Results tagged ‘ Mets ’

My Favorite MLB Teams

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

1. Minnesota Twins-

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

2. Washington Nationals-

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

3. Tampa Bay Rays-

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

4. San Francisco Giants-

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

5. Texas Rangers-

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

6. New York Yankees-

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

7. Philadelphia Phillies-

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

8. Toronto Blue Jays-

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

1. Yankees

2. Red Sox

3. Blue Jays

4. Orioles

5. Devil Rays

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

9. Milwaukee Brewers-

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

10. Oakland Athletics-

(See Tampa Rays.)

11. Cincinnati Reds-

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

12. Atlanta Braves-

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

13. Arizona Diamondbacks-

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

14. Seattle Mariners-

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

15. Baltimore Orioles-

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

16. Detroit Tigers-

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

17. Pittsburgh Pirater-

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

18. Miami Marlins-

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

19. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim-

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

20. Colorado Rockies-

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

21. San Diego Padres-

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

22. Cleveland Indians-

Again, never disliked them but never really liked them.

23. Houston Astros-

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

24. Kansas City Royals-

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

25. St. Louis Cardinals-

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

26. Chicago White Sox-

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

27. New York Mets-

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

Beat the Mets,

Beat the Mets,

Step right up and,

Sweep the Mets

28. Los Angeles Dodgers-

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

29. Chicago Cubs-

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

30. Boston Red Sox-

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

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

Just Logo

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

Icon 5

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

7/27/13 Mets at Nationals: Nationals Park

I have been to as many Mets at Nationals games as probably 95% of the baseball-watching population. I have little to no doubt in my mind that it is the match-up I have seen more games than any other in baseball. That said, in terms of excitement, this was in at least the lower 50th percentile. That started with what was happening when I got to the gates:
72713 Opening Picture

I was utterly confused, because I had gotten there 3 hours early. So naturally I tried to scan my ticket and get in, but that’s when I learned that this was a season ticket holder event, and as a result of this, 1. There would be no batting practice, and 2. The gates were only opening 1.5 hours early for the game.

Instead of getting in line and waiting in the sun for 90 minutes, I sat down in the shade and charged my iPhone (because I’m starting to suspect that they are even equipped with a battery). In this time,  I saw the line grow massive outside of the center field gate:

72713 CF Gate 1 72713 CF Gate 2

Now normally I would have freaked out and jumped in line after five people got int it. But instead, I got up from sitting five minutes before the gates were supposed to open and relied on human stupidity to get me to near the front of the line. And I was right!

72713 Third in line

When the stadium opens 2.5 hours early, the only gate that’s open is the center field gate, but then all gates open 1.5 hours before the game starts. While pretty much no one else bothered to check, I figured since all of the stadium staff was already in the stadium for the season ticket holder event and the gates were opening 1.5 hours early, this would be the case. As a result of me being  one of the first in closer to home plate, I was the first person to get to the Nationals pitchers warming up down the right field line:

72713 Nats in RF

And because of this, I got a toss-up from a face I hadn’t seen in a while: Ryan Mattheus. It was nice to see him back from his rehab stint, because if I’m not mistaken, he has tossed me more baseballs than any other person ever. (Actually I now checked, and he is the leader.) Here he added onto his lead by tossing me my seventh baseball ever:

72713 Ball 1

That would be it for snagging until the game itself. I would actually go on to give this baseball away to an usher I know in left field, as I sat out there for the majority of the game. Although, I must clear up something from two sentences ago: I actually snagged my second and final baseball in *between* the game and not during the game itself. The two teams played eight innings, but there was then a rain delay in some part (or right after) of the eighth inning. So what I did since I was down by the dugout at this point in the game, is I got a baseball from home plate umpire Lance Barksdale as he cleared the field for the rain delay. There was then an hour-long rain delay, and then the two teams played the ninth inning. The delay was actually insult to injury, because this was a game that was cruising along until the seventh inning, where it then decided to start taking forever with a bunch of base runners and pitching changes.

But anyway, like I said, this wasn’t a very exciting game. That’s all I have for you. Be sure as always to read the stats. Goodbye.

STATS:

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

72713 Baseballs

Numbers 587 and 588:

72713 Sweet Spots

  • 142 Balls in 36 Games= 3.94 Balls Per Game
  • 2 Balls x 37,464 Fans=74,928 Competition Factor
  • 98 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 3 straight games with 2-3 Balls
  • 175 Balls in 40 Games at Nationals Park= 4.38 Balls Per Game
  • 32 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
  • 3 straight Games with at least 2-3 Balls at Nationals Park
  • Time Spent On Game 10:58-8:13= 9 Hours 15 Minutes

6/6/13 Mets at Nationals: Nationals Park

I didn’t know it by how it looked when I left to go to this game, but it would be defined by rain. There wouldn’t be any rain when I got there, but the Nationals still didn’t take any BP:

6613 No BP

So I just sat around and talked to an usher I know in right field and a ballhawk out there until the Mets started hitting. Then David Wright hit a ball that bounced off the warning track. It then hit off a chair in the Red Seats–where I was standing when it came time for the Mets to hit, if you didn’t catch that–and bounced right to my glove. It was one of those times where really the ball caught me. Anyway, here’s my view of the field when the Mets started hitting:

6613 View from the Red Seats

The ball bounced pretty much between the two guys in red.

And then I got Collin McHugh to toss me a ball that I then immediately gave away to a kid to my left:

6613 McHugh

(Not the one who is in the last picture, but more on him later.) The next ball I got actually left me mad. I ran into a row as I tracked a Justin Turner home run and watched as the ball flew over my head. Thankfully there wasn’t anyone behind me and I could go and pick the ball up:

6613 Ball 2

I then caught a Marlon Byrd home run on the fly, which I’m actually pretty proud of; not because I tracked the ball and made a leaping catch or anything like that, but because right as the ball was coming, a kid in the first row threw his glove in the air, which blocked my view of the ball, but I still got it:

6613 Ball 3

And I then gave it to a kid to my left:

6613 Kid I gave ball 4

The arrow closest to the field is the kid I gave the ball away to and the second arrow is the kid who threw his glove in the air. And during that same hitting group, it started pouring. And with that, the Mets ran in and batting practice was over:

6613 Cage going off

So in watching a grand total of two groups of BP–roughly an eighth of a total BP– I had snagged four baseballs, which is frustrating because I can only think of how good the numbers I could have put up could have been if I would have had a full BP.

I rushed to the Mets dugout when they first ended BP, but I was too late to get a ball from them. So as the game looked like it was going to be delayed, I walked up to talk to some ushers I knew from last season behind the Mets dugout. I was just planning on saying hi to them and moving on, but I ended up talking to them for a good hour until the game was officially called. Yep, that’s right. The game was postponed after what I would say was an hour+ rain delay. They probably would have called it sooner, but teams like to wait a while longer than they actually need in order for people to buy more things at the concession stands. But anyway, after watching the first few picks of the MLB draft on the big screen, this flashed up there:

6613 Big board

And at that point I headed through the seats towards the outfield, where I planned to exit. I would have exited through the concourse, but it was a) Packed with people who had retreated up there to get away from the rain, and b) I wanted to see if anyone left their tickets in the stands, so I could possibly have an essentially free ticket to a future game. On my way out, though, I ran into an usher who knows me because he was the one who saw my ear bleeding in my first game back here this season, so talked with him for a couple minutes on what I believed to be was my way out of the stadium. In the  time I was talking with him, though, I saw two Mets players coming out to throw just beyond the tarp, so when I was done talking with the usher, I headed back towards foul ground instead of taking off:

6613 Foul Ground

Okay, so the person throwing closest to me I could tell was Ricky Bones, but I couldn’t tell who the far thrower was, but I figured he was an actual player on the Mets, since two coaches probably wouldn’t come out to throw in the rain. The reason I was so far back is that I could tell the ushers at the top of the staircases were being instructed to keep all the fans at the top of the section. That meant that if I would have a very short window of opportunity at the bottom of the section before an usher would come down and tell me to leave. So as the far player started to inch in, and I could tell the catch session was coming to a close, I ran down to the bottom of the steps. Fifteen seconds into me being down there, the security guard on the field closest to the tarp in that last picture told me to go up. I asked him “I can’t even stay for a couple seconds to get this ball from them?” To which he responded, “No; you gotta go up.”

So I did technically obey his command, but as I sensed the players were done throwing, I first yelled out a request for the ball to Ricky Bones, but the two talked for a couple seconds. So I very slowly backed up the stairs; no doubt angering the security guard who had told me to go up. When the two Mets headed back towards the dugout, the other Mets–who I could now tell was Shawn Marcum–had the ball, so I waved my arms at him from now at least twenty rows deep into the section, and he launched me the ball for now my fifth on the day:

6613 Ball 5

And while I was pretty excited about the ball myself when I got it, I heard a cheer erupt in what I thought was my head when I got the ball, but I turned around to see there  was a full section of fans who had been watching the whole thing play out. It was the second loudest cheer I’ve ever gotten for a ball next to glove tricking a ball from the second deck of Miller Park. And with that, my day of ballhawking ended on five baseballs and I finally headed off home a little earlier than normal still.

STATS:

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

6613 Baseballs

Numbers 552-556:

6613 Sweet Spots

  • 110 Balls in 25 Games= 4.50 Balls Per Game
  • 5 Ball x 36,000 Fans=180,000 Competition Factor
  • 88 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 148 Balls in 32 Games at Nationals Park= 4.63 Balls Per Game
  • 24 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
  • 8 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
  • 6 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
  • 4 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 4-5 Balls
  • Time Spent On Game 3:18-8:55= 5 Hours 37 Minutes

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

6/4/13 Mets at Nationals: Nationals Park

After a brief trip to Baltimore, it was back to Washington. And look who was there to greet me:

20130609-170257.jpg

That, if you don’t know from past entries like this one, is Rick Gold, a fellow ballhawk who lives in New Jersey and works for MLB.com, and as a result goes to games pretty much everywhere, but likes to come visit Washington perhaps more than any other city. What we’re doing in the picture is it was my first day in Washington with my behemoth of a glove that is either 14 or 15 inches. (I forgot which it is exactly and it doesn’t say on the glove itself.) And Rick’s glove is also pretty large at 14″, so we were previewing the battle of the big gloves that was going to take place during the day. I had my glove in front of his in the picture, but I’ll give you a brief preview and say that he put on a show during BP.

His day started off rough with a missed catch on a home run ball during pitcher’s BP. But fortunately he had his cup trick to retrieve the ball from the gap in front of the Red Seats and caught another ball on the fly later that Craig Stammen hit. Meanwhile in the left field seats, I managed to catch a ball off of the bat of Nathan Karns who hit a couple out:

6413 Ball 1

It’s crazy to think that Karns can hit, because the Nationals pitching staff, although their in-game numbers might not necessarily reflect it, are one of the better hitting staffs in the league during BP. They routinely outperform the hitters in terms of home runs for a hitting group.

My next ball came in the Red Seats when Nathan Karns came out to field baseballs. I think I was the only one who knew his name since he had just made two starts at that point, so when I call out to him by name as he approached the wall to retrieve a ball, he tossed me the baseball for my second ball of the day. My third ball came when bench coach, Randy Knorr, fielded a ball by the Red Seats. I asked him by name for a ball and he hooked me up. Right as I got the ball, I asked a group of three kids who had gotten a ball yet. They all said they hadn’t, so I gave the ball to the kid closest to me on the left and told them I would give one of the others a ball if I snagged another ball out there in the Red Seats:

6413 Ball 3 diagram

I didn’t so just that one kid got a ball from me. Although I did see another snag a ball in the time I was there afterwards. I left there when I saw the Mets players coming out to throw. The Mets are pretty bad in BP to begin with, so I knew I wouldn’t be missing much in going into foul territory for a couple of rounds. But I get ahead of myself. I forgot to mention how exactly the clinic Rick Gold was putting on unfolded. By the time I headed over into foul ground, he already had eight baseballs. If you don’t know, Rick doesn’t go for toss-ups, so besides the ball he got using his ball retriever, the other seven were hit baseballs. These seven included five balls caught on the fly and balls caught on three consecutive pitches. All were opposite field home runs by Ryan Zimmerman, and it was truly something to see. I watched him chase down and catch the first one, then as I turned to pay attention to Zimmerman again, I saw another ball headed out there, and Rick ran back towards where he had started to catch the second. I then saw him running back to where he caught the first ball and catch the third ball. He literally had two balls in his throwing hand when he caught the last of the three since he didn’t have time to put any in his backpack. He would end the game at ten baseballs with six caught on the fly. I can only imagine what numbers he could have gotten to had he been going for toss-ups as well. Or does he maybe miss some hit baseballs because he was asking for a ball somewhere in there? Does his three consecutive catches in a row? I don’t know, but it was a spectacular performance. The best I’ve ever seen in terms of a ballhawk going off by catching the hit ball.

When the Mets pitchers finished throwing, I got Scott Rice to toss me a ball:

6413 Ball 4

First of all, this ball was a result of the surprising lack of Mets fans that went into foul ground to watch them warm up. But secondly, I was concentrating on another throwing pair, but when Rice and his partner Greg Burke got done throwing, I got into the first row, and as Rice kept walking by me with the ball, I asked him by name if he could toss me the ball. Not surprisingly–as I was the only one to do so, he obliged me for my fourth ball of the game.

My fifth ball of the day came when I headed back out to the Red Seats. When Matt Harvey went to dead center field to retrieve a ball, I went to the corner spot at the front-left of the section and asked him for the ball. He looked up at me and tossed me the ball:

6413 Ball 5

Batting practice would end within five minutes of me getting this ball, so that would be it for me for BP. Towards the end of the game, though, I headed down here as the Mets lead the game 2-1:

6413 View at end of game

I figured the game was over since the Mets had their pretty-reliable closer Bobby Parnell on the mound. But that’s when the Mets showed why they were the Mets and why the Nationals were the Nationals. You see this is the second game I have been to between these two teams where the Mets lead the whole game, but the Nationals went on a roll in the bottom of the ninth that made it look like they were just toying with the Mets.  I’ll just tell you what happened. Ryan Zimmerman hit a double to lead off the inning. Zimmerman then advanced on a wild pitch. Adam LaRoche then hit a single to score Zimmerman. At this point I was very unhappy even though the Nationals–who I am a fan of–had tied the game because I really didn’t want extra innings since I was already by the dugout, and that’s where it appeared this game was headed. But again, thank you to the Mets for being the Mets, because Ian Desmond doubled to make it runners on second and third with no outs. (Since Trent Jewett, the third base coach was obviously not going to send LaRoche in that situation.) Roger Bernadina then came up, but with Steve Lombardozzi hitting behind him and the obvious benefits of having a force-out at every base, he was intentionally walked. Lombardozzi then thankfully hit a walk-off sac-fly to end the game.

At the end of the game, I had kids in front of me in the corner spot to the umpire’s tunnel, but home plate umpire Wally Bell actually didn’t give them any baseballs; which is very odd. Just in case, though, I started to say, “Mr. Bell…” And before I could even finish my request, Bell had already tossed me my sixth ball of the night:

6413 Ball 6

It just goes to show, sometimes all it takes is asking and knowing the person’s name.

STATS:

  • 6 Balls at this Game

6413 Baseballs

Numbers 538-543 for my “lifetime”:

6413 Sweet Spots

  • 97 Balls in 23 Games= 4.22 Balls Per Game
  • 6 Ball x 31,473 Fans=188,838 Competition Factor
  • 86 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 135 Balls in 30 Games at Nationals Park= 4.50 Balls Per Game
  • 22 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
  • 6 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
  • 4 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
  • 2 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 4-5 Balls
  • Time Spent On Game 2:53-10:38= 7 Hours 45 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

5/21/13 Reds at Mets: Citi Field

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

52113 Opening Picture

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

52113 View to my right

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

52113 Ben on staircase

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

52113 Ball 1

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

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

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

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

52113 Ball 5

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

52113 Pitcher in right field

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

52113 Loud Kids

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

52113 Second Deck LF

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

For the game I stayed in left field:

52113 View from LF

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

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

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

52113 Ben walking away

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

52113 Ben getting semi-tackled

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

STATS:

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

52113 Baseballs

Numbers 516-521:

52113 Sweet Spots

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

5/20/13 Reds at Mets: Citi Field

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

Click on here to get to the video.

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

52013 Packed train

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

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

52013 View in LF

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

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

52013 Ball 1

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

52013 Second view in left

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

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

52013 Ball 2

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

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

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

52013 View from the Pepsi Porch

And now of the scoreboard:

52013 View of the scoreboard from the PP

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

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

52013 Guy who has balls

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

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

52013 Mark home run ball

Left to right that would be:

1. Zack

2. Mark McConville

3. Myself

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

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

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

STATS:

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

52013 Baseballs

Numbers 513-515:

52013 Sweet Spots

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

4/13/13 Mets at Twins: Target Field

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

41313 Opening Picture

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

41313 Ball 1

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

41313 Swarzak ball picture

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

41313 Infielders warming up

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

41313 Ball 3

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

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

41313 Softball set-up

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

41313 Softball KTWIN

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

41313 Softball Field

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

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

41313 Mateo ready to snag

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

41313 Lexus Hat

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

41313 Mateo with 2 hats

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

41313 Ball 6

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

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

41313 Circle Me Mets

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

STATS:

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

41313 Baseballs

Numbers 459-464 for my lifetime:

41313 Sweet Spots

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

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

Capture

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