6/3 at Busch Stadium

Our day started in Memphis, Tennessee. After eating some breakfast at the hotel and printing out the Cardinals’ and Giants’ rosters in preparation for the game later that day, we headed out to walk around a bit.

After taking a walk down Beale street, we walked over to the Memphis Redbirds stadium, AutoZone Park. To our surprise, the stadium gates were open, so we walked in to take a look around.

  
It’s a good looking ballpark. Unfortunately, we got into town too late the night before to see a game there.

After leaving the park, we made a stop at the Peabody Hotel to watch the famous march of the ducks.

  
We then went back to our hotel, checked out, and headed over to the National Civil Rights museum at the Lorraine Motel. We had also seen the MLK historic sites in Atlanta. They were all very important stops on our trip, as we can all learn a lot from Dr. King’s teachings, especially in today’s tumultuous times.

Eventually, we got on our way to St Louis. It’s basically a four hour drive, which isn’t terrible, but the fact that I was seeing a baseball game in a few hours made it feel a bit longer.

When we started getting close to St Louis, it started spitting rain. I didn’t think much of it, as it was extremely light, and not consistent. We checked into our hotel and unloaded the car about 40 minutes before the stadium opened. That didn’t give us much time to get to our room, unload our stuff, and get to the ballpark before it opens. But, we got it done, and started walking to the park about 20 minutes before the gates opened.

Since it was a Friday game, the gates opened 2 hours prior to first pitch, opposed to only 90 minutes on weeknights. I figured the extra half hour would help a lot, as Busch isn’t known as a very good ballhawking stadium, and Giants fans travel particularly well.

On our way to the right field gate, we passed the left field gate, where we had a partial view of the field….. And the tarp was on, which was quite frustrating because it was barely raining….

Here was the view when we got in line for the gates:

 Unfortunately, it was also a giveaway night…. Since there wasn’t BP I figured I was probably going to get shutout.

As Jack and I were waiting to enter, we noticed the signs on the back of the right field scoreboard, proudly exclaiming: “11 time World Champions. ’26 ’31 ’34 ’42 ’44 ’46 ’64 ’67 ’82 ’06 ’11”.

Jack quietly said to me: “They sure like talking about the past here”.

Jack may be a Pirates fan, but we share a common dislike of our rivals, the St Louis Cardinals.

After we finally got through the gates, and received a 2006 World Series trophy relic, we were greeted with this view:

  

Not a player to be seen. The only action was the grounds crew putting away BP screens.

We walked around a bit, and soon found a quite surprising scene. At Busch stadium, there is a ledge with some flowers growing on top of the outfield wall. While we were walking around in the outfield, we saw a fan leaning over the wall with some string in his hand. As I walked closer, I saw it was a ballhawk glove-tricking a ball off of the ledge….. It took him a while, but he eventually got it.

If I were in the stadium quicker, I probably would’ve had a shot at it with my cup trick, but oh well. I was more confused than frustrated. How did the ball get there? It was apparent that there wasn’t BP, as there weren’t any Easter eggs in the seats…. Or was there early BP? But how likely would it be for a ball to just land there and not bounce off? Did a player run out there just to specifically put that ball on the ledge? Who knows. Something fun to think about.

After that, I quickly sprinted to the other ledges in left-center and straight-away left to beat the bushes to see if there were any other baseballs. Unfortunately, there were none to be found.

From there, I didn’t really know what to do. There wasn’t anything to do.

After walking around a bit, I headed to the Giants side of the field, in hopes of some pitchers coming out to warm up.

  
After waiting for about 15 minutes, I didn’t think anything was going to happen on the field anytime soon.

So, what other option did I have but to eat!

I got some Gluten Free Chicken Tenders and tater-tots. Pretty basic, but when you’re on a gluten free diet, there aren’t many creative options when it comes to ballpark food. But, GF chicken tenders are a rarity, so it was a bit of a treat. 

  
We sat under the overhang of the second deck while we were eating. I was prepared to sprint to any place in the ballpark where there was any action at all. But the action never came.

After I finished my food, both of my brothers and I headed down the third base line, back to where I was before. At that point it was about 6:20, and I still hadn’t seen a player.

Finally, at approximately 6:42 pm Central daylight time, we finally saw a player, as Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright headed out to the Cardinals bullpen!

Shortly after that, some Giants players came out to stretch and throw.

  
I stood a few rows deep, so I could stand out. 

Notice something in that picture, a few rows in front of me? 

I looked at it a bit closer, and it was a baseball. I figured it was a fake china ball that someone brought for an autograph, as people leave them in cup holders often. But, just to be sure, I walked to go check it out. I got to the ball, and….. It was an Official Major League baseball!

  
When I picked it up, It was clearly marked with the SF in sharpie on the sweet spot. The Giants are known to mark their baseballs this way.

  
So, I was on the board, thanks to some good Larry Luck.

  
Sometime in that time frame, I was (kinda) in a picture that got put on the Giants twitter page:

   
   
After the Giants finished warming up, we headed to our seats.

I didn’t really feel like ballhawking in-game. I just wanted to take in the game from my seat, and enjoy the pitching match up, Johnny Cueto vs Adam Wainwright.

This was the view:  

Between innings, I noticed that the Cardinals built something awfully familiar looking across the street from the stadium at their Ballpark Village….

  
Interesting…..

The pitching match up lived up to the hype, as Cueto only gave up one unearned run in six innings. Wainwright reminded me of his vintage self, tossing seven innings and giving up two runs.

While we were in our seats I took this panorama:

  
In the top of the ninth, we headed to behind the Giants dugout to try for umpire balls and or post-game balls from the Giants.

But first, on the way there I snagged a T-Shirt: 
That half inning was particularly long, as the Giants put three runs on the board, and the Cardinals had multiple pitching changes. This allowed us plenty of time to find a spot behind the third base dugout.

But, the big problem was we didn’t exactly know where the umpire tunnel was….. So, we went with the safe bet of the visitors dugout and hoped for the best.

While we were there, Nick pointed out an opening in the net on the third base side of home plate, wondering if that could be the tunnel. I really didn’t think it was, so I stayed put.

So, when the Giants recorded the final out of their 5-1 victory, I was ready to snag an umpire ball…… But then the Umpires started heading towards the tunnel Nicholas pointed out, and went in that way….

I didn’t have any time to dwell on my disappointment though, as I was right above where the Giants were entering the dugout. So, I quickly switched to my Giants cap. But, San Francisco only gave away one ball, and it was to my brother Jack. I believe it was the final out ball.

After that, I had my picture taken with the one ball I snagged/found (with Jack unintentionally photobombing).

  
And then we walked back to our hotel.

HUGE ‘Thank you’, goes out to my parents for planning all our exciting travels. We have seen many great places on our trips and I look forward to seeing many more.

Stats

1 ball at this game

17 balls this season

65 balls lifetime

12/30 Major League Stadiums visited

Box Score

Me: 1

Jack: 1

Nick: 0

Friendly reminder that you can see me every Sunday night on my podcast, Ballhawk Talk, with my Co-Host, Cole Adkins. Make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel, as our live-streamed podcasts will appear there, along with our past episodes. You can also find us on Twitter @BallhawkTalk.

5/27 at Turner Field

Our first full day in Atlanta started off with me catching up with my buddies Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper at CNN:

  

Turns out the CNN studio tour was a bit of a rip off, as we only saw one actual TV studio, and Wolf and Anderson don’t actually work in Atlanta.

From CNN, we walked through Centennial Park to Coke World. (Yeah, I know, a bunch of touristy stuff)

To my surprise, Coke World was actually quite enjoyable. Lots of free pop, and there was actually some interesting stuff there. After leaving through their huge sampling room with over 100 different types of soda, we walked back through Centennial park to our car, and got going to the ballpark.

We arrived at the gates about 10 minutes before they opened. The crowd was much larger than the day before, but fortunately my brother Jack and I were able to squeeze into line behind David Welch, who I had met the previous day.

After snagging 7 baseballs the previous day with only about 30 minutes of batting practice, I could only imagine how many baseballs I had a chance at snagging today with a full two hours of BP.

When the gates opened I was greeted with a better scene than yesterday, as Braves BP was already starting.


My first ball came pretty quickly. Jeff Francoeur, one of the Braves few good BP hitters (based on what I’ve seen), was in the Cage. A few pitches in, he hit a screaming line drive to the section to my left. So, I started running through a row. As I was running, I realized that the ball was going to land in my row, but it was coming in so fast, I wasn’t going to get there in time. I came close, but the ball hit a seat, and ricochet out of the section. I never really stopped running, and I was able to chase it down:


Shortly after that, a ball was hit into the gap. So, I quickly grabbed my bag, and brought it to the spot. Thanks to my new and improved cup trick, I was able to pluck the the ball out of the gap in under 30 seconds for my second ball of the day:


If I stayed at the pace I was at, I would easily be in double digits by the end of BP. But, as soon as that thought crossed through my mind, my momentum screeched to a halt

Braves BP slowed down, the crowd grew, and more kids were showing up, as it was the last day of school for Atlanta Public Schools, and tons of kids decided to come to the ballpark to celebrate.

I had a two or three close calls with homers for the rest of Braves BP, but nothing I could’ve or should’ve caught.

One thing that was a bit strange was I didn’t come close to any toss ups. Not one. Players wouldn’t look when I called their name, not even Austin Pirzynski! But, almost all the balls getting tossed into the crowd were going to kids, so I can’t argue with that.

Finally, Braves BP ended. I was really excited for Marlins’ BP, Giancarlo Stanton in particular. Or so I thought….. Turns out Stanton was scratched from the lineup due to an injury, and didn’t hit.

My bad luck continued into Marlins BP. I didn’t come close to any homers in the first group. My chance for tossups got even worse, as a ‘Marlins’ Little League team showed up in the bleachers in full uniform. Just my luck.

When the second group started, I figured I would just stay in left. My mind quickly changed when Ichiro started hitting absolute bombs to the right field seats. So, I sprinted over there to get there just in time for Ichiro’s second round of pitches.


I never knew the guy had so much power. He is probably one of the best BP hitters I’ve ever seen.

After a few close calls, I was finally able to get my hands on one. Ichiro crushed a homer over the cross aisle, and into the seats behind it. It hit a seat, and started bouncing around. I lost sight of it, so I started moving towards the cross aisle. I didn’t have to move to far, as the ball came bouncing right toward me.


I didn’t snag any other homers from that group, and once that group was finished hitting I moved back to left.

When I got there I realized my chances of snagging another ball were pretty slim, as the crowd had grown, and there were almost no empty rows to run through.

So, I picked a spot at just about straight away left field, and stood in the aisle. Shortly after I found that spot, a ball was hit directly at me. First thing I did was freeze. I had time, as I didn’t have to run laterally, it was just a matter of whether it was going to be in front of me or over my head. I thought it was going to be just a step or two short, so I took a step down…… and rolled my ankle and fell…….. No, unfortunately, this is not a joke.

I watched helplessly from the ground as the homer hit the railing I was leaning against, and bounced away.

I was pretty frustrated, as I picked the perfect position, and I wasted my opportunity.

I came pretty close to another ball in a scramble, but couldn’t quite get my glove on it before another person reached and picked it up.

The most frustrating part of the day came shortly after the first scramble. Another homer landed relatively close to me, and I ended up being the only one very close to it. I was a row below it, so I reached over the row, and had the ball in my fingers when all of a sudden…. BOOM. I was bowled over by a rather large woman in the same row as the ball, who decided to chase after it at the last second. The force of her.. umm… mass… slamming into me caused me to lose my balance, and jarred the ball out of my hand. The ball rolled away, as I watched from the ground yet again.

During that crazy sequence, my finger somehow got jammed. Fun stuff.

The good thing was, the large woman didn’t end up with the ball. She never apologized, or said a word to me at all. I threw her a few dirty looks, which was about all I could do.

A few minutes after that debacle, BP gracefully ended.

I met up with David, and chatted for a few minutes. He said that he had snagged 7 balls. Ironically, I had snagged 7 the day before, and he had snagged 3, so we flipped positions.

I then headed to the outfield plaza to pick up these delicious nachos:


Special thanks to David for letting me use his season ticket holder food discount.

We then found our seats, and I enjoyed my nachos from there.

After I finished eating, I got into position for a Marlins warm up ball.


Only a few players tossed balls to fans, and I was not the recipient of one.

My plan for the game was to stay in my ticketed section, and play foul balls. There was plenty of room to run, so if there was a foul ball hit to the sections on my left or right I had a good shot at it.

This was my view of the field:


Nice place to watch the game.

I came close to a foul pop up in the bottom of the first, close enough to where I saw myself in the re-broadcast of the game later that night, but not super close, as the ball landed a section away.

The real action came in the top of the third inning, when Justin Boar stepped to the plate for Miami. Every time a lefty came to the plate, I moved down a few rows to a completely empty row so I would have extra room to run. My Mom, Dad, and Jack were sitting two or three rows behind me, and Nick was in an empty row behind them. In the middle of the at bat, Boar smacked a foul ball our way. I believe the ball landed in the row behind Nick’s. From there, the ball rolled into Nick’s row, then into Jack’s row. At that point, I was about to run into the row with my parents and Jack, but my Dad picked up the ball! If I had just stayed in my seat that I sat in for right handed batters I’m pretty confident I would’ve snagged it.

But, regardless, I was pretty happy for my Dad, as out of all the games he’s been to in his life, that was his first foul ball.

Around the 5th inning, I met up with David to get a picture with him. I’m going to try and get pictures with all the ballhawks I see at the stadiums I visit this year.


After a few innings back at my seat, there wasn’t any other foul ball activity, so I decided to make an attempt for a third out ball in the bottom of the 7th.

Here’s where I moved:


After the third out was recorded, Martin Prado ended up with the ball. He glanced in my direction for less than a second, and ended up throwing it a few sections away from the dugout.

I figured my chances of landing a 3rd out ball were pretty slim, so I headed back to my seat. I’d much rather have a foul ball anyways.

In the 8th inning, I came extremely close. A ball was hit in the section to my left, which was virtually empty.

As soon as the ball was hit, I got up out of my seat and into the aisle. I was tracking the ball for a bit, and it looked like it would be in the far end of the section, so I started running through a row. That was a mistake. The ball ended up landing in the middle of the last row of the section. If I had just continued to watch the ball, I would’ve climbed to the top of the section, and ran to the ball. But, instead, I was all the way on the other side of the section when the ball landed, about four or five rows below the ball. I hopped over a few rows, but didn’t come close to the it. 

In the 9th inning, we headed to the visitors dugout to get a spot for umpire balls.


As the picture shows, we got a decent spot, but as soon as there were two outs, about four little kids ran down the aisle, and basically sat right in our way. At that point, I knew my chances were quite small. As soon as the game ended, I attempted to scramble next to the dugout, so I would be on the side of the umpire tunnel. When Home Plate umpire Dan Iassogna got close to the dugout, he threw one pretty close to me, but another person with a glove outreached me and caught it. Iassogna proceeded to throw about three more baseballs into the crowd behind the dugout, and then headed in.

Since it was a Friday, it was fireworks night, so we headed back to our seats to get a view from there.

While we were sitting, I noticed this grounds keeper mowing the grass…..


Kinda strange…

After about 10 minutes of waiting, the fireworks still hadn’t started, so we decided to head out.

As we were walking out of Turner Field for the final time ever, I snapped a few good pictures with the fireworks in the background.


And then we headed back to the hotel.

Overall, I really enjoyed my time at Turner Field. It’s not a bad looking stadium, most of the ushers and security guards were very friendly, and the ballhawking was great. Too bad the Braves are moving.

Special thanks to David for his hospitality while I was at his home stadium.

Stats


3 balls at this game

16 balls this season

64 balls lifetime

Box Score

David: 7

Nick: 4

Me: 3

Dad: 1

Jack: 0

 

5/26 at Turner Field

Over the past few years, I’ve had a desire to see Turner Field. When the Braves announced that they were moving into the brand new Sun Trust Park in time for the beginning of the 2017 season, I knew we had to organize a trip down relatively quickly. So, over the winter, we planned a visit to Atlanta to see two Braves games, and turned it into a trip throughout the south.

Our day started in Nashville, Tennessee, where we had spent the last two nights. After a stop at the Parthenon…… 

We left the “Athens of the south” and hit the road for Atlanta at about 10am Central time. The drive from Nashville to Atlanta takes about four hours, plus a lost hour going from the central time zone to the eastern time zone.

The reason time was a concern was the Turner Field gates opened at 4:30, a full two and a half hours before first pitch. In fact, the gate opening times were one of the main reasons I wanted to visit. It allows you to see both team’s BP in their entirety, so I didn’t want to be late.

We hit a rough patch of traffic around Chattanooga that took us a while to get through, but after that it was smooth sailing until we got to the Atlanta metro area. We hit another snag as we passed the aforementioned Sun Trust Park. For those of you who don’t know or haven’t been to Atlanta, the city is riddled with awful traffic, so I was a bit nervous that we wouldn’t make it. After sitting in traffic for a while, we finally made it to our midtown hotel at about 3:40. We quickly unloaded the car, and  brought all our luggage to our room. We packed our backpacks for the game, and got on our way to the Ted at about 4:10.

When we pulled into the parking lot at 4:36, Jack and I hopped out of the car and sprinted to gate 755.


There, I met Turner Field regular David Welch, a.k.a. DeeDubs24 on mygameballs.com. He is quite the accomplished ballhawk, and has snagged over 1,000 baseballs in his four-year ballhawking career. We had been exchanging direct messages on twitter, and he was very helpful, so it was nice to meet him.

We chatted a little bit, and he informed me that he wasn’t sure if there was going to BP, as the previous night’s game went 13 innings and lasted until around midnight.

When the gates opened, I ran in, and this was the scene:


The cage was set up, but there was no action. So, I stood around and talked with David a bit more.

While we were talking, word got around that Tom Glavine was standing in the outfield plaza area. Luckily, I had brought a few clean baseballs from my collection to have signed. So, I grabbed one out of my bag and brought it up for him to sign. Sure enough, he was standing there looking at his phone in a Fox Sports golf shirt.

I asked if he could sign, and he said “Sure”. After he signed, he dropped the ball, but the auto still turned out nicely:  

Getting an autograph from a hall of famer isn’t a bad way to start the day at the ballpark.

The Braves didn’t start hitting until about 5, and David suspected it was an optional BP, so there would only be two or three groups. The Braves aren’t the best hitting team, so I wasn’t expecting much.

In preparation for my time at Turner Field I made a cup trick, as there is a gap between the stands and the outfield wall. The ushers don’t care if you use ball retrievers, so not bringing a retriever would be a waste of a great opportunity, as balls end up in the gap quite frequently.

This is about where I stood for Braves BP. Most of the time I was probably further back.


The first few minutes of BP was quite action packed for me. My first close call came when a Braves player (who I couldn’t identify) smacked a deep homer over everyone’s heads. The ball hit a seat, and bounced down a few rows. From there, a scramble ensued. David, another Ballhawk, and I all converged around the ball. It was still rolling, and it rolled out of the row that I was in, and the one in front of me. So, my only chance at getting my hands on it was diving over those two rows and, that’s exactly what I did. Unfortunately I only came up with a scraped elbow. I think I get an A for effort, though.

My next opportunity came pretty quickly, as a ball was hit in the gap. I had the cup trick ready in my cargo shorts pocket, as I knew David was extremely quick with his retriever, and I didn’t want to waste any extra time. Fortunately for me, David was a few sections away, so this was my opportunity.

I got to the spot, pulled the cup and string out of my pocket, and reeled it down towards the ball. It took me a little bit to get it lodged in the cup, but I eventually got it, reeled it back up, and tah-dah! 

(Sorry about the blurry picture, I couldn’t see the quality of the picture until after BP as the sun was very bright and I couldn’t see my phone screen)

My first ever retrieved ball.

The Braves weren’t hitting many into the seats, so I figured most of my baseballs from the Braves would come from toss ups.

There were a few Braves pitchers standing near me, so I had a pretty good shot at getting a toss up out of one of them.

So, when Mike Foltynewicz ended up with a baseball, I called his name and he tossed it to me:


Easy enough. I shouted “Thank You” and he gave me a salute. Seems like a pretty cool guy. Too bad I don’t know how to pronounce his last name.

Another person on the field in my general area was A.J. Pierzynski’s son, Austin. He was chasing around lots of balls in the outfield, and he actually made quite a few nice catches. I figured if he cased down a ball on the warning track, he would probably toss it up if I called out his name.

So, I looked up AJ Pierzynski’s Wikipedia page, and found his name. Shortly after that, he chased down a ball, and I called out:

“Hey Austin can you toss that up for me please?”

He quickly turned around, and he was eager to throw it toward me. The throw was pretty high, so I jumped, but it still went over my head. I couldn’t chase it down, but luckily, he ended up with another ball shortly after that and tossed it right to me.

Another blurry picture. Oops.

He seemed pretty excited someone knew his name. I try to take advantage when players kids are on the field, as they can be pretty generous, but unfortunately, it doesn’t happen very often.

The last group of Braves BP wasn’t anything special. Most of the group were lefties, but I stayed in left, hoping they could muscle a few opposite field shots into the seats or into the gap.

I guess the Braves need to hit the weight room, because not one opposite field homer was hit.

Although I didn’t have any opportunities with any hit balls, I did have a shot at a toss up that ended up in the gap. A Braves player tossed up a baseball to two women who were standing in the front row. As I expected, they dropped it right into the gap. So, I offered to retrieve it for them. This one took a bit longer than the last one, as it was a lot closer to the outfield wall, so I didn’t have a good angle on it. But, after about a minute, I reeled it in. I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of it, as I handed it right to them.

Shortly after that, Braves BP ended.

As soon as the Braves finished, the grounds crew started taking down the cage. This was quite disappointing, as that pretty much killed my chances of reaching double digits for the game.

However, there were some Brewers pitchers warming up along the left field line, so I headed over there.


After standing around for a few minutes without a toss up, Brewers bullpen coach Lee Tunnell came by with a handful of baseballs, and tossed them to Brewers fans. Fortunately, he spotted me, and hooked me up with one:


After that, I headed up to the concourse to get some food. I ended up chowing down a hot dog and some chips:


I then headed over to the Braves side of the field, in hopes of getting a warm up ball. The only reason I picked the Braves side over the Brewers side was I was hoping the Braves would be using commemoratives.


After Mallex (Yes, Mallex. With an M) Smith finished warming up, I called out his name, and he tossed me the ball he used. And it was………..


…Not commemorative. But, I was happy to have the ball though, as it set my new game high, breaking my previous record of 5 that I set on 6/8/14 at Nationals Park.

Jack and I stayed at that same spot, in hopes of getting a chance at a third out ball, as we were pretty close to the dugout.

Unfortunately, we came up empty handed, and left for our ticketed seats after the second inning. Here was the view from there:


Solid seats. And we got them at a really low price.

After a few innings there, I decided to stand in the tunnels behind home plate to try and snag a foul ball.

Here’s where I stood for righties:


And here’s where I stood for lefties:


Spoiler alert: I didn’t come close. But I did get this cool panorama:


I went back and fourth for a little bit, until I found a ticket on the ground for section 105. Unfortunately, that section is behind the net. So, I went and talked to the usher for section 109, which is the first section that isn’t behind the net, and is the perfect spot for third out balls after strike outs.

So I said: “I have a ticket for 105, but can I grab an empty seat in your section and sit there?”

And she said: “You don’t wanna sit in 105?”

Me: “Yeah, I don’t want to be behind the net!”

Usher: “Alright go ahead!”

I wish all ushers were that nice.

I sat there for there during the top of the sixth. During that inning, it started to rain. It started soft, so I figured that they would keep playing, but the rain quickly intensified. Fans flocked to the concourse and sections covered by the overhang.

I knew that if there was a strikeout to end the inning, it was mine. No competition at all. Not one little kid. But, of course, the inning ended with a Martin Maldonado ground out.

After the half inning ended, I suspected the game would be delayed, as the rain was coming down even harder. But, to my surprise, the game was not delayed, and continued into the bottom of the 6th. During the bottom half of the inning, I headed over to the Brewers side.


There was a bit more competition over there, as there were lots of Brewers fans, and they didn’t seem to be scared of the rain.

The bottom half of the frame was a bit more eventful than the top half, and therefore longer. Jeff Francoeur tried to jump start a Braves rally with a one out double, and then there was a pitching change. Brewers reliever Jhan Marinez got the Crew out of the inning. When the inning ended, the rain hadn’t gotten any better, so the game was delayed.

So, I met up with David in the concourse, and we walked around. We had some good conversations about ballhawking, and baseball in general. While we were talking, ball retrievers came up in our conversation. I mentioned how mine didn’t have a lot of weight on it, so it was harder to pluck balls off the ground. So, generously, David pulled out some extra hockey pucks that he drilled holes in that he uses for weight for his cup trick, and gave them to me. The extra weight makes it a lot easier to get baseballs, as you can get the ball in the cup at an angle, instead of having to be right over the ball to pick it up.

Shortly after that, the grounds crew started to take the tarp off, and prepare the field for play.


The delay lasted an hour and 17 minutes.

When the field was ready for play, some players came back out and started tossing along the foul lines, like they did before the game. So, I headed over to the Braves side:


None of the players tossed out the balls, which was okay because they probably weren’t commemorative anyways.

I employed a new strategy for the rest of the game. For the first two outs I would play foul balls in the tunnels, and I would sit behind the dugout for the last out of the inning.

Look at all the room I had to run if a foul ball came my way:


 My plan didn’t exactly work. I came close to a total of two foul balls. Well, not even two. One was hit right over my head into the second deck, and if it bounced down I would’ve had it. Another ball was hit into the sections underneath the overhang of the second deck, but I couldn’t get there in time.

But, I did get another panorama to capture how empty the stadium was.


As for third out balls, those didn’t go great either. There were too many Brewers fans for me to have a good shot at their third out balls, so I stuck to playing the Braves side. Unfortunately, I just had awful luck. In the 8th inning, I was still playing foul balls when Jonathan Lucroy grounded into a double play to end the inning, so I couldn’t get to the dugout in time for that. In the 9th inning, I was in perfect position for a third out ball if there was a strikeout to end the inning. Chris Carter, the Brewers’ power hitting, strike out prone First Baseman was at the plate, so I had a pretty good chance. Sure enough, he struck out to end the inning, and I was the youngest one at the dugout, so I thought for sure it was mine. But, you guessed it, Braves catcher (and former White Sox) Tyler Flowers tossed the ball to a fan standing right next to me, in Kansas City Royals gear. Nice.

For the bottom half of the ninth, I headed over to get into position for umpire balls.


There wasn’t any competition, so it was just a matter of whether Tony Randazzo, the home plate umpire, would have enough balls to give out.

When Freddie Freeman lined out to end the game, I stood up right in line with the tunnel, a near perfect spot, directly in Randazzo’s sight line if he looked into the crowd. When he reached the tunnel, he appeared to have plenty of baseballs. He threw them all out to fans…. and one of those fans was me!


My target for the trip was acquired. A good looking, Turner Field final season commemorative baseball. Not to mention my seventh snag of the day, and my third commemorative in three games this season.

It was a good way to end a fun, but lengthy night at the ballpark. Special thanks to my parents for staying for the whole game.

Stats 


7 balls at this game (six pictured here because I gave one away)

13 balls this season

61 balls lifetime

Box Score

Me: 7

Nick: 5

Jack: 5

David: 3

 

 

 

4/24 at US Cellular Field

Today looked to be a pretty good day to ballhawk. Even though it was a Sunday day game, the previous day’s game was also a day game, which usually means there will be on-field BP. Not to mention, the weather was just about perfect.

It turned out to be a good ballhawking day, but not exactly how I thought it out to be.

We arrived at the cell at about 10:40, bought our tickets, and claimed the first spot at the gate by 10:45:

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After we got a spot in line, I had lots of time to kill, so I walked around the park a little bit, and returned to the gates about 20 minutes before they opened.

When the gates opened, we had our bags checked, and our tickets scanned. I was just about the 3rd person on the escalator up to the seating bowl. As soon as I got off the escalator, I sprinted to get a look at the field and………… The cage wasn’t set up.

But, there was some activity on the field, as some Rangers pitchers were tossing down the line in right. So, I headed down there.

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While the players threw, I identified most of them.

After about 10 minutes, a few pitchers were wrapping up, including reliever Nick Martinez. When he finished, I called his name, and asked him for the ball. I was the only one who knew his name. Unfortunately, some other kid also picked up his name, and started asking him as well. He ended up tossing it to the other kid.

My disappointment only lasted a few seconds, as there were still plenty of other pitchers throwing, and I could see some of them were using Arizona spring training baseballs.

The next pitcher to finish up was Left handed side-armer Alex Claudio. When he was looking to toss up the ball, I called his name, he tossed it in my direction, and I caught it. I then looked in my glove to see a beautiful Arizona Spring Training logo!

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I snagged both 2016 spring training commemoratives, and I didn’t have to travel any further than 90 miles.

Shortly after the snag, Cole Hamels started signing autographs.

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Unfortunately I didn’t think to bring a clean baseball for autographs, so I had him sign the Arizona Ball.

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After that, Jack and I headed back to the entrance/exit ramps to get a view of the Rangers’ batting cage, in hopes of snagging a baseball there. When we got to the cage there were two coaches chatting and hitting off the tee. I later identified them as interim Third base coach Spike Owen, and pitching coach Doug Brocail. It was kind of funny watching them, as Brocail was smoking a cigarette, and it appeared as if they were discussing their golf swings. When they finished, I asked Owen if he could toss one up. He acknowledged me, grabbed two baseballs, and tossed them to Jack and I.

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The ball was very beat up, warn out, and scuffed. It is probably the most used baseball in my collection. I don’t mind getting dirty baseballs, as they have some character to them.

I also got that snag on video. I was filming some highlights of the day for a video for the Ballhawk Talk YouTube channel. Make sure to check it out.

After we finished there, we headed back into the concourse, and walked over to our actual ticketed seat to talk with our mom for a little bit. We then headed back over to the Rangers side of the field in hopes of getting a warm up ball.

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Unfortunately, only a few players ended up throwing, and I came up empty handed.

I then moved to some empty seats behind the Rangers dugout.

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I usually try for third out balls in the early innings because not many fans know that players throw out baseballs at the end of innings. As the game goes on, more and more people, especially kids, become aware. Also, many people show up late to the game, and don’t get to their seats until the second or third inning. Therefore, it is much easier to get a third out ball in the first 3 innings, versus any other time of the game. For some reason, this strategy never really payed off for me, but I decided to try it again anyways.

The top of the first was a bit of a flashback to last season for the White Sox. Newly acquired pitcher Mat Latos gave up a long ball to Nomar Mazara in the second at bat of the game, and Tyler Saladino booted an easy ground ball that Prince Fielder hit right into the shift. I really thought the White Sox were going to lose, but they turned things around quickly.

My first opportunity for a third out ball came in the bottom of the first, when Jose Abreu flew out to Mazara to end the frame. After Mazara made the catch, he tried to throw the ball to Second Baseman Rougned Odor, but threw it over his head. Shortstop Elvis Andrus ended up with the ball, and came back to the dugout with it. When he got to the dugout, he scanned the crowd. As I suspected, not many people were aware Andrus was about to throw the ball out, so my only real competition was Jack, and another kid who looked to be about 10 or 11. They were both wearing White Sox gear. I was wearing a Rangers T-shirt, so I knew I had an advantage.  Knowing Andrus is a native of Venezuela, I figured my chances would be a lot better if I asked in his native language of Spanish.

So, I said “¡Elvis! ¿Tirarame la pelota por favor?”

Sure enough, it worked!

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Muchos Gracias, Elvis!

Great way to snag my first game ball of the season. I guess Spanish class comes in handy every once in a while.

Jack and I stayed at the dugout until the end of the 3rd inning, when we headed over to some seats in the shade.


After sitting there for a few innings I moved to right field in the 5th inning, as the Rangers lineup had quite a few lefties.

While I was out there, there was a crazy Cubs fan a few sections away. Between innings he would take off his Cubs hat, wave it around, and then flip everyone off when he drew large boos. The usher at the top of the section appeared to go down to his seat to tell him to stop, but he didn’t listen. But, he never got kicked out.

Nothing else eventful happened, so at the seventh inning stretch I met up with Jack. After watching the bottom of the 7th and top of the 8th, we made our way to the Rangers dugout during a meeting at the mound with two outs in the bottom of the 8th. We grabbed some seats in about the 15th row, as all the seats on the aisle were taken closer to the dugout. We planned to go straight to the umpire ball spot after the inning ended so we could get a good spot, so I wasn’t going to really try for the third out ball.

After Adrian Beltre fielded a chopper barehanded and made an off balance throw for the third out of the inning, Jack ran all the way down to the dugout, and I just walked down a few rows.

This time, Odor ended up with the ball. Right away, he seemed to have spotted my Rangers shirt, and he threw me my second game ball of the day!

Immediately after I caught the ball I heard “Hey! He’s got two!”. That’s when Jack and I ran out of the section.

We ended up here before the start of the 9th inning:

Unfortunately, after David Robertson closed things out for the White Sox, Home Plate umpire David Rackley didn’t toss anything up.

I then ran over to the Rangers dugout to try and get a Rangers bullpen pitcher or coach to toss one up, but none of them had any baseballs in their hands.

Shortly after that, I met up with my brothers and my mom, and we headed for the exits.

It was good to be back at the Cell.

Stats 

4 balls at this game

2 game balls

6 balls this season

Box score 

White Sox: 4

Me: 4

Nick: 2

Jack: 1

4/10 at Miller Park

Baseball is back!

We had our eyes on this date a few weeks in advance. Both the Brewers and the White Sox were home, and it was my brother Nicholas’ birthday. Considering he’s a Sox fan, we were originally planning on going to their game, but the weather was rainy and cold. So, we decided to head north to the stadium were you can escape the elements!

Since it was a Sunday day game following a Saturday night game, we assumed there wouldn’t be BP, but we still planned on getting there before the gates opened because it was a bobblehead day.

Unfortunately, we ran quite a bit late, and we got there 10 minutes after the gates opened…. Yikes. But, we figured it was okay since there wasn’t BP, and the lines to get in were short.

By the time we had our tickets scanned it was about 11:55, 15 minutes after the gates opened. When I got my first glance at the field, I was pretty shocked. Yeah, you guessed it. The cage was set up and the Astros were taking batting practice.

Lesson learned: Don’t assume things.

As soon as I saw what was going on, I sprinted through the seats on the third base side of the field, through the concourse, up the stairs to the 200 level, and into the bleachers. By the time I got up there I was completely out of breath, and I almost lost Jack, who could barely keep up.

When I got up there, I met up with my buddy and fellow ballhawk, Josh Schenk.

Here is where I stood for the portion of BP that I saw:

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After about 10 minutes up there, nobody had come close to reaching the second deck, until Jose Altuve got a hold of one. As soon as he hit it, I got a beat on it. It was going to land in the middle of the front row, but a bit short. So, I squeezed past the guy in the white, and ended up next to a barehanded buy who was right in line with the ball. I reached in front of him, and made the catch.

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The moment I caught it, the guy in the white (who also happened to be barehanded) said: “You better not do that to me!”. He had a friendly tone, so I figured he was joking around. So, I responded: “Don’t worry I won’t”.

Turns out that wasn’t all he had to say.

He continued: “You can’t do that to me, because these are my actual seats, you know”. At that point I just turned around, rolled my eyes, and walked away. He kept talking, but couldn’t hear what he said. I don’t need to be lectured by someone who clearly has no idea what he’s talking about. It’s batting practice! Just because a ball is hit to your seat doesn’t mean you automatically own it.

As for the guy I reached in front of, he gave me the stink eye for the rest of BP. He definitely would’ve dropped the ball or gotten hit by it. If anything, he should’ve thanked me instead of giving me dirty looks. Bring your glove next time and maybe you can catch it yourself…

Shortly after my catch, BP ended, and the two barehanded guys started talking to each other. As I started to walk away, the guy I reached in front of continued to stare me down, and the two started walking after me, so I figured that was my cue to get going.

After I jogged into the concourse, I ran into my parents, who were on their way to check out the Selig Experience exhibit and movie.  Since I was reading  The Game, which focuses a lot on Selig’s role in getting baseball back on it’s feet after the ’94 strike, I figured I would check it out.

We waited in line for a few minutes:

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When we got in, we sat down in this theater type room:

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After everybody had a seat, they played a 15 minute movie about the story of Bud Selig bringing baseball back to Milwaukee, and then keeping it there by building Miller Park. It was very interesting.

The coolest part of the exhibit was at the end of the movie, one of the movie screens rolled up to show a projection of Selig talking in the office exhibit they put together. After the movie ended, we walked by the office exhibit:

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We then moved into a room with lots of pictures and Selig quotes:

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If you ever have a chance to visit this exhibit, I highly recommend it. It only takes about 15 to 20 minutes to get through the whole thing. Perfect thing to do between BP and the game.

After we left the exhibit, I walked around the ballpark, and made my way to Toyota Territory, where I would spend most of the game.

I got there just in time to see 2015 AL Cy young award winner Dallas Keuchel warm up.

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The Astros bullpen catchers were also warming up, behind Keuchel. After they finished, they tossed the ball to an Astros fan who was standing right next to me, but it went right through his hands, and bounced into the separate part of Toyota Territory. I tried to reach and grab it but, I couldn’t quite snatch it and, someone who was sitting nearby ran and picked it up.

This wasn’t exactly the best game to be in Toyota Territory during the game, because when you have one of the best left handed pitchers in baseball on the mound, chances are there won’t be much going on home run wise in right field.

The game started off with Jose Altuve taking Brewers’ starter Jimmy Nelson deep into the second deck on the first pitch of the game. In the bottom half of the frame, the Brewers responded by loading the bases, and scoring two runs. The game ended up being very long, as it was dominated by walks and strikeouts. The Brewers walked six times over the course of the game. Though Keuchel was off his game a bit, he still struck out eight. The game spanned over three hours and eight minutes, which is pretty long for a pitchers duel. The Brew Crew came out on top 3-2.

During the game I talked quite a bit with Josh, and Shawn Bosman (A.K.A Ballhawk Shawn), who showed up just before first pitch. We had lots of good conversations about ballhawking, and baseball in general. Shawn also tipped me off that the Astros were still using some Florida Spring Training commemorative balls in their bullpen. Snagging one became my main focus of the day, and contributed to me staying in Toyota Territory the whole game, even though Keuchel was pitching.

Around the 6th inning I went up to the second deck in left to check out my actual ticketed seat, where my parents and Jack were sitting.

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It was honestly a pretty good view. The only reason I didn’t stay up there was our seats were in the middle of the row, and all the other seats in the row were taken, so if a home run were hit up there I would have a slim chance of getting my hands on it.

While I was up there, my mom told me a pretty funny story. In the early innings of the game my mom was getting a snickers bar out of Jack’s bag for him, but she somehow dropped it over the railing into the Astros bullpen…. I honestly wonder if they ate it…

When I went back down to Toyota Territory, the Astros had pitchers tossing in the ‘pen, so I found a spot where I could possibly get a toss up.

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I’m in the grey, the Astros fan who dropped the toss up is sitting to the left of me, and Shawn is behind me next to the guy in the striped overalls.

You might be wondering why that railing was there. It was real annoying, and obstructed my view of the bullpen.

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I asked Shawn why it was there. I guess when the Phillies were in town last year, Jake Diekman got in a shouting match with a fan. Supposedly the fan told Diekman he was going  “Come down there and kick your ass”. So, now we have an annoying railing.

After one Astros pitcher finished tossing and sat down, I called bullpen catcher Javier Bracamonte’s name. He didn’t respond, but Ken Giles heard me, laughed, and waved at me. So, I waved back. That was pretty funny.

By the time the ninth inning rolled around, I hadn’t seen any Florida balls in any pitchers hands, and the Astros were down, so they didn’t have anybody throwing. So, I had no choice but to wait until the end of the game to ask Bracamonte to look in the bag for a Florida ball.

As soon as the game ended, I pushed the railing off to the side a bit, and squeezed into the corner spot. Bracamonte was throwing a few balls out to other fans behind the bullpen, and then came over to the ball bag. I got his attention, and asked if he had any Florida balls left. He shrugged his shoulders.

“Great”, I thought so myself, as I thought that meant there weren’t any left.

But then, he dug into the bag, grabbed a ball, and tossed it to me. When it was in the air, I could see the logo, and it was a commemorative!

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I made sure to tell him thanks multiple times before he left the bullpen.

When I got home, I realized it was also my 50th career ball.

Bracamonte is known to be one of the nicest guys in baseball. I know he has helped other hawks such as Shawn, and Tony Voda snag commemoratives. Check out this story about him after the Astros lost in the playoffs last year. Class act.

Shortly after that, I said goodbye to Shawn and Josh, and met up with my brothers behind the dugout.

Not an awful way to start off the season.

Stats

2 balls this game

2 balls this season

50 career baseballs

Box Score

Brewers: 3

Astros: 2

Josh: 2

Me: 2

Nick: 1

Jack: 1

 

 

 

Ranking the MLB stadiums I have visited

This summer, when I saw the Blue Jays play at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, I reached a personal milestone: Ten MLB stadiums visited.

Those ten include (In the order in which I visited them): Wrigley Field, Miller Park, US Cellular field, Progressive Field, PNC Park, Nationals Park, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Citizens Bank Park, Comerica Park, and Rogers Centre.

I will rank the stadiums based on the “LarryRating” system that I have just came up with. I will give each ballpark a score on a scale from one to ten in each of these three criteria:

-Fan Experience

Includes surrounding area, stadium design/aesthetics, stadium food, etc.

-Ballhawking

Based on quality of ballhawking at that stadium, considering ballhawking is part of my everyday experience at a ballpark

-Atmosphere

Includes fan participation, fan behavior, stadium music, etc.

Then I take the average score, and put them in order. Ties are broken using personal preference. The higher the rating, the better.

[I do not own any of the following pictures]

10. Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers (LarryRating: 4.6)

Don’t get me wrong, Comerica Park is a beautiful park, but it was the little things that made it last on my list. Ballhawking was difficult due to the terrible bullpen positioning in left, and the gates opening only 90 minutes early. The surrounding area doesn’t help it’s rating, as there were many homeless people, and it was rather depressing. One of the strangest things about the stadium is that there wasn’t an organ! What baseball stadium doesn’t have an organ?

There were some good things about Comerica too. The backdrop of the skyline sets a nice scene. The baseball Ferris wheel, and other baseball themed rides give a unique touch, and the outside of the stadium is well-designed.

You can read more about Comerica park in my blog post about my visit there last July.

9. Citizens Bank Park, Home of the Philadelphia Phillies (LarryRating: 5.0)

Citizens Bank Park has many great things about it, but the not so great things outweigh the good.

The main problem with this stadium is it’s isolation from downtown Philly. If you look closely at the picture, the skyline is to the right of the scoreboard. The stadium is only surrounded by a sea of parking lots, and it’s neighbors Lincoln Financial Field (Home of the NFL’s Eagles), and the Wells Fargo Center (Home of the NHL’s Flyers, and NBA’s 76ers). The atmosphere is nothing to write home about, especially now that the Phillies are cellar-dwellers in the NL East. Ballhawking isn’t terrible, but it could be better.

But, it’s a beautiful ballpark, the food is delicious, and the fans I talked to were friendly. The Phillies hall of fame and unique bullpen design in center field make things interesting. Like all the ballparks I have visited, I would recommend visiting.

You can read about my Citizens Bank Park experience here.

8. Progressive Field, Home of the Cleveland Indians. (LarryRating: 5.3)

I have mixed emotions about this ballpark. Part of the reason is, I didn’t have a chance to ballhawk there, as we showed up to the only game I’ve seen there in the 3rd inning. I feel like it would be a relatively good ballhawking stadium, based on what I’ve read about it.

The main reason Progressive is #8 on my list is because the atmosphere isn’t very exciting. Attendance tends to be very low, so that drags things down a bit.

But, they do have some good fireworks shows. Hopefully I will have the chance to visit Cleveland again sometime in the near future, so I can give Progressive Field another shot.

You can read about my brief experience at “The Jake” here.

7. US Cellular Field, Home of the Chicago White Sox (LarryRating: 5.6)

I love the Cell dearly, as it is the stadium I visit the most, but I just couldn’t put it higher on my list.

It has the potential to be the best ballhawking stadium in the league, with low attendance, lax ushers, and lots of room to run, but the the gates opening only 90 minutes prior to first pitch makes things a bit difficult.

White Sox fans are passionate, but when the team fails to reach expectations they have a hard time getting fans to the ballpark. This has made the atmosphere a bit dull, especially over the last few seasons.

The experience is nothing to write home about, as the ballpark design is rather bland. But, I have to say the food is above average, especially if you like churros.

You can read about my most recent experience at US Cellular Field here.

6. Nationals Park, Home of the Washington Nationals (LarryRating: 6.0)

Nationals Park is another stadium that I had a limited experience at, because the game we attended there was rained out. But, I did get a chance to ballhawk, and it was great.

In my opinion, Nats Park is one of the better ballhawking venues in the league. Not because of the stadium layout, which makes things a bit more difficult due to the bullpen placement, but because of the gate opening times. Nationals Park is one of the few stadiums in the MLB that opens it’s gates Two and a half hours early, which means fans get to see the entirety of home and road team batting practice.

Considering I didn’t see an actual game, I have to assume the atmosphere and experience were about average.

You can read about my experience in the nation’s capitol here.

5. Miller Park, Home of the Milwaukee Brewers (LarryRating: 7.0)

Miller Park being only #5 on this list shows how many great ballparks I have visited.

Miller has one of the best atmospheres of all the stadiums I’ve visited. No matter how the team is placed in the standings, the Brewers nearly sell out every weekend in the summer. From tailgating in the parking lot, to the sausage races, and singing “Roll out the Barrel” after the 7th inning stretch, the Miller Park experience is one of the most unique in the league.

That said, Ballhawking is sub-par, considering there is no first deck in left field, and not many hitters reach the second deck on a consistent basis. Large crowds and strict ushers complicate things as well.

Next time you’re in Milwaukee, make sure to visit Miller Park.

You can read about my last experience in Milwaukee here.

4. Rogers Centre, Home of the Toronto Blue Jays (LarryRating: 7.6)

Who would’ve thought the Rogers Centre would’ve been this high on my list? I sure didn’t expect it to be a great park before I visited there. Who would? Ugly turf, not a permanent baseball stadium, and tons of empty seats tend to make the Rogers Centre look like a below average place to watch a baseball game.

To my surprise, I had a great experience there. Fans showed up in droves, and it was a great atmosphere. The fans around me were paying attention to the game, which was also surprising considering our seats were in the second deck of the outfield. The stadium got very loud. It turned out to be a great place to watch a game.

The experience was also great. It was a giveaway day, and the theme was winter in July. It was actually pretty cool.

As for ballhawking, the large crowd made things difficult, but I still managed to snag two baseballs.

You can read about my experience in Toronto here.

3. Wrigley Field, Home of the Chicago Cubs (LarryRating: 8.3)

Do I even have to write about Wrigley Field?

The Wrigley Field experience is one of a kind. The hand operated scoreboard, marquee, ivy on the walls, and the surrounding neighborhood are just a few things that make the friendly confines so special.

The Cubs never struggle to get fans to the North Side, so the atmosphere is one of the best, if not the best, in the league.

“Well, if Wrigley Field is so great, why on earth is it only #3 on the list?” 

Because of the ballhawking. Stadium rules only let those with bleacher tickets enter the bleachers, so if you have a ticket in the seating bowl, you have to stay there. Many fans show up to the gates early to get a good spot in the bleachers, so that makes it tougher to navigate quickly though the steep bleachers.

If the ballhawking part of these reviews were eliminated, Wrigley Field would be #1, without a doubt.

You can read about my most recent experience on the North Side here.

2. PNC Park, Home of the Pittsburgh Pirates (LarryRating: 9.5)

Where to begin? Beautiful scenery, passionate fans, and high quality ballhawking are all things that come to mind whenever I see PNC Park on TV.

The backdrop of the Roberto Clemente bridge and the Pittsburgh skyline may be the best in all of baseball. Not to mention the outside of the stadium, which features multiple statues, and a river-walk beyond the right field wall.

The loud Pittsburgh fans create a great atmosphere, especially on a mid-summer night when the Bucs are in the heat of the playoff race.

Great ballhawking puts the cherry on top of the experience, with Roberto Clemente gate opening two and a half hours early for night games.

I highly recommend making a trip to the city of Pittsburgh, and PNC park. You won’t regret it.

You can read about my experience in Pittsburgh here.

1. Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Home of the Baltimore Orioles (LarryRating: 9.5) 

If someone asked me to describe the perfect ballpark, the description might sound a lot like Camden Yards.

The stadium design is beautiful and unique, featuring the B&O warehouse, flag court, and Eutaw street in right field. The retro design concept of the stadium gives things a great touch.

When they show up on a consistent basis, Orioles fans give Camden Yards a great atmosphere. Once you leave, you won’t be able to stop humming the O’s style of the Seven Nation Army chant.

Ballhawking is another great thing about this stadium, as the Flag court and Eutaw street give hawks plenty of room to run after home runs during BP, as well as during the game. The wide cross-aisles in the seating bowl also provide good opportunities to snag a foul ball.

Once you visit Oriole Park at Camden Yards you will want to return. I know I do.

You can read about my experience at OPACY here.

 

Thanks for reading. Remember you can hear from me every Sunday night at 8 Eastern, 7 central on my podcast, Ballhawk Talk.

 

 

 

2016 Hall of Fame ballot

This Wednesday, January 6th, we will find out which players out of the 32 on the ballot will be inducted into the hall of fame in Cooperstown, New York this summer.

Over the month of December, qualifying members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (Known as the BBWAA) have carefully selected who they believe is worthy to be enshrined into baseball immortality.

In order for a player to be on the ballot, they must have played in the MLB for at least ten seasons, and must be retired for five. If a player fits that criteria, their name is then sent to a special screening committee, who will decide whether or not that player should be on the ballot.

For a player to be elected into the hall, their name must be selected on at least 75 percent of the ballots. Players are removed from the ballot if they are named on less than five percent of ballots, or have been on the ballot for ten years.

Members of the BBWAA shall not select more than ten players, and are to vote on these six criteria: A player’s record (stats), playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the teams on which the player played.

Mateo Fischer has explained all of this in-depth in a YouTube video, and I suggest you watch it. We have also discussed it in an episode of Ballhawk Talk.

Players returning to this year’s ballot include: Mike Piazza (4th year on the ballot), Jeff Bagwell (6th), Tim Raines (9th), Curt Schilling (4th), Rodger Clemens (4th), Barry Bonds (4th), Lee Smith (14th)*, Edgar Martinez (4th), Alan Trammel (15th)*, Mike Mussina (4th), Jeff Kent (3rd), Fred McGriff (7th), Larry Walker (6th), Gary Sheffield (2nd), Mark McGwire (10th), Sammy Sosa (4th), and Nomar Garciaparra (2nd).

* Smith and Trammel were grandfathered in after the eligibility rules for years on the ballot were changed in 2014.

Newcomers on the ballot include: Ken Griffey Jr., Jim Edmonds, Trevor Hoffman, Billy Wagner, Garret Anderson, Brad Ausmus, Luis Castillo, David Eckstein, Troy Glaus, Mark Grudzielanek, Mike Hampton, Jason Kendall, Mike Lowell, Mike Sweeny, and Randy Winn.

My Ballot 

  • Jeff Bagwell (First Base, .297 BA, 449 HR, 1991 ROY, 1994 MVP)

Jeff Bagwell was a major part of Houston’s “Killer B’s” Lineups in the late 90s that sent the Astros to three consecutive playoff appearances. When healthy, Bagwell would be a workhorse, completing the feat of playing all 162 games four times. Over 15 seasons Bagwell complied a slash line of .297/.408/.540. Looking at his career based on the five criteria: the record, playing ability, and contributions to the team he played on are there, and there are no major flaws to his integrity, sportsmanship, or character in my opinion. Therefore, I include him on my ballot.

  • Jim Edmonds (Outfield, .284 BA, 8 gold gloves, 4 time all star)

Jim Edmonds’ case for the hall of fame may be a bit light on the surface, but if you do a bit of research, there is a case to be made. Though Edmonds’ hitting stats weren’t good enough to lead the league, he was an above average hitter. He averaged 32 home runs, and 97 RBIs a year, with an average of .284 over his 17 season career. I will always remember the time he hit two homers in an inning, and received a standing ovation against the White Sox in his stint as a Cub in 2008, after eight years as a Cubs killer in St Louis. But, it wasn’t his bat that made him so special. It was his glove in center field. In his 1,867 games roaming the outfield, he posted a .988 fielding percentage that earned him 8 gold gloves over the course of his career. To look at more advanced metrics, Edmonds posted an 88 Rtot, which is a stat that calculates the number of runs above or below average a player was worth based on the number of plays made. Essentially, that stat is saying over all the games Edmonds played in the outfield, he saved his team 88 runs more than the average fielder would have. Another interesting stat I found (in an online article from the St Louis Post dispatch) was that between 1995 and 2005, Edmonds had the third highest WAR (58.2) of any player, trailing only Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez. I think that all speaks to his record, playing ability, and contributions to the team. I have always seen ‘Jimmy Baseball’ as a good guy, on and off the field. He meets my standards for the six criteria. Hopefully, he matches 75% of those actually voting, as I would like to see Jim Edmonds’ name on a plaque in Cooperstown.

  • Ken Griffey Jr. (Outfield, .284 BA, 630 HRs, 1997 MVP, 10 gold gloves)

I don’t think I have to do too much explaining for this pick. Arguably the most qualified player on the ballot, Griffey was a true five tool player. There is even talk of him being the first unanimous Hall of Famer. There is no doubt he deserves it, putting together a slash line .284/.370/.538, slugging 630 homers, and driving home 1,836 RBIs. ‘Junior’ played excellent defense as well, winning ten gold gloves over his 22 season career. If you play 22 years in the MLB, you’re doing something right. This pick was the easiest to make out of all my picks. Griffey was the first player on the ballot that I have seen play in person, when he was on the White Sox in 2008. I look forward to the day he is voted in so I can say I have seen a Hall of Famer play in person. I shouldn’t have to wait to long…

  • Edgar Martinez (DH, .312 BA, 7 time all star, 5 Silver Sluggers)

Of all the players on my ballot, I am most passionate about Edgar Martinez. I can’t get over the fact that he isn’t already in the Hall. Here are a few stats that support my case: Martinez posted a career slash line of .312/.418/.515. All the players that have Edgar beat in all of those categories are either in the hall, or banned from baseball: Ted Williams, Jimmy Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Rogers Hornsby, Babe Ruth, Joe Jackson, and Dan Brouthers. According to Ace of MLB Stats on twitter, one full season played by Martinez is worth 241 games by David Ortiz in terms of career WAR. Also, David Ortiz will have to reach base in all of his 646 plate appearances in his final season to pass Edgar in career On base percentage. These stats make it clear that Martinez was the best DH of all time, and deserves to be in the hall of fame. He is long overdue.

  • Mike Piazza (Catcher, .308 BA, 427 HRs, 1993 Rookie of the year)

Mike Piazza is one of greatest offensive catchers of all time, putting up a career slash line of .308/.377/.545, and slugging 427 homers. Piazza was a 12 time all star, and a 12 time silver slugger winner. He played a major role in the Mets 2000 pennant winning team, hitting .324, and posting a 1.012 OPS. Piazza played 16 seasons, which is impressive at the grueling position of catcher. Piazza will go down as one of the Mets’ all time greats, and if enshrined, would be the first position player in franchise history to wear a Mets cap on his plaque.

That would be it. I’m more of a believer in a smaller sized hall of fame, and more than five players would be pushing it. I also considered Trevor Hoffman, Tim Raines, and Curt Schilling, but elected to leave them off.

Schilling’s recent comments on religion don’t help his character. Raines’ cocaine problem put his contributions to his team at risk.

It took no thought for me to leave Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, and Sosa off due to PED use. Though Bonds never tested positive, there is no denying that he put on a ton of muscle over the course of his career, and it is rather suspicious. Clemens was listed on the Mitchell Report, as was Bonds. McGwire admitted to PED use. Sosa reportedly tested positive for PEDs, and was caught using a corked bat.

I don’t feel that players who took PEDs should be allowed in the hall of fame. Just because they weren’t disciplined for it during their careers doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be disciplined now. They hurt the integrity of the game. Their contributions to the game’s history deserve to be recognized, but that is what the museum is for. They just shouldn’t have a plaque.

An argument that has been gaining traction recently is: If there are are racists in the hall of fame, such as Ty Cobb, why shouldn’t we let PED users in? There are much more questionable characters in the hall.

Yes, I acknowledge that there are players in the hall of fame that have done much worse than take PEDs, and I absolutely do not condone that. But, why should we continue to tarnish the Hall of Fame by adding rule breakers into the mix as well? I believe that we should keep juicers out, and work on a way to remove racists as well. Just because writers were irresponsible 50 years ago by not following the character clause, doesn’t mean that writers today shouldn’t follow it, by letting PED users into Cooperstown.

How do you feel about PED users in the Hall of fame? Who is on your ballot? Feel free to drop a comment, or tweet me: @MLBLarry.

8/30 at US Cellular Field

Little did I know this would be my last game of the season. We had planned to go to a few more games after this one, but life really started moving quickly, and baseball moved off the radar.

We got to this game a few minutes before the gates opened, so by the time we bought our tickets the gates were already opening. But, I knew this didn’t really matter, because it was a day game following a night game, which usually means no BP.

I received this on the way in:

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As soon as I got in the seating bowl, I headed down the first base line, where a few Mariners were tossing.

There, I spotted Hisashi Iwakuma, fresh off of his no-hitter.

After he finished throwing, he started walking back to the dugout with the ball still in his hand. I followed him back to the dugout, and then called his name. He tossed me this right before he headed back into the dugout.

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After that, I headed back to where I was. At that point there were only one or two players throwing. I didn’t get a ball from one of them, but when bullpen catcher Jason Phillips came to take the bag of balls out to the ‘pen, he rolled me this:

IMG_3412

I was off to a pretty good start. I figured if I worked the dugouts the whole game, and then get an umpire ball, I could end up with 5, which would tie my high for balls in a game, and it would be my best game of the season.

After about a half hour, players started to come out for pre-game warmups. I moved into position to get Robinson Cano’s warm up ball, but didn’t have any luck.

What happened next was very frustrating.

After Cano finished warming up, he went to sign some autographs. Since I was close by, and had a clean baseball, I decided to go for his autograph.

I scribbled the pen on my hand to make sure it worked, and it did. So, I stuck the ball out with the pen, and……….

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Greeeeeaaaaaaaaatttttttt. Nothing like a failed autograph.

After that, I grabbed a spot by the Mariners dugout to go for third out balls.

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I didn’t get anything after three or four innings, so I headed to my ticketed seat for an inning or two.

After that, I headed to the home plate side of the dugout:

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After a few innings I moved down a bit.

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In the top of the eighth, the Mariners grabbed a 5-4 lead, so by the time the bottom of the ninth rolled around, I got into position for an umpire ball, figuring the game was about to end.

But, the White Sox had other plans. They tied the game at 5 and sent it to extras.

I was faced with an interesting dilemma. I had never ballhawked at an extra inning game.

Go to the outfield and wait for a walk off home run? Play the dugouts, which have been unsuccessful all day? Wait by the umpire tunnel for foul balls, and be ready for the game to end?

I elected to play the home plate end of the dugout in the top half of innings, and go wait at the umpire tunnel during the bottom half, considering the game could end at any moment.

Nothing happened in the 10th, nor the top of the 11th, but the Sox wrapped things up in the bottom of the 11th. I was in position for an Umpire ball, but I think the crew just wanted to get out of the ballpark, as Home Plate umpire Tim Welke didn’t even glance my way.

After the game we stuck around for a faith talk with Willie Robertson from duck dynasty, Adam LaRoche, and Gordon Beckham, among others.

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It was pretty good. Good way to end the season at the ballpark.

Stats

2 balls at this game

15 balls this season

48 balls lifetime

Yes! I’m all caught up on blog posts before it turns 2016 anywhere in the U.S.!

Be ready for my hall of fame ballot coming out shortly.

Happy New Year!

 

8/11 at US Cellular Field

The reason we picked to go to this game was pretty simple: Zack Hample would be there, relatively fresh off of his sang of Alex Rodriguez’s 3,000th hit. I had met Zack previously in NYC during the All Star break in 2013, but I forgot my books at home and didn’t get them signed.

We got to the ballpark at about 5:20, 20 minutes before the gates opened. We purchased our tickets at the box office, and then headed to the gate with the shortest line:

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When the gates opened, we got our bags checked, and sprinted in.

As I was running towards the bleachers, Mike Trout absolutely smashed a home run that bounced on the steps up to the concourse, and bounced into the concourse. Before I could grab it, an Usher snatched it. I asked for it, but she completely ignored me, and handed it to an older ballhawk with a glove, probably a regular at the Cell. Not the best way to start BP.

Once we got into the bleachers, this is what it looked like:

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Nice, right? Needless to say, the sun made things difficult.

On top of that, it was pretty crowded:

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Not crowded numbers wise, but crowded with people with gloves. I can count at least 10 in this picture, not to mention I had some pretty talented competition that included Hample, Rick Crowe, Dave Davison (Aka. Super Dave), Rich Buhrke, and Dan Katz (Aka. Barstool Big Cat). There were a few cameras out there as well, as Zack had someone getting footage for his you tube channel, as did Big Cat. You can watch Zack’s video here. Big Cat’s video is here.

To make a long story short, I didn’t snag during BP. I was caught out of position a lot of the time, and the Angels were a pretty stingy toss up team.

As BP was wrapping up, I headed over to the Angels dugout to attempt to get a ball out of the Angels equipment manager, as he put the baseballs back into the bag.

IMG_3330

Big Cat was the only one who got anything.

After BP completely wrapped up, I had Zack sign all three of my books:

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After that, I talked with him, and a few other ballhawks for a few minutes. I also saw Yacov Steinberg, and John Witt.

I then headed into the throng of humanity waiting for Mike Trout to come out and sign autographs:

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It was crazy. The crowd was more than three rows deep in some spots.

I didn’t get him to sign, which wasn’t a surprise. He only picks about 2 small areas of about 5-10 people to sign for, and then heads to warm up.

After Trout was done signing, I got in good position for a warm up ball. After Johnny Giavotella finished warming up, he fired this my way:

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It was a relief to be on the board.

As the game was starting, I found a spot behind the Halo’s dugout:

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Great position for a third out ball.

After a few innings without coming close to a snag, I headed over to my seat for a few innings.

After a few innings there, I headed back to the 1st base dugout. Most of the seats were filled, so it was hard to find a spot on an aisle near the field, so I had a hard time coming close to any.

Don’t let the meek attendance of about 18,000 mislead you…… It was packed by the dugouts.

Eventually, I switched to the home plate side of the dugout. That didn’t work out either, although, I did get a nice view of the game.

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Around the 7th inning, I headed out to the outfield, to try my luck there, and talk a bit with Zack.

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After that, I headed to get a spot by the umpire tunnel. It was also crowded back there, so it was difficult to get in good position:

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After the Angels were retired in the top of the 9th to end the game, I scrambled to get near the umpire tunnel, but Home Plate umpire Marcus Pattillo didn’t toss any balls out.

Considering it’s December, and I don’t recall many of the exact details, check out Zack’s account of the game on his blog.

Stats

1 Ball at this game

13 this season (:/ )

46 Lifetime

Box Score

Zack: 6

White Sox: 3

Nick: 2

Big Cat: 1

Me: 1

Angels: 0

(The others don’t have/keep up mygameballs.com accounts, so I have no way of knowing how many they snagged)

8/2 @ US Cellular Field

A few weeks before this game, I saw it on the schedule, and really wanted to avoid it. It was a recipe for a ballhawking disaster. First off, the Yankees were in town. Yankees fans travel extremely well, and sometimes sell out their weekend away games. Second, it was a Sunday day game. Not only that, but there was a night game the day before, which means no BP.

But, at this point in the season we had gone to very few games, and I wanted to go to some more.

So, when the day came, we decided to go. We stayed in the south Suburbs the night before to visit some family, so we had a fairly easy commute to the ballpark.

We pulled into the parking lot at about 10am, so we could buy our tickets on the 100 level before they sold out, but when we got to the box office, it was too late. All the 100 level tickets were sold out. Great start to the day. After we bought our tickets, we hoped in line, pretty close to the front.

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We waited until 11, when the gates opened, a half hour earlier than normal. I guess the White Sox anticipated the large crowds as well.

When we got into the stadium we had to walk all the way up to the 500 level. Once we got up there, Nick and I walked around for a bit, but then headed to our short cut to the 100 level.

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That was easy.

As soon as we got down there, Jack and I headed over to the Yankees side. There weren’t any players out warming up, but we already had our eyes on the prize:

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Sooner or later, some Yankees pitchers came out to toss.

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The night before, I did some homework on the Yankees’ roster and took screenshots of their bullpen pitchers and coaches’ pictures, and put them in a folder on my phone.

So, when Chasen (pronounced Jason) Shreve finished throwing, I called out his name, and he tossed me this:

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It was good to be on the board early.

(Yes, the kid in the picture got a ball after I told him the Yankees’ bullpen coaches name, in case you were wondering)

I also got a selfie with Chasen:

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I like to get pictures rather than autographs from players. If a real good player is signing, I’ll definitely try to get one from him, but for some players I just don’t know what I would do with the autograph. A picture helps me remember the experience better, and holds more personal value to me (Unless, it’s a superstar).

Jack and I then headed to the White Sox side to try our luck, but there wasn’t much action. At that point, I left Jack with Nick, and went to meet my mom, after she snuck down too (Good job, mom!).

After walking around for a while, and showing my mom some places to sit in the concourse, (since there were almost literally no empty seats on the 100 level) I got back into the ballhawking action, and tried for some Yankees’ warm up balls. All the seats from the end of the Yankees’ dugout to shallow right field were packed, in anticipation of A-Rod signing autographs, which made things pretty difficult for me:

IMG_3273 As you could’ve guessed, I came up empty.

So, I found a seat behind the Yankees dugout to try for some third out balls:

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Beautiful day for a ballgame, right? Don’t let the cloudless sky fool you. It was hot as blazes. The temperature reached 100 degrees at about the 3rd inning. And then, a few innings later, this happened:

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The clouds started to roll in, and it started to rain. Not too hard, but hard enough to make people retreat to the concourses, which meant more room behind the dugout for me to work with.

But, of course, I came up short.

In the 6th inning, I decided to switch to my favorite spot in the whole stadium, the home plate side of the dugout, and try for strikeout 3rd-out balls.

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I had some better luck there.

In the bottom of the 6th, when a White Sox player struck out to end the inning, I asked Yankees’ catcher Brian McCann for the ball and……

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Game ball #2 this season. Thankfully, this time there were no screaming mothers.

As the game went on, the seats emptied out, as it wasn’t a very close contest. The Yanks won 12-3.

In the middle of the 8th inning I went to get Jack, and get into position for umpire balls.

When the 9th inning rolled around we were in perfect position:

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When the game ended, home plate umpire Adam Hamari tossed this up to me:

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I also got a ball from Hamari on 5/24 at the Cell.

Shortly after this, we headed for the exits.

I thought it was a pretty good day, considering that this was the largest crowd we had seen all season, and there was no BP.

On our way out of the stadium we could hear Yankees fans yelling “WE F***ING WON”. Classic.

Stats

3 balls at this game

12 this season

42 lifetime

2 more blog posts to catch up on!

If you are looking for more posts like this to read this off season, check out Cole Adkins’ blog. He is a fellow ballhawk from Cincinnati.

 

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