8/3/13 at Citizens Bank Park (ATL @ PHI – Ballhawkfest 2013)

Due to the previous night’s events… and because Mateo and I stayed up until about 4 am blogging…

We overslept.

Not a big deal, most would say. But today was Ballhawkfest 2013, an annual gathering of ballhawks around the country to get together and enjoy our quirky hobby we love so dearly. This year it was in Philadelphia, and it was my first. There was to be a home run derby at FDR Park near Citizens Bank Park around 10 am. Mateo and I left his apartment around 9 am. The only catch was, we were still in Washington, DC. So we were going to miss some (if not all) of the beginning of the day’s events. So, we got in my car: Image And after driving at some speeds I wasn’t particularly proud of, we finally made it Philly. By then, the pregame home run derby had finished, and the group had already moved on to lunch at McFadden’s, the restaurant attached to Citizens Bank Park. When we got there, we ran to McFadden’s: Image and made it in time for lunch. Somehow, we got our food before everyone else. Everybody was there. You’ll be introduced to them in a minute. I skipped documenting the restaurant with photos, but Alan Schuster (creator of mygameballs.com, and the person in charge of coordinating ballhawkfest) was raffling off door prizes, and I won a Red Sox baseball. This year’s event was in honor of a fellow ballhawk named Matt Hersl, who was tragically killed earlier this year in a car crash in downtown Baltimore. Everyone signed a shirt and a card for his family, and I was happy to be a part of the day.

On a lighter note, I also ordered the boneless buffalo chicken tenders, and scarfed it down to line up outside the left field gate: Image All of the ballhawks lined up at the gate behind me. Check it out: Image Alright, so, from left to right (in career snag order:)
1) Zack Hample
2) Rick Gold
3) Mateo Fischer
4) Ben Weil
5) Tim Cook (representing the Cook family)
6) Alex Kopp
7) Quinn Imiola
8) Harrison Tishler
9) Me
10) Jeremy Evans
11) Alan Schuster
12) Jenny Bang
13) Alex’s dad Mark Kopp

So yes, the competition was going to be fierce. There were more ballhawks there who weren’t in the photo. Someone looked around through the center field gates and relayed the disappointing news that the tarp, was in fact… on the field. So just to put it in perspective, there were about 25 ballhawks all competing with each other and everyone else in the near sold out crowd on a Saturday with no batting practice. Everyone kind of accepted the fact that the day would be rough, so we all kinda just relaxed for a bit. Here was the line to my right: Image and to my left… Image Zack wasn’t too happy. Zack also took a nice picture of us for BIGS: Image You can match the faces up in the previous photo if you forgot who was who. Eventually, time came to run inside and see if anything at all was going on on the field:  Image So Braves were on the field tossing, and the tarp was off, but there was no cage out. It was better than nothing. Since there was about 25 of us vying for the 3 balls the Braves were using, it was a little tense. The players were still using the balls, so while I was waiting, I went to put on my Braves shirt. Until I realized that I packed my Yankees shirt in a rush, and had no Braves shirt. Good times. I then looked through the flower beds for any left over homers from BP the night before: Image Nothing there. There was nobody really behind me, everyone went for foul territory where the players were throwing: Image It was then that I happened to turn around and David Carpenter, finished with his throwing, locked eyes with me, and… Image I didn’t even ask. I just held out my glove. Considering how bleak the forecast looked (weather and ballhawking), I was absolutely thrilled to snag this ball. I thought I was going to end my streak today, and now a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. And, of course, the man himself managed to get one: Image Much to the dismay of Craig Kimbrel. If you read Zack’s posts, you’ll know what I mean. I also, like I mentioned, was thrilled: Image I hate to admit, I was a little excited at the idea that I could be one of the only people at ballhawkfest to get a ball. Not gonna lie. But, I was more excited when I saw this: Image BP cages were up! This was so unorthodox (for me at least), so I couldn’t believe it. In the meantime while I waited, I hung out with Zack in center field while everyone went for toss-ups behind the dugouts. I looked to my left and noticed the unique architecture to my left: Image In the meantime, the stadium was dead: Image After a while, we ran into Rick Sporcic, an accomplished ballhawk from Pittsburgh (I believe) who had not one, not two, but three different gloves: Image He often uses the biggest one, but his small one with the bolt through it was interesting. It was finally time for BP, so I headed over to right field and met up with the  Cooks:Image  I introduced myself and then moved further over to right since they rightfully claimed the “pizza wedge” : Image Don’t be fooled by the picture, it got crowded quick. During BP, I came close to several home runs, and eventually caught one off a bounce off of some seats hit by a player I couldn’t identify. I felt bad after the fact because I just beat Quinn to the homer, and it was his birthday, and he was ball-less at this point. I didn’t know that it was him at the time, though, or else I might have “missed” the catch. Quinn did well for himself later on, though, he got Craig Kimbrel to toss him the final out ball at the end of the game. I headed over to the bullpen for the famous “Jesus Tiamo” trick: Image  …and of all days he only threw two balls into the crowd. Normally he throws about 10. The Cooks got one, from what I could see. Finally, BP was over, and all snagging opportunities were done for the time being. I got a text to meet everyone by the statue in center field so we could take a picture of our snags up to the minute: ImageIt  looked like everyone got a ball so far for the most part. It was around this point I took my personal tour of CBP, since it was my 1st time ever being there. I started by the Phillies bullpen and walked around the concourse: Image  this area had a large BBQ area, and a trivia section which I walked right past. I kept moving through the concourse: Image and looked over to my left where there was a common area where the 3rd base gate was: Image after a elevator ride and some walking, I found myself here taking my typical photo: Image and I also took a panorama photo (click to enlarge): Image Eventually, it was game time. My ticket was for the section closest to the foul pole in left on the field level, but I wanted to sit with Zack. I waited here: Image There was still a bit longer until game time, and he had texted me to tell me to wait a few minutes. I decided to continue my tour and go onto “Ashburn Alley:” Image It was eh. Looked like any other concourse. Reminded me a bit of the Shea Bridge. But more boring. I also checked out the Phillies Wall of Fame: Image which, again, was eh. Looked like it was thrown together last minute. Then again, I’m used to monument park at Yankee Stadium, so who knows. Jumping forward – I snuck down to where Zack was. The Phillies guards were super aggressive in checking tickets. I somehow got my way down and sat with Zack. We got moved around a few times, and finally settled into some seats. Then, in the 2nd inning, this happened:

http://wapc.mlb.com/play?content_id=29388501

You’ll have to click the link to watch because I wasn’t able to embed the video. That was Zack catching John Mayberry Jr.’s home run. As you can see in this screenshot: Image That’s me on the bottom with my head and ears next to the Green “Schmidt” jersey. So, for the 3rd day in a row, I just  missed getting a MLB homer.

The day will come.

Here was the ball: Image It was cool to hold it, but it would’ve been cooler if I caught it. Then, we thought Zack would get in trouble when this happened: Image He wasn’t in trouble, but there was an option the Phillies have where they take the ball and have the guy who hit it sign it for you, and then send you the ball in the mail. Zack didn’t want to do this, and I wouldn’t trust the Phillies with it either. I’m not huge on autographs anyway. Later, we moved over to right field, where we met up with Harrison: Image the other ballhawks were over there hanging out as well. The game went to extras and seemed like it’d never end. Zack went back to left field, but I stayed in right. He then got subsequently ejected from the ballpark for various reasons. And then of course, the game mercifully ended. Final score: Image And we all met up and took a photo of our snags. Since this was such a special occasion, and I was here for the 1st time, I decided to make my “Stadium Photo” this: Image I had such an awesome time. CBP was my 13th career stadium, and I now have visited Yankee Stadium, Citi Field, Fenway Park, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Rogers Centre, Nationals Park, Target Field, Wrigley Field, US Cellular Field, Miller Park, Marlins Park, Citizens Bank Park, and Tropicana Field.  I can’t wait until Ballhawkfest 2014. (Likely Washington, DC)

  • 2 balls at this game
  • 155 career balls
  • 33 straight MLB games with a ball (the streak lives on!)
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