1. Derek Jeter
2. Larry Walker
3. Omar Vizquel
4. Scott Rolen
5. Billy Wagner
6. Todd Helton
7. Jeff Kent
8. Curt Schilling
9. Gary Sheffield
- Mariano Rivera– Greatest closer of All-Time. Period. 652 saves, a master in the regular season and constantly clutch in the postseason (5 rings!), the fact that more men have walked on the moon than the number of ER that Mariano allowed in the postseason is CRAZY. Even crazier? A 0.70 ERA in 141 Postseason innings. Wow. I sure hopes he goes in 100%, amazing talent, and even a better man. Respect to him.
- Roy Halladay– This guy was the definition of a workhorse/ace. Something that is quickly fading away in today’s game, “Doc” always had the intention to finish a game that he started, as he overwhelmed hitters with movement and displaying/executing his pitchers like art, showing how to effectively get through a game. With 67 complete games (I wonder if anyone will come close to that in this era!), a career ERA of 3.38, along with 2,000+ strikeouts during his 16 year career, he was a tribute to old school pitchers of the past, and for that, he’s should be honored like one with a plaque in Cooperstown. A fitting posthumous honor.
- Lance Berkman– A hometown pick, yes, I enjoyed watching Lance growing up as a kid, a profilic switch-hitter who knew how to hit from both sides of the plate, and how drive in runs. During his 10 year peak/run with the Astros, he drove in 100+, 6 times, and constantly hovered around batting .300, pretty damn solid for a switch hitter. He deserves some love, almost for certain falling off the ballot after just one year.
- Todd Helton– This is another guy who deserves some love who’s going to fall off of the ballot, as Todd Helton was one of the quiet superstars of his era. His numbers during his peak in Colorado are very comparable to another person on the ballot, Larry Walker (who I will get to later). He was a constant threat, averaging .330, 30 HR’s, driving in 100+, and also an OPS of .996 during his 12 year peak. There will always be the criticism of the “Coors effect”, but I didn’t really factor that in when looking at Helton and Walker. Comparing the two, I favored Helton’s numbers for his consistancy, and his ability to stay healthy, averaging 140+ games per year during his peak. Either way, Walker will probably replace Helton on my mock ballot next year, as he’ll be entering his 10th and final year.
- Jeff Kent- A very deserving 2nd basemen, who’s numbers compared to fellow 2B’s in the HOF fare very favorably, a .290 lifetime hitter, including a stretch from 1997-2005 in which he averaged 30+ HR’s, 110+ RBI’s, 45 XBH per year.
- Edgar Martinez- He
playedhit his position very well. One of the bests, definately the best of his era. A 7x All Star, 5x Silver Slugger, a .312 lifetime batting average, he just flat out did his job over his 18 year career, all with the Seattle Mariners.
- Fred McGriff- In his last year of eligibility, Fred McGriff deserves a look from everybody. Severely overlooked, he was a 5x All Star, 3x Silver Slugger, a very consistent power hitter as he averaged 32 Home Runs/102 RBI’s each year, was feared by pitchers, and even though he fell 7 Home Runs short of 500 (which to me, is almost a guarantee to get it), he’s a HOF to me. Won 1 World Series Title w/Braves in ’95. He’s probably not going to get in with the writers, but I hope when his time comes to get looked at by a committee, that he gets in.
- Mike Mussina- A 5x All Star, 7x Gold Glover, he had 17 STRAIGHT seasons of winning 10+ games. A .638 lifetime winning percentage record, a constant top 10 Cy Young finisher, even though his ERA may be shaky (AL East Pitcher w/Yankees & Orioles), he’s got my vote. According to trackers, he’s very borderline to make it in this year, but if not this year, he will get in next year for sure.
- Curt Schilling- A 6x All Star, 3x World Series Champion, and 3,116 strikeouts. Over his career, he did really well with his teams (Phillies, D-Backs, Red Sox), and he constantly came through, a clutch postseason preformer, an absolute workhorse. A HOF’er to me, putting all of the political BS aside.
- Gary Sheffield- A 9x All Star, 5x Silver Slugger, he too was a good power hitter. Averaging 32 Home Runs/105 RBI’s per year (similar to McGriff); he actually made it into the 500 home run club, finishing with 509 over his 22 year career. I’ve taken his PED accusations into account, but compared to Bonds/Clemens, I see him in a postitive light, and his numbers are definitely worthy.
Guys I would vote for if I had more room:
Omar Vizquel- A defensive wizard with 11 gold gloves, along with staying durable for 24 seasons (wow!), while amassing 2,877 hits, Omar is very deserving a being enshrined in Cooperstown.
Larry Walker- He will probably be making my ballot next year, a true power 1B during his era, overlooked due to the “Coors effect”, his recent surge in voting is deserving given a good hard look at his career. He’s worthy.
I truly believe a lot of logjams in the ballot will be cleared after this year, giving way to giving a lot more players some deep consideration with more spaces on the ballot. What do you guys think of my ballot? Make sure to follow me on Twitter @angel__arroyo, and I can’t wait for baseball season right around the corner!
St. Louis Cardinals 8– Houston Astros 5
I had this game on my schedule for months as the Cardinals, an old NL central rival were making their 1st visit to Houston since 2013, and I heard their BP was pretty solid. Also, coincidentally the Cardinals had just played the Cubs at Wrigley field, and the Cubs were using commemorative baseballs for “100 years at Wrigley Field”. Those who don’t know, home teams provide BP baseballs for the visiting team, and from my “resources”, the Cubs used nothing but the commemoratives during their Home BP’s, so hopefully the Cardinals were given some and still had leftovers for me to snag in Houston.
I got in at 5, and Astros BP was dead for me. My dad and I both went to left field but he managed a tossup (Ball #1) to at least put us on the board. Can you spot me in the picture below from the Cardinals’ twitter?
As the Cardinals started BP, their 1st group was mostly lefties and I had a sense they had good power, so I decided to go and play the 2nd deck. Lots of other people had the same idea but I seemed to be the only young, agile kid up there. My move payed off as Matt Carpenter hit a ball right to me, I didn’t even have to move for the easy on-the-fly catch. The few people cheered as if it was a difficult play, but hey, applause is always nice. Our 2nd on the day, I immediately opened my glove after snagging it to see this beauty.
Success! After snagging a Blue Jays commemorative just 2 weeks ago, I was happy to have obtained this ball as well. A few minutes later, with Kolten Wong in the cage, he hit me our 3rd ball of the day, as I made a really cool jumping all the up on-the-fly catch. That felt good. Another Cubs commemorative as well!
I left the 2nd deck as the righties took over, but left field was really crowded so I decided to go to the dugout in search for a tossup when BP ended. I could really tell that there were more people here than usual (Thanks, Cardinals fans), as you could tell by the sea of red. Two cool things that I did see were: A. that the last group of Cardinals BP were all pitchers! I hadn’t seen that in a while since the Astros moved to the AL (they were raking too!), and B. When the Cardinals jogged off the field, ALL of the Cardinals fans started cheering their team. They were loud too, I had never seen that during BP. I guess they really care about their team. I had no luck at the dugout, so I caught up after BP with my dad, and photographed our 3 balls that we’d snagged.
As for the game, we chilled in the outfield for the mostpart, as the place was crowded, just see this:
We watched as the struggling Astros lost the game 8-5. Alex Bregman did hit his 1st major league home run though (in which he went oppo!), which was part of the reason I was in the outfield, and I was bummed he didn’t hit it to me, but the in-game highlight though was that Jose Altuve hit his 1,000th career hit! I periscoped it live, it was a single in the 9th inning, and that was very cool to witness, I love Jose lots (He tossed me a ball in 2015). The Houston crowd went crazy for him. Seeing history being made is so great. He’s our MVP.
Any who, We didn’t snag anything else, no 3rd out balls, no umpire balls, so our total for the day was 3. Solid day, and I had fun catching the commemoratives, even more special that they came from Wrigley Field/The Cubs in the year in which they eventually won the World Series. Cool.
STATS AFTER THIS GAME:
- 3 balls snagged at this game
- 125 baseballs in 27 games this season
- 78 straight games in catching at least one ball
- Lifetime total: 545
- Attendance: 30,438
Toronto Blue Jays 3 – Houston Astros 1
This was the 3rd game of the 4 game series. I had attended the 1st game of the series (a monday night), and snagged 9 baseballs but remarkably, none of them were commemorative “Blue Jays 40th season” baseballs, which was my goal for this series. I had seen them floating around during BP, but it seemed like I just had tough luck, thus the reason for attending this game. I wasn’t going to be able to go the game the next day, so this was one of my last chances of trying to get that ball. Sure, the Astros were going to Toronto next weekend and maybe bring some back, but I just really hoped to snag one to get my anxiety out of the way.
The crowd at the gate wasn’t that bad, but there was a lot of kids. I knew I was in for a challenge. It was “Pokemon night” (yuck), and it seemed to bring out all of the kids in the Houston area. Unnecessary kids blocking my paths? Were they going to be in the seats? What if they got hit? Damn bad marketing, Astros.
In the time before they opened, I worked on my sign (which you’ll see later) to hopefully help me in my quest. The gates opened at 5 PM, and I headed out to right field, where I snagged my first ball of the day, tossed by Astros coach, Graig Bjornson (bee-yorn-son). Good interaction with him as he told me, “Turn around to the big screen, there’s a pokemon!” Of course I was gulliable enough to do that, but it got him to toss me the ball. Good to be on the board. Thank you!
Our second ball of the day was a HR that my dad snagged in left field, and that was it for Astros BP. I sticked around in Right Field for about 15 minutes and got Aaron Sanchez to toss me our third ball of the day. A regular ball. *sigh* I peeked at everyone around me who snagged a ball, and it seems like all of them were regular. My chances were going down quick. Thank you, Aaron!
After all the lefties were done, I headed out to left center in which I snagged our fourth and fifth balls of the day: A Melvin (B.J) Upton home run that I beat like 4 people out for, and a Marcus Stroman tossup. Both regular balls. Not looking good.
Even worse, was that I didn’t even get to the dugout in time as the Jays walked off the field. Poor calculations by me. So that was it for BP, no commemoratives, but 5 balls on the board. After BP, I met up with some ballhawks that were from out of town, Jacob Webb and Nathan Simon from Illnois. Jacob got shutout during BP (but he managed to snag a ball during the game), and Nathan snagged 2 baseballs. I asked if they had seen any commemoratives floating around, but they said they hadn’t.
Now it may seem like my chances were now extra slim, but I still had hope in one more person. On Monday, about three commemoratives landed in the Astros bullpen and I asked bullpen catcher Carlos Munoz (who I have a nice relationship with at the games, great guy) if I could have one, but he placed all of them in his bag. I noticed this, and asked him on instagram that same night if he could save one for me. As he approached the bullpen to warm up, I held up my sign to him, and he nodded to me. A few minutes later, he approached me and handed me this.
Wow! He’s the best. I thanked him about 1000 times, and went on my way. Thank you SOOOOOO much, Carlos! Our sixth ball of the day. Now, I’m assuming you’re asking by now, “What the hell did your sign say?” Ask and you shall receive.
My goal was accomplished. I spent the game wandering around in foul territory for foul balls, and played the dugouts during the last three innings, but I had no such luck (my dad neither). I tried for my customary umpire ball, but there were an unusual crazy amount of kiddos (screw you, pokemon night), so I had no luck but that was okay, we were very happy with our haul.
STATS AFTER THIS GAME:
- 6 balls at this game
- 122 baseballs in 26 games this season (4.69 average)
- 77 straight games catching at least one ball
- 2nd straight game catching at least five balls
- Lifetime total: 542
- Attendance: 29,399
Back in 2013 as an even younger ballhawk (13 at this time) than the one I am today, one thing I really wanted to do was take another trip to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. I had only been once before then, and that was for Game 2 of the 2010 ALCS (which I linked the blog entry I wrote when I was 10. Wow.) I wanted another feel of what it was like and traveling to me seems like (and still is) lots of fun, so I asked my dad that summer if there was a chance of catching a game up there, but specifically a game where I could see my hometown team, the Houston Astros face them. There were only two series that whole summer where the Astros were in Arlington and to cut to the chase, he agreed, and we picked a Tuesday night game in August. I was stoked. We left our house around 12 in the afternoon for the 7:05 game, and off we went.The drive from Houston to Arlington typically takes around 3 1/2 hours, so of course I fiddled with my camera a bit, to really enjoy the ride. (Yeah, we went to Italy too.) We arrived towards the area at around 4:15, 45 minutes before the gates were scheduled to open.
Ah, the beauty of Texas. We parked, did our customary walk around the ballpark and of course, took more pictures! I sure was happy to be there, and if you haven’t noticed already, I also was supporting the hell out of my team. It felt great to be in enemy territory, even though I saw hardly any other Astros fans to feel great with (granted, the Astros were on their way to a 51-111 season in 2013, yikes.) But it didn’t bother me, I was still going to root them on all the way. The gates opened at 5, and for some reason, I went to right field, instead of my usual left. The Rangers were still up taking BP (sadly, I have hardly any pictures from BP that day so bare with me) when a ball landed in the Rangers bullpen. Alexi Ogando was there warming up, and even though I was in Astros gear (I now know WAY better) he tossed it up to me thanks to me asking for it in spanish, and no one else was around. Ball #1 of the day.
I headed back to left field to catch up with my dad when I spotted Derek Holland. Now, two weeks before this game, the Rangers were in Houston and I had a nice encounter with Derek at a game that series when I asked for his empty water bottle. He thought that was pretty funny/weird, so he did! Now, fast-forward to that day, he remembered me when I called out to him for a ball! He asked about my Astros gear, and the water bottle of course, which was cool. In the end, I convinced him to toss me a ball since he hadn’t tossed me one that day, so that’s how I got my 2nd ball of the day. Awesome.
I moved towards the berm in center field after the Rangers walked off in preparation for Astros BP. I recall that I thought it would be very cool to finally see the Astros take a full BP since I never got the chance back here at home. Right as they started, I got a player to toss me a ball (I forgot who it was, darn) for my 3rd ball of the day. BP kept going along and there wasn’t much action in that area, so I repostioned myself behind the Astros bullpen. Jordan Lyles was having a session when a ball bounced into their bullpen, right in front of Jordan. I called to him, and there I had my 4th ball of the day. I was thinking to myself what a big day I was in for. Then, it went DEAD. Nobody was hitting them out (one of the reasons for their 51-111 finish that year), and tossups were sparce despite my visiting team gear “advantage”. BP ended at 6, a full half-hour than usual (I remember being shocked) and I manage to get Dallas Keuchel (before being the good-beard/cy-young pitcher that he is now) to toss me my 5th, and final ball of the day before walking off. Our seats were in the 2nd deck, and back then I really wasn’t allowed to wander allow yet so technically my ballhawking day was done unless we caught a foul ball. After BP, we headed to our seats and I spent the time admiring the coolness of the ballpark, and showing off what I caught (duh).Finally, the game started. The Astros ended up losing 4-2, and no foul balls came our way sadly. Despite this, I sure did have a good time that day while also enjoying a cool road trip baseball game with my dad. Good times.
Stats (at that time) after this game
- 5 balls at this game
- 34 baseballs in 12 games (2.83 Average)
- 6 straight games catching at least one ball
- 2 straight game catching at least one ball outside of Houston
- Attendance: 39,009
- 135 Lifetime balls
Let’s get it. Hello everyone, it is me, “The Astros Ballhawk”, Angel Arroyo! As many of ya’ll know around the ballhawking world, this year’s edition of BallhawkFest is totally up for grabs! The president of mygameballs.com, Alan, has allowed anyone to submit a bid for their city to host it with the decision being announced around opening day. Now, BallhawkFest is a one-time-per-year tradition that started in 2011, and throughout all of these years, the host location has been in stadiums all over the east coast, since the majority of MGB’s members are located in that area. (Stadiums used: OPACY, Nationals Park, Citi Field, Citizens Bank Park) With nowhere else to really go, I’m assuming that this fueled Alan towards having an olympic-style bidding process very much. Now, as a teenage southern stuck in Texas, I’m not able to travel a whole lot, and with VERY little competition/members being located in my area, this really makes me feel a bit disconnected from the community, therefore I feel like it is time for a change in 2016. I’d really like to bring BallhawkFest to the beautiful city of Houston, Texas, and more precisely, Minute Maid Park, the home of the Astros. Hopefully this will be the winning bid, but if not, it’s okay. I just had a lot of fun planning this out. Get ready to be convinced.
Stadium: Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas
Date: Saturday, July 23rd, 2016: Los Angeles Angels Vs Houston Astros
Activities: Home Run Derby, Lunch, the game!
Where will they take place?
Home Run Derby (still needs to be ironed out, main part of proposal that needs help!): Dekaney High School, Spring, Texas (Permission/Permit needed) OR Other (Time: Around 11/12 o’clock.)
Lunch: Jackson Street BBQ, 209 Jackson Street, Houston, Texas, 77002 (Time: Around 1/2 PM)
The Game: Minute Maid Park, 501 Crawford Street, Houston, Texas, 77002. (Starts at 6:10 PM, gates open at 4 PM.)
This was created by myself on customink.com and will include your name and # of baseballs you’ve snagged on the back (keeping on with the tradition), and will cost you around $25. To me, it’s a solid shirt that will really make you feel very Texan.
I don’t have any as of yet (if anyone is interested, please contact me!), but I may have two companies/organizations that will be willing to provide one! We will see.
This blog, obviously will be one of the main marketing tools that I use, along with my twitter, and instagram to promote BallhawkFest. A special podcast may be held too. Also, our friends/members attending will tweet, instagram, have podcasts about the event as it comes near. There has been an account created on Twitter too for BallhawkFest, and if Houston does win, we will use that to provide important details about the event. We are going to make this as big as we can, after all, everything’s bigger in Texas.
Why Houston/Minute Maid Park?
- The weather– we have a roof for goodness sake! You’ll be cozy no matter what, if the roof is open, you’ll see and feel the nice warm Houston air in the ballpark at nighttime, and if closed, it’s a comfy 72 degrees inside, leaving everyone happy. No threats of rain for the game, plus this can be the first BallhawkFest game to be played indoors, interesting indeed.
- Locations– Everywhere will be easy to get to, plus the restaurant I have planned for the lunch, is right in front of Minute Maid Park. No rushes equal fun, fun, fun.
- Date– It’s on a Saturday, thus making logistics a bit more better for scheduling flights and such. Everyone can make it!
- Minute Maid Park/The Game- One of the most beautiful parks in the MLB.
- Tal’s Hill makes it unique
- Visiting Team (Angels) have good power hitters with Trout, Pujols and others. More power equals a lot of balls for everyone.
- Gates open a whole two hours before gametime.
- Wanna get Trout’s autograph? Bingo.
- Not much competition for ballhawking
- More autographs seekers here, thus making more space in the outfield for ballhawking
- Home Team (Astros) are VERY friendly, you’ll get to see them take BP, plus you can snag a homer from power hitters like Correa, Springer, Rasmus, Valbuena, etc.
- Attendance will be around 30,000, average for a Saturday night.
- No scheduled giveaways
- You can cross it off your list of stadiums visited!
- You can say that you’ve finally been to Texas
- You’ll taste the best BBQ in Houston. Yee-haw.
- Compared to East Coast stadiums, this one is a bit better for ballhawking.
- You can go everywhere before the game. No dugout restrictions.
- No rude ushers, very polite.
- You’re going to see a good game, with an AL West showdown.
- You get a cool t-shirt!!!
- Most of all: you’re going to have a fantastic time.
Now, this wraps up my proposal, which I believe was really solid, and thanks for listening! I had fun doing this, and hopefully we come out on top, but still, much luck to Target Field’s bid (which is the only other one now that I believe has been submitted and discussed about).
If you have any questions/comments, please DM me at my twitter, @Angel__Arroyo. We have a good turnout planned, and as always, go Astros (and BallhawkFest.)
#1- April 14th, 2015; Athletics @ Astros.
The best game of our career so far came last April when we snagged 12 baseballs at our first game of 2015, breaking our previous record of 11. It really let us know that a wonderful year was upon us, and so many things allowed us to have a great night. A low attendance (18,935) made it really easy to snag, the new “Commissioner Manfred” stamped balls were introduced to my collection for the first time (change can be good!), and snagging 3 of the new Astros 50th year commemoratives really made this a great night, and so far, the best ballhawking game ever.
#2- September 21st, 2015; Angels @ Astros This was my first game back to ballhawking after having a totally unexpected appendicitis surgery 8 days earlier. I was itching to go a game and I couldn’t help it. I was basically unmobile still, but I hoped to at least catch one baseball to keep my streak alive. Well, I guess that was a pretty low goal. I was in all the right spots for tossups (I even caught a ball on the fly, hah), my dad was having his best game EVER, and together we combined to snag 11 baseballs and tie our 2nd best game ever. I out snagged him though, 6-5. Even disabled, I’m pretty good honestly. *smirk*
#3- May 15th, 2015; Blue Jays @ Astros This was a Friday night game, an early gate opening time (sadly they don’t open at 4:30 for 7:10 Friday night games anymore) and with Blue Jays gear ready for their first use, it helped with so many tossups. With 5 tossups, and two balls caught on the fly each for my dad and myself, we combined for 9 by the end of BP, and my gear helped with 2 game ball tossups, so again we tied our 2nd best record of 11 baseballs.
Thanks for reading guys, I’m just so ready for baseball, and it’s funny how all three of these games were from 2015. Make sure to follow me on Twitter, @Angel__Arroyo and as always, go Astros!
It’s January 28th, 2016 right now as I write this and baseball is slowly creeping more closer and closer! But, in that time, there’s nothing to write about honestly, so I decided to do some research on which past game I could blog about as my first “Throwback Thursday” game blog post! Well, I decided on this one, (since I had a lot of pictures from this game) a Wednesday night game back on September 18th, 2013, an interleague game when the Houston Astros took on their former NL Central rival, the Cincinnati Reds.
The Astros entered the day with a record of 51-100, as they lost their 100th game, just the day before (which I attended, and snagged 6), and the Reds were cruising to the playoffs. So yeah, not too good. As for me and my dad, we entered the day with a lifetime total of 150 baseballs (over two years later now, we’re at 420! Hell yeah.) Unfortunately now, I have little recollection of BP that day. I will though, tell ya’ll about the parts I do remember. We got there around 4:45 before the gates opened at 5, and as soon as we got in, the Reds were already hitting for some strange reason. I went to Left Field, as about 5 minutes in, I snagged my 1st ball of the day, it was a home run hit by Brandon Phillips (DatDudeBP!) that landed in the concourse behind the seats which I was easily picked since no one was around. Other than this, I have no recollection of anything else. Thankfully, I had some notes on my old iPhone (I usually take notes on the balls I snag and how I got them in the notes section of my iPhone), and logging them into mygameballs.com (in which I also put notes too!) helped VERY, very much. Now, I know that they look very screwy, now gives a spoiler alert about my last two snags, and are sadly out of order (what was I doing that day?) But, in boring summary, me and my dad ended up snagging 7 baseballs in BP. Wow. The 2nd ball of the day was a toss-up from Bronson Arroyo, and I remember getting it. It was in center field, and I felt really nice/cool, because me and Bronson have the same last name and that was special for me. #3 was a tossup in right field. #4 was a ball my dad got, a tossup. #5 was a home run that bounced of the wall behind him, and he got. #6 was a tossup behind the Reds dugout as BP was ending by a coach, and the last ball of BP, #7 was another tossup behind the dugout, I remember getting this one as well, because I was around the 20th row seeing/hoping if any player would “go long” and thankfully, somebody did! Really good BP for my 2013 standards now. After BP, I headed to right field to say hello to the bullpen catchers (Javier Bracamonte in particular), but I needed to take a picture of some of my balls. (Hah.) This is one of my favorites pictures that I’ve taken at a game. Just focusing on the baseballs. (Notice the now-old Selig balls. Ew.) As I made my way to right field, I watched the starting pitcher, Brad Peacock (who?), warm up, and took a panorama to show the emptiness of the ballpark. Wow. That’s how bad it got. Thankfully now in 2016, the Astros are looking alright. As Brad went to the bullpen to warm-up, I noticed one of the Astros’ coaches signing in the bullpen. Now, you might be thinking, a coach? Why is that important? Well, that coach was the pitching coach of the time, Dennis “El Presidente” Martinez. For those of you who don’t know, Dennis played in the bigs from 1976-1998, and was the first Nicaraguan baseball player to play in the MLB. Not to mention also that he pitched the 13th PERFECT GAME in MLB history in 1991, while playing for the Montreal Expos. Personally, I didn’t think that he would return for the 2014 season to coach, so I made my move. I got him to sign my 7th ball of the day on the sweet spot! (hence, in my notes earlier I wrote, “Signed by Dennis Martinez”.) One of the best autographs I have gotten ever.
As the game was about to start in 15 minutes, I headed down to the dugout, and said hello to a very friendly usher who let me chill in the FIRST ROW behind the dugout the last few innings of the game before. I told him that I would be sitting around the 1st base field box (as that’s were our tickets were), and he invited me to come back to the dugout later in the game if no one was sitting there. Wow. For the meantime, I lingered a little longer to see (to my surprise) that Craig Biggio was going to catch the ceremonial first pitch. He was there! He’s my favorite Astro of all-time, period. After this, Chris Carter (the Astros first baseman) came and warmed-up with somebody, and afterwards with no competition around me, I asked for the ball, and Chris tossed it to me for our 8th ball of the day. It was an old, extremely worn out, left over 2012 Astros commemorative. I thought it was cool, another commemorative to add to the collection. I headed to my seat now. We honestly had really good seats, with a great view. I have no recollection of the first 5 innings of the game, but after the 5th, I decided to go check if my dugout offer was still on the table. I snuck in (even back then when they sucked, they checked tickets) and to my glad surprise, I headed to the first row, where the friendly guard was, and he said, “Hey! They’re right here for you.” Wow, wow, wow. NOW, I had quite the view.
Notice Bo Porter’s head in the first pic on the bottom left corner (he was the manager at that time, and led the Astros to their worst finish ever that year, as they ended the year with a 14-game losing streak (sigh), and a record of 51-111. Thank god those days are over.) Despite sitting there since the 5th, I hadn’t gotten a ball yet! I was eager to snag at least one there. In the 9th, the score was tied at 4 when the Reds came to bat. They ended up loading the bases with two outs, and Ryan Ludwick was at the plate. The count went to 3-2, and the pressure was definitely on the pitcher, Josh Fields. Thankfully, Josh ended up striking out, and on the way in, the catcher, Carlos Corporan, tossed me the ball. That was #9 on the day, commemorative too. (This ball is listed in my blog post as #4 of my top 5 favorite catches ever.)
After this snag, I was pumped. I was only one ball away from my first double digit game, and with extra innings seeming near, I had a good chance! Sadly, it was getting late, and it was a school night. Nowadays, I would have most likely convinced my dad to stay, but we ended up leaving the park, one of the rare few occasions that I have ever done that. The game ended up going 13 innings (DAMN), and the Reds won 6-5 (DOUBLE DAMN.) I’m surely convinced I would have snagged one more, but it’s all okay now, as we’ve had 7 double digit games now.
Well, I hope ya’ll really liked this “Throwback Thursday” post, as I love to write, and felt a need to write, and this really helped. Make sure to like, and leave your thoughts, and as always, go Astros!
Stats (at that time) after this game
- 9 balls at this game
- 58 balls that season in 16 games (3.62 average)
- 10 straight games with at least snagging one ball
- 159 lifetime balls
- Attendance: 29,701 (Hah! What a joke.)
Baseball withdrawal is serious for me and lots of other fans right now, and to have something baseball-related to attend and marked on my calendar felt NICE. That day was fanfest. Astros Fanfest. Saturday, January 23rd, 2016. Minute Maid Park. It had been 3 months since I’d been inside the ballpark for ALDS Game 4 back in October (which I will blog about eventually, but the pain is still strong from that game), and I was just simply itching to get back in to #smellbaseball once again.
Now, I attended Fanfest for the first time in 2015, and attendance wasn’t all too great, and I understood that, as they just finished 2014 with a 72-90 record. But now, after the amazing playoff 2015 season, I definitely expected a whole lot more people. I knew that success would bring people back just like in the last month of the season last year, attendance at Astros games were definitely up. I had read in the newspaper that morning that season ticket sales were up by 2,000 “units.” Wow. We were in for a big day.
We left the house around 10:25 am, and with the 20-25 minute drive, we arrived just before the gates were to open for the event at 11. There were so many cars in the parking lots all around (parking was free, hah) and by the time we got to the gate, holy moly. I was right. The lines all over the stadium stretched at least 200 people each line. I was pretty happy to be there though. We got in line towards the home plate gate. I was very anxious to get in. Thankfully, the lines went by smoothly and we got in quick. Our first stop was to the team store behind home plate in the concourse. Last year, they had so many stuff on sale like jerseys, hats, and great goodies. (I bought a brick red batboy jersey for $15 last year!) I was seriously hoping they would do it again. We started walking there and it was like heaven. Programs for sale, hats, shirts, game used bases, gigantic posters, old stuff, a HUGE HELMET BAG. Wow. Unfortunately, everyone else had the same idea as us to look for nice stuff as soon as we entered the stadium and the store was CRAMMED. Claustrophobic much? Hell yeah.
It probably took 30-40 minutes to look through the store, and go through the massive line but I walked away with lots amazing things such as: a BADASS batting practice sign ($3), a name sign (probably in their locker) from former Astro (I didn’t even know he was on the team at one point) Armando Galaragga ($3, and yes, the one who infamously almost threw a perfect game), a 2015 orange brim postseason hat for $10 (regular price: $37.99. What a steal.), a Mike Fiers No-Hitter poster (for $1, and hopefully to be signed some day), a Keuchel’s Korner shirt for $5, and the cream of the crop, a brick red Javier Bracamonte jersey for $20! (regular price according to oldest tag: $125. Wow.) I love Javier so much, he’s been the bullpen catcher for the Astros for a while now and he’s always been so nice to me. (by tossing me plenty of balls over the years and interacting with me) He’s just a really good guy to everyone in general. He’s the best. Best bullpen catcher in the MLB.
Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you, this was a jersey from 2004, the year that the Astros hosted the All-Star game (AL won that year, 9-4). It had survived 11-12 years!!! Wow. I couldn’t believe it. What a pickup. BEAUTIFUL. Even though it fits me quite big, I’ll see what I’ll do with it.
Anywho, after the store, there wasn’t much to do (I sadly didn’t get any autograph passes since they sold out quick) until I saw a photo booth in the right field concourse! There were players (rotating every 20 minutes) taking pictures with fans! I quickly got in line. When I initally got in line, it was infielder Marwin Gonzales who was taking pictures but by the time it got to us, Marwin had left and someone new had taken his spot. Who was it?
That would be the hard-throwing reliever, Josh Fields. Really cool guy. After the picture, before leaving, I told him that he had tossed me a ball last season (true story), and thanked him for it. He said no problem, with a nice smile on his face. Totally awesome. Hopefully he tosses me another ball in 2016.
After that, the field was open to run the bases, and take pictures in the Astros dugout (does any other team do that?) and of course, I took advantage of it. I hadn’t ran the bases since I was little, so I did that first, and I’ll admit I walked the bases, but that was because I wanted to enjoy the view and you’re damn right I enjoyed it.
Notice Tal’s Hill right behind me in my awkward selfie, as it’ll live another year! What a cool hill. After finishing my “home run trot” across the bases, we headed to take a picture in the Astros dugout, which resulted in me using the telephone to challenge a call. Really cool.
Making our way through the dugout, we noticed somebody in a uniform was there also. It was Astros infielder Luis Valbuena! There was a short line of people wanting to take a picture him and we managed to get a selfie with him!
Cool guy. After this, we went down to a fan forum in the luxurious diamond club behind home plate. I’d only been there once before, and that was for last year’s fanfest as well when newly-voted Hall of Famer, Craig Biggio was set to answer questions at a forum, and I’m happy to say I asked him something. Really, really cool. Anyways, why was I here again? Oh yeah, the Astros were set to reveal a new alternative jersey for 2016, and I wanted to see first-hand the reveal, and what it would look like. I think it looks pretty solid, a nice tribute to the past, and I’m looking forward to see the club wear it on Sunday afternoons. (Picture from @alysonfooter’s twitter.)
Now, even though I was in the diamond club, I’d never been in the seats outside of the club directly behind home plate. Throughout 100+ games that I’ve attended here at Minute Maid Park, this was the only place that I’d never been/sat in. Well after Saturday, I’m glad to say that it’s a false statement now. The seats were open, and I took advantage of it. I was truly sitting like a boss. Despite the people (kidding), the view was amazing in front of me. I never know when/if I’ll ever be back here in the Diamond Club, so I took full advantage of it. I’ll admit the seats were comfy, but I wouldn’t wanna sit here for a game. (Crazy, right? But ok, maybe a few innings.) I’d feel like a trapped animal. Before leaving the club, my dad got a pic that TRULY made me feel like a boss.
Oh yeah, living the good life. It was time to go after this as the event was nearing the end, and honestly I had a great day. To see the city of Houston and Astros fans rejuvenated again for baseball once again, is really really exciting. I can’t wait until opening day. Can April come any sooner? Before we official left though, my dad took an amazing pic which pretty much describes Houston & Minute Maid Park, and the word is beautiful.
Well, thanks guys for reading, make sure to follow my blog for WAY more excellent blog posts to come this season, like this post, comment what you thought, if you’re ready for baseball season, any purchases made at FanFests around the country, and what do you enjoy about your team’s FanFest? Baseball is nearing quickly, and who’s ready? EVERYONE. Tweet me @Angel__Arroyo, and as always, Go Astros!
Back on September 19th, I was supposed to “appear” on Tony Voda’s podcast when he visited Minute Maid Park, but unfortunately my body had other plans. A week before, I ended up going to the hospital (for the first time that I can actually remember) because I had acute appendicitis and I ended up needing surgery. This prevented me to go despite my pleas to my parents that I wanted to go, but I was “repaid” later when the Astros made the postseason and I was 100% ready to ballhawk at the two playoff games I attended. Anywho, with my absence, this left poor Tony to do the podcast by all by himself, and he had many questions for me in which they were left unanswered. Well now, 4 months later, I really felt the need to answer them once and for all (and also the need to blog), and after listening to the podcast once again, I pretty much can answer them. So pretty much now this is sort of an interview? But yeah also, I modified and took out some of the questions (hopefully Tony approves) since they were asked in September in the thick of the playoff race, and I can’t really answer them anymore since they already happened! (ex: did I purchase playoff tickets for the playoffs, who will win the 2nd Wild Card Spot, etc.) Enjoy!
Q: How do you feel about Tal’s hill? Will you miss it? Will it effect the team’s fielding strategy?
A: Well, for those who didn’t know, Tal’s Hill is going to be removed following the 2016 season (was going to be after 2015, but was pushed back a year after the Astros’ playoff run) I really like Tal’s Hill, I think it’s a really cool design, and the fact that you’ll probably see nothing like that again, really makes me appreciate it more. Seeing people run up it is exhilarating to see. Seeing it go, will make me sad, but I’m actually excited to see what they do with that space, and if I’ll be able to go inside of it for BP and stuff. As for their fielding stategy, I believe it’ll change a lot. It looks like there will be a really tall wall there and who knows how the balls will bounce? Gotta wait to see it first. Planned picture seen below.
Q: Did Carlos Correa deserve AL ROY? What are his chances of being a HOF’er?
A: Yes! The way he helped the team produce greatly, his constant outstanding fielding skills at shortstop., a 279. batting average, 22 Home Runs, and 68 RBI’s in his first season despite coming in June? Remarkable. The way that he’s going, I think he can get on a good pace to becoming a Hall of Famer, I know he’s going to get better. The good thing also? He’s only 21 years old. Wow, as a fan, I’m going to have fun watching him play in the future. It’ll be fun.
Q: Is there a better middle infield in the MLB right now (Correa/Altuve?)
A: Well, heavily biased being an Astros fan, I don’t think there is. These two kids are the future of the Astros and I’m going to be very happy to see them turn so many double plays for the next few years.
Q: Will Carlos Correa be looked as a better draft pick than Byron Buxton in 2025?
A: I think so, (sorry Twins fans) when the Astros developed Correa in the minors, they tried to make him more of a 5-tool star player, and they’re succeeding so far! I think that he’ll produce more than Buxton offensively (no disrespect to him, he seems like he can grow a lot), but in 2025, he’ll be looked at the better pick.
Q: Can the Astros sustain future playoff runs after 2015?
A: I really hope, and do think so. With the core of Correa, Altuve, Keuchel, McHugh, McCullers, Rasmus, Castro, and all of the amazing prospects we still have (in particular, AJ Reed) this team is one that I’m happy to see for the next few years. Winning the AL West in 2016 and taking it back from the Rangers would really be great.
Q: Is David Ortiz a HOF’er now that he’s over 500 HR?
A: Well, as of now to me, he’s in. He’s been a really consistent offensive machine, and as a DH, he really does his job. Averaging a per year, he hits .284, hits 36 Home Runs, and drives in 118. Pretty great. Also, such a clutch player for the Red Sox. Now, there is PED talks of him and those talks will once again reappears after he retires, but I think it’ll take him a few years to get in, that is, if no big news comes up about him like if he did take PED’s. Then, I would rethink myself, but for now when he appears on the ballot, he’s got my checkmark. Q: How was the 2015 Postseason in your eyes?
A: Well, I enjoyed it, that is until the ALCS (Kidding!). To see the Astros in it was really amazing, even though they got knocked out by those darn Royals in heartbreaking fashion. The NLWC game was great, and all of the Division series’, everybody I wanted to win won, except the Astros (Cubs def. Cardinals, Mets def. Dodgers, Blue Jays def. Rangers). A Lone star showdown for in the ALCS would have been REALLY great for this rivalry, (it was so close to happening!) but it wasn’t meant to be. Maybe next year? After the Astros got knocked out, I despised the Royals and wanted them to lose, but I was really was rooting for the Cubs to win it all. Ultimately they got sweeped by the Mets, and the Royals beat the Jays, and eventually the Royals won the World Series in 5. *sigh*. But this postseason, I really enjoyed it. Exciting. (High point: ALDS Game 5- Rangers VS Blue Jays. Wow. Low Point: Royals comeback in Game 4 of the ALDS which I was present.)
Q: How many commemoratives did I snag in Houston in 2015?
A: I ended up snagging 36 (!!!) of the 2015 Commemorative that they used in Houston. Every ball they used for the games here were commemorative, so with that, I was able to snag a huge amount, which makes me very happy.
A: Personally, I loved the 2015 one out of all of them. With respect to the other two, the logo on this one looks bigger, and better. The shooting star & celebrating the Astrodome really makes it go over the top.
A: Well, in 2015, we snagged our 300th, and 400th baseballs in May and September, respectively. We also snagged 146 this year, thus giving us our 2nd straight 100 ball season. Some goals/milestones that I want to snag is our 500th lifetime ball, that would be really sweet, and maybe, with a few more games attended we can maybe hit 600 and 200 in a season? Who knows? But for now, I’ve got my eyes set on reaching 500, to me, it’s a really big accomplishment/stepping stone. Halfway to 1000.
Q: How do I feel about netting issues for the 2016 MLB season?
A: Well it’s unfortunate that we have to talk about this, but from a ballhawking perspective, it really sucks. Many teams may introduce this (I only know that the Twins are so far), and to possibly take away 3rd out balls? Man, what a bummer. I don’t like the idea. So far in Houston, I hear that the netting is already “good” by MLB standards so I hope there’s no change. Now, I understand you have to keep people safe, but I think if you’re gonna sit down there, you’re going to pay attention to the game. Nowadays, in the dugout seats there are more distractions and that’s just a recipe for disaster. Bring a glove for god’s sake! I hate hearing about people getting hurt over the years, and I know there’s a better solution than netting. Hopefully, MLB can find a better solution.
Q: Who did I vote for 2015 Ballhawk of the year?
A: Well for Ballhawk of the Year, I voted for 1. Greg Barasch. Amazing average in fewer games? He was just unreal, so he got my 1st place vote, 2. DeeCubs24 (David Welch) He too had an amazing average, and really good numbers. Lots of game balls too, so I gave him my 2nd place vote. 3. Zack Hample, outstanding as always. Good average, lots of game home runs snags, he rounded up my 3 votes. Now I will admit here that I abstained from Junior Ballhawk of the Year votes. Reason? I really didn’t know who to vote for, but my clear consensus was that Cole Adkins was going to definitely win because compared to everybody, he rocked. Great numbers. (He would have had my 1st place vote for sure), but other than that, I didn’t know, there were many people deserving, so to keep it “fair”, I left it blank. Also, thanks to everybody who voted me into runner up, 2nd place for 2015 JBOY.
Q: Any predictions for 2016?
A: Well, I can’t really say because so many things can happen, but the only thing I want to say is that I’m coming for 1st place, Junior Ballhawk of the Year. (You’re on, Cole!) I know I’m capable, and a friendly battle doesn’t hurt either, right? Motivation for us both. That’s a goal that I have.
Well, thanks for reading guys, and it felt nice to finally answer all of these questions! Hopefully I didn’t give too bland answers, and maybe in the future more of these types of interviews can be posted? Who knows? Well make sure to comment if you have questions for me, and as always GO ASTROS! (Can baseball come any sooner?)