Results tagged ‘ Nationals ’
It was my first time back in Washington, and I experienced a first in all my games at Nationals Park. It was sold-out. So, I had to wait in line for the $5 tickets that get released right as the gates open:
Thankfully, as you can see, I was at the front of the line, so I didn’t have to worry about not being able to get tickets, but not being able to wait AT the gate meant I would have to wait behind a line for the first time in forever at Nationals Park:
When I got into the stadium, I initially went to the left field seats:
While I was there, I saw a ball fly into the seats in upper right field seats. When those seats opened to fans at 5:00, I ran up and found a baseball in this spot:
I didn’t photograph it in that spot because I was too busy trying to find other “Easter Eggs” in those seats. When I went back down to the Red Seats, I gave that ball away to a kid I had promised I would give a ball to if I got another (after I snagged the Morse home run). I could have easily pretended to have not found that ball since the kid never saw me find it, but I like to honor my promises, however minuscule they may seem.
I then headed over to foul territory to try to get a ball from the pitchers warming up, but they didn’t toss a ball to myself or any other fans while I was there. Even if they would have, I was just one of many Giants fans:
There, I got my third ball of the day. Matt Cain threw a ball over his head, and I jumped for it, but came up just short. It then hit this man in the head:
and I caught it off the bounce. I then gave the ball to him, since he did take the ball off his head, and you could see the mark the stitches made on his forehead. That would be my last ball of batting practice.
Even though my ticketed seat was in the upper deck, this was my view of the game, by the grace of an usher who lets me sit there:
I know I don’t usually do this, but here’s a picture of Tim Lincecum delivering a pitch in the first inning:
In the middle of the sixth inning, it started raining, so the tarp came on the field:
I saw this as an opportunity to get into better seats, since the ushers wouldn’t be checking tickets due to everyone and their mother leaving the seats, so I made my way thought the extremely crowded concourse:
and to the Nationals dugout. I also figured many people had left, so I picked up tickets in that area. Once I had tickets in that area, I figured “I might as well see if I can get over to the Giants dugout. Worst case scenario: the ushers are checking tickets, and I have to go back to the Nationals dugout..” Sure enough, the ushers still weren’t. Hacking tickets, so I wandered the seats and found tickets for most of the 1 hour 25 minute rain delay. I also sat by the Giants dugout, just in case I could convince any of them to toss me a ball out of the ball bag:
Anyway, at this point, I had amassed a considerable amount of tickets, so I had fun just running around the stadium, making minute adjustments depending on the hitter and situation. I didn’t get anything, but it was fun trying.
Oh, and here are three pictures showing how empty the stadium was:
At the end of the game, I headed over to the umpire tunnel and got Scott Barry to toss me a ball:
It was 11:09 at that point, and the last train left the station at 11:20, so I didn’t even have time to put the ball in my backpack. Right after I snagged the ball, I took off. I literally ran the whole way to the Metro station with a ball in my glove.
When I got to the Metro Station is when I realized the ball was my 100th of the season, so I took another picture of it, in all of its triple digit glory:
Sorry for the quality of the picture. I was going through my stats on the platform, so I took a picture right there on the platform. Here is a better picture i took at home the next day:
• 4 Balls at this game (1 pictured because I gave 3 away)
• 100 Balls in 20 Games= 5 Balls Per Game
• 29 straight Games with at least 1Ball
• 5 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
• 4 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
• 4 straight Games with at least 4 Balls
• 79 Balls in 16 Games at Nationals Park= 4.94 Balls Per Game
• 8 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 1 Ball
• 8 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 Balls
• Time Spent On Game 2:34-11:44= 9 Hours 10 Minutes
Oh, ’twas a frustrating day at National Park at Camden Yards. First, I missed my train from Washington’s Union Station due to a failure in the DC Metro system. I would say the DC Metro is usually a good transit system, but when it comes to construction and weekend schedules, it’s questionable at best. I had both things going against me.
Once I finally walked to Union Station, I got a ticket on the next train to Baltimore. The problem with this train was it was scheduled to arrive in Baltimore-Penn Station at 11:10. Walking, it is usually half an hour from there to Camden Yards. I was going to have to run down to make the gate time of 11:30. To make matters more uncertain, I texted the person who usually gets tickets for me in Baltimore, Avi Miller, and he somehow didn’t know I was coming. He said he was waiting for people to maybe buy his last two tickets from him. The first thing that came to mind was, ” Ruh-roh.”
Thankfully, I was running down hill and managed to get there at 11:21. When I got there, though, I didn’t see anyone I recognize, most importantly, I didn’t see Avi. As I may have have mentioned in another entry from this week, Avi goes to a LOT of Orioles games, and I don’t really, so I thought he had left the country to escape my ticket-grabbing self.
Then at 11:27, Avi miraculously showed up with a ticket. Yes, my day was indeed saved. I wouldn’t have to wander the streets of Baltimore for the next six hours. There you have it people, Avi Miller keeps kids off the streets and on the ball field. I should have gotten a picture with him there, but I was probably thinking the gates were going to open any minute.
Why do I bore you with all the things going up to the game? Well because once I got in the stadium, there wasn’t anything more exciting going on:
The only action on the field for about the first ten minutes was the Friday’s starter, Jason Hammel throwing warming up and throwing a bullpen session (at least I think that’s what it was):
I waited around, until suddenly there was movement on the Nationals side of the field. I put on my Nationals gear and headed over there to set up behind these guys:
The far right person would be Craig Stammen. After he finished playing catch, the coach with whom he was throwing ended up with the ball and tossed it back with the other two you can see in the lower left part of the picture.
The far left person was Tom Gorzelanny. After he finished playing catch, his throwing partner, Ryan Mattheus, held onto the ball. At this time, all other people were allowed into the seating bowl besides season-ticket holders, so when Mattheus finally did toss the ball up, I had a lot more competition, and lost out as a result.
The next pair to start throwing was Tyler Clippard and Sean Burnett, so I tried to set up deeper, and hope Burnett would end up with the ball since Clippard is underrated as an “unfan-friendly” player:
The next two players to start throwing were Jordan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg. I tried the same tactic, this time hoping Strasburg got the ball. While he is not that generous with toss-ups himself, Zimmerman has a reputation as not tossing balls into the crowd:
Probably the most frustrating thing about this day, though, was that had I gotten a ball from the first throwing group, I could have gotten about 5 signatures of prolific pitchers. Here you can see Strasburg signing:
but he was hardly the only one. If he was a pitcher for the Nationals, he probably signed on this day. Let me list off all the names that signed for fans:
Sean Burnett, Tyler Clippard, Mike Gonzalez, Gio Gonzalez, Tom Gorzelanny, Edwin Jackson, Ryan Mattheus, Stephen Strasburg, and Jordan Zimmerman. I was waiting to snag a ball to get signed… but that never came.
I was still at zero balls when the game went under way, so I camped out here for the whole game:
Even as the Nationals fan that went up every inning after the third out, I got nothing. Of course, I was in the spot perfect for getting a ball from the first baseman Adam LaRoche, and only one inning ended in a ground out.
I should just show an example of Camden Yards fans being nice. The people whose seats I had been sitting in actually let me keep sitting there and themselves sat behind me, “until someone shows up.” That ended up being the whole game. They offered me peanuts and to buy me something to drink. They then lauded my “ambition/ passion” and said they wished their son had as much as I do.
In New York, people who saw me in their seats would have probably just given me a “get outta here”. Well not really that specific phrase, but they would have asked me to move.
Maybe it was because I was simply enjoying going after the third out balls, or talking with these two fans, but unlike other games where I had zero balls during the game, here I wasn’t nervous at all.
As the game winded down, I left my seat to get an “Orange Chill” and to got to the umpire’s tunnel. There I called out to the umpire, David Rackley, and after giving away a few balls to kids at the mouth of the tunnel, he tossed one up to me:
I then headed over to a restaurant whose name I believe was California Tortialla and watched the PSO for Italy- England along with Avi and his friend Zevi, who had also accompanied to the gates and as far as I can tell, throughout the game. When they had to catch their ride, I headed up the hill to Baltimore-Penn Station with the water and chips they had so graciously provided, where I would catch my bus back to New York.
Bye, bye Camden Yards. Until next time:
• 1 Ball at this Game
• 74 Balls in 15 Games this season= 4.93 Balls Per Game
• 24 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
• 1 Ball x 41,794 Fans= 41,794 Competition Factor
• 8 straight Games at Camden Yards with at least 1 Ball
• Time Spent On Game 8:30 AM- 11:45 PM= 14 Hours 15 Minutes
There was only one word to describe this day in Baltimore: crazy.
Everything started out perfectly normal and fine, though. I arrived at Gate H around 50 minutes before the opening time and ate my Subway sandwich:
A crowd then started gathering outside the gate, and I checked my phone to see what time it was. It was 4:25, but the more important thing I saw was that the person with my ticket, Avi Miller, had sent me a message saying he would probably be there by 4:50 because he was having problems with the LightRail. He was right, but it was a nerve-racking experience awaiting him as it got closer and closer to the gate opening time.
After a couple of minutes inside, this was the view to my right:
Yep, one person that could possibly compete with me. What are those numbers? Oh those are just locations of balls I had caught. Yes, that is a nine in the fourth row. Was that my last ball of the day? I’m not telling you; read the rest of the entry and you’ll find out.
See what I mean? Crazy. By the time I took that picture, I had already caught three ball on the fly. The location of which, you can see in the picture. Avi identified the hitter of the first ball as J.J. Hardy. The next two I’m pretty sure were both hit by Mark Reynolds.
Here was the view to my left:
After I caught my third ball of the game, a kid asked me what my name was. I don’t know why he did, but I responded and asked what his name was. It was Michael Myers. He then engaged me in a short conversation, so I offered to give him my next ball of the day. Naturally, he agreed. After a few minutes of inaction, however, he asked me, “can’t you just give me one now.” to which I responded, “Just wait, I’ll give you my next one.” he then asked back, “Well how do you know you’ll get another?” To that I simply said,” I’m pretty sure I’ll get another.” Sure enough, approximately 4 minutes later, Mark Reynolds hit another shot over my head and to my left, where I chased it down and picked it up. You can see part of the “4″ where I got the ball in the last picture. I then went back down and gave this ball to him.
You have already seen the “5″ spot, but here I took a picture of the ball itself:
After I took this picture, it occured to me that Michael probably wasn’t ever going to get a commemorative ball. Given that every ball I had snagged up to that point was commemorative except the one I gave him, I made an exchange with him so he could have the commemorative ball instead of the standard “Selig” ball (yes, when I made the exchange, I explained what I meant by a “Selig” ball).
You’ve already seen the “6″ spot. It was hit by a righty in the second hitting group I saw. I tracked this ball throughout this whole flight and caught it on the fly, where I then proceeded to almost fall down after glancing off an Oriole Park cupholder. I would later or then give this ball away.
I should actually explain something before it gets too late in the entry. The action was coming so fast ( caught a small percentage of the balls that went into the left field seats) that I never had time to write down notes until batting practice ended, so although I know that I caught a ball in the location where I wrote the “6″ and then almost fell down, I don’t know if that was necessarily my sixth ball of the day. Some things I *DO* know are: All but one of my balls was hit, all of my balls were snagged in the left field seats, I caught five balls on the fly, and I “gave” away 6 balls. If you want to know why there may be some inaccuracies, I took pictures like this to remind myself of where I had snagged baseballs:
Gee, thanks, Mateo. Which of the five baseballs I snagged in this area is this supposed to remind me of?
Why do I write “gave” in quotations? Ball number seven. A ball was hit way over my head and to my left. So, I ran to about the spot where I thought it would land. It landed a few rows above that, so I raced after it. I grabbed the ball, but another kid grabbed the ball right after that. I know I could have pulled the ball away from him, but I didn’t want to be like that, so I let go. I count this because I *did* have possesion; I just decided not to keep it. Here is the kid:
Yes, I use the term “kid” very loosely. With me it can mean anyone from about 2 to about 18 years old. If we’re going off purely technicalities, though, a kid means a young goat.
Around this time, a man approached me to introduce himself. He said that he had seen me a few times on Zack Hample’s blog. He also mentioned he had been on there a few times. With this little tidbit, he also added, “I’m Helmet Guy.” Then it all made sense. I had seen him a few times at Citi Field in the two prior seasons. He owns, I believe a helmet from all thirty teams. His real name, though is Brendan Sammon. Here he is giving a “thumbs up” after jokingly complaining that all people wanted to “see [was] the helmet” (he was wearing a Nationals hat when he introduced himself, but I asked him if he could put on his helmet for the picture, since, you know, he IS “Helmet Guy”. I’m pretty sure he even had a custom shirt that says that on the back.
I then got my 7th ball in a spot that I didn’t photograph behind me- hence the lack of a “7″ spot. It was an absolutely perfect Camden Yards commemorative ball. I gave that to this man in the bright orange shirt:
Why does it look so crowded around him? AfterI got ball number 8, whose spot I have already shown, the left field seats opened up to non-season ticket holders. So this is what the seats looked like to my left and right:
Regardless, I was feeling pretty good about myself having already snagged 8 balls to that point…until Avi came back to me. Right as he got to me, he said, “should I thank you now or later?” Apparently, no one had gone for Nationals toss-ups, so Avi (wearing Orioles gear) got 8 toss-ups from the Nationals pitchers. I was of course wearing bright red Nationals attire. How many of those would I have gotten? Four? Six? All I can say is: crazy.
During Nationals B.P., I got two balls. The first I caught on the fly in the spot you saw labeled “9″. Both this and the next one may have been either Michael Morse or Ryan Zimmerman.
The next ball I picked up off the ground in another place I never took a picture of, but this one was more to my right than the “7″ spot I also didn’t photograph. I gave this ball away to a kid on the spot.
Of course, everything was going so crazy, I didn’t know what number I was up to. All I knew was I had given five balls away. I was going to count how many I still had later on to find out my grand total.
I then rendezvoused with Brendan by the bullpens. This time, his son, Patrick, was with him. You see, previously, his son was stuck on Eutaw street, since they bought a ticket from a dealer who had advertised it as a season ticket when it hadn’t been.
While I talked to him, the Nationals’ bullpen coach, Jim Lett, walked into the bullpen. I leaned over the side and asked him for a ball. He looked up, picked a ball off the ground and tossed it to me:
Here’s a better picture:
Oh. My. Goodness. I had set up my schedule, so I would be in position to get as many of the six commemorative baseballs out this season as I could. The only ball, however, that I would have to luck out on was the Fenway Park commemorative, since I wasn’t going to go to Yankees-Red Sox, and I wasn’t going to see a team the Red Sox had just played. How the commemoratives got to this game. I don’t know. I wasn’t about to question it either.
Right after I got my ball, Lett also tossed Patrick his first ball of the game. This was an Oriole Park commemorative. In batting practice, Brendan had caught a Michael Morse BOMB that had made it all the way to the cross-aisle behind the left field seats. This ball was a Fenway commemorative. They actually switched up balls and asked me to take a picture of them, so I figured I’d share it with you. I assume it’s okay since I took the picture of Brendan earlier for myself:
After that, the tarp went on the field, and I met up with Avi, after which, he took me to the Suite Level. Yes, you technically need a ticket, but this was Camden Yards, not Citi Field, so naturally no one checked. Due to this and other amenities, I made a few cracks about how spoiled he and the other regulars here were.
Once the game began, after an hour-long rain delay, I went out to my usual spot in right field, where this was the view:
While I was out there, though, I went through and counted all the baseballs in my backpack. My record for one game had been 10 baseballs, so when I found out I had gotten 11, this was my reaction:
However, since the game had been delayed, and my train back to Washington left at 10:15, I had to leave in the middle of the sixth inning. On my way out, though, I gave away my sixth ball to a kid on Eutaw street.
I then took a picture of said street from outside the stadium:
You think the crazy was done for the day? No, not quite. I left the game at 9:38, but even though Washington is 45 minutes from Baltimore, a series of delays caused me to get back to the apartment at 1:32. Thus, you can expect a new stat at the end of this entry.
• 11 Balls at this game (5 pictured because I gave 6 away)
• 73 Balls in 14 Games= 5.21 Balls Per Game
• 23 straight Games with at least 1Balll
• 3 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
• 3 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
• 3 straight Games with at least 4 Balls
• 3 straight Games with at least 5 Balls
• 3 straight Games with at least 6 Balls
• 3 straight Games with at least 7 Balls
• 3 straight Games with at least 8 Balls
• 11 Balls x 45,891 Fans= 504,801 Competition Factor
• 38 Balls in 7 Games at Camden Yards= 5.43 Balls Per Game
• 7 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Camden Yards
• 4 straight Games at Camden Yards with at least 2 Balls
• 3 straight Games at Camden Yards with at least 3 Balls
• 3 straight Games at Camden Yards with at least 4 Balls
• 2 straight Games at Camden Yards with at least 5 Balls
• Time spent on the game ( This statistic differs from “Time at Game” in that it includes the time spent traveling between my residence and the ballpark for that day) So this day I left my apartment at 1:30 PM. I got back there at 1:32 AM, so the “Time Spent On the Game would be 12 Hours 2 Minutes
Ah. Another day, another game at Nationals Park. This time with extra 5 Hour Energy:
Once I got inside the gates, I first went over to right field to try to get a ball from the pitchers pictured:
Then I moved over to the left field seats, where this was my view:
I got Drew Storen to toss me my first ball right over the visitors’ bullpen. The ball had bounced off the outside of the bullpen, so check out the marks on it:
After that, I went over to the Red Seats, where this was my view:
You may notice that the pitcher in the middle of the three is Drew Storen. While he was there, I didn’t want to ask any of the pitchers for balls, figuring he would recognize me. When he left, however, I got Craig Stammen to toss me a ball:
(Stammen is the guy to the right of my glove.) After that, a person came up to me and asked, “Hey, what’s your name?” When I responded, he said, “Do you write a blog on Mlblogs?” The mystery person was Steve Miller, a guy who also writes a Marlins-themed Mlblog entitled, Fish Fry. I had actually commented on it a couple of times, and he has a picture of himself on the blog, but for whatever reason, I didn’t recognize him until he introduced himself. This is just one example that if you are at the ballpark and spot myself or another ballhawk you recognize, introduce yourself. We don’t ignore you on purpose. It’s just that with all the interactions/faces that we come across during an average game, it can be hard to keep track of. I know that I personally will never “shoo” anyone away who introduces themselves, and the worst that will happen with most other ballhawks is they’ll ask you if you can talk after batting practice instead. Anyway, I stupidly didn’t get a picture with Steve.
Right after Steve introduced himself, I said, “Man, I wish I could get a hit ball instead of a toss-up, so I can give it away to one of these kids.” pointing to the kids in the first row.
Well, I did get a hit ball to come to me. A Nationals righty hit a high fly ball that I could tell was going to hit the warning track. I aligned myself with the ball and was ready to catch the ball as it bounced over the wall and right right towards my glove. Perfect, right? Well the ball hit off the warning track with such spin that once the ball bounced into my glove, it bounced right out of my glove. It then went into the gap between the two walls I the Red Seats. It was extremely frustrating, but they’ll be more on this ball in a bit.
Okay, now it’s time to make some New York ballhawks jealous. This was the view to my right:
I caught my third ball of the game half way between the kid in the red and the man in the white in the row behind them. I was taking a picture, and just as I took the picture and was putting my phone in my pocket, Adam LaRoche hit a ball to my right. I was still putting it in my pocket, and had to make a back handed catch, leaning over a row of seats. I then gave that ball to the kid in the red hat in the next picture:
Here is the view to my left:
See the man in a blue shirt in the row emanating from the lower left corner of the picture? I got two hit balls right where he is standing in the picture. The first was a ball Roger Bernadina hit that landed in that spot. I then picked it up after running over there from where I took that last picture. I was the heading back to the spot where I took the picture from when Rick Ankiel hit a ball to the same exact spot. I moved back over to the spot and made the catch for which I got some applause.
Sensing that everyone in the section had just seen me get two balls, I asked, “Who hasn’t gotten a ball yet?” Four people raised their hands zero of which were kids with gloves. I didn’t want to be a jerk and crush people’s hopes that I had just gotten up, so I gave the ball away to a girl in the front row.
Soon after this, I was still thinking about if the ball I had dropped into the gap was still there. I figured it was, so I VERY quickly and discreetly went to the center field gap (In a different shirt, hat, and sunglasses, just in case.), and I glove tricked the ball, having learned from my previous- failed- attempt the day prior. After I reeled it up without anyone seeing me, I got out of there as fast as I could and went to left field.
In left field, Fernando Rodney tossed me a ball left handed. Naturally, the ball was off target. I then grabbed the ball and l gave it away to a girl who had been jokingly complaining that her brother had gotten a ball while she hadn’t. I should mention that this ball came after I missed two other toss-ups. One was a similar one from Rodney that I missed all together. The other was from another Rays player I never identified. Both sailed over my head, where I never got them.
The Rays had a VERY abbreviated batting practice. After getting 6 balls in Nationals B.P., I was eyeing double digits. The Rays actually only had one group of hitters, the pitchers. I thought the infielders were dead until I saw them take the field for the game.
Anyway, after batting practice ended, I got Jeremy Hellickson to toss me a ball as he entered the Rays dugout.
For those of you wondering why there is a lack of pictures in the latter part of this entry, my phone, on which I take pictures, was dying, so I didn’t want to use it that much. Finally, when it was essentially dead, I took my last picture of the day, which was my view for the rest of the game:
I would have gone back and forth from the two sides of the outfield, but there were really only righties in the two line-ups that could homer (with the exception of Bryce Harper). I did go over to right field once or twice, but it wasn’t until the later innings I did so. On one of those trips, the usher I know asked me if I could give him two baseballs, so I did. If you are keeping track, that was now SIX of the eight balls I had snagged that I had given away. I will no longer field any “ballhawks are greedy” comments.
After the top of the inning, the Rays bullpen catcher, Scott Cursi, would warm up Desmond Jennings. EVERY inning, I went down to try and get the ball, and every inning ended the same way, me walking back up the stairs in dejection.
The Nationals won the game on the wings of Gio Gonzalez as he bested the Rays’ starter, Matt Moore. The final score was 5-2.
After the game, I went down to see if I could get the lineup card from Stan Boroski, the Rays’ bullpen coach. Not even a reaction when I asked him.
• 8 Balls at this Game (2 pictured because I gave 6 away)
• 62 Balls in 13 Games= 4.77 Balls Per Game
• 22 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
• 2 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
• 2 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
• 2 straight Games with at least 4 Balls
• 2 straight Games with at least 5 Balls
• 2 straight Games with at least 6 Balls
• 2 straight Games with at least 7 Balls
• 2 straight Games with at least 8 Balls
• 8 Balls x 29,551 Fans= 236,408 Competition Factor
• 75 Balls at Nationals Park in 15 Games= 5 Balls Per Game
• 8 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 1 Ball
• 8 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
• 5 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 3 Balls
• 2 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 4 Balls
• 2 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 5 Balls
• 2 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 6 Balls
• 2 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 7 Balls
• 2 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 8 Balls
• Time at Game 4:09-10:27= 6 Hours 18 Minutes
I think the story of the Nationals’ 2011 season could very well be one person:
Michael Morse. Now he might not be that much of a household name, but as a person that went to Nationals Park pretty frequently last season I can say the dude is a monster. Just look at his spray chart,
For that reason he was a bittersweet person to have in the cage during bp. You knew he was going to hit the ball a ways, but deciding whether to play him as a lefty or a righty was a whole other frustrating deal.
Gio Gonzalez, Mike Cameron, Mark DeRosa, Chad Durbin, Edwin Jackson, Brad Lidge, and Ryan Perry.
Laynce Nix, Collin Balester, Todd Coffey, Alex Cora, Jonny Gomes, Livan Hernandez, Tom Milone, and Brad Peacock.
Why?: With this past offseason, it may seem like the Nationals did really well. Maybe it’s just that I’ve been around the Nationals so much, but it seems to me that they lost a bunch of players that, yes, were not starters, but they are just below that cusp. Mind you, a B is still improving the team a bit, but I think most everyone christened their ship to a much improved season because of the additions. For me, they will improve if those that were already in the organization improve, because I am a little bit skeptical about whether Gio Gonzalez can stay healthy after building up such an innings count for the first time.
All that said, it still can be a great season in that the talent on the team surpasses the record they had last year if they can just *solidify* their rotation. I’m not talking about making it a strength of the team, but if they can just not lose games because of their starters, their lineup could win them 85 games. I kid you not, the only offensively deficient spot in that lineup is the Short Stop position with Ian Desmond. The next closest position to being offensively below-average is the Catcher position with Wilson Ramos (aka the guy every Twins fan wishes had never been traded in order to get Matt Capps).
Predicted Record Range: 85-90 wins. I say this tentatively, though. For whatever reason, I have this strange feeling in my gut that SOMEthing will go wrong with the Nationals this year. My first thought was that Gio Gonzalez will be injured, but now I’m starting to think that it might be Strasburg again. Whatever, enough of my crazy feelings, that’s it for this entry except that you need to vote on the poll below.
Next Up: Atlanta Braves, then the NL West
First team in NL West:
First of all, here, is the initial entry.
Predicted Record: 70-75 wins
Actual Record: 80-81
I actually thought this would be a stallish year for the Nationals waiting for both Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper to come up. However, the Nationals had a surprisingly strong lineup. Whenever I was in the Outfield for their At-Bats, I was always confident that I could possibly get a ball hit to me within three hitters. Actually, Jayson Werth was one of the weaker parts of the lineup.
Also, I think part of the reason they improved so much was via the simple improvement on defense. Can anyone remember the years the Nationals were REALLY bad? It was almost hilarious some of the error they would make on defense to lose games. Their Pitching still has to improve in the rotation, but the virtual additon of Stephen Strasburg shouldn’t be that bad.
Another thing, the second most important addition I had for the Nationals last offseason didn’t even play for most of the season. I had Adam LaRoche being the second biggest impact player the Nationals acquired behind Jayson Werth. Of course, the Nationals eventual MVP for the year now plays at 1st Base: Michael Morse. However, if you don’t remember, I went to the Nationals’ last three home games this past season (the links are here, here, and here starting with the last game and going backwards. Also, for newer readers, I usually do take a bunch of pictures with the games I got to, but I lost all of the pictures for those three games. A better example of one of my entries for a game can be found: here.) and Michael Morse was being put in the Outfield. Yes it is definitely not his defensive strong suit, but I think this is a sign that they expect to have him in the Outfield next season.
Anyway, the Nationals, I think we can agree, were a surprising team in 2011 and I did not predict they would do this well.
This was, at the time, what I thought to be my last game of the season. Let me be the first to announce that it was ****NOT**** how I’d imagine my last game would go. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it sure felt like it when I entered the stadium. I met up with Alex Kopp at the Center Field gate and we raced in as soon as the gates opened.
Normally, the Nationals take a while to start hitting but there wasn’t even a cage up:
(this is where you imagine a batting cage not being on the field because I lost all of pictures from the last few games of the season)
I understand that it was a day game but the reason that teams don’t take bp on a day game is usually because they had a night game the day before and they have to sleep in. The previous game, however, was a day game itself so I had really thought there would be bp.
I had already gone up to the second deck in Right Field because I wanted to get a ball from the pitchers but they took ten years to start warming up the the previous day and so people in Left Field had seen me waiting and came up.
Once the Nationals finally came out, the Braves were five minutes from starting their throwing. As a result, I only got in one request and the situation was a pretty unique one. I had been waiting all season to use this refrence but I waited for Tyler Clippard to stop throwing. The reason being, he was on a Nationals pre-game show with Drew Storen where a camera person followed them around for a day (they’re roommates). When Clippard was almost done making eggs for breakfast, he remarked that they were: “as smooth as the other side of the pillow.” Drew Storen then mocked him for it once more in the segment for butchering the idiom, cliche or whatever that type of saying is called. When Clippard finished throwing, I asked him if he could, “Toss it up to me as smooth as the other side of the pillow.” I could just tell that he was paying attention to me when I called, “Tyler!” but he turned away from me when I made the refrence was made. Clippard is usually not the friendliest of players and I thought that I could crack him open up a bit with that but apparently not.
This was enough dealing with the Nationals so when the Braves got on the field, I ran from the upper Right Field stands to the Left Field foul line. There another thing happened to me in that I am 95% sure I got a ball because my numbered balls skip that number and I remember giving the ball away to a kid but have no recollection of the player throweing me the ball. I have no idea how this happened but it just did. Let’s call this ball #2 on the day. To make things even weirder, I know almost exactly where I caught/gave away the ball. Weird, right?
I then stayed in Right Field/ the Red Seats for a few Braves bp groups (by the way, did I mention the Braves took bp once again while the Nationals didn’t). For some it would have been a failure as I got only one ball, but for me it was great. When I was in the Red Seats, Julio Teheran was shagging in Center Field. As I mentioned in the first entry of this weekend, my goal of the weekend was to get a ball from him because he is the first Colombian pitcher in the major leagues and I myself am a Colombian pitcher. My entire focus was on that one thing. If a ball were hit right to me at that moment it probably would have sent me to the hospital. When he shagged a ball in the R-CF gap and was about to toss it into the RF stands, I yell out as loud as I could, “Una pelota para un Colombiano por favor?” (A ball for a Colombian,please?). He then made a 180 to face me and threw me one of the dirties bp balls I have ever seen. I kid you not when I say that I had a minor case of the butterflies. I then went onto say that I was also a pitcher and to get his gesture of approval was something special.
I then went over to Right Field for the Braves Lefties (Freeman, Heyward…) and that was slightly less crowded and I did marginally better. I truly didn’t care, though. There was at least 1 ball I can think of that I would have had if I were going 100% but my mission was accomplished and I was satisfied if I didn’t get anything else.
I did get another ball but I can’t really provide much detail because all I remember is that I had to run to my right, jump over at least 1 row of seats, and I didn’t catch it on the fly. I don’t know who hit it either. I then gave this ball to an usher in Right Field that I am friends with. I then did my thing during the game of running back and forth but the Nationals weren’t nice enough to hit any Home Runs.
When the game ended, the Nationals told us to stick around and so I did. They then proceeded to do one of the coolest things I have ever seen a team do. September was Fan appreciation month and the Nationals had been giving random goodies out to fans throughout the month but this was their last home game of the season. The whole Nationals team came out of the dugout with a laundry cart like this:
It was about 3′x 6′ and full of all sorts of cheap giveaway stuff (gloves, plastic bats, frisbees, etc). The Nationals went clockwise all the way from the 1st base dugout to the Left Field foul pole and threw stuff into the stands the whole time. I was a little further back than most people as to have more room to move but this came with its drawbacks because only the heavier items had a chance of getting to me. I had no chance at any T-shirts or things of that nature. I did end up with a bag of butterscotch candy, though:
(this is where you picture one of those pharmacy 2 for $1 bags of butterscotch)
I didn’t get anything else but I was truly impressed by how fan freindly the Nationals were being. It was one of the best displays of it I have ever seen.
This was now the middle game of (barring playoff baseball) my last weekend of baseball for the year. I figuring that this would be my last shot at a full batting practice because the next game would be a day game. I was actually too optimistic in this prediction. For my seventh stright game at Nationals Park, there was not a full session of bp.
When the gates opened, I ran up to the second deck in Right Field expecting the pitchers to be throwing but once again they were nowhere to be found. The air was free of moisture but still the pitchers were in the clubhouse and the hitters were as well. I understand why they weren’t. I mean the game was a day game after a night game. so after the 9:45 end time of the last game, any wake up time before 10:00 would be simply criminal.
Anyway, the pitchers didn’t come out until about 11:15. This was 45 minutes before the gates opened. I saw the Braves coming out to throw about 15 minutes into the Nationals but wanted to get one ball from the Nationals because I had seen a load of Braves fans the day before. I eventually did get a ball from Ryan Mattheus. If you don’t know, I have lost all of my pictures from the last few games of the season (which explains the lack there of in this entry) this also meant that I no longer have photographic evidence of but I think that this ball was meant for another kid and so I gave it away to that same kid once I recovered the overthrow.
I then ran down to the lower level and went down the first base line seating because like the day before, I had seen a ball go in the seats that the people witing in line did not see. It wasn’t quite in the same wheelchair section but it was very close to the same seats. I then went over to the Braves side of the field along the third baseline and tried to get them to throw me a ball. However, I was aware of any balls of any ball pulled my way. There was in fact a ball pulled my way. It landed about a section to my left and from there it was a race between myself and a Braves fan. I beat him to the ball in the aisle by a margin, but he was flat out running and his momentum made me the middle of a sandwich between him and the railing. I had just picked up the ball and held on but this did knock the air out of me and so I whimpered my way to Left Field where I recovered.
Those seats were too crowded for my taste and so I moved over to the “Red Seats” in R-CF. Just as I got there, Dan Uggla’s hitting group got up and so I was pretty sure I would have a chance at one ball if not a few. Surely enough, there were several balls within ten feet of me and the one of those that landed in the Red Seats ended up in my possession. I then gave it away to the smallest Braves fan in the section. I kind of gave it away to amend all the balls I was going to catch in that section, but sadly this was the last ball for me the whole day.
This was mostly because I then went to RF and the promotion on this day was “Pups in the Park”. People were allowed to bring their dogs to the ballpark as long as they kept them in, you guessed it: Right Field. When I got there, the space behind the actual seats was transplanted turf for the dogs to be “walked”. In the actual seats, there were all types of dogs even in batting practice and some of them weren’t so visible . On three separate occasions, I had to hurdle a dog in the stand en route to a ball. Twice, it cost me catching the ball.
It also affected me in the game because I stayed mostly in Left Field as to not have to deal with maneuvering the dogs behind the Right Field seats. Also, the seats themselves were more packed than usual. Although I would have been upset to lose the opportunity at a Home Run, I was sort of wishing there was a ball hit into the Right Field seat just to see what would happen with all of the dogs.
As for my the Left Field seats, there was nothing hit in my direction and I stayed at four balls for the day. It was a partially fun day, but be sure to check back for my next entry in around three days from now because all I can say is that the Nationals really did go all in on the fan appreciation day.
This day was just another example of why the batting practice gods hate me when I go to Nationals Park ( the Home Run gods like teasing me but that’s a whole other story). There was no batting practice because of rain which made it like the 6th game in a row where I didn’t have full batting practice when I went to Nationals Park (either the Nationals hit and the visiting team didn’t, vice-versa, or neither team hit at all). Today there was no batting period.
When the gates opened, I went up to my usual spot in the Upper Right Field seats thinking that the Nationals would follow their routine of warming up just as the gates opened. Let’s see, the gates opened at 4:30 and the Nationals didn’t start throwing until 5:15. This was 45 minutes after their usual time. I wasn’t expecting this but it actually helped me. In addition to throwing later, they did something else I hadn’t seen them do before: they threw in segmented groups. Let me explain, usually, all the pitchers come out at the same time and finish at the same time, but on this day, the first pair came out at 4:15 and the last pair of pitchers came out at about 4:40.
While I was in the second deck, I saw the Nationals throw two balls into the wheelchair section they have on both sides of the field. This section was pretty wet so they just left the balls there. The rest of the stadium (besides URF and L-CF) opens at 5:30 for a 7:00 game. I stayed in the Upper seats until 5:27 to make sure that I didn’t miss THAT many snagging opportunities but at 5:27 left to get in line when the rest of the stadium opened. I was like 2 seconds behind the people first getting into the rest of the stadium and the other people knew enough to hurry up and look for balls but I had been the only one in the upper seats and thus was the only one who knew where the two balls were.
Now the rotating throwing partners come into play. Had all the players been throwing while I picked up the balls, most of them would have seen me get the balls and probably wouldn’t have thrown me any more. However as it was, I got Sean Burnett to throw me a ball and then changed outfits to get Tom Gorzelanny to throw me a ball.
Right after Gorzelanny threw me the ball, I noticed the Braves were warming up. Whenever I have the choice between trying to get balls from the Home team or the opposing team, 9 times out of 10 i will go with the opposing team because the odds are that there will be less fans with the opposing team’s gear than the home team’s gear. I did go over to the Braves side of the field and had my Braves gear on, but to my surprise, I was one of fifteen others in Braves gear. Fortunately, most of them were there for autographs, but I still didn’t get a ball thrown to me cleanly.
My main goal for this weekend in general was to get Julio Teheran to throw me a ball. This may have contributed to the fact I did get a ball thrown to me. I stayed right behind Julio and his throwing partner and just focused on getting a ball from him while he made his throwing partner look foolish with a variety of breaking pitches.The reasons I so desperately wanted a ball from Teheran is that I was a pitcher when I played organized baseball and am definitely part of the family of pitchers when it comes to my school of thought. The second part of this is that I was born in Colombia and so was Teheran. So the reason for trying to get a ball from him was that he is the first Colombian Pitcher in the major leagues and it would mean the world to get a ball from him because he also has a good chance of succeeding at this level. I threw in the part of me being of the Pitchers school of thought because yeah it would mean a lot for Edgar Renteria or Orlando Cabrera to throw me a ball but to have the first Colombian MLB Pitcher to throw me a ball would be great. Also, sorry if I sounded repetitive back there but it was just kind of an idea in my head and I wanted to get it as refined as I could. In retrospect, it probably just confused you more. Just to add on how much I’ve been paying attention to Teheran and want him to succeed, I went out of my way to see his first start with the Braves a while ago. The reason I focused so much on him in this series and not others is because he got sent down shortly after his first start as he struggled.
Enough of my man-crush on Julio Teheran, I just wanted to get the explanation out of the way because it really was the center of the weekend. I didn’t get anything from any other Pitchers because Teheran was facing me and I was right behind his throwing partner and was afraid that if he saw me get a ball he wouldn’t consider throwing me his. When he and his partner finished, I yelled out to him, ” Una pelota para un Colombiano?” This translates to: “A ball for a Colombian?” Good news: He heard me.
Bad News: He missed with his throw and the guy next to me got the ball. Either that or he thought the guy next to me had called out to him.
I then moved down the line and tried to get a ball from the other Braves pitchers. As I mentioned before, I didn’t get a Pitcher to throw a ball to me. Despite this, I did get a ball. Jonny Venters and his partner were the last throwing pair on the Braves. There was a kid right next to me that was much younger and so I knew I probably wasn’t going to get the ball thrown to me. So, I moved behind the kid and played the mis-throw. Venters did then overthrow the kid, I grabbed it, and handed it to the kid. When Venters finished throwing, he started signing autographs and I got him to sign one of my baseballs from that day. I think he has signed for me before but mygameballs.com’s autograph database is being difficult and I gave away most of my autographed baseballs last year so I have no evidence. A funny thing happened in that Venter actually signed right next to where I had numbered the ball and looked a little funny at the ball. I wonder what went through his head. The obvious thought being that I am selling the autographs and so I number the balls to identify the balls.
For the game, I did my usual ritual of getting a ticket on each side of the outfield and running to Left Field for Righties and Right Field for Lefties. It was and ideal set-up for this ritual as both the teams were batting primarily from a different side of the line-up. That is to say, the Braves line-up was made of primarily Lefties and the Nationals lineup was made up of primarily Righties. This allowed me time to move back and forth between innings instead of At-Bats and also make me not feel like I wasted money on one of the tickets (this would happen if both teams were primarily Righties or Lefties).
It was mainly dead out in Home Run territory but then later in the game THIS happened. Jayson Werth hit a Home Run into the Left Field seats where I was sitting. It was really high and was the same direction as the Chris Young Home Run I had missed out on a few weeks prior. It ended up like five rows right behind where that Home Run had hit.
I was on an aisle seat as usual and here is a screen shot from when the ball was in the air:
The Left arrow is me and the Right is where the ball would hit. At this time, I saw there were no rows that would get me to a place where I could get to catching the ball on the fly without knocking down half-a-dozen people. So I stayed on the aisle and hoped the ball would bounce back towards the field off of the seat.
Here is a screen shot after the ball bounced of the seat and headed right in my direction:
The big arrow is pointing to my red Nationals hat and the little arrow is pointing to the ball coming off the seat and back to me. The ball bounced back right in my direction but I couldn’t see that because the girl in the Strasburg t-shirt’s back was blocking my view. She then deflected the ball and it landed in a seat in the row between us two. From there it was a race between our two hands to the ball and this was the result:
She was closer and reached for the ball faster. I think the Home Run in general felt too casual, it felt like nothing more than a batting practice ball. I feel that if I had been more into the game/aggressive I would have my first Home Run ball. Anyway, the arrow in the top third of the picture is pointing to where I am standing outside of the picture. Looking on sadly.
After the game, I got Eddie Perez to throw me a ball from the bullpen after the game. This made Six balls on the day even without batting practice.
And that was how my partially redemptive weekend in Washington went. In other news, tomorrow is my birthday and the 1 year anniversary of Observing Baseball. I hope to write something but it *is* my birthday and so if I don’t I will write it on Friday.
As an introduction, I accidentally erased all of the pictures on my phone that I took at this game and for the rest of the season. The entries will go on as planned but they will lack pictures.
It was my first game in about three weeks so I was excited. That excitement quickly left me once I saw that the Nationals had foregone batting practice. Usually, only Left Field is open for the first hour of the stadium being open but in this case they had it open. That would have been great if the Nationals were hitting but because they were just throwing it actually brought more competition for the balls.
The one player I had set my sights on was Sean Burnett because I had done some research and saw it was his birthday. Unfortunately, his throwing partner, Tyler Clippard, ended up with the ball and because there were 5 ballhawks at this game in addition to regular fans, all the other balls had been caught by someone else. I asked Clippard if I could have the ball but there were ten year olds in the area and I wasn’t shocked when he threw the ball to them. I then had some time until the Marlins would start hitting and throwing. So, I went over to the Marlins dugout so I wouldn’t have to rush once they actually did come out to throw. I had gotten both Doug Slaten and Drew Storen’s autograph on my two ticket stubs (I bought one and Rick Gold gave me one). When I got over to the Marlins dugout, I just barely missed out on getting Gaby Sanchez to sign my ticket. I did however, get Emilio Bonifacio to sign the same ticket as Slaten. While he was signing, I asked him (in Spanish of course) if he could throw me a ball if I got his attention later on. Here is a picture of the two ticket stubs with the autographs on them:
The top ticket is Bonifacio and Slaten’s ticket while the bottom is Storen’s ticket
Later on, the Marlins pitchers went out to throw by the Left Field foul pole. I followed them out but while I was waiting for them to finish, I saw Bonifacio warming up back at the dugout. So, I hustled back and got there just in time. He had just finished up and was about to throw the ball, to a kid who I have seen a few times at Nationals Park, but hesitated when he saw me in the corner of his eye and threw the ball to me on the outfield end of the dugout, remembering his promise.
When I got back to the outfield, most of the pitchers had finished their throwing so I decided to stay in the Left Field seats for Mike Stanton’s power-packed hitting group. There were a few tough luck balls but the grand daddy of them all was a fly ball that I had judged perfectly and was camped under. Right at the last second, I saw a glove coming in front of mine and it caught the ball. I congratulated the person and was genuinely happy for them because they had brought a glove, but had a few bounces or toss-ups gone my way it could have been a good day considering Strasburg was pitching that night and double the norm showed up to batting practice.
I then moved over to Right Field to try my luck at catching a Logan Morrison Home Run. I actually did catch one in about the third row that I judged semi-perfectly and caught on the fly. I got many congratulations from the people around me but thought at the time that it was just a sign of things to come. Sadly, no other Lefties hit much to Right Field and the Marlins upheld their rep as a stingy team. So, that ended up being my last ball of batting practice and the game. I was in the outfield and could have gone to the bullpen but wanted to save that chance for the next day because I expected to be there (I had to search the District of Columbia for a Citi Bank and that caused me to not go) and wanted to save myself that opportunity for the next day where I planned to get at least five despite the fact that there was not going to be any batting practice, to make up for this below average day.
That was it. All in all it was a decent day to go to the ballpark and I did not regret going.