For the first time in my ballhawking career, for today’s game I would have a semi-professional photographer following along with me, helping to document the day’s events. Andy Jesswein of ARJ Photography shoots weddings, concerts and now sports. Before I get into the entry I’d like to say “THANK YOU” to Andy.
The roof was closed even though it was about 70 degrees and mostly sunny. There were some showers moving through the area, but I don’t believe it rained a single drop after this picture was taken. As a result of the roof being closed, the air inside Miller Park was not only ridiculously humid, but also stagnant. The Brewers could have announced the game as “Sauna Awareness/Experience Day” and no one would have doubted it.
Andy and I made our way into the stadium as a small group of Brewers pitchers began batting practice. I didn’t have to wait long for ball #1, which came from Joe Crawford.
Did you see the ball 3/4 of the way between Joe and I in the above picture? Check out the ball about to settle in my bare hand in this next photo:
The Brewers players and coaches don’t really like contributing to my ball collection. It isn’t anything personal, and (most) aren’t rude about it. They know I’ve got plenty already and they know that I’ll get plenty more as time goes. They like me to earn them, and there isn’t anything wrong with that. With that said, the above snag didn’t come without certain conditions…
Yep. I “had” to throw the ball back. Can you find the ball in the image below?
I put “had” in quotations because some people think that wouldn’t be such a great deal… You work get a ball thrown to you, and it is yours to keep, forever and ever and ever, right? Kind of. Instead of “having” to throw the ball back, I prefer saying I “get” to throw the ball back.
Personally, I think the whole idea of:
(A) actually throwing a ball back onto the field
(B) seeing just how far I could throw it
(C) having a little piece of me back on the field being used by the players and
(D) the prospect of catching the same ball twice
are all awesome privileges and why I got to throw the ball back and not had to. I love throwing the ball back in, and I wouldn’t have had that opportunity if it wasn’t for super friendly, all around good guy Joe Crawford. Soon after, Andy and I relocated to the bullpen porch on the other side of the restaurant.
Andy snapped a few cool shots of pitchers throwing bullpen sessions, beginning with Chris Narveson:
When Narv-dog finished, Alfredo Figaro toed the rubber for some delivery tweaks:
And when Figaro finished, Marco Estrada stepped up for some between-starts work:
There wasn’t much action at Fridays in terms of hit baseballs. A few landed in the narrow net that Fridays has installed to keep food and menus from falling into the bullpen. Usually I’ll glove trick the balls out of the net, which is only about a foot to 18 inches below the tables and give them to whoever bought the table nearest to the ball. However, today would mark a change in that trend.
Recently I was told by a Miller Park worker (who has a stringently, militant anti-ballhawk attitude) that I would be “kicked out of the ballpark” if I’m seen with a glove trick ever again, and not by ushers or security, but by the police. So the glove trick is going on indefinite hiatus. It is a shame because not only do glove tricked baseballs count towards my charity program with the Wounded Warrior Project, but they get given away to kids. I haven’t kept a glove tricked baseball in years. Oh well, that’s how Miller Park works. Fans don’t matter. Fun at the ballpark doesn’t matter.
…but it sailed way, way over my head, the ball was un-catchable by 5 or 10 feet. See the guy just past my left shoulder in the Dodgers shirt? He was really wild, jumping at any fly ball and sprinting from one end of the section to the other. On this particular ball he hopped the fence to the left of the picture, booted the ball, hopped back over the fence and nearly pushed me on my backside while I haphazardly attempted to pick the ball up. Oh well.
The gates would soon open, and I convened with a friendly usher who is in charge of opening the gate to the field level. He likes to go grab any foul balls hit before the stadium opens and distribute them to younger fans. He passed by a ball on his first trip through the seats, so I gave him directions and he went back, returning with this:
He handed the ball to me, presumably to keep. I mulled the idea keeping it and giving it away after the game, but I gave it right back to him a few moments later. On technicality, I had recorded ball #2. (This picture would have been EPIC if the ball was oriented correctly)
Andy and I headed up to the left field bleachers when the gates to the entire stadium opened and the Dodgers took the field.
Carl Crawford tossed me ball #3 , which Andy didn’t manage to snap a picture of, and after that, I settled into the spot for Matt Kemp, with a sarcastic “game face” applied for effect:
This is the best spot for ballhawking Matt Kemp, trust me on that. Take special note of where I’m standing and who is around me, and compare it with the next series of pictures.
Over years of ballhawking and reading blogs, I’ve picked up on some of the best locations for certain players’ batting practices. The above pictured spot is the area for Kemp. Kemp ended up smacking the first of only two balls into the left field bleachers and it was coming directly at me. I didn’t even have to move an inch for it. I got into position and prepared my glove and feet with a wide stance when all of a sudden…
Yep. This guy came from behind me, lumbering over the bleachers and not only hit me on the way past, but swatted my glove out of the way of the ball, which you can see in flight above. Notice how you can’t see me at all? Yep, the guy completely shoved me out of the way to get position of a ball hit right to me.
See how my glove is notably lower than his? See how the ball couldn’t have possibly deflected off my glove, and it seems like the only way for it to get in it’s position is because he booted it? He’s starting to make a habit of this. This marks 2 days in a row.
I’m certainly not one of the guys who has a “don’t touch me” policy when ballhawking. If you think you can catch the ball, try and catch the damn ball. BUT I am a staunch believer in the community aspect of ballhawking. We’re going to share the bleachers every day this season, and you’re going to make acquaintances along the way. If you know a ballhawk has a play on a ball, like I did on the above Kemp line drive, let the guy catch it. Don’t go out of your way to try and catch the ball another ballhawk has position on and could have caught with his eyes closed, ESPECIALLY if you’re going to boot the play like that guy did.
Is that mentality out of line? Do you agree with me or not? Why? Tell me in the comments section.
That was all the action BP would yield. Andy and I headed over to our seats, where Zack Greinke was warming up for his first start at Miller Park since being traded last summer.
Remembering the prior day’s debacle with Matt Kemp ignoring my autograph requests, I made it a point to try again today. We walked from right field to the third base line and got into position behind Kemp. Autograph dealers and eBay jerks from all around crowded the area, I recognized a few of them from as far away as US Cellular Field. Look how happy I was about that:
I don’t like autograph dealers. Get a real job. Soon after this picture was snapped, Kemp obliged our requests.
Kemp signing an article just before grabbing my baseball:
Andy and I returned to our seats ready for the first pitch. A few innings into the game, some ladies sitting next to me were hollering for Carlos Gomez to toss them the between-innings catch ball. Gomez did so the next half inning, but his aim was a bit… off. Gomez lollipopped the ball right at me (he doesn’t really like seeing me get baseballs). So, without putting my glove on, without even standing up, I caught the ball, glove-on-knee, butt-in-seat. I gave it until one of the last possible seconds that I had to react, just to give the lady her chance to jump in front of me to grab it, which she hesitated to do. In this next picture the (dumb, useless) nets installed in front of the bullpen obscure the event:
Immediately, I held the ball up in one hand, as if on a platter, and put the other up in the air as to say “here, I’m not going to keep this.”
I had the ball in my hands for probably less than two seconds, but it still counts as ball #4. The woman was a little hesitant to keep the ball. She initially took it, but offered it back 30 seconds later.
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, there was no way he was throwing that to me. He just threw it badly.”
“Are you sure you don’t want it?”
“…yes. I’m 1,000% positive.”
Gomez still gave me a dirty look. C’mon dude. You threw the ball.
Other than that, there wasn’t any action. I tried to get a third out ball one inning, but I wasn’t successful.
Someone told me on my way back up the stairs that another kid got 5 of the previous 6 third out baseballs the Dodgers tossed into the stands. I’m not complaining, but sheesh, that’s got to be a record of some kind.
There weren’t any home runs hit near me, and I didn’t have a play on any foul balls. The game itself was boring, but spending it with Andy was fun.
That Gomez in-game toss up was my last ball of the day, and my 100-something’th of the year. I don’t know off the top of my head, I’d guess number 104 of this 2013 regular season. At this game I raised around $5 for the Wounded Warrior Project (over $80 this entire season not including game home run bonuses) and gave 2 balls away and threw one back onto the field.
Check back soon for some VERY EXCITING news. You won’t want to miss this upcoming entry, trust me on that.