Results tagged ‘ gates ’

6/5/13 Mets at Nationals: Nationals Park

A day at Nationals Park and I was back for s’more:

6513 Opening Picture

In fact, it was only the second game of what I had planned as four consecutive games at Nationals Park. (Although, as you’ll see in later entries, that wouldn’t end up happening.)

As I entered the gates, I said hi to a fellow ballhawk behind the left field bullpen–not Rick Gold, although he was there too. And this simple hello and momentary eye contact caused us to both to miss a ball Gio Gonzalez. When I got to my regular spot in straight-away left field, though I managed to snag two baseballs Gio hit. Gio, by the way, was going absolutely nuts and must have hit ten baseballs into the seats in his rounds of BP. The first was a ball that was hit to my right. I was the only one within fifty feet of where it was going to land, so I just hoped the ball would stay in the stands and not bounce back onto the field like a couple already had that I would have otherwise snagged. It didn’t, so easily picked the ball up for my first of the day:

6513 Ball 1

The next one was a ball that hit over my head by about five rows. It then trickled down the steps and I beat the previously-mentioned other ballhawk to it. I then gave this ball away to a kid who had not yet gotten a ball at the head of the section:

6513 Kid I gave ball away to

Then, while I was in the left field seats, I saw a ball hit in the right field seats. None of us ballhawks went for it because we were so far away and all figured someone would get to it way before we could, but when the pitchers finished hitting and I still had not seen anyone pick it up, I ran over there and found it right on the ground:

6513 Ball 3

But this picture is actually staged because when I got there, a man was right in front of me and had walked into the first row to take pictures. He had actually walked right over the ball, so when I walked behind him, got the ball, and saw the look on his face when he realized what had happened, I gave him the ball. I didn’t realize it until I actually finished writing this entry, but that was my 100th ball of the season, which is always a fun milestone since I got to it almost a month earlier in the season than I did last season (7/3/12).

Then I got a toss-up from a person in a warm-up jersey:

6513 Ball 5

I had no clue who he was at the moment, but after seeing Jeff Kobermus come into the game, I’m pretty sure it was him.

That was my last ball for Nationals BP, since I was in right field for most of it and they didn’t hit much out there. And when I was in the Red Seats, I just completely missed a ball that bounced into the restaurant portion of the seats, one that I misjudged and a guy behind me caught as I came up a couple inches short, and then a police officer cost me two baseballs:

6513 Douchey police officer

You can see he’s holding one of them in his left hand. (The guy who caught the ball I misjudged, by the way, is the one in the gray shirt.) Well the first one he cost me was one that hit into the restaurant. I thought it was simply a race between myself and the guy in the gray shirt, and since I had by far the better jump, I was pretty much sure I had the ball. But then I saw someone running form the top of the stairs to the ball. This person beat me to the ball, and when I looked up I couldn’t believe it because it was a police officer, who is not supposed to keep baseballs; much less try to get them. There was then another one that hit in the restaurant that was underneath a chair. He was at the chair and trying to move it out of the way. As he was doing this, I offered to get the ball and give it to him, but he pulled the chair out of the way and snatched up the ball. This then messed me up for future balls that were headed into the restaurant, because I wasn’t used to having competition from above. I had to alter my routes to balls, and it cost me at least one baseball and just got me completely flustered because I knew that without this cop and my own mistakes, I should have already been in double-digits. I don’t want to say I used this as fuel because that sounds way too cliché and dramatic, but I definitely had to get over being this frustrated in order to keep going in BP and not let these things pile on.

When Mets BP came around, I tried the same strategy as the day before and went down the third base line in foul ground to get a ball from the Mets who were warming up. This time I got Robert Carson to loft me a ball over a couple rows of fans for my fifth on the day:

6513 Ball 5

As I moved onto the next throwing pair, I saw something hilarious. So while Brandon Lyon and LaTroy Hawkins were throwing, some kids were yelling some things at them to try tot get them to throw the ball up. Well I couldn’t hear what he said, but when one kid yelled something, Hawkins caught it from about 100 feet away and yelled back, “Watch your mouth.” After he was done throwing, Hawkins then went over to the kids and had fun with them over whatever they had said:

6513 Hawkins exchange

And by “fun”, I mean in a “I’m going to make this a cool experience for you, but still not break character as a veteran of the MLB” kind of way. So he jokingly kept up that he was scolding them, but made it pretty obvious that he was indeed joking with them. Afterward, he flipped a ball up to one of the kids.

Soon after that, David Wright hit a ball that rattled around in the seats before I picked it up:

6513 Ball 6

The ball actually took off a cup holder, which I thought of putting in my backpack to add to my collection of stadium cup holder at home, but eventually decided against it.

Next, Jim Malone, the Mets’ Strength and Conditioning coach picked up a ball on the warning track, and although I had forgotten his name–I used to know it by heart in 2010 when I would always see him stretching out the pitchers at Citi Field when it still opened 2.5 hours early, but knowing his name became much less important when I no longer got to see the pitchers warming up at Citi Field when the gate opening time switched back to 2 hours prior to the game.–I asked him nicely and he flipped the ball up to me when he saw my Mets gear. I then gave the ball away to a woman who was right next to me:

6513 Ball 7

It was one of those that I really wanted to give away to a kid with a glove, but because I knew that everyone around there had seen me get the Wright ball, I felt as though I should probably do some that was at least seemingly kind-hearted.

It was then nearing the end of Mets BP, so I was almost all the way to the left field foul in order to get a better jump to the dugout when the Mets ended batting practice. An unforeseen benefit of this was that John Buck belted the last pitch of Mets BP over my head. Thankfully, though, I was the only one even near the ball, so I ran over and picked it up. I know it was the last pitch of BP, because as I picked the ball and turned around, I saw that the Mets were already jogging in. So I started running over to the dugout. But as I was headed over there, I realized it wouldn’t look good if I had a baseball in my hand when asking for a ball at the dugout. I don’t know why I didn’t just put it in my pocket, but I ended up handing it to a kid on my way over to the dugout mid-stride. I didn’t realize it at the time–although I had been thinking about it earlier in BP–but this was the 550th ball I had ever snagged at a baseball game.

I actually didn’t get anything at the dugout, but I headed out to right field, where I would sit for the game. Rick Gold also sat out there for the game, so I sat on the staircase closer to the foul pole of the two we usually sit on and he sat one staircase closer to center field. As a result, I was on the staircase with the usher who lets us into the right field seats, and ended up giving him two baseballs that night, which he then distributes to kids in the section.

STATS:

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

6513 Baseballs

Numbers 544-551:

6513 Sweet Spots

  • 105 Balls in 24 Games= 4.38 Balls Per Game
  • 8 Ball x 36,155 Fans=289,240 Competition Factor
  • 87 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 143 Balls in 31 Games at Nationals Park= 4.61 Balls Per Game
  • 23 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
  • 7 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
  • 5 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
  • 3 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 4-5 Balls
  • Time Spent On Game 2:56-11:36= 8 Hours 40 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

5/31/13 Tigers at Orioles: Camden Yards

My day began at Avi Miller‘s house. See, Avi and his parents were kind enough to put up with me for a couple of days as I needed a place to stay while going to a couple Orioles games. I have to say it was a really nice/fun place to stay. Avi and I had stayed up watching MLB Network–which I had regrettably not watched in forever leading up to that point–and I worked on entries as I watched and we ate pizza that I somehow got talked into letting Avi pay for even thought *he* was the one letting me stay with him. But anyway, the way to get to the ballpark from Avi’s is to drive to the subway station and take that to the ballpark. We could drive the whole way, but given how often Avi goes to games, it doesn’t make any sense, because 1. It costs $8 for him to park by the ballpark. 2. It puts extra wear on the car. And: 3. It costs a lot more in gas to get to the ballpark than the $1.20 for the subway.

But why am I prolonging the introduction to this entry and my account of the time before I got to the ballpark? Well because not much happened in batting practice itself. Once I got int the gates, here was my view of the field:

53113 Opening Picture

While I’ve heard it many times via word of mouth, I don’t think I’ve seen it written yet, so I figure I’ll get it out there: OPACY has become a tougher ballpark to ballhawk at. One reason for the ballhawks who used to come there many years ago is the competition. Several years ago (like 2010 and before that) there was virtually no competition during the first half-hour, so if you were in left field courtesy of a season ticket, you essentially had the place to yourself and could clean up for thirty minutes. The second reason is the Orioles don’t really have a team suited for the ballpark. I remember running all over the place when Mark Reynolds and Derrek Lee were on the team, but now really the only player who consistently gets balls into the left field seats is J.J. Hardy, and even he is having a rough year in that regard. You’d almost rather go out onto the flag court for parts of the 30 minutes to try to get a Chris Davis homer. And all of the players/coaches who patrol left field during batting practice are already accustomed to not tossing baseballs up for this first half-hour, so it’s not an automatic thing like it used to be to get on the board with a season ticket. I wasn’t there super consistently before, but from what I heard, it used to almost be easy to get four or five baseballs before the seating bowl opened up to the general public, and that’s before any of the visitor’s BP even took place.

During this BP, though, the Orioles hit definitely less than five baseballs into the stands, and I’m pretty sure that’s including ground-rule doubles. Nothing even came close to me. And what made it so frustrating is that although Alex Kopp, who I showed you guys in the previous game’s entry was there, Tim Anderson wasn’t here for today’s or the next day’s game, so I wanted so badly to take advantage, since I knew it would be a rarity to have an opportunity like this, but then the Orioles let me down. I mean look at how much space I had to run around if a ball got hit into the stands:

53113 Room to my left

Oh, and I don’t think I mentioned it in the last game’s entry, but I was particularly looking forward to Tim being away because he jumped and caught a ball during that BP that almost certainly would have made its way into my glove had he not been there. He made a great play on it, and I horribly misjudged the ball. I still would have made the catch, but he picked the right row to run in and I went two rows deeper.

But back to this game. What made it even more frustrating is that the big, bad Tigers decided to take the day off of hitting because they had just played an 11-inning game in Pittsburgh where they got beat 1-0. I mean to me, getting shutout for 11 innings by the Pirates means you should probably be taking extra hitting, but you know, whatever your methods are, Jim Leyland, I won’t question them. It was as a result of the Tigers not hititng, however, that I probably had one of my more memorable experiences at the ballpark. And by memorable I mean…well, you’ll see.

Since the Tigers weren’t hitting, I went behind the Tigers pitchers warming up to try to get a ball from them. Since I had previously had a good encounter with him at Target Field, I got behind Phil Coke’s throwing partner to hopefully get a ball from Coke when they were done. When they finished catch, and I asked Coke for a ball, he looked and me and started backing away from me. I didn’t know what to make of it until he got into the “set” position of pitching of the stretch and flipped his glove upwards–which is to say he was going to throw me a fastball. I thought he was just going to throw the ball at my glove nice and easy, but no, this was Phil Coke, so he threw the ball full-force. So given the fact that it was Phil Coke not off a mound, it was probably in the high-80s. I wasn’t expecting this at all, so as the ball went way higher than I thought it would, I just managed to tip the ball as it zoomed way past me into the stands. I then ran back and retrieved the ball. I thought that was the end of it, but Coke signaled for me to toss the ball back to him. I tossed it back to him and he readied himself again. This time he crow-hopped into the throw–so the ball was almost definitely in the mid-90s–and I had to jump this time just to tip the ball. The ball then hit off a seat behind me and ricocheted all the way past the cross-aisle:

53113 Ball 1

When I went back and got this ball, I was more than prepared to toss it back to him for another chance to catch it, but as you can somewhat see in the last picture, he had moved onto a new victim in the blue. That’s an OPACY regular by the name of Doug. Coke fired one ball at Doug before he told everyone to clear the area and then proceeded to fire another ball at Doug. Avi described it perfectly in what he said afterwards (I’m somewhat paraphrasing), “In an age where some teams encourage players to not even toss baseballs up into the stands because of liability, that has got to be the most reckless thing I’ve ever seen a player do at the ballpark.” Of course, Avi had probably the best reason to say it because after it deflected off a seat, one of Coke’s throws went less than a foot above Avi’s head. But alas, I had to keep my crown as the only one who got hit in the head with a baseball while I was at OPACY.

But anyway, that was pretty much it for the day. Avi, Alex and I hung out in club level pretty much until the game started. Tonight was Union Night, so OPACY was completely sold-out out. I mean just check out the sight on Eutaw Street before the game began:

53113 Eutaw Street

So Alex and I sat out in the flag court at one of the picnic tables. And after having to move about seven times because people kept on showing up to their seats for the first three or four innings, Avi came and joined us out there. Here are those two as I was leaving to go get an umpire ball:

53113 Flag Court people

And I didn’t. The previous day I was in prefect position for an umpire ball, but an usher moved a couple kids in front of me just before the umpire passed through–like he literally grabbed the two kids and lifted them into the row of seats right in front of me–so I didn’t get a ball that day. I figured this was the usher’s custom, so this game I went to the other side of the tunnel in hopes of being on the corner spot on that side. I was, but unfortunately for my hopes of getting an umpire ball, the Orioles rallied back in the ninth inning, which they had begun trailing, and Chris Dickerson hit a walk-off home run, which I–albeit jokingly–called. This affected me trying to get a ball because the crowd was going absolutely berserk, so when I tried calling whoever the home plate umpire was by name, he couldn’t hear me at all. Heck, I could barely hear myself calling out to him. So he exhausted all of his baseballs on the kids awaiting him before he got to me. All in all it was a pretty boring day to ballhawk besides the Coke incident. I got my one ball there, Alex got his right at the beginning of BP when an usher directed him to a ball that had been hit in the seats before we entered, and I don’t even know if Avi got a ball, since he has a good approach and just relaxes during BP and snags whatever comes his way. He doesn’t really set expectations fro himself, so whatever he does in terms of baseballs and autographs is almost like a nice treat in addition to being at the ballpark. Anyway, I headed out to the flag court where I met up with Avi, where we would prepare ourselves for a game the next day that while much more adventuresome, would be just as frustrating to me.

STATS:

  • 1 Baseball at this Game

53113 Baseball

Number 535 for my “life”:

53113 Sweet Spot

  • 89 Balls in 21 Games= 4.24 Balls Per Game
  • 1 Ball x 46,249 Fans=46,249 Competition Factor
  • 84 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 43 Balls in 10 Games at OPACY= 4.30 Balls Per Game
  • 10 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
  • Time Spent On Game 3:23-12:14= 8 Hours 51 Minutes

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

5/28/13 Orioles at Nationals: Nationals Park

Before I started going to games at Target Field at the end of the 2012 season, Nationals Park definitely felt like the closest thing I had to a “home” ballpark. So in not having been there since August 21 of last year, I was almost okay with my first game back being during rivalry week, when I knew there would be a ton of Orioles fans packing the Nationals Park seats. But now coming to the ballpark from a new location where the bus arrives only every half-hour, I made sure to give myself more than enough time to get to the gate and as a result got to the gate way before even I usually get there:

52813 Mateo at gate

Right as I got in and headed to the left field seats, Gio Gonzalez hit a ball to my left, so I ran after the ball, caught it on the fly:

52813 Ball 1

but in my deceleration, managed to trip on one of the seats and take a tumble. I felt fine, so I got up, but I first noticed that I had some scratches on my legs and then I felt something on my ear. I tapped my cap on my ear and this is what I saw:

52813 Bloody cap

I then felt my ear with my hand and even more blood was coming out. I wasn’t the only one who noticed it either. An usher saw my ear bleeding, and so he got another employee to take me up to first-aid, which literally opened just as we got there. I think it’s probably the fastest after the gates have opened that they have ever had to serve a person. Of course they took their time with cleaning up my ear, but all I could think of was all of the opportunities I was missing for snagging baseballs. All I wanted to do was get the blood off, maybe get a band-aid if it was necessary, and get back out into the stands. It was almost a joke to me how seriously they were taking this. I remember that right after examining my ear, the first-aid worker said, “It doesn’t look bad enough for you to need stitches; I think you can stay for the game.” I thought of replying with a super-sarcastic “Wow, thank you. I thought I was going to die any minute now because I cut my ear.” I was just that frustrated because getting on the board early was being completely wasted by the fact that I was being held up forever in first-aid. After they cleaned up my ear and let me go, one of the workers said, “Okay, now no more chasing baseballs.” Again a sarcastic “Okay. Maybe for the ten seconds it takes me to get back into the outfield seats.” popped into my head, but I realized that this was my first game back here at a place I would be the whole summer, and it’s beneficial to me to try to make as many friends and as few enemies in the ballpark as possible.

My second ball of the day came in the Red Seats in center field when I politely asked Craig Stammen if he could toss me a ball:

52813 Ball 2

That would be my last ball of Nationals BP. I didn’t really flub anything, but the excess crowd that was here for this game just went to all of the spots that I would have normally played the Nationals hitters at, so I was forced to pretty much camp out in the Red Seats where there didn’t end up being that much action.

When the Orioles began their batting practice, I headed down the third base line to try to get a ball from the position players and pitchers warming up, and managed to get a ball from who I figured out several days later with the help of Avi Miller was Troy Patton:

52813 Ball 3

I then headed off to left field, where I’d have to say my main challenge wasn’t necessarily the volume of people, but the amount of people wearing bright orange t-shirts:

52813 Orange Tshirts

See I have a black Orioles shirt, so I don’t really stand out. It’s only when I’m the sole Orioles fan talking to a player that it really helps me. Given this, I headed over to right field, where there weren’t quite as many Orioles fans. And it ended up paying off when Jason Hammel tossed me a ball that I almost immediately gave away to a kid next to me with a glove:

52813 Ball 4 diagram

Then at about 6:20, I realized batting practice was going to be wrapping up, so I headed to the Orioles dugout to try and get a ball when the Orioles were packing up their baseballs. When I got there, there was only one problem: there were too many people down there by the dugout with their Orioles gear on (It became my goal half-way through that sentence to see how many “there”s I could pack into one sentence), but the rain that had been holding off all batting practice couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. It started pouring just as the Orioles were finishing, and thus driving all the people who had been lining the dugout away, leaving me practically the only one in Orioles gear:

52813 View at the dugout

And as a result of this, when the Orioles cleared the field, I was the only one who recognized Rudy Arias, so when I said his name, he almost looked shocked that someone recognized him, and tossed me the ball that he had in his glove for my fifth of the day:

52813 Ball 5

A semi-long rain delay followed this, so I took advantage and sat in this seat at the beginning of the game:

52813 View at the beginning of the game

But I didn’t stay there long as I soon joined my mom and a coworker of hers that had made it out to the game–since both of our phones were dead–effectively capping my ball total at five baseballs for the night.

STATS:

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

52813 Baseballs

Numbers 527 to 531 for my “life”:

52813 Sweet Spots

  • 85 Balls in 19 Games= 4.47 Balls Per Game
  • 5 Balls x 35,664 Fans=178,320 Competition Factor
  • 82 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 129 Balls in 29 Games at Nationals Park= 4.45 Balls Per Game
  • 21 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
  • 5 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
  • 3 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
  • Time Spent On Game 2:46-12:32= 9 Hours 46 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

5/25/13 Braves at Mets: Citi Field

So after the adventure I had gone through the previous game, and the state I awoke in, I feel as though I shouldn’t have been in the mood to go back to Citi Field any time soon, but so I did. I woke up at about 11:00 in the morning, and since the Mets had announced when the game was postponed that the gates would be opening at 4:10 and trains/buses run less regularly on the weekends, I almost immediately headed up to the apartment of a friend I was staying with this week in the Bronx, showered, got changed in to clothes that were more suited for the 50-degree temperatures, took all of the stuff I didn’t need in my backpack out, and headed off to Citi Field.

The way this game would work is the resumption of the previous night’s game would begin at 6:10 and the regularly-scheduled game would start soon after that. People who had tickets could exchange them at the box office for tickets that were that same dollar amount or lower. But since I was hopefully not going to be back at Citi Field after Sunday’s game (this entry you’re reading about is of a Saturday) and I had picked up a collective three ticket stubs the game before, I exchanged them in the following way: Two tickets for this game and one for the Sunday game:

52513 Opening Picture

The two tickets for this day’s game were behind the third base dugout and in left field, and the Sunday ticket was for further down the third base foul line. I figured that I would want more flexibility for this day’s game, and the next day’s game I already knew would be full of ballhawks, so I wanted to stay away from behind the dugouts and left field, which are the two most popular spots for ballhawks during the games at Citi Field. Also, it was John Franco bobblehead day, which Ben Weil was coming to specifically for the bobbleheads, so having two tickets to this game would enable him to get an extra bobblehead. (Even if I was stupid and gave him the ticket I already scanned to get in.)

I learned when I got to the stadium, though, that the bad-phrasing Mets had changed the gate opening time from 4:10 to 5:10 somewhere between me sleeping on a fleece and getting to the game, so I now had to wait for another hour, and it would also be another hour that I wouldn’t have inside the stadium I wasn’t worried about my streak because I would have 10+ innings with a dugout seat, but it was just annoying to know that I rushed to the game when I could have been relaxing on an actual bed for that extra hour. The Mets actually then changed that *while* I was waiting at the gate and made the new opening time 4:45. Unfortunately, when I got in, there was still a whole lot of nothing going on:

52513 Nothing going on

Since there was nothing of the players going on, I went and saw some other interesting things going on in the stadium:

1.

52513 Tarp cover thingy

The groundscrew put the thing that covers the tarp in the stands down the third base line.

2.

52513 Ladder

Mets employees for whatever reason had a ladder going from the second to the third deck in left field.

3.

52513 Winning Seat

The random “lucky seat”s that the Mets have throughout the stadium in section 123 was two seats from my ticketed seat in that section, which was seat 4 in that same row.

I quickly got bored with these things, so I took a peek inside the dugout:

52513 View in the dugout

When I didn’t see anything going on in there, I decided to take pictures of the top of the visitor’s dugout:

52513 Dugout 1 52513 Dugout 2

Like I said, I was bored.

At around 5:15, Ben arrived in the stadium, so I talked to him briefly but then quickly became designated bag carrier as he made several trips in and out of the stadium to get the extra bobbleheads. At the end of his many trips, he had a ton of bobbleheads. I think he said he had gotten ten by the time he was done. I mean here are just a little over half of the bobbleheads:

52513 Bobbleheads

Normally Ben only gets two of a bobblehead; three if he really likes the player. But in this case, he came across some extra tickets that came without people wanting the bobblehead, so Ben ended up keeping seven of the ten bobbleheads for himself.

When it came time for the first game, here was my view of the action:

52513 View for the game

See the only kid in the picture on the seat all the way to the right? His name is Harrison, and he approached me during this game and asked me if I went for baseballs often. Through our talking, he remembered that he had actually first talked to me over a year ago at this game (I apologize in advance for the awful writing) and I remembered that he was the one who had taken the picture of me in my poncho outside the rotunda in the entry before this one. It turns out he is an autograph collector who has gotten 1,000+ autographs at games, and usually sits in the seats you see him in, which is how he has seen ballhawks a lot before. I ended up talking with him and some guys who arrived in the second game for the majority of the game.

In the first inning of the game (or the ninth inning, if you will) the Mets struck out to end the inning, and although I was on the outfield end of the dugout, the stands were empty enough for the resumption game that there was an empty row of seats that I managed to get to the home plate end of the dugout through, and so I got Brian McCann to toss me a ball. On my way back to my seat on the outfield end, I saw a kid with Braves gear, so I gave the ball to him.

When the first game ended, I stupidly forgot for a couple seconds that the umpires would be exiting the field, and this hesitation may have cost me a ball as I was out of position at the umpire tunnel and didn’t get a ball from the home plate umpire. The time between the games wasn’t all bad, though. It was in this time that I had pre-arranged a meet-up with fellow MLBlogger, Bryan Mapes of the popular blog, Three Up, Three Down. He was in the club level of Citi Field, but came down to meet me in the concourse of the field level:

52513 Bryan Mapes and Mateo Fischer

Despite having conversed many times over Twitter and our respective blogs, this was the first time we had ever met in person. So there’s that.

I then headed back to my seat where I enjoyed the same view–except darker–for the rest of the night despite not snagging another ball:

52513 Dugout view 1 52513 Dugout view 2

And so that was it. The Mets lost both games, which made Bryan, a Braves fan, very happy, but I pretty much just sat, enjoyed the games, and got to cross another thing off my baseball bucket list. Even if I probably never would have thought to put this exact scenario on my bucket list ever.

The Mets even had the firework that were supposed to go off the previous day go off in honor of my 1-ball performance:

52513 Fireworks

I would go back to the Bronx knowing that the next day would be just another day back at the ballpark, but with a lot more batting practice and ballhawks than I had been seeing the past two days. And I would have one mission: snag two baseballs to get to 100 all-time at Citi Field.

STATS:

  • 1 Ball at this game (not pictured because I gave it away
  • Number 524 for my “career”
  • 78 Balls in 18 Games= 4.33 Balls Per Game
  • 1 Ball x 27,622 Fans= 27,622 Competition Factor
  • 80 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 98 Balls in 37 Games at Citi Field= 2.69 Balls Per Game
  • 37 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Citi Field
  • Time Spent On Game 12:02-11:49= 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

5/20/13 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
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