Results tagged ‘ Nationals ’

9/17/11 Marlins at Nationals: Nationals Park

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.

8/25/11 Diamondbacks at Nationals: Nationals Park

This was now the third and final game of the redeem-my-horrible-roadtrip series. Since the previous two games had been overall disappointments/failures,  this was the game that I was going to break out. That all went down the drain when out came the rain. When I arrived I thought the Nationals were actually going to take batting practice and I had good reason because as the red arrow in this picture shows, the cages were at one time indeed up:

I also noticed but could not take a picture of, the Nationals pitchers warming up ahead of schedule. I didn’t mind it at the time because they knew me and we were going to have batting practice even though it was slightly moist in the air and the constant threat of rain hung over our heads.

That picture was taken 30 minutes before the gate opened. In the meantime, I was waiting in line from a position from where I could not see what was happening. When I arrive to the field I found out the unfortunate truth:

The good news was that, as you can see, the Diamondbacks came out to throw and I wouldn’t have to wait out it the cold dampness in anticipation. I did have some competition out there but I got the weirdest ball by far. I was prepared to wait until the last pair finished and get my one ball but out of nowhere, Jeff Motuzas, the Diamonbacks bullpen catcher, threw me a ball. I believe none of the other ballhawks had gotten a ball yet, neither had I asked for the ball. To top it all off, Motuzas had thrown me a ball after the game the day before and would be more likely to recognize me As I was the last fan he interacted with. Was it because He had seen me at the previous game that he threw me the ball? Did he perhaps want to reward me for coming to another game? If he just forgot about me I don’t think he would have thrown me the ball because the others were calling out to him and wearing D-Backs gear. Weird, see what I mean? Here is the ball he threw me with Motuzas in the background.

Motuzas tossed me this ball in front of all the pitchers out there. This meant that most of the pitchers saw me get the ball. I then changed my get up by: switching my pants ( I had shorts under hiking pants), covering up my Diamondbacks shirt, putting on Mets give away glasses, and keeping my Diamondbacks hat on. Due to the change, I got Daniel Hudson to toss me a ball as he finished up his catch. Here is the ball with Hudson in the background:

By the way, the man looking back is not a ballhawk by most standards but his son was part of the  competition I was talking about. This would also be the same kid that mocked me about snagging two balls at US Cellular in the first gameof the series (displeasure #7 if you want to got all the way down to the specific line(a parenthesis in parenthesis, are you allowed to do that? Anyway, the way that entry is set up is that the day was just a list of the things that went wrong for me that day so whenever I introduce one more thing it has the number and a period this specific thing that went wrong is introduced by a 7.)) The kid himself was over in the bullpen getting someone to throw him a ball.

Then the boringness began. It was now around 5:00 and the game wasn’t going to begin for another 2 hours and that meant no snagging opportunities for about an hour. I’ll just list the highlights of my stadium wandering:

1. I was going to go up to the Red Porch and take in a panoramic view of the stadium:

but that was closed:

2. I went to the CF portion of the outfield concourse and went to play area sponsored by Exxon Mobil called the Strike Zone:

the highlight of this was like a batting cage they had set-up:

This wasn’t your stadium-employee-lobs-ball-to-you batting cage. How it worked was you, the hitter, picked a certain pitcher to go against. For example, this hitter is facing Scott Kazmir. A clip plays on the wall of the pitcher winding up and throwing the ball and as the pitcher gets to the position where he would release the ball an actual ball shoots out of the wall where his hand is and comes at you. The hitter can also designate the speed they would like the ball at and the clip still plays in realtime. There is also a similar thing with pitching but it isn’t nearly as much fun. Demonstrated by the only ones playing it were the employees manning it. I only want to show this picture because it gets the ball just as it is about to hit the wall of strips of material that look like shredded paper:

3. When the rest of the stadium opened, (for those who don’t know, only Left Field and the upper deck in Right of Nationals Park are open from when the stadium opens until 5:30 for a 7:00 game) I went over into foul ground to for the Nationals pitchers’ errant throws when they warmed up before the game. Sadly there were no baseballs to be found but I did get an interesting shot of the tarp being rolled off:

Neat, huh? At least I think so. I like how I get the tarp right down the line. Then again, part of the experience was being that close to the unrolled tarp. I know that sounds quirky but for whatever reason it was slightly exciting. Maybe it was just that boring of a day?

4. I wandered the concourse and noticed that throughout the stadium, the Nationals honor random Hall of Famers like:

And:

I guess the Nationals don’t have enough team history that they put these up. Can you imagine the Yankees putting up salutes to historic players from other teams? Didn’t think so. The Nationals do have more than those two but I didn’t want to include all of them in this entry because there were quite a few.

I then just waited for the rest of pre-game until the position players came out and started throwing at which time I set up in the stands and hoped they would throw me a ball:

I don’t remember exactly what happened but I ended up not getting anything from here and going out to another day of what I thought was going to be outfield running but it turns out that I could have just bought a ticket out in Left Field and I would have been just as well off because both teams are primarily running to begin with and the fact that both pitchers were lefties made them even more right heavy. I don’t remember the exact numbers but there were like 3 lefties in the entirety of both lineups excluding the pitchers.

While in Left Field, I had some room around me because the rain drove away everyone except the Nationals fans. So basically it was really empty in Left Field. Here are four pictures that should show how empty it was.

Behind me and to my right:

Angeled towards the field and to the right:

Behind me and to my left:

 

Angeled towards the field and to the left:

Due to how right handed heavy the lineup was and the fact that I had some room to move, I adjusted slightly for every hitter using a site called hittrackeronline.com. If you want to check it out the link is in the sidebar. Anyway, I looked at where each hitter hit his Home Runs and adjusted based on what I saw. So here is Michael Morse’s Home Run Chart:

Each of the blue dots is a Home Run he has hit this year. So, for Morse I would play further back in the seats because there is almost no pattern as far as the direction of the ball is concerned but the only constant is that he hits the ball far and I wanted to be going in on the ball and not back.

 Also as a  result of the righty-ness of the lineup , I stayed in Left Field for 80% of the time and my trips to Right Field only served to be a hinderance to me on this day. I consider two Home Runs to be partially lost opportunities because of my trips to Right. Partially because, it wouldn’t have been a sure thing if I had been in my seat in Left but it sure would have been much easier to get them if I had.

The first was a Chris Young Home Run where I was just getting back  to my seat and looking to see which row I was in. As a result, I was looking to my right when Young hit the ball and didn’t see the ball once while it was in the air. Zack Hample had also taken up residence in the Left Field seats and since I didn’t want to look up for the ball and possibly miss my opportunity to get to the ball, I just watched him. I thought to myself “he’s going to at least get some glove on the ball so my best shot is that is to sit a few rows behind him and get the deflection.” The whole time I was going down the staircase. He went about four rows under where the ball hit and by default I was two rows under it. I had come from quite a bit up on the staircase so I would have been able to get to the spot had I just looked up to see where the ball was headed. The only variable in that situation would have been if I would be able to judge the ball correctly but I’m pretty sure I would have been within five feet of it and I’m almost certain I would have caught it.

 

You can see the video by clicking, here. I am in my light red Nationals shirt going down the steps and then into a row going towards the right of your screen. If you keep focus on me, you can see I didn’t look up once and me turn when the ball deflects off the seat.

The second Home Run is kind of a slippery slope argument but here goes. I was in Right Field for Miguel Montero’s At-Bat and was headed back to Left Field I usually go at a decent pace that gets me to the other side of the field within two pitches of the At-Bat starting but it was like the eighth inning or something like that and I was pretty tired and thought to myself: “Why am I running this fast for Paul Goldschmidt? I’ve never heard of him so he can’t have that much power. You know what I’m just going to walk the rest of the way and get there in time for (whoever was behind him in the lineup who I perceived to be a better HR threat).” So I slowed up to a walk and just as I was behind the Red Porch I saw a baseball rolling out onto the concourse and a crowd of kids about half a second behind it. They chased it almost all the way to the gate in Center Field and one of them picked it up. The ball had bounced on the staircase right next to the one I usually go down in Left Field. This means that I would have been right next to the ball when it landed or towards the top of the staircase where I could have turned around and outran the other kids that chased the ball, which was very frustrating. Had I just been where I usually sit in Right Field there is a 50-50 chance I would have caught the ball on the fly. At least there was a nice/weird looking sky:

It may not look *that* special but it was some legitimate freakiness going on because it didn’t seem like light being refracted but the clouds themselves were that color. I guess a better way of explaining it is that the orange color pierced the cloud instead of only being on one side of it like when the sun hits it.

Anyway, the video for the Goldschmidt Home Run can be seen by clicking, here. You can’t see me but you can better visualize what I described two paragraphs ago.

I then moved over to Right Field for the beginning of the final inning. I did this because I knew it was Justin Upton’s birthday and tried to get his final inning warmup ball through that. As he was finishing his throwing, I yelled out as hard as I could: “HAPPY BIRTHDAY JUSTIN.” I know he heard me unless he is partially hearing impaired because he was close enough to the wall but regardless he didn’t even acknowledge me much less throw me his warmup ball. The reason I put the latter as a superior  negative to the former is that he has nothing to save the warmup ball from his final inning for. What is he going to do with it? There are no more innings to warmup for. I was also almost the only one in that section and was definitely the only Diamonbacks fan that bothered to look up his birthday if I wasn’t the only Diamonbacks fan in that section period.

I then went back to Left for the ninth itself because there were mostly righties coming up and I was more likely to get a ball from the Diamondbacks than the Nationals bullpen because there were obviously more people in Nationals gear than Diamondbacks gear. When I didn’t get anything, I took the metro to my temporary residence whenever I come to Washington and got myself packed to have the priviledge of taking the bus back to Manhattan the next morning just to go to another baseball game.

8/24/11 Diamonbacks at Nationals: Nationals Park

This was now the second game of  the series that was supposed to redeem my horrible roadtrip and I did get a total that was like triple my average on that trip but the day was an overall failure. I did bring my camera and took pictures with it but later realized that I had taken them without the memory card and I had lost them forever. So, I will just write up my bp and the pictures will come during the game portion of the entry. Here it goes:

I went immediately up to the second deck in Right Field which was absolutely empty. Within five minutes of me getting there three Rick Ankiel Home Runs came up there. I ended up with one. The first hit in the seats to my right and I kind of lolligagged to it because I was the only one in the section but the ball bounced back onto the field. It was semi-catchable but that’s not the worst part. Had I run after that ball I would have been in postion to catch a ball he hit on the very next pitch except further to the right. That one also bounced back onto the field. Ankiel then hit a third ball back to my left and this time it stuck in the seats. I went over and grabbed that ball. Sadly, I quickly forgot that I snagged that ball because I was still moping about the previous two so keep this fact in mind. I didn’t get any toss-ups from the pitchers even though I was the only one because they now recognized me. I mean the same kid in the same Nationals hat and shirt every game really isn’t that hard to spot/recognize but it only occurred to me after the game.

Ankiel & rest of group then finish their session and Ankiel went out to shag in Right Field. I asked him for a bseball and he said some obscure words I couldn’t make out and I asked him to repeat. “Make a muscle.” He said. I then held my cotton clad arm and he tossed me my second ball of the day.

My third ball of the day can be explained in two words: Todd Coffey. Well maybe not but the story goes that Todd Coffey likes to throw a baseball and likes to throw them random distances. When the pitchers finished a drill where they ran routes like a Wide Receiver, Todd Coffey took those seven baseballs and just threw them to random spots in the stands. He threw one to the upper deck, a few in foul territory (later pocketed by ushers), and most of them in the second deck where I was standing. One of those that he threw to the second deck was on the fly:

The bright red arrow is where I caught the ball and the fainter red circle points out a part of the stadium called the Miller Light Scoreboard Walk. It is like a bar section where there are discounted beers before every game and is part of the reason why the Upper Right field seats are so empty. Most people don’t go up there because of baseballs and those who do are more inclined to get turned off by all the people drinking. Anyway, that’s not why I bring it up here, the reason that I bring it up is because most of the balls launched to the second deck went there where it was funny to see a baseball go into a crowd of people that were drinking and see what happened when they realized the fact. Suffice to say, Chaos insumed. I marked that ball #198 because I forgot that I had gotten the Ankiel homer and so I thought my next ball was going to be #199 when in fact it was #200.

#200 came when a Nationals lefty hit a ball to my left and an usher with whom Alex Kopp and Garrett Meyer have had problems with raced me to the ball. I beat her to it  but she said she wanted to give it to someone. For the prospect of better ballhawk relationships I gave it to her not realizing that it was infact #200 and asked her who the ball was for she got someone caught off guard. I want to assume that it was because she thought of ballhawks as vile filth that only care about themselves and wouldn’t ask that question but she regained her composure within a second and answered that it was for her niece. She then asked me what I did with all the baseballs I got. I responded that I gave away about 1/3 to kids (Would you say this is about accurate? I actually used to give away more before the blog but since I like to keep enough to make for a good picture at the end of the entry) got about 1/6 signed (again used to do this a lot more last year because I wasn’t as focused on getting the balls themselves), and then kept the rest just in different places in my apartment (this is definitely true I have no idea what is going to happen with baseballs if I catch like 200 in a season. Most of the balls from this year are in unused bags because the filing cabinet I have is filled to the brim.) Soon after this, bp ended and the cages got pulled away. I had a clue why. While talking to a fan yesterday waiting in line for the gates to open, I found out that had the stadium opened on time, the Diamondbacks would not be taking bp in favor of fielding practice.

Sure enough, the Diamonbacks showed up for fielding practice and there were zero snagging opportunities until the Diamondbacks finished and when they did, they didn’t toss anything up to the only Diamonbacks “fan” within a mile of the dugout. I have no problem with fielding practice taking place AFTER bp but I just don’t understand why you have to cancel bp to make this happen. I however, am in no position to criticize, the Diamonbacks had been hitting wretchedly until that point and this series was the start of a run that separated them from the Giants in the NL West and will propbably get them into the playoffs. It just makes no sense to my limited knowledge of baseball. This was actually a first for me in that I bought seats on both sides of the Outfield. If you were following this adventure on the blog’s twitter account, you know that I was absolutely exhausted by the fifth inning. I repeat, THE FIFTH INNING. If I’m not mistaken, the reason I did this was because there were two righties on the hill and the established players on both teams (Justin Upton, Chris Young, Michael Morse, Ryan Zimmerman etc) were pure righties but had plenty of power lefties/switch hitters that almost only came in/hit lefty when there was a righty on the hill (Rick Ankiel, Danny Espinosa, Laynce Nix, Miguel Montero) those names but might be accurate but the point is the line-up was very mixed when it came to righties and lefties. The Diamondbacks were the  main cause of my exhaustion as Kirk Gibson thought it would be funny to see me run back and forth all night and stacked his lineup in the Righty-Lefty format. The Nationals almost did the same thing but they had a pocket of righties at the middle of the order because those were the players that belonged at the middle of the order.

I ended up so exhauted that I had to do a bit of guess work and just guess which hitters were more likely to hit a Home Run than the others. Had I actually followed the lineup, there would have been many a time that I started running to one side of the OF and a batter change would cause me to turn around the other way. On average, if I left right as the first batter got out, I got to the other side of the OF by the second pitche of the second batter’s At-Bat.

I didn’t catch anything but came within 20 feet of Laynce NIx’s 9th inning Home Run and got a ball after the game ended from the Diamondbacks’ bullpen catcher, Jeff Motuzas:

I also managed to snag a bag of peanuts from a couple who bought two bags but didn’t have room for the second:

Or as it is known in the dictionary Observing Baseball edition, dinner. I am glad I had something to eat because  this self-portrait sums up best how I was feeling a the moment:

Is it okay with everyone if I don’t write up the stats for the rest of the season? It has been uneventful to say the least and I am really more concerned with getting the entries up first than puting up my stats. If it is really important to you to see my stats, the best place to look at them by far is my mygameballs.com profile page which is linked to on the side bar on the right side of the screen and has better statistical categories than any I can think of—–>

8/23/11 Diamondbacks at Nationals: Nationals Park

I would rather forget this day as quickly as I possibly can. This three game series was supposed to be my redemption for a horrible trip to the mid-west (snagging wise). Just about everything went wrong that could have gone wrong. Let’s go through the list shall we.

1. My bus broke down and I had to switch buses causing a 30 minute delay at the very least.

2. I got to Washington 15 minutes after the earthquake that day and as a result the roads were blocked off and I arrived to Union Station (our final destination) at 3:30 which was 6 hours after we left New York. Due to the earthquake, Union station was closed and I couldn’t take the metro from there. Here is the crowd gathered there:

3. I had to walk about 2 miles with my backpack that was packed like a suitcase, in 90+ degree heat in my long pants and sweatshirt that I had on because the bus is always pretty cold, to the nearest train station and get on that. Though, I can be thankful I didn’t get to Washington like 30 minutes later because this was the traffic:

4. After finally getting on the train itself and riding my initial stops seamlessly and slowly, I ran into a bit of a crowd at my transfer station:

The crowd was like ten people deep all the way across a platform that was about 500 feet wide. So, it took a few trains for the 10th person back to get on a train because only so many people can fit on one train. Given the fact that the trains were running at reduced speeds for workers to make sure the tunnels were structurally sound and every other train was different at this same stop, it wasn’t a surprise that I got to the ballpark an hour and twenty minutes after I left Union Station at 4:50.

5. Due to the delayed metro etc., Nationals Park was understaffed and made us wait until 6:40 to enter the park. For example, here is a guard who usually supervises the whole let-in-the-people-at-4:30-and-make-sure-everything-goes-smooth actually setting up a gate:

6. The gates didn’t open until 6:40 which was 20 minutes before the game was scheduled to start and this is what I felt like:

Oh and want to see all the productive work I was getting accomplished:

I took the picture with some thought process in mind that I as going to explain here but it was along the lines of: “Usually that sign says WELCOME TO NATIONALS PARK but the fact that the gates aren’t open makes the sentence WE COME TO NATINALS PAK” For those who don’t know, the Nationals had a jersey mistake a few years ago where Majestic Athletic actually  spelled their name as “Natinals” on the jerseys of Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn. Since then, it has been a running joke in baseball and beyond to call them the Natinals whenever they are trying to be put in a negative/mistake prone light and it as interesting that the bars left this message. I know it’s a bit confusing but it made sense in my head at the time. Oh and the “we” that the modified inscription was referring to was this whole pack of people that came to the ballpark but were still waiting to get in:

7. While I was at the gate waiting for it to open, I got into a discussion about snagging baseballs with a kid who was about 10 and with his dad and got ridiculed by him for only snagging two baseballs at US Cellular in my last game.

8. The final and most painful of the day’s misfortunes was during the game itself. So of course I will take you step by step through how exactly I messed this up. First of all, the video of this situation is here. It would be a video of Sean Burroughs’ first Home Run in five years due to substance abuse problems, which also happened to drive in the only two runs of the game. Now this is no Josh Hamilton story but it would have been nice to catch part of such a nice story and had I, who knows, he might have asked for it back because it meant so much to him.

Anyway, I will show you what to look for in the video.

1. Seconds 3-7 show me running across two sections towards where I thought the ball was headed, the ball hit off the hands of a person to whom the ball was hit, hit off my hand, bounce into a seat in the row in front of me and roll me reach down to grab it. Here I am beginning my run to the ball:

I apologize for the blurriness but this is from the video I linked to and the camera is moving. The arrow on the left is where I was sitting and the arrow to the right is pointing to the blurry reddish figure as I was wearing my  D-Backs jersey. This next screen shot shows the moment about a half a second before the ball touched down:

The left arrow would be pointing to me and the right pointing to the guy off whose hands the ball bounced. Here the arrows represent the same things as they did in the last picture but it is while the ball is bouncing off of my hand:

2. Seconds 12-13 show the person in the row behind me holding the ball up:

The left arrow would be the guy with the ball in his seat and the right arrow would be me still looking for the ball. What happened was that the ball fell into the seat and I started looking for the ball in the seat but when it wasn’t there I started looking in the row in front of the seat and so forth when I noticed that everyone was looking behind me. This two seconds or so on the video actually document me looking at their faces and turning back to come to the sad realization that I had completely missed the ball. Let me put you in my head a little further by explaining how confused I was at this moment. I would have understood how the ball ended up in his hands but it had been traveling forwards and the person who was in possession of it was sitting down. I had no idea how this happened until I looked at the tape and saw that….

3. Seconds 48-54 show a replay of what happened in the seats and reveal this:

If you are confused as to what you are looking at I don’t blame you. the right arrow is just to show where I was. You can sort of see my maroon-ish jersey peeking out between the bald guy’s arm but the important thing is the left arrow, which shows the guy who ended up with the ball reaching through my legs to snatch up the ball. What I figured out later was that the ball was indeed wedged in the seat for how brief a moment but when I or the other people converging on the ball hit the seat towards the field the seat created a ramp of sorts for the ball and it shot through my legs just as I was searching for it in the seat.

9. Oh and there was something the camera didn’t pick up: the guy threw the ball back. Why would you go through all that effort to get the ball if you’re just going to throw it back onto the field.

By the way, here is the path I had to take to get to the ball in the first place:

The two connected arrows show the path I ran and the lone arrow points out the guy that ended up with the ball.

I don’t want to say, though, that it was just a day of bad breaks because there were two positives that happened.

1. I did get to see the Nationals top three prospects get honored and have their first taste of stardom:

2. There were people that saw my effort. This group of four:

commented a few times on how far I ran and what an effort I had given and eventually gave me this in the ninth:

Apparently they had gone to the Nats’ team store and bought that for me. It was a very kind gesture and as they say made my day. The end.

7/31/11 Mets at Nationals: Nationals Park

It was a sunday day game so you know what that means:

Wait… no. This can’t be right. There are never cages set up on a Sunday day game. I must have looked in the wrong album. Wow!

Yes there was indeed batting practice as Garrett Meyer- recently back from a one game excursion to Philadelphia- so astutely noticed outside the gates. I would also like to thank him for providing me with a ticket. I had bought one but the printer in my Washington residence decided a great day to be unavailable.

As you can tell from that last picture, I was in the upper Right Field seats again. My first ball came when I was about to leave the section, but then a ball rolled almost to the wall. Rick Ankiel picked it up and let me share the dialogue that occured:

“Hey Rick!”

“What?”

“Can you toss me the ball, please?”

I couldn’t hear what he said that well next. So I said, “What?”

“Show me your muscle” he said raising his arm. I then raised my arm like his and he tossed me the ball. I appreciate his effort to be fan-friendly but that was kind of weird and over-the-top.

I then made my journey to left field:

This didn’t go as well as I planned it so I moved over to the Red Porch. After, of course, drooling over the baseballs in the bullpen and really wishing I had back-up rubber bands as I had lost the one on my glove a few minutes earlier:

In Center Field, a person was trying to get a ball by just the darling-est of means: “Hey [Brian Bixler], how much longer do you think you’re going to be with the Nats?” Surprisingly, Bixler did not throw him the ball. On the next ball, I simply gave my standard request for a ball with please at the end and I got the ball. After that though, Bixler told me that it was because I was polite. I guess you can be really sensitive to those things when you have just been called up (Bixler got called up when Jerry Hariston Jr. got traded in between my first and second games here at Nationals Park).

My third ball of the game came when I moved back to Left Field and Jose Martinez fielded a ball towards the right of the bullpen right in front of it. There must have been at least 15 other voices but he surprisingly reacted to my spanish leaning out the place where I had lost my retainer the day before. He then threw a perfect strike to me and I vanished back up to the second deck:

There that same bullpen catcher person that doesn’t show up on the coaches roster threw a ball up to a kid. It went over him right to me and I caught it and handed it to the kid as it was obviously intended for him. This was the kid:

As you can tell,(if you’ve ever gone to Nationals Park) I was heading back over to Left Field. This was because batting practice had ended and I was moving over to the bullpen to get a ball from the pitcher warming up in the bullpen whose name escapes me. After realizing that it was going to take a while for him to finish and hearing that the rest of the park was now open, I ran over to foul ground on the first base side because I had seen all the balls in the Right Field stands picked up by the guards and I knew where a ball was in foul ground. Sure enough my ball waited for me:

This was easy for two reasons 1) half of the fans were racing to find balls in the Right Field stands like pictured in the upper part of the last picture and 2) the other half was racing to get a good spot by the dugouts for Signature Sunday.

Back over to the other side of the ballpark, a couple of pitchers were warming up and I got Mike Pelfrey to throw me a ball:

If you look closely, you can see that same pitcher (whoever he is) was still warming up in the bullpen. I then tried to help the kid in the last picture to get a ball from either Ryota Igarashi or Pedro Beato but sadly neither ended up with the ball and I didn’t have a chance to use my linguistic skillz.

I did however get Ryota Igarashi to sign a ball of mine:

The man himself in behind the circle I drew as the crowd had engulfed him in that picture. It is a very interesting autograph, no? I wonder if all Japanese pitchers sign like that? It makes sense now but it just never occurred to me. As I was going through my baseballs to find a good one to get signed, I saw how scuffed up the ball I found was and took a picture. Here it is with where I found it in the background:

As far as the game was concerned, I once again sat in the Left Field seats where this was my view:

It was definitely a tale of two line-ups as the Nationals possessed a line-ups:

I actually apologize as I initially wrote this part in the last entry thinking it happened last game but it actually happened this game:

Nothing else came my way during the game except for a Scott Hariston Home Run which hit right where the dotted arrows show the flight of the ball:

 

When it touched down, it hit off a fan’s (pointed out by the solid arrow) hands, fluttered in the air and got caught by that same fan. You could hear the crowd about to boo him but then cheer him when he caught it the second time.

The Hariston Home Run was one of two he hit in the game, providing the Mets with their only runs of the game and forcing the game into extra innings where the Nationals loaded the bases against Bobby Parnell through a series of Mets errors (not the statistical category this included Parnell hitting a batter and such) and getting a walk of hit through the use of the Baltimore chop.

 

After the game ended, I got one of the bullpen catchers, Eric Langill, to throw me a ball from the bullpen bag. Whoomp here it is:

One of the things that I do like about the Mets is that their bullpen bag is full of rubbed up balls so the pitchers don’t have to make an adjustment when they come into the game. Other teams probably do this too but the Mets are the first team I have noticed doing it.

 

STATS:

  • 7 balls at this game (6 pictured because I gave 1 away)
numbers 175-182 for my career (notice the Mets bullpen balls?):
  • 121 balls in 27 games this season= 4.48 balls per game
  • 53 straight games with at least 1 ball
  • 22 straight on the road
  • 18 straight games with at least 2 balls
  • 3 games straight with at least 7 balls
  • 6 straight games at Nationals Park with at least 1 ball
  • 37 balls in 6 games at Nationals Park = 6.17 balls per game
  • 25 balls on this specific excursion = 8.333333 balls per game
  • 7 balls* 25,307 fans= 177,149 competition factor
  • Time at Game 11:01- 5:45= 6 hours 44 minutes

7/30/11 Mets at Nationals: Nationals Park

Jason Werth bobblehead day and this is how things looked as I arrived three hours prior to first pitch:

Right then and there I knew this was going to be primarily an Upper Right Field day because Left Field was just going to be so crowded. The gate that I am pointing out with the Orange was actually one of many. They served the dual purpose of funneling people to the bobbleheads which are out of the picture to the left, but also not letting anyone loop back around for a second bobblehead. I went to this game because I thought that although it would bring many more fans it would drive away many of the ballhawks. I was partially right. When I went up to the Second deck in Right Field there was this guy in the Nationals hat and “Flava” Dave Stevenson:

The arrow shows where the first ball of the day touched down. Some Nationals lefty hit a deep ball there and I could have sprinted and gotten it but I let that guy get it as it was closer to him.

My first ball of the day came through unusual fashion. I myself was reluctant to ask Todd Coffey for a ball considering the odd exchange we had  the day before. That however, did not stop dave from asking Coffey for a ball. Coffey then unleashed a throw on Dave that sailed 3 rows over his head just to my left. I wasn’t just going to leave it there. Normally what happens in this situation with another ballhawk is that I take the ball and feel slightly guilty but justify my actions by the fact they have caught plenty of baseballs themselves. This is where the weird part comes in. I normally give the balls back if this situation happens with other kids I usually give the ball to them but don’t with ballhawks because most ballhawks don’t count a ball they didn’t have primary possession of. However, I learned in my last day in Baltimore that Dave counts balls that he didn’t have primary possession. I learned this when a ball bounced off of his hands to Garrett Meyer and when the player who threw it asked Garrett to give it to Dave, Dave received it and counted it as his own ball.

So, I grabbed the ball and relieved the usual guilt I have by then letting Dave have it. This then counted as a ball for both me and Dave. Yes it is a corrupt system but I would like to point out that it was not my end of the system that was broken. To relieve some of the mental strain of those trying to picture this scenario I made a diagram:

The dotted lines are the path of the ball and the solid line is my path to it. The upper two dotted lines are just a way of demonstrating the path the ball took without using curved lines and the lower dotted line is how I  let the ball roll to Dave. Although, he did go up a few steps I didn’t want to add another arrow to make the picture even more cluttered.

My second ball was hit by some random Nationals lefty and it landed three rows behind where my first ball landed where I then picked it up. My third ball came from Ryan Mattheus as he fielded it in Right Field. Again, the dotted arrows are the path of the ball and the solid arrows are the movement of the people they originate from:

For the record, I am not half on the field. I was just right on the edge of that glass in case Mattheus missed me short I would have more freedom to reach for the ball. That and the arrows don’t do much justice to depth of field.

At this point, I was just thanking my lucky stars that I wasn’t in Left Field:

So of course I left my Right Field paradise. I moved over to the Red Porch because 1) every pitcher in Right Field and their brother recognized me and 2) the ever nice Livan Hernandez was in Center Field:

I didn’t catch anything and nothing even came close but I did meet yet another ballhawk. His name was Mike. I don’t exactly what his last name was or if he even gave me one. Anyway, he lives in New Jersey and makes it to the games he can. The previous night’s and this night’s games happened to be two of them. We talked briefly at most but he was just one of the weird run-ins on this night with other ballhawks, Dave being another.

I then moved back to Right Field (upper, of course) and after spending a while towards the Center Field side moved almost all the way to the foul pole where I tried to get a ball from Henry Rodriguez. I failed at this but while I was there, Danny Espinosa hit a fly ball right to my right. I looked over to make sure no one was in my way and reached out two feet and caught the ball. I then got many congratulations and “thank you”s. Not for giving the ball away, but what I had not seen was there was a kid behind me that wasn’t paying attention and I had apparently saved him from injury.

I then moved back over  to my previous spot where I got congratulated by another ballhawk (possibly…Mike?). I also had another weird run-in. This time with Avi Miller (again I was stupid enough not to get a picture). I talked with him as well as bp continued on. I had essentially given up on toss-ups because the players knew me but when Dave Stevenson called out for  a toss-up from Ryan Mattheus I lined up behind him just in case. Let me use this picture I took of my bobblehead seconds before to demonstrate what happened:

Sure enough, the ball flew over  Dave’s head again, and I picked it up and tossed it to him in one motion for ball #5 on the day. Minutes later, someone else on the Nationals hit a ball to the right of that same staircase. I moved down a bit, moved over a bit and caught the ball while leaning over the seats in front of me.

I don’t know how soon afterward but pretty soon afterwards, Nationals bp ended. As the Mets ran out, I quickly put on my Mets shirt. This paid off just as quickly as, just as my head went through the top hole of the shirt, I saw Jason Pridie waving a ball in my direction with his non-gloved hand. I hadn’t asked for it or anything but when he did this I started waving my arms and he threw the ball up to me. Weird, but I’ll take it. Here’s a sort-of good diagram of what happened:

Then things slowed waay down. I looked down to see this:

That may not look that crowded but I could tell it was a situation where I wouldn’t have many paths by  which to manuever in the seats. By the way, that arrow is pointing to yet another weird run-in, Cliff Eddens. I mean I’ll run into Cliff a couple times at Citi Field here and there but to see him at Nats Park was a complete surprise. Anyway, I stayed up on the second level because this was the crowd up there:

After half-an-hour of nothing, I went down to the lower level and saw it wasn’t THAT bad:

You can see the part I was looking at from up top was pretty bad but the seats a bit further back were really empty. Considering I saw Home Runs hit into those seats, I could have been in double digits if I had gone down sooner. Getting toss-ups, though, was completely out of the question. There were way too many people and the Mets were not even looking back to see the people in the crowd. I then noticed Cliff and went over to say hi. In the middle of our conversation, a ball got hit to our right. Since I was standing to the right off him, I started after it. It was about five feet to my right so I moved over there  in a motion that must have looked something like Carlton Fisk’s waving the ball foul (sans arm movement). I then hit my right leg on something which was very painful. I adjusted my right leg in its movement because I figured it was just a post or something like that since I hadn’t checked down the aisle for people or anything else. I then proceeded to hit my left leg on the same object. Those two things slowed me down and the ball went just out of my reach into another man’s glove. I then looked down and found out that the culprit was a bag weighing down the seat and causing it to be more open than the others in that aisle:

After various other failed attempt at balls (one of which I could have gotten but was too polite), I moved back up to the second level and tried for easier attempts at Home Runs. Being frustrated by the Mets’ lack of power I let out a yell to Jonathan Niese if he could “toss a ball up to the second deck”. Just as he turned around, Angel Pagan hit a shot:

I could tell the ball was coming right at me but was dropping short. So, I moved to the side of the glass panel so to be able to reach lower and caught the ball at the bottom of the panel. Once I did this, Niese gave a shake of his head as if to say  that he wouldn’t throw a ball up. That was it for batting practice.

During the game I sat in left field and one of my weirdest encounters with a player occurred. I was waiting for the starting pitcher, R.A. Dickey, to come out and throw when I dropped my retainer in the walkway leading to the bullpen:

I was a bit panicked because those are pretty expensive to replace. Given that I was going to ask the first person who walked by to throw it up to me. That person was the Mets catcher, Josh Thole. as he entered the bullpen I knew I would have a short window and told him, “I know you don’t get this often but can you hand me my retainer?” His facial expression didn’t seem too pleased and I didn’t blame him because I wouldn’t want to be doing that if I were a Major Leaguer. I set my sights on the nearest grounds person while Thole looked like he was getting water. I didn’t see anyone within earshot but Thole returned with a towel and picked up the retainer and asked me if there was another on the ground. I told him no and so he tossed up the towel and told me I could keep it. Here is my newest acquisition with Thole in the background:

The Nationals won the game with their only runs (3) coming on a Jason Werth Home Run to Center Field.

STATS:

  • 8 balls at this game (5 pictured because I gave one away to my service supervisor back in NYC in addition to the two I gave to Dave)
numbers 168-175 for my career:
  • 52 games straight with at least 1 ball
  • 21 straight on the road
  • 17 straight games with at least 2 balls
  • 2 games straight with at least 8 balls
  • 5 straight games snagging a ball at Nationals Park
  • 8 balls* 35,414 fans= 283,312 competition factor
  • Time at game 4:12- 9:41= 5 hours 29 minutes

7/29/11 Mets at Nationals: Nationals Park

This was the first game of the series and the only game of the series I had not bought tickets for in advance. As a result, I found out that a college ID gets one half off:

If you can’t see that is a ticket in 141. Those right field tickets usually cost $26 but only cost me $13. I did not have a college ID with me but when I bought my ticket the lady told me, “you have you college ID, right?” She did this simultaneously with a head nod so I went along with it.

I got to the gates far ahead of anyone else so I went into the team store and studied where balls were going into the seats as one of the teams was taking early bp:

Soon after I came out of the store and started waiting again, two familiar faces arrived on the scene:

That would be, left to right.

1. Garrett Meyer- A ballhawk from Kansas who came down for Ballhawk Fest and is still staying in DC currently in a streak of 13 games in 13 days and 19 in 21.

2. Alex Kopp- A ballhawk from New Jersey, currently living in Maryland, and about to put up and absolutely monster day.

On that last note, let me explain why we are all holding baseballs. We were at the Center Field gate when a fork lift came driving our way. While Garrett and I were looking elsewhere and talking, Alex spotted that the operator had a ball in hand. He asked if he was planning to do anything with it and if not if he could have it. The operator then got out of his seat with two balls in hand. Alex had only seen one but that meant another one of us would get a ball. So I did my “alms for the poor” bit with my Nationals hat. When he gave the second ball to Garrett  I thought that was it but he then went back to the forklift and dropped another ball out of a cup he had. So I had my ball:

The day of snagging was off. I first ran towards Left Field:

but when I found out the Nationals weren’t hitting I moved up to the second deck in Right Field and tried to get a ball from one of the pitchers warming up. I didn’t do this. Instead I ran over to right center when a ball came to the wall and called out to Livan Hernandez who picked it up. Of course, Livan threw the ball up to me for ball #2. The only bad thing about that was Livan maned Center Field and as a result the Red Porch was a lost cause:

The next piece of action went like this: a Home Run landed in the seats to my right, I eased up and said, “you got it” to Alex Kopp because he was clearly closer to the ball and I didn’t want to be too aggressive, a ball landed to my left because Alex was retrieving the other ball I figured he would let me get this ball. Nope. As I was jogging over to the ball, I saw a blue flash in the row below me and Alex pick up the ball. I just thought this was a funny sequence but count it as a lost opportunity because I would have definitely been able to beat him out for that ball.

I then had another…interesting sequence. I called out to Todd Coffey for a ball. Obviously by my entries, this is my first game at Nationals Park since June. Coffey asked me, “didn’t you get a bunch of balls yesterday?” I told him the truth which was that I was from New York and this was my first game here. He then reluctantly tossed me the ball but then told me that I had to throw back any Home Run balls that landed in the second deck seats in Right Field. Bizarre, no? Whatever, with this request, it was time for me to leave the section.

I then moved back to Left Field. There, I got Ryan Mattheus to toss me a ball to the left of the bullpen. However, I also missed out on two balls. I was playing one section from the bullpen. The first ball I missed, landed behind me a closer to the bullpen. I definitely would have gotten it had it stayed where it bounced but it hit a sort of rubberized strip that the Nationals have in Left Field ( I don’t know why) and bounced into the Center Field concourse. The next ball also bounced behind me  and would have been mine but it bounced back towards the field where Alex Kopp caught it. Whoa, first let me go back to the Mattheus ball. That, I realized later, was my 100th ball of the season. This fulfilled one of my goals for the New Year.

I then moved back to the second deck in Right Field… wait, let me explain something. The reason for why I was going into the second deck is because the first deck was closed until 5:30. Ok, we now continue with your regularly scheduled blog entry… and then I got a ball. I don’t know who threw it. It was just one of those balls where I forgot who threw it. Obviously I knew who it was in the moment or he wouldn’t have thrown me the ball but I have since blanked on the name.

The next ball also came in upper Right Field. I called out to John Lannan as he fielded a ball. When he threw the ball back into the infield, a person close to him threw me a ball underhanded. When that missed, he threw another ball very awkwardly as I lunged over the railing and caught the ball. I don’t know exactly who it was. Initially, I thought it was an injured pitcher because of the underhanded and awkward throws but then realized he had a catchers mitt on. Any ideas?:

He is the one on the the right in the wicking shirt. 6 balls through half of bp is pretty good , no? Usually the away team is where I get the most thrown balls because I wear their gear. Well… usually. I waited for a few minutes for the lower Right Field seats to open:

Once I got into those seats, I proceeded to get dissed by every single Mets player and coach that was shagging balls there. Since there were mostly righties hitting, I moved back over to left field. I move around a lot, sue me. Actually, I would rather no one sue me I need that money for baseball games. There in left field a Mets righty pulled a ball foul and I outran whoever else was going after it to pick the ball up. I then gave it to a kid who was chasing behind me:

Alas, t’was a slow bp and the only other ball I got before I made it to my seats was a ball that was getting transferred to the ball bag from those used in bp. I later identified the person who threw it to me as, Ray Ramirez, the head trainer of the Mets. he was near the person transferring the balls from the bp container to the ball bag when one ball rolled away. He heard me asking for a ball and tossed it to me as he entered the dugout.

I then exited the seats around the Mets dugout and ran into a few familiar faces:

However blurry, these are those people:

1. “Flava” Dave Stevenson- A ballhawk from Baltimore who was in town because the Orioles were out of town.

2. Garrett Meyer- A ballhawk from Kansas, who was still in the Washington area and was going to Nationals games as a result. An interesting thing I learned was that this was the fourth of a stretch of 13 straight games for him.

3. Alex Kopp-  A ballhawk staying in college park Maryland and having a great day at that point but didn’t yet count how many balls he had caught.

I talked to them for a while but then left to see Chien Ming Wang warm up:

Normally, I would have stayed and chatted for a while but I  was a) 2 balls away from double digits and b) didn’t want  to miss Chien Ming Wang’s first pitches in a Major League Stadium since he went out with the Yankees. You see, while he was on the Yankees, Wang was my favorite player in all of baseball I also had a rookie named Tim Lincecum in the corner of my eye  but at the time he was injured, Wang was my favorite player closely followed by Joe Nathan. When Wang got injured, I slowly drifted towards liking Lincecum who is my current favorite player. That said, it was a true honor to be at Wang’s comeback game.I also really wanted to get a ball from him.

In the end, I couldn’t pronounce my Chinese correctly and Wang walked out to start the game. However, Jim Lett, the bullpen coach, heard my requests and tossed me a ball. This was now my ninth ball of the game and I was one ball from double digits. I thought about going to the dugouts but I figured it was too late and thought of how cool it would be if I caught my first Home Run for my first time in double digits.

I was accompanied a few minutes later by Alex Kopp. Why is this significant and blog worthy? He finally figured out how many balls he had caught and any guesses on a number?Keep in mind he has more than one pocket:

Up to that point, he had snagged 18 Balls!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So basically take everything I had done to that point and double it.

For the game itself, I sat here:

Nothing came even close. I don’t even know if there was a single Home Run hit. As for Wang, it wasn’t pretty. He lasted maybe 5 innings and gave up 6 runs. Although I’m not sure how many were earned, I can say that he didn’t have the same dive in his sinker he used to as a Yankee. It was his first day back so I credit most of the runs to two years of rust. Given that 4 of those runs came in the first inning.

After the game, I was determined to get a ball from the bullpen for #10 on the day. Though it was tough given the fact that Jim Lett had already tossed me a ball. In retrospect, I should have thrown on my t-shirt inside out and put on sunglasses but I didn’t think of that in the moment. Everyone in the bullpen cleared out and I still didn’t have a ball. I was accompanied by Alex who also wanted A ball but also wanted, if by some miracle, to get two balls to reach the very prestigious 20 ball club. He also got denied by all the players. However, we both noticed a ball in the corner of the bullpen that had been dropped by a fan before us:

Alex and I both waited for a solid ten minutes. Grounds crew came, “we can’t throw balls up”, Security came, “we can’t, sorry”, and Police came, “we can’t throw balls up, sorry”. It was extremely frustrating and I had half a mind to use my glove trick with police guards five feet from the ball and ushers ten feet from me. Fortunately, I didn’t have to resort to this as the kid in charge of emptying the water coolers came:

He emptied them and when he walked towards the ballI asked him if he could toss the ball up. No response, he just picked the ball up and flipped it up. Alex was also with me so I also pointed out a ball behind a bouncy screen that had also been left and Alex was given the torture of having 19 balls at the end of the day. Enough about Alex, I haven’t started celebrating about my double digit performance. WOO-HOO! Ok I’m good.

It definitely feels good to start the day at 158 and end at:

 

STATS:

  • 10 balls at this game (9 pictured because I gave one away but eight actually pictured because I can’t find the Livan ball)
numbers 158-167 for my career:
  • 51 straight games with at least 1 ball
  • 20 straight on the road
  • 16 straight games with at least 2 balls
  • 1 straight with at least 10
  • 4 straight games at Nationals Park with at least 1 ball
  • 10 balls* 30,114 fans= 301,140 competition factor another personal record
  • Time at game 3:45- 10:21= 6 hours 36 minutes

6/15/11 Cardinals at Nationals: Nationals Park

Yeah I know I said I was going to write an entry about my game on the third of June but I was away from home so unless you wanted to see pictures like this…

Yes that is the whole image. I was in a rush to upload them to the internet for whatever reason and forgot they needed more time to upload

Anyway, I did indeed go to Washington DC on one of these:

Overpaid for a “Giant” ice cream sandwich:

Arrived two hours late and had to carry my suitcase backpack to the game:

But as Bono would say, “it(was) a beautiful day” and I was excited because this was actually my first time going to a stadium for batting practice knowing what I was doing outside of New York…why are you laughing?

I will now give you a moment to stand in awe of the majesty that is Nationals Park:

Well the sign at least but you have to admit it is a pretty nice sight to see. Or am I just brainwashed from hearing the Mets’ annoying repetitiive music an hour prior to the gates opening every day. It was also nostalgic to have the gates open  two and a half hours before game time.

At the gate I had met up with Rick Gold a ballhawk that in his younger days was native to Oakland. This comes into play because he immediately as the gates opened he went to right field. That meant that after getting my bag checked for the bomb that was obviously hiding beneath my clothes I would head to left field.

Just as I headed over there I saw this going on in right field:

If you can’t see, it is the Nationals pitchers warming up on the right field foul line. I have accustomed myself so much to 2 hour opening times that I forgot the home team did this 2 1/2 hours before game time.Anyway, I stayed in left field because of my uber-packed backpack.

Best no decision of the year. A matter of seconds after I decided this a ball flew to my left. It was quite a bit back from my row and there were already people converging at the point it would drop so my hope was the it would land and trickle down the seats.

This picture shows what happened:

The (very light, very small) red arrow is my path to the ball. The ball was clearly going behind where I was going to be able to run to. When it bounced up in the air after hitting a seat I was a foot from it and snatched it out of the air ala Rickey Henderson.

The next ball was a cleaner catch:

This next one was also over my head so I ran up the stairs, turned my shoulder and caught the ball over it. Demonstrated by the much more visible but at the same time poorly done red arrow. That one felt more like a Wide Receiver in football. But wait… it was only 6:39. Batting Practice hadn’t actually started until 6:35 so that meant I had already almost matched my season average in four minutes. Oooh I had a good feeling about this. So good I gave that ball to this young(er) Cardinals fan:

In the picture there is no reaction because he hadn’t actually presented it to his dad yet  but you can see his sister looking at it in his hands (don’t worry they were extremely nice about it).

Then a ball flew into the bullpen which put a damper on my spirits. Why? Because this is how many had gone in there:

(drools)

Four baseballs had already made their way in there which was exactly four more than the number of devices I had ready because of my late bus. Here was my script for the next portion of bp:

Cue: Lefty batters start hitting

For: Exit stage right

So that’s what I did when Roger Bernadina & Co. came up and was there ever room to run:

At Citi field if the seats are ever that empty in bp you are a) on the second deck or b) 400 feet from home plate. I just had three problems all in this picture:

1) Alex Kopp- a ballhawk that lives in New Jersey and caught nine baseballs that day.

2) Rick Gold- Mentioned previously that typically puts up double digits at Nationals Park

3) Cardinals Fans galore- For some reason (and I’ve only gone here for two series) the opposing teams fans out-number the Nationals’ fans and so it is almost easier to get balls from the Nationals than it is from the opposing team.

But when a ball went into foul ground I was further back as you can see from that last picture and since the right field bullpen blocked off the first 5-10 rows and so I had Alex beat and he gave up on getting the ball. In case you were wondering, there were people to my left that could have beaten me had it been a straight up race but no fans were allowed past the foul pole on either side. Now I knew the usher guarding the pole would get the ball but did they go over and wait for him to get the ball. I think not!

Here is a picture of the usher mid-sentence:


It is always nice to see ushers that are actually nice by nature as you can see by this gentleman’s smile but that wasn’t the only thing that was better about Nationals Park. Let me compare it to Citi Field for the moment:

The red line on top is where the overhang would be for Citi Field (left field) and the yellowish line is where Home Run balls would be completely out of the question. For those wondering, the line here at Nationals Park (right field was so far back the picture couldn’t even contain it.

As I returned to my spot, I saw that Jason Motte was having some fun at the fans’ expense by throwing a ball up just where a fan could not reach it so I naturally took this as a challenge to catch the ball but as I leaned out to attempt to catch the ball I noticed Jaime Garcia running to the wall after a ball. I asked him nicely in Spanish and he responded by joining Motte in tossing the ball up and trying to get me to catch it. Fortunately, he was way worse than Motte and tossed it at such an angle so that it was far from me on its way up but the backspin on the ball carried it towards me on the descent.

Here is the 90th ball of my young career with Jaime Garcia (#54) in the background:

Let me take this time to show the reason (besides my awesome Spanish skills), that this particular ball found its way into my glove:

First of all, sorry for not looking in the camera. I was distracted by a ball, this was the only shot with both the hat and shirt in it, and my camera screen was broken so I didn’t know either of the first two reasons.

I do not have any cardinals gear. The hat is actually on loan from the Greg Barasch baseball museum. Greg is a very talented and experienced ballhawk from New York that can be found at almost every Mets weekday home game (unfortunately for me) and also happens to be my next door neighbor of about 18 years. Y’all older readers may remember he also lent me a Rangers hat and towel that I used in my playoff game last year. So yeah, it is always nice to have that security blanket and I mean what are the odds that people in the same building much less floor get into the same hobby independently of each other. Oh and the shirt if you can see if actually turned inside out. That is because it is actually a Phillies shirt and I wanted to color coordinate.

Anyway from the start of my ballhawking career, I have not had much luck adjusting to the group of Pujols and Holliday but I figured that I would have a better chance taking on ten people just at batting practice in left than two ballhawks in right. My plan was to lay back here:

Catch anything that came back that far as I had lateral room to run and run up, hope the ball deflected off of someone’s hands and scramble for the ball. The later did happen… sort of.

About five minutes after I got to the section, Pujols hit a Home Run of decent height and length that I realized was going to be one rail gap short of where I was standing. I ran up but a barehanded man was camped under it. Yeah I could have reached in front of him as there was no way he was going to catch a ball going over 100 mph off the bat of Albert Pujols but ballhawks are already seen in enough of a negative light. So I stayed back right behind him, waited for the ricochet, and missed out on the ball as he deflected it to the side of him.

His reaction:

“Look at the mark Albert Pujols left on my hand!” This just goes to show why you bring your glove to the ball game. That group stopped hitting about ten minutes after that and so I went back to right field. However, how could I pass up an opportunity to take a picture of myself on the Stadium big screen.

Here it is:

If you can see I am actually holding the camera to my ear. This is because of two reasons: 1. My screen was/is broken and I had to hear the click to make sure I took the picture and 2. I had my glove on at this moment and needed my head for stability.

Thank goodness I didn’t stay for that long, though because as I was walking down the stairs of the right field stands, an infielder on the cardinals, Daniel Descalso hit a ball to either my right or my left (ok, I know that sounds vague but I know where the ball landed I just don’t remember what staircase I was coming down) fell into the seats and I beat the fan sitting down in the picture demonstrating how empty right field was. That was now five ball on the day and three of them had been hit balls. Last time I checked I was averaging 1.67 thrown balls per game (.67 hit which is a bit amazing to see the stark difference but irrelevant at the point I am trying to make). Discounting the security guard toss-up because that would have never been possible at Citi Field because of their useless railing blocking off foul territory from the outfield I only really had one toss-up for this game. There was a reason for that.

Normally, I have time to go home and print out my rosters for both teams but because of the whole bus situation I had to go on memory. This led to me either making anonymous requests “Excuse me but can you throw me the ball please?” which are far less effective than if they have a name behind them or getting their names wrong altogether. For example, I have since realized that I called Michell Boggs Kyle as I thought he was Kyle McClellan and I called some other person who I could not find Jaime Garcia who obviously came out later and threw me my other toss-up. Well, I wouldn’t get another toss-up for the rest of the day.

It was almost the end of batting practice and I was fine ignoring that it had been a pretty slow bp Home Runs wise because I had just matched my season high. Then came Lance Berkman. At least I think it was him but someone on the Cardinals hit five straight Home Runs to finish off bp all of which landed in this section outlined in red:

Alex was in the perfect spot to catch all of them but because there were five straight and he chased some to his left I had the chance to step into his spot and catch one on the fly. Nothing fancy I just moved a few feet to my left camped under it and caught the ball. That was now my fourth hit ball of the game. Now I don’t think i have gotten extremely better at tracking batted balls but I think that the margin for error is just so low in New York whereas here you can drift more like a real outfielder would do.

In the game I was planning to sit in right field because there were two righty pitchers but when the usher asked me to leave my first idea was to go here:

abut then I thought to myself that there would be Holliday and Pujols (yeah I did find out Holliday was still out from his appendectomy) would be hitting more Home Runs than any lefties that would be put in to face the righty pitchers. So I moved over here:

There were plenty of Home Runs, five if I recall correctly but the closest one was a Jayson Werth Home Run three sections over:

My only hope after that to tie my all time record of seven balls in one game was to get a ball from the bullpen:

Now the bullpen coach in the bottom right corner picked up three balls and tossed them into the crowd. Not knowing his first name (Derek) because I didn’t have my roster handy I relied on purely having a Cardinals hat (it didn’t work).

I then got to have my first experience of post-Nats game metro crowding:

STATS:

  • 6 Balls at this game (5 in this picture because I gave one away)

numbers 87-92 on the career:

  • 31 Balls in 12 games=2.58 balls per game
  • 37 games straight with at least 1 ball
  • 2 games straight at Nationals Park
  • 6 balls*27,130 fans= 162,780 competition factor
  • Time at Game 3:55-9:35= 5 hours 40 minutes

I did go the next day so that will be up soon but if you are wondering when I will get up the game before this it will be after I get back home from San Francisco. So June 28th-ish.

5/18/11 Nationals at Mets: Citi Field

Because the day before’s game was rained out, I had not gone to a baseball game in 12 days and was in a serious need for some baseball. Then I remembered why the Mets are known as the second most dysfunctional team in baseball.

First, I got to the stadium and the old man was indeed snoring:

Considering they had cancelled the game the previous day while it was still sunny I was not too optimistic this one would be played but stayed because I had already bought my ticket and didn’t want that money to go to waste if they did play. Many of the New York ballhawks (myself included) have been angered by the Mets changing gate opening times from 2.5 hour to 2 hours but I would have taken that today. I was awaiting a 5:10 gate opening time according to the schedule set by the Mets. So I stood out in a storm that was so bad I had to keep turning myself every few seconds to keep the side wind was blowing raindrops onto from getting too cold. As I write this entry June 8th I am still sniffling from the cold I got that day. I didn’t take any pictures just because I wanted to protect my camera as it has already gone through water damage (if any long time readers have noticed the pictures have gotten more misty since a few months ago, this is why). I waited and waited. 5:10 passed and still the gates were closed. At about 5:30, the Mets finally opened the gates:

YES!!!

Then they announced we would not be able to go anywhere besides the giftshop/museum:

Now when I say Dys- you say functional.

They kept us there because they weren’t sure if they were going to play the game or not. I get why they wanted to get us out of the rain but there were maybe twenty people waiting at this point. Would it really take that much to get twenty people out of the seating bowl if the game actually got called?

For those who have never been, the Mets’ museum is linked with the gift shop and is located towards the right side of the Jackie Robinson (when entering). In fact, you can faintly see it on the left side of the last picture underneath the staircase. So, I went in because I never had before. Having now been to the museums at Citi Field and Yankee Stadium, I think that Citi Field does a better aesthetic job but Yankee Stadium had more substance. By this, I mean that Citi had things such as higher ceilings:

and better location (behind the prize jewel section that most people come through for Citi Field vs. on the third level only accessible by one random flight of ramps for Yankee Stadium). What I mean by the greater substance of the Yankees is simply the history of the Mets vs. the history of the Yankees. For example, the Mets had a quarter of the museum dedicated to buy-able artifacts:

The prices on the bottom portion would be for baseballs from different games. Not necessarily historic or anything. No, those cost a lot more than the regulars.

I thought that there was no chance for a game but I wandered and charged my phone for a while until finally there was an announcement. They would in fact be opening the gates for entry. They hadn’t scanned our tickets yet so we had to get out of the stadium only to come back in and get our tickets scanned:

The time at this point was around 6:35ish and as you can see more people had joined in the gift shop and had to get in but when eventually security got settled and let people in.

My view upon entering the bowl:

The tarp was finally being pulled off by the grounds crew.

I set up shop on the left side of the dugout because I wanted to be close to the dugout in case someone came out and started signing autographs but also wanted to be closer to left field in case they came out to throw. As I went down, Livan Hernandez tossed a ball to another ballhawk, Ben Weil. I felt good for Ben for keeping his streak alive but also disappointed I hadn’t spoken my Spanish louder as that might have been my only shot of the night. If that didn’t make me feel bad enough, a volcano of baseballs erupted on the right side of the dugout. I raced over but Mt. Stairs ran out of the baseballs from his bucket/bag:

I kid you not when I say he tossed 5-7 baseballs into the stands in a matter of  5 seconds. As I said, I was on the left side of the dugout so it was not enough time to weave through people to get to the left side of the dugout.

So now 6:50 and still no ball for me. Finally, the position players came out to throw at 6:55:

Most notably the pair you see in this picture, Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond. Ben and his fancy jersey and fitted Nationals hat elsewhere I thought I had a pretty good chance at this ball but I kept in mind that many times before I have suffered because I committed too much to a specific ball so I stayed alert. No one else came out of the dugout so as soon as they finished I waved my arms like crazy to get Desmond’s attention and he threw the ball to me. If I were writing this the day after I would remember the specifics but I know there was something unusual about the throw. Either it went over my head, I had to leap, it bounce, or something. Maybe it was just the fact that it was quite a distance. I don’t remember.

After I got this ball I looked at the pitching match-up, saw two lefties (Jonathan Niese and Tom Gorzelanny), and stupidly thought that I could make it to left field and get a Home Run. The guards usually start checking tickets at 6:20 but the gates didn’t even open until after that so I was hoping. By this time it was 7:00 and as I got out of the seats the National anthem started playing and I knew I was defeated. Throughout the game I wandered the stadium and got rained on. As I saw how little people were at the game:

(and the fact there were no Home Runs in the game), I was kicking myself because as you can see in the picture, I would have gotten as many baseballs as there were players that brought in a third out ball.

Anyway, it kept pouring and the Mets beat the Nationals 3-0 behind a strong performance behind Niese. Although there was something with Niese in what I believe was the seventh inning as he kept throwing balls back to the umpire probably because it was pouring at the time and the balls were extremely wet.

STATS-

  • One ball at this game (#83 on the career)
  • 22 Balls in 10 games = 2.2 Balls Per Game ( I am not proud)
  • 35 Games Straight with at least one ball (I am proud and amazed)
  • 21 straight games at Citi Field with at least 1 ball
  • 1 Ball* 24,527 fans (allegedly)= 24,527 competition factor
  • Time at Game 4:50-10:10= 5 Hours 20 Minutes
I have gone to a game since then so check back tomorrow? Hopefully?

4/9/11 Nationals at Mets: Citi Field

So, I was on 67th street at 2:00 and had yet to pick up my Mets/Nationals gear. Long story short I showed up waay late to the game… but wait why haven’t the gates opened?
long line 4911.JPG

Did I actually show up late?
4:55 4911.JPG
Yeah, by almost a hour (last year I got to Citi Field 4:00-4:10 for a 7:10 game. If you can’t see that says 4:55)

Apparently the ever endearing Mets thought it best to open the gates a mere 2 hours before game time. This put me both at the back of a line of people and will take half an hour away from me every time I go to Citi Field. Why are both New York teams horrible at dealing with fans?

Anyway, the gates opened at 5:10 but I didn’t get until probably 5:20 because of the line delay.

As the gates opened I quickly identified the fans racing up the escalator as ballhawks Zack Hample and Joe Faraguna. Since they were probably going to go right to left field, I figured I should pray that the pitchers were still throwing in right.

They weren’t so I went to center field in hopes of getting a ball from the posse that shags balls there. At first, it seemed like that would never happen. Pedro Beato was cutting everything way in front of the wall (wasn’t that hard considering I was about a thousand feet from home plate). One then finally made its way to the wall. A group of kids was yelling at him and he didn’t turn around. Finally, I accused him of being racist towards Colombians. He laughed and threw me the ball.

On to left field. I got there and literally every feasible landing sector had a ballhawk patrolling it. There must have been half a dozen ballhawks. Let’s see how many I remember. 1+2 the ones listed two paragraphs above. 3. Tony Bracco. 4. Oliver Rowles. 5. Gary Kowal. 6. Ross Finkelstein. It must have been the fact that it was the first 7:10 game of the season but take my word for it there are almost never ballhawks at weekend games (which is why I like them). Just check the day of the week I made this major snag on. I think that was everyone but I can’t be that sure seeing as I didn’t talk to many on account of me moving around so much.

Nevertheless, none of the ballhawks dared to be in the corner of left field amongst a sea of weekend fans. So when Michael Morse hit a homerun behind that sea, I ran through my aisle to the ball. I was late because of a few fan but the ball hit off a seat and stayed in the air for what seemed like minutes before I caught it on that fly (technically it is not on the fly but it didn’t hit the ground so that’s good enough for me. If you haven’t picked up, I stink at tracking fly balls). I then got a toss up from a player I later identified as Chad Gaudin. I gave that one away to a kid who had missed the previous toss-up.

I then moved over to right field for the rest of Nationals bp. Seeing as I was the only Nationals fan in the section, you would think I would get a ball quickly:
DSCN1909.JPG

Nope. The two players: Tyler Clippard  and  Drew Storen were tossing up balls galore. Except not to me. It was so bad that even other Met fans started vouching for me as “#1 Nats fan up here”. One appeared to be thrown to me by Clippard but he under-threw it and another fan in the row in front of me reached it front and grabbed it. Solid day but could have gone way better. I seem to have a problem with finishing bps. I get a few early but then run dry in the closing minutes.

Though my seat for the game was pretty good:
DSCN1913.JPG

I would have gone to the third base side but since I am stubborn and was determined to get a ball from the two Nationals, I didn’t have time to run over there (security doesn’t let you enter after bp ends). There was no shot at getting an Ike Davis 3rd out ball. He threw them solely to the front to rows, which the security guard at the bottom of the stairs wasn’t giving access to.

Although, had a person not gone down the staris mid at-bat, I would’ve had my second foul ball at Citi Field:
DSCN1914.JPG

Imagine the two or three fans standing up are the fans that got in my way. The ball went where the two or three fans are and I ran down the stairs with plenty of fans but couldn’t reach out the extra three feet because of the fans and couldn’t run around them because of the railing. This left the ball going into the row of fans where it was dropped and recovered. It was actually a great night for foul balls on this side because of the two lefty pitchers but not that many balls went into my section.

I then missed out on an opportunity for an umpire ball because I was again, seated on the wrong side of the stadium (but it may be good security doesn’t know me, though. I saw the adverse affects this can have with Greg Barasch being essentially banned for the last few games of the season a year ago.)

The game was actually a decent one with the Mets winning 8-4. I would have a more detailed recollection of the game but I am doing this entry five days later.


Stats:

  • 3 Balls snagged (2 pictured because I gave one away )

    
Balls 4911.JPG 
A different side if you prefer below.

Sweet Spots 4911.JPG

  • 2.0 Balls Per Game
  • 27 straight games with at least 1 ball
  • 16 ga
    mes straight at Citi Field with at least one ball.
  • Time at Game: 4:55 to 10:30= 5 hour and 35 minutes
  • Competition Factor= 95,088
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