Category: Houston Astros

8/1/13 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards (HOU @ BAL)

Today was the first day of a big baseball trip. I was spending 2 days in Baltimore for Orioles games, staying at Mateo Fischer’s house in Washington, D.C., going to Ballhawkfest 2013 in Philadelphia, and then a AAA game in Scranton, PA that Sunday. Driving down on I-95 to Baltimore was my first objective, and, like always on this highway, it was packed with traffic, and I drove through a monsoon for about 3 hours in the process. Mateo texted me and said that the rain held off, which was good because I was nervous about there being no BP, mainly because the only reason I was going to this game was in hopes of an Astros 50th Anniversary commemorative which they were rumored to be using.

It took me over five hours to get to Camden. I stress the five because it should only take 3 and a half. That’s traffic for you. I’m ashamed to say I drove at some speeds I wasn’t too proud of, either, but I got to Downtown Baltimore around 4:30 p.m.:  ImageWhile I was looking for parking, I hadn’t realized at the time I was right near the Stadium lot, which charges a manageable $10 for parking. when I asked where this was, people kept leading me to parking garages charging upwards of $45-$50.

No.

Eventually, I got Mateo on the phone and he led me to Lot C, where the time now was 4:50.

Gates open at 5 for season ticket holders, and I didn’t even have a ticket yet, so this wasn’t good. I got out of my car and ran up to this: Image I was excited, yet I felt rushed at the same time. From this area of the stadium, Eutaw Street is blocked off with gates until gate opening time. Therefore, I had to run all the way around to get to the other side of Eutaw Street. I got closer and closer: Image How gorgeous is Camden? C’mon, honestly. I moved around the front: Image and around… (notice the Hilton with the $45 parking): Image Past these benches past the center field wall: Image Until I finally made it to the proper gate. Image  While there, I met up with Mateo. He quickly took me over to the ticket window, and using Grant (you’ll see him in a second)’s season ticket holder code, purchased a season ticket for me. Then we hopped back into line, where I met most of the Baltimore Ballhawk regulars: Image From left to right, we have:

1) Grant – A new ballhawk, who could’ve fooled me because he looked good at it. He has a blog here, which you should give a look at.
2) The one and only Mateo
3) Moi.
4) Rick Gold – a ballhawk who apparently works for MLB.com, who I see in a lot of Mateo’s posts and would later run into at Ballhawkfest
5) Alex Kopp – a Baltimore ballhawk who you will definitely read more about in the coming posts…
6) According to Mateo, a guy named Zevi who I never really got a chance to interact with.

Now, onto the snagging….

I ran inside and quickly was told to *walk* to my seat. Once I powerwalked to the left field seats, here was my view: Image I immediately liked the outfield configuration, because you seemed like you were right on top of the field. The way Citi Field is set up, you’re elevated high off the field. and at Yankee Stadium, you don’t have the same angling as you would here. I set up in an aisle spot, but I didn’t get the best spot since I was the last out of the ballhawkers to get in to the section: Image I took that from Mateo’s post about the game. As you can see, I had an aisle spot where the railing wasn’t in my way (wait for the ironic twist of fate on THAT later on in this post), but clearly Mateo was to my right, and Grant was behind me, so I was really confined to just going to my left. Which was ok. All I wanted was a Astros commemorative. Shortly after that, someone on the Orioles hit one to my left. I ran for it, and it was in my row. The only issue was that I have never hawked at this stadium before, so I was trying to be conscious of railings, cupholders, and other ballhawks. This cautious behavior led to me bobbling the catch as it was just out of my reach. Had I just went for it, I would have caught it on the fly. Instead, it rolled and I collided with Grant and we both missed out on it. As for BP, it was kind of dead… Image I was still shut out at this point, and BP was half over. I certainly didn’t want my streak to end today, because it would definitely put me in a bad mood the rest of the weekend. Eventually, the Astros came out: Image Despite the fact that I was the only person with an Astros shirt with their new logo on it, the players all looked at me and ignored me. It was slow on this end, and due to the lack of power in the Astros’ lineup, there weren’t many homers being put out. There was a group of lefties who were about to hit, so I booked it out to right field: Image Out here, nothing reached the seats, but plenty of balls got hit to Lucas Harrell, who saw me as the only Astros fan out in right field, yet ignored me. He wasn’t very friendly to any of the Oriole fans either. Don’t take it out on us because your team is 37-80. I began to get one of my strange “ballhawking urges” that I get, where I just feel compelled to go and do something and it usually works. This time, it was telling me to forget about right field completely, and go back to left: Image

Toss ups were out of the question. Too many loud kids. It’d have to be hit. This also happened in Toronto earlier this year when I had the feeling I should just stay put instead of moving around the crowded ballpark, and later Lyle Overbay literally hit a ball right to me to preserve my streak. The group of lefties were done. Chris Carter was hitting for Houston, and I finally got my first ball of the day,  a  homer that ricocheted off some seats and flew at me which I grabbed:  Image

PHEWWWWWW.

Shortly after, that was it for Houston BP. Now, onto that commemorative…

I hung out by the bullpen, mainly because of this – Image but also because of this: Image Looks innocent enough, but upon further inspection, every. Ball. In. The. Bag. Was a 50th anniversary ball. I expected there to be no 2013 commemoratives because Houston doesn’t carry them on the road. Mateo found me an treated me to a free soda, as we both waited for bullpen catcher Javier Bracamonte: Image That’s me. That’s Javier. Mateo was sitting on 599 career baseballs, and I wanted a commemorative. He said Javier promised him a ball earlier in the day. So I gave him first dibs. After Mateo got his ball, I asked him if he remembered me in New York from April. he said he did, whether he actually did I don’t know. He seemed to be confused as to what I was asking for, but then he FINALLY hooked me up for ball No. 2 on the day: Image Ohhhhhhhh yes. Yes yes yes. That felt good. Huge thanks to Javier, he’s the man. Here I am appreciating all of it’s glory: Image It’s a little blurry, but you get the point. It was just about game time, so here was where I was for innings 1-3: Image I was hoping for a home run, because I had PLENTY of running room. Alas, there were no homers my direction. I took a panoramic photo: Image

I decided to meet up with Mateo and the other ballhawks on the flag court. I walked behind the batters’ eye: Image …onto Eutaw Street: Image …stopped on the way for some famous Boog’s BBQ (which was eh.): Imageand before I got to the flag court, I noticed these: Image They are scattered all over the street in random areas. Upon closer view, here is what they look like: Image it is to commemorate any home runs that land on the street. I saw a lot of Yankees out there 😉

Anyway, here is the flag court: Image The flag court is fun, but can be challenging. It is hard to see the gameplay. Also, if a home run is coming, you need to react quick. Alex likes to stand behind where the wheelchair seating is to the right of the flag court this way he could see the play as it happened. I was talking to him about how I wanted to catch a  homer so bad. It was then that I got one of those *urges*. I felt like going down to here: Image About 2 minutes later, this happened:

Yep. As you can see, my gut was correct. My route, was not. You can see me lunge for the ball in the video, but the railing was in my way. another downfall to not being in my home stadium. I didn’t think to actively plan my route in case a homer was hit. If I was on the other side of that railing, or even maneuvered around the railing, I’d have caught it. In the current situation: Image

1) The ball barely eluded and scraped my glove and hit the seats and ricocheted to the left instead of the right. If it went right, it would have rolled into my feet.
2) I ran into the railing. (F**K YOU RAILING!!!)
3) That’s me in the black t-shirt.

What made matters worse was that since this was the first time that Davis had reached 100 RBIs in his career, he wanted the ball.

-_________-

Mad was an understatement. After I cooled down a bit, it was almost time for the game to be over. I headed over behind home plate for the umpires tunnel: Image I got shut out by the umpire. Then, the Astros came out from the bullpens, and : Image Nothing there either. Camden again the next night.  Final score: Image

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  • 2 balls at this game
  • 148 career balls
  • 31 straight MLB games with a ball
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4/30/13 at Yankee Stadium (HOU @ NYY)

I got to Yankee Stadium around 4 p.m. When I got there, I threw on my ipod, got in line, and was graced with the presence of people like this:

Image

…yeah. Anyway, I was there for a few more minutes when I ran into this guy:

Image … and then he hooked me up with some Frank’s Red Hot (which I LOVE) sunflower seeds. He’s doing a whole thing with BIGS Seeds for charity, and you can check it out here. That also explains why he’s decked out in BIGS gear. When the stadium opened, I decided to head to the 2nd deck in right field. Nobody usually heads up there first, so when I went up there to start, here was my view:Image There were no Easter eggs around, so I just waited. And waited. Here’s what the Yankees were up to:

Image They stretched for a long time, and I felt like I was wasting my time. I decided to head down here after a few minutes to try for a toss-up:

Image And after a few minutes, I got Boone Logan to toss me my first ball of the day. I was also competing with Zack, Greg Barasch, and Ben Weil, to name a few. And, as luck would have it, the area I was just stationed in in the 2nd deck, proceeded to get 7 home runs hit up there by Travis Hafner and Lyle Overbay.

-____-

I had my eyes on this guy:

Image The guy I’m speaking of is #34, Vidal Nuno. I heard his story on TV the night before and how he almost quit baseball for a number of reasons, and toiled in the independent leagues, but stuck with it until finally making his Major League debut the night before. I wanted to tell him how I thought it was great hearing his story, but someone beat me to it and got a ball from him (I didn’t want a ball, I just wanted to talk). So I didn’t think Nuno would think I was being genuine, so I didn’t bother. Later, I moved to Left Field and it was the deadest BP I’ve ever been a part of. Anywhere. Minors, Yankee Stadium, you name it. So I was bored and took a panoramic photo:

ImageNow, the reason I chose to go to this game is because the Astros are using commemorative balls this season. I made my way over to the Astros bullpen, where a few guys were practicing some catcher drills. Why was this important? Well, they dumped the entire bag out so I looked for stampings:

ImageZack was up in the bleachers and told me that none of the balls had any markings on them. The Astros were the only team I didn’t get a commemorative ball from the year before, and it looked like I wasn’t gonna get one this time. Oh, and did I mention that the Astros didn’t come out for batting practice? Same for the night before. Seems to me that a team that is 8-22 and in last place would…. you know, take batting practice. But what do I know, right? Shortly thereafter, Phil Humber and Jason Castro came out to toss:

Image … I was the only fan in Astros gear, plus it was quiet at the moment, and they proceeded to ignore me. Humber is 0-6 with an ERA north of 7, so you think he would be as endearing as possible for fans. I’ve heard from other people that the Astros weren’t really fan friendly, and I noticed this last year when I saw them on 8/25/12 at Citi Field. He went in to the bullpen, and I got this  good picture of him:

Image and nothing. I headed around to the 3rd base line for a toss up, but the players couldn’t see me.Therefore, I missed out on trying for a “Harkey.” I moved back to the bullpen and talked to bullpen catcher Javier Bracamonte. He’s a really cool dude if you get a chance to talk to him. Here he is:

Image I asked Bracamonte if he could hook me up and I got the fateful answer I got from him at Citi last year:

“We don’t take those on the road.” So that was that. Money and time wasted! Huzzah. As for the game, here were my seats:

ImageIT stayed like that all night. Just one homer needed to go my way and it was mine. Of course, the anemic lineups of the Astros and injury-riddled, lefty heavy Yankees lineups weren’t in my favor. My only chance was when Astro Chris Carter came up to hit. And his 3rd time up, he homered… but to Right Field. I’ll get my chance someday. I mean honestly though, here’s how it looked in the 9th:

ImageC’mon, MAN!!!!

Sigh. Mariano Rivera then came in and shut the Astros down 1-2-3 for the save.

Final score:

Image

Image

  • 1 ball at this game (what’s with the dry spell?)
  • 6 balls this season
  • 87 career balls
  • Yankees record when I attend in 2013: 2-1 (37-23 all time)
  • Astros record when I attend in 2013: 0-1 (0-3 all time)

I also checked the ball under a UV light, but there was nothing there.

8/25/12 at Citi Field (HOU @ NYM)

I was here on Saturday:

Image… it was the last game of Rich and I’s ticket plan, and it was Mike Piazza bobblehead day. So I knew there would be somewhat of a crowd for this game between the 40-87 Houston Astros and the 58-69 New York Mets… a game with huge implications.

Huge implications on my snagging record, that is. I needed one Astros 50th Anniversary Commemorative ball to complete the 6-ball set this year (Boston, Baltimore, LA Dodgers, Miami, NY Mets, Houston). I knew it would be tough to get, being a day game after a night game, plus an ominous comment from Mateo Fischer :

Image

Nice.

I was, however, excited to see this:

Image

Yay for BP!

Looking around, I was the only one around wearing Astros gear. If there was a commemorative to have, I was confident I’d get it. I headed over here:

Image…and got Wilton Lopez (player to the right of the coach in the shorts) to throw me my first ball of the day. I almost didn’t get it. He threw it short, and it tipped off my glove. He was cool about it and threw me another ball on target and I even got a wave after (Neither ball was a commemorative). I then saw a ball here in front of the tarp:

Image…but didn’t bother going for it once I saw it was a regular ball. I switched it up to try and get a home run up here:

Image…but long story short, most of the Astros were attempting to be cool  and didn’t really throw anything up, and the Astros only hit about 4 total homers into the crowd. I did come close to one though.

I decided to try my luck over by the Astros dugout:

Image

…Interim manager Tony DeFrancesco walked over and I asked him for an anniversary ball. He told me he didn’t have any with him, and hadn’t seen one in a while.

Hmm.

Later, Jose Altuve came out to pose for a baseball card:

Image…and he later told me the same thing. I tried again with Fernando Martinez and Brandon Barnes:Image…and they said that they don’t bring the Astros balls with them on the road.

Hold up.

I knew this wasn’t true, because I have seen Zack Hample get one in Philadelphia earlier this season. So based off of this info, I refused to accept it.

I did, however, snag some of this from Lucas Harrell:

Image… I didn’t ask for the gum, he was throwing bags of seeds and gum up for everyone. It was pretty cool.

I then got denied by ten… count ’em, TEN Astros after the national anthem:

Image

…I then got bluntly kicked out of the section. I did our usual hang out in center field-thing we usually do, occasionally heading down to the Astros bullpen to see if anything was up. I got the attention of bullpen catcher Javier Bracamonte who actually took the time to look through the ball bag for a commemorative, but only sifted through about 4 or 5 until saying sorry and heading back to the bench. I went down again later, and found Rhiner Cruz stretching:

Image… I asked him to come over and look for me, and he did try and look, but said they didn’t have any.But he did toss me this:

Image… I’m not going to complain.

Manny Acosta came out back by the fence and I said hi. I wasn’t about to bother him or ask him for a ball. It was weird just sitting there with him for about an inning:

ImageLater the Astros bullpen coach Craig Bjornsen told me he didn’t have any anniversary balls because the team doesn’t travel with them.

Lame.

What am I supposed to do, travel to Houston now? Go back to Citi tomorrow in hopes that this isn’t true? For sure not. So much for completing the set.

I set my sights on an umpires ball so I sat here behind two Met fans with clear taste for great pitching:

Imageoof.

Here was my actual view:

Image… Frank Francisco pitched a 1-2-3 9th, and then home plate umpire Chad Fairchild walked past everyone into the locker rooms. Goodbye Citi Field. Image

  • 2 balls at this game
  • 66 career balls
  • 7 straight games at Citi with a ball
  • 11 straight games at an MLB game with a ball
  • Mets record when I attend this season: 2-6 (12-15 overall)
  • Astros record when I attend this season: 0-1 (0-2 overall)