It was Sunday and we were back for our second of two games at Nationals Park.
It’s such a pretty stadium:
Wait, not really:
Actually, after talking it over, it was unanimous between myself, Amy, and fellow ballhawk Nick that this is now our least favorite stadium.
At least this was a Sunday game, and there was no giveaway, so it wouldn’t be crowded early. There was just one problem. As we stood in line, we watched the video board which shows a live feed of the field. There was no cage, and no activity at all going on. We stood in line and debated what to do. Finally, Amy asked the head supervisor if there was going to be batting practice, “Yeah, they’ll be out, I don’t know what time, but they’ll be out.” At first I thought he was just making it up and had no clue. But I decided that since we had stayed overnight, it would be a waste just to go home. I took the supervisor at his word, and at 10:58 AM, 2 minutes before the gates opened, bought us tickets.
When we entered the field, there wasnt much action.
The Nationals came out and warmed up, but there was a few ballhawks that joined me in the second deck today, and I was unable to get a ball.
To make matters worse, the Nationals didn’t take batting practice, so after an hour passed, I still had nothing to show for my efforts.
I was able to get ball #1 with an assist from fellow ballhawk Nick Pelescak. He said he saw a coach take two balls and toss them into the empty seats in foul territory. So, at noon when the rest of the stadium, we ran over and Nick grabbed the first ball, and after looking around for the second, I spotted it under a seat three rows back. Thanks for the assist Nick.
It was a nice clean ball, so I didn’t number it. I’ve decided to stop numbering Easter Eggs and Glove Trick balls, since they have little to no importance except in my overall numbers. I’ve decided to hang onto them to either get them signed or sell eventually to finance some more trips.
Anyhow, this is the spot where I found ball #1:
The Reds finally started taking BP around noon, and I glove tricked my second ball from the gap in center field.
Before doing so, I looked around and there were no kids around at the time to hand the ball to, and no one was standing over the ball as if to ‘claim’ it. However, as soon as I started lowering my glove, this ballhawk went off and started screaming at the groundscrew who were fifty feet away in the center field service tunnel to get him the ball, in hopes that they would get it before I could:
What’s worse is that he’s a ballhawk, as he had Nationals stuff on and tried to get a ball in the second deck earlier, and then switched to Reds stuff in center field. Luckily, I glove tricked the ball on the first attempt before any staff member could retrieve it. Maybe he was mad because Nick owned him on a toss up in the second deck earlier, and saw Nick and I talking and figured we were friends. I don’t know.
That was it for batting practice. Before leaving I looked in the bullpen and saw that there were nine balls sitting there. Four were super easy glove trick balls directly below the overhang.
However, I didn’t even try. I waited patiently.
Eventually, Ryan Hannigan came out about twenty minutes after BP and tossed every single ball up to fans. I got the second one he tossed up for ball #4 on the day.
We left before the game started as it was a long drive back to Pittsburgh. I only snagged seven ball over the two games, but we still managed to have fun.
Olivia loves baseball trips and checking out the kids playgrounds in the different parks.
Here’s today’s baseballs:
Game: 4 balls
Season: 40 balls
Lifetime: 1584 balls
Today we would head to Washington DC for a Saturday/Sunday trip.
Today’s game would be a 4:05 start, meaning the gates would open at 1:30.
We ended up not making it to Nationals Park until almost 1 PM, and ended up being about 20th in one of the many lines that had formed. Several minutes before the gates opened, this was the scene:
It was chaos. The Nationals were giving away a Stephen Strasburg bobblehead to the first 15,000 fans. In DC, everyone is crazy about Strasburg, so there were 15,000 people that showed up early, making batting practice really tough.
As soon as I got into the stadium, batting practice was just getting underway, so rather than scurrying around in left field looking for balls (there was already about 100 people in there anyhow by the time I got in), I headed straight up to the upper deck in right field. This was my competition:
As a result, I was able to get a trainer to toss up a ball that a Nationals batter hit to the track in right center field.
As a result, I was able to get a trainer to toss up a ball that a Nationals batter hit to the track in right center field.
During batting practice, Nationals park only allows fans in left field, center field, and the upper deck in right field for the first hour. For some odd reason, right field, which is the largest section of outfield seats, is closed off.
It became quite clear rather quickly that I would have to go for toss ups, or glove trick balls.
There were plenty of glove trick balls in the bullpens, but the Nationals are militant like in prohibiting ball retrievers from the bullpens, so I didn’t even try. I did glove trick this ball from the gap in center field for ball #2.
After hauling it in, I turned and handed it to a little boy on my right. It was a classic Nationals training ball.
In the meantime, batting practice was ridiculously crowded. Worse than probably any opening day. There was literally no room to really move and catch any BP home runs:
And the Nationals and Reds didn’t hit too many anyhow.
Since Amy and I had been in Baltimore the past two days, we decided to attend the Pirates vs Nationals game in Washington DC on our travel day back to Pittsburgh.
We began the day on the pier in Annapolis, where our hotel was located,
and ate lunch at Jimmy John’s, a sandwich shop. I got a turkey sandwich and was grossed out by the weird alfalfa greens that they put on it. I’d never had them, and didn’t want to try them. Gross.
We then went to Washington and Nationals Park.
At the gate, we were first in line, and we ran into Zack Hample, who had made the trip from New York City.
Zack is on a quest to snag 1,000 baseballs in 2011 – and he credited me breaking his record last year (with 544) as a motivational factor in his endeavor.
Upon entering the park, there were no balls to be found as batting practice hadn’t yet begun. I decided to run over to right field,
but found out that it is now closed off until 5:30, thereby negating an hour of batting practice time there.
I went back to left, and noticed a ball in the bullpen, which I attempted to glove trick, but failed three times as I was reeling it in. Jordan Zimmerman and Colin Balester watched in amusement. Zimmerman threw a ball at my glove at one point to mess with me, which actually ended up in a perfect glove trick spot directly below me and to my right.
After failing and having the ball drop and roll away, Zimmerman threw me a ball for my effort.
After that, I had some bad luck, including one clunk off of my glove, as I unnecessarily jumped to catch it. (I was terrified it was going to hit Amy, who was two rows behind me.) Trying to change my luck, even though the Nationals were still batting, I changed into my Pirates gear.
I also met a ballhawk named Alex from New Jersey from mygameballs
and chatted with Zack for a minute or two when there was some down time.
A bit later, I recovered after a few more close calls with this clean catch.
5:30 rolled around, so I ran over to right field. I ran down to the front row and found Ball #4 in the front row.
I also noticed a ball in the gap in right field, so I glove tricked it, this time quickly and successfully for ball #5. I then proceeded to get yelled at by an usher named Beni or Benji or something like that. The same usher later demanded Alex to give away his baseballs because he was getting too many, and actually wasted about three minutes of my time questioning me where he, and that he owed him baseballs. Pretty ridiculous. Especially because I personally watched him pick up at least three around 5:25 before I went over to right field.
I stayed in right field for the rest of BP.
After batting practice, we left and actually got back home just as the game was ending.
Game: 6 balls (2 hit, 1 thrown, 2 device, 1 found)
Season: 270 balls (113 hit, 56 thrown, 63 device, 29 found)
Games: 46 games
Average: 5.87 balls per game
Career: 1,392 balls (I numbered all the balls wrong yesterday, so the first ball was 1382, which is the one I skipped.)
The 2011 baseball season kicked off for me this weekend in Washington DC. Fellow ballhawk Nick Pelescak, my girlfriend Amy, and I headed down for the weekend.
On the way there, winter gave us hopefully, a goodbye, as we traveled through heavy snow in the mountains of Pennsylvania. The roads were untreated, and we had to keep it at 40 mph. It was rather treacherous.
We grabbed some breakfast at McDonalds in Breezewood:
And continued on I-70 east. Once the dawn arrived, the pictures of the snow turned out better, but trust me – the roads were much worse than this:
We got to Washington a little after 9AM, and shelled out $15 to park near the stadium.
The walk was through a construction zone.
I had my phone handy as I was keeping an eye on the weather. It had rained and snowed for most of the trip to Washington DC, and there was a large percent chance of rain today, but according to the weather sites, it looked like it wouldn’t start until around noon or 1PM.
When we reached the intersection across from the stadium, there was thick cloud cover, but it looked like batting practice would be a go.
We paused in front of Nationals Park for a few obligatory photos:
Amy was the photographer for this trip. We were in Washington for two games and she took over 900 photos. She captured mostly everything.
The walk to the center field gate from home plate was extremely cold and windy. When we got to the left field gate, we peered in to see if the cages were up. It was inconclusive.
Walking along the exterior of Nationals Park, I was looking for any new decorations or improvements.
It is probably the blandest most boring stadium I’ve ever seen from the outside.
When I rounded the corner to head towards the center field gate and the ticket offices, I noticed one change. Do you see it?
There were large mirrored baseballs installed on the outside of the stadium/parking garage.
At the main box office, we purchased the cheapest ticket available: $10 each.
I purchased tickets for today’s game and tomorrow’s game as well.
Then we headed over to the center field gate to stake our claim to the front spot in the line.
After getting in line, I organized the string of my glove and tested out a new rubber band.
Then, with forty minutes still to kill before the gates opened, Nick and I threw for a bit.
We caught for maybe ten minutes before someone from the Nationals staff came out and enforced the no having fun unwritten rule that many staff members at MLB parks abide by.
10:30AM finally came and the gates opened. Here was my first view of a major league baseball field in 2011:
Nick and I were the first ones into the stadium, but I didn’t find any Easter Eggs. Nick found 2.
Batting practice probably didn’t begin for at least 10 minutes until after the gates opened. As the players were still warming up down the right field line.
Amy followed us back and forth between left field and right field for two full days taking lots of great shots. Here’s one of the field from center field:
And here Nick and I are in right field at the very beginning of batting practice. I had checked the gaps behind the outfield walls for baseballs that I could glove trick, but there were none there.
Amy got lots of great action shots of the players too, because batting practice started out pretty bad for me.
I got shut out for at least the first two groups if not three.
What would’ve been my first ball of the day was knocked away from me by the kid in blue who cut a row in front of me and knocked the ball to the right where some other fan grabbed it.
Finally, after a long drought, Rick Ankiel hit a towering blast toward right field.
The ball was hit directly between Nick and I who were both in the same row.
Since Nick had already snagged several, he laid back and allowed me to make the clean catch uncontested. Thanks Nick! It was my first ball of the year and first of the 2011 season. It broke a weird streak. In 2009 both Nick and I got our first ball of the year thrown by Ian Snell. In 2010, we both got our first ball of the year off the bat of Bobby Crosby. The streak ended in 2011 when Nick found his first ball and mine was from Rick Ankiel.
Anyway, back in left field, there was a lot of waiting around during the Nationals batting practice. I was expecting Jayson Werth to put on a show during batting practice. He disappointed, exclusively hitting ball after ball to right field, but did hit two home runs. One of which I caught on the fly, high above my head, fully extended.
I had to stay in the third row because those handrails that you see in the picture severely limit my range. Being boxed in by people is bad, but being boxed in by people and handrails is agitating.
Anyhow, soon Nate McLouth hit a dying line drive right at me. I ran down to the front row and made the catch just above the outfield wall for my third ball of the day.
Here I am inspecting the ball.
The Braves batters put a good number of balls into the seats, but I couldn’t get to any of them. Someone was either in front of me: (they are obstructed in the picture)
Or over my head:
Or literally three feet over my head
Or I would get completely robbed.
Amy took so many pictures! But there were so many near misses.
Every time I came close, I had to navigate around railings or people standing in aisles.
And as a result, I’d be too late.
Near the end of batting practice I spotted three balls in the bullpen. They were perfect for the glove trick.
I rigged up my glove and headed over to double my days total in a matter of one or two minutes.
When I got to the bullpen area, the Braves finished their BP and were walking off the field.
The crowd started to thin out. I needed to work fast.
Just as I began to lower my glove, two ushers swooped in and told me I had to stop.
I ended the day with three baseballs.
Amy and I decided that we didn’t want to stay for the game and we’d rather go back to the hotel room for a little bit and then go explore Washington DC. Nick would stay at the game.
Before heading out, we posed for a picture at Nationals Park:
Our hotel was the Renaissance. It is a $409 a night hotel, but we got it for $116 thanks to Priceline.com
Here I am outside of the hotel:
There was an interesting Chinese themed courtyard too:
After all, we were two blocks from Chinatown.
Here’s a snapshot of the room we received:
After some quality time in the hotel room, we decided to explore the lobby and the surrounding area. Amy was super pumped for free lemon water:
We headed out into the city.
We walked around Chinatown.
You really couldn’t miss it with the giant arched entry way.
The picture with the Chinese man wasn’t planned by the way…
Amy made the Chinatown entrance look better.
There was some cool stuff, such as museums on just about every corner,
Amy was pretty pumped about Auntie Anne’s, but we didn’t stop to share our customary Cinnamon Pretzel.
We came across some really creepy areas,
but overall the area was decent. The cherry blossoms added a nice touch to the city streets.
After walking around for awhile, we decided to head over to the Georgetown area to go find DC Cupcakes, a store that Amy had seen on TLC, which has its own series on that network.
On the way there, we passed a Ben & Jerry’s store, which was spewing bubbles all over the road.
Eventually we came to the store that Amy wanted to visit. It was called Georgetown Cupcake. I guess DC cupcakes sounds better as a show title.
We figured that we would park up the street somewhere and then run in and grab a cupcake just to say that we’d been there.
However, upon rounding the corner, we noticed a line.
That extended as far as the eye could see.
So, that was pretty much out of the question. We headed back through Washington DC to go pick Nick up at Nationals Park. It was almost 5PM.
Here’s some shots that Amy took on the drive back. The Cherry Blossoms were out in full bloom!
We arrived back at the hotel after picking Nick up and unpacked all of our things. We would then go out for dinner at Ruby Tuesday’s and get the worst waiter ever.
I didn’t feel like going through another toilsome batting practice in Cleveland, and storms were in the forecast there, so I drove down to Washington DC.
Two other ballhawks were in attendance at this game – Ian Weir from Pittsburgh, and Alex from New York City.
When the gates opened, the Nationals were just beginning to hit, so there weren’t any easter eggs.
I caught ball #1 on the fly off the bat of Wil Nieves. It was a home run that was caught in this area:
During the second group, I won a scrum for a Ryan Zimmerman home run ball that landed two rows in front of me in this area:
That would be all I would get during the Nationals batting practice. Argh. Did I make the wrong choice by coming to DC?
The Braves first group included Jason Heyward
You’re not allowed to go get those balls, as one kid began climbing over the rail, before a security guard angrily yelled at him. I motioned with my glove and string as if to say, “Is it ok if I throw this out there.” The security guard made the non-verbal signal, “Oh yeah, go ahead.”
I flipped the kid a decoy ball and then threw my glove out and nudged ball #8 close enough to the glass so that I could simply reach other and grab it. It took one fling of the glove.
I was about ready to leave the red seats to go check the left field bullpen when yet another home run landed in the gap in front of the red seats.
I glove tricked that ball for ball #9.
Batting practice ended soon after, and I was stuck on 9 balls – just short of double digits.
I really wanted to hit the road, but there were three balls laying in
After standing and talking with Alex for about 20 minutes, Eddie Perez finally came out to the bullpen. He collected the three balls, and I asked him for a ball in Spanish. He ignored me. I continued in Spanish to say, “There’s also one in the flowers over there near the wall.”
Eddie went over and got it and tossed it up to me. Ball #10.
Here are today’s baseballs:
Game: 10 balls (4 hit, 1 thrown, 5 device)
Season: 347 balls (177 hit, 76 thrown, 41 device, 44 found)
Games: 54 games
Average: 6.43 balls per game
2010 Game Balls: 5
Career: 925 balls
Streak: 150 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
It was a terrible weekend in terms of ballhawking for me. I had to miss the Friday and Saturday games at PNC Park due to coaching. I could’ve gone Saturday, but I wouldn’t have made the game until 8PM, thereby putting my streak in jeopardy, so I stayed home.
I decided to try and make up some ground by driving to Washington DC for this Sunday day game (after a day game.)
I got to the stadium about a half hour before it was to open. There was virtually no one there when I arrived.
Game: 3 balls (3 hit)
Season: 27 balls (16 hit, 3 thrown, 5 device, 3 found)
Games: 6 games
Average: 4.50 balls per game
Career: 605 balls
Streak: 102 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
2009 through 6 games: 26
With the Pirates having an off day, and Cleveland facing a 60% chance of storms, I decided to take a trip to a stadium I had yet to visit. Nationals Park.
I recruited several ballhawks from PNC Park to make the trip with me – Nick, Andrew, and Jamie.
After four hours and twenty three minutes, we were at the park.
And were the first ones in line at the Center Field gate, which opens at 4:35.
Game: 11 balls (4 hit, 1 thrown 6 device)
Season: 305 balls (155 hit, 91 thrown, 59 device)
Games: 63 games (7 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 4.84 balls per game
Career: 471 balls
Streak: 78 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.