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So after spending a full day’s worth of buses, trains, and being part of discussions surrounding the logistics of dropping a baseball from 1,000 feet in the air:
it was time to go to my first Lowell Spinners game ever with Mike Davison–who is in this next picture. If you don’t already know, the reason I was in Lowell because Zack Hample was going to attempt to catch a baseball dropped from 1,000 in the air. As you can probably tell from the date in the title of this entry, that already happened, so if you want to read Zack’s account of the event, here’s the link to that. Well anyway, while an idea as insane as trying to catch a baseball dropped from a helicopter 1,000 feet above ground could only come from Zack, Mike was the logistical mastermind behind the whole stunt itself and making an insane idea a little more feasible and a lot more safe.
So if you watched the video at the beginning of the entry, you will have seen that I ended the video saying we were off to the Lowell Spinners game. Right after that, Mike and I walked from the parking garage to behind the outfield wall. Here is my view as we made our way such:
With the game starting at 7:05 and the stadium itself not opening until 6:00, we decided we would walk around the stadium on the walkway that is right behind the outfield wall and try to get any baseballs that managed to fly out during BP. While I have been right behind the outfield wall at minor league stadiums before, this one felt weird because the walkway was *right* against the outfield wall. So there was really no shot at snagging a baseball on said walkway. The walkway was actually elevated to be at more or less the base of the outfield wall. (I say more or less because while it is a good ten feet above the foresty stuff that is even further out from the outfield wall, Mike, who is 6’5″ had his eyes at the level of the the outfield ground. More on that in a bit.) Anyway, from the walkway, this was my view of the outfield wall:
We walked back and forth on the walkway a few times before we decided to scour the bushes/foresty part below the walkway to see if any baseballs had already been hit there earlier in BP. I found this:
I’m glad that I don’t keep track of minor league stats because ballhawking for me at minor league stadiums feels like such a casual thing that I could have made a serious case for counting this ball. Oh, and if you’re wondering, the foresty area is between the walkway that goes behind the outfield wall and the Merrimack River; so the river is what you see in the background of that last picture.
After scavenging a little more, we decided to head back up to the walkway level, since we had no clue which hitters were up. My first solution to this was I found an area to look into the field through a fence just foul of the foul pole:
The good news was I could see the hitter perfectly. The bad news was I was completely out of position here to snag any baseballs. The solution we eventually came up with was there were holes at the base of the wall in left-center field, so Mike being more than tall enough to see into the stadium through them, he watched to see if there were any decent lefty hitters in the group. If there weren’t we would go into the foresty area (and yes I realize “foresty” isn’t actually a real word) in left field and hope something would fly over the wall. Nothing did. There was actually another guy down there with his two kids. He said that it was one of, if not THE worst BP he had ever seen. He reiterated several times that baseballs usually start to hit off the walls in bunches, and then baseballs start making their way over the wall and walkway. When there was even one lefty with potential to hit a ball over the wall in the group, though, we headed over to right field because there was actually a grassy area at field level that provided room to run for baseballs. However, my first “real” baseball came when we were headed over to this grass area. We were half-way there when I saw something hit into the foresty area out of the corner of my eye. I knew exactly where it had landed, so I went a couple yards down the hill and picked the ball up. I then looked up at the wall and realized how crazy this baseball had been:
Where the ball had landed meant it had to have traveled through a gap between ads that was less than three feet wide. How about that?
I also managed to snag another hit baseball when we got to the grassy area in right field:
I saw the ball the whole way as it became visible over the top of the wall, and so I ran right behind the spot I thought the ball was going to land–since I figured I had no chance to catch it on the fly through the trees–and fielded it like a ground ball.
I waited for a little while longer, but pretty much right after I got this ball, it was time for Mike and I to head to the gate and get in the stadium. Here was the scene at the main gate from across the street. (Can you find Mike?
He kind of photo-bombed me in that I was just taking a picture of the scene at the gates and he posed for the picture across the street.)
After that, we saw something that Mike insisted I include in this entry, and I can only describe as Minor League Baseball at its finest:
If you are in the majority of people who have no clue what’s going on here, the Spinners arranged to have midget wrestling going on outside the gates. Although I will say that it is not even close to the weirdest promotional stunt Mike has ever witnessed at a baseball game. I don’t think I’ll share that one with you, though.
Although we had been *on* the field earlier in the day, it was still nice to see the concourse once we got into the stadium:
It is definitely on the higher end for minor league stadiums at that level of play:
And do you see the pressbox in the background of the right part of the picture? Well there were a couple cool things to be seen on the portion of the concourse that went behind there. The first of which was the former Lowell Spinners who had made it up to the Major Leagues at one point or another. Recognize any names?
And then there was also a view inside the pressbox from the concourse:
This may not seem particularly exciting, but I love the fact that you can just look in there without having to get a special ticket right behind home plate. (I’m looking at you, MLB stadiums.)
As you can probably tell from these pictures, BP had ended by the time we got into the stadium. So instead of going after baseballs, I nonchalantly got a couple of Spinners players to sign the MiLB baseballs I had snagged outside of the stadium:
Do I have any clue who it was that signed the baseballs? No, none. But you never know, so I thought it would be a good idea to get them just in case.
As for the game, this was the view from my ticketed (complementary) seat:
But instead I headed up to the cross-aisle (concourse), and went back and forth the whole game playing foul balls. As it seems every time I play foul balls anywhere, my best opportunity came in the first inning when I had foul ball tracked, but it was headed straight at a man. I waited for the ball to deflect off of him, but to my surprise, he caught it on the fly in a hand that had a cast over it.
It was a Friday fireworks game, so there were a ton more people than usual and the concourse was much more clogged than it usually is. As a result of this and Brian Scalabrine doing several odd-jobs throughout the course of the game, I didn’t get a foul ball the whole game. But I did have a great view of the Lowell sunset:
And then for the first time in a long time, I actually left the game early. It wasn’t my decision to do so, but I was more than okay with it given the logic behind it. Mike said he should probably head out because we both had to get up the next morning at 5:00, so it was probably a good idea for us to head out and into bed. As we entered the Spinners’ garage, I got a picture of the scoreboard from where we would be entering the next morning:
I was actually staying at the Radisson with Zack and the rest of his friends he was bringing up from New York at the Radisson, so Mike was nice enough to drive me over there despite me being awful with my iPhone’s GPS from never having used it before and getting us lost a couple times. I’d say we got to the hotel at 10:30 where Mike dropped me off and headed out to get some sleep. Zack and his car of people weren’t getting in until after midnight, but we were thankfully able to get the reservation changed over successfully whilst they were on the road so I was able to check in. I tried to stay awake and greet them, but I unintentionally fell asleep while on the computer and woke up at 5:17 the next morning only to prepare my self immediately to hopefully document a person catching a baseball dropped from 1,000 feet for the first time in the history of humanity.
So this game was actually pretty simple, and I’m ashamed it took me so long to get this entry out, but the thought of writing was what kept me from even getting started on it. Anyway, here is the view of the field as I got it:
But before I get started on the snagging portion of the entry, let me tell you what lead up to this point. Because it was the last day that All-Star ballots were being accepted for prizes at Nationals Park (more on that later), I had to carry over 2,000 All-Star ballots with me to the ballpark that I had filled out the previous day:
As a result of that, I moved much more slowly than I normally do and missed a bus and two trains by less than ten seconds on my way to the ballpark. And as a result of that, I got to the gates less than five minutes before they opened. So instead of having a half-hour long conversation with Zack Hample, Rick Gold, and Zack’s mom–who I met at the gates–/take a picture with them to open up this entry with when I got to the gates, I pretty much had to get to the gates, get my ticket ready to be scanned, and enter. Now I thought I would have to carry my box of 1,500 All-Star ballots for the first hour of batting practice, but a regular of Nationals Park named Art was nice enough to let me leave them with him in the second row of the section closest to the visiting bullpen in left field and watch after them. So although I’m pretty sure you don’t read these, Art, thank you for allowing me to move freely about the ballpark.
Anyway, after getting shutout for the first two groups of Nationals hitters, my first baseball was really a cheapy. So there’s a Nationals usher in right field who is nice and lets me sit in right field even when I don’t have a ticket there. In return I give him baseballs whenever he asks for them to redistribute to kids during the games. Well when he saw me, he told me that he wanted me to catch a ball from Fernando Abad for him. See ushers aren’t technically allowed to get baseballs themselves, but he apparently knew Abad, so he called out to Abad and pointed to me as if to say, “Toss him the ball.” Abad obliged and even though I would give the ball away to this usher after batting practice ended, it was my first ball of the game:
After this group of hitters was done, about 80% of the players/coaches who had been shagging balls in the outfield jogged in, and so I would say there were only 4-5 people in the whole outfield. And because of this, Stephen Strasburg was left manning almost all of right field. I had never gotten him to even acknowledge me, much less toss me a baseball–Strasburg is one of those players who is quick to toss a baseball to a five-year-old–but pretty much doesn’t give you the time of day if your age has two digits–but I just kept asking him nicely for a ball every time he approached the wall. Finally on about the 20th time, he looked up and tossed me a ball. (Probably just to get me to shut up.):
And that would be my second and final ball of the day. I believe I missed a home run during Diamondbacks BP, but besides that they just weren’t hitting them wherever I was positioned, and the front row was packed with kids, so toss-ups were really tough to come by.
The most notable thing that happened between this snag and the end of Diamondbacks BP is that at least 1, if not 2 service men took a round of BP in the last group of Diamondbacks hitters:
As a son of a Vietnam Veteran (but a hater of war because of this fact), I appreciate the gesture by the Diamondbacks/Nationals, but I only wish they would have gotten better hitting servicemen to invite to take BP. These guys (or maybe guy. This took place weeks ago, so it’s not exactly fresh in my memory) I don’t think hit a ball into the outfield on the fly.
When batting practice ended, I headed back to the seats in left field to pick up my box of 1,500 ballots, took them to the table where they can be redeemed:
And from this got a Michael Morse bobblehead:
A Nationals Rally Towel:
And a Nationals Prize Pack:
The prize pack consists of a bobblehead (Ivan Rodriguez), a Nationals t-shirt, a Nationals hat, and a full program. (I feel the need to specify *full* program because the Nationals give away tiny gameday programs every day at the gates for free. I guess that would technically be a program and this things in the prize pack would be a Nationals magazine, but whatever.)
I then spent the first three innings filling out an additional 500 ballots (in addition to the 1,600 I had turned in for the prizes you saw above) and got an Adam Dunn. I should have taken a picture of it, but I didn’t. I guess it was a swing-and-a-miss on my part. *Bad pun that also makes fun of Adam Dunn completed*.
After that, I headed out to right field where this was my view:
If you’re new to this blog or for whatever reason do not know who the man in the A’s hat is, it is the Rick Gold I mentioned earlier in the entry. He has snagged nearly 2,000 baseballs in his life time along with nearly 50 game home run balls. So in addition to him being a much better ballhawk than I, the fact that he had already been in that section for 4 innings by the time I got there made me not want to compete with him directly and possibly cost both of us a ball. The way I was going to play it if a ball did indeed get hit to us is let him get his initial jump and then put my glove on just in case he read the ball incorrectly and I read it correctly. So he would have position, but I would (theoretically) be the mistake prevention back-up. Of course, as is the case when I’m there, nothing got hit within a section of us.
At the end of the game I headed to the dugout, but what came of that was no snagging but rather getting to talk to Zack and his mom (who was celebrating her birthday at the time)/watching Zack get a third-out ball tossed to him from 16 rows up and almost two sections to the right of Martin Prado, who tossed it to him. It was truly amazing how far Prado tossed it to him. I had gone down to the first row to try to get the ball from Prado, but when I couldn’t get his attention and saw his eyes lock on a target way behind me, I knew where the ball was headed. After that, the game ended, we said our goodbyes, and headed our separate ways.
- 2 Balls at this game (1 pictured because I gave the other away)
Numbers 572-573 for my lifetime:
- 127 Balls in 31 Games= 4.10 Balls Per Game
- 2 Balls x 30,287 Fans=60,574 Competition Factor
- 93 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 160 Balls in 35 Games at Nationals Park= 4.57 Balls Per Game
- 27 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
- 11 straight Games at Nationals Park with at least 2 Balls
- Time Spent On Game 3:26-11:33= 8 Hours 7 Minutes
Yes, video*s*. Plural. With me beginning a week-long hiatus from baseball games starting with the game in the entry I published right before this one, so too did I end a streak of about 17 consecutive days. Now I didn’t want to just take those days off, so I made a couple of videos. Well more like one-and-a-half videos.
So this first video is just me explaining what I plan to do with my YouTube channel going forward. I feel as though it’s slightly confusing, so if you have any clarifications you need me to make, leave a comment asking me to clarify whatever it is you need clarifying:
So yeah, I’m going to be making videos much more regularly now. I even plan to make videos while I’m in Spain June 27th-July 8th, but I also don’t know what my internet situation will be over there, so I don’t know if I’ll yet be able to get them out on time, but I’ll try my hardest to do so.
This second video has an intro that kind of explains the rest rest of the footage, but again, if I was unclear on anything, ask me in comment form:
So yeah, there’s that. If you want to go ahead and subscribe to the YouTube channel, click on this sentence, as it is linked to the channel. From here on out, I might mention in a ballhawking entry that I uploaded a new video, but I won’t do entries like this solely to announce that I’ve uploaded a video, so if you subscribe you’ll be notified every time I make a new video. My next game is this upcoming Thursday at Nationals Park when the Nationals take on the Rockies, so expect an entry out within a couple of days of that game. I’ll also be going the day after, and I won’t spoil the surprise yet, but some interesting people will be at both the Thursday and Friday games. Also, just to clarify, there will no longer be the “Before The Gates Opens” videos. I’ll leave the ones that are up there on my channel, but I’ll just include the stuff I would have normally put in those videos in my day-to day vlogs. I think that’s all I have to say here, so again, if you need clarification on anything, leave a comment. But besides that, I’ll see you–but not really–when the next entry comes out in a day or two.
A quick update before I get started (because no one reads them when I put them at the end of entries):
I did a couple of videos on my YouTube page in the time since the last entry, if you want to check them out. They haven’t been embedding well as of late, so I’ll first try to embed them and link them if the embed doesn’t work once I publish the entry. Anyway, the first video is one I did for a public speaking class entitled: “How to do a last-minute speech.” And yes, it is what it sounds like:
The second is me saluting the fact that Opening Day is almost here while taking a subtle jab at Spring Training games:
If you liked those and would like to find out about them not weeks after they were uploaded, feel free to subscribe to the channel. I don’t have a regular posting schedule (we all know how well that has worked out for the blog these past few months), but I do plan on uploading videos and making them public there before they ever get on a published blog entry. For example, I may or may not have uploaded the video later on in this entry publicly before I published this entry
Apparently one day of sports analytics wasn’t enough, so I came back for some more in a second day:
And I got to begin it with this beautiful panel of people:
That would be the “Staying on the Field: Injury Analytics” panel. It was compromised of the following panelists:
Stephania Bell (moderator):
Senior Writer, ESPN.
Vice President of Medical Services (whatever that means), Los Angeles Dodgers.
Director of Center for Molecular Medicine and Orthopaedics, Düsseldorf, Germany. You may recognize him better as the surgeon who performed the blood-spinning operation (I think that’s right.) on Kobe Bryant and a couple athletes.
Founder, BASE Productions. Or perhaps known better as the host of Sports Science (is that one word like Sportscenter?) on ESPN.
This was really interesting once it got started, but there were technical difficulties with the Stan Conte’s slides–which while we’re listing off things I didn’t like about the panel, slides don’t integrate well into almost any panel. Probably the one thing I will always take with me from the panel was Conte’s story about Mike Matheny and what eventually convinced him to retire. If you don’t know the gist of the story, Matheny retired due to excess concussions from taking foul tips to the head. Apparently what happened was Matheny was talking to whoever the Cardinals back-up catcher was at the time and telling him that he blacked-out for a second every time a ball hits his mask, which he described as being perfectly normal. It was upon the back-up catcher telling him that it wasn’t perfectly normal that he black out every time a ball hit his mask that Matheny reconsidered that, shall we say, “sanity,” of him continuing his career any longer.
After that it was back up the Grand Ballroom for Monday Morning Quarterback. This was one of the more entertaining and by far the most engaging panel. It was compromised of the following panelists:
Tony Reali (moderator):
Host, Around The Horn (ESPN).
Former Head Coach and NFL Analyst, ESPN.
General Manager, Atlanta Falcons.
Jack Del Rio:
Defensive Coordinator, Denver Broncos.
Brian Burke (no not that one):
Founder, Advanced NFL Stats.
Like I said, this was the most interactive and fun of the panels. What it was is we watched videos of different scenarios of plays (mostly involving the people on the panel) and then the audience voted on what they though the coach should do on that particular play. We then got to see what the statistics dictated the coach should have done. It was a fun time.
Then I went ahead and filmed a mini-tour of the conference grounds. So here that is:
After that I went ahead to the Stying Relevant: Social Media Analytics panel. That was these people:
Gary Belsky (moderator):
Digital Director, Brooklyn Nets & Barclays Center.
CEO, VaynerMedia, who for both better and worse completely dominated the speaking time by the panelists.
Head of Sports and Entertainment, Twitter.
Co-Founder, Bleacher Report.
This was interesting insofar as how it may pertain to this blog and social media outlets thereof. I may change my New Year’s goals because of it eventually. Like I mentioned, Vaynerchuk completely took over the panel, which was not necessarily a bad thing, because he had knowledge of the subject some good things to say, but also it was a brilliant overall panel and not just him, so I would have liked to hear a lot less of him and a lot more of the other panelists.
Then, for my final panel of the conference, I headed over to Hall of Fame Analytics, which was these people:
Editor in Cheif, ESPN the Magazine.
Senior Writer/Baseball Analyst, ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com.
Senior Writer, Sports Illustrated.
Director of Production Analytics, ESPN Stats & Information.
And sadly, although he was initially slated to be a part of it, John Thorn could not make it to the panel. Thorn, if you did not know, is a fellow MLBlogger. Besides this, the panel was really great. While he may not have been viewed the same way to other people in the audience, Buster Olney stole the show in this panel for me. I’ve disagreed with many of the positions Olney has taken when it comes to Hall of Fame voting in the past, but I realize that this was the case in many scenarios because he was confined by the schmushed time slots ESPN has given him. It was in this panel where he got to fully explain his point and develop his argument that it became clear he was the baseball writer of decades and I was the jerk at home who thought he was an idiot who I knew more about baseball than. I mean he didn’t convince me that Jack Morris belongs in the Hall over Bert Blyleven (though he did argue that) but he did get me on his side of the fence on a couple other points and helped me beter see his perspective on a couple others.
After that it was off to the closing ceremonies and the Alpha Awards for exceptional performances in the field of sports analytics. Whatever that means. I actually don’t have my program with me since I left it in New York, so I can’t tell you what any of the awards were, so I’ll just end this entry with a series of pictures and you can create your own storyline to accompany them.
And thus, the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference came to a close. I hope you guys enjoyed that entry. Thank you for reading. And considering I am going to Opening Day in less than 24 hours, be on the lookout for the entry from that game. While I will miss the free time I have during the offseason, I’ll say it’s about time baseball got here.
Just to have it on the record who my favorite MLB players are and were as of January, 12, 2013. That, and maybe for you guys to get a better idea of me as a baseball fan:
Vote for who you think the next entry should be about:
And of course, if you haven’t already, vote for what you think the next entry should be after that:
Exhausted entry ideas:
1. Ballhawk Interviews- 33 votes
2. Stadium Profiles- 26 votes
3. Ballhawk Profiles- 33 votes
4. Dissect (a) Baseball(s)- 26 votes
5. Tour Target Field when there’s snow on the ground- 26 votes
6. Weird Observing Baseball Facts and Records- 28 votes
7. New Observing Baseball Icon- 17 votes
8. MLBlogs I Recommend- 33 votes
9. Observing Baseball Trivia- 32 votes
10. My Favorite MLB Players- 28 votes
11. Characters of Observing Baseball- 29
239,315 Words Written so far…
So… I think I’ll start off the entry with a “Before The Gates Open” video:
If you didn’t get it from my video, this was my view of the field when I first got in:
No, my first ball of the day came when the Rangers started throwing. Nelson Cruz tossed a ball to me, but it sailed over my head where Greg Barasch picked the ball up. Went all the way to the ball bucket and picked a ball out of there:
(Do you see him? He’s the one closest to the bucket with the ball in his hand.) He then launched that ball over my head with relative ease from over 200 feet away. When I ran up the stairs chasing the ball, it bounced back towards the field and over my head where another fan got it. Cruz then got a third ball. This time, I made sure to be up higher on the staircase. He threw the ball, and I saw it was falling short, so I ran down the stairs, cut into the row, and caught the ball. All in all, it was a fun experience. Here’s the ball as Cruz headed off to right field:
My next ball came when I headed to the left field seats in fair territory. Ian Kinsler hit a ball that I could tell wasn’t going to reach me on the fly but might reach me after bouncing off someone’s hands. It bounced off some hands, off a seat; it then went behind me, and it then bounced off a glove behind me, where it landed in the row behind me and I picked it up. It was in this general area that I snagged it:
After this it was time for Josh Hamilton’s group. All of us four ballhawks who had met at Gate 6 had the same idea: go to right field. For the record, I was the first one out of the left field section, but the other three followed seconds after. So, on our way to right field, we divvied-up the right field seats as to not get in each other’s ways, Zack got the field level seats, and Ben got the bleachers:
There, I had one mission in mind: Get a ball from Joe Nathan. (He was/is one of my favorite players ever for his role on my beloved Twins.) Here was my view of him:
Unfortunately, I wasted all of the remaining batting practice up there, but I *was* able to make it down to the dugout just as the players were running off, and I got a ball from a player I can best identify as Mark Lowe:
After batting practice, I met up with a few ballhawks in the left field seats:
The people- left to right- are:
1. Ben Weil- A ballhawk best known for having the biggest collection of jerseys in the Milky Way. (If you want to see just how big, I put a link to his name for a reason.) However, Ben purposely pulled off his beautiful Rangers jersey to display the shirt you see in the picture.
2. Greg Barasch- Probably the best ballhawk at amassing as many balls in a single game as he can in the country (even if he DOES always go for third-out balls at the games he goes to).
3. Matthew Latimer- A reporter for MLB’s Cut4, who may or may not interview me next season at a Yankee game if there’s a slow news day.
4. Zack Hample- The man, the myth, the sweater (that’s why he’s holding out his two-shaded shirt out).
5. Moi- I’m holding out three fingers because it was the third game in a row Zack and I had been to a game together.
6. Mark McConville- A ballhawk who you saw towards the end of the video. We’ve seen each other at quite a few games considering how many games he’s been to (12).
As for the game, Hiroki Kuroda threw a complete game two-hitter. Also, I personally found this stat amazing:
• 3 Balls at this Game
Numbers 363-365 for my lifetime:
• 143 Balls in 33 Games= 4.33 Balls Per Game
• 3 Balls x 44,533 Fans= 133,599 Competition Factor
• 42 Games with at least 1Ball
• 18 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
• 86 Balls in 23 Games at the New Yankee Stadium= 3.74 Balls Per Game
• 23 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at the New Yankee Stadium
• 8 straight Games at the New Yankee Stadium with at least 2 Balls
• Time Spent On Game 3:58- 10:12= 6 Hours 14 Minutes
I did a new vlog entry. I’ll let it speak for itself, though. The only thing is, if you read this entry right as it came out, the video might be a bit less than desirable, since I still have to make some changes. Also, I realize there are some green flashes. I don’t what’s up with them. I thought you would like this entry more since it is much shorter than the last one. Anyway, here is this entry:
Previous game’s entry: