Of all the games I attended this season, maybe with the exception of the one at Marlins Park, I was the most excited for this one. This would be my last game of the year, and my goal was to snag a Marlins Park commemorative baseball. I was focused on that quality, and not concerned with amassing any quantity that would hinder my ability to do that.
At least that was the plan…but then things got interesting.
I’m not exactly sure you could call me a “ballhawk,” at least not in decent comparison to all the amazing snaggers out there. I don’t obsess over it to the point that I find myself competing with small children for balls, I don’t use devices to pluck balls out of bullpens or the field of play (only from wall gaps), and I find no need to amass thousands of baseballs.
I love tracking at catching batting practice home runs, so my plan for the day was to catch as many homers during the Nats’ portion of BP as I could, and then work the Marlins pitchers for toss-ups simply because Miami only uses their commemoratives to throw with, at least on the road.
My single-game record up to this point had been four baseballs, something I achieved three separate times. Not that impressive in comparison to a lot of people I know, but not that shabby for my personal expectations. Nevertheless, I really wanted to break that record. When I entered Nats Park at 4:30, I went straight to the Red Porch, and had the section to myself for a few minutes. In order to simplify things, I had only brought Marlins gear because again, I simply did not care about quantity. Unfortunately, no home runs made their way into the Red Porch until more people showed up, but I was able to snag a few balls before the home runs started coming.
Ryan Mattheus was shagging in front of our section, and at one point a ball rolled up to the wall, which he proceeded to retrieve. Before he could turn around, another liner came his way, and he scooped that one as well. With two balls in hand, he was almost obligated to toss one up to a neutrally-dressed kid in the section pleading for it. Then I caught a glimpse of the ball in his hand, and I noticed it had a commemorative logo. I was shocked, and dumbfounded, and I also had no clue what logo it was. Mattheus blindly tossed it up, and it drifted back into the middle of the section. I raced over and picked it up before the other kid, whom I believed was the intended target, could. I would have given him the ball straight away since he was the intended target, but it was a special one.
For some strange reason, the ball was a Nationals Park 2008 Inaugural Season commemorative, something I did not have. Since the ball was rightfully mine, I kept it, and gave the other kid a clean, normal baseball I brought with me for autographs. He told me I could keep both, but I insisted he have my other ball since he was the intended target. That was ball number one.
-My dad caught a toss up and informed me it was a Shea Stadium final season commemorative…weird.
-The aforementioned teenager got a toss up from someone and dropped it into the gap behind the Red Porch wall.
-I was wandering towards that spot with the intention to glove-trick it and give it to the kid when another toss up ascended for him and landed in the seats near me. I picked it up (ball number 2) and gave it to either that kid or another man who was there snagging. Some trading and swapping ensued and I’m not sure who actually ended up with that one, but the kid had two at that point, including the first one I gave him, and the other man had at least one.
-I busted out my glove trick and reeled up the darned thing to the amusement of the onlookers (ball number 3). I offered to give it to the kid again in exchange for the one I gave him previously, but he insisted I keep the one I had just hooked (it was a commemorative), so I did not argue.
-Michael Morse was bombing during BP, bombarding folks having dinner at the Red Lounge (haha).
-I moved to the back row of the Red Porch seats for a Michael Morse round when he CRUSHED one toward me. I peeked, ran to my right, peeked, ran up some steep steps, peeked again, and saw the ball descending well behind me. It hit off a cross-aisle, bounced off the Red Porch restaurant, and descended perfectly into the cross-aisle I was standing on, and into my awaiting glove (numero quatro). And wouldn’t ya know…it was a Shea Stadium ball!
-With another right-handed slugger batting (probably Morse or Werth, but I don’t recall), a deep drive was launched toward the Porch. I had underestimated the distance of several previous blasts, but I overcompensated for this one. I drifted to the back row of the porch, but soon realized the ball would land short. It landed in a seat, and since the seat bottoms on the Red Porch are cushioned, the ball stuck. I ran over and grabbed it (number five).
-The Porch was beginning to get crowded at this point, and people had already seen me get a few balls, so I knew unless I were to make a spectacular catch on something, I’d have to give it away.
-I had broken my record, but had no intention on being done. If someone had informed me before I entered the stadium that I would come home with multiple commemorative balls, I would have been overjoyed. I had achieved that by this point, but was not satisfied because my goal had not yet been fulfilled.
-It may have been Morse, again, maybe Werth, who crushed a Red Porch homer a few moments later. It drifted towards the centerfield-side steps and bounced, out of reach of anyone, straight into the air. I ran up to it and, without any contest, caught it (number six). I gave it to a kid who had not caught a ball yet.
-Heath Bell only gave balls to kids, even though he acknowledged me.
-I talked to Chad Gaudin about getting one, and he said he would have, but he didn’t have one.
-I went to the dugout and was ignored by Carlos Lee and Giancarlo Stanton, but I got the attention of Rob Brantley, who was rather socially awkward (I’ll explain later).
-Brantley was in the same situation as Gaudin.
I gave up on my current endeavor and made my way back to the left field seats. I cut through a few rows in left field and was above the bullpen when I saw Carlos Lee take a free, easy swing and launch one in my direction. It was tailing, and I did not run as far to my left as I needed to as the ball drifted away from me. It bounced off the tip of my glove, and was picked up by an older gentleman almost as soon as it dropped to the ground. That was actually the second time that had happened to me that afternoon, and I was perplexed because earlier this season I was able to pinpoint home runs much better.
-As I entered the Red Porch again, Lee unloaded on another one that was heading toward the cross-aisle behind the seats. Luckily for me, I was already standing there. I took a few steps over and made an easy catch (seventh ball). And I found myself surprised again.
The ball was an almost brand new Dodger Stadium 50th Anniversary commemorative. Sweet! (Of course, I kept it).
I needed three more balls to get to double digits, and I honestly did not believe I would get there. But there were some Marlins pitchers in center field, whose names I did know; however, there were too many small kids to compete with.
-Luckily, a Marlins pitcher (it was either Dan Jennings or Tom Koehler) blindly tossed one up into the seats that overshot the kids in the front row. I raced across a row and lunged to make a catch (number 8). I gave that one away.
-Soon after, a ball was dropped into the all-important gap behind the wall, and I
plucked it out (number 9) and gave it away. I believe that one was also a Dodger Stadium commemorative.
-Then a home run landed in the gap (never seen that before), and I glove tricked for number 10. This was the only one of the day that was not a commemorative of some sort. I gave that one away too. (If I did not specify on any of my first nine balls, assume it was a Nationals Park commemorative, because most of them were).
-I may have flip-flopped numbers nine and ten, but I know for sure that the last two were glove-tricked.
-The Dodger Stadium commemorative (that I glove tricked) I gave to a kid wearing an orange Hanley Ramirez jersey. Despite the fact that he was not wearing a glove, I had to favor him.
I worked the bullpen before the game, and I tried to talk to Rob Brantley, but as I said, he was socially awkward. When he entered the bullpen, and prepared to receive warm-up tosses from Jeff Urgelles, I said, “Rob!” He slowly turned and spotted me. I just wanted to make conversation, so I asked, “Turner is pitching today, right?” He hesitantly nodded without breaking his straight face or saying a word.
There were too many kids at the bullpen, and I did not want to seem obtrusive or obsessive, so I departed, satisfied with the five balls I had kept. I snagged a total of ten balls at this game. I kept five of them, and gave five away simply because I’m not an advocate of big people competing against small people for baseballs.
The “Cherry Picking” in the title is in reference to the fact that I benefited from over-thrown toss ups not intended for me. I “cherry-picked” behind the intended targets to snag them.
I will write a separate post about the game itself in the near future.