Results tagged ‘ baseballs ’

5/30/13 Nationals at Orioles: Camden Yards

On my last trip to Baltimore, I had set my career high for baseballs snagged in a game in the first game and then narrowly escaped getting shutout in the second game via a toss-up at the umpire tunnel after the game. That trip, however, was almost a year ago. And I was more than excited to be back at Oriole Park at Camden Yards for the first time in nearly a year when I approached its gates on this Thursday evening:

53013 Opening Picture

But this time I had woken up in Washington D.C. (I guess I had before those two games as well, but you get my point.) and took a 1:20 train to Baltimore. OPACY–because I don’t feel like writing out Oriole Park at Camden Yards every freaking time I mention it–actually lets people go into Eutaw Street and behind the bullpens early, so that’s where I was headed when I took that first picture. You see, Rick Gold had tweeted me right as I was about to sit down at the Hilton across the street that Nathan Karns was throwing in the Nationals bullpen. Up until that point I had completely forgotten that these areas of OPACY were even open, but when I got the tweet, I walked over to the stadium to see the action and possibly get a ball before the gates were even officially open. By the time I got there, though, it was Gio Gonzalez throwing in the Nationals bullpen:

53013 Gio throwing

And Rick Adair, the Orioles pitching coach, had an interesting set-up for Kevin Gausman, who was throwing in the Orioles bullpen:

53013 Rope

If you can’t tell, it’s a rope. Adair had it set up to have an objective line between high fastballs and low fastballs. I like to think my readers are smart people, so I’ll let you figure out which side of the rope is which.

Anyway, I managed to get my first ball of the day when the Nationals (read: Gio) finished throwing and I got Jhonatan Solano to toss me their warm-up ball for an early spot on the board:

53013 Ball 1

Soon after that (at 3:46) Orioles security came by and told us we had to get back outside of the gate. Had they given us an extra fifteen minutes I may have had a second ball from Gausman (I think that’s how you spell it) and the Orioles bullpen people. Before the gates re-opened, I waited in line with the people who made me think this trip to OPACY wasn’t going to be as easy snagging-wise as I had previously thought. When I got in the gates, the person who I already introduced, Rick Gold, lined up in front of me:

53013 View in front of me

And then two other ballhawks who had joined me at the gate lined up to my left:

53013 View to my left

Ballhawk #1 is Alex Kopp, who I’ve mentioned in entries before such as this one, this one, and this one.

Ballhawk #2 is Tim Anderson, who has garnered the attention of the national media several times the past few years with his bajillion home run snags. While we had both been at the same game before, today was really the first time we had talked directly to each other. And that’s mostly on my part–and this goes out to all of you who may run into me at some ballpark somewhere–because I’m just generally awkward if I’m meeting a person I didn’t know for sure was going to be there ahead of time. And not like in the “Oh, that’s different from what I was expecting” kind of awkward; it’s more like the “Is there something seriously wrong with you?” awkward. And as a result of this, I almost never initiate people at the ballpark in conversation to avoid a situation like this. The best way to avoid this is to just let me know if you think you’re going to be at the same game as I am, by checking either my schedule or my Twitter account. I definitely won’t be attending every game on the schedule that I have on there right now, but it’s a good outline to know where I’ll be, and I’ll usually say something on my Twitter if I’m veering off of the scheduled plan or anything like that, so it’s a good place to be kept up-to-date on my baseball happenings.

But anyway, that was a good multi-hundred-word digression. The point is that my competition was going to be tough. So when the Nationals players came out to warm up while the Orioles were switching into a new mostly-righty group, I knew it was time to go for toss-ups. I figured the players would spend the first two rounds or so hitting the ball to the opposite field, so I really wouldn’t be missing much action out in left. In this trip, I got a ball from Denard Span in the weirdest way. I was actually trying to get ball from a different throwing pair when Span ran back to the wall with the ball in his hand, threw it up, and half-heartedly tried to “rob” the same ball he had thrown up, as if it were a home run ball. I don’t know what exactly he was doing, but he missed the ball, and it landed in the seats, so I went over and offered to get it for him, at which point he told me, “Nah, you can just keep it.”

53013 Ball 2

So I think that’s technically a toss-up from Span, right? It certainly was more that than an easter egg considering I got there three seconds after the  ball landed in the stands.

When I headed back to the left field stands, I learned that I had definitely made the right decision because there had not been a single ball hit into those stands since I had left. But I would not snag another BP baseball before the flood gates were opened and all fans were allowed into every part of the stadium. If you don’t know, for the first half-hour of the gates being open at OPACY, only season ticket holder–or people with that printed on their ticket–are allowed into the main seating bowl. The rest are confined to right and center field. But when that half-hour is up, everybody pours into the seating bowl. I am fortunate enough to have friends at the ballpark who are nice enough to buy me season tickets that get me in that half-hour early, but here is what the scene looked like right after the rest of the fans were let in:

53013 Frack-ton of fans

It was right around this spot that I came the closest to another BP ball. But for the sake of clarity, let me get a diagram up for you:

53013 Ball hitting me in the head

The solid lines are the path of the ball and the dotted line is how I ran after the ball. So I saw a ball get hit to my left. I could tell exactly where it was headed, so I jumped back a row and ran right towards the spot where the ball was going to land, so I could pick it up if it stuck in that spot. Well the ball bounced off a seat at the end of the row, but instead of sticking or bouncing forward/backwards like a normal baseball, it at 90-degree angle and hit me square on the forehead. I mean someone couldn’t have done it more perfectly if they were aiming for me. I saw the ball hit off the seat, but it became a white blur as it headed directly between my two eyes. Just to show you how perfectly the ball hit me square in the head, it was almost if I had intentionally headed the ball in a soccer-esque manner because the ball flew thirty feet in front of me after hitting my head into the next section over. It didn’t actually hurt that much–other than my ego–but I was starting to wonder if there was something about the Orioles that was bad luck, since I had now sustained an “injury” every time I had seen them play to this point. In three different cities, I may add.

That was it for BP, but I did manage to get a ball from Tyler Moore during the pregame position player warm-ups:

53013 Ball 3

It actually was a thing of beauty that we managed to connect on the toss-up, because there was a security guard right in front of me on the field with his back turned to it, so Moore had to thread the needle and I had to jump to get the ball to me and not hit the guard. As you can tell, he wasn’t in that last picture. I think the fact that he very nearly got hit in the back of the head scared him enough that he moved away from the players playing catch.

As for the game, I spent most of my time out in the flag court:

53013 Mateo livin la vida thug

and enjoying all that is OPACY. I wasn’t the only one out there, though. Because of the fact that the stadium was pretty much sold-out, there were pretty consistently three of us ballhawks out there, and sometimes even more. I mean look at all the backpacks there were at one of the more crowded points:

53013 Backpacks

I have no clue besides my own who they each belonged to, but the four of us that were out there towards the end of the game got a picture together:

53013 Ballhawks of the flag court unite

Left to right, that would be:

  1. Rick Gold
  2. Alex Kopp
  3. Me
  4. Tim Anderson

Nothing came even close to reaching the flag court, but it was fun talking to those guys for whatever portion of the game they were out there. (Rick was in left field pretty much until the last two innings, and Tim spent around half of the game in the center field seats.)

STATS:

  • 3 Balls at this Game

53013 Baseballs

Numbers 532-534 for my life:

53013 Sweet Spots

  • 88 Balls in 20 Games= 4.40 Balls Per Game
  • 3 Balls x 30,665 Fans=91,995 Competition Factor
  • 83 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 42 Balls in 9 Games at OPACY= 4.67 Balls Per Game
  • 9 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
  • Time Spent On Game 12:23-11:52= 11 Hours 29 Minutes

5/26/13 Braves at Mets: Citi Field

Coming into this Sunday Night Baseball game I knew two things: There would be a ton of ballhawks, and I needed to get two baseballs. The ballhawks thing I knew because a ton of other ballhawks had told me in advance that they were going to be at this game, and the baseball thing was because I was sitting at 98 baseballs snagged at Citi Field, and I need to get to 100 for my own stupid self-satisfaction and so I would never feel obligated to come back to Citi Field for the stadium itself ever again.

A weird thing happened when I got to the gates. First of all, the people waiting in line were in two giant lines, even though I knew there would be 5 or 6 lines opening, but secondly, I didn’t see any ballhawks when I got there to jump in line with. It took me a while to figure the situation out, but when I realized it was the weekend, I figured the other ballhawks had gotten season tickets and were already inside. Eventually I saw Chris Hernandez, and we started our own line. I figured all the ballhawks would already be in left field, so I headed directly for right field instead:

52613 Opening Picture

When I got there, I quickly got on the board with a toss-up from Dillon Gee in the right field corner:

52613 Ball 1

Then, being at 99 baseballs for my “career” at Citi Field, I headed to left field and tried to make my 100th an on-the-fly snag:

52613 Left Field

When I got over there, I found out that Ben Weil, Zack Hample, and Greg Barasch (pictured in the blue)had indeed gotten in early and had snagged over 20 combined baseballs in this time.
I eventually moved to a new spot in left where this was the view in front of me:

20130605-202004.jpg
And this was the view to my left:

20130605-202107.jpg
The guy in the first picture is Zack, and if you can see the two talking to each other in the second picture, those are Ben and Greg (left to right). The reason they’re talking is a ball had just been hit between them that I believe hit both of them/their gloves before being caught by Ben. It was one of the crazier catches I’ve seen at the ballpark.
After about fifteen minutes of going for only hit baseballs, I gave up and decided to take my 100th Citi Field ball any way it came. That didn’t change the fact that I didn’t get a ball the rest of BP. A fear I had conveyed to Chris right at the beginning of batting practice after I had snagged the first ball.
Despite this, I stuck with my original plan and played foul balls during the game, away from other ballhawk competition:

20130605-210148.jpg
Surprise, surprise, I didn’t get any action. So as the ninth inning rolled around, I headed to the umpire in search of my ticket to never having to go to Citi Field evah again.
I tried to stay as far away from the security as possible, and try to get the umpire as one-on-one as possible by going on the outfield side of the tunnel. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the best idea, since it prevented me from getting directly to the visiting dugout if I failed to get a ball from the umpire; thus limiting my opportunities for a ball after the game. Thankfully, though, I got my ball from the umpire and didn’t have to live this awful hypothetical scenario:

20130605-212350.jpg
I figured as a tribute to the baseball gods for allowing me that last baseball, I gave the one I had gotten from Dillon Gee at the beginning of batting practice away to the kid with the glove in the following picture. And his dad thanked me about 25,764 times as a result:

20130605-212746.jpg
After that, I caught up with the three ballhawks who had gotten in early, as well as Jen, Ben’s girlfriend. As we exited the stadium, Jen was nice enough to take a picture of the four of us ballhawks:

20130605-213213.jpg
Although I probably should have been the one taking the picture since even Jen—who doesn’t actively ballhawk—outsnagged me 4 balls to 2. But I had one goal on the day: to snag two baseballs, so I left the stadium with the smile you see in the picture. Ben and Jen headed off to the Mets team store while I rode the train with Greg and Zack. Most of which consisted of me getting ridiculed for my all-star selections, since I really haven’t been paying attention to stats and stuff this season. And then I spent the second night of my week staying over at Greg’s, even though he had to get up at about 4:30 in the morning to head off on a Florida-Atlanta trip. And by “get up”, I mean after a half-hour of sleep since we both stayed up until 4:00 since Greg had yet to pack and things for his trip when we got home from the game.

STATS:

  • 2 Baseballs at this Game (1 in this picture because I gave 1 away)

52613 Baseball

Numbers 525 and 526 for my lifetime:

52613 Sweet Spot

  • 80 Balls in 18 Games= 4.21 Balls Per Game
  • 2 Balls x 27,296 Fans= 54,592 Competition Factor
  • 81 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 100 Balls (yay!) in 38 Games at Citi Field= 2.63 Balls Per Game (Boo!)
  • 38 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Citi Field
  • Time Spent On Game 4:06-12:23= 11 Hours 47 Minutes

5/24/13 Braves at Mets: Citi Field

With my last game and my snagging of six baseballs, I was at 95 career baseballs for Citi Field. The goal of me going to five games was to get to 100. Only five baseballs. When I got up in the morning, I was thinking how I could simply knock the goal out in a single game and then not have to attend games the rest of the weekend. Then I checked what the weather was supposed to be at the place I volunteered at most of the past two summers and for every day of this week:

52413 Weather

Snagging five balls in this game was going to be a lot harder than I expected. And even worse, notice how I said that I checked the weather while I was at the place I volunteer at. That means I was already out of the apartment I was staying in. See it was nice-ish out when I left, so I decided I would wear shorts. Fifty degrees and raining isn’t exactly shorts weather. That brings me to this picture:

52413 Homemade Poncho Time

Because I was in shorts still, I figured I would need a poncho of sorts, so I fashioned this out of an extra table lining we had at the previously-mentioned senior center I was volunteering at. I took it and cut a hole in the top for my head and made two slices in the sides for my arms. I don’t know if you can tell from that last picture, but the tables where bags normally get checked were moved from their usual spot right behind where I was standing to way back almost at the turnstile:

52413 Tables

It was so the security checking bags would be under the overhang and out of the reach of the rain. It also meant that I would lose almost a minute in getting into the stadium because I couldn’t have the guard check my bag before the gates themselves opened. Normally I would be mad about this, but I figured there wasn’t going to be batting practice, so every second wasn’t as precious as it would normally be.

When I got in the stadium I saw the Mets pitchers warming up in almost by the right field foul pole, so I headed over there and headed down the steps into the seats in foul territory down the first base foul line. As I started down the stairs, I heard an usher stop me. He apologized and told me that he knows fans are usually allowed down into the seating bowl, but since there was no batting practice, he was told not to let people into his section. I don’t doubt his sincerity in believing what he was saying and not making up a rule just because he saw an 18-year-old with a glove that matched the description of what Citi Field security seems to hate, but he was either a) Enforcing an absolutely ridiculous policy, or b) He misinterpreted what his actual instructions were. I saw him turn down several other people after me, but people somehow eventually started coming down into the seats, so I’m guessing it was the latter and someone else clarified the situation for him. Because of this, I had to try to get the players to toss me a ball from the right field seats instead of being behind them, which would have been the easiest toss-up snag ever. Regardless, I got Brandon Lyon to toss me a ball after he was done throwing with LaTroy Hawkins for my first on the day:

52413 Ball 1

And look at all the action that occupied me after the pitchers left the field:

52413 Tarp on the field

Given the fact that the tarp was on the field and absolutely nothing going on, I headed over to the third base side of things and waited for the Braves to come out and throw:

52413 Poncho pants

Right around then Ben Weil came into the stadium. So I chatted with him until the Braves came out to throw. When they did I stationed myself behind Craig Kimbrel and his new throwing partner now that Johnny Venters was injured, and then moved on to Cory Rasmus and his throwing partner, but eventually ended up getting a ball from bullpen coach Eddie Perez instead:

52413 Ball 2

A ball which I would then get signed by Craig Kimbrel as he passed by signing people’s thing-a-ma-do-hickies. And then it was back to tarp-watching:

52413 Did someone ask for more tarp?

I believe the game’s start time was only delayed less than half-an-hour by the rain, so once it started Ben and I sat behind the dugout. Ben eventually just left the game around the third inning to go home, but I stayed behind the dugout the whole game. Unfortunately I was on the outfield end of the dugout and the Mets kept striking out to end the inning. At the end of seven innings when he came out, Braves starter Kris Medlen had nine strikeouts. If you didn’t know before, when a strikeout ends the inning, a catcher typically takes the ball to the home plate end of the dugout and tosses it up there. So as a result of all of these strikeouts, I found myself repeatedly on the wrong side of the dugout to get a third out ball.

It had been drizzling pretty consistently throughout the game, but at about the beginning of the eighth inning, it started absolutely pouring. When the Braves scored two runs in the top of the inning, I thought for sure that they were going to win the game on account of the rain, but the umpires let the game go on into the bottom of the eighth inning and the Mets came right back and scored two run of their own. It was after the end of the eighth inning–during which I should have caught a Rick Ankiel foul ball on the fly–that the tarp was finally brought out and the game delayed. When this happened I did the stupidest thing possible: I walked right up the steps and to the concourse. Now I did pick up a ticket for the section to get back in should I need to when play resumed:

52413 Ticket

But that’s not why it was a stupid decision to walk out of the section right as the game was being delayed. To a ballhawk, a rain delay is the equivalent of the end of the game in terms of snagging opportunities. So what I *should* have done was first go to the umpire tunnel and try to get a ball from the umpires exiting the field, then try to get a ball from players coming from a bullpen, and then maybe try to get a ball from the side of the dugout looking in at any players/coaches who were still mulling around in the dugout. And a great thing about a rain delay in New York is that unlike the end of the game, security won’t kick you out after 30 seconds because there is still the potential for the game to resume. These were all great opportunities I wasted because I was so fixated on getting out of the rain and inside some club (since I had a ticket that got me into pretty much every club in Citi Field):

52413 Delta Sky 360 Club

I did a lot of wandering during the rain delay, but I won’t post all of the pictures here; they’ll be in the album on Facebook that I post for every game. In wandering the concourse and clubs themselves, though, I was wasting yet another golden opportunity. If you’re ever at a game that has gone less than five innings or is tied, search through the seats for as many ticket stubs as you can find, because if the game is postponed to a later date because of the rain, most teams allow you to trade in the value of the ticket for any game later on in the season. So if you have enough tickets in good seating, you could end up not paying for a ticket at that stadium for the rest of the season, and having great seats too. I was actually planning on going down to the field level and doing this at midnight, but it was announced at 11:58 that the game–or the inning that was left, anyway–was being postponed until the next day and would be played at 6:10, right before the game that was regularly scheduled to begin at 7:10. So I left Citi Field at about 12:02 and headed home:

52413 Leaving Citi Field

And while it may seem as though my day was all the way through, it was what happened after I left Citi Field that’s what I’ll be telling everyone I know about this game form now on. The following timestamps are estimates since my phone died half-way along this journey:

12:02- I called the person who I was staying with to tell her that it probably wouldn’t be the best idea if I returned to her apartment that night, since it would require me possibly waiting an hour in the Bronx for a bus. I meanwhile texted my friend Greg Barasch, whose apartment I had stayed in that past Tuesday to see if I could stay there again that night, but he was “asleep” so he didn’t respond until many hours later in the afternoon.

12:25- Since the game itself never actually ended, and it was late anyways, there was no express “7″ train to get on. Nevertheless, I went to the express track because there was a 7 with its doors closed where the express train usually is. I figured it eventually open its doors and head to Times Square. After watching two trains pass on the regular track, I came to the conclusion that this train was never going to leave the station and finally went to the other side of the platform and caught a train after 20 minutes of waiting.

12:40- The train cruised through the above-ground portion of Queens, but on the first stop underground, our train was stopped for what was announced as “signal difficulties”. Suffice to say I was bored out of my mind/not amused:

52413 Done with transit

1:08- After waiting around for almost half-an-hour on the train, it was announced that because there was an investigation happening at Times Square that our train was being suspended and everyone needed to get off the train:

52413 People getting off train

We were then told to go up to the booth for this station, pick up a pass for an extra subway ride and walk to a station for the “E” train, that would then take us to Times Square.

1:21- The person at the booth had given us wrong directions to the other station, so myself and a group of about five other people spent almost 15 minutes wandering what Ben Weil would tell me the next day was not such a good part of Queens at 1 in the morning.

1:55-Because it was the weekend and so late at night, the trains were running even more infrequently than they do normally on the “E” line, and so even once we figured out our way to the station, we had to wait for a while for the train to arrive in the station. It was in this time that I got teased by the Mets fans in the station for wearing Braves gear.

2:17-Finally the train arrived and it took all of us lost Mets fans to Times Square.

2:37-From Times Square I would transfer to the “2″ train making local stops that would take me to the 96th street station before going off in a direction I didn’t want to take it, so I got off at 96th.

3:02- My phone had died at this point, but I still needed to get to 110th street to get to my now-vacant apartment. With the next “1″ train that would take me to the 110th street stop being 19 minutes away, I decided to walk the 14 blocks (roughly 3/4 of a mile) despite the fact that it was almost 3 o’clock in the morning. It was a little after 3:00 by the time I got into the apartment. And when I got there, I found out that all of the bed sheets I had left in the closet when I left Monday had been taken out of the apartment, so this was my bed for the night:

52413 Make-shift bed

It was even more comfortable than it looks. And with me collapsing on this makeshift bed from exhaustion at 3:15, I could finally say that my day of adventure had ended. But I would have to wake up in less than ten hours just to get back to Citi Field and do it all again.

STATS:

  • 2 Baseballs at this game

52413 Baseballs

Numbers 522-23:

52413 Sweet Spots

  • 77 Balls in 17 Games= 4.53 Balls Per Game
  • 2 Balls x 32,325 Fans= 64,650 Competition Factor
  • 79 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 5 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
  • 97 Balls in 36 Games at Citi Field= 2.69 Balls Per Game
  • 36 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Citi Field
  • 3 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Citi Field
  • Time Spent On Game 4:10-3:02= 10 Hours 52 Minutes

5/21/13 Reds at Mets: Citi Field

It was my second of what would be five games this week, and my highest ball total of any of them. As many or more than any three of the other four games combined. So let’s get started. Here was my view of the field for most of the game:

52113 Opening Picture

To the left is a ballhawk named Dylan, and to the right is my–well I guess at this point former–next-door neighbor, Greg Barasch. Where I was standing usually wouldn’t be a good spot to stand at all, but this was the view of the spot staircase to my right:

52113 View to my right

That wasn’t more congested at the moment, but I knew that that staircase is the first one to get clogged up with people and that I was best securing my spot on this staircase. I could have gone to the front spot of the staircase to my left:

52113 Ben on staircase

But Ben Weil–in the orange shirt–was in that spot., and playing behind that spot is essentially worthless because it’s already a shot just to get it there. My first ball of the day, though came from about the spot where the person is leaning over the railing in that last picture. A ball got hit onto the party deck and so I headed over there and asked the employee down there if he could toss me the ball, which he did:

52113 Ball 1

Next up for me was heading out to right field. There I managed to get Collin McHugh to toss me a ball by actually asking nicely:

20130601-202132.jpg
As opposed to everyone else who was just shouting, “HERE!!!”
So since I had gotten baseballs from both left and right field, I headed out to center field to keep the symmetry. In center I got Greg Burke to toss me a ball that almost made me fall into the gap in front of the wall:

20130601-202608.jpg
He then congratulated me on making the catch, and I headed back to my spot in left field. By this time Dylan had roamed closer to Ben. So when Greg moved out of his spot to maybe try to get a toss-up by the staircase to our right, it was a no-brainer to move up to his spot if only momentarily. A moment was all I needed. As he got to the other staircase, a Reds righty we later figured out was Zack Cozart hit a ball to the section right between us two. I tracked the ball all the way off the bat an had it lined up perfectly. The only question was—since Greg had gone in the row below me and was also running at the ball—was if Greg could catch up to the ball before it landed in my glove. It was close. Let me put I this way: I didn’t even know I had the ball until I looked in my glove. That’s because Greg and another person blocked my view of the field right as the ball entered my glove. I want to say that Greg and the other person collided, but all was good in the end. I just know that way too many people congratulated me for what was not really an amazing catch.

A good amount of time passed between this and my next snag, which was a toss-up from a player I believe was Sam Le Cure:

52113 Ball 5

Ben thought it was Bill Bray until I told him that Bill Bray wasn’t on the Reds roster anymore. There was one guy in right field who I thought also might be LeCure, though, so I don’t know for sure. That said, I’m pretty sure the guy I got the ball from was LeCure, and the ball was my first of the day. Speaking of that guy, here he is:

52113 Pitcher in right field

The reason I show him is he was getting so bombarded by requests from kids asking for a baseball–while he was almost 100 feet from them–that he actually had to tell them to calm down with requests. Here are the kids below me, who–and I’m not using hyperbole here–were yelling every time he got the ball, even when he had to run towards the outfield to get the ball:

52113 Loud Kids

I figured he wasn’t going to toss a ball in my general direction any time soon, so I headed to the second deck in left field once Brandon Phillips’ group came up to hit. I would have gone to the lower level, but it looked packed and I knew Phillips had the potential to hit several up there:

52113 Second Deck LF

Unfortunately he hit a couple deepish into the lower level, but none got up to me. That would be it fro BP. (Get it? It has dual meaning in that case.) After batting practice there were no kids with gloves that I hadn’t already seen get a ball, but I wanted to give a ball away, so I gave a ball away to two ushers instructing them to give the ball away to the next kid *with a glove* that passed through into their section/by them.

For the game I stayed in left field:

52113 View from LF

I spent most of the game talking to Dylan and a man by the name of Brian who I just engaged me early on in the game and spent the rest of the game just talking in general. Both of us agreed that our game together was one of the reasons going to the ballpark is such a special experience. You can just go, enjoy a game, and spend the game talking to a stranger about a common interest that is baseball. It was a light in a game at quite possibly my least favorite ballpark that I have been to in the major leagues.

For the end of the game I headed down to the umpire tunnel (abiding by the rules of the stadium, I may add. I did indeed have a ticket for the section the umpire tunnel is in.) to try to get a ball from home plate umpire Ron Kulpa, and I did by yelling out to him before he could get off the field. See at Citi Field, there’s a wheelchair section to the umpire’s right when he walks into the tunnel, so if a kid is in that section, the umpire is almost always going to give him a ball there. This can be good because it stops the umpire for long enough for him to hear a ballhawk calling him by his actual name, but if there is a string of kids that gathers around him at this point, the umpire ball is pretty much lost, so the best way to get a ball from the umpire at Citi Field, if you have the room to do so, is to call out to the umpire before he gets off the field itself, and then if he can’t hear you keep following him with the same request until the corner spot of the tunnel. Unfortunately there is usually someone in the corner spot for the tunnel if you abandon it, and even if there isn’t the security people at the umpire tunnel especially have some sort of enmity towards ballhawks, so they have told myself and others that we aren’t allowed alongside the tunnel’s glass railing, but when other people do the same, they’re allowed. The most important thing about umpire balls, though, is the sooner you can get it before other people can talk to him, the better. It also helps to be standing alone. You don’t want to be amongst a crowd of kids if you’re not a kid yourself, because while the umpire might hear you, he might toss the ball to a kid next to you anyway if he doesn’t deem you “fit” to get a ball over the kid. Anyway, that has been today’s lesson on Citi Field umpire balls.

After that I didn’t get a ball from the Reds bullpen people, and I met up with Ben and Greg at the dugout. The three of us walked to the subway together and were going to take it together, but Ben realized he had to take the local and we the express. He normally drives to the games, but as he was pulling out of his driveway or wherever he parks, he realized he had a flat tire, so he got in a cab and got to the gate less than ten minutes before it opened. On a semi-related note, batting practice had tired him out, so he was going to leave in about the third inning, but he got stuck for four plus innings filling out all-star ballots, so he figured he would stay for the umpire ball. Regardless, where I’m going with this is that Ben had to take the train and it was a different train than ours, so he said goodbye and walked away from us:

52113 Ben walking away

As he was walking away, he turned back to wave a second joke goodbye, and as he was doing this, a friend of his snuck-up from behind him and tackled/hugged him. I’m sorry the lead up was so long for not that good of a story, and I realize this is the end of the entry so you just want to be done reading, so here’s the picture I thought it was kind of cool that I got:

52113 Ben getting semi-tackled

I then boarded my train with Greg and spent the night at his place. Most of said night was spent getting barked at by one of his dogs that thought I was an intruder and an obscene amount of surfing mygameballs.com looking up ours and other people’s games/commenting on them (If that doesn’t automatically hyperlink, you can either copy and paste, or the website is this blog’s sidebar over to the right.)

STATS:

  • 6 Balls at this Game (4 pictured because I gave 2 away)

52113 Baseballs

Numbers 516-521:

52113 Sweet Spots

  • 75 Balls in 16 Games= 4.69 Balls Per Game
  • 6 Balls x 23,183 Fans= 139,098 Competition Factor
  • 78 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 5 straight Games with at least 2-3 Balls
  • 95 Balls in 35 Games at Citi Field= 2.71 Balls Per Game
  • 35 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Citi Field
  • 2 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Citi Field
  • Time Spent On Game 3:37-11:00= 7 Hours 23 Minutes

5/20/13 Reds at Mets: Citi Field

First of all, here is a Before The Gates Open video detailing my journey to and subsequent time at Citi Field’s Jackie Robinson Rotunda:

Click on here to get to the video.

Oh, how there are some things that I did not miss at all about New York:

52013 Packed train

At the top of my baseball portion of this list was probably Citi Field. That said, I planned to attend five games there this week starting with this game. Why would I put myself through this madness? I was at 86 career baseballs snagged at Citi Field and wanted to get to 100 baseballs there so I would never have feel the obligation to go to Citi Field ever again. That way if I ever returned to Citi Field, it would more-or-less be on my own terms and not because I felt obligated to go there. So let’s get right into the entry, shall we?

For the first few groups of BP, I stood out here:

52013 View in LF

If you can’t tell, the guy in the white shirt and blue hat is Zack Hample. Normally I would like to be on the staircase he is on in that picture, but he took that spot, and to stand behind him is just asking to get robbed. Plus it wouldn’t make sense to bunch up if we had space to spread out. However, the reason I took this picture is Zack somehow managed to rob me from there. More specifically, I managed to absolutely botch a ball. As I explained in a Before The Gates Open video–which I’ll put up on this entry later on next week when I have access to the footage and time to edit it. (I’ll announce when I’ve put it up on Twitter)–this was my first time bringing my 14-or-so-inch lefty glove to a game, so by the time the the gates opened, it was still a little new to me. Anyway, I got Tom Goodwin to toss me a ball, but I somehow had the ball tip off the top of my glove and into the seats behind me. I ran back to where the ball landed, but it wasn’t there. Just then I saw Zack running in my peripheral vision and a ball hit in the seats all at the same time. What had happened was the ball had bounced off a seat and fallen a couple of rows down, where I couldn’t see it but Zack could. He ran over to pick it up and while he was over on my side of the section, a Mets righty hit a ball right next to him, which he also picked up. So had I not completely botched the ball, I probably would have had two quick baseballs. Those would be the only two baseballs I would see anywhere near me in left field. Although, those were Zack’s first two baseballs of the game, and this was the 900th consecutive game in a row that he had snagged a baseball at. So I can kind of say that I was responsible for a 900 games in a row with at least 1 ball.

Center field, though, was another story. I decided at the beginning of a new BP group that I would head over there and try my luck with getting toss-ups. I quickly got Dillon Gee to toss me my first ball of the day:

52013 Ball 1

I then headed back to left field for the beginning of Reds BP. This time on the other side of Zack:

52013 Second view in left

(I realize this picture is during Mets BP, but you get the picture–literally–here.) But when I realized most of the Reds power hitters were lefties and Mat Latos was not going to toss anything up any time soon, I headed back out to the center field.

In center field I moved down to the corner spot at the bottom left of the section (bottom right if you’re looking at it from home plate). And while I was trying to get a ball from whoever the player was ( I remember he was a 6-foot-6 lefty or something like that, but I don’t feel like looking up the actual name of the player.) I heard the people next to me moving around and the player look up in the sky. As it was already on its descent, I looked up and saw the ball everyone was looking at, and saw that it was coming essentially right at me. I then quickly got my glove up, hopped a bit, and caught the ball:

52013 Ball 2

I found out later from the people behind me that it was Jay Bruce who hit the ball. This was nice in that it had a redemptive quality to it for messing up the easy Goodwin catch. It also assured me that there was indeed hope for this giant lefty glove. However, I must say that two annoying things about the glove are when I have to label the baseball, because I still do write right-handed, and when I’m taking a picture of the baseball, because I still feel the need to have the ball on the left side of the frame and that requires that I cross my arms while taking the picture.

Anyway, this ball would be my last of batting practice. Since the Reds good hitters are pretty much–besides Brandon Phillips and Todd Frazier–are left-handed, I headed up to a place I hadn’t been in a while, the Pepsi Porch in right field:52013 Back of the Pepsi Porch

Here’s the view of the field from where I was standing:

52013 View from the Pepsi Porch

And now of the scoreboard:

52013 View of the scoreboard from the PP

The reason I took so many pictures from up there that didn’t really have to do with ballhawking is that I didn’t know when the next time I was going to be on the Pepsi Porch was. Maybe never. Like I said, I hadn’t been up there in a long time. And there’s a reason for that. To get up onto the Pepsi Porch, you have to go into foul ground, take and escalator up two or three stories, go across a bridge, go down some steps, and then you’re at the *back* of the section. Simply put: you better have a very good reason to go up there if you’re wasting that much time in just getting there.

After batting practice I headed down to the Reds dugout to try to get a ball from the person packing up the BP balls up, but the funniest thing happened. Instead of heading into the dugout when he pack the baseballs up, he went into the area right behind home plate and dumped the whole bag of baseballs on him:

52013 Guy who has balls

I don’t know the exact story, but that guy in the stands managed to snag I’d say between 10 and 15 baseballs in the span of a second. It was something pretty ridiculous that I’ve never seen before.

As for the rest of the game, I snagged a ball after the game at the umpire’s tunnel which I then gave away to a Vietnam Veteran I saw with a glove, but that wasn’t the story of the game. All of us ballhawk-type people met up at the dugout after the game, and posed with the prize of the game:

52013 Mark home run ball

Left to right that would be:

1. Zack

2. Mark McConville

3. Myself

4. Aaron (Who also goes by the nickname Howie)

And sorry for the picture being out of focus. Whoever took the picture didn’t understand that the iPhone needs a second to focus the picture. But anyway, what we are all pointing to is the Marlon Byrd home run Mark had snagged earlier in the game. Mark has snagged one more home run than I have (so two). And both have come when I was in attendance and the ball got pulled to a section in left field. I’d say it is one or two sections from the foul pole. Congratulations, Mark, on that. Both were nice plays. The only negative thing about the home run is that had Mark snagged one more ball in BP, the home run would have been his 100th ball snagged ever. I think he’ll take the home run snag, though. Although, it is a personal observation of mine that one’s 100th ball likes to be the first ball of a game. Myself and a bunch of other ballhawks it seems leave a game stuck on 99 baseballs and can’t get that 100th ball until the next game.

Our family had just moved to Washington–I stayed for an extra week to say goodbye to people in New York–so I headed back on the train with Zack to sleep one last night in a pretty vacant apartment with my step-brother who had a flight that he had to leave for at 3 o’clock in the morning. Suffice to say I didn’t get much sleep in preparation for the game the following day.

STATS:

  • 3 Balls at this Game (2 pictured because I gave 1 away)

52013 Baseballs

Numbers 513-515:

52013 Sweet Spots

  • 69 Balls in 15 Games= 4.60 Balls Per Game
  • 3 Balls x 23,038 Fans= 69,114 Competition Factor
  • 77 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 4 straight Games with at least 2-3 Balls
  • 89 Balls in 34 Games at Citi Field= 2.62 Balls Per Game
  • 34 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Citi Field
  • Time Spent On Game 3:13-12:02= 8 Hours 49 Minutes

5/14/13 White Sox at Twins: Target Field

First of all, before I get started, I forgot to tell all of you that the BallhawkFest video I did a while ago came with it’s fair share of bloopers, so here’s that video:

It’s unlisted, so you can see it here, but the only other place to see it is I’ll have an annotation for it in the main BallhawkFest video.

Now that we have that out of the way, here’s your semi-regularly-scheduled entry. Well actually, while we’re posting videos up here, I made a Before The Gates Open video for here. Yes, I coming back with this video series in 2013, re-doing all the stadiums I did last year and any new ones I visit this year. (Except for the Cell because those two games I went to the weekend prior to this game were probably the last I’ll be there this season.) But anyway, without further ado, here is the 2013 version of Before The Gates Open- Target Field:
Click here to go to that video, since it’s being stupid and doesn’t want to embed on this page.
After that, Sean and I stood in line and waited for the gates to finally open:
20130530-133202.jpg

Once we got in the gates, it was Sean and not I who snagged the first baseball. See Sean had been in contact with either Hector Santiago or Brian Omogrosso—I can’t remember which— on Twitter and had gotten whoever it was to follow him. He had also asked the player if the player could toss Sean a ball at the game later on. When Sean asked him for a ball, the player recognized him and obliged his request:

20130530-133816.jpg

He then rubbed the fact that he had snagged infinitely more baseballs at this game than I had for the next five to ten minutes. But, being Sean, that was his day of ballhawking as he went and got food soon after that.
While he was gone eating, I was snagging. The first ball I got was in right-center field. When a ball rolled to the wall, I got Matt Thorton to toss me my first ball of the game:20130530-135257.jpg

After I got this ball, I headed to the back of the section I was in and gave the ball to the usher instructing him to give the ball away to the next kid with a glove he saw.

I then headed out to the standing room for one reason: Adam Dunn was hitting. Just as I got there Dunn put a ball right in the middle of the triangle created by Gate 34, the program vendor, and the beer stand in the following picture:20130530-135933.jpg

(Normally I would draw an arrow for you, but I’m writing this entry on my phone.) I chased after this ball, but it bounced outside of the gate, so I couldn’t pursue it any further. After I gave up on the chase, I went back to the flag pole of the American flag. A few pitches later, Dunn launched a ball almost directly at me. I took a couple steps forward before I saw a man in front of me in the wheelchair section reaching up for the ball with his hand. Since I’ve narrowly missed getting clocked by a couple deflections, so I simply put my glove where the ball would go with no deflection and turned my face away from the ball. Thankfully the guy completely whiffed and the ball landed in my glove:

20130530-141316.jpg

Given that I’m one of—if not THE worst ballhawks I’ve seen in the outfield at judging fly balls, this was a nice proud moment for me. Unfortunately it would be my last ball of batting practice. I would head off to left field after that, and had an open row to run:

20130530-142039.jpg

But everything that cleared the wall was going in the first two rows. There was also room deeper in the section:

20130530-142209.jpg

But of course it pretty much takes a line drive to reach back there, so it’s not a great place in general. Fast-forward to after batting practice, Sean and I met up with one of his dorm room floor friends, Mikey in left field. Mikey—like most sane people—got to the game after batting practice given the fact that it was 99 degrees. We then decided that all three of us needed to document our group with each of us taking a different form of social media. Sean took Vine, Mikey took Snapchat, and I picked putting the picture of this blog:

51413 Group picture

When the White Sox coaches came to the bullpen, I headed over there to try to get a ball from them as they cleared the balls that had gone in there during batting practice. Then, I got a ball from the back-up bullpen catcher, whose name I don’t know, tossed me one of the the baseballs in the bullpen:

51413 Ball 3

We then stayed in left field for a couple innings until the seats got crowded. Sean and Mikey then went to seats in third base foul ground, and I headed out to the standing room in right field:

51413 View from Standing room

I don’t need to sit when I have a view like that.  Of course no one hit a ball anywhere near me, but it was a nice game to watch.

At the end of the game I headed down to the umpire tunnel and got a ball from home plate umpire Jordan Baker for my fourth and final ball of the game:

51413 Ball 4

So yeah. Overall a fun day at the ballpark. I would then meet Mikey and Sean, and we would head out of the stadium and back to campus where Sean and I would say goodbye until probably September as I would spend the next two days preparing for my final on Friday, which I would still find a way to not do that well on.

STATS:

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

51413 Baseballs

Numbers 509-512 for my career:

51413 Sweet Spots

  • 66 Balls in 14 Games= 4.71 Balls Per Game
  • 4 Balls x 32,023 Fans(Nice palindromic attendance number)= 128,092 Competition Factor
  • 76 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 3 straight Games with at least 2-3 Balls
  • 117 Balls in 26 Games at Target Field= 4.5 Balls Per Game
  • 24 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Target Field
  • 4 straight Games with at least 2-4 Ball at Target Field
  • Time Spent On Game 3:32-10:47= 7 Hours 15 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

5/10/13 Orioles at Twins: Target Field

I wasn’t exactly thrilled to go to this game, but in trying to get to 60 games this season, there are such games that I have to just suck up and go to anyway. Why did I not want to be at this game? This guy:

51013 Willingham Bobblehead Box

It was Josh Willinghammer bobblehead day, and I while I do like the bobblehead–despite the boring box–I knew a ton of other people would as well, and I was right. Here is the view in the bleachers to my right, right as I entered the stadium:

51013 View bleachers right

And here was the view in the bleachers to my left with the friend who joined me from my residence hall that day, Kyle:

51013 Kyle and people

I had told Kyle a couple of times of my baseball ventures and so he asked me if he could accompany me to a game whenever I was going to one next. It was like a week-and-a-half before the game, and the Twins were gone for a while, so this was the one we ended up going to. We had left our dorm at around 3:50, and got to the game at about 4:40, and by the time we got there, there was already a line at Gate 3 that went half-way to Gate 6. I won’t include a map, but if you want you can check it out and see what I mean. It would be a normal line size for Yankee Stadium, but for here it was massive.

It soon became clear that everyone was way more concentrated in the left field bleachers. Had I been smart and realized that the weather was relatively warmer, I might have gone up to the second deck and played for Josh Willingham, Adam Jones and players of their ilk to hit baseballs into the second deck. But sadly I didn’t think of it and instead just went over to the right-center field seats and got a ball from Josh Roenicke:51013 Roenicke Ball

I had called out to Roenicke on a previous ball, but when he looked back at me, he thought the kid next to me had asked him for the ball. But then when I asked him for a ball when another rolled to the wall, he looked up and saw that I was all alone, so he tossed me the ball. I didn’t realize it until I went back and checked my stats, but that was my 100th baseball ever at Target Field, making Target Field only the second stadium I’ve accomplished that at. That was it for me for the Twins portion of BP, because as I said before, it was crowded. Target Field is an okay ballpark when there’s no one around. When it’s crowded, it shows its true ballhawking colors.

When Twins BP ended, I made my way to the Orioles dugout, but nothing was going on:

51013 Mateo waiting

It was at the time that actual baseball-snagging action started to occur that I got a message from Sean saying that he had just parked and was headed to Gate 34. Since I was not ready to sacrifice snagging opportunities to go give him his ticket, I recruited Kyle to head out there and give him the ticket despite the fact that neither had met the other beforehand.

After Kyle left, I first tried to get a ball from the position players tossing by the dugout:

51013 PP dugout

But all of them tossed their balls onto the field after they were done. I then tried to get a ball from the position players warming-up just past third base, but instead of getting a ball from them, one of the Orioles bullpen catchers, Ronnie Deck (unofficial assist to Avi Miller for the fact that I know his name), saw that the players weren’t tossing me a ball, so he tossed me a ball without me even asking for one:

51013 Deck the balls with houghs of holly

(Notice the Orioles couple realizing I had gotten a ball and unintentionally photo-bombing me.) I gave this ball away to a kid as I was walking towards the left field foul pole.

In the time that it took Kyle to get out to right field, the position players warmed up completely. By the time Sean and Kyle were making their way back to me, I was almost to the foul pole in foul territory. So as I saw them cutting across the seats towards the dugout where Kyle had left me, I started waving towards them to draw their attention. They were behind me (read: away from the field), so I had to look back to wave to them. It was at this time I heard the crowd make some noise; like as if a ball was rolling on the warning track near the stands that a player might toss up. Right after I heard that, I felt a blow to both my left and right legs at about the knee area. While I was looking away from the field, an Orioles player–probably Manny Machado–had pulled a ball down the line and it managed to strike not one, but both of my legs on the fly. It actually didn’t hurt much at all right after the ball hit me. No, the most painful part of that whole incident was the fact that the ball bounced right off of me to the hands of the guy in front of me. However, it was because of this that I got my second ball of the day. Tommy Hunter had seen the whole thing go down, so when he was done throwing, he came over and signed a ball for me and my “troubles”:

51013 Hunter signing

As he gave me the ball and left, I said, “Thanks, Tommy. I appreciate it.” and he kind of smiled. It was the kind of smile that made me think I had gotten his name wrong. I was pretty sure it was Tommy Hunter, so I was confused by why he acted this way. I realized why when I read the writing on the ball. Here was the signature itself:

51013 Hunter Ball 1

but here was what he wrote on the ball itself for me:

51013 Hunter Ball 2

Hunter had gone to run poles, so by the time I had read the ball and understood it, he was already in center field, but when he made it back to the left field foul pole, I jokingly told him my reason for getting hit while giving him a hard time about putting what he did on the ball.

After that, I headed out to the seats in right field:

51013 View from RF

And when I looked to my right, I saw a couple of interesting things.

1. There was pretty much the whole Orioles roster in the outfield at one point:

51013 Lots of Orioles

Okay, so maybe that’s a bit of hyperbole, but that’s what, 15 people in the outfield that you can see in that picture alone?

2. The left field seats were absolutely packed because of the bobblehead day:

51013 Bleachers Packed

At most other stadiums that’s a decent-sized crowd, but because of the steepness and overhang in left field, I knew I wouldn’t have a chance at a ball in left field. This was particularly frustrating because it was J.J. Hardy’s group that was hitting, and he hit several baseballs to the spot where I usually play him at any ballpark. It was crowded, but who knows if I don’t have an extra couple of baseballs if I had been in left field for that group.

But with my legs making any movement very painful, I was stuck in right field. Sean and Kyle, who both knew how much of an annoyance it can be to follow me around when I’m running back and forth, seemed pretty content with just staying in right field, though:

51013 Sean and Kyle

They even had time to go get food and get back to find me still in the section that they had left me in. (This is usually not the case if you leave my side for over five minutes.)

Anyway, I wouldn’t get any other baseballs for the rest of batting practice itself, but at the very end of BP, I went down to the Orioles dugout and got their hitting coach, Jim Presley to toss me a ball as the baseballs were being transferred from the ball basket to the ball bag.

After that, I headed out to center field to try to get a ball from the groundscrew member who clears the batter’s eye of baseballs after batting practice, but I just barely missed him, getting there as he was headed off the batter’s eye:

51013 Batters eye failure

The three of us alternated sitting behind the third base seating moat and the standing room in right field, but I couldn’t get another ball for the rest of the game.

Sean had brought his car to the game, so once we finally got out of the parking garage that Sean had parked in and got through the Minnesota traffic, Sean dropped Kyle and I off at our dorm on the St. Paul campus. Sean and I had just agreed the day prior that we were going to be taking a weekend trip to his home in Chicago so he could visit his mom on Mother’s Day and I could go to a couple of games at U.S. Cellular Field. So when he left us at the dorm just before midnight, it was knowing that we would be seeing each other just a few short hours later on our way to Chicago.

STATS:

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

51013 Baseballs

Numbers 491-494 for my life:

51013 Sweet Spots

  • 48 Balls in 10 Games= 4.80 Balls Per Game
  • 4 Balls x 31,360 Fans=125,440 Competition Factor
  • 72 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 103 Balls in 24 Games at Target Field= 4.29 Balls Per Game
  • 22 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Target Field
  • Time Spent On Game 3:51-11:43= 7 Hours 52 Minutes

4/17/13 Angels at Twins: Target Field (sort of)

Again, it was another day of class before heading off to Target Field. This time, though, I was prepared for the cold it had to throw at me. Sort of, anyway:

41713 Mateo Bomber cap

I had a good streak of four consecutive games going with at least 6 baseballs, but really I just wanted to get four or more baseballs to keep my average for the season above 5.00 Balls Per Game. I’ll spoil it for you right now and say that sadly wasn’t the case. Once I got in the gates, I quickly got on the board by getting a toss-up from a player I couldn’t identify at all, since none of his face was showing with him having a hat on as well as sunglasses:

41713 Ball 1

There had been a couple of baseballs hit into the bullpen, so he went in there to clean them out. When he did I simply asked him for a ball. My next ball came once I headed to the section of seats in right-center field. Mike Trout fielded a ball close to the wall there and so I shouted out to him. He was about to throw the ball to the bucket in shallow center field, but he turned and tossed me the ball instead:

41713 Ball 2

He’s a nice player. Over the three days I was there, he probably gave out the most baseballs per-minute of any of the Angels players. Oh, and do you notice the condition of the baseball he tossed me? One word: pearl.

My third baseball came when I headed back to left field and got who I believe to be Scott Downs to toss me a baseball. I was on a pretty good roll, since the gates had opened fifteen minutes ago at that point. (A ball every five minutes is a *very* good pace for me. To give you an idea, if I averaged this at a stadium where the gates opened 2.5 hours early for the entirety of batting practice, I would snag almost twenty baseballs.) But just five short minutes later at 5:50, the Angels ended batting practice and headed to the dugout. Wow. A stadium opening 1.5 hours early is hard enough, but I missed as much batting practice as I actually saw. Anyway, I headed to the dugout and braced myself for the snow/rain that was in the forecast. As I did this, the grounds crew began to do the same:

41713 It's a tarp!

I then waited for about an hour in the rain. As I looked at the crowd that was showing for the game, I was thinking big thoughts of what I could do during the game. I was seriously thinking I could tie my Target Field record of eight baseballs despite only being at three to this point. Then it happened:

41713 Postponment

Of course. After seeing this, I took a dejected walk of shame to my bus back to St. Paul.

STATS:

  • 3 Balls at this game (2 pictured because I gave 1 away on my way out to a kid for showing up to the game despite it raining)

41713 Baseballs

Numbers 478-480 for my life:

41713 Sweet Spots

  • 34 Balls in 7 Games= 4.86 Balls Per Game (Nooooo! So close!)
  • 3 Balls x (an estimated, because the Twins didn’t actually put it up)25,000 Fans= 75,000 Competition Factor
  • 69 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 19 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
  • 6 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
  • 89 Balls in 21 Games at Target Field= 4.24 Balls Per Game
  • 20 straight Games with at least 1-2 Balls at Target Field
  • 6 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Target Field
  • Time Spent On Game 3:39-7:35= 3 Hours 54 Minutes

4/13/13 Mets at Twins: Target Field

Just a few short hours after I had left Target Field to go back to St. Paul and my dorm, I was back yet again to see my Twins take on the New York Mets:

41313 Opening Picture

Once again, the below-freezing temperatures scared people away, so I wanted to start the game off strong. I did so by quickly get a ball from who I believe was Brian Duensing soon after the gates opened:

41313 Ball 1

After I snagged this baseball, I headed over to left field. Over there, first of all, nothing was going over the fence again because of the cold, but I also managed to get Anthony Swarzak to toss me a baseball. He tossed it to me over three rows of fans, so when I got the ball I asked a kid in the front row if he had gotten a ball yet, and when he told me he hadn’t, I tossed him the Swarzak ball:

41313 Swarzak ball picture

When the Twins finished batting practice, I headed over to foul ground to try to get a ball from the infielders/pitchers warming up:

41313 Infielders warming up

This time there was no snow (yet) but I managed to get Jeremy Hefner to toss me a ball:

41313 Ball 3

That would be my third on the day. After that, the only ball I got for the remaining portion of BP was tossed to me by Kirk Nieuwenhuis in the right-center field seats. In my recounting of batting practice, it may seem like it went really quickly, but it didn’t. It’s just that the other part that I’m not writing about is me running back and forth between left and right field and the Mets again not hitting many home runs during batting practice. It’s truly frustrating because I like snagging hit baseballs waaaaay more than I do toss-ups, but this stadium is just awful for hit baseballs to begin with and was not being helped by the cold weather knocking everything down, so all I could really hope to get was a couple of toss-ups.

After batting practice, though, the opportunity presented itself for me to snag a different type of ball:

41313 Softball set-up

What you are seeing is a Softball home run derby about to begin. The notable contestants were TC, the Twins’ mascot, and then the two hosts of the radio show I had been on the day prior, Mark Rider and Lindsay Guentzel. As you can maybe tell from the picture, I was in left field for the beginning of the derby. Neither of the two right handed hitters pulled the ball my way (although Lindsay was the only one of the two to hit a home run). So when I realized that Rider wasn’t going to be hitting the ball into the stands in the opposite field any time soon, I headed up to the second deck in right field (both he and TC Bear are left handed). By the time that I got up there, Rider was already done, but look what I got once TC took his hacks:

41313 Softball KTWIN

The story of the ball is I saw it coming towards me right off the bat, but then I realized that the ball wasn’t going to hit under the overhang. It was at this point that I ducked and covered my head with my glove and other hand. When I heard the ball bang off of the 96.3 K-Twin advertisement (serendipitous, eh?), I looked around for where the ball dropped and picked it up. As you can see i the picture inside of the green circle, the ball left a big dent in the sign. Now here is the ball with the softball set-up in the background to give you an idea of how far it traveled:

41313 Softball Field

The bear’s got some pop. He ended up winning the home run derby. I think I’ve only seen him get beat once in all of the derbies that I’ve seen.

Interestingly enough, my next notable moment of the game also included the K-Twin crew. For the game, I was again out in the standing room section, ready to snag as always:

41313 Mateo ready to snag

Of course nothing came even close to me, but I was ready if it did. Anyway, in the bottom of the sixth inning, I took a lap of the stadium to keep warm, and when I got back, the K-Twin radio hosts were in the standing room. In addition to being a part of the home run derby, they were also being invited to sing “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” for the seventh inning stretch. Since the stretch is sponsored by Lexus, they give out hats for all of the singers. They had an extra, so Lindsay asked if I wanted it to thank me for being on the show the day prior. And while I already do have a bajillion hats, of course I would:

41313 Lexus Hat

That guy who is giving the low thumbs-up and smiling would be the person who was filming both Lindsay and Rider as they did their various activities throughout the day. I thought it was cool that before I took that picture *he* asked me how many baseballs I had snagged that day. And of course I also had to put the hat on right away:

41313 Mateo with 2 hats

Anyway, I would get nothing out there all game, as I previously mentioned. But towards the end of the game I first got a cup of hot chocolate, because I was freezing and needed SOMEthing to warm me up since it wasn’t exactly sweatshirt weather. And then, I headed down to the dugout and got a ball from home plate umpire, Marty Foster. After that, I stuck around for a while longer just in case anyone else was in the dugout. (This and last night’s snag would not have been possible in New York, since I probably would have been told to leave before the game even ended.) Eventually, Mario, the attendant popped out of the clubhouse in order to do his final cleanings, and when I held up my glove, he picked up a ball that was there and tossed it to me with surprising accuracy:

41313 Ball 6

I say surprising because he needled the ball right through the opening between the camera and the diagonal dugout railing from half-way down the dugout. Had he been off by a foot in either direction–something many major league players have been when tossing balls to me–the ball would have hit either and not reached me/possibly have taken out a camera.

After that I headed out, and found it funny that this sign I had seen earlier in the game had been left on the ground by its owners:

41313 Circle Me Mets

And with that I left to enjoy the rest of my baseball-free weekend to go do homework the next two days because I had spent all of my time thus far in the weekend attending baseball games.

STATS:

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

41313 Baseballs

Numbers 459-464 for my lifetime:

41313 Sweet Spots

  • 18 Baseballs in 4 Games= 4.50 Balls Per Game
  • 6 Balls x 28,804 Fans= 172,824 Competition Factor
  • 66 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 16 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
  • 3 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
  • 2 straight Games with at least 4-6 Balls
  • 73 Balls in 18 Games at Target Field= 4.06 Balls Per Game
  • 17 straight Games with at least 1-2 Balls at Target Field
  • 3 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Target Field
  • 2 straight Games with at least 4-6 Balls at Target Field
  • Time Spent On Game 11:35-7:17= 7 Hours 42 Minutes

Oh, and a column that I wrote for mygameballs.com is up now, so if you want to go check it out, here’s the link:

Capture

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