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8/3/13 BallhawkFest

After our adventure the previous night that got us back to Washington past midnight, Chris Hernandez and I got up to get to Philadelphia for BallhawkFest a little later than we wanted to. And so when we should have been playing softball with all of the other BallhawkFest attendees, this was our view:

8313 In Car

But thankfully, this was where we were when it came time for the luncheon at McFadden’s:

8313 Crhis Running

That would be Chris running behind me alongside the stadium. Thankfully we made the luncheon more or less right after everyone else got there. And the best part was even though we were the last ones to get there, we got our food before anyone else. The luncheon would also result in me getting a Minnesota Twins long-sleeve shirt (thank you, Zack), Cardinals mini home plates, and my 2012 Junior Ballhawk of the Year award certificate.

Then it was time to get to the gates. First a couple of us made the trip over there:

8313 At Gates 1

And then a lot more showed up:

8313 At Gates 2

Although at this point, we knew the tarp was on the field, so it wasn’t looking good for us snagging. One person in the foreground of that last picture was particularly vocal about a certain streak ending. It was the calm before the storm, though. We waited and took pictures, but I killed most of my time by playing catch with Tim Cook in the street alongside the gate.

When the gates opened, everyone went in while my anxieties about this game compounded. Todd Cook had bought a ticket for me the night prior, and because I had to essentially get up and head to BallhawkFest, I never printed it out. Now at a bunch of places, you can just scan your phone as long as it has the barcode on it, but I learned that here at CBP, you can’t. So while everyone else was in the stadium for a good five minutes, I was getting a printout of my StubHub ticket:

8313 Ticket

Which was slightly difficult since the ticket was in Todd’s name and not mine. But eventually, I did get int the stadium with everyone else:

8313 In Stadium

When I got in, only two pairs of Braves pitchers were throwing, but I got neither ball. My best shot was to get one from Julio Teheran, but I don’t think he heard me saying that I was a Colombian. My next closest opportunity to getting a ball was when I got David Carpenter to throw me a ball from 100-200 feet away. Unfortunately, though, the ball fell short and he didn’t come to the warning track to pick it up.

If you go back and take a second look at it, you may see something interesting in that last picture. As we waited, the grounds crew came out with the batting cage and screens. So by the time the Phillies came out to throw, the cage was set up and ready to go:

8313 Phillies throwing

But with the abundance of people wearing Phillies red, it came as not surprise to me that I didn’t get a ball. Despite the fact that I saw there was now going to be batting practice, I was still worried as to how many baseballs I could put on the board. Pretty much everyone else had one or two baseballs at this point, and despite a ton of running and changing shirts that I had done up to this point, which I spared you the details of, I was still at zero baseballs. After I left foul ground, I ran into Ben Weil, and his girlfriend Jen. Ben at this point had two baseballs and was leading the pack. Jen, however, said she was rooting for me. And although I didn’t mean to, I kind of scoffed at that because the way things were going, it felt like I would be lucky to get *a* baseball with all of the competition. Let me explain why. Up to that point, I had been absolutely exhausted by the other ballhawks, because usually during a game with no BP, a ballhawk is the only one smart enough to go to place x. Well during this game, by the time I got to place x, there were 5 other people right on my tail. So after they got there, I had to get creative and think of another place where I could possibly get a ball, but with less competition. The cycle then repeated itself. Turns out, though, Jen had more confidence in me than I did.

Soon after I got into the right field seats, a ball was hit and rolled to the wall. Rick Sporcic was also in the right field seats. And although he was occupied with a baseball further towards center field, I hurried up and got my (read: Tim Anderson’s) cup trick out to pick up the ball, because I had heard he was good with his retriever. By the time I had gotten my ball, though, he was still trying to get his from in front of the wall. My guess is the right field wall is much taller than the left field wall in Pittsburgh, so he wasn’t used to it and his retrieving skills were slowed down as a result. Anyway, I didn’t get a picture since I was in a hurry to get the ball, but here’s a picture that’ll show you where I got the ball:

8313 Ball 1 Diagram

The place I took that picture from also happens to be where I got my second ball of the day. I leaned over the wall to see if a ball I had spotted from right field was cup trick-able, and just as I realized it wasn’t, Joe Savery came over to pick up that and another ball. He tossed the ball I was eying to a kid next to me and the other to me:

8313 Ball 2

I know Ben was right next to me, since he also came over to see if he could cup trick the ball, but I don’t think he got a ball tossed up to him then. I actually don’t know if he got another ball for the rest of BP.

After getting that ball, I headed to straight-away left field to try to get a hit ball. It was a zoo:

8313 LF

I mean forget all of the people in general, just look at the ballhawks who were right behind me:

8313 Ballhawks 1 8313 Ballhawks 2

Had I not misjudged several home runs, I could have been up to 4 or 5 baseballs for the day after my time in right field. But instead I spent the rest of my BP getting punked by the Phillie grounds crew chalk dispenser:

8313 Chalk Dispenser

Most teams use a cart-type thing to apply the chalked foul lines, but the Phillies instead use this thing where they pond to red side part with the mallet that is a mini-bat with a baseball at the end to apply the chalked line. Unfortunately, it looked from left field like there was a baseball sitting on the warning track in foul territory. So I ran all the way over to find out that this could in fact not be snagged.

The closest I came to snagging another baseball was when a ball rolled to the wall in left field, I ran over to where it was, and was about to pull out the cup trick when a Phillies player picked the ball up and threw it into the stands.  Little did I know, but had I been a little quicker to the ball, I could have had the outright lead at the end of BallhawkFest.

How did this happen? Well after BP ended, I went to take a group picture in center field:

8313 Group Picture CF

And then wnet behind the dugout. Since this was *Ballhawk*Fest, I expected there to be at least one other person joining me behind the Braves dugout before the game, but they just never came. So when the Braves came out to throw, I was one of the few people in Braves gear behind the dugout. Using this, I first got Chris Johnson to throw me a ball. His throw was a bit high, so it tipped off the top of my glove, bounced in the row behind me, and I had to run for it to just beat out a man who was also going for it. He was so close to it that I gave him the ball. It was only after I took the picture of him that I realized he already had a baseball (D’oh):

8313 Guy I gave Ball 3

So since I had grabbed the ball before I gave it to him, that was ball number 3 for me on the day. Ball number 4 took no time at all after that. I’m not sure if he had seen me miss the Johnson toss-up, but when Justin Upton came in from throwing with his baseball, I screamed his name, and just like Johnson, he scanned the crowd as if searching for a little kid who deserved it more before settling for tossing the baseball to me:
8313 Ball 4

I say I wonder if he saw the Johnson toss-up tip off of my glove, because I his line of sight when he was tossing with his brother BJ was slightly off of me, but it’s possible that he just tossed me the ball to give me a second chance. Oh well; who knows?

Then once the game started, I moved over one staircase to be on the right staircase for a third-out ball. It was after the top of the first inning that I saw Ben come down into that same section, so I moved down to join him. One out later, Jen joined us. So the plan at the third out was all three of us were going to go down for the third-out ball and odds are one of us would get it. Well it turns out it wasn’t just us, but Quinn Imiola (who you may remember from this entry if you’ve been reading the blog for a couple years, and whose birthday it was that day–as was announced by his dad at the luncheon in a hilarious/purely-“dad” way.) had gotten past the guard at the top of the steps right before the third out and also tried for the third-out ball. As it turned out, with all of those people there, Freddie Freeman lofted the ball right to me. As we returned to our seats, where we all went into the same row, we were apparently suspicious-looking enough with the culmination of all four of us going down for the ball and Quinn going back to a different seat than the one he had gotten out of to go for the third-out ball that the usher who had come down from the top of the steps asked to see all of our tickets. Ben and Jen actually had a ticket (it just wasn’t on that aisle), but Quinn and I didn’t have a ticket for the section at all. So the usher kicked Quinn and myself out of the section completely, telling us that he better not see us back there for the rest of the game, and asked Ben and Jen to go to their actual seats in the middle of the row–which Ben had no interest in doing. So as the rest of the group pondered where they would go, I took the picture of the Freeman ball:
8313 Ball 5

The conversation eventually lead to us wandering towards left field, where the other three would eventually sneak down into, and I would continue onto right field, where I actually had a ticket for:

8313 From Right

After a few innings of being there, I got a tweet from Harrison Tishler (who already published an entry about this game/day that you should check out) asking if he could join me. When I said yes, he and his parents were there within half-an-inning:

8313 Tishlers

It was almost as if I was a ballhawk magnet, because after that, the Cooks arrived as well as Quinn and Alan Schuster, the organizer of the whole event and founder/webmaster of mygameballs.com, the site that’s the reason this event even exists:

8313 Alan and Todd 8313 Tishlers, Quinn, and Tim

And soon after that, Zack Hample, Ben Weil, and Chris Hernandez also came to the same section (although the other staircase). I should mention that this was a slow process, though. The game lasted 12 innings, so all of these arrivals weren’t within a half-inning of each other. The highlight of most of this slow-ish game besides talking to all of these fun and cool people I don’t get to see on a regular basis was taking an unintentionally-artsy picture of the scoreboard:

8313 Scoreboard

It was my initial plan to go to the bullpen after the game, but with so many other ballhawks now converged around it, when the Braves scored a run in the top of the 12th, I headed to the Braves dugout. However, as I exited the right field seats, I got a call from Zack. I thought it was weird right away because he rarely calls me outside of a baseball game; much less *during* a game itself. Turns out he had gotten kicked out of the stadium by security because of the escalation of an incident that he had with them after he had caught John Mayberry Jr.’s home run earlier in the game. I feel like I was a bad friend for what I did, but I figured Zack as “king of ballhawks” would understand as I got Ben to call him and handle the situation as I ran to the dugout. I figure Zack would have done the same thing with me. (Aren’t I so good at justifying my actions to myself?)

Quinn also came down to the dugout after the game, and as I went for the umpire ball–where the umpire ended up talking to a family for about ten minutes after the game, and giving them his last extra baseball, Quinn got Craig Kimbrel to toss him the ball he had recorded the save with. Not a bad birthday present, eh? Here he is in his Braves gear with his parents to the right of the frame:

8313 Quinn and Parents

For the record, I know the names of all of the parents, but I don’t know if they want their names out there. I actually met Quinn’s parents the day I met Quinn in South Carolina. Anyway, we were being told to clear out of the section, so that’s why Quinn is a little blurry.

I then got a text from Ben saying to meet outside the third base gate. When we got there we saw Zack, but the group who had stayed in right field were still not there. Eventually they did get there and Zack got to tell the story of his ejection about fifteen times:

8313 Zack Storytelling

After that, the plan was to get a parting group picture. As we set up for that, I got a panoramic picture of all of the ballhawks mingling:

8313 Panorama Ballhawks

And here was the final group picture:

8313 Final Group Picture

In talking to everyone, it turned out that Jeremy Evens (in yellow), the Cooks, and I had all tied for the lead at 5 baseballs a piece. If you remember the first BallhawkFest in 2011, I was tied with Zack for the lead at I believe 7 baseballs. So I have never gone to a BallhawkFest where I didn’t have a share of the lead. And I probably just jinxed any chance of doing so next year’s BallhawkFest.

I then headed off with the Cooks in their car to the 30th Street Station, but not before taking a look at the Veterans Stadium field in the parking lot and getting one last shot of the stadium:

8313 CBP Last Shot 8313 VS Rubber

And so concluded one of the funner days of my life. While I wish I could have made it for the full experience, I had a blast and will be sure to try my hardest to be there for next season’s festivities, wherever it may be. (Insider’s hint: It may be the closest to home a BallhawkFest has ever been for me.) Thank you to everyone who made and keeps making this event what it is. The reason I constantly recommend it to people is because while it may be a tough event snagging-wise, it is a truly unique phenomenon that is something really special as well.

STATS:

  • 5 Balls at this Game (4 pictured because I gave 1 away. And apparently lost my Phillies hat somewhere along the line as well.)

8313 Baseballs

Numbers 606-610 for my career:

8313 Sweet Spots

  • 164 Balls in 41 Games= 4.00 Balls Per Game
  • 5 Balls x 41,161 Fans=205,805 Competition Factor
  • 103 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 8 straight Games with 2 Balls
  • 5 straight Games with 3 Balls
  • 4 straight Games with 4 Balls
  • 2 straight Games with 5 balls
  • 12 Balls in 3 Games at CBP= 4.00 Balls Per Game
  • 3 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at CBP
  • 2 straight Games with at least 2-5 Balls at CBP
  • Time Spent On Game 10:07-3:25= 17 Hours 18 Minutes

6/1/13 Tigers at Orioles: Camden Yards

Wanna see my view more or less as the gates of Camden Yards opened?

6113 Opening Picture

While Avi and I had gotten to the train station at a time that normally would have gotten us to the gates by the time they opened–and by Avi, I mean Avi Miller, the person in the foreground of the picture–the train was having problems with the signals art a couple stations, so instead of taking 20 minutes or so, the train took over an hour to get to our final destination from the time it pulled into Avi’s stop. Long story short: we got to OPACY over half-an-hour late. Had it been Yankee Stadium, I would have turned around and let Avi, but the way I saw it I still had the power-hitting Tigers’ BP to rely on, and if I didn’t manage to snag a ball then, I could always play the dugouts for third-out balls and the cross-aisle for foul balls in between that, with the security blanket of the umpire tunnel after the game.

When I entered the ballpark, the seating bowl was already opened up and the Tigers were already hitting, so I didn’t even try to go to the left field seats. Actually, correction: I went towards the left field seats right as I entered the stadium, but when I saw the seating bowl had already been opened, I turned around and made a beeline for the center field seats. And by “beeline” I mean slow jog, because I had essentially all of my stuff for my whole trip in my backpack since I planned to go back to Washington directly from the game. There I asked a couple of players for balls such as Luke Putkonen and Don Kelly, but got rejected by both of them. Then a ball got hit almost directly in line with me in the stands. I went down to the first row, but it fell about a foot out of my reach. Thankfully though, since I don’t have a ball-retrieving device made this year, it went back onto the field where Rick Porcello got it:

6113 Porcello in the OF

And apparently he had seen my Tigers gear as I had lunged out to reach for the ball because without me even asking he tossed the ball up to me. I then immediately handed the ball to a kid whose dad had been begging Don Kelly for ball as well. Kelly’s response to all of us was, “I’ll hit a couple out here when it’s my group’s turn to hit.”

After getting the ball form Porcello, I headed out to the flag court in right field. It was packed and I couldn’t get any toss-ups, but I justified it by telling myself, “You got more than enough toss-ups in Minnesota and can go for toss-ups any other day. Today one of the best hitting teams in the league is here, so you might as well go for hit baseballs.” This picture doesn’t do the crowd in the flag court any justice, but it was my view until pretty much the end of batting practice:

6113 View from the flag court

I’ll cut to the chase and say that I didn’t snag anything for the remainder of batting practice, but the star of the show, who I would have had an extra baseball had he not been there, was Alex Kopp. Here he is in this picture with his glove shading his eyes:

6113 Alex in the flag court

He caught three balls on the fly while I was there including one that was right in front of my glove. I believe it was an Andy Dirks home run. I tracked the ball perfectly off the bat, and had my glove in position to make the catch, but all of a sudden I saw two gloves go up in front of mine. They were of Alex and another person. Alex, though, had his glove in the right spot, so he caught the ball, and all I could do was smile because that was his third catch out there. He was just putting on a clinic. I mean the Tigers were going pretty crazy with all of the baseballs they were hitting up there, but it was also insanely packed given the size of the flag court. Every time a ball was hit up there, it was like a mini-stampede erupted. I was actually pretty concerned a little kid was going to get seriously injured out there, because while I check to make sure I have a clear running lane to the ball every five seconds or so, I knew there were people that were just reacting to the ball and keeping their eye on the ball and not where they were going–which is a recipe for disaster; either for the kids of the area or for the person, because there were the flag poles to be run into.

During the Tigers position players’ infield warm-ups, I should have snagged my second ball of the day. What happened was I got Omar Infante’s attention despite being fifteen rows up in the stands by waving my arms, so he tossed the ball to me:

6113 Omar Infante

but he was off with his aim, so the ball sailed above me and to my left. I reached, but I tried to be careful because reaching full-extension would also involve me elbowing the woman standing next to me in the head. So with all of this happening, the ball tipped off the edge of my glove and into the lap of a person behind me. Bleh.

An even more frustrating thing happened during the game. I don’t know how many home runs there were in this game (a lot) but only one made its way out into the flag court. It was the fourth inning, and Victor Martinez was the hitter. I happened to be looking away because a person said something to me in the flag court, but suddenly I heard a roar in the crowd and a ball whizzing towards the foul pole. I then ran towards the ball and played the ricochet I have always failed to do in the home run balls I have botched in the past. Unfortunately the ball bounced back towards the field after landing in the flag court because it hit the beer stand out there. Had it kept going towards Eutaw Street, I’m 95% sure I would have had the ball because I was the only one in the back of the flag court who even saw the ball, much less reacted. Are you a little confused? Here, I drew up a diagram from the perspective of where I started out when the ball was hit. The dotted line is the flight of the ball, and the solid line is the path that I ran:

6113 Diagram

And if you want, here is the link to the video. At the first point you can identify where I am when they cut to the view of the flag court, I am here:

6113 Video 1

You can then pretty easily identify as the person running across the flag court for the ball. It looks like I was going pretty fast from the video, but I remember that I was purposely taking it slow in case the ball did bounce to the back of the flag court, which I expected it to do, because I didn’t want a repeat of the ball that hit me in the head during my first game here in Baltimore or anything of the sort. The next time when you can more clearly see me is after the ball had bounced back to the fence:

6113 Video 2

After this you can see I’m one of three people actively going after the ball. I can also say I probably would have had it had the person who eventually got the ball was a foot taller. It was actually a kid who got the ball. And I say I would have gotten the ball had he been taller because he had to go under one of those rope-type dividers that you see at airport/bus terminal check-in lines. You know what I’m talking about, right? The black poles that connect by rope in order for people in line to zig-zag their way through. Well anyway, the kid didn’t have to duck much to get the ball, but had he been a foot taller, that half-second he would have taken to duck underneath was all I would have needed to get the ball. But oh well. Palante.

I then spent the rest of the game awaiting another home run that never came, all while this great view of the game and all its action:

6113 Flag Court view

(Yay?) At the end of the game I headed down for one last try at an umpire ball this series, and whaddaya know, I got it:

6113 Ball 2

As I got to the umpire tunnel there were actually kids in the corner spots on each side of the dugout, so I had to go a little further up. Home plate umpire, Hunte Wendelstedt(?), gave out a couple of baseballs to the kids at the front of the tunnel and then moved on. Just in case he still had a ball with him, I called out to him, “Mr. Wendelsedt, do you have any extra baseballs?” He was already past me in the tunnel, but upon hearing his name, he turned right around and tossed me the baseball you see above. I then headed to the Tigers dugout, but I didn’t get anything there, so I walked up to Baltimore-Penn Station and took the next Amtrak train back to Washington.

STATS:

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

6113 Baseball

Numbers 536-37 for my “career”:

6113 Sweet Spot

  • 91 Balls in 22 Games= 4.14 Balls Per Game
  • 2 Ball x 38,965 Fans=77,930 Competition Factor
  • 85 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 45 Balls in 11 Games at OPACY= 4.09 Balls Per Game
  • 11 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
  • Time Spent On Game 12:47-10:48= 10 Hours 1 Minute
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