MyGameBalls.com Ballhawkfest 2013 (8/3/2013)
First, there was a major scheduling conflict. The event was scheduled for the same weekend as the Mariners series at Camden Yards. I couldn’t imagine missing the Mariners in Baltimore. The thought of it was…well, it was unthinkable.
Next, we realized we had to fly to Seattle that very same day because we were heading out for Ken Griffey, Jr.’s induction into the Mariners Hall of Fame (which would happen the following Saturday). Normally, we fly out to Seattle on a Saturday and we return the following Sunday. Based on the scheduling of the Griffey MHOF game (something that was completely non-negotiable – we HAD to attend it), our “normal” schedule would have us flying on the day of Ballhawkfest.
But then we waited way too long to book our flight to Seattle. The ticket prices were ridiculous and the times weren’t great either. We ended up opting for a Sunday morning flight. And that meant we could go to (1) the Mariners at Camden Yards on Friday 8/2/13 and (2) Ballhawkfest on 8/3/13. Well, after securing our Mariners tickets, it turned out that 8/2/13 did not work. But 8/3/13 did. And this is the story of our day with our friends from MyGameBalls.com.
Because we didn’t find out we could go to Ballhawkfest until very late in the game, we didn’t get to order official shirts. But my wife found blank shirts that were exactly the same color and I made these shirts with my trusty set of sharpies:
I did the number on Tim’s back on the morning of the game, so his number was spot on.
Alan Schuster, who was going to join us for the Mariners/Orioles game on 8/2/13, stayed at our house on 8/2/13 and we caravanned down to Philadelphia (about an hour away) around 7:45 a.m:
As you can see, we were carrying a net in the back of my wife’s SUV. We brought it to use as a makeshift “L” screen. Safety first, you know?!
We met up at FDR Park for a little homerun derby. I’d never been to FDR Park before. It was perfect for our purposes. Check this out:
FDR Park used to be right across the Broad & Pattison intersection from Veterans Stadium, and it is just two blocks away from Citizens Bank Park where we went to the game and ate lunch at McFadden’s before the game. Also, check out CBP in the upper
right of that last pic. I cut out the field we played on at FDR Park, spun it around about 135 degrees and fit it on top of the field at Citizens Bank Park. It was definitely shorter, but it took a decent shot to get it out of our field at FDR Park.
Here is the crew we met up with at FRD Park (minus a few camera shy parents):
Cooks aside, from left to right our group included: Jenny and Benny Bang Bang, Rick “Unfortunately An A’s Fan” Gold, Mark Kopp, Alan “Mister MyGameBalls.com” Schuster, Alex “Fresh Off Catching A Chris Davis Eutaw Street Homerun The Night Before” Kopp, Harrison Tishler, Quinn Imiola, Dave “Big Papi” Imiola, Zack “Trying Not To Catch Any Game-Used Balls Today” Hample, Rick “Zoltan” Sporcic, Jeremy Evans and Max Pinsky.
We split into two teams and played homerun derby. The format was that each batter got two outs person inning. Any ball hit out of the park was worth 5 runs. Hits that landed in the outfield grass without being caught were worth 1 run. Any swing and miss, foul ball, ground ball or ball caught in the outfield was an out.
Our team was me, Tim, Jeremy, Alan, Dave, Benny and Jen.
The much better team included Rick Sporcic, Rick Gold, Zack, Alex, and Harrison.
It was a lot of fun playing ball with my boys:
I hit maybe 4-5 homeruns over the course of the morning. Tim put on a solid hitting display, and was only half the age of the next youngest player. Oh, yeah, Tim also made up the rule that a hit off of the “L” screen was good for 100 points…he made that rule right after the first time he hit the screen. And, if you went by that rule, our team won big thanks to a few hits off the screen by Tim.
The other squad, unfortunately for us, put on a hitting clinic:
Upper Left: “The” Alex Kopp showing his fine hitting form.
Upper Right: Zack knocked a few long balls over the OF fence.
Lower Left: Harrison “H” Tishler kept Tim on his toes with solid shots to left.
Lower Right: The Babe Ruth and defending Ballhawkfest Homerun Derby Champion Rick Sporcic launched approximately 1,000 homeruns. Rick hit ’em deep, he hit ’em long. Rick put ’em on the board. Yes!
We didn’t let Rick’s barrage of homers put lower our spirits…
…., nah, the good guy were full of hope and ready to swing ’em.
I was snapping pics in the dugout and in the outfield. Some of my favorite pics were captured while we changed sides after a half inning. Here’s my favorite:
I tried to stick right by Kellan in the outfield so I didn’t catch much…in fact, I think I only caught one fly ball all morning. But my team mates had the outfield covered:
Benny was all over the place in LF catching balls. Every time a ball was hit over there, Tim thought he was going to catch it. But, eventually, Benny would make the grab. I was happy with this outcome because the other team was hitting the ball pretty hard and I didn’t want Tim to take one off of his face.
During parts of the game, Tami and Seth Tishler patrolled homerun territory collecting the balls that we were hitting out there. Seth joked that they were “ballhawking” the ballhawkfest homerun derby:
Here are some action shot of my teammates hitting from the diamond club:
Above to the left, Jenny Bang Bang demonstrates the old foot-on-home-plate method of hitting (note: not the preferred method if you’re going by the official MLB rule book). Above to the right, Dave Imiola hits a hard shot to RF in a Imiola vs. Imiola show down (i.e., that’s Quinn pitching his old man).
When our team was in the field, Kellan brought Tim’s bat with us to the outfield and I pitched tennis balls to him. At one point, Kellan hit a homerun over the fence:
That photo is just a recreation of the event, not the real thing. When Kellan hit his homer, he was actually another 10-15 feet in from the fence (closer to the in field) and I had my back to the fence. He hit a nice poke to clear the fence.
After the derby, which my team lost (we needed about 40-50 runs in the bottom of the last inning but managed only 15 or so), we all headed over to Citizens Bank Park. We parked out by the old Veterans’ Stadium infield and got a picture of the boys playing around at first base…
…before heading toward the stadium (and walking through a big BBQ festival that was getting ready for pre-game festivities).
We had two big tables at the restaurant. One featured…
The other table featured…
…the Bang Bangs, Zack, the Tishlers and the Cooks. In the picture to the left, Zack is signing a shirt that we all signed for Matt Hersl’s family. Matt was one of the original members of MyGameBalls.com and organizers of the first Ballhawkfest. Matt was tragically killed last winter when he was hit while walking on a side walk in Baltimore by an out-of-control car. This Ballhawkfest was dedicated to him. Benny is signing a photo/certificate type thing that we also all signed for Matt’s family.
Here’s another picture of our table that shows Jen too:
I think Zack has patented that display hand move so don’t try it in pictures unless you want to pay him royalties. Kellan has a patent of his own, the eye-roll pose, which he is demonstrating above.
I should mention that Rick and his friend, Julie, hit baseballs for another half hour or more after we all left for lunch. They showed up to lunch eventually, but after all of those picture were taken.
During lunch, Alan handed out certificates for last year’s awards (Ballhawk of the Year —> Zack; Photo Scavenger Hunt Champs —> us!) and gave out a bunch of prizes that people had donated. When Benny saw Tim’s Ken Griffey, Jr. back pack, he tried to get it donated as a prize and suggested that he should be the winner. Nice try, Benny!
As lunch started to break up, Dave announced that it was Quinn’s 14th birthday so we all sung “Happy Birthday” to him and then Alan broke open a HUGE box of seeds donated by BIGS seeds. If you look three photos above, there is a big card board box on a table behind the waiter. That was the box of seeds. It was packed with full-sized BIGS packs and everyone took a bunch of bags. I think we got 3-4 bags ourselves.
Big thanks to BIGS seeds!
Eventually, we all scurried off to the LF gate to get in line. While most of us just milled about and chatted at the gates…
…Mateo and Tim played catch.
Much of the discussion at the gate was about how Zack’s bazillion game streak of getting a baseball was definitely going to end at this game because all of us were there AND the tarp was on the field! I assured Zack that there would be batting practice. But we was very doubtful, and nervous.
Eventually, we got a whole bunch of photos taken of us:
Benny, who is newly engaged (but wasn’t as of the date of this game), got a taste of what its like to have a kid at a ball game, with Tim up on his shoulders…spitting seeds left and right.
After I cleared out, we recreated the photos from the original Ballhawkfest with the shirts arranged in total-lifetime-baseballs order:
With Rick Gold replacing Garrett Meyers, Zack recreated the “top 2” high five from 2011. It’s pretty cool to look back at the photo from 2011 and compare it to this photo. Check out Tim, Benny and Alex in 2011 — they were all within 10 baseballs of each others. Now, in 2013, they came into ballhawfest with 2 baseballs separating Tim and Benny, and Alex not far behind. By the end of the season, Alex would rocket to the lead.
Before heading into the ballpark, Zack organized a photo to send to BIGS to say “thank you” for the seeds:
At this point, Kellan was crashed out HARD on my shoulders:
He slept up there fore more than half an hour and it really refreshed him for the afternoon.
When the gates opened, we made our way to the LF corner. This was the scene on the field:
It was pretty hilarious. There were three groups of Braves throwing and about 50 people (our group plus others) standing there watching intently. Three balls were thrown into the stands. The first to Chris Hernandez. The second to someone not associated with MyGameBalls.com. And the third to Zack, who was about 10-15 rows back and got a player to throw a long bomb over everyone else’s heads on his way toward the dugout.
When Craig Kimbrel saw Zack get the ball, he yelled, “NOOOOOOOOO!” He’s not fan of Zack getting more baseballs…or at least he acts like he’s not. I’m not sure if it’s real or just an act to be funny.
When all of this was going on, Mike Minor walked slowly out to CF where a ball was sitting in the grass. He walked over to it and then just stood there for a long time like he was in a trance. It was bizarre. Eventually, Minor made his way into the bullpen. When we started to head over toward the pizza wedge, a bunch of the guys were watching Minor continue to stand around in a trance:
When RF finally opened, there was nothing at all happening on the field. We headed down to the pizza wedge and just hung out until…
…what’s this…??? They set up the field for BP and the Phillies started stretching in RF!
So, I was right after all. Or half right, at least. There was half BP at this game. Only the Phillies hit.
I noticed that our buddy Jesus Tiamo was warming up at the mound…
…as the Phillies warmed up in RF.
It was still a very slow process before things got under way. People were milling about passing time. Eventually, Chris Hernandez came over and said hi:
We’d never met Chris before, but had seen his blog and seen him on Zack’s blog. He’s a good guy (aside from tweeting way too much hockey stuff during the baseball offseason) and we got to known him a lot better about 1.5 months after Ballhawkfest.
The Phillies pitchers played catch along the RF line. When they started playing long toss, I asked Luis Garcia…
…if he’d toss us his ball after he finished playing catch. He said he would. But then someone hit a ball to the warning track and Luis ran over, grabbed it and tossed it to Tim. That works too! (By the way, in the photo above to the left, a Phillies pitcher is tossing a ball to Rick Sporcic after taking it out of his *glove trick*).
Here’s an interesting drill that we witnessed in the bullpen:
The bright Ballhawkfest shirts makes it easy and fun to watch the others across the ballpark. Check out this photo featuring Zack, Mateo and Alan:
Zack did not get that ball. But Harrison got this one:
And we got another one from Rod Nichols and then another from this guy with the catchers mitt…
…whose name just happens to be Ichiro!
Thanks, Rod and (Not-Ichi) Ichiro!
For much of BP, it was the Cooks and the Tishlers locking down the pizza wedge…
…pretty typical stuff for a Saturday home game at Citizens Bank Park!
Check out this unique catch Tim made on a ball tossed by Zach Miner:
I guess that’s why you use two hands!
After BP, we all met up at the Richie Ashburn statue in Ashburn Alley. On our way, Tim got the chance to pose with Rick’s big glove:
That’s a big glove, alright!
Everyone had a ball by that point except Alan (who is displaying his empty fist) and Quinn (who is holding one of Mateo’s balls, but would eventually snag a few of his own at this game).
We ended up getting one more ball on the day from someone pictured in this photo:
Yep, out guy, Jesus Tiamo tossed a ball to Tim.
It was Phillies Hall of Fame weekend. One of my least favorite Phillies of all time had been inducted into the club’s hall of fame the day before. And there were a bunch of famous former Phillies at this game for the pre-game festivities, including a pair of National Baseball Hall of Famers in this photo:
It’s easy to see Michael Jack Schmidt waving to the crow in that photo, a little less clear to see that Steve “Lefty” Carlton is reaching out to shake “Taylor’s” hand (Sorry, I’m a Mariners fan, I have no clue who Taylor is).
As the game started, the boys played some Games of Baseball:
The Phillies scored a run in the first inning while we were at the games to take a 1-0 lead.
And then we met up with Alan and headed to one of our favorite spots — the back row of section 428:
We devoured a cookie sundae helmet while we were up there. And, check out what we could see from up there:
Upper Left: Zack is on the phone in LF chatting with someone-or-other after catching John Maberry’s 2-run homerun in the bottom of the second. That put the Phillies up 3-0 and got Zack in trouble for sitting in the wrong seat (in the right section).
Upper Right: Zack was forced to sit in his actual seat in the middle of the (almost empty) row.
Lower Left: Mateo’s future was so bright he had to wear shades as he watched the game from section 103.
Lower Right: Alex and Mark Kopp, both shades less, watched the game from section 105.
After a few innings up in 428, Alan headed toward the OF to hear the story of Zack’s homerun catch (I think) and we headed to the kids play area (to play):
While the kids played vigorously in the kids play area, I monitored the game and the world on my phone. On the old Twitter machine, I discovered that the Tishlers were going to or had met up with Mateo in section 103. So when we finished up at the play area, we decided to head over there. Lemme tell you, 1-oh-3 was the place to be!
As you can see, I grabbed the aisle seat in section 11 along with Kellan, Tim and Alan. Mateo and Quinn were in row 12. And the Tishlers had the last three seats in row 13. It was perfect.
Well, it WAS perfect, until this guy came back to his and his wife’s (Tim and Alan’s) seats:
His wife was just fine, but this guy was quietly, but very obviously, not happy to find people in his seats. Alan, Kellan and I moved across the aisle to some other open seats and Tim popped back a row and took the seat between Mateo and Quinn. Tim loves hanging with older guys. And he was in older guys paradise sandwiched between Quinn, Mateo and Harrison.
I always enjoy taking some outfielders pictures while we’re in the outfield, so here are some:
That picture to the right is pretty cool because its features a pair of brothers, B.J. and Justin Upton, manning the outfield together. How cool would that be!? I couldn’t imagine how awesome it would be if Tim and Kellan both played in the big leagues and played in the same outfield together. I’d probably have to start traveling with the team so I could see every single game!
One of the great parts of being a dad to a little kid is getting to hold the little buggers when they fall asleep. Sleeping little kids are great. And watching the process of them falling asleep is great too. It was so relaxing and low key out in RF during this game. I had a blast watching Kellan slowly fall asleep on my lap for his second nap of the day:
Check out my awesome view of the game:
While Kellan napped, Tim went crazy with his camera (that dude loves taking pictures!):
You know how some stadiums do the bongo drum cam? Well, this was Tim’s (failed) effort to get on it:
He was really playing the bongos on Alex and Mateo’s heads. I gotta hand it to them, Alex and Mateo are always great with Tim. He is an excitable (fun-loving) little guy, and they always roll with the punches (or the head bongos) like pros. That’s why Tim loves going to games with these guys and Avi and Harrison so much. He’s making great childhood memories at the ballpark with his old man and brother, and a set of supercool friends that we’ve met through MLBlogs and MyGameBalls.com. Thanks, guys.
So, Tim devoured (or at least sucked and spit) an entire bag of BIGS Salt & Vinegar seeds. So he as pretty pumped when Alan handed him another free bag o’ BIGS — bacon BIGS!
Eventually, most of the MyGameBalls.com crew made it over to RF. When Zack stopped by, we capitalized by getting a bonus picture for the MyGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt:
Zack is the all-time MyGameBalls.com leader at Citizens Bank Park (and that’s the homerun ball that he caught).
When I stood up between innings with sleeping Kellan, Jen and Benny decided to copy us:
Hilarious stuff, guys!
Here’s some more hilarious stuff:
The slow process of awaking up at a ballgame.
I’ll tell you, I was paying attention to the game. But most of all, we were just relaxing and having fun hanging out as a group. It was just about ideal conditions for a game with friends. (More ideal would be with the Mariners playing and winning the game by 16-or-so runs).
Here’s a behind he scenes photo of Mateo taking a picture of the young love birds:
Oh, yous guys!
So, after the Phils took an early 3-0 lead, the Braves came roaring back and took a 4-3 lead. The Phils tied it up at 4-4 in the seventh, and then the pitching an defense took over.
The Braves finally broke through for another run in the top of the 12th inning on an RBI ground out by the .196 hitting “His Name Is” Dan Uggla. That meant Craig Kimbrel came into the ball game in the bottom of the ninth:
And that was all she wrote for the Phillies.
Ball Game: 5-4 Braves win over the Phillies.
After the game, we were going to all meet behind the Braves dugout for a group photo. But plans changed when we learned that Zack got booted out of he game! He went back over to LF (where his actual ticketed seat was located) and they kicked him out on sight because a beer vendor (or some sort of vendor) told the ushers that Zack and used some foul language in describing them after their post-homerun interaction. It all seemed quite silly and unnecessary.
Anyway, as a result, we all (or those of us who could stay for the end of this 4-plus hour game) met up outside the ballpark for a final group photo:
It was a great day all around. Great guys, great game, great lunch, great homerun derby. Great, great, great. Looking forward to next year already. (By the way, Citizens Bank Park is the 13th stadium that Chris has visited in his quest to see ’em all).
2013 C&S Fan Stats
19 Teams – Mariners, Royals, Phillies, Red Sox, Rays, Orioles, Yankees, Dodgers,
Reds, Nationals, Marlins, Pirates, Blue Jays, Twins, Tigers, Mets, Brewers, White
32 Ice Cream Helmets – Phillies (jumbo) 4, Phillies (normal) 2, Red Sox 2, Yankees
2, Orioles 4, Nationals 2, Pirates 2, Blue Jays 2, Tigers 6, Mets 2, Reds 4
91 Baseballs – Mariners 11, Royals 4, Phillies 19, Rays 2, Orioles 7, Dodgers 3,
Umpires 7, Reds 9, Nationals 3, Marlins 4, Pirates 1, Blue Jays 2, Twins 3, Tigers
1, Mets 3, Yankees 2, Brewers 2, Red Sox 6, White Sox 3
10 Stadiums – Citizens Bank Park 2, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Camden Yards,
Nationals Park, PNC Park, Rogers Centre, Comerica Park, Citi Field, Great American
32 Player+ Photos – Oliver Perez, Lucas Luetge, Hisashi Iwakuma, Carter Capps,
Daniel Nava, Alex Wilson, Andrew Bailey, Pedro Ciriaco, Mike Carp 2, Koji Uehara,
Will Middlebrooks, Joel Hanrahan, Jonny Gomes, Alfredo Aceves, Clayton Mortensen,
Rick Anderson, Tom Gorzelanny, Joe Savery, Jonathan Pettibone, Carlos Ruiz, Charlie
Manuel, Justin DeFratus, Ryan Howard, Ben Revere, Larry Anderson, Gary “Sarge”
Matthews Sr., Kyle Kendrick, Ryne “HOF 2005” Sandberg, Michael Stutes, Jimmy
Rollins, Ryan Rowland-Smith
10 Autographs – Hisashi Iwakuma 2 (English & Japanese), Carter Capps, Ryan Hanigan,
Jesus Tiamo, Mike Carp 2, Ryan Rowland-Smith 2, Felix Hernandez