Ahhhhh! Baseball is back! The 2018 season is officially underway, and guess what?! I’m attending Opening Day at Safeco Field! At the last minute I purchased a standing room only (SRO) ticket for $30 bucks! I’m pretty excited. I don’t attend Opening Day very often because the crowd is so huge it’s hard to move around the stadium in a timely fashion. But hey. It’s a new season, so what the heck.
Over the offseason there was quite the controversy about the new netting that would be going up in all the stadiums. Being a Ballhawk, I thought it would greatly reduce my chances of getting baseballs at games. Although, my overall strategy regarding where I snag will probably never change, I could imagine it might but a damper on some aspects of ballhawking. I really don’t have a problem with the reduction of baseballs caught due to the netting. What I have a problem with is: the inability of fans to protect themselves due to large amounts of distractions cause by, well, themselves.
I’ve sat in many different seats over the course of 29 years of being a fan of the game. I’ve sat in the outfield, I’ve sat behind home plate, I’ve sat behind the dugouts, in the 300th level, you name it, I’ve sat there. Many foul balls have come to my general vicinity, and many have come close where as if I made more of an effort, I probably would have caught the ball. It’s not in my nature to be overly aggressive when it comes to catching baseballs in the stadiums. I look for pristine opportunity where it takes minimal effort. Weird, I know.
The netting, (in my opinion) creates a false sense of security for fans. Fans are already severely distracted by their phones, conversation and other things besides watching the game. I understand. The game can become slow and some people just don’t have the attention span to stay focused. Some games average a little over three hours where some games are over in two. So with the inability to stay focused in high foul ball areas within the stadium, the amount of distractions we have caused for ourselves and the velocity of these baseballs entering the seats, it equals disaster. Is that really Major League Baseballs fault, though? Have we reached a point in our culture here in America where instead of taking a look at ourselves in the mirror we are quick to point fingers? Interesting enough, there is a website dedicated to foul ball statistics. Its http://www.Foulballz.com.
Opening Day was sort of special for me this year because Ichiro Suzuki had been signed by the Mariners during spring training. Ichiro, (which by the way is the only player I know that everyone calls by his first name) didn’t have a stellar spring training. He injured himself towards the end and people really had their doubts about him. I felt it was sort of feel-good and nostalgic to have him back on the team. Kind of like when Ken Griffey Jr. came back to the Mariners. I know in my heart that this won’t last long so I don’t get too excited when he’s playing. I just soak it in like anyone else. I had to hold back tears when his name was called to run down the red carpet. Seriously. Baseball is an emotional sport for me.
Felix Hernandez received the opening day nod, and it was great to see him pitch. Since my ticket was in a SRO section (which I never found, and I’m assuming it’s just wherever you can find a spot to stand) I found myself in The ‘Pen. I hate The ‘Pen. I hate everything about The ‘Pen. It’s full of drunk college kids who couldn’t careless about the baseball game. They come to drink overpriced beer and socialize. It’s an area to socialize and hangout. Who comes to Safeco Field to just “hang out”? And this is why MLB is forced to put up netting. Because there isn’t a focus on what’s happening on the field. But I digress.
Nelson Cruz led off the top of the first with a bomb to centerfield. I made a decision not to wear my baseball glove because I didn’t want to be the only person in The ‘Pen wearing one. I actually cared what people around me thought of me. Which is truly sad. My goal is to catch home run baseballs. I had a great opportunity right in front of me. Ten feet away. The ball sailed my way, my right leg twitched in anticipation that I’d set my body in motion to run towards it and catch it. It was 100% catch-able. I stalled. I didn’t move. I just stood there while the baseball sailed just left of The ‘Pen wall, ricocheted off some drunk idiots hand and bounced behind the centerfield wall. It finally landed near some batting practice equipment and was soon scooped up by stadium security to be gone forever. Sad. The M’s were quickly up 2-0.
The Indians attempted a comeback but with Edwin Diaz on the mound, it was not likely to happen. Diaz struck out Yonder Alonso, Edwin Encarnacion was hit by a pitch and Diaz then balked which moved Raja Davis (who replaced Encarnacion on the base path) to second base. Chisenhall was hit by a pitch, (challenged by the Indians; which was overturned in their favor) and then Davis stole third. Whooooo nelly! Things are getting intense! Yan Gomes went down swinging and then Diaz K’-ed Tyler Naquin to end the game and notch his first save of the season! As long as I’ve been watching Mariners baseball, the closer for the M’s has always, always made it edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting 9th innings. Ball game!
Total Lifetime Games Attended: 129
Total Baseballs Snagged This Season: 4
Total Lifetime Baseballs Snagged: 362
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
Thanks to my lovely girlfriend for showing me how to do panoramic pictures using just my iPhone, I took this picture of outside Safeco Field on Felix Hernandez bobble head night:
From where I was standing was the start of the line to get into the ‘Pen and the line, as you can see, literally went along the stadium, underneath the overpass and back around the adjacent building and down the street. We showed up about an hour and forty minutes before the gates opened and there were about 15 people ahead of us in line. This is the latest I’ve ever showed up to a game for a bobble head and this was the end result…
…score!! King Felix Bobble heads! The crowd was enormous and there wasn’t many opportunities to snag so I headed out to the ‘Pen and hoped for something. It wasn’t long before I was able to squeeze into the front row and catch a ground rule double that bounced into the crowd and was bobbled by about four people before I finally got my glove on it. The next one came in on my right (I ended up giving up my spot) and again was bobbled by about five people before I ended up with it. Not sure who hit both. Honestly, I couldn’t wait for the game to get started so I could sit down. Waiting in line for hours on end takes a tremendous toll on me and quite frankly I’m sick of it. There’s a good chance I’m done collecting these bobble heads.
My seat was up in section 187 which sucked because I’m trying to catch a home run baseball this season. Safeco Field is huge and has lots of good areas to snag one but it’s tricky. Paying close attention to the line ups and who’s pitching generally gives good insight on where to sit. The bullpen area takes up a lot of home run territory and getting an opportunity to catch one out of there is next to impossible. A broad stroke of luck is definitely in order. The right field seating is probably the best place and obviously odds increase with low attendance. With Nelson Cruz hitting so many bombs, it was hard pressed not to just stay in the ‘Pen for the game.
I made my way over to the dugouts and took another panoramic picture:
Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre had to put on a show by mashing a barrage of home runs into the right field seats. It was quite impressive and reminded me of the games I went to at Coors Field where I watched Matt Holiday and Albert Pujols do the same thing.
With Felix Hernandez on the mound for the game, it would more than likely end in a Mariners victory.
Quick game recap: Robinson Cano scores on a sac fly from Seth Smith in the fourth. The Rangers get one back in their top half of the fifth on a ground out to Brad Miller. Mike Zunino crushed one to center field (upper deck, mind you) in the bottom of the fifth to answer back and then in the sixth inning, Miller triples in Kyle Seager and King Felix goes 8 innings, strikeouts 12 and Fernando Rodney comes in and slams the door in the Rangers faces. Boom. The game lasted three hours on the nose.
So how’s that new shot clock to speed the game up working out for everyone? The games are still going three hours plus. I asked a bunch of people on Twitter what their opinions were on the whole issue and this is what I received:
Lots and lots of good opinions that I truly respect and understand. If people have “other things to do” then maybe seeing a baseball game in the evening time isn’t going to work out. The game of baseball is a mental battle that generally takes place between the pitcher and the batter. It’s not supposed to be action packed. This isn’t football or soccer. It’s a game of wits. It takes time. Furthermore, if people have “things to do” then why do I see a vast majority of fans double fisting beer cups and getting sloppy drunk at game? I pay anywhere from $18-40 dollars for a ticket to see a game of baseball. With the rising cost of tickets, food and other concessions, I don’t want the game to be cut short because people have “things to do” or they’re bored or there isn’t enough action to entertain their feeble minds. The game will be played the way it’s played and people like Robert Manfred who try to shorten the game and change things around are a disgrace to baseball. If you don’t want to sit in a stadium for three hours watching baseball then don’t. Leave in the seventh inning or leave in the sixth. Fans who love the game shouldn’t be cheated out of their experience because bandwagon fans who show up only when the team is successful want a faster-paced game.
This movement created by pseudo-fans will soon die out when they realize they can’t speed up perfection.
The Mariners returned home after being swept out of Los Angeles by the Dodgers. It was frustrating and difficult to have any hope for this team. BUT. That’s kind of how it is as a Seattle Mariners fan. A lot of people were upset with Fernando Rodney because he blew two save opportunities; one game in which he should’ve won.
Anyway. The good ol’ Texas Rangers were in town for a three game series and tonight was College night on top of Bearded Hat night. The stadium would be a close sell-out. Because of those two reasons, I decided to come out to the ballpark a few hours earlier than normal. When I got to the stadium, Kyle Seager was being interviewed in Edgar’s Cantina on the Danny, Dave, and Moore show. Once he finished, I suppose that would’ve been a great opportunity to grab an autograph or a picture with the Gold Glove awardee but we just waved at each other and he was then carted off and out of my life:
Before all of that, I stood near Ryan Divish (A beat writer for the Seattle Times) out in front of Safeco Field:
He’s the one in front with the black back pack on. I tweeted at him and this is what he tweeted back:
Next time we shall, Ryan. Next time we shall.
Once inside the stadium, I hustled to the ‘Pen as usual and immediately got a toss-up from Willie Bloomquist. He’s one of my all-time favorite players. I gave that ball away to a friend of mine who has never really attempted to catch baseballs during BP before. During the process of getting the ball from Bloomquist, he asked me if I wanted a Selig ball or a Manfred ball. I told him it really didn’t matter; I wasn’t the picky type when getting anything from a player but good ol’ Willie B. insisted that he throw me a Manfred in decent condition.
Ackley stepped into the cage and absolutely raked home runs. Two moonshots were sent directly to me; one in which I caught on a nasty bounce near the Root Sports area and the second one I caught on an extremely lucky bounce off the garage door near the batters eye:
About half way up the door is where the ball hit and then bounced directly to me. Luckiest. Bounce. Ever.
After being allowed to roam the rest of the stadium, I went over to the third base seating bowl where I found one baseball, caught a foul ball on a bounce and got Shawn Tolleson to hook me up with my sixth ball of the day. My main objective was to get an autograph or a picture with a Rangers player. I’m trying to get a picture with one player from each team. So far I have pictures with the Marlins, Reds, Orioles, Rays, Angels, Mariners, Athletics, Indians, Tigers, Astros and Royals.
Adam Rosales ignored me, Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre signed at the dugout, Carlos Peguero said no and Roman Mendez ran right passed me. Blah.
Here’s my haul for the day, though:
And here’s a glorious picture of my $7 dollar wiener:
I sat in right field in section 106 about three rows up from the field in hopes to catch a home run ball. That’s where I’ll be sitting the majority of the games I attend just for that reason. I’ve caught so many BP baseballs and one foul ball during a game plus a handful of “3rd out” baseballs from various players. I think it would be awesome to catch a home run gamer and get that little 10 seconds of fame.
The game was ridiculous. I actually anticipated a blow out with J.A. Happ on the mound. He reminds me so much of “Safeco” Joe Saunders. The Rangers posted the first run of the game on a sharply hit double down the left field line that Ackley had trouble cutting off. Leonys Martin turned on the gas and scored easily from first base. Then in the fifth inning, Happ gave up a solo shot to deep centerfield to Robinson Chirinos. The ball bounced off a few hands and ended up down in the gap behind the center field wall and some fan jumped down there to get it. I was kind of jealous because I think at this point (and as packed as the stadium was) I would’ve risked jumping down there too for a home run ball. I’m not sure if security ever caught up with him or what. It’s totally worth the ejection if ever caught, though.
The Mariners grounded into three double play balls that literally killed their momentum to score each time. It was brutal to watch. They did finally tack on a run in the bottom of the eight off of a Seth Smith sac fly that scored Miller from third base but the Rangers came back and extended the lead again with an Adam Rosales single. The ball literally hit the third base bag which allowed Chirinos to score.
Final score: Rangers 3 Mariners 1.
Tomorrow is Felix Hernandez bobble head day.
Today marked the day of a new age. A new baseball season and a new way of life. Baseball is slowly turning into a glamorous shot of reality of shot clocks, smaller strike zones and over-priced foods that barely cater to our taste buds. My favorite players were slowly fading out while the new, young rookies quickly filled their void.
I watched Albert Pujols for about 25 minutes while sitting in the lower first base seating bowl after the Mariners had taken their hacks in the batting cage. He looked tired and ready to retire, to be honest. There he stood, barely following the routine stretches that the trainer was directing. Like he had been in the Major Leagues so long that he was above all of the stretching and running and conditioning. It was for the rookies, his face said.
Eventually he picked up a baseball and played catch with Erik Aybar for about five whole minutes…
…then he stood behind the batting cage and talked to Jay Buhner for nearly the rest of batting practice. He did get into the cage, though. Pujols took about six total swings never once putting one into the bleachers. He never interacted with any fans, signed any autographs or even acknowledged our fan-existence.
I reminisced with a friend of mine about the time when Pujols was playing with the St. Louis Cardinals. Him and Matt Holiday would crush during BP. It was when I visited Coors Field for the first time some time ago and I thought it was quite impressive. The two All-Stars on the Cardinals were really putting on a show.
Now the stark reality of old age and being a veteran icon sets in. No real need to show the youngsters that you can crush BP home runs. Mostly, no one is interested in you anymore. It’s all about the Mike Trouts and the Mike Moustakas, and the Clayton Kershaws. Take a seat, Pujols.
After shagging six baseballs from around the stadium, I found myself out in centerfield. Mariners games are always a lot of fun for me, and for many years I was always happy about the food. Recently, with the rising prices of everything within in the confines of the stadium, the flavor has diminished. Maybe the flavor had been removed to pay for the new shot clock out in centerfield.
I tried a slice of pizza like always. Satisfying; killed the hunger pains immediately. Then I tried what’s called a “Baconburg”. I asked the guy what exactly a baconburg was and he replied with, “It’s a hamburger with bacon…” Ohhhhh, okay. Thanks for clarifying, smartguy. The bun was stale, the mayo seemed old and the whole thing kind of fell apart in my hands. I was not impressed to say the least.
The game itself blew by. David Freese blasted a two-run home run to centerfield to a fan who couldn’t hold on for the catch but was rewarded with the baseball anyway. Two sections over from where I was sitting. McClendon talks a big game but it feels like the Mariners are picking up right where they left off from last season. Barely any run support for their ace on the mound…and the defense is trying.
Safeco is in a unique location in Seattle…
…because we always get awesome sunsets.
When I think back on my childhood and all the Mariners games I attended with my Dad, all that comes to mind is Randy Johnson striking out like, a billion baseball players. Randy Johnson was one of the most fearless, intimidating, gritty, nasty baseball players of all time. If only the Mariners had a pitcher like that today…
…the guy who comes the closest to the Big Unit is Tom Wilhelmsen. Yeah, he’s the Mariners closer, but look at him. I know he’s not seven feet tall like Randy is, but he comes awfully close. Plus, he’s gotten so good on the mound this last season, its getting the to point where we might have ourselves a solid closer. During BP, and after the Mariners portion had ended, I flagged Tom down and congratulated him on his new closer role. When he shook my hand, it felt like he had enough power to crush mine! It was incredible! The man was born to throw strikes! Here we are hanging out after BP:
After hanging out with Tom for a few moments, I wandered the stadium aimlessly. Since I’m not chasing down baseballs during BP anymore, things aren’t as thrilling. And the point of not chasing baseballs anymore is to get away from medicore blog writing. The same thing every day at the same stadium? It could get a little boring.
I sat in the bleachers and watched Albert Pujols for a while. The man is so…broken. And old. I feel so bad for him. He took a few cuts in the batting cage and then he decided to run the bases while the other, more younger, better players took some hacks. He didn’t even finish his rounding the bases. It’s like he gave up at second base and decided to call it a day…
…if you can tell, I’m not a Pujols fan at all. And it’s got everything to do with him uprooting and leaving St. Louis. I understand he has to do what’s best for his family and blah blah blah, and in all fairness to the Cardinals fans, that city poured their heart and soul into him. They even built him a statue. He wouldn’t even sign the World Series team ball.
I pulled up a spot to admire the ‘Pen from above. And this is what I noticed:
Hopefully these guys have a plan to get home, right? Besides any of them driving.
The game was actually very entertaining. The Mariners had the bases loaded twice and could not capitalize on either chance to score. And like one of last weeks games, third base coach Jeff Datz managed to send Justin Smoak into score where he was thrown out by a mile! I’m not sure what Datz sees in Smoak. He’s one of the slower Mariners and Datz keeps sending him home in tight scoring situations! Anyway.
The Mariners lost to the Angels 6-3 in nine innings of play. Nothing spectacular.
Bud Norris’ Charity; CandleLighters- 3 W and 16 strikeouts have raised $10 this season.
Seattle Mariners/Seattle Humane Society Charity; 9 wins have raised $9 this season.
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