August 5th, 2014: Harry Grove Stadium

I attended this game with hopes of snagging two balls to bring the all-time total for Harry Grove Stadium to one hundred. It was surprising when the attendance was less than five thousand, because Dylan Bundy was the starting pitcher for Frederick (Bundy is the top prospect for the Orioles). Typically, an attendance below five thousand gives me sufficient space to move so I was encouraged.

Before the gates opened I took a quick walk down to home run territory in hopes to find balls that got left behind after BP. I didn’t see anything in home run territory, but as I walked back towards the stadium something caught my eye:image I assume the ball was a deep foul that got neglected during BP. In any case it was number ninety nine! The only way I wouldn’t get one hundred on this particular day is if I didn’t snag a gamer. That’s only happened twice in twenty games, but it has happened.

Fast forward to the start of the seventh inning when I was starting to fell like it wasn’t meant to be. At this point I had a few close calls but nothing to show for it. Of course this is a minute, or maybe even a non factor in the ball hawk community, but on a personnel level it had value because I’m responsible for 85% of all the balls at Harry Grove Stadium and it was my birthday. When Brenden Webb stepped in the box I was in my usual spot for left handed batters as he fouled off directly over my head. It was clear that the ball was leaving the park. Usually, I don’t immediately attempt to snag balls that go out of the stadium because that’s prime action for the kids, and I like to stay for the entire at bat. However, this ball was an exception so I ran out and was glad to see no one else out there:imageBAM! One hundred! The ball flew over this roof and landed in between the wall and the big pole:imageHere is ninety nine and one hundred (my eighty fourth and eighty fifth):imageIt’s a damn good thing I got that ball because ten minutes later, this happened:imageIt poured down rain for maybe ten minutes and the game was delayed about a half hour. It didn’t matter to me because the mission was complete! I contemplated calling it a night but after I noticed practically everyone else leaving and the entire stadium was basically empty, I stuck it out.

When the game restarted Jerome Pena absolutely crushed a home run to the parking lot in very deep right field. At this point the rain had picked up again so I was thinking no one else would bother. Wrong! Once again I got beat for a home run. Oh well, I will be at tomorrow’s game so we’ll see what happens then…….

July 25th, 26th & 27th

To be honest blogging is tedious and time consuming; especially when it consist of a hackneyed description of how I caught/snagged baseballs at the same stadium(s) for four months. My intension for the blog was to maintain integrity for my stats on the MyGamballs.com leaderboard (Minor League), but its way too much effort to describe in detail about every ball I snag. I will do my best to document the highlights but at some point you’re going to have to take my word for it.

With that said, after I attended three consecutive games I will mention a few highlights that occurred during each game.

JULY 25TH:

In the first inning, I caught two balls that bounced off this awning:imageBoth balls hit in the same spot where the red X is located. The first ball was simple, but the second was slightly more notable. I was on my way back from first base side when Eric Garcia, of Lynchburg, fouled off. I was well over fifty feet away when the ball was in the air. When I realized where it was going to land I sprinted into position to make a jumping catch before the ball went back into the seats. Check out this photo, it lays out how it happened:imageThe crowd seemed to admire my effort because I got a round of applause. Awesome!

I ended this game with six total balls; a Will Skinner toss up before the game:imageThe two awning balls I previously mentioned, a John Ruettiger foul that left the stadium, and two balls that popped up over this roof behind home plate:imageThe first ball I picked up after it landed in a bush. The second ball was hit by Jason Esposito, of Frederick. Check out the photo above, do you see the red dot
at the bottom of the roof? Well, when Esposito popped up, I immediately ran back to the area the ball was going to land. I made it back there so fast that the ball hadn’t cleared the roof yet, then as the ball crested and started descending towards me I thought for sure I was catching it on the fly but the ball hit exactly where the red dot is causing it to ricochet over my head. I picked up the ball and handed it to a kid. I also gave three other balls away to his friends so everyone had a ball. Check out the photo:image

JULY 26TH:

I snagged two balls during this very crowded game. A Nick Markakis bobble head giveaway made it very difficult for ball hawking. I got a Joseph Odom toss up before the game and a Tucker Nathans foul ball. I was outside searching for a foul that left the stadium when Nathans sent a ball out in my direction. The ball flew out over this roof:imageI wouldn’t have known but the ball hit a tree then bounced off a car in the parking lot. I scooped it up:image

JULY 27TH:

I also snagged two balls during this game. Both came from Will Skinner, of Lynchburg. The first ball was a foul that popped over the home plate roof. I picked it up after it landed. The second ball was the final out of the game when Lucas Herbst flied out to Skinner. I was waiting behind the away dugout and noticed Skinner still had the ball. I thought maybe he would recognize me but either he didn’t or just didn’t care because he launched the ball right to me, over the heads of everyone else.

I will attend tonight’s game (August 5th) in hopes of snagging the 100th baseball ever recorded at Harry Grove Stadium on MyGameBalls.com. Check it out:imageHarry Grove Stadium currently has 98 recorded balls since the site launched in 2009. Obviously, two more will bring it to 100. Not really a big deal for anyone else but the fact that I have contributed 85% of the total balls at Harry Grove Stadium and it’s my birthday makes it a big deal for me. Dylan Bundy making the start for Frederick and the fact that its NFL Kickoff night at the stadium might make it difficult to achieve two balls, but given the fact I’m the only active ball hawk at Harry Grove Stadium should guarantee that I will get the 100th ball eventually, but why not on my birthday, right? Maybe even catch it on the fly!? Stay tuned……………….

July 20th & 21st: Harry Grove Stadium

JULY 20th, 2014:

Ball number one came on the third pitch of the game when Jacob May, of Winston Salem, fouled of behind me and hit the white plastic roof in the center of the photo:image I scooped it up just before it rolled under a gate.

For my second ball; I was standing in my usual spot for lefties when Cleuluis Rondon, of Winston Salem, flared a foul ball directly to me. I had to back up only a few steps to make an easy catch. A woman standing at the condiments area, thanked me when she realized she was in the balls path. I gave the first ball to a young kid, who stands with his glove in hopes of a ball.

When Courtney Hawkins, crushed a home run over the left field wall, I ran after it but was once again beat to the ball by a kid/guy named Brandon. I’m not quite sure if he’s a ball hawk or not, but I do know he’s cost me two home runs recently. More on him later…On the way back in I noticed a foul ball hurling over the roof and land on the grass. I ran over a picked it up. I didn’t take any photos during this game, but trust me I got the ball.

I got a fourth ball when some left handed batter fouled off outside the park and I went out a found it in the grass.

After the game we stayed for the firework show:imageI must say, the Keys sure do put on a good firework display. Afterwards, fans can stay and help pick up the mess for a free ticket. Awesome!

On the way to our car in the parking lot, we saw Brandon and he gave my son a broken bat from the game that he got from one of the Winston Salem players:image The photo shows the bat and three balls I kept.

JULY 21st, 2014:

As I entered the stadium, a friendly security guard named Tom, informed me that a low attendance was expected for this day game. Look at the room to run:imageBefore the game started I sat close to the visiting bullpen in hopes of getting a toss up from Courtney Hawkins. This was the view:imageHawkins is the guy on the right with the ball in his hand. I watched him like a hawk, but he dropped the ball and walked away before I could get his attention. As the team was finishing warm ups, I noticed Nick Basto, pick up a ball, possibly the one Hawkins dropped and started tossing the ball up in the air to himself. When Basto tried to throw the ball to a teammate, who wasn’t paying attention, I stood up and yelled out to him, then flapped my glove to give him a target. He ignored me at first, but kept looking back at me so I pounded my glove with my fist in attempt to persuade him. He just looked at me with a smirk and then began conversing with a coach. I assume it went somewhere along the lines of “Can I throw him a ball?” Yeah, just give him a old one!” Because Basto dropped the ball and dug another one out of the bag and chucked it to me. Check it out:imageI knew that I would have prime opportunity during the game with so much room to move as long as the hitters did their part. They did!

I believe it was the second inning, and I’m not exactly sure who hit it, but a lefty from Winston-Salem sent a missile about ten feet to my right. I attempted to get in position to make the catch but the ball was coming in too hot. I got the tip of my glove on it but I was just a step behind. I picked up the ball as it ricocheted off a wall and rolled to me. I handed it to the nearest kid before I could take a photograph.

While standing in the same spot during the next inning, Michael Burgess, of Frederick sent one in my direction, that was going to land behind me and to my left. Check out this photo to get a description of what happened:imageOkay, do you see the black bottle shaped recycling can to the right? Well, I was standing next to it when the ball was hit. I had to drop back and to my left where the cluster of people are standing to make a leaping back handed catch. I didn’t have to run far but the trajectory of the ball made it very difficult to get there in time. In fact, the last thing that went through my mind was “It’s too far”…Then BAM! I had the ball in my glove.image I raised my arms to acknowledge the round of applause by the other fans. Then, I happened to look at the jumbo screen and I was on it! This made me wonder if I’m on it every time I catch a ball? I hope not because I can get excited sometimes and I probably look like a total fool. Anyway, I was bummed out about missing the first opportunity so this made me feel a little better. Also, Michael Burgess got the call up to Double A Bowie Baysox after the game, so it was cool to catch a gamer from him as he is one of the standout players for the Orioles farm system.

My fourth ball came when Trey Mancini, of Frederick, fouled off a low blooper that was floating to my right. Check out this photo:imageI was standing where the photo was taken. Do you see the kid in the orange shirt to the right? Well, that’s where I made an underhand catch in between a couple of kids that were walking by. Here is the ball, along with the Burgess ball on top:imageThis is the first time I’ve caught two game balls on the fly in the same game. Also, two games in a row with on the fly catches… In case you’re wondering, I forgot to look if they showed me on the jumbo screen.

My last ball of the day was in the eighth inning when Keenyn Walker, of Winston-Salem, hit a high pop up. My initial read made me think the ball was leaving the park, but I tracked the ball around the corner of the concession building and was a step or two behind the ball to catch it on the fly, but I did pick it up next to the little white gate.imageI tossed the ball to a kid with a glove.

That was it for this weekend three game home series. The Keys are back home this weekend so I will most likely be there in attempt to add to my on the fly catch streak, and snag a few home run balls. I’m falling behind on the MyGameBalls.com leader board, so I need to pick up the pace. Until then…….

July 19th, 2014: Harry Grove Stadium

Goose Egg! Notta! Zero! Zilch!

First game at The Grove that I left empty handed (including BP). I did have an opportunity on the third pitch of the game when a ball was popped up in my area. As I tracked the ball, I was cutoff/blocked by a guy, who made a poor attempt at a bare handed catch. I watched the ball hit the concrete and bounce out of the stadium. A few kids chased after it so I didn’t even bother.

A few innings later, someone from Winston-Salem, hit a home run over the right field wall. I made it out just in time to watch someone else pick up the ball as I was maybe 100 feet away. I asked him how he made it out so fast. He told me that he already had a hand stamp and bolted out the emergency exit. Damn! It was that kind of night and I blame it on this guy:

20140720-102734-37654454.jpgThat’s Mountain Man from Duck Dynasty. Not sure why he was there but his presence created difficulty for me.

I will attend tonight’s game and hope for a better outcome.

July, 12th 2014: Harry Grove Stadium

I usually avoid Harry Grove Stadium when it’s firework night, because it draws a massive crowd and it’s very hard to snag home runs, due to the area being roped off outside the park. For some reason I had a positive feeling that something good was going to happen (from a ball hawk perspective). I didn’t know what or why, but it just felt like a good night was about to unfold. My family and I drove down to the ballpark, as soon as we turned into the parking lot I knew it was going to be madness! We arrived ten minutes before the gates opened and there was a huge line starting to bend around the corner. I haven’t seen it that bad since Manny Machado was rehabbing a few months ago.

After we got settled into our seats behind home plate on third base side, I decided it wasn’t worth the effort of my normal ball hawking routine of switching sides for righty/lefty. Here’s what it looked like to our left:imageHere is what the rest of the seating bowl looked like:imageAs you can see, there was absolutely no room to maneuver. For the first time ever, I sat down for the majority of the game. I did stand for lefties, but there was only a few between both teams. I didn’t expect to have much, if any ball hawking opportunities. My only option for a ball was outside the park. I went after a few early in the game, but people were still piling in so the balls were scooped up before I could get out there.

In the fourth inning, Eury Perez, of the Potomac Nationals hit a home run to left field, that hit the backboard and dropped directly behind the outfield wall. I hustled out and found the ball laying just beyond the caution tape for the fireworks area. I didn’t take an immediate photo because last month I was stopped by a security guard when attempting to snag a home run, and told not to cross the tape, so I made quick work of my 9th home run this year (Minors). My wife took a photo of me when I got back to my seat. Check it out:image

Maybe an inning or two after I snagged the home run, two foul balls where hit outside the park directly behind us. Of course, I ran out to try and get them. When I made it outside, I found one and noticed a kid running after the other one. He picked it up and seemed VERY happy. I gave him a thumbs up and went back to my seat. My son wanted this ball so I took a photo of him and my wife:image

Around the seventh inning things started to settle down. There was much more space in the standing room section, probably because beer was no longer being sold. I decided to play a few righties on the first base side standing section. This was the view:imageIn the eighth inning, Adrian Marin, of Frederick popped up to my left, and I immediately knew it was mine! I tracked the ball perfectly about 20 feet and made an easy catch in front of the blue “Men” sign: imageThe entire stadium cheered. I raised my arms in victory, let out a few WHOOOOOOS!, Then RAN! People were trying to high five me as I took off past them but my feet wouldn’t stop. As I sprinted back towards my seat, a security guard warned me “don’t run!” I kept running. “I SAID, STOP RUNNING” he yelled. I may have even bumped a few people in the process but my adrenaline was rushing! I have caught quite a few game balls off the bat before but this one felt like the first one all over again. I guess the fact that 9,000 people were cheering and my family was there to witness it, made it that much more exhilarating. Here’s a photo of the ball:image

When everything settled down, I started to feel wary about the security guard who yelled at me for running. I see these people often and they know who I am. The last thing I wanted to do was create tension with the security personnel, especially after the BP incident.

When the game ended, we stayed to watch an awesome firework display:image

On the way out, I happen to spot the security guard previously mentioned, and I approached him to apologize for my actions and explain I was a little too excited. We shook hands and he didn’t seem upset. Anyway, here is a photo of all three balls:imageI may attend tomorrow nights game in Frederick, so keep an eye out for new post.

July 9th, 2014: Oriole Park at Camden Yards

imageThis was my view as I claimed first position in the express lane outside gate H. The first thing I did after securing my ticket was check to see if the batting cage was up. It wasn’t! I arrived early at 3:45 so I was optimistic about the chances of BP, but the rapidly approaching storm clouds made me nervous. I drove through a lighting storm with heavy rain while making my way to the stadium, and I was afraid that the storm would follow me to Baltimore. You cant tell from the picture but storm clouds were moving directly over top the ballpark.

Turns out the storm passed with no rain. My plan for when the gates opened was to play the flag court for lefties, and Eutaw Street Bleaches for righties. Then play left field when it opened at 5:30. I was the first person to enter the Eutaw Street Bleachers and was hoping to get on the board before the crowd rushed in. It was a Nick Markakis shirt giveaway, so I was expecting lots of people during BP. Here was my view for most of Orioles BP:image
Chris Davis is usually my best opportunity to get a ball, If he hits one on the flag court before too many people pile in. Unfortunately, he didn’t. I cant remember who hit it, but a right handed Oriole hit a home run that was sailing towards section 96 of Eutaw Street. I had to make my way from section 98, to the left of were the ball was going to land, and at the last second I was cut off by the stair railing. I reached over in an attempt to get leather on the ball but it was too far.

When I noticed Chris Davis stepping in the cage for his second round of BP, I started moving up the steps in attempt to make it over to the flag court. En route, I noticed the surrounding people reacting to a ball in flight. I turned to get eyes on it and watched it sail over my head a bounce of the staircase I was on. Check out the photo below, it will help give you an image of what happened next:imageDo you see the long black tube looking thing under the picture of Adam Jones and Chris Davis? Well, after the ball bounced off the stairs it ricocheted off the black tube, and straight in my glove. It all happened so fast, I was in shock when I realized the ball was in my glove and I had my first Major League ball in three months. I was happy when I saw it was commemorative:image

When 5:30 came, I hustled over to left field. It was really crowded with a considerable amount of ball hawk competition and I was just fine with that! I desperately needed the time to get familiar with the layout and best navigation options. This was my view:imageTo my surprise, it seems as if I had the best position to make a play on a ball. I was standing in row 13 between sections 84 & 82. Luckily, no one else was in that row, so I could cover the entire section to my left and maybe half the section to my right. At this point, the Nationals were on the field, and when Jayson Werth was at bat he hit one that was coming straight towards me. I only had to scuffle a few feet to my left when I made the catch on the fly, for my first ball ever in left field.

Not long after I caught the Werth home run, I noticed veteran ball hawk Rick Gold walking in my direction. If you’re not aware of his accomplishments, than I’ll just say he recently snagged his 50th game home run. Think about that for a second……..50 Game home runs! Wow! I’m always excited to meet other ball hawks, especially ball hawks who have accomplished, what I can only dream of. I introduced myself, we had a short exchange, and he gave me props on the Werth catch. Awesome! As I proceeded to go about ball hawking, less than five pitches later, Jayson Werth (I think) hit one in Gold’s direction. I scampered over to get in position for a deflection or rebound, as I was only one row under where the ball landed. When the ball ricocheted off his glove and rolled down to me, I smothered the ball with my glove just before another fan could grab it. Here is both balls I got in left field:imageShortly after that BP wrapped up.

When the game started, I claimed a spot in row eight of the Eutaw bleachers:imageThe entire row was empty, but it didn’t last long as it filled in very quickly.

For Lefties I stood on the flag court along with a handful of ball hawks and a massive crowd:imageNothing was hit up there, though. For most righties, I walked the main cross aisle in hopes of a foul ball, and I came very close when Nick Markakis fouled a liner in my direction as I was standing in a tunnel behind home plate. Unfortunately, I was held up by a guy standing in my path to the ball. If it was a little less crowded, I’m sure I could have made a play on the ball.

I didn’t expect many opportunities during the game. There wasn’t much room to run and none of the home runs hit, landed on the flag court. I was more than happy to leave Baltimore with my two shirts (I unlocked one for checking in using the MLB app) and three balls, especially the Werth ball on the fly. There’s nothing like a glove smacker directly off the bat. Here is a photo of all three:image

I plan on attending a Minor League game in Frederick, tonight (July 12th) so hopefully the foul balls will be flying because its firework night, and that usually negates home run balls. I will have a post on my experience in a couple days. Until then…………