Results tagged ‘ Astros ’

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:

8/1/13 Astros at Orioles: Camden Yards

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

8113 Opening Picture

Left to right that would be ballhawks/OPACY people:

1. Grant Edrington.

2. Mateo Fischer- As performed by Mateo Fischer.

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

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

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

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

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

8113 View 1

8113 View 2 8113 View 3

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

8113 Ball 1

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

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

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

8113 Ball 3

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

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

8113 Bullpen 1

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

8113 Ball 4

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

8113 Bullpen 2

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

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

8113 600 Picture

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

8113 Umpire Tunnel

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

8113 My View

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

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

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

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

STATS:

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

8113 Baseballs

Numbers 597-600 for my “career”:

8113 Sweet Spots:logo

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

7/31/13 Astros at Orioles: Camden Yards

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

73113 Opening Picture

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

1. Grant Edrington.

2. The previously-mentioned Alex Kopp.

3. Avi Miller.

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

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

73113 Ball 1

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

 

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

73113 Ball 3 Diagram

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

73113 Tim Cup Trick

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

73113 Ball 5

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

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

73113 Flag Court set-up

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

73113 HR Spot

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

73113 HR Spot 2

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

STATS:

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

73113 Baseballs

Numbers 592-596 for my “lifetime”:

73113 Logos

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

7/30/13 Astros at Orioles: Camden Yards

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

73013 Opening Group Picture

That would be:

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

2. Me- As played by Mateo Fischer.

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

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

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

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

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

73013 Ball 1

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

73013 Ballhawks in LF

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

73013 Ball 2

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

73013 Dave Clark

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

73013 Ball 3 Diagram

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

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

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

STATS:

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

73013 Baseballs

Numbers 589-591 for my “career”:

73013 Sweet Spots

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

8/24/12 Astros at Mets: Citi Field

‘Twas the week before college, and action was dead. So I went to dear Citi. What’s wrong with my head?

I travelled with my neighbor, Greg Barasch, on the subway to the game. There began the motif of this game: fun people, bad baseball.

When we got to the gates, he went ahead and bought a student ticket for himself and Zack Hample. Meanwhile, I met a kid by the name of Michael who told me he had read this blog. I stupidly didn’t get a picture of all four of us before the gates opened, but I wanted to include Michael in the entry somehow, so….yeah. After that I got some free pudding the outside the Jackie Robinson Rotunda.

After I got in the gates, it didn’t take me long to miss my first ball of the day:

I had gone down to the first row to ask Josh Edgin for  a ball. Just as I was leaning down, to cup my hands and yell at him, I saw a ball get hit to my right. Just to my right was the guy in blue in the last picture. I figured he would still be trying to get the ball from Edgin, so I hopped into the row behind him and got right to the spot I thought the ball was going. As I was tracking the ball, I saw him and his glove starting to reach up. He missed the ball, but deflected oh so slightly so that the ball that previously would have gone into the pocket of my glove hit the side of my glove and bounced two rows behind me. Greg had an eye out for this ball, so when it landed in the seats, he was already running for the ball and grabbed it.

When the gates opened, Greg and I took the left field seats and Zack took the seats in upper right field. That meant until Zack showed up in the section, I had this view of the “action” (if you can call Mets-Astros BP action):

Meanwhile, Zack had moved from right field to center field and got Dave Raceniello to toss him a ball:

That meant I was the only one not on the board yet.

I figured I would just go ask for a toss-up in center field:

There, I got my first look at the Mets’ All-Star game logo:

I don’t know what I think of the logo, but I can tell you with 90% certainty that unless I miraculously don’t have to pay for my ticket, I’m not going to the All-Star Game at Citi Field.  I definitely don’t want to pay an extra-expensive ticket just to go to an extra-packed Citi Field. That and I kind of want my first All-Star Game to be at Target Field. Sure it’s a pretty bad stadium for snagging balls, but at least through two games, it actually feels like home in the same way that Nationals Park sort of does. I don’t know why, but I can only maybe say this for Yankee Stadium and definitely can’t for Citi Field.

Anyway, I don’t think you’re here to hear me talk about future plans. You’re here for the snagging (or lack thereof):

While I was in the center field seating, a ball got hit to Brandon Barnes (an Astros outfielder). I didn’t know his name, so I just gave him a generic request and he loft the ball to me as is shown by the arrow. It was a pretty good throw.

Then began the “nothingness”. First of all, if you don’t know, the Astros are a team of a bunch of guys who have maybe been in the major leagues for a year. On top of that, almost all of them had their warm-up jerseys on. Basically, they were indistinguishable from each other, so I had no clue who was who. The next thing is I made the mistake of standing behind this guy:

In standing behind Zack, I was banking on the fact that balls would be hit over his head enough that I could judge them well enough to make a jumping catch. That didn’t happen. Instead, Zack went on to catch three balls on the fly that I most definitely would have had if he weren’t there, but you can read about all that and more in his account of the game: 8/24/12 at Citi Field. By the way, I’ll do this for anyone, not just him. If you are a ballhawk who has a blog, and you go to the same game as me, just let me know and I will always feature it regardless of whether it comes out before or after my entry (as long as I remember to do it and it’s PG).

As for the game, I stayed out in left field because, as was the case with the previous, oh I don’t know, six Mets games, David Wright was sitting on 199 career home runs. Oh, and he hit it this game, but it was quite possibly the cheapest home run in the history of Citi Field:

Had it been either a foot lower or a foot further to the right, it wouldn’t have been a home run. To make matters even more frustrating, it was tossed up by the uniformed Astros right fielder to a fan who didn’t even catch it on the fly, yet got whisked away by security. You know what though, I’m happy for the fan. I’m just frustrated that I didn’t get it. In my ideal world, everyone in the stadium would get David Wright’s 200th home run, but obviously that’s not possible. The home run was so close it actually had to be reviewed by the umpires. When the umpires came back out and waved him through, I was honestly contemplating leaving the game right there.

Even though Greg had called me during the game to tell me the Astros didn’t have ANY commemorative baseballs (pretty much my only reason for scheduling this game), I had made the plan to go to the bullpens after the game, so I did:

There, I yelled out to the Astros bullpen catcher Javier Bracamonte for a ball, but he said something back in Spanish, shrugged, and walked away. On the bright side, this was my 50th game in a row with at least 1 Ball.

I then hopped over to the area behind the visitors dugout, because Zack and Greg were waiting for me. After much confusion, due to the post-game Merengue concert, we finally saw each other and headed to the Jackie Robinson Rotunda where I took pictures like this:

and this:

The reason we were in the Jackie Robinson Rotunda is Zack (shown by the left arrow) wanted to make sure a glove he had lost a few days earlier hadn’t shown up in the Mets’ Lost and Found. While we were there, we asked the guy designated by the second arrow to take a picture of all three of us since I would be leaving for Minnesota in two days:

First, the reason I am pointing at their two baseballs with a face like that is they both got balls at the end of the game and I didn’t. Second, the reason I took a bunch of pictures of the rotunda is that may very well have been my last game at Citi Field. If you’ve noticed, I go to a lot of Nationals games. Well that’s because my step-dad lives there. If you’ve ever noticed it, married couples don’t usually lives cities apart….so, there is a chance that by the time I get back from Minnesota next summer, I will be returning to Washington D.C. and not New York.

If that is the case, it’s been a blast being a part of the New York ballhawking scene for these couple of years. I have befriended so many people throughout the process (including a neighbor I had never talked to before) that it’s amazing. Although I may not have been in love with the stadiums, it was the people in the stands that I had the pleasure of conversing and competing with that made the experience even tolerable. Sure, I’ll also miss being in quite possibly the best city in the world, but this is a baseball blog, so I thank everyone out there that made that aspect of New York life so special. (If I indeed am moving. If I’m not moving, then keep making it special. Pretty please?)

Speaking of special people, after we left the rotunda, Zack, myself, and Greg all rode back on the train together, talking about things from nail biting to corner spots.

STATS:

  • 1 Ball at this game (I completely forgot to take a picture before I left for Minnesota)
  • It was number 392 of my life.
  • 170 Balls in 41 Games= 4.15 Balls Per Game
  • 1 Ball x 25,513 Fans= C’mon can’t *you* do that math?
  • 50 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 86 Balls at Citi Field in 33 Games= 2.61 Balls Per Game
  • 33 straight Games at Citi Field with at least 1 Ball (It’s a wonder how I haven’t been shutout there.)
  • Time Spent On Game 3:45- 10:56= 7 Hours 11 Minutes

Houston Astros 2012 Offseason Recap and Preview

I think this next image pretty well descirbes the Astros’ 2011 season, no? (even if it is fr0m 2004):

Grade: C+

Notable Additions:

Jed Lowrie, Jack Cust, Chris Snyder, and Kyle Weiland.

Notable Subtractions:

Mark Melancon, and Clint Barmes.

Why?: Let me get one thing clear. I know the Astros are not in the AL West yet, but I think it’s better that I make transition now, because it just makes my life slightly easiser to have 15 teams in each league and 5 teams in each division. Secondly, I know the “Notable” names aren’t that notable, because I lowered my standards for the category especially for the Astros and they haven’t had much happening this offseason.

The Astros aren’t exactly an offensive power house. So I like their improvements on that front, but their most feared hitter is still Carlos, which doesn’t doom the lineup, but makes it less imposing than 90% of the other lineups in MLB.  Long gone are the days of the Astros contending for the even the NL Central (at times the weakest division in the league), much less contending  for the World Series as they did in 2005. It also doesn’t help that they are moving into the most improved division of 2011. Unless there is an extreme shift in culture, they may be lucky to win a division title before 2020.

I think I’ve covered the bases, right? The Astros stink, and they didn’t do much in the offseason.

Predicted Record Range: 60-65 wins

Up Next: In my last post, I put up a poll for what division you want next. You voted for the NL Central, for whatever reason. So, here is a poll of which team I should write about in said division:

Re-view of the Preview: Houston Astros

First of all, here, is the initial entry.

Predicted Record: 60-65 wins
Actual Record: 56-106

I actually thought that I was being a little tough on the Astros when I predicted this record range. The Astros were just that horribly bad. Like I began the entry, I think that it was mostly, because the Astros lost their two faces of the franchise. Then during the season, they lost one of the two remaining faces of the franchise in Hunter Pence. Now who are the two big faces of the Astros? Carlos Lee, and Wandy Rodriguez. Not your ideal two.

The youth wasn’t really an advantage for them this year as there really didn’t seem to be enough leadership in the clubhouse, and the inexperience got the best of this team. Yes, they do have a very clean slate to work from with no long-term deals other than Carlos Lee existing, but they do have to get some players with which to win, but this is a conversation for another entry.

So, the Astros mediocrity came from them clearing too much house in 2010-11.

7/9/11 Astros at Marlins: Sun Life Stadium

Seventh and final game of the baseball trip and third and final at Sun Life Stadium:

I mean I did feel a bit like I show in the picture but that specific face came from the fact it took twenty seconds of my mom/photographer looking through the lens to take that one picture. Besides that, can anyone tell a difference in that picture. The good news is that I had my step-father’s high quality camera at my disposal for the game and because it was Saturday, all gates were opening at the same time. This means that I didn’t have to run all the way from home plate to get to the right field seats. Instead I could actually go to the right field gate and get extra Marlins bp. The right field gate at Sun Life stadium is gate F:

The bad news is that I don’t have any pictures from the baseballs that I snagged. However here is a cropped picture I took later on in the game that I edited to show where I snagged all my bp balls:

1- I knew the Marlins would be off the field in a heart beat so I ran down the steps and called out to Leo Nunez that had just fielded a ball by the wall and got him to throw me the ball. I then moved over to the other side of the tunnel to try and get a ball from the group of pitchers shagging in right-center but just as I got there the pitchers ran in as Marlins bp had ended. Since I was still the only person in right field I looked for Easter eggs down the first row.

2- I found one sitting in a puddle of water right in the first row. Just an interesting ball because of what the water did to it. Check it out:

The water actually dyed the baseball the color of the pavement (that greenish hue you see).

3- I went up the aisle and found another ball in about the fifth row tucked inside a seat I then kept going up even though it would have taken a bomb to get a ball that high…

4- …but still finding a ball in a cup holder  almost in the last row (like second to last row or something). Wow. It must have been crushed. Mind you that this was right-center field we are talking about.

I then saw some Astros pitchers warming up where I had gotten Enerio Del Rosario to toss me a ball the day before. I hustled over there and set myself up to ask one of them for their ball once they finished throwing but at that same time the guy who caught the Mike Stanton Home Run the first day, flagged me down and motioned for me to meet up with him. He was in the section above me so I sacrificed my chance at a ball from the pitchers in order to talk to him for about twenty minutes. His name is Joe and let me just show a picture to give you an idea of how this conversation went:

You see Joe has season tickets in the club level seats and so he was up in the blue seats which were separated from the orange seats I was in by a wall. After the game in which he caught the Stanton Home Run I ran after him and talked to him briefly before letting him go because I could see he was in a rush to get Mike Stanton’s autograph (well I didn’t see he was in a rush for that specific reason but rather just saw he was in a rush). I just let him know about mygameballs.com amongst this blog and other things.

During this talk, he told me that he ballhawks regularly and has caught various historic Home Runs: Ken Griffey Jr.’s 600th and Dan Uggla’s 30th Home Run from the season where he became the first Second Baseman to hit 30 Home Runs 4 years straight. He then went on to tell me how differently the situations had gone. Basically, the Marlins/Uggla handled it well while the Reds/Griffey… not so much. After I told him that I lived in New York he asked me if I knew a guy there that went to a lot of games and caught baseballs. You know, this guy. I told him that he was actually the one that taught me how to do this etc and found out that they knew each other because when he caught the Griffey Home Run, Zack gave him his business card just as he was being whisked away by security. In all, it was a fun conversation and I got to know a new ballhawk.

…Now to the not so fun part. After I finished talking to Joe I realized something: it was an hour before game time and the cages were being pulled off the field. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It wasn’t like it was too early even for the poor rich MLB players as it was 6:00 pm but I guess there bus came late or something because I was really disappointed because I had 4 balls in less than half my predicted bp time (so I was only half an hour into what I predicted to be an hour of bp) and because it was my last day I could be as loud to the players as I wanted because I wouldn’t have to worry about them recognizing me the next day. The view at 6:10:

It was depressing, boring, and weird as I expect that any night game with perfect weather to have batting practice until about 45 minutes to half an hour before the game. Although, notice where I am sitting. Oh yeah right on the staircase that is at the perfect angle for right handed hitters. The advantage:the two teams were heavily right handed dominant. The disadvantage: the net was in the way. Let me give you a better look out:

In the first game of the series I thought it would be a disappointment if I didn’t catch a game ball but I didn’t realize that a lot of people showed up for the different promotions. Today was Super Saturday (autograph sessions as the gates opened, a Cirque Du Sole performance after the game, and probably some other things. I am fine with missing the autograph sessions as long as it wasn’t Hanley Ramirez and Mike Stanton because keep in mind that if I would have stopped for that I might not have gotten one ball until the game.) and it got pretty crowded:

Trust me when I tell you that this is *VERY* crowded for a Marlins game.

That picture was taken during the game but before the game I had some time so I finally took my Sun Life Stadium bonus picture for the mygameballs.com scavenger hunt:

Why was I not trying to get a ball at the dugout for third out balls? Well let me start with a picture of blue seats:

Do you see it? In the eighth row as one is going down the steps the seats turn from Orange to blue. The blue seats are off limits to anyone who does not have a ticket in those seats. They’re sort of like the moat of Sun Life Stadium.

During the game, I was optimistic because I had all this room to run:

Actually this isn’t much room to run at Sun Life, as crazy as it may sound. It was however, in a place where balls could just barely clear the protective screen and fall down to. I didn’t catch anything but check out how another fan caught a ball:

It wasn’t on the fly but it is still impressive when you can get a foul ball with baby in arm. His wife is holding the ball in this picture  but I can assure you he caught it.

I don’t know what was happening in this picture but I just wanted to share because it was the last with the high quality camera and it was a beaut:

I think that right after that picture was taken I left to get a ball from home plate umpire Jerry Meals. I succeeded. There was that Cirque Du Sole dreams performance but it had been a long trip for my mom so we got out right after the game.

STATS FOR GAME:

  • 5 balls at this game
numbers 130-134 on my career:
  • 73 balls in 21 games= 3.48 balls per game
  • 46 straight games with at least 1 ball
  • 11 straight games with at least 2 balls
  • 16 straight on the road with at least 1
  • 3 straight with at least five (I give this half a day in New York)
  • 5 balls*20,402 fans= 102,010 competition factor
  • Time at game 4:57- 10:13= 6 hours 15 minutes.
STATS FOR TRIP:
  • 35 balls on this trip (29 pictured because I kept 28 and brought #99 on the trip), which are #s 100-134 on my career
  • 35 balls in 7 games= 5.0 balls per game
  • 6/7 games with at least five baseballs
  • 159,275 fans total= 22,754 fans per game
  • 115, 365 average competition factor
  • 2 rubbed up balls
  • 0 wins for the away team in games
  • 1 patient and improving (somewhat) photographer.
  • 1 fun trip

7/8/11 Astros at Marlins: Sun Life Stadium

Today I used my mom’s iPhone as the camera I had been using is now missing its upload cable. I apologize for the lack of pictures as it (the iPhone) was mostly used for other tasks for the duration of bp. If no one knows, the Marlins are big on promoting their weekends naming the days with exciting, alliterating names. Today was, Fiesta Friday:

It consisted of autograph sessions for kids 12 and under (oh how I miss those subtle benefits), live music at the stadium (train wreck because they also play the electronic music and they just make each other sound awful, and a party after the game. In addition, all the PAs were done bilingually in English y Espanol.

My mom trailed behind me with our mini bag of food and such (I would advise against trying to bring in food because the Marlins do have a policy against it but she hid it at the bottom of the bag and thus got it in the stadium) so she failed to capture the first two easter eggs of my career. Why my first two? Well, the Mets used to open two and a half hours early and so they didn’t have bp prior to the fans entering and the (field level) outfield sections in Yankee Stadium are rather cramped and so not many hit balls are that far away from the, rather thorough, ushers. Both of the Easter Eggs were in the corner formed by the tarped center field seats:

The first was all the way in the corner formed by the staircase and tarp. I saw it as I moved to the very front row and peered down it. Seeing the impatient baseball I decided to grab it. As I was starting to walk back, I saw another baseball on the ground about three rows up and decided to rescue him too.

For the second striaght game, I did not get a single ball (from the Marlins) in the Marlins sliver of bp. This is important because: 1. I had absolutely no competition and 2. I couldn’t get a ball from the players in left center field becausei was not allowed into left field because those seats are club level. This means that my only hopes for putting up big numbers were that either two of the worst and most righty dominant line-ups to put on a power show to right field or that the pitchers would keep rotating and I would be able to ask pitchers un-familiar with me.

Guess what? Neither happened. My first thrown ball came in almost exact same spot I had found my first Easter Egg. Many outfielders were practicing and a ball was hit right in my “gap”. Literally right under me. I would have glove tricked the ball had Michael Bourn not come to pick it up. I asked him if he could toss the ball up where he said no but he did have a ball for me. He pulled a ball out of his back pocket that was even pearl-ier than the one that had rolled to the wall.

After trying and trying to pry a ball from the pitchers in right field I gave up and moved to my more dominant field: the group of hispanic pitchers in left field. I was in foul ground and didn’t expect for a hit ball to get there. I’m a little photo strapped as I only have 7 pictures for this whole game so here is a picture from last game’s entry edited to show you where I was:

If you can see the big red arrow towards the right of the screen that’s were I was standing just hoping that a player would pull a ball down the line because I was the only person within a country mile of whoever retrieved it. That lucky person was Enerio Del Rosario. Some righty pulled a ball right down the line, he picked it up, and I used my awesome Spanish skills to get him to toss me the ball up right. Well not really. He first told me that he couldn’t toss balls up. I told him that I understood because of the strict Astros blah blah blah. I then found out he was kidding and got the ball. Tee-hee.

I moved back to right field and things slowed way down. I kept calling out to the two people in right field that hadn’t thrown me a ball yet: Mark Melancon and Fernando Rodriguez. They just straight up didn’t react to my requests and since the Astros only two good hitters were righties. Translation: one Home Run through all of batting practice. I was going to straight away right for lefties and right-center for righties:

Why was I running up stairs? Remember that giant tunnel in the middle of the sections? No? Here is last entry. Anyway, to get from one to the other the route was up and over. My running and pleading was finally rewarded at almost the end of bp when Mark Melancon tossed me a ball. I then gave a ball to the security guard next to the tunnel to give to a kid of his choice.

As for the game, when I saw the empty seats yesterday, I thought that if I didn’t get a gameball this series it would be a disappointment but today was much more crowded:

There were no empty aisles to be found on the first base side of foul ground. I think that the rain of the day before coupled with the weekend promotions got more people to come to the last two games of the series (one of which I haven’t blogged about yet). Yet I should have caught a ball but a copule arrived at their seats which I was in. Had I been in those seats I would have most surely caught the ball.

Another thing of note is this unique peanut salesman:

If you can’t see he has a twirly hat and the glasses that come with big nose and moustache. He also had a unique form of paying. He threw a tennis ball at the person paying after he had thrown the peanuts and the person put the money they owed him on the ball by a rubber band it had on it. Though I do now wonder how he gave them back their change in coins?

That was it nothing for the game.

STATS:

  • 5 balls at this game (4 pictured because I gave 1 away)
  • numbers 125-129 for my career:

  • 68 balls in 20 games=3.4 Balls Per Game
  • 45 games straight with at least 1 ball
  • 10 straight with at least 2 balls
  • 15 straight games on the road with at least 1 ball
  • 30 balls in 6 games=5.0 Balls Per Game on this roadtrip
  • 5 balls*17,044 fans= 85,220 competition factor
  • Time at Game 4:53-9:57= 5 hours and 4 minutes

7/7/11 Astros at Marlins: Sun Life Stadium

First game at Sun Life Stadium but there was a bit of a problem:

Up until 3-ish it was really raining. The picture was taken at around 4:30 but I was worried by the overcast that the rain would return. Oh and the sweats are because I had just come in from Atlanta via plane that morning and those things are freezing inside. I kept them on because the rain made it so it didn’t warm up until after the time I got in line to get into the stadium.

That said, I had heard that no backpacks were allowed inside the stadium and heard this reinforced (sort of) when the loud speakers said no bags larger than 14x14x8. A back pack in all reality is smaller than that but I still asked a guard setting up if the bag I was carrying was allowed into the stadium. He told me that it shouldn’t be but because I asked nicely, if I got in the line with his partner that I would be allowed in. So I sacrificed a few spots in line to see where the partner would set up. It felt great being in the back of a line and only seeing this in front of me:

and then to run into the seating bowl and see this:

That’s right four people. Want to know what the sad part of that image is: ten minutes of batting practice had already passed. Sun Life only opens up an hour and a half early so knowing that there were two lefties pitching, I (err… my mom) splurged for the club level seats that make up left field and span the length of the stadium. This meant that I would be able to go up there for batting practice as well because people without tickets for that section can’t go in. I also left because maneuvering that giant tunnel in the middle of the seats is a pain (seen in last picture). If you thought the last picture was sad take a look at my competition:

The experience in left field turned out to be a good one for me not in the number of balls that I caught but rather learning what I was capable of. I have always regarded myself as a rather quiet person but found that I could actually get players to respond when I called out to them, even though I was thirty feet above them. The first person I got to toss a ball up was Wandy Rodriguez way in left center. I then got J.A. Happ to toss me a ball that I just barely got because he was starting that night and I guess didn’t want to injure his arm. Don’t worry folks, I was grabbing onto the railing with my non-catching hand and the fall would have only been five feet. Here I am with the two baseballs:

Sorry if I seem shiny-faced but the humidity is already high in Miami and that’s without rain on the concrete to evaporate. I then stayed between left and left center. Then Hunter Pence hit a Home Run to my right and I could literally walk to pick it up even though it was twenty feet away. I would have caught more hit balls but the Astros only real power threats were Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence and there were also seats in front of us that were swallowing more than half the Home Runs hit:

They are not the tarp-ed seats but in front of our section were seats used for football games that were folded up and thus had a twenty five foot gap with no rail or anything that make them off limits to the public. I was tempted to glove trick a few balls that were trapped in those seats (3) but decided against it because there was constantly security watching this area and I didn’t want to stir ill feelings in my first day at a new stadium. There was also a bit of an over hang from the upper deck and a few went up there but since the Marlins closed that for the rest of the season they were untouchable. Instead, I moved back over to right field when a few lefties came up.

Quickly I got a Home Run by an Astros lefty when he hit the a ball just above the tunnel I mentioned towards the beginning of the entry. I was on the right side of the tunnel so I ran up and over before anyone got it. I think Brett Wallace hit the ball but am not entirely sure. I had been pestering both Bud Norris and some other pitcher whose name I cannot recall now for a solid twenty minutes. They probably couldn’t toss that many balls into the stands as the Astros management is stricter than average in instructing players on this. I mean how else are you going to turn a profit while thirty games below .500. Yes, that is the worst in the majors. The point in digressing this much being, when the last ball of batting practice got hit into the tunnel just out of my reach, Bud Norris tossed a ball up to me without me even saying anything because I had, um, made my presence known shall we say. After bp ended, I looked around for a kid because I knew I hadn’t given a ball away my last game. The kid I think had a Marlins shirt on but I couldn’t tell because he didn’t turn around all the way. I had recently gotten my ball from Bud Norris but according to my labeling system I still have that ball, so I don’t know which ball I gave away.

I had some time to kill after bp So I took a quick tour of the club level. Behind our seats was a big food court:

Though, I should mention that the club level was clearly more geared towards football than baseball as many of the facilities were closed, including the food court. Something interesting that I learned when on a tour with the University of Miami’s summer program is that the Marlins really only rent the place out so any food profit actually goes to the Dolphins. Ready for some more football stuff. Here is there display case dedicated to the NCAA national championship that took place here  around two years ago:

Enough football. To prove the concourse goes all the way around, here is a picture of our ticketed seats from the councourse:

The sections within the dotted Orange box are the left field ones. Here is the only non blurry picture of course of the most boring hallway in the concourse:

Guess what else was on this level:

I then got back to my seat in time for the national anthem. Get ready for more sad. The view to my right:

To my left:

Now I know that those numbers are skewed because of the cost of the ticket but how about a look around the rest of the stadium:

I saw on various occasions people walking two sections to pick up a foul ball. I later learned that the paid attendance was 17,000 but I would say the people who should up were >5,000. I was going to move over to the upper blue seats behind the visitors (right in the picture) dugout for any extended string of lefties but there were none . I was convinced that if there was a Home Run I would have a 50-50 chance at it because I had so much potential ranging room. Then a man showed up. The two first things he said concerning me were “Oh look a real Astros fan” and “we’ve got to get you a ball”. He showed up in the second inning. No later than two minutes after he arrived, Mike Stanton hit a mammoth Home Run that according to now, ESPN’s Home Run Tracker, formerly, Hit Tracker Online, the ball went 431 feet.

Here is the link to watch it. I am the one in the black shirt that starts off a section behind the two guys about five rows apart racing each other. As you can see I was pretty far behind them when the camera loses me because I had to move up a row to avoid the railing but had the ball  been a row lower I can almost guarantee it would have been mine as I only got there half a second too late. Here is the guy that eventually got the ball:

The ball landed about two full sections away and actually bounced two rows behind him before going back into the row in front of him.

That was it no more Home Runs. I should have been on the field level.

STATS:

  • 5 balls at this game ( four in this picture because I gave the Pence ball away)
numbers 120-124 for the career:
  • 63 balls in 19 games= 3.32 Balls Per Game
  • 44 straight games with at least 1 ball
  • 9 straight with at least 2 balls
  • 14 straight games on the road with at least 1 ball
  • 25 balls in 5 games= 5.0 balls per game on this raodtrip
  • 5 balls * 17,806 fans= 89,030 competition factor
  • Time at game 4:38- 10:17= 5 hours 39 minutes.
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