6/13/07 at Camden Yards

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The best part about the day was that I had a two-man camera crew from UGO.com following me around. The other best part was that the producer–a supernice guy named Chris–paid for everything. Oren, the camera man, was also really cool, and we all had lots of laughs as we drove to Baltimore together.

The worst part about the day was the weather. The forecast was iffy, and we were paranoid that batting practice would be canceled. We celebrated the brief patches of sunlight and cursed the sporadic raindrops. The sky was dark gray. Then bright gray. Then partly sunny. Then a mixture of grays. It was maddening, but at least the sun had reemerged by the time we headed inside Camden Yards at 4:30pm with our media credentials…

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Woo-hoo!!! There was batting practice!!! We weren’t allowed to go to the outfield seats until the stadium opened to the public at 5pm, so we headed down to the front row for a closer look. Oren hooked up my microphone. Chris made some phone calls. We discussed my plans for BP. I was going to spend the first half-hour in the right field standing-room-only section and then head to the left field seats.

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Suddenly, at around 4:45pm, the grounds crew pulled back the batting cage and frantically started covering the field. It was still sunny. We were heartbroken. And confused. What was the rush?

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And why was Melvin Mora helping to pull the corner of the tarp into place?

Fine, it was about to start raining, and there wasn’t going to be batting practice. No big deal. It was only my nightmare, and life went on. I needed to snag some baseballs, and Oren needed to get some footage of me snagging them. Unfortunately, he hadn’t yet turned on his camera when I got an unexpected ball tossed to me behind the plate by Nationals coach Jose Martinez. Five minutes later, he followed me out to the left field foul line, jason_simontacchi.jpgand Jason Simontacchi threw me my second ball of the day. Because I was the only fan in the seats, Simontacchi spotted me before I even asked for the ball and chucked it in my direction.

Within the next 10 minutes, three things happened:

1) It started drizzling.
2) The rest of the Nationals pitchers came out to left field and began to play catch.
3) Two dozen fans packed into the front row in foul territory.

The seats in straight-away left field were completely empty, so I jogged out there and asked John Patterson if he could toss me the ball when he was done. By the time he finished and looked my way, the drizzle had turned into a steady rain.

“Go long!” he yelled.

Sweet. He wanted to make me earn it by racing through the seats like a wide receiver.

John_pattersonPoor Oren. Not only was his camera getting wet, but I nearly ruined the shot for him. When he heard Patterson’s command, he figured I was going to run up the steps to get farther away from the field–so HE headed up the steps–but instead I darted to my left and cut through a row of seats. Just before Patterson threw the ball, I took a quick peek down to make sure I was running in a straight line, and I saw another ball wedged in a seat. Hell yeah, it must’ve landed there during early BP, but I didn’t want to do anything that would prevent Patterson from giving me his ball, so I kept running and looked up as his throw sailed 10 feet over my head. The ball disappeared into the seats, and I panicked when I couldn’t find it right away. How much time did I have before the other fans would join the search? The ball had landed several rows above me, and I waited for it to trickle down the steps, but that didn’t happen, so I started climbing over rows of seats and looking at the ground in all directions. Finally, I saw it training_ball.jpgon the wet concrete and grabbed it. Where was the other ball?! How many rows had I climbed over? How many sections had I run through? I looked all around but couldn’t find it. Oren hurried over, and I told the camera what I was doing. I had no clue where to look so I started combing through each row, hoping that I’d rediscover my partially-hidden treasure, and finally, BAM! There it was. I was overjoyed when I grabbed it because it was a different kind of ball–a new variation that I’d never seen before. Last year I snagged eight green training balls. This was my first blue one.

It started pouring, so we took advantage of our media credentials by checking out the press box…

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…and even though UGO.com was paying for all of us, we took advantage of the free hot dogs. There press_box_hot_dogs.jpgwas other stuff for the taking–including snacks and copies of Orioles Magazine–but the coolest thing I got was the game notes. I learned all sorts of useful information, for example:

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1) The Orioles had won Game No. 65 in each of the previous four seasons.

2) Of the 259 batters that Orioles pitchers had walked this season, 78 ended up scoring.

3) The Orioles had scored first in 11 of their previous 12 games, but went 4-8 during that span.

4) The Orioles’ stolen base percentage of 84.2 was the third best in the American League.

5) The Orioles were 3-7 in games when the score had been tied after six innings.

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Chris and Oren and I still had half an hour to kill before the first pitch, so we headed up to the next level and got free ice cream in the media dining room. Jim Palmer was sitting so close that we could hear him talking. (Can you spot him in this photo?)

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One of the best things about seeing a ballpark behind the scenes is discovering secrets about how things are run. Take the pre-game announcements and on-field activities, for example. I’d heard/seen them hundreds of times in my life, but never realized that they’re planned right down to the minute–until I saw the “Pre-Game Schedule of Events” taped to the door of a TV booth.

We headed down to the field level seats at 6:58pm and picked a great spot (for foul balls) on the first base side of home plate. Chris stayed there and kept an eye on my stuff while Oren followed me and kept the camera rolling. I went to the third base side for left-handed hitters and went back to the first base side for righties. I also tried to work both dugouts for third-out balls after each half-inning.

Poor Oren. He had to do a lot of running (and explaining to ushers and fans), and I wasn’t producing. He decided my failure was okay. UGO.com would edit down all the footage and make a montage of my unsuccessful attempts to beg for balls…of Kevin Millar flipping the ball to a little kid after the top of the first…of Tony Batista throwing the ball to the far end of the dugout after the bottom of the first…of oren_films.jpgMillar giving the ball to a different kid after the top of the second…of Brian Schneider not even taking the ball back to the dugout after the bottom of the second.

Things were going so badly that Oren suggested taking a break for a few innings so he could get footage later on when it was dark–you know, to emphasize the fact that time was passing. I convinced him to keep following me a bit longer, and it paid off. With two outs in the top of the third, Steve Trachsel induced Felipe Lopez to ground out to Miguel Tejada. Millar caught the throw at first base and FINALLY hooked me up with my fifth (and final) ball of the day. I felt bad about snagging it because I figured it was going to screw up the montage, but Oren insisted that he wanted me to snag as many balls as possible.

Both starting pitchers–Trachsel for the Orioles and Matt Chico for the Nationals–were unable to throw harder than 87mph. It was lame and infuriating. Their “fast”balls weren’t coming in fast enough for the batters to swing late. There was so little action in the seats that Oren and Chris decided it wasn’t worth it to keep filming.

Late in the game, when hard-throwing relievers had taken over, I came close to a few foul balls, but missed them for reasons which are too frustrating to mention. I was glad the camera wasn’t rolling, and we were all glad when the game ended. It lasted 11 innings, and we had a three-and-a-half-hour drive ahead of us.

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After getting shut out at the Nationals’ dugout, I met my friend Brad for the first time in person. (Brad is the guy who’s sending me to the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game.) We’d spoken on the phone and emailed dozens of times since August, and this was his first trip to the East Coast since then. Eleven hours earlier, he’d flown from San Francisco to New York City and then taken a train to Baltimore in time to race into Camden Yards and see the tarp covering the infield. He’d spent the whole game going for homers in right and left field, so we didn’t catch up until the end of the night. I won’t gush about him too much–I don’t want to be accused of having a Man Crush–so I’ll just say that he’s incredibly kind and generous…and lots of fun to talk to about snagging.

STATS:

• 107 balls in 14 games this season = 7.6 balls per game.

• 469 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 94 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball

• 625 lifetime balls outside of New York

• 89 lifetime balls at Camden Yards

• 3,068 total balls

• 22 days until the Home Run Derby

• 2 months (at least) until the video segment will air on UGO.com

20 Comments

Zack,

Nice recap. Two questions, any idea what was blacked out on your credential? Did it say Clubhouse?

Also, you have to elaborate on…. “I came close to a few foul balls, but missed them for reasons which are too frustrating to mention.”…..

ohh that game was rough for you , how did you do at the mets – yankees game the other night . are you going to post about it ?

Zack, the press box and free food sounds great, but didn’t you know you can get the game notes on MLB.com (or any team website) in “Press Pass” which is linked through the “News” header on each site. I print them out before every game (some teams are late) and they provide the best trivia questions to keep you occupied during the game (e.g, who are the other two players with longer homer-less AB steaks than Miguel Cairo). Btw, I write much neater than that bcimons guy.

Well i won my little league game, so i will not be at Shea on Tuesday.

wcimons: is this some kind of cruel punishment?

just wait til pittsburg, and we’ll see who’s complaning

I notice a few similarities between our two respective trips to Camden (other than the fact that we snagged the same number of balls):

1. I got one of those same training balls too. Does yours have a “CHINA EC04″ on the spot where you usually write the number of the ball? I’ve been trying to figure out what that means. Anyway, a kinda funny story about how I got the ball. Soon after the Nationals came out for BP, Mike Bacsik was in center field. A ball rolled to the warning track. He followed it over, and I sprinted over to the spot right above him and asked for the ball. He inspected the ball and said (in a deep, booming voice) “Yeah, uh, maybe later”. Every time he fielded another ball, he would inspect it before throwing it back to the net behind second base. I knew something was happening related to me, so I stayed close to center field. Ten minutes before the end of BP, he fielded another, this time in much shalower center. I called out “Mike!” as he inspected the ball. He walked a little closer and muttered “Yeah, okay” and tossed it to me. I later figured out that the first four balls or so were regulation balls, but the one he threw me was a training ball (in fact, I caught a glimpse of the first one, and it was a regular ball). I love that he went out of his way to get rid of a training ball! In fact, he threw me a training ball in Spring Training as well! He clearly makes conscious efforts to throw these balls to fans! That’s hilarious!

2. I got a dugout ball from Kevin Millar as well. A couple innings later, I got a third-out strikeout ball from Paul Bako, which made me very unpopular with the folks there. I did not return to the Orioles dugout.

3. I also suffered from some unluckiness with foul balls. I was in a beautiful spot for foul tips most of the night. In the 8th inning, some hitter fouled a ball STRAIGHT back. It was heading for my glove on a straight line. But then it hit the very top of the protective net and fell back down to the field! So frustrating!

4. I also got shut out at the Nationals dugout after the game. Chad Cordero flipped a ball two people to my left!

Zack,
In a few days I will be traveling to clevland and St. Louis to see the phillies play the Indians and Cardinals at Jacobs Feild and busch stadium. I was wondering if you or anyone else has any advice for snagging at Jacobs feild.

I believe Palmer has on a white dress shirt, sitting at a table with another white shirt guy, but he’s staring in another direction? I saw the Phillies at Camden last year and saw Palmer giving advice to Cole Hamels before the game. Pretty cool…

I live in NoVA so I normally go to RFK, but I’ve never seen the Yankees in person and might go to Oriole Park as they visit next week.

I’m sure there’ll be more New York fans there sadly.

I got 2 of those crappy training balls as well, I guess they made them blue this year to make em look more real. The first was from Ray King and then the 2nd was a homerun that I misjudged hit a seat 4 rows above me, bounced off the seat went a section over, there was another guy there and he was like 20 steps ahead of me so I was like dam I’m not gonna get it, but I still walked behind him if there was a chance he missed it or something and sure enough he walked right by it and I picked it up.

I am so glad we live near Tropicana Field because weather is never a problem. Even though June through November is hurricane season, the game must go on!!! If you’re ever a guest here, I’ll buy you a hot dog! ;)

PSU-
The blacked out words were “PRE-GAME FIELD.” Too bad. I really wanted to run naked across the field and dive headfirst onto the tarp. As for the foul balls, I refuse to elaborate. I’m still too frustrated.

SOXSUXYANKS-

I’ll be posting an entry tomorrow about the Mets-Yankees game.

WCIMONS-

I had no idea that the game notes are available online. Hmm. I guess I’m not that cool after all. Is Jason Tyner one of the homerless guys?

BCIMONS-

Congrats on the win. Sorry I won’t be seeing you at Shea.

GREG-

My ball does have the “ECO4″ on it, and I have no idea what it means. Great story about Bacsik. Sorry you didn’t win the Camden Popularity Contest, but I’m guessing that wasn’t your goal. That protective screen is higher this year than last. It’s awful…but not as bad as it could be.

PMOWL-

I’ve only been there for one game, and that was nine years ago, so I don’t remember much. I can tell you, though, that the standing-room-only section is great, and it’s pretty easy to snag balls from the bullpens if you have a glove/cup trick.

MARK-

I think Palmer’s shirt is actually light pink. He’s wearing the only visible tie. Is that who you were talking about? Camden will definitely be packed with Yankees fans. Brace yourself.

JIMMY-

I’m hoping that the training balls will have a different color every season. What do you think about hot pink in ’08?

SURFNUSA-

Only one hot dog? Okay, okay, I’ll take it. Thank you very much. I envy the fact that you have a dome, but sheesh, that is one UGLY dome. No offense (unless you designed it, in which case you should definitely take offesnse).

Zack,

Had a great trip to see the Padres in Tampa. I didn’t do as well as I had hoped, but watched the Padres win 2 of 3. The first game I got Paul McAnulty to throw me one in BP, caught 2 and picked up 2 in BP and got Hiram Bocachica to throw me one at the end of an inning coming in by the Padres dugout. The 2nd game I got shutout completely and third game I didn’t really try and just enjoyed sitting behind the dugout. During the second game Termel Sledge hit a homer right where I was sitting in right field, but the problem was that I moved to behind the dugout two innings before. No luck there. Good to see lots of Padres fans in Tampa. I’ll be back at PETCO on Wednesday for the Orioles. Nice story about your Orioles game by the way. Also, I scored two blue training balls from the Nationals earlier this year in San Diego. No green ones in 2007.

LEIGH

Zack,

Almost forgot. This is for everybody. The outfield rows and aisles in Tampa are really TIGHT. Not the best for running around during BP. The ball does carry there very well, but I personally had a bit of a time tracking the ball with the white roof/dome. Not the best for snagging in the OF. It was easy access to get to the dugouts during the game though. Hope this helps some folks thinking about going to the TROP.

Zack-

Yep, Tyner is still an 0-fer.

Has yet to hit one in the majors. 1164 AB and going strong. He’s come very close a couple of times this year.

As for the other, I’d guess either Castillo, Pierre or Casey…depending upon when their last homerun was last season.

Going to one of the Twins games? Maybe you can get Tyner’s first. Surely, that would be more valuable than a Bonds ?!?!?!? :-)

PADRELEIGH-
Sounds like a combination of good times and frustrating moments. Sorry you got blanked in Game Two, and that really stinks about the homer landing right where you’d been, but overall, not bad.

RICHARD-

Interesting idea about snagging a Tyner homer. I guess if he were going to hit one anywhere, it’d have to be down the right field line, and that happens to be the ONLY place in right field where anyone can go at Shea. Hmm…

EVERYONE-

When I first posted this entry, I mentioned that Oren had missed a couple shots of me snagging balls, specifically the ones that were thrown by Simontacchi and Patterson. I feel terrible. Not only did he he just inform me that he didn’t miss the shots, but I realized that I made him look bad with what I said…so I tweaked a few parts of the entry to show otherwise. Oren was The Man. I’d been trying to show that *I* was being difficult by running all over the place and making his job harder, but I really just made him look inept, and that was absolutely not the case. So everyone…please take note, and Oren…please forgive me. It was a great, GREAT day, and you (and Chris) were awesome.

if you had credentials, y were you goin to the standing room only section for the first half of BP? wOuldnt the credentials allow you to go where the season ticket holders are?

im soooo exited for Pittsburg!! Only 11 days til the first of 3 games. im gonna try to get autos at the hotel before the game, and mayb snag a Prince fielder HR.

my goal: 15 balls, and linup cards

Tyner and Luis Castillo. Jason Kendall was on the list until last week.

Re ugly Trop dome: It’s what’s on the inside that counts! ;)

Whoops, delayed reply…

BCIMONS-

Yes, I would’ve been able to head straight to left field, but I wanted to provide the camera man with some different shots, so I was gonna spend half an hour in right field and the rest of the time in left. Good luck in Pittsburgh!

WCIMONS-

Aha.

SURFNUSA-

Yeah, yeah…

Is Brad the guy who sent you to the HR Derby, ALL-STAR Game, and Legends tickets this year?????

Nope. Good guess, though.

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