nate Jones to toss me a ball. I didn’t know his name, so I just went with the generic “Can you toss me the ball, please?” At which point he looked up, saw my White Sox hat, and tossed me the ball:

51313 Ball 4

I turned to my right and gave the ball to the first kid I spotted with a glove on. I then headed back to left field, because I figured I could get a ball from a pitcher who was patrolling left-center field.

Turns out I was right and got a ball from Jesse Crain pretty quickly after I got down there:

51313 Ball 5

That would be it for batting practice itself, but as I was in left field foul ground just as batting practice ended, I ran to the White Sox dugout just as the ball basket was being brought to the dugout. As he was doing so, Mark Salas tossed a ball randomly into the seats behind the dugout, and I managed to be the first one to run and get it:

51313 Ball 6

As you can maybe tell from the picture, the White Sox then took fielding practice. I believe they are one of two teams I have ever seen do it after BP, but I have seen them do it multiple times.

After they went through fielding practice, the coaches returned to the dugout. I had assumed Salas had seen me get the ball, so I didn’t ask him for one of the baseballs he was carrying, but when I made eye contact with him, he tossed me a baseball without me even asking for my seventh on the day:

51313 Ball 7

As for the game, I started out behind the dugout:

51313 View behind dugout

But that only lasted two innings when I realized Alexei Ramirez wasn’t going to toss me a baseball and that it would be cool to snag a game home run at Target Field before I headed back to New York. Long story short: I didn’t snag anything during the game and was at 7 baseballs for the day when the game ended. That said, when it ended, I first got a ball from home plate umpire, Manny Gonzalez because I was the only one who even had a clue what his name was at the dugout (he didn’t even toss any of his other baseballs up, but said “Here you go,” when I asked him for a ball by name:

51313 Ball 8

If you wonder why I never have the umpire in the pictures with the balls I snag from them, it’s because by the time I snag the baseball and pull out my phone to take the picture, the umpire has already walked through the tunnel.  The same goes with any player/coach headed who tosses me a baseball on his way to the dugout. Such was the case with my next ball. Let me just preface it with a bit of back-story from the game. Aaron Hicks, who was touted as a super-prospect at the beginning of the year but had been doing absolutely dismal up until this game, (And by dismal, I mean that he was hitting below .100 a majority of the season leading up to this game and was still below .150 at the beginning of this game) had the game of his young career. First Mr. Hicks hit a home run into the batter’s eye in center field. He then proceeded to rob Adam Dunn of a home run en route to hitting a second home run. Despite the fact that he had been getting booed constantly by Twins fans–who are not prone at all to booing players–he was called out for the first standing ovation at Target Field since Jim Thome. An ovation, which I can imagine I looked very strange giving since I was wearing a White Sox hat. Why am I telling you all this? (Besides the fact that I can now brag about being at Aaron Hicks’ first truly great game.) It’s because both of Hicks’ home runs made their way into the White Sox bullpen, where I didn’t see either get tossed up into the crowd. My ninth ball of the day came from Addison Reed, a reliever, who had obviously come from the bullpen. He rolled the ball to me over the dugout roof:

51313 Dugout roof

And without even considering the possibility that the ball could have been one of Hicks’ home runs, I gave the ball away to a kid on my right:

51313 Kid I gave ball away to

So yeah. There’s a chance I gave away a home run ball. Granted it wouldn’t have counted in my “stats” as a game home run ball even if I were certain it was the ball, but it would have been so awesome to say that I owned one of Aaron Hicks’ home runs from his first two-home run game. Actually, I take that back, this was Aaron Hick’s first two-hit game ever, so it would have been even cooler. But as is the case with how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, the world may never know.

However, I didn’t stumble onto that possibility until after the game, at this point I was focused on one thing: snag my tenth baseball of the game. Only one person ever (Zack Hample) had snagged over ten baseballs at Target Field ever (12). And with him having snagged half of those before the public was even allowed into the stadium, with a tenth ball, I could say that I had snagged the most baseballs at Target Field ever after the gates of the stadium opened. Well I guess I could already have said that, but there’s something special about going double-digits. I had only ever done it at Nationals Park and Oriole Park at Camden Yards, so doing it at a much tougher stadium would have been an affirmation of sorts after doing terribly over the weekend at U.S. Cellular. There was just one problem: all of the players and coaches had left the field and were already in the clubhouse. That’s where what I most appreciate in Minnesota away from New York comes into play: I would have been kicked out of the section the second the White Sox bullpen people went into the dugout. Actually, there’s a chance I would have been even earlier. Here in Minnesota, you can stay behind the dugout pretty much until the ushers themselves have to leave. In staying there, I managed to see the dugout/clubhouse attendant, Mario, pop his head out of the dugout. He recognized me by this point in the season and obviously was looking for kids to give a baseball to and not me, but given the fact that pretty much all other fans had left the section, I asked him if he had an extra baseball, and he then tossed me my tenth ball of the day:

51313 Ball !0, Baby!

It felt so good I immediately felt the need to brag about it to someone and told an usher in the section that I have come to know. She knows I snag baseballs regularly, but even she was impressed when I told her how many baseballs I snagged that night. That night I went home happy and full of thoughts of what I could do if I went to a stadium where I wouldn’t have to get 9 baseballs tossed to me to make double-digits.

STATS:

  • 10 Baseballs at this Game:

51313 Baseballs

Numbers 499-508:

51313 Sweet Spots

  • 62 Balls in 13 Games= 4.77 Balls Per Game
  • 10 Balls x 25,605 Fans= 256,050 Competition Factor
  • 75 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 2 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
  • 2 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
  • 113 Balls in 25 Games at Target Field= 4.52 Balls Per Game
  • 23 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Target Field
  • 3 straight Games with at least 2-4 Ball at Target Field
  • Time Spent On Game 3:26-11:52= 8 Hours 26 Minutes

5/12/13 Angels at White Sox: U.S. Cellular Field- Mother’s Day

Another day, another day arriving late at U.S. Cellular Field. And again, I have myself to blame for it.  First of all, whenever I’m going to the game with other people–in this case Sean and his mom–I get nervous about telling people how early we actually need to be at the game, because I know that my obsession with being the first one in the stadium may seem absurd to some people. So what ends up almost always happening is I take whatever time I would usually leave and shave off 15 minutes, which usually ends with me getting to the gate before it opens but way after I wanted to be there. This isn’t the worst flub I have to blame myself for, though. Since it’s all I’ve ever heard, I always assumed U.S. Cellular, and I was more-or-less correct. Here’s a screenshot directly from the White Sox’ A-to-Z guide:

51213 Gate times from CWS website

Well apparently Kids Days are every Sunday game, even when it’s a night game. So when I arrived to the gate 15 minutes before I thought it was scheduled to open instead of my usual 30+ rule, I saw that people were already entering, and this was my view of the field once I got inside:

51213 Opening Picture

Oy. Other people’s mistakes I can live with because they’re not preventable. But I don’t know how many baseballs I cost myself in my two games at “the Cell” because two stupid mistakes. While it doesn’t seem like it’s in the upper echelon of ballhawking stadiums, I had still cost myself a ton of time at the best ballpark I would be at for probably my first two months of ballhawking.

As I made my way through the right field bleachers to try to get out from behind the White Sox bullpen, I saw the heads of most of the people I was facing to my left start turning up and to their right. I knew that meant a ball was coming my way. Good news: I had my glove on already despite having just put on my Angels attire. Bad news: I hadn’t even thought of putting on sunglasses. So as I looked up into the sky to see where this baseball was going, I couldn’t pick it up through the sun until  it was too late and the ball was on its way down, and thus another fan beat me to it when the ball landed. I got mad at myself for a second about that before realizing that I still had way more batting practice to go and that I could make myself forget about that ball with one quick snag.

The next couple of minutes would be very weird for me because of the people in the bleachers. As I kept going towards right-center field, I saw a person that as I passed, I immediately thought, “I’ve seen his face before. Where have I seen his face before?” We had passed each other going in opposite directions at that point, but it drove me nuts for the next few minutes thinking of where I recognized him from. I would later learn/remember that it was John Witt (a.k.a. The Major League Ballhawk) who had at that point recently snagged his 3,000th ball from a major league stadium (just four days prior). We failed to meet up much during this game, but here’s the link to his account of the game, so go give that some love by reading it. While I was being driven nuts by where I recognized John from, I saw a fan bring out a ball-retreiving device and use it on a ball in the gap that lies in front of the left field wall. He also had a giant-sized glove as well as a regular-sized one, so I knew he must be a ballhawk. Oddly enough, though, I had no clue who he was because I had never seen his face before. I would later learn that he was Dave Davison (a.k.a Ballhawk Dave), who has snagged plenty of baseballs himself. As I moved even further into the section, I saw yet another face I thought I recognized. This time I was pretty sure I knew who it was but couldn’t tell because he had a winter hat on. I would later be confirmed of my suspicion that it was Nick Yohanek (a.k.a. the Happy Youngster) who is yet another ballhawk with 1,000 baseballs snagged.

How did I get all of this information after the fact? Once I parked myself in a spot in left field and completely misjudged a couple Trumbombs (it was an awful day for me judging fly balls), a person came up to me and asked, “Mateo Fischer?” (Or something along those lines.) This face I needed no hesitation in recognizing. It was that of Shawn Bosman (a.k.a. Ballhawk Shawn (side note: I think you need to have at least 1,000 baseballs snagged to merit a nickname)(side note to the side note: He was the one who ran me through who all of the other ballhawks were)(side note to the side note’s side note: I’m an idiot for not getting a picture with these guys when I had the chance, but I figured we would meet up either after BP or after the game, which I did with Shawn, but it would have been nice to get a group picture)(side note to the side note of the side note’s side note: parentheses inside parentheses are fun and all, but I’m going to get back to actually putting pictures up in just a second.)

Shawn and I talked a little in left field, but since I was having a bad day judging fly balls and would have been the worst ballhawk in the section by far regardless, I headed out to right field as soon as possible. There I managed to get Garrett Richards to toss me a ball by whadda ya know, actually calling him by his correct name unlike the other twenty people calling him “Jered”:

51213 Ball 1

That ball would be it for me during batting practice itself. In order for me to get in line earlier, Sean had dropped me off while he and his mom parked the car and went in the stadium. Once batting practice started, I saw them a couple more times, but I wanted to give them their mother-son time on Mother’s Day, so once batting practice ended, I camped out in foul territory waiting for the Angels infielders to warm up. When they did I got a ball from the player who had ironically been the bane of my existence the game prior in Alberto Callaspo. I was the first one to yell his name when he was finished throwing, so he looked up and flipped me the ball:

51213 Callaspo Ball

After I took that picture, a person behind me offered to take a picture of me with the ball. So here’s that:

51213 Mateo and Ball 2

After that I filled my time until the game by playing with my phone and calling my mom to wish her a happy Mother’s Day in New York. My plan was to stay behind the dugout for the game until I got a Mother’s Day ball, and then go to sit with Sean and his mom in right field for the rest of the game. One problem: I never got a third-out ball the whole game. Albert Pujols got one ground out to end the inning all game and he kept that ball. With the Angels, if the third out of the inning isn’t a ground out to the first baseman or a strike out, the ball ends up in the hands of the third baseman, which in this case was Alberto Callaspo. I was sure he would recognize me from the ball earlier, so I didn’t even try. I just kept waiting for Pujols to get the ball, but he never did. Which brings me to a lesson for all of you people out there: don’t make judgments based on assumptions you make on a topic you know nothing about. Okay, so this was my view for the game:

51213 View during the game

Do you see the woman looking to her right? Well every inning for most teams, the first baseman throws the infield warm-up ball into some coach who then throws the ball back to him as he leaves the field after the third out. While it’s one of the dumber traditions in baseball in my opinion (Why doesn’t the coach just hand the ball to the first baseman when he enters the dugout?) she absolutely trashed Pujols every single inning just because he wasn’t throwing that ball up.

Anyway, the whole game passed and I still didn’t have a Mother’s Day ball. So in the ninth inning I set myself up to where I could hurry down and get as close as I possibly could to home plate umpire Ed Hicox without jumping on the field or in the seats behind home plate. (Although I was prepared to jump the fence and go in those seats if he didn’t hear me.) My main concern was him hearing me, though. At the point in the game when I got closer to home plate, Chris Sale was throwing a shutout since his no-hitter had gotten broken up a couple innings earlier. I knew that once the game ended the crowd would erupt into applause, so being so far away from the umpire, I was worried he wouldn’t be able to hear me. And I was right. Sort of. See Hicox had to wait for the rest of his umpiring crew, so I yelled at him twice at the top of my lungs, so as to pierce through the roar of the crowd, but he still didn’t hear me. Then on the third time I yelled his name, he turned, spotted me, and after I made my polite request, tossed me a Mother’s Day ball before heading off the field:

51213 Mother's Day Ball

And what a beauty it was. While some of the ink smudged off, here are the pictures I took of it when I got back to Minnesota:

51213 MD Ball 2 51213 MD Ball1

I wasn’t the only one who snagged a Mother’s Day Ball, though. Shawn had gotten one before the game from Robin Ventura at the White Sox’ dugout. After the game we both found ourselves at the Angels dugout, so we took a picture of both of us with our Mother’s Day balls:

51213 Mateo and Shawn with MD Balls

Shawn’s mom was nice enough to take that picture of us. We were going to try to get a picture of all three of us together, but even as we were taking that last picture, we were being kicked out of the section to prepare the lower level for Kids Run The Bases. So I said goodbye to Shawn and said hello to Sean. (See what I did there?) I met Sean at guest services where we found out that his mom ad indeed not won the 50-50 raffle, before we headed back to Sean’s house and fell asleep before waking up early in the morning to head back to Minnesota.

STATS:

  • 3 Baseballs at this Game

51213 Baseballs

Numbers 496-498 for my “lifetime”:

51213 Sweet Spots

  • 52 Balls in 12 Games= 4.33 Balls Per Game
  • 3 Balls x 22,088 Fans= 66,264 Competition Factor
  • 74 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 6 Balls in 3 Games at U.S. Cellular Field= 2 Balls Per Game
  • 3 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at U.S. Cellular Field
  • Time Spent On Game 4:03-10:39= 6 Hours 36 Minutes

5/11/13 Angels at White Sox: U.S. Cellular Field

As you read in the last entry, my friend Sean dropped me off at my dorm at about midnight with the plan to for him to pick me up at 9:00 in the morning and head off to Chicago right away. Well because of a failed prank, I was up until after 1:00, when I finally fell asleep from exhaustion without setting my alarm. Thankfully through some miracle, I woke up at around 8:00 in the morning where I packed the quickest I ever have and met Sean outside where we headed off Chicago-bound.

I believe we only stopped twice on our way to Chicago. Once to eat breakfast at Denny’s–since we had both missed the dining hall breakfast by leaving so early–and once to get gas close around Madison, WI. There was a little mix-up that would define this game for me, though. Actually I guess you could call it two. I thought based the fact that a 9:00 departure time would be fine on my presumption that the White Sox game was starting at 7:00. About half-way through crossing Wisconsin, I thought, “You know what, I should probably make sure the game is starting at 7:00 Central time and not Eastern.” Turns out the game was 7:00 EST. That meant that it was starting at 6:00 our time. And another mistake I had made related to the fact that I thought the game started at 7 was that in my rush to pack everything up, I still hadn’t printed our tickets. That meant we would first have to stop by Sean’s house 40 minutes away from the ballpark before actually heading to the game.

All of this lead up to the first picture I took that day:

51113 Mateo in car

Batting practice was already half done and I was still in the car on my way to the game. Or course I didn’t have either my Angels or White Sox rosters printed, so I knew my streak of over 70 consecutive games with at least 1 ball snagged was in serious jeopardy. When I finally got into the stadium and got my way down to the 100 level despite not actually having a ticket for there, there was a little over 15 minutes of batting practice remaining, and this was my view of the field:

51113 View of the field

I didn’t think it was going to be an easy batting practice to begin with, though. That was because for the second day in a row, it was a bobblehead day. This game’s bobblehead was of Chicago’s beloved Paul Konerko:

51113 Konerko box 1

51113 Konerko box 2

51113 Konerko packaging

That, Twins, is how you package a bobblehead.

A couple minutes in to me having entered the gates, I was sure my shutout would be ending soon:

51113 Player who promised baseball

I still can’t identify him for certain, but whoever the player under the arrow is fielded a ball near the wall by where I was, and when I asked for the ball, he threw the ball in and then looked up at me. Right then I motioned to him as I was saying “Can you throw me the next one?” To this he gave me a thumbs-up. A couple minutes after that, though, batting practice ended and I still sat at zero balls for the day. It was at this point that I  made the decision and told Sean that we were going to be spending the game at the dugout:

51113 View from the dugout

And in the first inning, I saw a stat from that seat that caught my attention as someone who was born in Colombia:

51113 Jose Quintana stat

It wasn’t until a few days prior to this game that even knew Quintana was Colombian, but I guess it’s cool. However, he’s the only one of the top-3 who hasn’t thrown me a baseball. So if you want me to root for you in this race, Jose, it’s your move.

The game for snagging was absolutely brutal. I want to say over half the baseballs ended up in the hands of Alberto Callaspo, who made eye contact with me several times throughout the night, but always ended up looking away and throwing the ball elsewhere despite the fact that I was asking him in Spanish while being decked-out in Angels attire. As miserable as I was with the whole situation that was unfolding, Sean was loving every second of it:

51113 Sean laughing

If you’ll remember, he and my friend Tony had made a goal of shutting me out for a game when they joined me a couple games ago. And after I caused them to fail miserably by snagging nine baseballs, I may have been a little in-your-face about it (jokingly of course) about it, so to see me struggling to get even a single baseball without him being responsible for it delighted Sean to no end.

Finally the end of the game approached us, and I formulated my plan to get a ball from home plate umpire, Jeff Nelson. Since the umpire tunnel at U.S. Cellular is directly behind home plate, there were two options. One option was to try to get into the “scout seats” right as the final out of the game was being recorded and hurry down to the tunnel before the umpires made their way back there, which would almost guarantee me a ball. The problem would be if  the ushers don’t allow people into those seats even after the game is over, or if I got slowed down by the people exiting the section, I might not even be able to ask Nelson for a ball. My other option was to go to the edge of the home plate netting and yell out to the umpire as he walked off the field to the tunnel. I went the second route. Luckily, the last play of the game was a pop-up to the infield, which pulled Nelson towards the field. This gave me more time to get in position and be ready to yell once he walked my way. So I did and Nelson looked my way and rolled the ball to the wall right in front of me as he walked off the field, and I then leaned way over the wall and picked the ball up to extend my streak with at least 1 ball:

51113 Nelson ball

Little did I know it, but Sean was taking his first ever Vine of me at that same exact moment I took that picture that reflected my feeling on the situation perfectly. So here’s the link to that if you want to see it. But anyway, I went back to Sean’s house semi-satisfied with the outcome of the day knowing that my streak would live to see another day. We then headed out at to 7-11 with his younger brother and I want to say watched “For the Love of the Game”. It was either that or “Little Big League”. (Since I haven’t watched most baseball movies, it has been Sean’s goal to get me to watch as many as he can.) We would then get up the next day for another fun day of Chicago baseball, with a Mother’s Day twist.

STATS:

  • 1 Ball at this game

51113 Baseball

Number 495 for my career:

51113 Sweet Spot

  • 49 Balls in 11 Games= 4.45 Balls Per Game
  • 1 Balls x 28,774 Fans=28,774 Competition Factor
  • 73 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 3 Balls in 2 Games at U.S. Cellular Field= 1.5 Balls Per Game
  • 2 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at U.S. Cellular Field
  • Time Spent On Game 9:23-10:47= 13 Hours 24 Minutes
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