During batting practice, it was all Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano. In fact, Nelson Cruz hit a ball completely OUT of Safeco Field. Click this link to watch the video highlights.
Lots of baseballs were tossed up into the stands and due to it being “Salute to Kids” night at the ballpark, the majority of them were tossed to kids and most were either dropped or bobbled around. The ones were dropped were easily glove-tricked out from behind the walls…
….I easily secured two balls during batting practice:
One kid used a blanket tied to his glove but he forgot the most important element of his glove-trick: the rubber band. I literally watched this kid for 10 minutes trying to dangle his glove over a baseball but it wouldn’t secure into his glove because there was nothing to hold onto the ball. Ultimately, a security guard went down behind the wall and picked up the baseball for him.
I sat with my Twins rooting girlfriend, Alex in the outfield hoping to snag a home run ball during the game:
She isn’t really a Twins fan. I bring both visiting and home team hats for autograph opportunities. Lately, I’ve been striking out when it comes to autographs. I usually get my ticket signed by someone before the game. And for the last three games I’ve attended I’ve been trying to get a picture with former Mariners Dave Valle but he hasn’t been showing up to the Root Sports broadcast booth for some reason. Today was no exception. Again, a no-show.
The game was pretty entertaining. The Twins beat the Mariners in the end by a score of 6-5 and we left towards the top of the ninth to beat traffic. Aoki smacked a home run in the first inning to give the Mariners the lead but the Twins managed to rally back and hold the lead.
Next month I fly out to Romania so I’ll be busy trying to keep up every day with daily blog entries on the trip.
Total Lifetime Games Attended: 121
Total Baseballs Snagged This Season: 9
Total Lifetime Baseballs Snagged: 343
Total Lifetime Foul Balls Snagged: 1
Total Lifetime Home Run Balls Snagged: 0
For the better part of the afternoon, I watched the security guards fumble with the table at the gate…
….priorities, I tell ya. Today turned out to be a gloomy, raining, wet day at the ballpark. I bought the cheapest tickets possible ($26.00) which put my seats up in the 300 level of the stadium. I wanted to spend the majority of my time in The ‘Pen. Today’s goals seemed simple enough: snag a bunch of baseballs, get a picture with Dave Valle, get Jose Mota’s autograph and snag a home run ball during the game.
Being that it was Kyle Seager bobblehead night, I figured it would be a sold out game. It came close. 42,687 showed up and I’m assuming 3-5 thousand probably left after they got their bobbles because while I walked around the stadium, it didn’t feel like a capacity crowd. During batting practice, it wasn’t that bad. I snagged my bobblehead and glove tricked my first ball out of the bullpen. My second ball came by just leaning over the railing and picking it out of the bullpen after it was hit into there and rolled around for a little bit. I made my way across the seating bowl securing my third ball that I picked out of a cup holder (put there by an usher) and my fourth and fifth balls came bouncing into the stands; one on the third base side and one on the first base side.
After BP I set up near the Root Sports broadcast table and I waited and I waited and I waited some more for Dave Valle to show up. I checked his Twitter and found out that a new ice cream machine was placed up in the broadcast booth and I suspected that’s where Valle was at. Getting ice cream:
By then it was too late to run down to the Angels dugout to get Jose Mota’s autograph. My night was slowly falling apart. If you’ve never been to Safeco Field and have never experienced The ‘Pen (on College night or any other night for that matter) you aren’t missing much. It usually gets overly crowded full of drunk people and the music is so loud you can barely hear the person next to you. So after about the 2nd inning, I made my way up to my seat to watch the game from there…
…of course when I bought my ticket, I forgot to buy the one without the “obstructed view” warning.
I watched the game from my seat for a few innings and then I wandered the stadium. I actually got up close and personal with the new timer that was installed last year in all of the stadiums…
…and the premise behind this new addition is to attempt to speed the game up. Ever since Manfred took over from Selig as baseballs Commissioner, he’s been doing everything in his power to speed the game up. He’s told the players that they have to keep one foot in the batters box at all times and if they don’t they could receive a fine. Then they installed the timer which gives pitchers two minutes between innings to get ready. Now I’ve been hearing that intentional walks will be changing. The batter simply takes his base. Along with that, the umpires are enforcing shorter mound visits.
I understand that games can be long and lack action and excitement. The game I attended yesterday lasted over three hours. And I didn’t stay for the whole game, either. I don’t agree with changing these little things about the game. I don’t agree with the Manfred era of baseball. I don’t agree with the netting in front of the dugouts and down the first and third base lines in an attempt to “keep fans safe”. These rules where the catcher can’t block the plate and late slides into second base have become illegal take away so much from the game. I think there needs to be some level of fan accountability where the fans who attend games should have some reasonable expectation of a game that might last longer than anticipated. I also think that fans need to be more alert and provide safety measures for themselves instead of relying on Major League Baseball to keep 35,000 people safe. If you can’t stay alert during play or can’t stay off your cellphone for two minutes during a game, maybe the outfield seating is best for you.
Going into the ninth inning, the Mariners were holding on to the lead 7-6. Steve Cishek came in to close out the game and left a pitch over the plate for Albert Pujols. He hammered a 3-run home run and the Angels went on to win the game 9-7. Final.
Cishek later posted this one Twitter…
…he receieved plenty of support, there were still many nay-sayers. The Mariners have never really had a successful closer since I’ve been a fan. And I’ve been a fan since 1989.
Total Lifetime Games Attended: 121
Total Baseballs Snagged This Season: 9
Total Lifetime Baseballs Snagged: 343
Total Lifetime Foul Balls Snagged: 1
Total Lifetime Home Run Balls Snagged: 0
Willie Bloomquist is one of my favorite players and when he announced his retirement it made me sort of sad. I was never able to get any memorabilia signed by him or meet him at any of the games while he was active on the field. But I’m happy he’s retired and doing the things he wants to do. He recently accepted a job with the front office with the Diamondbacks so there’s still a chance I can catch him at the ballpark to get something signed.
I recently connected with him on Twitter and asked him how retirement was going…
…seems like everything is going well at the moment.
The Angels were in town this weekend and I always try to make it out to the stadium to see them. Mainly I like heckling Albert Pujols because he seems to make it a point to ignore the fans. So whenever he takes his at-bats, I like to obnoxiously yell “Puuuujjjjoooolllls!”. On a positive note, I like to wave and cheer on Mike Trout because he always responds to his fans, and I like seeing that from him.
My girlfriend, Alexandra accompanied me for the game and we stopped at the Pyramid Ale House prior to game time. I ordered the beer battered fish, which by the way, was awesome but the service wasn’t so great…
…we’ve been here before and our last visit the service was sub-par as well. We both decided this would be our last visit here.
When I entered the stadium, I spotted my first baseball of the day on the ground near the Root Sports set up. Once the rest of the stadium opened up, I managed to find three more baseballs in the right and center field bleachers and one was hit my way and I was able to snag it on the carom.
Alexandra and I headed down to the Angels dugout and once at our seats, we found this stuck to the front of my seat:
Here’s a closer look at what it says:
This was the view from our seats during the game:
By the bottom of the fourth, the game was tied 1-1 until Nelson Cruz hit a high drive out of the park in the bottom half of the fifth. Then in the bottom of the eighth, Angels pitcher, Joe Smith walked Norichika Aoki and then literally tried to pick him off at first base several times. The crowd became extremely restless and then on about the sixth or seventh attempt, Mike Scioscia challenged the play:
It was the first time I’d ever witnessed a live challenge and so it was interesting to watch the umpires put on the headsets and watch the video over and over again. The call stood; Aoki was safe at first. It was still pretty cool to see.
The game had lasted well beyond three hours so we left after Robinson Cano belted a double into the gap. The Mariners had the lead at this point by one run. Steve Chisek would be in to close the game out and by the time I got home and checked the score, I learned he blew the save. The one thing I was happy about was the fact that Robinson Cano had extended my Beat The Streak game streak to 16 with his double to the gap. The Mariners losing in the 9th? Not so happy about that but it’s baseball.
Total Lifetime Games Attended: 120
Total Baseballs Snagged This Season: 4
Total Lifetime Baseballs Snagged: 339
Total Lifetime Foul Balls Snagged: 1
Total Lifetime Home Run Balls Snagged: 0
The main goal was to attend this fan fest and get Jay Buhner’s autograph on a baseball bat. I had purchased a nice wooden bat from a sports retailer the night before, packed up the camera and headed into Seattle.
The last time I attended a fan fest was a few years ago and I really had a good experience. I wasn’t trying to mirror this experience to last times but I was imagining some quality time with Buhner. After all, it’s fan fest!
When I got to Safeco, the lines were already wrapped around the stadium:
The rules for autographs were pretty simple: the first 200 people in line that claimed vouchers upon entry would get that players autograph of their choice and so on and so forth until there were no more vouchers for that player. The players were staggered at various times so all you had to do was enter the ballpark, walk to the banner with the players name on it that you wanted, grab the voucher from the staff member and beat feet up to wherever the autograph session was taking place. Make senses? Okay, good.
Jay Buhner was signing autographs right at 10:30am so as soon as I got inside, I grabbed the voucher with his name on it and I just followed the signs that led me up to this hallway:
There were all kinds of cool things to look at waiting in line but all I really wanted to do was meet Jay Buhner.
I have been a Mariners fan since 1989 when my Mom took me to my very first Mariners game in the Kingdome. We sat up in the 300 level near the 3rd base side and the Mariners played the Baltimore Orioles. That was the first game I witnessed Cal Ripken Jr. play and all of my Mariner favorites. Since then, I’ve attended handfuls of games growing up with my Dad and we always sat where we could see Ken Griffey Jr.
Over the last few years, I’ve met a lot of players and I wanted to start meeting my childhood favorites like Jay Buhner and Dan Wilson. I met Edgar Martinez a few seasons ago by being in the right place at the right time.
Anyway. When Buhner finally arrived I had a question in mind that I wanted to ask him. And when I got up to the table to have my memorabilia signed, the staff member who was with Buhner was handing him so much stuff so fast for him to sign, I think Buhner was a little flustered. He even made a comment to the guy, something along the lines of “you’re handing me stuff and I don’t even have time to sign it!” Something like that.
When I handed my bat to the staff member, I stood in front of Buhner…
… and asked him, “Jay, when do you think Ichiro will hit his 3,000th hit?” He immediately replied with. “How many hits does he got?” I think at the time Ichiro had 2,919 or something like that. I was soon cut-off by more fans walking in front of me to get their picture taken with Buhner and the staff member kept piling on the memorabilia for him to sign. So I just picked up my bat and sort of walked away. I turned back once or twice more to watch but I was soon greeted with, “Have a nice day!” from another staff member which sort of meant, “please exit this way”.
Wow. I stood outside of the doors and just watched Buhner scurrying to sign balls and bobble heads and cards and all sorts of stuff. He had his head down and was just signing away.
Occasionally he would look up and laugh or whatever and shake a hand or two, but it was all business getting everything signed in front of him. I felt bad for him and I felt bad for the fans. Buhner had 200 autographs to sign in an hour and a half and I guess the point of the whole thing was to just get something signed and move on. But I wanted to at least talk to him for a minute or two like I got to talk to Edgar Martinez. I got to tell Edgar how I went to games as a little kid, and cheered for him and chanted, “Ed-GAR! Ed-GAR!” with my Dad and we drove home that night smiling after a M’s win. I shook hands with Martinez and took a picture and all was right in the world.
All wasn’t right in the world on this day. Buhner was a mad man signing autographs. I don’t blame him, though. It’s all about making the fans happy, I suppose. And if it’s just spending two quick seconds getting something signed from a baseball player and not having much interaction, then I guess that’s what makes people happy.
I feel fortunate as a baseball fan, though. I have a decent sized collection of signed baseball memorabilia from some of the greatest baseball players who’ve ever played the game. I’ve met and took pictures with many of my favorite players, I’ve traveled to 14 different MLB stadiums, I’ve seen MLB games in both Japan and Australia, I’ve caught a foul ball and I’ve shook hands with Nelson Cruz in Macy’s in down town Seattle. So over the years it’s been fun.
I walked away from Safeco today feeling happy that I got Buhner’s autograph on a baseball bat that’ll forever be in my collection but at the same time, I felt a little frustrated. I sort of put myself in Buhner’s shoes for a moment, too. He gives a lot of his own time to the fans. He raised the 12th man flag at the Seahawks game and he seems to be pretty involved in the community around the area, plus he goes to these fan fests just about every year. My only wish is during these autograph sessions, the process could just go a little slower.
I picked up a new hobby. It’s called “Geocaching”. Some of you may heard of it and some of you probably won’t know at all what I’m talking about. I’ll tell you all about it in a minute.
This year, I really didn’t do a whole lot of baseball related stuff. I went to a couple of Mariners games and my girlfriend and I traveled to the Cayman Islands for a week. I also flew to Chicago and met Jake Arrieta during the Catch in the Confines event. You can read all about that here.
As the result of not going to many games obviously my “ballhawking” stats have slowed down quite a bit. I’ve snagged 334 baseballs in 119 games (which averages about 2.81 a game) at 15 different stadiums. I have focused more on getting pictures with different players and getting good autographs from my favorite players. I’ve gotten two bats signed; one by Eric Davis and one by Miguel Olivo, I caught Dustin Ackley’s batting glove a few years ago and I have signed baseballs from Mark McGwire, Will Clark, Jake Arrieta, Brandon League and a few others.
In 2016, I would like to snag my 400th baseball but that might be a stretch. I have tentative plans to see the Pirates play at Hiram Bithorn stadium in Puerto Rico in May, as well as taking a trip to Europe and Hawaii later in the year. And I would like to travel to Los Angeles to see the Dodgers and possibly get to Arizona next year.
So back to this geocaching thing. While sitting in the lobby of a shop waiting for my motorcycle to get some work done, I overheard a couple people talking about geocaching. They were saying how they’re from England and came to Washington State to geocache. Since I’m a big fan of traveling, I thought I could get into this when I’m bored when visiting other countries. So I Googled it and found it to be truly interesting. There are 2.7 million caches hidden around the world and since February of this year, I’ve found 193 of them. So far I’m on an active streak of finding at least one cache per day for nine days straight right now. My numbers seem minimal and that’s fine. I just started caching this year.
There’s a lot of different caches and I tend to like the traditional caches and the Earth Caches the best. Earth caches are defined as finding a historical land mark or a type of geological find and taking your picture with it and logging some questions to the person who placed the cache there. I’ve found a handful of these and have learned a lot about glacial erratic rocks. Since I’m living in the Pacific Northwest, there are a lot of these. Traditional caches are just a container (big or small) hidden somewhere in the landscape both urban or rural. Urban caching, as I like to call it, makes me feel like a weirdo stalking around and acting suspicious. Rural caching is much better because I usually take my dog with me and we are hiking back trails and digging around in the bush. So it looks pretty normal.
I do miss the baseball stadiums, though. In 2013 I traveled a lot and saw a lot of different cities and stadiums. It was a lot of fun and I think this is a much needed break from the daily grind of going to as many games as possible and trying to catch as many baseballs as I can. I’ll probably never snag 1,000 baseballs within my lifetime and, really, I don’t intend to. I probably won’t even catch 500. My goal is to get to all the stadiums and catch at least one ball. Sadly, Turner Field is going to get demolished at the end of 2016 and I may not make it there.
So to conclude 2015, I had a great year. 2016 will probably be better and I hope to blog a lot more.
I hope everyone is having a great holiday!
This wasn’t exactly a game at the ballpark that I’d be attending and trying to catch baseballs and whatnot. This was the 11th annual Catch in the Confines put on by the Chicago Cubs and I flew all the way from Seattle to be here.
I also met up with Shawn, another ballhawk, from Milwaukee:
This was the first time Shawn and I met up for something like this, and I’m glad I got to share this experience with someone who loves the game as much as I do.
If you’re unfamiliar with what Catch in the Confines actually is, well, I will tell you. The ticket to get inside is around $150 and all proceeds go to Cubs charities. The fans enter into the stadium, go sit in the seating bowl behind home late and receive a barrage of instructions. Basically, the do’s and don’t’s. Don’t touch the ivy, do play catch, etc.
This is the first time the Cubs actually had a Cubs player join the fans on the field. I was excited about that and when I found out it was going to be Jake Arrieta, I immediately bought a ticket, booked a flight and made hotel reservations. I tweeted Shawn and asked if he could make it out, too and he happily obliged. We also tried to get Zack Hample to join us as well, but he stated he wasn’t traveling much this year. I don’t blame him. Traveling around the United States has become such a wretched endeavor.
But nonetheless, I made it to Chicago and more importantly, I made it to Wrigley Field:
The last time I came to Wrigley Field was back in 2009. At that time I didn’t have a blog and I wasn’t really blogging about all of my baseball trips. I didn’t come out for a game, either. It was for some kind of meet n’ greet that the fans got to come into the stadium, walk around the infield and then we all filed into the stands to meet the current Cubs roster. I brought in an official MLB baseball and had Lou Piniella sign that and then used the ball that they gave me for signatures from the rest of the Cubs players.
Once inside, Shawn and I scavenged the stadium for any baseballs that might have been missed by the grounds crew from the day before. Specific instructions were given not to touch the ivy so Shawn’s plan to rifle through the ivy to find any baseballs was shot down.
Here’s me at the wall:
I touched the brick, I touched the grass, I touched infield dirt, I sat on the bullpen bench and I sat in both dugouts. I even drank from the water fountains inside the dugouts. Shawn threw some pitches off the visitors bullpen mound and I caught for him. It was literally a free-for-all on the field and no one said anything to anyone as long as everyone was having a good time and being safe. There was an opportunity to take some swings in the underground battling cages if you wanted, I opted out of that. Later, Shawn tweeted some pictures of the experience.
Finally, I got a chance to talk with Jake Arrieta. If you follow baseball closely like I do, you’ll know that Dan Plesac calls Jake Arrieta, Jake “State Farm” Arrieta on Twitter. So I asked Jake how he responded to that:
Me: “So Dan Plesac calls you Jake “State Farm” Arrieta. Do you like that nickname?”.
Me: “Dan Plesac. You know, the “Hey, Chief…” guy on MLB Network? The three-time All-Star Brewers pitcher?”
J.A: “Yeah, I mean…it’s been around for so long…It’s kind of old.”
Me: “I suppose. Well, I was wondering if you could sign my ball Jake “from State Farm” Arrieta?”
This was the outcome:
Yep! The ball was signed “Jake From” at the top of the ball, then he signed his signature then on the lower portion of the baseball, he signed “State Farm”. Perfect. And I might add, this is one the best autographs I’ve ever received from a player.
After that, I proceeded to photo bomb Jake Arrieta…
…And some more…
…and one more for good measure:
Jake was the coolest guy ever, too. I had a longing question for any baseball player, really. Ever since Twitter came out I have always been curious of celebrity twitter accounts. How they work, are they different from everyone elses, does the blue check mark do anything, you know, odd-ball questions like that. I never really had the opportunity to ask any players during batting practice because they are all kind of busy doing stuff. Jake was just standing there so I posed the question on him.
I said, “you know, I don’t have a blue check mark. So when I tweet, and since I’m not popular like you, nothing happens. I rarely get anyone retweeting my tweets. But you, you know, since you’re a baseball player for the Cubs, when you tweet, what happens?”
He kind of stared at me for a moment like “is this guy serious?” Or maybe he was unsure what I was asking since players are probably routinely asked what kind of pizza they like or which stadium they like the best. Not some crazy question about their Twitter account. But yes, indeed. I was as serious as they come. I wanted to know. In fact, if Arrieta had his phone near him I probably would have asked him to tweet something so I could see first-hand what happens.
He initially laughed at my question and then went on to explain that everything is pretty much the same as anyone else’s account. There’s nothing special about his account just because he has a blue check mark. When he tweets, he gets notifications in his mentions just like anyone else would.
Interesting. Having a celebrity twitter account wasn’t exactly as exciting as I had expected but hey. Now I know.
After I talked with Arrieta, I was pulled aside by CN100Sports and was interviewed about my experience. It should air some time soon on Comcast Xfinity on Demand, so if you’re in the Chicago area or have Comcast, you ought to see if you can find the interview. Here’s a Youtube snippet about the event:
Fast-forward to .22 seconds for a glimpse of me on there.
Until next time!
Sunday games at Safeco Field (or any ballpark for that matter) are always a challenge when it comes to attempting to snag baseballs. There’s no batting practice for one, and it’s usually family day so that means lots and lots of kids are coming out.
If it’s one thing I’ve learned over the years of “ballhawking” at Major League stadiums, 1) players like to throw baseballs to kids and 2) without batting practice, it makes things extremely tough. On the plus side, the Mariners were doing a little infield practice and I already saw an opportunity to snag a few baseballs.
When I ran over to the first base side I found a ball sitting in between the seats which was probably an over throw from one of the players while fielding fungos from one of the coaches. It wasn’t long before I scored another over throw:
After that, I ran over to where Fernando Rodney was throwing and when he was done throwing, I was able to get his autograph on my ticket stub:
On the other side of the stadium, the Rangers were slowly trickling out of the dugout to warm up down the third base side. It wasn’t long before I scored a third over throw that hit the padding of the wall. I quickly scooped it up and tossed it back onto the field.
See the guy with his leg up in this panoramic picture I took?
That’s one of the translators for one of the players and he was missing a lot of baseballs while playing long toss with Tanner Scheppers. And yup, you guessed it. Yet another over throw right into my glove. Of course I had to give it back because they only came out with one ball to play catch with.
My haul after all the players went inside:
(two pictured here because I gave two back)
And now the infamous ‘Pen dog that I’ve been waiting all year to eat…
…cream cheese smeared on the bun, a 100% all beef frank with caramelized onions and peppers…yum.
The Mariners quickly got two runs on the board with an Austin Jackson home run and a Nelson Cruz home run (Jason Phillips caught it in his hat. It was quite impressive and you should watch the replay).
The Rangers answered back in the 3rd with a single from Prince Fielder that scored Martin and moved Andrus to 2nd. And then the wheels literally fell off. Paxton was chased from the mound after giving up seven runs in the 3rd inning.
The Mariners continued their offensive battle with another Nelson Cruz 3-run home run into the Rangers bullpen. 7-5 Texas.
The Rangers made the score 10-5 in their top half of the sixth and the Mariners quickly rallied back in the bottom of the seventh and the eighth scoring three runs.
In the bottom of the ninth, it was time to put on the rally caps! The M’s came screaming back scoring one run to tie after Jackson ripped one to right field scoring Brad Miller. Seth Smith moved over to third base and all it took was a Nelson Cruz base walk-off base hit! He was mobbed at first base and the Mariners won in walk-off fashion!
Nelson Cruz went 3-6 with two home runs and five RBI’s! Wow! It feels really good to have such a power hitter in the line up. It’s been a long time since Seattle has had one.